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Spotlight

Walter “Robby” Robinson (played by Michael Keaton) manages a special investigative branch of the Boston Globe. He and his team of skilled journalists focus on developing stories and spend several months in research, investigations and validation to create comprehensive coverage of issues in the lives of the Boston Community. One story begins to take real hold of the team. Under Robby’s leadership, investigators Mike Rezendes (by Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (by Rachel McAdams) and Marty Baron (by Live Schreiber) start to uncover the unbelievable and horrendous story if child abuse within their local Catholic Archdiocese. The story grows and becomes a significant scandal of molestation and cover-up that shakes the entire Catholic Church to its core.

This is an excellent movie. The story itself is horrendous but the movie makes compelling viewing. Well done to Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and everyone involved. It’s great to see Stanley Tucci in the key role as Mitchell Garabedian and also Len Cariou as Cardinal Law. Deservedly, the movie has received global acclaim – awarded an Academy Award (Oscar) for “Best Motion Picture of the Year” and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay”; Mark Ruffalo received a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor, the AFI awarded it “Movie of the Year”. The full cast were awarded with “Outstanding Performance” by the Screen Actors Guild. Well done everyone.

Made in 2015. Directed by Tom McCarthy.

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Posted by on June 22, 2016 in Movies

 

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Gambit

One of the things that Harry Deane (played by Colin Firth) would really like to do is get one over on his abominable boss, Shabandar (by Alan Rickman). Harry’s an art curator and his boss, a supremely rich businessman, is an eccentric bully, fixated on having the best art collection in the world. Up until now, Harry has done everything he can to help Shabandar achieve this, but he’s getting a bit sick of just being the abused workhorse instead of the winner. Along with his trusted companion and art forger, The Major (by Tom Courtenay), Harry devises a scheme to finally achieve his goal and get the better of his appalling boss. Enter beautiful American cowgirl PJ Puznowski (by Cameron Diaz). She has an important role to play in the scheme and after some persuasion agrees to participate – for a fee, of course. So they put the plan into action. PJ flies to London from Texas and everything starts to play out. But – as if we couldn’t guess – things go a little off track for Harry and PJ has to survive on her wits to keep things going. Shabandar takes a shine to her, which works in PJ’s favour, but then she must decide whether the plan’s really worth pursuing. Harry and The Major suddenly see the whole thing teetering on the brink of failure – surely they can’t have come this far only to have to give up on the whole idea?

This movie is quite refreshing. The dry humour is entertaining and the sight gags that are littered all the way through are delightful. Colin Firth is in a different type of role here – it’s unusual to see him do such physical comedy. Also, it’s weird (but good for a change) to see him in a role where he’s quite downtrodden a lot of the time. He brings his best British upper class “Mark Darcy” charm and awkwardness to it which works really well. The screenplay is well written, with witty dialogue and amusing sub-plots. I guess it’s a bit predictable, but it’s still entertaining. As cowgirl PJ Puznowski, Cameron Diaz almost pushes the character too far, but she doesn’t. The performance is good. However, there are some gratuitous “partially clothed” scenes that feature her – there’s no doubt she looks great, but we don’t really need them. Alan Rickman is perfect as the awful, self-centred but sometimes charming Shabandar and it’s great to once again see Stanley Tucci – his role is relatively small, but it’s a worthwhile performance all the same. Cloris Leachman is in this for a short time also, that’s great as I haven’t seen her for ages. The movie is a remake of a 1966 version with Michael Caine and Shirley Maclaine. It’s worth noting that this version was written by Joel and Ethan Coen – no wonder it has merit.

Made in 2012. Directed by Michael Hoffman.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Company You Keep

Jim Grant (played by Robert Redford) cares for his young daughter on his own since his wife’s death in a car accident. They live in a small town where Jim is a lawyer. In his heady younger days, Jim was an activist in the radical group Weather Underground. They were opposed to the Vietnam War and demonstrated this in actions that sometimes became violent. A fellow member, Sharon Solarz (by Susan Sarandon) has turned herself in, after thirty years in hiding and Jim realises he and his daughter are in danger, after the FBI refresh their search for the group members to bring them to trial. Ben Shepard (by Shia LaBeouf) is an ambitious and inquisitive local journalist who gets onto this story for his small town newspaper and he starts to piece together the crime and intrigue from decades ago. The FBI and the reporter follow a trail of clues to pursue the real story and try to find Jim Grant, now on the run …

This is a nicely made movie with a magnificent cast. Robert Redford is okay, but not great. Anna Kendrick’s character is superfluous really and once again, Stanley Tucci is good but understated – same goes for Richard Jenkins. Overall, I found it “not quite enough for me”. There’s something of a young Russell Crowe about Shia LeBeouf and he’s fine. It’s great to see Julie Christie again – I haven’t seen much of her since Dr Zhivago. Others … Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper and Sam Elliott are good to see. Redford tries to create a thriller, but to me it’s a little pedestrian and those strong performers just seem to be going through the motions. Another, Susan Sarandon, is there but nothing much is really made of her character either – maybe I missed something? The movie won two awards at the Venice Film Festival in 2012 and it is based on a novel by Neil Gordon. Perhaps it would have had more impact for me if I had been aware of the real story in history.

Made in 2012. Directed by Robert Redford.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Movies

 

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The Devil Wears Prada

Andy (played by Anne Hathaway) is an ambitious graduate who aspires to be a journalist in New York City. Getting a job is tough, so she takes an opportunity as personal “everything” assistant to the Editor of Runway, Miranda Priestly (by Meryl Streep). Runway is the leading women’s fashion magazine and Miranda – a hard task master – is well known in fashion circles as “the devil herself”. At first, Andy has little time or interest in fashion and she is looked down upon, by none moreso than Miranda’s “first” Assistant, Emily (by Emily Blunt), who is disdainful and intolerant of Andy’s dowdy dress sense and seeming ignorance of anything “fashion”. Andy realises she must try to toe the fashion line to get noticed and get her career started, so she enlists the help of the magazine’s Design Chief Nigel, (by Stanley Tucci), who decks her out in everything from Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana to Michael Kors and back again. Andy must jump at every unreasonable whim of Miranda’s and be on duty 24×7, so her relationship with boyfriend Nate (by Adrian Granier) takes a nose-dive. She must balance the demands of her job, her relationship and her burning ambition to find the right road ahead and a life that’s do-able.

This comedy is very entertaining. The fashion industry is portrayed in a tongue-in-cheek way that makes it allowable and the messages are delivered well.  Meryl Streep is glorious as the smart and blinkered Miranda and she was nominated for several awards (including an Academy Award [Oscar]) for this work. Anne Hathaway is good and reliable as the badgered, frustrated Andy but the best performances are Emily Blunt’s self-centred and utterly marvellous Emily, “first” assistant to Miranda and Stanley Tucci’s georgeous and straight-talking Nigel – once again he is marvellous in this important support role but he may never get a mention – he seems adept at choosing these roles to shine in. Of course, one cannot help but draw parallels between this ficticious production and the real life documentary The September Issue where we learn about the workstyle of Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue magazine. This movie is one of those ones that you wouldn’t mind seeing over again.  It’s just pure entertainment. It’s based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Lauren Weisberger – and now I understand a sequel is about to be published – how delicious!. Well done David Frankel.

Made in 2006. Directed by David Frankel

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Movies

 

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The Hunger Games

In Panem, sometime in the future, a long-standing reality television show “The Hunger Games” recruits its candidates for the coming season. This is a game show with a difference – two “players” are selected from each of 12 districts that were isolated after an unsuccessful rebellion, where the nation’s underclasses now live. The “players” must fight each other (and the challenges that arise from the game-show itself) to their death, until only one player remains – the Winner. In Area 12, very young Primrose Everdeen (played by Willow Shields) is selected, but her protective older sister Katniss (by Jennifer Lawrence) takes her place. She and the other teenage Area 12 player, Peeta (by Josh Hutcherson) are taken to the Capitol for the game where they learn the game’s rules and some tactics, then after audience introductions and a major promotional launch, play commences in the vast holographic arena. The citizens of Panem watch the show play out on live television, commentated by the game’s charming host (by Stanley Tucci) while the players fight for their lives …

I didn’t think I’d like this movie and it wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but this is pretty good. Perhaps not quite up to all the media hype of the time, but still it is very well made and the concept is thought-provoking. The human nature revealed by the characters is interesting and the drama is very well developed. The way the “arena” is stage-managed by the television show brings an additional layer of intrigue to the story – and that the entire viewing audience watch these “players” struggle for survival is bizarre, but still you feel a need to watch. A small point – it is too long, but still very good and easily watchable. As our charming game show host, Stanley Tucci is excellent, but as usual he goes along under the radar. Jennifer Lawrence is very strong as Katniss, our heroine. Great to see a cameo by Lenny Kravitz and the young Amandla Stenberg is very good – she was nominated for a Black Reel award for Best Breakthrough Performance for this work, well deserved. Cinematography is excellent – the action sequences are very well done. The movie is based on the book by Suzanne Collins.

Made in 2012. Directed by Gary Ross

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2013 in Movies

 

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The Hoax

Clifford Irving (played by Richard Gere) is a writer, he’s had reasonable success but he dreams of writing the great blockbuster. He’s frustrated and disappointed because his publishers, McGraw-Hill, have recently rejected his new manuscript. Extremely short on cash, he’s already spent much of the pre-payment he received from them – now he must find a way to pay that back and still afford to live. It’s 1971 and Cliff gets an idea – the perfect novel. A biography about the reclusive Howard Hughes … Cliff would need to fabricate it from archives, but of such a secretive subject that nobody has seen for years – who would know whether Cliff really has worked with Hughes or not? In the era of a Nixon re-election, Cliff enlists the help of his best friend Dick Suskind (by Alfred Molina) to research and write the book of the century together. The publishers can’t believe their luck … but is it actually too good to be true?

This is a fictional version of Clifford Irving’s memoir “The Hoax“. It’s billed as a comedy, but again the funny part of this story is lost on me. Irving’s experience is fascinating, particularly the sequences where a viewer is not sure what’s real and what’s imagined – directed well by Lasse Hallstrom and portrayed with authenticity by both Richard Gere and Alfred Molina. They work very well together. The movie is a little too long for me, but interesting – Hughes is certainly an enigma. Mostly, I felt sorry for Irving – but the greed, deception and treachery of the parties involved (all concerned about their own reputations) brings an edge of intrigue and drama to this story. It’s a pretty good scam, actually.

Made in 2006. Directed by Lasse Hallström

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Movies

 

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Burlesque

Alice (played by Christina Aguilera) is fed up with her small-town life in Iowa, so she quits her job and heads to Los Angeles to follow her dreams to become a singer. She searches for work but finds nothing, then she happens upon a nightclub called “Burlesque”. Inside, although it is past its prime, the club is alluring and she finds a world of stunning cabaret, music and a life she dreams of being a part of. After sweet-talking the barman Jack (by Cam Gigandet), she wangles herself a job with the nightclub owner Tess (by Cher) who is suspicious of her, but gives her a chance. The club has found hard financial times lately and wealthy property developer, Marcus (by Eric Dane) has made Tess an offer that is difficult to refuse. However, Tess is determined to keep the club and supported by her trusty Show Manager, Sean (by Stanley Tucci) and Ali, she finds a way to fight back. In the meantime, Ali is making her way as a cabaret artist in the face of rising jealousy within the troupe, particularly from the stars Nikki (by Kristen Bell) and Georgia (by Julianne Hough). Ali’s head is turned by the handsome and ambitious Marcus, but she’s so keen to follow her dreams might she just miss noticing the one man who really cares about her?

If you would like to see Christina Aguilera display her unquestioned talent and beauty in a range of musical styles, costumes and dance genre then this is the movie for you. At best, this is a showcase of Christina’s musical capability (which is quite vast) and the undisputed talent of Cher (her song “You Haven’t seen the Last of Me” is the stand out in this movie). Other than that, however, this piece does not have much going for it. The story is quite nice and the comedy is witty, but it is really only there to provide some kind of link between the songs.  The support performances are strong and welcoming (I would rather watch these than the cabaret) – Stanley Tucci reprises his performance from “The Devil Wears Prada” and Eric Dane is perfectly cast as the suave and slick Marcus. Watch for a great cameo from James Brolin too. For me, the best comes from Alan Cumming who plays the cheeky Club Host, Alexis, in a very similar guise to that by Joel Gray in “Cabaret“. Unfortunately Cher is disappointingly insipid, I have seen much stronger performances from her in several (most) of her past performances. Cam Gigandet could make more of his male support character also.

Made in 2010.  Directed by Steve Antin.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Movies

 

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