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Non-Review Review: Maps to the Stars

It is a cliché to suggest that Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood.

Sure, quite often these are celebratory meditations on how great Tinseltown is – Argo was the story of how Hollywood saved the lives of Americans caught up in the Iranian Revolution; Hitchcock celebrated the making of Psycho. Sometimes these are more cynical and jaded explorations of how Hollywood works, seeking to expose the community’s seedy underbelly to the world – Robert Altman’s The Player remains the definitive example, but films like What Just Happened probably count as well.

These stock Hollywood-story-about-Hollywood are the weakest aspects of Maps to the Stars. The movie often feels like it’s trying too hard to add a surface gloss of what people expect from a film about Hollywood, on top of a much more interesting and compelling tale of dysfunction and decay. Maps to the Stars is held together by a rake of terrific performances and a wonderfully creepy central metaphor, but it feels let down by the more superficial elements of the script.

We're all in the gutter...

We’re all in the gutter…

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Non-Review Review: Don Jon

Don Jon is a confident directorial debut from actor and write Joseph Gordon Levitt. Levitt himself stars as the eponymous “Don”, a stereotypically macho young man from New Jersey, who splits his time between nightclubs, churches, the gym, his car and his pornography addiction. Written and directed by Levitt, Don Jon has a charming lightness that allows the movie to play with some pretty heavy subject matter. (After all, the last major film to explore sex addiction was Shame, which was as brilliant as it was harrowing.)

Don Jon is perhaps the sweetest movie ever made about porn addiction. A superb demonstration of Levitt’s already enviable talents, and a confident and slick feature film directorial debut.

Toast of the town...

Toast of the town…

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Non-Review Review: Carrie (2013)

Carrie is, for the first half of its runtime, a fairly effective attempt to update Stephen King’s iconic high school horror story about religious repression and teenage issues. While Chloë Grace Moretz isn’t quite as memorable and quite as nuanced as Sissy Spacek was in Brian De Palma’s much-loved original adaptation, she gives a strong central performance. However, the film falls apart a bit as it enters the second half, turning into a large-scale action set piece that feels more like a superhero disaster movie than a psychological teen horror.

There will be blood...

There will be blood…

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Non-Review Review: Stupid Crazy Love

Stupid Crazy Love suffers a bit from being a tad inconsistent, fluctuating between compelling character drama and well-observed romantic comedy. It isn’t an issue that movie fails at either of these, it just runs into a bit of bother bouncing between the two extremes. The ending might be a little trite, and a tad conventional, but the movie manages to raise some interesting ideas along the way. Still, it allows Steve Carell his best big screen appearance since The 40-Year-Old Virgin and makes for an alternatingly side-splittingly and heart-breakingly affecting movie.

Saving Ryan's Privates...

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Non-Review Review: Shelter

Shelteris a horror with an intriguing original premise. However, it’s also packed with tonnes of other premises, some of which are remotely interesting, while others are quite mundane. It’s an uneven film, which actually works best when it paces itself more as a thriller or a mystery than an out-and-out horror, but there are weaker choices out there.

Psyche!

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