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Non-Review Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

“All this anger. It only begets more anger.”

Ironically enough, given the title, the anger in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri never seems to ebb. Martin McDonagh’s small town black comedy drama is a parable about grief that metastasises into all-consuming rage. Fire is a recurring fixation for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a potent metaphor for both the scorched earth left behind by trauma and the tendency of such anger to swallow up everything in its path. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a cautionary fable.

Reading the signs.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri benefits from a number of different factors. McDonagh’s script is smart and well-constructed, wry in the right places and emotional when it counts, imbuing the characters and their surroundings with an organic and lived-in quality that enriches the story built around them. The locations are atmospheric and effective, creating a sense of place that extends beyond mere geography. The cast is fantastic, particularly supporting turns from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.

However, Frances McDormand is the engine that drives Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. While the film features several set pieces built around fire, the hottest flame burns at the heart of the central character. As enraged mother Mildred Hayes, McDormand captures the energy and the depth of a woman raging against a system that let her down, an unjust world that denies her closure, and her own sense of guilt and responsibility.

Ebbing and flowing.

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Non-Review Review: Seven Psychopaths

“Meta” is a concept that can be very rewarding, but it’s very difficult to do right. Often, it seems a little heavy-handed, a little self-indulgent. The art of writing fiction about fiction can easily descend into a writer documenting his own process, or become clever for the sake of being clever – offering an easy way out of virtually any dramatic situation, and allowing the script to answer pretty much any question with “because the writer says so.” Nevermind that movies about movie are prone to become a little self-congratulatory, or a little too self-focused. Seven Psychopaths never completely falls apart, but it occasionally struggles with these sorts of problems a little bit in the middle. Martin McDonagh has produced a very thoughtful and clever exploration of the traditional revenge film, but the execution feels a little bit too clunky at times.

I understand that this might be the point, but there are times when Seven Psychopaths feels like more of a narrative experiment than a compelling story in its own right. Still, it’s witty and funny and bold and smart and charming. Those attributes aren’t the easiest to come by, and certainly not in this combination. Seven Psychopaths might not be the incredible success that In Bruges was, but it’s a film that takes chances, and which tries to push both the genre and its audience a little out of their comfort zone. It is very hard not to respect that, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was fairly consistent charmed throughout its runtime.

The write stuff…

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Non-Review Review: Gentlemen Broncos

I’m going to be a bit of killer jo here and admit that I didn’t really “get” Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, so it’s no surprise that the latest movie from the creative team leaves me cold. That sort of overly understated sense of humour feels a bit old at this stage, as if we’ve seen it once too often. There’s a sense that the movie somehow recognises this, and decided to augment those awkward silences with incredibly gross and juvenile humour.

Grabbing the stag by the horns...

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Non-Review Review: The Green Mile

I never really responded to The Shawshank Redemption. I’ll go into why exactly if I ever get around to writing a review of it, but perhaps the fact that I never really embraced the film as strongly as most film fans (or even just, y’know, people) is the reason that I am somewhat fonder of The Green Mile than most. The Green Mile is admittedly as guilty as Frank Darabont’s early Stephen King adaptation set in a prison when it comes to emotional manipulation of its audience (look at us humanise the prison guards by having the three of them tackle a mouse in a borderline comedic fashion!), but I find it a lot more honest about its inherent darkness than that tale of redemption in Shawshank.

No, it's not a halo, but it's pretty close...

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Non-Review Review: Iron Man 2

Legacy. It’s all about legacy. What we leave for our children and what we inherit from our parents. Sometimes it’s bitterness and hatred, sometimes it’s more than we think. Iron Man as a concept is inherently linked to the Cold War and American foreign policy, so it’s a fitting theme for the sequel to tackle. Fathers and sons dominate the film, as does the simple and haunting fact that the now is shaped by the then. Some of us get to change the world, some of us simply leave big smoking craters behind us. Even the bad guy, a Russian, consciously evokes conflicts fading from memory that shaped our modern world.

Sometimes you just need to slow down and take a break...

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Is Iron Man 2 a thematic successor to The Dark Knight?

As anyone who reads this blog is probably aware, we’re still eagerly awaiting news of any sort of announcement about Batman 3, the sequel to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight that was rumoured to arrive this January. Be it that he was leaving or staying or what have you. Still, part of me wonders if there might be quite a significant amount of stuff in Iron Man 2 for those looking for a further exploration of the themes in the 2008 blockbuster. With recent discussions about the project and the first trailer, I can’t help but get the fantastic feeling that the second Iron Man movie may pick up and explore some of the wonderful threads which Nolan’s dark epic set up. That’s not to say that there isn’t reason to get excited for the film in it’s own right – Robert Downey Jnr! Sam Rockwell! Mickey Rourke! Jon Favreau! – but it’ll be interesting to see if the themes overlap or echo with the film’s 2008 summer rival as well.


Who says darker and edgier is the way forward?

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Non-Review Review: Moon

It’s been a good year for niche cinema. And looks to continue to be. For the moment though, Moon is one heck of a science fiction film. I’m goign to try to be careful and not really give away too many spoilers, but sufficed to say hat it is one of the most cleverly constructed science fiction films of the past decade – possibly since The Truman Show and Gattaca.

Sam Rockwell gets spaced out...

Sam Rockwell gets spaced out...

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