Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Jay Baruchel

QuickView: BlackBerry (2023)

“Why would anybody want a phone without a keyboard?”

Mike Lazaridis 

A “fictionalization” of the rise and fall of RIM/BlackBerry, Matt Johnson approaches the subject as twin tales of hubris — the engineering perfectionism of founder Mike Lazaridis and the flexible ethics of business mogul Jim Balsillie. With a heavy dose of humour and dense with pop culture, there are tonal similarities with last year’s Tetris and the recent Dumb Money, though BlackBerry has a more cogent theme and arc. In fact, its blend of historical bootstrapped tech development and entrepreneurial intrigue is often reminiscent of the criminally underappreciated series Halt and Catch Fire. Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton are surprising but highly effective choices as the leads, while Johnson gives himself the role of Doug Fregin in a committed but less nuanced performance as the sidelined co-founder who fails to mature with the business. Over a decade later, The Social Network continues to influence how this kind of film is made, in the presentation of startup culture and the fractious relationships and isolation stemming from success. Lazaridis’ complacency at having built the smartphone market and his certainty that the iPhone would fail are, with hindsight, almost farcical, but BlackBerry explores (at a surface level) the unexpectedly shifting market of the carrier networks as well. The enlightening result is a good tragedy, and an excellent cautionary tale.


QuickView: This Is The End (2013)

This Is The End quad poster

“A huge earthquake happens, who do they rescue first? Actors. They’ll rescue Clooney, Sandra Bullock, me. If there’s room, you guys will come.”

Jonah Hill

If Ocean’s 12 was an excuse for Clooney and his actor friends to hang out at his Lake Como villa, This Is The End dispenses with the pretence entirely as Seth Rogan, James Franco and friends play themselves riding out the apocalypse at Franco’s house. The main cast toy with their public perception, though the film’s best conceit is the suggestion that, if the Rapture were to occur, no one at a Hollywood house party would notice. Most of the cameos are fun but forgettable, the standouts being those who play against type — a shameless Michael Cera and a violent Emma Watson. One imagines the general lack of female presence is a product of the fraternal nature of the friendship group behind This Is The End, but the near total absence of women is disappointing and to its detriment. The script is peppered with hilarity and entertaining moments strung together by lazy writing and tired gross-out humour. Comedies like this typically lose traction the longer they run but, despite frequently lagging in the middle and perhaps aided by a wafer-thin plot which requires little conclusion, the film closes surprisingly strongly, leaving a better overall impression than I would have expected halfway through.


QuickView: How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World quad poster

“It’s you and me, bud. Always.”


I don’t think I have felt so bittersweet about ending a trilogy since The Lord of the Rings concluded 15 years ago but, fittingly, at its heart the final film is about letting go. Unlike Pixar’s recent string of sequels, Dreamworks Animation is driven more by storytelling than cashing in on nostalgia (writer/director Dean DeBlois conceived the second and third films together), although there are wonderful flourishes that refer back to original film through dialogue, through actions, and through the score. Building these characters over the course of a decade allows for emotion to be conveyed subtly, like a silent gaze from Astrid as she realises how her adherence to values of traditional masculinity unintentionally hurts Hiccup. Viking society continues to provide an excellent backdrop against which to explore modern notions of masculinity (as in the underrated Norsemen TV series), particularly as Hiccup shoulders new burdens as chief. Although the discovery of a female “Light Fury” is the inciting incident that takes the whole village of Berk on the move, the changing relationship between Hiccup and Toothless is the real focus. The swashbuckling action is impressive and keeps the energy high but it rarely feels as compelling as spending time with the characters from Berk, leaving the dragon-poaching subplot often feeling like a distraction (or, more likely, a concession to viewers new to the franchise). These movies have always excelled in presenting majestic vistas and here the exceptional eye for detail is kicked up a notch, in a few places the realism of the environments even making the stylised characters seem a little out of place. Overall this is a delightfully satisfying conclusion that, although lacking the freshness of its predecessors, still retains their magic.


Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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