Spotlight (2015)

spotlight

I haven’t posted in yonks, so what better way to come back than with my favourite flick of last year and the much beloved Academy Award Best Picture Winner, Spotlight. As controversial as the Catholic Church paedophilia phenomenon may be, I’m sure we can all agree regardless of our personal stance that this film is just … brilliant. But you need to step outside of your happy bubble to embrace the harsh reality happening just outside your doorstep.

Actor-turned-filmmaker Tom McCarthy has always been a low-key defender of the outsider. His early films marked him out as a craftsman of mature and thoughtful dramas, so when this phenomenon took over the media world, McCarthy was at the very least inspired. Alongside co-writer Josh Singer, Spotlight’s needle-sharp screenplay embraces the mugginess of moral compromise over the cases of paedophilia in the Catholic Church. They illustrate the true story of how the Boston Globe, under its first Jewish editor Marty Baron, took on the entrenched abusive institutions of the church in a city where Catholicism is a way of life, and police and priests are thick as thieves.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.

Spotlight shifts the focus away from the church to examine how an entire community can become complicit in an unspoken crime. The journalism thriller draws excitement from joining disparate dots throughout the film, eventually taking shape to form the bigger picture. With its convincingly mundane scenes of journalists bashing phones and trawling through dusty records, McCarthy buries discernible visual styles and cinematography behind the pressing issue of script and story. Perhaps the filmmakers felt that their subject was in fact too important to be aesthetically pleasing. Instead, we’re faced with gut-wrenching stories of victim of abuse head on, and even in one case a complacent paedophile priest. You’ve been warned: this film is hard to swallow.

After his striking role in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu’s Birdman at the last Academy Awards only last year, Michael Keaton returns once more as Walter “Robby” Robinson. He does far quieter work here than in Birdman, taking on the role of Spotlight stalwart, shaken by the extent of the paedophilia scandal. Rachel McAdams, as Sacha Pfeiffer, takes on the role of a compelling reporter who regularly attends mass with grandma, but soon rapidly begins to lose residual connection with the church as the hidden truths unfold. Pfeiffer presents us with beautiful cinematic moments that balance the distant crisis of faith with the real and present courage of conviction. And last but not least Mark Ruffalo, as Mike Renzendes. The strength of his performance is carried by his passion and long-suppressed outbursts of emotion. He gives a brilliantly calibrated physical portrayal of a born investigator.

We see the personal transformation of all of principle members of Spotlight when the truth begins to unfold. But you seriously can’t listen to traumatic abuse stories and not feel impacted. The psychological impact of their traumatic experiences are rarely explored in mainstream cinema – which is what draws me to the film even more.

I’ve come to realise that Spotlight’s greatest strength is in the way it defies being chopped into components. To its core this is an ensemble film with characters harmonising like ingredients in a satisfying meal. We’re presented with the horrible specificity of victim stories and the subsequent negligence of the community. There is really no tidy moral to take away from this film, and that is the enthralling power of this masterpiece. A story like Spotlight shouldn’t end in comfort. Instead, it leaves your skin prickling – both at the despicable business of secret-keeping and the courage and resourcefulness that rivetingly overturns it. On some dark and unspoken level, no one ever wants to know.

Would I recommend this film? Absolutely. This is my 5/5 and my 10/10.

★★★★★

 

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The Book Thief – Courage Beyond Words (2013)

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The Book Thief is a very successful novel written by Markus Zusak that captured the hearts of over eight million readers worldwide. Director Brain Percival has undeniably captured the same courage, irony, horror and humanity of the original pages in this stunning film adaptation. The Book Thief is an impactful historical drama filled with impressive performances, comedic relief and tear-jerking scenes that will have you fumbling for a tissue.

The Book Thief is set in War stricken Germany between 1939 and 1943 and is narrated by Death, who illustrates with perplexity the seemingly strange way humans conduct themselves. Death tells the story of nine-year old Liesel Meminger, who he introduces when her younger brother dies on a train to the fictional town of Molching, Germany. A kind and affectionate working-class painter, Hans, and his strict but caring wife Rosa adopt Liesel into their childless home. Hans instantly commits to teaching his grief-stricken daughter to read and write after an incident at school labeling the girl as illiterate. With all the constant horror surrounding her, the bright girl manages to escape in words and language, all the while learning to read, write and smuggle books.

Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are well cast as Rosa and Hans Hubermann. Geoffrey Rush brings his usual command of humor and dramatic authority, making him one of the most sympathetic characters. He constantly radiates kindness, consideration and encouragement, especially towards Liesel. Emily Watson captures the dark and relentless character of Rosa with stability and domination, making her a personality hard to fall in love with. Rosa is sharp-tongued, rigid and impatient to all those around her, a clear reflection of the original novel character. Ultimately the undeniable horror of losing her home and her loved ones exposes Rosa’s inner warmth and fondness for her infuriating husband and adopted daughter.

The film delivers quality acting, mesmerizing settings as well as humor weaved carefully throughout the heartbreaking events. Overall, The Book Thief is a rewarding and emotional film with heart, celebration of language and a reminder that in times of utter madness there is always a silver lining.

Last Vegas – It’s Going to be Legendary (2013)

Last-Vegas

I haven’t posted in a while but now that the New Year has begun I’ll be posting a review every Monday for all of my readers. Thank you again for your support!

Starring four legends like you’ve never seen them before. Last Vegas stars well-known Academy Award winners Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline. If you loved The Hangover and The Bucket List than you might look fondly upon Jon Turtletaub’s indulgent, high-concept comedy about a group of rapidly aging childhood best friends living it large in Sin City.

Faded Brooklyn buddies Billy, Archie, Sam and Paddy reunite in Las Vegas after 58 years of friendship to celebrate the much-anticipated wedding of their ring leader Billy. He’s a long-lived bachelor who has finally decided to get hitched with a fair-skinned beauty half his age, not surprising when you notice his coppery skin, silk shirts and mostly invisible insecurities. The old buddies embark on a weekend through the fantasy world of modern-day Las Vegas, whistling at young girls by the pool, gambling and drinking alcohol to their heart’s content.

Morgan Freeman plays the wily gentleman Archie, a naturally gifted gambler who struggles with his health to the point where he’s not entirely intact with his sons family. Robert De Niro smiles rarely, so naturally he’s cast as the killjoy of the group. De Niro reveals his tough side once again and proves that despite his age, he’s still got it. Michael Douglas is cast as the privileged, charming old dimwit who’s terrified of growing old. Kevin Kline elevates the film with his provisional failure, carrying the notion that he is terribly worn down. Kline manages to downplay every scene and line, timing punchline moments to advance his character’s wit. Thankfully, a soulful performance from Mary Steenburgen, an older night club singer, provides the film with at least a little heart. I suppose the film would have had edge if the characters had really been prepared to misbehave.

Despite the frequent humorous moments, Last Vegas isn’t a film I am fond of neither a film that I would recommend you watching.There are extraordinary scenes that I won’t describe, except to say they were terribly written, ridiculous but somehow painfully funny. The film faded from my memory instantly once the credits rolled, much to say that Last Vegas is simply a mockery of previous successful films based in Sin City, like The Hangover.

Last Vegas is a ninety minute picture with a few bright moments, starring the actors you like in a comedy of unmeasured proportion.

★☆☆☆

Top 5 films starring Jim Carrey

It’s official that ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ is filming for release in 2014 so I thought it would be a good idea to roll back in his film history to discover his top five! I have to add that choosing from Jim Carrey’s best flicks was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do!

5) Fun with Dick and Jane (2005)

Dick and Jane are living a peaceful life until Dick (Jim Carrey) loses his job after receiving an important promotion that caused his wife to leave her job. There is no money and the house is in foreclosure

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This hilarious family flick is full of non stop laughter moments and heart warming lines. Jim Carrey is outstanding as the wannabe awesome father and husband and his behavior on screen is … unique.

Jane Harper: We might be in a little bit of a pickle, dick.

4) The Mask (1994)

A simple Bank Clerk with a totally normal life is transformed into a maniac super-hero with limited self control when he wears a mysterious green mask.

THEMASK

A hilarious film with an overflow of memorable scenes that will go down in film history. Jim Carrey pulls this role off with such intensity, insanity and stupidity. There is no one else capable of putting on such an incredible performance quite like Carrey.

Mask: Hold on, Sugar! Daddy’s got a sweet tooth tonight!

 3) Liar Liar (1997)

A lawyer with a steady career and a slowly disappearing family can’t lie for exactly 24 hours due to a small birthday wish at his son’s birthday party. He’s unprepared, unreliable and undesirable, but he’s desperate to set things straight and to win back his family while he’s at it.

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There are so many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the film and its easily a movie I can watch anytime, any day. Jim Carrey is so bubbly and expressive, especially when the wish is granted and he can’t control himself. This film is definitely on my favorites list!

Fletcher: Here goes: I sped. I followed too closely. I ran a stop sign. I almost hit a Chevy. I sped some more. I failed to yield at a crosswalk. I changed lanes at the intersection. I changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and *speeding*!

Cop: Is that all?

Fletcher: No … I have unpaid parking tickets.

 

 2) Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

A goofy detective who specializes in the treatment and care of animals goes in the search of a mascot dolphin who mysteriously disappears right before the teams big play-off at the Super Bowl. Ace must pile the clues together to figure out the culprit, and prove himself to the Police Department.

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Jim Carrey puts on quite an extraordinary performance as Ace Ventura, the funny detective dedicated to the protection of animals. His love and respect for animals brings many puns to the film and constantly keeps the audience guessing.

Ace Ventura: If I’m not back in five minutes … just wait longer.

1) Dumb and Dumber (1994)

The long, cross-country adventures of two good hearted yet incredibly stupid best friends. They catch themselves in situations that only they themselves can weaver out of.

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I’ve seen this movie a good thousand times. Everything about this movie is so hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny and outrageous! It’s everything you love about comedy mashed together. Jim Carrey alongside Jeff Daniels are a perfect pair that steal the spotlight and bring this movie it’s fantastic history. Watch out for the sequel ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ where the magical pair will reunite.

Harry: Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this … and totally redeem yourself!

JIM CARREY! THANK YOU FOR SO MANY LAUGHS!

JC

 

The Notebook – Behind every great love is a great story (2004)

I decided to review a fairly old romance, however this movie is my one of my favourite films of all time. Everything about this film is magnificent and no matter how many times I watch it, it still brings tears to my eyes.

Young lovers Allie Hamilton and Noah Calhoun find themselves in a fast tracked passionate summer romance and, after years of separation created by Class differences and the World War, the lovers unexpectedly reunite. The film is distinctly photographed and the simple filming techniques create a thrillingly atmospheric twist on ordinary romance.

In nowadays time in a nursing home, a man named James Garner desperately tries to rekindle the memory of a woman who is suffering from Alzheimer’s by reading a notebook to her every single day. The story tells the story of two young lovers by the names of Allie and Noah, who accidentally fall in love despite their different backgrounds and beginnings. She’s a rich girl with class and nobility and he is a dirt poor mill worker.

Rachel McAdams who plays lovestruck Allie Hamilton is unbelievably real and graceful and her counterpart Ryan Gosling is a handsome, incredibly vulnerable charmer who easily wins the heart of every female audience member.

This film follows a straightforward love story pattern, based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks. You will find the exquisite sunset, birds drifting through the sky, rain filled romantic evenings, but at its core it has wonderful performances that bring depth, courage and beauty to the filming masterpiece.

Despicable Me 2 – More minions, more despicable (2013)

If you like adorable animated films then this is a perfect movie for you. The entire movie overflows with quirky comedy and impressive animation. Despicable Me 2 picks mostly where the original ended, this time exploring the characters more deeply and uncovering hidden secrets as the movie progresses. Pierre Coffin directs yet another hit animation film but Despicable Me 2 sticks to a nicer only slightly evil sequel.

Steve Carrel returns as Gru, the villain turned loving parent of his three adopted little girls in the new minion filled sequel. Since parting with his life of stealing precious objects in the first movie, Gru has accustomed himself to a joyful life with his new family. It is however, Gru’s dormant evil persona that attracts attention of the Anti-villain league. A new threat has emerged that is seemingly positioned in the mall, a playground for Gru and his sidekick agent Lucy, who perhaps fall in love, unpredictable I know.

El Macho voiced by Benjamin Bratt is a potentially great and very interesting villain embodied with hairy-chested masculinity and a Lucho mask. Unfortunately he doesn’t become a daunting enemy until later. Dr. Nefario voiced by Russel Brand and the squabbling Minions are the highlight of the movie because events and actions centre on their emotions. Gru’s love interest Lucy does have her unforgettable moments and Gru is the more improved, recently emotion filled character we know and love.

DreamWorks introduces humour excellently that will entertain both parents and children without drawing offence or any inappropriate behaviour. The plot suffers occasionally from overpowering predictability, but there’s no refusing that Despicable Me 2 does a great job of appealing to anyone searching for indestructible characters and enormous robots. The minions never mature and the film uncovers a hidden side to the three adorable daughters. It’s a fantastic animated film that all ages can enjoy.

Iron Man 3 – Unleash the power behind the armour (2013)

Tony stark is now a shadow of his former courageous self. He’s struggling with reality, love and depression, obsessed with recovering from the circumstances he experienced during The Avengers. The third Iron Man installment relies more on character and irreverence, which makes this a better film, equipped with more surprises and fewer clichés.

Killian is a socially awkward outcast turned criminal billionaire that begins working on a human mutation project which seems linked to an exclusive terrorist known as The Mandarin. Tony Stark’s last adventure left him in a complete wreck. But as the past comes back to haunt him he’s totally unprepared – and when the world’s biggest terrorist threatens to attack and demolish America, Stark decides to reassemble his war machine and put up one last fight.

Robert Downey Jnr. once again charms the viewers as Tony Stark, the complex and egotistical superhero with no real secret identity. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as the elegant and overly stunning Pepper Potts, who is thankfully featured on-screen more than in earlier films. Kingsley brings full weight and gravity to his character The Mandarin, his voice portraying a creepy yet powerful intonation. Guy Pearce who plays the mastermind Aldrich Killian, is part slick businessman and part mad geek who handles conflict surprisingly well.

The film is given a potentially vibrant Tony Stark, an improved Mandarin, a fantastic cast, phenomenal special effects and a bland and uninspiring script. It was disappointing in comparison to the previous big-budget Iron Man films. On the bright side it was a great pleasure watching Downey Jnr. and his wonderful performance that really pulled Iron Man 3 out of full despair. It’s highly entertaining, full of unexpected surprises and pulled by a phenomenally talented cast.