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.

I have provided links to my reviews thus far below, ranging from small Irish films about watches to gothic family stop motion. Hope you enjoy 'em :)

A Simple Life
This is a subtlety observed drama that only irregularly feels lazily sentimental (a twinkly, over-emotive but – thankfully – infrequently utilised musical score is a main culprit in that regard). It’s an intelligent character study, with the emotional bond between Roger and Ah Tao delicately realised and uninterrupted by contrivances. Indeed, several of the film’s most dramatic events occur off-screen, with some sequences taking place after considerable chronological jumps. Hui is instead brave enough to allow the affecting friendship speak for itself, with an unobtrusive visual style keeping the focus squarely on the characters.

My Brothers
The road trip movie at My Brothers’ core is mildly diverting, but rarely feels vital or particularly original. The interactions between the three brothers are handled with care and affection, but they’re neither funny nor dramatic enough to truly leap off the screen. The performances are good – Courtney particularly achieves a lot with a role that could easily have drifted towards stereotyping – but the characters feel somewhat underwritten. Noel particularly comes across as inconsistently realised (although one could argue that’s appropriate for a directionless seventeen year-old), while some of the minor characters are massively underused over the very lean running time. The plot itself is contrived, with few of the complications experienced by the siblings proving particularly surprising or insightful. The road trip structure has regularly been the foundation for great cinema, yet My Brothers struggles to match the humour or pathos of the best the ‘genre’ has to offer.

The Three Stooges
It’s a shame Sasso, Hayes and Diamantopoulos have so little to work with, as with a bit more effort the Farrellys could have given them the script their enthusiasm deserves. There’s a few light chuckles here and there, including a decent dynamite gag and a running joke about Curly’s hair. But there was not a single belly laugh in the screening I attended, which is a fairly damning indication of the film’s minimal comedic value.

Anton Corbijn - Inside Out
An inherent problem with documentaries such as this is that there’s a tendency to have interviewees endlessly wax lyrical about the subject. While there’s certainly a few moments of superstars praising Corbijn’s talents – including Wim Butler, Bono, James Hetfield and George Clooney – the film largely resists the temptation of repetitive hyperbole and takes a more observant approach. Barring the multitude of conversations with Corbijn himself, the interviews largely take place within the locations where Corbijn is working. The filmmakers talk to Bono while Corbijn waits for a Polaroid to develop on Sandycove beach, and Clooney in between takes on The American set. It’s an approach that works well, and throughout the documentary director Klaartje Quirijns allows us to simply observe Corbijn’s working habits without redundant running commentary.

Resident Evil - Retribution
The acting is uniformly dreadful. It’s unfair to pick one cast member out for particular criticism, but Sienna Guillory impressively cannot even convince as a brainwashed & monotone automaton. Also, it is staggering how long it takes the other characters to figure out that removing that glowing red mind control gem from Valentine’s chest might be a good idea. If the good guys in this film were playing the superb Resident Evil 4, they wouldn’t have gotten past the first boss.

Frankenweenie (Mislabeled at time of posting)
The film’s wide-eyed, stop-motion style will draw inevitable comparisons with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. In many ways, though, it’s more of a companion piece with Ed Wood (arguably Burton’s masterpiece). Aesthetically, the comparison is most obvious – they both have crystal clear black & white cinematography, and they’re equally well-versed in the style and iconography of mid twentieth century low-budget horror films.

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