Film Review by Kam Williams
Journalistic Drama Revisits Protection of Pedophile Priests by Boston Archdiocese
The Catholic Church has a very checkered past regarding its handling of the rampant molestation of children by the clergy. And Pope Francis recently tarnished that image further by issuing a plenary pardon to any pedophile priests willing to confess their sins.
This means the Church is likely to remain a safe haven for its protected perverts. Meanwhile, their traumatized victims continue to be frustrated in their quest for compensation or just to expose the identities of their abusers. That's because the Church hierarchy has routinely opted to enforce a white collar of silence whereby serial rapists in its ranks are merely reassigned to a different parish rather than defrocked and reported to the authorities.
Directed by Oscar-nominee Tom McCarthy (for Up), Spotlight focuses on one of those rare occasions where the truth did manage to come to light. In that instance, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), the editor of the Boston Globe, was willing to look into the widespread rumors of a Catholic cover-up of molestation stretching back decades. . After all, as a Jew who was new to town, he wasn't as awed as the locals by the powerful Boston Archdiocese being run with an iron fist by Cardinal Bernard Francis Law (Len Cariou).
So, the intrepid editor gave his approval to a quartet of reporters interested in launching a deeper investigation. Code-named "Spotlight," the crack team comprised of Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James) researched the story for several years.
On January 6, 2002, they finally began publishing their findings in a series of damning articles that exposed Cardinal Law as an enabler offering protection for cronies he knew to be guilty as sin. For, the inquiry had unearthed mountains of evidence that the archdiocese was not only aware of about a hundred kids who'd been assaulted by numerous different men of the cloth.
But Church attorneys had repeatedly run interference for the perpetrators by settling claims out of court while simultaneously swearing the plaintiffs to secrecy via non-disclosure agreements. Consequently, the repeat offenders were free to move around from parish-to-parish, destroying additional youngsters' lives in the process.
Overall, Spotlight amounts to a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church as little more than a meat market racket masquerading as a religious institution. Though not exactly a date night or a feel-good flick, the film nevertheless comes highly recommended for a few reasons.
First, it relates an important reminder about the salutary value of investigative reporting in a Digital Age when Google search engine optimization would assign a higher page ranking to a picture of a cute cat than to a story of such social relevance.. Second, the compelling
screenplay unfolds in gripping fashion and without resort to rehashing salacious details in a manner bordering on re-victimization. And third, the A-list cast turns in a plethora of dynamic performances, most notably Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci.
An iconoclastic drama that makes a convincing argument in support of the incendiary axiom, "The closer to Church, the further from God."
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexual references and mature themes
Running time: 128 minutes
Distributor: Open Road Films
To see a trailer for Spotlight, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zg5zSVxx9JM
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Friday, October 30, 2015
Posted by Kam at 3:40 PM
by Kam Williams
Animated Adventure Revolving Around Child's Emotions Arrives on DVD
Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) was understandably unhappy when she learned from her mother (Diane Lane) and father (Kyle MacLachlan) that the family was relocating from Minnesota to San Francisco. After all, she'd be leaving behind her home, her hockey team and all her BFFs.
So, it's no surprise that the uprooted 11 year-old might be very lonely after moving to the Bay Area. And, unfortunately, that solitary condition leads to an inordinate amount of introspection as she attempts to sort out her emotions, literally and figuratively.
For, her feelings aren't merely metaphysical experiences but five actual little figurines living inside her brain. This anthropomorphic quintet, composed of Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), are constantly contending for control of rattled Riley's moods as she navigates her way around a new house, city and school.
That struggle is the subject of Inside Out, the best animated offering from the talented team at Pixar since the equally-affective balloon adventure Up (2009). Don't allow the the awkward-sounding premise revolving around a melancholy kid who's a bit of a head case turn you off, as the material is handled delicately enough to be appropriate for a child of any age.
A touching tale illustrating how a dramatic life change might, temporarily at least, exact a terrible toll on a frail human psyche.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for action and mature themes
Running time: 94 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
To see a trailer for Inside Out, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZLOYXKmIkw
Posted by Kam at 11:29 AM
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Best of Enemies
by Kam Williams
DVD Features Historic Vidal-Buckley Debates
Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. were among the most brilliant and articulate minds of their generation. The pair were also polar opposites, politically, which made the idea of hiring them to appear in a series of televised debates an absolute stroke of genius.
This was the brainchild of ABC-TV back in 1968, at a time when the network's news department lagged far behind both CBS and NBC in the ratings. The plan was to have the liberal Vidal and conservative Buckley square-off during its coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions being staged that summer in Chicago and Miami Beach, respectively.
Arranging the showdown proved to be easier said than done, since the men not only hated each other politically, but personally as well. After all, Buckley saw himself as the defender of old-fashioned values and the status quo in the face of the Sixties' counter-cultural revolution demanding equal rights for blacks, gays, women and other oppressed groups.
As expected, sparks flew during the spirited tete-a-tetes marked as much by effete Buckley's arcane syntax as by firebrand Vidal iconoclastic comments. However, because neither participant wanted to lose, what began as sophisticated intellectual analysis eventually degenerated into an exchange of insults.
When Vidal referred to Buckley as a “crypto-Nazi,” he lost his composure and called his opponent a “queer.” A defamation lawsuit and counter-suit ensued, and the litigation would drag on for years.
Co-directed by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, Best of Enemies is a fascinating documentary which revisits a seminal moment in the history of TV. For, the explosive Vidal-Buckley arguments over hot-button topics ranging from religion to sexuality served to usher in a new era in terms of discourse over the airwaves.
Besides archival footage of the debates, the conventions and anti-war demonstrations raging right outside, the film features commentary by luminaries like Frank Rich, John McWhorter and the late Christopher Hitchens. A must-see account of the birth of passionate, television punditry.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for sexuality, nudity and profanity
Running time: 89 minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Interview with directors Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville; over one hour of bonus interviews with commentators; and the theatrical trailer.
To see a trailer for Best of Enemies, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzgfQvB2dvA
Posted by Kam at 5:44 PM
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
DVD Review by Kam Williams
Revival of Irreverent Road Trip Franchise Released on Home Video
National Lampoon's Vacation is an enduring film franchise launched back in 1978 by the late John Hughes, the brains behind such Chicago-centric screen classics as Ferris Bueller's Day Off; Trains, Planes & Automobiles; Home Alone; Uncle Buck; and Baby's Day Out, to name a few. The original Vacation adventure featured the Griswold family's very eventful road trip from the Windy City to L.A.
This nostalgic seventh installment not only resurrects Walley World amusement park as its destination point, but has Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo reprising their iconic roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold, respectively. However, they couple's been reduced to a cameo appearance in favor of a plot revolving around their son Rusty's (Ed Helms) nuclear family.
At the point of departure, we find Rusty sorely in need of a break from the rat race as an overworked pilot for a budget airline carrier. He plans to both spice up his stale marriage and spend some quality time with his sons during the drive across the country. Of course, the highway gods have other ideas in mind, as the perils laying in wait range from robbery to raw sewage.
My biggest problem with this relatively-salacious episode rests in its obsession with sexuality, and often in offensive fashion. For example, when younger son Kevin (Steele Stebbins) asks, “Dad, what's a pedophile?” he is inappropriately informed that “It's when a man and a boy love each other very much.” It doesn't help that the kid subsequently encounters a “glory hole” in a rest stop bathroom ostensibly cruised by gay men.
There is also a homophobic tone cast over the entire picture, coming courtesy of Kevin's relentless bullying of his effeminate big brother, James (Skyler Gisondo). The mean-spirited mistreatment includes teasing his sibling about having a vagina and choking him with a plastic bag. Even the boy's father piles on periodically, like when he suggests that Kevin scratches like a girl when he fights instead of punching. Rusty's wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) isn't much of a role model either, between over-imbibing in a “Chug Run” during a pit stop and 'fessing up about having developed a bad reputation in college for showing her breasts to anybody who asked.
From full-frontal male nudity to an F-word laced theme song, Vacation is a cringe-inducing disappointment that bears little resemblance to the original it so desperately endeavors to pay homage to.
Fair (1 star)
Rated R for brief male frontal nudity, sexuality, crude humor, mature themes and pervasive profanity
Running time: 99 minutes
Posted by Kam at 4:10 PM
BIG BUDGET FILMS
Posted by Kam at 12:39 AM
Monday, October 26, 2015
Posted by Kam at 5:45 PM
Sunday, October 25, 2015
Our Brand Is Crisis
Film Review by Kam Williams
American Media Consultants Manipulate Bolivian Political Campaign in Dirty Tricks Dramedy
In 2002, Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada, a candidate for the presidency of Bolivia, found himself floundering in the polls with just a few months to go to election day. Since the desperate multimillionaire had been raised in the United States, he was well aware of how a political consulting firm was capable of influencing the outcome of an election.
So, he retained the services of James Carville, who had successfully orchestrated Bill Clinton's presidential bid in 1992. And soon, the flamboyant spin doctor descended upon Bolivia with a team of seasoned, media-savvy strategists.
Still, repositioning Goni would be no mean feat, given the fact that he was an unpopular ex-president who'd already been exposed as a pro-American, pro-globalization puppet controlled by powerful corporate interests. Carville and company's only hope rested in employing smear tactics against the two favorites in the race, one, a socialist, the other, a centrist.
Ultimately, the carpetbaggers did prevail, and that incredible feat was chronicled by Our Brand Is Crisis (2005), a dispiriting documentary illustrating just how easy it is for money to corrupt the democratic process with the help of operatives parachuted in from Madison Avenue. The picture also questioned the wisdom of fixing foreign elections in this fashion, since very bloody, civil unrest subsequently arose in Bolivia, anyway, which forced Goni to flee the country for asylum in the U.S. a year into his administration.
Directed by David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express), Our Brand Is Crisis 2.0 serves up a relatively-sanitized version of the aforementioned events. Names have been changed and characters have been conflated and added to make the Yankee intervention appear almost benign.
Here, courtesy of revisionist history, the socialist (Louis Arcella) and capitalist (Joaquim de Almeida) candidates both rely on assistance from American PR firms led by Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), respectively. The entertaining adventure pits a flirtatious and crafty mercenary versus an idealistic, ex-alcoholic in search of redemption in an escalating battle of wits marked by deception and dirty tricks.
Instead of making a pure political thriller, director Green has opted to undercut the tension with moments of levity and sexual innuendo. The upshot is that the movie works very well as formulaic Hollywood fare, so long as you don't enter the theater anticipating an experience as sophisticated as the thought-provoking documentary which inspired it.
A light-hearted primer in how to mount a smear campaign and thereby manipulate a banana republic to vote against its own self-interest.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity and sexual references
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 108 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
Posted by Kam at 3:12 PM
Saturday, October 24, 2015
Posted by Kam at 4:17 PM