Archive for the Based on True Events Category

Nowhere Boy – 2009

Posted in 2009, Based on True Events, Drama with tags , , , , , on December 12, 2010 by filmglutton

Nowhere Boy is a film about the early years of John Lennon. Lennon (Aaron Johnson) is a restless teen who lives with his Aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott Thomas). This is not so much a film about the beginnings of the Beatles, but Lennon’s estrangement from his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and his attempts to re-connect with her. His mother teaches him a few chords on the banjo and John is suddenly hooked on music, learning to play the guitar and forming his own band, The Quarrymen. A young Paul McCartney sees them play and joins the band, later bringing his friend George Harrison into the fold. But at the core of this is Lennon’s relationship with the two women in his life: his mother and his aunt.

If you’re expecting to hear any Beatles music in this, you’ll be disappointed. The unmistakeable opening chord from A Hard Day’s Night rings out as the film opens, but we aren’t treated to any more Beatles music. There is plenty of rock n roll, though, with young Lennon being inspired by Elvis.

The performances are quite good in this, with a particularly superb performance from Kristen Scott Thomas. But really, would expect anything less from her? Aaron Johnson is fine, but perhaps not the ideal actor for this part – he seems to lack the intensity or something. Anne-Marie Duff is very good as Lennon’s mother, and I think Thomas Brodie Sangster makes a very sweet Paul McCartney.

This is not a major movie. There are moments where it falters, both in the screenplay and in the direction. The climatic moment of the movie is handled quite strangely and doesn’t affect you as it should. It’s a well-made film but there’s nothing particularly outstanding or interesting about it. If you’re a Beatles fan you’ll get a kick out of it, and it’s worth catching if you get the chance…but I wouldn’t buy it on DVD!

My rating:

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The Social Network (2010)

Posted in 2010, Based on True Events, Drama, Reviews with tags , , , , on December 7, 2010 by filmglutton

The Social Network is a film about Mark Zuckerberg, the man behind Facebook, and how he developed Facebook when he was a student at Harvard. As portrayed in the film by Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Zuckerberg is a man-child with poor social skills and extreme intellect. After getting dumped by his girlfriend, he drunkenly hacks into the college websites and creates a website where everyone can rate the hotness of undergrad girls. The website is extremely popular and is shut down quickly. Zuckerberg creates a name for himself and is approached to help create a a social networking website. Zuckerberg has ideas of his own and eventually launches The Facebook. It doesn’t take long for the website to take off, for friendships to fall apart, and for the legal battles to begin.

This is a wonderful film about recent events. Is it all true? Doubtful. But it does make for engaging entertainment. Mark Zuckerberg is a very interesting protagonist/antagonist. I came out of the movie thinking “What a douche!” But that’s not really the point. The point is that this brilliant student created the biggest website in the world. He is 26-years-old, and one of the world’s youngest billionaires. More than 500 MILLION people use Facebook. I’m one of them.

 The actors all do a fine job. Jesse Eisenberg is quite fantastic as Zuckerberg, managing to make you empathise with this largely unlikable character. The character you care about most is Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), probably because he’s a kind of naïve guy that gets totally betrayed by Zuckerberg. That’s gotta suck (but then again, don’t believe everything you see; it’s impossible to tell how much is fact and how much is fiction). Many of you may be wondering about Justin Timberlake. Well, JT is JT. He always seems to be playing a version of himself, and he hasn’t convinced me that he can act. But he’s fine in the role of Sean Parker.

I did come out of this movie wondering about my own involvement in Facebook. It’s the most addictive website ever created, and I find myself sitting in front of my computer, hitting refresh every two minutes. Seriously, how sad is that? But this is the phenomenon that Zuckerberg created, and it’s fascinating to get an insight into the origins of Facebook in this fantastic film.

It’s kind of a weird movie in a way, because it doesn’t seem like the kind of material that would make a good movie. Just imagine pitching this one to anybody! But the script is fantastic, and the film really works. It seamlessly moves between 2003, when Facebook was created, and 2007 during a lawsuit. It’s hard to rate something like this. It was totally engaging, and it was directed by David Fincher so of course technically everything was pretty perfect. But as far as emotions, it isn’t the kind of film that really moves you. I know I harp on about this a bit, but I think that’s the thing that makes a film stay with you long after you leave the cinema. I watched Frost/Nixon, for example, and thought it was a wonderful movie, but it’s quit forgettable because it doesn’t really move you. It’s the same with this movie. It’s great, but will I remember it in a year? Will I want to watch it again?

Only time will tell.

 My Rating:

A League of their Own (1992)

Posted in 1992, Based on True Events, Comedy, Drama, Period Film, Sporting with tags , , , , , , on June 24, 2010 by filmglutton

A League of their Own is based on the first women’s baseball league in America in the 1940s. While the men were at war, somebody had the bright idea of establishing a women’s baseball league. Dotti (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty) are sisters living in rural Oregon. Dotti’s husband (Bill Pullman) is fighting overseas. Dotti is the beautiful one of the family, and younger sister Kit always feels inferior. This feeling extends to baseball; when the league is scouting women, Dotti is the one they want. She encourages them to take on her sister. From here they make their way to Chicago where they try out for the teams. Here they meet some other women and future teammates. Their team is the Peaches, and they play alongside flirty Meg (Madonna), loudmouth Doris (Rosie O’Donnell), and plain Marla (Megan Cavanagh), among others. They are a melting pot of personalities that share a love of baseball. The team is assigned Jimmy (Tom Hanks) as a coach. He is a washed-up star that has spent the past 5 years drinking. He is rude and he can’t believe that he has to be with the women’s team.

 

This film was directed by Penny Marshall, and her husband has a small role as the head of the baseball league. The cast are well-suited, even Madonna. It’s surprising to see her in a film because she has such an enigmatic identity, but she is actually good as May (though it’s probably not too far from her real personality). Tom Hanks has the best part here. His character is angry and moody, so a lot of the laughs come from his over-the-top anger. Some fine comedy work from him here; actually, the movie just generally elicits some good laughs in addition to the more sentimental moments. 

Even though this is a sports movie it also has a strong narrative. I think it struck a good balance between the games, the characters, the humour and the drama. It has a lot of spirit and Marshall is obviously very enamoured by the idea of these strong women in the 40s. The ending is really nice, and the older versions of the characters look impressively similar to their younger counterparts. I may or may not have felt a bit teary at the end (it seems like I’ve been crying in films a fair bit lately), but this has been handled really well. It’s not too sentimental but just has a hint of nostalgia. There is so much to enjoy in this film. The baseball sequences are great and it’s interesting to see the characters’ relationships develop.

 

This is a great one for women of all ages (I remember liking it when I saw it as a child) but I think men will enjoy it too. It’s not too sentimental, and the women are really tough! Nice to see a woman directing this film also.

 My rating:

Shine (1996)

Posted in 1996, Australian, Based on True Events, Drama, Reviews with tags , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by filmglutton

Shine is based on the life of Australian pianist David Helfgott. Gifted from a young age, David showed exception prowess in chess and piano. His main obstacle and encouragement in life is his father (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Peter Helfgott (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a survivor of the Holocaust, is a man that cares deeply about his family but doesn’t know how to relate to any of them. He never shows David or his sisters any love. He is furious when David comes home with second prize at a piano competition. He even beats David. It’s almost like Peter loves him too much, and every time David disappoints him he becomes irrationally angry. When David is offered a scholarship to study piano in America, Peter goes nuts, screaming that he is the head of the family and that they won’t be separated. What a terrible disappointment to poor David. This emotional and physical abuse in David’s childhood is central to his later life.

The film opens with middle-aged David (Geoffrey Rush) running around in the middle of the night, his talking frenzied and incoherent. He is gripped by schizophrenia, and as the film moves through his earlier life, it is extremely painful for the audience to watch this develop. We don’t want it to happen but there’s nothing we can do to stop it. When David starts taking piano lessons (he previously learnt from his father), Peter insists that he learn Rachmaninoff’s 3rd, an extremely difficult piece technically and emotionally. Each teacher refuses to teach him that song; David eventually learns it at college, but the sheer emotional demands of the piece threaten to unravel his fragile psyche. Music, and his father’s advice, nearly destroys him. We see him at three stages in life, from his childhood to his adolescence and young adulthood (Noah Taylor) and finally in later life (Geoffrey Rush). Lynn Redgrave has a small but important role later in the film.

There are some truly fine performances in this film. Geoffrey Rush won the Oscar for his role, but I think Noah Taylor and Armin Mueller-Stahl are both fantastic as well. The music is almost a character in itself. It is incredibly beautiful and skilfully used throughout, never being too much. Music is David’s life-force and a driving force in the narrative. The music in the film was played by David Helfgott himself, while Geoffrey Rush acted as his own hand double. While music is extremely important in the film, the film focuses on the relationship between father and son and how that affects David as an individual. There is one scene about 3/4 of the way into the film between older David and his father that is so just incredibly moving, it brought me to tears. It’s a bitter reminder of so many wasted years, wasted time. Boy, that was strong writing and strong performances. You will know it when you see it.

Much of the criticism aimed at Shine has focused on the blurring of fact with fiction, or about how David Helfgott is not a great pianist. It’s even more contentious because David Helfgott is still alive and still touring. I’ve chosen to judge the film as it is, not on outside debate.

Oh my goodness, this was a great film. I rarely hear Shine mentioned whenever the ‘Australia’s best films’ debate crops up, and I have absolutely no idea why. This is an Australian film that has a really wide appeal and can resonate with anyone. It has universal themes of family and love and growing old and regret. Why can’t we make more films like this instead of the crap we see in the cinemas now? I can’t believe it took me so long to see this, very fine direction from Scott Hicks.

Absolutely loved this. Watch it now.

My rating:

(just as a side-note, it was very difficult to find pictures for this review, so I kind of gave up…)

Braveheart (1995)

Posted in 1995, Action, Based on True Events, Best Film Oscar, Blockbuster, Drama, Epic, Period Film, Romance, War with tags , , on January 15, 2010 by filmglutton

Braveheart, winner of the Best Picture Oscar, tells the story of William Wallace, the legendary hero who fought for Scottish independence in the late 1200s. This film has Mel Gibson in the lead role, a rugged and brave man with a keen intellect and sense of humour. Oh, just so charming. Anyway, as a young boy William has to cope with the death of his father and older brother, killed in a resistance battle. He goes away to live with his uncle, and when he returns he is intent on marrying and making a life for himself on a farm. He wants nothing to do with the violence that took his family away from him. He marries his childhood friend, Murron, in secret, but a tragic event causes him to retaliate against the English, and from here it escalates into full-blown battles led by Wallace and his loyal men.

It’s really strange to think back to the days when Mel Gibson sat on top of the movie making world. Think about it: this was an ACTOR who won best DIRECTOR for the film that won BEST PICTURE. It sounds like something from a screenplay. I do find it hard to believe he directed this, because I always think of him as an actor, but with Braveheart he proved that not only could he direct, but that he was very, very good. Because this is an extremely good film. The cinematography is beautiful, James Horner’s score is fitting, and the direction really is commendable. The battle sequences are amazing, it convincingly looks like there are thousands of men onscreen.

Besides William himself, other characters include love-of-his-life Murron (Catherine McCormack), best friend Hamish (Brendan Gleeson), evil Edward I (Longshanks) of England (Patrick McGoohan), insipid Edward II (Peter Hanley), his French wife Princess Isabelle (Sophie Marceau), and claimant to the Scottish throne Robert Bruce (Angus Macfayden). The actors are all fine, but this is really Mel’s film.

The battle scenes are violent and brutal. Perhaps not as gory as some more recent films, but they certainly have a raw brutality; and do be warned, we do see throats slashed and heads crushed. But Gibson does not dwell on these moments, so anyone who is a bit squeamish (like myself) will be fine!

The film has been criticised for its historical inaccuracies, corny one-liners, obligatory romance, for depicting only one side of the story, for supposedly being homophobic, and Gibson himself has been criticised for being too old (well, yes, especially when they want us to believe that Murron and William are almost the same age – yeah right!)  BUT Braveheart is not pretending to be a true historic account, it is presenting a myth. It is a piece of entertainment, a story of great breadth and excitement.

Braveheart is purely entertainment, a cinematic epic. And if you choose to look at it in this way, instead of an historical travesty, it joins the ranks as one of the great epic war films.
My Rating: 

Bright Star (2009)

Posted in 2009, Australian, Based on True Events, Drama, Period Film, Romance with tags , , , , on January 10, 2010 by filmglutton

Bright Star is about the last three years of John Keats’ life and his relationship with Fanny Brawne, the girl next door. Fanny is a strong-willed young woman with a skill for sewing, and she finds beauty in John’s poetry and personality. As the fall in love, however, we see that his health grows weaker, making for a sparkling yet doomed romance.

Bright Star has been hailed as Jane Campion’s best film since The Piano. I haven’t seen any of Jane Campion’s films other than The Piano, so I can’t really comment on that, but I will say that I think The Piano is the superior film.I think my problem with Bright Star was that it had very little plot. This is not a terrible thing, but it meant that the film felt quite, well, slow at times. I was still very engaged with the characters, but since you will probably know the outcome of the story (as spoiled by every review you read) there are no surprises in this film, nothing to keep you hanging on. And while I think the two leads had good chemistry, there is actually quite a lack of sexual tension (which was so prevalent in The Piano and is something which really draws the viewer in).

Abbie Cornish is really lovely as Fanny, she’s not a character you’ve seen 50 times before in period dramas. She has her own ideas but she’s not as headstrong as an Elizabeth Bennet or Jo March. She is a fantastic seamstress, creating a range of interesting fashions that are looked down upon by stuffy neighbours. Abbie Cornish gives her life and intelligence, I really like some of her work (although Fanny is supposed to be 18 and Cornish is clearly much older). Ben Whishaw as John Keats is suitably poetic and vulnerable…I don’t know much about Keats, so I can’t comment about his characterisation. Paul Schenider as Keat’s friend and fellow poet Brown is suitably irritating, I think he played this role really well (and probably had good fun with it!). Pretty good performance from this American actor in Scottish accent. The other roles are quite small; Edie Martin puts in a natural performance as Fanny’s younger sister Toots. And just excuse the animal lover in me for one second while I say I loved the cat. Cats in films = win.

The cinematography in this film is simply stunning. The locations are beautiful, and there are some shots that film fans will just drink in. At times one could get sick of that dreamy, overexposed look but it is just beautiful. Even if you aren’t interested in the film the cinematography is definitely worth the admission, beautiful photography. Also worth mentioning is the art design. The sets are good, but I really loved some of the costumes.

I want to see more from Jane Campion, I wish some directors wouldn’t take so long to bring out their next project. Bright Star is a lovely film with good performances. I think some people will abolutely love this, and most others will appreciate the talent displayed here.  Keats fans may particularly like it, but it is less about him than about Fanny and their relationship.

Worth watching.

My Rating:

Julie & Julia (2009)

Posted in 2009, Based on True Events, Comedy, Drama with tags , , , , , , , on November 11, 2009 by filmglutton

julie1

Julie & Julia is set in the late 40s/early 50s as Julia Child (Meryl Streep), the American woman who became a household name due to her bestselling book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and had her TV show, fulfils a desire to take cooking lessons while living in Paris. The film is also set in New York in the 2000s, as Julie Powell (Amy Adams) starts a blog where she will chronicle her attempts to cook all 524 of Julia’s recipes in one year. It moves back and forth between the two storylines, showing how these women are connected by their love of cooking. They are also both married to very patient and loving husbands; Stanley Tucci plays Paul Child and Chris Messina plays Julie’s husband Eric.
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This is a really warm and charming film. All of the performances are strong – they really make this film. Meryl Streep steals the show as usual, but Tucci is good as her husband and Adams makes Julie, a somewhat self-centred character, sympathetic and likeable. Julia Child is the kind of woman you would either love or hate in real life. She has so much spirit, but she is also full-on. I loved her in this, probably because Streep is so empathetic. There is an undercurrent of sadness that Julia and Paul don’t have any children. Julie and her husband are refreshingly ordinary, they just look so normal. As I’ve said, Julie is a bit self-obsessed, but it’s a bit understandable when we see her friends. They are extremely self-centred, and a blog is Julie’s chance to be heard. Despite seeming self-centred, she is actually very empathetic and gets genuinely emotional about the people that call her at work every day. Julie needs to feel validated; we recognise this desire in ourselves, and thus we understand her faults.

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The problem with the film is that you never really connect with the characters. That sounds like I’m going back on everything I said, but let me explain. I was interested in the characters and their storylines, but I never felt that the stakes were very high. It never felt like they were going to fail, thus taking away a lot of potential drama. This film could potentially be quite forgettable.

Overall Julie & Julia is an enjoyable film that is elevated by fine production and great acting. Women of all ages and older men will like this movie.

My Rating: 1111