Movie review: Spotlight

Movie reviews

Hey Hey Hey!

Lately, I have been running out of ideas on how to greet you and on how to introduce the film that I am going to review. Basically, it’s another awards’ nominated movie, but one that I really really enjoyed. Let’s talk about Spotlight – another serious and slightly depressing motion picture.

IMDb summary: 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.

Writing and Directing

The film was written and directed by Tom McCarthy. I haven’t seen any other film he has directed, but I did enjoy a few films that he has written scripts for. Mainly, Up and Million Dollar Arm. However, McCarthy was not the only one working on the film’s screenplay. The Fifth Estate’s scriptwriter Josh Singer was also credited for Spotlight. While I liked both Million Dollar Arm and The Fifth Estate from the writing standpoint, Spotlight’s story and plot completely blew me away.

To begin with, the saddest and the most shocking part was that the film is based on true events – these child abuse stories are a reality. The lies and the cover-ups are, sadly, real as well. And the film Spotlight treated these stories with the utter most respect and did a great job not only in bringing these narratives to the attention of the public once again, but in maybe even influencing further change in the system.

The film was thrilling without having any over-the-top action. The dialogue was superb: it gave enough exposition to let the viewer follow the story but also did not give too much away. The viewer followed the investigation step by step, the same way that team Spotlight little by little uncovered the truth. It also had very subtle character development – the audience knew just enough about the main characters in order to be compelled to follow them. And even if the filmmakers hadn’t given the viewer this knowledge about the characters, the film would still have worked, because it was a storytelling/narrative film and not a character movie.

I don’t really want to get much into the actual story, though. While it was interesting to watch on the screen, it also was scary and gave me goosebumps. I do not understand how someone could ever do something like this and how other people can just let it happen. But the again, people are known for turning a blind eye to terrible events that are happening near them. We tend to notice the flaws in strangers easily and quickly, but usually don’t want to admit that something wrong is happening near us.

One of my favorite parts of the film was Mark Ruffalo’s screaming monolog. Not only did the actor was amazing in his performance, but the words that he was saying/shouting were very well written and portrayed his emotional state (breaking down inside) accurately. I really liked that the film incorporated the idea that this type of work takes a toll on people and can turn their worlds upside down or make them crazy.

While reviewer Room, I mentioned that the way journalists were portrayed in that film reminded me, why I decided not to study journalism. However, Spotlight reminded me why I wanted to pursue the career in journalism in the first place. I really hope that there are still journalists like the Spotlight team in the real world, because, nowadays, even respected news sites and newspapers seem more like a cheap propaganda disguised as news reporting than the actual examples of journalism.

To touch upon a directing real quick: I think that McCarthy did a nice job. I was a bit to engrossed with the story and the amazing acting that I did not really look at directing that much. I gotta say – I really liked the juxtaposition of the story and its setting with the church being in the background of a lot of investigation/interview shots. I also think that the usage of a religious gospel – Silent Night- was really clever. Lastly, I liked the mise-en-scene of the Spotlight team’s office and the shots with all of the team members together but in their own spaces.

Acting

The film’s cast completely transformed into their characters – the Spotlight team. They were all unique and had a distinct way of talking and behaving but they all shared a common goal.

While watching Mark Ruffalo, I did not see Bruce Banner/The Hulk or Dylan Rhodes from Now You See Me or Dave Schultz from Foxcatcher. I saw an investigative reporter Michael Rezendes, trying his best to solve this puzzle and connect the dots. The only Ruffalo’s role that might be a bit similar to this one was when he played an inspector in David Fincher’s Zodiac – a really good but underrated film from 2007. I have always admired Ruffalo’s ability to be both a mainstream movie star and an awards contender. I can’t wait to see his future projects.

Michael Keaton starred as Walter “Robby” Robinson, while Rachel McAdams played Sacha Pfeiffer. I really liked their scenes together and the work relationships that their characters had. Keaton picked up an Academy Award for Birdman last year and while he didn’t get a nomination on his own this year, the whole ensemble cast has picked up quite a few smaller awards. Moreover, Spotlight has 6 Oscar nominations, even without Keaton being nominated. Rachel McAdams has already impressed me this year in Southpaw, but she just continues to blossom as an actress and I’m really happy that she finally was recognized by the Academy and received a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category.

Other Spotlight members were played by Liev Schreiber (as Marty Baron), John Slattery (as Ben Bradlee Jr.) and Brian d’Arcy James (as Matt Carroll). I have recently seen Schreiber in Pawn Sacrifice – a really interesting film about chess and mental health. I still have not seen Mad Men (I know, I’m a terrible person) , so I am not that familiar with Slattery’s work. Since Brian d’Arcy James is more of a stage actor, I, sadly, cannot comment on his previous work as well.

The film had a lot of additional characters of attorneys, survivors, and religious figures. The one that had the biggest impact on the story and the one that was portrayed by a very well know actor was an attorney Mitchell Garabedian played by Stanley Tucci. I swear Tucci can play anyone and he somehow manages to find time to star in a plethora of movies every year.

All in all, Spotlight is/was a film that one would not enjoy in a literal sense of the word just because of how difficult the subject matter of the film is. However, from a filmmaking standpoint, I believe that the movie was masterfully made – the writing was perfect and the acting from the whole cast was top-notch. The motion picture definitely requires the full attention of a viewer, so if you want to snack on some popcorn or check your phone during the screening, pick a different film. Bye!

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Spotlight trailer

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Movie review: The Judge

Movie reviews

Hi!

As you have probably noticed, I go to a cinema at least once a week. This Thursday, I watched The Judge – comedy-drama by the director David Dobkin.  I wasn’t familiar with his work, probably because he is not that famous.  He has directed a couple of comedies, TV shows and produced many more of them. The judge is his baby – he did everything himself – written, produced and directed.

IMDb summary: Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

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Story

I really enjoyed the story and all the different aspects of it. I loved the whole coming home from a big city thing – I have always imagined myself moving from my own small native country to live in the US and coming back for a short visit. The law side of the movie also appealed to me because last year I did a semester of Law AP class at my local college, so I am familiar with the basic structures and different kinds of laws. The family drama was also close to my heart because I have always had problems finding a connection with my mom. Cancer aspect was also understandable because a few years back my grandma died from stage 4 lungs and bones cancer. And of course, love and relationships are a universal language which is understood by all. All the complex plot-lines, problems from the past and current events really mixed well and were not too much for me. My favorite scene was the final courtroom scene – the trial. That talk between The Judge and Hank  was super powerful and really good.

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Acting

Robert Downey Jr. was perfect in his role. Previously, I have seen him in big Marvel movies and in Sherlock Holmes franchise as well as this year’s Chef by Jon Favreau (review). He is truly a remarkable actor and this weekend I am definitely going to watch Chaplin (Academy Awards nomination for the lead role), The Soloist, Love&Distrust and Due Date. I love the fact that Robert Downey Jr.’s character could joke around one minute and be tearing up the next. What is more, his character Hank from this movie reminded me a bit of Sherlock Holmes with all that reading of a person stuff: both these characters paid attention to details and acquired a lot of knowledge without even engaging in a conversation. I guess that’s a part of their job: one is a lawyer while other is the private detective.

P.S. Robert Downey Jr. is almost 50 years old and he still looks like a 30-35-year-old.  Does anyone want a youth potion?

Robert Duvall was also really good in his role as The Judge. I hated him for being such an awful father but could sympathize with him as well for trying to make up for his mistakes. Other actors have been upstaged by Hank and Judge Palmer and I don’t really remember them. One of my most beloved TV actress’s from childhood – Leighton Meester – was also in this film as Carla – maybe / maybe-not Hank’s daughter. She had a small role but it was nice to see her after quite a long time.

All in all, I enjoyed the film, could relate to the story and adored the performance of the main duo – father and son. The movie premiered a month ago at TIFF – possibly this could mean that the movie is willing to get an Academy Award or at least Golden Globe nomination; however, I don’t really believe that will happen because the reviews from critics have been only mediocre.

Rate: 4.5/5. If the movie had been shorter by half an hour I would have given it a full 5.

Trailer: The Judge trailer

The_Judge_2014_film_poster Photos: Getty Images

Movie review: Gone Girl + book

Movie reviews

Hello!

Last night, I went to the early screening of Gone Girl, so this is a spoiler warning, because I am going to review this highly anticipated book-turned-movie thriller.

Summary: With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. (IMDb)

Book + Changes

I have started reading the book by Gillian Flynn when I had 5 days left till the premiere, so I was on a tight schedule. I really loved the first half of the book, but when the big secret was revealed I was kind of skeptical that this was the big plot twist. It was hard to root for Amy when you’ve found out her mental state but I, as a woman, couldn’t be on Nick’s side as well because he was a cheat.
The ending was really weird. They resolved some stuff out and they were still dragging the story out and then it just suddenly ended. What is more, by the end of the book, probably all the readers were on a Team Nick and he did not get a happy ending. I was really happy when the producers decided to create a whole new ending and the third act. Moreover, the author of the book was the one creating the new material, so this was still her imagination and not some screenwriter altering the original material.  In addition, the new ending meant that all the book readers hadn’t spoiled the movie for themselves.

Note: I wrote that part of the review before going to see that movie, so my comment after watching it: they didn’t change a dam thing. I was hoping that there will be a big, grand change but the story played out the same way it did in the book. Of course, there were a few minor changes but that always happens when you are adapting a book to the big screen. For example, in the book we have read what were they thinking after the reunion .In the movie, we are only guessing what is on their minds from their expressions and their actions. I was a bit disappointed that everything everyone was talking about were these big changes and there weren’t any of them.

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Acting

I believe that Ben Affleck was great choice for the role of Nick – the husband. I have firstly acquainted with Ben as an actor in one of the reruns of Armageddon when I was about 8 or 9. After that, I watched him in Daredevil and Oscar winning Argo (I loved Argo – one of my favorite movies ever) and recently, I got around watching – Gone Baby Gone – a directorial debut of Affleck that has almost the same premise as Gone Girl and even a similar name. In the 2007’s Gone Baby Gone a girl goes missing and in this year’s Gone Girl – a grown women. I still need to check him out in Pearl Harbor – I have heard so much about this movie and I can’t believe that I still haven’t watched it. Shame on me.

As much as I knew about Ben Affleck, I was totally in the dark when it came to Rosamund Pike. I haven’t seen any of her movies (or maybe I have and I just don’t remember her which actually is a bad thing for actors). Nonetheless, I enjoyed her performance; she was a believable (SPOILER) psychopath.

Speaking about the supporting cast, Neil Patrick Harris was, of course, the main scene stealer. He is always perfect in every role and this one was not an exception.  And that SPOILER bed scene – that was one of the most powerfully gross scene I have ever seen. The whole cinema was open-mouthed by the time it ended.

Emily Ratajkowski (Blurred Lines music video girl) played Nick’s mistress Andie, she was quite good too, and her role wasn’t that hard but still props to her for trying to move from her image in Blurred Lines. Then again, this time her boobs also played an important role.

The character I didn’t like in the books but really loved in the movie was detective Rhonda Boney played by Kim Dickens. I really enjoyed her performance and was rooting for Rhonda in the investigation. Tyler Perry was nice Tanner Bolt even thought I imagined him in a completely different way when I was reading the book. Carrie Coon also did a good job as Margo – I loved how she almost always stayed on Nick’s side.

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Directing

The movie is directed by David Fincher who is best known for directing The Girl with the dragon tattoo, The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story).  As a long time Facebook user (My name is Lue, and I am an addict), I adored The Social Network and loved seeing Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake in one movie (too much eye candy).  I was never a fan of The Girl with the dragon tattoo book series, maybe because I was too young when I tried to read them. Furthermore, the critics and the general public weren’t really interested in the movie adaptation so it sort of slipped from my “to watch” list. I have read The Curious Case by Fitzgerald and I want to watch the movie but haven’t found time yet.

In Gone Girl, I really loved Fincher’s attention to details. He really made me believe in these characters and the story. Of course, he has to share these praises with both Gillian Flynn for creating this strong material and great actors who brought these powerful characters to life.

Themes

Both the movie and the book explore the problems of the family. They show how parent’s problems affect their children. They portray what happens when parents raise their child as a god: the kid doesn’t want to let his/hers parents down, she/he becomes a perfectionist. However, at the same time he/she might turn into a spoiled brat. The conclusion: raise you kids in a right way (but god knows what the right way is). The second big theme was a relationship between a husband and a wife and domestic abuse. Nick and Amy’s relationship was toxic and addictive: they could not live together normally, but they couldn’t exist separately as well. Relationships are hard and if you want your relationship to succeed both sides have to work together. Lastly, I loved how they portrayed the importance of media in contemporary world. If society loves you, you are innocent. If they hate you, you are screwed.

All in all, I liked the book, I liked the movie. I wish they would have given us an alternative ending but I am still quite satisfied with what I got. I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie received an Oscar nominations for best adapted screenplay and acting.

Trailer: Gone Girl trailer

Rate: 4.5/5

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Photos: Google Images