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Non-Review Review: Life (2015)

The biggest problem with Life is that the film is largely lifeless.

Life is the story of the iconic photographs of James Dean taken by photographer Dennis Stock in the run-up to the release of East of Eden in March 1955. At that point, Dean was a young actor on the cusp of stardom. As the premiere of East of Eden approached, Dean still aspiring towards his definitive role in Rebel Without a Cause. Dennis Stock saw something in the young actor, believing he might capture a moment of cultural change in the brooding young actor.

"The coat, he borrowed from James Dean..."

“The coat, he borrowed from James Dean…”

Even if they didn’t make the cover of Life magazine, Stock’s photographs have come to define Dean in the popular memory. These photographs capture Dean at his most brooding and his most joyous, capturing the extremes of his experience. Snapping Dean walking through the rain in Times Square or reading comics with his brother, Dennis seemed to trap some of the essence of the actor in his work. Life centres on the complicated relationship that exists between the two men, as they attempt to get a read on one another and navigate the taut waters of celebrity.

However, for a film inspired by (and derived from) an instantly recognisable set of photos, there is something just a little bit too staid about Anton Corbijn‘s two-hour long character study. It feels like a loose selection of pop psychology strung around some faithful recreations, missing the vibrancy and the intimacy that made those shots so distinctive.

#HairRaising

#HairRaising

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Non-Review Review: The Rover

The Rover isn’t quite a post-apocalyptic road movie. A title card places the story “ten years after the collapse”, but it’s never clear what exactly “the collapse” is. Buildings still stand. Trains still run. Telegraph polls are still connected. Cars still drive. Military units still offer some small semblance of law and order. This isn’t a world that has collapsed, it is the decaying structure of a world still struggling to stand.

The Rover is a starkly beautiful and haunting film, one that says a lot with only a few scattered words. It’s unsettling not in its portrayal of a world that is dead, but instead in its attempt to capture a world struggling to keep breathing.

As the world burns...

As the world burns…

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Non-Review Review: Twilight – Breaking Dawn, Part II

Here’s the thing. Despite all the derision that the Twilight films generate, they actually have any number of ingredients for a perfectly workable young adult horror romance. Despite the sizeable and significant flaws, and those fundamental issues that are very hard to overlook, the film does have a number of very clear thematic roots that can be traced back through horror cinema. The problem with Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part II isn’t that it’s inherently cheesy or trashy or absurd. The problem is that it’s never enough of these things. It feels far too comfortable and too casual to ever really grab the viewer, and everything feels far too safe and generic to get any mortal’s blood pumping.

Baby trouble…

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Non-Review Review: Bel Ami

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by Bel Ami, the first film from theatrical veterans Declan Donnellan & Nick Ormerod. It’s a classy little period drama that doesn’t necessarily redefine the genre, but instead stands as a worth addition to the canon. In a way, it seems like a more lavish BBC adaptation, which is quite a compliment when it comes to period drama. I don’t know if actor Robert Pattinson will necessarily find life after Twilight, but I imagine he will find a niché if he choses his next couple of roles as carefully as he chose this one.

Hm... This guy rings a Bel...

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Non-Review Review: Water for Elephants

Water for Elephants is undoubtedly a well made film from a technical point of view. It stylishly evokes a collective memory of Depression-era America with a skilled romanticism, all beautifully staged and designed, scored with music clearly intended to tug at the heart-strings. However, despite the technical proficiency with which the film is crafted, it ends up feeling ultimately quite lifeless, and a little stale – like a mediocre circus, the movie is stylish and momentarily distracting, but it never manages to grasp its audience, or to engage.

He packed his trunk and said goodbye to the circus...

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