I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Posts Tagged ‘music biopic’

Miles Ahead

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

tn_milesaheadad_milesMILES AHEAD is the directorial debut of Don Cheadle, and he stars in it as Miles Davis. I think it didn’t get much attention for the same reason it’s good: it’s a small, odd movie, not fulfilling most expectations of a musician biopic. I’m not sure if it even is a musician biopic. Maybe it’s a little of that mixed with Miles’ guest appearance on Miami Vice. It’s a small time crime story where the lead happens to be Miles Davis and the McMuffin is a reel-to-reel of the only recording session he’s done in years. He wants it for himself but Columbia Records has contractual claim to it, so people are trying to get it.

The story takes place over just a couple of days, with the device of Ewan McGregor as totally fictional Rolling Stone writer Dave Braden barging his way into the “black Howard Hughes” life of Miles, promising to write his “comeback story!” At first Miles gives him many variations of “fuck off, white boy,” but eventually the two are hanging out together. Making this odd couple happen requires deceit and cocaine and puts the reporter in the middle of many tense situations involving guns and/or a fierce insistence on artistic purity. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Straight Outta Compton

Monday, August 17th, 2015

tn_socSTRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON is a movie that will smother your mother and make your sister think it loves her. Or at least it will give them more of an idea of what N.W.A was all about. Unless they already know alot about N.W.A, which come to think of it I do expect of your mother and your sister. They’re pretty cool.

I’ve been thrilled about the idea of an N.W.A biopic for years. So far The Notorious B.I.G. is the only rapper to get one of these (the better-than-I-expected NOTORIOUS), though I remember when Steve James of HOOP DREAMS fame was supposed to be doing one on Grandmaster Flash starring Don Cheadle. A story from that era could be epic. And I would like to see an O.D.B. movie and possibly Public Enemy would work, but I don’t know if there’s much of an ending on that. N.W.A, to me, seems like the best choice for this treatment.

And their movie is pretty much what you’d expect. It captures some of the vitality and power of N.W.A and also has most of the weaknesses of biopics. I can’t honestly claim it all works as a movie, but it celebrates N.W.A without being totally embarrassing about it, so I couldn’t help but enjoy watching it. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Get On Up

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

tn_getonupFor several years Spike Lee talked about doing a James Brown biopic starring Wesley Snipes. This was fairly recently, like while Wesley was locked up. Man, I couldn’t quite picture what that would be like, and I really wanted to find out. But I figured even if Wesley could pull off the role I wasn’t sure a movie about James Brown could ever work. Would a movie really be able to show his incredible genius without toning down what a horrible person he was?

When I heard somebody besides Lee was doing the James Brown biopic, and that it was the guy that did the fucking HELP, I was not happy. And who do they have playing The Godfather? Chadwick Boseman, same guy who already played Jackie Robinson in that other movie that that other white director did before Spike Lee could. I bet this Boseman guy has nightmares about getting stomped by Air Jordans.

And the trailers didn’t help. With quick clips of Boseman in a wig lip synching James Brown, you couldn’t really tell if he looked that much like him, same with the dialogue. And there was a version with interviews of rappers and Mick Jagger and stuff talking about how important James Brown is. What the fuck is this approach? Who is this demographic of fucking weirdos who have no idea who James Brown is but will see a movie about him if Mick Jagger recommends it? What, did they already see a video of Taylor Swift or Macklemore or somebody explaining how important Mick Jagger is? (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Behind the Candelabra

Monday, April 28th, 2014

tn_candelabraBEHIND THE CANDELABRA is Steve Soderbergh’s one last big score before retirement. In some countries it played in theaters, but here in his home country it went straight to cable. Why? The Man obviously didn’t get how contemporary this story is even though it takes place in the ’70s through early ’80s.

It’s about this young working class guy, animal trainer, orphan (Matt Damon, THE BOURNE IDENTITY), one day he and his buddy (Scott Bakula, COLOR OF NIGHT) hit Vegas together, turns out his buddy knows this super famous musician guy (Michael Douglas, Streets of San Francisco), they get to hang out backstage, next thing you know he gets a job with the guy, gets to be in the crew, his posse, his entourage, like in the show Entourage (I don’t know, I haven’t seen it, but I figure I got a good guess what a show called Entourage would be about). (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Leadbelly

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

tn_leadbellyI liked Gordon Parks Sr.’s direction on his SHAFT movies so much that I wanted to see what else he’d done. The one that looked most interesting was this. The cover shows the title character shirtless, muscular, holding a guitar like John Henry holding a hammer, and calls him a black legend. So it looks like some period piece blaxploitation tall tale or something. But it’s really a biopic of the legendary singer and guitar player.

Roger E. Moseley plays Hudie Leadbetter, who we first see as a grey-haired old man in prison. Some white musicologists, Professor Lomax and son, are going to prisons recording “negro folk songs” for the Library of Congress archives. Leadbelly tells them he knows alot of songs, some he learned and some he made up, and as he begins to sing and talk about his life it flashes back to when he was young and tells his life story, how and where he learned these songs or why he made them up. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Notorious

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

tn_notoriousNOTORIOUS, the biopic of the late rapper Christopher “Notorious (Biggie Smalls) B.I.G.” Wallace comes out on DVD today.

I don’t know about Gene Shalit or Tom Shales or some of these guys, but I gotta admit I don’t come to NOTORIOUS as a Biggie fan from day 1. I was a late adopter. I knew a couple of those catchy songs with the R&B choruses, so I thought he was just a gangster Heavy D or a fat Ladies Love Cool James. But years after his death when I finally heard the whole “Ready to Die” album I was converted immediately.

It’s true that Biggie (who was only 24 when he died) mostly had the same materialist tough guy obsessions that 50 Cent still has as a grown adult and business leader. He’s rhyming about money and guns but like a real slick director his execution elevates the subject matter. He was one of the best storytellers in hip hop. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Walk the Line

Saturday, December 31st, 2005

You can’t compare Johnny Cash to anybody, but you can’t help but compare WALK THE LINE to the movie RAY. There aren’t many truly great musician biopics, if any, and they all end up being about the same shit. If you’re a legendary musician it’s pretty much guaranteed that you struggled for a while, got a lucky break, became a superstar, cheated on your wife, then had a drug problem that fucked up your career and relatinships for a while. Then you either died tragically or kicked the drugs. (One exception: small plane crashes.) In the case of both Ray and Johnny they kicked the drugs. But just because they didn’t die young doesn’t mean they had it easy. According to the movies, both had a brother who died when they were kids and were haunted by it for the rest of their lives.

Both RAY and WALK THE LINE benefit from great performances by celebrities playing other celebrities, but in the case of RAY I think without that performance you’d just have a pretty good TV movie. WALK THE LINE is a better movie even if the imitation is not quite as uncanny. (These actors did go the extra mile though and record all the songs themselves. It’s weird because you know it’s not the real John and June but you do know it’s the same John and June you’ve heard talking to each other so it seems to work.) (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.