Review: Kill Your Friends

kill-your-friends

DIR: Owen Harris • WRI: John Niven • PRO: Gregor Cameron • ED: Bill Smedley • DOP: Gustav Danielsson • DES: Charlotte Pearson • MUS: Junkie XL • CAST: Nicholas Hoult, Ed Skrein, James Corden

With perspective comes clarity, and history is beginning to pass judgement on the 1990s. For all its Celtic Tigers and post-Soviet strut, the last years of the second millennium are beginning to look strangely hollow, strangely drab – the fag end of an exhausted century – and those of us who grew up in England during that time have to admit that, for the most part, it was a bit crap. While our parents were nourished by the optimism of the ’60s or the passionate politics of the’ 70s, we were served up reheated banality, commodified rebellion and the vacant leer of abandoned ideals – Oasis, The Spice Girls, New Labour.

Kill Your Friends is set in the blackened heart of this cultural wasteland – specifically the 1997 music industry. Adapted from his own novel by John Niven, the action revolves around Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult), a record label scout with a weakness for cocaine, misogyny and murder. As Britpop rules the waves, Steven pursues his sole aim: to vanquish his professional competitors and become head of the company’s A&R department. A proud psychopath, success (preferably at the expense of others) is the meaning of Steven’s life and he disdains anyone who doesn’t share the same philosophy. Luckily for Steven pretty much everyone in Kill Your Friends does appear to share the same philosophy and the film presents a year in the life of this dog-eat-dog corporate music hell.

The cynicism is relentless and often viciously funny. Niven’s real life experience as an A&R man added a genuine venom to his novel, and many of his most caustic putdowns have made it into the script. Everybody’s in it for themselves and nobody escapes contempt: talentless pop wannabes, earnest indie vegans, managers, journalists, and of course that special blob of ignorance known as ‘the public’. It’s an endurance test of misanthropy, but the script zings with bitterness and there’s something almost admirable in the way the film extinguishes any spark of empathy, humanity or hope.

Kill Your Friends will inevitably be compared to American Psycho, and there are also shades of Trainspotting and Fight Club. Unfortunately those comparisons don’t do the film any favours. All three rise above this offering because they more effectively explore the dark neuroses that lie behind each era’s shiny happy face. While Patrick Bateman’s nihilism can be seen as a perverse rebellion against amoral ’80s materialism, it’s hard to see Steven Stelfox as representing anything other than squalid, vitriolic nastiness.

The result is a shortage of satirical spice. The film starts and ends with images of a grinning Tony Blair – billboards hanging ominously on the edge of shot – but it’s a stretch to view Kill Your Friends as any kind of attack on ’90s superficiality or the betrayals of Blairism. Instead, director Owen Harris seems happy to limit the film’s bile to its primary subject – the malignant narcissism of the pop music world. Perhaps this is a product of Niven’s script, which doesn’t stray too far from the source novel, but a more interesting approach to its fin de siècle setting would’ve been nice. Stock footage and ’90s anthems are all well and good, but the film misses the opportunity to join a few cultural dots.

Having said that, Kill Your Friends is sharp, entertaining and watchable. Thirty-somethings will bask in the soundtrack and musical references, and the film is fun for a while. In the end though, a bit like Britpop itself, everything becomes slightly repetitive, with a nagging lack of originality and depth.

Gareth Thornton

18
103 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Kill Your Friends is released 6th November 2015

 

 

 

Share

Irish Film Review: Brooklyn

e4a39c4b-5d50-4a63-9ccb-b037673e6e23-620x372

DIR: John Crowley • WRI: Nick Hornby • PRO: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey • ED: Mick Mahon • DOP: Yves Bélanger • ED: Jake Roberts • MUS: Michael Brook • CAST: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Michael Zegen

Home is where the heart is for Enniscorthy girl Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) but when she leaves Wexford to nurture a new life in New York her heart is split in two when a burgeoning romance and family ties clash in director John Crowley’s period drama Brooklyn, based on Colm Tóibin’s novel of the same name.

In 1950s Ireland, Ellis is sent across the big blue at the behest of her mother and older sister Rose to accept work proffered by family friend and Catholic priest Fr. Flood who also promises to set her up during her stay. Ellis is a mousy young woman who cuts a meagre figure on the Brooklyn bound ferry, a fish out of water floundering above and below deck with constant anxiety and seasickness. It’s not long before her travel savvy cabin mate takes pity and instructs her in everything from how to effectively negotiate shared toilet privileges on the boat to how she should present herself in the big city. When she applies lipstick to Ellis’s lithe lips we glimpse the woman she may well become after the life-changing year ahead of her.

On dry land Ellis practises, as advised, to think like an American, to walk with a purpose and to look like she knows where she’s going. Despite her obvious diffidence she pulls off the façade despite not knowing where she is going or what Brooklyn has in store for her.

Ronan inhabits the role of the naïve Ellis with aplomb and seemingly grows in stature as the narrative unfolds, like a flower opening towards the sun scene by scene. The New York of the 1950s is a little too polished in places but the detail certainly lends to the proceedings. What sticks out like a sore thumb, however, are the expressionistic flourishes that belie the understated style of the film’s source material. For example the moment Ellis crosses the threshold into the unknown is personified as a doorway awash with blinding white light that leads from the passport office to her new homestead, the entrance of which is accentuated in gratuitous slow motion. These moments, thankfully few and far between, are distracting and superfluous in an otherwise faultless set-up.

When she’s not struggling to make small talk with the fast-talking, fast-living Americans at her work in a high-end department store, Ellis passes her time slinking away from the meal time gossip fuelled by the boarding house matriarch Mrs Kehoe (Julie Walters) and her yappy tenants. These comedic interludes are a welcome diversion from the main narrative seeking to highlight the sensibilities of the time with particular gusto from the players especially Cavan girl Dolores (Jenn Murray) whose skittish deer-in-the-headlights performance threatens to steal the show.

The show is a romantic one after all so before Ellis can buckle under the weight of her homesickness she meets the dark and daring Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen) on the lookout for Irish girls at the local ceili. The courtship that follows is suitably “aw” inducing and full of first-love festivity but once again the real delights are served around the dinner table when Ellis is introduced to Tony’s family only to be scrutinised by younger brother Frankie who’s intent upon saying the wrong thing with impeccable comic timing.

Just as everything appears to be going swimmingly (in a fetching green swimsuit no less) news from back home threatens to upset all hopes of a happy ever after. Ellis returns to Wexford the talk of the town all grown up and glamorous looking for an unfortunate visit but a new job prospect, familial duty and the advances of a convenient catch add up to what could become a permanent stay if her friends and family have their way. The tension of this quietly chaotic conundrum, were everyone seems to know Ellis’s next step before she does, elevates the conventional drama. She keeps Tony a secret and when local boy Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson) enters the fray promising a comfortable life Ellis is forced to follow her heart to find her true home.

Brooklyn may capture the hearts and minds of its audience as its age-old story is lovingly crafted but its overt concern with glorifying the past in copious studio light and overwrought musical accompaniment downgrades the experience somewhat. Crowley guides us through the narrative with precision but it’s a performance-driven film and the ensemble cast, especially the chemistry between Ronan and Cohen, deserve any and all accolade.

Anthony Assad

12A

111 minutes

Brooklyn is released 6th November 2015

Brooklyn – Official Website

 

 

Share

Review: Taxi Tehran

201511112_5

DIR/WRI/PRO/DOP/ED: Jafar Panahi

 

One of the most evocative features of Jafar Panahi’s Taxi Tehran is the director’s unruffled smile, which rarely falters as he drives (badly) around the streets of Tehran in a taxi. As a filmmaker, who is banned from making films or travelling outside his native country for making anti-government propaganda, Panahi’s smile evaluates the irony of his demoted employment to freely meander through the streets of Tehran and the confinement of his profession, where surreptitious cameras on a dashboard, in defiance of his sentence, symbolically capture the absurdity and reality of his situation. Following on from This Is not a Film and Closed Curtain, which were both shot in the relative safety of interior houses, Taxi Tehran, an eighty-odd minute, documentary-like style film, becomes more than another flagrant touting of the ban, it is representative of a wider confinement engulfing Iranian culture through its potent cultural and political restrictions, where each act of defiance, could signify the very last act of defiance.

As a former assistant to Kiarostami, a specialist of the chattering-and-driving trope, Taxi Tehran draws comparisons with his mentor’s Ten, also composed of a series of elliptical vignettes, in which a succession of conversations with the driver, express religious and political views, condensed into an intoxicating portrait of contemporary Iranian culture. Touching on wide variety of themes from a humanist perspective, old meets new and traditionalism meets modernity to illustrate the complexities and contradictions engulfing Iranian life. Panahi’s nuanced portrait rouses an eclectic mix of characters who penetrate the taxi’s interior with their chaotic urban bustle, ranging from the entertaining to the mundane, who either animate or puncture the driver’s mood through their philosophical discourses, creating an antagonism between the love and revolt for a culture that both suffocates and inspires through its contradictory repressive regime.

Restricted on the outside, the interior of a taxi now becomes the vehicle whereby passengers can exchange impassioned views on contentious topics, to which many citizens have become desensitized. Assuming the role of confidante, councellor and advisor, Panahi listens to discussions within the confinement of a taxi, inviting an ironic sense of surveillance and voyeurism both as passengers and as a filmmaker. Overhearing impassioned conversations on execution and human rights, meeting a black market DVD seller who recognizes Panahi, two superstitious elderly women who must take their goldfish to a spring by noon or they will die and a dying husband who insists Panahi films his final testament so his wife will inherit his money, evoke both a circumspective and openness to a culture that serves as a commentary on the similarities within the human condition and the continuation cultural oppression within Iran itself.

But as is common in Iranian cinema, it is through the eyes and mind of children that the most thought-provoking content about contemporary culture emerges. Panahi’s final passenger, his niece, lectures him on the tenants of Iranian filmmaking and the avoidance of ‘sordid realism’, as dictated by the autocratic regime, inviting reflection upon the relationship between cinema and culture, the director and the censorial theists of the Islamic republic and female oppression, the liberation the filmmaker’s niece now experiences to be cut short as she matures, a notion that sees Panahi’s smile fade.

Renowned Iranian cinema scholar Hamid Dabashi has been critical of Panahi’s three covert films, claiming that his flagrant defiance of the filmmaking ban has seen the director lose some of the sharp, social impact that informed his earlier films. While there is a sense that, as with Makmahlbaf and Kiarostami’s ‘Westernisation’ of their later work, the same political and cultural agenda that motivated an alternative type of freedom or oppression can create complacency in its social impact. While Panahi’s film is littered with recurring themes and style synonymous with Iranian cinema and does not approach his third circumspect film with any novel agenda, it is the narrative of continuation that becomes the its most potent message and arguably the most engaging of his three post-sentence films. He may have moved outside to the relative the freedom of the streets, however the continuation of the same oppressive narrative persists and he is going to still defy it.

                                                                                                                              Dee O’Donoghue

82 minutes

Taxi Tehran is released 30th October 2015

Taxi Tehran – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Review: They Will Have to Kill Us First

theywillhavetokill

DIR: Johanna Schwartz • PRO: Kat Amara Korba, Sarah Mosses, Johanna Schwartz, Andre Singer • DOP: Karelle Walker • ED: Andrea Carnevali, Guy Creasey • MUS: Carmen Montanez Callan, Nick Zinner • CAST: Khaira Arby, Moussa Sidi, Fadimata ‘Disco’ Walet Oumar, Oumar Toure Aliou Toure, Garba Toure, Nathanael Dembele

 

In 2012, after a coup in the capital Bamako, an alliance between jihadists and local Touareg militia, the MNLA, took over the northern half of Mali. Once control of the region was taken, the MNLA soon found out the jihadis had much more planned that what they had agreed upon. Like their counterparts in Syria are doing at the moment, they destroyed many ancient treasures and imposed their usual brand and limb-chopping Islamic law.

But perhaps the most soul-destroying part of their new reign was their ban on music. All of it. They Will Have to Kill Us First, a new documentary from director Johanna Schwartz, follows the lives of some of northern Mali’s musicians as they continue to do what they love in the country’s slightly calmer south or in neighbouring Burkina Faso.

This could easily have been a film about refugees wallowing and crying for lost days and lost times. And if it had been, nobody would’ve blamed the musicians or the filmmakers. But what it shows instead is people in action. And much credit must be given for this because it makes the film shine. The musicians are trying to do what they can to help their country recover. That recovery will take more than music but if bullets have the power to stop people, the musicians seems to think music may be a way of getting those left moving again.

Fadimata ‘Disco’ Walet Oumar, a lively and determined woman whose husband was originally a leader in the MNLA, is filmed in a refugee camp in Burkina Faso leading others there in song. She says what she thought when she decided to leave Mali, “I sing, I talk, it may cause me problems.” It is the same kind of chin-up and out attitude that all those in the film have.

The cinematography shows the ruins of the country’s troubles but far more often focuses on the life and vibrancy left in the people and their cities. Some of the most enjoyable parts of the film are just shots of ordinary Malians smiling while dancing to music.

Four young refugees from the north formed a band when they met as refugees in Bamako. And while the jihadis ride around in pickups trucks carrying machine guns, they ride on motorbikes carrying guitars. They are Songhoy Blues, maybe the most talented artists in the film.

They are four intelligent and expressive young men who are on a mission to help solve some of their country’s problems. They sit on the banks of a river composing a song asking the Malian diaspora to return home to help rebuild their country. They intensely workout chords and debate lyrics until after the sun goes down and they realise the camera crew probably isn’t safe where they are after dark.

They say they “went to war” when making their first record, Music in Exile, and the film follows the lads as they go to the UK to tour and at their gig supporting Damon Albarn of Blur.

Khaira Arby, who seems to be northern Mali’s answer to Aretha Franklin speaks throughout the film of wanting to return to Timbuktu to put on a concert there. The filmmakers follow her as she contacts other musicians trying to make the dream a reality.

The film shows the vibrancy of the country without ignoring the misery. One thing all the musicians share is resilience. It’s a great story from an ignored part of the world. The jihadis may fly the black flag but that doesn’t mean these musicians have any intention of flying the white one.

Colm Quinn

100 minutes

They Will Have to Kill Us First is released 30th October 2015

They Will Have to Kill Us First –  Official Website

 

 

 

Share

Review: Listen to Me Marlon

eNoqVAK

DIR: Stevan Riley • WRI: Stevan Riley, Peter Ettedgui • PRO: John Battsek, Helen Bennitt, George Chignell, R.J. Cutler • DOP: Ole Bratt Birkeland • ED: Stevan Riley • DES: Kristian Milsted •  CAST: Marlon Brando

 

Award-winning British filmmaker and Oxford history graduate, Stevan Riley has combed through thousands of hours of the self-taped musings of actor Marlon Brando and combined them with studio archive footage and stunning portrait photography to create an engaging and intimate portrait of one of Hollywood’s greatest acting legends. From the outset, we are brought on a journey through Marlon Brando’s life with the actor himself speaking about his experience and craft, often in the third person.

Interspersed with film footage, tons of photography and news reports of the later tragedies that occurred in the actor’s personal life, the use of Brando’s own voice throughout is powerful and revelatory. A digitized image of Brando’s face speaking, opens the film and this device is effectively returned to throughout the documentary. Brando speaking the lines of Macbeth’s “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, mirrors the actor’s love-hate relationship with the business he chose. He refers to the illusion of success and how he can’t stand it, how it “removes you from reality”. He reflects upon his early days and refers to himself as some sort of confused “mechanical doll” who “felt inadequate because he didn’t have enough education.”

We learn that Group Theatre actor and teacher Stella Adler had a huge impact on his career in the early days in New York and even took him into her home telling him, “Not to worry, that the world would be hearing from him.”  Thus, in 1954, Brando became the youngest ever actor to receive an Academy Award for his portrayal of Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront.

Brando speaks about the mythical nature of film, of its power of escape. He maintains that the audience makes the film. The audience is actually doing the acting. The audience wants to have been the “contender” and wants to “have been someone” and feels like the failure too sitting there watching the lighted characters flickering on screen in the dark auditorium. He posits that films allow the audience to play out their fantasies – to kiss the beautiful woman, to beat down the aggressors, to be the hero, to flee from their fears and escape reality briefly.

As a child, Brando would cut lawns and collect bottles to gather together 10 cents to go to the weekly movie. Those hours were a magical escape from the roughness of his father and his poetic mother who was also the town drunk. The pain of his own life fuelled some of his roles. He explains that the actor must bring some truth of himself to each moment but that some roles are closer to the actor’s real life. Brando hovers between having an obsessive love for the craft of acting to a deep hatred of the business. At one point he tells an interviewer, “there is no such thing as a great movie, it’s all money, it’s all bullshit”, and for periods in his life he quits acting altogether in favor of activist work in the civil rights movement and regularly spoke out about the plight of the American Indian and America’s lack of honesty with its own history.

In March, 1973, Native American Indian, Sacheen Littlefeather accepted his Oscar for Vito Corleone in The Godfather on his behalf. Political to the end and careful to choose meaningful work when he could, he also possessed a good sense of humour.  His searing honesty about some of the acting choices he’d made in the fallow years are entertaining, especially his references to Candy, the worst movie he ever made. He says he inherited his sense of the absurd from his mother, who herself was an actress. Despite her alcoholism, he was devoted to her, unlike his father who sent him away to military school against his wishes. It was up in the library there, lonely and dejected he’d thumb through copies of National Geographic magazine where he developed his fascination for Tahiti. He would finally visit there one day when he famously turned down the opportunity to star as Laurence of Arabia in favour of starring as Fletcher Christian in Mutiny On The Bounty, which was filmed on location in Tahiti. He speaks of the natural unmanaged faces of the island people comparing their lack of manufacture. He opines that the white man “lives the nightmare of the want of things.”

Famous for being a reclusive, he bought his own Tahitian island but maintained that rather than seeing himself as an owner, he paid money for the privilege of visiting and spending time with these wonderful natives. Brando’s musings are those of a deep thinker who struggled with his demons and this documentary, with a nod of respect to Marlon Brando’s fierce sense of privacy, tastefully touches upon and manages to illuminate subtly the tragedies that befell his family life.

This is a rare view into the life and mind of one of the gems of Western theatre and film.  From his electrifying performance as the brutish Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire, right up to his hulking, ominous portrayal of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, we are talked through the ups and downs of his life’s work. It is original and spellbinding for its intimacy as we get a posthumous narration of sorts from the actor himself. A must see for Marlon Brando fans or those interested in an insight into the acting life and the price celebrities often pay for success.

Amy Redmond

15A (see IFCO for details)

102 minutes

Listen to Me Marlon is released 30th October 2015

Listen to Me Marlon –  Official Website

 

 

 

Share

Review: The Legend of Longwood

1434416447_2

 

DIR: Lisa Mulcahy • WRI: Nadadja Kemper, Lisa Mulcahy, Gwen Eckhaus • PRO: Michael Garland, Nadadja Kemper, Paul Myler, Rob Vermeulen • DOP: Richard Van Oosterhout • ED: Gráinne Gavigan • MUS: Patrick Neil Doyle • DES: Diana van de Vossenberg • CAST: Lucy Morton, Lorcan Bonner, Fiona Glascott, Thekla Reuten, Brendan Conroy, Lorcan Cranitch, Séan Mahon

 

Best known for directing critically acclaimed television dramas such as The Clinic and Red Rock, Irish director Lisa Mulcahy’s second full-length feature film is the children’s fantasy quest The Legend of Longwood. This coming-of-age adventure follows twelve-year old, horse-mad Mickey Miller, whose life is turned upside-down when her horse dies and her mother uproots the family from New York to an eerie backwater in Ireland. Struggling to adjust, Mickey begins to see sinister apparitions linked to the local legend of a mysterious Black Knight, who has been tormenting the village for three hundred years. She soon discovers the legend, a nasty witch called Caitlin and seven precious horses are all connected back to her and she holds the key to unlocking the secret, redeeming the knight and restoring harmony to the village.

Set amidst vast rolling landscapes seeped in majestic mountains, lush hillsides and mystical moors, the Legend of Longwood provides both a beguiling and foreboding platform from which to spring the magical fantasy and supernatural intrigue the mythical legend evokes. While the cinematography is suitably enchanting, lending well to the menace of ill-omened knights, blazing fires, unexplained deaths and imposing castles, the adventure quest narrative fails to commensurate with the tone and mood established by the film’s polychromatic portrait, largely owing to a transparent imbalance within the script. Fusing a mysterious mythological tale with a contemporary fable of greed and deception, to which a young, fearless heroine must overcome adversity to restore order, is always a good starting point in the fantasy quest genre. The problem within the narrative is that despite some impressive performances, the film is just a little too short on mystery or fantasy and stripped of these crucial narrative elements, very little else remains.

Structured upon two narrative strands, whereby a plucky heroine attempts to thwart the dastardly deeds of the wicked witch while attempting to solve a supernatural riddle, should interweave to consolidate a coherent core narrative driven by the heroine’s transformation as she faces many adversities. The script however, fails to affect such a balance and the narrative takes a wild detour away from the mysterious paranormal quest into the realms of comedy and farce as the witch’s sneaky shenanigans gain momentum, engulfing the entire narrative. As such, the story now meanders from the spellbinding promise of mythological adventure to hoodwinking an incompetent castle lord, devaluing the film’s fantastical elements and losing much of the mystical weight the quest should be seeped in. The real adventure now lies with Caitlin’s cunning strategies, Mickey’s fantastical exploits becoming mere afterthoughts, peppered at random around the witch’s sadistic schemes.

Aside from the standout performances from Fiona Glascott as the calculating shrew (also currently starring in John Crowley’s Brooklyn) and Lorcan Cranitch as her partner in crime, the rest of the cast underwhelm and fail to penetrate the limitations of a script evidently burdened with too many screenwriters. Far too many characters, surplus to requirements, add to the uncertainty of the script’s direction and problematic storytelling, lacking any sense of cohesion between the cast. Seán Mahon as the hoodwinked lord, through no fault of his own, is wholly ineffectual, providing no foil to his fiancée’s plot and is representative of the many of the impotent supporting characters who dot the narrative but pose no serious threat to Mickey, depreciating her status as a heroine and situating her as a rather unidentifiable character.

With so many quest films oversaturating the market, The Legend of Longwood is unsuccessful in delivering a narrative that satisfies the crucial components of any fantasy adventure film. Without a high level of mystical intrigue and unnerving eeriness fuelling the story, the plot fails to ignite on a level that would allow for audience investment and identification. As such, the heroine’s anaemic transformation and spiritless adventures, devoid of emotional punch, merely trundle forward at a lackluster pace, lacking the robustness required to hold the attention of sophisticated audiences of the genre, both adults and children alike. Without a substantial heroine driving the narrative, in a plot that is too light on fantasy and mystery, The Legend of Longwood fails to make much impact, despite its captivating façade and unfortunately the film becomes just another forgettable adventure quest drama.

                                                                                                                                       Dee O’Donoghue

PG (See IFCO for details)

99 minutes

The Legend of Longwood is released 23rd October 2015

The Legend of Longwood Official Website

 

 

 

Share

Review: Spectre

main

DIR: Sam Mendes • WRI: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth • PRO: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson • DOP: Hoyte Van Hoytema • ED: Lee Smith • DES: Dennis Gassner • MUS: Thomas Newman • CAST: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes

Well, here we are. Probably one of the most anticipated Bond movies of all time and likely the most hyped, non-Disney film of the year. Not to mention our first full look at how the producers’ experiment to Marvel-ise the Bond franchise has panned out.

After taking some ‘personal time’ in Mexico, Bond (Craig) is not in M’s (Fiennes) good books; Bond’s actions aren’t reflecting well on a Double-O section that’s already facing opposition from MI-5 in the form of Denbigh (Scott). Grounded until further notice, Bond enlists the help of Moneypenny (Harris) and Q (Whishaw) to go rogue and finish the mission he started in Mexico. Following some vague (and plot-hole-riddled-but-don’t-question-it) clues Bond finds himself on the trail of Oberhauser (Waltz). As the true scale of Oberhauser’s organisation becomes clear in the form of SPECTRE, a large and troubling picture comes into view with grave ramifications for not only global safety but for Bond personally as he finds himself caught in a web of events that stretches all the way back through his previous adventures and right back to his origins both as a character and within the Craig-era films on the whole.

This film has a bit of an identity crisis. And by extension so does this (very fanboy centric) opinion of it. On the one hand you have a film that’s trying very hard to show you it belongs in the same club as the classic entries in the series; be it the humour, gadgets, locations or villains. But on the other hand is trying with admirable determination to cement the idea of the entire Craig-era being one long, elaborate continuity. A task it succeeds too well at, to a detrimental degree. (By so convincingly pretending this was all planned out in advance, they’ve undermined various characters and plot points in previous movies and likely created a nightmarish miasma of plot holes.) So filled with homages is the film that any self-respecting Bond fan owes it to themselves to go see this yet the actual cinemagoer aspect of one’s brain can’t ignore how obnoxiously overlong and utterly devoid of pacing it is. (For comparison, Casino Royale is only five or so minutes shorter than this, yet this feels like it easily veers toward Lord of the Rings length and Dark Knight Rises levels of poor pacing.) This is to say nothing of the fact that the shoehorned-in destiny that this version of the Bond-verse is now saddled with will likely irritate longtime fans as much as seeing the return of familiar elements will delight them.

It is a pity that the only major complaint one can level at this as a film is the pacing/length issue because otherwise this hits practically every mark in terms of being both a great action-adventure-spy movie and a great Bond movie. This is one of the finest casts this series has ever assembled and they’re all great (your Waltz milage may vary and Andrew Scott is merely decent but otherwise, superb) and more importantly they all get a lot of screen time. Additionally, the locations are all gorgeously shot and visually diverse, while the action set-pieces are impeccably staged and suitably inventive. Yet the pacing issue works against every one of those positives. Welcome as the increased screen time for M, Moneypenny, Q, et al is, it comes at the expense of grinding to a halt an already sluggish A-plot and in some cases kills the pacing of an action scene (great car chase, fun Moneypenny-at-home scene; terrible as one sequence), and that’s when the film isn’t just arbitrarily ruining more singularly focused scenes. Skyfall’s pre-titles sequence stands out as one of the series’ finest and most action packed yet despite upping both the scale and ambition, SPECTRE’s keeps needlessly stopping and starting to a maddening degree. If ever there was an argument for the merits of why deleted scenes should stay deleted or how necessary a merciless Harvey Weinstein figure can be in the editing room, it’s this movie.

All this would be more acceptable if it was in service of something and while there are interesting ideas brought up in terms of both political commentary and franchise deconstruction (hell, even the title sequence brings up interesting notions of reversing the usual objectification/vulnerability dynamic), yet all of these are given comparatively little screen time. A solid half an hour of this film could go; the humour could be punchier, the dead air in conversations could be minimised, the action scenes could be much more breathlessly edited and the film on the whole would stand much stronger. Make no mistake this is far from a bad movie and very far from a bad Bond movie. This is absolutely worth seeing but the disappointment in the final result is an unfortunately niggling aftertaste.

Hardcore Bond fans might ultimately be a little annoyed and average filmgoers might be a little bored but this is still every bit the grandiose spectacle we were promised. Mendes has continued to push the line of what we consider a Bond movie and Thomas Newman’s score feels much more comfortable this time around; teasingly experimental while retaining familiar elements and with more inclusion of the Bond theme than we’ve had since the Brosnan era. The level of bombast has only grown, Craig continues to be unable to put a foot wrong and this has one of the boldest endings in the franchise’s history. If after fifty-three years, this series can still put a smile on this jaded cynic’s face and still leave you wondering what the ending means for how the franchise may evolve, someone somewhere is doing something right.

Richard Drumm


12A (see IFCO for details)

147 minutes

Spectre is released 22nd October 2015

Spectre –  Official Website

 

Share

Review: The Program

program

DIR: Stephen Frears • WRI: John Hodge • PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Tracey Seaward, Kate Solomon • DOP: Danny Cohen • ED: Valerio Bonelli • MUS: Alex Heffes • DES: Alan MacDonald • CAST: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Stapleton, Jesse Plemons, Guillaume Canet

 

Despite years of persistent allegations and categorical denials of taking performance-enhancing drugs, when the US Anti-Doping Agency in 2012 found that Lance Armstrong’s career was not only punctuated by drug use but that he was also the mastermind behind one of the most systematic doping programmes cycling had ever seen, it hardly sent shockwaves throughout the sporting world. For his most ardent fans, however, it was the tangled web of deceit, woven on the back of a seemingly insurmountable battle with cancer to win the Tour de France seven consecutive times, that was the ultimate betrayal. Acclaimed filmmaker Alex Gibney laid bare such perennial cat-and-mouse games between the media and the ignominious cyclist in his fly-on-the-wall documentary The Armstrong Lie in 2013, which not only challenged audiences’ perception of honesty but also ruffled Gibney’s own objectives in uncovering the ultimate truth, such was the conviction of the fabulist’s own sympathetic narrative.

British director Stephen Frears’ dramatization The Program, is not a fictional recounting of Gibney’s documentary but is rather an adaptation from David Walsh’s book, Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, the myth-busting sports journalist who spent years trailing the untouchable myth-maker of cycling. Starring Ben Foster as the mercurial champion and Chris O’Dowd as the Irish crusading newshound, Frears’ bio-drama delves into one of the most professionally orchestrated doping programmes in sport, which for almost two decades seemingly hoodwinked the UCI, the media and a legion of fans to allow Armstrong to become one of the greatest cyclists of the twentieth century.

Structuring the narrative around the intricate operations of the doping racket, which began with Armstrong’s first 1999 Tour win to his public fall from grace in 2009, The Program races through the cyclist’s biography at a thumping, cyclonic rate. Charging through his early formative years, from an unknown but cocksure competitor to a testicular cancer diagnosis that should have halted his obdurate ambition but led to an unrivalled golden age of victory, until a restless retirement and doomed comeback exposed the extensive use of performance-enhancing drugs. Executing the hyperactivity of a whirlwind career blighted by controversy and suspicion, The Program pulsates with furious pace, explosive energy and a razor-sharp visual style. Mirroring the real-life saga itself, the film’s intensity, evoked through a seductively luminous aesthetic, on the one hand gleams with the electrifying heat of inexorable bravado, while unpredictable, obscure camera angles jerk from a ferociously fidgety lens with a tour de force that shatters the mood, abruptly suspending the narrative in a directionless, disconcerting limbo.

If Gibney stands accused of becoming too emotionally embroiled in the complexity of Armstrong’s sophisms resulting in a somewhat tangled narrative, Frears has no such qualms in keeping a safe emotional distance, allowing the absurdity of the Armstrong character to unfold in accordance with the prevailing mythology constructed by the man himself. Refraining from judgment, not even through the moral compass of nemesis David Walsh, disappointingly played by a miscast Chris O’Dowd, who never appears hungry enough in catching his man, Frears is fully cognizant of the potency of the Armstrong myth, never allowing fiction to blur fact, when the facts themselves are potent enough. With the benefit of hindsight through Armstrong’s public confession, Foster relishes in the creation of a calculating, superhuman monster, avoiding any descent into caricature, simply because he does not need to, his compulsive, full-bodied performance interchangeable with the real-life construction of a man so familiar to audiences through his own manipulation of the media.

Although the film honours the chronology of the doping programme, the ‘EPG generation’, and Italian physician Michele Ferrari’s pivotal role in the scheme, it is the ambitious arrogance without compunction with which Armstrong perpetuated the myth, in full awareness of his role as a cancer survivor, champion and cultural icon, which ultimately defines the cyclist’s narrative. Foster paints an unambiguous, one-dimensional portrait, eliminating any sympathetic characteristics Gibney may have perceived, to illustrate a deeply calculating and smugly charming man, whose overriding fear of failure motivated a ruthless modus operandi of recurring lawsuits, silencing his detractors for almost two decades. Foster’s portrayal becomes so destructive and poisoned because Frears perceives Armstrong’s egotistical actions were destructive and poisoned, his manipulative tactics in competitive sport no different to his strategy in gaining public sympathy and support for his charitable work. Gibney’s flawed hero has now become Frears’ shameless and disingenuous anti-hero, moving from empathy to disgust and it is the audience who feel the most uncomfortable.

While Gibney’s attempts to unearth the truth behind the lies still evoked sympathy towards the fallen champion, Frears’ film serves as a reminder to its audience of its own flaws, taunting those who perpetuated the myth through an obsession with the cult of celebrity. Frears implies the Armstrong myth endured because those who deified the fraudster allowed it to do so. Foster’s performance is so compelling because in its entire monstrosity, it touches a raw nerve, not only exposing the feebleness of the man but more particularly, the feebleness of those who championed him. Frears points the finger as much at a gushing audience as he does at the make-up of a highly flawed man, the irony not lost that his mythical 2009 comeback came on the back of such highly-charged adoration as much as ego, ultimately leading to his final downfall.

Those familiar with Gibney’s documentary may be slightly disappointed that Frears does not take any new perspective into the prevailing Armstrong narrative nor offer fresh insight into the psyche of the man behind the painstakingly moulded mask. His complicated personal relationships remain closely guarded and The Program instead is about culture’s love affair with celebrity as much as it is about Lance Armstrong’s love affair with himself and success. The film doesn’t romanticise, condemn or exaggerate the mythical hero for dramatic purposes but rather aims to expose a truth, which Gibney could not quite infiltrate. Thanks to Armstrong’s manipulation of the media, he himself has constructed the brutal and ugly portrayal that Foster assumes in The Program. There is no room for compassion towards the truculent cyclist, who used his battle with illness to deceive the integrity of competitive sports and particularly the integrity of adoring fans, whose faith in Armstrong’s successes should have been a source of inspiration but instead has left them feeling exceptionally cheated and fundamentally flawed themselves.

Dee O’Donoghue

 

15A (See IFCO for details)

 103 minutes

The Program is released 16th October 2015

The Program – Official Website

 

Share

Irish Film Review: The Queen of Ireland

000b2817-630

DIR: Conor Horgan • WRI: Conor Horgan, Philip McMahon • ED: Mick Mahon • CAST: Panti Bliss

Drag queens, echoing the essentially political role of court jesters of old, comment on society – sometimes flamboyantly and hilariously – from their place on the fringe. Pandora ‘Panti’ Bliss is Ireland’s most famous drag queen, thrown into the international limelight by the shameful behaviour of extremist conservatives and our national broadcaster, and propelled to centre stage in the campaign for Marriage Equality. There is, however, more to Rory O’Neill and Panti, his loud and proud creation – and considering the further elevation of Panti to almost mythic proportions in recent times, a documentary five years in the making couldn’t be more welcome. They say never meet your heroes, but The Queen of Ireland belies this adage, intimately introducing us to the story behind the legend.

Conor Horgan began filming his friend Rory O’Neill in 2010, following the professional life of a successful pub owner, stage artist and drag queen, while also uncovering the deeply personal life of the man behind the heels. As the cameras were rolling long before ‘Pantigate’, the film explores the many facets of Rory’s life, including his background and creative advancement, before alighting on recent defining moments. The narrative arc therefore has a much warmer touch – no doubt due to the trust Rory felt in Conor’s ability to bring his story to life – and manages to blend the personal and political seamlessly, and without contradiction. From his beginnings in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo to the Japanese club scene, return to Ireland in the 1990s, and on to his stratospheric burst onto the world stage, the camera is a constant companion – and it is a testament to director Conor Horgan and editor Mick Mahon’s capable self-control that the running time is kept to a neat 82 minutes.

Interspersing footage with an impressive line-up of talking heads, Rory’s influence and influences can be seen in his collaborations over the years. We relive Panti’s naissance on Tokyo stages as CandiPanti with Angelo Pitillo, hosting the Alternative Miss Ireland (‘Gay Christmas’) pageant in Dublin to fundraise for HIV/AIDS charities, stage productions with Philip McMahon, and Panti’s present incarnation as pub landlady of Capel Street’s flagship establishment, Pantibar. Throughout the film, we work towards the unignorably present Pantigate situation, the result of which was perhaps the exact opposite intention of the instigators. Panti’s position as “accidental and occasional gay rights activist” – as she called herself in 2014’s amazing ‘Noble Call’ on the Abbey Stage – was cemented by these events, and the video of her onstage in our national theatre became a worldwide sensation. By taking a potentially devastating situation and turning it on its head, Panti simultaneously called out the oppressiveness of a homophobic society while entreating us to become aware of it. The conversation about Marriage Equality was thus begun a full year before the referendum was due to take place.

There are, of course, colourfully ecstatic moments in Dublin Castle as the Yes vote carries through, a memento of our recent national celebration of love and hopefulness for a more inclusive society. It’s difficult not to feel emotional watching the joy unfold onscreen as Panti strolls through the crowds, and her amazing ability to move people to laughter even while our eyes fill with tears is a heartening reminder of her skill as a consummate entertainer.

Despite being gifted such an amazing narrative direction with Pantigate and the Equality vote, Conor’s film manages to be a much more touching and personal piece than these world-famous events might imply. As much as interviewees like David Norris, Niall Sweeney, Una Mullally and Tonie Walsh talk about Panti’s fame, they also speak about the erudite intelligence of Rory, who brings such humanity and thoughtfulness to his creation. Two sides of the same coin, we are introduced to a complex figure who exists on many levels, but leave the cinema feeling as though we’re a bit closer to knowing the person. A glorious testament to a national treasure, The Queen of Ireland is a documentary that needed to exist, and that it comes to our screens so perfectly formed is down to hard work, wonderful collaborators, supportive family members and the essential brilliance of Panti Bliss.

Long live the Queen!

Sarah Griffin

15A (see IFCO for details)

82 minutes

The Queen of Ireland is released 23rd October 2015

 

Share

Review: Crimson Peak

crimson-2

DIR: Guillermo del Toro • WRI: Guillermo del Toro • Matthew Robbins • PRO: Guillermo del Toro, Callum Greene, Jon Jashni, Thomas Tull • DOP: Dan Laustsen • ED: Bernat Vilaplana • DES: Thomas E. Sanders • MUS: Fernando Velázquez • CAST: Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston

 

Poor Guillermo del Toro, he really hasn’t been able to catch a break of late. If it’s not his long-gestating At the Mountains of Madness being forever passed on, or Hellboy 3 looking less and less likely each year, it’s his Justice League Dark script being the only property not currently in development at DC and Konami (obligatory #FucKonami to all you Jim Sterling fans out there) abruptly cancelling his very promising-looking Silent Hills. Even the all-but-guaranteed Pacific Rim 2 seems to have quietly died. So it’s nice to see a clear passion project like Crimson Peak make it to the big screen on a sizeable budget, with a great cast and a mature age rating.

Edith (Wasikowska) is an aspiring novelist and heir to a not insubstantial estate. She can also see ghosts. One day the effortlessly charming Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) arrives for a meeting with her father and wastes no time in inducing some swooning. After a whirlwind romance and a violent tragedy, Edith and Thomas are wed and return to his native England to live in his family estate with his reserved and unsettling sister Lucille (Chastain). The estate in question is the textbook definition of beautiful decay; an impossibly large and decrepit country manor with a gargantuan hole in the roof and the clay mines below trying to reclaim it for the earth. Aside from an icy reception from Lucille, things seem to be going well for Edith until the ghosts start screaming at her in the middle of the night. As Edith grows mysteriously ill and the ghost encounters grow more intense, can Edith discover what the mystery that lies at the heart of the Sharpe estate is?

In the broadest terms, Crimson Peak could be pretty comfortably described as a more visually sumptuous but significantly less subtle Penny Dreadful (indeed, if it turns out that Eva Green was at some point in the running for Chastain’s role, it would be far from surprising). The directing, the cinematography, art direction, set and costume design etc. are all unassailable in their quality and in their success at creating and immersing you in the sweeping unreality of this heightened Gothic world. The performances too, mainly Hiddleston and Chastain, do an excellent job of grounding the story (on an emotional level) in a believable world. Wasikowska is her usual dependable self but doesn’t quite rise to the other two leads’ level. The supporting cast are more of a mixed bag, especially in the early scenes. A lot of the actors quite visibly struggle with the intentionally clunky, old fashioned dialogue but what really draws your attention to it is just how effortlessly Hiddleston engages with it. This leads to odd moments early on where there’s an obvious gap in acting quality between performers.

Make no mistake, the film is worth seeing for the overall world/visuals alone and that’s definitely for the best as everything else is disappointingly ordinary. First of all, ignore what the trailers may have told you; while there are some horror elements, this is a Gothic romance through and through. That’s not inherently a bad thing at all but it does make the few ghost encounters seem a tad incongruous, especially presented as they are within a very generically modern, jump-scare mould. Similarly, while there are some well staged, shocking moments in the overall story, the mystery itself and its particulars are very obvious (pretty much from the start) if you’re paying attention. The few, sudden injections of extreme violence and brutality do at least shake things up on that front. And make no mistake, this is proper violence. There’s one particular head-smashing which rivals Game of Thrones’ own infamous head-crush for shear excessive realism.

For all its self awareness of its own tropes (Edith being told her own ghostly tale ‘needs a love story’ by another character) and its very knowing engagement with them, the film is slightly disappointing on a story level. You could easily sit for hours just watching the camera swoop and glide around the genuinely jaw-dropping set for the house itself and there’s dozens of individual shots that would make a great coffee table book collection but ultimately it’s a film you can only fully enjoy while looking at rather than being swept up in.

 Richard Drumm

15A (see IFCO for details)

118minutes

Crimson Peak is released 16th October 2015

Crimson Peak –  Official Website

 

Share

Irish Film Review: The Lobster

lobster-620x400

DIR: Yorgos Lanthimos • WRI: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou • PRO: Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos, Lee Magiday • DOP: Thimios Bakatakis • ED: Yorgos Mavropsaridis • DES: Jacqueline Abrahams • CAST: Colin Farrell, Léa Seydoux, Rachel Weisz

 

Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster can be perceived to be any number of things – surreal comedy,  dystopian sci-fi, romance, drama, prison thriller – and all these genres it may be, but these are just the surface stylings of a director who has given one of the sharpest relationship satires in recent years. It’s like an Owen Wilson rom-com, doused in David Lynch’s bitter coffee and peppered with British absurdist humour. The movie is silly and ridiculous, but at times can demonstrate subtle poignancy and moments of graphic violence. It’s a postmodern dark comedy, where the world has fallen under a sort of Tinder fascism. It’s as if the dating app got sponsored by Hugo Boss and started whistling Wagner, wingmen becoming spies, and mothers Gestapo. A world where being single is a crime and if your relationship is on the rocks, you’re sentenced to be a parent. This is the world that Lanthimos has created for us and it’s a riot.

It takes a while for The Lobster to break out of its shell because it’s so different from conventional relationship comedies; heck, it’s even off the wall for most offbeat comedies. You start to wonder if it is trying too hard, using its quirkiness as compensation for humour, but soon you succumb to Lanthimos’ charm and it’s hard to deny his sheer dedication to his vision. He goes all the way with it unapologetically and that in itself becomes admirable.

The Lobster stars Colin Farrell as David, the only character given a Christian name as the rest of the cast are merely named after their job role or physical attribute. The film is narrated by Rachel Weisz, who doesn’t actually appear in the story until well into the second act. David is a tubby shell of a man with a thick moustache that suits his introvert personality. His wife has left him for another man, and in the world of The Lobster this now disqualifies David from living in general society and he is relocated to a hotel outside the city.

At the hotel he has 45 days to find a partner or he will be downgraded to another species of his choice. He chooses a lobster, which is an excellent choice according to the Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman), who explains most singletons choose dogs, hence why dogs are so common. The hotel boasts an array of eccentric characters – Lisping Man (John C. Reilly), Limping Man (Ben Whishaw), Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen) and Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia) – all of which add to the bizarre.

Their activities include swimming, dancing, seminars and hunting the Loners in the woods. The Loners are people, who refuse to conform to society’s relationship pressures. They are single fundamentalists, who are planning a revolt. Both the Loners in the forest and the guests/inmates of the hotel must abide to a strict set of rules. In the Loner tribe one must not kiss or they shall have their lips cut off. In fact they don’t allow any fraternising at all, only a healthy diet of techno music and masturbation. Reminds me of college… hell it reminds me of last weekend. The hotel on the other hand forbids masturbation, which the Lisping Man finds out in a sadistic way involving a toaster.

There’s also forms of torture carried out every morning for the male inmates. Torture by grind. The maids grind up against the men to the moment right before they make spectacles of themselves and then stop. This is obviously why so many find it difficult to get around rule no.1. There are scenes of disturbing violence involving toasters, suicides and nosebleeds that are more effective than some horror movies. The film’s surreal humour delivered in deadpan dialogue might go over some people’s heads, especially when blended with the moments of extreme violence. However, if you’re a fan of British absurd comedy such as Brass Eye or Look Around You, then you’ll feel right at home.

Although, it isn’t necessarily the abstract that gets the biggest laughs. The biting satire and attention to detail is what rates high on the LOL scale. The focus of a relationship built on lies marks the funniest moments in The Lobster. Like when the Limping Man, out of sheer desperation, smashes his face off hard objects so it appears he has more in common with the Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden). Or when David must pretend to be a despicable and cynical human being in order to match up with the Heartless Woman. The surreal and extreme circumstances reflect a certain breed of people in our society. It illustrates insecurity among us, who pretend to be someone we’re not in order to escape loneliness.

When David is caught for his deceptions he escapes the hotel and joins the Loners. This is where we finally meet our narrator, the Shortsighted Woman, who David becomes extremely fond of. During their routine drills, preparing for the revolt, Shortsighted Woman and David genuinely fall in love, naturally in a loveless community. They must reserve their feelings or they could face a worse fate than slashed lips. The Loner Leader (Lea Seydoux) is a French Resistance type commander, who keeps a close eye on the secret couple. David and Shortsighted woman disguise their emotions through a communication of complex sign language. They camouflage themselves against the damp bark of the forest trees, as more and more animals pass them by as if they were in the Garden of Eden.

The Loners sometimes take trips to the city. Actually, they’re more like secret missions as they go undercover as couples to blend in with society. These scenes are reminiscent of science fiction such as The Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Soylent Green. Between moments of outlandish humour, disturbing violence and Big Brother-style paranoia, The Lobster still finds time for occasional tenderness between David and Shortsighted Woman, as their battle against everyone makes their love enduring.

It is quite a miracle Lanthimos got this film to work. Not because of how leftfield it is, but because of the amount of international input that excels in it. A Greek director, British, Irish, American and Dutch producers, shot in Ireland and with a plateau of multinational actors. The question isn’t really how did a film like this get made, but rather how could a film like this be so funny.

Going into The Lobster, I was slightly pessimistic and, truth be told, it took some time for me to warm up to it. Not that I didn’t get it, but my confidence in Colin Farrell was shaky at best. In my experience, he can be hit or miss with comedy, unless he has a strong writer behind him. Admittedly, not knowing much anything about Yorgos Lanthimos only served to heighten my suspicions. But I fell victim to its charm, and although it demands a second viewing, The Lobster will remain one of the most interesting movies of the year and originally fresh comedy in years.

   Cormac O’Meara

15A (see IFCO for details)

118minutes

The Lobster is released 16th October 2015

 

 

 

 

Share

Review: Suffragette

87e5f126-de38-4d1a-890c-ace85c44af9f-620x372

DIR: Sarah Gavron • WRI: Abi Morgan • PRO: Alison Owen, Faye Ward • DOP: Eduard Grau • ED: Barney Pilling • MUS: Alexandre Desplat • DES: Alice Normington • CAST: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson

 

The distinct lack of films depicting the Suffragette movement in cinema since the silent era is unsurprising. Despite a host of documentaries and television movies exploring one of the most pivotal events in women’s history, cinema has predominantly shied away from the subject, possibly under the (mis) conception that suffrage is now irrelevant and contemporary audiences are better placed aligning their sympathies with more pertinent, identifiable social struggles. While most of the silent era films have been lost, those that survive delineate a collective portrait of aggressive, defeminized termagants, whose abandonment of traditional gender roles created havoc within existing social structures, allowing cinema to engage in negative propaganda and persistent stereotypes.

Sarah Gavron’s ambitious interpretation on British women’s suffrage follows its foot soldiers highly-charged campaign for social change in London, circa 2012. Penned by The Iron Lady writer, Abi Morgan, Suffragette, originally entitled The Fury, makes no apologies for its categorical feminist perspective, honouring the forgotten working-class women who fought to secure the right to vote and stand in political elections. Carey Mulligan stars as working-class washerwoman, Maud Watts, who is persuaded to join the movement, despite disapproval from her loving husband and lascivious boss. Under the encouragement of local pharmacist and seasoned activist, Edith (Helena Bonham Carter), downtrodden cockney, Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) and the watchful leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) Maud finds herself engaged in a flurry of violent, illegal activity to increase media publicity for the cause. Soon her defiant activism compromises her family and job and with the guileful police inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson) determined to derail her efforts, Maud is forced to choose between her old, subordinated life or continue the bloody fight for emancipation.

A compelling and propulsive no-holds-barred interpretation, Suffragette does not shy away from accentuating the extreme subversive tactics employed by the bastions of the women’s movement in the face of frenzied, brutal opposition. Delving into the psyche and spirit of the era through a bold cinematic vision, Gavron pumps a thumping rush of furious energy into the inflammable, character-driven narrative, which steamrolls along at a ferocious pace, creating a palpable, nervous edginess, which perfectly executes the pervading social unrest of the era. Captured through a highly subjective, restless feminist lens, with many of the action sequences shot in media res, the camera belligerently probes and taunts to heighten the claustrophobic milieu of a disordered society on the brink of immense social change.

Determined to redress the balance of stereotype and negative connotations aligned with suffragette identity, Gavron welcomes a heady mix of heterogeneous characters that broadly traverse the social spectrum, ranging from impoverished skivvies to grand privileged dames, with specific emphasis on working-class women. Granting her leading ladies their own weighty biography, which stands in opposition to the commonly assumed portrait of masculine, subversive harridans or well-to-do socialites, Gavron succeeds in making visible and humanizing the unknown combatants who have been long forgotten or erased by history. Carey Mullingan, at the helm of the action, plays the reluctant activist with an understated but deeply intense emotional power, her face, persistently framed in confined close-ups, etched with invisible scars from years of oppression, abuse and interminable struggle.

Although Maud’s dissatisfaction with her lot propels her to action rather than any informed political leanings, aligning her more with the affluent socialites of the time who turned to the cause to out of boredom rather than socio-political motivation, it is her transformation, from a politically ignorant subordinate to an enlightened, mettlesome mutineer that reinforces the film’s core message. Maud’s political education and her awareness to the failings of the law, align the movement’s insurgent tactics to its political ambitions, rooting a more tangible comprehension of its history for contemporary audiences. By merging the political with the personal through an accessible narrative, Gavron reaches the nucleus of its ideology, redressing the manipulation of suffrage identity and situating Maud and her cohorts as more representative of the collective rather than the unfeminine disputants in over-sized hats, so often assumed.

While Maud’s characterisation succeeds in making visible diverse identities across the class divide, Gavron fails to delineate a balanced perspective on the movement in its entirety. Ethnic minorities, such as Indian women were particularly active in British suffrage and in light of the film’s overly feminist perspective, it loses some narrative weight by advocating an exclusively white agenda, which somewhat reinforces the stereotype she is fervently trying to avoid. Also noteworthy is the lack of attention to women that subscribed to an anti-suffrage ideology, largely on the basis of sexual difference but it is the director’s incendiary polemic on her male characters that is most questionable, which she appears to view with feminist revisionism rather than suffragist revisionism, two distinctly disparate political ideologies. The women in the film may be angry but Gavron is furious. While the inhumane treatment and sexual humiliation experienced by the suffragettes is represented with immense emotional power, Gavron explicitly indulges in masculine stereotypes, pejoratively promoting an anti-male perspective, her all too few sympathetic male characters withdrawing support once it impinges on domestic life. Male supporters who championed the movement are also disregarded, particularly those equally subjected to discriminatory laws by failing to meet specific property requirements. To Gavron, suffrage in Britain was an elite white, female club only.

The strength of Suffragette lies in its compelling portrait of British working-class women, which roots the political to the personal through an engaging narrative, impressive production values and superb performances, allowing contemporary audiences to easily identify with a more coherent suffragette ideology, not previously seen in cinema. The promotion of an overly subjective, feminist narrative detracts, at times, from the perspicuous portrait of working-class women and it is a shame that Gavron’s over-magnification of Maud’s narrative does not locate it within a wider social context nor take into account the active participation of other social groups and political supporters.

Despite such narrative oversights, Suffragette’s supreme message is unequivocal, quashing the notion that suffrage is irrelevant (a detailed list of the countries who have attained and still seeking suffrage accompanies the closing titles) and the fight for emancipation is far from over.

   Dee O’Donoghue

12A (see IFCO for details)

106 minutes

Suffragette is released 16th October 2015

Suffragette –  Official Website

 

 

 

 


 

Share

Review: Talking To My Father

Talking-to-my-Father-9-300x238

DIR: Sé Merry Doyle

 

Architect Robin Walker’s architecture emerged, as T.K Whitaker’s Ireland emerged, an Ireland of growth, growing confidence and a step away from the insular nationalism that defined the preceding years. In this film, Walker’s son Simon explores his relationship with his father through the legacy that his father has left behind. Part of the Scott Tallon Walker architecture firm, which pioneered the modernist architectural style espoused by such twentieth century architects as Le Corbusier and Mies Van der Rohe, Robin Walker’s buildings have both a significant and controversial presence in the Dublin skyline. Notable buildings emanating from the modernist movement include Busáras, RTÉ studios and Walker’s very own Bord Fáilte building by Baggot Street and the Cork Opera House. Through a dialogue with his father, Simon wishes to highlight the importance and the artistic merit of the much maligned modernist moment in architecture and how important it was in creating a sense of modern Ireland.

Sé Merry Doyle’s film aims to emphasis the personal nature of Simon’s quest, that this film is not simply an exploration of Walker’s legacy but Simon’s own re-connection with his deceased father. Throughout the film, Simon rummages through the vast writings and photographs his father has left behind in order to understand the philosophy that lay behind the architecture. Such an intimate approach offers us a brilliant introduction to the principles of architecture and the personal philosophy that lie behind it. The image of place and how architecture, as Simon explains, is the alignment of nature, space and time provides an apt allegory to the very idea of nation building; and this theme of nation building is constantly evoked in Simon’s quest.

Although at times, the film lags over the moments of family intimacy, evoking the boredom of spending too much time looking at another person’s family photos, such moments are short lived. Instead, there are moments where the beauty of the Irish landscape, especially on the Beara Peninsula and the interaction of Walker’s architecture to its environment, really emphasis the importance of socially and environmentally engaged architecture.

Through Simon’s quest then, a very valid and personal message is uncovered from his father, that architecture has a social and political responsibility. Thus, when Simon brings us on his journey to the UCD restaurant on one of the more ambitious projects of 1960s Ireland, the building of Ireland’s largest university, Simon speaks about his father’s political inspiration from the 1968 student protests in Paris. Those familiar with UCD will know the urban legend of Belfield being designed to prevent a repeat of any student provocation. What Simon informs the viewer is that the open-plan design of the restaurant building was his father’s wish to create a space where students’ ideas and conversations flowed freely, reflecting the openness of 1960s thought.

Doyle’s film is filled with such vivid insights into the nature of design and a son’s desire to remind us of the need for good design. Now, as Simon wonders, in post-debt socialisation Ireland, can the importance of design be re-invigorated and exist outside the terminology of finance. In a nation that is now suffocating due to a history of bad planning, constant niggling questions over the land use of buildings in NAMA’s possession and yet another housing crisis, Talking to My Father is a wonderful reminder of a period in Irish history that embraced a positive design approach to the challenges of nation building.

Sean Finnan

90 minutes
Talking to My Father is released 16th October 2015

 

 

Read an interview with Sé Merry Doyle here

 

Share

Review: Red Army

c7af20d0a9a087d4e2b3c3add79299a8_cannes-2014_1

 

DIR: Gabe Polsky • WRI: Gabe Polsky• PRO: Werner Herzog, Sean Carey, Gabe Polsky, Dmitry Saltykovsky, Liam Satre-Meloy, Jerry Weintraub, Andy Zare • DOP: Peter Zeitlinger, Svetlana Cvetko • ED: Eli B. Despres, Kurt Engfehr • MUS: Malcolm Fife • CAST: Viacheslav Fetisov, Scotty Bowman, Anatoli Karpov, Alexei Kasatonov, Ken Kurtis, Felix Nechepore, Vladimir Pozner

 

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union’s national ice hockey team ruled the world. Gabe Polsky’s new film Red Army tells their story through their rise in the 1970s, great success in the 1980s and continued victories as professionals in the 1990s.

There is a lot of politics in the film but this is a sports documentary in the classic vein of we came from nothing, we worked hard and we conquered the world. In that respect this is nothing you haven’t seen before.

Ice hockey is not a sport many Irish people will know about but you don’t need an interest in it to enjoy this film. However, if you have no interest in sport of any kind then large parts of Red Army won’t appeal to you.

It shows how the Soviet system affected the team, especially in the form of reviled team coach and KGB agent Viktor Tikhonov, who kept an iron grip on the team and dictated every move the players made. He refused leave to one player whose father was dying. He never saw his father again.

History buffs may find this an interesting new angle on state control of every aspect of the country and how they used sport as propaganda.

The film focuses mainly on one of the greats of the team, Viacheslav ‘Slava’ Fetisov, and if the director had chosen to make the film just about his story it may have been no worse. He is the most interesting person in the documentary (with possibly the exception of an ex-KGB agent’s granddaughter who keeps hilariously interrupting her grandfather’s interview).

Fetisov was the leader of the so-called ‘Russian 5’, the core group of the Soviet team who played as if the shared a brain, knowing without looking where the others were and destroying the best opposition the world could put against them. In one game they beat another ice hockey giant and much fancied Canada 8 – 1.

Fetisov, now a Russian senator and former minster of sport from 2002-08, was the player who suffered most under the state’s control of the hockey team. He fought like a Russian soldier in Stalingrad to be allowed play in the US and Canada’s National Hockey League. The film details his struggles after he quit the national team in protest at not being allowed to move. Ironically, he earlier this year called for a law preventing Russian players from playing in the NHL until they reach 28.

The main problem with the film is that it lacks detail. Polsky, who, despite his last name, is an American and must interview most of his Russian subjects through a translator. He interviews former players, a few Americans and Canadians and a KGB agent. The Russians, for the most part, don’t tell them anything they don’t want to.

And the North Americans, although knowledgeable about the basic facts of what happened don’t really know what went on in Russia during the 1980s. The film could’ve done with more Russian sources.

And the ones he does interview keep a lot to themselves. There are very few times during the film that you feel you’ve gotten anywhere close to the full story out of any of the Russians. Maybe you can blame the Russians for being wary of an outsider but Polsky too must take some blame. He is too timid in the interviews and allows himself to be shut down too easily.

When Fetisov is asked was something impossible back in the 80s he responds, “What do you mean ‘impossible’?” It’s a tactic he repeats during the film. “What do you mean by ‘this’?” “What do you mean by ‘that’?” And Polsky doesn’t know how to deal with it.

We learn a lot about the Soviet team and it is an interesting story, but you’ll also leave the cinema feeling like there are more secrets here that only the team and those who controlled it will ever know.

Colm Quinn

12A (see IFCO for details)

84 minutes
Red Army is released 9th October 2015

Red Army  – Official Website

Share

Review: Sicario

thumbnail_22183

DIR: Denis Villeneuve • WRI: Taylor Sheridan • PRO: Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Thad Luckinbill, Trent Luckinbill, Edward McDonnell, Molly Smith • DOP: Roger Deakins • ED: Joe Walker • DES: Patrice Vermette • MUS: Jóhann Jóhannsson • CAST: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal

 

After Prisoners, Enemy and the Oscar-nominated Incendies, Sicario seems to only confirm Denis Villeneuve’s rightful place in the pantheon of cinematic masters, and proving himself a powerful voice, not to be trifled with. Villeneuve takes you right through the belly of the beast, straight into visceral and cerebral uncharted territory.

Hair tied back in a tight bun, clad in black and navy uniform, and buried under body armour is Kate Maser. Assault rifle in hand. Fearless, stealthy, agile. Her eyes docile as she raises the barrel and aims, straight up in for the head shot. However, underneath the militant Kevlar hide there’s a distinct vulnerability to Maser (Emily Blunt). Through Maser, we’re ingratiated into the front lines of the US war on drugs. Tiptoeing her way down pitch-black tunnels and kicking down doors in the dead of night. Pure subjective psychological horror. Tonally it’s some mind-altering cocktail of Silence of the Lambs mixed with The Shining. And like those movies, Sicario, from the get-go, racks the tension high, unfolding by means of hypnotic slow release.

Anyway, after Maser’s involvement in a major FBI drugs operation in Arizona where a mass of bodies are discovered. She’s eyed for specialist assistance on a Department of Defence retaliatory initiative. A sorta high-end crackdown on cartels. Maser shows some hesitance, but when assured that she’s going to get a crack at the “ men who are really responsible for today.” she signs up, game for blood.

But it’s a labyrinth of agendas and motives, and Maser’s caught in the middle. It quickly becomes apparent that it’s some kind of smoke and mirror, cloak and dagger clandestine military operation. The kind where the legality of the whole thing is shady at best. Crossing the Mexican border into the dusty wilds of Juarez, to essentially kidnap a local drug lord, all in a bid to reveal the location of an arch Drug Lord. And Juarez is like a jungle of skeletal remains. Pure carnage. A world that’s built on a foundation of brutal violence. A living breathing hell incarnate. And from here on out the smoky morality of Masers world only gets murkier as the hunt continues.

Villeneuve expects nothing less of his battalions of thespians than to charge into cinematic battle, and to get down and dirty. Hand to hand combat is a mandatory requirement. Josh Brolin is the sandal wearing, seemingly blasé laissez-faire, Matt Graver, who’s allegedly DOD but who could be CIA? It’s never really clear to Maser. And then there’s Alejandro, (Benico del Toro) Graver’s Trojan wingman who’s shrouded in the same veils of mystery. Del Toro gives a demonic counter-point to his memorable turn in Traffic. And Villeneuve’s camera coils and recoils like a killer snake, slow and steady, spitting and biting. Fangs out; sharpened to a T. All in all making for venomous cinema.

Roger Deakins’ intoxicating cinematography has a sense of subtlety and minimalism that offers a heightened sense of tension and atmosphere that’s tough to argue with. Less is more, proving to be a motto to live by, especially when it’s executed this well. The vast isolated landscapes seemingly ensnare the characters in a world bigger than themselves. There’s a stylistic debt to Melville, Deakins admits as much, but truth be told it’s its own beast. Johan Johannsson’s score is nothing short of malevolent. Orchestral strings clash against electronic drones and waves, drum machines whip and snap against arid vistas; all too suffocating effect.

And when the dust settles, and the streets are lined with hanging corpses Villeneuve puts it to you. There’s blood on our hands, and if that’s what it takes can we live with that? Living in a world where the only code seems to be an Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth? Or is there another way? At its core Sicario is essentially an anti-war movie. Villeneuve reinvigorates these questions wholeheartedly. He’s got the rat by the tail and won’t let go. He pinches, till nerves scream and eyes bulge. How are the sides drawn, or, are there even sides at all? Villenueve serves the head, the plate, the whole damn thing, a lean delicacy of pure moral ambiguity. The lines between right and wrong are most definitely blurred.

Turning the screws just isn’t enough for this fecker (Villeneuve), he wants to put the nail through the coffin, splinters and all. Even if you resent the method, there’s little you can do about it, the man’s not to be messed with; he’s a cinematic powerhouse. The rare kind of filmmaker who paralyses audiences and glues eyeballs to screens; leaving a distinct taste of truth.

Michael Lee


15A (See IFCO for details)

121 minutes
Sicario is released 9th October 2015

Sicario – Official Website

 

Share

Review: Fidelio: Alice’s Journey

1407748880812_0570x0355_1407748888157

DIR: Lucie Borleteau • WRI: Lucie Borleteau, Clara Bourreau • PRO: Pascal Caucheteux, Marine Arrighi de Casanova, • DOP: Simon Beaufils • ED: Guy Lecorne • MUS: Thomas De Pourquery • DES: Sidney Dubois • CAST: Ariane Labed, Melvil Poupaud, Anders Danielsen Lie

 

French actress and writer, Lucie Borleteau directs her first full-length feature film in a puckish, yet affecting portrait of a sexually permissive female freight engineer in Fidelio: Alice’s Journey. Ariane Labed plays the kittenish, thirty-year old titular character, who approaches her sexual affairs with missionary zeal and carnal abandon. Challenging conventional perceptions of gender roles through an anomalous approach to sexual conduct, Berleteau’s heroine steers a stormy voyage aboard an all-male freight ship, whipping up a priapic frenzy that tests her attitudes to love and commitment, which she confronts with fear and uncertainty.

When a member of the crew suddenly dies under dubious circumstances, Alice is drafted in as his replacement leaving behind her besotted Norwegian lover, Felix (Anders Danielsen Lie) and yearning for the passionate intimacy they both enjoy. Once aboard, she discovers the captain of the voyage is her first true love, Gaël (Melvil Poupaud) and in spite of her valiant efforts to remain faithful, she cannot resist her overwhelming desire for him. Ever the idealist, Alice sees no reason not to indulge two lovers and she rekindles an affair with the charismatic captain. Accidently discovering the journal of the deceased engineer, whose life was consumed with loneliness through uninspiring liaisons, prompts Alice to embark on an odyssey of self-discovery to find out what exactly she wants from life.

An accessible yet profoundly philosophical tale of love, fidelity and desire, the strength of Fidelio: Alice’s Journey lies in its candid celebration of female sexual pleasure amidst the sexually deprived, testosterone-fuelled environment of a laboriously gruelling and isolating blue-collared profession. By no means promoting a feminist perspective, Borleteau, rather, normalises and endorses female sexual autonomy and while an uninhibited sexual agenda is at the helm of the sex-drenched narrative, the emotional sensitivity that arises from Alice’s physical encounters, communicates more to Alice about her desires and needs than any articulated dialogue between her lovers. Alice’s negotiation of her sexual encounters through her own sedulous, self-governance becomes the catalyst to propel her onto a spiritual journey of self-enlightenment and finally find the self-fulfillment she craves.

Ariane Labed is a revelation as Alice, whose nuanced yet emotionally charged performance, not only anchors the core narrative but navigates the philosophical subtexts with both a skittish mischievousness and an intense urgency to encapsulate the challenges and contradictions of a sexually liberated, yet keenly introspective woman, who is clouded by wanton lust in her pursuit of self-realisation. Labed steers the spicy saga with such compulsion and conviction, that without such emotional intelligence driving Alice’s personal narrative however, Borleteau could be in danger of simply delineating another prosaic, albeit erotic, tale about a beautiful thirty-something seeking sexual and emotional stability.

Alice’s personal trajectory takes centre stage to such an extent that the multicultural supporting characters, who are so crucial on her voyage of discovery and transformation, become mere bit players, only slightly colouring the narrative through their own amusing rituals amidst the drab and soulless space, that at times, it becomes slightly puzzling as to why Borleteau did not take more advantage of such a playful mix of characters to formulate a more coherent narrative structure. However, it is a testament to Labed’s breathtaking performance, that such a tried and tested narrative is kept above water by her emotional capacity to make visible and plausible the contradictory nature of balancing life and love, in an refreshingly audacious and esoteric manner.

The highly melodramatic romantic entanglements which permeate the narrative, is deftly encapsulated by cinematographer Simon Beaufils, whose atmospheric lens rhythmically pulsates with intense potency through the sexually-charged scenes of carnal desire. Tightly framed close-ups bring an emotional catharsis and deep sensitivity to the physical act of love, which sit in opposition to the expansive and endless seascapes that become threatening spaces of unnerving claustrophobia, which heighten rather than soothe, the heroine’s disquietude as she embarks on her emotional and spiritual quest. To Alice, her personal landscape of sexual pleasure is where she attains liberation and sense of self, the seascape and its vast silences, challenging, taunting and threatening.

By chartering sexually erotic waters in an uninhibited manner, which celebrates female sexuality from a sophisticated and enlightened perspective that is not often explored in cinema, Borleteau invites reflections upon the nature of relationships and the role sexual pleasure plays in the pursuit of love and commitment. Whether a balance between the body, mind and soul may be achieved through a commitment to one relationship or whether self-enlightenment is dependent upon a deep exploration of all sexual, emotional and professional components of interpersonal relationships is not neatly resolved by Borleteau, but she does however, ambitiously and audaciously subscribe to the philosophy that self-gratification is one such pleasurable route to take when trying to figure it all out.

 Dee O’Donoghue

97 minutes

Fidelio: Alice’s Journey is released 2nd October 2015

 

Share

Review: 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets

Jordan-Davis-312-Minutes-10-Bullets-e1434902402155-401x250

 

DIR: Marc Silver • WRI: Marc Silver • PRO: Carolyn Hepburn, Minette Nelson • DOP: Marc Silver • ED: Emiliano Battista, Gideon Gold • MUS: Todd Boekelheide • CAST: Leland Brunson, Angela B. Corey, Ron Davis, Lucia McBath, Russell Healey, John Guy

 

On 23 November 2012, forty-five-year old Michael Dunn gunned down seventeen-year old, black high school student Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida, after taking issue with the loud hip-hop music Davis and his three friends were playing in their car. Following his arrest, Dunn proclaimed he acted in self-defence, citing Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground law, whereby persons in fear are permitted to use deadly force when confronted with serious threat. Despite an overwhelming lack of evidence to suggest Davis was armed, the jury at Dunn’s trial was unable to reach a verdict on first-degree murder, resulting in a hung jury. At his subsequent retrial, Dunn was eventually found guilty of Davis’ murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Filmmaker, writer and social impact strategist, Marc Silver’s emotive documentary, 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets attempts to delve into the equivocal events on that fateful Black Friday and investigate the circumstances that led to another unarmed, black teenage murder, the mistrial and eventual conviction of a white, middle-aged software engineer, whose unsubstantiated self-defence claim ignited a highly-charged national debate about racial gun crime, the US judicial system and Florida’s contentious self-defence laws. Drawing comparisons with the murder of seventeen-year old black student, Trayvon Martin by an acquitted George Zimmerman nine months previously, Silver’s film seeks to incriminate Dunn on the basis of racial motivation, a factor deemed inadmissible by the judge, and by doing so, expose the deep prejudicial flaws that tip the overall racial imbalances within the US legal system.

To present his case, Silver’s narrative structure is framed around three narrative strands to implicate Dunn and the judicial system, both which appear to subscribe to an unfounded national fear of unarmed black men by armed white men. Using footage of Dunn’s first trial, Silver centres on prosecution witness accounts, which testify to the inoffensive nature of Jordan Davis. To bolster such accounts, Silver’s cinematography, reproduced through a stylistically, arresting lens, enriches the trial’s original aesthetic, assuming a more sophisticated and cinematic platform, which romanticizes the victim like a Hollywood hero in a fictional courtroom drama. To ground the case on a more sobering level, Silver focuses on the extensive media coverage, which struck a national chord and proliferated a national discourse about racially motivated gun crime and the laws that pit and prejudice black victims against its white perpetrators. To humanize the brutal act of random, motiveless racial murder, Silver finally delineates the deep emotional impact on the family and community amidst the complicated political and legal wrangling, which serves to evoke a deeper senselessness in view of Florida’s laws, whereby an unmotivated racial killing through a perceived threat, is racial aggression against a wider racial community.

Silver’s overview of the murder of Jordan Davis is neatly contained within a ninety-eight minute narrative, which at times, reads like a fictional crime drama rather than a constructive investigation into the real-life murder of an unarmed black teenager. Indeed, Silver himself stands accused of the very same shortcomings that he has indicted the American justice system with, through a transparent bias and lack of critical balance in his overall reflection on the case. While the posthumous memorializing of Davis is wholly justified and the tragedy is symptomatic of the national picture, insufficient analyses of Dunn’s character and behaviour deny the opportunity to evaluate what sowed doubt in the minds of the first jury and whether Dunn did abide by the law when confronted with a perceived serious threat, leading to a hung jury. Silver equally fails to probe Florida’s self-defence law itself, which by default authorised the killing of Jordan Davis, if Dunn did indeed discern a weapon. Nor does he scrutinize the national outpouring of indignation at the result of the mistrial, which possibly had the weight to influence the second, thereby implicating the media and heated public opinion in the outcome of the eventual retrial.

Ultimately, Silver’s film does not offer fresh insight into the racial murder of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn that has not been previously analysed by other media sources. In attempting to expose the deep flaws in the US judicial system, Silver inadvertently highlights his own flaws through his failure to present an impartial, objective overview of the murder and the ensuing trial. A palpable restraint, fear and tentativeness permeates throughout the narrative and while the director may explicitly denounce the crime, he appears reluctant to offer any opposing perspective to the dominant version of events, unwilling to entertain any possibility Dunn may have acted out of anything other than racial aggravation.

The murder of Jordan Davis became another catalyst to explore the legal flaws and racial prejudices that permeate the US judicial system. 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets continues the national discourse resulting from the case and extensively proliferated by the media. Whether the judge made a grave error in disallowing racial factors to be presented in court, Silver’s attempts to compensate for such omissions as a documentary filmmaker, fail to provide a more equitable insight into the murder, rather presenting a wholly biased and intolerant view of Dunn and his act of murder in relation to Florida’s legal stance on self-defence. While Silver’s film is a respectful and enlightening tribute to Davis’ memory and highlights a deep-rooted stain in Florida’s legal system in relation to its gun crime, racial profiling and self-defence laws, it does not attempt to challenge the system itself and Silver appears resigned to the fact that the next young black death is highly inevitable and merely a matter of time.


Dee O’Donoghue

98 minutes
3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets is released 2nd October 2015

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Review: MacBeth

3a80307d-2712-4dde-9e55-67936e63a772-620x372

DIR: Justin Kurzel • WRI: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, Todd Louiso • PRO: Iain Canning, Laura Hastings-Smith, Emile Sherman • DOP: Adam Arkapaw • ED: Chris Dickens • MUS: Lorne Balfe • DES: Fiona Crombie • MUS: Jed Kurzel • CAST: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard

 

MacBeth is Shakespeare’s most cinematic play. It has a clear linear narrative, and has plenty of action leading to a bloody climax. In the past it has been adapted successfully to the screen by Orson Welles, Roman Polanski and Akira Kurosawa.

The latest version stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Its Australian director, Justin Kurzel, uses a visceral modern style that bombards the senses. It’s full of slow motion and moody music, and the lengthy scenes of the play have been broken up into staccato snippets and visual flashbacks. The film seems to want to get as far away from its origins as a play as it can. Even the dialogue is delivered in ominous mumbles and whispers. Did Kurzel think a modern audience would be bored with Shakespeare and the material had to be sexed up?

On the spectrum of people of people who like/dislike Shakespeare, this film may not satisfy either. If you like the play you may be frustrated by how much Kurzel has twisted it to make it his own. And if you don’t like the play you may wonder if all this sound and fury signifies anything. This version of MacBeth is overloaded with style, over edited, has too much music and not enough Shakespeare.

Stephen Kane

15A (See IFCO for details)

112minutes
MacBeth is released 2nd October 2015

MacBeth – Official Website

 

Share

Review: The Martian

the-martian

DIR: Ridley Scott • WRI: Drew Goddard • PRO: Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott,  Michael Schaefer, Aditya Sood, Mark Huffam • DOP: Dariusz Wolski • ED: Pietro Scalia • MUS: Lorne Balfe • DES: Arthur Max • MUS: Harry Gregson-Williams • CAST: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor

When a violent sandstorm forces a team of astronauts to cut short their mission to Mars, one of their number is hit by a large piece of equipment and lost in the storm. With no time to search, his crewmates are forced to assume that he’s dead and take off for Earth without him. Luckily, or perhaps anything but luckily, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is very much alive, though his situation doesn’t look too good. With the crew’s living quarters and food supply still intact, Watney is able to take shelter and tend to his own injuries, but without the means to signal his crew or anyone on Earth, his survival in the long term becomes much less certain.

Left with enough food and water for several months, Watney knows that the next planned trip to Mars isn’t scheduled to arrive for another four years and sets about trying to grow his own food and make contact with the people of Earth. With only television shows, his own video journal and an unfortunately disco-heavy music collection for company, Watney’s hopes for ever seeing another human soul, or living past a year rest entirely on his own resourcefulness and tenacity, or to put it in his own words “In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option; I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

While Watney improvises a home on the surface of Mars, NASA eventually realises that their casualty of exploration is still alive and kicking and the question of whether he can even be saved is soon raised. Once the public catches wind of Watney’s situation, that question gets a very strong answer, but as Watney’s equipment, only intended to last for a few months, starts to give out, the rescue mission starts to look like an utterly lost cause.

At well over two hours, The Martian manages to keep its tension and energy throughout. Damon is superb as Watney, managing to emanate personality and wit while also carrying the terror and isolation of being the only person on the planet and it’s hard not to become completely engrossed in his fight to survive. Meanwhile, a heavyweight cast at Houston and in Watney’s crew manage to capture the desperation of the situation on an entirely different level. In particular, Teddy Sanders, the director of NASA (Jeff Daniels) and Mitch Henderson, the crew’s liaison (Sean Bean) clash over exactly how to go about saving their lost astronaut and whether or not it’s entirely worth it.

The Martian is hardly the first tale of isolation and survival audiences have seen. Perhaps in a world of growing satellite systems and GPS, we’ve lost any sense of awe at the prospect of being stranded on a desert island and so the stakes are presented on a much grander level. The Martian is, at its core, Castaway for the cynical space age, with building a shelter replaced by growing potatoes using one’s own excrement, building a raft replaced with customising a Mars rover and Wilson the volleyball omitted entirely.

While the tale is one we’ve seen before, this film truly captures the scale of being millions of miles from everything you’ve ever known, of being the only person on an entire world and the all too often overlooked importance of having a really good desert island playlist.

Ronan Daly

12A (See IFCO for details)

141 minutes
The Martian is released 2nd October 2015

The Martian – Official Website

 

Share

Review: Older Than Ireland

video-the-trailer-for-upcoming-documentary-older-than-ireland-is-heart-warmingly-funny

DIR: Alex Fegan • PRO: Colm Walsh • DOP: Gary Nicell • MUS: Denis Clohessy

Older than Ireland won best feature length documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2015 against some formidable opposition. Directed by Alex Fegan, Older than Ireland has a signature style which is reminiscent of Alex Fegan’s previous feature length doc The Irish Pub.

Like many of the subjects featured, the film is unhurried in pace but remains very engaging throughout. Older than Ireland is also reminiscent of the tone and structure of Ken Wardrop’s His and Hers.

The film follows a sequence of interviews with a range of Irish centenarians. Indeed, quite a number of those featured were significantly older than the 100 years old minimum age requirement.

The title derives from the fact that having been born over 100 years ago prior to the foundation of the state, all of those featured are effectively older than the state and indeed their births pre-dated the 1916 Rising.

In common with The Irish Pub, the subjects are a very diverse group who hail from all four corners of the country, urban and rural. They vary also in terms of class and outlook. But they are a universally interesting bunch.

Kathleen Snavely (113) emigrated to the US from Clare in 1921. Her story is in many ways a typical emigrants story which would resonate with contemporary emigrants. She was lonely initially. But she succeeded in eking out a much better life for herself than would have been the case had she remained.

Jack Powell (102) from Tipperary was Ireland’s longest serving Veterinary Surgeon and only retired a couple of years ago. He specialised in horses and clearly has an enduring passion for his job as a Vet. His story also included wartime service with the RAF. He clearly still has and very sharp mind and strong views on a range of subjects. Jack also has a passion for the Volkswagon Beetle and was still driving at the time the film was made.

There is inevitably a poignant tone to the film as the subjects reflect back on their lives. Many of their erstwhile friends, partners and contemporaries have gone. But many had also succeeded in re-inventing themselves in different ways. There are many unexpected light and humorous moments throughout the film.

They are the last men and women standing of a bygone era and provide a glimpse into the values and culture of the era. They reflect on their public and private lives with a level of insight which might not always have been present when those events were happening. Several have some fascinating recollections of events in the War of Independence and the Civil War.

The interviews are complemented by some wonderful photographs from a long gone era and the tone is complemented wonderfully by the music composed by Denis Clohessy.

There is a sense at times that these people are fully aware they are in the departure lounge. Sadly, many of them are no longer with us. But this is ultimately a positive life-affirming film.

Many of the subjects seemed surprised that they had endured for so long. I suspect that word of mouth may ensure Older than Ireland also endures in the cinema for longer than might be expected. It is a little gem of a movie and establishes the reputation of Alex Fegan as a director to watch.

Brian O Tiomain

PG (See IFCO for details)

91 minutes
Older Than Ireland is released 25th September 2015

Older Than Ireland – Official Website

 

Share

Review: Captive

06764324-1270-4622-a1c2-5e711242ef5c-460x276

DIR: Jerry Jameson • WRI: Brian Bird • PRO: Lucas Akoskin, Terry Botwick, Alex Garcia, David Oyelowo, Ken Wales, Katrina Wolfe • DOP: Luis David Sansans • ED: Melissa Kent • MUS: Lorne Balfe • DES: Sandra Cabriada • CAST: Kate Mara, David Oyelowo, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mimi Rogers

The recent spate of faith-based films has garnered mixed critical responses from the cinema-going public. Christian devotees flock to such feel-good films in their droves, attracted to the narrative’s core spiritual message, reaffirming audiences’ commitment to God and their chosen spiritual path. Alternatively, such family-orientated films have launched polemics from critics for substandard plots, economic production values and primarily, alienating heathens with sanctimonious ideologies, which trumpet a transparent proselytizing narrative that fails to inspire on any dramatic or entertainment level. Films such as War Room, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real are exemplar of a genre that is both actively sought out by faithful audiences for their explicit Christian overtones and rejected by sceptics for their shameless promotion of evangelistic agendas, which many secular subscribers find hard to swallow.

Jerry Jameson’s faith-based, crime drama and psychological thriller, Captive, starring Kate Mara and David Oyelowo, is based on the real-life account of the 2005 Atlanta Hostage Hero, Ashley Smith’s book Unlikely Angel. The film recounts Smith’s ordeal at the hands of murderer and rapist Brian Nichols, who escaped from custody whilst awaiting trial, murdering four people, including the trial’s presiding judge. Forcing his way into the home of the recovering drug addict and single mother and holding her captive for seven hours, the film’s explores the religious strategy employed by Smith in an attempt to survive her ordeal at the hands of Nichols, including reading aloud extracts from Christian pastor Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, which emphasizes the meaning of existence is only found through God.

Despite its gripping subject matter and highly stylized cinematic aesthetic, intensified by an urgent handheld camera and a purity to its sharply cut sequences, Captive’s overall lack of tension emanating from a substandard screenplay, recalls an uninspiring, made-for-television movie rather than an unnerving and absorbing cinematic drama, which fails to articulate the significance of the real-life religious encounter between two deeply tortured souls. Screenwriter Brian Bird approaches the spiritual relationship between the lead characters with trepidation, underplaying the theological bond that becomes the catalyst to redemption and informs the film’s core philosophy and as a result, the moment of spiritual enlightenment and self-realisation becomes remarkably overshadowed and simply unconvincing.

In an attempt to possibly avoid the faith-based film curse, its dubious ideologies and a fear of alienating cynical audiences, Captive bolsters the emotional relationship between a psychotic murderer and drug addict, the crucial religious connotations within the narrative, subdued and prosaic. However, unlike most of the recent outpourings of pious Hollywood films, Captive is based on a real-life event and is dependent upon its religious signifiers in order to comprehend its characters’ abrupt enlightened transformations. Rather than blind its audience with pietistic, sermonizing overtones, the film devalues these crucial narrative elements and in its subduing, the film’s narrative simply does not gel. By diverting attention from the religious entente to the emotional affinity between the protagonists, tenuously held together by strained relationships with their children, Captive places a befuddled and detached leading cast in an awkward position, unable to discern the characters’ psychology and grasp the gravity of their spiritual transformation.

The physical transformations undertaken by Mara and Oyelowo attempt to convince and compensate for the script’s shortcomings and Mara’s emaciated frame and bloodshot hollow eyes suggest a deeply scarred woman in the throes of addiction and spiritual cynicism, desperate to find deeper meaning, inner peace and ultimate salvation. However, owing to an ill-conceived and disconnected script, Mara is unable to satisfactorily engage with the mental or spiritual paralyses experienced by Ashley Smith and there remains a constant reminder that Mara is performing rather than inhabiting the psychology of drug-addled captive. Oyelowo’s considerable physique equally convinces as the unpredictable psychopath and navigates his character’s psychological instability with considerable investment and plausible menace. He does, however, appear out of depth when confronted with the emotionally vulnerable aspects of his character, which, as the crux of Nichols’ swift spiritual transformation, is crucial in comprehending the trajectory of his ultimate enlightenment and which Oyelowo’s performance fails to execute.

Despite its attempts to construct itself as a crime drama and psychological thriller, rather than exploit a pontificating agenda to appeal a more balanced audience, Captive remains an unsatisfactory account of a notorious real-life event that made headlines around the world, owing to the phenomenal spiritual awakening of a cold-blooded murderer and rapist. The film’s reluctance to overinvest in its religious significance will certainly not satisfy the spiritual nor will it come as a welcome relief to the skeptical, placing the overall audience in a state of limbo. The unnecessary inclusion of a post-captivity interview in 2005 between Ashley Smith and pastor Rick Warren with Oprah Winfrey as the credits close, appears to concede that the film’s interpretation of events and characters are inadequately portrayed and is utilized to make sense to the audience of Smith and Nichols’ trauma and transformation, which Captive evidently fails to delineate. Perhaps if the film had embraced a more explicit religious trajectory, which is so critical an element within the faith-based genre, Captive itself could have ascended to a higher place of being.

Dee O’Donoghue

12A (See IFCO for details)

96 minutes
Captive is released 25th September 2015

Captive – Official Website

 

Share

Review: Legend

Tom-Hardy-as-Ronnie-and-Reggie-Kray-574327

DIR/WRI: Brian Helgeland •  PRO: Tim Bevan, Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Eric Fellner, Brian Oliver • DOP: Dick Pope • ED: Peter McNulty • DES: Tom Conroy • MUS: Carter Burwell • CAST: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton

 

You would think that a movie based on two psychotic twin brothers, who rose through the ranks of London’s criminal underbelly, and teamed up with the American mafia with the aim of creating Europe’s own Las Vegas would be a visceral affair, one heck of a story indeed. On top of that you’ve got the secret deodorant – Tom Hardy playing both Reggie and Ronnie Kray through some fine digital trickery. Finally, the cherry on top – Brian Helgeland, writer of L.A. Confidential, Mystic River and Man on Fire, is set to write and direct. We all saw the trailer for Legend, we all got excited, and let me tell you, we were all duped!

The first and biggest mistake was placing Emily Browning, who plays Reggie’s wife Frances, as the the film’s narrator. Straightaway we know that we aren’t getting an in-depth or honest portrayal these two gangsters and their true violent nature because we all know that gangsters don’t tell their wives everything. So when we first hear her voice and realise who she is, we know we’re in for a sugarcoated affair. She introduces us to Reggie and Ronnie Kray, the former wears a charming mask to cover his true violent nature, while the latter embraces his criminal lifestyle without any excuses.

Reggie’s suave demeanor helps their firm run smoothly in their East End neighborhood. He walks freely down the street, fraternizing with the community. He enjoys the glamorous life, the women, the nightclubs, the money. While Ronnie lives in a camper van, buggering young boys. There’s an upside though, he’s not prejudice. He takes all sorts. He wears his psychosis like a badge of honour, and in a way there’s something admirable about his honesty. He doesn’t attempt to hide his violent nature like Reggie does, nor is he driven by capitalist means.

At the beginning we laugh, Ronnie is the comic of the two and his frankness is refreshing, but the Reggie character is all too familiar – the likeable anti-hero, who wants to go legit…yada yada yada. Quickly we find ourselves in a generic gangster trope, that seems to drag on forever with no real insight to these two lunatic’s psyche.

The role of Frances is incredibly infuriating, the problem being that we have seen this character all too many times before. She’s beautiful, intelligent, innocent, but of course (snaps fingers) she’s just missing that extra chromosome that reminds civilised people that being romantically acquainted to a violent psychopath is just wrong. She finds Reggie Kray just too damn irresistible to resist. Her response to her mother, who tries to warn her he’s a gangster, is something along the lines of “Well, I’m gonna kiss him tonight”. That’s embarrassing. The casting of Emily Browning was dead wrong for this. She seems too sophisticated to be involved with gangsters, she lacks the conviction that could have been demonstrated better by a less fragile actress.

Clearly, Ronnie is the more intriguing character, but Helgeland decides to stagnate the focus on the relationship between Reggie and Frances, which becomes tedious. We get great glimpses of Ronnie’s peculiar sex life intertwined with drug-fuelled, homosexual orgies with politicians, but these scenes are merely used as comic relief before returning back to the match made in east end. The scandalous and seedy subculture that Ron Kray was immersed in evokes something more forbidden and would have been more daring and refreshing if the filmmakers had decided to explore it more. Even take Reggie out of the film altogether, simply rename the film to ‘Kray’ and see how deep the rabbit hole goes with Ronnie.

Instead, what we are left with is what feels and looks like a second-tier Scorsese gangster flick with genre conventions so generic and monotonous, you begin to feel as old as James Cagney. Legend is sure to gain some praise, particularly from Hardy acolytes, but when all’s said and done, this is one legend that won’t stand the test of time.

Cormac O’Meara

18 (See IFCO for details)
110 minutes

Legend is released 11th September 2015

Legend – Official Website

 

 

 

Share

Review: The Visit

91bba6ddd3cacb06690e4f584ad18266ed25d57f

DIR/WRI: M. Night Shyamalan •  PRO: Marc Bienstock, Jason Blum, M. Night Shyamalan • DOP: Maryse Alberti • ED: Luke Franco Ciarrocchi • DES: Naaman Marshall • CAST: Kathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Olivia DeJonge, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie

 

M. Night Shyamalan is something of an anomaly in the world of movie-making. His career has not so much climbed the steady ladder of success as veered wildly in a rollercoaster of inconsistency. Indeed, he seemed set for cinematic greatness with The Sixth Sense in 1999 and evidently has been trying to prove the world wrong since with rubbish such as 2008’s The Happening and 2010’s The Last Airbender. Shyamalan’s newest offering does not serve as a form of redemption- but it’s a step in the right direction.

Fifteen-year-old Becca (DeJonge) and her brother Tyler (Oxenbould) set out for a week-long visit to their estranged grandparents, whom their mother (Hahn) has not had contact with since she ran away from home years earlier. Eager to offer her mother some closure, and to discover why her grandparents have held a grudge for so long, Becca, an aspiring filmmaker, decides to document her time with her grandparents through a camera. However, it quickly becomes clear that Nana (Dunagan) and Pop Pop (McRobbie) are hiding something sinister from the two siblings, and things just get stranger as the week drags on.

The utilisation of the ‘found-footage’ narrative seems like an odd choice for Shyamalan, particularly given the context within the film. Becca is only fifteen yet works her equipment like a pro. Similarly, her younger brother Tyler spouts out phrases like ‘mise-en-scene’ without blinking an eye. Neither of the children speaks (or acts) in an age-appropriate manner; it’s painfully clear that their dialogue was written by an adult who thinks this is what kids should sound like. As a result, our two heroes often come across as annoyingly pretentious and unlikeable. Oh, and the boy raps. That might be the scariest thing in the whole film.

There are some tongue-in-cheek moments that are clearly nods to Shyamalan’s own directorial hubris and, while a bit of self-awareness is always appreciated, it just doesn’t work within the film as a whole. There is a lot of misplaced humour scattered throughout film- usually in the form of Tyler’s wisecracks- that tends to extinguish the tension where it in fact needed building. The dramatic core of the film lies within the children’s anguish of their father’s abandonment. Tyler has become a germaphobe as a result and Becca is suffering from body image issues. These details are not handled delicately and are, in fact, wedged into the latter half of the film with little subsequent reflection. The performance of the two child leads cannot be faulted but the script gives them no room to show off their obvious talent.

The horror element of the film is perhaps its most jumbled aspect. While there are a few small jump scares to be had, and some mildly unsettling imagery, a lot of it comes off as unintentionally humorous. Initially, the children dismiss their grandparent’s odd behaviour as due to their advanced age- because evidently old people by their nature are inherently creepy. Things never truly escalate to a satisfactory level, plateauing sometime in the middle act. The twist revealed in the films third act (what’s a Shyamalan film without a twist, right?) actually does add to the story, but takes away greatly from the horror. When we finally reach the film’s climax, and it does take way too long to get there, everything we see can be explained away by what has just been revealed to us. Danger still lingers, but the unknown no longer has a part to play, thus diluting the experience.

The Visit is not Shyamalan at his worst, but it’s not him at his best either. For those with a keen sense of these things, the film’s twist will become obvious long before it’s actually revealed. Even the most casual of horror fans will be left unimpressed by this work, but if you’re just looking for a couple of cheap thrills- and that alone- then this film is worth checking out. But if you’re as bored with Shyamalan as I am, you won’t be missing anything special.

Ellen Murray

15A (See IFCO for details)
93 minutes

The Visit is released 11th September 2015

The Visit – Official Website

 

Share

Review: An Klondike

000ac3c6-630

DIR: Dathaí Keane • WRI: Marcus Fleming • PRO: Pierce Boyce, Eileen Seoighe, Brid Seoighe  • CAST: Owen McDonnell, Julian Black Antelope, Dara Devaney, Robert O’Mahoney, Sean T O’Meallaigh

 

The rich history of the Irish diaspora is tapped into by Abu Media’s new feature film, An Klondike, a bilingual western, which opened at the Eye cinema recently. Directed by Dathaí Keane, it tells the story of three Irish brothers who become involved in the gold prospecting hysteria of the late 19th century in the north-west of the American continent.

The story opens with Seamus Connolly getting caught stealing while working in a Montana mine. He is soon bailed out by his father’s friend Bear, who subsequently gives Seamus and his brothers deeds to a plot near the Klondike River in Yukon territory. Its exact location is protected by a coded map.

Shortly after, Seamus absconds with both valuables, leaving his brothers Padraig and Tom in pursuit. The action moves to one of many fast growing towns of the era, Dominion, where the economy is generated by a thriving gold industry. Seamus carelessly gambles his assets with local businessman, Jacob Hopkins. This leads to a series of altercations between the pair, which culminate in a bloody duel. Hopkins’ father arrives in town and the story moves to Seamus’ purchase of a local hotel with Hopkins’ help.

Meanwhile, Tom, having caught up with Seamus, decodes the map with the help of a Native American and locates the plot nearby. He begins setting up his mining enterprise. A simmering love sub-plot involves Seamus and Kate Mulyran, a Cork emigrant engaged to the Mountie who tries to keep law and order in Dominion.

The realities of the ‘American dream’ for many emigrants are quickly exposed in the film. A scene of Tom blindly hammering a wall of rock evoked the gamble such prospecting actually entailed. With the focus on gold, the theme of greed is inevitably prominent and many characters are motivated by ‘owning half the town’, as Tom puts it.

Seamus’ behaviour is the driving force of the film. His impatience when he arrives in Dominion sets up the conflict with Hopkins. His interest in the Mountie’s fiancé creates the romantic angle, while he constantly antagonises his brother Tom. The economy of a town like Dominion is given sharp focus. Seamus is charged $10 to sleep at a table and sending a telegram can cost even more.

Many of the ’Western’ genre stereotypes are incorporated; guns at the hip, love triangles involving the law, considerable whiskey consumption, the ubiquitous dream of fast cash amongst an influx of cultures. The movie mainly plays out as Gaeilge, which does create a patriotic ‘little Ireland’ feel to the town.

The concept is a fascinating one; three brothers with a map leading to gold in the land of opportunity. The visuals are very impressive, the town construction is convincing and production design is detailed throughout.

An Klondike does get somewhat tangled in its array of sub-plots. While in the context of the film, they arguably contribute to Seamus’ journey, the dialogue and the characters he interacts with could have been drawn deeper. Bear, who initially gives the brothers the map, seemed interesting and deserved further development. Padraig never becomes hugely significant as the film unfolds. More time was needed for a number of key scenes, such as the opening mine robbery and the scheming of Hopkins’ father, whose single-minded material greed called for greater exploitation.

Some of the saloon scenes were enjoyable and might have been integrated better with the overall plot. There was an over-reliance on the familiar ‘Western’ devices and a hesitance to engage with more original techniques of telling the story.

However, An Klondike is a pictorial treat and certainly an excellent effort at drawing light on the Irish emigrants of the region and period. For fans of the genre looking for an Irish  flavour, it is well worth a look.

Martin Keaveney

15A (See IFCO for details)
110 minutes

An Klondike is released 28th August 2015

An Klondike – Official Website

Share

Review: Buttercup Bill

 1220249_Buttercup-Bill

DIR/WRI: Remy Bennett, Émilie Richard-Froozan • PRO: Emma Comley, Sadie Frost • DOP: Ryan Foregger • ED: Vanessa Roworth • DES: Akin McKenzie • MUS: Will Bates • CAST: Remy Bennett, Evan Louison, Pauly Lingerfelt.

 

Billed as a “psycho-sexual romance”, Remy Bennett and Émilie Richard-Froozen’s debut feature, Buttercup Bill never quite delivers on that promise – unless one counts a lengthy close-up of a phallic tree branch as the summit of symbolic sophistication. The film’s loose narrative involves Pernilla (Bennett) and Patrick (Evan Louison), lifelong friends who reunite in the wake of the suicide of a childhood playmate. Fairly swiftly, Pernilla and Patrick are engaged in some rather familiar erotic gamesmanship – often involving third parties. The question of why Pernilla and Patrick relate to each other in this fashion is intended as the film’s lure – although the mystery will hold the attention of few, and its solution will surprise absolutely nobody.

The film Buttercup Bill most closely resembles is Lost River (2014), Ryan Gosling’s garbled but not uninteresting directorial debut. Mercifully, Buttercup Bill’s low budget precludes the sheer self-indulgence of Lost River, but like Gosling’s film, Bennett and Richard-Froozen’s is less a fully formed feature than it is a curation of reference points – among which Terence Malick and David Lynch loom largest. Like Malick’s films, Buttercup Bill counterpoints the assumed interior life of its characters with a richly textured conjuring of their physical environment – beautifully captured here by cinematographer Ryan Foregger. Vanessa Roworth’s fine editing also feels intuitive more than linear, another echo of Malick – particularly in the later stages of his career. Lynch, the most compelling surface stylist of recent American cinema, is plundered for repeated – and incongruous – images of vampish chanteuses, and for the formal presentation of disquieting objects. A telephone booth in an overgrown expanse, for instance, takes on the character of Blue Velevet’s severed ear. Much of the borrowing is fairly blunt, and to no particular end – an early scene of a bleary-eyed Bennett answering a telephone cribs directly from Sheryl Lee’s performance in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992). While Malick and Lynch are both fine directors, their influence on American independent film culture is now so pervasive that the homages of younger filmmakers seem dispiritingly unimaginative.

Furthermore, while Gosling’s posturing was almost mitigated by an affecting turn from Christina Hendricks, Buttercup Bill stumbles with its leads. The controlled mise-en-scene suggests Bennett may have a compelling directorial career ahead of her, but her central performance is enervating – not least because of a vocal affectation that makes about half her lines unintelligible. As Patrick, Louison certainly captures his preening character’s juvenile narcissism, but leaves viewers none the wiser as to why he exerts such a magnetic pull for the film’s female characters. Of the supporting cast, the elaborately tattooed Pauly Lingerfelt is certainly a striking physical presence, while the exotically named Reverend Goat gives the film a momentary shot of energy with his wild-eyed (and very Lynchian) cameo as a preacher. A rich collection of soundtrack songs goes some way to giving interest to the film’s many longueurs – although the final selection is rather on-the-nose.

David Turpin

96 minutes

Buttercup Bill is released 4th September 2015

Buttercup Bill  – Official Website

 

 

 

 

Share

Review: The Transporter Refueled

movies-the-transporter-refueled-trailer

DIR: Camille Delamarre • WRI: Adam Cooper, Bill Collage, Wyatt Smith PRO: Luc Besson, Mark Gao • DOP: Christophe Collette • ED: Julien Rey • DES: Hugues Tissandier • MUS: Alexandre Azaria • CAST: Ed Skrein, Loan Chabanol, Ray Stevenson, Lenn Kudrjawizki

 

Of all the things to reboot, why this? Has the Transporter become some kind of pop culture icon while no one was watching? And was Statham so integral to it that when he wouldn’t come back it had to be rebooted rather than just given a sequel with a new actor? It’s not like he’s not James Bond (even if he does arbitrarily have Bond’s gadgets and resources this time). Really, there’s nothing here that would have even seemed out of place were it part of the old ‘continuity’. Anyway…

Frank (Skrein) is the exact same character from the previous movies. He wears suits, drives an Audi and enjoys punching people in the trachea while berating them for making him late. The plot is the exact same as every other one of these movies; he gets given a job, it somehow involves a woman and before he knows it, his precious rules have been broken and he’s in over his head fighting some larger-than-life, gang-leader villain purely because he happens to be there. The big difference with this reboot is that Frank’s father, Frank Sr. (Stevenson), who tags along for most of the plot in an attempt to inject some charm into this otherwise lifeless husk of a movie. The big baddie is a crime boss who made his money in prostitution and now four of his former, ill-treated employees have returned to reap vengeance upon him while using Frank’s skills to keep them alive long enough to do it. Oh and all the characters frequently quote Dumas’ Three Musketeers because I guess someone thought it would make them sound deep.

In case the tone of the above summary didn’t give the game away, this is not good. In fact it’s bad, it’s very bad. While there have undoubtedly been objectively worse made films this year (oh, say, Fant4stic) few have made for such an annoying, aggravating viewing experience as this. Mainly, it’s the arrogance that permeates the whole enterprise. From the opening credits that shoot and score shots of his car like we’re watching the newest instalment in a highly-anticipated Marvel sequel to the endless slow motion shots in the car chases and cutaways to characters talking about how amazing Frank is; this is very much a film that thinks it’s a lot cooler than it is. This is initially somewhat amusing but quickly becomes skull-crushingly annoying. While they might almost have gotten away with such a tone if The Stath were still in attendance, without his particular brand of genuine on-screen presence and winking self-awareness, it just comes across as insufferably smug.

What makes it even more baffling is that everything in the film is so safe and bland. The acting is flat and awkward, aside from perhaps Stevenson who is trying very hard to actually have a good time and almost appears to be in a different, better film. And then there’s the big draw, the action scenes. The car chases are fine, there’s a particularly decent one involving a taxiing plane and one laugh-out-loud-dumb moment with a jet ski but on the whole they aren’t a patch on that bike chase from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. As for the fist-fights, they’re dreadful. The choreography is passable but in what is clearly a lowered age-rating, they are completely lifeless and injury-free. Frank might as well be fighting men made of cushions as the fights have all the substance of the brawls from the Adam West Batman show.

Add in the final nail in the coffin – that this film has some of the leeriest, most grossly sexist direction in years – you have a thoroughly unenjoyable film. The scenes of the bad guy sitting on his yacht as the camera drools over slow-motion, bikini-clad, hot-tub dwellers while generic R’n’B plays might almost have been amusingly quaint in how antiquated it is were it not for the un-ironic, deadly seriousness with which the film seems to think this is the epitome of cool. The whole movie feels like a Transporter fanfic written by a teenager from the mid-noughties who viewed the original two films as the zenith of ‘cool’ action cinema. And to that end, if you are a fourteen-year-old who has seen hardly any films and still somehow clings onto mid-noughties, MTV Cribs-era sensibilities then you might, maybe like this. Everyone else should keep well away from this dull, lifeless turd that only seems to exist as a check on the studio’s balance sheet.

If you really want to go see a franchise reboot of a suit-wearing, Audi-driving, balding mass murderer; go see Hitman: Agent 47 instead. At least the people behind that had both the crew and age-rating to stage some seriously fun action sequences even if the film almost immediately abandons any fleeting relationship it had with sanity.

 

Richard Drumm

15A (See IFCO for details)
95 minutes

The Transporter Refuelled is released 4th September 2015

The Transporter Refuelled  – Official Website

 

 

Share

Review: Ricki and the Flash

 

Ricki

DIR: Jonathan Demme • WRI: Diablo Cody • PRO: Mason Novick, Marc Platt • DOP: Declan Quinn • ED: Wyatt Smith • DES: Stuart Wurtzel • MUS: Joseph Trapanese • CAST: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Mamie Gummer, Sebastian Stan

 

The latest project of writer Diablo Cody (who penned the Oscar-winning script for Juno) hits screens this week. Ricki and The Flash is a feel-good, music-filled delight about family, staying true to yourself, and second chances. From its opening number, Meryl Streep truly lights up the screen in the lead role of musician Ricki, and shines throughout the film right up to its heart-warming conclusion.

Ricki, originally Linda, plays regular gigs with her band, The Flash, to a small but enthusiastic audience in a bar in California. By day, she works in a soul-crushing job in a supermarket, counting the hours before she gets to be on stage again. Even at this point, the audience wonders if is this is what Ricki had imagined her life to turn out like. During one of her shifts, Ricki gets a call from her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline), asking if she will come to Indianapolis as her daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer), is going through a difficult divorce and needs support. Ricki has become estranged from her family, which also includes two adult sons, since she left her husband to pursue her career several years ago. Nonetheless, she is soon on a plane to reunite with them.

After this, we get to know more about Ricki’s past and her unusual take on the world. Given Ricki’s lack of contact with her family, tension and conflict inevitably arise as she tries to reconnect with her children. We also get an idea of what her life could have been had she stayed with Pete. Whether she is giving her daughter unusual worldly advice, is in the heat of an argument or singing a soulful tune, Streep is fabulous as always and the scenes with Streep and Kline are particular fun to watch. The two bounce off each other energetically and comically, while Gummer gives an emotional and sympathetic performance as Julie. Her character becomes child-like in the face of her divorce, expressing abandonment and despair through her words and body language, but also incorporates the role of the cheeky teenage daughter, who talks back to her parents and tells them the straight-up, often unbearable, truth.

The film stutters a little in its second act when Ricki returns to California to decide what her next move will be. Fortunately, it is also the point of the film where we get to see more performances from Ricki and The Flash, which are electric with energy and engaging. The music is full of joy with a mix of classic rock ballads, new melodies and ‘rocked up’ pop songs delivered by the flawless Streep alongside the legendary Rick Springfield, who plays the lead guitarist, Greg, of The Flash and boyfriend to Ricki.

The film is rather cheesy, a little too long and probably won’t appeal to everyone, but Ricki and The Flash is also great craic and smile-inducing. Its emphasis on family and forgiveness are timeless.

Deirdre Molumby

12A(See IFCO for details)
101 minutes

Ricki and the Flash is released 4th September 2015

Ricki and the Flash  – Official Website

 

Share

Review: 45 Years

45years

DIR/WRI: Andrew Haigh •  PRO: Tristan Goligher • DOP: Lol Crawley   • ED: Jonathan Alberts • DES: Sarah Finlay • MUS: Joseph Trapanese • CAST: Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine James, Tom Courtenay

 

Andrew Haigh’s marital drama 45 Years allows the audience to act as a fly on the wall in this intimate and unflinching film. We are introduced to Kate and Geoff Mercer, who are on the verge of celebrating their forty fifth wedding anniversary. They live in a country house in East Anglia. The bleak and grey landscape reflects the twilight years of their marriage, a relationship that survives on routine and monotony. At least that how it appears on the surface – a regular, retired, domesticated lifestyle with no surprises. Pop into town, cook some dinner and then bed. Maybe dunk a biscuit into a cup of tea on a wild Saturday night. The good life. That is until Geoff receives a letter informing him that a previous lover named Katya from his youth has been found dead.

 

She disappeared while they were romantically involved during the sixties before he ever met Kate. Naturally, this comes a quite a shock and at first Kate comforts Geoff as he reminisces about his old flame. However, soon Geoff begins taking too many liberties with his mourning and tension rises between the couple as they begin to question the foundations of their entire relationship. Geoff begins obsessing about the deceased woman, who has still to be lifted out of the glacier she fell into all those years ago. He buys a book on climate change, goes to a travel agency to inquire about flights, scrambles about the attic at night in search of old photographs. His nostalgic obsession of her causes her presence to haunt the home and cause a rift between the marriage.

 

Kate tries to keep it together and plan out their anniversary party, while Geoff escapes into his own world like a zombie. His demeanor and actions are like that of a child, it appears he has gone full circle in his antics. The movie is a slow burner in terms of its drama that slowly rises, and we feel tremendous empathy for Kate. However, the film does have its own subtle comedy that stems from Geoff’s erratic, infantile behaviour. He whines and curses about his old friends, he sneaks off for cigarettes, and for the majority of the film he looks spaced out, like the pod people for Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

 

It might seem ludicrous to compare 45 Years to a cult sci-fi, but in Invasion of the Body Snatchers the female protagonist also fears that her husband is not who he says he is anymore. The humour in 45 Years is quite dry and bitter. In the best scene in the movie, Kate’s world comes tumbling down on her after some domestic investigation in the attic. She discovers that Geoff has lied to her since the beginning about a major incident from his past. She knows nothing will be the same again. At this moment the phone rings and it is the party organiser, who proceeds to ask for her and Geoff’s favourite romantic songs. It’s a brave move to make such a sick joke for the films main dramatic piece, but then again Haigh doesn’t shy away from much in 45 Years. He allows us to focus on Kate’s expressions as she unveils some new information from Geoff, he doesn’t let us look away when the couple attempt having sex, or when Geoff vomits from too much alcohol.

 

For a film as confined and isolated as this it needs to exhibit some fine acting, which Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling simply outdo themselves as Geoff and Kate. So authentic and believable in their roles that at times I thought I was watching a documentary, a National Geographic show witnessing humans in their domesticated environment – tension’s rising as the female digs up the male’s skeletons in the closet.

Cormac O’Meara

15A (See IFCO for details)
95 minutes

45 Years is released 28th August 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Review: Straight Outta Compton

Straight_Outta_Compton_71962

DIR: F. Gary Gray • WRI: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff  • PRO: Matt Alvarez, Scott Bernstein, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, David Engel, F. Gary Gray, Bill Straus, Tomica Woods-Wright • DOP: Matthew Libatique • ED: Billy Fox, Michael Tronick • DES: Shane Valentino • MUS: Joseph Trapanese • CAST: Corey Hawkins, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, Neil Brown Jr, Aldis Hodge

 

N.W.A (Niggaz wit Attitude) are a group that could not have started in any other time or place. The political and racial tensions that followed the crackdown on drug-related crime in America in the late 1980s meant that the hip hop world was ripe for more aggressive voices. And, boy, did Dr.Dre, Eazy-E, Ice-Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella rise to the challenge. Straight Outta Compton is unique to biopic genre in that the traditional ‘rags-to-riches’ narrative, though utilised, gets brought to new levels. Director F. Gary Gray skilfully examines the context in which N.W.A became the most prominent rap groups of the era- the police brutality, the systematic racism, the poverty, and the gang violence- with an unflinching eye, refusing to tiptoe around important issues. The film also very much points fingers at certain figures in the music industry; point blank accusing them of corruption and all-round crappy behaviour.

Chronicling the years between the groups founding in 1986 to Eazy-E’s death in 1995, the rise and fall of N.W.A is made all the more compelling by the casts astounding performances. All relative newcomers to the industry, Hawkins, Mitchell and Jackson in particular serve as highlights in the film. The characters feel real, which is important, considering that they are based on real people, with real emotions. Giamatti also turns in a reliably good performance as the group’s scheming manager, Jerry Heller. As is always the case with biopics, the question of what real-life events were fabricated to make a good film is hard to ignore. And yet, the tone of the film rings sincere throughout. True, some of the more unpleasant actions of the characters are glossed over (or downright ignored, like Dr. Dre’s history of violence against women), but one only has to look at the film’s producer credits to understand why that is. Problematic though that is, it does not take away from the fact that this is one of the best films about rappers currently made.

Even those who have limited to no knowledge of the history of rap will find this an engaging and well-acted drama. For long-life rap fans, it will give you a new appreciation for the genre and the events that inspired some of its most famous tracks. Recommended!

Ellen Murray

16 (See IFCO for details)
146 minutes

Straight Outta Compton  is released 28th August 2015

Straight Outta Compton  – Official Website

 

 

 

 

Share

Review: We Are Your Friends

thumbnail_21841

DIR: Max Joseph • WRI: John Green • PRO: Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner • DOP: Brett Pawlak • ED: Terel Gibson • DES: Maya Sigel • MUS: Fat Segal • CAST: Zac Efron, Wes Bentley, Emily Ratajkowski, Shiloh Fernandez, Jonny Weston

 

Tales of millennials (*shudder*) and their struggle for self-realisation seems to be the dominate narrative of many up-and-coming filmmakers, and may well be for the foreseeable future. In his feature-length directorial debut, Max Joseph (of MTV’s Catfish fame) examines the struggles of a very particular type of ‘youth’- namely, the ridiculously good-looking, LA type. Namely, the ‘young and naïve, but passionate, musician/actor/dancer trying to make it in the big bad entertainment industry’ type. In other words, we’ve seen this story a million times before.

To give Joseph some credit, the silver-haired director does manage to bring a distinct ‘2015ish’ flavour to the film. The problem, of course, with setting a story so firmly in a specific moment of time is that, in a year from now, everything in this film will seem dated. Or it could become a snapshot of a particular cultural era for the archives, but, nah, this film is much too lacking in depth for that.

Our protagonist, Cole (Zac Efron), is an aspiring DJ who spends his days lazing with friends and nights promoting a nightclub in the hope of earning some money and/or time in the DJ booth. Cole and company dream of stardom and raking in the big bucks but, with little real motivation, the group seems doomed to spend their rest of their lives living in their parent’s pool-houses. That is until a chance encounter leads Cole into the path of famed, but washed-out, DJ Paul Reed (Wes Bentley). Suddenly finding himself with a mentor, Cole hesitantly begins to take the first steps towards developing his own original sound. Things get complicated however when our headphone-wearing leading-man finds himself falling for Reed’s girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), …and we all know where it goes from there.

This is a vapid film that is aimed mostly at a teenage audience. It has a lot of problems, the main issues revolving around tone and pacing. Joseph’s style seems to shift from scene to scene, leaving the audience with a distinct lack of consistency. The commentary offered by the film on the music industry seems a little too simplified to be taken seriously. Also, for its 96-minute run, it at times seems arduously long. And yet… the film isn’t a complete disaster. For one, solid performances are turned out by all cast members. Their characters may be lacking in substance, but we do believe that they genuinely are that shallow- intentionally or not. For his part, Joseph does attempt to touch on heavier issues- such as drugs, relationships, and personal stagnation- but he’s just not quite there yet as a director to handle these concepts effectively. But at least he tries. There can be no doubt that effort was indeed put into this film, which is more than can be said for other works of this ilk. Throughout the film there are genuinely beautifully shot scenes, and the cinematography is gorgeous.

We Are Your Friends is a film very much of its time that wants to be taken seriously, but succeeds only in serving as a passing amusement. But if you are looking for just that, something to pass the time on an otherwise quiet Sunday evening, you could do far worse than this film.

Ellen Murray

16 (See IFCO for details)
95 minutes

We Are Your Friends is released 28th August 2015

We Are Your Friends – Official Website

 

Share