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Non-Review Review: Baby Driver

Baby Driver is largely about keeping the wheels spinning.

Circular imagery recurs throughout the film. At various points, long-take sequences begin and end in the same location, following characters as they move in a literal circle. At other points, the camera remains static while characters leave the frame to one side and enter from the other, creating the impression that they have just lapped their environment. Baby Driver is populated with objects that go all the way around to end up where they started; the clicker on an iPod, the drum of a washing machine, the wheels on a car, the subwoofer on a stereo, the record on a turntable.

Tune in, and cop out.

Even the dialogue and story move in something approaching a circle; recurring patterns of bad behaviour and errors in judgement, repeated lines offering a sense of symmetry to the story. In one of the nicer smaller examples, both the extended opening and closing sequences make a point to place the eponymous getaway driver behind the wheel of a striking red Subaru. Calls and response, echoes and refrains, patterns and sequences. It all comes around, Baby Driver suggests.

There is very little novel or innovative in Baby Driver, which feels very much like an attempt by writer and director Edgar Wright to construct a more conventional crowd-pleasing film than cult hits that defined his earlier efforts. A lot of Baby Driver feels conventional and archetypal, a conscious choice on the part of the director. While the supporting cast features any number of interesting players breathing life into familiar criminal archetypes, Baby Driver suffers from the fact that its two leads are its least satisfying element.

Drive baby.

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Non-Review Review: The World’s End

The World’s End feels curiously nostalgic. Not just in the way that lead character Gary King tries to recapture his old youth by roping four childhood friends into revisiting their old home town to complete a pub crawl they started upon leaving school, nor in the way the sound track includes such hits of yesteryear as Loaded by Primal Scream and Kylie Minogue’s Step Back in Time, and not even in the fact that the school reunion includes a trip to a literal school disco.

Instead, it feels like a belated criticism of a recent chapter in British history, a reflection on the era of “the special relationship”, and mournful retrospective on what might be perceived as the erosion of British culture by the relentless assault of American influence. The World’s End is an invasion story, but it’s a conscious reversal of the second wave “Britpop” invasion of the nineties (an era the movie evokes nostalgically). This isn’t a hostile occupation. It is, to quote one of the characters, “peaceful indoctrination.”

They've got him Pegged...

They’ve got him Pegged…

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Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun (Review)

In the lead-up to the release of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, I’m going to be taking a look at Hergé’s celebrated comic book character, from his humble beginnings through to the incomplete post-modern finale. I hope you enjoy the ride.

I have to admit to really liking the two-part Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun adventure, to the extent that I’m actually eagerly anticipating Peter Jackson’s adaptation that may never materialise. The two-parter really just takes the best aspects of Hergé’s Tintin mythos, brewing up a pop culture stew that can be served as a mystery story or an adventure into a mystical and unknown world. The idea of discovering a long-lost tribe of ancient Inca is certainly an appealing one, and would make for a gripping turn-of-the-century adventure. Using that premise as a starting point, Hergé leads us and Tintin in the heart of Amazon, filled with excitement and danger and mystery.

Tintin, why don't you come Inca?

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Non-Review Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a wonderful science-fiction premise, so it’s really no wonder that the story has been taken to the big and small screens so often. It’s a great example of how a story can strike different notes in different eras, and how something can easily be about one thing in one era, and take on an entirely different meaning in a later one. The 1978 adaptation is a wonderful piece of high-concept science-fiction, which skilfully takes the ideas from the original classic film, and shakes them around just a little bit.

It's a scream!

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Happy St. Paddy’s Day: Are We Too Harsh on Irish Films?

I read an article a little while ago (which is now locked to registered users of the Irish Times) in which director Neil Jordan suggested that, as a nation, we are too kind to our own films. Not that he was complaining, as he felt that he was doing quite nicely from the somewhat softer criticism.

However, always ready to cause a minor kerfuffle (that’s not an insult – it’s one of the reasons why I like him), Irish Times film critic Donald Clarke took time out to post this observation, provoking a raft of uncomplimentary responses from his readers. Commenting on his own article, Clarke admitted that it had all been a fiendishly clever gambit on his part:

This is all very interesting stuff. I must now confess something of an ulterior motive in posting this. You would not believe — and looking at responses above you really wouldn’t — the number of Irish film-makers who believe that domestic critics are unfairly negative towards their work. I’m glad to see I was not hallucinating.

We’re all “begrudgers” you see. (Incidentally that is my least favourite word in Irish-English.)

So,  do these critics have a point? Are we all just incredibly bitter about our own national film culture? In honour of Paddy’s Day, I thought I’d share my own opinions on the matter.

Note to international readers: most Irish films do not look like this...

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Only Ourselves to Blame: The Sad Truth about the Mountains of Madness…

The internet seems to be in mourning. There’s none of the angry fist-waving fury that we saw over the announcement of the planned sequels and prequels to Blade Runner, just a solemn sense of reflection. After it seemed that good news was on the way, word came down the wire that Guillermo Del Toro’s planned adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness would not be happening. Apparently Universal Studios have decided that instead of spending $150m on a genuinely respected classic horror story, they’d rather blow $175m on another shot at Doom. The two decisions probably aren’t directly related (in that I doubt it was an “either or” situation), but it’s fairly damning. However, I honestly don’t think we should blame the studio for any of this. And, that, my friends, is the sad madness-inspiring truth of it all: we have only ourselves to blame.

Del Toro's dream project met an icy reception...

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10 out of 10: The Ten Best Movies of the Year

Contrary to popular opinion, I was actually relatively impressed with 2010 as a year in cinema. It was no 2008, with a consistent string of impressive hits (both big and small). However, it wasn’t as bitterly disappointing as 2009 was, with letdown after letdown. Sure, there weren’t that many hugely successful sequels or reboots, but the vast majority of them weren’t soul-destroying wastes of film. So I’m quite happy. This year I actually had to cut several items from the list to get it down to a perfect ten.

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