Currently browsing the "Biopic" category.

Review: Wild Nights with Emily

The Emily of the title is the 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, long thought to be a delicate recluse who was afraid to publish her work. But that, the film tells us, is an entirely false narrative devised for profit after her death. In fact, Dickinson was a strong and passionate woman who carried on a life-long affair with a woman who was her childhood friend and later her sister-in-law who lived conveniently next door. Played by SNL alum Molly Shannon, Emily is certainly an unconventional poet, but also an early women’s rights adherent pushing for women to have the same opportunities as men and to be taken just as seriously. While it is a potentially heavy subject, the film has a light tone, which works most of the time. It’s an odd little romcom that plays off the juxtaposition of Emily’s real life with the sanitized version told by Mabel Loomis Todd (Amy Seimetz), Emily’s brother’s sly mistress, who as her de facto biographer took great liberties with Dickinson’s legacy, despite having never actually met her.

Quickie Reviews: Gloria Bell; Yardie

What’s with all the remakes of decent if not exceptional foreign films lately? In recent months, we’ve seen Americanized versions of the 2011 feel-good French film The Intouchables (remade as The Upside), the 2014 Norwegian crime drama In Order of Disappearance (remade as Cold Pursuit), and now, Chile’s 2013 romdramedy Gloria (remade into Gloria Bell). In the case of Cold Pursuit and Gloria Bell, we’re treated to nearly shot-by-shot, word-for-word redundancy delivered by the same directors who helmed the original, well-received foreign flicks. Hey, let’s just throw in a lead actor popular with American audiences and do it all over again. Box office gold, right? Um, no.

Review: The Invisibles

There are plenty of films about the Jews who lost their lives to the Nazis, but this is the first I’ve seen about those who hid in plain sight in Germany through the war and survived. Part narrative feature and part documentary, The Invisibles tells the stories of four young people who refused to leave Berlin, and through their own smarts and the kindness of others, lived to tell the tale. All four of them in their old age are interviewed throughout the film, and since you know they lived, you also know that no matter how close it comes to them getting caught, they won’t be found out. Nevertheless, it is an audacious story about four exceedingly brave young people.

Review: Stan & Ollie

Do (or did) you get a kick out of the slapstick comedy of Laurel & Hardy? If the answer is yes, then Stan & Ollie is worth a watch, primarily due to the heartfelt and moving performances of Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy. Stan & Ollie is not your traditional biographical drama. It kicks off with the legendary comedy duo at the height of their fame during Hollywood’s Golden Age circa 1930s, then fast-forwards to the pair as fading stars looking to revive their routine – and film careers – by embarking on a variety hall tour of Britain in 1953.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2018

It’s insanely difficult to do a “Top 10 Movies of 2018” list when you’ve seen about 200 movies in 365 days – everything from blockbusters, to arthouse films, to documentaries, to films that simply defy classification. I reviewed some of them for Chickflix; others I just bantered about on the Cinema Clash podcast; still others I never got around to reviewing, ‘cuz sometimes, Life happens and the catch-up game aint worth playin’.

Movies are subjective – and so is my list. And no movie is a “bad movie” if somebody out there “gets” it and likes it. My list is different today than it was yesterday. And it will surely be different tomorrow. But at this particular moment in time – as we enter 2019 – this is where I stand with my top picks, and why.

Quickie Review: On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex is a solid, feel-good movie about a real-life superhero and pop culture icon, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It serves as a great companion piece to the recent RBG documentary, i.e. there’s no harm in seeing both. It may even help that both films hit theaters in close proximity, at a time when SCOTUS is top of mind in the political and social arena.

Quickie Reviews: Ben Is Back; Bumblebee; Vice

I know – these are three very different films. But I’m playing catch-up with my reviews! So I’ll start with my favorite of the three (though Bumblebee comes in a surprisingly close second!).

Review: Green Book

Who’d have thought that the director of Dumb and Dumber would bring us the best movie of 2018? With two great performances from Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Green Book is based on the true story of a working-class New York Italian bouncer (Mortensen) who was hired to drive a classically trained black pianist (Ali) on a tour through the Jim Crow South. It’s the best road trip flick in ages as it explores race and class through an unexpected friendship. And it is by turns sad and funny and sweet and horrifying. It’s a must see!

Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

We’re so used to Melissa McCarthy being the funny actress, that’s it’s hard to imagine her otherwise. But nobody’s going to question her acting chops after her turn as Lee Israel, true life best-selling author turned celebrity memorabilia forger. While there are certainly funny moments in this adaptation of Israel’s book about her descent to the remainders table and her newfound skill writing faux letters in the voices of some of the great authors of the 20th century, McCarthy’s Israel is a caustic misanthrope whose only friend is her cat. That is, until she meets aging party boy Jack (Richard E. Grant, Gosford Park, Withnail & I) who becomes her drinking buddy and partner in crime.

Review: The Great Buster

The full title of this documentary is The Great Buster: A Celebration and it certainly is that. From Dick Van Dyke to Mel Brooks to Werner Herzog, silent film star Buster Keaton aka The Great Stone Face is lauded for his enduring influence on film and comedy. This comprehensive bio-pic is from director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon) who loves telling the stories of the great men of cinema. And Keaton surely was one of the greats. The film is a fairly straightforward chronological telling of his life and career featuring lots of talking heads and film clips from his movies. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, the film will no doubt make them want to see his work. And for those who already knew him, it’s a loving reminder of a man way ahead of his time.