Currently browsing the "Based on True Story" category.

Review: Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle

A couple of weeks before I saw this film, I read filmmaker Werner Herzog’s first novel “The Twilight World,” which draws on his meeting 25 years ago with Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who, not realizing that WWII was over, kept fighting his guerrilla war on a small Philippine Island for another 29 years. His story has been endlessly caricatured over the years, but the man himself and what he endured, and why and how he kept fighting have not been explored. It is a fascinating book. And now there is a film about him and his life in the jungle. 

Reviews: She Said and Women Talking

I saw these two films just days apart and they seemed to speak to one another. Both take on sexual predation, but from very different viewpoints. She Said is a journalistic thriller based on the true story of the female journalists who exposed Harvey Weinstein’s long history of abuse that led to his much deserved comeuppance and ignited the #MeToo movement. Women Talking is also based on a true story, that of a group of women in an isolated religious community who come together to decide how to deal with a long and horrifying history of rape by the men in their enclave. The women who tell their stories in She Said are fearful of losing their careers, while the ones in Women Talking are afraid they will lose their place in heaven. And so they all have to think long and hard about how to take on the monstrous men who hold power over them.

Review: The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg knows storytelling. So it’s really no surprise that The Spielbergs – er, I mean The Fabelmans – is a good yarn. It’s a semi-autobiographical drama that dives into Spielberg’s personal history, while pulling back the curtain on family secrets and the evolution of his obsession with filmmaking. Or, for the purposes of creative license, Sammy Fabelman’s obsession with filmmaking. Sammy – Steven. Steven – Sammy. Close enough.

Review: Breaking

Watching this “based on a true story” drama, you can’t help but think back to several other films about decent men taking hostages because the system is horribly unfair to them — Dog Day Afternoon is the most obvious comparison. But Breaking had me thinking more of John Q with Denzel commandeering a hospital ER when his insurance company refuses coverage for his son’s heart transplant. Here John Boyega turns in a career topping performance as Brian Brown-Easley, a decorated Marine who brings a bomb to a bank because he wants the VA to give him the money they owe him so he can take care of his family. And it’s that performance and Michael K. Williams’s (“The Wire”) last turn before his death as the hostage negotiator that make this fairly predictable drama worth watching.

Review: Thirteen Lives

Thirteen Lives is one of those inspiring movies that you can’t really find much fault with (unless you’re claustrophobic). It’s based on a true story that screamed “miracle movie” from the instant the story played out on international television in 2018. Then, it got Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Rebuilding Paradise, We Feed People) onboard as director, so you could rest assured the vibe would be compelling, authentic and uplifting. If you like documentaries and dramas inspired by actual events, it’s worth diving into Thirteen Lives. The film runs nearly two and a half hours but as you become immersed in the story (and the watery cave), time pretty much stands still. Most people (who weren’t living under a rock in 2018) know how the story ends (yay!). What the movie hangs its dramatic hat on is all the little details we didn’t know about at the time or weren’t quite captured in last year’s excellent, Oscar-nominated documentary The Rescue (which you should see before or after the dramatized version).

Review: Huda’s Salon

This riveting “based on true events” thriller from two-time Academy Award nominee Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now, Omar) is set in the West Bank. Reem (Maisa Abd Elhadi) is a young Palestinian mother married to a very jealous man. One day she visits her hairdresser, Huda (Manal Awad), and tells her all about her struggles with him as her little daughter sleeps just beside her chair. The two women clearly enjoy their gossiping and kvetching. After the new do, Huda offers Reem a coffee, only it’s no friendly act, but a life altering event.

Review: Being the Ricardos

Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago Seven, The Social Network) is the undisputed master of clever, snappy dialogue.  And here he turns his gift to telling the story of the It Couple of the 50s — Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. He focuses the narrative on one particular week in 1953 when their world came close to crashing down because of a couple of media stories. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem star as the power couple prepping for their weekly “I Love Lucy” episode while scrambling to make one huge (and one small) scandal disappear. And while that story is unfolding the backstory of their relationship comes out in flashbacks. Sadly though it should be a lot more satisfying that it ends up being. 

Review: Belfast

This Oscar-bait memoir movie comes from writer/actor/director Kenneth Branagh who takes a look back at a defining year of his childhood. Branagh was just a 9-year-old boy in 1969, living in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the beginning of what became known as The Troubles, a period when there was violent street fighting between the Protestants and the Catholics.  His story is seen through the eyes of his adorable little stand-in Buddy (Jude Hill) whose life is changed forever during that turbulent time.

Review: King Richard

If you’re at all into tennis, this is a must see. Even if you’re not, you can’t help but be aware of the amazing Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. King Richard is their origin story, and at the center is their father Richard played by Will Smith in what is sure to be an awards contender performance. I remember when they exploded onto the scene in the 90s. The media made a lot of their dad and his presence and his style. A lot of it was not positive. This film serves as a corrective to that depiction, showing a devoted and driven father with an audacious plan, a family who bought into his dream for them, and two extremely talented young Black girls who broke the mold when it came to the polite white tennis world. It’s a totally uplifting flick!

Review: Tick, Tick…Boom!

Tick, Tick…Boom! Andrew Garfield is dynamite and so is this film–especially if you’re a musical theater geek. Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton) makes his feature directorial debut with Tick, Tick…Boom!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the creator of the hit musical Rent. Larson died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm in 1996, just as previews for Rent were about to begin off-Broadway. The film is essentially a love letter to and by Larson.