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Non-Review Review: Going in Style

At one point in Going in Style, octogenarian would-be bank robber Albert decides to craft an alibi for an elaborate bank robbery while working at a cotton candy stand.

This image might just encapsulate Going in Style, a very light and fluffy bank robbery film about a trio of senior citizens who embark upon a bank robbery in order to balance the books. The movie is consciously (occasionally suffocatingly) feel good story of a bunch of cynical wise-cracking pensioners embarking upon wish fulfillment revenge against the banks that have taken so much from hard-working and decent Americans. Think of it as Hell or High Water that swaps the moral ambiguity for a clumsy score.

Dinner of champions.

Going in Style is not an especially complicated film. It never pauses to evaluate what is happening, or why. It is anchored in the assumption that people are basically decent, even when pushed to extremes. It goes for as many obvious jokes as it can cram into its ninety-six-minute run-time, from a few cheap laughs about the embarrassment factor of old-age sex to other jokes about bodily functions. But its heart is in the right place, as it goes out of its way to repeatedly assure the audience.

The extent to which Going in Style could be said to work rests in the easy charm of its three leads, in the pleasure of seeing Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin play off one another. None of the trio is pushing themselves. All three leads are essentially offering some minor variation on an established schtick, with no nuance or strain. The result is a heist thriller that never feels like it is racing against the clock, more ambling in its own time.

Benched.

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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: Interstellar

Interestingly, Christopher Nolan seems to have generated a reputation as a rather detached director. Common wisdom around Nolan’s films suggest that the film-maker is perhaps too cold and clinical in his approach to the material; that his films lack warmth or humour. This reputation is probably a result of the director’s fascination with non-linear storytelling. After all, The Dark Knight is his only straight-arrow-from-beginning-to-end film.

Probably also due to the narrative contortions and distortions of films like Memento or The Prestige, Nolan is generally presented as a film-maker who constructs visual puzzle-boxes. His films are frequently treated as riddles to be solved. Consider the discussion of narrative “plot holes” in The Dark Knight Rises that fixates on how Bruce Wayne got around back to Gotham, or the discussion on the mechanics of the final shot of Inception. This approaches to his work tend to divorce the viewer from his films.

Everything burns...

Everything burns…

Interstellar will likely be Nolan’s most polarising film to date, replacing The Prestige or The Dark Knight Rises. The film offers an extended two-and-a-half hour rebuttal to accusations that Nolan is detached or distant. Much has been made about the attention to detail on Interstellar. The physics on the movie were so exact and precise that physicist Kip Thorne actually made theoretical advances while working on the film.

However, at the same time, one character posits love as a force more powerful than gravity or time. Interstellar might be precise and meticulous, but it is not a film that lacks for an emotional core; it is not a movie that lacks for warmth. Interstellar feels like a conscious attempt to cast off the image of a cynical and cold film-maker.

Out of this world...

Out of this world…

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Non-Review Review: Half Moon Street

I do feel a little pang of sorrow that Half Moon Street opens with the “RKO” branding. RKO was the studio that gave us Citizen Kane and King Kong, so it’s just a bit disheartening to see the studio branding a half-hearted thriller that seems to exist only to show as much of Sigourney Weaver naked as humanly possible. Don’t get me wrong, of course, I’m not a prude. I have no problem with the notion of an “erotic thriller”, were it well handled. However, Half Moon Street is just a disjointed poorly-conceived mess featuring two leads who seem to give up on the movie about half-way through. It’s not as if there isn’t fertile ground for a gripping espionage thriller here, it’s more that the script by Edward Behr and Bob Swaim is so lifeless (and Bob Swaim’s direction so lethargic) that there’s absolutely no reason to care at all about anything that unfolds throughout the series of insanely massive coincidences that drive the plot.

“Okay… try to look inconspicuous…”

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The Prestige & Schrödinger’s Magician: Would the Real Robert Angier Please Stand Up?

No one cares about the man who disappears, the man who goes into the box. They care about the man who comes out the other side.

– Robert Angier

I am a big fan of Christopher Nolan. Anybody who regularly reads the blog will attest to that. I believe, genuinely, that he’s one of the best directors working today. However, my favourite Nolan film is a rather eclectic choice. I appreciate all his films, but I think that The Prestige stands as the pinnacle of the writer’s work to date. After all, in a career built around movies exploring the power of narrative, it’s hard to resist the film that compares cinema to magic. I think it’s a deftly-constructed and cerebral film, one of the few movies that still intrigues and confounds me when I stick it on. Of course, the narrative is relatively straight-forward once Nolan reveals the technique and the tricks in the final act, but I always find it rewarding to chew over the implications in the film, the story of two dueling magicians who take their rivalry as far as possible, and even beyond that.

Are you watching closely?

Note: By its nature, this post will include spoilers for the film. I have written a review of it, in case you are looking for a recommendation. It’s the most divisive of Christopher Nolan’s films, and I’d recommend seeing it at least once – love it or hate it, it’s a film that you won’t quite forget.

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Berry Your Head in Shame: Watching The White Dwarf Stars In Slow Motion…

Speedman is a dying star. A white dwarf headed for a black hole. That’s physics. It’s inevitable.

– Les Grossman, Tropic Thunder

Fame is like anything else. It’s like money or luck. It comes and it goes. Still, as the poster for Halle Berry’s latest film, Dark Tide, arrive, it’s hard not to feel a little bit sorry for those performers who have watched their fame and popularity slip out from underneath them.

Halle Berry won an Oscar for Monster’s Ball. She played one of the few James Bond characters to be considered for a spin-off, appearing in Die Another Day. She got a considerable pay increase for showing her breasts in Swordfish. She headlined one of the very few female-centric superhero films, the dire Catwoman. Not all of those were good films. In fact, being harsh, I’d argue that one of them was a good film, and the rest were significantly flawed, if not outright terrible. Still, it’s quite sad to see the former Oscar-winner relegated to appearing in the latest film from the director of Blue Crush and Into the Blue.

She did make some Berry questionable choices...

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Non-Review Review: Get Carter

Get Carter still makes a very unsettling viewing experience, one that feels no more comfortable for the fact that it has been forty years since the film was originally released. The fact that the film’s grim and perverted vision of modern Britain has been imitated countless times doesn’t diminish its impact. On one level, Get Carter is a very British exploitation film, but it’s also a fairly powerful look at the urban underworld festering in surroundings far too familiar.

All washed up?

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