• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

17. Manchester by the Sea – This Just In (#178)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, This Just In is a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea.

podcastmanchesterbythesea

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Spotlight

Nominally, Spotlight is about the exposé that ran in the Boston Globe identifying dozens of paedophile priests who had been shuffled around Boston parishes and the corrupt institution that sheltered them. Thomas McCarthy’s film never shies away from the horror stories told by the survivors of such institutional abuse, nor does it ignore the systems that were complicit in perpetuating and covering up that abuse. Running just over two hours, McCarthy’s film is meticulous and painstaking as it sorts through all the leads and follows the unravelling thread.

However, Spotlight is also about something bigger. It is a story about institutional structures as they exist, and how those structures are primarily motivated to protect themselves. The big reveal in Spotlight is not that the abuse is taking place, it is just how many people tried in how many different ways to expose that abuse to the cold light of day. The Catholic Church might be the most significant institution involved in the cover-up, but Spotlight suggests that the structures of Boston (and implicitly all over the globe) failed the people who needed them most.

spotlight4

Spotlight is a powerful film. McCarthy is not the most dynamic or exciting of directors, but his matter-of-fact presentation style suits the material perfectly. Towards the end of the film, journalist Matt Carroll jokes that he has started working on a horror novel to distract himself from the particulars of the case. Spotlight is very much a horror story, but a horror story where the discomfort is tied to the sheer inevitability. McCarthy’s camera is always definite and steady; a slow pan or zoom confirms what the audience already suspects, and is all the more effective for it.

McCarthy has assembled a fantastic cast, including John Slattery as Ben Bradley Junior. Bradley is the son of Benjamin Bradley Senior, the executive editor at The Washington Post who oversaw the Watergate coverage and who was played by Jason Robards in All the President’s Men. This creates a nice thread of real-life continuity for Spotlight, cementing its pedigree. McCarthy’s journalism epic is powerful stuff, and perhaps the most compelling endorsement of long-form investigative journalism to appear on screen in quite some time.

spotlight3

Continue reading

The X-Files – Medusa (Review)

This October/November, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the eighth season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of The Lone Gunmen.

Medusa is an odd episode of the eighth season, precisely because of its normality.

Medusa was produced directly before This is Not Happening, the episode that marked the return of David Duchovny to the show as a regular; he would remain a regular for the rest of the season. When it came to the broadcast order of the season, the episodes were shuffled around slightly. Medusa aired directly before Per Manum, an episode which featured an appearance by David Duchovny in flashback. Whether the season is watched in broadcast or production order, David Duchovny’s name appears in the opening credits from the next episode until the end of the season.

"I want to take his face... off."

“I want to take his face… off.”

Medusa marks the end of the short-lived “Scully and Doggett era” of The X-Files. This is the last point in the eighth season (and also the last point ever) that Doggett and Scully have a show to themselves. The ninth season introduces the characters of Monica Reyes and Walter Skinner to the opening credits. Of course, it is interesting to wonder whether there ever really was a “Scully and Doggett era.” Certainly, the eighth season took its time to let Scully and Doggett get comfortable with one another between Within and Via Negativa.

This puts Medusa in the very strange position of having to close out an “era” of the show that essentially spanned four episodes: Surekill, Salvage, Badlaa and Medusa. This is the eighth season’s last example of “business as usual”, which seems all the more unusual that business has only recent approached something resembling normality.

He's practically just skin and bones...

He’s practically just skin and bones…

Continue reading

Hannibal – Ceuf (Review)

Ceuf is somewhat overshadowed by the controversy it generated, an episode of Hannibal pulled from broadcast following several national tragedies (including the Boston bombings and the Newtown tragedy). In the wake of these two high-profile incidents, it was felt that broadcasting the full episode so close to the events would have been a bit much. This move naturally generated a host on on-line commentary with various people adopting various positions on the topic of whether or not Bryan Fuller was right to pull the show from the air. In a way, Ceuf is far more interesting for what it ended up being than as a chapter of Hannibal.

Something to chew over...

Something to chew over…

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Mea Maxima Culpa – Silence in the House of God

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

It’s very hard to know how to react to the seemingly bottomless pit of sex abuse allocations that have surfaced against the Catholic Church over the past couple of decades. Mea Maxima Culpa reveals that not only does the institutional abuse reach far into the past of the religious organisation, but that the Vatican was aware of these betrayals and violations of trusts for forty years. Mea Maxima Culpa is brutally candid in the way that it exposes the steps that the Catholic Church took to insulate and protect itself from these allegations and insinuations, even pointing out that most modern concessions and apologies are more concerned about the violation of the sanctity of the priesthood than with the damage done to the victims.

Mea Maxima Culpa is rough and overwhelming at times, but it’s hard to fault the documentary for this candid approach to the most uncomfortable subject matter. It’s well-constructed, thoughtful and also quite affecting – a powerful piece of documentary cinema that really exposes the true extent of a problem that has only been acknowledged in the past decade or so.

meamaximaculpa6

Continue reading

Tomb of Dracula Omnibus, Vol. II (Review/Retrospective)

It’s fantastic that Marvel have gone to such pains to collect all of the classic seventies Tomb of Dracula. The main title is collected in the first of three volumes, with this second oversized hardcover rounding out Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s run on the on-going series. Indeed, with Colan’s consistent pencils and Wolfman’s long-form plotting, Tomb of Dracula feels remarkably close to a single long-form story, one massive epic in seventy-odd chapters, with ideas hinted and developed years before they would eventually pay off. As such, the collection holds up remarkably well, and is a joy to read. While the second half of the series might not be as solid as Wolfman and Colan’s work on the first thirty-odd issues, it still makes for a satisfying conclusion to this chapter of Dracula’s story.

Out for the Count?

Continue reading

Brightest Day (Hardcover Vol. 1-3) (Review/Retrospective)

This January, I’m going to take a look at some of DC’s biggest “events.” This one’s not so much an “event” as a bi-weekly miniseries, but let’s count it anyway…

Balancing the internal storylines is a tough task for any anthology, especially one running over the course of an entire year. In this respect, 52 feels like the exception rather than the rule. It’s a fairly fundamental problem with Brightest Day that not all of the plotlines are interesting (and certainly not all of the time). It’s a rather strange phenomenon: the early issues try to balance the characters somewhat evenly across the issues, and feels somewhat awkward in trying to devote an equal amount of space to stories that aren’t equally compelling; on the other hand, the second and final thirds seems more comfortable devoting large stretches of single issues to certain characters (and to have other members of the ensemble go unheard from for issues at a time), which has the bizarre effect of meaning that a cliffhanger or two isn’t picked up for two or three chapters. It’s a tough balance to get right, and I’m sad to say that Brightest Day doesn’t acquit itself particularly admirably. It’s a shame, because there are some interesting ideas here.

Everything burns...

Continue reading