This one has Oscar written all over it. It features a fabulous ensemble cast in a compelling docudrama based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation that still reverberates. Spotlight is the name of an investigative reporting unit at the Boston Globe that exposed the Boston Archdiocese pedophilia cover-up in 2001. The film begins as the team is sniffing around for their next story, which can frequently take them some time. But when the paper brings in a new editor-in-chief (Liev Schreiber), rather than letting them choose their own, he hands them an assignment that would become a bomb-shell in a city with deep Catholic roots. What begins as a cursory look at an old story of a single pedophile priest grows larger and reaches higher, and the team does what the best of journalism does, they follow their leads no matter what. And it is devastating.

Straight Outta Compton

I really liked this film, even though I’m not normally a fan of hip hop, because it has a great story and great characters and, I have to admit, some great music. It’s a bio-drama about a group of friends in one of Los Angeles’s rougher neighborhoods who got together in the mid-80s and used hip hop to describe their lives and spread their truth and were blown away by the incredible reception to their message. They became huge stars and changed the music industry. And all these years later, the racism and discrimination they were reacting to in their music feels just as relevant.

The 33

Hard to believe it’s already been – and only been – five years since the internationally-televised live dramatic rescue of 33 miners outside Copiapó, Chile. It’s a story that was ready-made for Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood jumped on having it made into a major motion picture (starring Antonio Banderas as the miners’ de facto leader, super ‘Mario’). The problem is, The 33 doesn’t quite rise to the level of major motion picture, despite the very real and captivating narrative and characters in play. It’s ultimately a feel-good, but fleeting account of what was happening above ground, and below, after a massive explosion at a 100-year-old gold and copper mine left 33 men trapped 20,000 feet below the surface. The ordeal lasted for 69 days. And rescue was never a sure thing.

Love & Mercy

I will admit right up front that I was never a fan of The Beach Boys. So I put this film off and that was a mistake. While Brian Wilson may be the central character, Love & Mercy is much more than the story of a famous boy band. It’s a sweet redemptive love story wrapped in a harrowing tale of mental illness. It stars John Cusack and Paul Dano as Wilson at different key periods in his life. And both of them deserve high praise for their portrayals of the creative genius with enormous problems. Not being a fan of the music, I was surprised by how beautifully it was put together and ultimately how much I liked this film.


Spectre is classic Bond. It’s got all the stuff you’ve come to expect from a 007 movie: the babes, the bad guys, the gadgets, the cool cars, the exotic locales, the fist fights, the gun fights and things that go boom, and of course, the martinis – shaken, not stirred. There’s a certain comfort in the familiarity, but also a bit of boredom in what’s come to be a ‘standard’ two-and-a-half-hour running time.

Woman In Gold

As the year comes to a close, I’m catching up on some of the films that slipped through the cracks. Woman in Gold tells the true story of Maria Altmann who escaped the Nazis in Vienna and settled in California and her attempts many decades later to reclaim a painting that belonged to her family. It was not just any painting but the extremely famous Gustav Klimt portrait of her Aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, which the Austrian government claimed to have a legal claim to. Maria, played by the always watchable Helen Mirren, is aided in her quest by a friend’s lawyer son, Randol Schoenberg (grandson of the famous Austrian composer) played by Ryan Reynolds. The film is part legal drama and part lost family mémoire with a bit of odd couple road flick thrown in. Sadly, it is a fascinating story that doesn’t ever quite click.

Bridge of Spies

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks. (Re)written by the Coen Brothers. Start polishing the Oscars. Based on a true Cold War international incident, Bridge of Spies feels like an old-fashioned espionage flick, only the twist is that the central character is anything but a spy. He’s an insurance industry lawyer who’s roped into defending a Russian spy and then into negotiating a swap of said spy for an American pilot shot down while spying on the Soviets. It is a fascinating story, extremely well told, and the perfect film to take your parents to.

Two-fer review: Burnt and Our Brand Is Crisis

Burnt is a foodie flick. Brand is a political flick. Burnt stars the eminently watchable Bradley Cooper as a brilliant but temperamental chef struggling to make a comeback after battling addictions to women, drugs, and booze. Brand stars the eminently watchable Sandra Bullock as a brilliant political strategist struggling to make a comeback after some sort of mental breakdown and crisis of conscience. Neither movie is Oscar-worthy, despite having star-studded casts and interesting premises. But both are decent. If I had to pick one over the other, I’d go with Burnt. It’s definitely the more engaging and entertaining of the two… and watching Cooper speak French over a hot stove in London is just way cooler than watching Bullock attempting to speak Spanish to volunteers and voters in Bolivia.


I was ambivalent about entering Room, but I’m really glad I did. It’s a compelling drama with two stellar lead performances from Brie Larson and child actor Jacob Tremblay who should at least be considered for an Oscar nomination. The film opens with Tremblay’s character Jack celebrating his fifth birthday in “room”, a small enclosure that he and his Ma (Larson) have lived in his entire life. He knows nothing of the outside world beyond what he sees in a rectangular skylight way out of reach, and on a television that gets very poor reception. The sparse furnishings are his ‘friends’, and he and Ma keep themselves occupied during the day with books, games, and a hefty dose of imagination. It’s a solitary existence interrupted only by the nighttime visits by ‘Old Nick’ (Sean Bridgers) a creepy guy who apparently abducted Ma for use as his personal sex slave.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Looking for a strange but entertaining little flick? This is the ticket! It made the rounds at festivals last year to great acclaim, and it is currently streaming on all your favorite sites. And now the filmmakers are hoping for a bit of love during this year’s awards season. It is just odd enough to get some attention, too. There isn’t anything remotely like it. Based on an urban legend, it tells the story of a Japanese woman who believes the film Fargo is a documentary and sets out to find the briefcase full of money that Steve Buscemi’s character buried in the snow.