It’s not a religion that comes under the glare of Spotlight, but an institution. In Tom McCarthy’s splendid, crackling ode to journalism, the “Spotlight” investigative team at The Boston Globe tackles pedophilia and its coverup within the Church. The series won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003. McCarthy is careful not to glamorize his reporters. They’re played as hardworking stiffs by a superb cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Liev Schreiber, and it will be hard to overlook any of them come Oscar time. This movie will evoke comparison to All the President’s Men. There’s a lot of the same shoe-leather approach, conducted here in an even lower key, which in a perverse way gives it even more drama. McCarthy keeps nibbling at the question of how this story could have remained buried for so long. Part of it has to do with the power of the Church, and the shame of the victims. And some of it has to do with the cozy relationships among the city’s power institutions. At the end of the film, the truly staggering extent and reach of this scandal is revealed.
Rated R. 128 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Jonathan Richards)
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
It has been more than 30 years since the Rebel Alliance defeated the Empire in Return of the Jedi (1983) but now the First Order has arisen from the Empire’s ashes, wanting control of the galaxy. With the help of Finn (John Boyega), a reformed Stormtrooper, the Resistance (formerly the Rebel Alliance) seeks the assistance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who some believe is only a legend. Finn joins Resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger from the planet Jakku. They’re aided in their efforts by Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) while relentlessly pursued by the First Order’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who’s bent on lighting up the cosmos with a Death Star-like weapon of awesome power. But Rey is harboring a secret power of her own that could change all of their destinies. Helmed by J.J. Abrams, this spirited seventh chapter in the saga is the Star Wars movie you’ve been waiting for. Applaud you will. Rated PG-13. 135 minutes. Screens in 3-D and 2-D at Regal Stadium 14; Violet Crown. Screens in 2-D only at DreamCatcher. (Michael Abatemarco)
Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) lives with his Bedouin tribe in the wilds of the Ottoman Empire in 1916. His father has died, so Theeb is learning life skills — how to shoot a gun, how to water the camels — from his older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen). When Hussein is sent to guide a British officer to a secret location, Theeb follows them. This gorgeous film is told entirely from Theeb’s point of view and is at heart a little boy’s adventure tale — but this story is tied to how progress has changed the countryside and the livelihoods of the tribes that inhabit it. Plot and character details are finely wrought, with Al-Hwietat turning in a subtle, entrancing performance in which he conveys intimate comfort with heat and sand, the visceral relief of slaked thirst, and a fierce determination not to allow a mysterious stranger to further betray him. Not rated. 100 minutes. In Arabic with subtitles.
The Screen. (Jennifer Levin)
In this latest homage to Fellini from Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), two old friends contemplate life from opposite perspectives in a luxurious Alpine resort. Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a celebrated composer/conductor who has turned his back on his past and his future and is wallowing in the present. Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is a celebrated film director, but the celebration is winding down. Sorrentino’s premise of characters gathered at a grand hotel is not a fresh one, but the top-notch cast and the lovely surroundings give us enough to enjoy a pleasant couple of hours. There are some striking scenes and moments. But Sorrentino is too much in thrall to the master, Fellini; he never seems to get an original feel for the material, and make it matter. Not rated. 118 minutes. Regal DeVargas. (Jonathan Richards)