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Non-Review Review: Ford v. Ferrari (Le Mans ’66)

Ford v. Ferrari very much the Ford model of mid-budget adult-skewing awards fare.

It’s sturdy and reliable. It handles well. It also doesn’t have too many surprises under the hood. Ford v. Ferrari knows exactly what the audience wants from a film like this, and it often delivers right down to the shot. The camera is exactly where it needs to be, when it needs to be there – whether capturing the concerned expressions on a family nervously leaning in close to a radio or flying by the team manager as he watches his car cross the finish line on one of the last laps.

Food for thought.

It is easy to be cynical about all of this. Were somebody to approach Ford v. Ferrari cynically, they could argue that it is the product of a factory floor that is just as much a conveyor belt as those operated by Ford. However, there is a reason that this model of awards fare became an industry standard. Ford v. Ferrari constantly reminds its audience of the appeal underpinning this factory-built American craftsmanship. This sort of film was a staple of awards seasons for decades, and Ford v. Ferrari demonstrates just why that was.

Ford v. Ferrari is good, old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing awards fare.

Miles to go.

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Non-Review Review: Logan

Logan is a powerful piece of blockbuster cinema, an R-rated feature film that recognises the distinction between “adult” and “mature.”

Logan is unashamedly a comic book movie. There is no getting around that. It features all manner of fantastic trappings, from Charles Xavier’s telepathy to self-driving trucks to clones to cyborgs. Logan is a film that revels in its superhero trappings, in particular the genre’s tendency to appropriate imagery and iconography from wider popular culture to fashion something unique and distinct. Logan is a superhero post-apocalyptic western road movie, and is unapologetic about that.

Bloody murder.

Bloody murder.

However, Logan never lets any of that get in the way of what is essentially a very intimate and personal story about a surrogate family unit and what it means to be a parent in a cruel and uncaring world. Logan is very much character-driven, using a very simple story to delve into its characters in a way that feels earned and nuanced. As much as Logan is proud of its more outlandish elements, it never allows them to crowd out a simple story about growing up and growing old.

Logan is a superb piece of cinema, one that knows when to go quiet and when to go loud, approaching its central character with considerable empathy and dignity.

A driving plot.

A driving plot.

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Non-Review Review: The Wolverine

The Wolverine is pretty far from a perfect film. In the era following The Dark Knight, we’ve come to expect more ambition from our superhero blockbusters; tighter plots; well-drawn character arcs and motivations for more than just our heroes. In a summer where some have fallen just short of working within this new paradigm (Man of Steel) and others have succeeded (Iron Man 3), The Wolverine feels like a conscious throwback. It’s a nineties action movie masquerading as a superhero blockbuster. Had it been released in 2007, it would have been well-received.

And yet, there’s something quite fascinating and compelling about The Wolverine, despite the noticeable problems with the script’s third act. Director James Mangold struggles to keep things under control for as long as possible, Hugh Jackman still has a wonderful charm in the eponymous role, and The Wolverine has a fascinating thematic through-line and an approach to inter-movie continuity which is intriguing and strangely satisfying.

The Wolverine falls short of greatness, but it’s still a fun and enjoyable ride.

"You lookin' at me, bub?"

“You lookin’ at me, bub?”

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Watch! New Wolverine Trailer!

I’m actually slightly looking forward to The Wolverine. Yes, I’m aware that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was… less than good. On the other hand, I have a soft spot for James Mangold, and I like the idea of giving the character a (relatively) fresh start free from all the continuity and characters of the previous X-Men films. I’m not expecting an instant classic, just a nice popcorn film.

Enjoy!

 

Watch! The Wolverine Trailer!

I’ve been a bit less than impressed with the publicity work for The Wolverine. A trailer for a trailer? Exclusive teaser footage released via two avenues? It just seems a little counter-productive and more frustrating than intriguing. Following the reaction to both X-Men III and X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, you’d think that the trick would be to offer as much proof that things had turned around as possible, and as quickly as possible. Suspense works if we’re already sold. It doesn’t work if we’re more cautious than curious.

And I say that with a hint of optimism for The Wolverine. I actually quite like James Mangold. I even sort of enjoyed Knight and Day, probably much more than I should have. Hugh Jackman is charming enough you can forgive him anything. And the movie is based on the character’s defining solo story. Plus, you know, the trailer looks to borrow that pulpy charm of inserting Wolverine into popular history (in this case, World War II), which as much Wolverine’s mutant superpower as healing or claws. So I’m still on board.

Anyway, check out the trailer below and let me know what you think.

Chris Claremont & Frank Miller’s Wolverine (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

It’s almost hard to believe that Wolverine only earned his first solo miniseries in 1982. The character had first appeared as a foe in The Incredible Hulk in 1974, and was coopted in the X-Men with Len Wein’s Giant-Sized X-Men #1 a year later. During Chris Claremont’s celebrated Uncanny X-Men run, Wolverine emerged a hugely popular character. In fact, I think you could make the argument that Wolverine and Storm were the central protagonists of Claremont’s epic X-Men run. Still, given how ubiquitous the character has become in recent years, it’s impressive that it took so long for him to get a solo adventure. The four-part Wolverine miniseries, written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by Frank Miller, is generally regarded as one of the best miniseries that Marvel ever produced, and I think that it provided a lot of the momentum and characterisation that would sustain the character over three more decades of solo appearances.

Get some…

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Non-Review Review: Knight & Day

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Much like Mission: Impossible, while I was watching Knight & Day I couldn’t help but get the impression that Tom Cruise really wanted to be James Bond. And, at the risk of being controversial, if an American actor were ever chosen, I think Cruise would fit the bill nicely. Indeed, Knight & Day feels more like a sort of traditional Bond film than Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace have, and its that sense of endearing nostalgia which really makes the film worthwhile. In a film season packed with disappointing films, Knight & Day is an entertaining and engaging romp which might make you smile as you spend two hours with it.

It's a romantic action comedy, and it has the big guns attached...

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