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Non-Review Review: The Kingsman

The creators of The Kingsman either really love or really hate the classic Roger Moore Bond films. Probably both.

Another creative collaboration between Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Mark Millar, The Kingsman is just as juvenile, crass and ultimately charming as Kick-Ass. There is a sense of mischievous and cheeky fun to this classic spy film homage. It is effectively an update of those seventies and eighties spy films with a more cynical and self-aware attitude. There is a sense that The Kingsman is simply more transparent than its inspirations in its infectiously juvenile and borderline offensive sensibilities.

Sound and Firthy...

Sound and Firthy…

It is hard to tell how much of this homage is genuine nostalgic affection, and how much is witty subversion. The Kingsman is a spy film that not only uses outdated (and occasionally insensitive) spy movie tropes, it practically revels in them. Although the third act occasionally feels a little too mean-spirited in its riff on classic Bond sensibilities, The Kingsman has enough boundless energy and raw enthusiasm to keep the audience watching. The script is well-observed and the direction is tight. A superb central cast helps to anchor the film.

The Kingsman is an odd beast. It is that rare homage that seems quite likely to shock and offend many fans that otherwise share its nostalgic inclinations. However, those willing to be a bit more adventurous will find much to love in this updated spy caper.

Matthew Vaughn's fingerprints are all over this...

Matthew Vaughn’s fingerprints are all over this…

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Non-Review Review: Blood (2013)

Blood feels a little too familiar on times, verging on cliché. Director Nick Murphy crafts a rich and atmospheric take on a story we’ve seen quite often before. A story of brothers keeping a dark secret, of the way that the islands off the coast of Britain seem to operate under their own law, of the way that guilt and secrets eat us from the inside out. It looks and sounds impressive, with the cast delivering powerhouse performances, George Richmond’s cinematography evoking a harsh wasteland where rules seem looser and myth intermingles with fact, and Daniel Pemberton’s score setting a suitably ominous note.

I wanna take you to the island...

I wanna take you to the island…

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Non-Review Review: Welcome to the Punch

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

Welcome to the Punch is a weird best, a sort of a hybrid that runs on a engine built of mismatched parts. It’s very clearly a distinctly British film. the presence of Mark Strong and James McAvoy attests to that, let alone the supporting cast composed of people like Daniel Mays, Jason Flemyng, Davide Morrissey, Peter Mullen and Andrea Riseborough. However, it’s constructed in the style of an American action movie, with lots of guns, explosions and chases. It’s a very strange cocktail, and Welcome to the Punch suffers because it doesn’t blend the strength of both schools of thrillers. It feels rather clumsily, and rather hastily, thrown together without any real thought as to what the final composition might turn out like.

Top gun...

Top gun…

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Non-Review Review: John Carter

I really enjoyed John Carter for what it was. In a way, the movie feels quite a bit like its lead character, a Confederate soldier yanked off Earth and dumped in another very strange setting. This movie feels like a seventies or eighties science-fiction epic, mercilessly plucked from the era of pulpy high-tech fantasy and transposed to a more cynical modern time. Whether or not you will enjoy John Carter will depend entirely on your taste for big-budget science-fiction epics. Those who favour a wry and self-aware approach to their wild interplanetary adventures will likely go home unsatisfied. However, those who can embrace an earnest and straight-faced adaptation of a science-fiction classic will find much to enjoy. You can guess which camp I fell into, even if I could acknowledge the movie’s significant shortcomings.

Warlord of Mars...

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Non-Review Review: Black Gold

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

The problem at the heart of Black Gold is that its politics are too simple to fit within the confines of the epic sand-swept adventure that it sets out to tell. It’s hard to construct a standard epic when there’s no clear delineation between the forces of good and evil. While the stylish direction, larger-than-life performances and James Horner’s classic score may point to an old-fashioned adventure film, the fact we’re asked to sympathise with a protagonist burning men alive in tanks or engaging in terrorist tactics creates a surreal dissonance that the movie never quite gets past.

Riders in the sandstorm...

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The Virtue of Ambitious Failure…

When I was compiling my “top twelve” list for 2011, there were a lot of films contending for a place on that list. I felt bad about having to leave off stuff like We Need to Talk About Kevin and Preludio and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. However, I didn’t find myself trying to justify the inclusion of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, despite the fact that I found the film completely and utterly compelling. I’ll be the first to concede that Soderbergh’s disease epic had some fairly considerable flaws, too many for me to legitimately rank it “one of the best of the year”, and yet I think it’s one of those movies I couldn’t stop thinking about. What it is it about an ambitious failure that makes it so much more fascinating than a modest success?

Figuring out the formula...

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Non-Review Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a movie that can be measured against the very best of John la Carré adaptations, and among the very best that the espionage subgenre has to offer. I make that assertion based upon a single viewing, convinced that revisiting the movie will be something of a wonderful experience, an attempt to decode and sift through the film seeking what Control cynically describes as “treasure.” Tomas Alfredson, who established himself with Let the Right One In makes one hell of an English-language debut, providing a film that embodies the culture as much as the language, an elegant and stately affair, never feeling forced or rushed or dumbed down. I think that, with its intriguing structure and manner of suggesting ideas (rather than stating plot points), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy might represent that mythical ideal: the perfect film for grown-ups.

Never gets Oldman...

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