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Non-Review Review: Trumbo

Trumbo is a solid (and fairly formulaic) Hollywood biopic elevated by a powerful central performance from Bryan Cranston.

In many respects, Trumbo is a very familiar story. It is a film produced by Hollywood about Hollywood, which offers a broadly positive portrayal of the industry and a vital chapter of its social history. As the title implies, Trumbo focuses upon the life and times of Dalton Trumbo; Trumbo was a famous writer branded a communist as part of the “Hollywood Ten”, sent to prison and excommunicated from the industry. It is a tragic and shameful chapter in the history of Hollywood, one that leaves scars still felt today.

Testify!

Testify!

The plot beats of Trumbo are familiar enough to anybody with an appreciation of the biopic formula. Trumbo is an eccentric idealist who endures terrible hardships (and yet imposes them upon his family) in pursuit of a laudable goal. There are a few nods to the idea that Dalton Trumbo is manipulative and self-serving, but the film never makes a particularly compelling case for its central character as anything more than careless. Trumbo runs through all the scenes and elements one expects from a story like this; from the quirky details to the domestic drama.

There is something very rote and familiar about all this; a movie about a screenwriting genius that lacks any of the energy or verve that its central character brought to his own work. However, while the film doesn’t necessarily work in a “big picture” sense, it is held together by the finer details. Cranston offers a wonderful central performance that towers over the rest of the film, and the movie offsets some of its more formulaic plotting with a tendency towards witty banter and wry one-liners. Trumbo doesn’t have the right stuff, but it has almost enough of the write stuff.

A little bird told me...

A little bird told me…

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Non-Review Review: Little Fockers

I genuinely really enjoyed Meet the Parents. It’s a nice little movie that the family will occasionally get caught up in again if it just so happens to be on telly, a nice way to spend an hour or two that nobody can really object to. The sequel, Meet the Fockers, lost a lot of the appeal – but we still found it relatively unobjectionable. So, the third and final (hopefully) instalment of the franchise, Little Fockers, arrives and isn’t really that bad. It’s just not really any good, either.

Greg still don't know Jack...

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Non-Review Review: Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me

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.

I have to admit that I’m quite fond of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Perhaps it’s the way that the film vindicated its direct predecessor – although Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery did very well on video, the sequel made more money at the box office in its opening weekend than the original film did during its entire theatrical run. Sure, watching the film one can spot the cracks developing which would completely envelop the franchise when the third film, Austin Powers:  Goldmember, was released. However, while it’s probably not quite as good as the original, it’s still a damn entertaining film.

Time to put the franchise to bed...

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Non-Review Review: Meet the Parents

Meet the Parents is a pleasant little film which works so well because it takes an awkward social experience that most of us have lived through – in this case meeting a partner’s parents – and turns it into a comedy of errors. It’s this smart little premise and the way that it plays off a familiar situation (with judicious application of the philosophy that “anything that can go wrong will“) that makes it so appealing – and perhaps explains the weaknesses of the movie’s sequel. Still, the original is an effective and charming comedy of manners which executes its premise well and, despite some difficulty balancing everything, manages to consistently entertain throughout.

DeNirest and Dearest...

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