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Backbeat-Movie Review 07/07/2013

Posted by dbinder in Based on true events, Beatles, Biographical, British, Movies.
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BACKBEAT (British) 1994

Directed by Iain Softley
Starring Ian Hart, Stephen Dorff, and Sheryl Lee

A look at the Beatles tour of Hamburg, just as they are about to burst into stardom. While following the teenage musicians as they get their first tastes of success, this movie focuses on the relationship-almost-love-triangle between John Lennon (Hart), his very close friend from Liverpool, Stu Sutcliffe (Dorff), and German photographer Astrid Kircherr (Lee). Stu must choose between his place in the band and his love for painting and for Astrid, but he comes to a tragic end.

I have watched several Beatles-related movies lately, and while this is not one of the best, and is criticized as not totally historically accurate, Backbeat does shed some light on the band’s early days. Astrid’s black and white photographs of those times have become iconic. She was interviewed for the movie as was Klaus Voormann, her musician-artist friend, who remained tangentially connected with the Beatles.

Not a big award winner, either; check the few here.

100 min. Rated R.

 

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Bernie-Movie Review 06/09/2013

Posted by dbinder in American, Based on true events, Comedy, Crime, Golden Globes, Gotham Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
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Bernie (American) 2011
Based on actual events

Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy (Black), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Ensemble Cast (McConaughey, Black, MacLaine; Best Film, Gotham Awards
NOMINATED, Best Feature; Best Male Lead (Black), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Top Ten Independent Films, National Board of Review
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (McConaughey); Second Place-Best Actor (Black), New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Bernie Tiede (Black) moves to the small town of Carthage, TX and finds work at a funeral parlor. He proceeds to impress the entire town with his engaging and caring personality. He even wins over Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine) the wealthy, curmudgeonly widow of the bank president, a task that was thought to be impossible. But Mrs. Nugent gradually shows her true colors, and Bernie concludes that the way she treats everyone, including himself, is just not right.

A funny, documentary-style telling of events that surely fall into the category of “truth can be stranger than fiction.”

Jack Black especially amazes with his singing voice (who knew?), and Shirley MacLaine’s facial expression is spot on for her character.

99 min. Rated PG-13.

 

Searching for Sugar Man-Movie Review *** 05/15/2013

Posted by dbinder in Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, Based on true events, Biographical, Critics' Choice Awards, Hamburg Film Festival, Malik Bendjelloul, Movies, Music documentary, National Board of Review, Rodriguez, Sugar Man, Sundance Film Festival, Vancouver Film Critics Circle.
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Searching for Sugar Man (Swedish/English) ***
Based on true events in the life of Sixto Rodríguez

Directed by Malik Bendjelloul; written by Bendjelloul and Craig Bartholomew Strydom
Starring Sixto Rodríguez and a cast of others involved in the search for him

Among many other wins and nominations (too numerous to list here):
WINNER, Best Documentary-Features, Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Documentary Film, BAFTA Awards
WINNER, Best Documentary, Critics’ Choice Awards
WINNER, Art Cinema Award (Bendjelloul), Hamburg Film Festival
WINNER, NBR Award-Best Documentary, National Board of Review
WINNER, Audience Award and Special Jury Prize-World Cinema Documentary, Sundance Film Festival
WINNER, Best Documentary, Vancouver Film Critics Circle

A truly inspiring story about Sixto Díaz Rodríguez, whose career as a 1970s singer-songwriter received little recognition in the United States, although his music was often compared to Bob Dylan’s. Having failed to achieve his dream to bring his music to the world, Rodríguez returned to his job as a hard laborer in the city of Detroit.

Totally unknown to Rodríguez, his music and lyrics were inspiring generations of South Africans. He became famous in that country, although rumors and reports had spread about his onstage suicide in the U.S. This film is the result of two South African fans’ efforts to track down information about him and clear up the mystery about his life and death. They were astonished to find he was still alive and well.

An awesome story about an incredible man. Rodriguez is on tour; visit his website for more information about his upcoming tour dates. He was also just awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wayne State University in Detroit for his “musical genius and commitment to social justice.” “Sugar Man” is the name of one of his signature songs. Sample his music on YouTube.

Highly recommended.

86 min. PG-13.

Declaration of War-Movie Review *** 05/06/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, César Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, French language film, Gijón International Film Festival, Movies, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Romance.
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Declaration of War (French) 2011 ***
La guerre est déclarée
Based on true events

Directed by Valérie Donzelli
Written by Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm
Starring Valérie Donzelli and Jérémie Elkaïm

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Actress and Best Director (Donzelli); Best Film; Best Original Screenplay; Best Editing; Best Sound, César Awards, France
WINNER, Best Actor (Elkaïm); Best Actress (Donzelli); Grand Prix Asturias-Best Film, Gijón International Film Festival
WINNER, Directors to Watch (Donzelli), Palm Springs International Film Festival

Roméo (Elkaïm) and Juliette (Donzelli) are a young couple who meet, fall in love, and move in together. Soon they are having a baby, and all is well with their world, although the baby does cry a lot. When the baby begins to show other signs of distress, they take him to the doctor and receive the kind of diagnosis no parent ever wants to hear.

Based on true events. Although the brief description might make this seem like a sad movie, it surprisingly is not. The young parents, who are determined to “declare war” on their son’s disease, do not do so in the somber way one might expect.

Highly recommended.

100 min. Not rated. Suitable for older teens and adults, due to subject matter.

 

Il Divo-Movie Review 12/16/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, Based on true events, British Independent Film Awards, Cannes Film Festival, David di Donatello Awards, European Film Awards, Golden Globes, Italian language film, Italy, Movies, Paolo Sorrentino.
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Il Divo (Italian) 2008
Il Divo: La spettacolare vita di Giulio Andreotti
Based on true events

Written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Starring Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, and Giulio Bosetti

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Achievement in Makeup, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Foreign Film, British Independent Film Awards
WINNER, Jury Prize (Sorrentino), NOMINATED, Palme D’Or (Sorrentino), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, David Award, Best Actor (Servillo); Best Cinematography; and five other awards; NOMINATED, Best Director; Best Film; Best Screenplay; and five others, David di Donatello Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (Servillo); NOMINATED, Best Cinematographer; Best Director; Best Film; Best Screenwriter, European Film Awards
WINNER, Best Screenplay; NOMINATED, Best Director, Golden Globes, Italy

Please note that this is not a music DVD!

Among other government posts, Giulio Andreotti (Servillo) served as Prime Minister of Italy for several terms during the 1970s and early 90s. Il Divo (the star) was one of the many nicknames associated with him.

Via a compelling performance by actor Toni Servillo, director Sorrentino delivers a sense of the personality behind the man, keeping the controversies that surrounded him as a series of montages in the background.

In 2003, Andreotti was in the news when he was cleared of a murder charge.

110 min. Not rated. Violence.

 

Séraphine-Movie Review *** 09/30/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, Cairo International Film Festival, César Awards, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, French language film, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, Martin Provost, Newport Beach Film Festival.
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Séraphine (French) 2008 ***
Based on true events

Written and directed by Martin Provost (with co-writer Marc Abdelnour)
Starring Yolande Moreau, Ulrich Tukur, and Anne Bennent

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Actress (Moreau), Cairo International Film Festival
WINNER, Best Actress (Moreau); Best Film; Best Music for a Film; Best Original Screenplay; NOMINATED, Best Director (Provost); Best Sound, César Awards, France
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Moreau), European Film Awards
WINNER, Best Actress (Moreau), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Jury Awards-Best Actor (Tukur); Best Actress (Moreau); Best Director (Provost); Best Film; Best Screenplay, Newport Beach Film Festival

Based on true events in the life of artist Séraphine Louis.

In early twentieth-century France, German art collector Wilhelm Uhde moves temporarily to the rural town of Senlis. There, he becomes aware that his cleaning lady, the humble Séraphine, privately produces exquisite paintings that he believes would thrill the art world. Séraphine is completely unschooled in art, and even makes her own paint colors. Uhde promises to become her patron and create an exhibition in Paris, but then he must flee France because of the war. Séraphine continues painting constantly. A deeply religious woman, she believes that her inspiration comes directly from God speaking to her, a belief that eventually carries her into madness.

For more about Séraphine Louis’s life, and to view a few of her magnificent paintings, visit Art Scene Today or do a search for Séraphine Louis. When I see the photograph of the real Séraphine, I appreciate the casting of the incredible actress Yolande Moreau in the title role.

Highly recommended.

125 min. Not rated. Suitable for older children and teens.

 

The Sicilian Girl-Movie Review *** 08/31/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Action/Thriller, Based on true events, Bastia Italian Film Festival, Crime, David di Donatello Awards, Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, Mafia, Marco Amenta, Movies.
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The Sicilian Girl (Italian) 2008 ***
La siciliana rebelle
Based on true events

Directed by Marco Amenta
Starring Veronica D’Agostino, Marcello Mazzarella, and Gerard Jugnot

WINNER, Audience Award; Youth Jury Prize; NOMINATED, Grand Jury Prize (Amenta), Bastia Italian Film Festival
NOMINATED, David Award-Best New Director; David of the Youth Award (Amenta), David di Donatello Awards
NOMINATED, Silver Ribbon, Best New Director (Amenta), Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists

Rita Atria (D’Agostino), a tough-minded seventeen-year-old Sicilian girl, takes it upon herself to avenge her father’s and brother’s deaths at the hands of the Mafia. She has kept meticulous diaries for many years, and delivers them to the chief prosecutor (Jugnot), who has been trying to bring some of the men to justice for many years. Her information about the activities that took place in her village of Balata seem to provide the evidence he needs. Rita must eventually admit that her father, who was respected in their town but was also a Mafia don, was as guilty of killings and rapes as those she helped put on trial.

Although there is the expected Mafia violence in the film, the focus remains on the girl and her emotional, often erratic, reactions to what goes on around her. The ending is incredible, and even more so because it is true.

Some interesting trivia: Jugnot, who is French, speaks no Italian, and D’Agostino speaks no French. They acted against each other in Italian but otherwise could not communicate between scenes. The pair seemed to have an almost father-daughter type of connection.

Highly recommended.

114 min. Unrated. Adults themes and violence.

 

Young Goethe in Love-Movie Review 07/08/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Bambi Awards, Based on true events, Comedy, Drama, German Film Awards, German Film Critics Award, German language film, Movies, New Faces Awards, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Philipp Stölzl, Romance.
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Young Goethe in Love (German) 2010
original title: Goethe!

Directed by Philipp Stölzl
Starring Alexander Fehling, Moritz Bleibtreu, and Miriam Stein

NOMINATED, Best Actor (Fehling), Bambi Awards
WINNER, Film Award in Gold for Makeup; NOMINATED, Film Award in Gold, Best Leading Actor (Fehling); Outstanding Feature Film; Best Production Design, German Film Awards
NOMINATED, Best Film (Stölzl), German Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, New Faces Award (Stein), Germany
NOMINATED, Audience Award, Best Narrative Feature, (Stölzl et al.), Palm Springs International Film Festival

A lighthearted and touching look at a year in the life of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Fehling). At 23, Goethe is not serious about the law career his father insists he follow but is serious about poetry and about the love he feels for Lotte Buff (Stein).

After Lotte marries someone else, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, based upon his romance with her, is published, paving the way for his literary fame. A period film for the romantics among us, perhaps not as satisfying to history buffs.

102 min. Not rated.

 

Korkoro-Movie Review *** 04/08/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, César Awards, French language film, Montréal World Film Festival, World War II.
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Korkoro (French) 2009 ***
Freedom

Based on true events
Directed by Tony Gatlif
Starring Marc Lavoine, Marie Josée-Croze, James Thiérrée, Mathias Laliberté

WINNER, Grand Prix des Amériques (Gatlif); Prize of the Ecumenical Jury-Special Mention (Gatlif); Public Award (Gatlif), Montréal World Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Music for Film, César Awards

As a family of Gypsies travels through the countryside of France during World War, they are followed by Claude (Laliberté), a little boy orphaned during the war. Claude is eventually welcomed into the closeknit family, who, with the help of sympathetic locals, must constantly avoid capture by the Nazis.

James Thiérrée, who plays Félix Lavil dit Taloche in the film, is variously described as an acrobat, clown, poet, and magician. Thiérrée did most of his own stunts and improvised many scenes. He captures the free and joyous spirit of the Romani people, and, despite the serious subject matter, this film has much humor and light moments. Also watch (at least) one of Thiérrée’s other spellbinding performances on YouTube.

With Korkoro, director Gatlif has taken on a seldom-addressed group that was slated for the extermination camps; some say it is the first such film treatment. Inspired by true events, Gatlif intended the work to be a documentary but lacked sufficient supporting evidence and decided to release it as a feature film instead.

Highly recommended.

111 min. Not rated. Suitable for older children.

 

The Bank Job-Movie Review 03/23/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Based on true events, British, Edgar Allen Poe Awards, Movies, Suspense, Thriller.
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The Bank Job (British) 2008
Based on true events

Directed by Roger Donaldson
Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Starring Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows

NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture Screenplay (Clement and La Frenais), Edgar Allen Poe Awards

Happily married and settled with a family, Terry (Statham) becomes intrigued by former girlfriend Martine’s (Burrows) idea about tunneling into a bank’s temporarily unalarmed vault. The vault, she assures him, is filled with safe deposit boxes containing millions in cash and jewelry. Terry assembles a team of petty thieves to pull it off. The entire plan seems highly unlikely, but timing, as they say, is everything.

There’s a good twist to the story: Martine has other motivations. The actual bank heist took place in 1971, and the cash and jewels were never recovered.

112 min. Rated R.