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Non-Review Review: Demolition

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2016.

Demolition is saturated by quirk.

Demolition is suffocated by quirk.

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My 12 for ’14: Nightcrawler and Bleeding Leads…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

One of the most compelling criticisms of Nightcrawler is that the almost obligatory comparisons to Network are all too apt; that the film has not really bothered to update its social and political commentary for the twenty-first century. In many ways, this is true. The social satire at the heart of Nightcrawler is pretty familiar at this point. Lou Bloom is a young man who talks like a living and breathing self-help book, willing to do whatever is necessary to get ahead in life. It is just the latest in a long line of searing criticism of American capitalism.

After all, Nightcrawler would make a suitable companion piece to The Drop or Snowpiercer from this year; perhaps it make an interesting double-feature with Killing Them Softly from last year. The decision to focus this tale of exploitational capitalism on the media industry means that Network becomes the obvious point of comparison for Nightcrawler – just as 2001: A Space Odyssey inevitably comes up in discussions of Interstellar. If it feels like the satire has not really been updated, that is because that satire is still largely relevant.

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That said, Nightcrawler is just a stunningly well-produced film. Writer and director Dan Gilroy brings a delightfully kenetic energy to the movie. Cinematographer Robert Elswit helps to give the film a unique style by adopting a hybrid approach to filming the movie – the daylight scenes are shot on film, while the late-night sequences are shot on digital. This helps to create a clear sense of different between the Los Angeles seen during the day and nightmarish version present by Nightcrawler after dark.

However, Nightcrawler largely belongs to Jake Gyllenhaal, who provides one of the year’s most mesmorising lead performances as a young man willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. Whatever it takes.

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Non-Review Review: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler features a tour de force performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal plays Louie (“call me Lou”) Bloom, a wandering and lost soul who stalks late-night Los Angeles in search of a lucrative pay-day. He is just trying to get his foot on the ladder any way that an entrepreneurial young gentleman can – he’s introduced stealing construction supplies and scrap metal so he can sell them on, seguing effortlessly into a well-rehearsed job pitch applying for an unpaid internship.

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Bloom seems like a man who has watched people from a distance for years, almost through a filter. Gyllenhaal injects a haunting eccentricity into the character, his wide eyes and practised stillness almost edging Bloom into the uncanny valley. Though he seems to always know just what to say, there’s something distinctly inhuman about Lou Bloom. He watches people, but from the outside. He has got a pretty passable impersonation of a human being down, but there’s just something missing.

Nightcrawler is a fascinating, harrow and occasional wry look at desperation and ruthlessness – and the heady cocktail they make when blended together.

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Non-Review Review: Prisoners

Prisoners is very much a game of two halves. Feeling like two separate films grafted together, Prisoners feels at once like a psychological exploration of American masculinity and also a far more conventional serial killer film. Indeed, had director Denis Villeneuve and writer Aaron Guzikowski decided to cut suddenly to black two-thirds of the way through Prisoners, we’d have a frustrating but much more cohesive atmospheric drama.

Instead, it seems like the duo conspired to surgically attach the last act from a far more conventional thriller on to their robust framework. The result is intriguing, but disappointing – the conventional paint-by-numbers final third diminishing a lot of the richness to be found in the first section of the film.

Somebody is about to get Jack(man)ed...

Somebody is about to get Jack(man)ed…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Missing Children (End of Watch)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #3

I was not as taken with End of Watch as some were. I enjoyed the film, and I think both Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal gave superb performances, but I think that the decision to structure the arc of these two police officers was a bit of a mistake – as the film resorted to clichés like drug cartels putting out a hit on these two individual cops. The film started as an impressively grounded and candid exploration of what life must be like in the line of fire, but then it became a much more conventional film (albeit shot in an unconventional manner).

Still, when End of Watch was good, it was great. It was raw, powerful stuff that gave an impression of what it must be like to do that job day-in and day-out. At its best, it demonstrated the obvious toll that these small day-to-day incidents must take on those protecting and serving. Often it was the smaller sequences that worked best, those with little-to-no connection to the overriding “cartel” arc – the kinds of things that felt like the stuff that must confront officers of the law on a daily basis.

None was more powerful than the rather simple house call investigating the disappearance of two small children.

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Non-Review Review: End of Watch

For its first two thirds, End of Watch is a rather novel examination of the routine of the boys in blue who patrol X-13, the most notorious district within Los Angeles’ notorious South Central. Centring on two police officers, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, it offers a portrayal of the Los Angeles Police Department that feels almost novel. Rather than centring on the city’s infamous racial tensions, or the allegations of corruption within the force, End of Watch offers a candid and insightful examination of what an average day on the beat might look like, helped along by natural interplay between leads Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

The movie runs into problems with its third act, when it opts to abandon its naturalistic, almost documentary, approach to these officers and their world, forcing a climactic confrontation that never really feels like it entirely belongs.

Arresting drama…

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Moon and Source Code Posters from South by Southwest…

I know I’m late to the party on these, but they are still cool enough to share. Especially with Source Code out this weekend. Basically, these are the posters designed by Ollie Moss for Duncan Jones’ two films at South by Southwest. Appropriately enough for a festival named in honour of Hitchcock, there’s a definite vibe to these posters which reminds me of the great man. Not that the films don’t remind me of him either. Anyway, check them out below.