Archive for the ‘biopic’ Category

Nina – *(*)

Posted: August 30, 2017 in 2016, biopic, Drama, Musical, USA, X1/2

Nina Simone got herself a biopic. Unauthorized by the family. And so somewhat controversial. Nina Simone doesn’t come accross as a nice person. Maybe she wasn’t nice. And that’s not necessary for a good biopic. But somehow as a contrast, it should be evident that the woman had talent. And that’s not really the case. There’s zero sympathy for this character. And that’s tough. Zoe Zaldana is actually really good as the bitchy, drug addict/alcoholic. But she has too few scenes to show a brighter side to the jazz icon.

Oyelowo is degraded to a supporting role and does not get the platform to perform to his ability. Playing a submissive, rather boring and blank assistant isn’t really a challenge. He does it well. It’s just not really a role you want to see him play.

It’s not a good movie, but it’s not a bad one either. There is much worse out there.


A United Kingdom – **(*)

Posted: August 11, 2017 in 2016, biopic, Drama, Historical, UK, XX1/2

United Kingdom tells the fascinating story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, who become the first president of Botswana and his wife. The fascinating thing about it is that Seretse was black – of course – and Ruth was white. Quite remarkable at the time. And still quite remarkable right now. Unless you’re from Botswana or have travelled the country or have a keen interest in the history of Southern Africa, chances are very high that you’ve never heard about this remarkable history fact. So, hooray for the producers who made this an entertaining history lesson.

Unfortunately, it’s nothing more than that. It’s well acted, sure. And it’s nicely shot. But it’s a straight forward, uncontroversial, chronologically told succession of events. White girl meet black lawyer student in London. Guy turns out to be the heir to a chiefdom. Girl accepts marriage proposal. Everyone is against it. Her family. His family. The South African government. The British government. And so the trouble starts…

A lot is covered and it’s covered well. The situation is explained in clear and short dialogues. No excessive explanation. But also not that simplified. It’s a well done film. For the masses. Who didn’t go see the movie though. A shame. Stories like this need an audience. But maybe more for a tv night on Fridays.


Jackie – *(*)

Posted: April 5, 2017 in 2016, biopic, Chile, Drama, USA, X1/2


Nathalie Portman is great as Jackie Kennedy. She would have deserved an Oscar. In fact, she’s the only reason why you really need to see this movie. She’s in almost every scene and even though her character isn’t the easiest to empathize with, she doesn’t bore. The writing is good too. The story focuses on the aftermath of the assassination of JFK. You don’t get to learn anything about her life before and after this terrible act. Apart from that one time she hosted a television crew inside the White House. But that’s fine. You get to watch her for 2 hours in the most difficult period of her life. Great.

Yet somehow this isn’t a great movie.

The soundtrack is so annoying that it disturbs the entire atmosphere of the movie. Magnificent according to the Guardian. Terrible according to many user reviews on imdb. Make up your mind. The other members of the cast play second fiddle and can’t even pull that off. This is Nathalie Portman’s show and the other actors look like they are auditioning for a part.

When you’re annoyed throughout the entire movie, it’s not a good movie. No matter how excellent the lead is.

The Imitation Game – **

Posted: December 25, 2016 in 2014, biopic, Drama, Historical, LGBT themed, UK, USA, WW2, XX

Race – *(*)

Posted: July 30, 2016 in 2016, biopic, Historical, Sportsdrama, USA, X1/2

African American athlete Jesse Owens attending the Olympic Games in Nazi-controlled Berlin and winning four gold medals is one of the most interesting stories ever. It’s surprising that it took so long for anyone to make this into a motion picture. But now they have and it’s clear why this tale hadn’t been told before on the big screen: it’s TOO complex to be told in 130 minutes. It fails as a historical drama and it fails as a biopic.

In a time when tv series are getting more attention than theatrical releases, the producers should have spread the tale over several one-hour episodes. They should have focussed on one particular character in the first episodes and then make them all come together in the end. They should have asked Steven Spielberg to direct it and they should have looked longer for a better cast. They should have paid a historian to double-check the details (and prevent it from being a piece of history for dummies) And they should have found an editor who could tell the director which scenes are superfluous and which scenes need more focus. It’s a shame that money was saved on this project. This could have been so much better!

Race is worth the watch, just because the story is worth to be heard. And apart from the frustration of this story being told in a very superficial way, it’s not all that bad of an experience either.

Stephan James is enjoyable to watch, but he isn’t a Jamie Foxx or Denzel Washington. His performance lacks their theatrical strength and confident power. He probably got instructions to play it humble and subdued, but it all looks restrained and it feels like something is missing. In fact, there’s something missing in all of the performances. Mainly because their screen time is too short. Jeremy Irons plays a construction tycoon who acts as a diplomat to make sure that the American Olympic Committee doesn’t boycott the games under Hitler. His character is incredibly intriguing. You could dedicate an entire episode (of that proposed series) to the man. But now he just pops up from time to time and he cannot shine.  His antagonist, played by William hurt, has even fewer scenes. The fact that one wants to boycott the games and the other doesn’t is worth more than just an anekdote. So it shows that the talented actors aren’t performing to the best of their abilities.

German actor Barbaby Merschurat cannot possibly have liked the way the director wanted him to portray Nazi PR guru Goebbels. First of all, he doesn’t look like the man at all. And second: regardless of how evil the character was in real life, it’s a total injustice to depict him as a one-dimensional guy just because you want the audience to not like him.

There is one exception: Carice van Houten. She’s excellent as Leni Riefenstahl. If Spielberg ever decides to make a biopic about this fascinating director, he should look no further for the female lead.

Steve Jobs – **

Posted: February 12, 2016 in 2015, biopic, Drama, USA, XX

Steve Jobs is an asshole with all kinds of personal issues. He’s a good marketeer and a great designer, but apparently he is not the most talented IT-specialist. Before Apple was the Apple we know now, it was a failing company that couldn’t compete with Microsoft at all. By the end of the movie we see the iconic iMac, which was the beginning of a new successful era. But the two hours preceding it just focus on the failures and the many negative traits of his modern entrepreneur.

So basically, it’s a very negative movie with an antihero who is very unsympathetic. It’s not your typical biography. However, thanks to the great performance of Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, you do want to watch it until the end. Kate Wynslet is great as his assistant and will most likely win an Oscar for her role, but she’s not being exceptionally great. It’s a great acting piece, but as far as the story is concerned: two thumbs down.

Hollywood tries too hard to make intellectually challenging movies. A movie doesn’t become more intelligent just because the topic has specific terminology. (Think about The Big Short). Who gives a shit about the making of a new operating system or a circuit format?

Straight Outta Compton tells the story of Easy E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dré. If these names don’t ring a bell and you’ve never heard of the hiphop collective N.W.A., then this may not be for you. The movie focuses on the music, the struggle and the lifestyle of some of the most important hiphop pioneers. The rise of west coast gangsta rap may not be of interest to many. However, the story is intriguing enough to entertain a large audience. The soundtrack is great. And some of the acting is superb (especially of the main characters). This blockbuster biopic wasn’t even scheduled to be released in the Benelux, until it turned out to be a huge box office hit in the States and hiphop fans demanded a theatrical release. Not that it scored well here, but at least it was shown. It’s most definitely worth the watch.

But… there are several things that prevent this from being a really awesome movie. For starters: the interpretation of Paul Giamatti as the manager of N.W.A. . It’s terrible. Second: the depiction of his character, Jerry Heller. It’s very biased. Next: the kid who plays Snoop Dogg. Not good. But ultimately what really bugs is the obviousness of who produced this movie: Easy E’s wife, Ice Cube and Dr Dré. They are just too heroic. McRen and Dj Yella seem like they were never part of the group. And even though above mentioned Jerry Heller and record label owner Suge Knight aren’t the nicest people in the world, it feels like this movie is a big diss to both of them. That said, Dr Dré and Ice Cube have every right to do so.

It’s confronting to see biopics of bands that you grew up with (or were around when you grew up). It dates from a period when the cool rappers came from the East Coast. De La Soul, Public Enemy, LL Cool J. In 2013 they performed with Ice Cube on the Kings of the Mic tour. I went to the show in New York. Ironically enough, Ice Cube gave by far the best performance. I wasn’t a fan at all in the early nineties, but 25 years later this movie brings back memories. The time has come that ‘historical accounts’ – whether fictionalized or not – will refer to my own youth and adolescence. Aaaarghhhh.

Advice: after watching the movie allow yourself a few hours of time to look up videos and wikipedia entries and rolling stone articles to get to know more about the beefs between Dré and Cube, Dré and Suge Knight, Cube and Heller, etc…