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Spotlight Marty Baron, Walter V. Robinson, Michael Rezendes, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d'Arcy James, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup

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.

Score: 6/10

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.
Mark ROFLO

I’m with Mark on this one – ROFLO!!!

Now You See Me 01 Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Mélanie Laurent, Michael J. Kelly, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, José GarciaNow You See Me: four lowly street illusionists/magicians are brought together to become the world’s most infamous magic show. Unfortunately, this film is just as obsessed with the special effects as it is with telling what’s quite an interesting story. Every time there’s a big trick or set-piece the camera starts whirring around in a physically-impossible, mind-bending and distracting manner. The plot is very entertaining, lots of humour and the story takes some major twists and turns before arriving at a surprising conclusion. The acting’s all solid, but in a film with Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher, Ruffalo, Laurent, Caine and Freeman – you shouldn’t don’t expect much less. In a time of infinite re-boots, re-makes and superhero movies – Now You See Me feels surprisingly fresh and different – big cast, and a great story, although spoilt by some flashy direction.

Score: 7/10

Now You See Me 02 Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Mélanie Laurent, Michael J. Kelly, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, José Garcia

Collateral Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, Irma P. Hall, Barry Shabaka Henley, Javier BardemCollateral: an LA cab driver becomes involved in several murders when fate makes his next fare a contract killer. The casting in the film is great: Jason Statham makes a brief appearance (was disappointed he didn’t resurface), Javier Bardem as a sleazy crooked nightclub owner, and Mark Ruffalo is unrecognisable as a cop (“No way, that dude sounds just like Ruffalo”). There are moments of truly great acting from both leads: Jamie Foxx as a bumbling, almost special / OCD cabbie and Tom Cruise as a stone-cold, experienced, remorseless killer. The entire film’s shot at night, and set over one evening, which gives it a creepy atmosphere and haunting vibe; quiet streets, empty buildings, dark alleys… the lighting, photography, and locations (empty LA is as much a character as anyone else) are all out of this world – although because it’s shot at night, on digital, with such a high ISO it looks very grainy. It all feels quite grounded and immediate during the movie, keeping a steady pace and having a lot of suspenseful moments, but the end leans towards a generic (albeit tense) action movie finale. My only major issue was that loads of things were hinted at, but never explained, particularly with Cruise’s character – is there any point in creating decades of backstory if all you get is a slight glance at the end of a murder? Collateral is a film every bit as polished, planned, sleek and exciting as you’d expect from Michael Mann, and pulls of the thankless task of being a character-driven action film with great ease.

Score: 7/10

Collateral Taxi Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, Irma P. Hall, Barry Shabaka Henley, Javier Bardemjpg

The Avengers (AKA Avengers Assemble): ensemble super-cast of characters (and actors) have to save the world from Loki and his army of robo-alien minions. Everything about this flick aims to please: it does a good job of linking Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and a few other superheroes together;  we get to see superheroes take on bad guys, superheroes brakin’ up monsters, and superheroes fighting each other; Black window is even thrown in as the gratuitous hottie – no complaints. There’s a solid streak of humour, with a bunch of surprisingly funny lines that had the entire cinema laughing. Also, why do people still live in Manhattan when it gets attacked this often? After years of buildup, drip-fed snippets, extended trailers and bags o’ hype, the final product is better than the cynic in me was dreading. The Avengers is a summer blockbuster in every sense of the word: big cast, big budget, big story, big spectacle, big runtime, big characters, big laughs, big noises… BIG FUN! Directed by Joss Whedon, this is a well made, lovingly crafted, humourous mega-buster.

Score: 7/10

Blindness: Julianne Moore plays the only sighted person in a compound for the quarantined during an epidemic of infectious blindness. Best part: lots of out of focus shots, conga lines, people walking in to things / falling over and random nudeness. Worst part: Children Of Men esque level of prophetic future gloom. As the quarantined spend longer in their prison human nature drives events to desperation, then worse, and worse… and worse. Depending on your disposition the film will become overbearing or hyper-dramatic – I landed in the latter camp, and despite the bleakness, couldn’t believe how much the last hour reeled me in. The camera’s used interestingly throughout, to convey certain people’s point-of-view, which enables you to feel right in the action. The underrated Mark Rofallo is ace, and Bernal plays a great villain and Moore pretty much mopes for the duration, but pulls it off quite well. The tone ends up somewhere between an inspiration and a critique of human nature. Blindness is an awesome idea, pulled off reasonably well. Check it out if you like your drama extra strong.

Score: 7/10

Zodiac: this is a pretty damn good film. Great story, especially if you’re in to your crime/thriller films. The one thing that stood out for me is the acting, all the main characters are absolutely superb; Gyllenghall and Rufallo especially proving that they’re good enough to be proper leading men & Downy Jr playing his typecast ‘crazy guy’. The only real problem for me was that it wars a touch on the long side, at just under 3 hours, it seems pretty dragged out – which isn’t helped by a slump around the 110 minute mark. Despite this it remains interesting and looks really retro / authentic. It’s also amazing how slow and fragmented old-school investigations were – this will definitely go down as one of the best cop films of the naughties!

Score: 8/10