Sunday, December 6, 2015

Catching Up!

I've got several items to bring to your attention in this post - as well as another separate one on Spike Lee's Chi-Raq, but this is already going to get long, so look for that one early this week.

First, Jennifer Lawrence wrapped up her run as Katniss Everdeen with the release of Mockingjay, Part 2. There's not much to say about this one - if you liked the others, you'll like seeing the ending. If you haven't seen the others, this is not the place to jump in! Donald Sutherland's performance as President Snow is well worth singling out, especially for a scene toward the end where he lays out some hard truths to Katniss who, in many ways, is still a pawn, just for another side. She's got choices to make and none of them are easy ones. The world of The Hunger Games is a dystopia and those never fix themselves just because people want them to. Keep an eye on Julianne Moore's Alma Coin - she and Snow aren't as different as we'd like to think they are. (Two sides of the same Coin? Hmm.)

Next, Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan (trying desperately to make people forget the reeking mess that was Fantastic 4) hand the Rocky Balboa tale off to a new generation with Creed, which is the 7th (seventh!) film in the Rocky franchise. I was amazed at how solid a movie this was. I must admit a certain guilty pleasure in some of the less-likely of the Rocky movies (I'm looking at you, Clubber Lang! Oh, and Ivan Drago! You Soviet machine!), but underneath the bluster was a thoroughly American tale of the underdog who won't be counted out. Creed is a solid picture, with much to say about legacies, hard work, and (interestingly) disability. A good film and definitely a feel-good one.

Netflix has released the first season of Marvel's Jessica Jones and, while I don't recommend it for anyone who thought Daredevil was too dark (there are spots in Jessica that make DD look like a Sunday-school picnic), it is astonishingly good. They went full-out film noir here, with Jessica as the hard-boiled, world-weary, hard-drinking private eye who's seen too much of this world to feel much of anything for it, but still has that tiny spark in her that want to do right in the world. Krysten Ritter (Jane from Breaking Bad) carries off the role with aplomb and David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor in Doctor Who) is frightening as Kilgrave, who has powers of mind control and no conscience. To him, people are furniture and he likes to decorate. The entire season can be easily read as an extended rape/consent analogy - in sometimes quite a literal way. For every woman who's ever been told to "smile, baby" while going about her business during the day, Jessica Jones will make you shudder and want to take a shower. The supporting cast is also strong and some seeds have been planted that will certainly come to flower in the next few Marvel projects.

Last for this catch-up post is the new release Spotlight, which tells the story of the Boston Globe's dogged investigative reporting to break the scandalous story of sexual abuse by priests and the shuffling around of pedophile priests by the Catholic hierarchy. It's a difficult film to watch in places, especially as the film progresses and you are faced with hard, cold evidence that higher-ups knew (not suspected, KNEW) that they were placing children in danger, yet continued business as usual. It's a quiet movie; one that's content to let solid performances work without being flashy. Michael Keaton, for my money, is better in this that in the over-praised Birdman and Liev Schreiber handles the role of outsider-in-Boston who has the responsibility of running with a story many would prefer to keep buried. But the standout may well be Stanley Tucci, whose role as a crusading lawyer who is patiently building an airtight case is in sharp contrast to his Hunger Games role as the brash TV host Caesar Flickerman. (How's that for bringing this post full circle?) You might have to drive a bit to find Spotlight and yes, the subject matter is upsetting, but the film never lapses into the lurid. This is a film about the power of an independent press and - in an age when too many of us get our news fast, furious, and often not fact-checked in the rush to be first - it's a reminder that accuracy takes time.

1 comment:

Being Now said...

How do you manage to review three films in a single post? I couldn't do it. Kudos! Well done.