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Push

One of the most important tools a story can have is exposition.  This allows audiences to understand its background enabling for complete engagement.  Sadly Push ignores this with a garbled script scrambling to stitch events together.  As its characters go through an ordeal so does its spectators, with a bewildering narrative taking forever to reach its confusing finale.
During World War 2, experiments were conducted to create a new master-race.  Infused with psychic abilities, these soldiers eventually split into opposing factions.  One of their descendants is Nick (Chris Evans) who can move objects at will.  Receiving a visit from Cassie (Dakota Fanning), a gifted clairvoyant, his life changes forever.  Informing of a briefcase containing a valuable weapon, she also reveals she is being chased by Carver (Djimon Hounsou) an agent working for the shadowy Division.  Running through Hong Kong streets and avoiding double-crosses at every turn, their powers become pushed to the max.
Using a mixture of sci-fi and action Push appears enticing.  Coupled with the fine directing pedigree of Paul McGuigan whose last film The Wrong Man oozed stylish class, big things were expected.  Unfortunately the end result is a bit of a shambles with a poorly crafted story.  The idea of an army of battling psychics is interesting and occasionally Push uses this too good effect.  But when sequences start moving in one direction, it then inexplicably shoots to another without any thought of giving these moments a form of logic.  Character motivations are murky at best with some sudden changes of allegiances defying any reasonable sense.
Whatever can be said of its plodding screenplay, Push delivers on a visual scale.  The Hong Kong filming gives it a unique flavour with the production design effectively presenting a specific look for each sequence.  This is its biggest asset as everything else is a mess, with even the actors looking confused as each twist arrives.  At least the action scenes are spectacularly staged which almost covers the general drabness.  Where there should be excitement there’s boredom with an overlong running time extending an already perplexing experience.
Push is a disappointing effort where more time spent fixing some clumsy writing would have worked wonders.  As it stands, it’s nice to look at but for anything resembling a story you can follow, its complexity pushes it further up the rung of movie misfires.
Rating out of 10:  3

Valentino - The Last Emperor

In a world fascinated with celebrity, if someone is known by just one name it seems to elevate their status.  Valentino is one such person who enjoyed this mantle as his 45 year reign as a leading fashion designer proved.  With a moniker echoing the romanticism of another era, this Italian craftsman truly wanted women to look and feel beautiful.  In a sense the title rings very true, as he was the last of the classical stylists who had a hands on approach to everything he made.  Charting the organisation of what turned out to be his final showcase, Valentino: The Last Emperor delves into the icon behind the name.
Making this documentary fascinating is how much of the ‘real’ Valentino we are able to see.  Often with factual pieces there’s a sense the subjects are ‘playing for the camera’ instead of being themselves.  Whilst there is a hint of that, Valentino’s stubbornness and fiery temper are almost gleefully laid bare.  A more forgiving soul could put this down to creative tension, although he seems to thrive on conflict in order to draw the best from his co-workers.  Among them is long time partner Giancarlo Giametti who plays an equally important role in being the pacifist and agitator against his moods.
Lest one thinks the film is a hatchet job it’s not.  Ultimately what it reveals is how this partnership attempted to create some colourful splendour in an increasingly beige world.  This is effectively shown during the planning of the fashion performances where the look and layout of the catwalk is just as important as the garments on display.  The fine attention to detail uncovers Valentino’s desire to attain and further his reputation which has allowed him to live a very lavish lifestyle.  Just as opulent as his haute couture, his stylish living correlates well with someone wanting to create and be surrounded by beauty.
Within this framework ’The Last Emperor’ also shows the increasing corporate interference into his work.  Where his personal mark made his attire so attractive, the gradual erosion of his creative freedom seemed to have played a part in his eventual retirement.  It’ll be interesting to see how the Valentino brand goes without the man at its helm with his near half century track record a formidable legacy to overcome.  The film looks at these various issues with genuine candour and allows the viewer to judge for themselves where fashion finds itself headed.
Amongst the tears, tantrums and chic designs lies a tale of original vision refusing to be compromised.  Valentino: The Last Emperor proves an engaging study of a fabric artist whose skills added luxurious finesse and glamour to women’s daily lives.
Rating out of 10:  7