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Non-Review Review: Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is very clearly a sentimental life-affirming true story, very clearly pitching itself as an upbeat and hopeful account of one of the most iconic statesmen of our time. A collection of all the “greatest hits” of Mandela’s struggle against oppression and hatred, Mandela is an efficiently calculated piece of cinema. It’s a grand sweeping historical epic that never really pulls back the layers of the character it examines, instead opting (mostly) to film the legend.

And it works. After all, what other world leader in the past half-century can lay claim to such an inspirational narrative? Nelson Mandela’s journey lends itself to this sort of optimistic and inspirational adaptation, and the subject is a comfortable fit for this sort of sweeping life-affirming whirl-wind exploration of Mandela’s personal history.

Courting public opinion...

Courting public opinion…

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Non-Review Review: The Good Man

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

Films about social justice can occasionally seem a bit clunky. Part of this is down to the way that most seem to have been conceived as simplistic morals rather than engaging stories, but there’s also a tendency to earnestly moralise in a manner that condescends to the audience. The Good Man manages to avoid the worst of these problems with a smartly-constructed third act that dovetails its two central narratives into one another, and because it accepts that the problem with our attitudes towards disadvantage and poverty in the rest of the world isn’t down to a simply lack of awareness. It is, the film suggests, easy to know about a problem, and easy to try to help. Understanding, on the other hand, is a far more challenging proposition.

We're all connected...

We’re all connected…

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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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X-Men: X-Tinction Agenda (Hardcover) (Review)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

X-Tinction Agenda makes for a potentially fascinating X-Men crossover, tying together Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor and New Mutants to tell a single cohesive story. It’s not a new approach – it was pioneered by The Mutant Massacre and Inferno – but it is perhaps the definitive approach to X-Men related crossovers (it’s still in use today for stories like Second Coming). It’s fascinating, because it sees the creative teams pick up on something that Claremont had introduced over thirty issues earlier, as if recognising a gem of an idea really deserved further development. That said, despite some decent writing and art, X-Tinction Agenda can’t help but feel like it wastes its potential, hitting on an absolutely fascinating premise and deftly tying the three on-going monthly comic books together, but ending up as little more than an explosive knock-down brawl.

The Wolv pack…

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X-Men: X-Cutioner’s Song (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

In a way X-Cutioner’s Song marks a fairly significant turning point in the history of the X-Men franchise. The X-Men books were in a state of turmoil. They had lost their long-term writer Chris Claremont only recently, and Jim Lee had departed to work on other projects. The central theme of the books – exploring prejudice and racism – looked to be losing steam slightly as South Africa’s apartheid regime collapsed and the country developed into a truly democratic state. It seemed like the books were struggling to cope with all these changes occurring so rapidly, and X-Cutioner’s Song reads like an attempt to assert control on the franchise – as if to assure readers that everything was okay and it was business as usual.

They're playing our song!

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Non-Review Review: Invictus

I have to admit being quite impressed with Invictus. One of the benefits of living in Europe, but also one of the burdens, is that we typically have a week or two to surf the reviews of any film about to open, as it has typically been previewed (and released) in America long before it arrives on our humble shores. On one hand, this allows us to make carefully considered film choices, but it also means that our optimism for an upcoming release can be bashed against the rocks of poor critical acclaim. Invictus didn’t secure a Best Picture nomination and it didn’t exactly blow the socks off reviewers. I know that a reviewer should go in to a darkened cinema leaving all expectations and preconceptions aside, but unfortunately this is the real world. Invictus isn’t a cinematic classic, nor the highpoint of anyone’s filmography, but it is a solidly constructed sports and politics epic with a superb leading performance and a skilled hand behind the camera.

Nelson Mandela - Nobel laureate, South African President, Springboks manager...

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Non-Review Review: District 9

It was good, but not great. That’s about it. I was somewhat underwhelmed by what is being hailed as the most fresh and original science fiction film since… well, Moon way back in June. Maybe I’m being harsh though. A lot of it was very good, some of it was great, but some of it made my very uncomfortable. And not in the way that social commentary is meant to make you feel uncomfortable.

Illegal aliens...

Illegal aliens...

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