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New Escapist Column! “Charlie’s Angels” and the Franchise-ification of Everything…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine a little while back, looking at the recent Charlie’s Angels film.

Elizabeth Banks’ Charlie’s Angels is a mess of a film, one that struggles with a variety of problems. Its biggest problems are tonal, with the movie unsure of exactly how it wants to pitch itself: is it a gritty reboot or a campy adventure? There’s a tension at the heart of the film, one which traps it between past and future. Banks clearly wants to reinvent Charlie’s Angels, but she’s also unable to escape the franchise’s history. This is an interesting push-and-pull, one that arguably illustrates the tension of modern franchise film-making.

Most obviously, is it really necessary for a campy seventies sexy spy series to have a “canon”, and is it really necessary for a cinematic adaptation to be beholden to that “canon”? You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Charlie’s Angels is a fascinating tonal mess. It doesn’t work at all, but the ways in which it doesn’t work are fascinating.

Charlie’s Angels feels like something of a hybrid. It combines several different styles of blockbuster into a single film. It pitches itself as a campy and goofy stupid 1990s blockbuster, but inflected with a veneer of 2000s self-seriousness and filtered through the lens of 2010s ironic self-awareness. However, these elements do not compliment one another, and Charlie’s Angels is never particularly interested in either smoothing over the gaps or exploring the dissonance. The result is an aesthetic that is probably best described as “comedically sociopathic.

Three of a kind.

It’s a shame, because there is some interesting stuff here. Writer and director Elizabeth Banks plays with ideas like the female gaze, and trying to reappropriate the franchise’s iconography and history for the twenty-first century. However, Charlie’s Angels lacks the clean focus that is necessary for a project like this to work, it cannot even figure out whether it wants to be a ground-up rebuild of the classic model or a nostalgic tweak upon it, and so seems to wander the gulf between those two extremes.

Charlie’s Angels is a strangely lifeless blockbuster, for a film that tries to cram so much in.

Solid as a rock?

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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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Clip for Pitch Perfect…

Pitch Perfect was the first mystery film at Movie Fest, and it was actually a surprising treat. A fairly conventional coming of age story, filtered through a charming and astute wit, it’s a movie that makes the best of a great cast and a strong script. It’s well worth a look when it gets a release over here, at the end of October. In the mean time, Universal Pictures Ireland just sent over this clip from the film. Have a look.

Non-Review Review: Pitch Perfect

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, which is as much of a joy this year as it was last year.

Pitch Perfect seems like a recipe for a disaster. It’s a college pseudo-coming-of-age comedy set in the competitive world of acapella, with a women’s group fighting to break “the acapella glass ceiling.” (We’re told – by a commentator described as “a misogynist at heart” – that “woman are about as good at being acapella singers as they are at being doctors.”) However, the film is a joy to watch, a light feel-good film with a wonderful charm and a bright wit about it, brought to life by a fantastic cast working off a wry script. It’s never too heavy, and it never insists upon itself, but it’s engaging and fun in a way that makes it hard to resist.

Anna-phonic sound…

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Negotiating Potential Hazards: The Art of Movie Negotiation…

I’m kinda looking forward to Man on a Ledge, if only because it looks like the sort of high-concept thriller that could be fascinating viewing – I’m hoping for something similar to Phone Booth or Buried or other movies that take a fairly simple situation and centre a thriller around it. I’m a sucker for a good negotiation thriller. There’s something about that sort of film that just intrigues me. Whether it’s a hostage situation, a botched bank robbery or something else entirely, I think that those kinds of movies that manages to combine large-scale epic drama with a more intimate personal conflict. I think that’s a dynamic that’s somewhat hard to mess up, there’s just something inherently compelling about such a small-scale interaction with such large-scale consequences that it’s very hard not to get sucked up in the drama of it all.

High stakes game...

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Non-Review Review: The Next Three Days

The Next Three Days is actually, when it gets down to it, quite a clever and inventive little prison break movie, with a strong central performance from Russell Crowe, with a smart script and a great supporting cast. However, the problem is that, for a prison break movie, the actual prison break only takes up a relatively small amount of the film. While it’s clear a great deal of care and research went into the production, and it feels like Paul Haggis is really showing his work, it throws the pacing off a bit, and feels almost like we’re watching the episodic adventures of a guy planning to break his wife out of prison.

This couple really needs a break...

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