Archive for biopic

Review: The Theory of Everything

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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The trailer for The Theory of Everything played before The Imitation Game and looked like a good companion piece to the Alan Turing biopic. But, was a second film about the life and struggle of an iconic British scientist too many for such a short space of time? However, The Theory of Everything looked too good to miss. Up until this week, I had Benedict Cumberbatch down as the shoe-in for the Oscar for his portrayal of Alan Turing. I mean, it’s The Cumberbatch. He’s about the hottest star in the world right now! I now feel differently.

This film is a fairly standard biopic with the ‘insert tab A into slot A’ plot devices: Introduction to the main character’s intellect, boy meets girl, circumstances arise to threaten the relationship, the couple cope against adversity, etc. The ending isn’t quite as obvious as you may expect, however, if you know anything about Stephen Hawking you know how it plays out.

Eddie Redmayne may not be as well-known as Benedict Cumberbatch, but this fact may well change very soon. His performance in this film is one of the best performances by an actor in a long time. He completely transforms himself during the course of the film from the Hawking people don’t really know – an endearingly awkward high flyer with no real cares – to the Hawking most people are aware of – the wheelchair-bound victim of motor neuron disease who speaks through a computer and is still one of the most prolific thinkers of the 20th & 21st centuries.

His portrayal of someone who is slowly losing his physical capabilities is both heart-breaking and mesmerising. It is an unbelievable feat of physical acting and something that elevates him above any of the other nominees for best actor at this years Oscars. It’s uncanny how much Redmayne makes himself look like Hawking.

His acting aside, the plot of the film is based on the autobiography of his first wife, Jane Hawking – played by Felicity Jones. As such, there is just enough time spent on the science to showcase the genius of the man, but not enough to bore/blow the minds of the casual cinema goer. The plot centralises on the struggle of the relationship between Stephen and Jane and how they cope with his deteriorating condition while also raising three children.

This central relationship is really well portrayed by both Jones and Redmayne, with Jane being a complex character rather than just the two-dimensional characterisation of the doting and supportive wife. Even when she is acting in a selfish and duplicitous way you still aren’t totally set against her, you can see things from multiple of angles.

It is both a very sad story, but also incredibly uplifting. And, if Redmayne doesn’t win the Best Actor Oscar something is very wrong with the world.

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Anywhere But Here, Episode 98 – A Chat With Sonya Roseman (@sonyaroseman)

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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This week, Ant and Tom are joined by a special guest – Sonya Roseman. She’s a local actress who has branched out into producing, writing and directing her own movies. She has a couple of short films in production and pre-production at the moment, one called Operation OMO about what British girls got up to while their men were fighting in the Second World War. The other is closer to Ant and Tom’s hearts: The Bluebell Hill Ghost, which you may remember from the first episode of Shipped High In Transit.

After a brief talk about politics and the recent censorship of British-made porn, Sonya talks us through the trials and tribulations of writing a film about ghost stories including bad dreams and flats being burned down! We get to hear that the indie film community around Medway is much stronger than we originally thought.We also find out who her favourite actors and directors are as well as who her dream cast would be… with surprising results.

Go find the short versions of The Ghost of Bluebell Hill on Sonya’s YouTube page and give her some feedback, the final cut of the feature-length version is still in pre-production. You can also find the trailer for Operation OMO which features Anywhere But Here’s very own Tom!

The show closes with a bit more film talk around the biopic; The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly about the life and very sad death of Alan Turing, the genius code breaker during the Second World War. Go find sonya on Facebook and Twitter @sonyaroseman.


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Anywhere But Here, Episode 94 – Remembrance, Robbery & Really Bad Titles

Posted in Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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On this Remembrance Sunday episode of the Anywhere But Here podcast Ant and Tom start of by playing a Wilfred Owen poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth, as read by Sean Bean… because he has an awesome voice. This is followed by a couple of war stories, one of which fits very well with the Anywhere But Here theme.

It’s also 25 years, to the day, that the Berlin Wall was taken down. Well done David Hasselhoff for single-handedly sorting that one out!

Ant and Tom get back into the swing of things by highlighting some other news, including a Chinese woman who spent a whole week in KFC after being dumped by her boyfriend and a British robber who left his phone at the crime scene with a picture of himself as his wallpaper. If you know any stories of bungled robberies let us know on Facebook, Twitter or abhpod@gmail.com.

Eventually they get round to the regular geek stuff like Gotham, Flash, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Game of Thrones & The Walking Dead. They also talk about the not-so-great title of the 7th Star Wars film: The Force Awakens. However, it turns out most of the titles of the previous 6 films are all a bit pony too.

Get in touch with us:

Website – abhpod.com

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Review: Mr. Turner

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Mike Leigh is a prolific British director who has produced some classic, critically acclaimed films. His latest effort is the biopic of one of the most famous English painters of all time, J.M.W. Turner.

Mr. Turner takes place over an indeterminable time period while Turner (Timothy Spall) is in the peak of his popularity and fame. It chronicles his relationships with his fellow artists and the aristocratic society he mixes with, even though he is from a working class background. It also gives a warts-and-all record of his rather tumultuous personal life and how he balances this with his passion for painting.

To be honest, there isn’t a lot of painting in the film, or even a study into his methods, far short of showing him mixing his own spit into some of his paintings. What Mike Leigh focuses on most is his relationships. He has a very close relationship with his Father, however, he has two daughters with Sarah Danby whom, it is made clear, he hasn’t seen for years before they all show up at his house to introduce him to his first grandchild. He has an occasional fling with his house keeper, who happens to be Danby’s niece. He eventually takes up residence with a landlady from Margate after her husband passes away.

This all sounds like a dramatic plot that should scud along at quite a brisk pace. But it doesn’t. The film runs at a length of two hours and twenty minutes and it’s slow going and quite dry. There are some brilliantly timed moments of comedy to keep things just light enough, but towards the end you are very aware of how long the film has taken to get to where it is.

Mr. Turner feels quite self-indulgent and could do with some entire scenes lifted out as they don’t really add anything to the story being told. The indulgence of this project is felt best in the way the shots are constructed, especially the land and seascapes used as real-life versions of the pictures Turner created.

There are some beautiful images used in this film and the research done into the protagonist’s life is, apparently, first class. The film is really well made and interesting enough, though if you don’t know much about Turner, chances are you could be quite bored by it. One thing you will take away from Mr. Turner though, is that the English language was so much more poetic 200 years ago especially when used to insult or pour scorn on someone!

Review: Rush

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Sport often makes the basis of the some fairly decent films; Chariots of Fire and the Rocky films at the drama end of the spectrum, Cool Runnings and The Mighty Ducks at the other and, more recently, there has been Moneyball, which received high critical acclaim. However, motorsport has produced less films, and hardly any that are any good. Just look at 2001’s Driven, directed by Renny Harlin and starring Sylvester Stallone. A possible exception to this being 1966’s Grand Prix, starring James Garner, however it has dated badly.

Ron Howard has directed so many classic films in the past it would be pointless to list them all. Howard knows how to put a film together and sell it to a large audience, but will he be able to convert a film about a rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers in the 1970’s to the wider world, or will it be a flop only appealing to those who understand the sport and are already emotionally involved with the sport and its history?

As stated, this is the story of two rivals at the top flight of motor sport. One of them is James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), a British cad whose hard partying lifestyle completely mirrors his driving style, the other is Nikki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), a calculative Austrian whose life revolves around being the best by devoting his time to perfecting the car and looking after his body.

The focus of the story takes place during the season of 1976 where Hunt had finally bagged a drive for McLaren which afforded him the chance to challenge Lauda – the current title holder – for the World Championship. There is a little background story before this, but it is largely setting up both driver’s characteristics both about their racing, lifestyles and the way in which they treat women.

The film begins with Hunt walking into a hospital, barefoot and bleeding, to get patched up after a fight. Every woman in the room turns their heads to gawp as he is taken into a ward to be treated by a nurse. As she examines him she asks what happened to him, to which he replies he’d been in a fight with someone about their girlfriend. The nurse asks what he’d done and Hunt relies “I could show you, if you’d like?” Thus ensues some passionate sex scenes which will go over well with a female audience as well as a male one! Later in the film Hunt marries supermodel Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde), whose brief role is largely two-dimensional in that she’s pretty much there for window-dressing who eventually leaves him for Richard Burton, after some alcohol fuelled verbal abuse from Hunt.

Lauda’s first interaction with his future wife, Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara), is a lot colder, the straight-talking, sweary Austrian insults her driving and points out all the things that are wrong with her car. However, he shows that he cares much more for her than Hunt does for any of his relationships; even when he is being distant it is because he is trying to protect the relationship from the reality that he could die every time he gets in the car.

At the Belgian Grand Prix, at the Nürburgring, he comes very close to dying in a horrifying crash. Lauda suffered lethal burns to his head after trying to boycott the race due to the torrential rain which made driving around this formidable track extremely dangerous. This puts him out of the running for the title and nearly kills him; the burns were so bad he has to get his lungs vacuumed and a priest read him the last rites. All the while he watches Hunt close on him in the Championship and all the while he forces himself to get better. Within weeks he is back in his car and forces himself to defend his title despite the awful pain he is in.

This all sound terribly far-fetched, but remember that this is based very – scarily closely – on a true story and this makes Rush a totally compelling film that grips you from the moment you first hear an engine roar into life to the poignant ending where you discover that even though the two were bitter rivals they were good for each other and were actually closer than most perceived.

The thing that elevates this film beyond normal though is the soundtrack, the actual music is incidental, the pop songs used at from the time are evocative of the 70s and the orchestral score may as well not be there, so in the background is it. But the true triumph of the film is the sound of the engines mixed with the cinematography. This is a loud film when the racing is underway and the camera takes you right inside the exhausts and through the engines. At one point the point of view is that of the gun that takes the bolts from the wheels while they are being changed. This all adds to the electric feel of Formula 1 racing from that time when sex was safe and driving was dangerous.

Ron Howard has knocked this film out of the park, it is the best fictional film based on Formula 1, if not motor racing in general. It has just the right mixture of drama and racing and you really do feel for the characters and danger of the situations they’re in. The characters are unbelievably believable (racing drivers really did act this way in the sport’s heyday), with the exception of the female characters who are reduced to objects or worried sick about their spouses. However, this is a film set in the 70s and this is how women were seen, so I feel like this can slide.

If you are a Formula 1 fan, you’ll love this film. If not, you’re still going to get a well acted (Hemsworth’s accent aside), brilliantly written and awesomely scored and visually gorgeous film about two men at odds in a men’s world… oh, and you get to see Chris Hemsworth’s arse!

Review: Behind The Candelabra

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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To say this is the most camp film I’ve ever seen would be an understatement, I’ve never seen so many candles, rhinestones or men in bubble baths! This is the biopic of flamboyant pianist, Liberace, as told by a former lover, Scott Thorson.

The film opens with a very short couple of scenes setting up Thorson’s character, he gets chatted up by a guy in a gay bar (Scott Bakula), he works as an animal handler in the movie business and lives with a foster family on a ranch. Bakula’s character takes Thorson to a Liberace show in Las Vegas and gets them back stage where the story really kicks in, with a few intensely lustful looks being exchanged.

Very soon, Thorson, is visiting Liberace’s opulent mansion and even sooner begins a strongly sexual relationship which culminates with Liberace hiring the young stud as his live-in right hand man. There were a group of younger guys – in a packed out cinema full of mainly middle-aged people – who squirmed a bit during the first kissing scene, not to mention the later sex scene and there were a few titters. But the film is so unflinching in its depiction of the central relationship that people seemed to stop processing it through a “this-is-weird-” prism. This is largely down to Steven Soderbergh’s direction and the script based on Thorson’s book of the same name. But mainly down to the brilliant acting by Michael Douglas (Liberace) and Matt Damon (Thorson). Quite how these two straight actors can be as naturalistically at ease with each other is astounding!

You can’t quite believe some of the situations that arise during this larger than life story; Liberace at one point gets a facelift to make himself look younger and then insists that Scott has one too…to make Thorson look like a young version of him! Something Scott finds abhorrent at first, but realises that if he doesn’t go through with it he’ll be shunned. Cue some pretty graphic scenes of facial reconstruction surgery being performed by a facially contorted Rob Lowe who looks like a cross between Michael Jackson and Steve Tyler! His cameo provides some of the funniest parts in the whole film. His face has been pulled so tight that he can’t blink, and if he did you feel like he could seriously hurt himself or someone else on set!

It’s not all glitz, glamour and inconceivable excess, after years together the pressure of being Liberace’s toy boy, man-servant, never being let out and getting hooked on pills and cocaine starts to show and their relationship dips slowly into paranoia and constant tension. This culminates in a huge break up and ensuing legal battle which Thorson loses and fades into anonymity. If you know anything about Liberace you’ll know how the film ends, but you may not expect the song and dance number at the end. But then, how else is this man’s biopic supposed to end?!

This is both a very funny, extremely tragic and often poignant story about an entertainer so trapped by his fame into not being able to expose his sexuality and his relationships. Michael Douglas’ portrayal of the pianist is second to none and the hair, make-up and costume departments have done their jobs brilliantly, but the star of the show is certainly Matt Damon (and his impressive tan lines!). These two together seem to genuinely be having fun bringing this relationship to life on the screen and if they aren’t up for an Oscar next year I’ll be very surprised!

What has surprised me is the difference in reaction to the film in the U.S.A. and here in the U.K. It has been released to a direct to TV film on America because of a perceived lack of interest outside of the gay community. This is utter rubbish. As I said at the start of this blog, the screening I was in last night was packed out with mainly older couples as well as groups of younger people of both sexes. Congratulations go out the U.K. cinema chains and the film-going public for supporting such a great film!

Review: Hitchcock

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Alfred Hitchcock is an iconic figure in suspense cinema, producing a huge body of work throughout his career including Psycho, The Birds and Vertigo to name but three. The end of last year saw two films produced about the man and this was the only one to make it to the big screen (the other being The Girl, starring Toby Jones which was shown on TV in the UK at Christmas – a jolly watch!).

Hitchcock stars Anthony Hopkins as the eponymous auteur in this film dressed in a seamless fat suit and prosthetics, you almost don’t recognise him. Especially with the Hitch’s distinctive accent, which if you listen to both Hopkins and Jones delivering lines with your eyes shut you’d think it was the same actor.

Where The Girl was based on a book by Donald Spoto called Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies which featured interviews with various actresses who worked for him as well as crew members. It focuses on the making of The Birds and Marnie with actress Tippi Hedren (played, surprising well by Sienna Miller) an Hitchcock’s obsession with the fledgling actress. It came across as a bit of a character-assasination, but the best biopics show the dark side of their subjects as well as the genius.

Hitchcock, on the other hand, plays down the fantasising and obsession with blondes. It’s still there, there is a scene taken from Psycho itself where he spies on one of his actresses (Jessica Beil) from  a hole in the wall behind a picture while she de-robes in her dressing room. There is also the bullying he subjected his actors to while filming. But by the end of the film this kind of thing is played as cute; he puts the corpse of Mrs Bates in Janet Jeigh’s (Scarlett Johansson) dressing room after the final take to scare her and the whole crew is in on it. A far cry from Jones’ Hitch who was a threatening and malevolent presence on set and off it.

But, Hitchcock is more about the toll that self-funding the film took on his marriage to Alma (Helen Mirren – minus a fat suit). It gives more screen time to the long-suffering wife, who really seems to be the power behind her husband’s genius.

The film has great performances from its stars and is so enjoyable you could easily watch more, though I do think it suffers a little from not having quite as gritty an edge as The Girl. Though it does try, with the strange cut aways to the apparition of serial killer, Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), talking Hitch through his murders and inspiring the  Norman Bates character. The beginning of the film has one of these moments that sets up the film nicely, but the rest scattered haphazardly throughout tend to distract you from the plot, which is a shame. It also used way too many side on shots of Hopkins in the iconic silhouette pose as is to say “look at how much like Alfred Hitchcock we’ve managed to make Anthony Hopkins look!”

Overall Hitchcock is a good biopic which just falls short of being great. As such this begs the question as to why The Girl never made it into cinemas. In my opinion, it is the stronger of the two, even if just by a bit. Interestingly, the two would work very well as a double bill as Hitchcock ends with the idea for The Birds and The Girl takes up the story from there. An interesting idea, that.

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Spot  the difference time!