The holiday movie season is well underway and this weekend may see the biggest opening weekend ever as Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes to the theaters. Before that blockbuster hits, here is our 4-movie scoreboard, a list of films that we have seen recently along with our recommendations and comments.
We probably would have seen more—like Suffragette and Room—but we were away and are just catching up. Those two movies, and others, have been pushed out of the theaters already to make room for such cinematic gold as Krampus and The Night Before (sarcasm alert).
Drama for Grownups
Spotlight: This dramatic story of how the Boston Globe’s investigative Spotlight team broke the story of widespread sexual abuse by priests — and the Catholic Church’s coverup — is on the “Top 10” lists of multiple film critics, including two of the New York Times’s critics. In addition, it has racked up three Golden Globe nominations (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay), a Critic’s Choice Award nomination for Best Picture, and two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations (Best Ensemble, Best Supporting Actress—Rachel McAdams). It is sure to make the Oscars as well.
And with good reason. It’s an excellent movie with a superb cast that’s well directed and well edited. Masanobu Takayanagi’s cinematography adds both beauty and drama. It’s amazing how Director Tom McCarthy wrings edge-of-the-seat drama out of reporters doing their jobs to arrive at a conclusion we already know. As A.O. Scott says in @NYT:
“In addition to mustering righteous anger, Mr. McCarthy and Mr. McKay, in very different ways, managed to infuse the routines of modern work (answering phones, typing on keyboards, scrutinizing spreadsheets) with suspense, emotion and moral gravity.”
That’s quite an accomplishment. Also the movie explains why newspapers need to exist. Only a group with the resources, the time and the dedication of the Spotlight team could have accomplished the feat of sorting through all this detail, connecting the dots, and creating the story that would bring down a Cardinal of the Church and awaken the world to a a global outrage.
It you enjoy real, gripping human drama minus the green-screen special effects, stuntmen, and thunderous score, you will like @SpotlightMovie. Do not miss this movie.
Gross: $20,302,802 after 6 weeks
Bridge of Spies: Here’s another story of how an ordinary man—an insurance lawyer, for goodness sake, is tapped to conduct one of the most sensitive negotiations in the Cold War. Although he felt unqualified, unprepared and unworthy, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) conquered his fears to do the job his government asked of him. And he did it well.
Those of us who remember Francis Gary Powers, Rudolf Abel and the U2 crash will find @BridgeofSpies especially gripping as we had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.
The audience empathizes with Mr. Donovan because he’s not a superhero or a man of action. His big guns are his intellect and his ability to read other people. When he goes about arranging for the release of not one man, but two, we get a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a master negotiator who never thinks of himself as beyond the ordinary. Like Spotlight, this is a movie worth seeing.
Gross: $67,563,007 after 7 weeks.
Action / Adventure
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2: If you have been watching this franchise, you will see this movie to wrap things up. If you haven’t been watching this franchise, you won’t see it because you wouldn’t know what was going on, anyway. We saw all @TheHungerGames movies including this one. We liked it. The series ender is well-done and satisfying. Katniss Everdeen continues to be a young woman who resists being made into a hero and instead sets about doing things her way—even when there is a price to pay for being headstrong.
Gross: $244,490,956 after 4 weeks
Spectre: You’re a James Bond fan or you’re not. We’ve seen them all and most of the Sean Connery movies multiple times. I never liked Roger Moore in the role and I think all of these should be re-done without the slapstick humor. I do like Daniel Craig more than my husband does but we thought Spectre was a good movie. Forget the “meh” reviews and go see @Bond24movie. You’ll have a good time
Gross: $190,767,660 after 6 weeks
Update on The Martian:
When I wrote about The Martian I was equally enthusiastic about the book by Andy Weir and the movie starring Matt Damon. Now @MartianMovie is beginning to collect well-earned award nominations. It has received eight Critic’s Choice award nominations including Best Picture and is on Best Films of 2015 lists everywhere.
For some unknown reason the Golden Globes nominated it in the “Best Picture—Musical or Comedy” category. Ditto for Matt Damon as Mark Watney. Wait. What? Who made that decision?
Sure, Mark Watney has a dry sense of humor, which he employs to defuse the terror of surviving as the only man on Mars. Sure, he says that survival means that he will have to “Science the shit” of his situation. But that doesn’t make The Martian a comedy any more than James Bond’s snide comments make any Bond movie a comedy.
Still, living well is the best revenge and The Martian has “legs” in Hollywood parlance. That means it’s still doing well enough to enjoy a long run in the theaters. If you haven’t seen it yet, get thee to the Cineplex.
Gross: $218,536,914 after 9 weeks