Biopic

[6.5] Writer/director Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck, Glee) brings Augusten Burroughs’ memoir to the big screen. Joseph Cross plays young Burroughs, a thirteen-year-old whose emotionally unstable mother hands him off to her therapist. Running with Scissors is primarily about Burroughs trying to fit in at the therapist’s bizarre household while learning to accept that his mother will never be what he needs her to be. Annette Bening …

[6.0] Melissa McCarthy shifts gears with a dramatic turn in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of celebrity biographer Lee Israel, who after decades of success writing best-selling books about the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Estee Lauder, and Tallulah Bankhead, found herself in a desperate dry spell in the early ’90s. She turned to forgery to make ends meet, selling fake private letters …

[7.0] Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, Killing of a Sacred Deer) brings his off-kilter humor to this dark period-piece comedy about a poor but clever scullery maid (Emma Stone) who ingratiates herself to England’s ailing Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) with intentions of replacing the Queen’s longtime confidante and political proxy (Rachel Weisz). You can think of it as a quirky retelling of All About Eve. The …

[8.0] Christian Bale once again transforms himself completely to become former vice-president Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s (The Big Short) new film, Vice. The film is a pastiche of Cheney’s political career, driven in large part by his relationship with wife Lynne (Amy Adams) and daughters Liz and Mary. McKay is careful to keep Vice a pitch-black comedy at all times, but he also does …

[8.0] Steve Carell stars as millionaire John du Pont in the disturbing true story of du Pont’s attempt to recruit and train wrestlers for Olympic glory. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star as wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz. Mark falls under du Pont’s spell pretty easily, allowing du Pont to fill the role of father figure that older brother Dave once filled. But when …

[8.5] Joel Edgerton (The Gift) brings Garrard Conley’s true story of dangerous, misguided gay conversion therapy to the big screen with the help of Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea) plays Conley in the film, a young teen who is pressured to confess his homosexuality to his baptist preacher father (Crowe) and loving mother (Kidman). With …

[7.0] Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck star in Andrew Dominik’s dramatization of the last months of famous outlaw Jesse James’ life. Pitt plays James and Affleck plays his admirer-turned-assassin, Robert Ford. The young Ford character is smitten from the outset, but ridicule from James and the other gang members slowly hardens his heart. Jealousy eventually turns him against his idol. As James, Pitt is unstable …

[8.0] Rami Malek stars as Freddie Mercury in Bryan Singer’s (X-Men, Valkyrie) biopic about the formation and explosive success of rock group Queen. The film centers primarily around Mercury — his estranged relationship with his family, his homosexuality, his drug use, and eventual battle with AIDs — but without ignoring the other members of the band, played by Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello …

[7.0] Meryl Streep stars in the true story of a plutonium processing worker who is purposefully contaminated with the lethal substance after she initiates a whistle-blowing campaign about the company’s safety standards. Kurt Russel plays the love interest and Cher plays the best-friend and would-be lesbian lover. As directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate), Silkwood conjures a very specific and palpable setting — the impoverished …

[6.0] James Woods stars as the museum director taken to court when photographs from Robert Mapplethorpe’s 1990 exhibit were accused of being obscene in Cincinnati, Ohio. Diana Scarwid and Craig T. Nelson also star in this made-for-cable movie that incorporates Mapplethrope’s photos and interviews with political pundits and people who knew and worked with Mapplethorpe. I enjoyed the artist’s photos and the documentary interview bits, …

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