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Non-Review Review: Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher is exhausting.

Director Bennett Miller’s account of the relationship between billionaire John “Eagle” DuPont and the Schultz brothers is a draining experience. Beautiful performances, stunning cinematography and a minimalist script create an uncomfortable and looming sense of dread. Even those unfamiliar with the story DuPont’s sponsorship of the United States Olympic Wrestling Team cannot help but feel tragedy bearing down. Foxcatcher is a heartbreaking and harrowing piece of work, an affecting and unsettling tale of power, desperation and loneliness.

Wrestling with demons...

Wrestling with demons…

Foxcatcher is beautifully crafted. Every element of the production is carefully and meticulously put together. Steve Carell transforms himself to play the role of DuPont, assisted by superb make-up overseen by Bill Corso and his team. Every frame of the movie looks crisp, the blues and reds and yellows popping out of the screen; Greig Fraser’s cinematography effectively captures the starkness of the Pennsylvanian landscape across the seasons. Miller is comfortable enough to let Foxcatcher unfold at its own pace, never rushing.

The result is a compelling and grimly fascinating story, told elegantly. There are points when Foxcatcher perhaps seems a little too distant and clinical, but the three lead performances help to keep the film firmly grounded.

To catch a fox...

To catch a fox…

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Non-Review Review: 22 Jump Street

Comedy sequels can be a tough beast.

After all, a joke isn’t as funny the second time around and – if it is – there’s always the DVD.  Comedy sequels often find themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place. They have to pay homage and due respect to what came before, but they can’t simply tread out the same old jokes. It isn’t a case of simply doing the same thing but bigger, as with most sequels. Comedy sequels are a tough nut to crack.

The genius of 22 Jump Street is the way that it accepts this and turns it into the biggest joke of the film.

Jumping back into their roles...

Jumping back into their roles…

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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: This is the End

There’s a moment about half-way through This is the End when our bunch of celebrities are starting go stir-crazy, as they brave the apocalypse inside James Franco’s surprisingly fortified house. In the strange combination of idle boredom and growing madness, the group decide to improvise a trailer for the non-existent sequel to Pineapple Express. It is complete nonsense, but there’s a strange energy and a warm sense of humour to their “sweded” version of a Hollywood comedy, complete with remote-control car chases and homemade props.

It feels like something that only these actors would get – it’s just a bunch of people hanging out, fooling around, making the most of the materials available to them do something which feels incredibly niche. It’s a weird balance of something so experimental and so niche that it’s almost definitely a piece of post-modern art. (The movie even features an early scene of pretentious James Franco gleefully arguing that everything is art – even Jay Baruchel.) On the other hand, it’s accessible and fun, managing to seem – simultaneously – like an incredibly niche and charmingly broad piece of film.

It’s also pretty damn funny.

... and I feel fine...

… and I feel fine…

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Non-Review Review: G.I. Joe – Retaliation

I’m actually just a little bit divided on G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It is not, by any measure, a good film. It’s messy, it’s muddled, it’s over-complicated and under-developed at the same time, it’s nonsense, it’s dumb, it’s loud and it’s all over the map. However, some small part of me sort of admired that G.I. Joe: Retaliation had managed to so perfectly evoke the sensation of playing with toys. Had you given my eight-year-old self a box of G.I. Joe toys and told me to play for two hours, my playtime might have been plotted somewhat similarly to this film. I will concede that I admire the way that G.I. Joe: Retaliation feels more like a bunch of kids playing with toys than a carefully constructed action movie.

At the same time, however, I’m not afraid to admit that my eight-year-old self would have directed a pretty terrible action film.

Rock on...

Rock on…

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Non-Review Review: People Like Us

People Like Us has an endearingly earnest premise and a solid enough cast, but it’s let down by clumsy writing and somewhat awkward direction. People Like Us is never sure whether it’s only getting started or nearing an emotional resolution, to the point where it seems like there’s a string of false endings in this under-two-hour feature. Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks make for two endearing leads, but they find themselves struggling against an overly melodramatic script and direction that never seems to entirely trust the cast.

A close shave…

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Non-Review Review: Magic Mike

Magic Mike has a lightness of touch that’s been missing from a lot of Steven Soderbergh’s recent work. It’s nowhere near as ambitious as Contagion was, but that isn’t necessary a bad thing from the perspective of the film about male stripper living a rock and roll lifestyle. While Magic Mike won’t get any marks for originality, it does manage to feature two impressive performances and has a refreshing sense of “fun”about it. It a solidly entertaining and diverting piece of entertainment, executed with considerable skill that helps distract from its relatively conventional nature.

It’s getting hot in here…

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