The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

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DIR: Francis Lawrence  WRI: Peter Craig, Danny Strong  PRO: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik • DOP: Jo Willems  ED: Alan Edward Bell, Mark Yoshikawa •  MUS: James Newton Howard  CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 follows on from the previous two offerings and follows the now standard tease of splitting the final instalment of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of novels into two separate movies. In Catching Fire, we witnessed Katniss’ disruption of the Quarter Qwell games and subsequent ‘rescue’. The film opens with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) still in recovery after her ordeal, struggling to come to terms with those who were left behind.  We learn about the destruction The Capitol has waged on all of the Districts – most notably Katniss’ own District 12.

 

This instalment is essentially a set-up for the final film. Whilst there are some intense action sequences, this film is more concerned with character development as we see Katniss slowly come to terms with her new status as a figurehead for the rebellion. Meanwhile, Liam Hemsworth’s Gale has wasted no time in becoming an action hero which leaves him just enough spare time to still wonder if his unfortunate love triangle will ever be disbanded.

 

Readers of the trilogy will wonder why it was necessary to split the final book into two movies, and cinemagoers will undoubtedly feel the same. This movie is, in-essence, a 123-minute trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two as it spends a great deal of time getting us up to speed with our protagonists and accustomed to new characters whilst building toward the film’s only true reveal which is certain to have fans lining up to see the final instalment.

 

Katniss’ trademark fierceness is somewhat lost here – she becomes a Shadow-Katniss as she struggles with having left Peeta behind. I can’t really judge her considering a recent quiz assured me that I would last no more than a day in the Hunger Games, but it is disappointing to not see the full force of such a well-loved character.

 

Jennifer Lawrence might be the world’s sweetheart at the moment, but it is Josh Hutcherson’s performance as Peeta, who has been captured and taken to the Capitol, which takes precedence here. Despite only appearing briefly he is utterly changed and his character takes on a multitude of nuances, which will endear him to audiences. There is an over-reliance on bonding moments between characters that have already had two movies to become close.  Welcome changes from the books were the additional scenes featuring Effie Trinket who is so effortlessly portrayed by Elizabeth Banks.

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is certainly not the strongest of the franchise but sets up the finale perfectly and ends at a point which will have both fans and newcomers to the series crying out for more.

 Ciara O’Brien

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

122 minutes

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is released 21st November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – Official Website

 

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Deliver Us from Evil

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DIR: Scott Derrickson • WRI: Scott Derrickson, Paul Harris Boardman • PRO:Jerry Bruckheimer • DOP: Scott Kevan   ED: Jason Hellmann DES: Bob Shaw MUS: Christopher Young  CAST: Eric Bana, Édgar Ramírez, Olivia Munn, Sean Harris

Deliver Us from Evil opens with the usual “based on true events”  tagline, eliciting an almost audible groan from audiences who are now largely desensitised to these words. This film manages to distract us from this minor irritation as guns explode around us and for a moment we wonder if we have wandered into the wrong screen and are about to watch an army raid/crime thriller. Luckily, once the film eventually gets moving, we realise that we are exactly where we should be.

Our protagonist is Ralph Sarchie, played by Eric Bana. Sarchie is the a-typical weathered cop who doesn’t have time for his family, and is generally disenchanted with the seedy underbelly his job confronts him with on a nightly basis. The character is clearly archetypal but with a subtle twist in the form of his apparent ‘radar’ which alerts him to dangerous situations. Combined with an Iraq war storyline, it seems like an odd premise for horror.

The film almost immediately falls short in terms of direction as it seems somewhat unsure of what direction to take, often floating between classic horror, gore, gritty buddy cop caper and psychological horror. It is only when the main crux is uncovered that we can begin to enjoy it. Deliver Us from Evil is quite long for the average horror, and takes a while to find its point. Thankfully, a combination of  excellent bromantic chemistry and characters we somehow grow to love makes it work and the film becomes the kind of  horror that allows the audience to sit back and suspend their disbelief. Sometimes it is a relief to see a film which allows us to merely enjoy the ride, as strange as it may be.

Deliver Us from Evil is quite gory in places but personally, I feel that it is intentionally so. Rather than falling into torture-porn trappings, this film shows us just enough. It harnesses the true power of horror by confronting the audience with everything we naturally abject. We are brought alongside out protagonist, and whilst we are often one or two steps ahead of his investigation, we feel the same level of tension and horror. The only character who consistently knows more than the audience is the ‘priest’ Mendoza, played by Edgar Ramirez. In this case, our religious victor is more rockstar Jon Snow than the typical old priest/young priest we have grown to expect. His presence and general chemistry with Sarchie makes the inevitable exorcism scenes seem wonderfully cheesy rather than old hat.

Director Scott Derickson displays a masterful knack for creating tension and atmosphere but falls flat in pacing as the film takes too long to reach the point. Derickson at times confuses creating atmosphere with making the audience wait so long for an exorcism that they wonder whether or not it’s really warranted, but that might just be me adopting the old reliable “sure, it will be grand” ideology.

Deliver Us from Evil is by no means a perfect film,  or a perfect example of horror. It is rather formulaic, particularly for those who have seen Derickson’s previous offerings. Inexplicably though, I couldn’t help but love it. It is an enjoyable and tension-filled watch that may put you off hiring a painter in future.

 

Ciara O’Brien

16 (See IFCO for details)
118 mins

Deliver Us from Evil  is released on 20th August 2014

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TgHldrvLrA

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DVD Review: The Hobbit:The Desolation of Smaug

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Ciara O’Brien gets her hands on the precious DVD of The Hobbit:The Desolation of Smaug.

The second instalment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy; The Desolation of Smaug is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray in various editions. Here we will be discussing the standard DVD edition.

The story picks up where the previous left off, and we follow Bilbo Baggins on his infamous adventure to assist in the reclaiming of the dwarven homeland. Having found (or stolen, depending on who you ask) the infamous ring of power, Bilbo now seems more willing to embark on the adventure ahead of him, despite the mocking of his band of merry dwarves.

Unfortunately for the now semi-cheerful Bilbo (masterfully played by Martin Freeman), he manages to do the one thing he hoped not to. He wakes the beast. Smaug is the infamous dragon fans have been waiting for and Freeman’s BFF Benedict Cumberbatch does not disappoint, playing the beast with equal parts menace and humour. It is Smaug’s evident intelligence which makes him all the more fearsome and the scenes featuring both Bilbo and Smaug are some of the best that have come from the prequel franchise.

The Desolation of Smaug sees Jackson use more artistic licence to present moments that he feels his viewers will love, being a fan himself. Jackson just about manages to steer clear of over-simplifying the text here, but at points he does come close. Jackson respects his audience enough to know that they can tell the inherent differences necessary in working with the medium of film as opposed to book, but he also knows not to push his viewer too far. It is a delicate balancing act at which he has become adept.

Unfortunately for Orlando Bloom, the appearance of Legolas doesn’t quite inspire the joy and delight that Jackson might have expected, and this moment falls a bit flat. The issue is that Jackson doesn’t need to remind us of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, he merely needs to focus entirely on The Hobbit as a standalone text.

  • Format: PAL, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Italian
  • Region: Region 2
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: 7th April 2014
  • Run Time: 155 minutes

The standard DVD edition is something of a disappointment for fans as it is very light on special features, having only the second part of the New Zealand: Home of Middle Earth documentary. This is interesting viewing for fans as we can witness the transformation of the landscape into one we immediately recognise as Middle Earth, but compared to the plethora of features that came with the Lord of the Rings DVDs, it seems inherently disappointing.

It’s hard to have patience these days, but die-hard fans of the franchise are as always advised to wait until all movies are released in a box set of inevitably epic, lengthy proportions, with more special features than you could watch in one sitting.

Like Bilbo himself, we might not initially be too keen on running off on an adventure, but thankfully this allows us to follow his from the comfort of our own couches, where the dragon population is significantly lower.

Ciara O’Brien

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Limp

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Ciara O’Brien takes a look at a new Irish film making waves – Limp, written and directed by Shaun Ryan, an independent abstract horror about a lonely man in love with the corpse of a dead woman.

 
The horror genre has taken a bashing in recent years. There has always been underlying murmurs of hope for the genre as the ‘torture porn’ of yesteryear takes a backseat to a more sinister film. The Irish horror genre is one that has been whispering quietly throughout, producing excellent movies that somehow fade into the background. New indie offering Limp, however, attempts to take this whisper and turn it into a shout, making people sit back and take notice of an ignored genre by creating waves at the recent IndieCork Film Festival.

 

Written and directed by Shaun Ryan, Limp innocently claims to follow “the deterioration of a relationship told through the eyes of a man whose brain has been curdled by isolation.”  The opening is stunning in its simplicity as a young boy tells a simple yet malevolent tale. Awkward and ignorant of social norms, our anti-hero Mr. Grot appears initially to be a simple caricature of horror. As the story builds in intensity, the masterful performance of Eoin Quinn follows suit and we are left with a different individual than we started out with. This is the true genius of this piece; nothing is ever what it seems. Limp consistently blurs the boundaries between what is real and what is imagined.

 

We quickly realize that Grot’s issues are more severe than we thought as he plays out an imagined relationship with a co-worker he has killed. As her condition deteriorates, the relationship he has created soon begins to crumble around him. A couple of the extraneous characters might seem to be superfluous but are later revealed as plot points in the greater narrative of Grot’s life.  Real world relationships soon become less interesting. We witness love through the eyes of someone we find oddly charming, but probably don’t want to meet.

 

Towards the end of the film as Grot’s world is crumbling, multiple image layers and quick cuts are used to show how disorientating the world has become through his eyes. Visually this was the best moment in the movie and by drawing the audience back to the voice of the young boy the film wraps up perfectly. Limp is not a simple film, but a visceral experience, which is a testament to the amount of work and heart put into it.

 

What sets Limp apart from other films in the horror genre is that it purposely avoids slipping into gory madness. Limp gives a knowing nod to the genre at several points, convincing the audience that it is about to become the usual blood-stained massacre and then turns its back on it immediately. These moments are a necessary masterclass for all future horror writers.

 

Despite the problems all indie movies face, Crooked Creations present us with a believable protagonist and an intense feeling of abject horror. This is something that many big-budget Hollywood offerings often fail to do. A true indication that low-budget film can be just as good as anything Hollywood has to offer.

 

 

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Bio: Ciara O’Brien

 

 

Ciara O’Brien is a writer from Wicklow with a somewhat embarrassing love of vampires. When not in the cinema she can almost certainly be found watching Dawson’s Creek re-runs.

 

Email: ciaralianneobrien@gmail.com

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We Love… Superheroes: Batman

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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Bam! Pow! Thwack! From masked avengers to caped crusaders, what would we do without spandex-wearing superheroes fighting crime and righting wrongs? While we mere mortals go about our daily business and sleep soundly in our beds at night, an army of superheroes are working tirelessly around the globe – but mostly in America – fighting to bring peace, justice and outside-underpants to the world.

And so, in honour of their efforts, our own band of Film Ireland superheroes assemble to dish out their own critical form of justice and wreak havok on those villians who long for a world without heroes.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes

Batman

‘… his only real super- power is his dedication to his self-created

ideologies …’

Ciara O’Brien

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Superheroes are undoubtedly the most enduring of movie figures and recent years have seen them explode onto the silver screen with renewed vigor. With the recent releases of Man of Steel and Wolverine’s latest offering it seems their 15 minutes is showing no signs of slowing down.

 

Of all superheroes, there is one who always sticks out, not least because of his knowledge of the fashion faux pas that is underwear as outerwear.  Batman, or Bruce Wayne, the millionaire playboy with a past and an unshakeable belief in justice. An outsider in his lack of superhuman powers that should make him inferior but somehow doesn’t. Although let’s face it, Ant-Man’s powers are probably not ideal and make Spiderman feel strangely lucky about his own insect-like status.

 

Despite his seemingly vapid alter ego, Bruce Wayne spent his youth travelling and training himself for his future having sworn an oath to rid the streets of Gotham City of evil and crime. This is what sets the figure of Batman apart; his only real super- power is his dedication to his self-created ideologies. Despite the varying stages of ridiculousness the character has evolved through, the idea of a hard-working vigilante remains the focal point.

 

Batman is the epitome of the outsider, positioning himself outside of the realm of superheroes by being a nighttime vigilante, and positioning himself outside the realm of the public by coming across as a dim-witted millionaire playboy. It is the manner in which he exists on the periphery, which has appealed to children and adults alike for over 60 years and looks set to continue that appeal for a very long time. Batman exists as both the anti-hero and the anti-superhero but somehow perseveres as a firm favourite.

 

Superheroes are unlike other movie characters in that they persevere, Batman has been imagined and re-imagined countless times in various guises and yet somehow as an audience we don’t feel like we have been cheated when we see a new story. Regardless of how many times he emerges from the shadows, there will always be a crowd waiting in the cinema.

 

Batman is in good shape for a character who originally appeared in Detective Comics in 1939, and with the announcement that the Batman figure to appear in the upcoming Justice League movie will be an entirely new imagining than Christopher Nolan’s, it is clear that even filmmakers have accepted that Batman is a figure that audience don’t tire of. Public interest in the character of Batman perseveres regardless of how many people we see don the infamous cape.

 

Regardless of how many interpretations of the same character we see, we still care. We have been taken through the camp Batman of the 1960s, George Clooney’s nip-slips and the dark lisping broodiness of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, yet we will still queue to see the next. Who can say they have survived so many re-inventions unscathed?

 

Sit down, Madonna; we aren’t talking about you right now.

 

Ciara O’Brien

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Glenn Caldecott on Superman

Check out the all the Superheroes we love…

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Another Look at ‘The Conjuring’

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Ciara O’Brien is not impressed with all the fuss surrounding The Conjuring.
 
The horror genre has been through an inordinate amount of change, from so-called ‘torture porn’ and comedic horror to the more traditional gothic style. More recently entering the world of the blockbuster with the release of World War Z. This August, the latest offering from the people who brought us Insidious and Saw attempts to once again bring something new to the horror buffet.The Conjuring begins with an over-explanatory dramatization sequence detailing a haunting in 1968, before we are assured that what we are about to see is a ‘real’ story detailing one of the most difficult cases renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren have ever dealt with. Here, the ultimate issue with The Conjuring is immediately evident. Instead of being taken along for the ride, we are bombarded with too much information. Nothing is left to the imagination here.

 

We meet the Perrons, Carolyn, Roger and their five daughters. The Perrons make the ultimate mistake of uprooting their family and moving to a new home. When strange events take a malicious turn, the family has no choice but to call in the infamous paranormal investigative duo. We learn that there is no easy fix for the family and that they will be forced to confront their evil presence. What follows is a relentless attempt to force the audience into edge of their seat terror.

 

Both the Perrons and Warrens are charming enough to make the viewer care about them, with Patrick Wilson being effortlessly adorable as Roger. I am unsure how he maintains a straight face despite the Warrens being the most saccharine duo of paranormal investigators imaginable. We get to know both families intimately through a great deal of overtly explanatory dialogue which flies in the face of the old ‘show – don’t tell’ rule.

 

Director James Wan’s obsession seems to be in taking that childhood feeling of fearing monsters under the bed and applying it to adulthood. Somewhere along the way, Wan seems to have forgotten that what scared us as children existed in our imaginations, and by mapping everything out for us, he prevents us from experiencing true fear throughout. Wan’s specialty is his unique brand of ‘in your face’ horror, the kind that first shocked us in Saw. Unfortunately we have all become immune to its effects and The Conjuring fails to thrill.

 

Wan’s passion for the horror genre is evident throughout, with nods to movies such as The Amityville Horror as well as his use of the more classic generic tropes. His passion is infectious enough to ensure that the film is entertaining throughout, although probably not in the terrifying way he would prefer.

 

Going to see The Conjuring is a little bit like taking a trip through a particularly underwhelming ghost train – for the time you’re sitting in the dark, you’ll be having fun and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, but once you leave you won’t be in any hurry to pay money for the experience again.

 

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Cinema Review: Stuck in Love

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DIR/WRI: Josh Boone • PRO: Judy Cairo • DOP: Tim Orr • ED: Robb Sullivan • DES: John Sanders • Cast: Kristen Bell, Logan Lerman, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins

Stuck in Love spends a year with a broken family finding their voices in a changing world. As with many indie films, they all speak as though they have all the answers, but this is no simple love story. All our characters are struggling with the very idea of love.

 

We meet Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear), a divorced father of two, struggling to match his early writing success following his divorce from Erica (Jennifer Connolly) who, after marrying a younger man apparently still can’t decide where she wants to be.

 

Bill’s children both want to follow in his writing footsteps. His daughter, Sam (Lily Collins) is a devastatingly beautiful yet cynical-in-love young woman who finds herself publishing her first novel whilst attempting to recoil from the advances of die-hard romantic Lou (Logan Lerman).

 

Meanwhile, son Rusty (Nat Wolff) exists in his sister’s shadow. He is struggling to find his voice in writing and life and falls for a girl who needs more help than he realizes. Bill and his children make up a trifecta of romantic misfits. Perhaps it is intentional given his existence in the shadow of his sister’s success, but Wolff unfortunately fades into the background here alongside Connolly.

 

Kristen Bell takes a departure from goofier characters here as Tricia, Bill’s neighbor-with benefits-who takes it upon herself to force Bill back into the dating world. Logan Lerman is a gorgeously executed character here as Lou, who far from being the usual pathetic love-interest, sets upon wooing Sam with wit and intelligence.

 

Stuck in Love is the debut offering from writer/director Josh Boone. This is nothing if not a passion project. We understand implicitly that Boone understands his characters better than most screenwriters, having given each of his actors a ‘care package’ of items (including of course, books) that his characters would love in order for them to get a better sense of the character as they exist in his mind.

 

The film somewhat lacks the intensity of a real purpose driving the story. It is character-driven rather than being driven by narrative. In general, this shouldn’t work on screen but, with Boone’s caring hand, it somehow works. We care enough about each character to want to spend time with them, whether or not they will lead us to any gritty on-screen action.

 

It becomes clear that, despite being unable to write a word of his own prose, Bill is the author of our story here. Bill exists as an observer, rather than a participant, which is ironic given his writing advice to his son:

 

‘A writer is the sum of their experiences. Go get some.’

 

Kinnear shares a beautiful chemistry with Collins who manages the same on-screen mastery.

 

This movie is a must-see for all book-lovers. We learn that that the kind of books our characters read reveals more about each character than any amount of dialogue.

 

Stuck in Love is a charming snapshot of a family in crisis, which teaches us what it means to be part of a family and the way in which people become part of a story. It begins and ends with Thanksgiving in a demonstration of the over-arching theme of the film, that endings can also be beginnings.

 

Ciara O’Brien

15A (see IFCO website for details)

96 mins
 Stuck in Love is released on 14th June 2013

Stuck in Love – Official Website

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Book Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s America

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Alfred Hitchcock has long been a favorite amongst horror fans and would-be film buffs. This year, however, may see Hitchcock’s work garner a new generation of fans with the release earlier this year of Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock. The movie portrays a love story of sorts between Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma during the preparation for and shooting of Psycho in 1959. What might seem like an unlikely backdrop for a love story is one that captures something truly special about the man and his methods that is certain to inspire cinemagoers to undertake further research into the man.Thankfully, film deconstruction extraordinaire Murray Pomerance releases his latest informative offering entitled Alfred Hitchcock’s America this year. This book follows in the same vein as the other books in the America series and is sure to satisfy those of us hungry for further information about the man behind the infamous knife scene, the father of modern horror.

 

We all know that films as an art reflect the world in which they were created in a way that few other art forms could pull off. It is for this reason that film is viewed as being such an integral part of social and cultural identity and it is this aspect of filmmaking that Pomerance chooses to focus on.

 

A skilled film analyst, Pomerance comes at a text from a cultural and political standpoint and investigates what it is that a given film can tell us about the time in which it was created. In particular, Pomerance makes a point from the very beginning of his book to note that Alfred Hitchcock was not himself an American man, despite having had a passion for American culture since a young age. This poses a number of question that continue throughout the course of Pomerance’s investigations; how did a non-American come to create movies which are seen as being so quintessentially American at their core? And are Hitchcock’s texts a genuine reflection of the America of their creation or are they in fact an outsider’s narrative tainted by the rose-tinted glasses of an Americanophile?

 

Pomerance’s book covers the widest range of films possible ranging from well-known classics like Psycho to Family Plot. Whilst he focuses primarily on the cultural critique inherent to Hitchcock’s work, Pomerancealso manages to provide great insight into the man himself through brief glimpses of his life in relation to his works and it is this fact which makes Hitchcock’s America so worth a read, instead of being the bland critique we are so used to, Pomerance’s work is infused with glimpses of the man behind the infamous knife scene and we walk away with a much deeper insight into the social stigmas and expectations of the America of Hitchcock’s time, as well as a newfound respect for a man who could so obviously expose them.

 

A must-have for the shelves of any horror lover, film buff or teenager wondering where on earth the idea for the slasher genre could have been born and what cultural landscape could have fostered such ideas.

 

Ciara O’Brien

 

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (February 18, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745653030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745653037
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.2 inches

 

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Oscar 2013: Best Picture Nominee – Silver Linings Playbook

 

Ciara O’Brien heralds Silver Linings Playbook as part of our Oscar 2013 Best Film countdown…

There are often two types of film we find nestled in the category of Best Feature Film each year during Oscar season. Firstly there are the massive heavy hitters we hear about consistently over the course of the year. These are the movies that are hot-tipped for award-season success before they even hit our screens. Then there are the other films, those that seem to have slipped through the radar almost unnoticed until they are read out as nominations and we take notice. It might be the wallflower in me emerging, but this is often where I find my all-time favorites and this year’s Silver Linings Playbook falls into the latter category. This movie may be smaller in scale than the others but it is no less an incredible cinematic experience than the other films in the Best Picture line-up for this year’s Oscars.

 

Based upon Matthew Quick’s novel of the same name, the story follows Pat (Bradley Cooper) who, having just been released from a mental institution remains curiously upbeat about his life. Pat believes that his happiness depends his own ability to repair his relationships with his estranged wife and his somewhat overbearing family. From the outset we realize that Pat’s family’s eccentricities are enough to drive anyone insane, but luckily for Pat he is nothing if not strong-willed and single-minded in his desire to do anything necessary (even exercising) to win back the affections of his wife. Pat eventually and somewhat unwillingly befriends fellow socially awkward outcast Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), but her support comes at a price that will hurtle him into an unexpected hobby.

 

Both Lawrence and Cooper are incredible here and earn their Oscar nominations within the first few seconds they share on screen. Somehow both actors turn what is ordinarily a tough and awkward topic into a charming story charged with chemistry and- dare I say it- fun. Here we have the perfect romantic mix, with Cooper appearing to be the tough guy, but hiding a fractured softening core and Lawrence looking as soft and pretty as ever hiding a character who is all hard edges and toughness. They create the perfect balance and manage to keep the audience guessing- no small feat giving the onslaught of obvious rom-com drama that appears on our screens each year.

 

Naturally, Quick’s excellent novel provides the skeleton around which the story moves but this is one example of how something extraordinary can occur in the translation from page to screen as David O. Russell structures the entire narrative around the two main loves of our protagonists: The Philadelphia Eagles and dance. It is in this way that the story manages to hold its pace throughout and never fades away into that drawn out agony that so often destroys the world of the movie.

 

What, on paper would seem like a screwball comedy caper meeting between two individuals on the cusp of desperation is transformed into Oscar-worthy fare that leaves its mark on the audience long after they leave the theatre. I must admit that any movie that boasts Robert Di Niro in a supporting role is destined to inexplicably win my vote, but thankfully this movie had me sold long before he was introduced, and I defy anyone not to be equally immediately charmed.

 

There are plenty of films that deal with mental illness, and still more that deal with burgeoning friendships and the possibility of rediscovering lost love, but it is incredibly rare that it be done so well. Silver Linings Playbook could equally be named ‘love in the age of mental illness’ and is essential viewing, regardless of the name pulled out of that infamous golden envelope on 24th February.

Ciara O’Brien

 

 

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Bloody Countdown to Halloween: The Exorcist

As the spooky season raises its sharpened axe to soon fall upon us, the ghouls and goblins of Film Ireland wallow in the terror of the films that embrace the nutty freaks, bloody psychos and raging spoonatics with our ‘Bloody Countdown to Halloween’ – cue Vincent Price laugh…

 

The Exorcist

(William Friedkin, 1973)
 

Ciara O’Brien

Horror is not a genre of subtleties, it reflects the world it is created in, and it pulls no punches and whimpers no niceties about the era. Horror not only shocks its audience with what is on screen, but also with revelations about the world outside the doors of the cinema; it ain’t pretty, but somehow we always go back for more. Human suffering was the cinematic flavour of the day in the 1970s, with scandals piling upon scandals, no one was to be trusted. The Exorcist explores the subject in a manner that no film before or since has attained.

The Exorcist marked a turning point in cinema in many ways. After its 1973 release horror was no longer wholly associated with exciting Vincent Price chillers, but could now be a vicious assault on the audience. Many have taken the idea of audience and gotten carried away but few have succeeded in replicating the atmosphere of The Exorcist, which abuses its audience and yet leaves them wanting more. The film is a possession in and of itself as it both shows suffering onscreen and causes suffering amongst its audience, it remains one of few films which have caused fainting and hysterics in its audience, and one of even fewer to be so sought after that bus trips were arranged to see it during its UK ban. So what made The Exorcist so special? And why should we care now?

The Exorcist was the beginning of atmospheric horror, which remains the most profoundly affecting form of the genre. The set was cooled to below freezing in Reagan’s bedroom and whether we watch it in the depths of winter or the middle of summer, there’s a moment in which we believe that we have seen fog on our own breath.

Problem Child

The Exorcist can also be seen as the origin of character-driven horror. Until that moment it was rare to truly love the characters in a horror movie, but here we had an ensemble cast who captured the heart of an audience, and for me, that is the true genius of director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty. The Exorcist marked the beginning of the end for pre-pubescent children in horror, it seems that one fear has transcended eras. There is nothing more frightening than a little girl, particularly if she’s not quite a little girl anymore. Since its release it’s impossible for an audience not to feel some level of suspicion as soon as little Timmy appears on screen, something that recent release Paranormal Activity 2 has utilised fully in advertising. So Reagan is verbally and physically aggressive throughout her possession, and we see very little of her prior to the possession, and yet somehow we love her, we feel her mother’s growing frustration, and we want her to be healed.

The reason for this is simple. As visually violent as The Exorcist is, it has remained on the right side of a very thin line. There is more character than pea soup, and everything stays just below that visual wasteland of ‘too much’. The ‘spider-walk’ sequence is an impressive, now over-used one, and Friedkin’s removal of the scene is necessary to retain some level of ambiguity. Whilst it is suggested that Reagan’s possession is real, it’s also suggested that it’s the result of mental illness, we will never really know, and the psychological impact of not knowing is what creates true terror and cements The Exorcist as the genre’s first bona-fide mainstream classic.

With this Halloween seeing the most violent audience assault we have seen in the shape of Saw 3D, it’s easy to lose sight of the origins and purpose of modern horror cinema. Each time The Exorcist is popped into a DVD player something special happens. When we lose sight of that little silver disc, we enter a world where the special effects of a long-lost era are still affecting, the characters remain dazzling. The first horror film to be nominated for an Academy Award®, The Exorcist is the horror genre’s greatest cinematic triumph.

Ciara O’Brien

Check out our blood-soaked countdown of Halloween Horror here

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Cinema Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

DIR/WRI: Stephen Chbosky • PRO: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich • DOP: Andrew Dunn • ED: Mary Jo Markey • DES: Inbal Weinberg • Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the highly anticipated coming-of-age drama based on the novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky. The novel has gained almost cult status since its release in 1999. This film adaptation offers us a refreshing new vision as the novel’s author himself takes to the director’s seat. Fans of the hauntingly comedic novel will not be disappointed by Chbosky’s insight with memorable scenes from the book at times outshining their written counterparts.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie, an introverted teen about to make the transition to high school student whilst combatting personal issues. As a fan of Chbosky’s novel, I was somewhat wary of the film, as it was difficult to believe that anyone could perfectly embody the complex personality of Charlie. Thankfully, within the first half hour, it becomes impossible not to fall in love with Logan Lerman. Gangly, awkward and shy but also somehow entirely magnetic, Lerman is a revelation here. So believable is his portrayal that it will doubtlessly be his face that springs to mind the next time I pick up the novel.

Charlie tells his story in a series of letters. As he takes his first tentative steps into high school, he is taken under the wing of two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). From the moment they rescue Charlie by inviting him to sit with them for lunch, we witness the growth of one of the most heart-warming friendships to grace our screens.

Watson officially takes a definitive step away from Harry Potter here as the enthusiastic and effortlessly cool Sam. As we witness Charlie’s growing infatuation, we warm to her. We are even willing to overlook the patchiness of her accent in places. Watson and Lerman certainly steal the show for me, whilst Ezra Miller perfectly embodies the geek-chic ideology that fans have come to love. Here is a high school thriving on outsiders, and Miller is the ultimate outsider as Patrick.

Other stand-out cast members include Paul Rudd as Mr. Anderson, who somehow manages to make the archetype of the inspirational English teacher seem cool, and Nina Dobrev who stars as Charlie’s older sister Candace. In a departure from being chased by mythical television creatures, Dobrev battles her own demons here whilst silently aiding her brother, as their relationship grows stronger.

What sets this apart from other coming-of-age dramas is that it never descends into the total slapstick chaos we have come to associate with the theme.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a rarity in that it is a teen-centric drama that respects the intelligence of its audience. In the same vein as Sixteen Candles, it portrays a new vision of the teen condition. As our protagonist battles with issues like suicide, mental illness and abuse, there is a certain endearing depth here, which takes this story from teen drama to human drama.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a heartfelt love letter to an important snapshot in our lives, and is guaranteed to tug on the heartstrings of even the harshest audience. This is an absolute must-see for anyone who has ever felt the isolation of being a teenage outsider. Anyone who has ever wanted to feel ‘infinite’.

 

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
102mins

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is released on 5th October 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower  –  Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aog8680PVmU

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Crying Game

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 Crying Game

(Neil Jordan)

‘… not only keeps the audience guessing amidst twists and turns, but also engages our emotions and makes us care about each character…’

Ciara O’Brien

We in Ireland, we have a lot to be proud of. From our rich food and drink culture, to the proud ownership of the uncoordinated one from One Direction, we have it all. Yet somehow our rich literature and film history is often overlooked. So, being Film Ireland’s 25th anniversary, we have taken it upon ourselves to celebrate what we feel are the very best examples of Irish filmmaking of the last 25 years.

I should confess early on here to being a bit of a Neil Jordan fan-girl. Upon hearing he was filming Byzantine in my hometown recently, I may or may not have taken to driving the long way home every night just in case they needed a battered Opel Corsa for their next scene. For me, there is something both transformative and recognizably Irish about the way in which Jordan presents film. From Anne Rice’s vampiric duo to a recovering alcoholic fisherman regaling his ailing daughter with fairytales, there is something quintessentially Irish about each of his works. Jordan regularly takes an Irish tale and transforms it into something that can translate anywhere. He makes the local tale a universal one. My choice for ‘We Love…’, The Crying Game, is a prime example of this gift.

The Crying Game follows the twists and turns of Fergus, played by the ever-present Stephen Rea. Fergus, an IRA volunteer who inadvertently strikes up an unlikely friendship with captured British Army giant Jody, played by Forest Whitaker. A hostage situation gone horribly wrong in every way causes Fergus to flee, changing his name to ‘Jimmy’ and seeking out Jody’s lover, Dil. Fergus is immediately taken with Dil, and begins seeing her under his new identity, revealing nothing about his IRA past. Unfortunately for Fergus, he is not the only one carrying a secret. There is something about Dil that Fergus doesn’t know, and the reveal is as jarring to the audience as it is to Fergus himself (unless a certain infamous line from Father Ted gave it away).

Do you come here often?

Released in 1992 amidst a flurry of controversy, The Crying Game is Irish filmmaking at its finest, engaging both Irish and worldwide audiences. The Crying Game is a rare example of a movie that not only keeps the audience guessing amidst twists and turns, but also engages our emotions and makes us care about each character. This ability to never quite reveal all until the last possible moment is something Jordan has perfected, and we saw him utilize it more recently in Ondine. Jordan is a master at having his audience engaged in one story for 90 minutes, only to later reveal that the story is about something else entirely. Somehow, we are positioned alongside our protagonist, Fergus and by ensuring our identification with him, the twist manages to never alienate the audience. We follow Fergus throughout his struggles, and we experience as much of his existential crisis as possible. For 108 minutes, we are Fergus.

The Crying Game deserves to be heralded as one of the finest Irish films of the last 25 years. It is the kind of film that leaves moviegoers talking amongst themselves for days. This, for me, is what cinema is all about, and what positions Neil Jordan in my list of favorite directors and writers.

I’ll leave you with the infamous words:
‘Careful now’.

Ciara O’Brien

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DVD Review: Zombie 108

 

Zombie 108 has been hailed as the first Taiwanese zombie movie in history and has generated a great amount of interest from horror movie buffs and critics alike. Naturally, when asked to review a film that has generated such a buzz, and happens to include zombies I was both excited and wary. Could Zombie 108 really live up to its hype?

The movie’s title sequences explain it all for the audience immediately. After a catastrophic accident in a top-secret research lab, a new strain of virus is released with violent repercussions. It is a common trope in zombie movies, but this is where Zombie 108’s association with the traditional zombie movie ends. As the movie opens we are introduced to one of our protagonists, a young woman searching for her daughter amidst a sea of bodies, as she is chased by zombies we realize that her day will probably not improve from here.

District 108 is no Disneyland, and is the one area of town that is to be avoided at all costs on an average day unless one desires a run-in with an obese, controlling drug lord surrounded by a sea of drowsy beauties. Sadly, as with all zombie movies, this is no average day. The local SWAT team has been called in to evacuate the resistant uninfected. After wasting much time shooting at each other, both sides eventually learn that it is the zombies are, in fact, the real problem in town.

It is generally advised that one nails down genre before shooting begins and this is where Zombie 108 falls short. At times it’s as though the creators have watched the trailers of zombie classics and judged what their movie should look like from that alone and the movie soon dissolves into generic chaos, jumping from zombie movie, to cop movie, to Saw-esque torture porn, and sometimes even comedy.

One of the more interesting aspects of the movie is that there are no grey areas here when it comes to characters. One is either innocent or evil as evidenced by one character being billed only as ‘Pervert’. There is something refreshing about knowing exactly where we stand in a movie, and some of the more arty sequences make the audience feel as though we are watching a comic book in action. These scenes are the most culturally different to our own and we feel like we are experiencing something new and intriguing. Unfortunately, with the addition of two ‘comedic’ American drug pushers and the ‘Pervert’ himself, Zombie 108 reverts to madness and leaves the audience behind.

Zombie 108 is an interesting movie anomaly and seems to have succeeded where most fail. Director Joe Chien’s call for funding was answered by over 900 fans who aided in the creation of the movie. Suddenly social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are becoming important in the movie world for more than simply ranting or raving about the latest movie you have seen. For me, Zombie 108 is an indicator; it is imperfect in many ways but shows a new era opening up in art. With the advent of funding options like Kickstarter we may see independent crowd-funded movies like Zombie 108 really take flight. Maybe next time though more thought will be put into ensuring the audience know their generic positions and aren’t so consistently confused.

Zombie 108 is an exciting new step in movie-making, but ultimately leaves zombie lovers disappointed as it jars the audience jumping from genre to genre and never seeming to settle anywhere. For a movie named ‘Zombie 108’, it frequently veers away from the zombie aspect and into vague cultural and sexual territories. Whilst some of us might have found ourselves wildly excited about watching a Taiwanese zombie movie, Zombie 108 is somewhat of a disappointment.

Zombie 108 ends in the same way it opens, with the streets littered with bodies and people searching for hope in a seemingly hopeless world. As the credits roll we find ourselves wondering if the hour and a half in the middle was truly necessary. It is the movie we see in the first and final ten minutes that I would like to see.

 

Ciara O’Brien

Format: Anamorphic, Dolby, PAL, Widescreen
Region: Region 2
Number of discs: 1
Classification: 18
Studio: Showbox
DVD Release Date: 2nd July 2012
Run Time: 83 minutes

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Cinema Review: Men in Black III

 

DIR: Barry Sonnenfeld • WRI: David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson, Michael Soccio • PRO: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes • DOP: Bill Pope • ED: Wayne Wahrman, Don Zimmerman DES: Bo Welch • Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Alice Eve

Men in Black III comes 15 years after the first offering and 10 years after the second. Over time, we have learned our lesson about sequels the hard way, and now assume that anything that comes after the original will suck all of the charm from what we originally fell in love with. Somehow, the Men in Black have timed their return perfectly and proven that, occasionally, sequels can add something special to the original.

For the forgetful: the Men in Black are a secret government agency dedicated to keeping track of aliens on Earth and dealing with any potential threats. They are as conspicuous now as 15 years ago, but when you have many gadgets available to you, one needn’t worry about being questioned. Nostalgia is the ultimate key here as we remember the previous offerings throughout.

Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and his young recruit Agent J (Will Smith) are under the instruction of Agent O (Emma Thompson). It’s important to be up-to-date on the alphabet in this agency and it seems as though our heroes are continuing to do well since we last visited them. Of course, this is the movies, and all good things must come to an end.

The hilarious Jemaine Clement plays an ugly alien named Boris the Animal who has managed to escape from a maximum-security prison on the Moon. Whilst this is inconvenient by anyone’s standards, unfortunately Boris has a major vendetta to settle with Agent K for the small matter of shooting his arm off. He hatches the ingenious plan of going back in time and killing Agent K. When K disappears without a trace, it seems his prodigy is the only one to notice. As J questions his absence he is met with odd looks and the information that K has been dead for years. The only option for J is to travel back in time and rescue his mentor from the alien threat before he is ultimately lost to time.

Josh Brolin expertly plays the young Agent K. So convincing is his performance that the audience would be forgiven for thinking that it is simply Tommy Lee Jones wearing an obscene amount of prosthesis. As soon as Brolin speaks in his effortless Jonesian drawl, we can almost feel the relief director Barry Sonnenfield is said to have felt at his convincing portrayal. His performance is so close to perfection, that it is almost unnerving until we settle into it.

Much has happened since the first Men in Black movie hit our screens. The one noticeable shift in attitude between this and the first movie is that the semi-outsider narrative evident in the aliens then, has been transformed into an insider narrative as the alien threat walks amongst us unnoticed. It may simply be a sign of the times, but it is an important shift in social attitudes and is very effective here. It’s also refreshing to see megastar Will Smith has remained grounded enough in his meteoric rise to Hollywood royalty to effortlessly recreate the often-silly scenes required here.

So whilst it’s easy to remain unenthusiastic about the onslaught of sequels we are subjected to, this third installment of the Men in Black franchise is different. Packed full of ingenious monsters, hilarious comedic moments and excellent performances, Men in Black III is not to be missed.  Men in Black III manage to escape the danger of becoming dated by time and Brolin’s performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Nostalgia viewing at its finest, offering a surprisingly satisfying emotional payoff for something we weren’t aware we had been missing.

 

Ciara O’Brien

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Men in Black III is released on 25th May 2012

Men in Black III  – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

When nine hundred years old you reach, fish as good, you will not, hmmm?

DIR: Lasse Hallström • WRI: Simon Beaufoy • PRO: Paul Webster • DOP: Terry Stacey • ED: Lisa Gunning • DES: Michael Carlin • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Amr Waked

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is not an easy title to forget or overlook, immediately inspiring incredulous looks. Based on Paul Torday’s satirical novel of the same name. The politically satirical thread of the novel is somewhat lost in the translation to film, and what we are left with are the bones of an incredibly heart-warming and uplifting tale, which may not have been Torday’s intention.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is the heartwarming and often painful story of a British fisheries expert who calls upon a consultant in order to aid him in realizing a Sheik’s dream of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert. Sheik Muhammed (Amr Waked) believes that this peaceful sport will enrich the lives of his people greatly and expert Alfred (Ewan McGregor) is immediately taken in to his world and point of view. Unfortunately for the pair, the process is not as simple as they would like. The story arc is purposely set up to mirror the journey of the salmon, and in this way the audience is immediately aware that they are about to begin an uphill battle.

This is not a film that requires much of its audience. It is an amalgamation of genres, which is easy to enjoy and often touching, but does not linger. Ewan McGregor is effortlessly charming as Alfred and shares a great chemistry with Emily Blunt’s high-powered consultant Harriet. This is a much softer role for the usually bristling Blunt and may catapult her firmly into romantic lead actress territory. There are moments when generic boundaries blur and the movie threatens to abandon its dramatic aspect and dissolve into romantic comedy territory and, charming as these moments are, at times it makes the audience forget the purpose of the story, and turns slightly farcical. At these moments the film seems to catch up with itself and throw in an environmental warning or two as a kind of ‘time-out’ for the audience for forgetting our purpose.

It is not the sport of fly-fishing that holds this movie together for me, but the individual stories we are provided with, and the moments that set them apart from other films of the genre. Amr Waked is an enigma as Sheik Muhammed and his purity of purpose gives a certain power to the story. Whilst Fred and Harriet spend many generically appropriate romantic comedy moments together on screen, their relationship is complicated by marriage and partners to ensure that the audience is always kept guessing. We never quite know if we want them to be together or not, and there is something refreshing to be taken from this twist on a classic.

There are moments when the film seems to drag the audience along with it, and in these moments it does seem to be an overly long film for the genre, but somehow I feel that these long moments are intentional. We knew from the outset that for the audience, as well as for Fred, this was often going to be an uphill battle. In this way, director Lasse Hallström has truly succeeded. He has presented us with a film that is so like the sport of fishing itself; there is a lot of waiting around and watching still water, but when the magic happens, you forget the lost hours and enjoy your catch.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen may not be everyone’s catch of the day, but you may find yourself so charmed by our on-screen trio that you won’t miss the hours spent waiting. Feel-good entertainment at its finest.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is released on 20th March 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Wanderlust

Aniston in Rom Com shock

DIR: David Wain • WRI: David Wain, Ken Marino • PRO: Judd Apatow, Ken Marino, Paul Rudd, David Wain • DOP: Michael Bonvillain • ED: David Moritz, Robert Nassau • DES: Aaron Osborne • Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Malin Akerman, Ray Liotta

David Wain’s latest offering, Wanderlust stars two of comedy’s current sweethearts, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and so should have the potential of being the first real comedy hit of the year. Wain’s last feature Role Models also starred Rudd as an uptight male lead to Seann William Scott’s moron, but here Rudd is allowed the opportunity to take the helm of male lead alone, and alongside old friend Jennifer Aniston, offers us an effortlessly charming, but ultimately predictable comedy caper.

Rudd plays George to Aniston’s Linda, a tightly-wound Manhattan couple for whom the term ‘stressed-out’ is an understatement. When George finds himself out of a job, their only option appears to be moving in with George’s atrocious brother in Atlanta. The idea of the uptight Manhattan couple being forced out of their comfort zones and learning something along the way is one that has been long propagated on screen, but Wanderlust offers something slightly different. On their way, the couple somehow stumble upon Elysium, an apparently idyllic community peppered with characters that see the world in a different way to George and Linda. From money to clothing, nothing is essential in Elysium, and whilst our protagonists are refreshed by this change in priorities, it may ultimately cause them more emotional harm than good – as is generally the case when nudity and the elderly get together.

Wanderlust has all of the ingredients for greatness, but is either lacking some secret ingredient, or the addition of too much nudity has spoiled the broth. As we learned with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, an unexpected penis shot is always good for a giggle, but here the writers have gotten somewhat lazy and decided to rely heavily on the humour of the elderly male form, to which the audience has already become numb. Wanderlust has the potential to be a massive hit but unfortunately isn’t always as funny as it should be.

The writing is often awkward and a little forced, but, having known each other since the good old days of Friends, Rudd and Aniston have so much on-screen chemistry that they could dictate the Golden Pages to each other, and still manage to hold their audience captivated. Wanderlust is the perfect movie for a first date, charming, enjoyable, but also effortless as the twists and turns are usually noticed long before they happen, meaning that it asks nothing but giggles from its audience. Although the script isn’t exactly top-notch, it is refreshing to see that it doesn’t dissolve into a hideous slapstick mess as is often the case with recent comedy.

The entire film has a sense of looseness, freedom and the idea that ‘anything goes’ which, although it is entirely in keeping with the situation in which our protagonists find themselves, doesn’t quite fit with the film format, and leaves the audience slightly confused, and waiting patiently for the next charming moment between Rudd and Aniston. It is the actors and not the story that makes Wanderlust worth a viewing, with this many funny people throwing their hats into the ring, it’s impossible not to leave the cinema feeling somewhat charmed and satisfied, despite the fact that you’ve already forgotten the story. All in all, we’re just glad that it doesn’t star Adam Sandler.

Wanderlust offers some moments of intelligent comedy, but the intervention of a senior citizen full-frontal shot ultimately ensures its fate resting among the charming yet silly comedies that have gone before. The good news for our protagonists though is that it is the charm of Rudd and Aniston alone that carries this movie and, given the right script, the duo has the potential to be this generation’s king and queen of Rom Com.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Wanderlust is released on 2nd March 2012

Wanderlust  – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Sitter

DIR: David Gordon Green • WRI: Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka • PRO: Michael De Luca • DOP: Tim Orr • ED: Craig Alpert • DES: Richard A. Wright • Cast: Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell

Since stumbling awkwardly onto our screens in Superbad, Jonah Hill has become a comedy favourite, forcing audiences into fits of hysterics with his on-screen antics. More recently, audiences have seen a change in the actor as he has physically shrunk before our eyes, causing some to think that his recent Call of Duty advert was photoshopped. It seems that the sky’s the limit for the young actor, but this year’s early comedy flop, The Sitter, seems to be a giant step backwards in the comedian’s career.

It’s almost unnecessary for me to provide a synopsis here as the movie’s title probably gives away all you need to know. An unlikely and irresponsible babysitter in the form of Hill as Noah, is tasked with caring for three of the world’s most aggressive kids and manages to bring them on an unforgettable adventure through the streets of New York. It is a common premise leading to unfortunate consequences; for every laugh-out-loud moment, there are ten moments of boredom and realising you’ve been here before.

Hill himself is ultimately charming as he mixes self-loathing with self-awareness to just the right degree. Sam Rockwell plays the insane pursuer well, and clearly enjoys the outlandish role. Our three demon children play their somewhat cliché parts well and without over-acting. Landry Bender is somehow adorable as the potty-mouthed Blithe, and Kevin Hernandez is well cast as explosives enthusiast Rodrigo, despite his character being slightly unnecessary. Unfortunately for Max Records, his character Slater is somewhat pushed into the background by his ‘siblings’. Usually we can put blame at the door of actors for the over-the-top nature of a film, but here I’m afraid, the blame rests behind the scenes.

The ultimate problem with this movie is that it’s been done to death, from the premise to the scenarios and the inevitable heart-warming realisations; there is not the slightest hint of originality here. Whilst Jonah Hill is hilarious in these unlikely scenarios, audiences are tiring of the formula, and already know not to hire an unlikely babysitter, whether it be Jackie Chan or Jonah Hill. Here is a disappointing filler movie from a comedic actor who has the talent and the timing to be fantastic. But perhaps this is Jonah’s last hurrah to his old overweight comedic stylings. We can only hope.

Each and every scenario which arises in this movie is carefully orchestrated to necessitate the use of curse words by one of our angel-faced wards, and whilst a cute kid swearing or kicking off is always funny the first time around, by the half-way point we forget we’re in a cinema trying to enjoy a movie and begin to feel like we’re sitting in a quiet restaurant being assaulted by that one child on a nearby table who just won’t quit. It’s disappointing when a movie has nothing but a swearing kid and one with a penchant for explosives to keep the audience interested. The Sitter is a movie made by intelligent filmmakers which should be enjoyable, but ultimately is not. The audience will not be completely bored as there are some moments of hilarity, but overall it is an ultimately forgettable experience. This is hopefully the beginning of a new age for Hill, in which he will flex his comedy muscles and avoid cliché movies like this one.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Sitter is released on 20th January 2012

The Sitter – Official Website

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We Love… Summer: Jurassic Park

We Love... Summer

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

Blisters on your shoulders, sand in your underwear, coughing up seawater and being packed into a caravan with the entire extended family – the sweet, sweet memories of summers past. Thank God we have film to look back on with pleasure. And so the Film Ireland sun lovers lay down their towels, unwrap a Cornetto and recall their favourite summer films in the latest installment of We Love… Summer. Ciara O’Brien wanders into ‘Jurassic Park’.

We’ll be adding to the list throughout July – check it out here.

As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

Now lash on the sunblock…


Jurassic Park

 

Ciara O’Brien

There is something about the beginning of the summer blockbuster season that gets my heart all a-flutter. There are times when the summertime really sneaks up on me (rainy summer days anyone?) and the first moment I realise that it is, in fact summer is the onslaught of trailers and posters for long-awaited movie treats. The problem with summer blockbusters is that there is so much hype, so much build-up, that there is an inevitable level of disappointment. That superhero turns out to be kind of a jerk and that alien turns out to be a creepy little mess who will haunt your dreams forevermore. When I was asked to write about summer movies, there was only one which came to mind. The one which lived up to the summer blockbuster hype, the first real summer blockbuster that got the adrenaline going as I shuffled into the darkened room, delighted to be allowed to have my own tub of popcorn. Jurassic Park.

For me, Jurassic Park is the original summer blockbuster. Released in July of 1993 it heralded the beginning of a lifelong love of the Blockbuster, and remains one of few not to disappoint. I was lucky enough to be too young at six years old to associate movies with their respective directors, as if I had known then that Spielberg had also directed the E.T. of my nightmares, I may not have been so quick through the cinema doors. As it was, life as a six year old was hard, having just graduated to ‘big sister’ territory, I needed something to take my mind off the harsh realities of life, and enormous dinosaurs were the only thing for it. Within minutes of entering Richard Attenborough’s unique world, Spielberg and I became firm friends again (the same cannot be said for a certain extra terrestrial).

Jurassic Park was a place where reality need not apply, new scientific rules were set out from the beginning and here was my first experience of suspending disbelief. There was no doubt in my mind that they would reopen the park at a later date when they had cleared off all of the corpses and hosed down the blood, and on that day I would pay a visit. Sam Neill was the lovable grump who would rescue me from danger and Attenborough was my grandfather, much to my actual family’s dismay. It remains a near-perfect blockbuster, covering every necessary angle from sci-fi to comedy thanks to Goldblum’s dry wit. To this day I find it difficult to find fault with this movie for entertainment factor.

Jurassic Park had a profound impact on my interaction with the big screen. Each time the first flutters of the summer movie season make their way to the screen, I am excited regardless of how the movie itself looks. The hopes of the perfection of my original blockbuster experience remain intact. It is however unfortunate for my parents that their little girl turned into a tree-climbing, plastic dinosaur toting tomboy overnight.

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Yogi Bear

yogi bear

DIR: Eric Brevig • WRI: Jeffrey Ventimilia, Joshua Sternin, Brad Copeland• PRO: Donald De Line, Karen Rosenfelt • DOP: Peter James • ED: Kent Beyda • DES: David Sandefur • CAST: Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris

The sun has barely settled on 2010 and already audiences have been thrown into the deep end with tasters of what kind of film our big screens are to be graced with this year. From this end of the year it would seem that it is shaping up to be the year of recycling childhood loves and hurtling them onto the big screen for all to enjoy. Enter Yogi Bear. That’s right kids, hold on to your pic-a-nic baskets because everyone’s favourite partially-dressed bear (sorry Paddington!) is making a comeback.

Dan Aykroyd adopts the attitude of the ever-hungry bear with ease and he is effortlessly believable in this role. This is more than can be said for Justin Timberlake as Boo-Boo, which seems like an odd choice as Timberlake adopts a childish tone for this role which leaves many raised eyebrows in the theatre.

As much as I wanted to fall in love with this movie, there was something missing. The characters were flat and ironically very two-dimensional; Yogi is no longer the active protagonist we remember. There seemed to be neither rhyme nor reason for any of the situations to take place other than to make two animated bears engage in a bit of feigned physical comedy. Generally, a hybrid of animation and live-action can create moments of hilarity and a situation of wonderment for the little ones, but this amalgamation is so awkwardly composed that from one scene to the next we are merely waiting for our live-action heroes to realise that this is not normal.

Naturally, children will find this animated caper a riot for its pure ridiculousness but it would seem that filmic laziness has persevered here as Yogi’s creators have relied so heavily on the film’s only audience being very young children, that they have neglected those who bring them. On this front, they could have taken a leaf out of Tangled’s storybook as it has been a hit with children and adults alike. It seems a little careless to neglect adults in the scripting of Yogi’s comeback, when it’s the adults who would have grown up with his short cartoons.

There is very little to grab hold of story-wise here and everything feels a little too rushed, we never truly get to know our characters whether live-action or animated despite having spent a normal amount of time in a cinema seat. It baffles me slightly what creators were thinking in bringing back a beloved character so haphazardly, surely young children are too young to be given movies which require a flick of the mental off-switch? Either way, it would seem that this year doesn’t bode well for returns, watch out Smurfs!

Here, Yogi is no longer smarter than the average bear, but then again neither are the film’s creators it would seem.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Yogi Bear
is released on 11th February 2011

Yogi Bear – Official Website

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We Love … St Valentine: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

We Love... Valentine's

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

Get a bottle of Blue Nun, splash yourself with them cheap Christmas smellies your Auntie got you for Christmas, slip on your Penny’s underwear and turn up the stereo with the sweet, sweet sound of Barry White. And hey, if you have a partner that’s an added bonus. Yes, it’s that time of year, when St. Valentine comes to town. So in his honour the film lovers here at Film Ireland present their favourite lurve-themed films.

We’ll be adding to the list in the run-up to the 14th – check it out here. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

Now let’s get it on…

 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Ciara O’Brien

When asked to write about my all-time-favourite Valentine’s Day movie, there was no doubt in my mind as to what I would choose. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may seem like an odd choice of romantic film to some, but to me there could be no better Valentine’s film. Long before Inception was a glimmer in Nolan’s eye, Michel Gondry climbed into our cerebral cortex’s and took up residence offering his viewers an offbeat love story which stands the test of time.

Kate Winslet gives, what I would say is one of her defining performances. As an audience, we are well used to seeing Winslet as the glamorous woman for whom any man would fall, but here she plays an insecure woman plagued by imperfections who has more whims than hair colours. The star of the show here is Carrey, who takes a tentative step away from comedy and plays an overly serious man, devoid of his usual physical comedy. Here is the beginning of the new Jim Carrey.

What separates Eternal Sunshine… from the barrage of silly romantic comedies starring everyone in Hollywood that we are subjected to each year is that the movie does not paint a picture of perfection in relationships, there is none of the patented happily-ever-after fairytale outcome. What we see in this movie is a skewed and cerebral version of the real-life romances which populate the world. Joel and Clementine meet by chance and fall into the kind of love which is all-consuming until the fine line between love and hate begins to blur and cracks are covered over through Joel’s fear of speaking his mind, and Clementine’s inability to do anything else.

Eternal Sunshine… reveals itself to be the ideal Valentine’s movie for all situations, Kirsten Dunst plays the a-typical young girl with a crush on her superior, whilst it appears that everyone in the world likes her, she has innocent eyes only for her boss. When her own past is uncovered, she herself becomes an important symbol of female empowerment as she makes a stand that is more effective in exploring the power of the single woman than a flash mob of Beyonces in spandex ever could.

Our romantic heroes are far from perfect, yet there is a spark that perforates the screen and the audience find themselves whole-heartedly rooting for the most dysfunctional of couples. Their imperfections however, fit like a glove. Joel’s shyness is offset by Clementine’s brash nature. By the end of the twists and turns in continuity, one thing is certain; we hope that history does not repeat itself in this instance.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an off-centre and non-linear exploration of love which through hardships and frustration has something which many Valentine’s movies do not, heart. Gondry gives us an emotionally honest exploration of relationships, an inescapable love. If that isn’t Valentine’s Day romance, I don’t know what is. So this Valentine’s Day why not take a different approach and, instead of expecting absolute perfection, take pride and joy in the imperfections we all have, and enjoy the perfection that can be found in finding someone whose imperfections fit yours.

If that’s not your bag, you can always give Dr. Mierzwiak a call and attempt to have the object of your dejection erased, although, as we see here, the mind is a fickle mistress, and absolute satisfaction is not guaranteed.

 

 

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We Love… 2010: ‘Shutter Island'

Best of 2010

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

We start 2010 by looking back at a few of our favourite films of 2010. Throughout January we’ll be adding to the list. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

Shutter Island

Ciara O’Brien

It would be easy to acknowledge that we have entered the generation of film recycling when we realise that some of our most beloved screen favourites are making a comeback, now complete with Liam Neeson. 2010 was certainly a big year for silver-screen recycling with The A-Team, Predators, and Tron: Legacy among others making an appearance in our cinema listings. Fortunately for us, in 2010, whilst this recycling habit may have felt at times like lazy filmmaking, certain films came along this year that sought to change the face of storytelling, and, when watching a film like Shutter Island, we can relax with our popcorn and enjoy the delicious understanding that 2010 was, in fact, a wonderful year for filmmaking.

Shutter Island is the film adaptation of the incredibly crafted Dennis Lehane novel of the same name. The inevitable groans escaped the throats of die-hard fans of the novel, only to be inevitable quashed by Martin Scorsese’s masterful vision. Scorsese has an uncanny talent for creating atmosphere. There is something almost Hammer-esque about the way we feel immediately uneasy before the movie even begins, before we have been introduced to our characters. We’re nervous, but we don’t quite know why. Gorgeous performances from Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, and Mark Ruffalo draw us in to a film that both irresistible and horrifically beautiful.

2010 was a big year for Leonardo DiCaprio, in which he left the memory of his days as a mere heart-throb far behind and took on some difficult roles which required heavy dedication and a suspension of sanity. Having stated that he likes characters that aren’t always what they seem, 2010 became the year in which DiCaprio became the acting epitome of these characters. Through this year’s Inception and Shutter Island, DiCaprio has proven himself to be a new breed of method actor, one whom is a joy to watch change and adapt to suit any character, although here, his accent may have been vaguely irritating, whilst the plaster on his head became a mind-boggling feat of modern engineering as it clung on for dear life. Minor irritations aside, DiCaprio is one of many reasons for Shutter Island’s appearance as one of my top films of 2010.

Shutter Island remains one of my top films of 2010 purely because it is a feast for the eyes and the brain cells which were often little stimulated in cinema seats this year. Here was a modern haunted house tale with so many twists and turns that the audience were never entirely sure where they had ended up. Shutter Island is immediately revealed as an asylum for the criminally insane, and as it looms dark in the distance, tension builds to breaking point. The outcome is never what you had expected and many theories immediately surfaced about the true meaning of the final scene. That, for this reviewer, is the mark of a great film.

Shutter Island is not merely a film, it is an experience. I genuinely don’t know how Scorsese managed to take a text to such lofty visual heights, or how he has managed to visually denote such a difficult text to such perfection, but here he has proved himself to be not only one of our most beloved directors, but also a master craftsman. Like some others, I choose to believe that he’s hiding some of his talent in those magnificent eyebrows.

Read Film Ireland’s review from March 2010

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

Santa's Night In

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

Throughout December we’ll be adding more Christmas films we love – so keep an eye on the website and feel free to add any of your own…


The Nightmare Before Christmas

Ciara O’Brien

Here were my two favourite holidays all rolled into one, and whether or not it was in fact Halloween or Christmas was irrelevant. It’s always a good time to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it’s never the wrong time to break into one of Danny Elfman’s quirky tunes. Unfortunately for my family, every Christmas, when the presents are under the tree screaming to be shaken and picked-at, they all receive a rousing rendition of ‘What’s This?!’ as I shuffle my way through them.

What sets The Nightmare Before Christmas apart from other animated classics is its characters. Burton’s vision is the fuel for the film’s fire and stop-motion veteran Henry Selick has managed to manipulate characters so vivid and effortlessly charming that they have seeped into popular culture and consciousness, popping up everywhere from popular song lyrics, to advertisements. As odd as it may seem to the first-time viewer, Jack and Sally are truly timeless characters.

What lies at the very heart of this film is an unlikely love story that is as inspiring and romantic as it is wacky, and a protagonist who craves change and desperately attempts to achieve happiness for all. His methods are misguided, his madness a certainty, but his well-meaning nature ensures that he is an instant hit with both children and parents.

This is the point at which Tim Burton’s unique style became instantly recognisable to audiences, and whilst Henry Selick is often overlooked as director, Burton’s subsequent works have positioned him as the master of the visual macabre. Here is an inspired idea taken to the very brink of imagination and back again, Halloween and Christmas could not be sociologically farther apart, and we learn here that their mixing isn’t exactly perfect, but it’s a refreshingly different look at things for the stressed out parents bemoaning the emergence of Christmas advertising on the morning of November 1st. Light-hearted but never silly, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a cinematic and artistic feat of skewed vision.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a refreshing use of the macabre for children, which never alienates adults, fashioning itself as the unexpected perfect Christmas family movie. The delight children take in what adults abject is evident in their Christmas wish lists, from dolls with various bodily functions to action figures to be dismantled in battle. Here is a film which shares in their odd delights, with just enough nods to the adult world to ensure complete enjoyment. Despite its various oddities, there is something refreshingly innocent about Halloween town and its inhabitants, that leaves us wondering who the ‘bad guys’ actually are.

Thankfully, I have since graduated to DVD, which is a lot harder to wear out. The Nightmare Before Christmas was re-released 3D in 2007, and with the showing of it in theatres each year since, the movie has seen a drastic spike in popularity. Whilst the addition of 3D was somewhat unnecessary, albeit excellently executed and doubtlessly enjoyed by children, here was a welcome return to the big screen for The Pumpkin King and his cohorts. The Nightmare Before Christmas is, for this reviewer, the perfect Christmas film to grow up with.

It’s undoubtedly not your average Christmas film, and that’s why I love it. Normal is often over-rated, and what exactly is normal about a large bearded man in a red suit breaking and entering once a year?

Oh wait, he’s got presents? Carry on fatty! Carry on!


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