The lesson being thrown out in today’s list of reviewed movies are variations on a theme; that theme being that everyone has a past with issues that must be confronted if they are ever to be resolved and/or healed. Even the family fare film gives us that touch of morale without being preachy, and that is nice. Today though, I want to start with one of my top two possible picks for Best Picture at this month’s Oscars.
Growing up in a staunchly conservative, strict Judeo-Christian household was such a mind trip that so many people encounter, but as it is the only reality we know at a young age, we take it for granted that it might be a tad faulty and rife with human frailties, to say the least. I was raised with a viewpoint that the (Roman Catholic) Church was a bit of a sect-like affair that could not be trusted, and yet I was also told that I had to respect the Pope. Again, the di(tri)chotomy of organised religion. As I watched Spotlight, the first major, big-screen telling of the Boston Globe’s uncovering of the long-running, paedophilia scandal within the church, it was impossible not to feel a pang of hurt and empathy for these poor (mostly male) victims of abuse at an ageing institution that simply will not allow its ruling members the right to basic, human normality in reference to relationships and sex. And yet, we have all known about this for bloody yeeeeears before the Globe published their report. Frankly, all of the members of that staff who brought this to light deserve praise and recognition for their work and it would behove any of us to simply and entertainingly get some facts about just how deep this story went and how it was brought to light, not even a decade and a half ago. When the credits roll out with a listing of just a few of the major cities that have paid hush/pardon money to these victims, it takes more surliness than I could muster not to shed a tear. The performances in an ensemble sense are superb, and as the team just deservedly won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Performance this past weekend, you can expect some stiff competition from the film come Oscar night. Specifically, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams are outstanding in their performances as the unmaskers of the scandal, and this film is certainly in the running to be the film of the season. Necessary, stunning and practically perfect. ####-1/2
I don’t know why I have always admired Sly Stallone, but as my growing up coincided with many of his films (Rocky, Rambo, The Expendables), he seemed to be the recurring uncle who popped up sometime when you least expected him to. I remember being a pre-teen and even liking Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot…we shan’t speak of that, but his mum WAS a Golden Girl. The latest in the Rocky films, number seven in the series, is a bit of a spin-off and a continuum in the saga. Titled Creed, it actually takes up the story where Apollo Creed’s offspring (through a fling) comes into play, some decades after Apollo’s death in the ring in Rocky IV. Donnie Johnson Creed is played by Michael B. Jordan, fresh from director Ryan Coogler’s last effort with him, 2013’s Fruitvale Station, just before his underwhelming role in that last, wasted Fantastic Four film last summer. Jordan has the easy ability to draw you into his character stupendously, and the way he portrays Donnie gives credence to the fact that he is an actor to watch, piercing eyes and soulful appeal play well with almost any role he undertakes. After a rough and tumble start to his life, little Donnie is adopted by his deceased father’s widow and turns out to be a class A fellow, who has the most profound ambition to be a professional boxer, and he makes it happen, even getting himself to Philly from L.A. and into the knowing, training hands of the Italian Stallion. And this is when life and the writers take the story on its emotional journey. Those who choose to go on the journey will be rewarded with one of the more heartfelt films in the saga, and the manner in which director Coogler has gone on to imbue new life in the franchise bodes well for fans of the series. What I found most rewarding though was the fragile yet gentle, brooding acting by Stallone. With him still seemingly able to make his move around H’wood and get accolades for it to boot, don’t be surprised if Rocky VIII is a few years down the road. ####
Oh Jack Black. He is most definitely a favourite of mine when it comes to oddball, comedic acting. You can always count on him to bring in a certain amount of insanity into his roles. With this latest offering, Black plays the actual R.L. Stine—best-selling author R.L. Stine, one of the best-selling authors of all time! In fact, with more than 400 million copies sold, he is one of the richest men in the entertainment world and certainly in the publishing world. The guy has sold more books than Stephen freakin’ King, one of my personal heroes. I also love how Scholastic Books actually helped produce the film. Oh, those damn book clubs can do anything, just like Levar Burton told us on Reading Rainbow. Anyhow, the film, Goosebumps, follows Dylan Minnette and his mum Gale as they move from NYC to provincial suburban Delaware, and once there, young Dylan finds that his neighbours are strange (the dad, who is Black’s character) and fine (daughter Hannah played simply by Odeya Rush). This brings intrigue for the teen but results in a comedic, horror ride into the world of Stine’s books. When a scare forces Dylan to break into the Stine home, he, a friend and Hannah discover a plethora of her dad’s Goosebumps books under lock and key. Accidentally opening them creates the allowance of a new world brought on by the frightening images in Stine’s mind. Fusing Stine’s actual works with comedic timing and thrills makes this film not only a fine family film but an entertaining adventure film in its own right. The ending makes things a tad weepy and formulaic which is to be expected from Hollywood, but fun to be had by all nonetheless! ###
I recently read that after the #OscarsSoWhite drama, which broke out after the nominations were announced, Chris Rock has since scrapped and revamped his entire material for this month’s Oscars ceremony. Things are going down and right now is a great time to take advantage of cinema love before the month’s end! Go take yourself out for some truthiness and have a great week, all!