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Film Journeys

Musical Biopics #1

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June 1, 2015

In this Film Journey we will be looking at things slightly differently – this is one based on biopics of real-life musicians. ‘Biopic’ being an abbreviated slang term for ‘biographic picture’, for those not in the know.

FILM 1: DANNY COLLINS (2015)

So here is where Al Pacino comes in, (we’re going to save doing a full Film Journey on his career for now); but out in cinemas this Friday is DANNY COLLINS; which stars Pacino as Danny Collins, an ageing 70s rocker who finds it hard to give up his rocking ways. However, on discovering an undelivered letter to himself from non-other than John Lennon, Collins decides to change his ways and reconnect with his life in a more meaningful way.

Critics and Stateside audiences have given the film pretty good reviews – almost universally citing Pacino’s performance as the beating heart of the film that, without him at the helm, could become a little too schmaltzy. Christopher Plummer is also on fine form in the film too.

So why are we mentioning a film full of actors in a list of biopics? Well, it’s inspired by the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston.

Talking of true stories …

FILM 2: AMY (2015)

Being released in UK cinemas on the 3rd July is AMY, a documentary about the soulful, but troubled singer Amy Whinehouse. David Joseph – the CEO of Universal music, (her record label), describes the film as tackling “lots of things about family and media, fame, addiction, but most importantly, it captures the very heart of what she was about, which is an amazing person and a true musical genius.” 

There is already some controversy surrounding the film with her father in particular being vocal about its depiction of him and his relationship with Amy. During an interview with This Morning he said of the film that it “contains some basic untruths”; at the same time though he urged her fans to see the film because, as he described it, some of the unseen footage is “superb”.

FILM 3: NOWHERE BOY (2009)

Nowhere Boy is an amazing British musical drama film about John Lennon’s adolescence, his relationships with his guardian aunt and his mother, the creation of his first band, the Quarrymen, and its evolution into the Beatles. The film is based on a biography written by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird and stars Aaron Johnson (KICK-ASS), as Lennon and Thomas Sangster, (NANNY MCPHEE, MAZE RUNNER films) as Paul McCartney.

Aaron Johnson’s performance is particularly impressive here. Performing a role of a real person is always very tricky. You want to make sure it’s an interpretation of them – not an impersonation of them and that can be incredibly difficult to do – especially if the person you are portraying is very well known for a specific aspect of their fame – for example a specific catchphrase, or a single dance move. NOWHERE BOY is certainly a powerful film, and one worth watching; whether you’re a Beatles fan or not.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

  • RAY – with Jamie Foxx putting in a turn that was, at the time, surprising as he’d been pigeon-holed a little in his roles and this was a break-out moment for him. Obviously Foxx plays the legendary Ray Charles – singer of Shake A Tail Feather we heard earlier. Which leads us to…
  • THE BLUES BROTHERS – Given that actors John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd recorded a number of commercially successful albums as the band The Blues Brothers, you could argue that the film is a biopic … perhaps in the same way that TV shows like Made In Chelsea are a documentary. Either way it’s a fantastic film with a cracking soundtrack.
  • SID & NANCY – Film Journeys alumni Gary Oldman is on full-on outrageous mode in this 1986 no-holds barred biopic on the life of Sid Vicious, the bassist of punk rock band The Sex Pistols as well as his often tempestuous relationship with Nancy Spungen. Sid & Nancy was an utter flop at the box office, failing to even recoup it’s production budget, but has since gone on to become a cult classic with critics more latterly lavishing praise on the film – especially Oldman’s performance.
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