Friday, May 2, 2014

Must See Biopics and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new film "The Other Woman," DVDs "The Invisible Woman" and "Holy Ghost People," highlight a new celeb bio and feature a "Restaurant of the Week"]

But first....

What is a biopic?

It's a biographical film, and since biographies are my favorite literary genre, it stands to reason I would really like biopics as well.  And I do.

There are so many outstanding biopics that I should probably say these are some of my favorites, but either way they are "must see's."

These are films that really stood out to me for my own particular (and sometimes, perculiar) reasons.

Note:  I have not included any of the great "musical" biopics on this list.  If I had, this list would have been way too long so, lucky for you!  Next Friday, I will list the "Must See" musical biopics.
 

So here is a list of what I consider the "Must See"  biopics:




1.  Bonnie and Clyde (1967)


This is the story of the notorious Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, who robbed banks throughout the Central U.S. during the Depression.

Yes, this is a romanticized view of the pair, but it features Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway at their most beautiful and stylish. Directed by Arthur Penn, he combined French New Wave techniques, shifting between comedy and horror to create a modern version of this iconic story.

I didn't go see this movie until years after its release, because I had heard the ending was so violent.  It is to a certain extent, but nothing like the gruesome fare we see today.

This film was groundbreaking, almost a "rock" version of history and appealed to the younger generation.
 
Why it's a Must See: The "ballet" of violence at the end, when Bonnie and Clyde meet their demise, is shocking and beautiful at the same time.  I have never forgotten the look they give each other right before they are blasted all to hell.  It's one of those moments.







2. Serpico (1973)




The screen adaptation of Peter Maas' bestseller about Frank Serpico of the NYPD who went undercover to expose crime and corruption.

Directed by Sydney Lumet, this film followed on the heels of Al Pacino's role in "The Godfather" and cemented stardom for him. 

Why it's a Must See:  Al Pacino.  He won an Oscar for Best Actor for this role and his place in the firmament of stars was assured.  This is back when he was a major heartthrob and before overacting overcame him.
 



3. Star 80 (1983)


Directed by Bob Fosse, this film was based on the sad, true story of Playmate of the Year, Dorothy Stratton, her jealous husband and the adult sex industry that so often preys on innocent young women.

Mariel Hemingway was not a natural choice for this role.  Before this she had played the young object of Woody Allen's desire in "Manhattan" and an athlete in "Personal Best" and was more tomboy than sex object.  Hemingway got breast implants just so she could play Dorothy Stratton.  Now that's commitment to her art.

Eric Roberts (Julia's brother) was a revelation in this film, and it should have made him a star. However, though he has continued to work, leading man roles have eluded him. The nature of his role here, that of a slimy, jealous user, probably didn't help nor his arrests and drug use in real life, but he has continued to be a fixture in Hollywood, albeit with supporting roles.  But I am worried about him now since he just appeared on "Celebrity Wife Swap (and of course, I was watching!)."

Why it's a Must See:  Eric Roberts' award-winning performance (his character was cringeworthy) and Mariel Hemingway's boob job.
 




4. An Angel at My Table (1990)


Based on writer Janet Frame's three autobiographies, To the Is-Land (1982), An Angel at My Table (1984), and The Envoy from Mirror City (1984), this New Zealand film explores Frame's life and her struggle with mental illness.

This film established director Jane Campion's career.  Her next film was "The Piano," for which she won an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director.

Why it's a Must See:  It's a fascinating story and to see why Campion broke out as one of our premiere women directors.

 


5. Mommy Dearest (1981)


Film version of the book by the same name where Christina Crawford describes her horrific childhood at the hands of her adoptive mother, actress Joan Crawford.

C'mon, people.  Whatever you think of this story or this film, you have to admit it was certainly a tour de force for Faye Dunaway and she chewed that scenery!

Crawford's book was the first of the Bad Mommy tell-alls. There are many who disagreed with the book, but whether it was all true or not, this makes for a great, campy film. 

I once went to a Halloween party as Joan Crawford.  I wore a 40's style evening gown with a wire hanger hanging from the front of it.

Why it's a Must See:  "No MORE WIRE HANGERS!"  You have to see it. Priceless.

 


6. Raging Bull (1980)



Biopic of boxer Jake LaMotta's life (based on his book of the same name).

How can you go wrong?  Robert DeNiro as LaMotta, directed by Martin Scorsese, adapted by Paul Schrader with a then unknown actor, Joe Pesci.

Why it's a Must See: This is arguably DeNiro's greatest performance.

 




7. Capote (2005)


Focuses on the part of Capote's life when he was writing "In Cold Blood" and the unlikely friendship he formed with the murderers of the Clutter Family.

Reading "In Cold Blood" and seeing the movie, (I don't think Robert Blake ever got over playing killer, Perry Smith) changed my life.  It scared the crap out of me, but it also introduced me to wonderful non-fiction writing.

This film does a great job of depicting the times, what Capote went through to write this book, and how his friendship with killers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who were put to death, changed him.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was able to play Capote straight, without caricature, and for that he was awarded an Oscar.

Why it's a Must See: Sadly, Philip Seymour Hoffman's last bravura performance for which he won a Best Actor Academy Award.

 



8. Lincoln (2012)


Lincoln struggles with the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves.

Why it's a Must See: Daniel Day Lewis doesn't just act Lincoln, he is Lincoln, right down to the sound of his voice.  Another Academy Award winning performance.  What can't this guy do?

 





9. Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)


This film captures the comic genius and personal torment that was Peter Sellers.

The all-star cast includes Geoffrey Rush as Sellers, with Emily Watson as his first wife Anne Howe, Charlize Theron as his second wife Britt Ekland, John Lithgow as Blake Edwards, and Stanley Tucci as Stanley Kubrick.

There are few actors and comic films that make me laugh out loud, but he was just really funny.  Two of my favorite films of all time are "The Party (1968)" and "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1968)."

Why it's a Must See:  So you don't forget what a great talent Peter Sellers was. 
 




10. Hotel Rwanda (2004)



Account of how hotelier Paul Rusesabagina attempted to help save victims of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.

Why it's a Must See:  Absolutely riveting and frightening depiction of that horrible time.

 




11. The Social Network (2010)


How we ended up with Facebook.

Does a much better job of telling the story of the rise of Steve Jobs than the film "Jobs."

Why it's a Must See:  It's just a damn good film.

 



12. Monster (2003)



Aileen Wuornos, a  prostitute, was also a serial killer, killing six men as she trolled up and down the highways of Florida in the late 1980's and early 1990's. She justified her actions by saying the men were trying to rape her.  She was executed in Florida in 2002.  This is her story.

There are not very many women serial killers, if any, so this makes for an interesting true crime story.

This also shows what beautiful actresses will do to be taken seriously.  Unpleasant character.  Unpleasant looking character.  Unpleasant story.

Why it's a Must See:  Did Charlize deserve an Oscar for this?
 
 
 
What are your "Must See" biopics?
 
 
 


***In Theatres Now***
 
 
 
A wife and two of her husband's mistresses (they didn't know he was married) team up to seek revenge on the cheating scumbag of a husband.
 
This story has been done many times before - think "The First Wives Club (1996)" and "She-Devil (1989)" - and it's been done better.

There has been major hype about this film.  Cameron Diaz has been on every talk show you can imagine, and I have come to feel that when that happens, the movie isn't very good. This is the case here.
  
I am fond of rom-coms and movies that feature women, especially women with adult friendships.  However, this is less "rom" and even less "com (i.e. comedy)" and the women shouldn't be annoying.
 
Leslie Mann plays Katie, the wife, Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton as the mistresses.  Katie has to be the most annoying character since Kristin Wiig's Gilly on Saturday Night Live. I almost sympathized with the husband and understood why he cheated.
 
I expected more of Mann, since she is married to Judd Apetow, and I have liked some of the things they have done together, such as "The 40-year-old Virgin."
 
As scorned woman myself, I find some satisfaction and catharsis in films where cheater husbands get their due, but here the story itself is pretty far-fetched and devolves into slapstick, of which I am not fond.
 
However, this could be the break-out movie role for Danish actor, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays the scumbag husband, and he does it handsomely and believably. Fans of "Game of Thrones" will recognize him as Jaime Lannister.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...didn't pass the Rosy test for comedy.  I didn't laugh.  The best things about this film were Cameron Diaz's clothes.  Save your money, but if you are still dying to see this one, wait for the DVD.


***DVDS***
You Might Have Missed
And Some You Should Be Glad You Did
(I see the bad ones so you don't have to)
 
 
 


Who knew Charles Dickens was such a rock star? 

He wrote, he starred in plays, he did speaking engagements, he had affairs.  This guy was all over the place and then he met a young woman - who was not his wife!  Horrors!

Ralph Fiennes is another of those great actors who is believable in any role.  He can go from Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films to a romantic hero in "The English Patient" to this recreation of Dickens' later years (Ralph is also another one of those actors I want to kiss).  And Felicity Jones as "the invisible woman" is wonderful.  She deserves more recognition.  She is in the new Spider-Man film (Spider-Man 2), so perhaps she will break out.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...Depicts a Charles Dickens that is surprising.  If you like historical dramas, this is a good one.




Holy Ghost People (2013)



Charlotte is looking for her sister who has gotten involved with a cult of snake worshipers.

I love movies about cults, especially snake worshipers.  What can I say?

There is no one in this movie you have ever heard of and most of it appears to be shot with a handheld camera, but it was fun.
 
 Rosy the Reviewer says...This is about as "B-Movie" as it gets, but it was strangely entertaining.


***Book of the Week***
 
 
 
 
Coreyography, a memoir by Corey Feldman (2014)
 


Memoir of another child star who could not resist the perks and dangers of fame.

Corey, who?  Well, there was a time when Corey Feldman was all over the place starring in "Stand by Me" and "The Lost Boys."  Corey Haim was his best friend and starred with him in several films.  The two of them became known as "The Two Coreys." Then it all went to hell...for both of them.  Feldman came out of it; Corey Haim did not.

Feldman shares his book with memories of Haim who could not beat his drug addiction and died young.

I particularly remember Feldman from Season 1 of the TV show "The Surreal Life," (what reality show have I not seen?), and he did not come off well (he acted like an arrogant ass), so some of this book is an apology for not just his drug use, but for his bad career choices and "bad editing."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Despite this story being told by many a "fallen" child star, this is a fast, riveting read that celebrity bio mavens will enjoy.
 
 



***Restaurant of the Week***
 
 
Aragona

In the space that used to house Thoa's Restaurant and Lounge, this latest Jason Stratton restaurant (he already has the popular Spinasse and Artusi) focuses on Spanish cuisine.

With recent Top Chef contestant Carrie Mashaney at the helm, you can expect well prepared food, beautifully presented.

My only complaints would be the space itself, which just cannot seem to make good use of the view, and the value for money.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...delicious, but expensive, food in a strange waterfront space.  You must try the Arroz con leche (Rice pudding with passion fruit, white chocolate, hibiscus and pistachio) and the house made potato chips.

 
 
 
That's it for this week.
 
See you Tuesday for


"What My Mother Told Me"



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