Interview: David Mullane, GAZE International LGBT Film Festival programmer

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GAZE International LGBT Film Festival 2013 (1 – 5 August, Light House Cinema, Dublin)

Brian Lloyd chats to festival programmer David Mullane about the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival, which kicks off tomorrow.

It seems shocking to think of it, but homosexuality in Ireland was decriminalised only twenty years ago. “The GAZE Film Festival’s been running for twenty-one years and this will be the twentieth anniversary of decriminalisation. The timing’s a little strange,” remarks David Mullane, the festival’s programmer. The festival – Ireland’s only LGBT film festival – runs from August 1st to August 5th at Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin. The coincidence of the two events – twenty years of decriminilisation and the festival – doesn’t, however, mean the two are linked. “We do have a number of screenings about LGBT history, sure, but it’s not just documentaries or retrospectives about that, as well. That said, one of our big events is a free screening of The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name, the RTÉ documentary by Bill Hughes.” First broadcast in 2000 on RTE, the documentary follows the history of the Irish gay community from Oscar Wilde to decriminalisation. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the future of the LGBT community in Ireland, with some of the original contributors of the documentary taking part. The director of the documentary, Bill Hughes, will also present the screening as well.

“Every film in this festival could be about gay filmmakers but the topics could be about, say, milk pasteurisation or something like that. So, really, a gay film is one that’s going to entertain a gay audience. There are some films that are about gay people, but they’re not doing gay things necessarily.” David goes on to talk about The Man Behind The Throne, the story of choreographer Vincent Paterson and his work with some of the most famous music artists of the last thirty years. But do you necessarily have to be a member of the LGBT community to enjoy and attend the festival? “Definitely not,” David replies, firmly. “These film festivals started because there was a lack of representation for gay people on screen. So it was aimed at gay people. That’s getting better. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting there. In order to survive as a film festival, we need to appeal to everyone. We have Pussy Riot – that’s the Irish premiere of the documentary. That’s a pretty mainstream documentary that everyone can and should see.”

But now, society is slowly becoming more and more accepting of gay culture and society, is there still a need for film festivals that deal only in LGBT films and issues? “If films like these aren’t shown here, they probably won’t be seen anywhere else in Ireland and they’re worth seeing. Firstly for entertainment value because they’re great films. But secondly because they deal with LGBT issues. We’ve got documentaries from Cameroon and Jamaica, where there’s serious homophobic and human rights issues. We don’t see ourselves as a political event, we’re a LGBT social and cultural event.”

As mentioned, the festival runs from August 1st to August 5th, kicking off with the opening night gala premiere of Animals. David describes it as “Gus Van Sant mixing Donnie Darko and Seth McFarlane’s Ted“, and is David’s favourite film of the year with director Marcal Fores. James Franco’s controversial Interior. Leather Bar also will feature at the Festival, which David admits he isn’t sure if it’s a documentary or a film. Another highlight is Wonder Women that explores and traces the legacy of both Wonder Woman and other female characters in pop culture, comic books and science fiction films throughout the last century. The director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan will be in attendance, followed by a panel discussion led by Jim Carroll.

In all, the GAZE Film Festival promises to be an inspiring social event that truly deserves to go from strength to strength. Tickets and a full schedule are available at GAZE.ie.

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Cinema Review: The Hangover Part III

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DIR:  Todd Phillips WRI: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin  PRO: Daniel Goldberg, Todd Phillips  DOP: Lawrence Sher   ED: Jeff Groth, Debra Neil-Fisher   DES: Maher Ahmad CAST: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, John Goodman, Ed Helms

It’s a general rule of thumb that a third entry into a franchise – a threequel, if you will – rarely trumps what came before. There are more than enough examples to highlight the point; Return of the Jedi, Men In Black 3, The Godfather, Part 3. That said, however, there are those entries that skirt the middle ground in terms of quality, neither topping what came before nor lowering that which spawned it. The Dark Knight Rises, Return of the King and The Last Crusade all are more than effective at rounding out the trilogy. The Hangover was an unexpected hit. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifinakis were all upcoming actors, brought under the direction of comedy veteran Todd Phillips. The formula wasn’t exactly inventive, but everyone was trying their best. Todd Phillips was recovering from the commercial / critical flop, School For Scoundrels, Bradley Cooper and co. were out to prove themselves in leading roles. Now, in the third instalment, it’s clear to all and sundry that everyone has moved on.

 

The manchild Alan (Zach Galifinakis) is spiralling out of control and is off his meds. In one particularly brutal scene involving a giraffe and a motorway sign, Alan is confronted by his father (Jeffrey Tambor) who suffers a heart attack mid-argument. The group agree that it’s better for Alan to stay at a mental institute. Enroute, they’re kidnapped by Las Vegas mobster Marshall (John Goodman) who tells them that Chow (Ken Jeong) has escaped prison in Thailand. Unsurprisingly, Doug (Justin Bartha) is held hostage while the others are ordered to find Chow and bring him back. It’s an interesting enough premise and it’s clear that Phillips is trying to break the mould with the third instalment. However, the reality is is that there shouldn’t have been a sequel or a threequel. The first Hangover worked perfectly on its own. It was neat and lean and had a wholly-contained story. There was no room from pushing it out beyond itself and yet, here we are.

 

It’s clear that Bradley Cooper has grown in stature and ability since the first Hangover. Anyone who’s seen Place Beyond The Pines and Silver Linings Playbook will know that Cooper is finally coming into his own. Galifinakis and Helms haven’t had the same luck, career-wise, but both are happily ploughing their own furrow. When brought together for this, it’s clear the chemistry is still there and it’s infectiously funny to watch them squabble and bicker amongst themselves. Nothing in their interactions is forced or unnatural, yet everything outside of it – the plot, the premise – is the exact opposite. Ken Jeong’s role is expanded to a greater degree in this instalment; something that could have saved the second film from its fate. As chaos personified, Jeong’s one-liners and general terrorising is funny in places, but it relies heavily on shock value. It can be tiresome in places, but the film has a brisk pace that means you can’t focus on it for too long. Goodman’s role is pretty much exposition and it’s a real shame. He’s proven time and again that he is a capable comedic actor that can do these smaller roles. Here, however, he’s criminally underused and the film is lesser for it.

 

Each of the posters and the official synopsis all underline the fact that this is the end of the trilogy. Going in, you’re looking forward to seeing them tie up the story and finally draw a line underneath it. There’s a sense of freedom in that, that they can go anywhere with it as there’ll be nothing beyond it. However, as the films wears on, it becomes clear that this isn’t the end. In fact, the final five minutes of the film state this in unequivocal terms and that feels like a cheat to the audience. Phillips’ attempt to move the comedy towards action comedy works for the most part, however it goes into some very dark territory that falls flat most of the time. Overall, The Hangover Part III is reasonably entertaining if you go in with lowered expectations.

 

Brian Lloyd

99 mins
The Hangover Part III is released on 17th May 2013

The Hangover Part III – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Mud

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DIR/WRI: Jeff Nichols  • PRO: Lisa Maria Falcone, Sarah Green, Aaron Ryder • DOP: Adam Stone • ED: Julie Monroe • DES: Richard A. Wright • Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard

The career renaissance of Matthew McConaughey can’t be denied or stopped. In the space of two years, he’s gone from reviled rom-com actor with impossible abs to an actor that is both critically and commercially successful. With such powerful performances like William Freidkin’s Killer Joe, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike and Richard Linklater’s Bernie, McConaughey’s career is returning to its earlier promise. Mud continues this upward trend. Set in the Deep South, the titular character is a charismatic vagabond who’s hiding out in a swamp islet. Two young boys, Ellis and ‘Neckbone’ (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland), find ‘Mud’ during an exploration of the islet. From the very beginning, it’s clear Mud is drawing influences from Mark Twain. As the story progresses, it’s clear that Mud is not all he claims he is and is hiding out in the islet after an altercation involving another man and his ‘one true love’, in the form of Juniper – played by Reese Witherspoon.

 

McConaughey’s performance is perfectly balanced, mixing folksy charisma with an animal-like sense of desperation. Dispensing nuggets of wisdom to the two young men who’ve deigned to help him, it’s clear that McConaughey’s continuing his remarkable form of late. The two young actors, Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, both turn in sturdy performances. Tye Sheridan, in particular, previously impressed in Terence Mailck’s Tree Of Life. Their portrayals are never cute or overbearing, rather they feel natural and unscripted. This works well as McConaughey has enough know-how to guide them through some of the trickier scenes and carries them when they’re lacking. Granted, both actors are sixteen or younger, so to manfully keep up with an actor like McConaughey is high praise indeed. Michael Shannon also appears, briefly, as a guardian to one of the boys. Shannon imbues the small role with a real sense of heart and dignity, and also manages to fire off some cackling one-liners involving love. Ray McKinnon and Sarah Paulson, two Deadwood-alums, also feature as parents to the other boy, Ellis. Their story blends nicely with Mud’s more fantasy-laden tale, documenting the end of their simple existence on the bayou and the eventual realities of life. Joe Don Baker gives a magnificent performance as King, the man hunting Mud for reasons that will become clear through the narrative. Baker, at 77, reminds us why he’s a fantastic character actor with just a few short scenes that carry more emotional weight than anything he’s done in years.

 

Jeff Nichols’ direction is restrained, yet beautiful. Following on from the apocalyptic Take Shelter, Nichols makes a coming-of-age drama that is neither cynical nor saccharine. It places itself neatly in the middle, perfectly capturing the harsh way of life that is fast disappearing in rural America. The script, as mentioned, is light and natural and the characters therein are developed fully. Mud’s sense of grandeur and whimsy is intoxicating. You can clearly see why the young boys are brought along with him and, as well, how he’s full of hot air. The two young boys, Ellis and Neckbone, are drawn from Twain and, to a lesser extent, Stephen King’s Stand By Me. That said, it’s clear that Nichols is ploughing his own furrow and the film is original in its premise. The cinematography is spectacular, capturing the gorgeous colours of the Southern Bayou and its grungy landscape. In all, Mud is a touching coming-of-age drama that works both as a character study and a morality tale. McConaughey continues to delight and impress whilst Nichols, at 34, marks himself out as a director to watch.

Brian Lloyd

12A (see IFCO website for details)

130 mins
Mud is released on 10th May 2013

Mud – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Jump

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DIR: Kieron J. Walsh • WRI: Steve Brookes, Kieron J. Walsh • PRO: Brendan J. Byrne • DOP: David Rom • ED: Emer Reynolds • DES: David Craig • Cast: Nichola Burley, Martin McCann, Charlene McKenna, Ciarán McMenamin

It’s a real testament to how far Northern Ireland has come that a film like Jump has been made. It’s set exclusively in the North – Derry, to be exact – and there isn’t a single reference to the IRA, the UVF, the Troubles. Not only that, it doesn’t feel like there’s a pink elephant in the room. None of the characters are haunted by memories of that time, there are no former terrorists looking to go straight, no mention of it at all. With Jump, you merely accept the fact that Northern Ireland and its cinema has moved on from it.

 

The story takes place on New Year’s Eve and follows four ‘twenty-somethings’ and their individual problems and hang-ups. Marie (Charlene McKenna) and Dara (Valene Kane) play two young women, stuck in a rut working McJobs whilst yearning to escape the city and emigrate to Australia. Johnny, played by Good Vibrations’ Richard Dormer, is a washed-up former criminal who’s drinking himself into an early grave whilst racked with guilt. Pearse and Greta, Martin McCann and Nichola Burley respectively, play two young people with an apparent death-wish; although one is more overt than the other. Over the course of the film, these stories entangle and, naturally, come to a head. The story and character echo late 90’s comedy-crime thriller Go, but with an obvious Irish twist.

 

Kieron J. Walsh’s direction is confident, slick and assured and working with a tightly-written script, there’s little error to be found in the film. The break-neck pacing, interspersed with jump-cuts to each individual story, is great to see. Too often, Irish films are shackled with a slow-burn ethos and very little sense of fun or humour. Jump deftly breaks this cycle and makes something that is fun, relevant and enjoyable to watch. There are no morose-looking countrysides, no dead-eyed piece-to-camera monologues involving the death of the Irish way of life – here, it’s fast, fun and energetic; something Irish cinema desperately needs.

 

The cast, made up of TV actors, all fill out their performances with varying levels of quality but maintain a minimum standard. The chemistry between Marie and Dara is spot-on, mixing the vapid desires of partying and escape with a real sense of underlying sadness. Richard Dormer’s character is a little bit hammy in places, but the fault is more in the dialogue than his own performance. However, it’s a small complaint in an otherwise strong performance. Primeval‘s Ciaran McMenamin, playing Ross – the man charged with following Dormer’s character around to ensure he works – compliments Dormer’s performance. The one area where Jump falls down is the story between Pearse and Greta. In a sense, it is the catalyst for the whole story but it feels more like it was tacked on as an afterthought. Likewise, the performance from Nichola Burley is a little bit unconvincing in places. Still, overall the characters and actors portraying them have filled out their roles with real effort.
 
In all, Jump is an entertaining drama with strains of black comedy and thriller moments. It’s not exactly memorable, but like all good parties, when you’re in it, it’s the best fun you’ll have.


15A (see IFCO website for details)

80 mins
Jump is released on 26th April 2013

 

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Cinema Review: Oblivion

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DIR: Joseph Kosinski • WRI: Joseph Kosinski, Gajdusek, Michael Arndt • PRO: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Duncan Henderson, Joseph Kosinski, Barry Levine • DOP: Claudio Miranda • ED: Richard Francis-Bruce •  DES: Darren Gilford • CAST: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko

 

Given how character-driven science-fiction films are something of a rarity these days, when something like Oblivion comes along, it’s hard not to get swept away with the excitement or hype. That said, Joseph Kosinski – in his second film – is a master of meeting expectations. While Tron: Legacy was something of a beautiful mess, a two-hour Daft Punk music video, it worked on some level. Here, with Oblivion, he’s working with less gimmicks and more story. Set in the not-too-distant future, Earth has been left ravaged by an alien invasion. Although humanity has succeeded in defeating the aliens, Earth is almost uninhabitable and have migrated to an orbiting space station known simply as ‘the Tet’. Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and Victoria Olsen (Andrea Riseborough) are the lone remaining humans on Earth, charged with keeping the security drones online which guard huge turbines that sucking up water and other precious resources. Naturally, things take off when Harper is attacked by the few remaining aliens and he witnesses a shuttle fall to Earth that contains a cryogenically-frozen Julia Rusakova (Olga Kurylenko).

The story itself does veer sharply off into science-fiction tropes that you can see coming a mile off. That said, however, the film is so beautifully designed and staged that you won’t necessarily care. The film is thankfully 3D-free, which the director is adamant  was his own decision. Instead, you’re treated to huge landscape shots of Iceland, posing as a post-apocalyptic Earth and a clean-cut, Apple-inspired apartment where Cruise and Riseborough live. The film’s attention to design and detail can’t be understated. It’s such a treat to see a sci-fi film where the world seems, for the most part, utterly believable. There’s a real sense that the environment they are in feels and looks real. Indeed, much like Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, it has that feeling of perfect design and usability. However, like Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, it does suffer from a stale and overwrought storyline. As mentioned, the film does become somewhat predictable in parts and some of the dialogue does come off as wooden. It’s not due to the individual performances, rather the dialogue itself simply seems to be going in circles and not moving the plot forward. When it does move the plot forward, it somehow feels forced and written after the fact.
Tom Cruise is, as always, is a delight to watch. Whatever about his personal life / beliefs, he can never be accused of phoning in a performance. It is a little hard to think of him as a blue-collar worker, simply because you’re watching Tom Cruise be a blue-collar worker. His level of stardom is hard to separate from his roles. That said, he works effectively in this and is as convincing as he’s been in years. Andrea Riseborough, likewise, turns in a very competent performance. Fluctuating between ice-cold glares and moments of genuine heartbreak, it’s easy to see why she continues to gain momentum and bigger roles. Olga Kurylenko is decent, if a little understated in her role. Morgan Freeman, on the other hand, is simply window-dressing. He’s capable of far more than his role allows, but he’s simply not given any opportunity to move beyond the narrow parameters. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones fame shows up as Freeman’s right-hand man, but little else. It’s a decent cast, overall and there are some moments where Riseborough, in particular, outshines Cruise.
For the most part, Oblivion is an entertaining science-fiction film that works well. The story itself is somewhat stale, but the power of the imagery presented, mixed with M83’s fantastic soundtrack will block out any qualms you might have watching it. Find the biggest screen and enjoy the first blockbuster of 2013.

Brian Lloyd

12A (see IFCO website for details)

124mins
Oblivion is released on 12th April 2013

Oblivion – Official Website

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Interview: Joseph Kosinski, director of ‘Oblivion’, starring Tom Cruise

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Brian Lloyd chats to Joseph Kosinski, director of Oblivion, which is released this week in cinemas.

Oblivion may be the second film by director Joseph Kosinski, but his credits reach far beyond Tron: Legacy. Having directed some of the most widely-known advertising campaigns in the last ten years, including the Halo 3 – Starry Night and Gears of War – Mad World to name a few, it’s clear that Kosinski is on the up and up. Indeed, his second film and he’s already working with Hollywood legend Tom Cruise. ‘Despite the stature he has, he’s extremely collaborative. He has opinions, he has thoughts – why would I not listen to that? Especially when he’s worked with directors I admire, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann.’ Kosinski goes on to mention how fun it was to hear stories about these directors, admitting that directors work alone. ‘We never work with other directors, as such. We’re isolated, working on our own projects so it’s really cool to hear about them and how they work.’

 

Joseph Kosinski, prior to becoming a director, studied architecture and design. Anyone who’s seen Tron: Legacy or indeed Oblivion will remark about the set design and its use of physical objects, as opposed to CGI’d sets. ‘If you’re not interested in design, I don’t know how you work on these types of movies,’ he explains. ‘I had a very clear idea of what I wanted it to look like. The skytower, up in the clouds, if you want to look for influences, it’s something like Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back.‘ Discussing sci-fi films, I mention Ridley Scott’s use of physical sets in Prometheus, which Kosinski agrees with. ‘I wanted it to be as real as possible. It looks better, the performances are better. On the flipside, as well, there’s a lot less time in post. Compared to Tron, this film had 800 visual effects shots. Tron had something closer to 1,600. Some films are 2,000. A big tentpole film like this that has fewer effects shot helps keeps costs down. As long as you plan ahead, know what you want, it’s a great way to work.’

 

The film does pay homage to arguably the best era of sci-fi – the 1970s. Films like The Omega Man, Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run and Star Wars are all touchstones for Kosinski, but not as you’d expect. ‘Those influences come when you’re growing. It’s different to watch films after you’ve made a couple. They seep themselves deep inside you, but when you watch them again, they don’t have the same impact.’ Kosinski continues, ‘1970’s sci-fi were far more character-driven, simply because they didn’t have the tools we have. I thought Oblivion was going to be a much smaller film when I started. But the action and the spectacle is in support of the story and the character.’ It’s also notable that the film isn’t in 3D. Considering his debut is oft-considered one of the best films to make use of the technology, why did he not make Oblivion with it? ‘That was my choice, from the beginning. I looked at a couple of different formats, 48 frames. Brightness is really important to me. But with this being a daytime sci-fi, shot in Iceland, I really wanted the images to pop off the screen. With 3D right now, there’s a limitation with how bright it can be. Using Sony’s F65 Camera, it felt like the right choice to capture the detail of the landscapes, it’s very high-resolution.’

 

Not only is Oblivion not in 3D, it’s based on an original idea. ‘Getting any movie made is hard. An original film at this scale is a big challenge. It’s not that studios don’t want to make original material, but having something that already has an audience is a leg-up. And having someone like Tom Cruise involved is great. And to have him call me was a thrill. I pitched the story to him over an hour and he was immediately taken by the story and the character and it was something he hadn’t seen before. Having him attached gave it momentum.’ The script, written by Kosinski, was also co-written by William Monahan and Michael Arndt. ‘I wanted to work with someone who didn’t work in science-fiction, which is why I went to William (Monahan) first. But I had the sense that one screenwriter wasn’t going to take me to the finish line, because the film has so many elements. It’s a mystery, it’s a thriller, it’s got action. I also worked with Karl Gadsujek, a great writer who I really wanted to work with. And Michael (Arndt) gave it the final pass, who I’d worked with on Tron: Legacy as well. I’m just the keeper of the story, working closely with each of them and it ended up being the right arrangement for it.’

Oblivion is in cinemas from 10th April and stars Tom Cruise, Olga Kurlyenko, Andrea Riseborough and Morgan Freeman.

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Cinema Review: Red Dawn

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DIR: Dan Bradley • WRI: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore  • PRO: Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson • DOP: Mitchell Amundsen  • ED: Richard Pearson •  DES: Dominic Watkins • CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Isabel Lucas, Josh Hutcherson, Josh Peck

Remakes continue to take up time on cinema release schedules. They’re nothing new, but there’s always a reason behind them. Sometimes it’s a property that thrives on reinvention. Other times, it’s allowing the story to be told fully with more resources, better cast and direction. Others, it’s simply a money-making experience; all involved need a quick buck and remaking a film is the way to do it. With Red Dawn, there is nothing redeeming about it. The original Red Dawn, scripted and directed by Communist-hating John Milius, is something of a cult favourite. Where the original is now viewed with a sense of irony and humour, this remake is something entirely different.

Held back from release by MGM’s financial woes, Red Dawn has been in the media for all the wrong reasons. Having the film heavily edited to accommodate the Chinese market – the original invaders were supposed to be the Chinese Army ‘repossessing’ American land / loans – and, as mentioned, being held by back MGM going under, it’s not surprising that Red Dawn is already infamous. Chris Hemsworth plays Jed Eckert (the role originally filled out by Patrick Swayze), a Marine returned from Iraq to his hometown of Spokane and living with his father, Tom Eckert (Brett Cullen, originally Harry Dean Stanton) and his younger brother, Matt (Josh Peck, originally Charlie Sheen). The North Koreans (yes, really) soon launch their invasion and begin their assault on Spokane and the American East Coast. Fleeing into the woods, Jed and Tom, together with a group of B-list teen actors (Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Josh Hutcherson) form a guerilla resistance and start fighting back against the North Koreans.
Dan Bradley, who previously worked as a stunt director for the Bourne trilogy, Quantum of Solace and countless others, shoots and cuts with a decent sense of pacing. Some of the action sequences are delivered quite well and wouldn’t look out of place in any other blockbuster. The problem here, however, is that he’s been let down by comically bad acting and laughable dialogue. Josh Peck, in particular, is devastatingly bad as Hemsworth’s brother and has all the charm of a toothbrush. Likewise, Hutcherson simply says his lines and waits to react. The screenplay doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. The North Koreans invade – then what? Why haven’t they done anything else? Why did they only invade the East Coast? Why don’t we see any more of the invasion? Where are the Army? Had Dan Bradley been given a superior script and better actors, he could have made a fairly decent action film. Instead, Red Dawn is straight-to-DVD tosh that doesn’t have anything going for it.

Brian Lloyd

12A (see IFCO website for details)

93mins
Red Dawn is released on 15th March 2013

Red Dawn– Official Website

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Cinema Review: Welcome To The Punch

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DIR/WRI: Eran Creevy • • PRO: Rory Aitken, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones , Ben Pugh, • DOP: Ed Wild • ED: Chris Gill •  DES: Crispian Sallis • CAST: James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Andrea Riseborough

 

British crime thrillers, by and large, are more miss than hit. There are staples of the genre – it must feature Vinny Jones. It must involved tailored suits. A section of it must be set in Canary Wharf. A Jaguar must be visible in at least one shot. An upcoming indie band must perform / be used as extras. With Welcome To The Punch, Eran Creevy is attempting to throw out the rulebook of British crime thrillers – and instead use the American rulebook. Director Eran Creevy’s previous work, Shifty, was very much of the British school of crime drama. It’s interesting to see him change from a Guy Ritchie-esque position and adopt a far more glossier image for his second film.

 

The story follows Max Lewinsky, played by James McAvoy and Jacob Sternwood, played by Mark Strong. McAvoy is a London detective who’s obsessed with capturing his arch-nemesis, Strong, after he shot and injured him and escaped to Iceland. Following a botched deal involving Strong’s on-screen son, he returns to London and becomes embroiled in a labyrinthine plot involving guns, politicians and crooked cops. On paper, the plot seems like it could work. Crime dramas, by and large, need a large frame to work in and for them to be not be bogged down in message. The story is the story, in other words. Here, however, Creevy’s screenplay falters as the plot is too clever for its own good. Instead of having an emotional line with a simple, thought-out plot, Welcome To The Punch quickly spins out of control and becomes undecipherable and, ultimately, forgettable. James McAvoy and Mark Strong, both established actors, are more than capable of giving their roles meaning and gravitas. Unfortunately, here, there is little to help them along. The initial setup, pitching McAvoy and Strong, as blood enemies who are forced to work together, falters very quickly.

 

Strong, who has played hardened, remorseless criminals in the past, is far more forgiving and almost tender in this than you’d expect the character to be. It’s true, Creevy’s script may have been attempting to change our expectations; pitching the criminal as a more tender creature. However, the same role was imbued with much more skill by Robert DeNiro in Heat than it was here. That’s not to say that Mark Strong isn’t as effective an actor or that he can’t deliver. Quite the opposite. Strong, given good material, can work just as well as Robert DeNiro. Here, unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. McAvoy, likewise, is drawn as a twitchy, hard-edged cop with an obsessive streak – but the script doesn’t give him the proper amount of time to fully realise the character. The supporting cast, made up of Andrea Riseborough, David Morrisey and Peter Mullan, all turn in good performances. Peter Mullan, in particular, is always a treat to watch. Here playing Strong’s friend, Mullan gives the film’s criminal characters that much-needed sense of ruthlessness that Strong fails to deliver.

 

It’s not all bad, however. Creevy’s visual style with Welcome To The Punch is fantastic. London has never looked so slick and well-photographed; drenched in cool, icy blues and using high-angle shots reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Heat – which is a huge influence on this film. One scene in particular, involving McAvoy, Strong and Mullan and a sofa, stands out as a particularly effective scene. Creevy’s sense of pacing, attention to detail and overall visual style is impressive – it’s just a real shame that that screenplay wasn’t up to the same high standard. Welcome To The Punch is a visually-entertaining but overall hollow experience. If only he had handed over the script to someone else instead of taking it all on, it would have been a far more enjoyable film. As it is, Welcome To The Punch is a missed opportunity to write the next chapter in British crime films.

Brian Lloyd

15A (see IFCO website for details)

100mins
Welcome To The Punch is released on 15th March 2013

Welcome To The Punch– Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr-O_v0mlx8

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Oscar 2013: Best Picture Nominee – Argo

 

Brian Lloyd heads up a secret operation to promote ‘Argo’ as part of our Oscar 2013 Best Film countdown…

 

Ben Affleck is enjoying a hot-streak right now. But it’s anything but undeserved. It’s true, not ten years ago, you would have laughed to think his film about American hostages in Iran would do serious business at the box-office and enjoy critical accolades all round. And yet, here we are. For those who have been living under a rock, Argo tells the story of a daring CIA operation to rescue American hostages from Iran during the Ayatollah Khomenei’s rise to power. How did they get them out? By posing as a film crew. With a fantastic cast, made up of Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Chris Messina and led by Ben Affleck, Argo is a taut political thriller that doubles as a heist movie in reverse. Ben Affleck’s stunning direction, knowing nods to 70’s filmmaking and overall style works wonders with a somewhat lacklustre script. As well as being a serious Oscar contender, Argo also works on its own merits. It’s nailbiting stuff, with real tense moments – particularly the final sequence at the airport where (spoiler alert) they’re remanded in custody by the security forces.

 

What with Daniel Day-Lewis pretty much being a safe bet for Best Actor, it’s fair to say it’s a two-horse race for Best Film between Lincoln and Argo. It’s a far more enjoyable film than Lincoln – which often feels like a laboured history lesson. Argo manages to add Hollywood flourishes without being unseemly. As well, the double-act of Alan Arkin and John Goodman act as a comedic pressure release. Everything about Argo oozes quality, from the fantastic cinematography and 70s colour processing to the period detail littered throughout the film. It’s highly reminiscent of Alan J. Pakula thrillers like The Parallax View and All The President’s Men and, undoubtedly, Affleck used them as touchstones during the production.

 

Brian Lloyd
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Interview: The Story Behind the Image – Seán Ó Cualáin & Éamonn Ó Cualáín discuss ‘Men At Lunch’

 

‘There was no documentary made about it, no film, no books – well, maybe one or two books on the Rockefeller centre itself, but nothing else,’ says Seán Ó Cualáin, talking about his new documentary Men At Lunch. The feature-length documentary, screening theatrically in selected cinemas across Ireland this week, tells the story of one of the world’s most recognisable photos – and how ‘a chance happening’, as the filmmakers describe it, in a Galway pub led to identifying the previously-unknown subjects of it. Produced by Éamonn Ó Cualáín and in conjunction with TG4 and Sonta Films, Men At Lunch is a fascinating look at the construction of a building, an iconic landmark and, indeed, the construction of a nation.

 

What with ‘The Gathering’ and how emigration is, again, a huge part of Irish life, was Men At Lunch an attempt to comment on Irish diaspora? ‘Not at all, when we started this documentary, there was some crazy people talking about a bust. It wasn’t a part of a masterplan to make a documentary about emigration, it was just to investigate this claim. Since then, it’s been a huge realisation of the importance of emigrants to American. We hear the cliche, America was built emigrants – but it was and Irish were one of the first emigrants in America. And the fact that these ironworkers were first-generation, descendants of Famine Irish, is very powerful.’

 

Seán Ó Cualáin goes on to explain how it’s very easy to be flippant about the Irish influence, but for Irish Americans and, indeed, modern ironworkers, this image is their ‘badge of honour’. They’ve been invited to screen the film for the iron-workers of New York’s Freedom Tower. ‘It’s strange because, the photo was taken in the depths of the Depression, when the country was on its knees – and here we are, eighty years later, with an Irish photographer up there trying to recreate this (the Men At Lunch) image. We’ve come full circle.’ The image itself has now taken on a new importance, what with 9/11 and, as mentioned, the construction of the Freedom Tower. ‘We couldn’t not mention it, it wasn’t just name-checking it for the sake of it,’ explains Seán.

 

The response from international audiences for Men At Lunch has been overwhelming. Selected for the Toronto International Film Festival, all three screenings for the film sold out during its run there. As well as this, the film was selected for IFDA (International Documentary Film Festival) in Amsterdam and enjoyed four sold-out screenings.

 

Men At Lunch, according to Seán,  wasn’t destined for a theatrical release. Indeed, the film was initially meant to be an Irish-language, one-hour documentary for TG4. ‘We never planned for it to be in Irish cinemas, we hoped for it – but how many Irish-language documentaries do you see being released nowadays? Or even Irish-language films, for that matter?’ When it was screened at the Galway Film Fleadh, the reaction from Irish audiences was more of horror at what the ironworkers went through. ‘It needs to be seen on a big-screen, y’know, the scale of how high up they were working.’

 

The image itself is shrouded in mystery; even who took the famous photograph is disputed. ‘After six months of research, we went over and back to New York. We changed the original credit of Charles Ebbetts to unknown and we’ve managed to identify – with proof – two of the workers in the image.’ The documentary plays like a detective story, as the research goes deeper and deeper and leaves them with more questions than they originally started. Already, a sequel is in the works and there’s talk of a series about the other images found within the Corbis Iron Mountain facility. ‘There’s more truths to find, explains Seán Ó Cualáin, ‘we have names now for the other workers – we need to find their story, as well.’

 

Brian Lloyd
 

 

Men At Lunch will be screened at the IFI, Movies At Swords / Dundrum, Screen Cinema, Cineworld, Omniplex Galway and others from February 1st to February 7th.

 

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Report: JDIFF 2013 Launch

 

The JDIFF (Jameson Dublin International Film Festival) officially launched its programme in a presentation at the Lighthouse Cinema last night,  23rd January. The event, opened by actors Killian Scott (Love / Hate) and Kelly Campbell (One Hundred Mornings), was a showcase of the festival’s lineup for the year. Grainne Humphreys, Festival Director, listed off the impressive range of films and talent coming to Dublin in the next few weeks. Film luminaries such as Costa-Gavras, Robert Towne, Frank Langella, Tim Roth, Mary Harron, Joss Whedon and many more will be attendance this year. The festival’s guest of honour this year is Danny DeVito and will be attending two screenings, War of the Roses and LA Confidential –  the latter as part of the Jameson Cult Film Club.

The focus this year for the festival is on documentaries. The film will feature the world premiere of Blood Rising, the story of Juarez, Mexico’s corrupt power structures and the devastating effects it has on the people, particularly women. Directed by Mark McLoughlin and Brian Maguire, the documentary will close out the festival and is part of the Arts Council’s Reel Art documentary programme. Broken Song, a documentary that follows the trials and tribulations of three Northside Dublin hip-hop artists promises to be an engaging and intimate look into the lives of struggling musicians in Ireland today. Directed by Claire Dix, the screening will also have the director herself in attendance. As well as documentaries, the festival this year will also continue its ‘Out of the Past’ season with some fantastic films on show. Fritz Lang’s follow-up to Metropolis, Spies, will be screened along with a live musical accompaniment by Gunther Buchwald. Also, Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. and Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow will also be screened.
The Festival has something for everyone; not just die-hard film buffs. The first screening of Ryan Gosling’s new film, The Place Beyond The Pines, promises to be a darking and gripping crime drama to rival 2011’s Drive. Directed by Derek Cianfrance, the film is his follow-up to 2010’s Blue Valentine – also starring Ryan Gosling. Unfortunately, Ryan Gosling won’t be in attendance – or so we’ve been told! Dario Marianelli, the composer of such films like V For Vendetta, Atonement’ and Pride & Prejudice, will be attending the festival and performing with the RTE Concert Orchestra at the NCH. For film music lovers, it promises to be a fantastic night as Marianelli plays through some of the best of his work.
As well as screenings, the Festival will also host a number of workshops and masterclasses in screenwriting, directing, producing and much, much more. Chief among them is Hollywood legend, Robert Towne – delivering a keynote speech at the festival. Festival director Grainne Humphreys broke from her prepared speech on the night to gush about Towne rattling off anecdotes from his script-doctoring of The Godfather during the planning stages of his visit. Casting expert Margery Simkin – who worked as casting director for Tony Scott, Martin Brest, James Cameron, Terry Gilliam and many others – will be giving a talk on, naturally, casting in films. Comedy group, The Rubberbandits, will also be holding a talk on ‘The Economics of YouTube’ which promises to be an interesting event.
Overall, JDIFF looks set to be a feast for film lovers of all stripes. With a diverse range of films on offer and film legends in attendance, JDIFF promises to be a highlight of the year.
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Cinema Review: Lincoln

 

DIR: Steven Spielberg • WRI: Tony Kushner • PRO: Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg • DOP: Janusz Kaminski • ED: Michael Kahn • DES: J. Rick Carter • CAST: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

 

A film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, directed by Steven Spielberg about an American president. If ever a film had Oscars written all over it, Lincoln is that film. And yet, for its epic scale and grand storytelling, Lincoln is just that – a story about Abraham Lincoln himself. Set during his final months of life, it focuses on Lincoln’s attempts to get the Thirteenth Amendment – the abolition of slavery – and to find a peaceful end to the American Civil War. Considering this is the first large-scale film about the life of Abraham Lincoln, a near-messianic figure in American politics, it’s clear that Spielberg and Day-Lewis are taking this very, very seriously.

 

Daniel Day-Lewis has never given anything less than 100% in any of the characters he’s played. Indeed, he’s a by-word for method acting and complete immersion in a role. Going in, you’d expect Day-Lewis to be all Oscar-reel footage – thundering and bellowing high-language maxims about the American way and so forth. Not so. Here, Day-Lewis has imbued Lincoln with a sense of decency, honesty and complete sincerity. Forwarding his argument with parables and anecdotes – often humorous – Day-Lewis’ Lincoln draws your attention with quiet charm and dignity. There is never a moment when you are not acutely aware of why Lincoln was so beloved. Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln is one of reservedness and small intricacies which make the character seem ever more real. Although the film is a biopic, the supporting cast are never lost in Day-Lewis’ shadow. The trio of political advisors hired to procure the votes for the Amendment – James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson – give the film a much-needed comedic pressure release without seeming forced. Spader comes to the fore as a swaggering Southern lobbyist who finds him brow-beating, cajoling and bribing his way through the political process. David Strathairn, Jared Harris and Jackie Earle Haley fill out smaller roles, but each give their performance the full weight. Jared Harris, in particular, as Ulysses S. Grant has a very small role in the film with minimal dialogue – but his physical presence on-screen very nearly takes the focus from Day-Lewis.

 

The same can be said for Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens, the leader of the “radical” Republicans whom Lincoln finds himself at odds with. Jones gives his most animated performance in years as he spars in debate with Lee Pace’s out-and-out villain, Fernando Wood. Sally Field, playing Lincoln’s wife, balances against Lincoln’s stoic nature. In one particular scene, Lincoln comes close to tears as the two of them argue over their son’s enlistment in the Army. Field, in one single scene, reminds us why she won an Oscar and a Golden Globe. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, however, is the only stumbling block of the film’s impressive cast and performances. Playing the role of Lincoln’s son, Robert, Gordon-Levitt manfully tries to equal Day-Lewis in their scenes together, however their on-screen relationship comes off as flat and doesn’t materialise as well as others. It’s a small complaint as Gordon-Levitt has minimal screen time and the rest of the performances of the film are nothing short of exemplary.

 

Spielberg skilfully directs Lincoln and gives each segment its due and proper attention, without lingering too long on any one plot point. The film has the brisk pace of a West Wing episode and manages to capture the political process in a somewhat idealised light. Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography, as always, is incredible. Each scene could easily be mistaken for an oil painting, both in terms of lighting design, set design and the colour tones used. Tony Kushner’s script is careful not to slip into drawn-out set pieces. As mentioned, the film never sags or loses a sense of pace, despite its impressive running length. John Williams’ score, naturally, adds to the grandeur of the whole film without being overbearing – as is often an issue with his work. Here, it’s understated and nuanced, much like Day-Lewis’ fantastic performance. In all, Lincoln is a smart, well-paced historical drama that is deserving of its accolades. Day-Lewis delivers a career highlight and Spielberg continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best directors in American cinema.

Brian Lloyd

 

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

151 mins

Lincoln is released on 25th January 2013

Lincoln – Official Website

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The General

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

The General

(John Boorman, 1998)

‘…  the quiet, restrained cinematography and direction on-screen makes for something that is truly a work of art …’

Brain Lloyd

The biography of Martin Cahill, one of Ireland’s most notorious criminals, was an instant bestseller. Naturally, a film adaptation beckoned. The story follows, for the most part, a dramatisation of Cahill’s exploits with fascinating detail. From his fiendishly clever robbery of Arthur Beit’s paintings to outfoxing the police with vandalism and humour, John Boorman’s black-and-white camera captured it all. However, the film wasn’t all hijinks and one-liners. The film’s tone felt like it could turn dark and violent at any point – as it was, undoubtedly, in reality.

 

The film’s quality was anchored by Brendan Gleeson’s power-house performance. Brilliantly mimicking Cahill’s wit and cunning, as well as his Dublin drawl, he carries the film and makes us root for him – even when we know how ruthless he truly was. However, his adversary throughout – Jon Voight – brings the film down in his unconvincing role as Ned Kenny. However, the film isn’t about Cahill versus the police, or even Cahill versus the system – as he often believed himself to be. The General tells the story of a criminal and his eventual downfall, the hubris that overtakes him and in the end, his acceptance of his fate.

 

‘You never own things. The things own you.’

 

Boorman’s direction is calm, collected and calculated – much like Cahill himself. His choice of using black-and-white footage, as well as the jazz score by Richie Buckley, gives the film a noirish quality that one would never think could work. And yet, it strangely does. The saxophone riffs that play gently over Gleeson’s nuanced portrayal works incredibly well and is in marked contrast to other crime dramas of the time. When compared to the likes of Scorsese or even Mann, the quiet, restrained cinematography and direction on-screen makes for something that is truly a work of art. As Cahill says himself in the film, ‘I know nothin’ about art. But I know what I like.’

 

Brian Lloyd

 

 

Click here for more We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film

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Cinema Review: Dollhouse

 

DIR/WRI: Kirsten Sheridan • PRO: John Wallace • DOP: Colin Downey, Ross McDonnell • ED: Kirsten Sheridan • DES: Emma Lowney • Seána Kerslake, Johnny Ward, Kate Stanley Brennan, Shane Curry, Ciaran McCabe, Jack Reynor


Films about societal differences and youth culture in Irish cinema are nothing new. They’ve been covered from almost every available angle – from this year’s harrowing What Richard Did to the charming Kisses. With Kirsten Sheridan and her new film, Dollhouse, the focus is, yet again, on the gap between rich and poor amongst youths in Dublin and, as well, teenage life and experiences. The film takes place in an opulent South Dublin during a hedonistic house party. Jeannie, played by Seana Kerslake, leads a group of four inner-city youths (Shane Curry, Johnny Ward, Kate Brennan and Ciaran McCabe) into the seaside property with the intent of drinking the place dry and destroying it. The film’s dialogue is, for the most part, improvised by the actors and the whole film has an unplanned, naturalistic quality to it. Scenes are played out to a dull soundtrack with the gang becoming increasingly boisterous and drunk.

As the film progresses, it’s revealed that Jeannie has an intimate knowledge of the house and its owners and, as well, is suffering from very serious mental issues. The gang she’s surrounded herself with her are, for the most part, oblivious to this and seem uninterested in the fact that they’re destroying the house she used to live in. The film’s dramatic sequences feel unconvincing and forced; this is down to the inexperience of the actors working them and the poor script – or lack thereof. While some scenes can and do work better when improvised, here it seems that the word ‘fuck’ was added on to every sentence to make it seem convincing and real. Instead, it comes off as hollow and faked and takes the viewer out of the story completely. It’s painfully aware that the actors are trying to push the scene forward and get their own oar in whenever possible. Sheridan’s direction is manic and overuses montages to move the story along. Large chunks of the film are devoted to bland, expletive-filled conversations that don’t add anything to the film. These could have easily been cut down and edited to give the film more of a flow. Instead, the film’s uneven pacing and clunky dialogue leaves Dollhouse uninteresting and without any kind of emotional core.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
99 mins

Dollhouse is released on 7th December 2012

Dollhouse – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Oranges

 

DIR: Julian Farino • WRI: Ian Helfer, Jay Reiss • PRO: Anthony Bregman, Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech • DOP: Steven Fierberg • ED: Carole Kravetz Aykanian, Jeffrey M. Werner • DES: Dan Davis • CAST: Leighton Meester, Hugh Laurie, Alia Shawkat, Allison Janney

Drama-comedies set in suburbia are, by and large, staid affairs with bland characters, thrust into extraordinary situations. Naturally, The Oranges does nothing to buck this trend. Set in New Jersey, it follows the lives of the Wallings (Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Adam Brody and Alia Shawkat) and the Ostroffs (Oliver Platt, Allison Janney and Leighton Meester) and a tumultuous affair between Hugh Laurie’s bored advertising exexcutive and his neighbour’s daughter (Leighton Meester). While this may echo the vastly superior American Beauty, it has none of its charm, beauty or intelligence. Although he’s worked extensively on TV, this is director Julian Farino’s first attempt at making a feature-length film. Unfortunately, this isn’t one to hang his hat on.

 

Hugh Laurie puts in a measured performance as the tired, worn-out husband to Catherine Keener’s highly-strung choirmaster of a wife, likewise Oliver Platt and Allison Janney work well together as a couple. Leighton Meester is somewhat intriguing as the vacuous, impulsive daughter who’s the object of everyone’s affection whilst Alia Shawkat is criminally underused as the voice of reason and, for the most part, sarcasm. All actors involved are far better than the material and Julian Farino’s boring direction does nothing to motivate or elevate their performances in any way. As well, the script is blatantly geared towards it being a middle-aged man’s ultimate fantasy; being found sexually attractive by a younger woman even though you’ve a noticeable bald patch. It’s not that it’s wildly unbelievable for it to happen in real life, it’s that the dialogue feels so forced and wooden that you can’t help but taken out of it completely.
There’s nothing overtly offensive about The Oranges, it’s that there’s nothing completely memorable about it either. None of the performances are particularly compelling, the script is languid and beige and Julian Farino’s direction is mediocre at best. The whole premise itself has been done before and done better, so that itself offers nothing new. Overall, The Oranges is a boring film with no real message, character or feelings to take away from it.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
90 mins

The Oranges is released on 7th December 2012

The Oranges – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEBknhHTe_I

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Cinema Review: Celeste & Jesse Forever

 

DIR: Lee Toland Krieger • WRI: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack • PRO: Lee Nelson, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd • DOP: David Lanzenberg • ED: Yana Gorskaya • DES: Ian Phillips • CAST: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts

Rashida Jones has charted an interesting career so far. Beginning on Paul Feig’s late 90’s excellent TV comedy series Freaks & Geeks to starring in the hit comedy series Parks & Recreation, it’s clear that her star is slowly on the rise. With Celeste & Jesse Forever, her first major leading role in a feature film, her considerable charm and wit is brought to the fore. It charts the story of Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg), two thirty-somethings who have managed to maintain their friendship in the midst of a divorce – almost to the point where it’s indistinguishable that their marriage is in the process of ending. Celeste, a ‘trend analyser’ is the atypical working woman – all yoga, iPhones and execu-speak – whereas Jesse is an underemployed graphic designer and artist. Despite the cliched clash of careers, both actors imbue their roles with a sense of authenticity and realism that’s often lacking in indie comedy-dramas. The script – written by Rashida Jones and co-star Will McCormack – isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, however. There are some scenes, particularly with Samberg, that feel forced and unnatural.

That said, the relationship that Samberg and Jones create on-screen feels genuine and relaxed, much like their characters’ attitude towards one another. The supporting cast, made up of Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts and Will McCormack, turn in reasonably decent performances, but don’t necessarily jump out and announce themselves. The bulk of the film rests on Jones’ and Samberg’s shoulders and, for the most part, they carry it off. Samberg’s role is cleverly minimised to hide his lacking ability whereas Jones is brought to the fore. The film is almost definitely a launching pad for her into film and the performance can and will launch her. While the script is somewhat bland, it’s anything but insincere and comes across as a real and meaningful attempt at telling a knowing and real story. As well, the film suffers from some pacing issues and begins to drag its heels in the final act. If the film had been given a more experienced director, a much more polished, tighter feel could have been achieved. However, this would have gone against the wispy, unfettered approach they’re obviously trying to achieve. Overall, Celeste & Jesse Forever is a decent romantic dramedy that will move Rashida Jones on to big and better things.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
92 mins

Celeste & Jesse Forever is released on 7th December 2012

Celeste & Jesse Forever – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

DIR: Bill Condon • WRI: Katherine Fugate • PRO: Wyck Godfrey, Stephenie Meyer, Karen Rosenfelt • DOP: Guillermo Navarro • ED: Virginia Katz • DES: Richard Sherman • CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

The international success of the Twilight saga can be traced back to a single demographic – teenagers. And their mothers. From its inception, it’s abundantly clear that Twilight is catering to a specific niche market that enjoys poorly constructed stories involving teenage angst, one-dimensional characters and weak plots. It had vaguely promising beginnings with Catherine Hardwicke – she of Lords of Dogtown / Thirteen fame. But now, in its fifth and final film, the magic has well and truly worn off. The story follows on from Breaking Dawn, Part 1 and let us be clear from the start – you need to have seen it in order to know what’s going on. No true explanation is given to goings on or events throughout the film. It’s simply understood that the viewer has seen the previous films, is aware of the canon and can follow the story. Unfortunately, this serves as one of many stumbling blocks to watching the film as key scenes and subplots hinge on specific knowledge of the previous films. As such, there’s a good two-fifths of the film that is baffling to the uninitiated.

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have clearly moved on from Twilight and the poor script. Those who’ve seen Cosmopolis and On The Road will know that, when given decent material, both actors manage to amp up their efforts and abilities. Here, both of them look listless and bored – very clearly phoning in the performances as part of a contractual obligation. Taylor Lautner, who is very clearly this generation’s Keanu Reeves, gives a ‘spirited’ performance but ultimately ends up falling flat. Michael Sheen, playing Volturi leader Aro, looks like an idiot. Hamming it up in every scene under two and a half inches of make-up, it’s a little depressing to see an actor of his calibre slumming it in this affair. Likewise, Lee Pace, Dakota Fanning, Maggie Grace and Rami Malek all work their roles with sufficient effort but come off looking the worse for it. Bill Condon’s direction is tame and boring, failing to put any kind of individual stamp on the film and makes it feel more like a TV movie instead of a tentpole franchise. The CGI throughout the film is laughable at best, particularly the scenes involving the love-child between Pattinson and Stewart. The ‘immortal child’, Renesme, is straight out of the Uncanny Valley and is genuinely unsettling to watch. Overall, Breaking Dawn, Part 2 is a laughable excuse of a film. Regardless of critical reaction, the film will do huge business and close off the franchise for the next ten years.
Brian Lloyd

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is released on 16th November 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Shining

DIR: Stanley Kubrick WRI: Stanley Kubrick Diane Johnson  PRO: Stanley Kubrick DOP: John Alcott • ED: Ray Lovejoy • DES: Roy Walker • CAST:  Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers

It’s no surprise that, with Stanley Kubrick directing and Jack Nicholson starring, that The Shining is often considered the greatest horror film ever made. Time and changes in the zeitgeist have done little to diminish the film’s incredible quality. If anything, it’s reinforced. Given how Hollywood regularly churns out by-the-numbers horror films with alarming frequency, it’s good to know that it’s not the genre that fails – it’s the directors and actors of these poorer films that do so. The Extended Cut – or for purists, the American version – features just under half an hour of extra footage that elaborates on key areas of the film that were left out in the European releases. While it’s fascinating to see certain elements explained more thoroughly and key scenes given more depth and time to develop, it’s obvious why they were cut from the film.

It’s not that they’re superfluous, it’s more that the film isn’t greatly served by their inclusion. It adds and contributes more to the tension with the additional knowledge. As well as the additional and extended scenes, the film itself was put through rigorous digital remastering and adds a great amount of colour and removes the traditional grain. Some might argue that it makes the whole film process soulless, but this is seeing The Shining in all its intended glory. None of the film’s performances have been lost or been dampened over the past thirty-two years. From Jack Nicholson’s near-comedic frenzy to Shelley Duvall’s teeth-grinding hysteria, The Shining continues to impress. This is a classic that is definitely worth revisiting.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
143 mins

The Shining is released on 31st October 2012


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Cinema Review: Hit and Run

 

DIR: Dax Shepard, David Palmer  WRI: Dax Shepard  PRO: Andrew Panay , Nate Tuck, Kim Waltrip  DOP: Bradley Stonesifer  ED: Keith Croket  DES: Emily Bloom  CAST:  Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper

 

Chase movies are often derided as being flat and singular in their narrative and their characters. When you take films like White Lightning or The Driver, there’s little exposition beyond the necessaries in order to forward the story. There’s rarely much story other than the chase and why the characters are being chased. However, Hit and Run is attempting to mesh recent dramedies like Knocked Up and TV’s Scrubs with chase movie tropes. It’s an interesting choice of genre-mashing as you wouldn’t expect them to work – yet here, it strangely does. Dax Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a former getaway driver who’s living in smalltown America with his beautiful girlfriend, Annie Bean (Kristen Bell). When Annie is offered a new job in Los Angeles, Charlie agrees to take her. Shrugging off his Witness Protection agent, Tom Arnold, Charlie takes his Lincoln Continental on the road and heads for the city. Not only are the couple being chased by Tom Arnold, Annie Bean’s ex-girlfriend takes after them and manages to wrangle in Charlie’s former gang to help.

The mixture of genres is interesting and some of the comedy moments do go over quite well. Shepard’s ease working with both his real-life fiance Kristen Bell and long-time friend Bradley Cooper is very much evident throughout. The improvisational nature of the dialogue works well and the fun everyone had making the film comes through. As well as that, Shepard’s love of old-school muscle cars comes through. It’s clear he isn’t just paying lip service to old chase movies or, indeed, the use of American cars for key chase sequences. However, most of the action / chase scenes are quite flat and lack clear direction and energy. Given how Shepard wrote, starred, directed and edited this and without studio intervention, it’s abundantly clear that Hit and Run was a passion project. His enthusiasm for American cars and gearhead culture bursts through the film – particularly in one scene where he and Bell discuss the type of person that would actually drive a blacked-out, tooled-up Lincoln Continental.

 

Sadly, for all of Shepard’s enthusiasm and pluck, it doesn’t translate into much. The film is overwrought with bland subplots, particularly the ex-boyfriend (Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum) and Tom Arnold’s closeted homosexuality that verges on offensive. As mentioned, the chase sequences become uninteresting very quickly and lack real pacing and vigour. While the film was made for a measly two million dollars, half of which was spent on securing the film’s genuinely impressive soundtrack, it’s clear that Hit and Run was being pushed along by Shepard himself. Had he brought in a full-time director and given the screenplay over to a more experienced writer, something much more credible and enjoyable could have been made. Overall, Hit and Run is reasonably enjoyable but doesn’t have any sustaining qualities or glaring faults.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
99 mins

Hit and Run is released on 12th October 2012

Hit and Run   –  Official Website

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Cinema Review: What Richard Did

DIR: Lenny Abrahamson • WRI: Malcolm Campbell • PRO: Ed Guiney • DOP: David Grennan • ED: Nathan Nugent • DES: Stephanie Clerkin • Cast: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley, Gavin Drea

 

Although director Lenny Abrahamson is keen to stress that What Richard Did is separate from the Brian Murphy / Annabel’s case, it’s impossible to watch this without acknowledging it in some manner. There are simply too many similarities between the two to be ignored. That said, the film doesn’t comment on the case or the social / class issues that the case raised in Irish society. What Richard Did is a study of pressure and consequence. The titular character, Richard (Jack Reynor), is the atypical Celtic Tiger cub. He’s young, affluent and attends a private school in South Dublin. However, as the film progresses, it’s slowly revealed that Richard is not as happy as he initially seems. Constantly held up as the example and alpha of his peers, the conditioning that is worked on him begins to take its toll on him. As he begins a relationship with Lara (Roisin Murphy) that sees his teammate Conor (Sam Keeley) edged out, the film’s emotional content comes to the fore and culminates in a violent encounter outside a house party.

 

Abrahamson’s direction is muted and stable. There are no cinematic flourishes; here, the cinematography matches the mood of each individual scene. When Richard is withdrawn and sullen, the colours drop to a dull, familiar grey and pulled over curtains. As well as this, the dialogue is both authentic and economical. Malcolm Campbell’s script cleverly leaves out the characters’ thoughts and emotions in dialogue, instead allowing the actors to portray them using their own means. In particular, one scene involving Richard finally cracking from the tension is riveting to watch. Screaming wordlessly and pounding like a maniac, Reynor’s performance is unsettling and difficult to watch, but is also entirely believable. Supporting Reynor is Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen who plays his father, Peter. Mikkelsen’s measured tones and glacial exterior hint at someone who’s dealt with emotional issues like what Richard is going through – though not to his extent.

 

Overall, What Richard Did is a powerful drama that doesn’t cast judgement on individuals or society as a whole. It simply tells the story of a young man and his attempts to cope with unbearable pressure. The film’s pacing is slow and, at times, it can seem like the story isn’t moving forward – instead focusing on an individual mood or scene. However, nothing feels superfluous or unnecessary – it’s more that the point or thrust of a scene is being hammered home when it doesn’t need to be. It’s a minor complaint in an otherwise exceptional film. Both Reynor and Abrahamson have marked themselves out as singular talents; this is Reynor’s first lead role and will go on to impress again. Likewise, Abrahamson continues to lead the pack in Irish cinema and will undoubtedly move beyond our shores to become a force to be reckoned with.

 

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
87mins

What Richard Did is released on 5th October 2012

What Richard Did   –  Official Website

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Cinema Review: Now Is Good

 

DIR/WRI: Ol Parker  PRO: Christine Langan, Adam Kulick, Peter Hampden  DOP: Erik Wilson  ED: Peter Lambert  DES: Amanda McArthur • CAST: Dakota Fanning, Paddy Considine, Jeremy Irvine, Olivia Williams, Kaya Scodelario

 
Young adult novels are becoming increasingly common for film adaptations. What with the recent success of The Hunger Games and, more notably, the Harry Potter franchise, it seems that every other film is catering to that demographic. Now Is Good is based on a popular young-adult novel, Before I Die. However, instead of being a fantasy / sci-fi novel or featuring vampires, Now Is Good deals with something far more grounded in reality. Tessa, played by Dakota Fanning, is a teenager diagnosed with leukaemia living with her divorced father (Paddy Considine) in London. Her illness has been with her from an early age and, unsurprisingly, dominates both their lives on a daily basis. The films follows Tessa as she attempts to work through a ‘bucket list’ that includes taking drugs for the first time, losing her virginity and breaking the law.

 

The writer/director, Ol Parker – who previously worked on TV series Grange Hill – makes a reasonable attempt at dealing with both the seriousness of Tessa’s illness together with the usual teenage misadventures. In fact, the opening is a cringe-worthy scene involving a fumbling first date with a random man picked up at a rave. The film shifts gear when the next-door neighbour, Adam (Jeremy Irvine), begins a relationship with her. As her condition deteriorates, both Adam and her father trying to come to terms with it and make peace with one another. The plot of the film follows a reasonably straightforward pattern and follows the book more or less to the letter. While the topic of leukaemia and the main character’s illness is never far away, the story does try to develop an ill-fated coming-of-age story. The script is quite safe and doesn’t go any darker than absolutely necessary. The film is, after all, based on a young adult novel so there’s little room to manoeuvre or elaborate on.

 

Dakota Fanning’s wispy frame fits the character and Paddy Considine turns in a reasonable performance. Overall, the cast worked well with what they had. The real issue of the film is not with that but with the script. There never feels like it can go anywhere. Most of the scenes where Tessa is trying to cross something racy or illegal off her list is treated with kids’ gloves. It doesn’t necessarily have to go into Breaking Bad territory, but there was a chance to make a more real and genuine response to a terminal illness than stealing lipstick from a pharmacy. Ol Parker’s camera work is quite beautiful and Erik Wilson’s cinematography is on par with his work on Submarine and Tyrannosaur. It’s a shame there wasn’t a stronger script behind Now Is Good as it’s an intriguing premise; mortality being faced at an early age. Unfortunately, Now Is Good is a trite tearjerker that will go over with teenage audiences but little else.

Brian Lloyd

15A (see IFCO for details)
105mins

Now Is Good  is released 19th September 2012

 

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Cinema Review: Joyful Noise

DIR/WRI: Todd Graff • PRO: Broderick Johnson, Andrew A. Kosove, Michael G. Nathanson, Catherine Paura • DOP: David Boyd • ED: Kathryn Himoff • DES: Jeff Knipp • Cast: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer

With the success of television’s Glee and the resurgence of musicals in popular culture, Joyful Noise comes to cinemas carrying an agenda where the others do not. Where Glee happily makes fun of itself and its campiness, Joyful Noise has no such self-awareness. It tells the story of a gospel choir in small-town America and their fortunes in a competition known as – you guessed it – Joyful Noise. It’s a national tournament for gospel singers and their churches that takes place in Los Angeles every year. The cast, led by Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, are beset by a myriad of problems that are painfully obvious and clichéd. Queen Latifah is a struggling mother of a precocious teenage daughter. Her husband’s rejoined the Army as a means of employment and, as well as her daughter’s raging hormones, she has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome to contend with. Meanwhile, Dolly Parton’s husband – played by Kris Kristofferson – has to manage her teenage grandson and his urges as well. All while getting the choir ready for the Joyful Noise compeition.

Joyful Noise is out-and-out religious propaganda. There’s no other word for it. The film is so ardently pro-Christian/right-wing values, it’s like a campaign video for the Republican party. It even features Dolly Parton brandishing a shotgun and defending her home against an intruder. Queen Latifah’s husband has joined the Army and is setting off for Iraq so as to provide for his family. Joyful Noise‘s musical moments are so corny and insincere that it reviles the viewer. It’s built around the pretence that Joyful Noise is a real look at America and so forth, but in actuality, it’s the exact opposite. It’s how Christian Americans perceive it to be. True, there may be ‘hard’ moments for each of the characters; Queen Latifah and her son’s disability, Dolly Parton and her age/facial defects. However, the film handles them in such a kids-gloves way that it’s galling to watch. The script is laughable, to say the least. Dolly Parton speaks in Southern maxims and proverbs and Queen Latifah is always two steps away from clicking her fingers, such is the ‘sass’ that she gives in her performance. The teenagers are wooden and unconvincing and the supporting cast is forgettable.
Joyful Noise is, quite simply, white noise.
Brian Lloyd

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Duration: 117m 40s

Joyful Noise is released on 29th June 2012

Joyful Noise – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Rock of Ages

I heard the Cruise today, oh boy

 

DIR: Adam Shankman  WRI: Allan Loeb, Justin Theroux  PRO: Adam Shankman, Tobey Maguire, Matt Weaver  DOP: Bojan Bazelli  ED: Emma Hickox  DES: Jon Hutman  Cast: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russel Brand, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones

Musicals are the epitome of cinematic marmite. You either love them or you hate them. Rock of Ages is no different. The film tells the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and Drew (Diego Boneta) and their romance during the ‘hair metal’ era of 1980s Los Angeles. Sherrie and Diego work at the Bourbon Room. The owners, Dennis (Alec Baldwin) and Lonny (Russell Brand) are about to put on the final concert of Arsenal, a heavy metal band that’s fronted by a mercurial singer, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). It’s here that Drew gets his big break and begins the story of the film. Concurrent to this, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Bryan Cranston – who play a mayoral couple looking to wipe heavy metal from the streets of Los Angeles – are plotting to shut down the Bourbon Room and run them out of business.

As mentioned earlier, musicals are either in your taste or they aren’t. It’s very difficult for someone that has a passing interest in the genre to watch this film, given that they break into song every five seconds. Rock of Ages is a cheesy romp and it makes no excuses for it. Most of the songs are based in that era, including Def Leppard’s ‘Pour Some Sugar (On Me)’ and Bon Jovi’s ‘Dead Or Alive’ as well as some originals, too. It’s clear from watching the film that the cast were thoroughly enjoying their time on screen. Tom Cruise’s singing voice is surprisingly good and Russell Brand is playing a role he’s lived for the past thirty-odd years.

 

The young couple at the centre of the film are schmaltzy and corny beyond belief. However, the film itself is not to be taken seriously therefore this can be easily forgiven. Adam Shankman’s direction is straight-forward and to the point. Having worked on musicals prior to this, Hairspray being one of them, it’s clear he has a talent for the genre and it’s evident throughout. The plot and screenplay are all very much rudimentary and simply serve to bridge the huge musical set-pieces together. The film is very much a faithful adaptation of the musical and fans of it will not be disappointed. Rock of Ages is enjoyable and a tongue-in-cheek ode to a musical fad that’s best left in the history books. If musicals work no charm on you, however, you’ll find Rock of Ages a grating experience.

Brian Lloyd

 

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Rock of Ages is released on 15th June 2012

Rock of Ages – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USxhXb5VC5E

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Cinema Review: 2 Days in New York

DIR: Julie Delpy  WRI: Alexia Landeau, Alexandre Nahon, Julie Delpy  PRO: Matthias Triebel  DOP: Lubomir Bakchev  ED: Julie Brenta, Isabelle Devinck  DES: Alexis Arnold  Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alexandre Nahon

2 Days In New York is the sequel to the 2007 film, 2 Days in Paris. Julie Delpy reprises her role as Marion, a French photographer living in New York with her boyfriend, here played by Chris Rock. Her family arrives from France on the eve of her exhibition where she plans to sell her soul for $10,000, along with her photographic work. The three of them – her father, sister and her sister’s ex-boyfriend – all stay in their small apartment rather than checking into a hotel. The film doesn’t necessarily follow an overall plot, rather it is simply two eventful days put into a film. The film’s structure, dialogue and even costume and set design is hugely reminiscent of Woody Allen films and isn’t done particularly well.

Delpy dresses, moves and speaks like Diane Keaton during her Annie Hall/Manhattan phase. Chris Rock gives a reigned-in and dignified performance that really does show how his range and how capable he can be, if properly motivated. The supporting cast is made up of Julie Deply’s real-life father, Albert Delpy – playing her father and Alexia Landeau and Alexandre Nahon, as her sister and her sister’s ex-girlfriend respectively. Delpy’s extended family are very much playing up French stereotypes. In other words, they’re obnoxious soap-dodgers who have no concept of social boundaries. As well as this, all of them are highly unlikable characters. The father is a doddering old man who keys cars that he doesn’t like. Alexandre Nahon, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, casually buys hash in front of children and Alexia Landeau’s character prances about their apartment barely dressed.
The film’s comedic set-pieces are bawdy and obvious. It continually focuses in on the cultural differences between Delpy’s French family and Rock’s somewhat reserved demeanour. The first few times are somewhat humorous, however it soon becomes the central theme throughout and becomes tiresome very quickly. As well, the dialogue is overly pretentious, one line in particular rankled heavily – ‘They (Delpy’s family) are like a reverse Waiting For Godot. Some of the visuals are impressive; Delpy photographs New York beautifully without it seeming unrealistic. Unfortunately, the comedy falls flat and the characters are poorly written and ill-defined. The relationship between Delpy and Rock is believable, Rock leads and anchors the film well. However, Delpy is playing a character and directing a film that has been done before. And done far better.
Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
2 Days in New York is released on 18th May 2012

2 Days in New York– Official Website

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We Love… Trash – The Room

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

There are nights when you look through your DVD collection and none of your favourite films float your boat  – what you need is some serious Trash –  the black sheep of your collection; something so bad that makes you feel good. Warning: to appreciate these films booze is recommended. And so over the next couple of weeks the Film Ireland collection of filmaholics shed their dignity, hide their shame and open their bins to reveal their trashiest films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

Trash

The Room

(Tommy Wiseau)

‘… without a single doubt, the worst film ever made … ’

Brian Lloyd

There are bad films. Some are executed poorly by the director, others are let down by under-performing actors. It can be a case that they’re simply phoning in a role, the material is beyond their range – or that they’re just bad actors. The same goes for budget. Films can be limited by budget, circumstance and time. However, a film is supposed to rise above these and be better than its faults. The Room is, without a single doubt, the worst film ever made. It’s so bad, it’s famous.

For those who are unfamiliar with the unbridled horror that is The Room, it follows a businessman (we’re never really sure what it is he does) and his friends through an increasingly bizarre set of events in San Francisco. I say bizarre – I’m not talking science-fiction. I’m talking actually bizarre. It’s impossible to talk about The Room with those who haven’t seen it. Indeed, watching The Room again with people who haven’t seen it is just as funny as the film itself. People react with a range of emotions – disbelief, horror, confusion, misguided laughter. The film itself is legendary in its awfulness. Without spoiling it, think of a mid-90s porn film WITHOUT the porn. That’s the best approximation of what The Room is like.

 

Warning: watching The Room can seriously damage your health

The script of The Room feels like it was written by someone who doesn’t have a full command of the English language. It’s not that there’s malapropisms or grammatical errors or anything, it’s that it just doesn’t sound how people actually talk. There are subplots that develop up to a certain point and then, quite literally, are never mentioned again in the course of the film. The film is nothing short of insane.

I really can’t do it justice. Naturally, this film wasn’t made by a large studio or featured well-known actors. Indeed, for most concerned, it was their first film. And it shows. Horribly so. We are, of course, talking about the film’s director, writer, producer and star, Tommy Wiseau. The legend surrounding his ability to fund the entire film himself is murky at best. Some believe he was an arms dealer, others that he was a money launderer. His response to forking out FIVE MILLION for the film? He sold leather jackets. Yes, really.

Nothing can truly prepare you for The Room. If you’ve never seen it, it is absolutely worth seeing. If for no other reason that you will never see anything quite like it in your entire life.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCj8sPCWfUw

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Cinema Review: Albert Nobbs

Albert No Nobbs

 

DIR: Rodrigo García • WRI: Glenn Close, John Banville, Gabriella Prekop • PRO: Glenn Close, Bonnie Curtis, Julie Lynn, Alan Moloney • DOP: Michael McDonough • ED: Steven Weisberg • DES: Patrizia von Brandenstein • Cast: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Janet McTeer, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Brendan Gleeson

Albert Nobbs takes place in 19th century Ireland. The titular character, played by Glenn Close, is working in an upscale hotel in Dublin as a butler. Albert lives a solitary life, scrimping and saving with the hopes of opening a business and being completely independent. The only issue is that Albert Nobbs is actually a woman. Living a solitary life, she hides herself away and rarely interacts with the other waiting staff of the hotel. That is until the manager / owner of the hotel, played by Pauline Collins, forces her to share a room with an unassuming painter by the name of Hubert Page (Janet McAteer). The two form an unusual friendship that gives the film an emotional core that seems genuine and believable.

Although the film has an interesting subject matter and the plot is detailed, the script and direction is thoroughly lacking. Rodrigo Garcia’s camerwork, lighting and attention to detail throughout the film is decent, however the pacing of the film is such that it feels completely laboured. While the story may not necessarily benefit from faster dialogue, Albert Nobbs suffers in the fact that nothing actually happens throughout the story up until towards the end. The film simply ambles along at a snail’s pace and then, very suddenly, wraps itself up with an unsatisfying end. The supporting cast, made up of Brendan Gleeson, Mia Wasikowksa and Aaron Johnson, are simply bystanders throughout the story. The subplot of the relationship between Wasikowska and Johnson is something of an after-thought. Although it runs concurrent to the main plot, it feels like it could have been easily left out or paired down into a few scenes instead of taking up half the film. As well, Johnson’s performance is particularly poor and his butchering of the Irish accent is distracting throughout the film. It feels as though he was miscast for the role as it calls for a tougher and more rugged persona than he can muster.
The relationship between Glenn Close and Janet McAteer’s characters is endearing and both give Oscar®-worthy performances. It’s telling that this was a labour of love for Glenn Close as she does disappear fully into the role and is completely unrecognisable in her role as the buttoned-down servant of the house. She embodies the character with genuine heart and feeling and really sells the idea of someone living a lie in order to simply survive in the world. The character gives herself a brief moment of freedom in a truly heart-breaking scene that validates why only Glenn Close could have done this role. Albert Nobbs is a disappointing film, unfortunately. Rodrgio Garcia’s direction and lack of pacing makes the film suffer for it. Although the dialogue is sparse, the script needed more fleshing out of other characters and the plot itself. Where the film could have featured comedic undertones, it instead features cliched sentimentality and mawkishness.
Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Albert Nobbs is released on 27th April 2012

Albert Nobbs – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ini59bYhaUY

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Cinema Review: Lockout

 

DIR: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger • WRI: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger, Luc Besson • PRO: Marc Libert, Leila Smith • DOP: James Mather • ED: Camille Delamarre, Eamonn Power • DES: Romek Delmata • Cast: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Vincent Regan

A film like Lockout is an unfortunate one. The audience that this film caters for is already familiar with the story – and have seen it done better. Lockout is an incredibly thinly-veiled rehash of Escape From New York and the lesser Escape From L.A. – indeed, there was supposed to be a third film called, funnily enough, Escape From Earth. The film begins with an amusing opening credits sequence, but one part of it sticks out and is impossible to ignore – ‘Based on an original idea by Luc Besson’. Considering how Harlan Ellison sued both James Cameron and Andrew Niccol for plagiarism, it’s surprising that John Carpenter hasn’t done the same for this film. The only thing different between Lockout and the Escape films is the fact that Guy Pearce isn’t wearing an eyepatch.

The film is set in 2079. Guy Pearce is an ex-government agent who’s been wrongfully accused of killing his friend and mentor. Concurrently, the president’s daughter, Maggie Grace, is headed to a maximum security prison that orbits the Earth in order to ascertain if the prisoners there are being treated humanely. Naturally enough, it goes pear-shaped and Maggie Grace, along with her entourage, are taken hostage. Guy Pearce is soon captured by Peter Stromare and Lennie James and offered a deal – enter the prison, get the President’s daughter out and the charges are dropped. The film’s plot doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny and it’s not really supposed to. ‘Lockout’ is very much B-movie / straight-to-DVD fare; there isn’t much to sing about in terms of both the script and the action scenes. The film features a completely daft motorcycle sequence at the beginning that is so cheap-looking as to be comical. Throughout, the dialogue seems to move out of sync with the actor’s mouth which makes for a jarring experience.
Guy Pearce turns in a decent performance, however this type of script and film is completely beneath him. His character’s dialogue is laced with one-liners and witty comebacks. Most of them are humorous enough, but it’s the sheer rate of their delivery – almost in every scene – that eventually makes it seem annoying. Maggie Grace’s character is something of a non-entity, simply filling up the screen time with the odd reaction shot. As well, Joseph Gilgun and Vincent Reagan, playing two inmates who become the leaders of the prison revolt, add nothing to the overall film. Gilgun’s performance starts off impressive, but it simply follows a single line and never deviates. Reagan is a decent actor and, as with Pearce, this material is clearly beneath his abilities. The direction of the film is riddled with cliches throughout, as is the script. It’s true, Lockout isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. However, the film’s glaring errors and missteps are far too numerous and plentiful to go unnoticed. Avoid.
Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Lockout is released on 20th April 2012

Lockout – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrd67mpE8O0

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Cinema Review: Rampart – Film of the Week

Weedy Harrelson

DIR: Oren Moverman • WRI: James Ellroy, Oren Moverman • PRO: Ben Foster, Lawrence Inglee, Ken Kao, Clark Peterson • DOP: Chr Bobby Bukowski • ED: Jay Rabinowitz • DES: David Wasco • Cast: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Bernthal

The story of Rampart is the story of corruption itself. Woody Harrelson plays ‘Date-Rape’ Dave Brown, a hard-drinking LAPD officer who lives by his own set of morals and ethics – or rather, his lack thereof. Dirty cops aren’t a particularly new topic in films. It is, however, strange for them to be front and centre in a film. That being said, it makes for an engrossing experience. Brown is embroiled in a scandal involving police brutality. Caught in the lens of the media, his life slowly begins to spiral out of his control as he attempts to put right what he perceives as an injustice dealt upon him. His methods becoming increasingly violent and extreme, culminating in a botched armed robbery that sets the story in motion.

The plot is surprisingly straightforward for a James Ellroy-penned script. This gives it a primal drive, much like Harrelson’s character – single-minded, bull-headed and utterly ruthless. Harrelson gives a performance not seen since Natural Born Killers. He is a monstrosity; lascivious and gluttonous in his pursuits of women and drugs. Much like his performance in Natural Born Killers, his character is working under the assumption that he is judge, jury and executioner – that no law will hold him. This is a topic that is not uncommon in James Ellroy’s previous work, although the distinction here is that the consequences are more prevalent and are being meted out by authority, instead of being covered by them.

The direction of the film is impressive. Oren Moverman, director of the criminally-underwatched The Messenger, uses Harrelson effectively in each scene that he’s in. The photography varies between hand-held and neon-drenched cityscapes à la Michael Mann, with a range of colours and sequences not seen in Moverman’s previous work. The supporting cast, made up of Cynthia Nixon, Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Foster and Anne Heche, are all admirable and worthy of note. Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche, particularly, are of note. Playing Harrelson’s ex-wife and sister-in-law respectively, both women are adroit at giving him a human side. Without them, he’s a one-sided fascist with no remorse of any kind. Ben Foster is almost completely unrecognisable as a homeless man who witnesses one of Harrelson’s transgressions. The film is held up and carried by Harrelson. His performance is electric and is on par with Denzel Washington’s role in Training Day. Where Rampart deviates from Training Day is that there is no upstanding police officer to balance it all. Here, everyone is equally accountable for the corruption that permeates through the system. From Sigourney Weaver’s pragmatic lawyering, telling him that ‘LA can’t afford you anymore’, to Robin Wright and her under-handed tactics at getting Harrelson on-side, it’s clear that Ellroy’s script is one that is honest in its portrayal of the realities of the modern-day legal system. Where the film falls down is its ending. The story is left unresolved and open-ended. This could be paving the way for a series of films or it could be that people like Woody Harrelson’s characters often escape justice. Either way, it’s unsatisfying – but, thankfully, it doesn’t detract from the rest of the film. Rampart is a searingly detailed account of a life corrupted.
Brian Lloyd

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Rampart is released on 24th February 2012

Rampart  – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

DIR: Stephen Daldry • WRI: Eric Roth • PRO: Scott Rudin • DOP: Chris Menges • ED: Claire Simpson • DES: K.K. Barrett • Cast: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow
A film like Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is going to be marmite – people will either love it and defend it from its detractors or others will see it as a callous, shallow attempt to pull at emotions in order to elicit a response. It’s very difficult to draw a line between one or the other with this film. On the one hand, it’s a poignant story of dealing with loss and making sense of a harrowing experience. On the other, it’s an annoying, saccharine-ridden heap that feels like it’s playing on people’s experiences and weaknesses. It entirely depends on the viewer and their own prejudices and cynicism.

The story centres around Oskar Schell (newcomer Thomas Horn), a young Jewish boy from New York who is in mourning over the death of his father, played by Tom Hanks. Set one year after September 11, he stumbles upon a key in his father’s closet that he believes to hold significance for him. He sets about meticulously planning and conducting a search of the city in an attempt to find what the key fits and, in doing so, how all New York has dealt with the atrocity. Along the way, he meets a variety of characters – including Max von Sydow in, arguably, the best role he’s taken on in the past ten years. Playing Oskar’s mother is Sandra Bullock in a very reined-in performance, the same goes for Viola Davis who plays one of the people Oskar interviews about the key. Eric Roth, the screenwriter, is no stranger to mawkish and over-sentimental works – just watch The Postman or, to some degree, Forrest Gump. Again, of course, this is down to the viewer and their own cynicism levels. Some may find Schell’s monologues about the trauma of that day heart-rending and genuinely upsetting. Others may see it as bare-faced blackmailing of emotions.
Stephen Daldry’s direction is assured and polished and he is able to convey just how much New York was affected by the events. He also works well with both Thomas Horn and Max von Sydow. The relationship between the two is heartwarming, but again, it does take some very sharp turns into cliched-ridden messiness. Thankfully, von Sydow’s performance is strong enough that even when the young Schell isn’t particularly delivering in a scene, his gravitas more than makes up for it. It says a lot about an actor like Max von Sydow that he can portray any number of emotions with a single glance or look. Time and age has given him a stillness that can’t be trained and imitated – it is his experience that comes to the front in this film. Likewise, Tom Hanks is able to take an extended cameo and make it seem believable that a child would that adversely affected by his loss. It’s tough to place an entire film on the shoulders of an untested actor, particularly a child actor. The entire film rests on their performance and whether or not you buy it. With Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, it’s a mixed bag. You do empathise with Horn’s character, however some of the voice-over monologues are particularly grating and it does almost feel exploitative. It is an unashamed tearjerker, but it does feel like it’s trying to be more than what it is – almost as if it’s saying that America should have gotten over it by now, the same way this child did. People deal with grief in very different ways – it isn’t always so Oprah Winfrey / Dr.Phil as this, unfortunately.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is released on 17th February 2012

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close  – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_quK9SEGYE

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Cinema Review: Young Adult

DIR: Jason Reitman • WRI: Diablo Cody • PRO: Diablo Cody, Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick, Jason Reitman, Russell Smith, Charlize Theron • DOP: Eric Steelberg • ED: Dana E. Glauberman • DES: Kevin Thompson • Cast: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson

A film about a woman returning to her hometown to win back a childhood sweetheart isn’t a new idea. In fact, it’s something of a cliche. But with this in mind, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody team up again and go at it, anyway. The results are, much like the titular character, varying wildly between sweet, cute – near saccharine – to searingly honest and frighteningly real. Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a thirty-something divorcee who is living a charmed life in Minneapolis. After receiving an e-mail about her teenage sweetheart (Patrick Wilson) and his first-born child, she drops everything and returns to her hometown in an attempt to win him back. There’s one catch – he’s happily married.

The script, written by Diablo Cody, isn’t her usual teeth-grinding type, filled with hammered-in pop culture references and so forth. Instead, it’s probably the most realistic and honest script she has ever taken on. Each of the characters, from Charlize Theron’s ‘psychotic prom-queen bitch’ to Patton Oswalt’s doughy nerd, are fleshed out and written with such depth and precision, they feel completely believable. There’s a good chance you’ve met or known a person like Charlize Theron – all designer clothes, low morals and all self-regard. But what makes the character so believable is that it doesn’t just stop there. As the story progresses, it reveals just how deeply unhappy her character is – and why she is this way. The same goes for Patrick Wilson. What initially begins as a two-dimensional character with little depth, it soon becomes apparent that he isn’t all that he’s made to be. The film also delves into why Charlize is so enamored by him, why she’s drawn to him and why she feels she deserves him. As mentioned earlier, this is easily Diablo Cody’s best script. She cleverly eschews her usual pomp and goes for a human story with human dialogue – not the usual Kevin Smith-esque stuff she’s churned out in the past.Charlize Theron gives one of her best performances in recent years and proves why she’s one of the best actresses working today. It’s a sign of that talent that she can make a character completely unlikable in almost every way and still make you root for them. Theron gives an incredibly human performance throughout the film and has more than enough comedic timing to work with. It also shows her comedic range; here showing her sarcastic and bitter side with generous aplomb. Patrick Wilson, although not given a huge amount to work with, does well and performs admirably. The real scene-stealer is Patton Oswalt, here playing the conscience that Charlize Theron’s character doesn’t have. While it’s not a stretch for him to play an affable nerd, the trick is to do without it being painfully obvious or stereotyped. Oswalt does it impressively well, delivering far above what you’d initially expect of someone that was on MADtv at one point.

Jason Reitman is working with familiar material here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the hands of another director, this film could have been a schmaltzy comedy with Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey. Instead, it’s an honest appraisal of adolescence unfinished and what it means to be a fully-rounded adult. Young Adult may be that loathsome thing, a dramedy – but it is very much a real film and a real story.

Brian Lloyd

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)

Young Adult is released on 3rd February 2012

Young Adult – Official Website

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