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Non-Review Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

I was really looking forward to this movie when I heard about it, Steve Carell and Jim Carey in the same movie? Excellent.

Burt Wonderstone’s (Steve Carell) interest in magic sparked as a young boy when he received a Rance Hollaway (Alan Arkin) magic set and began to share his magical tricks with Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi). The duo, now established and respected as world renowned magicians, have been performing in Bally’s hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip for many of years, gaining money, fame and love. Over the years, their show, like their friendship, has become old and stale, and is threatened by street magician, Steve Gray (Jim Carey). Gray baffles his audiences via self-harm and endurance acts, quickly grabbing the attention of Bally’s owner, Doug Money (James Gandolfini). Money demands for the duo to update their act, and so Wonderstone and Hollaway are forced to rethink their performance, with the help of their assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde), and show they still have what it takes to rule the Las Vegas strip.

He's in a glass case of emotion...

He’s in a glass case of emotion…

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Non-Review Review: Rampart

Rampart features a powerhouse central performance from Woody Harrelson as corrupt Los Angeles Police Officer Dave Brown. Harrelson manages to take a character who should be (and is) reprehensible, and yet manages to imbue him with the faintest sense of tragedy. However, the problem is the movie that takes place around Brown. Brown’s story is an inherently tragic one, a relic of a by-gone era trapped in his own self-destructive pattern. He’s not dynamic or proactive, and so reacts to the world around him. While director Oren Moverman populates the film with any number of iconic and recognisable character actors, the film can’t help but feel a lot too sterile, a little too inert. We’ve seen this story before, and while Harrelson’s performance is compelling, the film around him is not.

He’s got this police thing working gangbusters for him…

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Non-Review Review: Reservoir Dogs

I had the pleasure of attending the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of this film.

Reservoir Dogs is my favourite film amongst Quentin Tarantino’s accomplished filmography. It seems a strange choice, as most film fans would concede that it’s pretty great, but would readily point to Pulp Fiction as the definitive Tarantino film. However, I think that Reservoir Dogs has an elegant simplicity that elevates it, allowing Tarantino to demonstrate his unique skills in an environment where he isn’t too confined or too rigidly structured. In a way, it’s that wonderful structure that makes Pulp Fiction so exceptional, but Reservoir Dogs has a relatively modest scale that makes it a lot easier to appreciate Tarantino’s deft mastery of form.

Whiter than White?

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Boardwalk Empire

I don’t think any television show has been quite as anticipated as Boardwalk Empire. The entire digital television channel Sky Atlantic HD seems to be be marketed around the lush period drama, and well it might be. Sure, there are plenty of things to look forward to on HBO’s British channel, but nothing has the big name appeal of a period gangster television show starring Steve Buscemi and directed by Martin Scorsese. That combination was influential enough to secure the show a place on the family’s television planner, a huge vote of confidence if ever there was one – we like to watch stuff together, but a television show takes a lot of commitment (simply because it means getting everybody in the same room roughly once a week). Did Boardwalk Empire live up to the promise it offered? I think it’s too early break open the proverbial Champagne, but all indications so far are good.

Tonight we're going to party like it's 1920...

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Non-Review Review: Grown Ups

It’s very difficult to offer a movie that takes a cynical “Hollywood type” back to their roots. There are many reasons. The most obvious is that the type of person making the movie is a cynical Hollywood type and there’s something of an irony about making a film about the roots they’ve lost contact with – oftentimes it is more difficult to offer a grounded version of reality than it is to depict an alien invasion or a thoroughly ridiculous premise. Grown Ups is the second film this year which sees Adam Sandler playing a character attempting to reconnect with the common man – perhaps a timely theme in light of the recession, when the glitz and glamour of Hollywood stand in even starker contrast to the day-to-day lives of regular folks. However, if I didn’t know better, I’d think Sandler (whose production company produced the film and who co-wrote the script) is having something of a midlife crisis.

Not exactly a deep pool of talent...

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Non-Review Review: Monsters Inc.

If you don’t love Pixar, you should see a doctor immediately. Because you clearly have no heart, which can lead to all manner of unpleasant complications. Okay, maybe Monsters Inc. is one of the more conventional entries in Pixar’s animated canon, but it’s an example of how – even when being as close to conventional as they can – Pixar are still absolutely incredible, blowing all the other major American animation studios out of the water.

Scarily good...

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