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Non-Review Review: Macbeth

Justin Kurzel understands Macbeth.

A lot of Shakespeare’s work is viewed through the lens of cultural importance, and quite rightly. His plays codified a phenomenal amount of the English language in use today, incorporation and amalgamating words and phrases that people use without even thinking. Shakespeare codified drama and storytelling in the English language, to the point where any number of his plays can be cited as the defining example of particular styles of dramaturgy. There is no other figure who can cast such a shadow over English-language culture.

A Field in Scotland...

A Field in Scotland…

However, the tendency to treat Shakespeare’s works as priceless artefacts – an attitude engrained by the (rightful) reverence they receive and the way that they are taught in schools – is to miss the vitality and excitement of his work. Shakespeare might have endured as the defining wordsmith of the English-language, but before that he was just a really popular writer with an incredibly populist touch. His plays existed as spectacle before they became holy relics. The jokes played to the galleries packed with punters wanting both high and low culture.

As much as Macbeth might be a searing and insightful exploration of the relationship between violence and masculine identity, it was also pure unadulterated pulp. Justin Kurzel plays up this pulpy spectacle, crafting a version of Macbeth that anchors apocalyptic horror in two amazing central performances. Macbeth is a joyous and horrific piece of cinema, brutal and beautiful in a way that befits its source material.

Oh I just can't wait to be king...

Oh I just can’t wait to be king…

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Non-Review Review: Cherchez Hortense

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Inoffensive. That might be the best way to describe Cherchez Hortense, a French comedy of manners about people trying to figure out how to get what they want from life – and each other. The cast do a great job, especially Jean-Pierre Bacri in the lead role of Damien Hauer, who just about manages to give the film enough weight to stop it floating effortlessly away. There’s nothing wrong with some light character-driven comedy, but Cherchez Hortense suffers from the fact that it seems like even one direct conversation would sort absolutely everything out. Okay, that’s a slight oversimplification (it depends which direct conversation), but it’s not too far from the truth. While the script is sharp and witty enough that the actors never feel like they’re just going in circles, there’s a weird sense of contrivance around Cherchez Hortense which gives means it’s hard to get too invested in anything that’s going on.

cherchezhotense

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Non-Review Review: Rust and Bone

Rust and Bone feels a bit… lazy, for lack of a better word. It feels like the product of a writer and director with a huge amount of talent, but no real ambition or enthusiasm. The film features two superb leading performances from Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, but they’re trapped in a film that never seems too bothered. Writer and director Jacques Audiard mistakes trite melodrama for brutal honest, and seems to give up on the film in the third act. It’s a shame, because there’s some solid stuff here, but the whole is much less impressive than the sum of its parts.

The killer (whale) inside (the aquarium)…

Note: This review contains spoilers for the third act of the film. I’ve tried not to give away specific plot points, and to talk in the most general of terms, but I do discuss the ending. Consider yourself warned.

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Non-Review Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Note: Here’s a spoiler-filled, more detailed version of my review of The Dark Knight Rises. If you want a spoiler-light look at the film, click here.

It’s here. Christopher Nolan has defied the law of superhero trilogies, which seemed so natural that it was akin to gravity. The Dark Knight Rises might not be the perfect piece of cinema, but it does perfectly wrap up Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, with enough grace, wit and intelligence to avoid the problems that faced other superhero threequels. While it falls a little short of The Dark Knight, mainly because of what it lacks rather than what it fails at, The Dark Knight Rises manages to make some telling observations about its central character, while proving an epic for our time.

The Dark Knight was the best mainstream film to explore the War on Terror, and The Dark Knight Rises might be the best movie about the social implications of the current economic strife – the philosophy of the “1%.” Finding a way to handle both the political allegory and the central character’s myth in under three hours is no small accomplishment, and Christopher Nolan once again demonstrates why he’s one of the best directors working today. Nobody blends blockbuster scale and aesthetic with sophistication and suspense nearly as well as Nolan.

The Dark Knight Returns?

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Non-Review Review: The Dark Knight Rises

If you’ve already seen the film, there’s a more in-depth, spoiler-filled version available here.

It’s here. Christopher Nolan has defied the law of superhero trilogies, which seemed so natural that it was akin to gravity. The Dark Knight Rises might not be the perfect piece of cinema, but it does perfectly wrap up Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, with enough grace, wit and intelligence to avoid the problems that faced other superhero threequels. While it falls a little short of The Dark Knight, mainly because of what it lacks rather than what it fails at, The Dark Knight Rises manages to make some telling observations about its central character, while proving an epic for our time.

The Dark Knight was the best mainstream film to explore the War on Terror, and The Dark Knight Rises might be the best movie about the social implications of the current economic strife – the philosophy of the “1%.” Finding a way to handle both the political allegory and the central character’s myth in under three hours is no small accomplishment, and Christopher Nolan once again demonstrates why he’s one of the best directors working today. Nobody blends blockbuster scale and aesthetic with sophistication and suspense nearly as well as Nolan.

The Dark Knight Returns?

Note: There will be some spoilers in this review. I won’t summarise the plot, but I will discuss some plot points. I won’t spoil any twists, but I may quote some dialogue. Don’t worry, I’ll warn you when I’m digging into the story itself below.

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New The Dark Knight Rises Trailer

You don’t owe these people any more. You’ve given them everything.

Not everything. Not yet.

-Selina and Bruce

The new trailer for The Dark Knight Rises has been released and it looks suitably epic. Hm. Looks like it really might be about “the idea of Batman” in a very Grant Morrison-esque sort of way. “I’m adaptable,” Selina boasts, but she could be speaking of Batman himself, who is capable of being anything pop culture wants him to be. I suspect Nolan will be hitting the idea of Batman as a mythic symbol quite hard, and I honestly think that’s the best way to cap off a trilogy that’s been about the notion of a “modern” Batman. In particular, it seems that it might be exploring the notion of Batman as an inspirational figure being more important than the man in the mask. I think my excitement just went off the scale.

Non-Review Review: The Artist

It’s funny that The Artist should end up being so accessible. It’s a black-and-white silent film, shot in an abandoned aspect ratio, set in old Hollywood from a French director. It sounds like an exercise in arthouse excess, and yet it’s easily one of the most charming and engaging stories in recent memory. It’s hard to put a finger on which part of the film works so well, so I’m going to opt for a massive copout: they all do. It’s a love letter to cinema, but not necessarily to “classic cinema” – the movie feels pretty timely for a story set in the twenties. In short, if you are any sort of cinephile, do yourself a favour and check it out. You won’t regret it.

Released just in time for New Year’s, it seems like 2011 might have saved the best for last.

Now THAT's Entertainment!

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