Spotlight: a special investigative unit of The Boston Globe investigate a potential child sex abuse scandal within the catholic church. Obviously, this is a fantastic ensemble cast; as you’d expect, everyone puts in a top shift and is rewarded with their moment. Granted the subject matter is tough to handle, but the movie plays it far too safe for me, with very little in the way of dramatic moments – it’s basically a couple of damp revelatory moments where one priest becomes thirteen, then more, then more, and Ruffalo’s rant was the single outstanding dramatic moment. Despite the journalists having an ‘enemy’ or ‘target’ there’s no real counterbalance or push back from the church – just one scene with the cardinal. The direction doesn’t help much either – felling so flat and removed from the story that it may as well have been marketed as a made-for-TV documentary. More than anything, it feels like a film that’s really personal to Boston and Bostonians; it’s set in Boston around their seemingly overbearing institutions which – as an outsider – maybe that’s the knockout punch that missed me. The profile and performances of such fine actors is really the only selling point for Spotlight, which is a disappointingly low-profile and unimaginative telling of a shocking and evil crime.
Note: for this film to have so many Oscar nods feels bizarre. Sometimes you see the list and can understand why films are on it… but not Spotlight. Nu-huh. Nope. Nein.
- Best picture? ROFL – it’s barely a “movie”.
- Best Supporting Actress? ROFL – McAdams is good, but gets almost no screentime.
- Best Supporting Actor? Fair do’s, Ruffalo is the best thing in this.
- Best Director? ROFL – More like BLANDEST Director
- Best Editing? ROFL – it’s basic.
I’m with Mark on this one – ROFLO!!!
The Raid 2: Berandal (aka The Raid: Thug): following on directly from events in The Raid… after his brother is murdered the rookie SWAT member goes undercover in order to flush out the city’s dirty cops. It feels like director Gareth Evans is “doing a Tarantino” here, drawing from a lot of established Asian movie elements: the story is essentially Infernal Affairs; the themes feel like those of a fairly standard Japanese – notably Takashi Miike – gangster flick (internal power struggles, territorial battles, OTT Violence, honour, betrayal, black humour); and the visuals feel like you’re watching a modern Korean movie – e.g. Park Chan Wook – as it’s loaded with rich imagery and patterns (like the art deco ballroom and bar, sterile kitchen, snow fight) and some cartoonishly menacing enemies (‘Hammer Girl’, and the ridiculous side-combed, cane-wielding baddie) – there’s also a shitload of nods to A Bittersweet Life, from the Car/Warehouse fight to the impeccably dressed mobsters. The action scenes remain unbelievably entertaining, expertly choreographed and jaw-droppingly inventive – although shaky cam is used a lot more in this one. You never get tired watching Iko Uwais play human pinball with dozens of henchmen, exploiting the various locations, and through most of the big fights you can’t help but grab your equivalent body part that has just been mangled on-screen and shout “fuuuuck!”, every 20 seconds. Once again, there’s a good peppering of ultra-black humour to provide a little relief from the action. At 150 minutes there’s a lot that could have been cut out and not missed – from developing minor characters through to shots of nails, water, snow – although it is rigidly punctuated with big set-pieces so you never get the chance to nod off. The Raid was a powerful, gritty, relentless and raw 90-minute virtually dialoge-free history-making fight-fest that raised the bar for all action movies – and although I can understand why Evans didn’t want to just do the same again, in ‘beefing up’ The Raid 2 he has leaned a little too heavily on other director’s works, taking the edges off – and diluting – the 90-minute, 10/10 movie that’s contained in here. Niggles aside, the film is still packed with genre-defining action, cutting edge fight-choreography, and more hard-18-rated violence than you could shake a poorly-aimed shotgun at.
Twilight: after moving to the sticks Bella discovers that her new boyfriend, and his entire family, are vampires – I hate when that happens!! What surprised me is how much this is just a bog-standard coming-of-age, high-school teen-drama, with a side serving of vampires. Most ‘classic vampire traits’ are there, but the film doesn’t really dwell on them, and quickly explains the ‘workarounds’ – like how they can go out in daylight. K-Stewart is actually pretty good as the dowdy girl-next-door ‘new kid’ at school; R-patz on the other hand seems to just scowl at other characters, ridiculously, and in an infinitely broodily manner – he’s embarrassing to watch at times. The rest of the characters are well-cast, and do what they have to. The picture is very drab, devoid of any life and colour – pretty depressing and glum to watch – at least until R-Patz started SPARKLING!! Added to the plain direction, and it feels very much like a TV movie. Other noteworthy points are the: easiest vampire family infiltration ever, Edward pretty much shows/tells Bella everything; ridiculous meet the family scene; superhero baseball, lots of emo / indie music; and who’d have thought that Volvo’s were COOL COOL COOL?!?! It’s not a fantastic movie, nor is it a particularly original one, but the first Twilight film is a run-of-the-mill high-school movie, with vampire cloak over it; but what bugs me most is that vampires aren’t monsters any more, but merely ridiculous teenage sexual fantasy-projections. It’s a franchise opener that ticks the boxes, and ends up being way more chick-lit-flick than vampire/action/thriller movie.
Emo Vampires 1 – Vampire Goths 0
Could have done with way more Anna Kendrick
Mystic River: drama/mystery that follows three childhood friends in Boston from a day that changed all of their lives forever. Acting-wise, this is an absolute powerhouse of a roster with too many big names to do justice; Penn‘s passion and attitude are outstanding – a career-defining role for him, Bacon‘s awesome at staying cool and reserved, Fishbourne‘s flawless as a badass cop, Robbins is great at portraying a man on the edge, and hell, even the bit-part boyfriend’s hyper believable… everyone involved is outstanding. Technically, the film’s a masterpiece. Every shot is picturesque, the detail’s all there, the camerawork is spot-on, the direction is simple but effective and the lighting in particular adds a whole other dimension to the film – most noticeable with Robbins, who’s progressively lit to look more crooked and bizarre as the film goes on. The final product is haunting, atmospheric and unbelievably gripping as it builds up to the finale. On paper, this is as depressing a story as any other Eastwood film of late – but with a cast this strong, great pacing and simple storytelling this a proper tour de force – and while it is quite bleak, that’s where all of the mystery and drama comes from. in a nutshell, this is simply a great film.
Eastbound and Down: six episode comedy series about a former baseball superstar as he tries to get re-signed to the major-league and win back his old girl. The single biggest reason to watch this is the brilliant Kenny Powers; mark my words, he’ll go down as one of the greatest comedy characters of all-time. Not dissimilar to Cartman, he’s an incredibly self-centred and brutally honest, loud-mouthed, redneck. The script, and in particular Kenny’s lines, are consistently golden, and totally quotable. The other characters are all pretty generic (in a good & watchable way), but McBride absolutely steals the show. Despite all the laughs there’s some alright dramatic moments, and the finale is very well done. It looks nice – not unlike My Name Is Earl – and the story’s interesting enough to keep you watching. I am absolutely lusting over the prospect of a second season. Although it’s aimed more at guys over girls this should be mandatory viewing for all. Comedy of the year?