Spotlight, from director Tom McCarthy is a compelling account of how, in 2001, the “Spotlight” team of reporters from the Boston Globe uncovered numerous reports of child abuse by Boston’s Catholic priests, as well as the system-wide cover-up of said abuse by shuttling these clergymen from parish to parish, after a designated period of “sick leave.”
Daniel Craig’s third outing as James Bond, Skyfall, kicks off with a terrific pre-credit action sequence that culminates in a ferocious hand to hand battle on top of a speeding train (is there any other kind) and ends with our hero being taken for dead--I won’t spill the salient details, except to say that the circumstances lead Mr. Bond to feeling a little embittered—and--spoiler alert--reduced to drinking a bottle of Heineken in a wretched room (rest assured, Bond fans, he does not enter a swanky establishment to order one). This opening sequence, paired with a memorable title song from Adelle, and you have one of the best beginnings in the Bond canon.
Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill contribute sterling work in Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, an intelligent, engrossing drama about taking risks and using the odds to succeed--by going against the accepted wisdom.
It’s the end of the 2001 baseball season, and the Oakland Athletics not only lose to the New York Yankees in post-season play, but face the defection of several key players to teams with deeper pockets. General Manager (and former glowing prospect) Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) hires Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) away from the Cleveland Indians because of Beane’s belief in Brand’s radical ideas about assessing players’ true value through their on-base percentage. This puts Beane in conflict with his players, scouts, and most of all, scowling veteran manager Art Howe (Hoffman)— and for a while, it looks as if this strategy will not yield the desired results, until…well, if you’ve seen enough—or any--sports films, you know what kind of turn the film will take—and this movie earns that turn.
Jon Favreau’s entertaining genre hybrid Cowboys and Aliens casts Daniel Craig as an amnesiac fast-drawing westerner (come on, Errol Flynn also rode the Old West) who comes equipped with a mysterious device on his arm. Dang if he doesn’t know where he got it. Harrison Ford is the town boss who’s a bit miffed that his wastrel son (Paul Dano) has been given a very public shellacking by Craig—and has subsequently been arrested for shooting a deputy. Meanwhile, the lovely Olivia Wilde hovers in the background as a very mysterious young woman--and then the aliens come attacking. Craig’s device proves very useful in repelling the attack, but not before the aliens take some very high-profile hostages including Dano and Sheriff Keith Carradine. After all the (somewhat negative) hype, I’m pleased to say the movie plays it fairly straight. The opening scenes convey a dusty flavor and an air of foreboding, while the subsequent melding of genres (complete with Indians and cowboys forging a tentative truce to fight a common enemy—albeit an indestructible enemy with a seemingly impregnable spaceship) provide the opportunity for several exciting, well-staged action sequences.