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Non-Review Review: Vice

Vice feels at once like an extension of both Adam McKay’s work on The Big Short and recent innovations on the biographic picture format codified by I, Tonya.

At its core, Vice is the biography of a man whose defining attribute is how unassuming he appears. The opening text lays out the challenges facing the production team in trying to structure a biographical film around a man who has spent his life lurking at the edge of the frame, how hard it can be to extrapolate his inner workings from the outline of his journey through the world. Dick Cheney worked very hard to erase his own footprint; it is with no small irony that the film notes how thoroughly Cheney cleared his own email servers.

No need to be a Dick about it.

The film’s anonymous narrator, himself framed as perfectly average individual, repeatedly stresses how “ordinary” the central character presents himself. At one point, he advises a former colleague that the new standard operating procedure is “softly, softly.” Similarly, the documentary acknowledges the lacunas in the narrative that is constructing, how difficult it is – to evoke a different Shakespearean play than he chooses to quote – “to see the mind’s construction in the face.”

The result is fascinating, a character study that becomes an exploration of systemic flaws and inequities. Vice is a story about a man who appears to have no fixed political beliefs, no strong political identity, no clear political voice. Instead, Vice is a study of the politics of power as politics of itself, a tale about a man whose central political motivation is not ideological or existential, but purely practical. Vice is the tale of the will to power of a perfectly mundane and average individual, and the carnage wrought on his journey towards that power.

Vice City.

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Hannibal – Entrée (Review)

It’s nice that we got this far into the season before Entrée was necessary. It’s the kind of episode that a show like Hannibal was always going to have to produce relatively early on, allowing it to air the laundry, so to speak, and to overtly and clearly distinguish itself from a popular predecessor. In this case, it’s The Silence of the Lambs.

Although we haven’t met Clarice Starling yet, although the credit at the start of each episode cites Red Dragon as the show’s inspiration, it’s hard to escape the shadow of one of the most popular horror films ever made. Many argue that The Silence of the Lambs was the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar. Even today, it remains a cultural touchstone, and there’s an incredibly large number of people who are only familiar with the character of Hannibal Lecter through that story and – in particular – through the film adaptation.

Hannibal hasn’t been shy about referencing The Silence of the Lambs, nor should it be. Crawford’s office from the start of Aperitif seems arranged in homage to the film, while the arrangement of two of the victims in Coquilles couldn’t help but evoke Hannibal’s dramatic escape from his cell at the film’s climax. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Entrée exists mainly to allow the show to indulge and engage in the imagery and iconography of the film, so that Hannibal can truly distinguish itself.

"Oh, goodie..."

“Oh, goodie…”

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Watch! New Man of Steel Trailer!

It’s safe to say that I’m somewhat skeptical of a new live action Superman movie, particularly after the mess that was Superman Returns. That said, I’m growing cautiously optimistic about Man of Steel. The latest trailer helps, and it seems that David Goyer and Christopher Nolan (and Zack Snyder) have hit upon some of the character’s core themes – particularly the idea that Superman is more of an aspirational figure than a guy who can hit things really hard. The new trailer offers glimpses of the supporting cast. Amy Adams sounds pretty great as Lois Lane, not that there was any doubt. It’s also nice to see the wonderful Michael Shannon in full-blown villain mode. Although it looks like Zod will swear vengeance against the House of El again, Shannon’s performance looks to be a completely different tack from Terrence Stamp’s iconic performance. And that’s a good thing, as much as I love Stamp’s Zod.

Anyway, check out the trailer below, and let me know what you think.

12 Movie Moments of 2012: Chris Cooper Raps (The Muppets)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #1

If you ever need proof of how delightfully absurd The Muppets was, the sight of Oscar-winner Chris Cooper dancing and rapping across his desk, only to unleash a storeroom full of chorus girls while Jason Segel looks on in confusion should do the trick. It’s a fantastic moment because it’s so ridiculously surreal. Cooper is rapping for about a minute of screen-time, meaning that it’s over before it has really begun – leaving both the characters and the audience wondering what the hell just happened.

In a great way.

themuppets10

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Non-Review Review: The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement is the best romantic comedy of 2012 so far. Reuniting the talents of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, the film manages to offer a refreshingly frank and honest perspective of romantic relationships. The interactions feel more organic, the third act crisis is rooted in something more primal and relevant than some idle miscommunication and the resolution isn’t based on the notion that people can inexplicably change. Like Segel and Stoller’s superb Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement is predicated on the assumption that love must mean accepting and embracing your partner for who they are, rather than what you want them to be. It’s a little depressing that this moral feels almost subversive in this day-and-age of formulaic and generic romantic comedies, but there’s no denying that The Five-Year Engagement is head-and-shoulders above most of its competitors.

They’ll get married this year… in a pig’s eye…

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Non-Review Review: The Muppets

It’s interesting to imagine what the reaction in the room must have been after Jason Segal was asked to name his next project, building off the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The fast-rising actor and writer could have had his pick of any number of features, and yet he chose to work on a revival of The Muppets. After all, these were a group of characters who had enjoyed a reasonable revival with The Muppets Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island in the early-to-mid-nineties, but had seen their fame quickly eroded with a string of poorly-received television and movie projects. It’s easy to imagine discussions being had about the “relevance” of the Muppets in the era of reality television and pandering television, as the film portrays with a fictional executive portrayed by Rashida Jones. It seemed like there was a lot of weight riding on the project, both for Segal and the studio, and for Jim Henson’s creations themselves.

I think they can all be extremely proud. I think it’s safe to describe the finished product as the best family film of the past year.

Brush with greatness?

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Non-Review Review: Julie & Julia

I am quite surprised to admit that I greatly enjoyed Julie & Julia. Probably more than I should have, on careful analysis. The film’s main gimick – juxtaposing Julia Child’s time in France with Julie Powell’s attempt to cook through the gigantic tome which resulted from Child’s time in France – never really comes together, but it manages to work on pure whimsy despite highly predictable subject matter (indeed, the thread running through Julie’s storyline kinda presupposes the end of Julia’s arc – Julie wouldn’t be cooking from her book if she didn’t succeed). It isn’t a masterpiece or a classic, but it’s a very watchable piece of moviemaking.

Can you smell what the blogger's cooking?

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