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Non-Review Review: Man of Steel

There are moments of brilliance in Man of Steel. I like the golden-hued Malick-esque glimpses of Middle America, evoking the work of Norman Rockwell. (Indeed, the earliest glimpse of Clark Kent’s life on Earth seems to evoke Teacher’s Birthday.) I like the decision to cast Jor-El as a pulpy science hero rather than a stand-in for God. I like the way that the movie embraces the concept of exceptionalism, and doesn’t shy away from the American ideals embodied in Superman’s mythology. I appreciate the development of the Kents into more than generic slices of apple pie.

However, for all of these lovely moments, there’s a sense that Man of Steel resents the fact that it is a superhero origin film. It’s easy to understand why. Superman origins are a dime a dozen, and it’s hard to imagine anybody could be unfamiliar with the broad strokes of the story. However, Man of Steel does find an interesting and nuanced angle on that first crucial Superman story… only to become something radically different. A little under half-way through, the film morphs into a big budget superhero spectacle, sandwiched between the outline of an origin story and chunks peppered throughout like some form of tossed salad.

Man of Steel suffers because it’s a lot less interesting than it might have been, and it revels in that comfortable blockbuster mediocrity.

High flyin'...

High flyin’…

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Non-Review Review: The Summit

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

The Summit is a powerful exploration of the infamous loss of eleven lives within 24 hours on K2. This is the largest disaster in the history of K2 mountaineering, and – as The Summit concedes – that we won’t necessarily ever know the full details behind this tragic loss of life. However, while the incident serves as a bit of a flashpoint, one big event that it is impossible to overlook, The Summit drops an absolutely fascinating piece of information early one, and one which contextualises that horrible accident.

Apparently one in every four people to make it to the summit of K2 doesn’t make it back down.

thesummit4

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Non-Review Review: Lincoln

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln might just be the most fascinating exploration of the overlap between legal, moral and democratic power ever produced. Abraham Lincoln’s name might brand the film, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ sensational performance might hold it together, but there’s a very clear sense in watching Lincoln that the film is more preoccupied with lofty philosophical questions about the role of a ruler in a democracy. The Civil War and the 13th Amendment provide a backdrop, but Lincoln seems more concerned with how those elected must wield the mandate given from the people. Must they always represent the views of the people who elected them, or is their job to lead?

Note: Not a Vampire Hunter...

Note: Not a Vampire Hunter…

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Non-Review Review: Quartet

Quartet is an entertaining light comedy, and a solid directorial début from Dustin Hoffman. The film itself isn’t too surprising or demanding, but – as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel demonstrated earlier in the year – there is something to be said for putting a bunch of older actors together in a room and letting them remind you what they can do. Quartet is a fairly standard “life doesn’t end at retirment” film, and one that makes smart use of a talented ensemble cast. Indeed, as the credits roll, we’re reminded of just how talented as Hoffman introduces us to each of the performers – many of whom have long and impressive careers in theatre or music.

There’s nothing here that will surprise anybody, but it is occasionally nice to be reminded just how superb some of the older generation of actors can be.

... in with the old...

… in with the old…

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Non-Review Review: The Omen

A whole bunch of ropey sequels and a dodgy remake aside, The Omen remains a rather wonderful little Satanic thriller, and a fantastic horror movie in its own right. The sixties and seventies were populated with reproductive horrors like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, and I think that there’s a reason that The Omen has endured. More than three decades after its original release, The Omenremains a superb example of seventies horror at its very finest.

Not quite father-of-the-year material…

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Non-Review Review: Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians might be the best-looking addition to the Dreamworks canon. It’s a visual feast, a testament to the imaginations of those working behind the scenes, with a vivid visual aesthetic that is often breathtaking. Even with the colours toned down by the 3D glasses, it still looks good, and the particles of snow and dust lends themselves to an immersive 3D presentations. The cast is also charming bringing the titular fairy tale team to life, with a wonderful group dynamic  and an enthusiasm that’s hard to dismiss.

Just in the Nick of time!

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Non-Review Review: Skyfall

There’s a moment about a third of the way through Skyfall that manages to perfectly encapsulate its opinion of the iconic British spy at the heart of the film. Casually dismissing the villain’s lofty accomplishments, Bond mutters, “Everybody needs a hobby.” The villain takes the jab quite well. “Oh. What’s yours?” Bond retorts, “Resurrection.” Released to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the film franchise, Skyfall is a veritable ode to Bond’s endurance – in both a literal and metaphorical sense. After all, not many fifty year olds look as stylish as this.

Sam Mendes, and his talented cast and crew, have managed to get Bond the perfect birthday present.

Working in the shadows…

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Non-Review Review: Premium Rush

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, which was as much of a joy this year as it was last year. If not moreso.

Although a tad over-written and a little awkward in places, Premium Rush is a diverting high concept chase thriller that actually manages to produce something just a little unique. Set within the high-octane world of New York couriers, it sees our lead character racing to make a 7pm deadline while dealing with a whole host of problems. Much like the title character, the movie is at its best when it’s moving – zig-zagging and free-wheeling at a decent enough pace that the flaws fade away. However, it runs into a bit of bother when it tries to slow things down a bit. Still, it’s an entertaining city thriller.

Wheeler dealers?

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Non-Review Review: Lawless

Lawless is, like director John Hillcoat’s other films, the story of people shaped (or mirrored) by their harsh and unforgiving surroundings. A prohibition crime thriller, Lawless feels more like the story of local people fighting fiercely to resist the taming influence of more “civilised” outsiders who believe themselves inherently superior to the “dumb hicks” who have made this terrain livable. “It is not the violence that sets men apart, it’s the distance they’re willing to go,” Forrest Bondurant tells his brother at one point in the film, and Lawless seems to respect its lead characters for refusing to feign civility and to at least acknowledge the innate violence of their existence. It’s thoughtful, powerful stuff. Not without its flaws, it’s still an interesting exploration of man’s capacity for violence.

Sadly, though undoubtedly quite sage, this Forrest never once suggests that “life is like a box of chocolates…”

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Non-Review Review: Shrek 2

Shrek 2 is quite entertaining. It’s not nearly as good as the original Shrek, but it doesn’t feel quite as tired or stale as the two films that would follow. There’s still an endearingly subversive streak to the film, and the series hasn’t quite evolved into the very thing it was originally mocking. While it is charming, witty and intelligent, there’s a case of diminished returns. In particular, this time around, the series is growing increasingly dependent on pop culture references and cheesy “in-joke-y” references. While, again, not quite as bad as the two films that would follow, it’s a sign of things to come. Still, despite that, Shrek 2 has its heart in the right place, and continues the original’s spirited deconstruction of the Disney fairytale franchises. It’s only slightly diminished by the fact that it is gradually evolving into one itself.

Happily ever after?

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