Review: Spotlight

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Spotlight won’t win the awards it deserves this weekend. Oscar will overlook this film as it looks to The Revenant to wow Hollywood and the world beyond. I’ve written several times about The Revenant already this year and how I have been blown away by it’s achievements but Spotlight may be the better film.

Spotlight does what any film should. It tells a story really well. While Leonardo DiCaprio was eating raw bison liver and using a horse for a sleeping bag this group of fine acting talent were playing the roles of journalists investigating a story that shook the world. Did Leonardo do a great job absolutely, but this group excelled.

The difference in the two films to me is that The Revenant tells a fairly simple revenge tale through the blurred lens of multiplex action and arthouse wonder. Spotlight however tells a multi layered and difficult story in the most simplistic of ways.

Each member of this ensemble (the buzz word of moment among critics)  cast plays their part to perfection from Michael Keaton leading the team in the role of Robby Robinson to Mark Ruffalo’s intrepid Mike Rezendes it is really hard to define who is the lead in the piece. Nobody involved attempts to take centre stage. The real life story of Spotlight was a team effort and the film very much reflects that through its cast.

The Spotlight tale is well documented by now and it is hard to write anything close to a review without getting into ‘spoilers’ on some level. Spotlight is the true story of how the Boston Globe investigative journalist team  uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core is well known to many by now. The uncovering of these horrendous acts spread right across the globe and had an impact far beyond Boston.

While the church is the clearly the culprit the film does not demonise the institution completely. Instead time is taken to acknowledge that all players involved knew the dark truth deep down but looked the other way.

A special mention must be given to Liev Schreiber for his portrayal Marty Baron the outsider who interrupts the Globe’s world with no interest in the Redsox baseball team and due to his Jewish roots no link to the Catholic church. He is the key to the abuse being uncovered as he subtly refuses to let the story go and gently encourages the team to take it on.

This film is also a wonderful nod to a time we have lost memory of in our high spped broadband world. A time piece showing the way journalism used to be just before the internet era exploded and widened all our horizons (for better or worse). These journalists had to work for their story. There were clippings to be read, physical files to lifted from storage units and trollied to recipients, doorsteps to be walked on. True investigative journalism is the hero in this tale. Pre Google and long before the term click bait headline was even conceived this film salutes those who worked harder for their craft than those that walk the same beat today. I as a blogger am proof that anyone can attempt to write but Spotlight shows the value of true journalism.

With the Oscars this weekend to would be lovely to think Spotlight stands a chance.

The Revenant will more than likely prevail but there would be no complaints from me if Spotlight managed to take the limelight for itself.

 

 

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Favourite films of 2015

There will be a post to declare my favourite film of 2015 in the next few days. These however are some of my favourites from what has been a decent cinematic year.

What have you watched and enjoyed this year?

Do you agree/disagree with these picks?

 

Disappointment of 2015 :Mad Max Fury Road

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The end of 2015 approaches and that means the obligatory best of the year lists will soon be with us.

I think it’s also important to note the standout disappointment of the year too. I’m not miserable (much) but for someone who enjoys a cinema trip there is nothing worse than a major let down.

Bad films are bad films and there is very little can be down about that. A disappointing film however is in some ways more upsetting.

This year’s award for major disappointment (and I know I’m in a minority with this) was Mad Max Fury Road. I wanted to love it, the trailer excited me but when I sat down in the cinema I felt that the trailer was pretty much all you needed. This is nothing more than a 90 minute chase sequence.

My full tale of disappointment can be found here.

I know people loved this film and it will feature on many a ‘best of 2015’ list but for me it was the biggest let down of the year.

Review: Joy

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I got the opportunity to see Joy. David O’Russell reunites again with Jennifer Lawrence to bring us the story of Joy Mangano and her extraordinary rise to fame despite her circumstances.

This is the story of a woman fighting against her family history, her failed marriage and her place in society.

Part drama, part biopic and part black comedy the film sees Lawrence maintain her record of great performances and, also contains within it, a welcome return to form for Robert De Niro starring as her emotionally abusive Dad.

This is a compelling ‘American dream’ tale with much to say about what it means to be a creative person,  what it means to rise above oppressive circumstances and the importance of never giving up.

I am a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan. Even when discussing mop design she is probably the most compelling screen presence we have in modern cinema. Throughout Joy you are rooting for her, willing her to succeed and hoping that she finds the joy she so desperately seeks.

I’ve read several reviews that have been hard on this film and I have to say I don’t understand why. I found lots to love and while it is hard to pin down exactly what genre the film fits into I believe in time it will be viewed as a classic.

Joy is released on 1st January 2016

Thanks to MovieHouse for advance screening access 

 

 

 

Review : The Good Dinosaur

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Let’s be honest. It was always going to be a struggle for The Good Dinosaur. In normal circumstances 2 Pixar movies in a year would be a real treat. However when one of those films is Inside Out the film following in it’s footsteps was always going to underwhelm.

To be clear that is not The Good Dinosaur’s fault there are plenty of things to like within the film however they just fall a little flat.

The world of the Good Dinosaur is one in which the asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs on Earth missed it’s intended target and left us a world of talking dinosaurs and neanderthals in the animal role. Arlo is our hero, fearful, shy but determined to win the respect and admiration of his family.

Following an unfortunate event Arlo is sent off on a road journey with only Spot the neanderthal irritant for (unwanted) company. Arlo is left to find his way home in a world which forces him to face his many fears head on.

This movie is many things.  It is a movie about family, a movie about overcoming your fears and a road trip/ buddy movie all rolled into one and this may be the biggest problems the movie has. The film never clearly determines which of these is the true focus and this sadly means that none of the elements mentioned get the full attention of the creators.

Another issues for me was the film being set within a strangely adapted Wild West movie frontier. This does allow for some wonderful animation particularly in the surrounding almost real life scenery. It also however means that the film has wild west related distractions, for example T-Rex’s almost pretending to ride horses like cowboys in one sequence is particularly odd.

All in all there are things to like about the Good Dinosaur but I think the title is itself an indicator of how Pixar may feel. This is The Good Dinosaur it is not sadly The Great Dinosaur.

Review: Bridge of Spies

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It has been 11 years since the last Spielberg/ Hanks collaboration The Terminal (2004) so to hear that they had reunited for Bridge of Spies was something that, in what to date has been a fairly mediocre year of cinema, had me very excited.

Bridge of Spies sees Hanks, as lawyer James Donavan, plucked form his day to day insurance cases to defend the alleged Russian spy Rudolf Abel played wonderfully by Mark Rylance. Already considered guilty by many Abel is to be given a ‘fair trial’ and  Donavan is caught in the crossfire of patriotism and doing what is right.

As the court case progresses we see a strong personal relationship build between the two and a trust that would have been a rarity in the Cold War period. While the relationship builds and the court case begins we see the parallel tale of a young American spy pilot take his training only to be subsequently captured by the Russians. Impressed by the fairness of Donovan the Russians reach out to him in order to make a spy for spy trade.

Cold war politics has never been so compelling. This is not the action packed spy world of Bond but rather the world of diplomacy and negotiation. This obviously involves lots of conversations in differing coms with very sparse ‘action’. However the film does not suffer for it and Hanks excels as the ‘everyday’ lawyer caught up in a situation much bigger than he could imagine.

We feel the conflict he and his family suffer from as he attempts to work through the moral maze of patriotism against doing the right thing. What is the right thing to do? What is the American thing to do? What are the values that an American should hold and how should they be acted out? Although set in the Cold War there is a very current and timely relevance to the film and the questions it poses.

Although based on true events during that period it is clear that  artistic licence has been taken and Spielberg is one of the greatest at pulling an audience’s heart strings. The familiar sweeping strings at emotive moments giving the audience little chance of resisting the emotional pull.

Bridge of Spies is a solid spy drama with great performances from Hanks and Rylance, classic Spielbergian direction and great writing from the Coen brothers it is as close to a cinematic dream team as you could hope for.

Bridge of Spies is on general release from Thursday 26th Nov 2015.

Thank to MovieHouse for advance screening access. 

 

 

Review: Steve Jobs

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A film about the rise of Apple guru Steve Jobs on paper may not sound like the most exciting film ever made. However when the that paper is written on by Aaron Sorkin I was always going to be interested. Add a dash of Fassbender in the main role and a dose of Danny Boyle in the director’s chair and I was excited before I even sat down.

High expectations can be the ultimate downfall of any review but thankfully I had nothing to fear. Steve Jobs is a whirlwind trip through the rise of arguably one of the most influential people of our time.

Set across 3 major time periods 1984, 88 and 1998 the film picks out 3 significant moments in Jobs’ career. Sorkin’s prose flits eloquently in highlighting the genius and flaw of Jobs’ character and Michael Fassbender is in excellent form (yet again) bringing this version of Jobs to life.

No punches are pulled in the depiction of Jobs. His flaws are laid bare and very apparent to the viewer. I was torn throughout trying to determine if Steve Jobs was likeable or despicable. His on-screen parenting skills, for example, need more work than his creative genius! It is refreshing to not see him lauded throughout as strangely a flawed genius may be more likeable in the longterm.

Kate Winslet, playing Jobs confidant Joanna Hoffman, almost steals the show in her role as the moral compass constantly at Fassbender’s side. Helping him to navigate business and family with simultaneous showings of adoration and brutal honesty is not an easy role but Winslet navigates it wonderfully.

The film’s ending was a little flawed for me. The attempt, at the last-minute, to tie up the loose ends and give a warm fuzzy feeling to the audience detracts from all the hard work in the balanced argument shown in the previous 118 minutes. This however is a very minor grievance and does not spoil  in any way what is a great piece of work from all involved.

The Social Network (the depiction of Facebook  founder Mark Zuckerberg), another Sorkin scripted film, is an easy and lazy comparison. However it must be noted that Sorkin has provided this cinema going generation with two biopics that take us inside the character of two men that many consider to be two of the most influential figures of our times.

His main achievement in doing so is to leave us to ponder if the characters displayed on-screen are worth our adoration in the first place?

With thanks to MovieHouse for screening access.

Steve Jobs is on general release from Friday 13th November 2015