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Non-Review Review: Mississippi Grind

Mississippi Grind is an intimate and thoughtful character study, featuring two superb central performances from Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds. Written and directed by the team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Mississippi Grind finds two gamblers winding their way down the eponymous river in the hopes of winning big at a poker game in New Orleans. “Like Huck Finn,” compulsive gambler Gerry insists when the idea first comes to him. It seems an appropriate comparison, given the themes of the film.

Never pushing its meditations on the American Dream too hard, and never labouring its points too heavily, Mississippi Grind achieves an honesty that borders on the profound. More than that, it captures both the romance and the desperation of that one last bet – the inability to settle for “enough” and the insistence that there is always everything to be won, even if it means that everything can be lost.

Meet me in St. Louis...

Meet me in St. Louis…

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Non-Review Review: Turbo

Turbo is the best animated movie of 2013, well worth coming out of your shell to see. It’s probably the best Dreamworks film since Kung-Fu Panda and the best CGI animated feature since Toy Story 3. Indeed, Turbo manages to evoke a lot of the charming early Pixar films, in particular channelling Ratatouille, as we follow the adventures of one common unloved animal who decides that “good enough” is not quite good enough.

Stop the clock...

Stop the clock…

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The Stars That Never Were: The “Next Big Thing” That Never Quite Happened…

I was watching Safe House over the weekend. It was fairly okay, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I was watching Ryan Reynolds headlining a film with Denzel Washington. It was only last year that it seemed Reynolds was being given a massive push by Hollywood. It’s always interesting to look at the actors who received a very substantial push from Hollywood, only to barely miss their shot at legitimate stardom – those actors and actresses heralded as “the next big thing”, seemingly the subject of every talk show and newspaper clipping for the better part of a year, only to fall a little bit short of the mark and to end up fading. It’s a cruel industry, and it is sometimes a little disheartening to see the way that certain performers get swallowed up whole by it.

Not quite playing it Safe (House)…

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Non-Review Review: Safe House

Safe House is a perfectly fine international thriller, which manages to effectively capture the look and feel of its setting in South Africa. Light on plot and characterisation, but heavy on action and atmosphere, Safe House isn’t necessarily required viewing. In fact, it has a great deal of difficulty convincing the audience to emotionally invest in either of the two lead characters. Still, director Daniel Espinosa keeps things ticking over with a workman-like efficiency on a simple plot and Denzel Washington is as charming a leading man as ever.

Safe as houses…

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Geoff Johns’ Run on Green Lantern – Brightest Day (Review)

It must be difficult to follow an absolutely huge event like Blackest Night, which cemented Green Lantern as one of DC’s largest franchises (perhaps second only to the Batman books under Grant Morrison). After all, the gigantic crossover was the culmination of over five years of work by architect Geoff Johns, and it might have been easy for the writer to pack it all in and call it a day. However, he didn’t. This collection, covering the entire New Guardians story arc, is very clearly a bridge between two big Green Lantern events – Blackest Night and War of the Green Lanterns. It also works a launching pad for a whole host of other titles, from Brightest Day to Emerald Warriors to Green Lantern Corps. However, the collection works at its very best when it is smaller in scope, and more intimate – when it pauses to wonder what happens to a world-saving superhero when the heat of the great big galactic threat has passed.

Hal's still got really poor self-image...

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Non-Review Review: Buried

Buried is a great high-concept thriller, with one hell of a hook and a fascinating premise. Basically the story of kidnap victim Paul Conroy, who is kidnapped by “insurgents” (or “criminals” or “terrorists”, depending on who you ask) and buried alive in Iraq. With only a limited source of light, and even less time, the truck driver is given mere hours to come up with a ridiculously large ransom or he’ll be left in the ground to rot forever.

It's a dirty job...

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Let’s be Franco: Actors Who Don’t Like the Interview Circuit…

I actually don’t feel strongly one way or the other about James Franco. I do kinda like that he was willing to experiment a bit by appearing as “Franco the performance artist” on General Hospital, respect the fact that he doesn’t care too much about his image to appear in films like Pineapple Express and Your Highness, but I also feel a little frustrated when I see how incredibly bored he seemed hosting the Oscars. There’s been a bit of on-line discussion about Franco’s public persona, and his perceived lack of interest in his own projects or in giving interviews, to the point where the actor has found himself being compared to Harrison Ford, one of the more notoriously difficult celebrity interviewees. However, despite all that, I find myself having quite a bit of sympathy for actors clearly not comfortable with dealing with the press circuit.

Going to great lengths to get away from it all...

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Non-Review Review: The Change-Up

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, the rather wonderful film festival organise by Vincent and everybody else over at movies.ie. It was well worth attending, and I’m already looking forward to next year. Good job all.

Body swap comedies are pretty much a subgenre unto themselves. There’s a fairly standard formula, much like the conventional romantic comedy, but the success or failure of a given movie rests pretty much entirely on the execution of that formula. It’s finding the wit and energy to inject into a familiar structure, to produce an interesting and compelling result. It’s been done with considerable frequency. However, The Change-Updoesn’t really generate enough laughs consistently to make a memorable addition to this category of comedy.

Just kidding around...

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Something Sinestro This Way Comes…

Note that this article contains spoilers for Green Lantern. So I waited until the movie was released to post it. They aren’t exactly huge spoilers, but consider yourself warned.

It really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell that Sinestro is going to end up evil. Created in the sixties, the character was introduced to fans as a rogue Green Lantern, so he wasn’t ever designed to be seen as a good guy in four-colour style. In fact, the guy is red, has an evil moustache and is played by Mark Strong. Although the name Sinestro could arguably refer to the fact he wears his ring on his left hand, it isn’t exactly a name that inspires implicit trust. So his path to the dark side in the intended-franchise-launcher Green Lantern shouldn’t be a surprise.

However, it really demonstrates a lot of the key flaws with the movie.

Not quite mellow yellow...

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Non-Review Review: Green Lantern

Green Lantern is solidly middle of the road as far as superhero movies go. Perhaps in a less crowded (and less high quality) summer action season it would seem a stronger contender, but the film really shows as Warner Brothers’ first major attempt to produce a big-budget superhero film not directly related to Superman or Batman. It’s perfectly functional, managing to do everything it sets out to in a relatively efficient manner, but there’s never really a sense that the film exists as anything more than a series of plot points that need be checked in order for the movie to cross the finish line. Given the potential of the source material, as well as its relatively unique nature amongst the slew of generic superheroes, a functioning and formulaic adventure can’t help but feel like a bit of a disappointment.

Hal Jordan: Space Cop? It has a nice ring to it...

Note: We also have an introduction to the Green Lantern mythos available, if you’re interested in checking it out.

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