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Non-Review Review: The BFG

The BFG works better as setting and setpieces than it does as a story.

The first half of the film is largely episodic in nature, allowing director Steven Spielberg the opportunity to craft a delightful fantasia built upon the work of Roald Dahl. The world that The BFG builds through motion capture and computer-generated imagery combined with models and sets is quite striking. As befits an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s novel, the film is rich in imagination. The first half of the film often feels like a child in a candy store, wandering with its protagonist from one magical set piece to the next.

Keeping it handy...

Keeping it handy…

It is enchanting in a way that evokes the best of Spielberg’s output, the wonder and imagination that has inspired a whole generation of filmmakers. More than that, Spielberg controls the camera with a deft ease that helps viewers to get a sense of why he is so often copied and so rarely equalled. For its first half, The BFG is pure and whimsical Steven Spielberg. Indeed, the film has a somewhat understated eighties setting, which serves to underscore the sense that Spielberg is consciously reconnecting with his crowd-pleasing blockbuster phase. He does not miss a step.

However, The BFG struggles in its second half once the script tries to impose a story upon these meandering and wandering adventures. Although this second half is very much carried over from the source material, it sacrifices a lot of the whimsy and charm that made the first half so endearing. In fact, although the ending is adapted quite faithfully from the novel, it also feels like a concession to modern big-budget film aesthetics. The BFG is a film that works quite well, up until the point that it chooses to emphasise “big” over “friendly.”

They might be giants.

They might be giants.

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My 12 for ’13: Django Unchained & Suckerpunching Expectations

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 2…

Slavery seems to have been bubbling away at the back of the American pop cultural consciousness this year. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln were both Best Picture nominees at this year’s awards ceremony. 12 Years a Slave is making pretty impressive head-way for next year’s Oscars, embarrassing moments like the film’s European marketing aside. They are all superb and moving films, but Tarantino’s Django Unchained is probably the strongest of them.

djangounchained8

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The X-Files – Pilot (Review)

The X-Files is twenty years old this year. To celebrate, I’ll be spending Month X looking back at the first season.

There was a time, around the third season, when The X-Files became the show. It had grown from the quirky newcomer of Fox’s prime time line-up, through its status as a cult hit, into a bona fides pop culture touchstone. Looking back now, twenty years after the show first began, it is something entirely different. It’s weird to look back over a long-running television, divorced from the immediacy of broadcast, a sort of “if I knew then what I know now…” sort of thing.

However, looking back at The X-Files, it’s more than just knowing how it ends. It’s more than just knowing about the show’s slow and drawn-out two-year death. It’s more than knowing that the conspiracy plotline kinda (but not quite entirely) makes sense, if you look at it the right way and don’t over-think it. Approaching The X-Files now, twenty years later, is more like opening an old tomb, unlocking a time capsule. The musky smell of the past seems to seep out of the television screen, transporting the viewer to a time that really isn’t that far away, but feels like centuries ago.

The X-Files is, undeniably, a pop culture artefact from the nineties, a show that seems to slot almost perfectly between the end of the Cold War and the start of the War on Terror. It’s an exploration of a version of America that simply doesn’t exist any longer, the long and silent pregnant pause where the United States was the world’s sole unchallenged superpower. The X-Files really embodied that period of time, much like 24 managed to channel the anger and the rage of the post-9/11 era into piece of the zeitgeist.

And, to be fair, you can sense that sort of nineties existential anxiety even as early as The Pilot.

Beam me up...

Beam me up…

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Watch! Spike Lee’s Oldboy Trailer!

If you haven’t watched the original Oldboy, you should really do so now. I’m not as head-over-heels in love with it as most, but it’s a stunningly powerful piece of film making, “visceral” in the strongest sense of the word. After years of trying to get the film off the ground, the American remake is incoming. I remember when there was gossip about a Steven Spielberg and Will Smith version, which it’s hard to imagine working anywhere near as effectively as the original. The team of Spike Lee and Josh Brolin, on the other hand, looks more likely to deliver something as twisted and bold as Pan Chan-wook’s original.

Anyway, the trailer’s below. So have a look and let me know what you think.

Non-Review Review: Lincoln

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln might just be the most fascinating exploration of the overlap between legal, moral and democratic power ever produced. Abraham Lincoln’s name might brand the film, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ sensational performance might hold it together, but there’s a very clear sense in watching Lincoln that the film is more preoccupied with lofty philosophical questions about the role of a ruler in a democracy. The Civil War and the 13th Amendment provide a backdrop, but Lincoln seems more concerned with how those elected must wield the mandate given from the people. Must they always represent the views of the people who elected them, or is their job to lead?

Note: Not a Vampire Hunter...

Note: Not a Vampire Hunter…

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Photos from the Jameson Cult Film Club Screening of Jaws!

Sadly, I had to miss Tuesday’s Jameson Cult Film Club screening of Jaws, due to unforeseen circumstances. This was a shame, because I’d actually been really looking forward to it. The guys involved generally put on one hell of a show, and Jaws occupies a special place in my film fanatic’s heart. Still, I’ve got some photos of the event here, and they actually make me a little sadder that I had to miss out on it. Still, there’s always the next one.

You can still sign up to the Jameson Cult Film Club, and they run a film blog all year around. Signing up also allows you to enter the draws for free tickets to the event. Pop on over to their website to check it out.

Non-Review Review: Jaws

Jaws is a pretty impressive film. Not only did the film serve to launch Steven Spielberg’s career and subgenre of monster creature features, it also effectively kick-started the summer blockbuster. However, watching it again all these years later, it’s amazing how well Jaws holds up – far better than the vast majority of films that it ultimately inspired. There’s a lot of reasons that Jaws works, and a lot of them come down to Spielberg working as director, but also in the scripting and the acting. It’s rare for a movie to produce one character that we truly care about. Jaws manages to produce four compelling leading characters – the three men who ultimately end up on the boat, and the shark itself.

Finally copping on…

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