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Non-Review Review: The Intern

The Intern is a likeable, competent movie about likeable, competent people doing likeable, competent things.

What is most remarkable about Nancy Meyers’ latest effort is the fact that there is no real tension at play here. Sure, there’s a three-act structure; there are revelations; there are insecurities; there is crying. However, it seems like everybody in the movie wants nothing more than to get along with everybody else in the movie. Sure, there are the obligatory comedy screw-ups and miscommunication, but there’s never a real sense of risk or stakes as the movie wanders politely from one work-related crisis to another.

Nobody gets too bent out of shape...

Nobody gets too bent out of shape…

It is not an approach that makes for particularly compelling or exciting viewing. Indeed, the characters populating The Intern seem terrified about the idea of getting anybody’s blood pressure up; whether that of septuagenarian Ben Whittaker or the prickly mother of executive Jules Ostin. Everybody involved in The Intern, including the characters themselves, are professionals. Sure, mistakes happen and people mess up, but it’s not the end of the world. There is something oddly comforting in that, even if nobody watching The Intern will be on the edge of their seat.

In the end, The Intern is a lot like the eponymous character; it is steady and reliable, amicable and inoffensive. It looks smart and it knows just what to say. Everybody’s just wary about getting that heart beating a little too hard.

"You feel tense..."

“You feel tense…”

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Non-Review Review: Interstellar

Interestingly, Christopher Nolan seems to have generated a reputation as a rather detached director. Common wisdom around Nolan’s films suggest that the film-maker is perhaps too cold and clinical in his approach to the material; that his films lack warmth or humour. This reputation is probably a result of the director’s fascination with non-linear storytelling. After all, The Dark Knight is his only straight-arrow-from-beginning-to-end film.

Probably also due to the narrative contortions and distortions of films like Memento or The Prestige, Nolan is generally presented as a film-maker who constructs visual puzzle-boxes. His films are frequently treated as riddles to be solved. Consider the discussion of narrative “plot holes” in The Dark Knight Rises that fixates on how Bruce Wayne got around back to Gotham, or the discussion on the mechanics of the final shot of Inception. This approaches to his work tend to divorce the viewer from his films.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

Interstellar will likely be Nolan’s most polarising film to date, replacing The Prestige or The Dark Knight Rises. The film offers an extended two-and-a-half hour rebuttal to accusations that Nolan is detached or distant. Much has been made about the attention to detail on Interstellar. The physics on the movie were so exact and precise that physicist Kip Thorne actually made theoretical advances while working on the film.

However, at the same time, one character posits love as a force more powerful than gravity or time. Interstellar might be precise and meticulous, but it is not a film that lacks for an emotional core; it is not a movie that lacks for warmth. Interstellar feels like a conscious attempt to cast off the image of a cynical and cold film-maker.

Out of this world...

Out of this world…

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Non-Review Review: Don Jon

Don Jon is a confident directorial debut from actor and write Joseph Gordon Levitt. Levitt himself stars as the eponymous “Don”, a stereotypically macho young man from New Jersey, who splits his time between nightclubs, churches, the gym, his car and his pornography addiction. Written and directed by Levitt, Don Jon has a charming lightness that allows the movie to play with some pretty heavy subject matter. (After all, the last major film to explore sex addiction was Shame, which was as brilliant as it was harrowing.)

Don Jon is perhaps the sweetest movie ever made about porn addiction. A superb demonstration of Levitt’s already enviable talents, and a confident and slick feature film directorial debut.

Toast of the town...

Toast of the town…

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Non-Review Review: Les Misérables

It’s hard not to admire Les Misérables. It’s the first honest-to-goodness entirely sincere and mostly unironic big budget musical that we’ve seen released in quite some time. While song and dance will always be a part of the movies (The Muppets, for example, carrying many a dainty tune last year), there’s something quite impressive about seeing a music as epic and as iconic as Les Misérables carried across to the big screen. The stage musical became something of a cultural phenomenon on the West End, and Tom Hooper does an effective job of transitioning from stage to screen – even if he doesn’t consistently capitalise on the format shift.

There are some fundamental problems. The second half is a little too awkwardly paced and too disjointed to come together as well as it should, and Hooper seems to have a great deal pitching the right amount of camp (and humour) for an Oscar-bait musical about the aftermath of the French revolution. However, if you can look past those problems, the opening half is a superbly staged musical and the performances are impressive. Including the much maligned Russell Crowe, who might – hear me out – be the best thing about the film.

Sing when you're winning... or at least nominated...

Sing when you’re winning… or at least nominated…

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Watch! Live Singing in Les Misérables…

Universal Pictures Ireland just sent over this behind-the-scenes look at Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables. The film is opening here in January 2013, and I’m actually quite curious to see how it pans out. We’ve had juke box musicals, and modern movies like The Muppets incorporating songs, but there really haven’t been too many legitimate old-school-style musicals in the past number of years. Even Sweeney Todd seemed remarkably subversive. I’m fascinated with this attempt to play the genre straight, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a musical in a cinema. I can’t remember a large-scale musical like this, with a lot of pundits suggesting the genre has been relegated to history.

I actually find this snippet quite insightful, because I would have assumed – for purely practical purposes – the film would have been shot with actors recording the songs separately to filming the scenes. It also illustrates just how skilfully Hooper has put all this together – even offering an off-hand reference to a tune from the musical, Hugh Jackman has a fantastic singing voice. Anyway, check it out below.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

The game was old and alluring… but when the Batman and his beautiful ally, Wonder Woman, buy into a sweep stakes of danger and double-cross, they learn too late that their tickets are punched…

– introduction to Play Now… Die Later!

I’ll freely concede that older comics are a mixed bag, and that they’re certainly an acquired taste. As much as I might recognise the importance of certain classic runs on iconic character, reading comics even a decade or two old is a strange experience for me. I can appreciate the care and craftsmanship going into them, but I’m frequently distracted by the redundant thought balloons, the bizarre logic and quaint characterisation. I know that’s my problem, and I freely concede that. Sometimes, however, I come across a piece of pure old-fashioned awesomeness that almost makes my feel that nostalgia many comic book readers recognise.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo, Volume 1 is such a book, collecting a portion of the iconic Brave and Bold run featuring art by Jim Aparo and scripts by Bob Haney. It is insane. It is awesome. It is fun. It is incredible. I was reluctant to put down these delightful unrestrained Batman stories, and I frequently found myself pumping my fist in the air with excitement and… well, awe. It’s never going to be considered high literature, but Jim Aparo and Bob Haney may have mastered the old-school “comic book” artform.

This isn’t even the craziest thing that happens this run…

Some of the more wonderful “comic book moments” captured here include:

  • the Joker forcing Batman and a friend to fight to the death… or he’ll shoot a puppy!
  • Batman accidentally selling his soul… to Hitler!
  • the Atom climbing inside Batman’s skull… and operating his body like a JCB!
  • Batman saving the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence… while tied to the cowcatcher on a train!
  • Batman teaming up with Kamandi… in a future dominated by talking animals and modelled on Planet of the Apes!

If none of these produce even a hint of childish glee, I don’t know what to say to you.

Even this image cannot capture the awesomeness of this comic… They left out the bit where the Joker is coercing them to do this by threatening to shoot a puppy… that has life-saving anti-virals in its blood for a plague the Joker started… to kill off a henchman who might testify against him…

Note: the ever-wonderful Bat-guru Chris Sims has done a whole slew of posts about the awesomeness of this comic. Here, here and here are some highlights.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 101: Ultimate or Amazing…

Hey. With about a week to go until the release of The Amazing Spider-Man, we thought we’d publish a quick introductory guide to the latest adventure featuring the webcrawler, for those looking for a bit more trivia on the latest pending superhero release. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it and, while reviews are embargoed until Friday (unless you’re a major publisher like The Guardian or The Hollywood Reporter apparently), here’s the skinny.

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