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Non-Review Review: Book of Life

Book of Life bristles with energy – almost too much energy at times.

Book of Life is a sumptuous feast for the eyes, dynamic and beautiful, elegantly crafted and lovingly staged. It is packed with eye-popping visuals and an electric energy. In many ways, these help to compensate for a script that is simultaneously under-plotted and hyperactive. The basic plot arc of Book of Life – and the trajectory of all the featured characters – can be mapped from the opening scenes, while the movie is over-stuffed with pop culture references and snappy asides.

Book of Life is exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure, almost perfectly calibrated for its ninety-minute runtime. The result is a stylish and suave animated film that pops out of the screen, even if it doesn’t lodge in the memory. There’s little here that hasn’t been done before, but rarely has it been done so stylishly.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Life Support (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the jam-packed 1994 to 1995 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

Life Support is the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to air after Star Trek: Voyager went on the air. It’s amazing how quickly Deep Space Nine settled back into the role of “the other Star Trek show on television.” A lot of attention was focused on launching Voyager, with the show put in the awkward position of launching (and, in the years ahead, supporting) the new television network UPN. As a result, Voyager got a lot of press and a higher profile.

Deep Space Nine fell back into familiar routines. Life Support is far from an exceptional piece of Deep Space Nine. In fact, it’s a deeply flawed piece of television. However, it feels free of the identity crisis that dominated the first half of the third season. This is Deep Space Nine free of the expectations of being “the only Star Trek on television”, and allowed the freedom to just keep doing whatever it wants to do.

It doesn’t do any of the things that it wants to do particularly well, but it does them in its inimitable way.

Dead air...

Dead air…

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Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s Run on The Punisher, Vol. 9 (Review)

This March, to celebrate the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, we’ll be taking a look at some classic and not-so-classic Avengers comic books. Check back daily for the latest updates!

The Punisher isn’t really a complex character.

Indeed, despite his popularity and appeal, there’s really only so much you can do with the character before it feels like you’re repeating yourself. He is a vigilante who brutally murders criminals, possibly because criminals killed his family. That’s part of the reason why Rick Remender’s Punisher run was so exhilarating. It genuinely felt unlike anything that had been done with the character before – even if Remender had to take Frank Castle off the reservation to do it.

Writer Greg Rucka and artist Marco Checchetto came up with their ingenious way of making the Punisher seem novel again. Realising that readers have probably become a little too over-familiar with Frank Castle and his world, Rucka and Checchetto shrewdly decide to look at Frank Castle from the outside, treating the Punisher as something like a force of nature, a terror glimpsed fleetingly as he stalks the concrete jungle.

A smoking gun...

A smoking gun…

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Jameson Cult Film Club: interMission

The Jameson Cult Film Club screening of interMission was a wonderful evening, as usual. Converting a warehouse at the end of Hanover Quay into the film’s MegaMart, the gang provided the usual celebratory screening atmosphere. Appropriately enough, brown sauce seemed to be the theme of the event, with crates serving as make-shift tables, bottles served along with tasty grub for those looking to customise their burgers.

(I will confess, though, that I did not see anybody mixing brown sauce with their Jameson, although I’m sure some adventurous soul out there made an attempt.)

Click to enlarge...

Click to enlarge…

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Watch Out! The James Cult Film Club is Doing Intermission, 18th June 2013, Dublin!

I’m a big fan of the Jameson Cult Film Club. It exists as an ode to classic movies, finding a way to stage beloved classics in a way which encourages audiences to re-engage with them. Transforming a piece of Dublin into a set from the film, hiring actors to bring certain key sequences to life, even serving appropriate snack food, these events are a joyous celebration of pop cinema.

Their next film will be interMission, which is one of my favourite Irish films of the past decade. It feels appropriate to celebrate the movie’s tenth birthday with a celebratory showing at a secret location in the cinema. It’s a great choice, and it’s always a good excuse to celebrate a quality piece of Irish cinema.

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Anyway, we’ll hopefully have some tickets to give away in the next week or so to the showing on the 18th June. As with all the Jameson Cult Film Club screenings, the event is free of charge – which is quite nice, I have to say. Tickets are randomly raffled off, and you can sign up as a member at the Jameson Cult Film Club website. If you want some examples of their good work, we’ve got some photos from their screenings of The Blues Brothers, Silence of the Lambs and L.A. Confidential, among other things.

I’m normally quite wary of offering whole-hearted unqualified endorsements on the blog, but it’s really something I’d recommend that every cinephile should try at least once. And, if you’re reading this from outside of Ireland, feel free to check out interMission for a decidedly Irish piece of cinema. Only In Bruges really comes close to it – and that really falls into the quasi-ambiguous “Father Ted” category of “is it an Irish piece of entertainment?”

intermission

In the meantime, I’m off to make myself some tea. Maybe even with brown sauce.

12 Movie Moments of 2012: Shared Pop Culture History (Ted)

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 #2

When it comes to end of year “best of” lists, comedy seems to draw the short straw as a genre. Like some of the less earnest genres, comedy is far too easily overlooked in favour of something more “worthy” of attention. Seth MacFarlane’s Ted has been something of a contentious film this year. Depending on where you sit, the film is either the epitome of everything wrong with American comedy, or it was a refreshingly profane yet heartfelt breath of fresh air. I lean more towards the latter than the former, and I appreciated the way that it played to MacFarlane’s strengths – concealing a surprisingly sincere sentiment behind a cynical and glib exterior.

As such, it’s no surprise that the most effective sequence in the film – the opening credits – managed to play to both that side of MacFarlane and also to his wonderful ability to channel pop culture as something of a shared collective history. Call me sappy, but there was something wonderful about seeing Ted interact with Johnny Carson and watching Ted and John queue for The Phantom Menace in costume, that created a tangible sense of back story between the characters.

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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.

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: The Dark Knight Returns (The Dark Knight Rises)

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 #6

Ireland got an IMAX screen this year. Well, it had an IMAX screen before, but it shut down before The Dark Knight kick-started the whole “watching cool movies in IMAX” thing. Evidently, watching Liam Neeson talk about Everest wasn’t nearly as exciting as watching Batman flip over an articulated lorry. Christopher Nolan shot a large percentage of The Dark Knight on IMAX, but he shot even more of The Dark Knight Rises using the special cameras.

As such, I was delighted that Cineworld and The Irish Times organised a special screening of The Dark Knight Rises in early December, even though the cinema had only reopened after Nolan’s epic was available on blu ray. It’s an oft-cited criticism that the third part of Nolan’s Batman trilogy featured surprisingly little Batman. I’d disagree, and instead suggest that the film made excellent use of its large cast – and when Batman appeared on screen he carried the weight that he deserved.

The sequence in which Bruce leads the Gotham Police Department on a merry chase while pursuing Bane and his terrorists is the perfect example, a fantastically constructed action sequence that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about the cast at that moment in time.darkknightrises15a

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The Best of the “Best of” Lists: The Troubling “Top Ten” Triffle…

So, Sight & Sound has conducted their “top fifty films of all time” poll, held once a decade since 1952. With two polls, one for directors and one for critics, it’s certainly an interesting way to measure the pulse of the cinematic establishment. This year, for example, Citizen Kane was vanquished from the top spot, replace by the critics with Vertigo and by the directors with Tokyo Story. The publication of such a list is always a great spark for cinematic debate and discussion – with some commentators describing the lists as conservative or humourless and some directors using it as an opportunity to publish their own lists. Personally, I always find such list-making fun, if ultimately a little pointless.

Raising Kane…

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That’s Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man: Movie Criticism and Subjectivity…

What do you use movie critics for? What’s their function or role? Is there a distinction between a film reviewer and a film critic? What do their opinions or verdicts mean? It’s getting to the point where the last thing the internet needs is another pretentious self-indulgent meditation on the nature of writing about film, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot of late. The blockbuster season seems to bring with it the classic “audience against critic” debate, not that it’s ever truly gone. Even at the heights of Oscar season, the argument is bristling away in the background, as people lament the relatively low box office if critic-pleasing films like The Artist.

"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man..."

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