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Non-Review Review: Entebbe

Entebbe is an ambitious, and very messy, hostage drama.

The events that took place in Entebbe Airport in Uganda during June and July 1976 are fascinating. The crisis been adapted for the screen on several occasions already. Anthony Hopkins, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Dreyfuss starred in Victory at Entebbe later that same year. The following year, Irvin Kershner directed Raid on Entebbe with Charles Bronson and Yaphet Kotto. That same year, Israel produced its own take on the tale in Operation Thunderbolt, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

A Brühl-tal experience…

The events leading up to the daring recovery mission are deeply fascinating, with any number of interesting angles on the larger story. It is tempting to look at the events in terms of the tenure of General Idi Amin, who made Uganda a base of operations for these terrorists, much like Last of King of Scotland did. It is possible to look at the Israeli soldiers who trained to mount the rescue mission, knowing the dangers into which they were venturing. It might be reasonable to treat the events as a formative experience for the (then) young state of Israel.

Entebbe attempts to tell the story through all these different prisms at the same time, to offer a holistic perspective on the events that captures the surreal nature of events and the absurd stakes for all of the players caught up in this perilous game. Entebbe bites off a lot more than it can chew, never quite managing to balance the competing demands of the objects of its focus. Entebbe is an intriguing film, but one that feels fractured and unfocused.

Merc task force.

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Non-Review Review: The Dictator

The obvious point of comparison for The Dictator would seem to be Borat or even Bruno. After all, the film reteams Sacha Baron Cohen with director Larry Charles, while providing a vehicle for exploring American society. However, The Dictator is a very different beast – it’s a much safer film, which is quite something to say about a film featuring a joke about “911 2012.” It is more conventional, more accessible, and more driven by a clearly focused narrative. In a way, it feels almost closer to Ali G in da House, only a lot funnier.

The Dictator is a very funny film, but it does feel like Cohen is a little more constrained than usual, a lot more rigidly structured. This lacks the sort of anarchic spirit that viewers have come to expect from Cohen, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. Still, Cohen has a unique ability to blend offensive boundary-crossing with classic comedy, and The Dictator feels like a film that will have a broader appeal than his cult hits. Despite the abundance of jokes about male and female anatomy, I think this might be the first Sacha Baron Cohen film I would recommend to my parents.

Coming to America…

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Done in 60 Seconds: An Interview with Andrew Norton

We might not be the best team in the world at soccer, we might not be the favourites to take home a record-shattering amount of gold medals in London, but the Irish have always had a bit of a cultural charm. This year, we were lucky enough to be represented at the final of the Jameson Empire Done in 60 Seconds competition, with Andrew Norton’s condensed spoof of the iconic District 9 landing a place among 29 international contenders on a shortlist including entries from Kazakhstan, Russia, Latvia, Israel, Sweden and the Ukraine, among others. I had the pleasure of chatting very briefly about putting the sixty-second clip together, breaking into short-film making and the perils of looking like a security guard on the red carpet.

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Moses Jones (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.

The thing about Moses Jones is that it, quite simply, blaxploitation. I don’t mean that’s a comedy or a wry deconstruction, the BBC equivalent of Black Dynamite or Undercover Brother. It’s a modern example of blaxploitation rather than a post-modern examination. It offers serious issue-based drama, playing its subject matter with complete seriousness and utter respect. For most of its runtime, it actually works quite well as an attempt to pull the conventions of blaxploitation narratives into the twenty-first century and transport them from the mean American streets to inner-city London. While the ending falls apart under its own weight, and a desire to wrap up absolutely everything in a neat little bow, there’s quite a bit to like about this BBC detective show.

Holy Moses...

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Matt Fraction’s Run on Uncanny X-Men – Nation X (Review/Retrospective)

I am doing a weekly look at Marvel’s complicated crossover chronology, following various key crossovers to see if they might give me a better idea of what I’m missing by avoiding mainstream comic book continuity. While – with The Avengers due for release in 2012 – I am focusing on the stories told featuring those characters over the past five years, I also have time for the X-Men. While this isn’t strictly speaking a crossover, it is a series of issues which connect Utopia to Second Coming, so I figured it was worth a look.

Utopia ended with a heck of a plot twist. Cyclops decided that his merry band of mutants have had enough of being looked down upon in New York and , more recently, San Francisco, so he decides to build himself an island from the remains of Magneto’s “Asteroid M” just off the San Francisco Bay. Announcing the new nation of “Utopia”, he declares the island a haven for mutants. Nation X provides a hardcover collection of the issues from Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men which bridge the gap between Utopia and Second Coming, as well as the four-issue Nation X anthology miniseries. And, while it’s a decidedly uneven reading experience, I have to admit that some of Fraction’s portrayal of the mutant team is a little bit interesting – even if most is slightly boring and deeply convoluted.

Magneto has a magnetic personality...

Note: This collection opens with Dark Reign tie-in X-Men: The List written by Matt Fraction and following an attempted assassination attempt on Namor by Norman Osborn. Accordingly, I think I should open this review with a link to Abhay’s quite excellent article on the issue, which – among some more serious points – suggests that Namor is starring in his own private version of You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Seriously, check it out.

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War of Kings (Review/Retrospective)

This is the twelfth in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s shared universe (particularly their “Avengers” franchise) over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity.

War of Kings is perhaps the best thing to come out of Secret Invasion. In fact, the miniseries went out of its way to highlight its links to the Marvel comics mega-event, with the story even kicking off in a Secret Invasion: War of Kings special (note the order there, it isn’t War of Kings: Secret Invasion). However, not withstanding the attempts to tie the series back to the high-selling mainstream events that Marvel was consistently churning out, War of Kings is essentially an epic space opera, the story of an interstellar war and alien politics, told with the wit and charm that writer Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning have made the cosmic line famous for. Tying it into Secret Invasion only serves to highlight the deficiencies with that event, as the writers here attempt the same sort of story with the same sort of themes, but with more skill and grace than the bigger event could off.

Now is the time...

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Non-Review Review: Waltz With Bashir

Waltz With Bashir garnered quite a bit of attention on its release – winning all sorts of awards and even receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film (though it didn’t get a nomination for Best Animated Film – because, didn’t you know, animation is for kids?). An animated film from Israel, it’s a very interesting look at the Lebanese War, and what we tend to remember and – more importantly – what we tend to forget in hindsight.

Tanks for the memories...

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