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Non-Review Review: Fury

Fury is an apocalyptic glimpse of warfare.

Unfolding in the last days of the Second World War, as Allied forces pour into Germany from all sides, there’s a sense that this is the end. This is the abyss. As the introductory text explained, Hitler had declared a doctrine of “total war” against these invading forces. Every man woman and child was to be mobilised against the advancing armies, in the hope that it might somehow slow down the Allied war machine. If you throw enough people at it, you might do some damage – even if it is just clogging the gears.

He will strike down with Fury-ous anger...

He will strike down with Fury-ous anger…

A movie about a tank crew enduring these last few days, Fury gets considerable mileage out of that image – of human flesh falling before the unstoppable and inevitable machine. At a couple of points in the movie, characters die with their faces quite literally down in the mud. At other points, bodies are crushed beneath the tracks of the eponymous vehicle. Towards the climax, we encounter a body so thoroughly squashed beneath the weight of the Allied advanced that it seems like an empty uniform.

Fury is at its best when it captures the sheer unrelenting terror and horror of the advancing war machine – the nihilism of fighting a war that has already been decided, and the bleak inevitability of large-scale slaughter.

Fog of war...

Fog of war…

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Non-Review Review: Turbo

Turbo is the best animated movie of 2013, well worth coming out of your shell to see. It’s probably the best Dreamworks film since Kung-Fu Panda and the best CGI animated feature since Toy Story 3. Indeed, Turbo manages to evoke a lot of the charming early Pixar films, in particular channelling Ratatouille, as we follow the adventures of one common unloved animal who decides that “good enough” is not quite good enough.

Stop the clock...

Stop the clock…

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Non-Review Review: Tower Heist

Hollywood has always had a strange way of reacting to current trends and realities as they exist outside the multiplex. Films tend to take a while to react to shifting cultural phenomena. That said, changes in response to particular incidents can be relatively swift. Gangster Squad was famously re-shot following the Aurora shootings and released less than a year later. Although still in the early stages of its production, Zero Dark Thirty was heavily re-worked after Osama Bin Ladin had been shot and killed. However, it’s the broader changes that Hollywood takes longer to acknowledge.

The Dark Knight was praised by The Washington Times as “the first great post-Sept. 11 film”, but this was in 2008 – almost seven years after the attacks. The 9/11 zeitgeist still lingers over American film and television. However, it’s telling that – only recently – have we seen reactions to the financial crisis creep into contemporary blockbuster cinema, as the studios try to acknowledge the shifting economic reality.

Tower Heist is very clearly an attempt to capitalise on some of the anger and the hurt generated by the failure of banks and official bodies to protect the average citizen from the financial collapse. It’s confused, muddled and a little disjointed, even if the intentions seem noble. It still feels a little disappointing that it took almost half a decade to produce this rather bland reaction.

A crash course in economics...

A crash course in economics…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Missing Children (End of Watch)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #3

I was not as taken with End of Watch as some were. I enjoyed the film, and I think both Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal gave superb performances, but I think that the decision to structure the arc of these two police officers was a bit of a mistake – as the film resorted to clichés like drug cartels putting out a hit on these two individual cops. The film started as an impressively grounded and candid exploration of what life must be like in the line of fire, but then it became a much more conventional film (albeit shot in an unconventional manner).

Still, when End of Watch was good, it was great. It was raw, powerful stuff that gave an impression of what it must be like to do that job day-in and day-out. At its best, it demonstrated the obvious toll that these small day-to-day incidents must take on those protecting and serving. Often it was the smaller sequences that worked best, those with little-to-no connection to the overriding “cartel” arc – the kinds of things that felt like the stuff that must confront officers of the law on a daily basis.

None was more powerful than the rather simple house call investigating the disappearance of two small children.

end_of_watch_two_a_l

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Non-Review Review: End of Watch

For its first two thirds, End of Watch is a rather novel examination of the routine of the boys in blue who patrol X-13, the most notorious district within Los Angeles’ notorious South Central. Centring on two police officers, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, it offers a portrayal of the Los Angeles Police Department that feels almost novel. Rather than centring on the city’s infamous racial tensions, or the allegations of corruption within the force, End of Watch offers a candid and insightful examination of what an average day on the beat might look like, helped along by natural interplay between leads Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

The movie runs into problems with its third act, when it opts to abandon its naturalistic, almost documentary, approach to these officers and their world, forcing a climactic confrontation that never really feels like it entirely belongs.

Arresting drama…

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Non-Review Review: The Good Doctor

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

Much like its protagonist, there’s something not quite right about The Good Doctor. It’s undoubtedly fascinating, as a young doctor makes a series of questionable moral decisions that lead to a variety of uncomfortable situations, but there’s no real internal life to the movie. You can see what is happening, and you realise the consequences, but the script and Orlando Bloom’s headlining performance never allow you to immerse yourself in the title character. You know what Dr. Martin Ploeck is doing, and perhaps you can intuit a reason, but he never seems tangible. That is perhaps the most significant flaw with the movie. Then, of course, there’s also the third act.

Window of opportunity...

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Non-Review Review: 30 Minutes or Less

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, the rather wonderful film festival organised by Vincent and everybody else over at movies.ie. It was well worth attending, and I’m already looking forward to next year. Good job all.

It’s kinda strange to watch 30 Minutes or Less. It’s an entertaining enough farce that is carried mainly by its superb primary cast, but it feels strange because the viewer gets the sense that the film might have worked better as a quirky caper film instead of a flat-out comedy. I enjoyed the movie, even if it wasn’t really in the same ballpark as Ruben Fleischer’s early film, Zombieland. I spent most of the movie with a smile on my face, rather than laughing out loud.

Banking on another great comedy...

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