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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: 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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Watch! Trailer for Oblivion…

Universal just sent on this, the first trailer for Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. I’m a bit of a sucker for twisty, mind-bendy, high-concept science-fiction, and it looks like Oblivion might just deliver on that front. It’s from director Joseph Kosinski, who brought us Tron: Legacy – which is still a film I am very fond of. Anyway, have a look at the trailer and let me know what you think.

Going Straight: Comedic Actors in Dramatic Roles…

New pictures from I, Alex Cross were introduced over the weekend. If you aren’t familiar with it, don’t worry – it’s an upcoming adaptation of an Alex Cross novel, the same series that gave us Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. While Along Came Spider wasn’t anything special, Kiss the Girls was a fairly decent nineties serial killer film, if not quite on the level of it obvious influences in The Silence of the Lambs and se7en. There were two surprises in these shots. The first was how incredibly freaky Matthew Fox looked – he looks pretty damn scary, so respect to Fox for pulling off that transformation. The second surprise was just how convincing Tyler Perry looked in the lead role. Perry is the latest in a long line of comedic actors looking to expand their range, and I can’t help but wonder why so many comedic performers tend to branch out so far.

Not a man you want to Cross…

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Non-Review Review: Bruce Almighty

I like Bruce Almighty. I’ll concede that I might even like it more than any other of Jim Carrey’s madcap comedies. I think that it’s easily among the best of the comedies he produced after the millennium, doing well from a strong supporting cast and nice central moral. It isn’t deep or profound, and it’s unlikely to offer any more philosophical insight than anybody had going in, but it also manages to avoid being completely vacuous or empty. It’s remarkably satisfying for a light screwball comedy, even if it is a little on-the-nose.

All at sea...

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Monkey Business: Could Andy Serkis Win An Oscar?

Okay, I think we all know the answer is “no.” I thought better than to try to pretend there was the slightest hint of even a nomination. However, considering some of the chatter around Serkis’ performance in the superb Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I can’t help but wonder if the Academy will everrecognise motion-capture performances with acting nominations. After all, where does the line end between the performance of the actor, and the special effects work put in by the technical team?

Serkis folk...

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Non-Review Review: Dinner for Schmucks

The real problem with Dinner for Schmucks is that it’s not really that funny. I can talk for quite a while (and probably will) about how the movie takes all the flaws with unsympathetic comedic protagonists demonstrated by films like Due Date and turns them up to eleven, but that will ignore the fact that the laughs in the film are relatively few and far between, which is a shame when one considers the sheer volume of talent involved. Paul Rudd, in particular, is a talented and charismatic actor who really needs to make better choices in films.

No funny business...

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Non-Review Review: RED

The way that society treats its elderly makes for great fodder for films. After all, what happens to us when we climb over that hill – when we make it all the way to retirement and cease to contribute in the most conventional manner? Will anybody care? Will anybody notice? It’s something that will (hopefully) happen to a lot of us, but it’s not necessarily something we give a lot of thought to – perhaps because we wouldn’t be too comfortable with the answers we’d find. “I never thought this would happen to me,” Joe Matheson confesses at one point as he strolls around “Green Spring Rest Home” with his old colleague, Frank. When Frank asks what he means, Joe elaborates, “Getting old.”

Up to their old tricks...

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Non-Review Review: se7en

We’re currently blogging as part of the “For the Love of Film Noir” blogathon (hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren) to raise money to help restore the 1950’s film noir The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me). It’s a good cause which’ll help preserve our rich cinematic heritage for the ages, and you can donate by clicking here. Over the course of the event, running from 14th through 21st February, I’m taking a look at the more modern films that have been inspired or shaped by noir. Today’s theme is “nineties noir” – I’ll be looking at two of the finest noir-inspired films of the nineties.

Although David Fincher has directing credits before se7en (most notably Alien 3), it was this look at a broken world which marked the up-and-coming director as a talent to watch. It’s a movie which works on many levels, entertaining on the superficial surface level while intriguing viewers looking for something just a little bit deeper. I have to say, of all the films I revisited as part of this blogging event, I think I got the most out of returning to se7en.

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Non-Review Review: The Shawshank Redemption

I have to admit, I’ve always found The Shawshank Redemption a tad overhyped. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a masterfully made film with a fantastic cast and a fantastic score from a director at the very top of his game. Still, the movie’s never entirely won me over – perhaps because I can’t entirely buy into the parable of hope and redemption that is being spun. It’s very powerful stuff, but I can’t help but feel a little cheated with the fact that the movie asks us to believe that something good came of the pit of human suffering at Shawshank.

You can easily get board in Shawshank...

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