Movies – Spotlight Review (or ‘Engaging and Engrossing, But Is It Worthy?’)

January 31, 2016

While I certainly don’t want to be swayed by other people’s opinions before going to see a movie – a notion that I accept is somewhat ironic considering I’m writing a review that will probably influence the opinions of others before they see it – I did read a couple of conflicting views of Spotlight from people I know before venturing out to the cinema last night.

One person said that he thought it was excellent; a gripping ensemble piece where the cast – pardon the obvious pun for the second review in a row – share the spotlight so that there is no obvious lead.spotlight

Another guy said he thought it was far too ‘worthy’; a predictable and plodding movie designed with the intention of winning Oscars rather than telling a good story.

Now those are two contrasting views at the opposite ends of the spectrum. If you read them before you go to see it you wouldn’t know if you were going to be engrossed or annoyed.

So what did I think of it?

Honestly, though I err towards agreeing with the first guy, I can understand to an extent what the second guy is talking about.

It’s true to say that this is a great ensemble piece. The likes of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James share equal amounts of screen time and don’t stand out as obvious leads.

But then it’s also true to say that thanks to Mark Ruffalo, it does feel a bit ‘worthy’. Personally, I felt he let the side down because he was so obviously ‘acting’, and though the types of people who give out Oscars are known to love that sort of thing, I don’t. To me, a good actor is someone who makes it look like the character they are playing is them being normal. The rest of the cast manage this easily, but Ruffalo – with his fake accent, occasional shoutyness and over the top body language – just came across as someone doing an impression. He’s trying too hard.

I disagree with the second opinion though where he said that it’s plodding and predictable. To me the movie never slowed down or became dull, and the two hours flew by. Predictable? Well there weren’t any shock twists like it turned out that the kids were raping the priests, but what do you expect? It’s a true account of the slow and painstaking process good journalists must go through to complete a story.

And I suppose that’s at the heart of the matter, isn’t it?

If that sounds interesting to you, then you’ll enjoy it. If you go along looking for something more thrilling and action packed, you probably won’t.

But if it’s the former, then the movie does a great job of explaining how the Spotlight team at the Boston Globe happened upon the cover-up going on in the Catholic Church, and gave an insight into how Boston society as a whole managed had previously and unwittingly swept it all under the carpet.

I guess you’ll just have to decide for yourself whether or not that sounds interesting.

Movies – The Big Short Review (or ‘I Was Entertained And Educated’)

January 28, 2016


You would think that a movie about Hedge Fund Managers betting against the housing market wouldn’t be the most riveting of subjects, but in this case, the odds have been defied.

Having seen The Big Short – the movie about the run up to the 2008 banking crisis starring the likes of Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt – I came away from the cinema feeling not only entertained, but TheBigShortCSHeaderthat I’d learned something.

As much as I have a decent enough grasp on finance and the economy – I have an MA/Hons in Business Economics – the actual reasons for why it all went tits up was something I’d never really paid much attention to. Throughout The Big Short, it was explained in simple terms to give the viewer the chance to be able to keep up. So for example, to keep the viewer’s attention, they have Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explain the basics of  subprime mortgages, and later on a celebrity chef equates the grouping of this less than steady mortgages to reusing leftover fish in a stew the next day.

Now sure, that might be a little too simplistic, but it got the job done and allowed everyone to keep focussed and understand what was going on and why. From doing a bit of reading, it seems as though it’s a historically accurate account of what went on and is not sensationalised for the sake of art, which is to its credit.

So really, they turned what could possibly have been a dreary subject matter into something you could – pardon the pun – invest in.

If I was to take any issue with it, it’s that I find Steve Carell hard to take seriously; and believe me, we were supposed to take him seriously even though this had comic elements. Try as he might though, I just don’t think he can shake off the character of Michael Scott from The Office. Maybe that’s just me.

But that aside, The Big Short is an informative, educational and entertaining movie. You should go to see it.

Movies – Creed Review (or “A Worthy Addition To The Franchise”)

January 17, 2016

I love everything about the Rocky movies; the music, the fights, the training montages and the storylines, such as they are.

They are just honest, likeable films that should be staple viewing for any bloke.

So I was more than a little bit excited to go along to the new Rocky movie in everything but name, Creed.

Did it live up to my inevitable expectation?

Movies: Creed Review – What’s It About?

Apollo Creed’s bastard love child wants to become a professional boxer, and enlists an initially hesitant Rocky Balboa to train him. It inevitably ends in a boxing match against the world champion in – bizarrely – CreedGoodison Park, Liverpool.


Well I really enjoyed it, but that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

The thing about it though was that from a creative standpoint, it was fresh enough and interesting enough to justify the 133 minutes, and it didn’t drag in any way.. Rather than being another rags to riches storyline, it presented the young Creed as someone who came from a mostly privileged upbringing who has to prove himself against the shadow of his famous father. That’s at least a break from the norm in what is really just Rocky VII.

And the use of Rocky Balboa himself is good. He manages to play a major part in the movie without overshadowing Michael B. Jordan’s main character, and as always Sylvester Stallone is top-notch as the charmingly simple ex-prizefighter.

The music, while nowhere near as good as the soundtracks of Rocky III or especially Rocky IV, was also enjoyable, though it was only when they went back to variations on tracks like Going The Distance that I wanted to cheer.

I think what stood out the most though was the direction of the boxing matches. They were so immersive and dynamic that they made me feel as though I was in the ring with them as part of the action. I’m assuming that what the point, and they’ve done it brilliantly; I was enthralled.

If you’re not sure about Creed because you haven’t seen any of the previous Rocky movies (although it astounds me that there are such people out there), then don’t be. The person I went with hasn’t seen a single one of them, and she found no problem following the narrative or the characters.

Really, it’s just a brilliant addition to the franchise as well as a top-notch stand alone movie.

It starts my 2016 reviews on a high.

Hopefully it’s not all downhill from here…