Currently browsing the "Biopic" category.

Review: Judas and the Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah is one of those movies you should watch, even if you don’t really want to. It’s another stark reminder of how the FBI operated under a racist and reactionary J. Edgar Hoover during the 1960s, and a stark reminder of why it’s never a good idea to 100% trust government spin. File those FOIAs! Judas and the Black Messiah tells the true story of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out, Queen & Slim), the Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party who was gunned down by law enforcement during an overnight raid in 1969, after a fateful betrayal by FBI informant Bill O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield, Sorry to Bother You). The movie is filled with excellent performances – even if the material itself is far from entertaining

Review: Son of the South

“Not choosing sides is a choice,” Rosa Parks (Sharonne Lanier) tells white college boy Bob Zellner (Lucas Till) when he talks to the civil rights icon a few years after she infamously refused to give up her seat on the bus. It’s the early 1960s in southern Alabama and Zellner is on the verge of a transformation from good ol’ boy grandson of a Klansman, to civil rights activist. Son of the South is based on Zellner’s autobiography, “The Wrong Side of Murder Creek,” which recounts his brave choice to defy his family and white southern norms in order to fight against social injustice and align himself with the likes of John Lewis and the Freedom Riders.

Review: One Night in Miami

Academy Award winning actress Regina King’s extraordinary directorial debut is an adaptation of a play that tells the story of one evening in 1964 when four African-American icons get together in a small motel room in Miami. Those men are Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, “Peaky Blinders”, “High Fidelity), Cassius Clay, soon to become Mohammed Ali (Eli Goree, Race, “Ballers”), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, Hidden Figures, The Invisible Man), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton‘s Aaron Burr). They come together to celebrate their friend Clay’s upset victory over world heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston. But amidst the revelry their conversations turn to the power and responsibility of being a celebrity in the Black liberation movement’s early years. What’s great about the script is that it isn’t dogmatic or preachy. It’s the kind of conversation old friends might have, peppered with jokes and digs and a heated disagreement or two along the way.

Review: The Glorias

There is a line near the end of The Glorias about going in circles – as women, as a society, as a nation. A reminder, underscored in recent days by the death of liberal stalwart RBG and the nomination of a conservative to take her place on the Supreme Court. There’s an inherent, bitter irony in Ruth Bader Ginsburg having helped pave the way for an Amy Coney Barrett to take a seat at the Court and potentially unravel much of what RBG stood for. So perhaps the time is ripe for a movie like The Glorias, imperfect as it may be. The film reflects on the journey of journalist, feminist icon and social political activist Gloria Steinem as she helped build and guide the women’s movement from the 1960s until… well, at the age of 86, she is still alive and very much in the game.

Review: Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own

Ursula Von Rydingsvard’s name did not ring a bell when I first heard of this documentary. But after watching it, I realize I’ve actually seen and loved her work in many of the important museums around the world. Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own makes the case that she should be as well known as many of the other female sculptors of the modern age, like Louise Bourgeois or Louise Nevelson. In this short documentary (it’s just 57 minutes) director Daniel Traub deftly mixes the story of her personal life with the making of her amazing art. She’s one of the few women who make monumental sculptures, and just seeing how it’s done is worth the cost of admission.

Review: Critical Thinking

For his theatrical film directing debut actor John Leguizamo took on the real-life inspirational story of a group of students at an inner city Miami school who joined a class to learn chess and ended up winning the 1998 U.S. National Chess Championship. Leguizamo also plays the teacher Mr. Martinez who is equal parts mentor, teacher, and cheerleader for the team. It’s a familiar underdog story, but it works. You’re pulling for this rag-tag team all the way.

Review: Tesla

I’ve been interested in inventor Nikola Tesla’s life and work for ages, so I was excited that a feature film was going to take him on. And I love Ethan Hawke who’s been getting better and better the last few years. (The Truth, First Reformed, Juliet, Naked, Maudie) Seemed like a great idea. But Telsa is anything but a standard biopic. It’s a jumble of scenes set in last days of America’s Gilded Age, the period when Tesla was warring with Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan) over the best way to deliver electricity to the masses — Direct vs Alternating Current. (AC v DC. – spoiler, Tesla was right) Narrated by J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne (Eve Hewson, Bridge of Spies), Tesla is a hybrid – documentary, experimental film, and period drama. Some of it works, and some is just weird.

Review: Radioactive

Who coined the term “radioactivity”? Who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize? Who was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes? What husband and wife duo shared a Nobel Prize in chemistry? Who are the first mother and daughter Nobel Laureates? The answers have one common denominator: Marie Curie.

Review: My Darling Vivian

My Darling Vivian is a love letter to Johnny Cash’s first wife Vivian Liberto with whom he had four daughters and initially a great romance. Narrated mainly by those four daughters, it is an eye opening corrective to the Johnny and June story we’ve all heard that entirely erased Vivian from his life. The documentary is also an intimate chronology of Cash’s rise, his addictions, his failures, and his family.

Review: Resistance

When you think of mime, you naturally think of Marcel Marceau. But you probably don’t know how he saved a group of Jewish orphans from the Nazis during World War II. Resistance tells the story of his joining the French resistance and helping to sneak them across the border into the safety of Switzerland. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social NetworkCafe Society) plays Marceau, the son of a Kosher butcher in Strasbourg, France, who’s more interested in becoming the next Charlie Chaplin than being a hero. But his cousin is a commander in a secretive Jewish relief group and convinces him to help them smuggle Jewish children from occupied France to neutral countries. It’s an uplifting story, though not a great film.