Monthly Archives: January 2016

Review – SPOTLIGHT

S_09159PhotoCredit-KerryHayes-Distributor-OpenRoadFilms

Starring:  Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Bryan d’Arcy James, Liev Schrieber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci
Directed by: Tom McCarthy
Cert: 15A Running Time: 128 minutes

The saying, the devil’s in the detail, was never more accurate than in Tom McCarthy’s meticulously told story of one crack team of investigative journalists and their search for the truth behind the cover up of clerical abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. Based on the true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Spotlight team at The Boston Globe, the film details how, in 2001, they chased down a small number of cases that never saw a day in court and, like a pulled thread, began to unravel a massive cover-up by the Catholic Church.

At times disturbing to watch, it is a compelling, highly engrossing story, played by a brilliant ensemble cast featuring Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Bryan d’Arcy James as the intrepid Spotlight team, ably supported in the newsroom by Liev Schreiber and John Slattery. Calling to mind the likes of All The President’s Men, it shows how every phone call counts, every lead must be chased down, every door must be knocked on and indeed no stone left unturned. Peeling back layer upon layer of the story down to the minutiae, you can almost smell the sweat and newsprint emanating from the screen. In the age of click bait news headlines and internet supremacy, Spotlight heralds a time when print media still reigned and how investigative journalism really bore into the issues and stories of the day.

The film raises the burning question of celibacy and the crisis the church faces in putting such a decree in place with some truly shocking discoveries as to the epidemic it has produced. It also highlights how such allegations made against the priesthood, these men of God, were handled as people simply didn’t want to believe it. As one police officer says, “no-one wants to cuff a priest”.

Directed with a eye to letting the screenplay do the talking as opposed to the visuals, McCarthy has delivered an exceptional film, allowing his cast the room to breathe life into their characters and tell the vital story at its heart. McAdams excels as the boots on the street reporter, not afraid to seek answers, a lapsed Catholic who takes her grandmother to mass every Sunday and is fired on by the shocking abuse of trust. Ruffalo plays it with hard determination and nervy energy, while Billy Crudup is suitably oily as a lawyer acting on behalf of the church who settled claims with a “sit down with the bishop and a little dough”.  The always wonderful Stanley Tucci, plays a lawyer on the victim’s side, struggling through the red tape to get the claims to court and his scenes with Ruffalo are among the best in the film.

With a total of six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting acting nods for Ruffalo and McAdams, Best Screenplay and Best Film Editing, the film is sure to grab some gold at this year’s ceremony. Highly recommended.

5/5

Review – THE BIG SHORT

big-short

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei and Finn Wittrock
Directed by: Adam McKay
Cert: 15A Running Time: 130 minutes

Nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Christian Bale and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Big Short arrives on our shores smothered in accolades and reeking of Oscar buzz. Based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis (Moneyball), it marks director Adam McKay’s first foray into big drama, having very successfully forged his way with comedy and his creative partnership with Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Step Brothers, The Other Guys). Here sans Ferrell, he moves away from the jokes but holds tight to his wit as he dives into the US financial crisis of 2008.

While not the most enticing of concepts, two hours of people talking about mortgages and banking, McKay has pulled some very skilful moves. First, by assembling a top notch cast at the top of their game in the shape of Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. Secondly, by writing a terrific script, dialogue heavy but light on its feet and thirdly bringing the first two elements together with frenetic visuals, funny vignettes, straight to camera addresses and a brilliant soundtrack.

Shot with high energy by cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd (United 93), the film feels pacey and urgent and even though it’s stuffed to the gills with financial jargon, it doesn’t threaten to overwhelm the non-finance wizards among us. Just when you think you might be getting a little lost, McKay injects the narrative with a real life celebrity to explain the troubling jargon, cutting through it before returning to the story at hand. Who better than Margot Robbie in a bubble bath drinking champagne to give us the nuts and bolts of subprime mortgages? And who better to explain CDO’s than chef Anthony Bourdain?

Ryan Gosling’s charismatic, Ferris Bueller-like addresses to camera bring the fun and his Jared Vennett, a schmooze-ball banker is brilliantly obnoxious and “transparent with self-interest”. All of the cast are terrific but special mention should go to Steve Carrell and Christian Bale who simply knock it out of the park. With nice support from the likes of Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo and Karen Gillan, it’s not a complete boys club and the film weaves in an out of each of the characters’ stories while never over complicating it.

There are lots of witty insights as to what the American public were doing before the crash happened, “walking around like they’re in an Enya video” so wrapped up in their lives that they were “asleep at the wheel” as the banks destroyed them. The figures sighted at the end of the film make for disturbing viewing and entertaining and fun as the film is, it never loses sight of the people so devastatingly affected.

So if you’re wondering what to spend your hard earned cash on this weekend, invest in The Big Short. You’ll get a nice return for your money.

5/5

This week I caught up with Director Adam McKay in Dublin. Check out my interview here http://www.themoviebit.com/2016/01/oscar-nominated-adam-mckay-talks-to-us.html

Review – ROOM

ROOM_DAY40-0197 (2) (1) (1)

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Sean Bridgers, Joan Allen and William H Macy.
Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson
Written by: Emma Donoghue
Cert: 15A Running Time 118 minutes

Given the plot is somewhat laid bare in the trailer for Room, the screen adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s best-selling novel, it’s fair to say that it is very much a film of two halves each as claustrophobic as the other for different reasons. As the film begins we are in the ‘Room’ of the title, a 10-by-10-foot space, that is home to Ma (played by Brie Larson) and her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Held captive for years, Ma has created an entire universe for her son, who was conceived within its walls and has no knowledge of the world that ticks by just feet away from their home.

Donoghue, who’s adapted the screenplay herself, delivers a riveting emotional love letter, choosing a very unique perspective on such a heinous crime, telling the tale from Jack’s point of view as we witness the incredible bond he shares with his mother. Her story could not have fallen into better hands and director Lenny Abrahamson brilliantly brings the book to life as he invites the audience into their world. He keeps the camera lens tight in their confined space and the tension at times is almost unbearable especially when their captor Nick (Sean Bridgers) comes to call. The emotional wallop that comes when they make a dangerous bid for freedom is both powerful and harrowing and you realise how truly absorbed you are in their plight.

Abrahamson’s masterful use of sound and light depicting the sheer sensory horror of the outside world is beautifully realised and he floods the lens with light and ultimately hope. For all its underlying pain, the film triumphs in the strength of the human spirit and the beauty of life’s tiny precious moments, where a simple lick from a dog can bring abundant joy.

When dealing with life outside ‘room’, Larson’s performance really crackles as she finally gets to interact with other people, realising that with her freedom also comes judgment and the suffocating reality that life went on for most people in those lost years. Well deserving of her recent Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, Larson is incredible and her bond with Tremblay is astounding, his natural performance a revelation. He is the beating heart of the film and his performance is flawless. A powerful, emotional film that will stay with you long after.

5/5

Review – THE HATEFUL EIGHT

hateful-eight-1

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir and Channing Tatum.
Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Cert: 18 Running Time: 3 hours 7 minutes

“The name of the game here is patience” says one bloodied character to another in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and never a truer word was spoken when it comes to waiting for the film to reach its conclusion as your watch ticks slowly to the third hour. The biggest question is if those precious minutes are worth it and the answer will depend largely on how big a fan you are of his work, for it takes patience to let Tarantino’s eighth film get where it needs to go.

Opening on the snowy mountains of Wyoming to Ennio Morricone’s stunning score, the film looks and feels ambitious and there’s a giddy anticipation as the plot unfurls itself. Bounty hunter John Ruth (played by Kurt Russell) is taking Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to hang for her crimes in the town of Red Rock but when a blizzard sets in, they must hole up in Minnie’s Haberdashery a few miles from town until it passes. Having picked up fellow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) and new sheriff of Red Rock Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) along the way, they find that Minnie’s is quite the busy stop and one of the other four men assembled (Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, Michael Madsen and Demian Bichir) has come to set Daisy free. What follows is a Miss Marple-like needlepoint dissection of who each man is, who’s lying and who’s there to kill everyone in order to save her.

It’s a great premise and the script is wonderful, taking its time to reveal more about each character as you start the guessing game of who’s who. But this is The Hateful Eight and true to its name Tarantino has created these nasty hateful characters who can slay a man not only with violence but with words. In particular Samuel L Jackson’s Major is the vilest of the lot, a sadistic racist that delights in his deep seated depravity. When we first meet him he is sitting astride a saddle on three dead white men so there is no arc of redemption here for him or anyone else.

Jennifer Jason Leigh has the hardest task of them all. Though she gets her fair share of the coolest lines and her performance has all the great hallmarks of a Tarantino baddie, she has to battle her way through the others misogynistic violence towards her. She’s repeatedly punched in the face throughout and her face becomes the barometer of violence as it escalates in the film, from a black eye in the beginning to the blood and guts literally drenching her face where it stays until Tarantino can add some more. The violence is as you’d expect – lightning fast and very very, bloody.

Tarantino’s decision to shoot on 70mm means the film looks and feels epic, the snowy landscapes gorgeously rendered, the actors deliciously framed and you have to applaud Tarantino for sticking to his guns with it for there is no-one like him. However, he has indulged himself perhaps one act too long and as such has himself brought the film to the hangman’s noose.

3/5