Posts Tagged ‘true story’

The Stanford Prison Experiment is a film about an actual social psychological experiment conducted at Stanford University in 1971.

24 students out of a larger pool (one alternate ended up being used) were selected to take part in the experiment, which put half of them into a ‘prisoner’ group and half into a ‘guard’ group. They were then put into a makeshift prison and observed on camera by Professor Philip Zimbardo (played here by Billy Crudup), who was running the experiment, and his team. The idea behind it was to see the psychological effects of being in a particular role. The results were astonishing.

Almost immediately the guards, one in particular, began to display aggressive and sadistic tendencies, while the prisoners – now known only be numbers, instead of their names – started to get institutionalised, with some rebelling against the guards and others kowtowing to authority.

It’s not spoilerish to say that things got out of hand quickly and shockingly, but even knowing this going in, I was stunned to see how quickly people took on a new mantle and attitude due to the role they had been given. It’s worth bearing in mind that all of these subjects were students at Stanford University, with no criminal record or known psychological issues. They were all deemed to be stable and healthy. They all knew that it wasn’t an actual prison, yet they were all affected badly by what happened to them. It makes me shudder to think how someone with emotional or psychological issues could be affected.

This is certainly not an easy film to watch, but it was certainly difficult for me to tear my eyes away from the screen. Utterly compelling and unforgettable. I definitely recommend this film.

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Calendar Girls tells the true story of a WI branch in Yorkshire who did a nude calendar (with the strategic use of props to cover their modesty) in order to raise money for a settee in the hospital where one of the women’s husband was treated for cancer prior to his death. The story was made into a film in 2003, starring such acting stalwarts  as Penelope Wilton, Helen Mirren, Annette Crosbie, Linda Bassett, Julie Walters and Celia Imrie. It’s also been made into a play, and now here comes the musical with music by Gary Barlow.

I have to say this musical exceeded all of my expectations – I knew it would be good, but I generally prefer musicals with songs that I know, and I didn’t know any of the songs here. But it absolutely did not matter. The songs themselves were catchy and joyous and helped moved the narrative along. I thought Gary Barlow’s style was all over them, which is no bad thing. However, it is the cast who steal the show here – and they were – without exception – superb.

Annie, the lady whose husband dies, was played by the lovely Sarah Jane Buckley, who was very natural in the part. This is an ensemble piece and the rest of the ladies were played by Rebecca Storm as Chris, Sue Devaney as Cora, Lisa Maxwell as Celia, Julia Hills as Ruth and Vanessa Grace Lee as Jessie. Each one of them had her moment in the sun, and a song exclusively for their character, and without exception each one of them nailed it.

Kudos to Tyler Dobbs and Danny Howker, as Tommo and Danny, the sons of the two of the women, and also to respectively Phil Corbitt as John, Annie’s husband; Richard Anthony Lloyd as Colin, Celia’s husband, Ian Mercer as Rod, Chris’s husband, and Derek Elroy as Lawrence the photographer.

The first half of the show had some extremely funny moments, but also some very emotional ones, depicting John’s declining health (I cried), but the second half of the show is truly hilarious; I genuinely had a stomach ache from laughing so hard. A few cheeky peeks of boobs and bums were funny rather than smutty. This is without doubt one of the best musicals I have ever seen, and I would highly highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

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Breaking the Mould is a made-for-television film, about the development of penicillin.  When people think of penicillin, they automatically think of Alexander Fleming, and this film is an attempt to tell the true story behind the medical breakthrough and credit those who were very involved, but largely forgotten.  It must be said that Fleming does not come out of this film too well!

Initially I watched it only because Dominic West was in it, and I admit that I did wonder if it would hold my attention, but it was actually very interesting.  West plays Howard Florey, the Australian pharmacologist and pathologist, who in 1938, was interested in Fleming’s earlier discovery of penicillin, which Fleming had abandoned several years earlier, believing that it had little application.  Together with Ernst Chain, a German biochemist, and scientist Norman Heatley, Florey determined to work out how to manufacture large quantities of penicillin.  Despite problems with funding and money flow, the team battled on.  Florey was also again patenting the formula, as he believed that to do so would make the cure too expensive for many people.

After all of their efforts, Fleming – who is portrayed as something of a glory-hunter  – ends up taking most if not all of the credit for what the others have achieved, although Florey and Chain did share the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Fleming, in 1945.

The film tells the story simply, and held my interest throughout.  It showed the human element of the story, as well as the scientific parts, by depicting the early trials which were carried out on hospital patients (not always with successful results).  As the events took place during World War 2, everyone was very aware of the possibilities for treating wounded soldiers, and were equally anxious that the formula for extracting penicillin did not fall into enemy hands.

At an hour and 20 minutes long, this is an informative and interesting film, which made me want to learn more about the men behind the science.

Year of release: 2009

Director: Peter Hoar

Producers: Charlotte Bloxham, Pier Wilkie, John Yorke

Writer: Kate Brooke

Main cast: Dominic West, Oliver Dimsdale, Joe Armstrong, Denis Lawson, John Sessions, Kate Fleetwood, Amanda Douge

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This award laden film tells the story of King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II.  When Albert’s (Bertie, later King George) brother, King Edward VIII abdicates due to his desire to marry two time divorcee Wallis Simpson, Bertie becomes King and has to lead his country through some troubled time, with the threat of World War II looming.  His stammer has hampered him throughout his life, and he enlists the help of unconventional Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue to help him conquer the problem, and address the nation confidently.

The movie won four Oscars, and was nominated for a further eight.  It also won five Baftas and was nominated for a further seven (three of the five Bafta awards were for the three lead actors, Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter).  I certainly believe that the awards were well deserved.  Firth is simply brilliant as King George, and Rush and Carter are also excellent.

The story may have been well known before the film was made, but it is still compelling to watch.  It’s impossible not to feel for ‘Bertie’; thrown into a role which he did not want or feel able to do, and at a time of unrest and grave concern, the pressure upon him must have been immense.  Carter really makes the audience believe in her love for her husband, and shows the Queen Mother as a strong minded woman.  Rush provides some moments of light comic relief, and his growing admiration for the King is well portrayed.  Although Guy Pearce is not often mentioned for his role as King Edward, he played a great, largely unsympathetic part (but it was also hard not to feel for him also, torn between his love for Wallis Simpson, and his duty to the country).

Overall, definitely worth the critical acclaim it received, and highly recommended watch.

Year of release: 2010

Director: Tom Hooper

Writer: David Seidler

Main cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush

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This film tells the true story of the 1919 ‘Black Sox’ scandal, when members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team, fed up with being underpaid by their boss, accepted bribes to throw games and deliberately lose the World Series. The first half of the movie concentrates mainly on the setting up of the bribes and the games themselves, and the second half of the movie deals with the fall-out of the resulting scandal – the truth being uncovered by suspicious journalists.

There is a stellar cast, including John Cusack as ‘Buck’ Weaver (a player who knew about the bribery but refused to become involved or take any money; sadly he suffered the same punishment as the other team members); D.B. Sweeney as ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson, an illiterate but brilliant baseball player; Gordon Clapp as Ray Schalk, the ‘catcher’ for the team who did not know about the bribery and was frustrated at the teams’ apparent inability to play well; and John Mahoney as ‘Kid’ Gleason, retired baseball player and now coach of the team, who had no knowledge (but maybe some suspicions) about the bribes. Charlie Sheen also stars – normally an actor who can be painful to watch, but he’s actually pretty good in this.

The film was enjoyable and far more compelling than I expected.  Although the players were obviously in the wrong to take the bribes, their reasons for doing so were made clear and their actions were somewhat understandable (if not excusable).  These men were playing their hearts out, but only succeeding in making other people rich, while being double crossed and cheated out of a fair wage.

The film was not told from any specific player’s point of view, but perhaps centred most on that of Buck Weaver, and certainly he is the character whose story stuck out the most for me.  He was invited to take the bribe, but refused to do so, and also refused to play at any less than the best of his ability. However, because he chose not to reveal the actions of his fellow team players, he suffered the same punishment of eventually being banned from professional baseball (something which he apparently challenged many times up until his death in 1956).

Overall, an interesting and enjoyable film, which tells a huge part of baseball history.

Year of release: 1988

Director: John Sayles

Writers: Eliot Asinof (book), John Sayles

Main cast: John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Michael Rooker, Gordon Clapp, D.B. Sweeney

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