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Non-Review Review: Luce

Luce is a compelling dialogue-driven thriller, anchored in a set of impressive performances and a meaty script.

At its core, Luce is a study of integration and idealism. It touches on the question of identity, that established by an individual and that imposed by the people around them. Luce derives its title and its tension from its lead character, a promising young African American student. Adopted by an upper-middle class white couple and rescued from his past as a child soldier, Luce has become an exemplar. He is an all-star debater, an impressive academic student, a successful athlete. He is loved by both the faculty and his fellow students. To hear the other characters talk about him, Luce is just about perfect.

Getting schooled.

Naturally, Luce challenges that idea. Luce invites the audience to wonder whether the title character really is everything that everybody else believes him to be. More than that, the film interrogates why so many people seem to need Luce to be an exemplar. The film is a fraught push-and-pull as questions are raised about Luce. When the honours student turns in an inflammatory essay and when fireworks with the explosive power of a shotgun are found in his locker, the characters around Luce find themselves asking if they understand the teenager, or if they ever could.

The result is a tense and claustrophobic drama, as the characters navigating these accusations and insinuations try to constantly reconfigure their understanding of the title character. It’s a remarkable push-and-pull, elevated by some very potent themes and a wealth of strong performances.

Keeping track.

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Non-Review Review: Diana

Diana is a rare beast. You have to try very hard to make a biography film that is so perfectly and so calculatedly terrible. Diana isn’t the product of people who don’t care, it’s the product of people who care too much about the cynical market of prestige biography films. As such, with focus-group precision targeting, the film hits what might be the most bitter of sweet spots. It is both toothless and incredibly cynical; manipulative and shallow; vacuous and crammed with unnecessary and irritating detail.

Most damning of all is the way that the film seems perfectly calibrated to fit the public image of the People’s Princess, never bold enough to challenge or explore her work, her life or her legacy. Given how raw the public’s nerves are, even sixteen years after her tragic death, it might have been expecting too much to hope for a provocative or compelling exploration of one of the most iconic figures of the past three decades. However, we might have hoped it would at least be interesting.

It's a minefield...

It’s a minefield…

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Non-Review Review: Movie 43

For a collection of comedy sketches assembled together from a bunch of different writers, directors and actors, Movie 43 is pretty consistent in quality and tone. Sadly, in the worst possible way. It’s consistently and awkwardly unfunny, substituting rude words and crude references to male and female anatomy for jokes or witticism. You know you’re in trouble when the sketch that comes closest to fulfilling the promise of the movie – the lure of crass, immature and ridiculously low-brow comedy – is directed by Brett Ratner. Even then, it’s hardly anything to write home about. Ratner’s sequence is the best part of the film, but it’s hardly anything especially memorable.

Don't worry, Mister Gere. In a year, nobody will remember this.

Don’t worry, Mister Gere. In a year, nobody will remember this.

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Non-Review Review: The Impossible

The Impossible looks and sounds fantastic. It is very well put together by J.A. Bayona. Cleverly opting to use practical effects wherever possible, and shooting on a gigantic water tank, Bayona provides a visceral experience worthy of any blockbuster disaster movie. Indeed, were The Impossible based on fictitious events, it might be enough to make it a powerful and emotional film. Unfortunately, as the film is so desperate to let you know (placing “true story” captions at the beginning and the end of the movie), The Impossible is based on the true story of a tsunami that caused untold damage to Thailand displacing up to 60,000 residents.

Without spoiling anything, The Impossible ends with the shot of a plane crossing the ocean, a voyage home. There’s no real sense of any of the lasting consequences of the truly horrific disaster that befell the countries in the Indian Ocean.

It's a washout...

It’s a washout…

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Watch! Trailers for The Impossible and Song for Marion…

I love me some Terrence Stamp.

Okay, a lot of that love is rooted in the fact that he was cinema’s best comic book supervillain for well over a decade, playing the iconic Zod (of “kneel before…” fame) in Superman II. However, as I grew older, I came to love spotting Stamp in all manner of roles – whether serious, comic, subversive or even random. Whether it’s small roles in comedies like Yes Man or Bowfinger, or leading performances in films like The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, I just have a massive fondness for Stamp. (It’s a fondness, I must confess that extends outwards to other British actors of his generation, including Malcolm McDowell and Patrick Stewart.)

Anyway, I just received this trailer for Song for Marion, and it looks like it could be fun. Stamp plays a grumpy old man who gets involved in his wife’s choir. Oh, and Christopher Eccleston plays his son. It’s strange, but somehow brilliant casting. Anyway, the clip is below.

There’s also this trailer for The Impossible, starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. It’s the story of a family struggling to survive the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. I’m very curious to see how this plays out, because it’s a premise that really needs to be handled with a great deal of care.

Non-Review Review: You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger

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

You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger is – we’re told at the start by the (now seemingly customary) narrator – “a tale told by an idiot, filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It doesn’t use the exact quote from Macbeth, but it references it pretty explicitly. However, this seems less like the genuine intention of Woody Allen and more like an excuse scribbled on the introduction to a term paper he couldn’t be bothered finishing, as if to declare to the world, “It’s okay if nothing is ever really resolved or developed and random stuff seems to occur for no reason – that’s the stylistic approach I’m adopting!” I don’t doubt that the movie’s inconclusive nature is undoubtedly intentional, but it’s inconsistency is still infuriating – perhaps more for the sections of the movie that do engage rather than those that meander. It’s not necessary a bad film – Allen is still a great storyteller, even when he doesn’t seem especially bothered – but it’s just not up there with Vicki Cristina Barcelona or even Match Point.

Growing old disgracefully...

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