Currently browsing the "Biopic" category.

Review: Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Here’s what I wanna do after watching Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody: 1) surf YouTube for real clips from all the great moments showcased in the film, including Whitney’s 1983 TV debut on the Merv Griffin show; her unrivaled rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV; her iconic medley at the 1994 AMAs; and her ‘comeback’ performance on Oprah in 2009; and 2) re-watch 1992’s The Bodyguard for perhaps the gazillionth time. One of my favorite scenes in the biopic is when Houston learns that Kevin Costner will be leading the romantic drama and wants her to co-star. Where do I sign!?

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. 

Review: ELVIS

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Elvis Presley ever since I made a whirlwind pilgrimage to Graceland in the late 1980s, about a decade after he died at the age of 42. I gained a deeper appreciation for his raw talent and his unbridled passion for different styles of music–from rock to gospel to blues. And in the years since, I’ve programmed the Elvis Channel into my Sirius XM radio; I’ve sung the praises of Elvis’s 1968 comeback special (“If I Can Dream” is my favorite); and I’ve been known to stop channel-surfing whenever a cheesy Elvis movie appears, especially if it’s Viva Las Vegas with Ann-Margret. So, needless to say, I was quite eager to see director Baz Luhrmann’s take on Elvis. Especially when we all know how this story ends (spoiler alert: on the toilet).

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.

Nashville Film Festival Rundown

This was my first time (virtually) attending the Nashville Film Festival.  It is close enough for me to drive over, but that was not possible this time around. They had a great slate of films spread over a week. But sadly a lot of the films I’d have loved to see were only available in person, mostly the big prestige flicks. Nevertheless, I did get to see quite a few worthy films from the comfort of my couch. Below is my rundown.

The films are: Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road; Fanny: The Right to Rock; Everybody is Looking for some Light; Poser; Leftover Feelings: A Studio B Revival; 7 Days; Window Boy Would Also Like To Have A Submarine; Potato Dreams; Porcupine; The Good Traitor; Huda’s Salon; Green Sea; Ayar; Luzzu.

Review: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

If Oscar History is any judge, it doesn’t matter that The Eyes of Tammy Faye is a pretty dull film. Jessica Chastain is brilliant in it. And I suspect she will be rewarded with an Oscar nomination for best actress—and quite possibly, the award itself. The Academy loves to reward biopic ‘transformations’ and Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Molly’s Game) certainly disappears into the role–and makeup–of the late celebrity televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker Messner. She even does her own singing, belting out some of Tammy Faye’s signature gospel tunes.

Review: RESPECT

You gotta respect the artist and the music, even if the movie itself feels a bit stale. Jennifer Hudson sings it out of the park as the legendary ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin in the biopic RESPECT, which surely would have pleased Franklin who handpicked Hudson for the role. Yet the script does not compel Hudson to showcase the emotional range that earned her a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Dreamgirls in 2007. RESPECT is at its best when the music is playing, and when we see how “Re-Re” (as Aretha was known) can take a song, rearrange it, and make it her own. The film is at its worst when skimming through all the obstacles she had to overcome along the way, including physical, sexual and verbal abuse, the sudden death of her mother, a childhood pregnancy, a controlling father, a jealous hothead husband, alcoholism. However true, it’s presented as a mass of cliches familiar to a slew of biopics and documentaries, including recent explorations of the hard knocks endured by Tina Turner and Billie Holiday, and the role of faith and music in their respective journeys. 

Arty Chick’s Oscar Ballot

Update: I began my Oscar viewing thinking the show was fun and creative, but it went totally off the rails about half way through and ended in the most abrupt and confusing way possible, mostly because I think they assumed that Chadwick Boseman was going to win and they’d go out on an emotional note, and then he didn’t. Please, please next year, make it a show worth watching.  As for my ballot, I knew going in that I wasn’t going to get a lot of them right, and I was entirely correct! But I did get those surprises I asked for.  I only got 10/23, and I stand by my choices. I’ve annotate my original with the winners *bolded*.  ?. 

Between the two of us , we saw most of the films that are nominated this year and reviewed most of them here at Chickflix, so if you’re filling out a ballot (here’s one you can download), you can use this to read up on all the ones you might have missed, though we did miss a few. But it’s also my ballot, with my picks *bolded*. I’ll say right up front, I know a lot of my choices are non-mainstream and I won’t win any pools with this ballot, but I’m okay with that!

So happy Oscars! Here’s hoping the producers pull off a creative and entertaining pandemic-limited show. And I am hoping for a few surprises in the voting, too.

 

Tune in Sunday April 25, 2021 at 8pmET/5pPT on ABC.

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