Archive for the ‘biopic’ Category

The Darkest Hour – ***

Posted: June 29, 2020 in 2017, biopic, Political, UK, War, WW2, XXX

Gary Oldman is phenomenal as Winston Churchill!

There you go. That’s the main reason to watch this movie. But it’s also cleverly told and takes you back to the start of a troublesome period in the world of which the end wasn’t in sight at all.

A bit like now really.

During a visit of the excellent Churchill War Rooms in London, you remind yourself to watch this Oscar-winning biopic. But then days, weeks and months go by and you forget about it. Then you watch The Crown and he pops up again and you remind yourself again to watch this movies. But again days, weeks and months go by and you forget about it. But then it passes on tv and you have nothing better to do than to just start watching. Before you know it the movie is over and you regret not having watched it while you still had all the knowledge of the museum visit.

It’s a very accessible movie though for a large crowd. It’s not particularly detailed or overly political. It’s clear and well-brought. It resonates with the audience and it’s more than just the depiction of a weirdly fascinating leader that had more opponents than fans, but still managed to lead the UK through the Second World War.

The direction of the movie is also very good. Some scenes work really well. Even when they are fictitious. Like the scene on the metro.

Watch Season 1 of the Crown first. Then Darkest Hour. Then Dunkirk. In that order. Then visit London to visit the war rooms, take the Eurostar to Lille, the regional train to Dunkirk for a visit of the Operation Dynamo museum. And then go for a city trip to Bruges to just relax. 😉

www.imdb.com/title/tt4555426

Simonal – *

Posted: February 10, 2020 in 2018, biopic, Brasil, Musical, X

Halfway in this musical biopic of the notorious Brazilian singer Simonal, you start wondering if it is worth watching until the end.

The acting of the main lead is bad. Annoyingly bad. The storytelling is unoriginal, superficial, boring. The music doesn’t particularly sound great either. And the lip-sincing is done terribly. But the setting is interesting (sixties Brazil), the camerawork is fine and the opening scene (set in 1975) promises an interesting reveal.

Then, it turns out there is an interesting story to tell about this ‘Harry Belafonte of Brazil’. He was accused of having had his accountant be kidnapped and tortured. He somehow also worked as a snitch for the dictatorship.

Now this is a different story. An intriguing one.

But alas… again, this part of the story is told so fast and so superficially, it would only make some kind of sense if you have lived through these events.

Sure, it is made for Brazilian audiences who know more about this singer and who know more about the military dictatorship. For any viewer not familiar with the singer and unaware of his importance/deceit it is quite a lame movie.

So this guy sings about how cheerful Brazilians are during a time of dictatorship and gets scolded at for doing so. Then also falls victim to his own success and any financial predator around him. Gets connected to the military investigators who make him lie on record. All material for a good movie.

Unfortunately this one isn’t.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6145054

Yuli – **(*)

Posted: February 9, 2020 in 2018, biopic, Cuba, Drama, Spain, UK, XX1/2

Carlos Acosta was the first black dancer ever to perform as Romeo at the Royal Ballet of London.

This shouldn’t be remarkable, but it unfortunately still is. Of course this success has to do with opportunities and luck and fate, but talent is needed nevertheless.

This movie starts with the now older Acosta directing a ballet performance based on his life story… and as he has his dancers rehearse the sequences he reminisces and the movie goes in flashback mode to some pivotal moments in his life.

It is a tricky approach, to shift from modern ballet scenes to storytelling flashbacks. And it is also interesting to see a biopic in which the actual main character is playing himself. But it works really well.

More than a biopic and a ballet movie, the story focuses on the troubled father-son relationship. And it is very honest. The young Cuban boy has no desire to become a ‘faggot’ dancer, but his father pushes him into the ballet school. A reverse Billy Elliott so to speak. Not only his father, but also his Cuban dance teacher constantly have to motivate or command him to continue dancing. Especially after an accident halts his successful career for a bit, he needs their tough encouragement to continue. It is clear that this movie is an hommage to them.

The acting by the father, the teacher and the young Acosta is excellent. The story touches on several Cuban issues as well without being too detailed. It is well filmed. At least the flashback scenes are.

Worth checking out !!!

www.imdb.com/title/tt7666250

Judy – **

Posted: January 19, 2020 in 2019, biopic, Drama, Musical, UK, USA, XX

Renée Zellweger is really good. There you go. Everyone writes it and it’s true.

The movie isn’t bad either, but it may not be what you expect after having seen the trailer. It’s a tragic story of a Hollywood icon at the end of her career. Bankrupt, homeless and addicted to all kinds of medication. When she is kicked out of a hotel suite because the bill hasn’t been paid, she drags her two youngest children to their father and asks him if they can stay there for a while. It’s a desperate act, because she and her ex aren’t on speaking terms. Without money and a house, she can lose custody. So, she reluctantly picks up a gig in London…

It’s a tragic tale. There are very few uplifting moments. Sure, there are some songs and performances, but that’s not the focus of the movie. No, this is the story of a woman who is so addicted to being loved and receiving attention and having other people tell her what to do, that she completely neglects taking care of herself. That’s the focus and they should have dug even deeper into this troubled soul. The flashbacks to the troubled childhood of Garland are good as well and nobody mentions her, but Darci Shaw is good too as the young Judy.

www.imdb.com/title/tt7549996

The Two Popes – **(*)

Posted: December 20, 2019 in 2019, biopic, Dramedy, USA, XX1/2

What a surprise! This dialogue movie between two popes is actually really entertaining. The use of gentle humor is a great way of making it accessible and the flashbacks of current Pope Francis’ life are interesting. The use of real footage now and then add to the precision of the storytelling (even though – just like with The Crown – the actual conversations between the protagonists are only known to those who had them). It all starts off with an intriguing look into the mysterious conclave. Very well edited. Short, but explanatory with detailed images. Then you meet the two popes, who are very different in almost everything. Yet somehow this turns into a buddy movie and by the end you kind of get emotional when you see the real popes hug.

The movie focuses much more on Pope Francis, which is a bit odd when the title says ‘two popes’. Pope Ratzinger has a much smaller part and that’s a bit sad. His past is also worth investigating. But there are no flashbacks to when he was a teenager under Nazi regime. We do get a lot of information about the Argentinean Junta and the controversial behavior of Jorge Bergoglio, the then head of the Jesuit order.

Also disappointing is Anthony Hopkin’s accent. He’s speaking British English with an Anthony Hopkins accent, when he’s playing a Bavarian character! Surely, he could have tried to sound a bit more authentic. Jonathan Pryce on the other hand speaks English like an international Argentinean would and he even speaks Spanish!

Good movie!

www.imdb.com/title/tt8404614/

The Irishman – *

Posted: December 8, 2019 in 2019, biopic, Gangster Movie, USA, X

Wow. Glad to not have bought a cinema ticket for this 3,5 hour Scorsese mob tale.

No, it’s not the best movie of the century. Maybe if this is your very first mobster movie you might be impressed. Not if you have seen dozens. It is not really terrible. It’s just too long. And nothing in the direction feels like it’s been done by a master genius. Martin Scorsese disappoints. And so does Robert De Niro. And what’s with the ‘special effects’ making the actors look younger? It’s silly. So are many discussion and many scenes that add nothing to the story.

The acting is not good (apart from Joe Pesci maybe, even though he doesn’t actually do much) and the story isn’t really exciting. None of the characters are sympathetic. And there’s no suspense. The main character works his way up to being some kind of bodyguard for the most notorious union leader of the US, who mysteriously disappears. One google search reveals what happened. Especially if you read about what book this movie is based on.

Maybe. Tonight just wasn’t the right time to watch a mob movie with aging actors.

www.imdb.com/title/tt1302006

 

Rocketman – *(*)

Posted: November 9, 2019 in 2019, biopic, Drama, LGBT themed, Musical, USA, X1/2

It’s never a good sign when the producer of a biopic of a certain artist is the artist himself. In this case, Elton John. Sure, he has lead an interesting life, but told from his perspective it’s flawed and biased.

The movie starts with the British piano rock star attending an AA meeting in full extravagant outfit. It ends with a message that he’s been clean for 27 years. In between you get to learn about his rise to fame and the lack of love he received as a child and as an adult. The whole part where he’s addicted to alcohol, drugs and sex is mentioned, but not really visualized that much.

So, all you’re left with is an uninteresting character with mediocre songs who rose to fame, couldn’t figure out the difference between his onstage larger than live persona and lived with self pity until quite late in his career.

Some may like the magical realism at certain points in the movie (like the uplifting experience in LA’s Troubadour or the skyrocketing singer performing Rocketman, the song). It’s a nice gimmick, but nothing more than that. The acting isn’t particularly great, but satisfying. But it’s a bit sad when the only interesting character in the movie is the ‘evil’ manager John Reid, who is also the bad character in Bohemian Rhapsody. Now, give him  a biopic!

www.imdb.com/title/tt2066051

 

A guided tour of the Leopoldmuseum in Vienna by an art historian who raved about Egon Schiele. That’s all it takes to start watching the biopic that was made of the famous Austrian painter a few years ago.

It’s an interesting movie. It’s well acted, somehow historically correct and it shows the complexity of the artist without really judging him. That said, it’s also quite superficial. And romantic. Egon Schiele was not a handsome guy, yet he’s interpreted by Noah Saavedra – who apart from being an actor also works as a model. This feels wrong. Like having Brad Pitt or so play Van Gogh. However, the guy does an excellent job by keeping you intrigued for the entire length of the movie. Same for Valerie Pachner, who plays his muse and (eternal) lover Wally.

It’s a love story really, but a good one. Without a happy end of course. They all die. And that’s not a spoiler. The title is referring to one of his most famous paintings. A painting which is quite disturbing, something this movie (unfortunately) never does. So Egon Schiele himself would probably not like it at all. But oh well, he died 100 years ago…

www.imdb.com/title/tt4558396

American guests have no idea who Sissi is when they visit Bavaria/Austria for the very first time. Much to the (somewhat acted) shock of local guides, who refer to her quite a lot and then dramatically shout: “You mean: you don’t know Sissiiiiii ?”

The classic Sissy trilogy is not known to American audiences. There’s an abbreviated English dubbed version which is terrible. So never – ever – watch Sissi: Forever My Love. Just watch the original trilogy, in German, with subtitles.

Growing up in Europe, this trilogy is shown almost every year on several tv channels around christmas. Its success is a bit like The Sound Of Music, which was never popular in Austria and Bavaria by the way. Maybe a new generation has never seen the movies, but if you’re over forty, you must have at least seen parts of it.

The first movie: Sissi *** is still a great joy to watch. Camp isn’t the correct term. It’s more cheesy and corny. It’s a idealized portrait of the future Austrian empress from the moment she first meets Franz Joseph to her wedding. It’s a romcom that still works well 7 decades later. There is some efficient slapstick humor, the acting is deliberately over the top, Romy Schneider looks gorgeous and it has all the elements of a fairytale: the bold and adventurous princess, the charming prince (well…) and the evil stepmother. It’s really not a bad movie at all.

In Sissi, die junge Kaiserin **(*), there’s less comedy (although there are attempts) and more drama. Sissi is empress now and has a hard time with the strict life at court. When her first-born is taken away from her, she flees home. Time for Franz Joseph to gain her back. No wedding at the end, no divorce either. But the (very long) crowning of the couple as king and queen of Hungary. Lots of patriotism in this episode. Lots of postcard settings in cities and nature. Lots of Romy looking exactly how everyone wants to remember the empress.

Sissi, Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin ** is the third installment and the worst. Even though the first two movies were also not historically correct, they weren’t so historically incorrect as this one. This is pure fiction at times. The comic relief is gone and it just basically shows Sissi abroad. First during her lengthy stay in Hungary, then her trips to Madeira and Corfu (to cure from a lung infection) and then her trip home via Milan and Venice. This must have been like watching the Travel Channel back in the fifties, but anno 2019 it’s not really fascinating. Especially since all these nationalities are introduced in the most stereotypical way possible. No. This is not a good one, but Romy Schneider is absolutely gorgeous in every single scene. So. Watch it while doing something else. Like reading online what really happened to Sissi and Franz Joseph.

 

 

Sarajevo – **

Posted: July 28, 2019 in 2014, Austria, biopic, Germany, Terrorist, War, WW1, XX

This whodunnit … or rather who-ordered-it-to-have-it-done starts off really well. It focuses on one of the most important historical moments in recent history: the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

The protagonist is Leo Pfeffer, the magistrate in charge of the investigation. The case is quite simple really. Gavrilo Princip shot him after an earlier attempt to kill the archduke by other Serbian terrorists failed. They even arrested the murderer and he confessed. So what’s there to investigate?

Well, according to this movie a lot. Like, who ordered this murder? In history class we learn that a group of Serbian anarchists did it. But did they get the order from the Serbian government? Or … did they get the order from German (business) leaders who just wanted to start a war ?

The movie is good. Well acted. Well directed. Well told. BUT it’s focussing too much on the latter assumption. It’s an interesting thought and it’s true that Europe was eager to go to war (at least the German leaders), but we get the point after a while. There’s also a love story, which most likely is pure fictional and was just added for the drama. It’s well thought of, but it does bother the storytelling a bit. The conversations between the characters also feel like these characters know what the future will look like. Which they didn’t.

Still. Worth the watch. And it’s on youtube

www.imdb.com/title/tt3691446