Currently browsing the "inspired by true story" tag.

Review: Military Wives

Military Wives is a fairly straightforward feel-good film that offers up a bittersweet salute to military families and their sacrifice, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend. It’s a dramedy that takes place primarily on a British Army base and focuses on a diverse group of women whose partners are deployed to war-torn Afghanistan for six months. To help pass the time, and keep themselves distracted from the daily stresses of juggling family and fear, the women form a singing group that leapfrogs from a small practice room on base to the glaring spotlight of a globally-televised event at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall. The film is inspired by true events surrounding the formation of the very first Military Wives choir that started a decade ago and led to a popular BBC docuseries and dozens of other Military Wives choirs around the world. The characters and much of the story is fictionalized – which likely accounts for the formulaic rhythm of conflict, humor, tragedy and triumph – but the spirit of the film is authentic, and a lot of real military families were used as extras in an emotional send-off scene that sets the stage for the drama to unfold.

Review: Ordinary Love

Ordinary Love offers a master class in quiet, meaningful, relatable and subtle performances from two veteran actors, Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) and Liam Neeson (Taken, Schindler’s List). They play Joan and Tom, a loving, long-married couple whose comfortable routine is disrupted by an unexpected diagnosis of breast cancer. The film shines a light on the everyday challenges a couple can face while attempting to navigate uncertainty, illness and grueling treatments with a sense of humor, grace and intimacy. There’s also tremendous sadness, anxiety, frustration and fear.

Review: The Last Full Measure

I really wish I could bestow high critical honors on The Last Full Measure because I totally support what it aims to do: share the story of a true American war hero and the decades-long effort to have his sacrifice acknowledged with a Congressional Medal of Honor. However… while the movie is inspired by actual events, it leans too heavily on character composites, over-dramatization, creative license, and one righteous speech after another by a cast of heavy-hitters. Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Ladd, the late Peter Fonda. Each delivers passionate dialogue that feels like something you’d see on a Memorial Day tribute to the nation’s fallen. Or a star-studded made for television movie. It feels exactly like what it is: a passion project that finally made it to the big screen as a low-budget indie. The key takeaway: U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper William H. “Pits” Pitsenbarger risked – and gave – his life to save dozens of men caught in an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam on April 11, 1966. He deserved a Congressional Medal of Honor, and his parents finally got to accept one on his behalf 34 years later. A very rare honor for an enlisted Airman.

Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood sticks with me today as much as it did a month ago when I pegged it as one of my favorites at the Middleburg Film Festival. Cheesy and sentimental as it may sound, there’s no denying the power of – and need for – the film’s inspirational and aspirational message that it only takes one person to inspire a world of kindness. It doesn’t hurt to have that message conveyed by Hollywood’s Mr. Nice Guy, Tom Hanks, channeling children’s television icon Mr. Fred Rogers.

Quickie Review: Red Joan

There’s no denying Judi Dench’s watchability factor. The Grand Dame of cinema commands the screen whenever she’s on it – which isn’t all that much in the not-so-thrilling spy thriller Red Joan. Don’t let the poster, trailer and top billing fool you. Dench is merely a high-profile vehicle for bookending a story told primarily through flashbacks, with Sophie Cookson (Kingsman: The Secret Service) playing young Joan Stanley, an impressionable and idealistic Brit turned longtime spy for the KGB.

Review: Instant Family

Instant Family is an instant charmer. It’s a message movie that balances the funny with the feels and could very well raise critical awareness and interest in foster care and adoption. The film was written and directed by Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home) who drew on his own family story for inspiration. Just like the main characters in Instant Family, Anders and his wife took in three siblings born to a drug addict mom. Their journey was fraught with challenges – and laughter. So they decided to put that experience into the cinematic universe to help demystify the foster care and adoption process and celebrate the true meaning of family.

Eddie the Eagle

Eddie the Eagle is a feel-good movie for the masses, inspired by a true story, though dramatically boosted by fictionalized supporting characters and plot points. It’s the story of Eddie Edwards, a British ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary with his goofy antics, big glasses, and determination to compete despite a definite lack of world-class athletic prowess. British actor Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) downplays his looks and ramps up the nerd factor to play Eddie, an underdog athlete you can’t help but root for. I read that both Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) were once slated to play Eddie and I could totally see either of them pulling it off as well. Ultimately, it’s what Eddie represents that makes the movie work… well, that and Hugh Jackman. ☺