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My 12 for ’13: Rush & Picking Sides

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 3…

Rush is something of a companion piece to Frost/Nixon. Writer Peter Morgan re-teamed with director Ron Howard to offer a definitive take on another contest of wills, documenting the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda across the 1976 Formula One season. An account of a rather famous piece of sporting history, you could accuse Rush of being a bit formulaic, but the key is the skill with which Morgan and Lauda manage to execute that formula.

rush2

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Rivals (Review)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’m taking a look at the first and second seasons. Check back daily for the latest review or retrospective.

Rivals doesn’t work. However, while the second season has produced a string of noble failures, Rivals fails for a very simple reason. It’s a comedy episode without any comedy. It’s a guest-star focused episode which centres on a hopelessly miscast Chris Sarandon. Sarandon is an Oscar-nominated actor, and he should be something of a casting coup for the show. This second season has already featured Louise Fletcher, Frank Langella and John Glover – so it seems fair to acknowledge that the casting people were on a bit of a roll.

However, due to a reheated script and Sarandon’s lack of interest or engagement, Rivals winds up feeling stale. There is potential here, but it’s squandered as the writers forget the first rule of a good comedy episode. They forgot to bring the laughs.

I feel a similar way...

I feel a similar way…

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Non-Review Review: Rush

In many ways, Rush quite resembles the last collaboration between director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan. Both are built around contests between two larger-than-life personalities. One is old-fashioned and conservative, averse to risk and obsessed with victory; the other is young and impetuous, arrogant and self-assured without the experience to back that up. However, while Rush lacks the screen presence of performers Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, it benefits greatly from the fact that it refuses to choose a side.

As much as Frost/Nixon might have offered a slightly more sympathetic-than-usual Nixon, it was clear that the audience was intended to root against the corrupt former president, and champion the ascension of young up-and-comer David Frost. Rush manages a more delicate balance, firmly refusing to favour one protagonist over the other. Both the reckless young go-getter and the safety-conscious number-cruncher are portrayed as sympathetic and well-developed characters.

This makes Rush that rarest of sports movies: the one where the audience is rooting for both contenders.

Not quite to Formula...

Not quite to Formula…

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Non-Review Review: Robot & Frank

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Robot & Frank is perhaps best described as a live-action Pixar film, a lost script or concept from that period only a few years ago when it seemed like the studio could do no wrong. The beauty of films like The Incredibles or Toy Story 3 was the way that these fantasies allowed us to engage with incredibly adult issues in a disarmingly wondrous way. Up could deal with the pain of loss in great detail, because it was really the story of a man flying his house to South America, right? Finding Nemo could play out the darkest fears lurking in a parent’s subconscious, because it was really about cute fish, correct?

And so Robot & Frank provides a wonderful vehicle for the exploration of what growing old really means, and how we cope with the challenges that it presents. Because, after all, it’s just a film with a cute-looking robot butler, right?

Frank'll test his metal...

Frank’ll test his metal…

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Non-Review Review: Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps

The words “too big to fail” are, understandably, bandied around quite a bit over the course of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. While they refer, of course, to the bloated financial institutions holding the world’s democracy to ransom, it’s hard not to get a sense that they could also apply to Stone’s film. The financial crisis continues to prove that Stone’s original Wall Street was a powerful condemnation of all-consuming unchecked capitalism, and one might assume that the timing is right for a sequel. Indeed, Stone’s attempts to make his movie reflect on the harsh economic climate are admirable – but one gets the sense that the director is unable to decide where to focus the camera. As a result, the film loses a lot of its punch as it jumps around from macro-economics to personal tragedies without thinking too much of the gap between them.

Family fortunes?

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Non-Review Review: The Box

I have an offer to make. If you push the button, two things will happen. First, someone, somewhere in the world, whom you don’t know, will die. Second, you will receive a payment of one million dollars. You have 24 hours.

“Arlington Stewart”

Such is the premise of The Box, a movie based on a short story by science fiction icon Richard Matheson, but one of the movie’s many problems is that director Richard Kelly apparently doesn’t find that premise interesting enough to sustain his film. That seems inherently pithy, considering that Matheson’s story Button, Button has been adapted for The Twilight Zone and as a radio play for CBS Mystery Theatre – there must have been something there. Instead, Kelly uses the eponymous box as a jumping off point into what can only really be described as “abstractsville”, taking a left at “crazy town”. There are moments in this film which work, but they are few and far between – there are large stretches of time when it is just infuriating.

James Marsden counts up the box office receipts... they aren't good...

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Non-Review Review: Frost/Nixon

When I saw Frost/Nixon in the cinema, I came out thinking it was the second best film of last year. How does my opinion hold up?

For a guy who isn't a crook, he sure has his "caught in the act" pose well-rehearsed

For a guy who isn't a crook, he sure has his "caught in the act" pose well-rehearsed

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