by Julian Spivey
Director: Maria Schrader
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan & Patricia Clarkson
Runtime: 2 hours & 15 minutes
Director Maria Schrader’s “She Said,” about New York Times reporters and their sources who helped take down behemoth movie producer Harvey Weinstein circa 2017, is one of 2022’s best films thus far and one of the better journalism films you’re going to see.
I’m a fanboy of journalism movies for sure. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one that I didn’t at least somewhat like. I was a print journalism minor in college, and I’m married to a journalist. It’s a subject I admire. “She Said” is one of the best journalism movies I’ve seen because it mostly gets its subject right. It makes journalism look as hard as it truly is to run down all of these sources, fact-check and piece together a story that is on one hand extremely important, but also one that might make enemies and lead to lawsuits.
“She Said” sees NYT reporters Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) follow a tip that actress Rose McGowan was sexually assaulted by Weinstein and the dominoes begin to follow from there with the journos realizing there’s a long line of women Weinstein sexually assaulted, included actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd (who plays herself in the film).
Much of “She Said” is these actors running down leads and sources and interviewing them and it was all completely riveting to me – though I feel like some not as interested in the profession or the particular story might find it a bit boring.
Mulligan is billed first in “She Said,” but it felt to me like Kazan did a bit of the heavy lifting, probably because her character of Kantor was the one of the two reporters able to fly across the world to interview subjects in the United Kingdom because Mulligan’s Twohey was a new parent needing to be with her child.
The film does a good job showing these two reporters balancing their work life with their home lives, both are parents of young children, and you can tell the toll their busy, but important work has on their lives.
It’s a couple of scenes during Kantor’s trip overseas that truly are among the finest in the film with her meeting with former Miramax employees Zelda Perkins (Samantha Morton) and employee Laura Madden (Jennifer Ehle) in separate meetings. Back in New York she also has a meeting with Irwin Reiter (Zach Grenier), one of Weinstein’s former accountants who wants to do good but believes his life to be in danger for helping. These meetings all go a long way to helping Kantor and Twohey complete the story.
The performances from Mulligan and Kazan are terrific and it would be nice to see them receive some award recognition, though it might be an easier route for Mulligan who will reportedly be put up as a supporting actress candidate in what amounts to a bit of category fraud.
The direction by Schrader, likely previously most known for directing the 2020 Netflix limited series “Unorthodox” for which she won an Emmy, is fairly incredible here, especially in that it’s able to make one-on-one scenes between actors so riveting when they could easily be boring. She also makes some good decisions in not trying to recreate horrible moments between Weinstein and his victims but instead doing it through monologues and at one point even a recorded tape between Weinstein and a victim.
The film is based on the book She Said, which Kantor and Twohey collaborated on and released in 2019 after they had completed work on their investigation and reporting about how they did the job they did, and Rebecca Lenkiewicz did a fantastic job with the screenplay based on their book. If “She Said” is most likely to garner an Oscar nomination it’s probably for Adapted Screenplay.
by Julian Spivey
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne & Nnamdi Asomugha
Runtime: 2 hours & 1 minute
“The Good Nurse,” the American directorial debut from Tobias Lindholm, is a by-the-numbers telling of one of the worst serial killers in world history that seemingly few know and the co-worker that helped to take him down.
Amy Loughren (Jessica Chastain) is a compassionate nurse working in an intensive care unit at Parkfield Memorial Hospital in New Jersey in 2003. She’s struggling to make ends meet as a working single mother of two girls, who also has a potentially deadly heart malfunction that she’s trying to manage while being months away from qualifying for health insurance needed for a heart transplant.
Amy is befriended by the new nurse on her unit, Charles Cullen (Eddie Redmayne) and the two quickly become close friends. Soon after Charlie begins working at the hospital an elderly patient who seemed likely to recover from her ailment dies suddenly. After a many-week internal investigation, the hospital administration contacts state police about the death, but the hospital doesn’t seem to want to help in any way with the investigation, which pisses off the detectives on the case, Danny Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) and Tim Braun (Noah Emmerich).
The two detectives believe Charlie to be suspicious because of his previous criminal history (though it’s a leap they make in the movie – surely there was more to their suspicions in real life?) and are certain there was foul play involved in the elderly patient’s death when Amy looks at the patient’s medication list and realizes something deadly wrong took place. She doesn’t believe Charlie could be involved.
When more patients begin to die mysteriously she realizes something nefarious is going on when insulin keeps showing up as having been administered to them. She has a meeting with a former co-worker who once worked with Charlie at a different hospital and realizes the same mysterious deaths were happening there until he left. She checks the storage room for IV bags and realizes some have been messed with.
She helps the detectives attempt to get Charlie to confess to his crimes, which has mixed results at first but finally succeeds.
“The Good Nurse” is a good movie with good performances from Oscar-winners Chastain and Redmayne.
However, it has the feeling of a film that should’ve been better than it wound up being. It’s an interesting story. The two lead actors are incredibly good at what they do and certainly adequate here. There just simply wasn’t much oomph to the film and that has to lie at the feet of Lindholm and screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who based her script off Charles Graeber’s book The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness and Murder.
I wanted more from “The Good Nurse.” More as to why Charlie Cullen commits these crimes. Maybe there just wasn’t a particularly good explanation. Having done some research post-watching the film that seems to be a lot of the case. The man killed a confirmed 29 patients, but potentially as many as 400 during his career as a nurse but has never really given a sound motive as to why.
“The Good Nurse” is streaming on Netflix.
by Julian Spivey
Director: Eric Appel
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Evan Rachel Wood & Rainn Wilson
Rated: Not Rated (But It's Basically PG-13)
Runtime: 1 hour & 48 minutes
Weird Al Yankovic is the king of parody. So, it’s probably not best to go into “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” the unexaggerated true story about the greatest musician of our time, thinking you’re going to get anything but a parody.
I can see why this might bum some people out. Yankovic is an interesting fellow, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a truthful biopic about him, but it wouldn’t quite ring true to the man. If you want an actual history of Yankovic’s life and career I recommend perusing his Wikipedia page or YouTube-ing the old VH1 “Behind the Music” episode about him.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” a Roku Original, which is almost funny in its own right, is based on the Funny or Die fake trailer for such a biopic from 2010, which featured Aaron Paul as Yankovic, Olivia Wilde as Madonna, Mary Steenburgen and Gary Cole as Yankovic’s parents and Patton Oswalt as Yankovic’s mentor Dr. Demento. Eric Appel, the writer and producer of that sketch, has fleshed out the story to a feature-length film, with the help of Yankovic himself co-writing the script.
The characters have been recast. Daniel Radcliffe is now Yankovic, and he goes all out in the role of the pop culture parody master. Evan Rachel Wood takes on the role of pop sensation and Weird Al’s love interest Madonna and Rainn Wilson takes the role of Dr. Demento. Toby Huss portrays Al’s father Nick Yankovic and Emmy-winner Julianne Nicholson portrays Al’s mother Mary.
Musical biopics have been parodied famously before with Jake Kasdan and Judd Apatow’s 2007 comedy “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” so ‘Weird’ isn’t really breaking any new ground, but that doesn’t harsh the vibe of it any. ‘Weird’ is a lot of fun, as one might expect for a biopic about Weird Al Yankovic.
Simply put, if you love – or even just like – Weird Al Yankovic you’re going to enjoy “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.” To borrow a song title from Yankovic, the movie dares to be stupid. And it works in most facets.
You can tell the cast is having a blast with this one. Radcliffe goes all out as Yankovic, with the character starting as a nerdy kid just wanting to add new words to old songs and play the accordion and ending up a wild teen busted at a polka party. While living with roommates, who would later be his band, as a young adult, he hears The Knack’s “My Sharona” on the radio while making bologna sandwiches and the rest is history.
Eventually, he became the biggest pop star in the world going from parodies to writing original songs like “Eat It,” which fellow pop star Michael Jackson would rip off for “Beat It,” much to Yankovic’s irritation. Enters into a white-hot relationship with Madonna, who’s dying to be parodied by him – even if he doesn’t do that stuff anymore, becomes addicted to the wildness of the star life with alcohol and drugs, almost dies in a car accident and has to fight drug kingpin Pablo Escobar to recapture Madonna before losing Madonna ultimately to the drug lord lifestyle.
The highlight of ‘Weird’ for me was all of the wonderful cameos in the film, with the first two memorable ones being the real-life Yankovic himself and Will Forte as record executives. The best scene in the entire film is the pool party at Dr. Demento’s place where Demento’s rival DJ Wolfman Jack, played by Jack Black, shows up daring Yankovic to prove himself on the spot – which he does by spoofing Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” as “Another One Rides the Bus.” This scene is filled with great freaks of the era like Tiny Tim, Pee Wee Herman, Divine, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and more. My particular favorite is Conan O’Brien as Andy Warhol. Lin-Manuel Miranda as the doctor who saves Yankovic’s life is a nice cameo too, as well as Quinta Brunson as Oprah Winfrey.
The one negative aspect of ‘Weird’ is that it runs a bit too long, even at only one hour and 48 minutes. When you have a movie that’s essentially one joke repeated for the duration of the film this is an easy thing to happen. I feel like had they cut it down to a smooth 90 minutes it would’ve been better off, but I still had quite a good time watching it.
“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story” can be seen on the Roku Channel App, which you don’t necessarily need a Roku device to view. I was able to download the application on my Amazon Fire TV Stick and I’m sure there are other devices on which it’s available, as well.