Review: Western Stars

 

DIR: Bruce Springsteen, Thom Zimmy

Following the Emmy award-winning success of ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ the duo of Thom Zimmy and Bruce Springsteen set off on their next project to create the film Western Stars. The Boss, now 70 years of age, decided not to tour his recent 13-song album of the same name as the concert film, but instead to explore through a cinematic lens the inner workings and inspirations that went on behind the scenes in producing the music of  ‘Western Stars’.

The film is set from within Springsteen’s 100-year-old horse barn, turned concert hall, on his and his wife Patti Scialfa’s ranch in New Jersey. The barn itself acts as a spiritual Mecca of inspiration to Springsteen, creating a setting that exudes authenticity. Followed by the meticulous lighting surrounding the exclusively selected patrons of the concert, Joe DeSalvo. the cinematographer and the cameramen, maintains the aura of an intimate venue where the viewer almost feels the need to clap along with the audience as Springsteen transitions from song to song.

Accompanied by a 30-piece orchestra and Scialfa on stage, Springsteen chronologically performs the album and creates this marvellous dichotomy between the eloquence of the orchestral strings and the rustic acoustics of his classic sound. Each song is followed by an interlude in which Springsteen shares his personal memoirs and archival footage from his own life, all in explanation surrounding the song at hand and the reasoning behind it. This formula unfolds for all 13 songs up until the finale where Springsteen indulges both the physical and cinematic audience with an all-time classic.

Thom Zimmy’s directional approach preaches simplicity, which complements the film enormously and reaffirms the purpose in giving this intimate concert to the world through film. The performance and progression of the film is paced like a symphony and Springsteen’s original score takes us subtly from one song to another behind his explanatory monologue. However, the manufactured footage shot for these intermissions between songs, at times, comes across as cliched and repetitive. Such as, the hero shot of Springsteen walking a horse down a stable or driving aimlessly into the sunset in his El Camino. These shots are usually narrated over with rather pious philosophical insights that Springsteen has seemingly come to in his older age. Although these qualities are redeemed in a sense by the nostalgic family footage shared with the audience, giving a greater sense of both Bruce and Patti’s relationship and the events and emotions that predetermined the eventual composing of ‘Western Stars’.

Another disappointing feature Zimmy and Springsteen fail to capture is the raw unadulterated Springsteen and his interactions with the audience and the crew. The film portrays the concert in such a coordinated way that instead of feeling like a member of the audience watching Springsteen live, the viewer is very aware of the fact that they are watching an edited version of Bruce’s performance. 

Overall, through Springsteen’s ode to past lovers and metaphorical stuntmen, the complexities of this album are illustrated beautifully through both the stylistic approach Zimmy takes in directing this film and the level of insight Springsteen grants the audience into his life and emotions that inspired this work.

In the end the film Western Stars comes across as less of an old cowboy’s endeavour into lowbrow philosophical preachings, as it does a homage to the life he led and the love he felt that allowed for this album to come to fruition. A captivating musical experience brought to the screen that expresses both the nature of Bruce Springsteen and the meaning behind his album ‘Western Stars’.

Tiernan Allen

 

82′ 58″
G (see IFCO for details)

Western Stars is released 28th October 2019

Western Stars – Official Website

 

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Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

DIR: Tim Miller  • WRI: Jill Culton • DOP: Robert Edward Crawford • ED: Susan Fitzer • DES: Max Boas • PRO: James Cameron, David Ellison • MUS: Rupert Gregson-Williams • CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta

Franchise fatigue is a term that can easily be applied to the Terminator franchise. The 1984 and 1991 films were met with critical and commercial acclaim and the opposite can be said for the three films that have been produced since. The highlight of the three films released post-1991 is the leaked footage of Christian Bale lambasting a crewmember whilst filming 2009’s Terminator Salvation. A sequel was planned for 2015’s Terminator Genisys but was sensibly shelved after poor box-office returns, despite a huge return from Chinese cinemas, and the franchise seemed destined to continue in remasterings of the original two films. 

However, studio executives are not prepared to retire Arnold Schwarzenegger’s poor old T-800 robot and James Cameron has decided to direct some of his focus away from the thousand Avatar sequels to co-produce a new Terminator film billed as a direct sequel to events from ‘his’ films; retconning events from the films without his involvement. With Deadpool director Tim Miller at the helm, Terminator: Dark Fate is the latest and sixth instalment featuring the return of Arnie, and more significantly, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. 

Dark Fate follows the standard Terminator framework of a robot sent from the future to kill the future leader of the human resistance. Of course, a benevolent robot to humans is sent back in time to terminate the enemy and prevent the malevolent rise of technological warfare and advanced artificial intelligence against humans. In this film, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is a regular woman living in Mexico when her life is altered by the arrival of a future robot – later described as a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) – who is determined to kill her. Although, surprising only to Terminator newcomers, another robot from the future has also arrived to protect Dani and ensure her survival. The regular pattern is skewed here when we discover that this robot is called Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and is instead a human retrofitted with a form of A.I. Grace and Dani attempt to evade the Rev-9 but require the assistance from two familiar faces and Terminator killers in Sarah Connor and the T-800.

Much like recent franchise reboots, Dark Fate’s narrative riffs off its origins and becomes a nostalgic retelling of a story audiences know and admire. With the character of Dani Ramos – essentially a substitute for Sarah Connor in The Terminator – Dani connects us with the past and is a narrative familiar link. Although, Dark Fate manages to convince that it’s not simply a nostalgia fest and creates a narrative that can be driven by new strong female characters such as Grace and Dani. It’s also telling that Arnold Schwarzenegger does not appear on screen as quickly as you’d think and the new and returning female characters are driving the plot by themselves. 

The first sequence from the film is a spoiler that does change the outlook of what to expect if you’ve seen previous instalments. Yet, Dark Fate is a hugely-enjoyable two hours of cinema. The CGI has progressed so much that audiences are not as shocked by standards set by, for example, Robert Patrick’s menacing T-1000 in Judgment Day, but the action sequences are impressive. They’re just missing some of the visceral grit and physicality in the first two films. Mackenzie Davis is also terrific as Grace and her performance inhabits both the vulnerability of Sarah Connor in The Terminator and Sarah’s scarred determination in Judgment Day. Davis, alongside Reyes and Gabriel Luna, allows the narrative to remain engaging and the flashforwards to Grace’s post-apocalyptic future are reminiscent of Terminator Salvation; serving as to what’s at stake if Dani dies. 

Schwarzenegger is back to his robotic best living a new sentient life as a draper called Carl before he’s called back to what he knows best. More importantly, Linda Hamilton returning to the role of Sarah Connor is what the franchise sorely needed. Her character has evolved from a naive girl to a war-hardened woman out for revenge, even with her “own episode of America’s Most Wanted”. Akin to Laurie Strode in 2018’s Halloween, Sarah Connor’s modus operandi is killing terminators and that’s what her life has become. It consumes her and it takes an actor like Linda Hamilton to characterise this consumption so poignantly. 

There are also not so subtle contemporary allegories regarding Mexican immigration, gun laws, digital surveillance, and the human fear of A.I. They do, however, fit within the narrative and assist in what is easily a credible sequel to the events of Cameron’s films. The fear is that audiences will not invest their time in seeing this after regular disappointments. Dark Fate is reliant upon what we’ve already seen but it feels fresh despite its nostalgic moments rekindling appreciation for and awareness of The Terminator and T2: Judgment Day. 

It was never going to be as remarkable as the original two films, but Dark Fate provides us with a new female action hero in the form of Grace and also allows Sarah Connor to return and be revered again. Linda Hamilton returning is worth the admission price alone.  

Liam Hanlon

 

128′ 3″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Terminator: Dark Fate is released 23rd October 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate – Official Website

 

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Review: Bait

 

DIR/WRI/DOP/ED: Mark Jenkin • DES: Mae Voogd • PRO: Kate Byers, Linn Waite • MUS: Mark Jenkin• DES: Sam Hobbs • CAST:  Morgan Val Baker, Georgia Ellery, Martin Ellis

Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple in your movie. Not every film needs to have a hero on a race against time to save the world before it’s too late. Nor does it need to have a romance for the ages. Cinema is often at its finest when it strips away all the Hollywood themes to tell real stories. You’d be forgiven for thinking that a real story must be about a famous person’s life, based on the number of biopics that are being released lately. Every so often a film sneaks up that tells the story about real-life issues. Issues that don’t have to be relatable to every single viewer. Bait is set in a small fishing town in Cornwall that is brimming with tension due to tourism taking over everyday life. It’s a story that is simple, low-key and real. Yet, this is a film that is not only the best of the year but perhaps one of the best this decade has provided.

If you’ve ever lived in a rural area you’ve met every single character in Bait. Martin Ward (Edward Rowe) is a small-time fisherman dreaming of gathering the funds to buy his own boat. His brother Steven (Giles King) hasn’t ever managed to move on from their mother’s death, the brothers are at odds on what is best for their family. Do you do what you love and struggle to afford everyday life or do you work a job that is against everything you stand for? To add to the brother’s conflict, Steven’s son Neil (Isaac Woodvine) has agreed to work with his uncle in an act of defiance against his father. As summer and the tourists roll in, a family that is the opposite to the Wards take their annual residency in the Ward’s childhood home. 

The Leighs have everything that the Ward’s have lost;  money, togetherness and, most importantly, security for their future. Sandra (Mary Woodvine) and Tim Leigh (Simon Shepherd) are together possibly only because of their wealth. Sandra may be in a position of high status but she is never cold or unforgiven, meanwhile her husband is in one scene described as “a prancing lycra c**t”. Their children are always at odds with each other. Katie (Georgia Ellery) strives in her summer habitat where she makes friends and falls in love, her younger brother is a snivelling coward, who is beat for beat like his father. Every single character in this Cornish town resembles a real rural community. Bar Owner Liz (Stacy Guthrie) knows every single piece of gossip that oozes from the town. Wenna (Chloe Endean) is a rebellious teen who is determined to live a carefree life. There are no heroes in Bait. Every single character has their own unique flaws. No one on this planet is the epitome of perfection. Bait, in the characters it showcases and the way is presented, puts all out on the table for the world to see. 

Every single aspect of this film comes from the mind of Mark Jenkin. Jenkin is the director, writer, composer, editor, and cinematographer of Bait. It’s hard to determine which one of the jobs he took is executed better. Jenkin’s direction is that of a madman. Scenes from different stages of the film are intercut to add a sense of dread to the plot. Characters will be undergoing a simple task like fishing with intense flashes of hands being put into handcuffs. Separate conversations will intertwine with no coherent reason as to why. It shouldn’t work at all. Yet Jenkin doesn’t want to stray away from his insane vision. Bait is an angry film made by a man who is clearly angry about how rural communities are being given no resources for locals to survive. Traditions can’t stay alive if the only way of earning money is to modernise your town. Filmed in black and white on a 16mm camera, the film feels akin to a 1920s picture. The vintage camera that Jenkin used to shoot the film makes the already unique film, unlike anything you’ve seen on screen before. The future of rural communities may be uncertain at this moment in time, but one thing is for sure. Mark Jenkin is here to make films that contain messages that need to be heard in films that are nothing short of groundbreaking. 

Bait is a flawless film. You’ll feel as if you witnessed a classic as the credits begin to roll. Featuring a cast that most audiences, myself included, have never heard of in their lives, the films leading man, Edward Rowe, deserves endless plaudits for his truly special work in this film. For a cast with minimal acting experience, the work they do in Bait is phenomenal. When a group of people come together to make a film that demands to be seen with a director who doesn’t know what the easy route is, something truly special can be made. Bait will remind you why we all love cinema.

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

88′ 56″
15A (see IFCO for details)

Bait is released 30th August 2019

Bait  – Official Website

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The Cinema of Romances

Pic: Dorje De Burgh

David Turpin is a screenwriter (The Lodgers, The Winter Lake) and musician, as The Late David Turpin.  With the release of his new album Romances – a collaboration with a ‘cast’ of ten different guest singers that was inspired by his work in film – David discusses five unusual cinematic love stories that have been influential on his own work.

 

My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)

See My Own Private Idaho at the right age, and it’s with you for life.  Gus Van Sant’s best film is many things – a sympathetic portrait of young people on the fringes; a palimpsest of Shakespeare’s Henry IV; a road movie as deeply affecting as Paris, Texas – but most of all, it’s an extraordinarily tender and melancholy unrequited love story. River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves are one of the most iconic couples of the 1990s, precisely because they don’t fit together – and because this is evident to everybody (both in the film and watching it), except for Phoenix’s poignantly guileless hero. The justly famous campfire scene between the leads is one of cinema’s most moving depictions of the insufficiency of words to express feeling. It’s beautifully played by Phoenix, of course, but it’s also worth noting that Reeves’ dependable air of benign obliviousness was never better – or more tragically – used than here.

 

The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)

Peter Strickland’s rarefied love story takes place in a world without men, where lepidopterologists Cynthia and Evelyn (Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna) conduct a relationship defined by ritualised performances of dominance and submission. The film’s genius lies in how its surface – impeccably evoking the misty, sapphically-fixated ‘eurotica’ of the mid-1970s – both conceals and illuminates its inner meaning. Unlike the ‘Eurotrash’ it invokes, The Duke of Burgundy is a deeply humane and moving story about the ways in which we abnegate ourselves for our lovers – and the fear of failing to sufficiently embody others’ desires. The reversal of roles, in which we come to understand the ‘dominant’ partner (Knudsen) as imprisoned by the desires of her ‘subordinate’ (D’Anna), is one of erotic cinema’s most astute, and moving, deconstructions of its own myths. The Duke of Burgundy is both a wholesale work of onanistic fantasy, and its own opposite.

 

Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942)

Based on a florid bestseller by Olive Higgins Prouty, Now, Voyager is, in many ways, the quintessential 1940s melodrama – not least for its touching faith in the power of psychotherapy. It’s also the perfect vehicle for Bette Davis, whose transformation from drab ‘Aunt Charlotte’ to glamorous ‘Miss Vale’ is achieved via The Talking Cure and some truly spectacular hats. As Jerry – the married man to whom she becomes close while visiting Rio de Janeiro – Paul Henreid judges his performance perfectly. In other words, he understands that this is Davis’ show. What makes Now, Voyager more than an exquisite piece of camp (although it is that too) is its genuine wisdom. Charlotte and Jerry cannot ultimately be together (‘Don’t let’s ask for the moon, we have the stars!’ Davis exclaims), but their romance has made each of them better able to accept their course in life.  It’s a touching affirmation of love as the path to self-knowledge, however long the affair itself may last.

 

The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)

The Fly is a marvel of dramatic economy featuring only four significant roles – the central couple (Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum) and a pair of potential love rivals (John Getz and Joy Boushel). The romance between unworldly Seth Brundle and no-nonsense Veronica Quaife may have been helped by the fact that Goldblum and Davis were a couple at the time, but it’s also written with warmth and empathy, as well as the razor-concision one expects from Cronenberg. We all remember the inside-out baboon, the acid-vomit, and the leprous body-parts on the bathroom shelf, but what’s striking about The Fly is the humanity and eroticism that peeks out between these gruesome highlights – as delicate as the stocking used to test the telepod device.  Although Cronenberg has been cagey about the film being read as an AIDS metaphor, its story of a couple facing disease – and the transformation of the afflicted into a social pariah and object of fear – has powerful resonance emerging the year after the first HIV antibody test was developed.

 

La Belle et la Bête (Jean Cocteau, 1946)

My favourite screen romance is Jean Cocteau’s exquisite adaptation of Perrault’s 18th-century fairy tale. Plundered by two Disney versions (animated in 1991; notionally ‘live action’ in 2017) that rinsed it of its eroticism and mystery, Cocteau’s still glows like a strange and lonely star.  Its uncanny visual highlights – living candelabras, the still-shocking appearance of the Beast himself (Jean Marais) – have the force of dreams, but Cocteau also finds magic in the everyday (as in the scenes of Belle hanging white sheets on the washing line). Josette Day plays Belle with self-possession, essential decency, and no trace of the ‘goody-goody’. One can actually see why she and the Beast fall in love – and Cocteau’s own celebration of Marais (his own long-time companion) is a romance in its own right. This is the only version of the story to get to the heart of the matter when – after the hairy wooer is transformed into human form – Belle asks, with a telling hint of deflation, ‘Where is my beast?’.

 

www.thelatedavidturpin.com 

Romances can be streamed/downloaded from Bandcamp at thelatedavidturpin.bandcamp.com/album/romances

 

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Review: Little Monsters

DIR/WRI: Abe Forsythe • DOP: Lachlan Milne • ED: Jim May, Drew Thompson • DES: Jeff Sherriff • PRO: Jessica Calder, Keith Calder, Steve Hutensky, Jodi Matterson, Bruna Papandrea • MUS: Piers Burbrook de Vere • DES: Sam Hobbs • CAST: Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, Stephen Peacocke

 

Just when you think the zombie comedy genre is dead or is that undead?. Following hot on the heels of the vacuous zombie comedy, Zombieland, Double Tap, comes the zombie comedy, Little Monsters an Aussie undead effort more in keeping with Shaun of the Dead. Sharing a similar feckless protagonist and good old fashioned slow-moving zombie types. What it doesn’t have is that film’s cleverness or humour.

Alexander England plays Dave, a busker, and by the end of the opening credits a single man; having spent the opening credits montage warring with his girlfriend for reasons that are explained later in the film but won’t be explained here. Soon he is burdening his hardworking, single sister and her gluten-intolerant, five-year-old son, Felix, who thinks Dave is great. The selfish, obnoxious Dave has to bring Felix to school and whilst there he falls in lust with Felix’s teacher Miss Caroline, played by Lupita Nyong’o, a sweet and diligent kindergarten teacher adored by her pupils. 

Before you can shake a koala off a eucalyptus branch, Dave is volunteering to be a chaperone for his nephew and classmates on an excursion to Pleasant Valley, a petting zoo type affair. Soon the local American army base has lost their resident zombies and Pleasant Valley is awash with the undead. Miss Caroline and Dave must step up to the mark and make sure no fatalities arise amongst their charges. You can see where this is going.  What better way for Dave to lose his obnoxious attitude and get the girl, than by getting dropped into the heart of a zombie epidemic scenario?  

Unfortunately Little Monsters doesn’t have as much to offer as one might hope for.  After setting its stakes high with the notion of safeguarding children and fighting off zombies, it doesn’t go anywhere interesting with the idea.  In fact, it pretty much does what’s expected. The main thrust of humour is bold-boy verbiage, which feels tired and potty-mouthed. On the plus side, I have to say I marvelled at the performances from the school children, especially from Diesel Torraca as Felix. The adults, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Lupita Nyong’o has very little to do despite being the main selling point marketing-wise and Josh Gad doesn’t have much to do other than be more obnoxious than Alexander England so we can see his transformation a little better.

It’s not a dead loss, or should I say undead loss, and the Halloween season mood might make audiences a bit more forgiving.

 

Paul Farren

@PaulFarrenA

93′ 52″
16 (see IFCO for details)

Little Monsters is released 15th November 2019

Little Monsters – Official Website

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Reel Horror Show – Episode 14: Halloween Special

In this eerie episode of the Reel Horror Show, special ghoulish guest Stephen “Screaming ” Shields [writer, The Hole in the Ground] joins regular monstrous mutant hosts Conor “McMayhem” McMahon, Ali “Horror” Doyle and Conor “Howling” Dowling to open a coffin of consternation and carve up the corpse within.

Uv-voov shredded thistle organ… welcome.

In this episode, the ghastly gang talk about

  • “Screaming” Stephen’s debut horror feature, The Hole in the Ground, his horror influences & writing process
  • some horror-watching recommendations
  • a hefty look at IT: Chapter Two
  • chats from the set of Irish horror comedy Extra Ordinary
  • a preview of what’s screaming at this year’s Horrorthon at the IFI
  • the perfect double bill for Halloween viewing


Reel Horror Show

Film Ireland Podcasts

 

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Rob Kennedy, Writer / Director of ‘The Unquiet ‘

 

The Unquiet is a psychological horror film about Ruth, a woman who wants a child more than anything—yet she’s unable to conceive. When her mother begins to suffer from dementia, Ruth becomes her full time carer. This adds extra strain to Ruth’s marriage, and her husband moves out. Desperate to have a child and save her relationship, she prays to her father’s spirit for guidance, but something else answers…

Rob Kennedy takes us behind the screams of his latest horror, which screens at this year’s IFI Horrorthon (24 -28 October).

We shot The Unquiet with a skeleton crew: I directed and operated camera, Andrew Mahon did the lighting, and Billy Keane recorded sound. Vicki Walsh handled production management, recruiting her sister, Sophie, for the job of clapper loader and their mother, Susan, for make-up. We shot the film over the course of three nights in the winter of 2019. 

My last film (Sit Beside Me) was more of a rollercoaster horror experience. This time I took a different approach—less camera movement and no jump scares. One of the big decisions I made was not to use any music, a challenge for horror. But it’s easy to jolt an audience with sudden bangs and musical stings. Instead I enhanced the natural atmosphere and let the unnerving silences stand out. This seemed to suit the tone of the film more. 

Katie Doyle—a former child actor and veteran of TV adverts—recently returned to acting, appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the New Theatre. Katie took the role of Ruth above and beyond what was on the page. Beryl Phelan, a longtime collaborator of mine, played Ruth’s mother. Rounding out the cast, I’m thrilled to introduce young Robbie Hart in his first film role. We only hear Robbie’s voice, but he makes quite an impact. 

 

The Unquiet will screen at this year’s IFI Horrorthon (24 – 28 October) in the IFI on Sunday, 27th October—along with Rob’s last short, Sit Beside Me. You can buy tickets here

 

The Unquiet will also be available to watch online from this Halloween. Check out @robkennedyfilm on Instagram for updates and behind the scenes shots.

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Shelly Love, Director of ‘A Bump Along the Way’

 

In this podcast, Gemma Creagh chats to Shelly Love, the director of A Bump Along the Way which introduces us to Pamela, a boozy 44-year-old single mother whose teenage daughter Allegra disapproves of her care-free lifestyle. Their fragile relationship is further tested when Pamela becomes pregnant after a one-night stand.

Shelly discusses

  • her background in film
  • the choreography of directing
  • how A Bump Along the Way came together
  • prepping for the project
  • the production design on the film
  • working with Die Hexen on the soundtrack
  • working with 50 / 50 cast & crew + Abbey the dog
  • working on the edit with Helen Sheridan at Yellowmoon post-production facilities
  • how the film has been received

32″ 48′

 

Film Ireland Podcasts

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