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Non-Review Review: Need for Speed

The obvious comparison for Need for Speed is to suggest that the movie feels like a video game. After all, the film is an adaptation of EA’s successful car racing video game franchise, porting the adventure to the big screen. However, that doesn’t quite cover Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed. Instead, his car racing adventure feels almost like a cartoon for most of its runtime, adopting a much lighter tone and more careful visual style than the Fast & Furious series which also invites comparisons.

This cartoonish quality is endearing at points, with certain racing sequences and chases feeling almost like a live-action version of Wacky Races, but it means that the movie struggles to shift gears. Attempts to get the audience to invest in a standard central plotline about redemption and justice are hard to balance against the decidedly over-the-top atmosphere of the rest of the film. There are points where Need for Speed needs to convince us to care about its characters, but it can’t make them seem real – no matter how hard it tries.

Stop right now, thank you very much...

Stop right now, thank you very much…

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Non-Review Review: Summer in February

Summer in February is a lazy and contrived piece of pretentious twaddle. Exploring the true story of a colony of artists living off the coast of England in the early years of the twentieth century, it never offers anything more than a fleeting sketch of its characters and the world they inhabit. Benjamin Wallfisch’s powerhouse period score does a lot of heavy lifting, but it can’t do anything to keep the movie afloat. At one point, early in the film, artist AJ Munnings settles a hefty bar tab with an improvised drawing on the back of a bill. This film feels like it would be hard-pressed to pay for a glass of tap water.

summerinfebruary3

Ride away from the cinema! Away!

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Non-Review Review: Dead Man Down

This is intriguing. Dead Man Down feels like a blend of a European revenge thriller with a more straight-forward American crime film. Director  Niels Arden Oplev has established his credibility with his work on the original version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, even it I am less fond of the film than most. His first America film is an interesting experiment, even if Oplev can’t quite pull it off as seamlessly as the material requires.

Dead Man Down buckles a bit under the weight of two sets of genre requirements. It is by turns quiet, withdrawn and introspective, but also loud, overwhelming and exposition-filled. These two facets of the film – feeling like the demands of a European film against an American mainstream release – seem to be at war with one another. The result is something that is more interesting than entirely satisfying.

They do make a bloody mess...

They do make a bloody mess…

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Non-Review Review: Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter

The biggest problem with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is that it’s so mundane. You have this concept that is so incredibly ridiculous that you can play any number of ways – wacky “history-xploitation”; Hollywood “meta”-spoof; absurd parody. And yet director Timur Bekmambetov instead produces on of the most bland action movies imaginable. Despite the “wait? did the poster really say…?” premise, this film could be any action vampire movie ever. All Bekmambetov did was to swap speeding cars for horses and carriages, and cast a slightly taller lead with a badass taste in hats and facial hair. I’d argue that the problem with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is that it takes itself too seriously, but there’d be some fun in playing something like this absurdly straight. Instead, it’s just a generic action and adventure film with a slightly quirky title.

He was just clearing through his old things and… (four)score!

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Suspending Your Belief: Age Before Beauty…

It’s strange, isn’t it, what will break our suspension of disbelief? I mean, we’ll accept (while watching Superman) that a man can fly around in his underwear, but the fact he advertises his weakness to kryptonite in a public interview is distracting. Or we’ll somehow buy into an archeologist who searches for the holy grail and encounters all manner of occult phenomenon, but when it comes to aliens extra-dimensional beings… well, a lot of us call foul. Still, I’ve been thinking a bit of late about the really quite weird fascination that movies seem to have with age and recasting.

Grasping at straws to keep Patrick Stewart on board...

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