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Non-Review Review: Bumblebee

In some respects, Bumblebee feels like the Transformers movie that the franchise has been trying and failing to produce for over a decade.

Bumblebee has its share of problems. Some of those are inherited from a franchise working from a template established by Michael Bay, which means that the style of action direction carries over in certain cases. Some of those are inherited from the fact that the film is “based upon the toys produced by Hasbro Entertainment”, which means that the film occasionally feels obliged to cram in various characters and elements for reasons more toyetic than narrative.

“You really don’t get this ‘robots in disguise’ thing, do you?”

That said, Bumblebee largely works due to a combination of factors. Hailee Steinfeld is the most likable protagonist in the series to date, if not the most likable character in general. The direction from Travis Knight largely steers clear of the cluttered excesses that define the other films in the franchise. The script from Christina Hodson cleverly pushes the film down both in scale and spectacle, meaning that Bumblebee is the first Transformers film not to loose sight of its humanity (let alone its human characters) in its storytelling.

Bumblebee is perhaps not the best film that it could be, but is very easily the best Transformers film to date.

A girl and her robot.

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Non-Review Review: The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen is a fantastic coming of age film from writer and director Kelly Fremon Craig.

The script sparkles, the casting is spot-on, the humour is well-observed. Like so many great coming of age comedies, The Edge of Seventeen understands that familiar teenage angst where the entire world seems to have been constructed as a sadistic (and highly targetted) Rube Goldberg machine for the sole purpose of torturing one single individual. The Edge of Seventeen balances this all very deftly, creating a set of circumstances that understandably feel like the end of the world to the lead character, but which seem comical to a more matured detached audience.

Teenage wildlife.

Teenage wildlife.

However, the true strength of any coming of age film lies in the casting. Easy A was a fantastic film, but it was cleverly elevated by the shrewd casting of Emma Stone as its wry protagonist. The Edge of Seventeen places Hailee Steinfeld at the centre of its teenage universe. Steinfeld delivers a pitch-perfect performance that meticulously walks the line between sardonic and vulnerable. The Edge of Seventeen has the luxury of a well-crafted and well-observed script, but it lives or dies by its central performance.

Steinfeld is phenomenal.

Animated discussion.

Animated discussion.

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My Best of 2011: True Grit & The Art of Modesty…

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.

True Grit is number eight. Check out my original review here.

Collective consensus is a funny thing. It pops up quite quickly and quietly, in the strangest sorts of places and the strangest sort of way. The Coen Brothers are respected filmmakers, to say the least. Even when a project of their doesn’t quite come off as smoothly as one might expect, it’s still compelling viewing. However, as with any other directors, there are greater films and there are lesser films. And there are those that sit in the middle. True Grit, for most critics, seems to sit firmly in the middle.

But not for me.

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Leo the Lion: Melissa Leo’s Self-Funded Oscar Campaign…

Melissa Leo took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar last Sunday night and I was quite happy about the decision, to be honest. She was great in The Fighter and – although I personally would have though Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit would have made a more deserving winner – it wasn’t a bad result. In the lead-up to her win, Leo garnered a fair amount of publicity from the fact that she took out her own “For Your Consideration” advertisements, most of it, to be honest, quite derisive. But you know what? I’m okay with that. After all, who else was going to do it for her?

Perhaps not the most Consider-ed move...

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Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World: Oscars 2011

You know what? I’m not actually that ticked off with the Academy Awards this year. In fact, as I mentioned in discussing the nominees, I was quite happy with the candidates up for the award. Now, nearly a week after the ceremony, I must concede that I’m generally relatively happy with the way that the awards were divided up on the night. CinemaBlend summed up the ceremony as a “group hug” to movies released in a great year for cinema, and I find it hard to object to that succinct summary.

By all accounts, the hosting was a bit of a drag...

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Non-Review Review: True Grit

True Grit is a strange proposition. It’s very clearly a very typical Western movie, about a bunch of (effectively) hired guns hunting down a fugitive on the run from the law, in pursuit of a large bounty. However, it’s also very distinctively a Coen Brothers movie, in attitude and tone. It isn’t that the two are mutually exclusive (No Country For Old Men, for example, was a modern Western with a very Coen aesthetic), but it’s just strange to see both elements so strongly pronounced. Although not quite perfect, True Grit is a movie well worth your time.

Snow man's land...

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