In this podcast, Paul Farren & Wayne Byrne discuss Sam Peckinpah’s masterpiece The Wild Bunch, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Paul and Wayne look back on the film’s legacy and celebrate its “ballet of violence”
how Peckinpah turned the Western genre on its head
DIR: J.J. Abrams • WRI: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams • DOP: Dan Mindel • ED: Maryann Brandon, Stefan Grube • DES: Rick Carter, Kevin Jenkins • PRO: J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan • MUS: John Williams • DES: Michael Giaimo• CAST: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley
When George Lucas produced and directed the astoundingly successful lightning in a bottle that was Star Wars he very soon had a hindsight moment in were the whole thing was always going to be a nine-part saga, though Gary Kurtz the original producer might not agree. Whether Lucas likes it or not or whether we like it or not, the promise has been fulfilled, the ‘conclusion’ has finally been reached. We can only hope.
Opening with the usual Flash Gordon style primer for the adventure ahead, we are told that rumours of Emperor Palpatine’s demise have been greatly exaggerated and he is plotting the final push on universe-kind. Cut to Kylo-Ren looking suitably pissed off and doing some unconvincing lightsaber moves on a band of Palpatine’s soldiers in his attempts to retrieve an exotic looking GPS device to help him find the emperor. One device retrieval later and Kylo is chatting to the Emperor in his hidden lair. Of course it was the Emperor who was behind Snoke and every other darn bit of evil you can think of in the last two chapters while he has been readying himself for the real evil master plan.
Palpatine makes Kylo the same offer he gave his granddaddy. As part of the deal, Kylo must kill Rey as she poses a deeper threat to the Emperor’s success at evilness and despot type behaviour than your average resistance fighter. Soon he is trying to track down Rey as she and the merry band of resistance fighters are trying to track down a similar device to the one Kylo used to find the emperor in the first place. Got it? That’s basically a synopsis of the first half hour and it continues much in the same vein for the rest of the story as plot logic and what has gone before adds up to very little.
Back in the helm is JJ Abrams, directing with the safe pair of hands that seems to be required for the fanboy service this trilogy began with. Pretty much 70% of Rian Johnson’s plotting for the last ‘controversial’ Star Wars chapter, The Last Jedi has been ignored or laughingly turned on its head in this chapter. Rose, a key character from the last film and an enjoyable one to my mind, has been treated very shabbily here, relegated to hanging out with Princess General Leia as they plan their final attack on the emperor. The character and the actor suffered nasty comments from internet bullies and it seems that rather than defy the lambasting, the powers that be have kept her to one side to avoid the ire of such numb nuts that have nothing better to do than troll the internet.
The film is not without thrills and is definitely an amusing jaunt for the most part once you don’t think too hard about who, what or why. But if you do prefer character story over spectacle and a decent amount of logic to aid the storytelling then you will come out of the cinema frustrated. At least things are wrapped up well enough by the end of the credits that we really don’t need to visit this story again. But those nine chapters might easily end up being twelve chapters when the box-office count comes in.
In a prolific career spanning six decades, actor Burt Reynolds was a definitive American icon and one of the world’s most famous stars of film and television. As much a folk hero as a Hollywood celebrity, he began as a stuntman and bit player in B Westerns and TV shows before landing a starring role on NBC’s Riverboat (1959–1961). His breakthrough role in Deliverance (1971) made him famous and the sleeper hit Smokey and the Bandit (1977) made his name a household word.
In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to author Wayne Byrne about his latest book, Burt Reynolds on Screen, the first critical overview of Reynolds’ work which examines his complete filmography, featuring candid discussions with costars and collaborators, exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and a wealth of film stills.
Wayne Byrne is a writer and film historian. He is the author of Include Me Out: The Cinema of Tom DiCillo, Nick McLean: Behind the Camera – The Life,Work of a Hollywood Cinematographer, and Burt Reynolds on Screen. He has written for Hot Press, Books Ireland, Film Ireland, The Dark Side, the Irish Times, and other publications.
DIR/WRI: Abe Forsythe • DOP: Lachlan Milne • ED: Jim May, Drew Thompson • DES: Jeff Sherriff • PRO: Jessica Calder, Keith Calder, Steve Hutensky, Jodi Matterson, Bruna Papandrea • MUS: Piers Burbrook de Vere • DES: Sam Hobbs • CAST: Lupita Nyong’o, Josh Gad, Stephen Peacocke
Just when you think the zombie comedy genre is dead or is that undead?. Following hot on the heels of the vacuous zombie comedy, Zombieland, Double Tap, comes the zombie comedy, Little Monsters an Aussie undead effort more in keeping with Shaun of the Dead. Sharing a similar feckless protagonist and good old fashioned slow-moving zombie types. What it doesn’t have is that film’s cleverness or humour.
Alexander England plays Dave, a busker, and by the end of the opening credits a single man; having spent the opening credits montage warring with his girlfriend for reasons that are explained later in the film but won’t be explained here. Soon he is burdening his hardworking, single sister and her gluten-intolerant, five-year-old son, Felix, who thinks Dave is great. The selfish, obnoxious Dave has to bring Felix to school and whilst there he falls in lust with Felix’s teacher Miss Caroline, played by Lupita Nyong’o, a sweet and diligent kindergarten teacher adored by her pupils.
Before you can shake a koala off a eucalyptus branch, Dave is volunteering to be a chaperone for his nephew and classmates on an excursion to Pleasant Valley, a petting zoo type affair. Soon the local American army base has lost their resident zombies and Pleasant Valley is awash with the undead. Miss Caroline and Dave must step up to the mark and make sure no fatalities arise amongst their charges. You can see where this is going. What better way for Dave to lose his obnoxious attitude and get the girl, than by getting dropped into the heart of a zombie epidemic scenario?
Unfortunately Little Monsters doesn’t have as much to offer as one might hope for. After setting its stakes high with the notion of safeguarding children and fighting off zombies, it doesn’t go anywhere interesting with the idea. In fact, it pretty much does what’s expected. The main thrust of humour is bold-boy verbiage, which feels tired and potty-mouthed. On the plus side, I have to say I marvelled at the performances from the school children, especially from Diesel Torraca as Felix. The adults, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Lupita Nyong’o has very little to do despite being the main selling point marketing-wise and Josh Gad doesn’t have much to do other than be more obnoxious than Alexander England so we can see his transformation a little better.
It’s not a dead loss, or should I say undead loss, and the Halloween season mood might make audiences a bit more forgiving.
Will Smith takes on Will Smith in Ang Lee’s Gemini Man, from a script that has been bouncing around in development hell since 1997. Smith plays Brogan, a well-meaning, conscience-addled hit man, who has been knocking off people in the name of freedom for many years and has a total of seventy-two hits under his belt.
Now on the cusp of retiring and just finishing off number seventy two, he finds his life in danger and the possibility that some of those hits may not have been what they were supposed to be. Most notably his final one, who turns out to be a molecular biologist rather than the evil terrorist he was supposed to be.
Soon he is on the run with a junior spy and an old friend who fills in comedy relief and international pilot/chauffeur duties. Bottom line, he is being stalked by a younger, stronger clone version of himself at the behest of a subversive, rabid defender of liberty, played by Clive Owens. Owens has not only approved the existence of this clone, it calls him daddy. Then it gets sillier. This is not the first time Lee has delved into the world of high-end blockbuster, he had his way with the Hulk many years ago; that particular film still causes a schism for me when I wonder if it’s good bad or bad good.
What fascinates here is how appalling the script is. It is filled with plot holes and fuzzy logic a three-year-old would get angry about. The globe-hopping has no other particular point to it other than to find nice locations to put behind the set pieces. A bit like the location jumping one sees in Tekken or Mortal Kombat. If it were a Jackie Chan comedy you might forgive it but other than Benedict Wong’s attempts at humour this maintains a serious tone bordering on the portentous.
Ang Lee’s ardour for the high frame rate 3D presentation has not gone away despite the failure of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Gemini Man was shot at 120 frames per second for high definition 3D screenings. I can’t say too much about that, as the screening I witnessed came with some technical glitches – not the fault of the format. Elsewhere the film is filled with a highly mixed bag of VFX , Will junior being the obvious source. This effect works best at night or low-light moments, but uncanny valley syndrome is never too far away. One particular scene in daylight with the two Wills is a classic demonstration of the syndrome.
All of these foibles would be a lot easier to forgive if they weren’t trying to hold together a dated, hackneyed script whose sell by date is long past.
DIR: Chris Morris • WRI: Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong • DOP: Marcel Zyskind • ED: Billy Sneddon • DES: Lucio Seixas • PRO: Iain Canning, Anne Carey, Christopher Morris, Emile Sherman • MUS: Christopher Morris, Sebastian Rochford, Jonathan Whitehead • CAST: Anna Kendrick, Danielle Brooks, Denis O’Hare
Chris Morris’ second feature The Day Shall Come continues in a similar vein to Four Lions. It features a hodgepodge of eccentrics that would take on the world-order in the name of Allah. In this case our potential jihadists are quite harmless. Led by the person with mental illness and well meaning Moses Al Shabazz, they have a non-violent jihad policy, preferring notional bow and arrows and dinosaurs to guns, when the day shall come.
Moses and his impoverished little band eke out a frugal existence on the margins of society in Florida. Unfortunately, the FBI are looking for a patsy after a failed attempt to get a case against a stoned ‘terrorist’ they had already baited in order to target a spring break extravaganza with a large bomb. In one of the film’s funniest moments, we learn that the potential terrorist has a religious inspired phobia for the number five and is unwilling to press all the numbers required to detonate the device. Moses’ eccentricities turn out to be even harder to manipulate than expected and it is only when he is facing eviction does he become a possible successful target for the FBI’s machinations.
There is no doubting Morris’ talent as a comedy writer and satirist, nor his huge influence on so many talents for good and bad. Brass Eye is still one of British television’s great achievements. When someone mentions cake to me Brass Eye is the first thing that comes to mind, not actual cake. Unfortunately, Morris latest film is not one of his great achievements. Playing with an uneasy mix of drama and farce it feels at times like an overly complex South Park episode but lacking the topicality South Park has as part of its armoury. There is no doubting the righteousness of his agenda and it is never less than amusing, but unfortunately as satire it all feels rather toothless. The farcical elements outweigh the drama that is required for it to have an impact and in the final denouement it goes where a Chris Morris venture would be expected to go but without any resonance. We understand the implication of the film’s point of view but its manipulations along the way to get us there feel too contrived to have real emotional weight.
At the beginning of the film a title tells us it is inspired by “One hundred true stories”, if some of these stories had been relayed to us in some way rather than alluded to, the film might have had a stronger impact instead of being just a cold, clever farce that tells us the FBI are bad guys.
In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to Tom Burke, the director of Losing Alaska, which tells the story of a small community in Alaska called Newtok who are dealing with a slow-moving disaster. The 375 inhabitants of Newtok feel the winter storms grow more fierce each year and steal their coastline, they watch their homes disappear into rolling seas as the melting permafrost erodes the edges of their town. The plan is to abandon the town and start again 9 miles up the river on higher, more solid ground. The community is divided between those determined to stay, and those equally determined to move. They are fighting the weather, the indifference of state agencies and now, finally, each other.
As well as discussing the intricacies of the ways of life of the people of Newtok and the challenges they face, Tom talks about how the project came to be, telling a big story through the prism of a small situation, people trying to survive in a changing world, the nature of documentary, telling people’s stories, not taking sides, the joy of seagull eggs, screening the film in Newtok, the practicalities of filmmaking in such an environment, cameras and lenses, discovering a frozen-tripod-head panning technique, working with Gerry Horan on the soundtrack, creating a cinematic documentary and the onset of frostbite.
Losing Alaska is released in cinemas 4th October 2019.
Tom Burke will participate in a post-screening Q&A at the IFI on Thursday, 3rd October & the Light House cinema on Sunday, 6th October.
In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to Mike Ahern & Enda Loughman, Co-Directors/Co-Writers of Extra Ordinary, a supernatural comedy which tells the story of Rose, a sweet and lonely small town driving instructor who must use her supernatural ‘talent’ to save the daughter of a local man from a washed up rock-star looking to use her in a satanic pact that will reignite his fame.
Mike & Enda discuss things that go bump in the night, getting the project from script to screen, and working with Maeve Higgins, Will Forte, Barry Ward and Terri Chandler. They also talk about their early days in IADT and experimenting on mini-VHS tape, making music videos, ads, the influences behind their work and being practical with visual effects .
Extra Ordinary is released in Irish cinemas 13th September