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Spotlight – compelling portrait of investigative journalism at its finest

By on March 14, 2016
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A sublime start to Ruth Allen’s spring film line-up with “outstanding” double Oscar-winning Spotlight, “delicious” comedy Hail, Caesar! and the “engrossing” documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut.

There is an emotional performance from Richard Gere in Time Out of Mind and superb acting in the “unnerving” and atmospheric psychological horror The Witch. Then some surprises with edge-of-the-seat “nourish” thriller Triple 9 and “wisecracking” adult superhero movie Deadpool.

For the family, Kung Fu Panda 3 offers “superb animation” and loads of laughs and seasonal story The Risen is an involving addition to the Biblical genre of cinema. Last, and definitely least, is London Has Fallen ..

SPOTLIGHT (15)

(Run time: 129 mins, Director: Tom McCarthy, Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci)

Synopsis: The true story of the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Spotlight” team of investigative journalists, who in 2002 shook the city and the world by exposing the Catholic Church’s systematic cover-up of widespread paedophilia perpetrated by more than 70 local priests. www.facebook.com/SpotlightFilmUK

A deserved winner of two 2016 Oscars – Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing, Original Screenplay – this extraordinary true story of how investigative journalists uncovered an abuse scandal and cover-up is directed by Tom McCarthy (The Visitor, 2007; The Station Agent, 2003).

It’s the summer of 2001 and the Boston Globe has a new editor, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), who’s curious to know why abusive Catholic Priests have gone unpunished. So he sets the paper’s investigative Spotlight team onto the story. This is headed by Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) and includes tenacious reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams).

Over six months, they painstakingly piece together the horrifying truth about a systematic cover-up of child sex abuse – a fearless investigation that goes on to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Spotlight has been widely compared to the Oscar-winning classic All the President’s Men (2007) directed by the late great Alan J Pakula. Thomas McCarthy and Josh Singer’s richly detailed, emotionally involving drama boasts outstanding performances from its superb ensemble cast, who paint a compelling portrait of investigative journalism at its finest.

HAIL, CAESAR! (12A)

(Run time: 106 minutes, Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich)

Synopsis Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a hard-nosed film studio fixer, who’s kept busy hushing up scandals during Hollywood’s golden age. Now he faces his biggest challenge to date. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), wooden star of Capitol Pictures’ prestige historical drama Hail Caesar, has been abducted while filming. The kidnappers are a mysterious organisation styling themselves ‘The Future’, who demand a ransom of $100,000. www.hailcaesarmovie.co.uk/

Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen return to the Hollywood territory of Barton Fink for this hilarious, lovingly crafted comedy.

The outstanding cast includes Scarlett Johansson as an Esther Williams-style musical swimming star, Ralph Fiennes as a frustrated English film director, Tilda Swinton as a waspish gossip columnist and Channing Tatum as a young dancing actor. There’s even a role for Expendables star Dolph Lundgren as a Soviet submarine commander!

Deliciously funny with many laugh-out-loud moments it is a joyful spoof of a lost era in Tinseltown’s history.

HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (12A)

(Run time 80 min, Directed by Kent Jones, Written by Kent Jones, Serge Toubiana, starring Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Olivier Assayas, Peter Bogdanovich, Arnaud Desplechin, James Gray, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Richard Linklater, Paul Schrader, and narrator Mathieu Amalric)

Synopsis: The story behind an historic moment in cinema history. Alfred Hitchcock was a master showman, disguising his complex, troubling thrillers as escapist baubles for diversion and entertainment. In 1962, he spent a week being interviewed by François Truffaut, a young French filmmaker who regarded him as a serious artist and trailblazing pioneer in the use of film grammar. This thrilling documentary from Kent Jones (A Letter to Elia, 2010) recalls their encounter and Truffaut’s subsequent book, which influenced generations of filmmakers from Peter Bogdanovich to Martin Scorsese to David Fincher, many of whom appear as interviewees in the film. www.hitchcocktruffaut.co.uk/

This excellent documentary is unmissable for all those who are serious about cinema and familiar with Hitchcock – a totally engrossing watch as an array of famous auteurs discuss the two great film-makers and their influence on cinema. An excellent companion piece to the seminal book.

TIME OUT OF MIND (15)

(Run time: 1h56m, Director Oren Moverman, Cast Richard Gere, Jena Malone, Ben Vereen, Steve Buscemi, Kyra Sedgwick)

Synopsis: Time Out of Mind offers a soulful account of one man’s life on the streets of New York City. George (Richard Gere) spends his days in search of the next meal and a place to rest. Accepted into the largest homeless men’s shelter in Manhattan, he makes a rare human connection with a gregarious former jazz player (Ben Vereen) who encourages him to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Time Out of Mind is an expertly crafted city symphony graced by a poignant performance from Gere.

10 per cent of the film’s profits will be donated to charities Crisis and Centrepoint. www.ifcfilms.com/films/time-out-of-mind

A bold and moving film about homelessness. Richard Gere gives an unforgettable, emotional performance as George – whom we first meet sleeping in a bath in a derelict New York building, from which he is evicted.

We follow him as he tries to survive and eventually reconnect with humanity. Shot in a documentary-style with telephoto lenses by director Oren Moverman (Rampant, 2011; The Messenger, 2009), we know and learn nothing of George’s back-story about how he ended up homeless.

Realistically grim and a perfect depiction of the invisibility and isolation of the homeless in society, this has been a very personal project for humanitarian and philanthropist Gere who has spent 12 years evolving and bringing the film to the screen.

Richard Gere talks about Time Out of Mind at the Glasgow Film Festival premiere 28/2/16 here at www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBKy-ocpWG0

THE WITCH (15)

(Run time: 93mins, Director: Robert Eggers, Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson)

Synopsis: New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest — within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately — animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. www.thewitchmovie.co.uk

After impressing at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, director Robert Eggers’ feature film debut has been hailed as one of the most provocative and intriguing spine-tinglers of recent years, with its potent blend of history and horror that transports audiences back to America’s 17th century a few years before the Salem Witch trials.

This dark, disturbing and haunting chiller is set in the world of America’s Puritan pioneers. God-fearing farmer William (Ralph Ineson – a far cry from ‘Finchy’ in TV’s The Office), his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and their children have been banished from their local plantation due to religious tensions.

Fleeing to a new existence on the edge of a deserted and forbidding forest, they attempt to rebuild their lives from scratch. However, the pious William’s righteousness soon takes a terrifying turn when infant son Samuel disappears, seemingly the victim of a malign paranormal force. Have they brought this menace upon themselves? Or does the threat originate from within the forest itself?

As an unnerving, supernatural and psychological horror, this period chiller is superbly acted, beautifully directed, with stunning colour palettes in cinematography by Jarin Blaschke and atmospheric sound design.

TRIPLE 9 (15)

(Run time: 116 mins, Director: John Hillcoat, Cast: Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Gal Gadot)

Synopsis: In Atlanta a crew of dirty cops is blackmailed by the Russian mob to execute a virtually impossible heist. The only way to succeed is to manufacture a ‘999’ – police code for ‘officer down’. But their plan is upset when the unsuspecting rookie they set up to die foils the attack, triggering a breakneck, action-packed finale filled with double-crosses, greed and revenge. www.facebook.com/Triple9Movie/

From accomplished Australian director John Hillcoat (The Road, 2009; The Proposition, 2005; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Babe I’m on Fire, 2008) comes this breath-taking, dark and gritty heist cop thriller. The always excellent Casey Affleck (The Finest Hours, 2016; Out ofthe Furnace, 2013) stars as idealistic, rookie cop, Chris Allen who is targeted by a group of corrupt policemen in this high octane drama.

The corrupt cops find themselves in serious trouble when the Russian mafia in Atlanta begin blackmailing them. The only way to get them off the cops’ back is to perform a dangerous heist. The corrupt cops work out a plan to execute the robbery with the least amount of police interruption by murdering a rookie officer (which will initiate an “officer down” call), while the rest of the gang pull off the job.

The impressive ensemble includes Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games quartet, 2012-2015; True Detective, TV 2014; Out of the Furnace, 2013), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs, 2015; The Dressmaker, 2015; Titanic, 1997) as a terrifying Russian-Israeli mafia wife/boss, Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 2014) and Gal Gadot (the future Wonder Woman in Batman V Superman, 2016).

An edge-of-the seat noir-ish thriller with unbearably tense moments, and impressive cinematography from Nicolas Karakatsanis (The Drop (2014), Bullhead (2011). Prepare to concentrate however, as the plot twists in this account of an unlikeable bunch are fast and furious.

DEADPOOL (15)

(Run time: 108mins, Director: Tim Miller, Cast:Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Yorick Van Wageningen)

Synopsis: Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, the film tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humour, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life. www.facebook.com/DeadpoolMovieUK/?brand_redir=709487465811929

Ryan Reynolds stars as Marvel’s wisecracking badass superhero in the eighth X-Men movie. He returns to the role he first played in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as mercenary Wade Wilson, who finds himself developing extraordinary regenerative powers after an experimental medical procedure goes wrong. Adopting the alter ego Deadpool, he sets out to hunt down the man responsible.

Director Tim Miller’s Deadpool is a dirty, sexy, funny, violent, wisecracking adult movie which is an innovative addition to the superhero genre.

Refreshingly original with an inventive script, startling opening and subversive ending – Deadpool will gain fans who don’t usually go to superhero films.

KUNG FU PANDA 3 (U) (3D)

(Run time: 95mins; Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni; Voice cast: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Kate Hudson)

Synopsis: When Po’s long-lost panda father suddenly reappears, the reunited duo travels to a secret panda paradise to meet scores of hilarious new panda characters. But when the supernatural villain Kai begins to sweep across China defeating all the kung fu masters, Po must do the impossible—learn to train a village full of his fun-loving, clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu.

Loveably pudgy Po teams up with his dad in the latest kung fu extravaganza. Throughout the hilarious Kung Fu Panda series, we’ve watched the endearingly tubby Po (Jack Black) both discover kung fu and fight to protect its legacy. In Kung Fu Panda 3, Po’s journey is more personal than ever as his long-lost father Li (Bryan Cranston) re-enters his life.

Together, they travel to a secret panda sanctuary where Po is faced with potential new love interest called Mei Mei (Kate Hudson). But when an evil spirit named Kai (J.K. Simmons) starts defeating China’s martial arts masters in order to steal their souls, it’s time for Po to finally accept his destiny and become a kung fu master.

There’s only one thing to do: train his panda brethren to become mighty warriors! With megastar Jack Black again on brilliant form as the wisecracking Po, this could the funniest, most emotional and action-packed Kung Fu Panda movie yet.

With superb animation to equal Po’s Legendary adventures of awesomeness in eye-popping 3D, and with a top notch voice cast, this is a humorous, quality and thought-provoking treat for all ages.

RISEN (12A)

(Run time: 107mins; Director: Kevin Reynolds; Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton, Cliff Curtis, Peter Firth)

Synopsis: The epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumours of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem. www.facebook.com/RisenMovie

Director Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, 1991; Waterworld, 1995; The Count of Monte Cristo, 2002) brings a powerful new perspective on the Biblical story in time for Easter.

With a superb acting ensemble and a convincing script from Kevin Reynolds and Paul Aiello, Risen puts a different angle on the story of Christ from the Crucifixion to the Resurrection, from the viewpoint of the Romans.

Almost a detective story, Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love (1998), Enemy at the Gates (2001) is Clavius a Tribune tasked by Pilate (Peter Firth) to investigate what happened to Jesus. Fiennes is utterly convincing as our Everyman protagonist who is an unbeliever who becomes mesmerised by the charismatic Yeshua (Cliff Curtis).

With atmospheric filming locations in Spain and Malta and stunning cinematography from Lorenzo Senatore, Risen is a well-made and involving addition to the Biblical genre of cinema.

LONDON HAS FALLEN (15)

(Run time: 120mins; Director: Babak Najafi, Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Charlotte Riley)

Synopsis: In London for the Prime Minister’s funeral, Mike Banning discovers a plot to assassinate all the attending world leaders. www.lgukpublicity.co.uk/uk/index.php/upcomingreleases/106-london-has-fallen

In Olympus Has Fallen (2013) director Antoine Fuquia had the Secret Service Agent and Presidential guard Branning (Gerard Butler) trapped in the White House during a terrorist attack from which he rescues the President. This time, London Has Fallen is directed by former Iranian refugee Babak Najafi (Easy Money 11: Hard to Kill, 2013).

Paisley’s finest (Gerard Butler) is back as Branning, awaiting the birth of his child, while – following the mysterious death of the British Prime Minister – heads of state gather in London for the funeral. This is all part of a plan by terrorists to take out world leaders. But they reckon without the US president (Aaron Eckhart), Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) and a very determined MI6 agent (Charlotte Riley)

This is a risible film with the premise that Branning and the American President save UK democracy during this massive terrorist attack, where the police and security forces are totally compromised. However the worst thing – apart from the xenophobia and Islamophobia – is the rotten, unconvincing CGI and ‘special effects’ as famous London landmarks are wiped out.

A very disappointing venture, which makes for fond memories of any of the Die Hard films.

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