Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: Moonrise Kingdom

A Quirky Paradise

Come Sail Away
I think I'm forever destined to not quite get the backlash against Wes Anderson. Obviously I'm aware that his style borders on self-parody at times. And there's no denying that he's somewhat of a one-trick pony. But it's a good trick, and despite some of his films being altogether less successful than others, they're still charming, funny and gleefully eccentric. And now he's made what may be his best film since Rushmore. I say that with reservations, but it's easily his most wholly satisfying film in a while (and that includes Fantastic Mr. Fox: the title of which contains the only really appropriate adjective).

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

A Life in Technicolor

Image Courtesy of Park Circus
At the risk of sacrilege, dare I suggest that the theatrical re-release of classic films is one of the great benefits of the digital revolution? I know, I know: I'd love original prints wherever possible too. But digital technology has made re-releases ever more affordable, as well as allowing absolutely immaculate restoration jobs. Over the last two years or so, I've seen the likes of Battleship Potemkin, Metropolis and Cria Cuervos for the first time on the big screen, and they've been extraordinary experiences. Of course, it also means stunning quality Blu-Ray releases: one can only praise Masters of Cinema, BFI and - for you lucky Americans - Criterion for their advances in this respect. But the draw of the cinema remains, for this writer anyway, irresistible. And for that reason I can now add the glorious Life and Death of Colonel Blimp to the list of crisp and beautiful D-Cinema experiences.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Revisit: Almost Famous

Music Therapy

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
I know, I know: Tiny Dancer. Discussion of Almost Famous usually revolves around that one scene, and with somewhat good cause. It is without doubt a beautifully realised scene, and a truly iconic one. But it's merely one memorable moment in a film with no shortage of them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home

It's Arrested Development

Jeff shoulda stayed at home. (Paramount Pictures)
I don't know exactly why, but I remain enamoured by the films of Jay and Mark Duplass. From The Puffy Chair & Baghead through to their slightly more mainstream breakthrough Cyrus, they will never be accused of re-inventing the wheel. But they've made three charming, offbeat and honest comedy-dramas, all of which have a real affection for their characters and are almost completely devoid of pretension. As an actor, Mark has also popped up in a number of small-scale but interesting projects - including Greenberg, Your Sister's Sister and Humpday. For me, their involvement with a project tends to be a relatively encouraging sign.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Curious Case of Charlie Casanova

Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

Charlie (Emmett Scanlan) laughing it up: Image courtesy of Studio Canal
 A few months ago I reviewed Terry McMahon's Charlie Casanova. By all accounts, I didn't like it, although did express a respect for McMahon's low-budget achievement and attempt at crafting something different. A failed attempt, in my opinion, but an attempt none-the-less. Anyway, six months later, and Charlie Casanova has received a modest yet impressive theatrical release in Ireland and the UK. It's being proudly advertised on the side of buses Dublin-wide, which is unheard of for an arthouse Irish movie with a €1000 production budget. And the critics and the general public? They hate it.   

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Goodbye First Love

The End of Romance

There's a cheeky scene towards the end of Mia Hansen-Løve's Goodbye First Love where once lovers Camille (Lola Créton) and Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) emerge from a cinema. They've just seen a French film, and Sullivan isn't happy. It's talky, over-serious and 'too French', he complains. Camille, on the other hand, loved it, although is unable to convince Sullivan of its supposed virtues. It's hard to know whether how ironic the director is being with this scene - obviously a little bit ironic, but it's an odd fit in a film that is otherwise presented without a hint of irony. Goodbye First Love is indeed over-serious and 'talky' in the way only Gallic films can be, and I can imagine many couples will emerge having a similarly divisive discussion about Goodbye First Love itself.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Monsieur Lazhar

School of Hard Knocks

The Class of Monsieur Lazhar

Can the motivational teacher film be considered a genre unto its own? There's been many examples of it over the years, from Sister Act to The Class. Some have played it for laughs, like School of Rock. Many have played up the sentimentality, like Dead Poets Society. A few have dared to subvert it, such as the grim Half Nelson. Few, if any, however are quite as effective as Monsieur Lazhar.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review - Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Third-dimensional Seppuku

Ebizô Ichikawa prepares for ritual suicide

Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 film Harakiri comes damn close to being an undisputed masterpiece. A brilliantly cynical critique of samurai honour, hypocrisy and ritual, it remains electrifying (and endearingly melodramatic) cinema fifty years on: dare I suggest on par with even the best Kurosawas? On a remake roll following the critical and commercial success of 13 Assassins (based on a much more obscure original than this), the ever-productive Takeshi Miike has taken it upon itself to remake Kobayashi's film. It's an odd yet curious proposition for a plethora of reasons, and one that ultimately proves a little pointless.