Film Review : Spotlight (2015)

IMDB Score – 8.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Metacritic Score – 93/100

Directed By – Tom McCarthy
Starring – Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Neal Huff, and Billy Crudup

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was sitting in my Intro to Journalism class with excitement in my bones because I had finally gotten to the point where I was going to learn how to become something I’ve wanted to become since I was a kid, a journalist. Well, thanks to the very mediocre standards at a particular country college in New Jersey, that dream was, and still is, put on hold. Frankly, I wasn’t a big fan of newspaper journalism. I didn’t care about what was said in the town meeting this weekend because it most likely involved Mrs. Phelp’s rose bush and how she couldn’t expand it due to the stupid creek next to her house which should be filled up. I don’t care about Mrs. Phelps. I wanted and still want to be a conflict journalist. The real dream is travel the world and report on stories that aren’t so readily available to be told. Stories that Vice started to do before they started writing articles on what food is the best before anal sex. I wanted to expose crime and change how people saw the world. This would entail exposing the world as a dark evil place filled with criminals, but at least the rosey colored glasses would be puled back a bit. That dream has been put on hold while I try figure out my life in more immediate ways. That doesn’t however keep me from planning such adventures. They’re still present in my mind. They came back up to the surface in a big way after finishing Tom McCarthy’s 2015 film that thankfully doesn’t star Adam Sandler, Spotlight.

You read the synopsis at the top. You read the newspapers ten years ago. The Catholic Church is fucked up. Like, REALLY REALLY fucked up. My interest in this film was tied to the journalism aspect as I described in the first paragraph, but I also wanted to see how a major market film would handle this kind of subject matter. I turned out to be very pleased with how they decided to do it.

Spotlight is basically This century’s “All the Presidents Men”. Yes, I’m aware that this observation has been realized and written down by probably every single person who has ever talked about this film this year. It does however ring true. McCarthy decided to stay close to the procedural side of telling this story and skip all the shiny dressings that usually accompanies a salad like this. With Spotlight, you have just basic ingredients, except these ingredients are made with extreme care and focus. Gone are the things like romantic ties between main characters. Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton don’t have a secret love fling. Swirling orchestral music isn’t harpooned at us whenever something emotional or powerful happens. The film lets us do all the work when it comes down to feelings and it’s to the films credit that by the end, my gut has been falcon punched into infinity. The film stands for itself and that’s really what I loved about it. The camera work wasn’t flashy but you can really notice it in small movements during pivotal scenes toward the end. McCarthy didn’t paint a new and unheard of masterpiece with his camera, rather he decided to hunker down and make every damn shot and cut count. It’s a reason why the film got nominated for editing, director, and screenplay. Those three things are what make this film special to me. It’s a technically perfect film as far as pace and tone goes, especially with the dark subject matter. It would almost be insulting to try to throw in cheesy love triangles when talking about something as serious as the rape of A LOT OF KIDS BY PRIESTS.

Speaking of subject matter, uhhhh yeah, it’s pretty horrible. The interviews with the victims and in one case, one of the men responsible, were done extremely well. McAdams does her best work here. I’m honestly a little perplexed why she got nominated for this role as I thought that Charlize Theron was phenomenal in Mad Max, but it’s not like McAdams was in any way bad. It wasn’t special to me. Mark Ruffalo however deserved his nomination. The dude killed it like he usually does. Keaton and the rest of the cast were perfect in their roles and you can’t really go wrong with casting Stanley Tucci in anything. The cast were perfect in their handling of such dark and disturbing subject matter. They were just as invested in their roles as the journalists they were portraying were in theirs.

The film is nominated for Best Picture and honestly, I wouldn’t be upset if it won. It’s not a special effects marvel like The Revenant or Mad Max, but it does what it does perfectly and that is tell the story of one of the biggest scandals of the last couple hundred years. It’s a haunting film that stuck with me for a while after I saw it and will hopefully shed a little more light on the church. My journalism path may be on hold, but I’m happy there was a film this year dedicated to the craft of reporting stories that aren’t getting any light.

4.5/5



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Two Film Review : Interstellar and Birdman

You may be wondering why I’m lumping these three films into one post. Well, fact of the matter is that both Interstellar and Birdman need second viewings from me to really get into full review mode. I have pretty laid out opinions on both but I don’t think I could justify a full post for each one without having seen the film a second time.

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Christopher Nolan
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Josh Stewart, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher race, and fucking finally, Ellen Burystn

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Okay, I need to get this out of the way first. I saw this film almost three weeks ago. If you have not seen this film in a REAL IMAX theater with 70mm film, please do so. It will most likely be one of the last times you will seeing something this new be projected on film. The projectionist in me had a field day with this one. I was privileged to be able to see this at the Lincoln Center IMAX which is one of the largest screens in the country and most likely the world. Regardless of your opinion of the film, it’s something to be seen in 70mm before film goes the way of the 8 track and seatbeltless vehicles.

That being said, I didn’t particularly love this movie. I didn’t really hate it either. What I ultimately came to was a feeling of mild satisfaction mixed with utter bewilderment. I’ve been a fan of Nolan from the beginning. I generally believe The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige to be some of the best films of the decade. Interstellar marks the second film in a row from Nolan that not only failed to meet my expectations but seemed to lack in the screenwriting that characterized his earlier films. This was just a mess story wise from beginning to end. In fact, parts of it nearly ruined the whole thing for me.There were instances in the film where decisions were made at the blink of an eye, huge decisions, LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS, MADE AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES OF THOUGHT. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is the worst father ever. What he does to his daughter in this film is just atrocious. I hated his character for like 40 minutes after this happened. There is also huge jumps in timeline. Basically Matthew McConaughey goes from farmer to in space in like three days. Sure, he was a NASA fighter pilot a long ass time ago, but you don’t get trained for space in three days. You just don’t do it.

The dialogue was also pretty bad. Anne Hathaway delivers a monologue in the middle of the film, about love, that nearly had me puking in the auditorium. It came off so cheesy and forced that I couldn’t stand it. A big character reveal in the middle of the film also progressed in a way that could be seen a mile away. This character also forgets who he is and ruins pretty much everything. The end of the film, which will be talked about for some time as it is very “2001”-esque, kind of muddles the entire thing for me. Like, I get where they were going with that. I get how unimaginable space can be an how it works, but to put it all together like that just seemed like Nolan was trying to be more profound than he needed to be. I don’t like throwing around the word pretentious often because I think that it insults creativity, but the end of this film teetered on being a bit pretentious. Also, the BIG emotional reunion end the end of the film, the one that the audience has been waiting for the entire three fucking hours, was over in like four sentences. Seriously, fuck Matthew McConaughey’s character in this movie. He’s the worst.

What did I like? First off the acting was pretty top notch. Matthew McConaughey was in full form as he has been for the past two years. There are a few scenes in this movie that really struck a chord with me emotionally and that was all on MM. Michael Caine continues to be sad Michael Caine and that’s okay because the man is a true legend and makes my eyes water every time he is sad. The voice acting from Bill Irwin, who voices the robot TARS, was a wonderful addition to the cast and might have been my favorite character. The robots were awesome by the way. At first I thought they were too weird but then I really got into the functionality of them. The action and space sequences were gorgeous to watch in 70mm. It made the effort to see this is IMAX all worth while. Also, Mackenzie Foy can act. That girl is going to be big if she continues acting.

Overall the film just wasn’t up to what I thought it was going to be. As far as space movies go, I enjoyed Sunshine and Solaris much more but there were definitely some great reasons to see the film. The camera work, the acting, the practical effects mixed in with CGI, all made this a film to see. It just happened to be a mess in the story telling department that may get better with a clearer viewing but I’m not holding my breath. Nolan gets points for doing it in film though. I’ll give him added points for that.

3/5

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

What a show. I don’t particularly know what the show meant or if I was 100% into it, but what a goddamn show.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the film is shot in a way that looks like one long take. You can tell where the edits are, but the film chugs on like an engine through the entire run time. It didn’t come off gimmicky. It came off glorious. The fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was able to keep every single frame of this movie gorgeous as shit while still maintaining the longness of the shot is a true thing to watch. The film also had this rhythmic drum fill that permeated the entire film from start to finish. It was like a heartbeat, getting faster and louder as scenes unfold into chaos. It was such an opposite kind of feeling from the rest of Iñárritu’s work that it almost made me forget who made the film. His previous movies are all filled with depressing situations and heartbreaking performances. I laughed out loud in this film. I was having a fucking ball. The whole cast pretty much had be heaving. Well, maybe not Emma Stone’s character, but she was still sassy enough to give me a chuckle.

The acting is top notch. We’re going to see at least two major award nominations from this film. Keaton is the star. He is in nearly every scene and completely solidified himself as “back in form”. The film goes into a meta sense as I realized just how alike Keaton and his on screen character Riggan were. Both are actors who portrayed superheros in the 80s and have been away from the spotlight for some time. Both are trying to make a comeback and in the case for Keaton, he does, in a big way. The guy just hit it out of the park. Edward Norton steals every scene he is in. It reminds me a little of when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder because he was so goddamn funny. You could make the case for Melissa McCarthy as well but I don’t find her funny. Norton is going to complete that triangle. His character of Mike is so out of his mind that it can only be achieved by Norton, who is himself a lot like his on screen character. He was hysterical and also hammered in the scene chewing jobs just as well. Everybody else was fitting for their role. Emma Stone could sneak in the Oscars but honestly I felt her performance to be a bit overdone. Galafianakis was on point as always. I’ve considered him to be one of the best underrated actors for a while now. Watts finishes the top of the line up as she always does. She’s a professional and it shows.

The only reason I didn’t shower this film with praise is because there are so many subtleties in this film that I just can’t grasp them all right now. The ending left my head spinning a bit and there was a lot of dialogue I missed the meaning of because the film was rolling by my face at a million miles an hour. Will this affect my rating? Not really. It just makes this review a little shorter than usual.

See this film. It’s something that you’ll be thinking of for a long time and itching for a second viewing. I may have to see this again before it leaves theaters.

4.5/5

The New York Film Festival Preview!

Friday night is opening night of the NYFF! I already grabbed my ticket for “Gone Girl” premier which has me pretty fucking excited. I’m going to try to grab cheaper tickets for “Inherent Vice” and “Birdman” but it’s looking like I’ll only be seeing one of the big three. I am however going to try to pick up some tickets to some lesser known films during the next three weeks. I may be somewhat broke, but I’m hoping to see three or four films this year to go along with the Gone Girl premier. In case any of you are near the tri-state area and are thinking about attending this years festival like I am, here are, along with the big three, my most inticiapated films at the 2014 NYFF!

Gone Girl

Fincher is one of the first directors to really get me into film. I grew up being blown away by “Fight Club” and even though my liking for the film has subsided (I still like the film, just not as much as I did in High School), his filmography is filled with incredible works. Zodiac and Se7en are two of the darkest and bone chilling films I’m seen in mainstream film and that credit goes to Fincher. His ability to invoke dread and suspense through perfectly lit backgrounds has always impressed me. Benjamin Button and Dragon Tattoo were huge disappointments but this new film looks like a return to form for the director. I can’t wait for Friday.

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite living director. Every single thing he has made is a damn masterpiece. If I wasn’t such a broke bastard I would be 1st in line to see his new film, a film which I know nothing about. I won’t watch the trailer if one ever comes out. I won’t look at the production photos that leaked. The image above is the only thing I know about the film besides the cast. I like it this way. I’d rather just be immersed in his films rather than wait for parts I liked from the trailer. I can’t imagine a world in which I’d like a film better than There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, or The Master but the fact that I know he can out do himself only cements him as the next coming of Kubrick.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I love depressing films. Naturally, this fact means that the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu have struck a particular chord with me. When I heard that he was making a film that would star Michael Keaton as an out of work actor who used to play a super hero called Birdman and that the whacked out, bizarre, hysterical film would be edited in a way that it looked like it was done in one shot, well, I fell love. I fell in love with the idea. The film is closing out the festival and snagging tickets will be hard. I’m going to try though. Keaton looks like he might grab an Oscar nomination and the whole film looks bonkers. My kind of film.

Others that seem interesting…

Citizenfour

A documentary about Edward Snowden from director Laura Poitras. The Oscar nominated documentarian flew to Hong Kon to interview Snowden and while she was there, captured the unfolding of what we know as the life of Edward Snowden. The film is apparently a once in a lifetime film that captures the reaction of the world and Snowden as he continues his quest for freedom.

’71

Tells the story of an Irish soldier who was abandoned by his unit during the riots of 1971 in Belfast. The film looks like a tense action thriller and has tickets available right now. This is one that is definitely doable as far as price and ticket availability goes. It helps that it looks pretty intense as well. The film stars Jack O’Connell.

Foxcatcher

The film has made its round on the national/international film festival circuit and seems to be finding its final resting place before official release at NYFF. The film, lauded by some, shunned by others, offers without a doubt a lock for Best Actor during the academy awards with Steve Carell playing the insanely creepy John du Pont. Some of you may know the true story behind the film but for those who don’t I’m not going to spoil anything. I would also avoid the trailer because it seems to give away too much. Bennett Miller knocked it out of the park with his first two films, Moneyball and Capote, and I’m looking forward to seeing this one. The film is going to be playing towards the end of the festival.

Hill of Freedom

I’m a huge fan of Korean cinema. Sang soo Hong may not be as well known as his Korean contemporaries but his films such as “Woman on the Beach” and “In Another Country” were both well received. Having not see either of those films, this may be as good a starting point as any. The film is shot in a frenzy of non linear scenes as our protagonist tries to sort out letters sent to her from her lover after she drops them. She is sorting the chronology and the viewer is given the same task. I love the concept.

Map to the Stars

Cronenberg has always been hit or miss with me. I love History of Violence and Videodrome but found Cosmopolis and A Dangerous Method to be somewhat disappointing. However, the man is a daring filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from doing something out of the ordinary or considered taboo. I like striving for something different which is why I’m interested in this. The cast includes Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska. The story is about a hollywood family and the lives that are lived within that family.

Film Review : RoboCop (2014)

IMDB Score – 6.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 48%

Directed By – José Padilha
Starring – Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Samuel L. Jackson

In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer.

I’m going to start off this review a little differently. The following quote was pulled from the trivia section of IMDB for this film…

During production of the film, director José Padilha phoned friend and fellow Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles to confide in him his frustration in the lack of creative control he was allowed by the studio for the project. Padilha estimated that for every ten ideas he brought to the project, the studio refused nine, and went on to the describe the making of the film as “The worst experience of [his] life”. When word of this conversation became public, in an effort to appease the studio Padilha released counter statements expressing satisfaction with the film.

The reason I quote this is because I’m about to rip this film a new asshole. It was a piece of garbage and anybody involved in making it should be ashamed. It’s not that I just didn’t like it. It was so poorly constructed, acted, edited, and written that it seemed like the entire production team made this on the weekends when they were occupied with something else. The fact that they put this remake in the hands of a first time screenwriter shows how much effort they were willing to put into this. José Padilha is a director I admire. His Elite Squad films and documentary Bus 174 are fantastic gritty stories that up the realism and don’t hold anything back. I feel bad for the man who came to Hollywood hoping to hit a mainstream audience and he’s going to look like a fool now because of inept studio interference getting in the way of his creativity. What a waste of talent. Shame on those studios. This is why I give José Padilha a pass on this one. He should keep making excellent Brazilian films where he has complete control. There are going to be a lot of people who will seek out his films. He doesn’t need Hollywood bullshit.

That being said, the movie was atrocious. I don’t even know where to start. I guess the first order of business is the one thing we knew would hold the film back, the PG-13 rating. I know that direct adaptions are kinda lame. The original “RoboCop” was violent as hell and why the story was still a basic Frankenstein re-imagining, it was fun as hell. This remake wasn’t fun. This remake wasn’t even a little bit fun. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t think any of the effects were cool. I didn’t find a single thing enjoyable except for the wonderful Gary Oldman who tried his best to make anything in this film work. I think that may be a biased statement, but he didn’t do anything wrong with this role. Another slight positive was just the notion that it’s nice to see Michael Keatons face on the big screen again. He wasn’t very impressive but it was still great to see. The rest of the cast were horrid. Abbie Cornish shouldn’t act. Her attempts at being an anxiety filled house wife were laughable. Joel Kinnaman should stick to television. He just doesn’t have the face, voice, or presence to command a film. He’s a supporting actor at best. It was nice seeing Michael K. Williams in a role that isn’t Omar from “The Wire” but the lines his character was given were so corny that it was like a ten year old in the back room of a studio came up with them while playing cops and robbers with his imaginary friend Steve. The whole cast besides Oldman failed on a major level.

I couldn’t stand the writing. They spent almost two thirds of the film setting up the development of RoboCop only to realize that they haven’t developed any conflict yet and just shoved a villain in at the last second. Again, it is a remake so I’m not spoiling anything but if you’ve never seen the original film you would be very confused as to why Michael Keaton all of a sudden became a villain. It was that sudden. The film also revealed all these different plot twists with corrupt cops and completely forgot about closing that part of the story. A major character is revealed to be an asshole and then the scene ends and we hear nothing of it, or see that character again for the entire rest of the film. You could land a space shuttle through these holes. It was laughable.

Oh, I nearly forgot about Samuel L. Jackson. His character was one of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen in a film. He acted like a segmented narrator throughout the film giving comments on what we just saw while doing so in a fashion that was abrasive and obnoxious. They also just HAD to throw in him saying “motherf*cker”. They had to do it. It was entirely distracting and stupid.

The action was also just poorly done. There was no sense of danger or intensity. It was bland, quick cutting PG-13 video game slop. I actually almost fell asleep during the big set piece at the end. That’s how boring it was.

Don’t waste you time seeing this film. It’s a mistake that should never have happened and was sabotaged from the beginning. If you want to see good work from José Padilha then check out his previous films. This is something he will be forgetting and I will be too.

0.5/5