Posts Tagged ‘based on true story’

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Oktober 15th, 2010


Throughout this partly autobiographical film, writer-director-lead character Dito Montiel tries very hard to push the boundaries of cinema – with often disastrous results. Through the story of how he abandoned everyone at his Brooklyn home when going to Los Angeles and how he returned when his father was very sick, he tries to present a message that is completely lost in the over-ambitious, often pretentious drivel the film largely resorts to. There is a good story somewhere and a few scenes hint at what could have been possibly in that story about growing up in hard times, but the film is much too clever for its own good to ever reach the heights it aspires too.

Random Observations:

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints at the IMDb

The film is based on the book Montiel wrote about his life, where apparently the title makes some kind of sense. Here, it is just more pretentious drivel.

The cast is headlined by the solid Robert Downey Jr. and includes a for once middling Shia LaBeouf. Considering that he is normally the worst actor of his generation, that is quite an accomplishment.

Considering that Montiel first made his name (and a lot of money) through music, it probably would have been a good idea to explore that theme somewhat more than in a few throwaway lines.

Au revoir les enfants – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, August 25th, 2010


Goodbye, Children is based on actual childhood events from director Louis Malle. In 1943, a new boy comes to a catholic boarding school in Nazi occupied France. He forms a tentative friendship with Julien, the Malle stand-in, over the next months. But the boy is Jewish, a refugee taken in by the priest running the school, and naturally this is not a story that can end well. I’ve seen many films dealing with the Holocaust, but never one as good as this. It’s not the bigger picture, just a single fate, it’s not told from a big perspective, but a personal story that is incredibly real, touching and sad. Louis Malle made many good films, but this is his masterpiece and well deserves to be remembered.

Random Observations:

Au revoir les enfants at the IMDb

Dear Ryan! I will not use this space to rant about the “first feel good film about the Holocaust”. You know which one I’m talking about, though. And you also know, hopefully, that this is by far the superior film, even if it sadly does not have the same critical acclaim.

One more Louis Malle film on Friday to conclude his theme week.

The acting by the children in the film, especially the two leads Gaspard Manesse and Raphael Fejtö, is superb.

The Black Dahlia – Minute Movie Review

Montag, August 16th, 2010


After being moved to a higher office in the Police Department because their charity fight brokered everyone a pay increase, rivals Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett team up. They are having a good time of it until a girl is murdered and Eckhart’s desire to find the killer and once more claim the spotlight starts to create trouble. But this is only half of the overly convoluted, stupid, erroneous and downright insulting thing this film calls it’s storyline. Director Brian De Palma set out to make a modern day film noir and his recreation of 1940s Los Angeles is certainly very beautiful, with great production design and cinematography, but in all that glory he forgot to create a compelling and coherent story or to hire actors that can act or at least direct them decently. The film is overly ambitious and fails spectacularly, which is still better than all the middling fare out there, but not enough to make it worth spending any time with.

Random Observations:

The Black Dahlia at the IMDb

The film is based on James Ellroy’s novel, which in turn is based on a true story. Which in this case means: the murder actually happened, but it was never solved and none of the people apart from the victim in the novel ever existed, and even the real Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia bore little resemblance to the book or film version. So basically they just used a true murder as a hook to get people interested in the crappy story. (For full disclosure, I should add that I have never read the novel, but if the story is anything like in the film, it’s bound to be bad.)

Whatever happened to Josh Hartnett? There was a time when he seemed like the next big thing, but now he seems all but forgotten. Could it be that this film exposed his limited acting ability?

The only actor in this film who is any good is Aaron Eckhart. Everyone else, even otherwise talented people like Fiona Shaw, Hilary Swank or  Scarlett Johansson turn in absolutely lacklustre performances that are distracting from the film more than anything else. On the other hand, maybe that was intentional.

The Wrong Man – Minute Movie Review

Montag, August 2nd, 2010


In a turn from form, Alfred Hitchcock actually tells a true story in this film: misidentified by several eye-witnesses, musician Henry Fonda is thought to be a hold-up man that pushed over several stores and offices in his neighbourhood. His insistence that he is innocent is not believed and he has trouble confirming his alibi. In short, a rather bad situation. The film is rather slow in the first half, focusing on his initial arrest, but considerably picks up speed in the second half. It’s not as exciting as the director’s numerous fictional works, but the sheer absurdity of the story and some further plot twists stranger than fiction make the film a good cautionary tale about the reliability of eye witnesses.

Random Observations:

The Wrong Man at the IMDb

Instead of his usual cameo, Hitchcock narrated the opening.

Since this is a true story, it’s obvious that the real criminal is caught in the end. (How else would anybody believe the wrong man’s story?) Naturally, he looks nothing like Fonda.

A nice supporting turn from Vera Miles as Fonda’s wife, who slowly crumbles under the pressure.

Bonnie and Clyde – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Juli 9th, 2010


In the early 1930s, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow decide to become bank robbers. And so that is what they do, escaping the police time and time again in bloody shoot outs, accompanied by their gang, always on the run from the law. Naturally, such a thing must lead to disaster, creating the set-up for one of the most memorable final scenes in film history. Otherwise, the film is a slightly above average gangster drama that, apart from emphasizing that the two were just kids out there having fun, has little to do with the true story. This was, however, the film that in 1967 marked the end of the Production Code and the beginning of the new Hollywood, paving the way for some of the greatest films America ever produced.

Random Observations:

Bonnie and Clyde at the IMDb

The extreme violence and realistic depiction of it throughout the film was one of the reasons the studio initially wanted to bury the film. It went on to become the second most successful film Warner Bros. ever produced.

Film debut of Gene Wilder, whose supporting turn as a kidnapped man bares little resemblance to his later, largely comedic, work.

Producer Warren Beatty initially considered Shirley MacLaine as Bonnie, but opted for Faye Dunaway when he decided to play Clyde.

In the first draft of the script, Clyde was bisexual, not impotent. In real life, he probably was neither.

Papillon – Minute Movie Review

Freitag, Juni 4th, 2010


In 1931, butterfly Steve McQueen and counterfeiter Dustin Hoffman are sent to a penal colony in French Guyana, where they bond. Over the next decade, they repeatedly try to escape, succeeding to varying degress, while the brutal establishment tries to break them. The film is a beautifully photographed drama about the inhumanity of this justice system, and about a man who tried everything to fight it. It is, however, overly long and many of the themes, especially the struggle for personal freedom, are underdeveloped. Fine performances elevate the story somewhat, but not enough to make it worth watching.

Random Observations:

Papillon at the IMDb

Last entry in Dustin Hoffman Week. Dustin Hoffman is actually such a good actor, that his week has nine days…

The film is based on the book by Henri Charrière, who claimed it was autobiographical. Since the release in 1969, however, significant doubt has been cast on this assertion. In the best case, the book was inspired by some real life convicts and their stories.

The first time McQueen is put in solitary, it truly feels like two years. The second time, the five years last less than a minute.

Isn’t it amazing that the woman in the native village that takes McQueen in after his second escape has tan lines despite obviously being supposed to be always topless…?

I Love You Phillip Morris – Minute Movie Review

Dienstag, Juni 1st, 2010


Jim Carrey starts out life as a good family man, but then he decides to openly declare his homosexuality and live the life he wanted. This is a good idea, but it turns out that being gay is very expensive (at least if you lead Jim Carrey’s lifestyle). So he becomes a con man, constantly increasing the games to make more money. When he is finally caught and sent to prison, he meets fellow inmate Phillip Morris, more commonly known as Ewan McGregor, and, you can have guessed it, falls hopelessly in love with him. The film, based on a true story (in Texas, of all places!), is a good mix of comedy and drama, but often slips on that fine line. Jim Carrey is a far cry from his best dramatic work and the depressing ending casts a pallor over the light entertainment the film often is. But hey, it’s still extremely funny and certainly pushing the boundaries for main-stream Hollywood cinema, which is always a good thing.

Random Observations:

I Love You Phillip Morris at the IMDb

This unscheduled post was brought to you by the fact that this film is currently in theatres in many countries and it would be a real shame to deprive people from reading my expert opinion on it before they see it, so I wasn’t going to push it to September 17th…

Speaking of pushing the boundaries for main-stream Hollywood cinema: the US release was postponed several times and it now looks like the film will at best get a limited release. It would be certainly interesting, what the regular Jim Carrey fans would think of this film – and one scene in particular. If you’ve seen the film, you know which one I’m talking about.

Ewan McGregor in blond and with a disappearing Texas accent is very odd. Good, but a far cry from his best work, which is truly great.

Best bit: when the hardened prison inmates pass along love notes between the two men.

In real life, con men are horrible. In films, they are amazing fun!

Capote – Minute Movie Review

Donnerstag, Mai 20th, 2010


Despite the title, this is not your regular biopic, instead just telling the story of how Truman Capote become involved in the murder story in Kansas that served as the basis for his extraordinary true crime fiction book In Cold Blood. The film is a bleak retelling of history, somewhat elevated by the interesting subject and a superb performance of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role, who has no qualms about depicting the vile nastiness and arrogant narcissism of Capote – a portrayal that garnered him a (arguably long overdue) Best Actor Oscar. This awesome performance also is the film’s biggest weakness, for together with the brutal killers it takes centre stage, meaning that no character the viewer could identify with is left. More sympathetic figures like Harper Lee (the always reliable Catherine Keener), Capote’s boyfriend Jack Dunphy (Bruce Greenwood) or police investigator Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper) are reduced to little more than cameo appearances.

Random Observations:

Capote at the IMDb

You know how all famous people know each other? Watching this film, you could almost believe that is true.

I always knew Capote was a nasty piece of work, but if his depiction in this film is correct, he hardly qualified as a human being. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a great writer, but still.

I like the story Capote tells about shooting a film with Humphrey Bogart and John Huston. Those two men are as close to being my idols as anyone.

Lilja 4-ever – Minute Movie Review

Sonntag, Mai 16th, 2010


Lilja is a young teenager living somewhere in the former USSR. Her mother has abandoned her for a new man living in America. Her aunt doesn’t give a damn and due to an unfortunate betrayal by her best friend, the local boys consider her a whore. She only has one friend, a younger boy who loves and adores her. In that horrible situation, it is not surprising that she falls for the charms of a man who has only one secret aim – to take her to Sweden as a sex slave. Based on a true story – and millions more like it – the film is a horribly bleak look at modern realities. It is honest and unforgiving, painful in its depiction of the emotional and physical violence inflicted upon Lilja. But it’s also a very sweet film, with the depiction of the friendship being among the most honest ever to be put on film. It’s a horrible story, but it’s told in such a way that you are not just shocked, but feel with the characters.

Random Observations:

Lilja 4-ever at the IMDb

Director Lukas Moodysson has a knack for showing honest teenage emotions. This is also visible in his earlier, much lighter in tone, film Fucking Åmål, which is one of my favourite films of all time.

There are many scenes in the film that are almost too painful to watch, yet they are also incredibly sweet. The final scene is the pinnacle of that.

The film is mostly in Russian and was mostly filmed in Estonia. I always thought they made it a point not to speak Russian there anymore?

Oksana Akinsjina (or Oksana Akinshina, depending on which transliteration you prefer) was only fourteen when she played Lilja. She rightfully won several awards for her acting.

Heavenly Creatures – Minute Movie Review

Mittwoch, Mai 12th, 2010


In 1954, a brutal murder shocked New Zealand. Two teenage girls killed the mother of one of them, in the hope of removing one of the obstacles keeping them apart. The film adaptation follows the diary of the daughter and tells the story of their friendship and love, that soon turns to obsession. Darkly poetic, the film manages to have the viewer root for the girls before the shocking ending to their story exposes the folly of their way. It’s a powerful story, masterfully told, that lives through the performance by the two leads, then-newcomers Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet. Ultimately, it’s a little too rambling with too many loose ends in the narrative to be perfect, but it’s still a very good film.

Random Observations:

Heavenly Creatures at the IMDb

You may have heard of director Peter Jackson. He went on to adapt a quite popular trilogy of fantasy books, creating the most successful films ever made in New Zealand.

There are certain parallels to Jackson’s latest film, The Lovely Bones, in that both blend fantasy and reality through the use of great special effects.  In this case, however, the effects actually advance the story and do not detract from it.

Much of the film has an almost dream-like tone, which makes the realistic ending all the more powerful.

It has been extensively debated whether the two girls were “just” friends or actually lovers. A moot point in my opinion, as the obsession with each other that lead to the tragic ending, can support both ideas. The parents’ fear that their children may be lesbians, however, should not be discarded and is adequately shown in the film.