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Non-Review Review: Wind River

Taylor Sheridan’s loose “Frontier trilogy” imagines the frontier as the site of America’s original sin.

Like Sicario and Hell or High WaterWind River is set in what might be considered a modern-day equivalent of the “wild west.” It is a harsh and brutal world, one in which people fight a losing battle to make sense of that violence. Sicario imagined the frontier as Mexico, a tale of lawless retribution set against the backdrop of the already-lost War on Drugs. Hell or High Water imagined that frontier in Texas, a modern tale of bank robberies and land grabs. Wind River pushes that frontier to vast frozen surroundings of Wyoming, putting Native Americans in focus.

In the wild white yonder…

As the trilogy has moved North, it has also shifted tones. Sicario was confused and angry, struggling to explain the horrors that were unfolding. Hell or High Water blended that anger with a sense of wistful nostalgia, reflecting on the tragic irony of manifest destiny eroded by late capitalism. Wind River is just profoundly sad, a meditation on loss that seems more exhausted than angry. It is a tale about those people left behind on what remains of the frontier, about violence that is too easily overlooked and ignored. There is no rage here, no passion. There is just fatigue.

Wind River is a western set in the forgotten part of the west. It is a western set in the snow, on a Native American reservation. It is the story of a frontier that is too readily forgotten.

In cold blood.

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Non-Review Review: Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters

There is a gem of an idea buried in Hansel & Gretel. Indeed, there isn’t too much excavation required to recover it. It lurks near the surface, visible to the naked eye. What would happen if you took a fairy tale and reworked it as a bombastic action adventure, complete with the clichés, archetypes and gimmicks you associate with such films? Hansel & Gretel veers on wry self-parody at points, as if an acerbic take on Hollywood’s fondness for “gritty” reimaginings of familiar concepts. With producers including Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, it’s not too hard to believe that this subversive exploration of genre tropes was explicitly intended as a sly joke at the expense of these sorts of nonsensical and gratuitously violent and aggressive takes on old classics. There are moments where Hansel & Gretel flirts with genuinely post-modern greatness.

Unfortunately, there’s also a sense that the film lacks the will to follow through on that somewhat sarcastic premise, and the result is that the shrewder gags are undermined by a surreal earnestness that seems to ask the audience to accept Hansel & Gretel for nothing more than what it is. The result is a discordant and scattered piece of film, one that seems almost at war with itself.

The hottest adaptation of Hansel & Gretel you have ever seen...

The hottest adaptation of Hansel & Gretel you have ever seen…

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The Stars That Never Were: The “Next Big Thing” That Never Quite Happened…

I was watching Safe House over the weekend. It was fairly okay, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I was watching Ryan Reynolds headlining a film with Denzel Washington. It was only last year that it seemed Reynolds was being given a massive push by Hollywood. It’s always interesting to look at the actors who received a very substantial push from Hollywood, only to barely miss their shot at legitimate stardom – those actors and actresses heralded as “the next big thing”, seemingly the subject of every talk show and newspaper clipping for the better part of a year, only to fall a little bit short of the mark and to end up fading. It’s a cruel industry, and it is sometimes a little disheartening to see the way that certain performers get swallowed up whole by it.

Not quite playing it Safe (House)…

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Non-Review Review: The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne Legacy is the kind of trick you only get to pull once. It’s an interesting narrative experiment, but it doesn’t really work as its own movie. It almost feels, at times, like a deleted subplot from the second two films in the trilogy, removed and expanded to fill two-hours-and-a-half. It’s certainly an interesting idea, and it’s a clever way of skirting the issues created by Matt Damon’s refusal to return, but the problem is that The Bourne Legacy never feels like it is entirely its own film. While it features two characters who have their own arc, the overall plot plays out according to storybeats that are happening off screen – in another story with another agent. It’s a fascinating take on the summer blockbuster, but I’m not convinced it’s an entirely successful one.

Bourne again?

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Bourne Legacy: A Look Inside the Story…

Have to admit, I’m quite curious to see how The Bourne Legacy plays out. It’s being released in the States on Friday and here next Monday. I’ve written before about how the structure of the film intrigues me, and Universal Pictures Ireland just sent over this behind-the-scenes look at the film. Enjoy. And if any international readers get a chance to see this before I do, let me know what you thought. (No spoilers, please!)

You can also win some Bourne-related goodies here, with thanks to Universal.

Win! Bourne Legacy T-Shirts!

Courtesy of our friends at Universal Pictures Ireland, we have five T-shirts to give away to celebrate the release of The Bourne Legacy on 13th August 2012. The film is the fourth in the “Bourne” series, and sees Jeremy Renner starring as another Treadstone agent dealing with the consequences of Jason Bourne’s activity. It’s being directed by Tony Gilroy, who directed Michael Clayton and wrote all three Bourne films, and it has one heck of a cast assembled. It looks to be a very interesting take on the story – rather than trying to carry on or continue the story from the first three, it looks like The Bourne Legacy takes place “around” those films, its own narrative that overlaps and intercepts at points.

Thanks to Universal Pictures Ireland, we have five T-shirts to give away for the film. To enter the competition, just fill in the form below.

Click to enlarge…

Note: All entrants must be based in the Republic of Ireland. You must provide a valid address and phone number so that you can be contacted if you win. Your details will not be used for any other purpose.

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New Bourne Legacy Trailer

Hey, here’s the new trailer for The Bourne Legacy. It’s the latest film in the Bourne series (the original trilogy consisting of The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremecy and The Bourne Ultimatum). Matt Damon isn’t returning, but the new film will focus on Jeremy Renner, who seems to be having quite a year. The supporting cast is suitably impressive, with David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Albert Finney and Scott Glenn all returning – while adding Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz and Oscar Isaac. (Personally, I’m also actually quite geeked to see Stacey Keach, Željko Ivanek and Corey Stoll playing supporting roles as well.)

Hope you enjoy.

I have to say, I’m intrigued at the approach they’re taking – it looks like this film is being structured as a sort of a “side-quel” to the Bourne series, exploring events from another angle. While it’s very clearly an attempt to get the “Bourne” brand out there, I think it’s a pretty cool way of playing with narrative – it seems structured more intricately than a simple reboot, sequel, prequel or remake.

One of the things I’ve found really fascinating about 2012 as a year in mainstream cinema is the way that the studios have been playing with narrative links. Prometheus wasn’t a direct prequel to Alien, more like a spiritual predecessor. The Avengers isn’t a direct sequel to any of the Marvel films, but rather a composite of story threads flowing from each one. I know people decry the rise of franchise cinema (as if that’s something new), but I thing there’s some interesting stuff going on here. I don’t know quite how it’ll work out, but I am intrigued by the approach.