Tag Archives: Biography

Review of Capone (1975)

18 Mar

caponeCapone (1975) is a crime/drama/biographical film, loosely based on the life of Al Capone.

Directed by Steve Carver (Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), Big Bad Mama (1974)).

Written by Howard Browne (The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), Mission: Impossible (1966 TV)).

Starring: Ben Gazzara, Susan Blakely, Harry Guardino, Sylvester Stallone, Harry Guardino, John Cassavetes and others.

So here’s a Roger Corman produced Al Capone biopic. It is about as accurate as Death Race 2000 was a prediction of the year 2000.

Doesn’t happen so often with American movies, I was pleasantly surprised to see Vilis Lapenieks, a director of photography from my small home country, Latvia, appear in the opening credits. Had it been the closing credits, I would be unpleasantly surprised, because the movie excels at looking totally bland.

In the first scene I noticed that the sound editing was not so great, often the background noise cuts with the shots, it is a bit jarring, but it either improved later or I got used to it, so I wasn’t that bothered by it. It’s far from Birdemic levels of sound direction incompetence.

It sort of is a biopic, but it explores Al Capone’s life as much as the original Scarface. I would have liked if they had spent a little time developing and showing more Capone’s backstory and character, instead of instantly throwing him in to rapidly climb the mobster career ladder by punching and shooting select people.

Also there’s very little sense of passing time because they don’t really manage to make Ben Gazzara look much younger in the earlier scenes.That is not to say Gazzara is bad here. For this larger than life portrayal of the person he is ok. He achieves a convincingly menacing performance, selling the simmering anger even when he is smiling and being polite. Since he’s not provided with any redeeming qualities, he serves not as a complex anti-hero, but a one-note villain pushed into the protagonist’s position.

At times he seems to be drifting through the movie only to engage in instances of outbursts of rage, otherwise taking a step back to various mob dealings, that I failed to care about. Some of the scenes are delivered just as plot progressions being explained, leaving the viewer uninterested and distanced.

If you, like me, decide to watch this because Sylvester Stallone is in it, be aware, he appears pretty late into the movie and is not featured as prominently as you might imagine. He briefly manages to breathe some life into the movies, but it’s pretty much a lost cause.

"Wow, Stallone playing Al Capone? That should be interesting!"

“Wow, Stallone playing Al Capone? That should be interesting!”


However this is not at all surprising because it is after all a Corman movie and could be classified as exploitation (mobsploitation, if you will), than an actual historical retelling. But the problem is that it takes itself too seriously, no doubt inspired by The Godfather films.

So it’s not cheesy enough to be entertaining as a B-grade gangster flick. I kept tuning out during the dull dialogue scenes and not getting excited at the repetitive drive-by shootouts. At some points even using footage from another movie, which is of obviously lower, both sound and image quality.

Overall, this is a shitty gangster flick, that except for Sly being in it, fails to have anything remarkable about it to make it worth watching. Not recommended.

"That's right, smile, Ben. One day, I'm going to be the reason people watch this movie."

“That’s right, smile, Ben. One day, I’m going to be the reason people watch this movie.”

Review of Julie & Julia (2009)

31 Mar

Julie & Julia (2009) is a biography/romance/dramedy film about the real-life chef Julia Child and a blogger Julie Powell.

Directed by Nora Ephron (This Is My Life (1992), Bewitched (2005)).

Written by Nora Ephron (Silkwood (1983), Hanging Up (2000)).

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch and others.

You might ask why I’m reviewing this movie? Well, because in a way it is a horror movie. It’s about a huge and demented Meryl Streep destroying lives… sort of.

Right at the start I have to say that I totally understand that I am not the target demographic for this movie, but then again, I think a good movie can be enjoyed by anyone. However, I definitely did not.

The movie is split into two storylines. One is about Julia Child becoming a cook and writing a cook-book in the 50’s. And the other one is about Julie some-last-name, who is writing a blog about cooking everything in Child’s cook-book. Isn’t that an exciting premise? No, it is not. Due to having these two storylines it is way too long for a romantic comedy. And too short for a biographical drama.

Main problem of this movie is that neither Julia or Julie are likable. Julia is just loud, obsessive, insensitive, self-centered and overall obnoxious, although Meryl Streep does make her at times charming and the tallness is definitely done very convincingly. And Julie is a whiny, obsessive, self-centered and hysterical bitch. No wonder Julie idolizes Julia that much.

When Julie starts her blog she writes that she doesn’t know if anyone reads her posts. What kind of blog site is she using? Wewonttellyouifyougetanyviewsorcomments.com? And you’d think that her being a blogger would have helped me identify with her, but I really don’t care about a relatively wealthy 30-year-old woman, who is obsessed with Julia Child and moaning all the time with tears in her eyes. She is a person I would hate in real life. To give her credit she does admit she is a bitch.

So I was left to identify with the husbands, who are in both cases very supportive, normal and nice and have egocentric wives.

Closest I got to an emotional response was when I started feeling hungry or that one scene when the characters are watching a funny SNL sketch on TV.

It is in a way a success story, but it lacks any impact. Oh, you live in a cool apartment in New York and have enough money to keep making these exquisite foods every day? That’s so awful, I hope you’ll get a publishing deal, so you can start living a normal life.

Overall, this movie is shit. Not entertaining, not moving, not funny, not worth seeing.

"Yeah, that's right, what's for dinner, you self-absorbed bitch?"


Review of Black Butterflies (2011)

11 Mar

Black Butterflies (2011) is a Dutch drama/romance/biography film about the life of South-African poet Ingrid Jonker.

Directed by Paula van der Oest (Moonlight (2002), Zus & zo (2001)).

Written by Greg Latter (Cyborg Cop (1993), Dangerous Ground (1997)).

Starring: Carice van Houten, Rutger Hauer, Liam Cunningham, Grant Swanby, Candice D’Arcy and others.

I can’t quite figure out why is Netherlands is making an English-language film about South-African poet, starring Dutch and Irish actors, but I don’t even give a shit, because this movie isn’t worth caring.

I kept wanting to see more Rutger Hauer, since he is the only reason I watched this movie. This is no Blade Runner so all you get is him sitting and being an asshole father of the main character. He is still great, but did not meet my expectations. Interestingly, after seeing this, he is still the only reason to watch this movie.

They use a line here, that reminded me of a better movie I could be watching – X2. At one point a character says „You’re beautiful, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise”, excuse me, but I prefer Ian McKellen saying this.

The main character is this young woman, a poet. It is hard to care about her, since there’s only a few seconds throughout the film, where she is not totally unlikable and stupid. Also you must possess a certain self-indulgent idiocy to write your own poetry all over your walls. That being said, I think Carice  van Houten did a great job portraying this horrible bitch.

But I have to ask what is the purpose of the film? Is it to show this despicable person writing half-decent poetry and having some social significance? In that case I think she would be better off as being remembered only by her poems. At the start of the film she is a spoiled bitch with daddy issues and by the end of it she is a psychotic bitch with suicidal tendencies. Am I supposed to feel sorry for her? I’ll never know.

It’s rated 12, but that is bullshit, it is an R movie, first of all I don’t think teenagers would like this movie anyway, it’s more for hipster chicks in their twenties, who would see a folk-heroine in Jonker. And even more than that, it has sexual overtones all over it, but of course they suppose putting an orchestral score to a sex scene and once in a while cutting to the poetry on the walls makes it tasteful and beautiful. No, it does not.

I can’t quite figure out why is Netherlands is making an English-language film about South-African poet, starring Dutch and Irish actors, but I don’t  even give a shit.

Overall, pretentious crap, a proof that not everyone’s life is worth to be made into a biopic. Not recommended, except if you really want to see Rutger Hauer being a mean daddy.

"I don't really need glasses. The moustache is also ironic. And I like Terrance Malick's movies."

Review of Goodfellas (1990)

27 Feb

Goodfellas (1990) is a Biography/Drama/Crime film, that is an adaptation of a non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi. The film follows Henry Hill and his crime associates over a period from 1955 to 1980.

Directed by Martin Scorcese (Taxi Driver (1976), Mean Streets (1973)), who often makes movies portraying crime.

Written by Martin Scorcese (I Call First (1967), The Age of Innocence (1993)) and the author of the book Nicholas Pileggi (Casino (1995), City Hall (1996)):

Starring: Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero, Christopher Serrone, Joe D’Onofrio and others.

Not every movie can pull off freeze frames and voice overs, but this one definitely does.

We follow the life of a gangster from his youth, when he’s trying to be one, up until the end where he is some other thing, which I won’t spoil. This is basically summarized by the very famous quote „As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a gangster”, which is said by Ray Liotta, who plays the main character, but from time to time is shown in his teenage years. Both the kid actors for him and Pesci’s character are pretty good.

Speaking of Joe Pesci, he really gets to shine here, going all out and playing a total maniac. He totally deserved the Oscar he got. Scorcese just knows how to use the guy. The character is a total mental case, as the movie goes on, he becomes more and more short-tempered, like in a restaurant, when Ray Liotta tells him he’s funny, he acts like he’s insulted and asks in what way he’s funny to the point where you think he’s going to pull out a gun, but it turns out it is a joke. A little later in the film and he actually would.

Although it is a bit fractured in the narrative, since it goes over a very long period, the movie is incredibly fluid, well paced and you can get lost in the great story, it is a fun watch.

Wish De Niro had more screen time, but oddly his character is not very interesting, he is kind of passive, but I found him enjoyable nonetheless.

There is one amazing tracking shot and I as most film fans absolutely love them, they’re really sort of hypnotizing, you feel pulled in the film, since that is a lot closer to the way you actually see things, sadly you don’t enjoy a conversation or a walk from multiple angles.

Punches look really painful in this move and that’s not even mentioning the instance when Liotta punches a guy several times with a gun in his hand, that’s just brutal.

I think this movie has both Pesci’s and Liotta’s best performances on film. Although I’ve never really thought of him much seeing his other movies, but I’ve always found his eyes rather trademarkable, because his eye color is very light blue and has the kind of eyelashes that are so full that it looks like he’s wearing eyeliner, you know, like Nestor Carbonel.

Also has a very young Kevin Corrigan in a small role. Just saying. There’s really nothing more to say about that. Umm… the soundtrack is full of great songs!

Martin Scorcese just knows how to do Italian-American movies.

Overall, a great movie, recommended for everyone, a late gangster film classic.

Pictured: A guy you don't want to call funny, even though his shirt kinda is. (seriously though, that's a pretty cool shirt)

Review of Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

30 Jan

Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) is a biography/drama/music film, that tells the story of the country music singer Loretta Lynn.

Directed by Michael Apted (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), Amazing Grace (2006)), well-known for his documentary series Up.

Written by Thomas Rickman (Bless the Child (2000), Hooper (1978)), he adapted Loretta Lynn’s autobiography.

Starring: Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Levon Helm, Beverly D’Angelo, Phyllis Boyens and others.

I sort of do like the music biopics, but often times they either lack an impact or dramatize the events to the point, where you really start questioning if they have any connection with actual facts. I think I’d put this in the first category.

I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but I couldn’t believe for one second that Sissy Spacek is 13 at the start of the movie. She’s actually like 31 or something, that’s actually like the opposite of 13. At least it was really easy for me to accept her relationship with Tommy Lee Jones who in the film is supposed to be 21, but I don’t think Jones has ever looked younger than 30. Anyway I suspended my disbelief for this, but really it was a bit jarring. Also it took some time to digest Jones being a redhead.

Since I’m not a huge country music fan, I didn’t think I’d be much interested in a biopic about Loretta Lynn, but I must admit it was quite captivating. It’s not every day that you see a redheaded Tommy Lee Jones going all out pedophile asshole on not-redheaded Sissy Spacek playing a little girl. Seriously though, it was an interesting look at the sort of morality and social standards in regard to marriage at such a young age, abuse from a spouse and things like that.

One thing I found really weird is that they sort of try to defend Lynn’s husband’s abusive behavior, with his contribution to shaping her career. No, I still think he’s a fucking asshole, but I’m not sorry for Lynn either, because if you go and marry someone at the age of 13, what do you expect will happen on the wedding night? Some holding hands? And if you don’t just leave your abusive husband, when you can provide for yourself, then you deserve the beating you get. I guess back then it was like a normal thing to do, so they all needed a bit of back-slapping some sense into them.

Overall, an interesting and enjoyable story, but there’s not much to take away from it, except some knowledge about Lynn’s life and the realization that back then you could be 29 years old country music singer, top the music charts and be a grandmother at the same time. Well acted, well-made film, recommended if you’re looking for a solid biopic and not much more.

"That's right, not using contraception runs in my family"