The Riot Club

the riot club
DIR Lone Scherfig  • WRI: Laura Wade • PRO: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin • DOP: Sebastian Blenkov • ED: Jake Roberts • DES: Alice Normington • MUS: Kasper Winding • CAST: Max Irons, Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth

Oxford University, a prestigious English University where the top brains of the country go to expand their minds, gain valuable degrees and join elite clubs with the primary focus of causing utter havoc.

The Riot Club is an historic Oxford club where the wealthy and brightest minds come together to carry on the tradition of Lord Riot, a historic campus miscreant.

It’s first year induction time and the Riot Club are short a member. To make the full complement, freshman Miles (Max Irons) is invited to join this group of debauchery. What ensues is a wild array of drunken parties, vandalism and utter chaos.

The Riot Club is one of those films that will certainly divide opinion and in all honesty, I’m still not really sure what to make of it.

It’s full of characters that are incredibly unlikable. In fact they’re so unlikable that they actually make the audience despise them. It’s debauchery and excess at its very lowest. Unlike Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street the tone in this film is dark and almost feels subhuman.

There’s a dark undercurrent throughout and it is almost uneasy to watch but here is where you have to give credit to the direction of the film and the quality of acting from all involved. Slimy, manipulative and sleazy acting which is so believable that it’s almost a begrudging respect and admiration for the roles these young actors play.

Only for Miles’ character there would not be a sympathetic human aspect to proceedings but his character is important to bring the audience back to a sense of reality.

The Riot Club is a film that Sigmund Freud would be proud of. A look into the dark recesses of the mind that explores the sick and depraved actions of young wealthy men who think they can extinguish their violent flames with mounds of money.

It’s a good film but is not easy viewing by any stretch of the imagination but is worthy of a recommendation despite the dark undertones.

Shane Saunders

16 (See IFCO for details)

107 minutes

The Riot Club is released 19th September 2014

The Riot Club – Official Website

 

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A Nightingale Falling

A nightingale falling

DIR/WRI: Garret Daly, Martina McGlynn  PRO: Gerry Burke, Pj Curtis, Garret Daly, Martina McGlynn DOP: Garret Daly ED: James Daly MUS: Graeme Stewart CAST: Tara Breathnach, Muireann Bird, Gerard McCarthy

A Nightingale Falling sees the directorial return of Garret Daly (Bogman, A Grand Experience) alongside Martina McGlynn who has also worked alongside Garret in a producer role for the aforementioned projects.

The film takes place in Ireland during the War of Independence. Sisters Tilly (Muireann Bird) and May Collingwood (Tara Breathnach) find their world turned upside down when they find and care for a wounded rebel soldier in their home.

Lust, secrecy and jealousy transpire as the two sisters vie for the affection of smooth talking and handsome Captain Shearing (Gerard McCarthy).

A Nightingale Falling is a very interesting take on the War of Independence. On the surface, the film screams authenticity and is very much like looking into a window into history. Beyond the surface is where the film really shines.

While a war is brewing externally, it is the internal war within the confines of the Collingwood house raging between two sisters over a fallen rebel soldier that is most intriguing. Breathnach’s performance as May Collingwood is breathtaking and the character development of a strong and confident woman to being left as nothing but a hollow and jealous wreck is nothing short of remarkable.

Muireann Bird’s performance of a naïve and innocent younger sister in Tilly really props up Breathnach’s character excellently and the two bounce off each other very well to create a very powerful on-screen dynamic.

A Nightingale Falling is a very enjoyable Irish film and those wishing to see up and coming talent from our own doorstep need look no further.

Shane Saunders

12A (See IFCO for details)

112 minutes

A Nightingale Falling is released 12th September 2014

A Nightingale Falling– Official Website

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Watermark

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DIR: Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky• WRI: Jennifer Baichwal

With water charges being all the rage around Ireland at the moment, it’s rather interesting timing that Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky’s documentary on how water is viewed within different cultures should arrive into Irish cinemas, especially since we as a nation largely take water for granted.

Watermark is a very interesting documentary and not just because of its subject matter. It’s interesting in the way it is presented. There is no narrative and no agenda set by Baichwal or Burtynsky. Instead, the audience is presented with an array of incredible images and first-hand accounts of water usage and how water is treated in various societies, be it for work or spiritual needs.

The images of scorched desert, luxurious lagoons and water pollution often made this reviewer think about how lucky we really have it with plentiful supplies of water at our disposal.

The editing is quite well done in places as we are shown around a scorched and parched landscape devoid of water to suddenly being whisked away to Las Vegas’ famous Bellagio Fountains. It’s a thought-provoking piece of editing that can make the audience challenge as to how much of a waste of water goes into providing entertainment when other areas not too far away are struggling and in turn affect people’s livelihoods.

Watermark is not without its faults however. The film relies on its striking imagery and while it is pretty to look at, the lack of narrative and the quick editing feels fragmented leaving the audience member sometimes confused as to what is actually going on.

The first-hand accounts of various individuals are interesting, however, again, these stories are fragmented and jump back and forth between edits, which is a little confusing at times.

Despite this, Watermark is a documentary well worth your time, though with all the sights and sounds of gushing water I would advise using the bathroom beforehand.

Shane Saunders

 

92 minutes

Watermark is released 5th September

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The Unbeatables

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DIR: Juan José Campanella  WRI: Juan José Campanella, Gastón Gorali, Eduardo Sacheri   PRO: Juan José Campanella, Mercedes Gamero, Gastón Gorali, Jorge Estrada Mora, Manuel Polanco • DOP: Félix Monti   ED: Juan José Campanella, Abel Goldfarb MUS: Emilio Kauderer   CAST: Rupert Grint, Anthony Head, Peter Serafinowicz

With World Cup fever taking a stranglehold on all of our lives this summer, football fans will no doubt be relishing the return of some of Europe’s bigger leagues to start back later this month. In the meantime, director Juan Jose Campanella offers up a scintillating feast of footballing animation that is destined to hit the back of the net.

Amadeo (Rupert Grint) is an expert foosball player in his local village. His problem, however, is that he is a bit of an outcast with just his wooden foosball players and childhood friend Lara as his companions. Spending much of his time in a local bar may seem like a quiet existence for Amadeo. However, when local bully Flash (Anthony Head) shows up to challenge our hero to a game of foosball, Amadeo and Lara are thrust into an adventure that will have serious repercussions on their small town after Flash loses his first ever game of Foosball to Amadeo.

It’s now many years later since the loss and Flash is now an expert and popular footballer whilst Amadeo is still the same down and out character we’ve seen before except that he’s a bit taller. When Flash threatens to close down the town it’s up to Amadeo, Lena and his wooden counterparts to save the day.

The Unbeatables is a fun yet slightly off the wall film. Think Toy Story meets ‘Subbuteo’. While it may not have the look of Toy Story it’s certainly got the same heart and humour coursing through it, which makes for a very enjoyable animation.

The voiceovers from Grint and Head are great and seem to really get behind their characters; however Lara, voiced by Eve Ponsoby is a bit flat and monotonous in her delivery. The rest of the cast of wooden players are anything but with cliché ridden football terms and many jokes about footballer’s being primadonnas.

It’s a very topical and up-to-date film with football jokes and puns especially from BBC commentator Jonathan Pearce. The only thing is though, if you are not a football fan or don’t really have an interest in football away from the pitch, some jokes may fall flat on their face.

It’s a very solid and humorous football animation that will certainly leave audiences cheering at the final whistle.

Shane Saunders

G (See IFCO for details)
97 mins

The Unbeatables  is released on 8th August 2014

The Unbeatables  – Official Website

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The Congress

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DIR: Ari Folman  WRI: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman  PRO: Reinhard Brundig, Sébastien Delloye, Piotr Dzieciol, Ari Folman, David Grumbach, Eitan Mansuri, Robin Wright • DOP: Michal Englert  ED:Nili Feller   DES: David Polonsky MUS: Max Richter  CAST: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel

Robin Wright (as herself) is an ageing actress well past the peak of her acting career. Contracted with Miramount, a big budget film company, Wright has been offered one final contract. A contract that will allow her to live on as an actress by a process known as ‘scanning’. This process will see her digitally re-mastered and living on as computer code to appear in films as often as the studio sees fit. There’s only one condition… Robin Wright the living breathing human may never act again.

The premise for Ari Forman’s latest offering is a very interesting one. A struggling actress trying to make ends meet with a son carrying a rare disease must sign a deal to save her family whilst ultimately killing her career.

Wright really is a superb actress and turns in an incredible performance. The scanning sequence is hauntingly beautiful as hundreds of cameras capture every joyful and sorrowful expression of Wright’s various emotions in one of the film’s most poignant scenes.

Folman’s look at modern cinema and how film production may come to pass is a really insightful one and really challenges the question as to how much do big film studios really value their actors and actresses in a money hungry environment.

The film picks up 20 years later and unfortunately here is where the film really loses its way.

Wright is summoned to a gathering with Miramount big-wigs to discuss her contract in what is deemed an “animated zone only” by a security guard to the hotel entrance.

One quick sniff of a hallucinogenic and the audience is greeted to a bizarre animated world of odd creatures and odd people which Wright describes as “an addict on a bad acid trip”.

The film abandons its original look at film production and the idea of actors and actresses becoming obsolete in favour of imagery and how we as people aspire to be others than be true to ourselves.

It is completely off the rails and not in a good way. With all due respect, the animation is incredibly well done and is absolutely breathtaking. However, the story in the second part of the film does not match the initial heights the film sets itself.

It’s not that The Congress is a bad film rather that it’s too imaginative for its own good and herein is the film’s downfall and finds itself down a path that it ultimately can’t get back from.

Shane Saunders

15A (See IFCO for details)
122 mins

The Congress  is released on 15th August 2014

The Congress  – Official Website

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Norte, the End of History

NORTE

 

DIR/Lav Diaz • WRI: Lav Diaz, Rody Vera • PRO: Raymond Lee   DOP: Lauro Rene Manda  ED: Lav Diaz  DES: Perry Dizon MUS: Perry Dizon  CAST: Dwayne Johnson, John Hurt, Ian McShane, Joseph Fiennes

In an age when editing is key and Hollywood big-wigs implore directors to shorten films as much as possible due to ever increasing costs, in comes Philippine director Lav Diaz with Norte, The End of History clocking in at a whopping 250 minutes. Either Diaz doesn’t hire editors or he just didn’t show up to the meeting on that particular day, we’ll never know.

In truth, Diaz’s latest offering is a mini feature in comparison to the seven-hour-epic, ‘Melancholia’ as the master of slow cinema returns with this tale of crime and punishment in the Philippines.

The crux of the story follows two sets of individuals who intertwine through the act of murder. Fabian (Sid Lucero) is a law-school dropout who, from the get go, is dissatisfied with how society is. A self-indulgent character who, seems like a spokesperson for the proletariat and wishing to destroy the capitalist world and the bourgeoisie. His increasing disdain for the world seen through constant drunken eyes and mind, he leaves a trail of destruction behind him everywhere he goes as his talk of action propels into frightening physical acts of violence.

Joquain (Archie Alemania) is a staunch family man. Despite poverty, he does everything possible for his family even if it means borrowing from a local loan shark. His world is turned upside down when he is wrongly accused of murdering wealthy loan shark played by Mae Paner and her daughter in their home.

In reviewing this film, there’s two ways of looking at it. Firstly, the story and filmmaking itself are both exceptional. Secondly, what is being presented on screen is extremely disturbing and does not necessarily sit well with this reviewer personally.

Prolonged shots during many scenes may feel a bit over indulgent and unnecessary at times however, Diaz captures the mood and encompasses characters like nobody else on screen. Long moments of pure silence really capture the mood and allow the audience to fully embrace and warm towards characters.  Four hours may seem like a long running time but the connection between filmgoers and the characters is handled extremely well for the most part in the case of Joquain and his family especially.

To counteract this point, there are times when the camera perhaps stays for too long especially after traumatising scenes of murder, rape and overly violent scenes.

There has and will continue to be more graphic violence and images shown on the big screen and in this reviewer’s opinion, it’s unnerving and unnecessary to prolong the image. It almost feels like Diaz is actively trying to depress the audience in some cases.

It’s a haunting, chilling and bleak but a film that is made extremely well. While there are disturbing visuals, what is most horrifying are the suggestive tones that lurk underneath the surface with which Diaz invites the audience to explore the dark recesses of their own minds.

In truth, this is one of the toughest reviews I’ve ever had to do. I’ve never been so divided in my own verdict. On the one hand, it’s exceptional filmmaking and is a real treat for seasoned lovers of cinema. On the other hand, it almost feels immoral to encourage people to go and see it due to its disturbing nature.

It’s a tough watch but those brave enough to sit through this 250-minute showcase will be duly rewarded.

Shane Saunders

250 mins

Norte, The End of History is released on 25th July 2014

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I Am Divine

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DIR: Jeffrey Schwarz WRI: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver   PRO: Jon Glover, Lotti Pharriss Knowles, Lance Robertson, Jeffrey Schwarz   DOP: John Chater, John Davis, Dan DeJesus
David A. Ford, Marsha Kahm, Cameron MacDonald, James Mulryan, Elle Schneider, Steven Wacks, Clay Westervelt   ED: Phillip J. Bartell MUS: Michael Cudahy CAST: Divine, Michael Musto, Mark Payne

I Am Divine is a fascinating documentary about the life and times of drag queen idol ‘Divine’ (Glenn Milstead) and John Waters, the man who gave a platform to one of the most iconic homo-erotic actors of the 1970s and beyond.

I Am Divine is a no holds barred documentary which oozes colour, brilliant insight and fantastic interviews from absolutely everybody who was associated with Divine. It’s a film that shows the absolutely bizarre side of Divine and John Waters’ mind as a filmmaker whilst compassionately recounting the more touching and lighter side of Milstead’s life.

I’ll admit that I have never seen any of Divine’s or John Waters’ films in my life but it was incredible to be shown footage of some of the most depraved and wilder side of film that nearly had me heaving in my seat. Fans of the film Pink Flamingos will certainly attest to where I’m coming from there.

It’s easy for documentarians to sway their opinion of various people and to show them in nothing but a radiant glow of positivity, however, no aspect of Divine’s life is left unturned. From coming out, to being disowned by his parents, the fame and popularity of one of the most iconic gay people of the time and from Divine’s personal problems of overeating and overspending.

It’s a tale of great humour and great sadness with heartfelt interviews from family members, fans and close friends. As I’ve mentioned before, despite never knowing who Divine was before sitting down to watch the film, it felt like I had known and seen this person on screen a million times.

It really is incredible how director Jeffrey Schwarz fits absolutely everything into 90 minutes and yet it also leaves the audience wanting to know more about this person. From the underground to the mainstream with fan favourite, Hairspray, this is a documentary that really gives light to a once under-rated actor to cult hero with rare footage and interviews. It’s a documentary that is simply Divine.

Shane Saunders

12A (See IFCO for details)
85 mins

I Am Divine is released on 18th July 2014

I Am Divine – Official Website

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