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Non-Review Review: Allied

There is something of the uncanny about Allied, a pervading sense of “not-quite-right-ness” that pervades the film.

In some ways, that vague feeling of uncanniness recalls director Robert Zemeckis’ work in stop-motion computer animation in the earlier years of the century. There was something deeply uncomfortable about the director’s work on films like The Polar Express or A Christmas Carol, a sense of strange lifelessness beneath meticulously and painstakingly crafted exteriors. Zemickis’ computer-generated experiments often felt like they were trying too hard to mimic something organic and spontaneous.

Casa closed.

Marryin’ Marion

There is a similar sentiment to Allied, which plays very much as a love letter to classic Hollywood cinema. Indeed, the opening forty minutes of the film are dedicated to a very stylish couple operating out of “French Morocco.” Inevitably, their clandestine dealings bring them to a version of Casablanca that seems rooted more in Hollywood history than in reality. Unfolding against the backdrop of the Second World War, dealing with themes of love and betrayal, and starring a bona fides movies star, Allied feels very much like an approximation of a classic movie.

However, it never quite gets there.

Marryin' Marion.

Casa closed.

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Non-Review Review: The Walk

“It is not real,” Philippe Petit reflects quite early in The Walk.

Resting his chin against one of the steel supports running the height of the World Trade Centre, Philippe stares upwards into infinity. Up until that moment, the Twin Towers had existed as a conceptual object for the young French tightrope artist; he had only seen them in photographs and sketches, framed in comparison to the Eiffel Tower to afford them a sense of scale. Appreciating the majesty of the World Trade Centre in the flesh is almost too much to process. Making them more real has somehow made them less real.

Walk on the wild side...

Walk on the wild side…

Philippe could just as easily be talking about the film that surrounds him. Director Robert Zemeckis might be best known for his work on Back to the Future, but a lot of his twenty-first century filmography has been fixated upon the unreal; Zemeckis has become known for his fascination with motion-capture and computer-generated imagery, the illusive pursuit of verisimilitude through the uncanny valley. The special effects used to realise The Walk are superb and top of the line, but there remains a feeling of unreality to the whole film.

It would be impossible to film The Walk in a real location using real stunts. The Walk is an ode to New York City, but to a version of New York City that no longer exists. Tourists cannot visit it, although perhaps it might be found on a postcard or trapped in a photo. The Walk cleverly and consciously refuses to downplay that feeling of unreality, feeling almost like a nostalgic memory recalled through the fog of time. Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk between the Twin Towers was so effective because it was real; The Walk is so effective precisely because it is unreal.

Stepping out...

Stepping out…

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Non-Review Review: Flight

Flight has a lot to recommend it. It has an interesting subject, a fantastic central performance and wonderful supporting cast. As a result, it’s a shame that the movie makes such a mess of all these things. Flight is never less than interesting and Washington is always watchable, but it isn’t quite as compelling as a two-hour drama film needs to be. Director Robert Zemeckis struggles a bit with the tone of the piece, and Flight seems to be a bit all over the place, making it quite difficult to enjoy and hard to engage with.

Things are looking up...

Things are looking up…

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Non-Review Review: A Christmas Carol (2009)

I’m yet to be sold on the Robert Zemeckis school of “motion capture.” Don’t worry, I don’t hold a prejudice. I’m just waiting to be convinced, and I worry that Zemeckis – for all his championing of the technology – might not be the one to do it. For, as impressive as the technical merits of his technique might be, I think that Zemeckis has yet to find a story that truly needs to be told in that format, or at least a story that resonates in that format. Much as Pixar have somewhat validated computer-generated animation (a school of filmmaking that met with a ridiculous amount of cynicism in its early years), I think the key to proving the worth of this sort of approach lies in finding a story that connects with audiences, while demonstrating the strengths of the tool being used to tell it.

While it’s an enjoyable enough holiday film, A Christmas Carol simply is not that film.

Totally Scrooged...

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Stop Motion Capture: Time to Worry About Tintin?

Mars Needs Moms bombed at the box office. Badly. Really badly. Ignoring the fact that Disney is in need of another hit, the failure of the Seth-Green-starring Robert-Zemeckis-produced motion-capture 3D CGI films raises serious questions about the future of that particular animation style. However, I wonder if it’s playing across the minds of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson as they add the finishing touches to their Tintin adaptation.

All at sea?

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Non-Review Review: Forrest Gump

On one level, Forrest Gump is just too sacchrine for me. Really, I feel like a need a filling after joining the eponymous character on a whirlwind tour of modern American history (or what could really be described as “America’s greatest hits”). That said, there’s a certain charm to the movie that belies this incredible sweetness (which itself stands in sharp contrast to the cynicism of the novel upon which it will be based). And most of that charm is Tom Hanks.

Plus it doesn’t hurt that the movie has an amazing soundtrack.

Forrest was quite popular in the nineties...

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Non-Review Review: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

I think you could argue that Who Framed Roger Rabbit (which doesn’t have a question mark at the end, because apparently marketing demonstrated audiences don’t respond to question marks) sits at the perfect midpoint on the Zemickis spectrum, balancing the fine and fun storytelling of the Back to the Future series with the early forefathers of the technical wizardry which would so fascinate the director in the years to come. However, Who Framed Roger Rabbit finds a way to match its technical wizardry with a genuinely fun and entertaining story.

Saw VII: Would Bob Hoskins rather saw his own arm off or spend the rest of the movie as the straight guy to Roger's plucky comic relief? Jigsaw, you fiend!

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