Archive for the Biography Category

Serpico

Posted in Biography, Crime, Drama with tags on June 16, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Sidney Lumet.
Screenplay: Waldo Salt, Norman Wexler.
Starring: Al Pacino, Tony Roberts, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Barbara Eda-Young, Cornelia Sharpe, John Medici, Alan Rich, Edward Grover, Norman Ornellas, James Tolkan, Richard Foronjy, John McQuade, M. Emmett Walsh, F. Murray Abraham, Kenneth McMillan, Tracey Walter, Judd Hirsch.

Frank, let’s face it, who can trust a cop that won’t take money?

With their second collaboration in 1974, Al Pacino and Sidney Lumet delivered one of the very best films of the decade with “Dog Day Afternoon“. It was a taut and captivating true-life story of a bank robber that gets way in over his head. Two years previously, though, they worked on another true-life story from the opposite side of the law. This time it was NYPD officer Frank Serpico and how he got way in over his head with police corruption rife all around him.

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Dallas Buyers Club

Posted in Biography, Drama with tags on February 11, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Jean-Marc Vallée.
Screenplay: Craig Borten, Melissa Wallack.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare, Steve Zahn, Michael O’Neill, Dallas Roberts, Griffin Dunne, Kevin Rankin, J.D. Evermore.

Let me give y’all a little news flash. There ain’t nothin’ out there can kill fuckin’ Ron Woodroof in 30 days

There has been no better or more consistent actor over the last few years than that of Matthew McConaughey. It’s a fact! From someone who started a bright early career and worked with the likes of such quality directors as Richard Linklater, John Sayles, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, he soon drifted into the dreaded rom-com territory that’s no better than drifting into obscurity altogether. His reputation wasn’t amounting to his early promise and it seemed he would never recover. So when did it all go right for him then? Well, in 2011, he got back in tow with Linklater to do “Bernie” and followed that up with dark and blisteringly brave performances in William Friedkin’s “Killer Joe“, Lee Daniels’ “The Paperboy” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Magic Mike“. It didn’t stop there, though. He continued his solid work in Jeff Nichols’ “Mud” and a brief but excellent role in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf Of Wall Street” before finally delivering this awards laden performance in “Dallas Buyers Club“. The resurrection of his career is complete and McConaughey’s work has now, rightfully, gained the respect of critics and viewers alike.

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The Wolf Of Wall Street

Posted in Biography, Comedy, Crime, Drama with tags on January 27, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Martin Scorsese.
Screenplay: Terrence Winter.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Jean Dujardin, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner, Pj Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Ethan Suplee, Jake Hoffman, Joanna Lumley, Shea Whigham, Cristin Milioti, Leah Ebersole, Katarina Cas, Brian Sacca, Henry Zebrowski, Spike Jonze.

On a daily basis I consume enough drugs to sedate Manhattan, Long Island, and Queens for a month. I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my “back pain”, Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine… Well, because it’s awesome“.

Although retirement may possibly be on the horizon for one of America’s finest directors, at age 71, Martin Scorsese certainly doesn’t look like he’s slowing down. If anything, he’s as racy as he’s ever been and shows as much energy as someone half his age. “The Wolf Of Wall Street” may not be his most original approach to filmmaking. We’ve seen all this before as it strongly resembles the structure and downfall of Henry Hill in “Goodfellas“. It does feel a little like he’s repeating himself here but it’s still entirely suitable for the story he’s relating. I can’t see how else he would have done it. If he’d played it more straight, it probably wouldn’t have worked. He had to be outrageous and for that, it’s most certainly amongst his funniest outings.

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Rush

Posted in Action, Biography, Drama, Sport with tags on January 22, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Ron Howard.
Screenplay: Peter Morgan.
Starring: Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Stephen Mangan, Christian McKay, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Jamie de Courcey, Pierfrancesco Favino, Natalie Dormer.

A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends“.

Before he became a director, Ron Howard was originally known for his acting as Richie Cunningham from “Happy Days” and that character seems to have plagued his career since. Howard can certainly resemble the character’s name in some ways; He makes production companies ‘rich’ and he most certainly delivers ‘ham’ but he lacks the ‘cunning’ to be the truly great director that he perceives himself to be. Please excuse the very poor puns but if Howard can get away with as many clichés as he does, then I deem myself the right to use as many bad puns as I want. “Rush” is further proof of Howard’s over-praised talents and no amount of money or positive word-of-mouth will change that.

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12 Years A Slave

Posted in Biography, Drama with tags on January 17, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Steve McQueen.
Screenplay: John Ridley.
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Scoot McNairy, Michael Kenneth Williams, Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Garret Dillanhunt, Kelsey Scott, Bryan Batt, Taran Killam.

My sentimentality stretches the length of a coin

After so vividly scrutinising the agony and the plight of Irish revolutionary Bobby Sands, in his 2008 directorial debut “Hunger” and following that up with an equally agonising portrait of sex addiction in 2011’s “Shame“, artist turned director Steve McQueen quickly established himself as a very raw and unflinching filmmaker. As did, his fearless leading actor Michael Fassbender. Now, with their third collaboration, it doesn’t look like they’ve had any change of heart and tackle the painful subject of slavery in 1840’s America.

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Fruitvale Station

Posted in Biography, Drama with tags on January 7, 2014 by Mark Walker

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Director: Ryan Cooglar.
Screenplay: Ryan Cooglar.
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Ariana Neal, Ahna O’Reilly, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Keenan Cooglar, Marjorie Crump-Shears, Trestin George, Joey Oglesby.

I’m good, I’m good, I’m gonna be good“.

I have to admit that the true events that took place involving Oscar Grant on December 31st, 2009, weren’t all that familiar to me. I have vague memories of hearing something but there wasn’t very much UK media coverage about this day. As a result, I went into this film rather blind and for those that find themselves in the same situation as myself, I’d advise that they leave it that way. It makes the story all the more effective and hard-hitting but even if you are aware of this man and what happened, there’s still no denying how raw and effecting this film truly is.

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The Iceman * * *

Posted in Biography, Crime, Drama with tags on August 19, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Ariel Vromen.
Screenplay: Ariel Vromen, Morgan Land.
Starring: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans, David Schwimmer, Robert Davi, James Franco, Stephen Dorff, John Ventimiglia, Ryan O’Nan, Danny A. Abeckaser, McKaley Miller, Megan Sherill.

What more can be said about the acting chops of Michael Shannon? Despite being a household name now, he’s still happy to deliver supporting roles in the likes of “Mud” and “Man of Steel” while managing to work within the time constraints of television with “Boardwalk Empire“. Thankfully though, he’s not adverse to the odd leading role and “The Iceman” is the type of film that allows him to fully embrace centre stage.

In the 1960’s, Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) was a quiet family man, who secretly worked as a porn lab technician until the New Jersey mob that ran his employment, shut him down and persuaded him to become a contract killer. For decades, Kuklinski would kill over 100 people and gain a reputation for his cold blooded professionalism, meanwhile keeping his wife (Winona Ryder) and kids completely in the dark about where their money came from.

Based on actual events, the story of Kuklinski is quite an intriguing one. This was a man who managed to separate his work and family life for so long that he was clearly a very manipulative and dangerous sociopath.
Much like Kuklinski’s victims, though, the film seems strangely lifeless. Most mob films have you on the edge of your seat at least once throughout their running times but “The Iceman” never really manages to do that. Ariel Vromen’s direction is flat and he poorly handles the script’s leaps in time; relying on consistently changing facial hair as a narrative device. It just doesn’t work and as a genre piece, it misses a real opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the similarly themed “Donnie Brasco“.
Where the films strengths lie, are in the performances; Mafia boss Roy Demeo, is captured ferociously by Ray Liotta, who seems to be the go-to-guy for mob figures these days, and the likes of Chris Evans impresses in an almost unrecognisable role as Robert “Mr. Freezy” Pronge – another hitman that Kuklinski gets involved with. Added to this, are smaller roles for James Franco, Stephen Dorff and an awkwardly ponytailed and moustachioed, David Schwimmer. Ultimately, though, it’s Shannon that keeps this film afloat. Despite a fascinating character, the role is surprisingly underwritten, yet Shannon still manages to deliver a detached and menacing portrayal. Quite simply, without his presence, this would would be just another generic, colour-by-numbers, wannabe.

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Good in places but ultimately, it’s restrained to the point of monotony. This is a film that has so much potential but squanders it on cliché and relies too heavily on it’s leading actor. Shannon delivers but he doesn’t really get anything back for his efforts.

Mark Walker

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