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 Far from being rendered redundant or outdated by the films and artistic advances that follow (although is there any cinematic tragedy quite like the sudden, harsh death of silent cinema?), the key early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.