Saturday, December 29, 2012

Twenty Films for Twenty Thirteen

Announcing a Series of Old Films for A New Year

I don't really do New Years Resolutions. No particular reason, but it's just one of those many social phenomena I've never really subscribed to. I do, however, have a ludicrous amount of 'important', acclaimed or cult films I have shamefully yet to get around to. 2012 proved a fruitful year for working through some of these films - from shameful omissions (I had only seen the first half of The Searchers until a month or so ago) to theatrical re-releases (from Laurence of Arabia to Husbands) and belated DVD / Blu-Ray restorations (from Passion of Joan of Arc to The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums).

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Entirely Pointless Film Ha Ha Annual Review 2012

Part Two: The Best of Miscellaneous 

Best Actor: Denis Lavant - Holy Motors
What can be said about this miraculous, shapeshifting performance? Lavant is absolutely, hypnotically committed to his role as Oscar - a mysterious figure riding around Paris in a limo and adopting various personas throughout the night. From his bizarre slow-motion motion-capture ballet to the return of that flower-munching beast known only as Merde, Lavant doesn't only provide this year's best performance - he provides the best dozen performances.
Best of Teh Rest:
Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
Jean-Louis Trintignant - Amour
John Hawkes - Martha Marcy May Marlene

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Films of the Year - The Entirely Pointless Film Ha Ha Annual Review 2012

Listomania, Part One

What a year, as ever. 2012 provided a veritable avalanche of interesting, intelligent and entertaining cinema. Personally, I've never had a year so chock full of cinematic offerings. I was lucky enough to attend a range of film festivals, both local and international. I was gifted with the exciting opportunity to attend my first 'major' fest in the form of Berlinale. I started writing for Film Ireland magazine, gaining access to a range of films from the intriguing to the awful (watching a bad film only assists our appreciation of the good ones, after all). Add to that all the general visits to the nickelodeon, and I fear to count how many hours I spent in a darkened theatre this year. Still, the treasures were many.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Laurence Anyways

(Not) Just Another Love Story?

Laurence Anyways heralds the third feature from young Canadian director Xavier Dolan. It’s the dawn of the 1990s in Montreal, and Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) and Frédérique (aka Fred, played by Suzanne Clément) are, on the surface anyway, as happy a couple as can be. Everything changes when Laurence reveals that, feeling overwhelming and uncontrollable urges, he’s planning a sex change. Fred is taken aback, but after deep consideration decides that she’s going to stick with Laurence through his transition and beyond. Unfortunately the relationship grows increasingly strained, and Fred suffers a mental breakdown as a result of professional and personal stress. The two ultimately part ways after Fred has an affair. That’s not the end of the relationship, though, and over the decade that follows it seems that Fred and Laurence just can’t let each other go.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Hobbit Has 99 Problems...

... and HFR is Just One (or 48).

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives on screens pre-empted by hype it could not possibly live up to. And yes the film itself is an unwieldy monstrosity - the film's moderately enjoyable last hour barely makes up for the preceding levels of insufferable lore, exposition and general lack of focus. But this isn't a review of that stuff. Instead, I want to discuss the film's tech specs, and why for a variety of reasons The Hobbit emerges as one of the least cinematic and downright ugly films I've seen in recent times (although, unlike The Expendables 2, the cameras were at least in focus).

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Hunt

Small Town Blues

Ever since 1998's remarkable Festen - potentially the most exhilarating realisation of the Dogme 95 manifesto - Thomas Vintenberg has threatened to live up to his obvious talent, but hasn't quite got there. It would be remiss to accuse him of laziness or lacking in ambition in the interim, though. His English language efforts It's All About Love and Dear Wendy were a noble failure and a semi-successful experiment respectively. Returning to Northern Europe, his last feature Submarino (which, alas, never received any significant attention outside the festival circuit) was getting there - an intense, relatively uncompromising character-driven drama. With The Hunt, however, Vintenberg has - arguably for the first time since Festen - made something special.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Karate-Robo Zaborgar


There's a lot of filmmakers out there laden with a nostalgia for absolute crap. Some have tried, with varying degrees of success, to actively channel this youthful enthusiasm for B and Z-Movies. For every Tarantino joint, there's likely dozens of misguided genre homages relegated to the ugliest realms of DTV purgatory. They can stay there.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Death of A Superhero / Rise of the Guardians

Too Many Heroes

Shameless shill mode: two new reviews for Film Ireland website published today. Click onwards if you want to read more than these cynically teasing extracts! Or don't. Whatever. (am I doing this right?)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

A Silent Martyr 

I've only really had a keen interest in silent cinema in the last year or two, particularly after having the opportunity to see timeless masterpieces such as Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans, Metropolis and Battleship Potemkin in the cinema. But it's remarkable how fresh and exciting it can be to see what the great masters of early cinema achieved with their limited technology. Uncertain yet excited by the potential of this rapidly evolving medium, the great silent directors brought a level of experimentation, enthusiasm and passion to their endlessly ambitious works that never ceases to amaze. Far from being rendered redundant or outdated by the films and artistic advances that follow (although is there any cinematic tragedy quite like the sudden, harsh death of silent cinema?), the key early treasures can still only but enhance our love and understanding of cinema from all eras.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook

Love in the Time of Bipolar Disorder

The single-most pivotal element in crafting the fabled 'good rom-com' is so simple it's a real wonder so many films from the genre have failed so spectacularly to get it right: likeable or, at the very least, interesting protagonists. It also helps if they are, you know, funny, but when the characters are one-dimensional, ignorant or obnoxious, how are we expected to root for them to romantically connect? Most Hollywood screenwriters can't seem to grasp this simple fact, and continue casting Katherine Heigl. David O. Russell's Silver Lining Playbook, however, understands that an intriguing central couple can allow us to at least partially forgive the film falling victim to some of the genre's other pratfalls.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Carry on Killing

Steve Oram and Alice Lowe as the Sightseers. Courtesy of Studio Canal
It's fair to say that I was very much looking forward to Sightseers. Director Ben Wheatley's last film Kill List was one I greatly admired as a strange, unsettling and blackly comic delight (although delight might not be the optimal word for a film as exhausting as Kill List). I was very keen to discover what Wheatley did next, and luckily didn't have to wait too long, as it's been just over a year between his two films. Add to that positive early word from Cannes and various other film festivals, plus a suitably ecstatic introduction from Dublin Film Festival's Grainne Humphrey before the lights dimmed at Sightseer's Irish premiere. Alas - the dangers of hype! I wouldn't say that I didn't enjoy the ninety minutes of amusing cinema that followed, because I certainly did, but perhaps my own personal expectations were set unreasonably high.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Amour (Love)

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Michael Haneke - a genuine candidate for the greatest living filmmaking - has followed up his brilliant 2009 'epic' The White Ribbon with Amour - a film that is certainly smaller, but no less effective. Veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play Georges and Anne, an elderly, cultured couple enjoying retirement to the best of their abilities. Anne was once a music teacher, and as the film opens they're attending a concert by a former pupil of hers (real-life classical pianist Alexandre Tharaud). All seems well, until Anne suffers a stroke that paralyses one side of her body. Georges commits himself fully to caring for the newly bed-ridden Anne, who makes her husband promise that no matter how bad she gets he is not to commit her to a home or hospital. As Anne's physical condition deteriorates, Georges' earlier assurance becomes a harder promise to keep, especially as their daughter Eva (old Haneke muse Isabelle Huppert working with the director again after sitting out his last few films) desperately pressures Georges to put Anne in full-time care.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

Time and Punishment?

Courtesy of FilmDistrict and Big Beach
Safety Not Guaranteed's opening minutes filled me with real dread, despite the prior assurances from both critics and peers that it was delightful. The soundtrack was filled with incessantly / infuriatingly chirpy tunes. The visuals were the familiar wide-angled compositions recognisable from countless indie movies past. The characters seemed to be wacky caricatures. Everything indicated that this would be another exercise in generic independent quirk. My concerns were far too presumptuous, even if the soundtrack remained pretty annoying - by the film's conclusion, I had been well and truly wooed by director Colin Trevorrow's feature debut.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Master

Power Play

The Master - Paul Thomas Anderson's genuinely fascinating new opus - is not the film for anyone looking for traditional plotting, narrative resolution or an evening's light viewing. It is unashamedly, often invigoratingly difficult, and - like the Rorschach tests that feature prominently in both the marketing materials and the film itself - is bravely open to interpretation. While we're all subjected to the same images on screen, this sprawling, intense and infuriating oddity is almost immune to viewer consensus - The Master will mean very different things to different people.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Rise of the Nitpickers...

... And the Changing Face of Online Film Criticism

2012 has seen the release of several massively hyped blockbusters, with at least one major one (The Hobbit) yet to come. The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, Skyfall, Looper... It's been a busy year of big-budget cinema, and each of the films have been greeted with reactions varying from gushingly hyperbolic praise to considered disappointment to pure hatred & spite. All had their fair share of problems, all had their minor & major successes. Critical and fan discussions were divided and lively: as it should be.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rust & Bone

Film Ireland Review

The plot of Rust and Bone – the latest film from A Prophet director Jacques Audiard – must have sounded absolutely ridiculous on paper. Orca whale attacks, bare-knuckle boxing tournaments, illegal surveillance rings, a severely disfigured protagonist… and that’s just the first half. There’s no denying that the execution can sometimes be contrived and silly too. And yet… Rust and Bone enthusiastically embraces its eccentric ideas and emerges as an involving, distinctive melodrama.

Full review over here, yo:

In conclusion - Marion Cotillard > Anne Hathaway

I Wish

Dreaming of Bullet Trains

Some directors make it all look so... effortless. Hirokazu Koreeda is one such director. Almost allergic to pretension, his best films are so carefully considered and beautifully realised that they cannot fail to impress. I Wish is Koreeda's follow up to the director's acclaimed Still Walking (2008) and the as yet unreleased in the West Air Doll (2009). This latest effort is likely the most accessible film he has yet made, and it's also one of his best.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Please Rewind Tape Before Returning To Your Video Store

Ah, the anthology film. An uneven beast by its very nature. V/H/S, not surprisingly, is as inconsistent as its multi-director forefathers. It's also a member of the much maligned 'found footage' genre, although with a few small tricks up its sleeve. It has been greeted with both excitement (the saviour of horror!) and vitriol (Worst. Film. Ever.). The truth, as ever, lies somewhere in between.

Friday, October 26, 2012


A Plan So Crazy... It Might Just Work

After a series of high-profile acting mega-flops, Ben Affleck proudly emerged as a director of smart and well-crafted Hollywood thrillers with the pretty great Gone Baby Gone and the pretty good The Town. Finally abandoning his beloved Boston, Argo is not necessarily a radical departure for Affleck, but it is still a work on a grander and more ambitious scale than his previous work. While there's no doubt it's still a superior, engaging political thriller, there's also something a tad underwhelming about Argo on the whole.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Where the wild things are?

"Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in the Bathtub"

Beasts of the Southern Wild is best approached as a fairy tale, albeit one deeply rooted in contemporary social contexts. As a fantastical fable, the film often radiates with vivid, emotive energy, and occasionally allows you to forget the fact that you're watching what is often an amalgamation of familiar ideas and influences.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What Richard Did

An End of Innocence
Image courtesy of Element Distribution
 [a Film Ha Ha disclaimer: article contains detailed plot analysis and spoilers] 

And so it is as it was written: Lenny Abrahamson has become the director laureate of Irish cinema.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Film Ireland Review Round-Up Part 1

Shameless Plug

While I am still fully committed to updating this blog with random musings people might accidentally read when googling comedy films or torrent sites, I have also started contributing occasional reviews to Film Ireland website. Mostly, it's nice to get published on a site of such good repute and to get access to glorious, glorious press screenings. It also means that I occasionally get to see films I would never have actually paid to see in the cinema, and praise / harshly critique them accordingly. I never wanted to see Resident Evil: Retribution, but I had such fun writing a scathing review afterwards that it was totally worth suffering through it in three frickin' dimensions.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Liberal Arts

Conservative Fart

There are two words I hate using and hearing when I talk about film: perfectly serviceable words that I have an unreasonable aversion to mostly because they've been so grossly misused over the years. The first word is 'boring', which I have regularly seen (ab)used as a shallow replacement for actual criticism. It's often a valid complain, no doubt about it - how often have all our senses been dulled by a particularly uninspiring film? - but I'm often frustrated when it's the only reason people give for not liking a film, instantly killing any possible discussion. The second word is 'pretentious', which I dislike for similar reasons. Many films are so full of themselves that it's worth commenting on, but again I've seen so many interesting films dismissed with a lazy mention of the 'p' word that I try to avoid using it wherever possible. I'm going to break my own rule today, though, because Liberal Arts is pretentious. It's also kinda boring.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning

And now... a word from our sponsors

One of the (many) quirks of the anime industry is the way they handle theatrical upgrades of popular franchises. While series do frequently received brand new big screen sequels, an equally common trend is condensing a full seasons into a feature length recap. The central narrative of the recent twenty-six episode Persona 4: The Animation, for example, was crushed into 90 minutes for theatrical consumption. The aim is to attract a few new fans who may go onto purchase overpriced Blu-Rays, or simply to grab a few extra yen from existing fans. Tiger & Bunny: The Beginning doesn't indulge in quite the most radical of shortenings, but it does rehash the opening episodes of its year-old televisual predecessor. For newbies (guilty as charged) it's a gentle introduction to the world and characters. For fans, the creators have been decent enough to draw some new stuff to ensure it's slightly more than HD deja-vu.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Killing Them Softly / The Tall Man

A Tale of Two Subtexts

I've been meaning to review these two film, which at first glance appear to be unsuitable bedfellows. But they share curious commonalities that justify this double review. They're both the third features from acclaimed directors: Killing Them Softly sees Andrew Dominik returning to the director's chair after 2007's Assassination of Jesse James..., while The Tall Man is Pascal Laugier feverishly anticipated follow-up to cult favourite Martyrs. They're both deceptively generic films that play hard and loose with formula and expectations. They both attempt to layer their respective narratives with contemporary social commentary. And they're both disappointing, although to varying degrees.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack

Godzilla + (Jaws + Anime) x Crazy = Profit?

[Warning: While great efforts have been taken to avoid it, the author cannot guarantee this review will be free from fish-related puns. I apologise in advance for any distress caused]

Friday, September 28, 2012


Let's do the timewarp again

[This article contains 'spoilers' aplenty]

Looper opens almost silently, with only a ticking pocketwatch and the sound of chattering occupying the soundtrack. But it's swiftly followed by an unexpected bang. In one of the film's neatest visual tricks, Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) calmly waits in a field, armed with a specialised shotgun. Suddenly, a time traveller appears in front of him, bound and gagged. Joe fires before the hapless victim even realises he has arrived in the past, and no time is wasted disposing of the body (not before Joe helps himself to the silver pieces attached to his hit). It's a stylish opening, and a clever cinematic realisation and affirmation of the film's driving concepts before a word of dialogue has even been spoken.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Isn't Anybody Alive?

And They Don't Feel Fine

Ah the apocalypse! Always such delightful cinematic fare. Only occasionally the stuff of great cinema, that's true, although there's always The Turin Horse or Melancholia to counter all those ones about grizzled men stopping meteorites or the many millions of zombie films constantly oozing off the production line. Still, it's a well worn genre, and with a huge range of apocalyptic cinema out there it must be tricky enough for a director to manage a fresh approach. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tetsuo: The Bullet Man

Mo' money, mo' problems

[Note: as an occasional completionist, I feel it is my duty to post-script my review of the first two Tetsuo films with a look at the widely reviled third. Detailed plot analysis and specifics follow.]

If Tetsuo and its sequel are films of unleashed, uncontrolled rage, the third film in the series is disappointingly restrained. Not that it is a complete departure from its predecessors (we still witness a man transforming into a cyborgian weapon of mass destruction), but this continues the comparative mellowing initiated by Body Hammer. Director Shinya Tsukamoto aims at an international audience, complete with a healthier budget than before and English language dialogue. The resulting film is wholly unsatisfying.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review: Tetsuo Boxset

The Man Machine

One somewhat unfortunate side-effect of the collapse of Tartan Video a few years ago was that many of their most significant titles have since gone without HD upgrades. While a handful of their most popular titles - such as Oldboy and The Seventh Seal - just about made it to Blu-Ray before the takeover by Palisades, most have had to do without a European HD release. Since Tartan was never the last bastion of picture quality anyway, its a real shame that Tartan Palisades have only reprinted and relabeled existing versions rather than giving them an updating.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Holy Motors

Ticket to Ride

Sit down and make yourself comfortable. Ensure your mind is open to all possibilities. When the lights go down and the images burst into vibrant, energetic life, allow Holy Motors to completely wash over you. This is the rare cinematic experience: an eccentric work that's brave, ambitious, thought-provoking, hilarious, emotional and more than a little silly. Allow the considered madness to envelop you, and Holy Motors may well reward you handsomely.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Alps

The Grieving Process

Dogtooth was, for this viewer, the very definition of a pleasant surprise. Having a few euro to spare when choosing tickets for the Dublin Film Festival a couple of years ago, I impulsively booked one for Giorgos Lanthimos' decidedly mental breakthrough on the strength of a brief glance at the synopsis. The film itself was startling: bold, hilarious, distinctive, shocking. It held up to a rewatch, but that initial viewing was revelatory.

Review: About Elly

Mystery by the Sea

A question: how will Asghar Farhadi follow up a genuine, almost undisputed masterpiece such as A Separation? Alas, we'll have to wait until at least next year to find out the answer. In the meantime, distributors have a small but significant Farhadi back catalogue to plunder and present to the many audience members wooed by last year's best film (I have absolutely no qualms making such a statement). About Elly is Farhadi's 2009 predecessor to A Separation, and its quite astonishing that it took that film's success to earn this equally majestic work a wide cinematic release.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Review: Kotoko

The Joys of Motherhood

If you're susceptible to motion sickness, be warned! Kotoko may just be the shakiest film outside of the found footage genre. The camera in veteran Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto's (the Tetsuo series, A Snake of June) latest production is in almost constant flux: it's the rare shot indeed where the camera rests on a tripod or flat surface. In a break from tradition, however, the uncertain and deceptively amateurish camerawork is actually entirely motivated in its hyperactivity.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review - Tabu

Crocodile Tears

4:3 is back in fashion. The Academy ratio had fallen out of favour for the longest time – pretty much ever since widescreen and Cinescope were introduced to counteract the onslaught of television. But something about the most classic of aspect ratios has appealed to a number of filmmakers over the last few years, most notably in films like The Artist or Meek’s Cutoff. Tabu can be added to that slowly increasing list.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

Good Morning [1959]

Top of the Morning

Has there ever been a more charming, universal master of cinema than Yasujiro Ozu? He's the kind of the filmmaker that gives the word 'accessible' a positive connotation. While countless auteurs have long been the exclusive domain of the cinephiles and academics, Ozu films offer great thematic depth and mastery of form while never (or at least very rarely) engaging in pretension or abstractions. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Double Review: Headhunters / Jackpot

A Tale of Two Nesbøs

I've pretty much ignored this whole 'Scandicrime' phase (I've also never read a Dan Brown book, a fact that I state with great pride). Sure, I read the Stieg Larsson trilogy, even if the first was the only one of any real note. But I feel confident that I'm not missing a whole lot ignoring the vast amount of Scandinavian airport novels suddenly popping up around the place. Some may be good, some may even be very good: but, with such a rich world of literature out there, disposable crime novels alas rarely make the cut.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Unusual Ineptitude of The Expendables 2: A Technical Analysis

Vaseline Vision

I wasn't going to review The Expendables 2. It's basically critic proof. What can be said? It's trash, and mostly knows its trash. There's a few fun cameos, cheesy one-liners and a high body count. The acting's universally awful, the narrative schlocky to the extreme (abandoned plutonium!). I didn't like it much at all, but it was a tad better than the first. Just a tad. It does what it says on the tin. Consider that my definitive 'review'.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Review: Take This Waltz

Love Will Tear Us Apart

Sarah Polley made a tremendous bang with her beautiful whisper of a debut Away With Her back in 2006. A film of raw emotion and insight, the poignant story of an elderly married couple dealing with the onslaught of Alzheimer's was mature well beyond Polley's years, and a genuine surprise coming from a young Canadian actress known for her indie roles and very occasional Hollywood projects. It's taken her half a decade and a handful of acting projects before hopping back into the director's chair, but she has finally delivered her sophomore feature Take This Waltz.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Dusk 'til Dawn

From the very first shot, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia presents itself as a purely cinematic delight. After a very brief prologue, we are placed smack bang in the middle of the Turkish mountains, where we and the characters will spend the next 90 minutes or so. It's nighttime, and a motley crew of ten or so (police officers, a doctor, two handcuffed suspects, a prosecutor, some 'diggers' and two soldiers there to provide military grade lighting) are out searching for a dead body. Night has rarely felt so menacing yet so strangely beautiful. Often illuminated only by headlights, and soundtracked to distant thunder, the mountainous setting for this film is absolutely captivating. The takes are often long, and the editing considered. Yet it's rarely boring, and the film makes much effort to keep the audience involved.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Review - Searching for Sugarman

Dead or Alive?

 Sixto Rodriguez, as various subjects in this new documentary are keen to point out, is the greatest musician you've never heard of. The mysterious Detroitian recorded two albums in the 1970s, which were beloved by the few people who heard them. But, in the American music industry, cult following counts for little. Sixto (or 'Jesus' as he was often credited as on record sleeves) was dropped from his label, and promptly disappeared. Rumours abounded that he committed ritualistic suicide on stage at the end of a gig. Somehow, a Rodriguez record made its way to South Africa, where it captured the popular imagination of the population. The album Cold Fact ultimately proved to be one of the most successful albums of all time in the country, acting as a soundtrack to South Africa's social revolution and campaigns against apartheid. A few decades later, a music journalist and a long-term Rodriguez fan decided to do some research into the borderline anonymous icon, and turned up some surprising findings...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review: God Bless America

Easy Targets

Image Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Have you ever felt pop culture is stupefying at an alarming rate? Do the endless reality shows, religious zealotry and ignorant political scaremongering get you down? Would you like to see a funny, subversive and provocative cinematic satire of these issues? I know I would! God Bless America is not that film.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sight & Sound pronounce Greatest Films Ever, 2012 edition: Eisenstein fans outraged


I am no big fan of 'best of' lists for any number of reasons, but Sight & Sound's decennial (word of the day!) Greatest Films poll is more intriguing than most. With responses from more than 850 film writers, critics and professionals, the detailed survey has the unique ability to be able to analyse and present a list of films that have been and remain particularly influential in the discourse surrounding cinema. More interestingly still, a poll of 300+ directors further suggests the films that have most inspired the auteurs of today, and therefore the works that have most significantly influenced the great contemporary filmmakers.

Review: Red Desert

A Terrible Beauty

I do try my hardest to watch at least a couple of film from all the most beloved, influential auteurs out there, but there's plenty I just have not had the time to get around to yet. Michelangelo Antonioni was, until a few hours ago, a director I had embarrassingly never made the effort to explore. Luckily, a BFI restoration of Red Desert currently playing here in Dublin has given me the opportunity to begin my exploration of the man's work. It's only a start - L'Avventura and Blowup are on my internal list of bucket - but I'm certainly curious to check out more based on the strengths of this one.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Review: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Kung-Fu Deer Fighting

There's occasionally a moment in an otherwise dull or middling film that almost completely justifies your time commitment. Detective Dee is one such film containing one such moment. For over an hour, it's a visually engaging but narratively so-so film. It's a brave attempt at creating a Hollywood style blockbuster with a distinctly Chinese perspective, and it's one that makes a valiant effort while clearly lacking the resources to pull it off seamlessly. It's harmless, relatively diverting stuff: nothing more.

Then there's a scene where Andy Lau fights a herd of deer.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Analysis: The Dark Knight Rises

Warning: I don't feel I can adequately express what I want to say about The Dark Knight Rises in a standard review. So, if you haven't seen the film (and, who are we kidding, you're probably going to no matter what a review says) then be warned there are massive plot details divulged below. I don't want to use the word spoiler, but yes, some twists will be spoiled. It is a very good film, and well worth checking out. For the rest, hopefully you'll find some insight buried in the ramblings that follow.

I am very fond of the phrase 'accidental trilogy'. For me, it refers to as a trio of connected works that were never intended as a cohesive whole (which rules out stuff like Lord of the Rings), but became widely perceived as a trilogy through any manner of reasons. It's an irregular enough phenomenon, and it's rarer still that it's pulled off convincingly as many stumble, usually during the third film. Toy Story is a good example of a series that achieved the improbable, with each film building on the themes of its predecessors to compelling, and often tear-jerking, effect. You could also probably refer to Ingmar Bergman's Silent of God films as a further example, but they're three films that happen to be tightly linked thematically.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: Mitsuko Delivers

Up the Duff

Mitsuko (Riisa Naka) is heavily pregnant. The father is her American ex, but an unfortunately timed break-up has forced her to return from California to Tokyo. The reasons for her pregnancy aren't elaborated upon further, because that's not what the film is about. Unwilling to let her pachinko-parlour owning parents find out about her situation (they think she's still in America), Mitsuko instead decides to hide out in a run-down and old-fashioned tenement where her family once spent a few months due to some financial troubles when she was but a young lass. Overflowing with pre-natal energy, Mitsuko makes it her business to sort out the lives of her old neighbours, including struggling restauranteur and childhood sweetheart Yoishi (Aoi Nakamura).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Review: Brave

Brave and the Bold?

Words cannot describe how disgusted I was at Cars 2, but in the absence of a sufficiently hyperbolic descriptor, disgusted will have to do. To see my beloved Pixar - easily one of the most likeable multi-billion companies out there (top five, at least) - resort to such crass, cynical trash was hugely depressing. Even Cars 1 had that reliable Pixar charm, albeit in comparatively limited amounts. But Cars 2... as said, words don't really cut it. So I refused to let myself get overly hyped up for Brave, especially when some initial reviews veered worryingly towards the middling.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: The Amazing Spiderman

Deja Vu

In the opening paragraph of my Goodbye, First Love review a few months ago, I commented on a strange, potentially ironic, scene that coincidentally summed up many of my issues with the film (and I'm sure those of others too). In the opening paragraph of my Amazing Spiderman review, I'm going to repeat myself (which is an appropriate sentiment for the film in question, as I will subsequently argue) and make a similar observation. In the second-to-last scene of the film, you see, Peter Parker's teacher gives a brief spiel about how many claim there's only 'ten stories', but she believes there's only one: the 'who am I' story? It is unlikely to be director Mark Webb's intention, but this misguided comment sums up one of the major issues with this reboot / remake / reinterpretation / restart or whatever the fuck you want to call it. Watching this film, you're into believing there is only one story, and it's one you've seen before. Apparently 'Amazing' is an unintentional synonym for Mediocre, Redundant and Over-Familiar.