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Non-Review Review: One Direction – This is Us

Let’s be honest here. As a brand, the success of One Direction has been phenomenal. In One Direction: This is Us, super producer Simon Cowell boasts about how it took him all of ten minutes to come up with the band, jamming five also-ran teenage X-Factor contestants into an also-ran X-Factor boy band that became a global pop culture juggernaut. Morgan Spurlock’s One Direction: This is Us is really nothing but a propaganda piece, a giant feature-length 3D pat on the back where a manufactured pop sensation are compared – not once, but twice – to The Beatles.

And there’s really nothing wrong with that. After all, this was never going to be an insightful piece of cinematic journalism, prying behind closed doors at the forces propelling One Direction to fame and the careful and painstaking maintenance and protection of the brand name. Anybody expecting anything but a celebratory ninety-odd minutes of mutual appreciation was clearly expecting something quite different from what was promised.

As piece of pop culture brand management, One Direction: This is Us is actually quite well-constructed. Spurlock knows how to frame an interesting documentary, and has always been theatrical and stylish. Even the talking head shots in One Direction: This is Us are tastefully shot, against a dark highway at night, Simon Cowell’s sterile studio apartment or in a band member’s makeshift art studio. There are moments in One Direction: This is Us when it looks like some humanity might accidentally shine through, but the film is quick to stamp that out with gushing about the fans and patronising discussions about how unique and individual the band members are.

onedirection

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Non-Review Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides

I give a lot of credit to Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides for managing to cast aside a lot of dead weight from around the franchise’s neck. After the original film, it was apparent to anybody with half a brain that audiences weren’t flocking to the cinema to see the adventures of Will and Elizabeth, but the following two sequels insisted on keeping the large and expansive cast – long after it became clear that the writers had little idea what to do with them. The result was a trilogy that often felt over-loaded and over-burdened. This time around, adopting a ruthless approach to the supporting cast, the screenplay only really brings back Captain Jack Sparrow and Hector Barbossa as lead characters. Which is grand, because they’re who we’re here to see after all? The rest of the movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it strolls along pleasantly enough.

Life's a beach...

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