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Non-Review Review: Pan

There is something delightfully off-kilter about Pan, to the point that it seems almost surprising that it got made.

After all, Peter Pan doesn’t seem to need an origin story. All the core ingredients are included in the original stories that J.M. Barrie wrote at the start of the twentieth century, allowing generations of other writers to improvise and elaborate around a rather robust blueprint. Steven Spielberg hit on an interesting idea in theory (if not necessarily execution) in Hook, producing a sequel imagining what might happen if the boy who never grew up… actually grew up. However, there does not seem to be an equivalently interesting hook into a prequel story.

Don't be so harsh, Blackbeard...

Don’t be so harsh, Blackbeard…

Indeed, there is very little in Pan that connects it to its source material, beyond a few overlapping names and sly in-jokes. Captain Blackbeard meditates on Neverland as the realm of death, alluding to the historical context of the stories, but the film is absolutely fascinated by the concept of death in Neverland. James Hook might be taunted with a “tick tock” and dangle his hand in crocodile-infested waters, but the film has very little interesting to say about his relationship with Peter Pan beyond falling back on the trope of suggesting that they were once friends.

However, there is something fascinating about the execution of Pan. Even if the script doesn’t hold together, and the film often seems like two-hours of punk pop candy floss, there is an endearingly gonzo quality to the film that makes its complete refusal to work all the more interesting.

Sheets to the wind...

Sheets to the wind…

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Non-Review Review: Side Effects

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

On one level, Side Effects is a deliciously pulpy medical thriller, with the kind of zig-zagging twisty plot that you’d expect from a Michael Crichton novel. It’s more than satisfying on these terms, almost serving as a feature-length pilot for an imaginary medical drama starring Jude Law. After all, with House off the air, there’s a clear gap in the market for a smooth English actor playing the lead in an unconventional medical drama. If he is sarcastic, all the better. While the genius of the early years of House came from mashing up the medical subgenre with the police procedural to produce a then-unique hybrid, Scott Z. Burns instead blends the medical drama with a decidedly more trashy and sordid thriller to provide a satisfyingly twisty drama.

However, on another level, Side Effects teases issues that are far more interesting than the movie it eventually becomes. It’s very frustrating when your red herrings feel like they’d produce a more thoughtful or insightful piece of cinema than the final story. Side Effects broaches topics that mainstream cinema hasn’t really engaged with, and the opening scenes flirt with the idea of providing an entirely different film. It’s not always fair to judge a film for what it isn’t, but the problem is that Side Effects sets up a much more tempting and intriguing look at medicine than we get with the final product.

Love isn't the only drug...

Love isn’t the only drug…

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Academy Awards 2012: The Insiders’ Oscars…

That was… underwhelming. I mean, I think I’m relatively happy with most of the nominees, and there’s very little I can vehemently object to as completely unworthy in yesterday’s Oscar nominations, but still… Yesterday’s Oscar nominations felt decidedly insular, as if the Academy had taken a complete U-turn on any of the amendments that had recently been made in an attempt to broaden the Academy’s horizons. The Oscars have always been a party thrown by the movie industry to celebrate themselves, but this year’s nominations feel increasingly isolated, with nominations and lists populated with the safest and most predictable choices. This is the first year in quite some time that there hasn’t been anything as pleasantly refreshing as the Best Picture nomination for District 9 or Toy Story 3.

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Whatever Happened to Ron Underwood? One-Shots, Wash-Ups & Never-Has-Beens…

I think it’s happened to all of us. We’re flicking through the television channels, and we hit on an old movie we like. In my case, it was the superb 1990 B-movie Tremors. As we’re watching it, and remembering how much we loved it, our mind gets to wondering, “Whatever happened to that guy?” It could be an actor, an actress, a director or a writer. It’s somebody who showed a decent amount of talent (or, in the most frustrating circumstances, a phenomenal amount of talent), but who seemed to fade from view, and who we never heard from again. In this case, it was the director of the film, Ron Underwood. Whatever happened to that guy? Are they still alive? Are they still working? Why haven’t I heard from them since this one really good film I’m watching?

One shot at fame and fortune?

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Non-Review Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

I will confess that I’m not a huge fan of the original Swedish adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It was just too bleak, with every male character existing as some form of sexual predator, shot against a drab grey backdrop and with nothing but unrelenting cynicism to propel it. I don’t want to describe David Fincher’s version as “softer” – there are still any number of scenes that will have viewers squirming in their seats – so perhaps “smoother” or “rounded” represents a better choice of adjective. While there are still some pacing issues in the last third, Fincher succeeds in adapting the best-selling book in a fashion that makes it just as fascinating as it is grim.

Opening a cold case...

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Non-Review Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a decently-made little thriller. It’s interesting that David Fincher has been selected to helm the inevitable English-language remake of the film, as it feels like a spiritual companion to se7en. While that Fincher thriller concerned itself with a broken world populated with seven flavours of deadly sin, this Swedish film is only really interested in one. It’s a brutal commentary on what it suggests is a harsh and repressively misogynistic society, one that victimises and commoditises women. However, it veers a little bit too far into sensationalist territory – fixated on the idea that men in positions of authority are inevitably sexual sadists – and its contents make for excedingly grim viewing.

Never quite gripping...

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