Spotlight (2016)

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Delicately handled considering the subject matter, this biographical film balances the story between the seekers of truth and the victims in a great way. It’s a movie that pulls you in by being interesting and giving enough time to the key characters that we understand all motives at play. I can really see why this is up for Best Picture and why it might win.

At the Boston Globe, a small group of 4 journalists called ‘Spotlight’ take their time in documenting big stories. After new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) arrives, he suggest they look deeper into the allegations of perversion and molestation of children from priests in the Catholic Church. Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) wants his team to do it right so they trawl through files and reports uncovering a shocking statistic.

There’s never a moment in this film where it feels slow, even when briefings or meetings occur it all feels right for the story and therefore keeps the bubbling pace of this plot going nicely. It’s a film with something always around the corner and you want to find out what that is. Also, this film never comes across forced to seem more interesting or explosively damaging to the Church. It’s done with a calmness in the way the Spotlight team meticulously go over findings and try to help victims come forward. This movie could easily have been terrible if the four journalists were more dynamic for the sake of cinematic entertainment or if the whole uncovering was twisted in a more typically dramatic way, but gladly the film knows it’s dealing with a tough issue and focuses on the subtle moments building to the findings they make.

Tom McCarthy does a great job in firstly letting us buy into the film’s people and see their understanding of what’s happening slowly hit them. Secondly he does a greater job in reversing away from panned Adam Sandler flick ‘The Cobbler’ to prove directors need second chances. One of the good things here is that McCarthy still weaves a gripping dramatic tale even though the trailer gave us the knowledge of what’s to come. So a movie that has no true mystery left but is still overly engaging and thoughtful is one that must be seen and I’m glad I have.

McCarthy wrote the screenplay with Josh Singer and the two of them; like the Spotlight foursome are a great unison of harmony and talent. The story is done really well, they don’t make the journalists into heroes, in fact we learn hard truths about them. They don’t write harsh pot-shots at faith or the Church but more at the necessary problem of the system failing time and time again. It’s a narrative with no unneeded embellishments and that’s an admirable quality to look upon.

It’s a film that has to be seen, the true danger of the priests and their constant replacements is unbelievable. The lasting feeling this film gives is of overwhelming shock at the amount of locations listed and with this, there’s a feeling of laughable madness in a certain figure’s new position. It’s more than scary to think what’s being gotten away with and therefore this is a movie that must exist to shine a spotlight on what many people know but turn away from.

Michael Keaton is fantastic, toning his performance with direction and leadership, there’s a constant presence of damaged knowing to his character that comes into fruition later on. Mark Ruffalo transforms into his role, leaving Bruce Banner behind as he becomes the workaholic and fiery Michael Rezendes. It’s clear to see why he was nominated for Best Actor because he does bury his teeth into the character and give passion to the project. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer is gently reserved but bold in looking like she wants to do this story right. She brings compassion and morals to the piece. Brian d’Arcy James is magnificent also, not one of the four feels shaded or left with no meat on the bones so to speak. James does really well in showing his worried character and the home-life he faces with danger on the doorstep.

For me, this feature should win Best Picture, I’d give it to Room if I could. but in all likelihood I’d root for this excellent portrayal of character development and detailed professionalism concerning an absorbing and worrying subject matter.

8/10

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Ted 2 (2015)

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Foul and furry as ever, come to life walking teddy bear Ted is back in a more human capacity as he and thunder buddy John swear, get high and travel to New York. In a way this is a better movie than the 2012, it’s a got a more interesting scope and there are funnier sequences involved in the madness of unsurprising dumb frat boy humour.

John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), now divorced is still best buds with cursing smoking Ted (Seth MacFarlane) who marries Boston lass Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth). Though as they try and adopt Ted realises he’s being followed up as a non human, property and therefore his marriage will be void and his life will change. The thunder buddies and novice lawyer Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) fight the courts to try and prove that Ted is capable of human traits.

The story by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild could have been dull and though it’s more of the same in terms of certain events, i.e the threat of Donny, they utilise on a grander more emotional pull of court justice and humanity. Amongst the often crap humour the trio of writers bring in that weighty theme of civil rights and apply it to a bear, which actually works. It’s an interesting step up to see where else they could have taken Ted and this was probably the best route.

Fight through the bong bombardment and other kindergarten comedy and you will find some humourous moments. The comedy improv scene is brilliant for just being so black in comedy, the cutaway of lipstick wearing Ted calling out for sexual acts reminds of the typical Family Guy style and John failing to cope with Samantha’s dope is damn funny, I don’t know why but Wahlberg sells the scenes as he clings to walls scared to walk home. On the whole, the film has nothing laugh out loud about it and I probably smiled or chuckled less than ten times, but for that audience of teens it will no doubt suffice.

Classier than the rest of the film, MacFarlane clearly jumps on his passion for swing and jazz to give the sequel an opening title of gloss and black tie pizzazz. Ted dances around showgirls and tux wearing gentlemen in a stylish number accompanied by a swelling orchestra. Generally, the film is fantastic for the music, either by Walter Murphy’s score which gives the movie a better sound or excerpts of tracks from songs and movies that play on comedy. The best of which is John William’s ‘Jurassic Park’ theme over the sight of a huge field of weed.

The film can be quite often predictable and apart from a few ideas that spark comedy of cleverness, it’s a dry repeat of what we’ve seen before just with courtroom drama thrown in. Though I may have to say that Liam Neeson wanting to buy cereal is one of the best scenes I’ve watched in a long time and Ted with John shouting law type lingo from the trailer is great. The New York comic con section is also well done in terms of being the big finisher for the plot to prove Ted’s worth.

Mark Wahlberg is a much better comedic actor than his serious stuff, in my opinion. There’s something about him where you can tell he’s having fun and so you do also. Amanda Seyfried is a funky addition, being a great similarity for John’s behaviour, her thread of not knowing popular culture is well delivered and she’s what helps the court scenes have more punch as she seriously speaks about history of justice. Seth MacFarlane voices Ted with the usual profanity and quick wit. Morgan Freeman on a voice you want to sleep on a bed of, does Morgan Freeman as the way to wrap up the film and sound informed.

Moronic and firing offensive jokes left right and centre can get tiring but if you loved or even liked Ted, than this film will be right up your street. It’s got a better story running through it and with a few well structured comedic moments, this 2015 sequel isn’t actually horrendous, I enjoyed it, laughed and would watch it again.

6.5/10