Irish Film Review: The Last Right

DIR/WRI: Aoife Crehan • DOP: Shane F. Kelly • DES: Alex Holmes • PRO: Pippa Cross, Paul Donovan, Casey Herbert • MUS: Gary Lightbody • DES: Neill Treacy • CAST: Brian Cox, Michiel Huisman, Colm Meaney

The Last Right involves two disparate passengers sat beside each other on a flight to Ireland who subsequently become connected by a shared surname and grief. Daniel Murphy is flying home for his mother’s funeral and Padraig Murphy is returning for his brother’s funeral. The latter is his brother’s only next of kin, and when Padraig passes away on the flight, it’s assumed Daniel is of the same Murphy family and the responsibilities for Padraig and his brother’s funerals fall upon Daniel. With his younger autistic brother Louis and his friend Mary in tow, Daniel embarks upon a reluctant road trip to bury Padraig and his brother together, despite a misunderstanding embroiling them in a police chase.

Aoife Crehan’s directorial debut is an impressive study on grief and isolation. Daniel (Michiel Huisman) and Padraig (Jim Norton) cross paths due to their respective losses within their families and their isolation stems from choice and circumstance. Daniel lives abroad whilst Padraig lost contact with his brother. Daniel has a fractured relationship with Louis (Samuel Bottomley) and wants to uproot Louis from Clonakilty to an autistic-focused boarding school in New York. The tension within their new family dynamic is eased with Mary’s (Niamh Algar) presence and in her encouragement of a road trip in bringing Padraig’s budgie-adorned cardboard coffin to the very north of Ireland to his intended resting place.

Niamh Algar is experiencing a stellar 2019 with remarkable performances in Shane Meadows’s The Virtues and Desiree Akhavan’s The Bisexual; displaying multifaceted characterisations in both. In The Last Right, Algar’s Mary is crucial in deflecting tension between Daniel and Louis and in burying Padraig alongside his brother. According to Mary, the relationship between Daniel and Louis “is more Eastenders than Rain Man”, and she offers levity despite her own vulnerabilities masked by her cheery exterior. Huisman is also adept in performing a character maintaining face despite numerous personal challenges. Bottomley impressively manages to portray both the subtleties of Louis’s autism and his emotionally-charged difficulties. 

Colm Meaney also appears as Detective Crowley who attempts to prevent Daniel from burying Padraig due to a mix-up as a result of Louis refusing to inform Daniel he was relieved from his duties as Padraig’s surrogate next of kin. Meaney is essentially reprising his character from Intermission in an alternate universe and he offers lighter tonal elements to the narrative. He’s then involved in an enjoyable sequence with the road trippers via a phone-in to The Joe Duffy Show in an attempt to negotiate with the runaway coffin ‘thieves’.

The lighter tonal moments are necessary but at times the film doesn’t know what film it’s striving to become with them and some sequences are also almost too stage play-esque. It could be an Intermission-type film with its lighter moments but Crehan does, however, manage to create a cohesive tonal blend much like 2014’s Calvary. The cinematography is effective at capturing a rugged coastline/island aesthetic that works in tandem with the theme of isolation and grief. The isolation applies to Louis and his autism but Crehan succeeds in conveying that he is not unique in being an alienated character and he experiences similar emotions to those around him. For Mary, she appears strong and confident, but she’s in a professional and personal rut, much like Daniel, who struggles to involve Louis in his own life.

Overall, The Last Right is a thoughtful approach to grief and isolation with sadness and humour that will ultimately offer hope for its characters. It’s an unexpected road trip full of heartbreak, humour and human kindness. Aoife Crehan has helmed a film that will make you eager to see what she creates next.

Liam Hanlon

@Liam_Hanlon

106′ 39″
15A (see IFCO for details)

The Last Right is released 6th December 2019

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Review: Wild Rose

DIR: Tom Harper • WRI: Nicole Taylor • DOP: George Steel • ED: Mark Eckersley • PRO: Faye Ward • DES: Lucy Spink • MUS: Jack Arnold • CAST: Julie Walters, Jessie Buckley, Craig Parkinson |

In search of ‘three chords and the truth’, Jessie Buckley stars as Rose-Lynn Harlan who’s a country singer aspiring to swap her native Glasgow for her spiritual home of Nashville, Tennessee. Rose-Lynn’s journey there is already derailed after a stint in prison and any chance of a country career is hampered by the fact her cowboy boots are that bit more difficult to put on with a home arrest tag encompassing her ankle. Rose-Lynn begins work as a cleaner for Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), and upon discovering her love for country music, she encourages Rose-Lynn to pursue this dream. Yet, the dominant drawback to her dreams is her home arrest and the fact that she has two young children who have to be mothered by their grandmother Marion (Julie Walters). Rose-Lynn needs to seek her truth and do what it takes to be the country singer she yearns to become.

Jessie Buckley’s performance is simply exceptional in Wild Rose. She really makes you believe in, and encourage, Rose-Lynn’s aspirations. Yet, Nicole Taylor’s impressive script allows you to be immersed in both Rose-Lynn’s dreams and realities – you root for her character to succeed but you also want to sit Rose-Lynn down and plead with her to prioritise certain aspects in her life before taking Nashville on headfirst. Her motherhood is something she’s ignorant of in pursuit of her music career and her own mother constantly reminds her of this fact.

Marion and Susannah are the two characters representative of this duality within Rose-Lynn’s life. A reliably-strong offering from Julie Walters as Marion focuses on the cold truths of Rose-Lynn’s motherhood and her ignorance of her duties as a mother to her two children. Country stardom must wait, according to Marion, whilst Susannah sees Rose-Lynn as an ingénue who needs the emotional and financial backing to reach the heights Rose-Lynn isn’t afraid of climbing. Susannah is the force driving Rose-Lynn to send footage of herself singing to Whispering Bob Harris on BBC Radio 2; Marion then tries to drive Rose-Lynn in the opposite direction and acknowledge that she’s neglecting her responsibilities as a parent to children who have been sidelined enough.

Wild Rose’s mise-en-scene is reminiscent of the Glasgow in Robert Carlyle’s The Legend of Barney Thomson or I, Daniel Blake’s Newcastle but we expect an upturn in her life, and once she gets to Nashville, cinematographer George Steel suitably introduces warmer tones that captures Rose-Lynn’s fish-out-of-water nervous excitement. The narrative is maintained by Taylor’s script and there are avenues you expect the film to explore but doesn’t. Susannah’s husband Sam, when he finally arrives on screen, could lead to an inevitable falling out with Susannah, but another scenario is chosen. Also, the film initially teases a rivalry with a singer (Craig Parkinson) who replaces Rose-Lynn as the local country bar’s resident singer whilst she’s serving time, but it also opts to avoid this plot point from developing. Overall, there is lots of humour here that balances with the drama and it makes for a well-crafted film that you can easily admire and enjoy.

Thankfully, we are treated to a film with a performance from an actor that was recently nominated in the Rising Star category at the BAFTA Awards and will undoubtedly be contesting main acting categories in the near future. Jessie Buckley makes this film her own and it takes an actor of high calibre to carry a film like Wild Rose. Rose-Lynn’s a showgirl, but she’s also human. Buckley can perform the on-stage and backstage elements of Rose-Lynn, and with the closing musical number akin to Lady Gaga’s in A Star is Born, the emotional arc of the film can be translated on-screen by Buckley’s acting and singing.

Wild Rose could easily descend into parody but it doesn’t. Jessie Buckley plays the three chords that allows Rose-Lynn to find her truth and we’re treated to a very special performance.

Liam Hanlon

100 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
The Dig is released 12th April 2019

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Review: Boy Erased

DIR: Joel Edgerton • WRI: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly • PRO: Joel Edgerton, Steve Golin, Kerry Kohansky-Roberts • DOP: Eduard Grau • ED: Jay Rabinowitz • DES: Chad Keith • MUS: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans • CAST: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton

Boy Erased is Joel Edgerton’s latest directorial offering since 2015’s The Gift and is based upon a memoir by Garrard Conley and his experience of conversion therapy and its oppressive impact upon his sexuality. In this cinematic retelling of Conley’s experiences, the rising talent that is Lucas Hedges plays Jared Eamons, the son of a preacher and his devout Christian wife (played by Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman). Jared is pressured to enter a conversion therapy program following an incident with a male friend from college that has outed Jared to his parents. His father seeks guidance from other pastors and decides that conversion therapy is the only logical step in preventing Jared’s homosexuality. At conversion therapy, Jared is told homosexuality is “behavioural” by his therapist Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton) and must adapt to the practices in order to be cured of his homosexuality.

The subject matter of this film makes for unsettling viewing. Jared and the other enrollees are being taught to repress their true selves and strengthen their sense of masculinity through things like how they shake hands or how they sit. Joel Edgerton’s Victor Sykes is icily cold in his teachings and his words create a sense of fear amongst his students and he’s essentially attempting to scare their gayness away. He has a calm demeanour but Edgerton’s performance is effective in making you fear what he’ll say or what practice he’ll encourage next. The musician Flea also appears as a military-type character who is more aggressive in his teachings and wants these boys to act like ‘men’.

Lucas Hedges is phenomenal in this role and it’s disappointing that he’s been overlooked for awards. He carries the emotional arc of the film and Hedges makes you believe in Jared’s journey and sufferings through his performance. There are two sequences in the film’s final act where Jared finally releases the anger and tension from the therapy and there is a moving showdown with his father. Without this stellar performance, the film wouldn’t have the same emotional or dramatic impact. Nicole Kidman also quietly carries out a transformative performance where her character slowly realises the severity of what she as a parent is doing to her son.

The film also minimally explores the homosexual encounters Jared has to recall for his “moral inventory”. Sykes asks everyone to write about their homosexual ‘discretions’ and verbalise them in front of him and everyone else as to ridicule and admonish these encounters. This minimalist approach works in the context of the narrative as Jared is attempting to hide the memories and is afraid or reluctant to divulge these details. It also offers a glimpse of hope for Jared, especially when the film flashes back to a night with Xavier (Théodore Pellerin), and how this non-sexual moment is included in the life he wishes to accept and embrace. The colour pallette on screen becomes brighter and this is the human connection Jared longs for but is told to refuse.

Unfortunately for Boy Erased, it has to compete with Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which was released only months prior. There are similarities considering both films tackle conversion therapy and Boy Erased suffers from a case of déjà vu. For Edgerton’s Sykes, there is Akhavan’s Dr. Lydia March (a sharp-tongued Jennifer Ehle), and the plot is almost too identical in parts. It’s coincidental timing but Boy Erased is the inferior film here and the social realist elements make it less of a complete cinematic experience compared to The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Yet, it’s not a negative that these films are serving as significant retorts to conversion therapy practices.

Boy Erased is hard to watch in parts and its slow pace and non-linear structure may off-put audiences and its unsettling nature also stems from the significance that conversion therapy is still legal and practiced in multiple U.S states. Boy Erased is almost steeped in social realism and Edgerton manages to ground the film in a reality that will undoubtedly empathise with those previously involved in these practices. The muted colours from cinematographer Eduard Grau manage to prevent cinematic exaggeration and compliments the social realist aspects. It’s a film that requires investment and it’s ultimately worthwhile. Joel Edgerton, with the help of Lucas Hedges, manages to convey this importance and the contemporary and pressing subject matter Boy Erased involves.

 

Liam Hanlon

115 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
Boy Erased is released 8th February 2019

 

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Review: White Boy Rick

DIR: Yann Demange • WRI: Andy Weiss, Logan Miller, Noah Miller • PRO: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, John Lesher, Jeff Robinov, Julie Yorn • DOP: Tat Radcliffe • ED: Chris Wyatt • DES: Stefania Cella • MUS: Max Richter • CAST: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Matthew McConaughey, Eddie Marsan, Richie Merritt 

In Yann Demange’s sophomore directorial offering, and based on a true story, White Boy Rick explores Detroit’s drug epidemic in the 1980s and the titular Rick’s (Richie Merritt) involvement in the trade. Rick is a fourteen year-old boy with a shrewd sensibility who decides to support his father Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey)  selling modified guns to a local drug gang. The gang then take Rick under their wings and dub him ‘White Boy Rick’. With Rick Sr.’s gun transactions catching the attention of the FBI, they decide to utilise Rick in assisting their takedown of the local gang’s drug trade by him becoming an informant.

In his debut film performance as White Boy Rick, Richie Merritt delivers a standout performance that firmly allows you to believe in and root for his character’s respective motivations. Matthew McConaughey is billed as the leading character here; although, his role is more of a supporting one and Merritt is well-equipped to lead this film when the Oscar-winner is not on screen. Both characters work well together and they’ve their own motivations for what they do, but it’s ultimately to support themselves and their sister Dawn (Bel Powley), who is affected by and addicted to the Detroit drug problem. All three characters are in a blue-collar family that are struggling to live and all three have chosen a particular path as their means of survival.

The film captures the harsh environment of the Detroit world the characters live in. The film seems to be in a permanent state of winter and the harsh and cold mise-en-scene is beautifully captured by cinematographer Tat Radcliffe. There is excess with the riches of the drug trade, such as White Boy Rick buying an obnoxiously-gold chain to fit in with the gang, and then there is the severity of the drug problem captured with sequences such as Rick and Rick Sr. removing Dawn from a crack house. A balance is achieved between both but the struggle is not ignored. Rick Sr.’s arms dealing essentially supports criminals, but it is done to support his own family and an optimistic vision of the future. Rick works to support his family too and to ensure Dawn can come home and recover.

Although, the positives of the film are undermined by the unravelling of the film’s final act. The narrative skips past many years at such a rushed rate and any support of Rick’s motivations decreases at a rushed rate too, especially when you consider the character is not fictitious. It’s a pity as Demange managed to create a film that was engaging up to that point and the film fails to have a continued sense of suspense or intrigue like his previous feature ‘71. Eddie Marsan features in an odd cameo role that has an impact on Rick’s narrative in the final act and his appearance carries no weight in what should be more of a significant plot point in altering Rick’s arc. Things like this affect the plot’s progression and is a disappointing way to end a film that could have been great. Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie are included in supporting roles that also offer no significance and both characters could have been removed from the script.

Despite these missteps, White Boy Rick’s solid aspects do make for an enjoyable film. There is an atmospheric soundtrack by Max Richter that efficiently captures the mood of certain sequences and then there are the acting performances themselves. Matthew McConaughey continues to impress with his post-McConaissance roles (although, let’s forget about Dark Tower) and is cementing his status as a bona fide character actor.

Yet, White Boy Rick is all about Richie Merritt as White Boy Rick and the journey he embarks upon growing up in the Detroit of the 1980s. Much like Michael in Frank Berry’s Michael Inside, Rick is a sympathetic character that has to live with the societal struggles he has been raised alongside. Merritt is one to watch and White Boy Rick would have truly suffered without his performance.

Liam Hanlon

110 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
White Boy Rick is released 6th December 2018

 

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Review: The Grinch

DIR: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier • WRI: Michael LeSieur, Tommy Swerdlow • ED: Chris Cartagena • PRO: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri • MUS: Danny Elfman • CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Angela Lansbury

 

Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures, the team behind the box office phenomenon that is the Despicable Me franchise, have joined forces again to create a new adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The Grinch is a new animated retelling of the story of the Grinch and his hatred of Christmas. He lives with his loyal dog Max in the isolation of Mount Crumpet and stockpiles enough food to avoid entering the local town of Whoville; a town that fully endorses the celebration of Christmas and the spreading of Christmas cheer. The Grinch is “a mean one” and his miserable cynical contempt of Christmas results in a significant disliking of the Whos of Whoville, who are planning to celebrate Christmas three times larger than previous years. Hearing this information, the Grinch decides to become an anti-Santa Claus and ruin Christmas morning for the Whos by stealing their presents. Although, Cindy Lou, a young Whoville resident trying to ask the real Santa to help her mother, may be the key in reversing the Grinch’s festive outlook.

The Grinch adheres to the original storyline of the Dr. Seuss book, and the 2000 live-action adaptation How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but the animation here is so strong that it will surely revitalize the story for younger audience members. The computer-generated animation is very impressive and it brings the story to life in a manner the live-action version couldn’t. There are textures here that look extremely life-like, such as the fur on Max the dog or the film’s mise-en-scene that contains many scenic landscapes that appear real. The bright colours will also hold the attention of younger viewers and The Grinch is a film that should be enjoyed by this demographic. There are beats that will be appreciated more by this audience and the characterisation of the Grinch is more tame compared to Jim Carrey’s Grinch, which bordered on disturbing, especially with Carrey’s excessive scenery-chewing.

The film’s supporting characters also offer lots of fun, such as Max the dog and Fred the reindeer, whose heavy appearance looks like he “ate all of the other reindeer”. Kenan Thompson enthusiastically voices Bricklebaum, a Who who is too nice for the Grinch to comprehend, and Cindy Lou (Cameron Seely) is a determined child that other children should respect whilst seeing the film. The Mayor of Whoville is voiced by the iconic Angela Lansbury, which older viewers should appreciate. Yet, as its his character’s film, Benedict Cumberbatch sounds like an odd vocal casting decision for the character. His accent is somewhat dubious at times and it could have been amped up to a Jim Carrey-esque level. The Grinch’s Grinch is toned down to an almost-human level throughout the film in comparison to the live-action version and it might be another factor in appealing to the film’s primary young audience.

However, The Grinch strays far away from the middling live-action version and the team behind animated successes such as Sing and Minions took the right decision to choose animation as the outlet to retell this beloved Dr. Seuss story. Older viewers may not appreciate the film as much as younger viewers, but The Grinch is not too cutesy and it has just the right amount of Christmas charm to go along with and enjoy its festive fun.

 

Liam Hanlon

89 minutes
G (see IFCO for details)
The Grinch is released 9th November 2018

 

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Review: The Gospel According to André

DIR: Kate Novack • WRI: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters • DOP: Bryan Sarkinen • ED: Andrew Coffman, Thomas Rivera Montes •  PRO: Kate Novack, Andrew Rossi • MUS: Ian Hultquist, Sofia Hultquist • CAST: André Leon Talley, Manolo Blahnik, Naomi Campbell 

 

On the surface, The Gospel According to André appears to be a retrospective documentary surrounding André Leon Talley, an ebullient and extravagant figure within the fashion world since the 1970s. He’s worked alongside Andy Warhol for Interview magazine; styled Met Gala gowns for Diana Vreeland; became editor-at-large for US Vogue under Anna Wintour’s reign. Yet, this documentary offers far more than a generic fly-on-the-wall exploration of the fashion world and André Leon Talley’s significant involvement in it.

Raised in a racially-segregated North Carolina, Talley was reared by his strict grandmother, who enforced strict morals, which he later adopted in his own approach to his career. A young Talley spent time as a youth in the local library reading editions of Vogue that assisted in igniting a love for fashion and it delighted and encouraged him, as a black person, to see pictures of black models being celebrated in the fashion world. He became obsessed with fashion and high societies of the past aspiring “to be like the people who dared to be daring”. The documentary then allows us to see how he progressed from his college days experimenting with his image to becoming a forerunner of fashion writing and styling at Vogue, and within fashion itself.

Instead of retrospectively examining the career moves Talley made, director Kate Novack explores the theme of race and racial injustice within Talley’s life. He is a flamboyantly-dressed gay black man and he’s separated him from the conservative world he originally belonged to. Talley mentions how his mother refused to walk into their church together on a Sunday morning as a result of a cape he wore and he became an opposing figure within an already-segregated community. He then also experienced being considered a “black buck” or called “Queen Kong” by established fashion professionals, as he felt they saw him as someone who whored and slaved his way to where he is today due to being a black man.

More positively, Novack explores where Talley has used previous racial injustices and utilised them to create a more prosperous image of black culture. There is a segment where we see a Vogue editorial from Talley where he twists the characters in Gone with the Wind and uses fashion to create an alternate film dubbed ‘Scarlett in the Hood’, with Naomi Campbell styled as a black Scarlett O’Hara and with white people representing the servants. We also see Talley discuss how Yves Saint Laurent deriving inspiration for a collection from a song popular within black culture emotionally resonated with Talley and he was proud that African American people were further represented on runways and in magazines.

The documentary itself is a conventional one with a mixture of observational and archival footage and with pieces-to-camera from established fashion industry notables such as Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs, and Anna Wintour. They speak of his profound influence within fashion and Anna Wintour claims she needed him alongside her at Vogue as her fashion knowledge was far inferior to his. The conventionality of the documentary’s production is not replicated thematically and Talley is an erudite figure who speaks of his life as a black person, as well as someone working in fashion. With the documentary based in 2016 around the time of Trump’s election win, there is an effective political charge here that works within the documentary’s overall narrative.

Audiences might expect a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the fashion industry seen in documentaries such as The September Issue or The First Monday in May, or just to simply voyeuristically explore the hyper-reality of the fashion world. From his own gospel, André Leon Talley is too savvy and intelligent to create such a documentary. Here he proves he has substance behind the style.

Liam Hanlon

93 minutes
The Gospel According to André is released 5th October 2018

 

 

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Review: A Star Is Born

DIR: Bradley Cooper • WRI: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters • DOP: Matthew Libatique • ED: Jay Cassidy • DES: Karen Murphy • PRO: Bradley Cooper, Bill Gerber, Lynette Howell Taylor, Jon Peters, Todd Phillips • CAST: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott

In his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper turns his attention towards the third remake of A Star Is Born, which was originally released in 1937, with a remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954, and then a Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson-starring remake in 1976. 2018’s version stars Cooper himself as country blues singer Jackson Maine, who drinks his way through his live performances and life itself. En route home from a performance, he runs out of drink and stops at the nearest bar. There he sees Ally (played by the artistically-ambidextrous Lady Gaga) emerge behind the curtains to perform a rousing rendition of ‘La Vie en Rose’, which immediately grasps his attention.

Ally and Jackson then go off into the night, where Ally is taken aback by Jackson’s fame, and the public intrusion associated with fame. She punches a selfie-seeking policeman and Ally and Jackson run to a supermarket, and with a bag of frozen peas on her wrist, Jackson explores Ally’s musical aspirations. “I think you might be a songwriter” Jackson says to Ally, much like a ‘manic pixie dream boy’. The pair’s relationship blossoms musically and romantically and Jackson’s career has been boosted and Ally’s career has emphatically kick-started. However, Jackson’s career and health declines. His tinnitus worsens, he continues to seek solace in alcohol and drugs, and his older brother/manager Bobby (Sam Elliott) quits picking up the pieces and goes to work “with Willie”. Ally’s career has been her dream, yet she and others must resolve Jackson’s descent for their relationship and his music to continue.

The first highlight of A Star Is Born is the chemistry between Ally and Jackson. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper possess a dynamic that easily translates on-screen, which is crucial in this film, especially when the duo are both a musical and romantic duo. The chemistry then assists in the performances of the impressive songs, especially ‘Shallow’ and the closing number ‘I’ll Never Love Again’. Cooper is quick to introduce these protagonists, and their respective meet cute moment, and it’s effective for the running of the plot.

With both Ally and Jackson, the film offers two subtextual glimpses into the music industry. Jackson is an established artist whose spotlight is fading; Ally is the dilettante signed to a music label who discovers her individualism is outnumbered by the industry’s design by committee approach. Ally’s A&R manager Rez (Rafi Gavron), who’s always dressed in black, rejects her ideas and the mass music industry drags her into homogeneity, such as asking her to dye her hair blonde or the cliched backing dancer troupes. Jackson can foresee the path she’s being led down, and for someone who initially says she couldn’t ‘make it’, and as a new artist exposed to rapid success, Ally shelves her previous musical and personal morals. Her songs as a solo artist are far weaker than her songs with Jackson and these forgettable songs typify the homogenous nature of the industry’s output.

The film also gives an exploration of the humanity of these musicians within the music industry. We see Jackson in the first act and the trappings associated with his fame. He can’t go to a bar without being recognised and he can’t even shop without a cashier taking indiscreet pictures of him. Ally’s introduction to him presents an opportunity to see the domesticity of these characters, especially when they are presented in an almost cinéma vérité style that’s aided by Darren Aronofsky’s regular cinematographer Matthew Libatique. Plot lines such as Ally introducing a dog within her and Jackson’s home allows the film to present these people with associated notoriety as regular humans living an atypical human life and you almost forget about their celebrity status.

Without spoiling the film, A Star Is Born concludes with a performance from Ally that is simply stunning. The song encapsulates the emotional core of the film and is edited in a way that will result in the shedding of tears. Bradley Cooper has managed to assemble an utter powerhouse of a film that feels like a gritty La La Land, or the older kid John Carney’s Begin Again was told not to hang around with. From the supporting cast, including Ally’s hilarious father and his friends, to the songs, the film delivers on many levels. This is Cooper at his best, acting as well as directing, and it’s encouraging when it’s his first film as director.

Still though, this film is just as much Gaga’s as it is Cooper’s. Her stardom was conceived years ago but this film hosts a different Lady Gaga. Ally is a raw authentic character and Gaga’s experience in the music industry successfully humanises the character. She takes you on a journey with Jackson, as Cooper does with Ally, and A Star Is Born is one journey with so many emotions working in perfect harmony that should not be missed.

Liam Hanlon

135 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
A Star Is Born is released 5th October 2018

 

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Review: The Predator

DIR: Shane Black • WRI: Fred Dekker, Shane Black • DOP: Larry Fong • ED: Harry B. Miller III • MUS: Henry Jackman • DES: Martin Whist • PRO: John Davis, Lawrence Gordon • CAST: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key

Director Shane Black is no stranger to the Predator franchise having starred as Rick Hawkins in 1987’s Predator. Fast forward thirty one years and the latest addition to the franchise is The Predator, directed by Black, albeit with a troubled production. This sequel had its initial release date of February 2018 pushed to September 2018 amidst reports of poor test screening reception, which led to significant reshoots. Black has also faced heavy criticism for casting a registered sex-offender in a scene with Olivia Munn, whom has now spoken out against the director for doing so. The scene was subsequently removed from the film.

This latest addition stars Boyd Holbrook as Quinn McKenna, a skilled army sniper, who is preparing to intercept a drug cartel in Mexico, when his crew becomes interrupted by the arrival of a spacecraft containing a ‘predator’. Quinn manages to take down the creature using its own technology and steals two pieces of its equipment as proof of the creature’s existence. Before Quinn is apprehended by government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown), he posts the stolen equipment to himself. When the items are then delivered to his house, Quinn’s son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) curiously plays with the equipment, inadvertently bringing upon the arrival of another predator to earth. The original predator escapes from a government facility and is tracking down his stolen equipment, identifying Rory as a target. The hunter then becomes the hunted as the newly-arrived predator’s prime target is one of their own. With the assistance of Dr. Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn), Quinn and his crew of ‘Loonies’ must protect Rory and stop the predators.

One of the significant issues with The Predator is its script. With Shane Black’s previous works, including the Lethal Weapon scripts and 2016’s The Nice Guys, Black has a track record of great humour. However, not for the want of trying, the humour in this film does not work. Once we meet the ‘Loonies’, there are one-liners aplenty. Yet, they fall flat on each occasion. Although, there is one gag involving a thumbs up that is effective and also a humorous line describing the predator as an “alien Whoopi Goldberg”. The character count also becomes bloated. Some are completely insignificant such as Alfie Allen’s Lynch who bears no impact whatsoever. Olivia Munn’s Dr. Casey Bracket is one of the standout characters but the script affects her character development. Much like other female STEM professionals in film, her work is affected and disregarded by male characters and there is one sequence where she is forced by Quinn to become a mothering figure for Rory, which felt regressive after initial hope for her character development.

Also, The Predator needed to branch out from Predator’s legacy and success. The latter had such physicality and grit in what was a post-Vietnam film set in a jungle. Predator had the gore, as this film does, but it also created such tension in sequences such as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch fortunately camouflaging himself from the predator in mud. With The Predator, it’s more of a post-9/11 film with subtextual elements involving technological and arms races between nations. Here, the increase in alien technology does not contribute to any significant dramatic effect. The second predator brings two ‘dogs’ to earth to emphasise the sports hunter aspect of these alien creatures. Yet, they become laughable with one of them later acting like a trained house dog for the predator’s enemies (as well as having some dodgy CGI).

Overall, The Predator is the not the worst entry in the Predator franchise and the running time of 107 minutes is paced efficiently. It resembled 2016’s Independence Day: Resurgence in the sense that bigger does not necessarily mean better for franchise sequels. It’s amped up with fun action sequences and deserves its R-rating but it’s ultimately betrayed by its script and it also shows disregard towards Rory’s autism and Baxley’s (Thomas Jane) Tourette syndrome with its dialogue.

Shane Black obviously has an affinity for this franchise and it’s a shame The Predator does not match Predator’s success. It was plagued by production problems and perhaps it foresighted the end product. However, with Disney attempting to acquire 21st Century Fox, Black could always try again with the inevitable Avengers vs X-Men vs Alien vs Predator spin-off.

Liam Hanlon

106 minutes
16(see IFCO for details)
The Predator is released 14th September 2018

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