Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: The Raid

A Masterclass in Ass-Kickery

There are some films that demand to be seen in a cinema, with an audience of enthusiastic, like-minded patrons. The Raid is one of those films. This morning's screening at the Dublin International Film Festival was a giddy adrenaline rush. We laughed when we were meant to. We gasped when we were meant to. We didn't cry, because The Raid isn't concerned with 'emotions'. It is concerned with pure, unadulterated action. And it's undoubtedly the best film of its kind in at least a decade.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Margaret


The story behind Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret at one time threatened to be more interesting than the film itself. The story is well covered elsewhere, so I won't waste precious HTML code here. But after six or seven years of recuts, supposedly broken contracts, lawsuits and Martin Scorcese, Margaret finally received a theatrical release. The conspiracy theorists came out in force: not even making $50,000 at the American box office, the suggestion was that the film was buried by Fox in a final act of bitterness. Who knows? What I do know, however, is that Margaret is a triumph in spite of its turbulent path to a very limited number of theaters.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Your Sister's Sister

Just the Three of Us

Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister is the rare beast. It's simple, it's predictable, it's small-scale. And yet... there is such an overabundance of charm, humour and emotional honesty that it's very difficult to begrudge it. It's the rare romantic comedy / relationship drama that shouldn't fill potential viewers with dread.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stray Thoughts from Berlinale

The Festival Spirit

I took one picture in frosty Berlin last weekend. It was of a queue. Now don't get me wrong, Berlin is a fascinating city with countless photogenic and historically important spots (although one could argue Wim Wenders basically painted the definitive portrait of the city in the superb Wings of Desire). It also, like any city, is beautiful in the snow. This was my second time visiting, though, so I wasn't here to sightsee. It was, however, the queue in the Arkaden shopping centre that truly amazed me enough to pull out my phone and grab a quick snap. You see, here were hundreds of people queuing for tickets to the cinema. It was like Disneyland, but in a shopping centre, with a box office instead of a rollercoaster at the end. There was an image mirror of that on the other side as well, by the way.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Adrift in Tokyo

Living in the Sprawl

Adrift in Tokyo is the latest... well actually, it's not the latest. It's the film Satoshi Miki made two years before 2009's delightful Instant Swamp, but is just getting a DVD release now courtesy of the always reliable Third Window Films (who, for the sake of full disclosure, were kind enough to send a screener copy of the film our way). I'm of the opinion that Miki is one of contemporary cinema's most consistent entertainers, and Adrift in Tokyo mostly cements his status as a purveyor of charming, offbeat comedy-drama.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: War Horse


War Horse is a film that dares you to hate it. 'Shamelessly sentimental and romantic' is an understatement. The main protagonist bears uncanny resemblance to Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder. It asks us to buy that trench warfarers would agree to a momentary truce in order for both sides to tend to a wounded horse. Many people have amusingly - and somewhat accurately - interpreted it as a film about a horse who brings bad luck everywhere it goes. Yet despite its many flaws and easily satirised elements, there's still a strangely compelling film somewhere beneath the often predictable exterior.