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Spotlight

Spotlight_(film)_poster

It’s that time again, more Award-baiting films in the run up to the Oscars. Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight is one of the favourites for the win, but will it light up my life?

In 2001 Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) is hired as the new editor of The Boston Globe. One of his first moves is to have the investigation team Spotlight (Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d’Arcy James) look into child abuse cases carried out by a priest which the church did nothing to prevent. As the Spotlight team look further into it they realise that the abuse is much more widespread and serious than they ever imagine.

Given the heavy subject matter it would have been easy for this film to have been sentimental and cliched. However Spotlight is noticable for it’s restraint. Thats not to say there isn’t the occassional impassioned speech but Spotlight is a grown up movie, more intent on telling the story and trusting it’s audience doesn’t have to have any heavy handedness or clichéd baddies to be told THIS IS BAD.

As the investigation becomes bigger the film doesn’t shy away from the fact it’s not just the church that been covering things up. Many others were either actively involved in the cover up or dismissed earlier claims for different reasons, and the Boston Globe itself is also put under scrutiny for not investigating earlier. As Stanley Tucci’s lawyer Mitchell states “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.” That it took an outsider to push them into investigating is also a sobering thought for the protagonists.

It would also have been easy for it’s cast to give overwrought and over the top performances, Ruffalo’s journalist Michael most particularly given the character’s quirks, but they trust in the script and the story. It is so strong they don’t have to live in heightened emotions. The film also largely stays away from the characters’ personal lives and concentrating on the meat of the story.

It may not be as epic in scale as The Revenant however I think Spotlight will stay with me longer and wish it well on Oscar night.

Rating 4/5 – a thought provoking and sobering look into investigative journalism at it’s best

 

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Midnight in Paris (2011)

Paris is a wonderful, cultured city and in Woody Allen’s 2011 film it’s literally magical.

Screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) and his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) are on holiday in Paris with Inez’s family. When Gil goes for a walk around Paris at midnight he finds himself back in 1920’s Paris  meeting novelists and other creative figures from the era. Soon Gill is taking nightly walks back into the 1920’s while Inez’s family grow infuriated with Gil’s secrecy.

The film is about nostalgia and living in the past. Wilson’s Gill enjoys the 1920’s so much he might miss out on what is happening in his present, and right under his nose. Yet it’s easy to see why he’s so enamoured by the past where he’s viewing the creativity and passion of those around him. Compared to his successful but dreary life as a Hollywood screenwriter he feels inspired by their presence of such figures from the past with such creative freedom. The premise also gives plenty of opportunities for cameos for such figures as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston)  and Gertrude Sten (Kathy Bates). There’s also another great supporting turn from Michael Sheen as the condescending friend of Inez.

On the downside this film is probably best enjoyed if you know your 1920’s writers and artists. Some of the figures I recognised but some of the in-jokes flew right over my head. It may find itself alienating some viewers. Also I know Inez and Gil are meant to be a couple that are obviously unsuitable for each other but they have such different opinions on everything that it’s hard to believe they would have been a couple in the first place. Inez’s parents also come across as caricatures rather than real characters.

What holds this film together is Owen Wilson, he makes a likable lead that is perhaps a bit too obsessed with the past. He makes it easy for us to believe in the set-up and to enjoy the film in general. It’s a gentle and pleasing movie that isn’t too demanding on your time or your mind.

Rating 3/5 – Charming and easy watching but not necessarily essential viewing.

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The Vow (2012)

When The Vow was released in 2012 it was the seventh highest grossing romantic drama of all time, but it takes more than that to impress me. So does The Vow have what it takes to draw me in?

Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum) are the perfect married couple, happily in love. Then they are in a car accident and Paige loses her memories for the past five years, including her whole relationship and marriage to Leo. Now Leo has to try to convince Paige that they were deeply in love and hopefully regain her memory.

First off I have to say if I woke up from an accident and the last five years of my life had been erased BUT on the other hand I was married to Channing Tatum, I wouldn’t be that upset. Or at least I could console myself in his lovely arms.

Anyway back to the film at hand. The beginning is very, very slushy, with flashbacks of Paige and Leo meeting, falling in love, and get married and blah, blah, blah. I was getting a bit bored. However the film picks up when Paige wakes up from her coma and thinks Leo is her doctor and not her husband (awkward!).

The film does well at showing Leo’s side of the story, how much he loves his wife and how heartbreaking it is that she doesn’t remember any of the moments they shared together. Perhaps too well as sometimes you feel like Paige is a massive bitch for rejecting poor Leo, even though realistically you couldn’t expect her to just fall straight back into a life she can’t recall.

The lead actors play their roles well. Tatum is sympathetic as the poor husband trying to get his wife to love him again, while McAdams handles the complex emotions her character goes through with aplomb. The rest of the cast is more underwritten. Sam Neill and Jessica Lange feel particularly underused as Paige’s rich parents who are – of course – not so keen on Leo. Although Lange does get a good emotionally charged scene with McAdams later in the film. It was also good to see Orphan Black‘s Tatina Maslany in a small role as Leo’s put upon employee and friend.

Slushy, romantic and although I did try to resist I fell for it’s charm in the end.

Rating 3.5/5 – A film for hardcore romantics only

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About Time

Richard Curtis films tend to fall into the love it or hate it categories. So I have to be honest about how I feel. I love his films! Yes they may be cheesy at times but if I know a film is written or directed by Curtis I’m probably going to love it (The Boat that Rocked aside-although it did have a great soundtrack). So as you can imagine I was very excited about seeing About Time, but how does it fare?

About Time follows Tim (Domhall Gleeson) who finds out on his twenty-first birthday that the men in his family can travel back in time. He decides to use this new-found ability to help him get a girlfriend, which is easier said then done. However when he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) his luck looks like it’s about to change. However time travel can be a complicated matter not only for his love life but also when it comes to the tough choices he must make about his family.

What surprised me most about this film is that the trailers didn’t give away everything about the plot. Yes a lot of it is about Tim and Mary but there’s also a substantial time spent on how Tim uses his time traveling ability to affect his family and friends and what the consequences of those actions are. By focusing on how time travel affects Tim’s life in general makes for a much more effective and in fact emotional film then if it was just spent on Tim’s pursuit of Mary.

That is not to say the love story isn’t good, it is. I was expecting it to be about Tim meeting Mary over and over again but although there is a bit of that in there (as Tim accidentally erases their first meeting and has to fix it), the majority of time is spent on their actual relationship. We see Tim and Mary beyond their first meeting and honeymoon stage, we see them grow older and having to deal with grown up issues. Throughout it all they remain a sweet couple that you can imagine being friends with. McAdams and Gleeson spark off each other well and its enjoyable watching them together as a couple.

As you can imagine with a Richard Curtis film there is a great supporting cast, with Bill Nighy as Tim’s father who explains all about the family secret, Tom Hollander as Tim’s angry playwright friend Harry, and Lindsay Duncan as Tim’s brilliantly blunt mother to name a few.

About Time has some great joke and a wonderful humour throughout the film. But is also has some surprisingly emotional elements to the film and something to say about how we live life in general, living every day but perhaps not savouring the day as we should. I also have to say how amazing Gleeson is in the lead role, hilarious in the funny moments but also able to nail the serious points in the film when needed.

If you’re one of those people who hate Richard Curtis films there’s probably not much I can say to convince you to go and see About Time. However if you’re open to the idea that maybe there is more to Curtis then Love Actually and a bumbling Hugh Grant then give About Time a go, and you may find yourself surprisingly moved by this tale of one family with an amazing secret.

Rating 4/5-I laughed, I cried and I definitely recommend you see it.

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