Friday, December 18, 2015

"Spotlight" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Spotlight" and the DVDs "The Pyramid" and "A Good Year."  The Book of the Week is "My New York: Celebrities Talk About The City."  I also bring you up-to-date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the romantic Swedish vampire film "Let the Right One In."]



 
Spotlight


Dramatization of how The Boston Globe uncovered the widespread molestation of children by priests within the Catholic Church and the cover-up that had gone on for years.

"Spotlight" stands for the team of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper who take on a story and spend, sometimes a year or more, investigating and then reporting on it.  In 2001, when a new editor arrived, there was an inkling of sexual abuse in the Boston diocese and that the head of the diocese, Cardinal Bernard Law, knew about it.  Turns out this story had been swirling around for years and the story had been quashed. Nobody wanted to touch it.

When the film begins, it's 1976 and a priest is talking to a mother who is crying while her children sit nearby innocently coloring.  Another priest is also there. The mother wants to press charges against Father Geoghan, a notorious priest pedophile. There is whispering but you can hear the priest telling her they will send the priest away and this will never happen again. Then the priests get in a big black car and drive away.  It looked like the mafia driving away from a crime scene.  And in fact, as this film will show, it kind of was. 

You see, Boston is a Catholic town.  Everyone in Boston it seems is Catholic.  And the Catholic Church runs the show.  Fertile ground for priests to do whatever the hell they wanted and no one wanted to believe that such a thing could happen.

Fast forward to 2001 to a retirement party for the Editor-in-Chief of the Boston Globe.  Everyone is anticipating the arrival of the new Editor-in-Chief and wondering about him.  He's coming from Miami - a Jewish guy.  An outsider.

When the story of child abuse within the Boston Catholic Church diocese and a possible cover-up by Cardinal Law (Len Cariou) surfaced, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), the new Editor-In-Chief, told the Spotlight team (Walter "Robby" Robertson, Mike Rezendes, Sasha Pfeiffer and Matt Carroll) to stop what they were currently working on and to take this story on. Interestingly, all four had some ties to the Catholic Church and all four had very mixed feelings about ruffling the feathers of the diocese and their fellow Catholics. No one realized just how big this story was and how widespread the corruption within the Catholic Church.  Pedophile priests were not kicked out of the church or robbed of their duties, but merely moved around. The team eventually uncovered over 1000 victims and 70 pedophile priests and won the team a Pulitzer Prize.

Don't be fooled by the fact that we know how this movie ends.  It is a riveting mystery from beginning to ends.

This is a newspaper film of the highest order (think "All the President's Men" which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1976). The ensemble acting here is first-rate throughout.  Michael Keaton (Walter "Robby" Robertson) employs his best Boston accent and gives us as good a performance as he did in "Birdman," and Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes creates a twitchy character who enters a room like a sneaky Tyrannesaurus Rex looking for his next meal.  He's never been this good. One wonders if Rezendes actually had those mannerisms. Rachel McAdams as Sasha Pfeiffer is always beautiful but here plays down her beauty, wearing baggy khakis and little makeup to highlight her acting skills.  And Brian d'Arcy James as Matt Carroll is almost unrecognizable with his mop of curly black hair.  You would never know he was Shrek.  There are some Oscar nominations in the offing for some or all of these folks.

Other standouts were Billy Crudup as a sleazy lawyer in cahoots with the Church, Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer representing some of the now adult abused children and Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron, the new editor, whose deadpan portrayal belies all of the stuff he stirs up.

But the real stars of this show are the screenplay by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy and the editing by Tom McCardle. The screenplay is slick, intelligent and fast and the editing keeps what could be a lot of boring talking heads into a fast-paced film that makes you almost breathless. The film hums along like a printing press in action thanks to McCarthy, who also directed.

I predict "Spotlight" wins Best Picture in 2016.

Rosy the Reviewer says...when this film was over I cried, not because the film was sad, but because it was such a wonderful film experience.


 



 
Some Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

***Now Out on DVD***





The Pyramid (2014)

 
 
 
Five archaeologists walk into a pyramid...
 
You know the rest.  Some really bad stuff is going to happen.
 
Archaeologist Holden (Denis O'Hare) and his daughter Nora (Ashley Hinshaw) along with a documentary crew discover an underground pyramid, not realizing it is inhabited by an ancient - and angry - monster.  And then they get stuck down there.  And it's booby-trapped.  And there are feral cats...
 
This is your typical "B-Movie" horror film starring relative unknowns. It has a wobbly camera production value and bad acting and is part of that "found footage" genre.  Think a "Blair Witch Project" but in a pyramid and with bad acting.  It's your typical "I got to get the hell out of here" scenario.  Imagine being locked underground and being stalked by a million year old creature.
 
There is one scene where a woman falls down a shaft onto some spikes and some ancient Egyptian cat creatures come and start eating her while she is stuck on those spikes.  It's like that.  Ew. 
 
Why would a sophisticated movie goer and reviewer such as I resort to spending a couple of hours with a film like this?  Sometimes you just have to succumb to a mindless bit of horror now and then, and what better stress reliever during the holidays than a good old horror film.  And this one is definitely cringeworthy, gory and "hands-over-the-eyes scary."  Delish. 
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...The lesson here?  You don't want to go messing around in an old pyramid.
 
 


A Good Year (2006)

 

 

A hard-driving investment banker inherits his uncle's chateau and vineyard in Provence. 
 
Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) spent his summers with his uncle Henry (Albert Finney who hasn't aged well, by the way.  Remember him in "Tom Jones?"  Swoon) in the south of France after his parents were killed in an accident, so it's a walk down memory lane for Max when his uncle dies 25 years later and leaves him his chateau and vineyard. 
 
Max is a cutthroat investment banker in London and not a very nice guy, but he feels a bit of guilt that he didn't keep in touch with Uncle Henry. There are some nice flashbacks showing the relationship the young Max (Freddie Highmore) had with this uncle. However, Max has every intention of fixing the place up and selling it as fast as he can, so he can get back to his life in London.  But that's what he thinks before he meets Fanny, a local woman (Marion Cotillard) and another young American, a wine aficionado from the Napa Valley, who has some ties to Uncle Henry (Abbie Cornish). 
 
Max and Fanny "meet cute," when Max almost runs her over while she is riding her bike.  When she passes the chateau, she recognizes his car and goes to give him a piece of her mind.  Instead she finds that he has fallen into an empty pool and can't get out.  She seeks her revenge by filling the pool with him in it.  Of course, they fall in love.  That's what's called "meeting cute" in film lingo.  You are very welcome.
 
Peter Mayle made his fortune writing about his life in Provence and making the rest of us yearn for such a life.  His "A Year in Provence" was an international bestseller and was made into a wonderful British mini-series starring John Thaw.  This film is based on Mayle's 2004 novel, but is very similar to "A Year in Provence," so I couldn't stop thinking of John Thaw and wishing he was in this one too.  Despite his Morse-like gruffness, which he can't seem to shake, at least he has some comic timing.
 
Unlike Russell. I am not a huge Russell Crowe fan. I have never forgiven Russell for "Noah" and his abominable singing as Joubert in "Les Miserables." I also can count on my one hand the number of movies where Russell Crow was the romantic lead.  Wait.  Actually I can't think of any except the one where he starred with Meg Ryan and, in real life she fell in love with him and ran off, leaving husband Dennis Quaid behind.  I don't think her career ever recovered from that.  I mean, name that movie. See you can't.  OK, I will tell you.  "Proof of Life." Let's just say that Russell Crowe is not known for his romantic moves or comic timing.
 
But here he has some help from Marion Cottilard (before she hit it big) in a sort-of romantic comedy directed by Ridley Scott.  Russell probably wanted to do something lighter after "A Beautiful Mind," "Gladiator" and "Master and Commander."  But I can't account for what Ridley Scott was doing directing this film.  This isn't a bad film but it's hardly "Blade Runner" or "Alien."  But Scott shows the French countryside in its best light.  In fact, he uses light to show the changes in Max. He uses a darker lighting effect when Max is in London showing Max's darker (and unhappy?) side and then the lighting changes to a bright, vibrant cinematography when he is back in Provence. 
 
The story is actually fun and light and Russell grew on me, though he is not very good at comedy and though he was supposed to be an Englishman, his Aussie accent drifted in and out from time to time.  It's also fun to see an actress in something before she hit it big.  Cotillard did this one right before her smash hit and Academy Award for Best Actress in "La Vie en Rose." Abbie Cornish does an able job as the young American, Christie.
 
Gorgeously photographed in French wine country, the chateau and the beautiful French countryside are the stars of this film and enough to recommend it as it transports you to a good year in France.
 
Rosy the Reviewer says...when you have a guy who is overly ambitious and married to his work, who inherits a chateau in the South of France, the ending is inevitable but it's a gorgeous ride to get there.
 
 


 
 


"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project"



269 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Let the Right One In (2008)



 
Oskar, a bullied boy, finds a friend in Eli (Lina Leandersson), a young neighbor girl who has a secret.

Oskar (Kare Kedebrant) is a middle-schooler who is being bullied by a group of boys and ignored by his divorced parents. The score is very melodramatic and ominous as the film begins, and we see Oskar is in his room playing with a knife and acting out revenge on his tormenters.  Oskar is a pale, sensitive and lonely kid. Meanwhile we also see a middle-aged man, Hakan (Per Ragnar), who is a Bryan Cranston lookalike from "Breaking Bad," going out into the snow, killing a young person and extracting his blood.

You see, Eli is a vampire and Hakan is her (or his? She tells Oskar she is not a girl) father or familiar. Again, we are not sure but he is devoted and does her bidding. When he botches a murder and disfigures himself, it's almost like a Bela Lugosi film where the townspeople storm the castle with torches.  It's also an unusual twist to have a child vampire, though Anne Rice employed that device in her "Interview with a Vampire."  There is some humor and also some gore as Hakan and Eli try to fulfill Eli's need for blood.  But take away the vampire element, and this is a tender story of young love between two outsiders who let each other in.

Why it's a Must See: "Set in the early 1980's, there is no social media, no frantic chatter to relieve the sense of isolation.  Into this constellation comes the dark, brooding Eli; she is a guest, but it is not clear how welcome she is.  The title refers to the fact that, according to folklore, vampires must be invited in by their victims...[this film] thus asks the question whether hospitatlity means one has to accept the bad with the good.  A pointed commentary on immigration, perhaps; an enchanting fairy tale, for sure."
"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

It has the feel of a Tarantino film and what better place for a vampire film than Sweden in winter where the sun rarely shines. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, this film is atmospheric and dreamlike and not your usual vampire film, though you can guess once Oskar and Eli becomes friends what is going to happen to those bullies of his. 

This film also has a similar feel to the Tilda Swinton film "Only Lovers Left Alive" - life as a modern vampire is not easy.  And it's even harder when you are a kid.

Rosy the Reviewer says...This is a remarkable vampire film like you have never seen.  And you bullies out there?  Watch out.  Those people you are bullying might have a vampire friend!
(In Swedish with English subtitles)



 
***Book of the Week***



My New York: Celebrities Talk About The City by Alessandra Mattanza (2015)


Celebrity New Yorkers talk about what they love about The City.

This is a love letter to the city of New York from 20 celebrities who call New York City home or who are inextricably entwined with its delights.
 
Woody Allen, Candace Bushnell and Robert De Niro are obvious but we also have James Franco, Al Pacino and Moby weighing in along with others.
 
Mattanza is a writer and photographer, a transplant from Italy, who fell in love with the city in her twenties: "Everybody will find himself or herself here, in one way or another..."   She has gathered together beautiful photographs of the city and interviews with celebrity New Yorkers who share what The City means to them.
 
Mario Batali:  "New York is rich in different flavors, spices, and colors, and is classic, modern, and experimental all at once."
 
Yoko Ono: "I just like the hustle and the bustle of the city.  It gives electricity for your mind."
 
Taylor Swift: "What makes New York City New York City is that it is unlike anywhere else in the world.  It's almost as if the City has its own heartbeat."
 
Those are just some tastes.  The interviews are longer and the photographs copious.

Rosy the Reviewer says...A beautiful coffee table book that would make a great gift for someone who loves New York City.



That's it for this week!

Thanks for Reading!

See you Tuesday for

"Christmas Days and Memories Past"
 
 
 
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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.


Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 


NOTE:  This has changed.  Find the page for the movie and scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page.  Find where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list. Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."

2 comments :

  1. I am looking forward to seeing Spotlight. I knew when it came out I had to see it.

    I saw A Good Year awhile ago and enjoyed it but was really struck with the hedge fund manipulation scenes...I bet it's all true and scary.

    sazzy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Spotlight" really is a spectacular film.

      Delete