Spotlight (2015) Film Review

Based on a true story from 2003, Spotlight follows a newspaper investigation unit in Boston who are investigating the cover up of sex crimes by the Catholic Church, moving offending priests around rather than allowing them to be charged officially. It’s something that we take for granted now – this happened by the Catholic Church across the world and is still continuing to be investigated, and new allegations seem to constantly being revealed. What is fascinating is that the church had been able to get away with it for so long without it coming out, and that it was revealed in Boston, a very heavily Catholic City which raised its own difficulties in the investigation.

This was a fascinating film. It’s important to remember that it is a dramatisation, so it’s not necessarily all factual. However, it is a great story. I think while you wouldn’t want to use this film as a basis for an argument on the cover up of such behaviour, it isn’t the worst place to start, and then go an investigate the actual facts. It also didn’t shy away from the fact that mistakes were made, people were hurt, and that there are so many bad things that should not be covered up by money or power.

Spotlight won Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing, Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Ruffalo), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Rachel McAdams), Best Achievement in Directing (Tom McCarthy), Best Achievement in Film Editing. It was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director – Motion Picture, Best Screenplay – Motion Picture. It won a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rufalo) and Best Film.

Ex Machina (2014) Film Review

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) works for some fabulous tech company and wins a week to stay with the founder of the company – the elusive Nathan (Oscar Isaac). After a long helicopter ride, he finds himself at an amazing property in the middle of nowhere. He discovers that Nathan is a mysterious alcoholic with a non-English speaking, Japanese servant, Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) and that he is not on a break, but has a task. He is to see if the robot woman that Nathan has developed, Ava (Alicia Vikander) can pass as human.

Exhausting, stunning, clever, wonderful, fantastic, I just loved it. It’s creepy but beautiful and raises a lot of questions about what we value in life and how we interact with the world around us. Since I watched this, Ex Machina keeps popping onto my head. I can’t recommend this enough – although I think if you cannot stand scifi, you probably won’t connect with this one.

Ex Machina won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects and was nominated for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Alicia Vikander) and for BAFTAs for Best British Film, Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander), Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

Bridge of Spies (2015) Film Review

There’s a Russian Spy, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) who’s been caught in the process of spying. It’s the height (well, the start) of the Cold War, and lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) is tapped on the shoulder to defend him. Of course it is all for appearance, and Donovan is frustrated at being unable to present a full defence, but the American’s don’t want to risk him actually being freed. Meanwhile, a couple of America citizens are stuck behind the Iron Curtain: a pilot who crashed in the USSR and a student who got stuck in East Berlin as the wall was built, and Donovan is brought in to try to find a trade.

I expected a spy film to be all a bit Bond with lots of guns and running and tuxedos and cocktails, and this is so far from that… it’s the Cold War. It’s men in suits negotiating, it’s slow moving, and it’s fascinating. I especially loved watching the depiction of the Berlin Wall being built; that such a thing could just happen – and did. It was a great film – but with a crap name.

Bridge of Spies won an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Rylance) and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Writing, Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Production Design. It won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Mark Rylance) and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance) and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Original Music, Best Sound and Best Film.

Toy Story 3 (2010) Film Review

Andy’s off to college and something has to happen with his stuff. Unfortunately, the bags get mixed up, and instead of being stored in the attic, the toys find themselves at a day care centre. Excited about finally being played with again after years of abandonment by Andy, who has long outgrown them, they are yet to discover that the day care centre may not be the heaven that they are looking forward to.

Brilliant. It’s not hard to see why this was nominated for a Best Film award at the Oscars – even thinking about it now is making me tear up. It’s clever, it’s emotional, there are good guys and bad guys, but as always, it’s about sticking together, loyalty, and all that stuff. And it’s just wonderful.

Toy Story 3 won Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (Randy Newman, We Belong Together) and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.

Toy Story (1995) Film Review

Ah, Toy Story. How magnificent. Based in the room/world of young boy, Andy (John Morris), Toy Story sees Andy’s favourite toy, cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) and his other faves Mr Potato Head (the late, great Don Rickles), Slinky Dog (Jim Varney), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Hamm (John Ratzenberger) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) fearing for the worst as Andy gets a new toy for his birthday – a Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), the exciting new astronaut toy. Will jealousy win? Can they find a way for all the toys to co-exist?

It’s so good. Despite my usual complaint that there are nowhere near enough female characters (Bo Peep is the love interest, there’s the annoying little sister character, and mom. Why Slinky Dog or Rex or Hamm couldn’t have been female – yes, it would be a shame to lose those characters as we know and love them, but could have actually been good…). It’s a great story, well written, fabulous characters, and just so much fun.

Toy Story was nominated for Oscars for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Best Music (Original Song) You’ve got a Friend in Me, Randy Newman, and Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score. It won an award for Executive Producer John Lasseter for the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film.

 

Arrival (2016) Film Review

Twelve alien spaceships appear and are hovering in various locations around the world. Countries are working together on how to communicate with these strange creatures and among them are a high-level linguistics professor, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Over a series of long, drawn out sessions, they establish some kind of communication, but does it mean what they think it means?

I kind of get why people might like this, but I was bored. It was sooooooo slow, and while there was some beauty in the filming, I just didn’t get it. Plus, it has a ‘twist’ – at least, I think it was a twist. For me, however, I had no engagement with any of the characters; I didn’t care about the aliens or why they were there. I was somewhat intrigued by the concept of what a world does when aliens are hanging about and what we might actually do to attempt communication – in fact, the more I think about this, the more fascinated I am. I think it’s because so much sci fi have some kind of auto translating thing to avoid the whole concept of cross species communication.

Arrival won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Sound Editing and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Denis Villeneuve), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and Best Achievement in Production Design.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016) Film Review

 

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a young man who, despite the example set by his alcoholic, abusive father (Hugo Weaving) whose life was ruined in WW1, signs up for WW2. However, he refuses to carry a gun – he has volunteered to be an unarmed medic, to spend his time in the field saving the injured soldiers. Based on a true story, Doss is treated like a freak by most of the army including his immediate superior, Sgt Howell (Vince Vaughn) – until he proves his worth.

I quite liked the idea, it really is a good story. I’m not quite sure why Doss had to come across as a bit of a fool – his character had a bit of a Forest Gump feel to him, and I feel as though that took away a lot from his stance. There is a whole section at the start which had stuff from his childhood that I feel was really unnecessary – almost as if it was just filling up space to make it a longer, weightier film. For me, it really got good once they were fighting. That was very impressive.

Hacksaw Ridge won Oscars for Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Andrew Garfield), Best Achievement in Directing (Mel Gibson) and Best Achievement in Sound Editing.

Suicide Squad (2016) Film Review

Aliens have appeared and been fought off by Superman. Only, now Superman’s nicked off. How can the world protect themselves agains the bad guys? Get worse guys. A whole bunch of dodgy folk with talents or some kind of mutant skills, stick a bomb in their necks and threaten to blow them up if they do the wrong thing. But then, when things don’t go so smoothly, what happens then?

It was great. Top characters (most notably Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Jared Leto as The Joker), a decent story, some fantastic special effects and you’ve got a good film. Better than good, actually. A lot better. I’m being far too casual, it’s ace shouty blow ‘em uppy, fun times.

Suicide Squad won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling.

The Big Short (2015) Film Review

Set in the months leading up to the financial crash in the mid-2000s, The Big Short follows several characters who predicted what was going to happen and used their knowledge to do stuff. I know that sounds vague, but I actually watched this a while ago, and now cannot recall the ins and outs – I just know that watching it, I found it fascinating, and now I recall it being interesting, but I can’t recall the details. The good news is that I’ll be able to watch it again and find it interesting. What do I recall? Steve Carrell playing another weird and fabulous character. Brad Pitt playing another annoying holistic kind of character. Christian Bale being playing an intelligent weirdo. Don’t remember Ryan Gosling in it at all. Right, I am actually going to watch this film again and then finish this review.

Okay, so Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, an oddball character who does a whole heap of research and discovers a flaw in the financial world, relating to bad mortgages and trading on them (technical, technical stuff… blah blah). Then Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett, which pushes this on to Mark Baum (Steve Carrell). When Mark and his mates go out to investigate, they discover NINJA loans (no income, no job, no asset) which are being packaged with the genuinely AAA mortgages. Then there are a couple of young guys who get in on it and turn to a retired guy, Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) which knows a lot about the market and is quite suspicious about what is going to happen to the world of finance. The film sets all of these guys up, and while I may not have understood it all, I knew that it was not good. But the film? That is good. Brain challenging movie.

The Big Short won an Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Christian Bale), Best Achievement in Directing (Adam McKay) and Best Achievement in Film Editing.

 

La La Land (2016) Film Review

There is a jazz musician, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) who is a bit grumpy and dissatisfied with life. He makes a living playing wherever he can, with dreams of owning a jazz nightclub. Then there’s an actress, Mia (Emma Stone) who auditions and auditions and never gets through. They meet and fall in love, and then settle into a life that neither are totally happy with, and then have to figure out what to do. All whilst singing.

Yawn. I wanted to enjoy this. this felt like the kind of film that I should love. Songs, style, the fun-time combo of Gosling and Stone. Yet I felt no chemistry between the two, I found many of the musical numbers forced and the end should have been something that I loved. But I didn’t. What it did inspire in me was the interest at watching some good old Hollywood films with great dancing – some Ginger Rogers and the like.

La La Land won Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Stone), Best Achievement in Directing (Damien Chazelle), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score), Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “City of Stars” and Best Achievement in Production Design and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Ryan Gosling), Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”.