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Non-Review Review: Miles Ahead

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2016.

Miles Ahead is a very strange film.

Don Cheadle stars as jazz musician Miles Davis. Not that Davis particularly cares for the descriptor. “That’s a made-up word, jazz,” he reflects during the opening credits. Asked to select a better description of his work, Davis settles on “social music.” In many ways, that awkward conversation sets the tone for the rest of the film, which weaves between a fairly conventional music biopic and a comedy musical heist adventure for no real reason beyond the fact that it really doesn’t want to be a conventional music biopic.

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Miles Ahead feels like a passion project for Cheadle, who not only headlines the film but also directs and co-writes. Watching the movie unfold, it is clear that Cheadle cares deeply for the source material and understands the challenges the face any twenty-first century musical biography. Because Miles Ahead is adapting a life for film, it cannot avoid the familiar beats; the drug addiction, the disintegrated marriage, the wilderness years. However, Cheadle works to undercut these familiar tropes through a surreal and ambitious framing device.

Miles Ahead does not work. The film has no shortage of ambition, very clearly angling towards a free-form narrative style intended to evoke the protagonist’s unique musical sensibility. Cheadle is determined that Miles Ahead will not be lumped among the dozens of fairly nondescript musical biographies, instead tailoring something to his subject. However, Miles Ahead lacks the improvisational flourish that defines its central character, feeling more disjointed than harmonious.

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Non-Review Review: Flight

Flight has a lot to recommend it. It has an interesting subject, a fantastic central performance and wonderful supporting cast. As a result, it’s a shame that the movie makes such a mess of all these things. Flight is never less than interesting and Washington is always watchable, but it isn’t quite as compelling as a two-hour drama film needs to be. Director Robert Zemeckis struggles a bit with the tone of the piece, and Flight seems to be a bit all over the place, making it quite difficult to enjoy and hard to engage with.

Things are looking up...

Things are looking up…

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Non-Review Review: The Guard

“Good to go,” an Irish drug smuggler remarks as the plan comes together for a big delivery. His English colleague derisively remarks, “I f**king hate that. Americanisms. ‘Good to go’!” It’s hard not to read small moments like this as a bit of self-reference on the part of John Michael McDonagh, as the film takes every opportunity to reflect on the Irish fascination and digestion of American pop culture, as contrasted against the somewhat unique national character. Sparkling with witty dialogue and packed with sharply-observed commentaries on Ireland and its relationship with our bigger Atlantic cousin, The Guard is a clever little film that is well worth your time.

Once upon a time in the West...

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Non-Review Review: Ocean’s Eleven

Everybody likes to take it easy sometimes. Just because we generally work hard on offering some sort of deep insight on the way that people (or the world) work doesn’t mean that – every once in a while – you want to just kick back and take things easy. And so it is with Ocean’s Eleven, which is considered (along with its two sequels) among the lighter work in Steven Soderbergh’s ambitious filmography. If you ever wondered what the man responsible for ambitious (if not always effective) movies like Che and Traffic does to relax, I can’t help but imagine it might look a little bit like this. Ocean’s Eleven is a triumph of style over substance. There’s not a lot going on underneath the shiny surface (hell, for all I know it’s dead under there), but the exterior just oozes effortless cool.

A drop in the Ocean...

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Non-Review Review: Iron Man 2

Legacy. It’s all about legacy. What we leave for our children and what we inherit from our parents. Sometimes it’s bitterness and hatred, sometimes it’s more than we think. Iron Man as a concept is inherently linked to the Cold War and American foreign policy, so it’s a fitting theme for the sequel to tackle. Fathers and sons dominate the film, as does the simple and haunting fact that the now is shaped by the then. Some of us get to change the world, some of us simply leave big smoking craters behind us. Even the bad guy, a Russian, consciously evokes conflicts fading from memory that shaped our modern world.

Sometimes you just need to slow down and take a break...

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