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Non-Review Review: Sully – Miracle on the Hudson

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson has a certain Frank Capra quality to it.

To be fair, a lot of that comes from the casting of Tom Hanks in the title role. Hanks radiates a certain ineffable integrity, a “Hanksian Decency” that informs his performances in films as diverse as Bridge of Spies and Inferno. It is tempting to think of him as “America’s Dad”, particularly given the grey hair and the moustache that he donned for the title role here. However, it is also tempting to think of him as a latter-day Jimmy Stewart, the embodiment of a certain type of fundamental American decency that lends itself to this sort of narrative.

Hanks for the memories.

Hanks for the memories.

Similarly, director Clint Eastwood has a similar philosophy. Eastwood’s films tend to be organised around strong moral principles. Often those principles are articulated in terms of personal responsibility, particularly the responsibility that individuals have for others whether in a professional capacity (J. Edgar) or a personal capacity (Million Dollar Baby) or simply by virtue of being there (Gran Torino). Eastwood’s recurring fascination with individual responsibility makes him a quintessentially American director.

This combination is ideally suited to Sully, which is constructed as something akin to a modern-day American fairytale.

"Mr. Sullenberger goes to the NTSB Debriefing."

“Mr. Sullenberger goes to the NTSB Debriefing.”

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My 12 for ’13: Cloud Atlas & Sheer Ambition

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 1…

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Non-Review Review: Saving Mr. Banks

“I’m tired of remembering it that way,” Walt Disney admits of his childhood at the climax of Saving Mr. Banks, in a rare moment of personal candour. There are moments when Saving Mr. Banks seems to come very close to working – exploring the link that exists between memory and imagination. In a way, that’s very much what Walt Disney was all about, adapting and renovating classic stories in such a way that they seemed to be more the stories that we wanted to hear than the stories that we remember.

Unfortunately, for too much of its runtime, Saving Mr. Banks serves more of an example of the process of “imagineering” that an exploration of it.

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It’s not quite tell-all-vision…

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The X-Files – Gender Bender (Review)

Gender Bender is weird. As an atmospheric moody piece of television, it’s pretty phenomenal – the script manages to tap into a whole bunch of basic nineties fears and uncertainties, while director Rob Bowman layers on the sense that something is not quite right here. On the other hand, as a narrative, the episode comes up short. From the cop-out ending to the laziness of putting Scully in peril twice, the story for Gender Bender is nowhere near as tight as it needs to be.

And yet, despite that, there’s a pervading sense of dread and unease that makes it far more compelling than it should be.

In the woods...

In the woods…

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Non-Review Review: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips is the tensest thriller of the year, no small accomplishment when you consider that director Paul Greengrass and writer Billy Ray are working from a high-profile true story that unfolded across media less than a decade ago. “This story is getting a play here,” a naval negotiator is advised a little over half-way into the film, and it’s hard to imagine that anybody going to see the film isn’t loosely familiar with the events (and outcome) of this Somali pirate attack.

Despite this, Greengrass manages to ratchet up the tension on Captain Phillips, turning it into a high-stakes thriller. Even knowing the inevitable outcome, Greengrass pushes the audience to the edge of their seats, refusing to allow the movie to throttle down from the moment that two unidentified blips appear on the trawler’s sonar screen.

Movie piracy really is bad...

Movie piracy really is bad…

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Boy, Is My Face Yellow: The Cloud Atlas Yellow-Face Non-Issue

Damn you, international release schedule! I really wanted to to weigh in on the whole Cloud Atlas “yellow face” controversy that was raging at the end of 2012, but thought it best to wait until I had actually seen the film to offer comment. That just seems like common sense, even if Spike Lee clearly doesn’t agree. Of course, by the time that Cloud Atlas was released in the UK and Ireland, the storm in a teacup had passed, but I still think it’s worth commenting upon.

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Non-Review Review: Cloud Atlas

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

Cloud Atlas is a bold, imaginative, creative, frustrating, original, inventive, exhausting and ambitious piece of work. It’s a film that really forces the audience to collaborate, to try to force the pieces of story on the screen to fit together into a structure that is both rewarding and unique. Coming out of the film – which has been dubbed “the most expensive indie movie of all time” – I was left with the impression that Cloud Atlas is a film where everybody is going to hold a slightly different perception of what the film is, and what it’s about. I can very honestly say that Cloud Atlas is quite unlike any other film I have ever seen, and that sense of experimentation and the sheer skill to force the narrative into a shape that makes some sort of sense, unique to almost each viewer, is one massive accomplishment.

Sweet music...

Sweet music…

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