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Non-Review Review: King Arthur – Legend of the Sword

The most striking aspect of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is how little interest it has in being a “King Arthur” film.

King Arthur is the latest blockbuster from Guy Ritchie, and contains much of the director’s signature style. Indeed, King Arthur works best when it indulges these stylistic quirks, as cockney characters construct winding non-linear narratives that double back upon (and trip over) one another in a decidedly playful manner. The best and most enjoyable segments in King Arthur feel almost throwaway, as if they might easily have been lifted from (or perhaps even dropped into) a completely different feature film without causing any significant problems.

Set in stone.

King Arthur runs into trouble when it comes to the meat-and-potatoes business of constructing a blockbuster franchise-starter. To be fair, the formula has been relatively well established to this point, with audiences very familiar with the expected plot beats. Even still, King Arthur has little enthusiasm for hitting or expanding these beats. Many of the bigger moments in King Arthur feel like an exercise in box-ticking, elements that exist largely because they are expected in a film like this and with a minimum amount of set-up or panache.

The result is a deeply uneven film that feels very much at odds with itself and no real engagement with the movie’s central driving narrative. King Arthur works best as a series of engaging diversions, but underwhelms as a functional narrative in its own right.

Going out in a blade of glory.

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Non-Review Review: The Good Man

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

Films about social justice can occasionally seem a bit clunky. Part of this is down to the way that most seem to have been conceived as simplistic morals rather than engaging stories, but there’s also a tendency to earnestly moralise in a manner that condescends to the audience. The Good Man manages to avoid the worst of these problems with a smartly-constructed third act that dovetails its two central narratives into one another, and because it accepts that the problem with our attitudes towards disadvantage and poverty in the rest of the world isn’t down to a simply lack of awareness. It is, the film suggests, easy to know about a problem, and easy to try to help. Understanding, on the other hand, is a far more challenging proposition.

We're all connected...

We’re all connected…

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Non-Review Review: Shanghai Knights

Shanghai Knights is grand. It’s inoffensive, it’s entertaining, it efficiently accomplishes a lot of what it sets out to do. It’s not exceptional, it’s not innovative, and it won’t stay with you too long after watching it, but it isn’t entirely without its charm. It’s Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan doing the sort of thing that they’ve become quite comfortable at doing. Neither performer, nor the film itself, is ever that far outside their comfort zone, but it’s never embarrassing or awkward.

Clockin’ in…

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Curse of the Starving Class (at the Abbey Theatre)

You know, just once I’d like to see a play about a functional American family living within their means and completely satisfied with their circumstances. Still, Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class is a fairly solid deconstruction of the American Dream, a play that was – when produced – a prescient condemnation of a society living well beyond their means. Indeed, there are more than a few uncomfortable laughs during the play that suggest it’s just as relevant today (especially when certain characters trumpet land as a solid investment which only increases in value). Curse of the Starving Class is a solid production from the Abbey that handles a well-respected play in competent manner, but isn’t necessarily exceptional.

On the fence about it...

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Happy St. Paddy’s Day: Are We Too Harsh on Irish Films?

I read an article a little while ago (which is now locked to registered users of the Irish Times) in which director Neil Jordan suggested that, as a nation, we are too kind to our own films. Not that he was complaining, as he felt that he was doing quite nicely from the somewhat softer criticism.

However, always ready to cause a minor kerfuffle (that’s not an insult – it’s one of the reasons why I like him), Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke took time out to post this observation, provoking a raft of uncomplimentary responses from his readers. Commenting on his own article, Clarke admitted that it had all been a fiendishly clever gambit on his part:

This is all very interesting stuff. I must now confess something of an ulterior motive in posting this. You would not believe — and looking at responses above you really wouldn’t — the number of Irish film-makers who believe that domestic critics are unfairly negative towards their work. I’m glad to see I was not hallucinating.

We’re all “begrudgers” you see. (Incidentally that is my least favourite word in Irish-English.)

So,  do these critics have a point? Are we all just incredibly bitter about our own national film culture? In honour of Paddy’s Day, I thought I’d share my own opinions on the matter.

Note to international readers: most Irish films do not look like this...

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Non-Review Review: Wake Wood

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

Even though I never lived through their “golden age” of schlock horror films, I still feel a sympathetic affinity for Hammer’s House of Horror. Watching movies late into the night with my gran and grandfather was one of those treats my younger self enjoyed on returning from abroad for Summer or Christmas holidays. As such, it’s nice to see Hammer producing movies again. Let Me In was a fairly major success for the company, remarking the already-classic vampire film Let the Right One In, but it didn’t feel as deeply rooted in Hammer’s horror traditions as the Irish horror the Wake Wood does. For better or worse, the Wake Wood is pure Hammer Horror.

The truth always comes to light...

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