Damson - What we're watching #17
Music biopics are not easy to make, so when one works, it's usually a bit of a masterpiece.
We love them here. Check out our top 10...
Director Anton Corbijn was a band photographer and therefore used to hanging around with rock stars such as U2, Tom Waits and Depeche Mode long before he made "Control". It's no wonder his directorial debut was about a singer. Sam Riley, in his first movie, channels the troubled Ian Curtis down to a T. Curtis Tragically took his own life at just 23, so there's not a whole load of footage to go on but Riley nails it. From the melancholic personal life, to the agitated but incredible live performances. It really makes you wonder just how big Joy Division would have been if he had been able to fight off his demons.
Get On Up
A good few years before Chadwick Boseman burst into the public consciousness as Black Panther, he was putting in this absurdly good performance as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Boseman manages to capture all of Browns's cadence, the sex appeal, the incredible confidence and the strut. He just gets it. The movie was somewhat of a cinematic bomb when it was released in 2014, but it deserves your attention. The soundtrack alone will keep you dancing long into the night.
This movie reportedly took 15 years to get made, but it was worth the wait. Jamie Foxx kicked off his acting career with an Oscar-winning performance, going to extreme lengths to channel Ray Charles. He learned to play Piano, sing the songs himself and, amazingly even glued his eyes shut! He gets everything about him right, from the look to the shuffling gait to the vocal acrobatics. It's not just Foxx though, the movie is filled with incredible acting, from Kerry Washington to Clifton Powell, to Regina King. It's a real tragedy that Ray never got to experience the buzz around it, as he died just before it was released. He would have been sure to have approved.
Oliver Stones sweeping, epic tribute to Jim Morrison and The Doors seriously splits opinion but we loved it. Val Kilmer gives the performance of a lifetime as the Lizard King himself, by making Jim the embodiment of 1960's hedonism, doped up on sex, drugs and rock & roll. What is great about the performance is it doesn't paint Morrison out to be something that he wasn't. He has plenty of flaws and is absolutely full of it but he wholeheartedly believes his own bravado. After watching, you are left to make your own mind up as to if he was a musical genius or a pretentious clown. That the film shows no bias one way or another is a great achievement.
The Beatles sang "All You Need Is Love", and this is the story of John Lennon's early search for it. "Nowhere Boy" tells the story of John in his teenage years between 1955 and 1960, and the formation of The Beatles. You may have heard of them! Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono both gave their blessing to the film. If it can get those two to agree on something, it must have been good! The Young Lennon (played brilliantly by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is cocky and vulnerable all at the same time. If you know anything of the man, that's exactly how you'd expect him to be. If there is anything to criticise about the movie, it is that there's not quite enough "Beatles" content, but that doesn't detract from what is a brilliant, very well made piece of work.
La Bamba is the tragic story of Richie Valens or rather the story of the last 8 months of his life. Richie sprung into the mainstream at 17 years old, and died in a plane crash not a year into his career when he was at the height of his popularity along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Lou Diamond Phillips puts in a career-best performance as the young, headstrong Valens. Esai Morales is phenomenal as his troubled, older brother Bob. In 2017, La Bamba was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant". It's that good.
Straight Outta Compton
This was produced by the remaining NWA members and is a surprisingly touching story of friendship, music, and debauchery. Sure, having Dr. Dre and Ice Cube involved guarantees that a certain level of gloss will be added, but that makes it a better movie. The 3 lead characters, including a real inception moment when Ice Cube Junior playing Ice Cube Senior (very well too, it has to be said), are fantastic. The real heart of the movie is Eazy-E. We follow him from his start as a drug dealer/gangster/entrepreneur to rap megastar. If you have any interest in American Gangster rap, you know how it ended for Eazy-E. When that comes, it was one of the most emotional moments committed to film for many years. All three lead actors have gone on to have great careers since, and they 100% deserve it.
Walk The Line
If you tried to tell the full story of Johnny Cash, the movie would go on forever. "Walk The Line" decided to focus on his early years, from his childhood to the start of his marriage with June Carter. Despite putting himself down and believing there were many other people better suited to the role, Joaquin Phoenix puts in a huge performance, resulting in an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Not to be outdone, Reese Wetherspoon was also nominated for Best Actress and took home the little gold statue. They both also produced incredible vocal performances, coming across as credible musicians, as opposed to a little bit "Karaoke". Infinitely watchable, the movie doesn't avoid Cash's many, many problems with addiction, and is all the better for it. Somewhere down the line, it would be great to see a follow-up, concentrating on Johnny and June's later years.
Damson HQ is an office full to the rafters of unashamedly huge Queen fans, so when the trailer was released for Bohemian Rhapsody we were giddy with excitement. It's no secret that production had a fair few teething issues. Sacha Baron Cohen signed on as Freddie, then left and that's before the huge mess surrounding Brian Singer directing. It really wouldn't have been too much of a surprise if the end product had been an absolute shambles. Thankfully, it really wasn't. While it's unlikely to ever be considered a cinematic masterpiece, it's bloody good fun! Rami Malek, who took over the reins once Borat left, was an absolute revelation and deserved all the plaudits he received, and the best actor Oscar was the cherry on the top. He's ably supported by a fantastic cast (including a heavily made-up Mike Myers in a very amusing in-joke), Bohemian Rhapsody is really the tale of Freddie Mercury. In all honesty, the final 25 minutes, which is a near enough seamless recreation of the Live Aid performance, is staggering. An absolute must-watch for any music fan. If you weren't a fan of Queen before, you certainly would be after this!