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Non-Review Review: The Girl on the Train

What would you get if you tried to produce Gone Girl without David Fincher?

It is a tough question to answer, given Fincher’s style is an integral part of the film. It is impossible to divorce Gone Girl from Fincher’s steady cam shots and clinical framing. However, The Girl on the Train still makes a valiant attempt to answer. Whatever about the source material, the adaptation of The Girl on the Train is monomaniacally fixated upon that pulpy breakout psychological thriller, constructing another gaslighting murder investigation in desaturated terms to an electronic score that cannot help but evoke the work of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

A pale reflection.

A pale reflection.

However, director Tate Taylor is no David Fincher. Fincher keenly understood the pulpy absurdity of his source material, playing into the ridiculousness of layered twists and double-bluffs that reimagined marriage as some sort of long-form psychological warfare. Taylor fundamentally misunderstands the tone of his film, pitching the forced coincidences and crazy revelations of The Girl on the Train as something to be taken entirely seriously. Gone is the irony that made Gone Girl so effective, replaced with an ill-advised earnestness that refuses to blink.

The problem is not that The Girl on the Train comes off the rails as the overly elaborate details of its storytelling world come into focus. The problem is that it doesn’t nearly enough momentum to reach its destination.

A trained observer.

A trained observer.

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Non-Review Review: The Edge of Tomorrow

As with Oblivion, the last “Tom Cruise in the future” blockbuster, The Edge of Tomorrow feels like a gigantic big-budget episode of The Outer Limits. It’s low on character and high in concept. The film moves fast enough to gloss over the assorted problems that come with a typical time travel narrative. The script is witty enough to keep the audience engaged, and Tom Cruise is solid enough leading man to hold it all together.

The Edge of Tomorrow is wonderfully enjoyable high-concept thrill ride, and one of the stronger offerings of the summer so far.

It's not the end of the world...

It’s not the end of the world…

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Non-Review Review: Looper

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, which was as much of a joy this year as it was last year. If not moreso.

Looper is a wonderful high-concept science-fiction film that makes a shrewd decision to avoid dwelling on temporal mechanics. A “time travel” movie, Looper is far more preoccupied with fascinating metaphysical questions about cycles of violence and cause-and-effect than it is with temporal paradoxes or the butterfly effect. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that it’s actually a lot easier to follow than director Rian Johnson’s earlier collaboration with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brick. It’s fast, it’s smart, and it’s very well put together. It’s a meticulously constructed and breathlessly engaging thriller, and one that never under-estimates its audience.

Little room for Levitt-y…

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Non-Review Review: The Five-Year Engagement

The Five-Year Engagement is the best romantic comedy of 2012 so far. Reuniting the talents of Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, the film manages to offer a refreshingly frank and honest perspective of romantic relationships. The interactions feel more organic, the third act crisis is rooted in something more primal and relevant than some idle miscommunication and the resolution isn’t based on the notion that people can inexplicably change. Like Segel and Stoller’s superb Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement is predicated on the assumption that love must mean accepting and embracing your partner for who they are, rather than what you want them to be. It’s a little depressing that this moral feels almost subversive in this day-and-age of formulaic and generic romantic comedies, but there’s no denying that The Five-Year Engagement is head-and-shoulders above most of its competitors.

They’ll get married this year… in a pig’s eye…

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Gideon’s Daughter (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

Stephen Poliakoff’s companion piece to Friends and Crocodiles, airing just a month after that original drama film, Gideon’s Daughter feels like it owes a lot to a bunch of fascinating central performances. While Robert Lindsay provides the only on-screen evidence of a link between the two projects, reprising his role as an embittered old writer here, Poliakoff’s two stories are thematically linked, as the author focuses a lot of his frustrations on meaningless celebrity culture. This time, however, he sets the stories in the late nineties, allowing him to explore what he undoubtedly sees as the vulgarity of the millennium celebrations and to subtly examine the national outpouring of grief offer the loss of Princess Diana, while telling a rather simple story of a father and his daughter.

All tied up...

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My Best of 2011: The Adjustment Bureau & True Romance

It’s that time of the year. To celebrate 2011, and the countdown to 2012, I’m going to count down my own twelve favourite films of the year, one a day until New Year’s Eve. I’m also going to talk a bit about how or why I chose them, and perhaps what makes this list “my” best of 2011, rather than any list claiming to be objective.

The Adjustment Bureau is number nine. Check out my original review here.

I think this is probably the first truly surprising choice of my own personal countdown. After all, the film debuted to generally positive reviews, but hardly the most exceptional critical feedback. It wasn’t loved and it wasn’t hated, but it was fairly quickly forgotten. I suspect that I will be one of very few people to include the title in my end-of-year best-of list. Still, I loved The Adjustment Bureau. And I think that’s strangely appropriate, because I’d argue that The Adjustment Bureau is perhaps the purest cinematic love story that we’ve seen in quite some time.

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Non-Review Review: The Adjustment Bureau

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

One of the joys of a film festival like the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival is that you get to see films that take you by surprise. Sometimes they are small foreign dramas which will never get a major release here, and thus haven’t been discussed to death on-line or in-print, but occasionally it’s a movie premiere of a big upcoming release which will impress. The Adjustment Bureau is hitting screens around the world next Friday, but film fanatics in Dublin were treated to a sneak peek (the movie’s second public screening and the first in Europe). As a movie that I honestly wasn’t expecting too much of, based on the trailers in front of every major release since last August that seemingly couldn’t decide on the genre of the film, what did I make of it?

A bathroom break...

I loved it.

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