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

10CloverfieldLane

 

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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