Category Archives: Biography

Hidden Figures (2016) Review

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Goble Johnson
Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan
Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson
Kevin Costner as Al Harrison
Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell
Jim Parsons as Paul Stafford
Glen Powell as John Glenn
Mahershala Ali as Jim Johnson
Aldis Hodge as Levi Jackson
Director: Theodore Melfi

The incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.

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Hidden Figures seemed interesting when I first heard of it. It had a large and very talented cast, an interesting premise and story, and yes, it got many nominations for awards. So, I was curious enough to check it out. However, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Hidden Figures is full of great performances, solid direction and also a very compelling story. Hidden Figures is really worth seeing, a pleasantly surprising movie.

The story in Hidden Figures was quite good. It’s easy to follow what’s going on throughout the movie, there was no confusion and I never felt bored throughout the movie. The leads were likeable (which was also helped by the lead actresses, which I’ll get into later), and so I was interested to watch what was going on. The stories were interesting for me, it was interesting seeing how big of a role these women had in historical events. Each of their stories was very interesting and it’s easy to be invested in their stories. As for how the bigotry is handled, it’s subtle, at no point does it seem over the top or forced for dramatic effect. This movie wasn’t put in black and white, the way people acted and the decisions made were more complex than most movies which portray this time period. It feels genuine and so its easy to believe what the characters are feeling when they encounter obstacles, almost experiencing what they are feeling. It was an easy movie to watch overall, not complicated but at the same time very enjoyable and interesting enough.

Hidden Figures has a very talented cast all around and they were all great here. The three main leads, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae were all fantastic, they were all very likable and believable in their roles. As I said, all of their stories are interesting to watch and these talented actresses really did carry their storylines well. If there is a main character between the three of them, I’d say that it’s Henson, she was personally a stand out to me. Other very talented actors like Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali and others were great in supporting roles.

The direction by Theodore Melfi was pretty good overall, this is the first film of his I’ve seen. The costume design, music, production design, soundtrack, everything fitted the time period well. So on top of the writing, story and acting, the direction made it a lot easier to be invested in this story. However it wasn’t really the highlight of the film, the story and acting were more the focus. Still solid direction nonetheless.

Hidden Figures is quite a good movie, the acting was great, direction was solid and the overall story was investing and riveting. It was interesting learning about all these events and how significant these people are. It definitely deserves the praise its been getting. Check out this movie when you get a chance. It’s not one that you need to immediately see, but I do think it’s worth a viewing.

Lion (2016) Review

 

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Adult themes
Cast:
Sunny Pawar as younger Saroo Brierley
Dev Patel as older Saroo Brierley
Rooney Mara as Lucy
Nicole Kidman as Sue Brierley
David Wenham as John Brierley
Director: Garth Davis

Five year old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of miles across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, Saroo (Dev Patel) sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

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Lion was a film that I was curious about. I actually saw the 60 minutes article about the real life story this movie was based on and I just knew it would be turned into a movie. Surely enough, that happened with Lion and I knew I had to check it out as soon as possible. And it did not disappoint. Lion is a good movie, the acting was great by everyone, the direction was also good but most of all the story is compelling, Lion is definitely worth checking out.

This movie’s first half is of Young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) in India and the second half is of Adult Saroo (Dev Patel) in Australia. While most movies would cut between the past and the present, it decides to tell it’s story chronologically, while the second half has some additional flashbacks. This makes it easier to get a better idea of what Saroo’s feeling in the second half when he’s trying to find his family. It’s very easy to get caught up in the story, I never felt bored watching this movie. The first half of the movie was great. It heavily relies on actor Sunny Pawar and while I’ll get into more detail about him later, I’ll just say that he’s the reason that the first half works so well. It does feel a little jarring when the story witches to the second half. The tone, pace and feel did seem to noticeably change. The second half is still good, it just didn’t feel quite as strong as the first half, though honestly I’m not quite sure what it is. With that said, and the ending is really satisfying, and paid off well.

Newcomer actor Sunny Pawar did amazing work as Young Saroo. This is a kid actor, and Lion is also the first movie he’s been involved in. And we all know that kid actors nowadays are hit or miss. Very impressive performance, he was the stand out in the movie. He’s basically the main star, as the entire first half focusses on him. Most of the time he’s not saying anything, so his reactions and the way he acts has to carry the movie. Dev Patel was also great as adult Saroo. It was a little jarring with the shift to Dev after the first half, but nonetheless he did a good job and it was very easy to buy him in this role. Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman also did great work in supporting roles, they definitely added a lot to this movie as well.

Lion was overall a well directed movie by director Garth Davis. This is the first film I’ve seen from him and I can tell from Lion that he’s a solid director. The cinematography is beautiful and the locations also showcased well, whether that be in India or Australia. The music by Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka was also good. Generally though, Lion’s highlight wasn’t it’s direction, it’s the story that’s really the highlight.

Lion lived up to expectations with its great acting, solid direction and also a compelling and powerful story. While the switch between the first two halves is a bit of a jarring and the second half of the story isn’t quite as strong as the first half, I still really liked this movie. Lion was a great movie and it’s really worth checking out when you can.

Jackie (2016) Review

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jackie

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb
Cast:
Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Peter Sarsgaard as Robert F. Kennedy
Greta Gerwig as Nancy Tuckerman
Billy Crudup as The Journalist
John Hurt as Father Richard McSorley
Director: Pablo Larrain

After her husband’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy’s (Natalie Portman) world is completely shattered. Traumatized and reeling with grief, over the course of the next week she must confront the unimaginable: consoling their two young children, vacating the home she painstakingly restored, and planning her husband’s funeral. Jackie quickly realizes that the next seven days will determine how history will define her husband’s legacy – and how she herself will be remembered.

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Jackie was a movie I was curious about. Along with Natalie Portman and the story about Jackie Kennedy, I heard a lot of great things about it. After seeing it, I can say that Jackie is overall a solid biopic with a decent plot, good direction and great performances, Natalie Portman’s of course being the standout. It might not be one of the all time best biopics but it is absolutely worth seeing.

This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby Kennedy, left, and Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from "Jackie." (Bruno Calvo/Fox Searchlight via AP)

The story of Jackie is pretty good. The movie is a character study of Jackie Kennedy and it goes into the things and situations that Jackie Kennedy had to deal with and what she was going through emotionally and mentally after the assassination of her husband. It jumps between time, between the interview between Kennedy and the interviewer (played by Billy Crudup) and the past before and after the assassination (and even after that they jump times throughout the film as well). I felt like it was a unique way of telling the story and made things more interesting than just putting it in chronological order. As for accuracies to real life, I have no idea. It seems somewhat accurate from watching the movie but that’s all I can really say, I’m not a historian. The story didn’t exactly blow me away, it wasn’t one of the all time best biopics but the story overall is decent and worked very well for the movie.

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The highlight of this movie of course is Natalie Portman and I have to say, this is one of Natalie Portman’s all time best performances, she is absolutely incredible in this movie. Much of the movie is focussed on her and her reactions to all these situations. She expresses what Jackie Kennedy is feeling so well without even having to speak. She steals the show from everyone else. The supporting cast was also pretty good. Peter Sarsgaard is also really good as Robert Kennedy, Billy Crudup was also effective as the journalist interviewing Jackie Kennedy. John Hurt is also a nice addition as a priest, he was very effect. The scenes between him and Portman were some of the best in the film. Every actor worked for what they needed to in this movie.

This image released by Fox Searchlight shows Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, and Billy Crudup in a scene from the film, "Jackie." (William Gray/Fox Searchlight via AP)

Directionwise this movie is good. The cinematography was fitting enough for the movie. Sometimes there are shots which are okay but not anything special. Other times the cinematography was truly great. The editing was a bit interesting, it jumps around in time in its scenes, which got a little bit jarring. I don’t know what it is meant to do but something about it really worked for me. The music by Mica Levi was a standout aspect of the film, it ranged from being dreamlike to being eerie, and it really helped enhanced the scenes.

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Jackie is a solid biopic about Jackie Kennedy which was pretty good overall, the highlight being the great performances, especially from Natalie Portman. You should watch the movie even just for Natalie’s performance honestly. The rest of the film is good in regards to its story, direction and acting from its supporting cast, but Natalie Portman really makes the movie. Definitely check out the movie as soon as you can.

R.I.P. John Hurt

22 January 1940 – 27 January 2017

Sully (2016) Review

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sully

Time: 96 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language.
Cast:
Tom Hanks as Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger
Aaron Eckhart as Jeffrey “Jeff” Skiles
Laura Linney as Lorraine Sullenberger
Anna Gunn as Dr. Elizabeth Davis
Director: Clint Eastwood

On Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) tries to make an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 strikes a flock of geese. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survive the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger becomes a national hero in the eyes of the public and the media. Despite the accolades, the famed pilot now faces an investigation that threatens to destroy his career and reputation.

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Clint Eastwood can be hit or miss with his films. Sometimes he can create some truly excellent movies (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby), other times he makes movies which can be a little underwhelming (J. Edgar). However, I can say this time with Sully, Eastwood really does deliver a hit. The acting from the cast (especially from Tom Hanks) was truly great, the overall direction of the film was solid and I was interested in seeing how this movie would conclude. It’s a pretty good movie overall, and definitely worth checking out sometime.

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Tom Hanks in a scene from "Sully." (Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

This movie was quite effective in the way it decides to present events. It doesn’t just show the events in chronological order, we see bits of the event of the plane throughout the film as the story in present day progresses, which really helped as we don’t know the full picture of what happened at the beginning of the film. There’s a question as to whether Sully could’ve found an alternative way of landing the plane safely, and that answer isn’t revealed until the end of the film. One thing I’ve noticed a lot of people complain about is that the film is slow. I will say that it definitely has a slow pace, and you have to know that going in. I definitely knew that and I had a good time with this movie. Thankfully this movie is short at around 90 minutes, and it’s the perfect length for the film. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.

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Tom Hanks is great in this movie, which really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, he’s Tom Hanks. He’s very likable and believable in his role as this pilot who after saving hundreds of lives, is suddenly put under investigation. He’s very subtle in his role, it’s not the type of performance where he says “look at me, I’m a great actor”, he’s very subdued and was on point. Aaron Eckhart was also great in a supporting role; he was believable as Sully’s co-pilot. Eckhart really needs to be in more movies. There are other supporting actors in the movie who are also good as well but this really is Tom Hanks’s film.

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Most of the film doesn’t have a lot of ‘action’. The scenes where it presents the plane crash in the film are done very well and effectively, it really puts you in the middle of the situation and it feels very real and tense. The rest of the scenes are shot fine, no real complaint in the overall direction of the film, there’s just not a lot to talk about in terms of the direction. The film’s highlight is mostly the story.

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Personally, I think Sully is worth a watch. The pacing of the film was steady but just right, the acting is great (particularly from Tom Hanks), the writing really was effective on taking you on a journey with Sully and it had a unique way of telling it’s story. It’s not one of Clint Eastwood’s all-time greatest films (it’s not in the calibre of Unforgiven or Million Dollar Baby) and it’s not a film that you absolutely must see immediately, but it is a really good movie, and I do think that it’s definitely worth checking out at some point.

The Danish Girl (2015) Review

Eddie Redmayne stars as Lili Elbe, in Tom Hooper’s THE DANISH GIRL, released by Focus Features. Credit: Focus Features

The Danish Girl

Time: 119 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Nudity and Sex Scenes
Cast:
Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener
Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener
Matthias Schoenaerts as Hans Axgil
Ben Whishaw as Henrik
Amber Heard as Ulla
Sebastian Koch as Dr. Warnekros
Director: Tom Hooper

After standing in as a female model for a painting by his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), Danish artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) becomes enamored with his feminine identity and begins living as a woman named Lili Elbe. Although their marriage becomes strained, Gerda stands by Lili as she explores her true self and eventually undergoes one of the world’s first gender-reassignment surgeries in the 1930s.

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Ever since the first image of Eddie Redmayne in this movie came out, I was intrigued. This sounded like an interesting movie, as well with Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander’s and Tom Hooper’s involvement. While it’s not great, I do think that The Danish Girl is worth seeing for its performances from its lead actors. The production design and direction of the scenes are still pretty good as well and the overall direction of the scenes from Hooper was decent. However its writing didn’t quite hold up, and unfortunately does bring down the movie a little bit from what it could’ve been.

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As I just mentioned, I felt that the writing was the weakest aspect of the movie. I don’t think it’s bad by any means and it gets the job done in moving the plot and characters along. I did hear that it was inaccurate from the original story but I don’t know of the original story. I will say that I thought that Redmayne’s change and how that affected his and Vikander’s relationship was handled well. But the writing did fall short of what it could’ve been. The movie despite being 2 hours long did feel like 2 hours and a half, I think it was stretched out a little too much. I also thought that the film really didn’t explore who these two characters actually were. After the seeing the movie I realised that apart from their place in the plot, I didn’t really know much of who they are. There was some emotional component that was missing from this movie, I can’t exactly determine what it is.

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Eddie Redmayne is again incredible and made up for his disastrous performance in Jupiter Ascending. I thought his transition and discovery was very believable, he manages to portray both Einar and ‘Lili’, and seemed totally different from one another, this must’ve been a very difficult role to pull off. The fact that when Eddie Redmayne is dressed up as a woman, actually looked like a woman helped, in fact he looked more out of place when he wasn’t dressed up as a woman, both physically and emotionally. Alicia Vikander is also great, she gets a lot to do in this movie as a wife seeing her husband slowly disappearing and coming to terms with his transformation. Although I felt that the characters didn’t have that much depth in terms of the writing, both Redmayne and Vikander made them seem like real people and elevated themselves above the material given.

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The production designs and value was great and I thought that it reflected the 1920s time period quite well. The soundtrack by Johann Johansson was also great. The scenes and the overall film were directed well by Tom Hooper, my problem is really not with his visual direction, it was the script that had the most problems.

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The Danish Girl isn’t that great of a movie and doesn’t hold up as well on its own. The writing could’ve been better, the pacing could’ve been handled better and the characters weren’t as well written as they should’ve. But it’s the performances from Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander that make the film worth watching. Sure the movie on the whole could’ve been better, especially with the writing, but the performances are good enough for me to recommend this movie.

Steve Jobs (2015) Review

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Steve Jobs

Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language
Cast
Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs
Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman
Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak
Jeff Daniels as John Sculley
Director: Danny Boyle

With public anticipation running high, Apple Inc. co-founders Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Steve “Woz” Wozniak (Seth Rogen) get ready to unveil the first Macintosh in 1984. Jobs must also deal with personal issues related to ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterson) and their young daughter Lisa. Eventually fired, Jobs launches NeXT Inc. and prepares to release a new computer model in 1988. Ten years later, Jobs is back at Apple Inc. and about to revolutionize the industry once again with the iMac.

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This movie had been going through many changes, with names like David Fincher considered to direct and names like Christian Bale considered to star. Despite all this controversy and work around the project, for whatever reason Steve Jobs was a box office flop, which is a shame because this movie was really great. Steve Jobs had great performances, especially from lead Michael Fassbender, a pretty good direction by Danny Boyle and a fantastic script by Aaron Sorkin. All this culminated in a great movie that shouldn’t be missed.

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Before going in, you should know that this movie isn’t a biopic of Steve Job’s life, this takes place in three points of his life. Some may be disappointed in this but I felt that the moments were well chosen, connected well and were the most interesting and relevant parts of his life to tell. Even though the film doesn’t explore his past, it does explore who Steve Jobs is as a person. One thing I liked about this movie is that it doesn’t really sugar coat who Steve Jobs was as a person but it also allowed us to see why he thinks how he thinks. When the Steve Jobs movie was in development, I immediately thought that the best writer for the script would be Aaron Sorkin due to his work on The Social Network and surely enough, that’s what happened and once again Sorkin is as much of a star as the actors were in the movie. This is a dialogue driven movie and Aaron Sorkin absolutely excels at that. As this is a dialogue driven movie, not everyone will love it, and I can see how some people might get bored if that’s not the sort of film they like. As someone who really likes well written dialogue driven movies, I personally loved it.

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Michael Fassbender is phenomenal as Steve Jobs and this is one of his best performances, and that’s saying a lot. It wasn’t overly showy like it could’ve been, it was just right and felt completely natural. I did not see Michael Fassbender playing Steve Jobs, I just saw Steve Jobs. Other actors like Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels were also excellent in their roles, and despite Fassbender being the star, they pull off solid performances and are memorable when they were on screen.

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This being a Danny Boyle film, you can expect that this movie will be very stylish. Even though this is the case with most of his movies fortunately he held back with Steve Jobs and allowed the actors and Sorkin to take centre stage instead of his style and direction. One decision I loved was the change of lens the first act of the movie was shot in 60mm, the second act was shot in 35mm and the last act was shot in digital, as it showed a progression in technology as time went on. Little things like that make this movie even better.

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Steve Jobs has great acting, an excellent script and great direction from Danny Boyle. It was a shame that this movie didn’t get more attention when it came out because it definitely deserves it. If you get a chance to see it, do so. But if you do decide to see it make sure you know what you are in for.

Spotlight (2015) Review

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Spotlight

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive Language and Content that may Disturb
Cast
Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes
Michael Keaton as Walter “Robby” Robinson
Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer
Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron
John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr.
Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll
Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian
Director: Tom McCarthy

In 2001, editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) of The Boston Globe assigns a team of journalists to investigate allegations against John Geoghan, an unfrocked priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. Led by editor Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), reporters Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Matt Carroll (Brian D’Arcy James) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) interview victims and try to unseal sensitive documents. The reporters make it their mission to provide proof of a cover-up of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.

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Spotlight had my interest ever since I saw the huge and talented cast involved but the story behind it also interested me, and it sounded like a story that should be told. The large amount of Oscar nominations also increased my interest in seeing this film. With the great performances and most importantly the fantastic script, Spotlight really is a must see movie and is one of the best movies of 2015.

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First off let’s get it right out of the way, the script by Tom McCarthy is excellent. The dialogue, the way the story moved, the plot points, everything fell nicely into place in telling this very fascinating story. The pacing is also set at just the right speed and the entire movie is so captivating the entire runtime, despite its lurid subject matter. Another thing is that everything felt so real, at some point this movie started feeling less like a movie and more like a well put together documentary. There isn’t really anything noticeably wrong with the movie, but if I had to be a little nit-picky, I would say that the beginning of the movie, like the first 5-10 minutes was a little slow. This beginning segment didn’t bother me a lot but I did feel like it could’ve been paced a little faster and it does take a little while before the plot starts happening. Aside from that aspect, everything fell nicely into place. I can’t say for certain how accurate this entire movie was to the events that took place, but the way it was done made it definitely seem credible.

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The cast in this movie is big and talented with Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber and many others being a part of this movie. All of them do excellent work and get to shine. I said earlier how this movie felt so real and at some point felt like a documentary, this also applies to the performances. There aren’t any moments where the actors gave ‘an Oscar moment’. Instead they are all thankfully subdued and feel much more like real people, they really felt like journalists trying to find the truth.

Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton and John Slattery play Boston Globe journalists in the film, Spotlight.

There isn’t much to say about the actual direction of the scenes as it’s mostly the script and the performances that are the highlights of Spotlight but I will say that the film and scenes are very well directed by Tom McCarthy. The soundtrack by Howard Shore was also good and fit the rest of the movie perfectly.

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Spotlight is one of the best movies of 2015 and in my opinion it is actually a pretty important movie. From Tom McCarthy’s great direction, to its grounded performances from its huge and wonderfully talented cast as well as its realistic and fantastically written screenplay, Spotlight is a great movie that succeeds on just about every level. Definitely check it out when you have a chance, I know that it’s not an easy movie to watch given its subject matter, but even so, I still think that it’s really worth seeing.