Tag Archives: Dramas Based on Real Life

The Snapper

Stephen Frears directs this dramedy about a working-class Dublin family that’s thrown into chaos when they learn that daughter Sharon (Tina Kellegher) is pregnant. But by choosing not to reveal the identity of the father, Sharon becomes the target of rampant gossip. Colm Meaney co-stars in this adaptation of the book from Irish author Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy, which also includes The Commitments and The Van.

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

I randomly caught this one on Showtime, and I’m glad I did. It’s a charming film, loaded with Irish wit, humor and sentimentality.

The story is about a young girl who is pregnant out of wedlock in a small, working-class Irish town. Time hasn’t been too kind to this film, though. Young, pregnant girls aren’t exactly the most controversial topic nowadays — sadly. Sharon, the girl at the center of the story, is 20. So it’s not even like she’s that young.

But what does work is the genuine chemistry of the family. They live in a tiny little house, with a whole bunch of kids packed in like sardines. They have an authentic feel about them, the way they talk to each other, the way they play. It’s never corny. And the heart of the family is the father, played with great likability by Colm Meaney. The father and daughter move the picture well, even if the topic of the film doesn’t have a lot of impact.

Larry Crowne


After losing his job, a middle-aged man reinvents himself by going back to college.

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

On the surface, this is another cheesy romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. While there are romantic moments, this movie is a little more than that, and better than I thought it would be.

Tom Hanks directed and co-wrote this film, starring himself in a pretty smart role. Hanks plays Larry Crowne, who in the opening scenes is cut from his job at a retail big box store because he doesn’t have a college education. Even though he’s a star employee and well liked by co-workers, he’s considered obsolete and can’t be moved up the corporate ladder because of his lack of education. He’s also a divorcee and military veteran with a dazzlingly likable personality. Enter Julia Roberts, the bitter professor stuck in community college teaching apathetic students while living with a very unhappy marriage.

The two, of course, collide when he takes her class. But that’s not the focus of the movie. The movie is Crowne learning to get back on his feet while going through a very difficult period of losing his job, his home, and realizing he needs to change his life. The love comes as a very subtle element, and it’s not the focus of the film.

There are lots of cornball moments. The college students are way too nice and accepting of him. He joins them in a scooter gang, for instance. There are certainly some cheese-tastic moments. But it’s smarter than it lets on in trailers. Not a bad date night movie if you catch it on Showtime.

Shame


In New York City, Brandon’s carefully cultivated private life — which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction — is disrupted when his sister Sissy arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.

Brian
Rating: 8 out of 10

Human beings have a fear of facing life’s constant stresses. It’s not exactly a mystery why many turn to drugs, alcohol, or food to numb themselves and forget for a brief moment their own pain and fear. But what if sex was your drug of choice? That’s the question asked by director Steve McQueen who is proving that he might be a talent in cinema that is here to stay. Michael Fassbender’s character Brandon is a tortured soul. He has a good job, a beautiful New York City apartment, and a loving sister but he wanders through life as if nothing makes him happy. His entire existence centers around when he can have his next fix, which in this case is an orgasm. He lives on internet porn, prostitutes, constant masturbation, and the hope he can score another random lover before the night is out. He has no friends to speak of except for his boss David, who is married and a father but goes out to bars with Brandon just so he can live out another life and pick up women behind his wife’s back. The more I thought about their friendship the more I realized that it wasn’t real. Brandon used David so that while David would talk to women in his brash and overconfident way and Brandon could stand back and look like the quiet and innocent friend. Brandon could then scoop up the women that were turned off and viewed him in a better light so that he could get his fix.

The other main character in the picture is Brandon’s sister Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan. She, too, has a deep rooted pain that is relieved by sex but unlike Brandon, she doesn’t repress her emotions. Their relationship is strained but you can tell they truly care about one another. While it is never stated in the film, there is a definite sense that the two of them have been through some traumatic events in their lives that have lead them on this path. All of the actors are excellent, but I’m here to say that Michael Fassbender is becoming one of the best actors of his generation. There’s not very many talents that can convey emotion the way he does without saying anything at all. At a mere 35 years old, he has a lot of great films ahead of him.

Steve McQueen’s direction is spot on for a film like this. An NC-17 film based on sex addiction could have been a disaster in less patient hands but he adds a sense of class and restraint to the entire story. The camera will sit on static shots and let the actors play out their dialogue. Sometimes the camera is looking directly at their face, sometimes it’s their profile, or sometimes it’s from an odd angle. Each decision made by McQueen serves a purpose to help us feel what the characters are feeling. I also have a real issue with the MPAA. Their repulsion towards sexual material compared to their acceptance of violent material is laughable. “Shame” is an explicit film and contains some shocking moments but what exactly constituted the NC-17 rating? Male frontal nudity? The sex scenes are no more graphic than other films of this kind and I’ve heard explicit dialogue before in R-rated fare. Yet, “Passion of the Christ”, “Saving Private Ryan”, and “Natural Born Killers” are rated R. I’m sorry to go on a random rant but why is a film that contains sex treated more harshly? Are we really that repressed as a society? It’s a shame (no pun intended) that a thought-provoking film like this could reach less of an audience because it decided to deal with an issue that most film makers wouldn’t have had the guts to touch. It’s not a perfect film but it sure is brave.

Conviction

Convinced that her brother, Kenneth (Sam Rockwell), has been unjustly convicted of murder and incompetently defended by court-ordered attorneys, high school dropout Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) puts herself through law school in order to represent him in his appeal. Inspired by a true story, director Tony Goldwyn’s stirring drama also stars Melissa Leo, Minnie Driver, Peter Gallagher and Clea DuVall.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

This is the kind of story that is too good for a writer to make up. I loved the idea of a sister being hell-bound to prove the innocence of her brother after he was sentenced to life in prison.

The director, Tony Goldwyn, weaves a nice story, telling both the back story of the brother, the sister, and their childhood. We also get the narrative of the present, as the sister uncovers the mystery of proving her brother’s innocence. I was glued to the story and never bored. It never felt long or drawn out, despite the many legal hurdles they the siblings face throughout.

The performances in this film are excellent. Rockwell and Swank deliver memorable roles. This is a really well made film that didn’t get a lot of love. It should have.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

When Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) discovers that his wife (Julianne Moore) wants to end their marriage, he reluctantly faces the unwelcome prospect of single life with the counsel of the younger and smoother super-bachelor Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). Meanwhile, Cal’s adolescent son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo), has formed an unquenchable crush on his 17-year-old babysitter (Analeigh Tipton) — but is she more interested in Robbie’s recently unwed father?

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

It was nice to see a romantic comedy with a new voice. This isn’t quite like the trailers depict, a cheery-the-time flick with lots of laughs and likeable characters.

The truth is, these characters are very flawed, which makes them feel more real. They’re more relatable and approachable, and because of this, we relate. There are some genuinely funny moments, but there are also some truly dramatic moments, too. Like any romantic comedy, the reality in the movie is a stretch, but in this case it works. The womanizer, played well by Gosling, is so over the top with his gigolo ways. But it works because of his great performance — comedy is something he doens’t do much. Steve Carell and Julianne Moore are also both excellent. The cast really makes this movie work.

I really enjoyed this far beyond what I thought I would. It doesn’t pull punches with a sense of drama that is based in reality, but knows when to stretch with its comedy. This is a very good date movie.

Unstoppable

It’s a nail-biting race against time as an unmanned train carrying a load of lethal chemicals speeds out of control, and a conductor and engineer do everything in their power to keep it from derailing and killing tens of thousands of people. Denzel Washington leads the cast in Tony Scott’s tough-minded action thriller, in which a terrible circumstance forces a cThis ain’t training. In training they just give you an F. Out here you get killed.
ouple of ordinary men to become extraordinary heroes.

Matt
Rating: 3 out of 10

This is based on a true story. While moving a train in a station, a train depot worker forgot to switch the tracks, so he hops out  of the moving train and tries to hit the switch, but the train gets away from him. Man, would I hate to be that guy. I think this movie would have been more interesting if it was from their perspective — all the guilt and feeling of helplessness as this train lumbered on a path of destruction and mayhem. Sure, the heroes are cool and all, but they get stuck with bad hero-like dialogue, like: “This ain’t training. In training they just give you an F. Out here you get killed.”

The other part is, since it’s based on real events, it’s kind of anti-climactic since we know they stop the train (SPOILER) and the action parts are fictionalized and dramatized to cartoonish proportions that it actually takes away from the real bravery and guts these men displayed. This movie suffers from a lot. Bad dialogue and poor attempts at developing characters with talk about marital problems.

I will say that Denzel Washington is always good. But he’s better than this movie. There’s a lot of things better than this movie. Root canal for instance. 

Super 8

With a nod toward producer Steven Spielberg’s landmark sci-fi films of the 1970s and ’80s, writer-director J.J. Abrams crafts a supernatural tale about six kids who witness something incredible while shooting a movie with their Super 8 camera.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

I’m becoming a huge fan of Abrams for one reason: He’s not affraid to make a fun movie. And neither was the man who made all the amazing Steven Spielberg films Super 8 pays homage to.

This was a popcorn movie I’d been waiting all year for. We haven’t had a great summer for movies, but this one is excellent. Abrams pays attention to developing some great characters in his script. And even though they are put in some ridiculous situations, trying to find a friend kidnapped by a giant alien who escapes the military and lives underground, we care about them through it all.

The directing is total Spielberg. I was lost in this movie like I was the first time I saw “The Goonies,” or “E.T.” My wife hated the film, but she didn’t grow up on those great 80s kids movies. She didn’t like it at all, and I will say it’s totally geared to guys like me, but it’s a fun ride. I highly recommend.

The Movie Brothers are back

The Movie Brothers have been away for a while, and for that, we apologize.

Extenuating circumstances have kept us away, but we’re coming back in full force.

We thank you for your continued readership, and we can’t wait to share with you what we have coming.

New posts are coming this week!

Love Ranch

Inspired by the story of the couple who introduced legalized prostitution to Nevada with the opening of their Mustang Ranch brothel, this Taylor Hackford-directed drama focuses on the devastating consequences of infidelity in the land of sex for pay. Helen Mirren stars as Grace Botempo; Joe Pesci plays her husband, Charlie; and Sergio Peris-Mencheta plays the boxer who, on entering their world, sets into motion a violent chain of events.

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

“Love Ranch” is like a Chia Pet. Sure, it’s kinda neat. But in the end, it just sits there doing nothing.

This film features two outstanding actors in Pesci and Mirren, and they are very sharp as a couple who are at odds, have a strange love that involves a lot of business and no passion, and exist in a very cold world. They’re not likable people, by any stretch, but they’re intriguing. The small nuances given by the actors, from a subtle accent to facial expression, give the sense that you know them.

But in the end, the film is flat. It suffers from a lose script that allowed Pesci and Mirren to stretch their legs as actors, but doesn’t engage the viewer’s attention. It’s kind of a tragic love story focused on Mirren, Pesci, and a boxer who draws Mirren’s affection. But the boxer is a cookie-cutter character with a funny accent because he wasn’t given time to be developed. If you’re a big fan of Mirren or Pesci, it’s worth a watch. As a film, it’s not completely there.

Source Code

Jake Gyllenhaal portrays a soldier recruited for a time-bending government investigation that places him in another man’s mind and body, reliving the same traumatic event repeatedly in an effort to identify the perpetrators of a terrorist bombing. Vera Farmiga plays a communications specialist who provides the vital link to the soldier’s primary reality as he searches for critical clues within a recurring nightmare.

Lauren
Rating: 7 out of 10

Source Code is Groundhog Day meets Inception meets Avatar … kind of.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a disoriented soldier who gets to take over the body of a man who is on a train outside of Chicago that is about to blow up. He has eight minutes until the bomb explodes and everyone on board dies. Eight minutes. Over and over again until he can figure out where the bomb is and who planted it. He’s not supposed to be trying to save the people, only learn about the bomber to stop a future attack. This isn’t, as they say, time travel.

There’s a lot of to figure out in the movie – like where is Jake once he’s off the train and in his own body, who are the people who are instructing him in his mission, who’s the bomber, etc., etc.

Source Code is well made and acted and pulled me in from the start. There’s a question I have about Jake and the end, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. So let me know when you’ve seen it and we discuss the ending.