Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Marshall – **

Posted: March 10, 2018 in 2017, Civil Rights, Courtroom, Drama, USA, XX

Chadwick Boseman may now well be the hottest guy in Hollywood after the stellar success of Black Panther, but his previous movies didn’t really do well at the box office. Nor has he really been in a lot of movies. Regarding his age. Which is sad, because he’s a fine actor. This time around he’s playing yet another icon of black America: Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice. No biopic this time, but one moment in his life: The State of Connecticut vs Joseph Spell.

In fact, that should have been the title of the movie, because that’s what it is all about. It’s an interesting case where a white socialite claims to have been raped by her black driver, but he claims to be innocent. In comes this Marshall, a prominent and notorious black lawyer, who is sent by the NAACP to make sure colored people get a fair trial. He isn’t really allowed to plead, so they find a Jewish lawyer who has no experience with criminal cases and just represents insurance companies, but who should be willing do to whatever Marshall tells him to do.

It’s an okay movie. It’s a court room drama. It doesn’t really tell much about this Thurgood Marshall. But Chadwick’s performance makes you believe he was an intriguing man. Sterling Brown is great as well as the alleged rapist. But it’s Josh Gad who is doing the best acting as the Jewish lawyer. However, it’s just a court drama. Set in a historic time. Stressing the injustices that were put onto black people and jewish people (it’s set during WW II). It’s the kind of movie you watch, like and then forget.


Sure, it’s a good history lesson and yes, Jessica Chastain is a great actress, but this movie is pretty dull. It shouldn’t be. It’s about a noble and brave couple that helped rescue several Jewish people from the ghetto in Warsaw, during the German occupation. Yet, there’s nothing in the movie that stresses this bravery and nobility. It all feels too much like fiction.

First there’s the decision to film a story in Poland and have the characters speak English. That’s a standard procedure in Hollywood (or other movie industries), but it’s annoying. Especially if the actors speaks English with an accent. Either speak Polish and have it subtitled or speak English. But English with a fake Polish accent, just makes the story less realistic.

Then there’s the development of the side characters. Or better: the lack of. In order to empathize with the victims, it’s important to get to know them. But we never do. They get rescued and hide, but we don’t know anything about them. Some stay a bit longer, others come and go. It’s all very superficial. You should feel like the zookeeper and his wife are doing something special, but the way it’s presented feels like they are just doing what’s right. There’s little tension. And that feels unrealistic too.

And finally, there’s the redundant character of Lutz Heck, a former friend and colleague of the zookeeper and his wife, turning against them and becoming the bad guy in the movie. He’s a zoologist and a scientist with crazy ideas, which is intriguing, but turns out to be a powerful nazi officer in the occupied Warsaw as well. Which is a bit far-fetched.

There are two different stories here. One is about a family who has the means and courage to rescue people and takes the risk of doing so. And the other is about a scientist who uses the zoo’s facilities to breed animals that were believed to be extinct. Mixing both of them feels fictionalized.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is okay movie fare, but the real story is much more exciting.


Roots (2016) – ***(*)

Posted: November 7, 2017 in 2016, Drama, Historical, Slavery, USA, XXX1/2

Back in 1977 a television series was ground breaking (and successful) telling the story of the descendants of a captured young African warrior who was shipped from The Gambia to the United States and sold as a slave. His name was Kunta Kinte and his struggle and legacy is still known and popular in American pop culture. Just think of the hit single of Kendrick Lamar (‘King Kunta’). But the 1977 show looks a bit old fashioned for young kids and so a remake was produced, shown last year to critical acclaim.

It’s a powerful story, stretching over several generation. From 1750 before the American Revolution to the end of the Civil War in 1865. It’s not just the story of Kunta Kinta, but also of his daughter Kizzy, his grandson Chicken George and grand-grandson Tom.

Compared to the original series (seen four years ago), this remake is much shorter. It has more action. The acting is better. The setting is more professional. It’s visually a much better series. It’s what you can expect from a big budget tv series these days. Even though the story is based on a fictitious character, the events are depicted in a neutral, historically correct way. (Alt-Right Neo Nazis may disagree of course). Compared to the first series, the ‘white characters’ are better developed. There’s even a good white character this time. Hooray!

This is and excellent series for those who aren’t too familiar with the early history of the African American community. An absolute must. But it’s also worth watching for those who have seen the original show. The acting is truly much better. That Malachi Kirby is phenomenal as Kunta Kinta. But Regé-Jean Page as Chicken George is also quite exceptional. Jonathan Rhys Meyers kills it in all of his scenes. He’s a delight. Even though he’s the mean white slave owner.

The creators had to cut a lot of stories to fit in just four episodes. That’s a bit sad. Because there is much more to tell. The decision to skip several decades from time to time was necessary and it works. But you want to learn so much more.

Detroit – **(*)

Posted: October 29, 2017 in 2017, Civil Rights, Drama, USA, XX1/2

Injustice: the movie, part 654!

Luckily for all the movie makers out there, there’s a lot of injustice going on in the world. There are thousands of movies that focus on inequality, discrimination, abuse, outrage etc… Some are very factual. Others twist the events and rewrite history. And most add a little bit of drama to the actual story, such as in this retelling of a hostage situation in Detroit during the riots of 1969.

It’s interesting to see how, before the end credits roll, a notion is made of this.

Nevertheless, extra drama or not, this is an entertaining and gripping story. It’s well-directed by Kathryn Bigelow and the little known cast performs really well. Especially Algee Smith and Will Poulter. The former plays a talented singer, who after the evacuation of a concert hall during the riots, ends up at a motel with his best friend. The latter plays a racist cop, who decides to search the motel for an alleged sniper who fired at them. The situation gets out of hand and all guests from the hotel are being detained by the cop and his colleagues…

The movie is about racist cops who get away with killing innocent black people. The story is set in 1967. However, similar events have happened over the past years as well. And so, it’s pretty obvious that not every cinema going movie fan wants to be confronted with this reality. The movie flopped – people prefer fiction – and that’s a shame. Maybe it will do better here in Europe. It’s a good movie. But as the events were written down during the court hearing, more drama was needed. It’s good drama, but it still feels pretty superficial. We don’t really get to know anything about these people’s lives before ending up at the motel. Maybe this would have been better as a four-part miniseries.

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.


Hidden Figures – ***

Posted: April 5, 2017 in 2016, Civil Rights, Drama, USA, XXX

Hidden Figures is light-hearted, but memorable. It’s a movie for the largest audience possible. It’s a chick-flick with a masculine theme. It has three black women in the lead who anyone can relate to, regardless of the color of their skin. It’s a period drama, with references to today’s society. It’s a movie for young and old. For black and white. For men and women. It’s positive. It’s good. It’s a jackpot. It only has one flaw: Jim Parsons. Of all people they could cast as an annoying math scientist they chose Sheldon! But he only has a few lines. So you’ll survive. Watch it. Period.

This is a movie for those who love Jane Austin stories, but think they are too white. It’s set in the same period of time, but this time the female heroine is a mulatto heiress.

The illegitimate daughter of a wealthy navy officer (and a slave from the West Indies) is raised by her uncle and aunt, who are already raising another niece. When her father dies she has a good fortune, but that doesn’t mean much, because as a mulatto she can’t really go higher up in society. Until a noble man fancies on marrying her, telling her that ‘unlike others’ he is ready to ignore the traits she received for her mother because ‘it is clear that the traits of her father luckily are more evident’.

In the mean time, the uncle is settling a case about a (slave ship) company that threw their human cargo overboard in order to get money back from their insurance. A young lawyer is trying to convince the uncle that he should speak against the company. Soon the mulatto heiress falls for him.


It’s a period piece. With a different take. But it tells the same story. It sucks being a woman at that time. Let alone a mulatto woman with money.

Somehow, British people love seeing movies and series about class distinction so they can continue using it.