Interview: Conor Dowling, Co-Director of ‘The Light of Day’

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This week Dublin’s premier filmic fright fest, the Horrorthon, returns blood-stained and shambling to the IFI. Demonic possession and dismemberment are to be expected, but between the shocks and screams there are laughs to be had at the screening of the comedy mockumentary, The Light of Day.

Film Ireland picked at the brains of co-director Conor Dowling ahead of the screening this Friday. 

Set and shot in Dublin, The Light of Day follows a group of amateur filmmakers as they struggle with the horrors of low-budget filmmaking on the set of a vampire horror flick. The mockumentary follows Michael, the DOP trying to salvage the production against a horde of incompetence from the egocentric director, a desperate producer and non-existent budget.

The film was made as part of the MSc in Digital Filmmaking at Filmbase, written by Christopher Brennan and directed by students Amy Carroll, Conor Dowling and Eoin O’ Neill.

After it premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, Conor Dowling, who describes the team as “horror fanatics”, told us what it means to have it shown at the IFI Horrorthon. “We’re over the moon to be screening at the IFI. I’ve been going to the Horrorthon for years and it’s a genuine honour to have our film screen at it.”

The feature was the culmination of a course focused on practically preparing filmmakers for all areas of film production. Conor went on describe how this benefited the making of the film. “The course allowed the class to work together on several projects throughout the year before The Light of Day, giving us the opportunity to see what it was like to work together along with giving us top quality experience and guidance.”

This was particularly relevant for the three directors. “Before we got onto set we were all on the same page in terms of the script, the cast, the shooting style, and how all the scenes would be staged. Having three directors on a film is not very common and people often wonder how it can possibly work, but for us it was a particularly smooth process, and working with two other directors was actually a huge benefit.”

Conor explains that working collaboratively they were able to “work on our shotlists together and give feedback on the other director’s interpretations of how scenes should play out, while each bringing our own unique take and sense of humour to certain scenes. By the time it came to shoot, we were happy to divide the three shooting weeks up evenly with a week each. Having three directors also allowed us to cover more ground and sometimes even shoot simultaneously. For example, one director could be setting up for a scene in the warehouse and the other director could grab some crew, and an actor to film some additional scenes outside.”

Another topic discussed before the shoot was their influences. “When it comes to mockumentary style you have to look at the likes of The Office, both the US and UK versions, and the films of Christopher Guest. These would have been the main influences but we also looked elsewhere to get an idea of how it has been done differently. For example, I was a big fan of Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, which was a great comedy horror mockumentary in 2006 and we were all a fan of the Belgian film Man Bites Dog, which was not tonally what we were looking for but in terms of camera movement and naturalistic staging of scenes it was a great example.

“So for the mockumentary style we intended to make it look as close to real life as we could using natural light where possible, using a lot of camera movement and working with our cinematographer to obtain the fly on the wall documentary style we wanted.”

The Light of Day is told through behind-the-scenes styled footage documenting the production of the vampire horror flick, ‘The First Bite is the Deepest’. The story of the shoot develops alongside footage of the film, creating a film-within-a-film that presented both challenges and opportunities for the filmmakers. “To establish a different look and feel for the film within the film, we used a different camera and shooting style. Stepping away from the handheld mockumentary style for these scenes, we were able to use a more traditional cinematic shooting style with more complex lighting setups. The aim was to have a short cinemtic horror film split up and placed throughout the overall film, and this film was a great opportunity for us to try out different cinematic techniques and styles from some of our favourite horror and action films.”

 

The Light of Day screens on Friday, 24th October 2014 at 19.10 as part of the IFI Horrorthon 2014 (23rd – 27th October). The directors will attend the screening.

Tickets for The Light of Day are available here

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IFI Ireland on Sunday Interview: Lorna Fitzsimons, co-director of ‘Poison Pen’

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The comedy feature Poison Pen, the first screenplay from international best seller Eoin Colfer, will screen this Sunday at the IFI as part of its monthly showcase for new Irish film.

The film co-stars Lochlann O Mearáin as a washed-up author, who is coerced into writing for a gossip magazine, alongside Aoibhinn McGinnity as his new boss. Set in London but shot almost entirely in Dublin, Poison Pen is a smart and discerning romantic comedy about the nature of celebrity and integrity.

Poison Pen was directed by Lorna Fitzsimons, Jennifer Shortall and Steven Benedict, and made as part of the Masters in Digital Feature Film Production at Filmbase, which places an emphasis on practical filmmaking to prepare students for a future in film production.

“Anyone who’s made one can tell you what it’s like to make a feature film, but you only really learn when you do it yourself,” explains Lorna Fitzsimons, one of the co-directors and students on the course. “We did classes in everything: script writing, pre-production, casting, camera, sound recording, marketing, funding, etc. Directors, producers, writers, a really impressive list of industry experts came to see us, which was great preparation.”

As one of three directors, Lorna explains how they divided up Eoin Colfer’s script and how artistic continuity was retained. “Essentially we divided the script by locations or ‘worlds’. Steven (Benedict) took the old world, mainly based around Molloy’s apartment and his daughter Sally, I took his new world, mainly based around the magazine offices and London, and Jenny (Shortall) took the Celebrity world which, as you can imagine, was based in hotels, clubs and glamorous places.

“This division worked well, people act differently in different company and places. For example, Molloy is used to his writer’s block while he is at home, it’s comfortable, he owns it. When he gets to the Poison Pen offices, it’s different, he’s different. The influence of a different director is easily worked out this way. We spoke so much about character and story and motivation in preproduction that I don’t think anything was left to chance.”

In addition to the two lead actors, the film boasts an impressive support cast that includes Paul Ronan, Mary Murray, Susan Loughnane, Gemma-Leah Devereux, Aaron Heffernan and Lauryn Canny. Lorna discusses how they acquired the acting talent. “Our producers, Áine Coady and Sharon Cronin, did an amazing job of negotiating with agents and getting people in the room with us. Sometimes we did readings, sometimes we didn’t. I think that the guidance we got from Filmbase on casting was one of the best things about the course. There are no hard-and-fast rules, you have to meet actors and look for the characters; some people surprised us when we looked at the tapes and that was a learning curve, it’s all on the tape, not necessarily in the room.

“Having actors with experience on set is really important but there is such a fine balance, they need to want to be there and be challenged too.”

With over 30 locations and an extremely tight shooting schedule, managing time while getting good performances in the can was another balancing act. The film premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in July which, with principal photography starting in April, gave the filmmakers a tight deadline to aim for.

“Getting to the finish was a challenge. All the little niggly bits that can take months, but because we had this deadline we had to get them done. This is where many people new to filmmaking get lost I think, in the soup that is completing the film”.

Lorna also puts an emphasis on preparation. “Directing on set was the highlight for me. It’s difficult to get practice doing that, so I tried to appreciate every moment. Preparation is necessary and really stands to you. I like being on set with my homework done, observing what it is everyone is doing, answering their questions and giving the actor the right words just when they are needed.”

After the rush to get the film finished for its premiere down in Galway, Lorna is looking forward to its screening at the IFI this weekend. “I feel like we were all a little shell shocked standing on the stage at the Fleadh. It’s been 6 weeks now, so this time I’m looking forward to watching the film with friends and family, seeing how they react.”

Poison Pen screens on Sunday, 31st August 2014 at 18.00 as part of the IFI’s Ireland on Sunday monthly showcase for new Irish film.

The cast and crew will participate in a post-screening Q&A.

Tickets for Poison Pen are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

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Cinema Review: The Raid 2: Berandal

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DIR/WRI: Gareth Evans • PRO: Nate Bolotin, Ario Sagantoro, Aram Tertzakian • DOP: Matt Flannery • ED: Gareth Evans • MUS: Aria Prayogi, Joseph Trapanese, Fajar Yuskemal • CHO: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian • CAST: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra

Every few years an Eastern martial arts film muscles its way into the mainstream western conscience, films like Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak, Donnie Yen’s IP Man and the work of Yimou Zhang. The Raid: Redemption was one such film, which delivered a knockout karate chop to the face when it roundhouse kicked its way into Irish cinemas back in 2011. The Indonesian martial arts romp by the Welsh director (Welsh!), Gareth Evans, forwent substance in favour of a simple plot, about a team of police raiding a tower block of criminals, and a crap tone of style.

Now Evans is back with The Raid 2: Berandal, which takes the fight to the street and attempts to expand upon the staggering fight scenes from the first film with bigger action, a heavier plot and even a car chase or two.

Poor Rama is having a pretty bad week. We pick up with our bloodied and bruised protagonist where the first film left off, with him fresh from fighting his way through hordes of criminals to get to their drug lord boss. But now we find out that this boss is just a small fish in a large pond, on top of which his brother has been assassinated, and he must now go undercover in a prison where he’ll fight 18 guys from within the confines of a dirty toilet cubical. Life’s hard.

On his bloody tale of redemption Rama encounters a lot of big fish Mafioso types and their henchmen, such as the affectionately named Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man. His time in the slammer is really just a ploy to get pally with Uco, the angsty son of a big time crime lord. Once out, the focus of the film shifts towards exploring the relationship between the hot-headed Uco and his father.

This proves to be a smart choice by the filmmakers because, while Iko Uwais (Rama) is perfect as the brooding badass who may be in a lot of pain but will still mess you up, Arifin Putra (Uco) displays more dramatic range. Yayan Ryhian, who choreographed the fight scenes along with Uwais, is also impressive as he returns in a new role as a hobo/part-time hitman.

But for all of the plot, subplot and performances, the heart of the film is still in its bloody and indulgent fight scenes and, even running at a lengthy 150 minutes, you’re never far from some pants-soiling action. With modern Hollywood action films numbing us with CGI superheroes bashing CGI superheroes, the visceral and impactful combat here combines just enough realism with spectacle to make it truly satisfying.

Moving the combat out of the dingy rooms and corridors of the first film sacrifices the distinctive, claustrophobic style for greater scope and variety. Fights happen in cars, prisons, warehouses, clubs as well as bright offices, and fancy restaurants, giving a diversity that suits the longer format. What we miss out on as a result is the gritty charm. In particular, the cookie cutter gangsters in their minimalist offices don’t offer the same crazed vitality of the villains from the first film. The Mobster plot, including Uco and his father’s rule by fear vs. rule by respect debate, is also entirely unoriginal.

But for sheer blood-pumping spectacle, Gareth Evans is cementing himself as the best director in the business. By the end of the film I had the immediate urge to sit through it again. Despite some minor flaws, The Raid 2: Berandal is still probably the best action film you’ll see this year, unless of course Chuck Norris releases anything.

 

Glenn Caldecott

18 (See IFCO for details)
150 mins

The Raid 2: Berandal  is released on 11th April 2014

The Raid 2 – Official Website

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Liam Bates’ score for ‘Last Passenger’ to be Released

Liam Bates

 

The soundtrack by Irish composer Liam Bates for the action film Last Passenger is available to buy on CD on 19th November 2013.

The score, which was recorded with The Orchestra of Ireland at Studio 8, RTÉ, and mixed at Windmill Lane was influenced by high-octane action scores form the 1970s and 80s to fit the exciting, tense and dark nature of the the film. Last Passenger is a claustrophobia thriller directed by Omid Nooshin. Dr. Lewis Shaler, along with his son Max and his love interest, are travelling on a commuter train that misses out on the last of its stops. The small group of surviving commuters must work together to stop the train before they meet their doom.

“I thought that the score should be emblematic of the film’s overall direction,” explained Omid Nooshin, the director, who also co-wrote the film, “personal approach spotlighting emotion and character, but also evoking the central theme of everyday heroism in the face of mortality. Liam’s initial composition was an opening salvo of racing brass and percussive pulses. The sheer excitement he conjured put the hook in me.”

Liam Bates talked about his concept for the score. “Interestingly, the music for a movie which is literally constantly on the move, required particular attention to that second musical element, the vehicle of rhythm. This element which was laid out with strongly defined pace and carefully marked tempo transitions, would become the back-bone for the steadily rising tension in the film, leaving pitch or melody to draw out the emotion surrounding the characters and their interplay.”

“Being mindful not to simply emulate the rhythmic sound of the train on the track, I looked for various metallic sounds to add to the existing chosen orchestral pallet of strings and brass. The musical themes drawing the emotional play between characters, albeit occasionally sweet or romantic, still seemed best served with a slightly unnerving restlessness”.

The Last Passenger: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is published by Bucks Music Group and is released by MovieScore Media & Kronos.

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Interview: James Mullighan, Director of the Cork Film Festival

 

James Mulligan

 

With the 58th Cork Film Festival kicking off this weekend Glenn Caldecott sat down with the newly-appointed festival director James Mullighan to talk about what audiences can expect from Cork this year.

Now in its 58th year, the Cork Film Festival has built up a reputation for showcasing some of the best global arthouse cinema and has maintained a strong commitment to supporting up-and-coming filmmakers. The newly-appointed festival director, James Mullighan, was keen to stress that he wanted to remain faithful to this tradition. ‘The thing that audiences this year can expect to be the same is a continued commitment to exhibit the best recent arthouse cinema from around the world. So there is a touching human drama from Turkey and a Cannes award winner in The Opera House.

‘Again we are determined to do what we can for emerging filmmakers and we have three programmes of short films, for those made in Cork, in Ireland and the rest of the world. We also have a 10 event film education scheme for emerging filmmakers, which is a mix of a meet the sales agents panel all the way through to the bold new conference, Emerge, on the last Saturday’.

Emerge will feature discussions from filmmakers, technologists and transmedia producers, and will explore the convergence of film and technology to cover areas such as crowdfunding, transmedia, making films for web and connecting to audiences. ‘Ireland is rich in conferencing but it doesn’t have anything quite like this. I’m sure that the Cork Film Festival is a great home for it with its commitment to helping emerging filmmakers’.

Born in Adelaide, Australia, James Mullighan worked as a freelance arts journalist before moving to London to embark on a busy career that involved being the Creative Director of Shooting People, the producer of Marketing and Distribution for the Sleep Paralysis Project, and a Contributing Editor for VODO, Cinovate and Rich Pickings. In 2011 he directed the Edinburgh International Film Festival through a turbulent transitional year.

‘I wont pretend that I had a particularly easy time running the Edinburgh Film Festival’, admitted James, ‘but it was in many ways one of the most satisfying thing ive ever done’. In May 2013 he got the fateful call from the board of the Cork Film Festival asking him to once again reprise his role as a festival director. ‘My stomach flipped over. The idea of running a film festival again filled me with absolute delight. It wasn’t hard to convince me to take the job, I just then had to convince others that I was the right guy for it’.

So what does he feel he has brought to the festival this year? ‘If you look at the new logo, next to film in smaller letters is ‘music’ and ‘ideas’. This is a musical city in a musical country and there will not be a day that goes by where there won’t be music events’. Such events include the psychedelic rock band ‘Teeth of the Sea’ performing a live score to A Field in England, and harpist and vocalist Serafina Steer is doing a new score to Amer, the giallo film by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. ‘Also, the Emerge conference is very close to my heart, I hope it sticks and is something we can build upon.’

And what is he particularly looking forward to. ‘If someone was thinking about going to the festival and only seeing one film, the sure fire winner for me is Lukas Moodysson’s Swedish comedy drama, We Are The Best, about three eleven-year-old girls who, not letting their complete lack of musical talent hinder them, start a punk band’.

 

The 58th Cork Film Festival runs from the 9 – 17  November 2013.

For more information visit www.corkfilmfest.org

Check out our previews of Irish film screening at Cork plus exclusive coverage from the festival

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Interview: Tom Ryan, director of ‘Trampoline’

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Trampoline, the independent Irish feature about a woman returning home and having to readjust to the life she left behind, had its world premiere at the Indie Cork film festival last week. Glenn Caldecott bounced some ideas around with first-time writer/director Tom Ryan about the film and the challenges of independence. 

 

What inspired you to make Trampoline?

Trampoline was born out of a lifelong desire to be a writer/ director. After finishing college I worked within the film industry as a camera assistant for three years which was a huge learning curve for me. Working on shoots with the camera department meant I was always privy to watching how different directors interact with actors. Late last year I eventually felt confident enough to write a feature script and put it into production. I wrote the script around my production limitations. For example, I knew that it would more cost effective to shoot it in my hometown of Nenagh than it would a big city like Dublin, Cork or Galway. I was drawn to the idea of people my age who feel lost and directionless after finishing college. I have many friends in that position so that was the basis of the script. I really didn’t think that there were any Irish movies that dealt with this kind of idea so that was another reason for me to want to make it.

 

What considerations are there when making an independent film?

Making an independent film is a tough but extremely rewarding process. The only problem is that you don’t get any of the rewards until you have the entire project completed. Being an independent movie means that you have no safety net, no major financial support and absolutely no promise that it will ever be screened. All of this can be quite daunting but it is also an incredible learning experience. You also have to choose your cast and crew carefully, it’s an intense process and you need people that you can count on and who you trust. I was incredibly lucky with my cast and crew. Filmmaking is a collaboration and in order to get through the stress and torture that can sometimes arise from shooting you need a team of people who are all incredibly willing to support each other.

 

Can you talk about how the film was financed? What was the motivation behind getting local Nenagh businesses to sponsor the film?

We were unable to get any official funding of any kind so we decided to ask the local businesses in the town of Nenagh if they would help sponsor the film. In exchange for a donation they would get a mention in the credits and a shot of their shop-front in the movie. It was product placement of sorts but it worked. One of the major advantages of shooting your first film in your hometown is that there is amazing goodwill and support from everybody there so we were extremely fortunate that the local businesses were so kind to us, otherwise we really wouldn’t be where we are today with the movie.

 

How did you work with the DOP to get such a great looking film on a budget? 

My DOP, Cian Moynan, is one of those rare talents in the business. He has such a good eye for visuals and he is very confident when it comes to setting up shots. I found early on in the shoot that the best way to get natural performances from the actors would be to let them have free reign of the room during the scene. This way they would not have to worry about hitting marks or delivering lines certain ways as they turn to hit specific lights on set and things like that, so as a result of this Cian had to throw his shotlist out the window and improv his shots around the actors. That might sound a bit crazy but Cian was more than capable of stepping up to that challenge and he did a fantastic job. It is very important for the director to have a cinematographer that he/she can trust implicitely. We didn’t have the budget for any monitors or equipment like that so I put a lot of trust in Cian to get the right shots and he went above and beyond the call of duty for us.

 

What was the most valuable thing that you learnt while working as a camera assistant that you could apply to making Trampoline?

I have worked on good shoots and bad shoots throughout my years as a camera assistant and the difference between and enjoyable experience and a horrible one is all down to the way the set is run and whether or not there is a mutual respect there for everybody involved. It doesn’t matter if you are the director or the camera assistant, there should be no real hierarchy. Everybody is their to do their job and make sure that things run smoothly so that you can all get the best results for the finished film. Filmmaking is a team effort and every member of that team is essential, that was one of the most important things I learned while working as a camera assist.

 

The film  played last week at the IndieCork Film Festival, what’s the plan for it going forward?

Going forward we are hoping that Trampoline will have a healthy and successful festival life. We are thrilled to bits with the wonderful reactions that it has been getting so far. We would ideally love for it to get picked up by a distributor. We strongly believe that there is an audience for this kind of film in Ireland and we’re eager to get it out to more people. We are being screened as part of the Clones Film Festival on Sunday, 27th October, which is going to be a great experience. We are also in the early stages of development with our second feature so fingers crossed I’ll get all the team back and we can get cracking on the next one soon!

 

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We Love… Superheroes: Superman

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  Illustration: Adeline Pericart

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

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

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

We Love…

Superheroes:

 

Superman

‘… what makes him so interesting is the combination of this godlike power with a human conscience that is committed to doing good …’

Glenn Caldecott

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Unnoticed by most, the recent success of a certain Christopher Nolan trilogy has caused an important shift in Irish street fashion. The films have seen a rise in those taking to the streets wearing black Ts depicting a flying rodent, silhouetted against a yellow oval.

Once reserved for spotty nerds, now rockers, ravers and Topshop-shoppers alike don comic-book apparel in support of their super of choice. But despite the increase in numbers of black t-shirts, peaked caps and bras with the yellow symbol, there are still more blue ones, proudly displaying a red and yellow S, the insignia of the most iconic superhero of all time!

Let’s get one thing out the way, I don’t think there have been any truly great Superman films. Between some weak storytelling and some dodgy outfits they haven’t got much going for them. (Except that epic theme music, you know the one. The one that sounds like the Indiana Jones theme. Although I might be thinking of the music from Jurassic Park. Or Star Wars. Who cares, they’re all good).

Perhaps my favourite appearance of Superman in a film comes from one he’s not even in. At the end of Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol 2, David Carradine performs a monologue in which he explains why Superman is his favourite superhero. You can read the full speech here but, to summarise, the mythology of Superman is unique because, unlike other supers, he was born as Superman and his alter-ego is Clark Kent. Now if you are a pedantic geek (like me) you will realise that Bill is wrong in both his assumptions that this is unique to Superman and that he was born as Superman in the first place (he was born Kal-El and had to become Superman)

But regardless, while the morality of superheroes can often get a little sketchy (i.e. you can only truly make a difference in this world if you acquire powers, are one of the elite few who are born magical, or you inherit a small fortune – I shake my fist at you dirty capitalists), Carradine’s speech hints at the moral considerations that, I think, make Superman the most interesting superhero.

Our Man of Steel is indeed an outsider, but is committed to helping the people of earth in spite of this. What often makes the alien in red underpants seem boring, and is a concept that I think the Superman films have struggled with, is that it is hard for an individual of near limitless power to be in any real danger. But I think what makes him so interesting is the combination of this godlike power with a human conscience that is committed to doing good – the ‘man’ half of his name.

I mean, imagine having these powers for a day and the psychological headache it would cause. Should I save the OAPs in the falling coach or the landmine-destined toddler? Should I interfere in geopolitical conflicts? Should I look through Lois Lane’s clothing? All difficult ethical questions. These are questions relevant to all superheroes, but are heightened by both Superman’s powers and his strong commitment to righteousness.

For whatever reason, these deeper considerations, that are present in the comics, have failed to translate into films. But this only helps my argument that Superman is the best superhero. Despite the lack of a quality on screen appearance, he has still become one of the most iconic figures of the past century, something that the prevalence of Superman apparel will attest to.

The battle for superhero supremacy will not be waged on the pages of the interwebs or on cinema screens. It is being fought out there on the streets, so take up your blue, red and yellow flip-flops and join me brothers and sisters!

Glenn Caldecott

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Daire Walsh on Spiderman

 

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Report: Dublin Comic Con

Glenn Caldecott lives out his 13 year-old self’s dream at Dublin Comic Con and finally got to chat to Boba Fett about all things Mandalorian.

I find myself in a room the size of an aircraft hangar; in front of me are some light-sabres and a severed Alien head. In the distance I can make out the flashing lights of the DeLorean alongside Knight Rider’s KITT. Boba-Fett and a Storm Trooper draw their weapons, a Dalek rolls past and a Predator stalks the room. A Transformer bursts in through the door and everyone goes nuts.

While this closely resembles a daydream my 13-year-old self might have had (or perhaps The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny), it is in fact my experience of the first Dublin Comic Con.

I case you’ve been living under a kryptonic rock, the National Show Centre in Swords, north Dublin, played host to the world’s most famous comic book convention this past weekend. Modelled on the famous San Diego convention, that draws crowds of 130,000 every year, this was the first time that the geek-fest has come to Ireland.

Organised by comic book enthusiasts, Derek Cosgrave and Karl Walsh, the event offered comic fans, film buffs, video gamers and anyone with a passing interest in all things nerdy a chance to engage with their passions. But you didn’t have to be fluent in Klingon to enjoy the offerings.

There was truly something for everyone and walking around it was easy to get overwhelmed by all the costumed characters, original film props and costumes, panels, sculpting and painting workshops, console gaming contests, interactive film sets as well as a host of vendors selling everything from vintage comics to signed memorabilia. Some of the more interesting special guests included The Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, Predator and Game of Thrones actor Ian Whyte, and the man who sculpted Darth Vader’s mask, Brian Muir.

 

Ironhide shows his softer side – just minutes before destroying the National Show Centre in Swords

The highlight for me though was the response from the public. Events like this always encourage those with a creative flair to grab their make-up and sticky tape and dress up as their favourite character. The crowd in Swords did not disappoint with people of all ages donning some inventive and elaborate costumes, many of them months in the making.

Once forced to operate on the fringes of society, the geek is now an acceptable part of mainstream culture. Superhero films dominate Hollywood, geek-chic remains fashionable and the likes of Jay-Z and Beyoncé are buddying up with sci-fi uber-nerds Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

The organisers of the first Dublin Comic Con seem to have got their timings right. By all accounts the event was a resounding success. Both days sold out (with over 5,000 people getting their con on) and there was a veritable buzz from everyone I spoke to; the consensus definitely being that expectations had been exceeded. And if you missed it this year you’ll be pleased to know there was already a lot of excited talk about next year’s line-up.

 

Check out Gemma Creagh’s video from Comic Com where she finds herself in “hairy water” at Dublin Comic Con let loose among Predators, Aliens, Superheroes, Transformers and Daleks.

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Cinema Review: Looking for Hortense

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DIR: Pascal Bonitzer • WRI: Agathe de Sacy, Pascal Bonitzer • PRO: Ben Said • DOP: Romain Winding • ED: Elise Fievet  • CAST: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Kristen Scott Thomas, Claude Rich, Isabelle Carre

Pascal Bonitzer’s new Parisian romantic drama stars Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas as a dysfunctional middle-aged couple. A film that features some fantastic performances, convincing dialogue, absorbing sound and some beautiful visuals is let down in one crucial area, the story. For all its style, Looking for Hortense ends up having very little to say.

Damien Hauer (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a mid-life-crisis-bound intellectual whose strained relationship with the chain smoking Iva (Kristen Scott Thomas) is being drawn out for the sake of their 12-year-old son. When Zorica, an illegal alien and friend of Iva’s, is threatened with deportation Damien promises to ask his estranged father (Claude Rich), a state councillor, to intervene.

Damien spends the first half of the film trying to track down his busy father for a 5-minute conversation. It is as riveting as it sounds. If your friend told you, over a café au lait, that all of this happened to him you would nod along and think it vaguely interesting. However, if he then said he was going to make a film from this story you would wonder why anyone else would care. No doubt some will applaud the anti-Hollywood slow pace of Looking for Hortense, but while it is certainly not “Hollywood”, there is not much payoff for the humdrum story.

There seems to have been an attempt to forgo depth in pursuit of naturalism and, to its credit, in this it succeeds. Strong performances create a convincing portrayal of a dysfunctional family, and the protagonist’s predicament, while uninteresting, is entirely believable.

The cinematography by Romain Winding makes Paris look truly beautiful, which might get you thinking about your next weekend break as the story meanders slowly to its underwhelming conclusion. The music from Alexei Aigui is fantastic, giving those who can overlook the lack of substance enough style to chew on.

Pascal Bonitzer made his mark as a screenwriter for the likes of André Téchiné and Jacques Rivette, but his latest directorial venture offers nothing new and feels disappointingly light.

Glenn Caldecott

Rated 12A,

100 mins
Looking for Hortense is released on 9th August 2013

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Cinema Review: The Deep

The-Deep_510x317

 

DIR: Baltasar Kormákur WRI: Jón Atli Jónasson, Baltasar Kormákur  PRO: Agnes Johansen, Baltasar Kormákur   DOP: Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson  ED: Sverrir Kristjánsson, Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir   DES: Andy Kelly  Cast: Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Jóhann G. Jóhannsson

The Deep is a tender retelling of one ordinary man’s miraculous survival, and his return to normality after his extraordinary act. Those who like their disasters given the Hollywood treatment had best steer clear, because The Deep is a modest account that lets the story, as well as some stunning visuals from cinematographer Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson, speak for themselves.

In 1984, an Icelandic fishing trawler set out from the Westmann Islands into the freezing waters of the North Atlantic Sea. In stormy weather their nets snagged and the vessel capsized, sending its six-man crew into the frigid sea. In the freezing waters they should have all perished within half an hour but, in an unexplainable feat, one crewman survived by swimming for six hours and walking for two more across cracked volcanic glass to reach the nearest settlement. The story of this Icelandic legend, named Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, or Gulli, is told in this new film by Baltasar Kormákur.

We first meet anti-hero Gulli and his lovable band of bungling shipmates out drinking in the long dark nights of the southern Icelandic islands. Even here the cinematography excels, capturing a grim beauty in the harsh and lonely landscape. The next morning, hangovers in tow, the ordinary fishermen set sail on their rusted vessel, through picturesque fog, to what will be their doom. We spend just enough time with the rest of the crew to care about them while Gulli’s story progresses.

Ólafur Darri Ólafsson is wonderfully cast in the lead role. When he finds himself alone in the freezing expansive ocean, we are subtly drawn into his frustration, as a ship passed within 300 metres of him, his sorrow and his desperation. There are even touching moments of comedy as he talks to the seagulls to keep the psychological effects of hypothermia at bay.

Here the bleak stillness of the North Atlantic is interrupted by 8mm home-movie style footage in 4:3 format. We see a heart-breaking sequence showing what Gulli would do if he had one more day at home, as well as scenes from his past surrounding the 1973 eruption of the Eldfell Volcano. Featuring the volcanic disaster as a backdrop highlights the hard times that have befallen Icelandic people, hard times that would continue with the economic collapse in 2008. The survival of this underdog fisherman then becomes a metaphor for Iceland’s survival, and we can see why the story has become locally mythologised.

At regular intervals, the sea temperature is displayed on screen, which leads to the question why not make this a documentary? Certainly, the main draw of this film is the captivating story itself, and it could have easily have become over dramatized. Yet Kormákur treats the material sensitively, and clean scrip and good performances contribute to a naturalism that gives weight to our grief.

At its heart, this story concerns the remarkable survival – not of an athletic super human, but of a modest, overweight, chain-smoking drunkard. The second half of the film deals with Gulli’s return to civilization, and having to deal with at first being told his feat was impossible, and then with being heralded as a “national hero”. Here the film stalls as Kormákur’s technique of telling it how it is fails to delve deep enough into the personal and psychological effects of Gulli’s experience. And, while first half felt well-paced, a fairly abrupt ending left me wanting more.

While the later parts of The Deep could do with more depth, and while its modesty will not be for everyone, the film’s stunning visuals and clean storytelling turn an already remarkable tale into a thoroughly enjoyable film.

Glenn Caldecott

93 mins

The Deep is released on 12th July 2013

The Deep – Official Website

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Interview: Louis Leterrier, director of ‘Now You See Me’

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An all-star cast play cops and street magicians-turned bank robbers in Louis Leterrier’s new blockbuster, Now You See Me. Glenn Caldecott caught up with the director to talk about working with such a great cast, big budgets, and why he wants this film to define his career.

How did you first get involved in Now You See Me?

Well it was one of these things for me, I think the correct expression would be a passion project. It had a great script, a great writer, and I just thought it was such a smart idea to have magicians robbing banks and giving the money back to deserving audiences. Ultimately I thought it was just a great concept.

It actually started off as a smallish movie, with small magicians doing small shows and gradually getting bigger. As we started casting and the cast got bigger, the shows got bigger and so did the movie. But for me it was originally going to be one of these small movies that I was going to do between the big ones.

 

And it is a great cast. Was there anyone in particular that you were interested in working with, or anyone you particularly enjoyed working with?

Well frankly, all of them. It’s obviously a terrific cast. I’d worked with Morgan (Freeman) before on Unleashed and I knew Mark Ruffalo, but there were some of the cast I didn’t know. It’s funny that sometimes in casting you go from your first choice to your second choice to your third, but nearly all of these were my first choice.

For me the perfect cop was bumbling, always behind the ball but still trying really hard, a super anxious version of Columbo. And the person I really wanted for that was Mark Ruffalo.

And then with Jesse Eisenberg, we were casting a year or so after The Social Network came out and I was watching this movie every day because it is such a brilliant movie, and I was just obsessed with Jesse Eisenberg. I really think he’s one of the greatest actors of our generation and, even though the lead magician was written as this cocky womaniser, I managed to get my way and convinced the studio to let me meet with him and convince him to be in this movie.

So both Mark and Jesse said yes and, even though it was clear we would need to do some rewrites for their characters, they decided to trust me and, importantly, wait for me because there were so many roles in this movie that it might have taken us six months or a year to cast. Then one great actor attracts another who attracts another, so when I called them a year later and told them everyone we had got, it was a very exciting prospect.

 

And I understand another thing that came from you was the decision, with so many directors now shooting digitally, to shoot on 35mm film. Can you talk us through that decision?

For me it was all about the lenses. I love anamorphic lenses, and I’ve used them a lot. I think there is a relationship between depth of field and light that just works so well. I knew shooting on film would be a challenge simply because of the number of sets, the number of scenes and how fast we were supposed to shoot. We shot the entire movie in 59 days, but I just couldn’t let go of the anamorphic lenses. They really gave us the rocking all aspect of the big shows with the big flairs and everything like that. So I ended up shooting less footage than if I had been shooting with digital cameras but I think the payoff was worth it.

Although it almost felt like a swansong of film. Already in post-production it’s hard to get good scans, it seems like no one can control film anymore, and a lot of film technicians are retiring. I think my next movie I will shoot digital.

 

I’m really interested in knowing the role that the Irish magician Keith Barry played in production. I understand he was taken on as a “mentalist consultant”?

Yeah he was so important in our movie. What I wanted was 100% real magic. Nothing fantastic or supernatural, I wanted it to be real. And I wanted it to be stuff that had rarely been seen, so tricks that magicians are working on right now. So Keith sat down with our new writer, Ed Solomon, and they crafted together what became the movie. I frankly would not have been able to do that movie without him.

And it didn’t stop there because afterwards he came on set and trained Woody (Harrelson) to hypnotise people. So everything that Woody does, the idea inception and hypnotist techniques, the physical aspect of how he’d move on stage, is all real stuff. Sometimes I’d literally be directing scenes with Keith next to me and I’d call cut and ask him if it was good and if it wasn’t we’d change things. I was like Keith’s assistant sometimes!

 

You have directed high budget action movies in the past, but, as a director, was there anything new that you learnt from making Now You See Me?

With this film I really learnt to be more comfortable with big budgets. I learnt to be less stressed about the days where I’d be directing 600 extras along with all these international superstars. But at the same time you can’t get too comfortable because that’s where you make mistakes and sometimes it’s healthy to doubt yourself and ask if you’re making the right decisions. I came in everyday more prepared. On other movies I’d come out with 20 shots that look good but wouldn’t be edited as you want so why bother wasting an hour and a half getting a shot you wouldn’t be able to edit.

Something else, from working with great actors on this and in the past, is to allow them and yourself complete freedom. The best thing that can happen is that wonderful surprise when you might be working with two actors who react differently to how you expect and create something really magical, no pun intended.  You know, those moments like Harrison Ford coming in to shoot this long fight scene in Indiana Jones, but he has a tummy ache and just can’t do it so pulls out his gun and shoots the guy. The whole crew laughs and it works, its gold, and I’m way open to that.

So we rehearsed a lot before the shoot, almost like a play, and then when we shot we continued to rehearse. We would stay on the stage and all the actors would come in with their ideas, and that’s where we would get moments of true comedy that are often unwritten.

 

And finally then, what’s next for you?

I’m reading a lot and writing also. I really want to take time with this one and not rush into something else because this really is my baby. If there is one movie in my career that defines who I am as a director it’s this one, so I didn’t want to just abandon it, I want people to see it for what it is. It’s a fun movie but it was done from the heart by people who love it. People come out of it happy, and that’s what’s important to me.

 

Now You See Me is released in cinemas on 3rd July.

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Cinema Review: Now You See Me

NOW YOU SEE ME

 

DIR: Louis Leterrier • WRI: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt • PRO: Bobby Cohen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci • DOP: Mitchell Amundsen, Larry Fong • ED: Robert Leighton, Vincent Tabaillon • DES: Peter Wenham • Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Mélanie Laurent

Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco play ‘The Four Horsemen’, a rag-tag group of illusionists, hypnotists and street magicians that are assembled by a mysterious entity to form a magician super-group. Think The Avengers, but with David Blaine and Paul Daniels. A year on, they attract the attention of jaded FBI agent, Mark Ruffalo, and lovely French detective, Mélanie Laurent, when they publicly rob a bank during a Las Vegas show. Completing this cast of charismatic actors are Michael Caine, as the Four Horseman’s financial backer, and Morgan Freeman, as a professional illusion debunker.

The entire cast put in strong, but altogether tried and tested, performances. Jesse Eisenberg is teetering on the edge of one-trick-pony territory with the portrayal of a smug and arrogant genius; Woody Harrelson is in his element as the washed-up, likeable asshole; Morgan Freeman does his best God impression; and it feels like, once again, we are watching Michael Caine play himself. It is not as though any of these performances are bad, it just feels like we’ve seen this all before.

The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo, as the cynical FBI agent, and Mélanie Laurent, as the open-minded Interpol agent, was evident. But they, like the rest, suffer from there being simply too many characters. The majority of them are fairly interesting but, in trying to flaunt them all, none are given enough screen time to really shine. Coupled with a script that is heavy on plot and exposition, with enough space for a witty quip or two, and the characters are left disappointingly flat.

Ultimately though, this film is the kind that succeeds or fails on its ability to excite and entertain. No stranger to the action genre, director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans) delivers a high-octane film that looks and feels as slick as a slight of hand card trick. While lacking in substance and depth, at no point did I feel bored. A few plot holes and moments of implausibility can be forgiven in a well paced story that twists and turns. Action sequences look and sound great, there is even the obligatory car chase, and you may, ever so slightly, feel yourself edging forward in your seat during the elaborate sequences where the magician’s tricks are exposed.

Yes, ultimately the film is shallow, trivial and won’t win any awards for originality, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Now You See Me is like your average street magic, it won’t really put you under a spell, but it will leave you with a smile on your face.

Glenn Caldecott

 

115 mins
12A (see IFCO website for details)
 Now You See Me is released on 3rd July 2013

Now You See Me – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MHDYZJWLXA

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Cinema Review: Paradise: Love

paradise-love

DIR: Ulrich Seidl • WRI: Ulrich Seidl, , Veronika Franz • PRO: Philippe Bober, Christine Ruppert, Ulrich Seidl • DOP: Edward Lachman, Wolfgang Thaler • ED: Christof Schertenleib • DES: Andreas Donhauser, Renate Martin • Cast: Margarete Tiesel, Peter Kazungu, Inge Maux

 

The first in his trilogy of Paradise films each focusing on a different woman from the same family, Ulrich Seidl’s ironically titled Paradise: Love follows Teresa, a 50-year-old divorcee who travels to Kenya as a sex-tourist.

The opening scene establishes the film as one not afraid to challenge its audience on what they find embarrassing or distasteful. The alleged cause of mass walk-outs, Teresa overlooks a group with Down syndrome enjoying a bumper car ride. While fundamentally inoffensive, acute close-ups and sharp editing creates a profound sense of guilt as we are drawn into thinking it funny or grotesque. Having no further bearing on the plot, the scene sets the tone for the forced discomfort that is to follow.

To escape her hollow life in Austria, Teresa ships her daughter off to fat-camp, a story to be explored in Paradise: Hope, and packs her bags for the sun, sea and sex of coastal Kenya. Paradise: Love’s ‘paradise’ is a warped one, as is its mocking depiction of love. On the white sandy beaches, shirtless African men stand with trinkets and jewellery behind a rope separating them from a row of tanning white women. As we soon learn, it is more than just their wares they are selling. Initially encouraged by her lewd pals, Teresa gets involved with the local boys who sell sex and love for financial favours.

How aware Teresa initially is of the whole arrangement, and indeed how convinced we are of her proclamations that its true love that she desires, are left to speculation. Those expecting a didactic tale that holds you by the hand will find a film that leaves its audience to draw their own conclusions.

What is indisputable however is the unflinching audacity with which Seidl approaches the subject of sex. In a long, improvised scene that echoes Seidl’s earlier film, Import/Export, the women hire a young male to strip and perform sexual acts that descends into them chastising him when he cannot get aroused.

Even for those not easily offended, Paradise: Love will make for uncomfortable viewing, and it is not just the gratuitous amount of overweight, naked fiftysomethings, or its use of humiliation, that makes it so. Every aspect of the film seems orchestrated to unnerve, to embarrass. The cinematography by Ed Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler is impressive in the sense that it achieves just that with carefully framed, drawn out shots of people staring into the camera, into your soul. It all amounts to the feeling of a younger sibling jabbing you in the side asking, “Are you uncomfortable yet, are you uncomfortable yet?”, over and over. But of course, that is its intention. The question is what does this achieve, and is there enough else to like to make your ordeal worth it?

Well, the film features brave and engaging performances by both Margarete Tiesel and the largely amateur African cast. Seidl’s obsession with tableaux shines through with some imposing images, such as the reoccurring shot of the men on the beach, and there is also a surprising undercurrent of humour that is enough to break up the seriousness of the subject but not, I’m afraid, the discomfort.

In its exploration of the parasitic, the film dupes us into thinking we know the direction of exploitation, only for our attitudes to evolve with Teresa’s relationships with the young men. However I can’t help thinking that, besides raising awareness of these mutually exploitative relationships, there are few points made, leaving us with little reward for our work. There could be more to be said about the relationship between love, sex and appearance, but these concepts are pushed aside in the pursuit of confrontation.

The Paradise trilogy was originally planned as one film, but was dissected when it was thought the parallel stories were unconnected. What results is a relentless film that will interest some but leave others more interested in their nearest exit.

 

Glenn Caldecott

 

120 mins

Paradise: Love is released on 14th June 2013

 

 

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