Monday, December 7, 2015

5 Reviews: The 33, Creed, Spotlight, Mockingjay Part 2, Brooklyn

Watching movies with Movie Pass has been a revelation.  I've been able to see more movies for cheaper than before as I try to cram as much as I can during Awards/Holiday season.  The downside is I'm not able to keep up with my reviews.  In an effort to get back on track I'm writing some quick-fire mini reviews of the last 5 movies I've seen.  One of the 5 was the best movie I've seen all year and another brings a dying boxing franchise back to life.

The 33

This is the on-screen depiction of the real-life story of 33 Chilean miners who are trapped for months in a caved-in mine in Chile.  Antonio Banderas and Lou Diamond Phillips lead a patchwork cast that feature a lot of overacting from the supporting characters.  The miners themselves are believable and the story is pretty intense at times but the scenes of the loved ones gathering and praying for safe passage for the miners just seems forced and a lot of the emotion does not seem genuine.  I didn't really enjoy this movie that much and while the story is a worthwhile one, it definitely is not a must see film.  Skip this and wait for cable. 2.5 JR rating.


Creed is the 7th film in the Rocky franchise and focuses on Adonis Creed the illegitimate son of Appolo Creed (Rocky's main adversary and friend in the first four films).  The younger Creed (portrayed brilliantly by Friday Night Light's Michael B. Jordan) looks to Rocky himself (Sylvester Stallone reprising his role for the 7th time) to be a mentor and trainer.  Directed by Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler (another collaboration between him and Jordan), this film is intense, inspiring and an absolute joy to watch.  The boxing sequences are often done in one take with a spinning in-ring camera that brings the audience directly into the action.  Jordan is believable and (more-importantly) very likable as Creed.  His chemistry with Stallone comes off naturally and enables Stallone himself to give one of the best performances of his career.  Don't be surprised to see Sly walking the red carpet next year as a Best Supporting Actor nominee. Let's hope the young, dynamic Coogler decides to extend this franchise further.  4.5 JRs for one of the best films of the year thur-far.


A movie that focuses on a Boston Globe journalistic investigation into pedophile accustations within the Catholic church system that is almost 100% dialogue doesn't sound like the kind of film I usually get behind, but in the case of Tom McCarthy's amazing Spotlight, when the screenplay is so well done and the acting is on such a high level, you can't help but get engrossed in what's happening on-screen.  The all-star cast of Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and relative unknown (but outstanding) Brian d'Arcy James play various employees of the Boston Globe who under the title of Spotlight run a deep investigative piece that uncovers the Catholic priest scandal of the early 2000's.

I was totally engrossed in this film from start to finish.  McCarthy is able to make the idea of investigative journalism seem thrilling and the pacing throughout the film is absolutely perfect.  Lines of dialogue replace bullets and car chases and the tension has rarely been higher.  It's a sick sadistic underworld within the Catholic church that gets highlighted in this movie and you end up feeling for the victims and rooting for the journalists involved to shine a light where some people don't want it shined.

Much like All the President's Men, this is a showcase for journalism done right.  As a holder of a degree in Newspaper Journalism myself, I held a special interest in what was going on in this film. Watching the group build leads and uncover the various layers of the overall investigation, you feel as if you're on the team yourself and you get caught up with the passion these professionals have to reveal the truth to the public.  This movie benefits from the era in which the film is set.  Cellphones and the internet are not omnipresent as they are now and there is a lot of grass roots investigation that is done in libraries and public offices across the city.

Everyone is great in the movie but Ruffalo in particular is the heart of the narrative and will hopefully get recognized by the Academy come Oscar time.  With 5 out of 5 JRs this is the best movie I've seen in 2015 so far and it looks like it's about to collect a lot of Oscar gold and recognition over the next few months.  You need to see this film as soon as possible and while the subject matter is extremely tough to digest, you'll enjoy the investigative thrill-ride and the showcase of the (dying) power of print journalism.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

This trilogy has totally gone downhill with each subsequent movie since the brilliant Hunger Games original film.  Thankfully we get a slight uptick with Part 2 of Mockingjay that is a little more interesting than the totally droll Part 1.  Jennifer Lawrence is solid as always as Katniss Everdeen and we get to see the action slowly center on the Capital and the end-game for President Snow (the ever creepy Donald Sutherland).  The effects are believable and the action is done well at times but this film is already in the hole thanks to Part 1.  I really do think that some content could have been trimmed out of both parts of this final story and we could have seen a long but thrilling single Mockingjay film.  As with the final book of Harry Potter, the first film took a lot of the momentum out of the entire series of films.  A lukewarm 3 JRs for a franchise that I found myself not caring about anymore.  I'm personally hoping that directors stop this trend of breaking single film stories into multiple chopped-up movies (I'm also looking at you, Peter Jackson!).


This film tells the pleasant story of a young Irish girl who decides to discover the world in traveling to America for a job.  In the process, she meets a young Italian boy and the ensuing love story is balanced with her need to re-visit her family back in Ireland.  Atonement's Saoirse Ronan plays Ellis (pronounced Elise) and gives us a career performance in the process. Director John Crowley does a wonderful job of using Ronan's talents and depicting a genuine feeling of homesickness on-screen.  When Ellis finds herself nearly alone in a new country, you can feel the ache of missing her family at home that she is experiencing.  This film is well shot and well acted and tells a great story of finding one's home and balancing love and career aspirations. This really isn't my type of movie though and I was a little bored at times.  That being said, I'm sure a lot of you (especially those older than me) will get more out of the movie and I definitely recommend it to most everyone.  A solid 4 JRs for what should be a shoe-in Lead Actress nomination for Ronin.

That's all for now, hopefully I can start writing longer reviews as some key upcoming movies are released.  (Star Wars, The Revenant, etc...)

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