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Non-Review Review: Oblivion

Director Joseph Kosinski wears his science-fiction interests on his sleeve. Tron: Legacy was obviously an update of an eighties science-fiction cult classic, and Oblivion feels like another form of pulpy homage. At its best, Oblivion feels like a spiritual successor to those wonderful cult science-fiction movies of the seventies and eighties, by way of classic version of The Outer Limits. Oblivion isn’t the strongest piece of science-fiction I’ve seen this year, nor the most ambitious, nor the most intelligent.

The movie is full of twists and turns, but few that any genre aficionado will fail to see coming. Instead, the movie largely works because it feels like an affectionate homage to those old-school post-apocalyptic pulpy sci-fi adventures. It’s cinematic nostalgia, but it’s lovingly crafted and skilfully rendered. Kosinski might not be the best storyteller working in the business, but he has a wonderful eye and keen sense of how to construct a beautiful scene.

On top (what remains of) the world...

On top (what remains of) the world…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: We Built This City (Rock of Ages)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #12

Rock of Ages was not a terrible film. It was also not a great one. It had a lot of fundamental problems holding it back from any sort of consistent. The film didn’t seem to know quite when it was camping it up to eleven, when it was taking itself too seriously, or when it was approaching near-critical levels of irony.

Except…

When the cast broken into a medley of We Built This City and We’re Not Gonna Take It. It’s the only point in the film when it seemed like everybody involved grasped the ridiculous irony of basing a jukebox musical around the concept of rock ‘n’ roll’s refusal to sell out. Most of Rock of Ages was silly, enjoyable, hypocritical nonsense. With We Built This City, for about a minute, Rock of Ages seemed just a little bit smarter than the rest of the film might have you believe.

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Non-Review Review: Jack Reacher

Much like its eponymous leading man, Jack Reacher is efficient. That’s probably the best thing that can be said about this adaptation of Lee Child’s One Shot. Coming in at two hours, the movie manages to keep everything relatively under control. Any fuzzy logic is masked by the smart decision to keep things moving at a quick enough pace, distracting from the fact we’ve seen it all before, or that the characters seem especially paper-thin. At times, Jack Reacher suffers from being a little too shallow, a little too safe, a little too predictable. While Christopher McQuarrie can be an excellent writer, he seems to be only developing as a director. He handles movement reasonably well, but the direction amps up the melodrama to almost unbearable levels at certain points in the film.

It’s not terrible, and it’s certainly not an out-and-out failure, but I’d struggle to argue that it’s a successful franchise launch. For most of its runtime, Jack Reacher succeeds at merely being inoffensive and trying not to weigh too heavily on our patience. It’s not the most convincing of victories, but it could have been a lot worse.

Gearing up for a franchise...

Gearing up for a franchise…

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Watch! Trailer for Oblivion…

Universal just sent on this, the first trailer for Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman. I’m a bit of a sucker for twisty, mind-bendy, high-concept science-fiction, and it looks like Oblivion might just deliver on that front. It’s from director Joseph Kosinski, who brought us Tron: Legacy – which is still a film I am very fond of. Anyway, have a look at the trailer and let me know what you think.

Non-Review Review: Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages actually works quite well as a microcosm of the eighties – in both good and bad ways. It is loud, entertaining, engaging, shallow, beautifully constructed, hypocritical, energetic, charming, tasteless and somehow strangely irresistible in places. While the movie doesn’t necessarily always work, it is a perfect piece of cultural counter-programming to the summer’s sporting events. Light, fun and just a little dazed and confused, Rock of Ages is self-aware enough that it never collapses under its own weight. While it’s unlikely to be remembered as the best of the summer, it is a charmingly cheesy (if occasionally clumsy) power ballad musical that does exactly what it says on the tin.

He’s already made his marker…

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Non-Review Review: Scream II

Today, we’re reviewing the entire Scream trilogy. Sadly, I’ll have to wait to get a look at the latest instalment, but reviews of the first three will be going on-line throughout the day.

I actually like Scream 2 a great deal – perhaps as much as I enjoyed the original Scream. Which, to be honest, takes me by surprise because it’s a much weaker movie in a lot of ways, the most obvious being the fact that it sort of fizzles out in the third act. Still, there’s just something about the cheeky and energy of the sequel that grabs my attention and keeps it, as if moving the series from a stereotypical high school and into a college film class. Of course, as Randy the resident film buff points out, the only thing more stereotypical than high school slasher movies are college slasher movies, but there’s just something cool about the fact that most of the cast (rather than just Randy) are relatively genre savvy this time around.

Film Buff-y?

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Non-Review Review: The Tourist

In theory, The Tourist should be great fun. After all, the last time we had a high-octane romantic adventure thriller, we ended up with the genuinely entertaining Knight and Day. And, if anything, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie should represent a large step-up from Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t quite deliver. Mistaking twists for plot and assuming that strong leads can make up for underwritten roles, the film flails around rather randomly, alternating between a genuinely exciting little European thriller and fairly paint-by-numbers twist-a-minute adventure, it never manages to set a particular tone, and leaves its two actors struggling to stay afloat amid the rather wonderful Venetian scenery.

Tour of duty?

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Non-Review Review: The Firm

The Firm would be an entertaining little thriller, if it ran maybe half-an-hour shorter. John Grisham’s legal thrillers were pretty much the gold standard for lawyer-related movies during the nineties, with any number of movies adapted freely from his books (notably in the format of “The [insert noun here]” like “The Firm”, The Client, The Rainmakerand so on). It’s a shame, because I believe that The Firm might have, with a little judicious editing, had the capacity to be the best Gresham adaptation out there. Instead, it’s too bloated to really make an impact.

It's no coincidence that "lawyer" and "liar" sound so similar...

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Non-Review Review: Knight & Day

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Much like Mission: Impossible, while I was watching Knight & Day I couldn’t help but get the impression that Tom Cruise really wanted to be James Bond. And, at the risk of being controversial, if an American actor were ever chosen, I think Cruise would fit the bill nicely. Indeed, Knight & Day feels more like a sort of traditional Bond film than Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace have, and its that sense of endearing nostalgia which really makes the film worthwhile. In a film season packed with disappointing films, Knight & Day is an entertaining and engaging romp which might make you smile as you spend two hours with it.

It's a romantic action comedy, and it has the big guns attached...

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Non-Review Review: Mission Impossible

This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

I can understand you’re very upset.

Kitrich, you’ve never seen me very upset.

Tom Cruise really wants to be James Bond. I mean, I think that’s the driving force behind the Mission: Impossible films, an attempt to construct an American James Bond franchise around the character of Ethan Hunt – they certainly aren’t the biggest of the blockbuster movies, and yet Cruise has used his influence to produce a trilogy of films (with a fourth one in the works). Between that and Knight & Day, I think the role of a globe-trotting secret agent action hero just appeals to the actor. I think he pretty much wants to be an American James Bond  and – truth be told – I think he’s a great candidate for it.

Just hangin' out...

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