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Non-Review Review: Bombshell

Bombshell is a strange and imbalanced piece of awards fare.

On the surface, Bombshell looks like a standard awards season movie. It is a story about sexual harassment, focusing on three women telling three different stories exploring three very distinct facets of that sort of abuse. The movie follows each independently, as their narratives wind and interconnect, offering a holistic perspective on a problem that remains both far too common and very highly charged. Bombshell should be a slam dunk of a story, particularly in the era of #metoo.

Shell shocked.

Unfortunately, Bombshell chooses to construct this triumphant story of virtue defeating villainy within Fox News against the backdrop of the 2016 election. It spoils very little to reveal that the big climactic moments of Bombshell offer a stunning juxtaposition; the deposing of harasser Roger Ailes is set against Donald Trump’s speech to the Republican National Convention. There should be something bittersweet in this, a compelling and complex narrative of culpability and complicity. Instead, Bombshell attempts to sell this as big heroic narrative beat.

Bombshell is wrestling with something thorny and nuanced, but instead seeks to simplify it down to a simple story with clear cut heroes and cardboard antagonists. Bombshell is a movie that asks the audience to cheer for the women of Fox News as the characters head into an election cycle that would be defined by Donald Trump’s admission of sexual assault, his casual misogyny and widely-reported rape allegations. This is – at best – a complicated note on which to conclude a film. Bombshell tries to package it as a feel-good celebration of sisterhood.

Kelly’s a Hero.

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Non-Review Review: Destroyer

At its core, Destroyer is a pulpy, heightened B-movie.

The basic plot involves a former undercover officer who finds herself tidying up loose ends from a botched job twelve years earlier, Erin Bell trying desperately to stay ahead of everything as the walls close in around her. It’s a standard template for a story like this, and audiences will be familiar with the basic structure of the story. Erin’s life is a disaster zone, and there is a sense that she still carries the scars from the trauma she enduring working with a local criminal gang.

She is become death…

As with most other genre exercises like this, Destroyer lives or dies in the execution. The template is so recognisable because it works efficiently. Apply a talented performer, a good director and a solid script to the template, and the movie will work. In that respect, Destroyer benefits from a compelling central performance by Nicole Kidman as Erin Bell, and from director Karyn Kusama’s understanding of the rhythms and tempos of genre exercises like this.

Destroyer stumbles a little bit in its third act, largely due to a completely unnecessary piece of narrative trickery. However, the film is propulsive and compelling enough to make it across the finish line.

Copping to it.

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Non-Review Review: The Railway Man

The Railway Man is certainly an ambitious film. Adapting the true story of British Second World War veteran Eric Lomax, who won the 1996 NCR Book Award and the J. R. Ackerley Prize for The Railway Man, his autobiographical account of his time in Japanese captivity and the aftermath of the war. Adapted by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson, and directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, it remains a fascinating and compelling exploration of the wounds left festering by war.

The biggest problem with The Railway Man is that it is perhaps too ambitious; it tries to include too much, and to cover too much ground in the space available. Despite that, it remains a moving and harrowing look at the remarkable life of one veteran.

Trained for this...

Trained for this…

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Non-Review Review: Stoker

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

Stoker is, without spoiling anything, essentially a vampire movie without a vampire. It’s a psychological thriller with a decidedly charged sexual undercurrent. It’s also a story of the things we keep secret, the dangers of blood and unwholesome desires. Park Chan-wook does an excellent job adapting Wentworth Miller’s screenplay for film, and the result is a strange and macabre beauty, a film that is occasionally a little too ethereal for its own good, but remains compelling and uncomfortable viewing.

Shear terror...

Shear terror…

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Non-Review Review: The Peacemaker

It’s interesting to look back at George Clooney’s early road to movie stardom. Indeed, the actor’s first leading roles seem like movies that really should have been star-making turns, but just weren’t. There’s obviously his portrayal of Bruce Wayne in Batman & Robin, a performance not quite as bad as the film around it, but there’s also his roles in films like The Peacemaker. The Peacemaker also was the first film released under Spielberg’s Dreamworks company, and it’s hardly an auspicious début. It’s not that The Peacemaker is a bad film. It’s a very well made, and the production values are excellent.

However, the problem is the premise itself, the plotting, the pacing and the script. The Peacemaker feels like it really wants to be a Tom Clancy thriller, and it really wants us to accept George Clooney as a more dynamic Harrison Ford. Unfortunately, it feels like all the plot points, characters and motivations all came second-hand. There isn’t one thing here that hasn’t been done before, and done better, and those parts aren’t even assembled in an especially original way.

The name’s Clooney. George Clooney.

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Non-Review Review: Just Go With It

I have to concede, I think Adam Sandler is sort of struggling through something a transitional stage of his career. We’re past the point where Sandler can so easily play the angry young man who defined films like Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore or Big Daddy, so we’re faced with an actor trying reconcile himself with that fact. Now, it seems the actor is preoccupied with the idea of finally growing up – as we see in films like Grown Ups and Just Go With It. The problem is that Sandler isn’t nearly as convincing or as interesting as a mellowing out man instead of an acting-out manchild.

Divorced from reality...

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Non-Review Review: Nine

I have to admit, I greatly enjoyed Nine, even if it never really felt substantial or fulfilling. I’m not convinced that the film works as a story, but it does provide director Rob Marshall the opportunity to put together setpiece after setpiece, each choreographed with impeccable skill. Indeed, given his ability to stage glitzy sequences and the sheer volume of talent in front of the camera, coupled with lavish production values and a mesmerizing setting, it’s easy to forgive Nine its faults – the most glaring of which is that nothing really happens for the first three-quarters of it, and then stuff happens which doesn’t necessarily feel earned in the last quarter. Still, it looks damn pretty and the soundtrack is quite catchy.

Now that's a showstopper...

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