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Non-Review Review: Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s irreverent modernised take on A Streetcar Name Desire. Sure, some of the finer details have been changed to protect the not-quite-innocent. The story is relocated from New Orleans to San Diego. (“This is such a European city,” our lead notes, as if to suggest it isn’t such a significant change.) The character of Stanley Kowalski has been divided across several different supporting characters – the Polish Augie and the car mechanic Chili. (“He’s just another version of Augie,” Jasmine suggests of her sister’s later boyfriend, drawing attention to the fact that they are both other versions of another character.)

Allen plays of the structure and the beats of Tennessee Williams’ hugely iconic play, even playfully branding his Blanche Dubois stand-in as the movie’s “blue” Jasmine French. The result is enjoyable and intriguing, anchored on a fantastic central performance from Cate Blanchett as the Southern belle who might not be quite the victim that she claims to be. As with so many Allen films, there’s a rich ensemble at work here, but Blue Jasmine works beautifully by riffing cleverly on a classic of American theatre.

"... the kindness of strangers..."

“… the kindness of strangers…”

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The Sopranos: A Hit is a Hit (Review)

A Hit is a Hit works a lot better than Boca, despite the fact that it’s structurally quite similar. It introduces a bunch of new characters and concepts to the series which don’t really extend beyond the episode in question. Massive G never appears again, and the pending lawsuit he threatens is never discussed in any later episode. It’s a light stand-alone tale coming towards the end of a season which has dedicated so much time and effort to building a full-formed world.

However, A Hit is a Hit doesn’t feel completely disposable. Part of that is down to the wonderful B-plot in which Tony finds himself struggling for acceptance among more the more reputable members of his neighbourhood, but it’s also down to the fact that the main plot feels like develops the themes of The Sopranos a lot better than Boca did, and that Christopher’s character arc feels like a logical progression rather than simply “an issue of the week.”

Ain't that a shot in the head?

Ain’t that a shot in the head?

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Reckless Guardians: The Rise and Fall of Cinematic Responsibility…

I actually quite enjoyed The Rise of the Guardians. It is probably the most visually assured animation from Dreamworks to date, the cast are all having a great time and the plot is simple but effective. However, I just didn’t wind up feeling an emotional connection to the central character, Jack Frost. Jack is an embodiment of an abstract concept – a “guardian” appointed by “the Man in the Moon” (or “Manny” to his friends). The bulk of Rise of the Guardians is about Jack learning to embrace his new position and everything that comes with it – to swallow his insecurity and to accept that he has been chosen to do a kick-ass job.

Still, it remains quite difficult to connect with Jack Frost, and I wonder if it’s the same problem that made Pixar’s much-maligned Cars 2 so difficult to swallow. Rather than learning to temper his unreliable inconsistency, the movie asks an irresponsible character to effectively embrace the flaw completely.

Note: This article contains a few spoilers for Rise of the Guardians.

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Non-Review Review: Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians might be the best-looking addition to the Dreamworks canon. It’s a visual feast, a testament to the imaginations of those working behind the scenes, with a vivid visual aesthetic that is often breathtaking. Even with the colours toned down by the 3D glasses, it still looks good, and the particles of snow and dust lends themselves to an immersive 3D presentations. The cast is also charming bringing the titular fairy tale team to life, with a wonderful group dynamic  and an enthusiasm that’s hard to dismiss.

Just in the Nick of time!

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Non-Review Review: Team America – World Police

There’s a strong argument to be made that Team America: World Police is perhaps the best comedy made in the past decade. It’s certainly the most politically astute, and certainly one of the more thoughtful commentaries on American foreign policy to emerge in the wake of 9/11. Like a lot of the work of Stone and Parker, it’s tone is incredibly juvenile and even puerile, with the pair never meeting a bad-taste gag that they don’t love. However, this decidedly low-brow sense of humour is coupled with a more sophisticated and sharp political wit that allows the movie to be topical without seeming preachy, observant without being heavy-handed, and veryfunny without ever being too earnest. That’s a winning combination.

Patriot Games…

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Non-Review Review: Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages actually works quite well as a microcosm of the eighties – in both good and bad ways. It is loud, entertaining, engaging, shallow, beautifully constructed, hypocritical, energetic, charming, tasteless and somehow strangely irresistible in places. While the movie doesn’t necessarily always work, it is a perfect piece of cultural counter-programming to the summer’s sporting events. Light, fun and just a little dazed and confused, Rock of Ages is self-aware enough that it never collapses under its own weight. While it’s unlikely to be remembered as the best of the summer, it is a charmingly cheesy (if occasionally clumsy) power ballad musical that does exactly what it says on the tin.

He’s already made his marker…

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Non-Review Review: It’s Complicated

The title is misleading. It isn’t actually complicated. I’d demand my money back for such a misleading title, but the movie staisfies my basic need for naked Alec Baldwin. Because everyone needs more naked Alec Baldwin. You just don’t know it yet. All joking aside, the movie works as what it is: another attempt by Meryl Streep to demonstrate that women over fifty can be just as emotionally immature and as haplessly self-centred as any romantic lead in her twenties or thirties. Who says Hollywood is ageist? Romantic comedy can be equally demeaning no matter what your age.

One of these just scored way out of their league...

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