Category Archives: Biopic

The Fighter (2010)

I have known about The Fighter for  some time now. It was originally supposed to be Darren Aronofsky next movie, but it kept getting delayed in the process. He did The Wrestler and felt that this movie would be too similar so he passed the baton to David O. Russell. It has got a lot of buzz this award season. It deserves it.

This is the true life story of Lowell, Massachusetts residents Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) circa 1993. Dicky has a HBO documentary crew follow him around for his comeback to the boxing ring where he shined as knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard, who appears as himself in the film.

Seeing that his time has passed, Dicky trains Mickey to make more goals than he ever did in his career. His decades long crack problem had him wasting away his body, hair, and mind. Their mother, Alice (Melissa Leo) is trying to keep the family together by acting as Mickey’s trainer. Dicky’s crack problem is hampering Mickey’s training and everybody sees that, except for Alice.

Mickey meets a feisty bartender after a night drinking named Charlene (Amy Adams). They begin to have a courtship when a fate steps in. Mickey would supposed to fight one opponent that is in his weight class, but his opponent caught the flu and will not be able to box. Another opponent steps up who is twenty pounds heavier than Mickey. (If you expect me to believe that Mark Wahlberg weighed 145 lbs, you are nuts. I am 160 lbs and I hit like a girl.) He takes the match so the family could get paid. He gets his ass handed to him.

Embarrassed by the loss, Mickey doesn’t want to talk to anybody in his life. Not until a rival manager would train Mickey in Las Vegas so he could have a chance to have a great career ahead of him. Mickey has a tough decision to make about choosing between his family and his career.

The movie overall was a very good exercise in establishing the dynamics between duty and pride, acceptance and being ostracized.

The story gets under your skin and wants warm your heart. It does has its faults. The main problem with this movie is the lead actor. Wahlberg has been training for this part for roughly five years and I was not rooting for him to succeed. He didn’t have the nuance, the charisma to make me be on his corner. Lastly, another down point is the fight sequences in the general were overly rehearsed. It did not feel like that they were hitting each other in the ring. It was like a choreographed dance.

Judgment: This movie is like a sucker punch to the gut.

Rating: ****1/2

The Social Network (2010)

If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg

Two forces of nature, director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin have come together to make the adaptation of the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich come to life on the big screen as The Social Network. I knew the back story of the origins of the Facebook that it was strictly for college students. I didn’t want to be a part of that community, because it wasn’t me. I jumped on the bandwagon last year and haven’t looked back since. However, after watching this movie, I almost contemplated deleting my account… almost.

The movie dramatically recreates the genesis of the latest social network phenomena. It mainly focuses on one of the creators of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) who may or may mot suffer from a case of Aspberger’s Syndrome. Zuckerberg’s “ah-ha” moment stemmed from the breakup of his fellow Harvard girlfriend, Erica ( Rooney Mara) in 2003. He gets drunk, blog bashes Erica and creates his first site, FaceSmash, which measured the hotness of two random Harvard girls.

Mark gets into serious trouble with school officials over violating privacy laws, breaching online security, etc. Zuckerberg was nonchalant about the hoopla surrounding him. Acting smug to get some attention, but the wrong attention as he is listed as public enemy number one on campus. His antics attract the attention of a pair of affluent twin from the school’s rowing team, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (dually played by Armie Hammer) and Divya Navendra (Max Minghella). They want to hire Mark to work on their idea of an exclusive dating site called “The Harvard Connection.”

Mark shuts himself in his dorm room and furiously types out of the codes to create a site, but not the dating site he promised. He enlists the help of his only friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to get the algorithm and some startup money to fund his little side venture. Mark wanted to build on the idea of making a social network of his very own that would be better than MySpace, Friendster and The Harvard Connection combined.

The popularity of the site exploded almost overnight. Hearing the whispers of Mark’s brainchild throughout the campus catches the attentions of the Winklevosses and Divya who filed an injunction on “The Facebook” as it was called then. The rapid success of the site drives a wedge between Mark and Eduardo when Napster founder, Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) comes into the picture to shake things up.

I felt the same way with this movie like I did with Juno. If you could get past the rapid fire Aaron Sorkin verbal volley match, then you would enjoy this movie. The movie in my opinion became better as it moved along. The beginning was a little rocky that goes to an Earth-shattering finish. Eisenberg is not trying to be a poor man’s Michael Cera. He was not doing his schtick. He did not imitate Zuckerberg, but gave a subtle performance. Hammer as the Winklevoss twins was very effective with the cadence in his voice. Very commanding. I believe the standout performance of this movie was Andrew Garfield. His character went through a whole range of emotions that had me rooting for him in one moment and hating him the next.

Justin Timberlake is generating some Oscar buzz for his performance as Sean Parker, but I don’t see it. He played Sean like a fey swindler. I kept getting distracted by his mannerisms.

Judgment: Overall this movie is good entertainment that took dramatic licences.

Rating: ****1/2

Hunger (2008)

Hunger is a movie that I have heard from on the Filmspotting podcast when themselves and various critics have put this movie on there top tens of 2008 and 2009. I have heard scant things about this movie, but I didn’t want it spoiled for me. In retrospect, I thought that this movie was magnificent debut film from Steve McQueen. (No, not that Steve McQueen.)

Taking place in Northern Ireland in 1981, the story deals with a couple of inmates at the Maze Prison that are held there by the government. They think that they are political prisoners, but the government doesn’t seem to think so. The prisoners are under a blanket/no wash protest until they get political prisoners status.

The story follows all side of the controversial moment by looking at the lives of prison officer Raymond Lohan (Stuart Graham), who is afraid of being murdered. He checks under his car for bombs, looking over his shoulders for assassins, etc. He is one of many guards that are taking the prisoners out one by one and beat them up for smuggling contraband into the prison. His knuckles become bloodier as the protests goes on.

Next, the action focus on a new Irish Republican Army prisoner, Davey (Brian Milligan) arrives at the prison refuses to wear the standard uniform. He is asked to take his clothes off, given a single blanket and have the walk of shame to his cell where he meets his cellmate, Gerry (Liam McMahon). Gerry is serving out a twelve year sentence, while Davey has only six. Looking around the room, Davey sees that Gerry has covered the walls of the cell in his own shit, putting his food in a slop corner on the floor and using his urine as a last act of defiance.

About thirty minutes into the film, we meet the main protagonist of the movie, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) who is the mastermind of the protest. The reason why the guards are beating up the prisoners is they get their visitors to smuggle notes to the outside world by being a drug mule of sorts. Gerry gets his girlfriend to smuggle radio transmitter in her vagina.

The prison guards force the inmates out of their cells to beat them into giving up their seemingly lost cause. They perform cavity searches on them, getting them to wash and cut their hair. That breaks some of the inmates.

Regrouping for the cause, Bobby Sands wants to go on a hunger strike to make the point to get the Irish government to name them political prisoners. He calls for a local priest (Liam Cunningham) to come talk to him. It culminates in a riveting seventeen minute unbroken shot with Bobby and the priest discussing the morality of the hunger strike.

The next moments of the movie shows the effects of malnutrition does to the human body.

Today’s filmmakers are so keen on quick cuts and being overly glossy, but McQueen does something that is raw and real and hits you to the core. The movie is tough to watch, because it shows that one person’s sacrifice could mean a lot to others. Michael Fassbender gives a brave performance in this movie.

Not knowing the story of Bobby Sands and this era, I had trouble getting into why the events happened the way they did. Why did we focus on a prison guard? Why do we focus on a riot officer at one point? Being that this is an Irish movie, I had trouble understanding of what the people were saying, even though there is very little dialogue in the movie.

Judgment: I would suggest reading up this subject before seeing the movie.

Rating: ****

Julie and Julia (2009)

I’m Julia Child. Bon appetit!

— Julia Child

I had no inclination of watching Julie & Julia, because I thought that it would be just another chick flick. Now, that Meryl Streep is getting lots of awards attention for her portyal of Julie Child, I had to watch the film to see it. I also heard when you watch the film, it would make you hungry. I had a meal before I watched this. I envied the characters having the chance to try those wonderful dishes.

Based on the novel of the name by Julie Powell and “My Life in France” by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, writer/director Nora Ephron interweaves of two women seeming to live parallel lives at two different times.

Julie Powell (Amy Adams) is struggling novelist that is working for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation answering insurance calls after 9/11. She feels like she hasn’t finished anything in her life. Her friends are becoming more successful than she is, and it makes her feel left out in the cold. After a scathing article about her turning thirty is pressed, she wanted to accomplish something in her life. By suggestion of her husband, Eric (Chris Messina), Julie starts a blog, “The Julie/Julia Project” to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year.

Flashing back to when Julia Child (Streep) arrives in 1949 France where her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci) was transferred to the local embassy. While Paul is at work, Julie tries to find something to do. She has the idea to have a French cookbook in English, which didn’t exist at the time. To do that she had to enlist in cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, but the headmistress, Madame Brassart (Joan Juliet Buck) tries to discourage her for advancing in the school. Her infectious energy makes her the star of the class.

As the movie goes on story highlight coincides in their lives, Powell has doubts that anyone is reading her blog when she receives ingredients from her fans. She is becoming more popular that people want to interview her. Child has an opportunity to author a cookbook with acquaintances, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle (Linda Emond, Helen Carey).

I heard about the liberties that Ephron with Powell who was having severe martial problems that lead towards her divorce. I enjoyed myself with the movie. Streep was good as Julia Child. Her portion of the movie was better than Powell’s. The sequence with Julia’s sister Dorothy McWilliams (Jane Lynch) visiting them did not have any bearing on the movie to me. I thought the ending dragged on too much that it got syrupy for my tastes.

I was struck about the blog. I want to read it. Does Julie have another one in the works?

Judgment: This movie is a slice of life. Make sure that you have eaten before watching it.

Rating: ****

Public Enemies (2009)

I was raised on a farm in Moooresville, Indiana. My mama ran out on us when I was three, my daddy beat the hell out of me cause he didn’t know no better way to raise me. I like baseball, movies, good clothes, fast cars, whiskey, and you… what else you need to know?

— John Dillinger

Public Enemies was one of my most anticipated movies of this past summer. I saw the still pictures and the behind the scenes footage at the beginning of the year. I was going to watch this film, but the reviews of the film let out of collective “meh.” I didn’t go. I thought that I might wait for the film to come out on DVD to watch it. I have to concur with the reviews.

Taking place in 1933 in the heart of the Great Depression, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is brought to the Indiana State Penitentiary, there is a bold attempt to escape by several inmates; Pete (David Wenham), Homer (Stephen Dorff), Walter (James Russo) and a guard, John (Jason Clarke) with Dillinger in the middle of it.

FBI burueu chief J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) enlists Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) to find Dillinger who is in Chicago robbing several banks along their crime spree.

On the wild night on town, John meets Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and they quickly became a couple. With Purvis on their tail, the gang tries to be one step ahead of the fed. Purvis is frustrated that the inadequate people working under him are threatening him arresting Dillinger. When Johnny is finally recaptured, he becomes a celebrity in his own right.

The camerawork that Michael Mann implemented with the digital camera instead of the traditional film works for me. When I saw the trailers for this movie, I was leery with it. Sometimes there is ghosting on the screen, but I felt like I was there with Dillinger and his crew.

The scenes in general are drawn out like a rubber band that you wish that it would break. The story is uninteresting to say the least. I wasn’t expecting a grand gangster film with lots of gunfights, but the characters are shallow, the dialogue is so-so, the movie overall is okay. It’s nothing special. Lastly, this might sound superficial, but the second tier henchmen in this movie looked ridiculous with their bowl hair cut and questionable facial hair.

Judgment: Watch this movie with the sound off and enjoy the visuals.

Rating: **1/2

Invictus (2009)

This country’s changed. We need to change as well.

— François Pienaar

Since the announcement of Clint Eastwood on the next LAMB in the Director’s Chair, I am trying to watch more of his movies for the upcoming three-day fest. I thought I might kill two birds with one stone with seeing Invictus. Based on the novel, “Play the Enemy” by John Carlin, the movie tells the story of Nelson Mandela trying to unite the nation after Apartheid. This movie is getting some critical acclaim. I don’t see why it does.

Morgan Freeman channels Mandela as the movie chronicles five years in the life of Mandela beginning on February 11, 1990 when he was released after two decades of imprisonment. The country is torn apart by a civil war brewing between the Africans and the Afrikaans.

Mandela becomes president and when takes the office some of the white staff threaten to quit. The remnants of racial tensions are still thick in the air. Mandela needed to find a way to unit the country of South Africa as one. He goes to a rugby match where the Springbok rugby team, headed by François Pienaar (Matt Damon). The team is not doing their best.

Mandela wants to meet with the captain of the Springbok team to discuss how they could help the nation heal from Apartheid. The encouragement of Mandela inspires the team to train for the World Cup in 1995. Mandela almost pushes his presidential duties aside to focus on the rugby team and make them succeed.

I don’t know jack shit about rugby. It looks like American football to me without the figure hugging spandex. The biggest problem of the movie was that. Americans don’t care about sports that know nothing about. I thought I was going to see a movie about Mandela struggle to readjust to civilian life after a lengthy imprisonment, but I have to research that myself.

Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are getting some critical acclaim for this film. I thought that they were fine. Freeman looked like Mandela, but his accent slipped in and out when he monologued about retaining the Springbok’s colors or when Freeman did his signature voice-over. That took me out.

Matt Damon’s character was just there. He was the pawn for Mandela. Move here. Move there. You can win the World Cup if you do as I say. Mandela felt like he was obsessed with the team that he would risk his health and even the state of country in order for the Springbok to succeed.

I thought François was written like a caricature. There was nothing remarkable about him. I didn’t believe that he would lead a rugby team to the World Cup. (Oh, please, it’s not a spoiler. It’s history.) I couldn’t help but wonder if Matt Damon has a prosthetic nose. If he did, it was distracting.

Eastwood still delivers stunning visuals of the multiple fans in the Ellis Park Stadium watching the Springbok play. The mix of shadows and light is always great, but the film as a whole felt empty. In the climactic match, there was a lot of slow motion. Too much slow motion. Even the spectators watching the game were in slow motion. Why? That match was as slow as molasses.

Judgment: The movie was awkward, clunky and uninspiring. I was disappointed.

Rating: **

The Blind Side (2009)

You threaten my son, you threaten me.

— Leigh Ann Tuohy

It was not my intention to see The Blind Side, because everyone knows how much I can’t stand Hollywood inspirational movie coming out during the holidays to tug at your heartstrings. Recently, Sandra Bullock has been getting some serious critical acclaim for her lead performance. Against my nature, I decided to watch what the fuss what all about.

I had a heavy bias walking into this movie. The ultra-giving white person helps the disadvantaged black youth achieve greatness thought some kind of sport. It has been seen time and time again.

I’m not a big sports fan to begin with, but I put my feelings aside to watch the true story of Michael “Big Mike” Oher (Quinton Aaron), a disadvantaged black youth that is crashing on the couch of a friend since his mother, Denise (Adriane Lenox) is strung out a crack. Mr. Hamilton (Omar Dorsey) wants to get his own son, Steven (Paul Amandi) into a good school with Big Mike in tow. With his lack of motivation for schoolwork and his limited intelligence, the Wingate Christian School Coach Cotton (Ray McKinnon) wants to give Big Mike a chance to succeed at something.

Mrs. Hamilton doesn’t want Big Mike to be sleeping on the couch anymore. With no place to go, he befriends the Tuohy family riding in their brand new Lexus SUV when he is walking in the freezing rain. Compassion in Leigh Ann Tuohy’s heart, they decide to take him into their huge mansion during the Thanksgiving holiday.

After that one night, Leigh Ann brings Mike back to his old neighborhood where he learns that his mother is evicted from her home. Now with no home to go to, he ends up staying with the Tuohys on a permanent basis. Leigh Ann learns that Michael has “protective instincts” that if his grades could improve than he could compete in football. He has the right build to be left tackle to protect the quarterback’s blind side.

By the end credits, I fought so hard to hate this movie, but there was a certain charm about this movie. The actions of Michael on the football field when he tackled opponents was hilarious as well as the performance by Jae Head as Sean Junior.

I am not saying that this movie is best movie of the year. It’s not horrible either. It’s right in the middle for me. As far, Sandra Bullock’s performance, I can see why she is getting some attention, but I’m getting an Erin Brockovich: Part Deux vibe again. Put on a blonde wig, have skintight clothing and talk in some crazy Memphis accent aka act like a slut and you will get some Oscar attention. Do actresses have to demean themselves so they could get a shred of credibility in Tinseltown? Something needs to be done about that.

Judgment: Another average inspirational holiday movie that is supposed to make you adopt a big black boy.

Rating: ***

Jet Li’s Fearless (2006)

Poison works very quickly. It has worked its way to my heart… Zhensheng, promise me you won’t seek revenge. Revenge will only bring us more bloodshed. Please, that’s not what I want. We must strive to become triumphant… Nong Jinsun, I only understand wushu. I practiced for many years to understand what Wushu is, what is wushu’s real purpose. The competition must continue. One cannot choose how one’s life begins. It takes courage to finish the final step.

— Huo Yuan Jia

Billed as Jet Li’s swan song to the epic martial arts movie, Fearless retells the true-life story of Huo Yuan Jia. He is known as being the best martial artist in China at the turn of the 20th century. I learned about this after I watched the movie. I thought that this was another martial arts movie, but it was a little different not by much.

As I said in the introduction, the film is about the life story of Huo Yuan Jia (Jet Li) primarily focusing on the last ten years of his life. All of this life, Yuan Jia wanted to be a great martial artist like his father. His father didn’t want his son to fight because of the asthma that he had since he was a boy.

Yuan Jia wanted to prove everyone wrong to be the number one fighter in the land. Not hearing his mother’s warnings, he becomes very cocky. He fights scores of warriors until Master Chin (Chen Zhi Hui) challenges him. They get into an epic fight where Chin is defeated. As an added consequence, a follower from Chin’s clan slaughters Yunjia’s family.

Devastated from the turn of events, he leaves his life behind to find the true meaning of the martial art. After years of exile, Yuan Jia comes back to his hometown to find the Jin Wu Sports Federation that has expanded to over fifty countries today.

I understand that Jet Li wanted to portray the greatest hero in Chinese culture. He wanted to end his martial arts movie life with this person. It’s like poetic justice, but it was stale in some parts of the movie. The action sequences are great, of course. You can plainly see the stunt doubles from some of the actors. Also, there is a sequence where a Japanese fighter is interacting with Yuan Jia where he is clearl dubbed. That is a capital offense in my book. Everything else is blah.

Judgment: If you want to see a half-ass attempt of a biopic, watch this movie.

Rating: ***

Jarhead (2005)

Every war is different, every war is the same.

— Anthony ‘Swoff’ Swofford

During my subscription of Details magazine circa 2003, I passed by a blurb for Anthony Swofford briefly discussing his memoir about his time in the Persian Gulf War called Jarhead. Sam Mendes directed the big screen adaptation of his story. I loved that the story is not a war movie, but a movie about young soldier’s journey.

Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a Marine recruit that is trying to find himself. He thought that the military was the best decision, but he regrets it. He is introduced to his platoon, Gulf Company. His initial reception does not turn out why the way that he thought. They tried to initiate him with a mock branding of the USMC.

Pretending that he has a stomach virus, he meets Staff Sgt. Sykes (Jaime Foxx) in the crapper. Seeing that Swofford is not as dumb as he thinks he is, Sykes wants Swofford to train as a scout sniper. Swofford jumps at the opportunity. He is teamed up with Troy (Peter Sarsgaard).

As the Iraqis invaded Kuwait, Second Platoon is deployed to the battle zone. The Marines think that they would be there a maximum of two weeks, but things changed. As part of Operation Desert Shield, their orders from their battalion leader Lt. Col. Kazinski (Chris Cooper) are to guard the oil fields that are a constant target of the Iraqi militants.

The platoon has to learn is about to the harsh conditions of the desert, how to survive the insurmountable boredom of non-combat conditions. As the days turn into months, Swofford’s mind begins to unravel as he learns that his girlfriend is cheating and he is not seeing any action.

Everybody knows how much of a “Gyllenhaalic” I am. I remember taking my ex-boyfriend to see this movie in the theaters. I was engrossed in the movie and I looked over to see that he was sleeping. That’s why he became an ex-boyfriend.

Sam Mendes has a way to make a monochromic setting into a thing of beauty. You see sand blackened with soot and ash from fireballs or burning oil wells in the distance. It’s like the screen is inverted.

Judgment: If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like gory war movie, you would enjoy

Rating: ****

The Damned United (2009)

damned_united_ver2

Things are going to be a little different around here… without Don.

— Brian Clough

The Damned United was not on my radar whatsoever. I never heard of the film until Mike from Big Mike’s Movie Blog reviewed it. I heard that people were digging this movie. Typically, I don’t like sports films, especially soccer. This movie tries to delve into the genius of England’s greatest soccer coach, Brian Clough, but it barely scratches the surface.

In July 1974, Leeds United fail to make the World Cup that year. The most successful manager of the club’s history, Don Revie (Colm Meaney) leaves his post to manage English National Football Team. His successor is the opinionated Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), who has some choice words about Leeds in the past. His new team does not like the new guy.

The action flashes back six years earlier, the days that he was with a fledging team of Derby County with his assistant manager Pete Taylor (Timothy Spall). During random drawing of which teams would square off, second division Derby is selected to play first division Leeds. The Derby team is humiliated by a loss when Leeds team implements dirty tactics to win their games.

This begins a rivalry between the two clubs. If Derby wants to be the best, they have to beat the best by any means necessary. Brian wants to have a player that could help them reach the top of the second division. The management goes with the over the hill, Dave Mackay (Brian McCardie). This swift action causes strife with chairman of the team, Sam Longson (Jim Broadbent).

His new strategy works as the club move up the second division to capture the cup. The nation takes notice about his accomplishment. Revie wants to humiliate Clough as much as he can.

Michael Sheen gave a very good performance in this movie. Some parts of the movie were very good with the self-realization that we good. I wish that the movie focused more on that. It mainly focused on Clough’s obsession with getting back at Revie. When the movie was over, I thought, “That’s it.” It felt like a hanging chad.

Judgment: There is a good movie here. You have to fish for it.

Rating: ***1/2

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