Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
Forgot your password?
Don't have an account? Sign up here
and the Terms and Policies,
and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.
Already have an account? Log in here
Please enter your email address and we will email you a new password.
No user info supplied.
Some remakes attempt to distinguish themselves by taking a familiar premise in an entirely different direction. Others try to remain faithful to the original and distinguish themselves through acting or effects. 12 Angry Men (1997), is an example of the latter. This modernization of one of the classic legal dramas hits all the major plot beats of the original. The "modernization" part comes in largely through the addition of four black jurors to the twelve men in the jury room (and I do mean men - all the jurors are male, possibly due to a literal reading of the title). One of these jurors, Juror 10, is a former Nation of Islam member with a hatred of Hispanics, but he serves a similar function to the bigoted white guy he replaces. There is also a brief discussion of the relevance of psychiatric testimony, not present in the original, which does not drastically alter the outcome of the deliberations. These changes don't substantially distinguish the film from its predecessor, but it at least manages to avoid torpedoing itself.
The performances are where the film distinguishes itself. By the typical standards of television movies, some major stars are involved, and they are capably directed by William Friedkin, who is a director I greatly respect for his role in The French Connection. Unsurprisingly, the performances of the film are excellent, if perhaps not quite up to the stratospheric level of the original. The performances in the remake of 12 Angry Men also make the 12 men appear even angrier than the original. Granted, the exchanges in the original were occasionally full of a fair amount of vitriol, but the remake is fairly shouty, although it generally avoids becoming hammy.
The film's script does little to differentiate itself from the brilliant 1957 version, but the acting is impressive, and the performances give the film a different tone to the original. Watching this film is equivalent to watching a famous Broadway play, then years later seeing a modernized version of the same play in a local theater, starring a different set of talented actors. The experience probably isn't going to be quite as good, but if you enjoyed the original, it might be worth a watch.
As I've watched an ever-increasing number of films across a variety of genres, I've come to the conclusion that the investigative drama is one of my favorite genres. My favorite movies in this genre are those which are simultaneously low key and suspenseful. Films such as The Third Murder, Rear Window, and The Conversation maintain high levels of tension with a minimum of onscreen violence, achieving the type of audience engagement I'd associate with a high body count thriller with a more measured, intellectual tone. Spotlight is, undoubtedly, one of the best films of the genre I've ever seen. Following the titular "Spotlight" team from The Boston Globe as they investigate what could be the biggest story of their career, a child abuse scandal involving the Catholic Church, the film is extremely tense, yet simultaneously low key, creating an extremely engaging drama without sacrificing the air of authenticity demanded by an adaptation of a true story.
The movie features one of the strongest ensemble casts I have ever seen, to the point that pointing out standouts is very hard because of the inspired performances all around. In a clever bit of directing, these characters are frequently towered over by edifices symbolizing the very organization the team is investigating as they exchange dialogue. This dialogue is engaging not just because of the acting prowess on display, but also because movie also has an excellent script. I particularly like the use of subtext and doublespeak in the film. While the film does not convey as many layers of meaning in a single sentence as Tokyo Story, which I have praised for similar reasons, it acknowledges that it is often counterproductive for a reporter to get accusatory and openly angry with interviewees and that, for the person on the other end of the notepad, threats should not be made openly and publicly, especially towards someone in the position to publish those threats. These are aspects of the profession commonly ignored by films featuring reporters.
I suspect some people will find the film to be anti-religious. I didn't get that impression. Spotlight certainly does not portray the Catholic Church as an institution in a positive manner, but it does not attack its God directly, only the mortals ostensibly in God's service. Throughout the film, the "Spotlight" team conduct repeated telephone interviews with a former Catholic priest who became a critic of the Church due to their handling of sexual abuse claims. He has little positive to say about the people running the church, but still considers himself a Catholic. Even if we assume the existence of an infallible god, humans, those who claim to be servants of that deity may still commit immoral actions, and those acts should not be excused because the evildoer is a priest. Spotlight takes no definite stance on religion, only on those who use it to conceal their own evil acts.
"The National Science Foundation had invited me to Antarctica even though I had left no doubt that I would not come up with another film about penguins", Herzog states near the beginning of the film, setting the tone for an excellent narration filled with dry humor. It also hints at what distinguishes the documentary from the countless others covering the continent. Most previous documentaries on Antarctica focus on the wildlife, the penguins, whales, and seals. Herzog aims to cover an aspect of the continent far more seldom explored – the character of the men and women who work there and the mindset which brought them to one of the most isolated and inhospitable places on Earth. This is such an interesting and unique topic for a documentary that the film immediately grabbed my interest, but perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised – this is a Herzogian trademark. Herzog is not so much interested in nature itself as he is in what our attempts to coexist with, defy, or destroy nature say about our common humanity. His musings on the subject are almost hypnotic, paired with almost ethereal choral music and beautiful shots of the terrain and fauna which break up the series of interviews. As much as I love penguins, the originality of the subject matter makes me glad that Herzog's considerable film-making skills went toward this project as opposed to another documentary on Antarctica's avian population.
Clue proves that an exceptional performance can save an otherwise flawed film. Yes, the characters are lacking in depth. Yes, not every joke lands properly. And yes, the logic behind some of the multiple endings is a bit hard to swallow. Tim Curry, however, absolutely steals the show as Wadsworth the butler. He plays his character as a man who is idiosyncratic and prone to melodramatic flourishes but is simultaneously more intelligent than he is letting on. The result is highly entertaining, and Wadsworth gets a lot of screen time in a relatively short film. Despite my criticism of the humor, there are also a few good jokes scattered amidst the dud. As for the multiple choice ending, while a concept not unique to this film and one which is likely to be polarizing, it does as least help the film stand out in a crowded field of mystery films and comedies.