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Non-Review Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Ben Stiller recently explained that he was growing more interested in directing and less interested in acting in front of the camera. Even if he hadn’t confessed that in an interview, it would be hard to shake that feeling while watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s beautifully shot and contains a number of impressive sequences and set pieces, but ultimately feels a little hollow – like a beautifully-sketched picture inhabited by two-dimensional characters.

There are moments of splendor and beauty to be found in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but often in spite Steve Conrad’s script rather than because of it.

Daydream believer...

Daydream believer…

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Non-Review Review: Gangster Squad

To suggest that Gangster Squad favours style over substance feels like an understatement. Although the prologue claims that Gangster Squad was “inspired” by the true story of Mickey Cohen, it seems to favour mythic figures and sweeping action over real characters and nuanced drama. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. For most of its runtime, Gangster Squad feels like a trashy and update of a forties or fifties B-movie, cheap and nasty far executed with enough speed and charm to entertain. Occasionally the movie seems to falter – it clumsily attempts to shoehorn in some social commentary into this bright and colourful vigilante tale – but director Ruben Fleischer works well to keep things balanced. The wheels come off a bit towards the end, as Fleischer demonstrates he handles atmosphere better than action, but for most of its runtime Gangster Squad is a diverting piece of cheesy nostalgia.

This new plan is working gangbusters!

This new plan is working gangbusters!

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Non-Review Review: This Must Be The Place

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012. It was the second “surprise” film.

This Must Be The Place is a film that has several interesting components, but keeps them so thoroughly isolated from one another through almost deft use of road movie clichés that nothing ever clicks. Paolo Sorrentino hasn’t so much made a movie as he has stapled a bunch of holiday snapshots together, treating us to a holiday slideshow full of half-finished anecdotes, banal details and no real sense of structure. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of brilliance scattered through the over-long and self-indulgent mess of a film, but the fact is they can’t add enough flavour to salvage the film.

Here's lookin' at you, punk...

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The Film Fan’s Curse: What Might Have Been…

The first photograph from the Farrelly Brothers’ The Three Stooges appeared on-line last week. It will star Will Sasso, Sean Hayes and Chris Diamantopoulos as the eponymous trio. Still, I can’t help wondering how many film fans looked at that picture and shared the exact same thought that popped into my head, mourning what might have been, rather than getting excited about what we had. Sure, most of the audience who see the film probably won’t know any better, but I can’t help be wonder what the original cast of the remake might have looked like.

Three of a kind of a letdown?

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Kevin Smith’s Superman Lives! Script

March is Superman month here at the m0vie blog, what with the release of the animated adaptation of Grant Morrison’s superb All-Star Superman. We’ll be reviewing a Superman-related book/story arc every Wednesday this month, so check on back – and we might have a surprise or two along the way. I figured that, today, I’d take a look at Superman-related movies.

But Superman was one that I was kind of intrigued by, because of my love for comic books and because I read the script they were working from at that time and hated it. Batman is about angst; Superman is about hope. That was the thing that bothered me about Greg Poirier’s draft: they were trying to give Superman angst. They had Clark Kent going to a psychiatrist at one point. Superman’s angst is not that he doesn’t want to be Superman. If he has any, it’s that he can’t do it all; he can’t do enough and save everyone. It’s not enough to make him want to quit being Superman; it’s enough to make the guy stay up at night so he’s out doing shit constantly.

– Kevin Smith on the script he was handed

I figured, with all this talk about Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot, I might as well take a look at some of the other productions that have brought the Man of Steel to the big screen in recent years. Superman never had quite the box office traction of Batman, and so never really went through that many big-screen iterations – while there’s a notable change in aesthetic between the Batman films of Burton, Schumacher and Nolan, Superman’s movies have been fairly consistent. I took a look at Superman Returns earlier today, but I thought I might take a look at Kevin Smith’s unproduced script for an earlier iteration of that particular film, Superman Lives!

Now, before you read my thoughts on the script, you should really watch the below clip, where Kevin Smith talks about writing Superman, and the various difficulties and demands that he faced.

Note: You can check out the script yourself, here.

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When Does a Movie Star Become an Actor?

I think that most people would agree that there is a distinction between a “movie star” and “an actor”. I think that the great Nicholas Meyer offered a definition that fits quite well:

What’s the difference between an actor and a movie star? An actor is someone who pretends to be somebody else. A movie star is somebody who pretends that somebody else is them. Actors will change their face, will change their hair, will change their voice, will disappear into the role. A movie star doesn’t disappear.

That might sound quite harsh towards a “movie star”, but I think that you could argue that a movie star (if applied correctly) can add a certain amount of artistic weight to a film:

A movie star is someone whose past work enriches your experience of, and deepens your pleasure in, his or her present work. In other words, a movie star is someone whose baggage you want to carry.

I don’t mean that the terms are mutually exclusive insofar as they apply to a specific individual (indeed I can think of several performers who are both actors and movie stars), nor that it’s a fixed position (I can think of many individuals who have started out as what might be considered an “actor” before becoming a “movie star” in their own right). In fact, while it’s easy to think of any number of performers who have repositioned themselves as movie stars after beginning as actors, it’s somewhat rarer to see it happen the other way around. Is the road from actor to movie star a one-way trip?

Is it a rocky road to being taken seriously as an actor?

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When Did The Oscars Become a Lifetime Achievement Award?

There’s been a fair amount of hub-bub (it’s a word – I swear!) about these year’s presumptive Academy Award winners. I’ve been following the Oscar race since early last year, and I was as surprised as anyone when Sandra Bullock’s name came into the race, first as a nominee and then as the sure-bet winner, for her dramatic turn in The Blind Side. I was also, I must admit, a little chuffed when the ever-loveable Jeff Bridges moved to the head of his pack for is own turn in Crazy Heart. However, I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about these two nominees and one question seems to be coming more than others: do those favouring these performers believe that they deserve to win for these roles, or simple that they deserve to win for years as solid and respectable actors? Do these roles just offer us a chance to recognise their longterm contributions? And is that necessarily fair?

Don't worry, Colin, your time will come...

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