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Non-Review Review: Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher is exhausting.

Director Bennett Miller’s account of the relationship between billionaire John “Eagle” DuPont and the Schultz brothers is a draining experience. Beautiful performances, stunning cinematography and a minimalist script create an uncomfortable and looming sense of dread. Even those unfamiliar with the story DuPont’s sponsorship of the United States Olympic Wrestling Team cannot help but feel tragedy bearing down. Foxcatcher is a heartbreaking and harrowing piece of work, an affecting and unsettling tale of power, desperation and loneliness.

Wrestling with demons...

Wrestling with demons…

Foxcatcher is beautifully crafted. Every element of the production is carefully and meticulously put together. Steve Carell transforms himself to play the role of DuPont, assisted by superb make-up overseen by Bill Corso and his team. Every frame of the movie looks crisp, the blues and reds and yellows popping out of the screen; Greig Fraser’s cinematography effectively captures the starkness of the Pennsylvanian landscape across the seasons. Miller is comfortable enough to let Foxcatcher unfold at its own pace, never rushing.

The result is a compelling and grimly fascinating story, told elegantly. There are points when Foxcatcher perhaps seems a little too distant and clinical, but the three lead performances help to keep the film firmly grounded.

To catch a fox...

To catch a fox…

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Non-Review Review: Begin Again

Music is absolutely wonderful. It’s a method of communication that has the tremendous ability to bring people together, and to help set mood and tone. Of course, there’s all sorts of delightful complications to it – although songs may capture a particular moment in the life of the songwriter, as if trapping emotions in amber, they also capture particular moods and moments for the person listening to the music. A snippet of a song overhead faintly on a radio through an apartment wall can serve as a gateway back in time.

Although – speaking strictly scientifically – smell is the sense that leads most directly to memory, music has perhaps the strongest emotional resonance. Beloved songs provide a snapshot of something as transcendental as sensation and atmosphere. It is very hard to put these sentiments into words, to articulate through language. A guitar chord struck at the right time in the right rhythm, or a syllable stressed in one direction rather than any other, can say so much in such a small space.

Begin Again is a charming romantic ode to the power of music, beautifully and elegantly capturing the romance of song.

Playing along...

Playing along…

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Non-Review Review: Now You See Me

Now You See Me hinges on its final twist. How you react to that twist will define what you think of the movie. Cynics would argue that it’s a rather trite and cliché way of wrapping up a generic mystery with flash distracting from substance, with director Louis Leterrier frantically trying (and failing) to paper over the ever-widening cracks in narrative logics. Others will forgive it as theatrical excess, acknowledging that – though crucial – the denouement isn’t all that is worth appreciating in a magic trick. True magic is an artform, a narrative worth appreciating for technique and wit as much as to grasp the final turn.

The last act might let it down a bit (quite a bit), but Now You See Me spends most of its runtime as an enjoyable romp watching charming people engage in amusing set pieces. There’s a showmanship to it, an energy and flair. Leterrier often feels like he’s cobbling the film together as it threatens to rocket away from him, but there a pulpy energy that manages to hold the house of cards together until the last possible moment.

Lighting up the room...

Lighting up the room…

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Carrying the Banner: Why Ed Norton Remains the Best Bruce Banner…

I had the pleasure of seeing The Avengers last week. It’s a solid film, and Whedon does a great job tying it all together. What Whedon does especially well is presenting us with a live-action version of the Hulk that really works. Whedon’s green goliath is treated like an actual character rather than a special effect or a plot point, and it looks absolutely incredible, appropriately enough. However, I can’t help but feel like the movie still struggles with the Bruce Banner aspect of the character, and that Mark Ruffalo isn’t a convincing replacement for Ed Norton, who was as perfect a fit for the rage-managing monster as Robert Downey Jr. was for the redeemable Tony Stark.

Distilled Banner?

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Non-Review Review: The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right is a charming and engaging little dramedy with a wonderful cast. It manages the wonderful feat of making an on-screen family seem “real” – there are any number of sequences in this which viewers will spot from years of family interactions. It’s an interesting study of how a strange “interloper” can have a surprisingly destablising effect on a family unit – how it all it takes is this one catalyst to bring all this unsung tension to the surface. But it’s never heavy or self-important. Sure, the ending is more than a little awkward, but the movie’s smart and funny enough to keep you engaged with it to the final reel.

And that’s saying nothing of the cracking David Bowie soundtrack? It has Won on it!

Paul gets a crisp reception...

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Non-Review Review: The Last Castle

The Last Castle is a bit of a disappointing movie. On one hand, it’s so ridiculously conventional that every step of the movie is choreographed from the moment that the two leads (the “leader of men” prisoner played by Robert Redford and the typical “sadistic warden” played by James Gandolfini) appear on screen together. You know there’s going to be a battle of wills which unfolds and escalates, costing some lives and leading to a (literally, if not figuratively) explosive finale. However, given the on-screen talent on the project, you’d be forgiven for expecting a bit more than the movie delivers.

Redford finds the castle in general disarray, with the warden willing to practice corporal punishment...

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