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Non-Review Review: Sully – Miracle on the Hudson

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson has a certain Frank Capra quality to it.

To be fair, a lot of that comes from the casting of Tom Hanks in the title role. Hanks radiates a certain ineffable integrity, a “Hanksian Decency” that informs his performances in films as diverse as Bridge of Spies and Inferno. It is tempting to think of him as “America’s Dad”, particularly given the grey hair and the moustache that he donned for the title role here. However, it is also tempting to think of him as a latter-day Jimmy Stewart, the embodiment of a certain type of fundamental American decency that lends itself to this sort of narrative.

Hanks for the memories.

Hanks for the memories.

Similarly, director Clint Eastwood has a similar philosophy. Eastwood’s films tend to be organised around strong moral principles. Often those principles are articulated in terms of personal responsibility, particularly the responsibility that individuals have for others whether in a professional capacity (J. Edgar) or a personal capacity (Million Dollar Baby) or simply by virtue of being there (Gran Torino). Eastwood’s recurring fascination with individual responsibility makes him a quintessentially American director.

This combination is ideally suited to Sully, which is constructed as something akin to a modern-day American fairytale.

"Mr. Sullenberger goes to the NTSB Debriefing."

“Mr. Sullenberger goes to the NTSB Debriefing.”

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Non-Review Review: Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys looks and feels pretty much exactly how you might expect a musical directed by Clint Eastwood to look and feel.

Adapted from the Tony-Award winning hit musical, it is awash with nostalgia. Jersey Boys provides an account of the career of Frankie Valli from his early days in the local neighbourhood through to induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the nineties. The film is shockingly traditional in terms of construction, adhering rigidly to the formula for a successful musical bio-pic, from the early grifting to the eventual discord to the heart-felt reunion epilogue, complete with questionable old-age make-up for the cast.

Jersey Boys hits all the expected notes, but never quite brings the house down.

Sign of the times...

Sign of the times…

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Non-Review Review: Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is very clearly a sentimental life-affirming true story, very clearly pitching itself as an upbeat and hopeful account of one of the most iconic statesmen of our time. A collection of all the “greatest hits” of Mandela’s struggle against oppression and hatred, Mandela is an efficiently calculated piece of cinema. It’s a grand sweeping historical epic that never really pulls back the layers of the character it examines, instead opting (mostly) to film the legend.

And it works. After all, what other world leader in the past half-century can lay claim to such an inspirational narrative? Nelson Mandela’s journey lends itself to this sort of optimistic and inspirational adaptation, and the subject is a comfortable fit for this sort of sweeping life-affirming whirl-wind exploration of Mandela’s personal history.

Courting public opinion...

Courting public opinion…

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Non-Review: Reported Missing (Die Vermissten)

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

Die Vermissten feels almost like a Clint Eastwood film by the way of David Lynch. If that sounds like a pretty strange combination, it really is. When his 16-year-old daughter disappears, divorcee Lothar is initially reluctant to investigate. He tries to convince his ex-wife that she’ll turn up, while trying to explain to his new girlfriend that he has a daughter. Eventually determining to conduct his own inquiries into the disappearance of his child, Lothar discovers that the incident isn’t quite isolated, and that there’s something much larger going on here.

Missing vital evidence...

Missing vital evidence…

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Stuck in the Moment: The Mood for a (Particular) Movie…

I’ve been thinking a bit, lately, about how I form an opinion about a particular film. Of course, it should be somewhat objective. I should be able to take out any possibly subjective influences and divorce a movie from any of those countless outside factors, to judge it entirely on its own merits. (Or, as the case might be, its lack of merits.) However, I am honest enough to admit that this isn’t always the case. There are any number of reasons I might feel a particular way about the movie. I find J. Edgar interesting to place in the context of Clint Eastwood’s body of work. I approached Cabin of the Woods with an admitted fondness for cheesy horror. I’ll admit that these facets colour my opinions somewhat – I am more likely to respond to a film that resonates with me on something I feel strongly about.

However, sometimes that influence factor isn’t anything to do with the movie in question at all. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder, whether my opinion is down to something as arbitrary as the mood I was in when I watched the film.

I will not have my tastes subjected to this sort of double-guessing!

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X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga – 30th Anniversary Edition (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Chris Claremont enjoyed the company of some of the most respected and renowned artists in comics while working on Uncanny X-Men. He had the pleasure of helping to establish talent like John Romita Jr., Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee, all modern giants working in the field. However, it’s hard to argue that Claremont ever worked in tighter synergy than he did with John Byrne. Byrne succeeded artist Dave Cockrum on the book, and helped Claremont helm several iconic and defining X-Men stories, delivering pay-off on years of set-up and radically reshaping notions of what a superhero comic could and could not do. Though the pair produced several genuine classics, The Dark Phoenix Saga stands as the artistic triumph of their run. One could make a compelling case that it’s Claremont’s finest X-Men story, or the finest X-Men story, or – if one weren’t feeling especially modest – perhaps the finest mainstream superhero story ever told.

Bird of prey…

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Chris Claremont & Frank Miller’s Wolverine (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

It’s almost hard to believe that Wolverine only earned his first solo miniseries in 1982. The character had first appeared as a foe in The Incredible Hulk in 1974, and was coopted in the X-Men with Len Wein’s Giant-Sized X-Men #1 a year later. During Chris Claremont’s celebrated Uncanny X-Men run, Wolverine emerged a hugely popular character. In fact, I think you could make the argument that Wolverine and Storm were the central protagonists of Claremont’s epic X-Men run. Still, given how ubiquitous the character has become in recent years, it’s impressive that it took so long for him to get a solo adventure. The four-part Wolverine miniseries, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Frank Miller, is generally regarded as one of the best miniseries that Marvel ever produced, and I think that it provided a lot of the momentum and characterisation that would sustain the character over three more decades of solo appearances.

Get some…

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