We Love… St Valentine

We Love... St Valentine

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

Get a bottle of Blue Nun, splash yourself with them cheap Christmas smellies your Auntie got you for Christmas, slip on your Penny’s underwear and turn up the stereo with the sweet, sweet sound of Barry White. And hey, if you have a partner that’s an added bonus. Yes, it’s that time of year, when St. Valentine comes to town. So in his honour the film lovers here at Film Ireland present their favourite lurve-themed films.

Now let’s get it on…

 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Ciara O’Brien

Annie Hall – Sarah Griffin

500 Days of Summer – Rory Cashin

Wall-E – Geoff McEvoy

Pretty Woman – Gemma Creagh

Jerry Maguire – Peter White

Harold and Maude – Steven Galvin

The Notebook – Órla Walshe

Gone With the Wind – Charlene Lydon

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We Love… Soundtracks – Gladiator

 

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Who hasn’t run up steps without Bill Conti’s classic ode to trying hard, the Rocky Theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’, soaring through their head, or spun around at the top of a hill belting out Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s soaring blue sky-classic ‘The Hills are Alive’…

Can you go for a swim in the sea without hearing ‘duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh’ – John Williams’ creepingly stubborn build of bass notes –  or take a shower unaccompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing shrieks of a slashing violin clashing against the steam.

Then welcome, welcome to the latest We Love…  as, over the next few weeks, our collection of movie-loving muzos put on their tight-white trousers and flowing dresses and profess their love for music in film in:

 

We Love…

Soundtracks

 

Gladiator

 

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‘… Hans Zimmer’s score is a masterpiece. Constructed with as many elements of Gustav Holtz’ The Planets as it is of O Fortuna and traditional middle-Eastern lilting …’

Donnchadh Tiernan

Ridley Scott’s Gladiator was the seminal cinema-going of my young life. I was twelve at the time of its release but luckily for me and one other ardent cinema-attendee, the little circled numbers on the corner of movie posters were more guidelines than rules in Ennis’ Empire Movieplex circa 2000; after assuring the cinema manager that we were fourteen (still one year south of the prescribed age given Gladiator was released as a 15 Cert film) and heeding his warning that the film contained “a awful lot of shtaking lads” we were ushered into a crowded screen, barely able to contain our glee.

That the film itself was a revelation is debatable in some circles but rest assured, to my impressionable 12-year-old mind it was the beginning of something. From the opening dolly-shots of Russell Crowe’s brawny, calloused hands thumbing ears of wheat to the colour-saturated colossus of Commodus’s arrival into Rome as emperor, it dawned on me for the first time that the various elements concocting to present the experience I was here taking in were more than a series of sharp turns on a popcorn chomping thrill-ride but art compiled in the same dense manner a composer might align notes to create a symphony. I took due note of its lead actor’s name (which I’d not heard until that point) and that of its director, and endeavoured to track down all I could by each of them and, to all intensive purposes, nerd out. I even took minor note of how different the score itself was, a genuine first for me beyond the James Bond theme. It may have been the haunting lilts of Lisa Gerrard or the rousing call-to-arms of the combat scores but I’m certain that my first mental notations of what is now my favourite score (and what I consider undoubtedly to be Hans Zimmer’s masterpiece) were of a novelty at best. To me the piece had yet to separate itself from the film as its own work of art, which is a moment I would not arrive at until almost twelve years later.

Two years ago when I commenced work on my final-year thesis (a riotously ambitious work which attempted to examine the culturally tangible ties between Apocalypse Now and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) I arrived at a difficult stepping stone whereby I could no longer work in my own bedroom without becoming distracted and at the same time could not work in the college library without having my stomach turned by the everlasting cacophony of a thousand malnourished stomachs surrounding me, churning involuntarily for want of nutrition beyond heaping of chocolate and energy drinks. I needed a soundtrack, and in a fleeting moment when allowing myself to be lured from academia by endless YouTube clips of movie badasses saying the thing that earned them the title, I came across Maximus turning his back to Commodus in the centre of the coliseum and thought, “Well there’s something I’ve not tried yet”.

The entire score album as a single clip was not hard to find and so not a minute beyond the idea’s inception I had my headphones connected to my computer’s sound-jack and Progeny (aka, track 1) pumping in my ears. It’s soothing tones, followed by those of The Wheat, allowed me to survey my handwritten plans diligently before the masterful ten-minute The Battle aided me in high-tempo typing as I churned out words with all the passion and confidence of a tightly formed Roman legion advancing on a Germanic  outpost.

Hans Zimmer’s score is a masterpiece. Constructed with as many elements of Gustav Holtz’ The Planets as it is of O Fortuna and traditional middle-Eastern lilting it proved to be as seminal and influential as the film itself, which reignited Hollywood’s interest in sword-and-sandals epics. For every moment of meditative calm there is a building rhythm to carry one onto the next sequence conveying violence justified “for the glory of Rome”. By the time I reached the album’s sublime conclusion (Now We Are Free) I had written enough to warrant a cigarette and taken the appropriate amount of time to do so (1:01:40, precisely the length of the score album). Suffice to say, when I returned from my break I pressed play again and kept doing so until my thesis was complete.

I love the film Gladiator. I love it first and foremost for introducing me spiritually to the art-form that would come to dominate the majority of my daily thought over the coming decade and even after that it is an out-and-out douzy of a popcorn chomper. Even more so I love Hans Zimmer’s score, for in the month preceding my thesis submission I came to equate the magical explosion of choral tribal chanting approximately two minutes into the closing track with a very special feeling. I had typed for an hour and deserved a cigarette. That, friends and film fans, is the feeling of a little victory. And in words as eloquent as I can manage, it’s the little victories that life is all about. Having found a moment in a film-score that can aurally recreate such a feeling, how could I possibly select any other?

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We Love… Soundtracks – The Blues Brothers

 

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Who hasn’t run up steps without Bill Conti’s classic ode to trying hard, the Rocky Theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’, soaring through their head, or spun around at the top of a hill belting out Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s soaring blue sky-classic ‘The Hills are Alive’…

Can you go for a swim in the sea without hearing ‘duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh’ – John Williams’ creepingly stubborn build of bass notes –  or take a shower unaccompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing shrieks of a slashing violin clashing against the steam.

Then welcome, welcome to the latest We Love…  as, over the next few weeks, our collection of movie-loving muzos put on their tight-white trousers and flowing dresses and profess their love for music in film in:

 

We Love…

Soundtracks

 

The Blues Brother

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‘… the soundtrack is a focal point of the film and plays a central role in the story telling of the film…’

Chris Lavery

I was first introduced to The Blues Brothers by my parents who had always loved the film. The homage to the blues genre might’ve passed me by then as a youth, and I don’t even remember liking it very much afterwards.

But I soon began to realise it was one of the funniest films I had seen, with Jake and Elwood’s increasingly farcical run-ins with the law and over the top car chases.

Over the years I found myself being drawn back to it time and time again, with it never losing its hold over me. The infectious energy of the music immediately permeating my soul as soon as the opening bars of She Caught the Katy kicks in…

The Blues Brothers Band existed a number of years before the 1980 movie. It started when Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi performed as a musical duo on a Saturday Night Live sketch in January, 1976. The personas of Jake and Elwood Blues and the outline for the movie’s story was teased out during downtime at Aykroyd’s blues bar.

After a number of successful sketches on SNL, the pair gathered a band of established musicians from the blues scene of Chicago, Memphis and New York and released an album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1976.

The 1980 movie could (unfairly) be described simply as a vehicle for their music and despite the movie’s bonkers plot being very much secondary to the movie’s music, it’s still very funny. One highlight being Jake and Elwood’s run-ins with a particular brand of right wing political nut-jobs – “I hate Illinois Nazis,” laments Elwood.

But it’s the love for blues music that really shines through and stays with you after watching. Music performed with real energy by people who live and breathe blues and soul. The musical cameos are a roll-call of R&B, soul and blues legends, including Ray Charles (whose scene-stealing Shake a Tail Feather being a highlight), Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway and John Lee Hooker.

Belushi had been sniffily criticised for not having the vocal talent to live up to the songs he was singing. But he more than made for it by throwing his heart and soul into every tune. Together with Aykroyd’s backing vocals and harmonica, they bring a tremendous passion and enthusiasm (despite their continual deadpan facial expressions throughout) to a range of blues and soul numbers. Each one is a stone-cold classic from a rich and varied back catalogue of blues music.

Even now, from the moment Jake and Elwood Blues show up and right up until the final credits roll I sit there with a ridiculous smile on my face and my foot-tapping wearing a hole in the floor.

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We Love… Soundtracks – Dazed and Confused

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Who hasn’t run up steps without Bill Conti’s classic ode to trying hard, the Rocky Theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’, soaring through their head, or spun around at the top of a hill belting out Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s soaring blue sky-classic ‘The Hills are Alive’…

Can you go for a swim in the sea without hearing ‘duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh’ – John Williams’ creepingly stubborn build of bass notes –  or take a shower unaccompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing shrieks of a slashing violin clashing against the steam.

Then welcome, welcome to the latest We Love…  as, over the next few weeks, our collection of movie-loving muzos put on their tight-white trousers and flowing dresses and profess their love for music in film in:

 

We Love…

Soundtracks

 

Dazed and Confused

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‘… the soundtrack is a focal point of the film and plays a central role in the story telling of the film…’

Ailbhe O’ Reilly

Dazed and Confused, the 1993 cult classic, opens with ‘Sweet Emotion‘ by Aerosmith. We are introduced to the high-school students who inhabit this film through the very 1970s sound of Aerosmith. From the beginning of Dazed and Confused the soundtrack is a focal point of the film and plays a central role in the story telling of the film.

The plot of this cult classic, if you are not familiar with it, is simple enough. It is the last day of school in a Texas high school in 1976 and the incoming seniors are preparing to haze the incoming freshman students. The film follows several groups of friends as they drive around town, drink, do drugs and listen to music culminating in a party at the moon tower. The plot is laid back and simple with no major drama or resolution. Richard Linklater felt his film was a more realistic representation of teenage life than some more melodramatic plots in teenage films. It focuses simply on teenagers trying to have fun, be cool and fit in.  Dazed and Confused is fun, funny and above all cool – which is why it become a cult classic.

The soundtrack is one of the main reasons that the film comes together so well and it is used with great effect to set the tone, move the plot along and above all root the film firmly in 1976 Texas – even the title comes from a Led Zeppelin song. Along with Aerosmith, Dazed and Confused makes great use of ‘Free Ride’ by The Edgar Winter Group, ‘Summer Breeze‘ by Seals & Crofts, ‘Low Rider‘ by War and ‘Do You Feel Like We Do‘ by Peter Frampton to set this unique tone of 1976’s Texas throughout the film, so even Irish teenagers in the ’90s could relate to it. The film seems to pause at various times as there is a scene where music is playing the main role. An example of this is when Matthew McConaughey’s character (in his first role) walks through the pool hall with Bob Dylan’s ‘The Hurricane’ blasting out as he smoothly walks across the room. As the boys cruise around town mindlessly breaking trash cans, ZZ Top guides them on their way.

The film has a rake of stars in their early years such as Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey and the aforementioned Matthew McConaughey in a stellar role as the older guy who is a bit old for a high school party. The film ends as a few of the main characters drive to get Aerosmith tickets – “top priority of the summer” as Jason London’s character puts it. We see them chilled out in the car as ‘Slow Ride‘ by Foghat plays out – a perfect ending to an appropriate and fantastic soundtrack. There is no doubt that Dazed and Confused’s soundtrack strongly contributes to Dazed and Confused’s cult classic status and will always be a favourite of mine.

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We Love… Soundtracks – Romeo + Juliet

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Who hasn’t run up steps without Bill Conti’s classic ode to trying hard, the Rocky Theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’, soaring through their head, or spun around at the top of a hill belting out Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s soaring blue sky-classic ‘The Hills are Alive’…

Can you go for a swim in the sea without hearing ‘duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh’ – John Williams’ creepingly stubborn build of bass notes –  or take a shower unaccompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing shrieks of a slashing violin clashing against the steam.

Then welcome, welcome to the latest We Love…  as, over the next few weeks, our collection of movie-loving muzos put on their tight-white trousers and flowing dresses and profess their love for music in film in:

We Love…

Soundtracks

 

Romeo + Juliet

 

‘… The track list reads as a veritable who’s who of ’90s pop-rock acts…’

Deirdre Mc Mahon

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“Would m’lady care to rock?”

There is nothing quite like the near-insanity of your first crush. Teenagers, girls especially, have all sorts of ways of accruing tokens of their beloved; ring pulls from cans you counted to the letter of his name, bus ticket numbers that added up to his initials. I remember spraying my pillow with Lynx Africa, the scent pour homme of the ’90s, in a bid to make it smell like the object of my affection. So when Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet was released at the peak of my teenage years in 1996, it was safe to say it found a receptive audience among my generation. With its tale of tragic young love, it was the film that launched a thousand Leonardo di Caprio crushes. I immediately went out and bought the soundtrack, which was then welded to my Discman for the next six months. Although teenage girls do not always have the best reputation for taste in music and film, I was in good hands with Baz. As the film updates this classic story to 1990s Verona beach, so to does the soundtrack reflect popular music culture of the era. The track list reads as a veritable who’s who of ’90s pop-rock acts; Radiohead, The Cardigans, Garbage, Des’ree and even our very own Mundy.

The epic tale opens with an operatic score ‘O Verona‘, telling the audience how this may be a flashy pop-culture update of Shakespeare, but it was still a film to be taken seriously. The Montagues are introduced as the rocker-punks, show-boating peacocks who drive around listening to the lyrics, “I feel just like a local God when I’m with the boys, we do what we want”. As a teenager you could feel drunk on your first sip of parental freedom. These lyrics embody the heady arrogance of this time and the empowerment of being part of a large gang. You need only sit upstairs on most double decker buses to be reminded how times may change, but human behaviour does not.

Let’s face it though, Romeo is a wimp. He’s a self-indulgent moaner whose all-consuming obsession with Rosalind is forgotten as quickly as MiniDisc players when he sets eyes on Juliet. But Romeo is anything but a wimp as he struts across an abandoned, sun-drenched stage to the soul-achingly melodic chords of ‘Talk Show Host‘ by Radiohead. Radiohead bridged the gap from shoe-gazing emo music to melancholic artistry and act as the perfect accompaniment for the introverted musings of Romeo. As an adult, his behaviour could be considered embarrassingly self-indulgent, but as a teenager it seems to validate all your feelings and how important they are.

Luhrmann also commissioned Radiohead to write a song especially for Romeo + Juliet –Exit Music (For a Film)‘ is played over the end credits and appears on the seminal album Ok Computer. As well as being inspired by the end scene of Romeo + Juliet, Yorke claims inspiration for the lyrics came from another source: “I saw the Zeffirelli version (of Romeo and Juliet) when I was 13 and I cried my eyes out, because I couldn’t understand why, the morning after they shagged, they didn’t just run away. The song is written for two people who should run away before all the bad stuff starts. A personal song.” The human condition is a funny thing. We watch Titanic even though we know the boat sinks. Shakespeare tells the audience in the prologue that Romeo and Juliet will die, yet we still cry our eyes out when it happens.

The rest of the soundtrack may be less heavy weight than Radiohead, but not less iconic. The Cardigan’s big first hit and aptly named ‘Lovefool‘ provided the fluffy pop for Romeo and Juliet’s youthful, innocent love. Garbage’s single ‘Crush‘ provided the more edgy, tainted underbelly to this affair, with lyrics like, “I will burn for you, feel pain for you, I will twist the knife and bleed my aching heart”. After all, these are two teenagers who die for one another having met a few days before. Makes the fact that my friend used to keep the discarded cigarette butts of her crush seem positively normal.

Buying soundtracks is like the Macarena – something everybody did in the ’90s. Coming from a time when you had the interminable wait from cinema to video, it was a way of making a connection with a film that has since faded away. Even now, hearing a track from Romeo + Juliet, Pulp Fiction or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels transports me back to a time of land-line phones, dolly mixtures siphoned from your parents spirit cabinet and the over-powering smell of CK One. And no modern-day ’90s revival will ever be able to recapture how it felt to be a teenager in that particular space in time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We Love… Soundtracks

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Who hasn’t run up steps without Bill Conti’s classic ode to trying hard, the Rocky Theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’, soaring through their head, or spun around at the top of a hill belting out Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s soaring blue sky-classic ‘The Hills are Alive’…

Can you go for a swim in the sea without hearing ‘duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh… duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh’ – John Williams’ creepingly stubborn build of bass notes –  or take a shower unaccompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing shrieks of a slashing violin clashing against the steam.

Then welcome, welcome to the latest We Love…  as, over the next few weeks, our collection of movie-loving muzos put on their tight-white trousers and flowing dresses and profess their love for music in film in:

 

We Love…

Soundtracks

The Blues Brothers – Chris Lavery

 

Dazed and Confused – Ailbhe O’ Reilly

 

Gladiator – Donnchadh Tiernan

 

Romeo + Juliet – Deirdre Mc Mahon

 

 

 

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We Love… Superheroes: Darkman

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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

 

Darkman

‘… No contemporary superhero effort comes close to maintaining its momentum …’

Darragh John McCabe

 

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Every generation gets the superhero franchise it deserves. Christian Bale is either a giant pair of flaring nostrils or somebody’s nightmare of a merchant banker, so he fits our troubled epoch like a slim fit Brooks Brothers. And Michael Keaton’s Batman was a real Generation X-er; a dropout and a recluse, a mumbler, an awkward sort of hedonist, balding. When Sam Raimi’s Darkman came out in 1990, a year after the first of the Tim Burton Batmans, reviewers were quick to spot the debt: “Darkman wants to be Batman” is how Richard Corliss opened his review, and Roger Ebert remarked with uncharacteristic gravitas that “this Darkman character is just not as interesting as Batman.”

What did Tim Burton’s iteration of the Dark Knight offer viewers that Darkman didn’t? The latter certainly had the superhero setup to beat them all; Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a scientist on the cusp of inventing an artificial form of skin for burn victims. Then, after his attorney girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) finds a memo that might incriminate slimy property developer Louis Strack (Colin Friels), Westlake is brutally maimed by X’s mob cronies. Demented and horribly disfigured, Westlake throws himself into his experiments, literally trying to save his own skin while being hounded by villians and trying to prevent Strack from committing vague and capitalistic crimes. Thanks to his fake skin know-how he can make perishable but verisimilitudinous masks and disguise himself as his enemies in order to get revenge / save the day. So the good doctor’s particular genius causes his collapse, comprises his superpower and could lead to his redemption; this may be the golden ratio for superhero plots in the way it puts origin story and revenge impulse in such ringing harmony. And all without a comic books pedigree – Raimi based the whole thing off a short story he wrote and just went for it, folks.

The film was a hit, but there are reasons why it didn’t do a Batman and one-inch punch the culture – and why its two sequels went off to oblivion via VHS. Darkman is an old-fashioned film about old-style American Savings and Loan community justice, less in debt to Batman, in fact, than Will Eisner’s The Spirit. The Spirit, a comic book phenomenon during the 1940s, was about a hero who returned from the dead to become anonymous and fight the sort of crime that metastasizes in the free market. Perhaps Raimi saw, in the massive discrepancy between have and have-not in the recession-free 1980s, that the country needed a saviour with the community-minded vim of the post-Depression, pre-New Deal Spirit. If things hadn’t gotten any better, Darkman might’ve stuck. I can imagine an alternative history where the decline of the American city didn’t start to stall in the late ’80s, where Hustler lost against Falwell, Pat Robertson beat Bush for the Republican nomination in 1988 and then won the presidency, Bin Laden forgot to form Al-Qaeda, and the world (the North American world) reverted to an earlier and less sophisticated form of existence, devolving into a space of simple federacy and frontier. But lucky for society, bad for art, things got better. Giuliani cleaned up Gotham, and the big city, a source of such horrified fascination for the cinema of the late ’80s and early ’90s, has forfeited its poetry to other needs – social cohesion, globalisation, the spread of capital. These days, we need to keep the international footfall high – vigilantism is difficult to imagine, because the population tends to find itself conscripted into the PR campaign. Bruce Wayne, the vigilante’s vigilante, is a billionaire, so he can do what he likes, plus he’s a playboy in the off-hours. If there’s no crime of a classically black-and-white sort to fight, all Darkman can do is pace around his grotty lair. He couldn’t deal with extraordinary rendition or the NSA, whereas the Dark Knight would have a complex and not necessarily adversive relationship with both.

But even the most cursory google will show how Darkman has earned its own eager and sweaty cult. It’s a thrilling, well-made film, after all; sort of like a comic book that reads itself to you, 24 little cells every second. No contemporary superhero effort comes close to maintaining its momentum – I rewatched The Avengers to compare, and that first hour is like Béla Tarr compared to the twenty minute decline and fall of Peyton Westlake. The action scenes are all classic comics left-to-right jobs, every punch thrown to emphasise the grotesquerie of a 2D life lived in non-stop motion. And there’s a little Tod Browning in the way faces are shot from way below, or high above, during slower-paced scenes. Raimi’s abiding fascination, after all, is with that other great genre launched out of 1930s America, the pulp horror. Most Lon Chaney pictures had Darkman’s Beauty and the Beast / Phantom of the Opera narrative. The visuals are great, too, very Evil Dead, and sort of grisly, psychedelic Harryhausen – another throwback to an earlier cinema. But every single player is miscast and not one of the characters has the gothic complexity of Keaton’s Batman, Nicholson’s Joker – perhaps because a real comic book provides a different kind of depth. By means of repetition, a myth is created, and there’s no need for individual events to make a dent in a character’s past or future. The Spirit and Little Orphan Annie both were mythic cycles with an option for eternal recurrence. By the end of Darkman, our hero has totally disconnected himself from society. If he’s to mean anything, he needs to come back, again and again, and it needs to be mobsters he’s after. It’s eternity or nothing – as our hero himself puts it, “I am everywhere and nowhere, everyone and no one. Call me Darkman.”

 

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Richard Drumm on Catwoman

 

Check out the all the Superheroes we love…

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We Love… Superheroes – The Hulk


batman signalcopy(1)

  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

 

The Hulk

‘… there is something cathartic, even joyous in those releases of anger, those vents of everyday frustration…’

David Neary

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Long before Batman became all broody and Tony Stark became an out-and-out dipso, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created a superhero, or rather super-anti-hero, with an exceptionally relatable gift/curse balance.

Dr. Bruce Banner, typically mild-mannered scientist, first appeared in printed colour boxes back in 1962, when an atomic blast mutated him into a near-indestructible muscle-riddled green giant, the Incredible Hulk. Sure the super-strength and super-leaping and super-rage are what makes the Hulk so appealing, but what makes him interesting is his relationship to Banner. Banner does not control the Hulk, but the Hulk becomes unleashed when Banner is angered – by personal/emotional stress or impending danger.

Banner’s rage becomes the Hulk’s rage – human anger turned all the way up to 11. The Hulk is a colossal adolescent tantrum, a beast fuelled by hyper-masculine lack of control. Banner’s great intellect and genuine decency do not make him immune to human failings and weaknesses – fears, regrets, sexual frustrations and so forth combine to create this terrifying monster. But the Hulk is not a villain, and there is something cathartic, even joyous in those releases of anger, those vents of everyday frustration. Where the average person in a fit of anger might throw a book to the floor, the Hulk can throw a tank – and throw his green-eyed rage can tell right from wrong, so more often than not that tank will get thrown at a villain, if a villain wasn’t already driving the tank…

The Hulk’s relationship with the big and little screens has been more hit than miss. A beloved TV series ran for five years from 1977-82, starring Bill Bixby as the straighter-named David Banner and body-building champ Lou Ferrigno as his alter-ego. Ferrigno’s stagey rage was so convincing that it was all too easy to forgive the rather silly makeup, wig and green bodypaint he had to wear for the role.

TV movies followed, pitting Bixby and Ferrigno against other famous Marvel heroes such as Thor and Daredevil, but Bixby’s premature death in 1993 put an end to the run. Animated series of the character ran in the ’80s and ’90s, pitting the Hulk against his more sci-fi-based (and less live-action-freindly) villains, such as The Leader and evil Soviet hulk the Abomination.

In the ongoing superhero movie boom that followed the digital effects revolution and the success of X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002), a Hulk movie was inevitable, and the result was the oft-and-unfairly-maligned Hulk (2003). Genre-juggler Ang Lee was a curious director to take on such a project, and while he played around with the effects as much he could, he was far more interested in the underlying psychology of Bruce Banner’s rage and the formal constructs of a film literally based on a comic book movie, with editing flowing between on-screen panels – everything short of speech bubbles. Eric Bana, doomed to never become the star he deserved to be (see also his performance in the similarly under-rated Troy) had a superb intensity as Banner, while Sam Elliott stole the show as the well-meaning but empathy-less General Thaddeus Ross, who leads the hunt for the Hulk. The effects were troublesome, and audiences bemoaned the lack of action, but there was a lot to enjoy here, including a superb battle between the Hulk and the United States Army across the American Southwest. The decision to go all-out-Freud on the Hulk’s origin was a mistake however, and as Banner’s father and primary villain Absorbing Man, Nick Nolte didn’t so much absorb the scenery as chew it up.

A semi-sequel reboot followed in 2008, and was the polar opposite to Ang Lee’s effort, drained of drama and intellect but full of Hulk smashing and monster fights. Louis Letterier’s The Incredible Hulk, indisputably the worst film yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, brought very little to the table, but just about managed to outgross its predecessor at the box office. As Banner, Edward Norton didn’t so much need to vent his rage as need a firm smack in the mouth. William Hurt played General Ross as a villain of the week. Tim Roth played a Russian/British soldier on loan to the American military, who morphs into the Ken doll-genitalled Abomination. Not even a stunt cameo by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark could win this one a sequel.

After four years the Hulk made his reappearance in The Avengers, this time in the human guise of Mark Ruffalo, after Marvel fell out with Norton over him being a bit of a jerk. While only a supporting character in that superhero ensemble, The Avengers featured , in one speech about an attempted suicide by Banner, more pathos and character depth than The Incredible Hulk had managed in two hours. The film refused to dwell on the psychological implications of Banner’s powers, but in its final moments delved into the idea that Banner had come to terms with his demons, and was able to not-so-much control the brute, as control himself, and when the beast should be unleashed. “That’s the secret… I’m always angry,” he confessed, as he instantly morphed into the monster and KO’d a colossal alien nasty with one punch. It was the most audience-pleasing moment the Hulk had ever performed on the big screen, and for the first time since Lou Ferrigno last washed that green paint off his body, the Hulk’s live-action self was truly incredible once more.

 

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – James Phelan on Blade

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We Love… Superheroes: Watchmen

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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:

 

Watchmen

‘… the motion picture remains an ambitious and sharply crafted companion piece to Moore’s game changing graphic novel…’

Anthony Assad

 

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Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen was originally released as a 12 issue mini-series by DC Comics between 1986 and 1987. In it Moore weaves an alternate history where ordinary men and women donning costumes to seek justice in the ’40s and ’60s heralds a culture of superheroes. Their deeds, among them turning the tide of the Vietnam War, inspires another generation of misfits culminating in an assembly of vigilantes calling themselves the Watchmen.

Despite noble endeavours their methods are outlawed and the group disbands into an early retirement to watch helplessly as the powers that be of the U.S. and Soviet Union prepare for nuclear war. When one of their own is murdered however it sparks a series of events leading them to assume their alter egos once more to protect a world that condemns them.

Although termed ‘superheroes’, all but one of the Watchmen have superpowers and the league consists of vagrants and sociopaths among the other well-meaning but essentially flawed characters. As the narrative unfolds, across various perspectives and timelines, Moore subverts our notions of the superhero and successfully reinvents the format of storytelling they were attributed to cementing the status of the ‘graphic novel’ as a serious means of literary expression.

Critical and commercial success meant a live-action adaptation was inevitable but not without its challenges. As soon as the ink was dry studios began to trade turns across two decades to develop the project drawing talented directors as diverse as Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass and Darren Aronofsky only to hit a dead-end effort after effort. During a second run of studio interventions coupled with the encouraging rise of comic-book adaptations in the ’00s the project finally found its home at Warner Bros. and its director with comic-book movie veteran Zack Snyder.

The world of Snyder’s Watchmen is expertly rendered with costume and set design often taking precedence over the screen. Fans of the source material will notice that every detail has been meticulously recreated for the film and the few liberties the filmmakers do take compliment without dumbing down the elaborate narrative.

Each of the Watchmen harbour their own reasons for suiting up and fighting crime but years of social and political duress have left them feeling disillusioned, discarded and defeated as the world counts down to its own annihilation. The performances on show do manage to convey the gravity of this grim reality with Jackie Earle Haley and Patrick Wilson (as Rorschach and Nite Owl II respectively) inhabiting their roles with particular aplomb, in addition their scenes are the most credible as they have the most to lose. The Travis Bickle-like Rorschach needs to hide behind a mask, it binds him and defines him from hellish thoughts as an inhuman product of an inhuman upbringing, crime fighting offers the only semblance of meaning in his life and his sometime partner Drieberg / Nite Owl II seems only to live for the past until the love for another forces him into harm’s way once more.

If this wasn’t drama enough, the omnipresent Dr. Manhattan, the result of a freak experiment and one-time Watchman is now Earth’s greatest defence but humanity is proving meaningless in it’s time of need and only a miracle could alter it’s fate while The Comedian appears to have given up years ago and accepted the puppetry of their lives. This is where Snyder’s Watchmen really succeeds, latex and heroics aside, the characters and their trials and tribulations take centre stage and the show is a compelling experience aided by the lack of recognisable stars.

Despite the best of intentions howeve,r the film ultimately falls short of its expectations. While credits are due to the writers for their exorbitant task of adapting Moore’s celebrated material into a cohesive if somewhat bloated two and a half hours, one can’t help thinking some extended sequences may have merited and perhaps better suited a mini-series for TV. While Snyder does exhibit a competent style his recurrent use of slow motion, used to embellish iconic images from the graphic novel, disrupts the momentum of some scenes already plagued by overemphasised music cues.

Notwithstanding these faults, Watchmen the motion picture remains an ambitious and sharply crafted companion piece to Moore’s game changing graphic novel, the visuals are often sumptuous with the material adding some much needed substance to Snyder’s debated but undeniable style. If you prefer anti-heroes over superheroes steeped in philosophical angst then there’s much to be enjoyed watching the Watchmen.

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – David Neary on The Hulk

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We Love… Superheroes: Wolverine

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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:

 

Wolverine

‘… He bristles with the prickliness and unsociability of a reform-school inmate…’

Tony McKiver

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In the great handing out of superpowers, a set of metal claws and the ability to heal seem like odd-socks, bottom-of-the-drawer leavings next to the absurd overabundance of powers bestowed on that early worm superhero Superman and the flashier attributes of other mutant members of Marvel’s X-Men series. Despite these relative disadvantages, Wolverine (A.K.A. Logan) somehow manages to stand tall amid the comic-book superheroes who have made their way into the movies.

The current cycle of comic-book-superhero films could be credited to, or blamed on, the success of Bryan Singer’s X-Men in 2000, which removed some of the taint and anxiety surrounding the idea of translating the cheesiness of comic-book storytelling for a cinema audience. At a time when audiences were still recuperating from the day-glo assault of Joel Schumacher’s moronic Batman and Robin, X-Men offered reassurance that you didn’t have to be on Ritalin to enjoy a comic-book movie. Much of the film’s success was down to the central role of Wolverine, the ideal surrogate to lead audiences into this bizarre world of mutants fighting to coexist with or dominate mankind. In a career-making turn by Hugh Jackman, the character of Wolverine earthed the unreality of the superpowered mutants, undercutting the speechy seriousness of the cod-Malcolm-X-and-Martin-Luther-King conflict between Professor X and Magneto.

Operating much like Han Solo in Star Wars (or Marvel’s other breakout cinematic success, Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr.), Logan is initially the sardonic voice of scepticism as we enter the larger-than-life—and annoyingly po-faced—world of comic-book superheroes. If Professor Xavier’s School for Mutants was the Ivy league for a liberal elite of goody-two-shoes A-students like Cyclops and Storm, Wolverine was a fish-out-of-water, Red State, metal-shop, average Joe fearful of where all this mushy togetherness and humanitarianism might lead. For cinema audiences unfamiliar with the Marvel comics, there was a lot of reassurance in seeing that the coolest character on screen shared your doubts about spandex, telepathy and every other fantastical part of the plot.

It wasn’t all irony and one-liners. There are facets to the character. Whereas the other X-Men are mostly as flat as the illustrated panels in comic books, Wolverine carries shades of light and dark, and some of that unknowingness that marks flesh and blood people. He has a painful past that troubles him in his sleep. He bristles with the prickliness and unsociability of a reform-school inmate. Jackman’s brooding, traumatised, yet still quippy hero is an obvious turning point marking the way back from Schumacher’s camp Batman on Ice to the gloom of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. At times, he is also reassuringly a bit of a lunkhead. He confuses “generally” and “genuinely,” and is outsmarted repeatedly by shapeshifting evil mutant Mystique, until he literally sniffs out her deceit and sinks his claws into her belly.

As is often the case in such comic-to-cinema crossovers, some details from the source material have gotten lost in translation. To the irritation of purists, Wolverine on screen isn’t the dinky five foot three inches of the comic books—Jackman is a whole foot taller—and his Canadian identity goes unmentioned as if it’s likely to drive away hordes of patriotic American cinemagoers and affect the film’s bottom line. Iconographically, we are left with his distinctive adamantium claws which shoot out at his knuckles to form foot-long blades; a haircut that is part wolfman, part Pompadour; and the most formidable set of sideburns in popular culture since Amos Brearly departed Emmerdale.

Thankfully, it’s not all about the measuring tape, Maple leaves, hair and nails. Aside from Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, no other superhero has the charisma to match Wolverine. Jackman has done a wonderful job in the role, widening the character’s popularity from a comicbook fans to the general cinema-going public: It is only well-earned audience affection that allowed him to survive the execrable X-Men Origins: Wolverine, as idiotic a film as has ever had the misfortune to be screened publicly. Returning to the character for a tiny cameo in 2011’s X-Men First Class, he made a strong impression once again, with his one-line refusal to join young Professor X and Magneto’s nascent X-Men earning the film’s biggest laugh.

Aside from Jackman, a great deal of the credit for the successful realisation of this character onscreen must go to Bryan Singer, director of the first two X-Men movies, who forges our emotional connection to the story through the character of Wolverine. Using this device, Singer succeeds in wringing real feeling out of unreal situations. In the past few years, Singer’s reputation has suffered a little, mostly due to the perceived failure of Superman Returns, a love-letter to Richard Donner’s 1978 original. Like X-Men, Superman Returns struck a similarly tricky balance between the real and the fantastical. For some critics, the disappointment with that film centred on the lack of action and this later congealed within the fanboy community into the demand that any subsequent Superman film would need to have our hero “punch somebody,” leading directly to this summer’s woeful Man of Steel. Perhaps Zack Snyder’s blunt-force-trauma Superman movie will renew people’s appreciation for the subtleties of Bryan Singer’s talents in handling comic-book superheroes, especially Wolverine.

Though greatly burned by the unmitigated shrieking horror of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, some of us who remember the triumph of the first two X-Men films awaited this summer’s The Wolverine with cautious optimism. Even more exciting is the return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Wolverine’s mutant gift of healing has allowed the character’s appeal to survive over a decade in the harsh world of cinema, withstanding withering conditions, including the ineptitude of directors Brett Ratner and Gavin Hood and an impatient and greedy studio keen to cash in on a popular character, with scant regard for quality control. Somehow the character’s claws remain sharp. Snikt!

 

 

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We Love… Superheroes: Wonder Woman

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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:

 

Wonder Woman

‘… one of the first feminist icons of the male-dominated superhero world…’

Carmen Bryce

wonder_woman_logo_by_machsabre-d4lg8ru

 

With all the strength of Superman plus all the timeless allure of a beautiful heroine, Wonder Woman has flown the star spangled flag for female superheroes since her creation in the 1940s.

Described by comic writer Robert Kanigher as “as beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules and as swift as Hermes”, Wonder Woman was one of the first feminist icons of the male-dominated superhero world.

Nobody’s sidekick, Wonder Woman goes alone, fighting for justice, peace and sexual equality along the way, making her a modern-day pin up for comic fans and a favoured Halloween costume for women everywhere.

The superheroine was named the 20th greatest comic book character by Empire magazine, ranked sixth in Comics Buyer’s Guide’s ‘100 Sexiest Women inComics’ list and in 2011, was placed fifth on IGN’s ‘Top 100 Comic Book Heroes of All Time’.

Wonder Woman was created during World World II for DC Comics by American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston. Marston struck upon the idea for a new kind of superhero who fought evil, not with fists or firepower, but with love.

Before donning the red and golden go-go boots and tiara, Wonder Woman was an Amazon champion who wins the right to return Steve Trevor, a United Statesintelligence officer whose plane had crashed on the Amazons’ isolated island homeland, to ‘Man’s World’ and to fight crime and the evil of the Nazis.

Wonder Woman uses the alias Diana Prince as her secret identity. During Marston’s run, Diana Prince was the name of an army nurse whom Wonder Woman came across when she came to earth. The nurse is desperate to return to her fiancé, who was transferred to South America, but was unable to arrange for money to do so. As Wonder Woman needed a secret identity to monitor and look after Trevor (who was admitted in the same army hospital Diana Prince worked at) Wonder Woman gave the nurse money to go to her fiancé in exchange for her credentials.

Wonder Woman is gifted with an array of superhuman powers and superior combat skills as well as possessing an arsenal of weapons, including the Lasso of Truth, a pair of indestructible bracelets, a tiara which serves as a projectile, and an invisible airplane.

The superheroine is depicted as a masterful athlete, acrobat, fighter and strategist, trained and experienced in many ancient and modern forms of armed and unarmed combat. In a nutshell, she kicks ass. She is portrayed as highly skilled in using her Amazon bracelets to stop bullets and in wieldingher golden lasso. Batman once called her the “best melee fighter in the world”, and he would know!

In the 1970s, schoolgirls (and boys) everywhere sat glued to the television to watch a glossy-haired Lynda Carter fight crime as Wonder Woman, and today, after numerous failed attempts, the heroine may still have her chance in the spotlight as Warner Bros and DC Entertainment toss around ideas tobring her to life again.

Previously, Buffy creator Joss Whedon was working on a 2007 feature, which was cancelled and followed by David E. Kelley’s 2011 failed TV pilot. However, in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, President of DCEntertainment Diane Nelson said, “We have to get her right, we have to. She is such an icon for both genders and all ages and for people who love the original TV show and people who read the comics now.”

 

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Rory Cashin on Thor

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We Love… Superheroes: Spider-Man

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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:

 

Spider-Man

‘… the adventures of the web-crawling teenager from Queens has always struck a resonance with audiences of all ages …’

Daire Walsh

 

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Since appearing in Amazing Fantasy #15 (a Marvel Comics Anthology) in August 1962, Spider-Man and his alter ego of Peter Parker have become a regular fixture in a number of different mediums. Whether it be the comic books themselves, the world of television (both animation and live-action) or the ever-evolving film industry, the adventures of the web-crawling teenager from Queens has always struck a resonance with audiences of all ages.

 

Having struggled to make it to the big-screen for a number of decades, in spite of its immense popularity, Spider-Man finally made its way into cinemas in 2002 – fresh on the heels of the Marvel-related Blade (1998) and X-Men (2000) – under the guidance of Evil Dead helmer Sam Raimi. As a massive fan of the comic-book series, Raimi seemed an ideal choice to bring his unique style and craftsmanship to a mainstream PG-13 superhero film, and with the highly-regarded duo of David Koepp and Bill Pope on screenwriting and director of photography duties respectively, the signs all seemed positive.

 

With a number of screen credits already behind them, the hiring of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst for the roles of Spider-Man/Peter Parker looked like wise moves, as did the decision to cast the excellent Willem Dafoe and James Franco (who was being heralded at the time as the “new James Dean”) as the father-son team of Harry and Norman Osborn.

 

There is always a certain leap of faith needed for films like this, as origin stories can be quite tricky, but Raimi handled Parker’s transformation from a bookish teen to a wall-crawling crime-fighter with a delicate touch. The Michigan native also knows how to crank up the action elements when needed, and with universally solid performances, as well cameos from series creator Stan Lee and Raimi favourite Bruce Campbell, there was something for everyone to embrace.

 

This meant it was completely unsurprising when box-office returns of $800 million dollars were matched by overwhelmingly positive critic responses, making a sequel an absolute certainty. 2004 was the date chosen for Spider-Man 2, and with the shackles now off to a certain degree, Raimi was given the scope to produce a bigger, bolder and better follow-up.

 

Having struggled with an over-reliance on Computer-Generated Effects for the sequences where Maguire was swinging between buildings in the first film, Raimi managed to make this seem more physical at the second time of asking, and having opted for a colourful, campy adversary in the form of Dafoe’s Green Goblin two years earlier, the menacing presence of Doctor Octopus/Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) was now the avenue that was being explored.

 

A number of the film’s set-pieces, including Octavius’ brutal slaying of a medical crew with the tentacles that have become attached to his body, are handled with the trademark brio and energy that we have come to expect from Raimi. The showdown between Spidey and Doc Ock in a bank, as well as the former’s desperate attempts to halt a runaway subway train are other highlights, and due to the nature of the chosen villain, there are many oddly peculiar aspects to the drama.

 

There is much more than Spider-Man 2 than just spectacle, though, as it is also a coming-of-age story, with Peter Parker stepping out of adolescence to become the man he believes he can be. We also see him struggling with his secret identity, which has alienated him from his true love, Mary-Jane Watson, and his best friend, Harry Osborne.

 

Having adapted Uncle Ben’s mantra of ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’, Parker begins to explore the possibility of stepping out of the suit, before finally realising that he can’t escape the superhuman abilities that have been bestowed upon him. This thematic substance, supremely crafted action sequences, as well as further cameos from the aforementioned duo of Lee and Campbell, means that Spider-Man 2 holds up as one of the strongest superhero films ever committed to celluloid.

 

Unfortunately, despite plenty of hype and expectation, 2007’s ‘threequel’, Spider-Man 3, proved to be a major disappointment, as the introduction of Spidey’s black suit fail to achieve its desired effect. A bloated running time of 139 minutes also contributed to its problems, and a few too many enemies, including one (Topher Grace’s Venom) that Raimi didn’t approve of, meant that audiences were generally left underwhelmed by the whole experience.

 

With box-office takings of $890 million, it was the most successful film of the series, but it was felt that a return to the old formula was needed for the expected Part Four. Raimi’s return to the horror genre with Drag Me To Hell appeared to be the perfect tonic ahead of the next Spider-Man outing, but it was instead decided that a re-boot by (500) Days Of Summer director Marc Webb would be the next course of action.

 

With rising British actor Andrew Garfield stepping into Spider-Man’s spandex, and an impressive supporting cast of Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone, Sally Field Martin Sheen and Denis Leary joining him, The Amazing Spider-Man was given a Summer 2012 release. Bizarrely, unlike Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, Webb’s film echoed many events from Raimi’s original film a decade beforehand, though a successful run at the box-office ($752 million off a budget of $230 million) means that Garfield & Co. will be here to stay for the time being.

 

Whether or not the 2014 sequel will be able to progress the franchise in the same way that Raimi did remains to be seen, but it is clear that there is still a huge appetite for the East Coast’s web-crawling hero. When the character was first written on the page, Lee and Ditko wanted to show how an angst-ridden teenager dealt with the burden of a superhero identity, and that is precisely what has made Spider-Man such a success throughout the ages.

Daire Walsh

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Carmen Bryce on Wonder Woman

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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

Superman_logo

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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We Love… Superheroes

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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, 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 them.

Eat dust evil! Superheroes are here to stay.

 

We Love…

Superheroes

 

 

Batman – Ciara O’Brien

Darkman – Darragh John McCabe

The Hulk – David Neary

Spider-Man – Daire Walsh

Superman – Glenn Caldecott

Thor – Rory Cashin

Watchmen – Anthony Assad

Wolverine – Tony McViker

Wonder Woman – Carmen Bryce

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We Love… Superheroes: Batman

 batman signalcopy(1)

  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

Batman

‘… his only real super- power is his dedication to his self-created

ideologies …’

Ciara O’Brien

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Superheroes are undoubtedly the most enduring of movie figures and recent years have seen them explode onto the silver screen with renewed vigor. With the recent releases of Man of Steel and Wolverine’s latest offering it seems their 15 minutes is showing no signs of slowing down.

 

Of all superheroes, there is one who always sticks out, not least because of his knowledge of the fashion faux pas that is underwear as outerwear.  Batman, or Bruce Wayne, the millionaire playboy with a past and an unshakeable belief in justice. An outsider in his lack of superhuman powers that should make him inferior but somehow doesn’t. Although let’s face it, Ant-Man’s powers are probably not ideal and make Spiderman feel strangely lucky about his own insect-like status.

 

Despite his seemingly vapid alter ego, Bruce Wayne spent his youth travelling and training himself for his future having sworn an oath to rid the streets of Gotham City of evil and crime. This is what sets the figure of Batman apart; his only real super- power is his dedication to his self-created ideologies. Despite the varying stages of ridiculousness the character has evolved through, the idea of a hard-working vigilante remains the focal point.

 

Batman is the epitome of the outsider, positioning himself outside of the realm of superheroes by being a nighttime vigilante, and positioning himself outside the realm of the public by coming across as a dim-witted millionaire playboy. It is the manner in which he exists on the periphery, which has appealed to children and adults alike for over 60 years and looks set to continue that appeal for a very long time. Batman exists as both the anti-hero and the anti-superhero but somehow perseveres as a firm favourite.

 

Superheroes are unlike other movie characters in that they persevere, Batman has been imagined and re-imagined countless times in various guises and yet somehow as an audience we don’t feel like we have been cheated when we see a new story. Regardless of how many times he emerges from the shadows, there will always be a crowd waiting in the cinema.

 

Batman is in good shape for a character who originally appeared in Detective Comics in 1939, and with the announcement that the Batman figure to appear in the upcoming Justice League movie will be an entirely new imagining than Christopher Nolan’s, it is clear that even filmmakers have accepted that Batman is a figure that audience don’t tire of. Public interest in the character of Batman perseveres regardless of how many people we see don the infamous cape.

 

Regardless of how many interpretations of the same character we see, we still care. We have been taken through the camp Batman of the 1960s, George Clooney’s nip-slips and the dark lisping broodiness of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight, yet we will still queue to see the next. Who can say they have survived so many re-inventions unscathed?

 

Sit down, Madonna; we aren’t talking about you right now.

 

Ciara O’Brien

Stay tuned. Next time on ‘We Love… Superheroes’ – Glenn Caldecott on Superman

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The General

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

The General

(John Boorman, 1998)

‘…  the quiet, restrained cinematography and direction on-screen makes for something that is truly a work of art …’

Brain Lloyd

The biography of Martin Cahill, one of Ireland’s most notorious criminals, was an instant bestseller. Naturally, a film adaptation beckoned. The story follows, for the most part, a dramatisation of Cahill’s exploits with fascinating detail. From his fiendishly clever robbery of Arthur Beit’s paintings to outfoxing the police with vandalism and humour, John Boorman’s black-and-white camera captured it all. However, the film wasn’t all hijinks and one-liners. The film’s tone felt like it could turn dark and violent at any point – as it was, undoubtedly, in reality.

 

The film’s quality was anchored by Brendan Gleeson’s power-house performance. Brilliantly mimicking Cahill’s wit and cunning, as well as his Dublin drawl, he carries the film and makes us root for him – even when we know how ruthless he truly was. However, his adversary throughout – Jon Voight – brings the film down in his unconvincing role as Ned Kenny. However, the film isn’t about Cahill versus the police, or even Cahill versus the system – as he often believed himself to be. The General tells the story of a criminal and his eventual downfall, the hubris that overtakes him and in the end, his acceptance of his fate.

 

‘You never own things. The things own you.’

 

Boorman’s direction is calm, collected and calculated – much like Cahill himself. His choice of using black-and-white footage, as well as the jazz score by Richie Buckley, gives the film a noirish quality that one would never think could work. And yet, it strangely does. The saxophone riffs that play gently over Gleeson’s nuanced portrayal works incredibly well and is in marked contrast to other crime dramas of the time. When compared to the likes of Scorsese or even Mann, the quiet, restrained cinematography and direction on-screen makes for something that is truly a work of art. As Cahill says himself in the film, ‘I know nothin’ about art. But I know what I like.’

 

Brian Lloyd

 

 

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – Five Minutes of Heaven

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

Five Minutes of Heaven

(Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2009)

‘… features stunning performances by two of the finest actors ever to emerge from the island of Ireland—and thus by extension, the planet Earth …’

Niall Dunne

Can a BBC-produced film directed by a German fella named Hirschbiegel be considered ‘Irish’? For the sake of this installment of the ‘We Love…’ series, let’s just say it can. Best known for the brilliant and controversial 2004 film Downfall, which dramatized the last days Hitler in Berlin, Oliver Hirschbiegel certainly did his Irish homework for 2009’s Five Minutes of Heaven, an unsentimental examination of the difficulties of forgiveness centered on the murder of a Catholic man in Lurgan during the Troubles. The film has won multiple international prizes, including the World Cinema direction and screenwriting awards at Sundance. It also features stunning performances by two of the finest actors ever to emerge from the island of Ireland—and thus by extension, the planet Earth.

Hirschbiegel based his film on the real-life experiences of Alistair Little, a former UVF hitman, and Joe Griffin, who—as a young boy in 1975—witnessed the killing of his older brother Jim at the hands of Little. Both Little, who served 13 years for the murder and now works internationally as a conflict resolution specialist, and Griffin were interviewed at length for the film, but have never met. Five Minutes imagines a rendezvous between the two men more than 30 years after the murder, and the tension the film creates in the build up to this attempted rapprochement is what makes it so special.

The film opens with a reenactment of Jim Griffin’s murder by a teenage Little and his friends. The scenes are vivid and credible, accomplished using a cast of relative unknowns. Fast-forward to 2008, and middle-aged Joe Griffin and Alistair Little—played by the very well known James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson, respectively—have agreed to meet face-to-face for the first time on a TV show exploring the possibility of reconciliation.

Nesbitt portrays Joe as a chain-smoking bundle of nerves, permanently scarred by his brother’s death, resentful of Little’s reformation and his success as a world-travelled counselor to men of violence. He plays along with the TV producers and their Oprah-inspired desires to capture ‘the truth’ about his feelings on tape. But we find out quickly enough that he’s not there to provide Little with a final act in his ‘journey towards a magnificent redemption.’ Revenge, not reconciliation, will be Joe’s five minutes of heaven.

Neeson’s Little appears to be the polar opposite of Joe: all quiet and calm and self knowing. He speaks eloquently of his past crime, his shame, and his current mission to prevent other young men from falling in with gangs and terrorist groups. And somehow he knows that Joe’s not there to make peace, but he wants to see him nonetheless—we presume in order to help Joe move on.

“Time will heal they say… what everybody says about everything. The years just get heavier.Why don’t they tell you that? Nobody tells you that!”

And so the pieces are set in play, and the tension mounts as the meeting draws closer and closer. Thanks to Hirschbiegel’s expert documentary -style direction, Guy Hibbert’s intelligent (and at times very funny) script, and the commitment of Nesbitt and Neeson to their characters, that tension never lets up either—even when it’s revealed that Little is not a tower of strength at all but a sad, broken man, consumed by guilt, and Joe’s resolve to kill him starts to break.

There are no soap opera moments in Five Minutes. When the two finally meet—alone, far away from prying eyes—the confrontation is messy and nearly devoid of catharsis. In the end, it’s a glance of unconditional love from his daughter that helps Joe start the healing process. The final moment of resolution between Griffin and Little (a three-second mobile phone call) is about as un-Oprah as you can get.

Five Minutes is an impressive achievement and certainly one of my favorite Irish films in recent memory. By focusing on the deeply human tragedies and struggles of both protagonists, it avoids getting bogged down in partisanship or political name-calling—always a danger when tackling such complex subject matter. The film is not without its flaws. For instance, the bit about Joe’s mother placing the blame entirely on him for not doing anything to save Jim on that fateful night doesn’t ring true. It’s also a little implausible that no one in the TV crew notices Joe carrying around a machete in his underpants. Ultimately, however, the amazing performances of Nesbitt and Neeson help you to forget the imperfections and drive home the point that there are no easy fixes on the road to reconciliation.

Niall Dunne

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Field

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

The Field

(Jim Sheridan, 1990)

‘… Sheridan takes Ireland’s post-colonial past as its motif by means of its iconic terrain…’

Tess Motherway

In an interview with Jim Sheridan marking the twentieth anniversary of his famous adapation of John B. Keane’s 1966 play, he reflected on the modest success of the film in America stating ‘…America and elsewhere don’t get the concept of farming the land for somebody else… it is medieval to them, a foreign concept.’ (Moon, Aileen, ‘Jim Sheridan Talks About ‘The Field’’) Land ownership; that historic and most quintessential of Irish problems.

In The Field, Sheridan takes Ireland’s post-colonial past as its motif by means of its iconic terrain – drenched in the wilds of the west coast, the setting is at once romantic, a place of idyl, at times almost harking back to Ford’s The Quiet Man in sentimentality – a working place of purpose and sustainability. We are drawn into the landscape, invited to understand The Bull’s (Richard Harris) inertia regarding the land.

Conversely, it is also the setting of terrible violence, suspicion and anger, a lost place, steeped in the memory of Ireland’s past. For The Bull, the field acts as a double-edged sword, a provider and source of security, but also a tormentor – the divisive wedge between himself and his family and, ultimately, leading to his own mental decline. Sheridan utilises the landscape to translate these conflicts – the heavy stone, gushing river and violent storms – exaggerating the elements in order to optimise tension and climax. Purposefully devoid of time and place, Sheridan’s Ireland is the Ireland of nowhere and everywhere, and, unable to accept a changing Ireland, The Bull plays out these post-colonial demons, and the field provides the stage.

‘There’s another law stronger than the common law …. The law of the land.’

Today, Ireland continues its struggle with the land, but in a very different way. Irish cinema has always echoed this and, as with countless works of Irish art to date, land and landscape continue to be potent subject-matter. The Field is no exception and, twenty two years on, its impact is no less powerful.

Tess Motherway

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Butcher Boy

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

The Butcher Boy

(Neil Jordan, 1997)

‘… Funny, tragic and shocking, The Butcher Boy is both fascinating and disturbing for its unique depiction of psychosis…’

Emma O’Donoghue


In the early ’60s in a small town in Co. Monaghan, two best friends Francie Brady (Eamonn Owens) and Joe Purcell (Alan Boyle) spend their days playing Cowboys and Indians, reading comic books and playing by the town’s fountain and stream. To Francie, Joe is the only stability in a chaotic and cold world. Francie’s mother (Aisling O’Sullivan) suffers from bouts of serious mental illness and his father (Stephen Rea) is an emotionally and physically abusive alcoholic whose frequent outbursts of anger cause Francie to retreat into his own imagination – one which is rampant with aliens and communists and, in times of deep emotional distress, involves occasional visitations from a straight-talking Virgin Mary (Sinead O’Connor). Francie’s spiral into a world of sociopathic and violent behaviour is both aggravated and catalysed by a neighbour, Mrs Nugent (Fiona Shaw), who Francie believes is filled with ‘airs and graces’ and who frequently refers to him as a pig. Her overt snobbery towards him and his family enrages Francie, causing him to ransack her house and subsequently get sent to a home for boys run by ‘Fr Bubbles’ (Brendan Gleeson). It is on his return to his hometown and a very changed reality that Francie’s already fragile psyche is pushed to breaking point. The realisation that he has lost Joe as a true friend, and who worse still has befriended Mrs Nugent’s son Philip, is the final straw after a series of tragedies, pushing him to commit his final act of brutality.

The Butcher Boy

Feck off, you round tub of Guinness!

Based on the book of the same title by Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy was skilfully directed by Neil Jordan in 1997 and features a plethora of well-known and talented Irish actors. Although the movie explores solemn and tragic subjects – abuse, neglect, loneliness and mental illness – it is not entirely grim. Its upbeat soundtrack and lively performances provide a surreal quality that gives the movie a comic-book feel, making the horror slightly easier to swallow and giving us a sense of what it is like to live in Francie’s world. His increasing detachment from reality allows for a light comic relief as his inner monologue (an adult Francie played also by Stephen Rea) laughs, jokes and wilfully rejects reality, instead preferring to hunt monsters and aliens and fantasise about the bygone good times with Joe.

This is a phenomenal performance from Owens who we both pity and fear. He simultaneously embodies the playful recklessness of boyhood and the dark rage of a deeply troubled mind. The merit of the movie lies in blurring the lines between innocent childhood rebellion and dangerously psychotic behaviour. Funny, tragic and shocking, The Butcher Boy is both fascinating and disturbing for its unique depiction of psychosis, spreading from its quiet roots to its cacophonic fruition.

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – Adam & Paul

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

Adam & Paul

( Lenny Abrahamson, 2004)

‘… brought Irish cinema close to Beckettian brilliance…’

John Moran

Adam & Paul brought Irish cinema close to Beckettian brilliance. A day in the life of two drugs addicts, its bleak humour contrasts well with glossier impressions of Celtic Tiger Dublin.

The film opens superbly. Fragile flowers blow in the wind, perhaps a symbol of the nature of Adam and Paul’s condition. When we first see them, we laugh when Adam realizes that a stranger has glued him to the mattress. We see Paul’s tenderness, and stupidity, as he tries to help Adam. Director Lenny Abrahamson frames the characters on the edge of the city, recognizable as Dublin from the Poolbeg chimneys. In these brief scenes, Abrahamson’s economic direction establishes the film’s central relationship and their marginalized position.

Abrahamson frames Adam and Paul walking down a modern dual carriageway, Ireland’s boom time traffic moving quickly, the junkies walking slowly. Other façades of economic success, the Ulster Bank building and the James Joyce Bridge, figure in the backgrounds. They inhabit the same city as ordinary Dubliners, but everywhere they meet the same response: ‘Fuck off.’

Mark O’Halloran and Tom Murphy excel in their roles. Critics likened Adam and Paul to Laurel and Hardy and Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon. Paul’s chat in the café — ‘We’re havin’ loads of weather at the moment, aren’t we’ — echoes Ollie’s classic, ‘A lot of weather we’ve been having lately.’ Adam is the straight man of the double act. Like Estragon, Paul is physically smaller and preoccupied with his physical ailments: ‘I’m fucked,’ ‘I’m dying sick, like’, ‘Me fuckin’ hand and me fuckin’ leg and now me fuckin’ head.’ Their existence resembles that of Beckett’s pair. Paul asks Adam if they have a plan, the Bulgarian asks why they are here, and they refer to looking for the elusive ‘what’s-his-name’. But Adam and Paul have a purpose, and we know what drives them: they want a hit. The poignant last scene demonstrates Paul’s needs.

A Walk on the Wild Side 

The questions the film raises concern the apparent intolerance of other groups usually considered ‘marginalised’: single parents, the homeless, criminals, the working class. Friends may feel sympathy for Adam and Paul, offering cigarettes and alcohol, but, really, they want rid of them. They didn’t intend to inform them of a get-together to mark the passing of their friend Matthew, and Wayne later gives them some smokes before sending them on their way.

Adam and Paul are by no means pleasant. Adam tries to steal a handbag in a café. Paul attempts to break into a car stalled at lights. They try to rob a young man with Down syndrome and they contemplate stealing a TV from their old friend. Repeated failure, and Paul’s increasing physical discomfort, makes them somewhat sympathetic. O’Halloran’s script finds humour in a desperate situation. He also cleverly overcomes its episodic nature with the subplot involving Clank and delayed payoffs such as the Bulgarian jacket.

DOP James Mather’s work is excellent. Notable touches include the soft focus when Adam and Paul finally score, and shooting Janine almost in silhouette, as if she were a shadow of Adam and Paul’s past. Rennicks’ score is suitably understated, winding down to sombre solo piano towards the film’s end.

Adam & Paul achieves timelessness in taking heroin addicts as its central characters. Its understated treatment stands out among the glossy ‘cappuccino culture’ of other films. Problems Adam and Paul encountered would be just the same today. Economic fallout would make no difference to their plight. Just as the Celtic Tiger failed to raise Josie’s boat in Garage, Abrahamson’s second feature, current economic difficulties would make little difference to Adam and Paul.

John Moran

 

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – Once

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

Once

(John Carney, 2006)

‘… flows along beautifully with the supporting lyrical framework…’

Juls Nicholl-Stimpson

Once enthusiastically Irish, yet culturally diverse from start to finish; a lyrical rom-com far removed from Hollywood and its invariable conclusive endings. Once leaves us to make up our own minds about the futures of the two nameless central characters.

A naturalistic drama, it’s dry Irish sarcastic humour is slightly stereotypical, borderline cliché but well conveyed none the less; from the typical junkie to our nameless busker just looking to make a crust. The two central characters – known only as guy (Glen Hansard) and girl (Markéta Irglová), their fortuitous meeting is ordinary; set on busy Grafton Street, it remains unforced, un-manipulated, completely true to life. As she wanders by she stops to listen to him sing. Engaging ‘guy’ in conversation she finds out he works in a small hoover repair shop by day and asks him to have a look at hers. Sure enough the next day along she comes pulling the hoover comically behind her as if walking a dog! The film showcases Glen Hansards spectacular vocals as his character Guy journeys with the help of the unnamed Girl to assemble a demo tape for his move to London. Both out of long term relationships, both are searching for an answer relating to their respective ex’s becoming an outlet for each other and at times the attraction between them is tense.

Let’s make sweet music together

Though there are natural aspects to this film, the story is fictitious and there are the elements of the unnatural such as the unnamed girl singing whilst walking through the street donned in pyjamas and sheep slippers in the middle of the night untargeted by any of the kids on the inner city street. Also the scene in the bank manager’s office was completely unrealistic though humorous; I don’t think you would hear of any bank manager whipping out his guitar for a quick singsong mid-meeting just to show his enthusiasm or support for their recording venture.

Not only has John Carney’s Once been nominated and won an Oscar® but it has also won best foreign film at the Independent Spirit awards. Incredibly filmed and on a budget of €130,000, we have to love this musical comic love story which goes above and beyond to convey unspoken messages through the lyrics and fleeting looks. This is a perfect example of minimalistic dialogue; less is definitely more. The film overall, flows along beautifully with the supporting lyrical framework. For me this is an impressive example of Irish film, not your usual rom-com and definitely one to watch if you like musicals.

Juls Nicholl-Stimpson

 

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Guard

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

The Guard

(John Michael McDonagh, 2011)

‘… the movie correctly wraps itself around Gleeson, whose deadpan delivery of his subversive, and often shocking, sense of humour powers the film along…’

Rory Cashin

It is just me, or were most Irish movies completely devoid of fun? That’s not to say they were bad, but they weren’t exactly a joy to watch, since they were usually awash with the Troubles or dealing with some kind of abuse. We were the frontrunners when it came to making depression porn. But then the McDonagh brothers came along with their one-two punch of In Bruges (which, despite all the Irish-ness involved, can’t really be labelled an Irish film) and The Guard (which, thankfully, can).

Also delivering a killer one-two was Brendan Gleeson, who helped ground In Bruges, but is primarily the main reason The Guard soars so highly, with ‘high’ being the operative word, as we’re first introduced to his Sergeant Gerry Boyle taking acid which he has taken from the pocket of a very recently deceased car-crash victim. His racist, alcoholic, drug-taking, prostitute-loving, IRA-dealing character is so all consuming that it takes a repeat viewing to be reminded that the movie also features such usual heavyweights such as Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham and Mark Strong.

Now then, what have we here…

While the international cocaine smuggling ring plot seems like a take-it-or-leave-it afterthought, the movie correctly wraps itself around Gleeson, whose deadpan delivery of his subversive, and often shocking, sense of humour powers the film along, as his unwanted FBI partner Cheadle interrogates the locals, who respond with an Irish interpretation of what we think America thinks of Ireland, all impenetrable accents, unending rainfall and unquenchable thirsts for alcohol.

While it’s not all played for laughs (Boyle’s interactions with his dying mother are quietly heart-breaking), the film knows not to stay too serious for too long, and at 96 minutes, it’s not around long enough to outstay its welcome. Which is another nice change of pace for Irish film, or as the Sergeant would put it, ‘They take too long getting to the fecking point.’

Rory Cashin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRsMLuCP8a0

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Commitments

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

The Commitments

(Alan Parker, 1991)

‘… there’s treasure everywhere in this film…’

James Phelan 

For a few years after its’ original release, this film existed in the upper stratosphere of quotable comedic films within my circle of friends and family. It was recited, re-enacted and regurgitated in a style usually reserved for timeless masterpieces like Life of Brian, Withnail & I and Blazing Saddles.

This is heady company for any film, let alone an Irish one. Commercially, it was also the little Irish film that could. It could travel beyond our shores. It could open in America. It could spawn not one but two successful soundtrack albums.

And why did it succeed? Mainly because it has a quality that shamefully few Irish films possess or even aim for in the first place. In summary – it’s fun. A ton of fun. The kind of film that can have you rolling in the aisles one second and then dancing in them the next.

Jimmy Rabitte’s quest to assemble a soul band is a fundamentally doomed venture from the get-go. As the ramshackle group gradually gel, petty bickering, instantrivalries and competing egos are only amplified by the merest hint of success.

The humour is naturally mostly derived from Roddy Doyle’s source novel with its’ vivid approach to language – both colloquial and foul. However, it’s augmented by afresh kinetic cast recruited after an exhaustive talent trawl by director Alan Parker. He can be forgiven for laying on the torched cars and urban squalor a tad hard when his raw ensemble delivers the real heart and soul of the piece.

Betcha U2 are shittin’ themselves

Certainly, there’s the odd ropey moment as career musicians struggle to muster the requisite acting chops but even that only adds to the rough charm that permeates the piece. In retrospect, Parker’s dictum that the eventual band actually had to play the music was central to casting decisions. It still sounds both noble and naive a couple of decades on.

As Calvin and Hobbes would attest – there’s treasure everywhere in this film. Colm Meaney’s career crushing putdowns. Dublin elocution lessons. A priest interrupting a confession to correctly attribute ‘When a Man Loves A Woman’ to Percy Sledge. Andrea Corr before she was famous. A banner saying ‘Heroine Kills’. And film fans,here’s a golden nugget of trivia for you – a young Lance Daly (director of Kisses) crops up amid the hopefuls during the hilarious doorstep audition montage.

The really weird thing about watching The Commitments’now is that it is suddenly a period film. Not so much dated but capturing an era just before it disappeared. Real time-capsule stuff. Relics like video stores abound. And if you don’t get a wave of nostalgia when the price of a bag of chips gets mentioned, you probably weren’t alive in 1991.

As for the music, it propels the film completely in places powered by Andrew Strong’s blistering vocals. Full performances of soul standards start to dominate as the film goes on culminating with three songs in their entirety towards the end. It’s an amazing latitude given to the material by Parker that is almost unthinkable today. The closing sequence isn’t remotely indulgent but perhaps an admission that the band has no stories left to tell. The disintegration of the band is the antithesis of a Hollywood ending but all the more poignant and powerful for it.

My favourite musical moment in the film is just a snippet. The nascent band is receiving yet another pep talk from Jimmy as they travel on the DART. Lead by the sax player Dean, they launch into an acapella version of ‘Destination Anywhere’. Of course, the moment is as consciously and artfully constructed as any other but it feels joyfully spontaneous. And that’s what makes it magic.

I’ve often looked around a DART carriage and pondered trying to cajole a bunch of complete strangers into a chorus of the same song. However, in real life that kind of behaviour can get you committed.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MN02oTCOT8

 

 

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – Hunger

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

Hunger

(Steve McQueen, 2008)

‘… without doubt the finest art film this island has ever produced…’

David Neary

Irish history is bursting with stories to be told, but a lack of imagination and, more crucially, funding, has always held our filmmakers back, leaving Ireland to play a surrogate landscape for the histories of Britain. Ireland’s one proper historical epic, Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins, suffered from the same Civil War politics that still dampen discourse to this day. In order to make a truly great film about Irish politics, it was always going to take a filmmaker divorced from that world.

Experimental London artist Steve McQueen had made several short art films, projected in such esteemed spaces as the Tate Modern and MoMA, before his first feature film Hunger was released in 2008. A Film4 production co-financed with Irish and Northern Irish money, Hunger was written by Enda Walsh, the man behind Disco Pigs. With Walsh’s powerful, balanced screenplay and McQueen’s sensational, bold filmmaking, Hunger is without doubt the finest art film this island has ever produced.

More of an experiment with the possibilities of the camera than a political eulogy, McQueen’s film is a biopic-of-sorts of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, during his final months in the Maze Prison in 1980/81. While not arguing for or against the politics of the IRA or the British role in Northern Ireland, Hunger instead looks at what men will do for a cause they believe; to themselves and to others.

The film is slow, contemplative and utterly intense. From the beautiful yet ghastly art of a faeces-smeared prison wall and the gradual wasting away of Sands’s body, to the fumbled lighting of a cigarette by bloodied hands and the slow, haunting, hypnotic washing of a prison floor, Hunger is a feast for the eyes and the mind from start to finish.

I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world

In a revelatory, career-launching performance, Michael Fassbender plays Sands with an unexpected intensity the actor has since become a worldwide sensation for, even unleashing his trademark grin as the weakened Sands begins to feel a sense of victory in his draining life. Throwing a mirror up to Sands, Stuart Graham portrays prison officer Raymond Lohan as a similarly weakened shell of a man, disillusioned with the horrors he has witnessed and must enforce.

Since its release, Hunger has become most famous for its exhausting single-take sequence in which Sands debates his fate and the morality of his actions with Liam Cunningham’s priest, but the shot that sticks with you comes in a deathbed flashback as Sands recalls a life-altering childhood trip, and the camera is blinded by a beam of sunlight blasting through a bus window.

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Dead

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

The Dead

(John Huston, 1987)

‘… a warm and wonderfully crafted film…’

Daire Walsh

 

25 years ago, when Film Ireland was in its infancy, John Huston’s
final film, The Dead, was enjoying a Christmas-time release, four
months on from the sad passing of its legendary director. Adapted from
the James Joyce story of the same name (it has featured in the
acclaimed Irish writer’s short works collection Dubliners), The Dead
was Huston’s 37th feature film as a director, and came just two years
after his final Academy Award® nomination for Prizzi’s Honor.

With a brief running time of 83 minutes, and a short text source that
effectively confines the drama to a series of extended scenes, it
would have been easy for The Dead to be viewed as an incidental entry
in John Huston’s extensive body of work.

However, despite having to battle serious health issues while making
the film (he was aided by an oxygen tube hanging from his nose),
Huston produced something special, which has stood the test of time in
the intervening years, becoming one of the best Irish films of the
modern age.

Written by Huston’s own son, Tony Huston (an Oscar® nominee the
following spring), The Dead takes place in 1904 Dublin at an Epiphany
party held by two elderly sisters. It is in many ways an ensemble
piece, though the main focus does fall upon Donal McCann’s academic
Gabriel Conroy, and his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston), who is
harbouring painful memories of a deceased former lover.

Going by this general synopsis, one could be forgiven for wondering
where Huston was going to be able to find enough material to make The
Dead work as a feature length effort. Of course, it could be argued
that this was no bad thing, as Joyce’s work has proven to be
incredibly difficult to adapt down through the years, and the easier
it is to understand his treatments, the better it will be for those
who are attempting to bring his unique mind onto the silver screen.

Certainly, though there are a few close contenders, The Dead has been
firmly established as the best cinematic depiction of Joyce’s work,
and there are a number of reasons for this. First of all, there are
the performances. The late, great McCann and Huston hold the film
together beautifully, bringing real gravitas to the proceedings, with
Donal Donnelly (who would go on to appear in The Godfather Part III
before sadly passing away in 2010) on prime scene-stealing form as the
alcoholic Freddy Malins, who is desperately trying to appear
respectable in the presence of his mother.

Dan O’Herlihy brings Mr. Browne fabulously to life in the same year
that he appeared in Paul Verhoeven’s seminal sci-fi classic RoboCop,
and there is also an early role for future Star Trek star Colm Meaney.
Perhaps the most surprising performance comes courtesy of tenor Frank
Patterson, who plays baritone Bartell D’Arcy, but finds himself having
to take part in the drama itself, and coping exceptionally well in the
process.

One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.’

 

From the point of view of production design, the work done by Stephen
Grimes and Dennis Washington is flawless, and the Oscar®-nominated
costume design by Dorothy Jeakins is also to be lauded.
Cinematographer Fred Murphy (whose work can currently be seen on TV’s
The Good Wife) generates great mood and atmosphere as he moves back
and forth between various characters, and Alex North breathes fresh
vigour into the story with his musical composition.

Yet, when it boils down to it, this film belongs to John Huston in
every way possible. For the man who was the mastermind of such
incredible films like The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen and The
Man Who Would Be King to produce a such a warm and wonderfully crafted
film at a very late point in his career was truly remarkable.

Comedy had never really been Huston’s forte throughout his career, but
many of the scenes in The Dead are laced with humour, especially the
ones that feature Donnelly, and despite the problems he was going
through during the course of filming, it was clear that Huston was
aiming to venture into areas that he had not encountered before.

The way that Huston blended the comedic elements and dramatic elements
of the story together fitted perfectly with the aesthetic of the film,
and though this was a different kind of John Huston film, it was in
fact one that was very close to his heart.

As an adopted Irish citizen, and a fan of classic literature, Huston
finally got a chance to show his love of both worlds. Many personal
projects by directors tend to fail due to the over-inflated hubris of
the director, but The Dead avoids falling into this trap, and is in no
way portentous, despite the reputation that both Huston and Joyce have
in their respective fields.

As a film, The Dead is probably not to everyone’s taste, and doesn’t
aim to offer the same sort of thrills of Huston’s earlier films, but
you will struggle to find many better made Irish films over the past
25 years, or indeed in years to come.

 

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We Love… 25 Years of Irish Film – The Crying Game

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

So Film Ireland magazine is 25 years old. Over those years Ireland has produced some great films which have been successful both here and abroad – not to mention nabbing a few Oscars® along the way. And so over the next couple of weeks Film Ireland‘s army of cinema dwellers look back over the last 25 years and recall their favourite Irish films in the latest installment of…


We Love…

25 Years of Irish Film

 

The Crying Game

(Neil Jordan)

‘… not only keeps the audience guessing amidst twists and turns, but also engages our emotions and makes us care about each character…’

Ciara O’Brien

We in Ireland, we have a lot to be proud of. From our rich food and drink culture, to the proud ownership of the uncoordinated one from One Direction, we have it all. Yet somehow our rich literature and film history is often overlooked. So, being Film Ireland’s 25th anniversary, we have taken it upon ourselves to celebrate what we feel are the very best examples of Irish filmmaking of the last 25 years.

I should confess early on here to being a bit of a Neil Jordan fan-girl. Upon hearing he was filming Byzantine in my hometown recently, I may or may not have taken to driving the long way home every night just in case they needed a battered Opel Corsa for their next scene. For me, there is something both transformative and recognizably Irish about the way in which Jordan presents film. From Anne Rice’s vampiric duo to a recovering alcoholic fisherman regaling his ailing daughter with fairytales, there is something quintessentially Irish about each of his works. Jordan regularly takes an Irish tale and transforms it into something that can translate anywhere. He makes the local tale a universal one. My choice for ‘We Love…’, The Crying Game, is a prime example of this gift.

The Crying Game follows the twists and turns of Fergus, played by the ever-present Stephen Rea. Fergus, an IRA volunteer who inadvertently strikes up an unlikely friendship with captured British Army giant Jody, played by Forest Whitaker. A hostage situation gone horribly wrong in every way causes Fergus to flee, changing his name to ‘Jimmy’ and seeking out Jody’s lover, Dil. Fergus is immediately taken with Dil, and begins seeing her under his new identity, revealing nothing about his IRA past. Unfortunately for Fergus, he is not the only one carrying a secret. There is something about Dil that Fergus doesn’t know, and the reveal is as jarring to the audience as it is to Fergus himself (unless a certain infamous line from Father Ted gave it away).

Do you come here often?

Released in 1992 amidst a flurry of controversy, The Crying Game is Irish filmmaking at its finest, engaging both Irish and worldwide audiences. The Crying Game is a rare example of a movie that not only keeps the audience guessing amidst twists and turns, but also engages our emotions and makes us care about each character. This ability to never quite reveal all until the last possible moment is something Jordan has perfected, and we saw him utilize it more recently in Ondine. Jordan is a master at having his audience engaged in one story for 90 minutes, only to later reveal that the story is about something else entirely. Somehow, we are positioned alongside our protagonist, Fergus and by ensuring our identification with him, the twist manages to never alienate the audience. We follow Fergus throughout his struggles, and we experience as much of his existential crisis as possible. For 108 minutes, we are Fergus.

The Crying Game deserves to be heralded as one of the finest Irish films of the last 25 years. It is the kind of film that leaves moviegoers talking amongst themselves for days. This, for me, is what cinema is all about, and what positions Neil Jordan in my list of favorite directors and writers.

I’ll leave you with the infamous words:
‘Careful now’.

Ciara O’Brien

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We Love… Trash – The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

There are nights when you look through your DVD collection and none of your favourite films float your boat  – what you need is some serious Trash –  the black sheep of your collection; something so bad that makes you feel good. Warning: to appreciate these films booze is recommended. And so over the next couple of weeks the Film Ireland collection of filmaholics shed their dignity, hide their shame and open their bins to reveal their trashiest films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

Trash

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

(W.D. Richter)

‘… Buckaroo and his band, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, must save the world from an alien race called the Red Lectoids, all of whom are named ‘John’ … ’

David Neary

There’s an episode of the US cartoon comedy series Family Guy in which Peter Griffin, facing certain death along with his entire family, confesses that he did not care for The Godfather. Outraged, the Griffins demand he explain himself, to which he replies: ‘It insists upon itself.’

While The Godfather is hardly a good example, it is fair to say that some perfectly well made films are damaged by ‘insisting upon themselves’ – succumbing to the self-importance of filmmakers or the laboured subtext of writers. For a next-to-great film, insisting upon itself can be fatal.

The opposite is true when the film is actually dreadful. The trashiest of films can be lifted high by ‘insisting’ that they are something great; part of something bigger than just the reels of film. And there is no finer example of this phenomenon than The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a spoof sci-fi from 1984 that is, on paper, pure and utter nonsense.

The film opens practically in medias res following a brief Star Wars-ian title card that gives simultaneously too little and too much information. Buckaroo Banzai is the world’s greatest over-achiever; he’s a rocket scientist, neurosurgeon and sometime action hero. Plus he’s in a band! He also has a dramatic story of lost love that is never fully explained, only referenced when he falls in love with his lost love’s twin sister (yes, it is like we missed the first film in a trilogy).

So while testing a new rocket car (quite literally a car with rockety bits stuck on the back) Buckaroo achieves a speed that allows him to travel through the 8th Dimension, an other-wordly lightshow of a place. On returning to our world, he discovers an alien creature has attached itself to his rocket car. Shortly afterwards, this creature is never mentioned again.

A somewhat related plot begins in which Buckaroo and his band, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, must save the world from an alien race called the Red Lectoids, all of whom are named ‘John’ (I swear to you I am not making this up). Further nonsense ensues.

Despite the fact that it juggles plot strands like knives and crams in additional sci-fi shenanigans when the film is reaching bursting point, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is inherently watchable. It doesn’t just commit to its silliness, it forces you to enjoy it.

The style is straight-up 1980s sci-fi action movie. The budget is surprisingly impressive for a film that could never have been a success; although the strings do show, especially in the scene where the heroine is ‘tortured’ by an alien creature that barely moves. But there are a few nifty sets, especially the spaceships, and the hologram sequence looks surprisingly good for 1984.

And then there’s the cast. Buckaroo is played in one of the most deadpan performances ever by Peter ‘RoboCop’ Weller. ‘Excuse me, is somebody out there not having a good time?’ he asks a crowd at a gig when one person fails to applaud his music – yet in some manner he’s almost threatening the audience of the film. Amongst his crew is a Jewish cowboy from New Jersey named New Jersey, who looks strangely like a young Jeff Goldbl- holy crap it’s Jeff Goldblum! He plays the role as he plays all his bit parts; blissfully unaware of the silliness around him or the fact he’s wearing a neckerchief. In addition to Christopher Lloyd as an evil henchman, the main villain is played by John Lithgow. Using an accent that ricochets wildly between Italian and Russian, he hams it up more than John Lithgow ever has – and if you’ve ever seen 3rd Rock From the Sun, you’ll know that’s a lot.

There’s simply no way of making it clear how bonkers this film is. At one point is seems to be implying that Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds broadcast was a real event, at another it appears to be stealing ideas from John Carpenter’s They Live, a film that hadn’t even been made yet!

Without a doubt however, the film’s greatest achievement is during its finale, when the entire cast assembles behind Buckaroo to march heroically – a sequence recycled by Wes Anderson in his 2004 movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (which curiously also starred Jeff Goldblum…).

At the close, a title card reads ‘Buckaroo Banzai will return in Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League.’ It never happened of course. But with its cult following growing by the day and most of the cast still going strong, there’s always hope that a film that seemed too silly to get made in the first place might get the sequel it probably doesn’t really deserve, but still should have.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NG8Ipk9CnU

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We Love… Trash: Underworld Evolution

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

There are nights when you look through your DVD collection and none of your favourite films float your boat  – what you need is some serious Trash –  the black sheep of your collection; something so bad that makes you feel good. Warning: to appreciate these films booze is recommended. And so over the next couple of weeks the Film Ireland collection of filmaholics shed their dignity, hide their shame and open their bins to reveal their trashiest films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

Trash

Underworld Evolution

(Len Wiseman)

‘… delivers over an hour and a half of purposely wanton bloodshed, gunshots and carnage … ’

Jack McGlynn

Underworld Evolution couldn’t be better.

No matter which way you slice it, there’s precious little director Len Wiseman could have added or edited to improve on his gratuitously gory monster-melee.

Winged Vampires. Titanic Werewolves. Topless men. Guns. Girls. And to top it off nary a set wall survives for the plethora of rag-dolled combatants continuously punched through them!

It stands proud as member of the coveted genre: Cinematic Trash. And by these very terms, it is pitch perfect.

I’ll grant you, mutating the horror and action genres is an easily overlooked enterprise. However, Evolution rarely skips a beat. Or an opportunity to beat… anything!

At 106 minutes, it’s lean storytelling.

Evolution doesn’t suffer from delusions of grandeur. It knows its audience want to get in, have their fix of violence and leave without their entire evening being bled dry.

And so it delivers over an hour and a half of purposely wanton bloodshed, gunshots and carnage.  As the film churns on it quickly establishes the rhythmic four-step of

Fight-gore-explosion-skin

Fight-gore-exploding wall-skin

Fight-gore-exploding head-skin

Fight.

Fangs for the memories

Capitalising on the intricate lore established in its snooze-fest predecessor, Evolution isn’t shy of introducing legendary figures and having the resident, giant purple Dracula impale them with funky wing-spears wings and bursting their skull like an eggshell.

Delish.

To its credit, Evolution sees no need to flex any narrative muscle, economically laying the framework for the ensuing chaos. While normally a significant criticism, the visceral mix of gothic horror and superhuman brawls are best undiluted by convoluted plot.

WHY hybrid Michael is fighting a three-metre tall snowy abomination of fur, fang and claw is academic. What’s IMPORTANT is that the poor werewolf get’s its head torn straight off its shoulders.

Straight off!

Underworld Evolution is not exactly taxing cinema. It’s not very funny, it won’t challenge you on an intellectual or philosophical level and it lacks any form of expression that could, in good conscience, be considered to register on the emotional spectrum.

But when you have a Hybrid Man-Wolf-Bat thrashing a werewolf with an industrial chain, wrapping a jeep around its broken form and ripping its lower mandible free, you don’t tend to miss them!

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We Love… Trash – The Running Man

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

There are nights when you look through your DVD collection and none of your favourite films float your boat  – what you need is some serious Trash –  the black sheep of your collection; something so bad that makes you feel good. Warning: to appreciate these films booze is recommended. And so over the next couple of weeks the Film Ireland collection of filmaholics shed their dignity, hide their shame and open their bins to reveal their trashiest films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

Trash

The Running Man

(Paul Michael Glaser)

‘… so many ’80s action films carried an 18 certificate, yet could only be truly appreciated by children under the age of 13 … ’

Kieran O’Leary

I’ve always felt that there is usually something, even a single moment that makes watching any film a worthwhile experience. Even the trashiest film may hold a few gems of some sort, whether intentional or not. As a child, I adored The Running Man. It was with no sense of humour or irony that I enjoyed it. I thought that it was a brilliant, gruesome, well paced Arnie vehicle. I didn’t realise at the time that it was pretty much trash. I was so in love with the film that I even read the original novel by Stephen King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman.

When revisiting the film as an adult, I was astounded by how terrible it really was. From the tacky costumes, some of Arnie’s most shameless one liners, the poorly executed set pieces to the aimless storytelling, it is often tough to watch. I’ve always found it interesting that so many ’80s action films carried an 18 certificate, yet could only be truly appreciated by children under the age of 13.

Still, there was something about the film that  instantly grabbed me. The lighting, colour tints and general set design are often quite striking early on, and it is reminiscent of the grittiness of  Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo series. The first glimpse of the detention centre is all smoke and sparks, with a few strange oddities earning close ups. It is really atmospheric, and even quite artisic in certain shots. I was surprised to learn that Paul Michael Glaser, who you probably know as the original ‘Starsky’, directed the film. This is where my genuine appreciation of the film ends, as everything else apart from that early scene is trash.

Going to the toilet proved difficult

Arnie plays Ben Richards, who is falsely charged with massacring unarmed starving civilians by a totalitarian regime. He launches a daring prison break, but when the producer of the titular reality TV series sees Arnie’s spectacular physique, he hunts him down and forces him to appear on the show. The show’s premise is very similar to Battle Royale or The Hunger Games. The film has had a brief resurgence recently as a result of the latter’s success.

The film lazily attempts to set up this dystopian world, and even briefly sketches a resistance movement led by Mick Fleetwood. The sets get tackier as the film progresses, and there are even extended dance sequences that have absolutely no function whatsoever. The film drags painfully in between the kitschy laughs

It’s the great flaws that make this film watchable, and it’s why I’m talking about it in this column. The film looks like it could break into a camp extravaganza at so many points, but settles for a more restrained garishness instead. Any of the villainous ‘stalkers’ who Arnie has to tackle  are totally inept, and it’s their own lack of talent which leads to their downfall for the most part. Take Dynamo, for example. We first see him on stage belting out an operatic tune, dressed in blinking LED lights. He then starts zapping things with his electro-raygun. On the battlefield,  he blindly takes Arnie’s not too subtle bait (he screams ‘FOLLOW ME LIGHTBULB’), and flips his vehicle after failing to scale a steep rocky hill. Arnie spares him, but he later meets his doom, with his pants around his ankles, electrocuted by a water sprinkler

His first battle against ‘Professor Sub-Zero’ ends in dramatic silence due to the shocking defeat. The silence is broken by Arnie’s line ‘Here is Sub-Zero, now plain zero!’, which still doesn’t make much sense to me even after all these years. The film is 100 minutes long, and could easily have been trimmed considerably. There is a huge amount of filler, and in a way, it’s probably best consumed as a series of clips on youtube. Schwarzenegger doesn’t even seem very interested, and seemingly puts in very little effort into any facet of his performance. He does show some extended range early in the film, as he displays a rarely seen beard as opposed to his trademark stubble.

If you’ll allow me an anecdote to close this out, I would be greatly obliged. I revisited the film due to Dweezil Zappa’s brief cameo appearance. A friend of mine said he wanted to approach him after his gig in Vicar Street and mention how he watched The Running Man to psyche himself up for the show. Somehow, I ended up meeting Dweezil first, and in a moment of anxiety, I stole my friend’s line. Zappa took it well, but seemed uncomfortable and embarrassed. His drummer came out soon after and threw his snare skin into the crowd that remained. I wasn’t paying attention, and it landed with a surprisingly painful thump right on my head. It was some kind of karmic pay-off for my act of social impropriety, and The Running Man is forever associated with that bang on the head. There was no Arnie-esque one liner after that killer blow, just the jeers and insults of an amused crowd.

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We Love … Trash

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

There are nights when you look through your DVD collection and none of your favourite films float your boat  – what you need is some serious Trash –  the black sheep of your collection; something so bad that makes you feel good. Warning: to appreciate these films booze is recommended. And so over the next couple of weeks the Film Ireland collection of filmaholics shed their dignity, hide their shame and open their bins to reveal their trashiest films in the latest installment of…

We Love…

Trash

Eurotrip

(Jeff Schaffer)

‘… general resemblance to a cheddar factory … ’

Gemma Creagh

Filled with fantastic stereotypes, all kinds of nudity, a rakeload of slapstick and enough rude jokes to make Tara Reid scarlet, Eurotrip is a trashy, road-trip comedy by the makers of, erm, Road Trip.

The tale begins in the familiar setting of a high school graduation, where a lovelorn Scott gets dumped by his long term sweetheart; who, as it turns out, had been openly cheating on him with local rocker (Matt Damon) – to the point where Matt’s band even have song about it. The catchy tune ‘Scottie Doesn’t Know’ crops up just enough so by the time the credits roll around it’ll be firmly wedged in your subconscious. After this very public humiliation, an online romantic proposition means Scott cuts all ties with his long-term Berlin pen-pal, only to find out ‘Mieke’ was not a nerdy German guy as he had thought, but a stunningly attractive girl. Scott decides to blow off his summer plans and go on a quest to find her with the help of his obnoxious BFF, Cooper.

After arriving in London, the boys get dragged by crazed Man United thugs to Paris, where they join forces with their school friends and fraternal twins, Jenny and Jamie. In true National Lampoon-style, everything that can go wrong inevitably does, and the newly-formed gang do the twisty-map-line-thingy, trekking through a host of tourist hotspots such as Amsterdam, Rome and Bratislava in search of Mieke.

After watching Eurotrip, Percival lost all faith in humanity

The main cast is more-or-less celeb free with the biggest name being Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s little sister, Michelle Trachtenberg – however there are a whole host of fantastic B/C-listers: Vinny Jones plays a football Hooligan, Xena W.P. a dominatrix and even the lovely Joanna Lumley features as a mental Dutch hostel clerk.

As you can imagine the overall plot is about as contrived as they come, since 2004 it’s already very dated, plus the main characters are all flat and undeveloped… but the absolute cringiest part of this tack-fest is the fact that on one of the map sequences there is BRITISH FLAG over THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND. This is as disrespectfully idiotic as playing Sacha Baron Cohan’s version of the anthem when a Kazakhstan athlete won gold.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/weirdnewsvideo/9163577/Borat-spoof-Kazakhstan-anthem-played-by-mistake.html

*shakes fist at producers*

Despite this Epic Fail and the general resemblance to a cheddar factory, Eurotrip is hilarious enough not only to warrant forgiveness, but also to allow for several viewings to bask in all the terrible/brilliant jokes:

‘I saw a gay porno once. I didn’t know until halfway in. The girls never came. The girls never came!’

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