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Non-Review Review: The Two Popes

Very few movie disintegrate so completely and thoroughly across their runtime as The Two Popes.

The Two Popes feels like two different movies, both tonally opposed to one another and both bleeding relentlessly into one another. The first is a delightfully surreal Odd Couple riff (The Odd Pope-le? Vicious in the Vatican?) that finds two men who would be pope forced to interact with one another, their mutual unease inevitably transforming to a gentle understanding and even compassion. The second is a more earnest historical biography, a film that aims to properly contextualise the life and times of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the man who would be Pope Francis.

The robe less travelled.

Both of these premises are workable on their own. Of course, the first premise has a bit of an advantage in that “throw two great British actors into scenes together” tends to result in highly watchable material, and “… also, they’re both popes” is a pretty impressive chaser to that. In contrast, the historical biography section of the film is a bit more generic and familiar, even if there’s potential here. After all, this ground has been explored in films as compelling as The Secrets in Their Eyes.

The problem is that the two films don’t mix, at all. Every attempt to combine them hurts the film as a whole, both stopping the narrative dead and representing a jarring transition from one type of film into another and back again. It isn’t that The Two Popes allows these stories to collide, it instead tries to run them in parallel. The result is a narrative traffic jam, and a film in which each half hour is appreciably weaker than the one leading into it.

Good faith arguments.

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Non-Review Review: G.I. Joe – Retaliation

I’m actually just a little bit divided on G.I. Joe: Retaliation. It is not, by any measure, a good film. It’s messy, it’s muddled, it’s over-complicated and under-developed at the same time, it’s nonsense, it’s dumb, it’s loud and it’s all over the map. However, some small part of me sort of admired that G.I. Joe: Retaliation had managed to so perfectly evoke the sensation of playing with toys. Had you given my eight-year-old self a box of G.I. Joe toys and told me to play for two hours, my playtime might have been plotted somewhat similarly to this film. I will concede that I admire the way that G.I. Joe: Retaliation feels more like a bunch of kids playing with toys than a carefully constructed action movie.

At the same time, however, I’m not afraid to admit that my eight-year-old self would have directed a pretty terrible action film.

Rock on...

Rock on…

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Non-Review Review: Tomorrow Never Dies

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.

What the hell is he doing?

His job.

– Admiral Roebuck and M watch Bond do the impossible before the opening titles

I have a confession to make. I unapologetically love Tomorrow Never Dies. It’s the first Bond movie I saw in the cinema, with my dad and brother while on a shopping trip up North. I believe the girls went to see Titanic. It’s my first cinematic Bond experience, a perhaps that’s why I am somewhat fonder memory of the film than most – but, even on reflection, I still hold the movie in high regard. I just think it’s the perfect companion piece to the superb GoldenEye. While Martin Campbell’s film was about deconstructing the spy, showing how useless he was in times of peace and arguing he was “a relic of the Cold War” who needed updating and introspection, this Bond film was about how he can do all the cool stuff he used to, even after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Sure, it’s not as deep, smart or sophisticated as the earlier film, but it’s an unashamed throwback to the classic Bond films – and what’s wrong with that?

By the way, how telling is it that – while Bond used to drive a snazzy sports car in the sixties – he drives a family sedan in the nineties?

I'm pretty sure that the only reason Tomorrow Never Dies is because Bond never tried to kill it...

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