Irish Film Review: Mattress Men

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DIR: Colm Quinn 

After legging it around the city like a headless you-know-what because I had confused myself about the location of this screening when it was in fact the date I got wrong, my sympathiser and an all-round super sound girl (from the Lighthouse box-office) informed me that Element were having a screening that very evening at Mattress Mick’s Pearse street store. Just when all seemed lost, when I was preparing to shuttle away to Smithfield square for a good mope, the single best way I could ever have experienced this documentary presented itself. On a mattress in Mattress Mick’s shop, hobnobbing with the film’s ordinary subjects. The Universe does indeed work in mysterious ways…

The shop is… different. Even without the balloon pillars or the floor-standing speakers blasting passers-by, or the life-size cutouts of the man himself, the shop would be very easily made out by its vivid pink, yellow and purple exterior. Mick Flynn, or Mattress Mick, stands proudly out-front, smiling and willing and proud of his now small but rejuvenated empire. He and his family are well known in the area, going back through generations and an assortment of trades, and, if the locals are anything to go by, he is better identified in these parts by his reputable humour than his “rare” look.

I’d like not to give a scene by scene here as much as I’ll try to engage with the film’s significance, it’s timeliness, and it’s probable that the whole country will see this one anyway. Invited inside the now-famous store, ushered by the informality of what feels like a family gathering, everyone is beaming. Paul Kelly, Micks’ good friend and the driving force behind his online persona gives me a preview of a song he convinced Richie Kavannagh to write for and about Mick, a show of his endless enthusiasm for Mick’s success and the opportunity therein for his own. Director Colm Quinn may have struck lucky for his first feature documentary, and perhaps his subjectivity too.

The chance for opportunity forms a huge part of this story, and the film equally follows Paul’s journey through his own reinvention after being made redundant twice, going through a painful separation at the same time as fending off debt collectors. Fed up and working part-time for Mick, he decides to invest what little capital he has in his own venture, Shoot Audition, some green screen and basic shooting equipment, you know the rest. Hilarious scenes of Mick’s outright discomfort feature throughout, of him making a “fool” of himself “in front of people he knows”, clear insecurities of a local man poo-pooed by Paul’s pure determination to see his vision through, with all the spirit and goodwill akin to old friends. It’s the kind of anomalous relationship you’d find yourself continuously smiling at because as a pair they are as unlikely as they are committed.

From the “Back with a Bang” videos conception to its end, this film is the tale of triumph in the face of imminent bankruptcy, avoided by a remarkable duo who come together, almost serendipitously after years of not meeting, to save each other’s skin. There are moments of pure, raw emotion, particularly when Paul talks about getting his family out of their tiny inner-city apartment to a better life, or where Mick talks about selling his family home to pay off debts. This story is as human as it gets, and reflexive documentary aims at its best to capture the times we live in, the way we are in our worst and best moments, and relay them so simplistically that we can only see ourselves reflected; Quinn does this well.

That’s what this film exudes – tenacity, and it’s a welcome addition to this golden era of Irish documentary. Filmed over three years, it captures in painful and sometimes revelatory detail the hardships brought on by austerity, the challenges faced by people and the reconciliatory role that laughter and positivity play, much called upon coping mechanisms of the past decade.

Colm Quinn’s film is more than the success story of a salesman turned internet star/national treasure, it’s a warm and familiar story of nationhood and, it has to be said, success!

Grace Corry

83 minutes
15A (See IFCO for details)

Mattress Men is released 7th October 2016

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Doc on Mattress Mick Screens at HotDocs

Mattress Men Still Image 4 - Stars of the Film Celebrate HotDocs Selection

Mattress Men, a feature length documentary telling the story of Mattress Mick, will premiere at the HotDocs festival in Toronto in early May before it hits Irish cinemas this Autumn.

The film takes a peak behind the mattress telling the true story the man who made the legend that is Mattress Mick. In an attempt to save his struggling mattress business during the recession, sixty-something Michael Flynn teams up with aspiring filmmaker Paul Kelly to reinvent himself as the eccentric online persona ‘Mattress Mick’. Through Paul’s zany videos and creative use of social media Mattress Mick quickly becomes an unlikely local celebrity. However, as the business and Mick’s profile begins to grow, their friendship comes under increasing pressure.

Mattress Men is directed by Colm Quinn and is the first feature-length film from Dublin-based independent production companies El Zorrero Films and Faction Films. Mattress Men was funded by the Irish Film Board.

Mattress Men will screen at HotDocs on the 3rd, 4th and 6th of May as part of the “Future Cult Classics” programme.

 

Keep up to date with the project on twitter at @mattressMenFilm and the Facebook page facebook.com/mattressmen.

 

 

 

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Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

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DIR: Dan Trachtenberg • WRI: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle • PRO: J.J. Abrams, Lindsey Weber • DOP: Jeff Cutter • ED: Stefan Grube • DES: Ramsey Avery • MUS: Bear McCreary • CAST: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher Jr.

10 Cloverfield Lane is for the most part a damn good film and features great performances from John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Adapted from a script called The Cellar, it does not share the same fictional universe as 2008’s Cloverfield, but its producers have called it its ‘spiritual successor’. They’ve almost spoiled a very fine film by forcing this connection. What we have here are two things: a top-notch thriller and a ridiculous ending.

The majority of the film is good and I’d still recommend going to see it for many reasons. It’s as thrilling as a knife-wielding clown and is well-made and well-acted.

Michelle (Winstead) has just split up with her boyfriend and is moving across the state of Louisiana to start a new life when she gets into a car crash. She wakes up with an injured leg and is chained to a wall in a bunker.

She is locked into the cell-like room but when she meets the man who put her there, Howard (Goodman), he tells her she is not a prisoner or an abductee. Howard built the bunker himself and according to him there’s been a massive attack by an unknown force. Much of the population has been wiped out and the air above ground is contaminated. They must stay in the bunker for a couple of years until the air clears.

She doesn’t believe him. Of course she doesn’t. But it is not just the two of them in the shelter. Howard’s neighbour Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) is also hiding out there and he says he backs up Howard’s story. It was him who helped build the shelter.

As the film progresses, Michelle sees things that make her think that the two men aren’t lying. But just because Howard may be telling the truth about the world ending doesn’t mean Michelle is safe down in the bunker with him.

Goodman is great in the role. Howard has spent most of his life preparing for doomsday and is a keen conspiracy theorist. Rather than mourn the end of the world, he seems to enjoy his new role as the ultimate authority in the bunker. He becomes more and more unstable and starts to behave like a child throwing tantrums because the other kids won’t play a game exactly how he wants to play it.

The use of sound and music in the film is excellent. They both add to the sense of fear Michelle feels and her wariness towards Howard. The bunker itself is small and creates a claustrophobic sense which pervades throughout the movie. As things go on, they get tighter. Michelle has to crawl through vents so tiny that Die Hard’s John McClane would probably have a panic attack in them.

It’s a proper thriller that gets stranger by the scene and keeps you guessing until the end. Winstead, using her big expression filled eyes, is the perfect choice to play someone who has to react to some seriously crazy things happening in front of her.

The film is strong. More than strong enough to stand on its own. There was no need to try peg it to Cloverfield’s brand. In the end, that’s the one thing that weakens it. But again, it’s well worth going to see.

Colm Quinn

15A (See IFCO for details)

103 minutes

10 Cloverfield Lane is released 18th March 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane Official Website

 

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Irish Film Review: Traders

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DIR/WRI: Rachael Moriarty, Peter Murphy • PRO: Libby Durdy, Rachel Lysaght, Stuart Switzer • DOP: Peter Robertson • ED: Joe McElwaine, Alastair Reid • DES: Francis Taaffe • MUS: Carter Burwell • CAST: Killian Scott, John Bradley, Peter O’Meara

It’s tempting to call Traders an Irish Fight Club. And it wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But the truth is the stakes are much higher for the members of the trading world than they were for Fight Club’s. You weren’t allowed to talk about Fight Club. You’d be lucky to even get the chance to talk about trading.

And while Fight Club was about the emptiness and lack of fulfilment gained from rampant consumerism,Traders is about when the force behind that consumerism, rampant capitalism, goes wrong.

In the lead role is Love/Hate’s Killian Scott, playing Harry Fox. Supporting him as Vernon Stynes is Game of Thrones’ John Bradley. When their financial company goes bust after losing €13bn, the guys are out of jobs and anyone associated with their former company is considered toxically unemployable. Harry takes a job in data entry for nowhere near the money he needs to cover his mortgage repayments. Vernon, on the other hand, decides to start a business.

Vernon is full of stats, facts and figures including the depressing one that leads him to his new business idea. For every 1% the economy loses there’s a 0.8% increase in suicide.

After failing to get a web design company off the ground he comes up with the much darker idea of trading. Using the deep web, he creates a site where two Traders can connect. They agree to sell all their possessions and convert all money into cash. They then meet in a pub and from there head to a secluded spot where they dig a grave. Once that’s done, they fight to the death and whoever’s left breathing buries the other and goes home with all the cash. Vernon markets trading as better than killing yourself.

The story is tense and gripping and always keeps you guessing. You want to know what will happen in the end. Unfortunately, without spoiling anything, the film descends into farce towards the end. This got laughs from the audience at the Dublin premiere  but it wasn’t the best way to end things.

Bradley steals the show in his portrayal of Vernon. Most people know him from Game of Thrones where he plays the pleasant, honourable and ever-loyal Samwell Tarly. He is completely different in Traders. He is a weasel, a snake and bloody brilliant.

Killian Scott, along with starring in the lead role, also narrates. Narration is something that should only be in films if the makers are sure it adds something or that they can’t do without it. In Traders it adds nothing and they could have done without it.

Although it’s a serious film there are some funny parts and in particular, some fantastic one-liners. Another thing the writers and directors Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murphy did very well is pick the right locations. They reflect a depressing time in Irish history but look good and are great places for death fights. Traders go for fights in ghost estates, abandoned buildings and disused quarries. This is a film inspired by the crash and the desperation it caused, and is still causing, in some people even 8 years later.

All in all, Traders is a good film and one which could have broad appeal. Even though this is in English, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see an American remake within a few years.

Colm Quinn

16(See IFCO for details)
89 minutes

Traders is released 11th March 2016

Traders – Official Website

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ADIFF Irish Film Review: Traders

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Colm Quinn exchanged punches with Traders, which screened at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

It’s tempting to call Traders an Irish Fight Club. And it wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But the truth is the stakes are much higher for the members of the trading world than they were for Fight Club’s. You weren’t allowed to talk about Fight Club. You’d be lucky to even get the chance to talk about trading.

And while Fight Club was about the emptiness and lack of fulfilment gained from rampant consumerism, Traders is about when the force behind that consumerism, rampant capitalism, goes wrong.

In the lead role is Love/Hate’s Killian Scott, playing Harry Fox. Supporting him as Vernon Stynes is Game of Thrones’ John Bradley. When their financial company goes bust after losing €13bn, the guys are out of jobs and anyone associated with their former company is considered toxically unemployable. Harry takes a job in data entry for nowhere near the money he needs to cover his mortgage repayments. Vernon, on the other hand, decides to start a business.

Vernon is full of stats, facts and figures including the depressing one that leads him to his new business idea. For every 1% the economy loses there’s a 0.8% increase in suicide.

After failing to get a web design company off the ground he comes up with the much darker idea of trading. Using the deep web, he creates a site where two Traders can connect. They agree to sell all their possessions and convert all money into cash. They then meet in a pub and from there head to a secluded spot where they dig a grave. Once that’s done, they fight to the death and whoever’s left breathing buries the other and goes home with all the cash. Vernon markets trading as better than killing yourself.

The story is tense and gripping and always keeps you guessing. You want to know what will happen in the end. Unfortunately, without spoiling anything, the film descends into farce towards the end. This got laughs from the audience at the Dublin premiere duringc but it wasn’t the best way to end things.

Bradley steals the show in his portrayal of Vernon. Most people know him from Game of Thrones where he plays the pleasant, honourable and ever-loyal Samwell Tarly. He is completely different in Traders. He is a weasel, a snake and bloody brilliant.

Killian Scott, along with starring in the lead role, also narrates. Narration is something that should only be in films if the makers are sure it adds something or that they can’t do without it. In Traders it adds nothing and they could have done without it.

Although it’s a serious film there are some funny parts and in particular, some fantastic one-liners. Another thing the writers and directors Rachel Moriarty and Peter Murphy did very well is pick the right locations. They reflect a depressing time in Irish history but look good and are great places for death fights. Traders go for fights in ghost estates, abandoned buildings and disused quarries. This is a film inspired by the crash and the desperation it caused, and is still causing, in some people even 8 years later.

All in all, Traders is a good film and one which could have broad appeal. Even though this is in English, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see an American remake within a few years.

 

Traders screened on 2oth February 2016 as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (18 – 28 February)

 

 

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Review: Rams

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DIR/WRI: Grímur Hákonarson  • PRO: Grímar Jónsson • DOP: Sturla Brandth Grøvlen • ED: Kristján Loðmfjörð • DES: Bjarni Massi • MUS: Atli Örvarsson • CAST: Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Theodór Júlíusson, Charlotte Bøving

In northern Iceland, sheep farmers have etched grazing land out of the volcanic landscape. Rams is a film born from that landscape and mirrors it: brutal, tough, unforgiving and beautiful. It took a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

It tells the story of two men and the rest of the sheep farmers in the valley they live in. Gummi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theodór Júlíusson) are brothers and next door neighbours. They have not spoken in forty years. When communication between them is unavoidable, Kiddi’s dog carries hand-written notes between the two.

Gummi, Liddi and everyone in the valley love sheep. They are the only things that allow them to live in this harsh environment. They treat these animals with an affection other people reserve only for cats and dogs,

Sigurjónsson plays the role of sheep farmer well and he handles the animals as if he’s been doing it all his life. After a ram competition in which Liddi’s prize ram narrowly beats Gummi’s, the latter decides to take a look at Liddi’s ram’s back muscle, which swung the competition his brother’s way.

On inspection, Gummi notices symptoms of a deadly, contagious and incurable disease in Liddi’s ram called scrapie. If the disease is there it could mean Liddi’s herd and the herds of everyone in the valley will have to be slaughtered.

The case is soon confirmed and the worst possible news is given that all herds in the valley will have to be euthanized. Liddi takes the news worse than anyone else and comes to blame his brother for the disaster. He falls into a spiral of dangerous drinking. They valley falls into despair and boredom. It seems their way of life is dying out.

Because of the outbreak the brothers are forced, against their will, to confront the issues they have been avoiding for decades. What happens afterwards is a powerful piece of drama which shows men dealing with things they really don’t want to. It is a tale of guilt, secrecy and anger, about two men who are dangerously stubborn in their own ways.

Writer and director Grímur Hákonarson manages to express a lot with very little dialogue. At many times throughout it what is not being said or what is being talked around that is interesting.

Iceland is a beautiful place and this film is stunning visually. But you can’t give mother nature all, or even most, of the credit for how good this film looks. The cinematography is top class. Cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen would have probably received an Oscar nomination had this been an American film. There were many shots throughout out that I want framed and hung on my wall.

Ireland and Iceland have many things in common. Our names are almost identical. We’re both lumps of rock strewn out into the Atlantic, the first to get battered by whatever storms the ocean throws at Europe. Iceland is our nearest neighbour after the UK. But for all that we’ve never been that close culturally and there is not much travel between us. But the characters in Rams are similar to Irish people and Irish characters. The film reminds me a lot of Jim Sheridan’s The Field.

It will resonate with people here in Ireland. It’s a story of rural decline and how communities are hanging on by their fingernails. Just like here in Ireland, all the young people are leaving these communities. Strikingly, there are no children at any point in the film and most of those under 30 are vets sent from other parts of Iceland to deal with the outbreak.

The film has a ruggedness to it and it’s unlikely you’ll have seen anything like it before. Hákonarson doesn’t lessen the harshness of the characters or the landscape, but still manages to find beauty in the way they are.

Colm Quinn

15A
92 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Rams is released 5th February 2016

Rams – Official Website

 

 

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Review: Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie

 

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DIR: Steve Martino • WRI: Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, Cornelius Uliano • Pro: Paul Feig, Bryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, Michael J. Travers, Cornelius Uliano • DOP: Renato Falcao • ED: Randy Trager • CAST: Noah Schapp, Bill Melendez, Venus Schultheis

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie sees the beloved cartoon and comic strip get a makeover for 2015. The kids are going to get lots of giggles out of this and it’s not just a film for them. Thankfully, It’s not an annoying kids film. If you have to go with your child, you’ll probably end up liking it as well, if only for the nostalgia value of seeing childhood characters you once loved.

The main story is about Charlie Brown, a boy who can’t seem to get anything right but seems to have an eternal supply of optimism anyway. He is always talking about making a fresh start but when he tries to do it he’s either afraid to take the first step or messes it up completely.

His beloved dog Snoopy is there to push Charlie into doing the things he’s a afraid to, sometimes for Charlie’s own good and sometimes just for Snoopy’s amusement. In the film, Charlie is down on his luck as usual after another failed attempt to fly a kite. He and the neighbourhood gang are out playing when they spot a moving lorry pull up beside a house.

They all run to the house’s fence to peer over and watch a new kid move in beside them. Charlie watches with the rest of them, thinking to himself that this is his chance to start over new with someone who knows nothing of his past failures. He remembers the clumsy and undignified things he’s done in the past as he leans on the fence, a little too hard, and it collapses. The other kids scatter and Charlie is left on his own, face down in the snow.

The new kid turns out to be a girl who soon appears in Charlie’s class at school. The film follows him in his efforts to get her to notice him, even though every time she comes near all he can manage to do is hide.

Snoopy has his own story as well that he writes and imagines himself from the top of his doghouse. He is a fighter pilot over Europe in the early 20th century, his doghouse is his plane as he tries to rescue a female dog from the clutches of the infamous Red Baron.

I saw this film in 3D but there’s no point in paying the extra money. All during it I was thinking, “Why am I wearing these glasses?”

The animation is nice overall. Although it is CGI, it doesn’t look fully digital and still retains a cartoonish style and feel which is a change from nearly all animation films these days. This was the right decision as when something comes from a comic strip it would look a bit odd if it were to lose that style. Maybe today’s children wouldn’t notice or care but anyone who knows the original cartoon or comic strip would find it a bit displeasing. And that hint of comic strip style in the animation is something that children may not have seen before and enjoy.

It’s hard not to like this film. Charlie is not the best at anything. He’s bumbling, awkward and clumsy. But you’d have to be dead inside not to be rooting and feeling for him as he swings back and forth between optimism and despair about a hundred times. The Peanuts Movie will resonate with any child that is always feeling like nothing can go right for them and any adult who once felt that way.

 

Colm Quinn

G
93 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is released 18th December 2015


Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie – Official Website

 

 

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Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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DIR: J.J. Abrams • WRI: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt • PRO: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Kathleen Kennedy, Tommy Gormley, Lawrence Kasdan • DOP: Dan Mindel • ED: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey • MUS: John Williams • CAST: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac

We’ve been seeing the Disney machine pumping out every kind of Star Wars merchandise for months but now at last we can see the film. The first thing you’ll be wanting to know is is this: it is not another Phantom Menace.

The Force Awakens is a very good film with an excellent storyline and plenty of action. It starts some years after the events of Return of the Jedi and sees the old heroes from that hooking up with a new band from the next  generation. The light side of the force is threatened again. There is a new power growing  on the dark side. There is another compelling father-son storyline.

The new stars to the series all play good characters. Daisy Ridley plays Rey, who is living a subsistence lifestyle on a desert planet when events catapult her into the fight for the Galaxy. John Boyega plays Finn, a Stormtrooper who can’t stand his evil job any longer. Adam Driver is Kylo Ren, the new apprentice to the dark side and he is eager to fill Darth Vader’s shoes.

The Force Awakens was always going to make millions upon millions from ticket sales and merchandise but thankfully they made sure to get the story right. If they had messed up this time like they did with the prequels, the series may never have recovered. It pays homage to the original in parts while creating its own memorable moments. It has another massive Star Wars twist and a heart-breaking moment which will cause gasps and that I’m not sure some fans will ever recover from.

Harrison Ford returns as an aged but still inscrutable Han Solo. This time around he plays a father figure to the younger characters guiding them through battle and he slides into this role well. The film also stars the always good Oscar Issac as a pilot fighting against the Darkside. Although this isn’t the biggest role in the film, he plays it well and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his character play more of a part in the remaining two films of the trilogy.

Boyega is endearing in the role of Finn. He is funny and has a deer in the headlights look for some time before growing in courage through the film as he continues to annoy those he once worked for. If it weren’t for the new robot BB8, he’d be the most likeable character in the film.

If R2D2 and a football had a baby, it’d be BB8. It’s hard to say anything steals the show in The Force Awakens, but BB8 comes closest. His beeps and mannerisms will have audiences laughing out loud all over the world and he will quickly become a beloved Star Wars icon. The familiar favourites of Chewbacca, C3P0 and R2D2 all return.

One of the criticisms of the prequels was that they were boring with long sequences of dialogue that didn’t add much to the plot. The Force Awakens avoids this. Nobody wants Star Wars to be just another CGI film with nothing much to it but animations blowing up. But the series is also called Star Wars. You want lasers flying, lightsabers smashing into each other and spaceships crashing into bigger spaceships. You get plenty of it.

At the end of the film major events have happened, heroes have been made or are on their way to being made, hatreds have been deepened and it’s set up well to continue for another two films. Bring on 2017 and the second instalment.

Colm Quinn

12A
135 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released 18th December 2015


Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Official Website

 

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Review: Black Mass

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DIR: Scott Cooper  WRI: Mark Mallouk, Jez Butterworth • PRO: John Lesher, Scott Cooper, Patrick McCormick, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson • DOP: Masanobu Takayanagi • ED: David Rosenbloom • MUS: Junkie XL • CAST: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Jesse Plemons, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane

 

Black Mass tells the story of real-life Irish-American gangster and FBI informant James ‘Whitey’ Bulger. This has been one of the most anticipated films of the year and while it has its good moments it also turns out to be one of the year’s biggest let downs.

The film’s heavily inspired by Martin Scorsese. From the way it’s shot, to the material covered you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching one of his films. But unfortunately it doesn’t come close to touching Goodfellas or Casino.

Johnny Depp takes the lead as Bulger, who with the help of an old friend in the FBI went on to rule the Boston underworld avoiding investigation and prosecution even in the wake of the vicious crimes he committed.

And Depp plays a psychopath very well which this film, to its detriment, never misses an opportunity to show. Instead of really delving into Bulger’s character and showing his rise and fall, Black Mass features scene after scene of him doing crazy things without any real need to.

It’s a gangster film about a man who committed many, many murders. Yes, you have to show that he’s a psychopath but his entire storyline seems to be sacrificed for shots of him doing crazy things. And because of this the film never really gets going and we miss out on other things that could have been explored.

Probably the more interesting character in the film is the FBI agent who helped Bulger avoid investigation and prosecution for many years. John Connolly, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Exodus), grew up on the same streets as Bulger and wasn’t really corrupted by money but instead by a little brother like affection and admiration that he held for the gangster. It’s a unique take on how a law enforcement agent ends up corrupted and Edgerton’s portrayal of Connolly as a sycophantic, suck-up to Bulger is compelling.

He is obsessed with protecting him even when his marriage falls apart and it’s clear other law enforcement agencies are onto him. Both he and Bulger are from South Boston, a place that values loyalty above all else, and even as an FBI agent Connolly somehow can’t stop being loyal to the big guy from the old neighbourhood.

The performances are all pretty solid. Depp underwent a significant transformation and his haunting, cold blue eyes in the film make him look subhuman. Another strong performance is from Jesse Plemons (TV’s Fargo) who plays an associate of Bulger, Kevin Weeks.

The film seems to cover a hundred things but can’t choose a centre to focus on. It begins storylines and asks questions that it neither really finishes nor answers. A prime example of this is Whitey’s relationship with his brother.

While Whitey was strangling and shooting his way to the top of Boston’s underworld, his brother Billy rose to become the most powerful politician in the city. Played by another star actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, the film doesn’t delve deep into the brothers’ relationship. When the biggest gangster and the biggest politician in a city are brothers, it’s bound to cause tension, right? But the two have only a handful of scenes together which aren’t very meaningful.

Instead of telling the story of Whitey Bulger Black Mass feels more like a greatest ‘hits’ compilation of the gangster. It goes through scene after scene of what he did, who he shot and what he stole. And because of this the plot never gets time to develop properly and at the end of the film you can’t help but feel unsatisfied.

Colm Quinn

15A
122 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Black Mass is released 27th November 2015

Black Mass – Official Website

 

 

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Review: Bridge of Spies

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DIR: Steven Spielberg • WRI: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Matt Charman Pro: Christoph Fisser, Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Marc Platt• DOP: Janusz Kaminski • ED: Michael Kahn • MUS: Thomas Newman • CAST: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan

When a film is directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Tom Hanks and is written in part by the Coen Brothers, you’d expect it at least to be solid. Maybe you go into the cinema with the expectation that none will hit the heights they hit during their peaks but you know you won’t be disappointed.

But the new drama, Bridge of Spies, is better than just decent. It enthrals and it moves you. It is one of the best films of the year so far, if not the best, and can stand beside anything these great filmmakers have done.

The drama is based around real-life events and Hanks plays James B. Donovan, a lawyer given the unenviable task of defending a Soviet spy caught plying his trade in America in the 1950s. Donovan’s colleagues in the US justice system pat him on the back and make a merry dance of showing how everyone in the USA gets a fair trial. But it is merely a formality to them and they are as bloodthirsty as anyone else in the country. However, it is no pretence to Donovan and he takes the job of defending his client very seriously. A bit too seriously for many people’s liking.

When you see the posters and the trailer for the film you’re promised nail-biting drama. It is packed full of gripping scenes but it is also a touching, moving, sweet and funny film in ways. And that’s a hard thing to get away with when you’re making a Cold War drama.

But they pull it off. It is both sad and uplifting but never melodramatic or sentimental. These guys are master storytellers and they’ve created another wonderful film. Hanks is sharp, convincing and funny. The writing is superb. And Spielberg is at his best. The first scene is a walking chase through New York and is directorial brilliance. It’s a joy to watch and will suck anyone into the film, even those reluctantly dragged to the cinema.

The first half is occupied with the Donovan’s defence of the spy, Rudolf Abel, played fantastically by Mark Rylance. It shows their relationship and its effects on the lawyer and his family. In the second half he goes to Berlin to negotiate a prisoner swap between the US and USSR.

Donovan is not content with just getting what his government wants. He also doesn’t stop until he’s gotten what he feels he can from the situation. In real life, Donovan was no different, after the swap in Berlin he was asked by John F. Kennedy to go to Cuba to negotiate the release of 1,000 prisoners. Donovan got 9,000.

Sometimes great acting lives in showing intense emotion on screen but Mark Rylance puts in a great performance without ever getting angry or emotional. His expression barely changes throughout the film, even as he faces the possibility of a death sentence. The actor has made his career on the stage rather than the screen but his quite performance makes his character endearing.

The film is really two stories ­– the defence and the prisoner swap. That could’ve made for a severed storyline but the two are blended so well together it doesn’t matter. The writing plays a huge part in this as it weaves recurring and connecting pieces of dialogue and images throughout the film.

It’s still not clear who’ll win Oscars early next year. The bookmaker Paddy Power so far has Bridge of Spies as an outsider but if Spielberg and Hanks pick up more awards for their collections, nobody will be able to rightly begrudge them.

Colm Quinn

12A
141 minutes (See IFCO for details)

Bridge of Spies is released 27th November 2015

Bridge of Spies – Official Website

 

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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

 

 

 

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Review: Red Army

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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

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Watch ‘Needle Exchange’ a short film by Colm Quinn

needle_2011_01

Needle Exchange tells the story of Spencer and Glenn, two best friends who helped each other swap their heroin habits with a passion for tattoos. Ink is their link, but their bond is tested when a new romantic relationship threatens the friendship.

Winner – Best Short Documentary, Galway Film Fleadh 2011

Official Selection:

Tampere International Short Film Festival 2011
Sheffield DocFest 2011
Worldwide Short Film Festival Toronto 2011
Bristol Encounters International Film Festival 2011
International Competition, Cork Film Festival 2011
AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs, Washington DC 2012
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival 2012

“The touching and brilliantly-named documentary, Needle Exchange, featured two recovering drug addicts and best friends who have taken up tattooing. Honest, heart-breaking and very, very funny; this wonderful Reality Bites piece was masterfully put together by director Colm Quinn.”

Film Ireland review from Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2011

Director – Colm Quinn (@colm_quinn)
Producer – Andrew Freedman
Director of Photography – Aidan Maguire
Editor – Maeve O’Boyle
Music – Denis Clohessy

 

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Filmbase/RTE short film Joy continues a succesful festival run

Filmbase/RTE short film Joy, written and directed by Colm Quinn, has been enjoying a successful festival run in North America. The film had its international premiere at the prestigious South by Southwest Film Festival in Texas last March, before screening as part of a ‘Best of SXSW’ in Montreal. Further screenings took place at the Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto and the Seattle International Film Festival, with upcoming screenings in Big Sur and Santa Fe.

 

Joy tells the story of Nicola, a 16-year old girl, in hospital after giving birth. When her best friend Tess visits, she must reluctantly introduce her newborn daughter who only lived for a short time. Following its premiere in the international competition at the Corona Cork Film Festival, Donald Clarke of The Irish Times reported ‘Joy, shot in beautiful widescreen, finds a teenage mother facing up an anticipated, but still heartbreaking, trauma. The film never shouts when it can whisper. Its familiar story is archetypal in its poignancy.’ The film also screened as part of a Corona Cork Film Festival compilation at the St.Kilda Film Festival in Melbourne.

 

Starring Jane McGrath (Pure Mule), Aoife Duffin (Behold the Lamb) and Derbhle Crotty (Notes on a Scandal), Joy was produced by Neil Wallace and Emmet Fleming for Venom Films. Director of Photography was Kate McCullough.

A trailer can be viewed at the folllowing link http://www.thisisirishfilm.ie/trailers/joy

 

 

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Filmbase/RTE short ‘Joy’ selected for SXSW

Irish director Colm Quinn’s short drama Joy is to have its international premiere at next month’s South by South West festival in Austin, Texas. Winner of the Filmbase/RTÉ short film award, it will screen as part of the narrative shorts competition along with 26 other titles from around the world.

Joy tells the story of Nicola, a 16-year old girl, in hospital after giving birth. When her best friend Tess visits, she must reluctantly introduce her newborn daughter who only lived for a short time. The film stars Jane McGrath (Pure Mule), IFTA nominee Aoife Duffin (Behold The Lamb) and Derbhle Crotty (Notes on a Scandal).

Joy was shot by Director of Photography, Kate McCullough (His & Hers) and produced by Emmet Fleming and Neil Wallace for Venom Film.

http://www.venom.ie/

Taking place in Austin, Texas, the SXSW® Film Conference and Festival is a creative environment featuring the dynamic convergence of talent, smart audiences and industry heavyweights. Last year the Festival featured many features and shorts, with 66 world premiere features, including Bridesmaids, Source Code, Attack the Block, Weekend, The Beaver, Dragonslayer and Natural Selection among others. The 2012 SXSW Film Conference and Festival takes place in March 9 – 17, 2012 in Austin, Texas. SXSW is also an official qualifying festival for the Academy Awards Short Film competition (Best Narrative Short and Best Animated Short). For more information, visit http://www.sxsw.com/film.

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JDIFF: IFB Shorts

Pentecost

IFI, Templebar, Saturday 19th February 6:30pm

Like a tasty box of Leonidas chocolates, I had the pleasure of consuming the IFB Shorts, which screened at Jameson Dublin International Film Festival in the IFI, Saturday 19th February. A variety of styles and flavors, the first from the selection was a lovely atmospheric animation, The Monk and The Fly. Directed by Matthew Darragh, this 3 minute Short Short saw a monk’s meditation interrupted by a host of mischievous tormentors.

A change of pace ensued with Brian O’Malley’s Crossing Salween. Brian had spoken to JDIFF’s Screenwriting Panel earlier about the film, which told the tale of a young girl from Eastern Burma named, Ko Reh, who finds herself orphaned after the massacre of her village by the army. An epic film, I was really blown away by Crossing Salween’s scale, beauty and style.

The touching and brilliantly-named documentary, Needle Exchange, featured two recovering drug addicts and best friends who have taken up tattooing. Honest, heart-breaking and very, very funny; this wonderful Reality Bites piece was masterfully put together by director Colm Quinn.

A change in genre saw the physiological thriller, The Night Nurse. Directed by Terence White, this four-minute Short Short followed a nurse who’s working late one night on a psychiatric ward.

Lifting the eerie mood, documentary Collaboration Horizontale took the cinema to Chartres during the World War two era. Through interviewing the modern-day townspeople, director Ciaran Cassidy explored the sad fate of a baby who featured in an iconic in Robert Capa photo; the daughter of a German soldier.

Tom Merilion’s high energy short Flatbed followed, as an interesting depiction of the end of a relationship, while Brian Williams’ Dummy, the ultimate rycycling film, followed the varied uses found for an old mannequin.

The carmel-nut favorite of the yummy IFB chocs was definitely Pentecost – the brilliant short by Peter McDonald and winner of Best Irish Short at the Corona Cork Film Festival in 2010. This sweet, clever and hugely humorous Signatures, told the story of a defiant youngster who’s forced to serve as an alter boy at a very important mass. The IFI echoed with the audience’s loud laughter at the pre-mass locker-room pep talk.

Ken Wardrop’s ambiguous drama, Return To Roscoff, told the sad story of a lonely woman’s attempt to contact her son’s father and Shoe was a black comedy about a vagabond who rudely interrupted a suicide. Hilary Fennell’s Hearing Silence documented professional musician Elizabeth Petcu’s decent into deafness, while dark animation Headspace by Patrick Semple left a host of nightmarish images in the wake of its depiction of a young boy’s troubles.

The final tasty treat of the evening was Matt Leigh’s documentary about the elderly clientele at a Dublin Hair salon, Blue Rinse. These amazing older women shared their beauty tips, experiences and humour in this thoughtful short.

Gemma Creagh

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Minicinefest Winner Announced

Colm Quinn ’s The Discreet Charms of the Refugee won this year’s Minicinefest Golden Triangle award at the Ranelagh Arts Festival. Judges for the event were film critic Michael Dwyer, and filmmakers Lenny Abrahamson and Conor Horgan.

The short tells the story of an African-Irish man auditioning for a role in a Civil War drama set in a fictional African nation. It was produced as part of the Garage Studio at the 2007 Berlinale Talent Campus.

Upcoming screenings for the film include the Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol and the 32nd Sao Paolo International Film Festival. It has already received special mentions at Cork, Waterford and Chicago-Irish film festivals.

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