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Non-Review Review: Headshot

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

The obvious (and easy) comparison for Headshot is The Raid.

Part of that is down to the superficial similarities. Both are relatively straightforward Indonesian action movies starring Iko Uwais with an emphasis on martial arts. Even beyond that, The Raid was a breakout hit and exists as one of the defining modern martial arts movies for wider audiences. Even without the similar stuntwork and the combination of lead actor and genre, The Raid would be a stock point of comparison for Headshot. The film even seems to invite and encourage the comparison, with directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto consciously evoking Gareth Evans’ style.

Headed into danger.

Headed into danger.

The comparison does Headshot no favours. For all the similarities between the two films, the differences are telling. Headshot has a style that consciously evokes The Raid, but it lacks its streamlined efficiency. It has a number of impressive prop-heavy set pieces that call to mind the impressive work in The Raid, but it never embraces the loose and freewheeling style that made The Raid so striking. More than that, Headshot never manages the delicate balance between rudimentary character work and a solid story, leading to a film that feels both paper-thin and over-developed.

Headshot is a solidly middle-of-the-road martial arts slugfest, but it lacks the sheer “wow!” factor that made The Raid pop.

Bar none.

Bar none.

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Non-Review Review: The Farthest

The Farthest is a fascinating documentary looking at the history and the legacy of the “Voyager” space programme.

Assembling a panel of experts from both inside and outside the development process, director Emer Reynolds crafts a captivating examination of mankind’s first journey beyond the boundaries of the solar system and into the untested void. The Farthest is a romantic tribute to the idea of space exploration, to the wonders that it holds and the inquiries that it inspires. It is a documentary that looks to the stars and wonders, as interested in what mankind is putting out there as it is in what wonders lie in wait.

thefarthest

The Farthest is bookended by a number of beautiful shots from Reynolds. The camera stares upwards at the sky as it pans slowly across a number of different locations. The sky can be narrowly glimpsed between the branches of tall trees. The audience’s eye is channeled upwards through the framework of a steel pylon. Occasionally, the sky is clear and blue. Sometimes there are faint signs of human activity, with planes charting the sky at a much more manageable scale than the craft at the centre of the documentary’s narrative.

There is something very striking and very beautiful in these opening and close shots, something that captures the sensation of looking up into the wild blue (or black) yonder and wondering what is out there or what might be staring back. The Farthest feels like romantic ode to the majesty of space, and one that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

thefarthest1

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Non-Review Review: Get Out

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

Get Out is a fantastic horror comedy from Jordan Peele.

The premise of Get Out is relatively straightforward, with Rose taking her African American boyfriend Chris home to meet her wealthy white parents. What follows is essentially a twenty-first century horror movie twist on Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, in which Chris finds himself growing increasingly uncomfortable in the presence of Rose’s very liberal parents. There is an awkward unease to his visit with the family, beneath all the welcoming smiles and the mannered politeness.

Terrorvision.

Terrorvision.

Get Out is a brilliantly wry and ironic piece of film-making, building a very traditional horror movie around a very intangible discomfort. After all, racism is not always something that can be cleanly defined and measured, often reflected in implications and patterns more than individual statements and actions. Get Out masterfully plays on this tension of something so horrifying being rendered so ethereal, most notably through its repeated (effective) use of scare chords and horror angles making normal social interactions especially uncomfortable.

Get Out is a promising directorial debut from veteran comedian Jordan Peele, one that skilfully uses the flexibility and surrealism of conventional horror beats to build a well-observed and uncanny piece of social commentary.

Couldn't be Keener.

Couldn’t be Keener.

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Non-Review Review: The Age of Shadows

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

Kim Jee-woon’s The Age of Shadows is a picturesque patriotic period piece, an espionage thriller unfolding against the backdrop of late twenties Korea.

With the Japanese controlling the country, Captain Lee Jung-chool finds himself caught between the occupying forces and the local resistance. Alliances shift, manipulations unfold. Nobody can be trusted, and everything is doubt. Over the course of The Age of Shadows, the plot twists and turns, with shocking reveals and startling betrayals. Everything is beautifully captured on film, with some fantastic work by cinematographer Kim Ji-yong.

Arresting thriller...

Arresting thriller…

The Age of Shadows might be a little longer (and a little more twisty) than it really needs to be, padding out its run-time with gambits and counter-gambits that occasionally lean on flashbacks to provide essential context for the latest shift in allegiance. However, The Age of Shadows is also incredibly graceful, transitioning beautifully between a wide variety of tones and genres without ever missing a step. The Age of Shadows opens as an action film, contorts in a cat-and-mouse thriller, then becomes a more conventional patriotic epic.

In spite of its flaws with pacing and length, The Age of Shadows remains an impressive piece of cinema.

Feeling boxed in...

Feeling boxed in…

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Non-Review Review: David Lynch – The Art of Life

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

David Lynch: The Art of Life is a fairly conventional and straightforward affair as these sorts of documentaries go.

The documentary eschews a lot of the trapping of more adventurous entries in the genre. Indeed, most of David Lynch: The Art of the Life could have been filmed and recorded in David Lynch’s art studio, as the director talks at length about his life and the camera pans loving across his working space and intercuts his monologues with art work that seems to hit on some of the core themes of his narration at any given moment. There is something very standard about the way that David Lynch: The Art of Life is put together.

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Indeed, the film largely eschews any sense of outside context or material. The only voice heard over the course of the film is that of David Lynch himself, recording at his own home studio. Only rarely do the production team need to use material that doesn’t belong to Lynch to flesh out his dialogue, notably during his discussion of his time in Philadelphia. Those occasions are especially noticeable because the documentary takes great care to credit those sources, drawing attention to how much material comes from Lynch’s own archives and records.

However, there is a strong argument that Lynch is suited to this approach. Lynch is a surrealist artist, and it is very hard to argue that anybody has a stronger grip on or understanding of his work. Indeed, the most effective and striking aspect of David Lynch: The Art of Life is the way in which it allows Lynch to make his own arguments from his own perspective crafting a narrative that feels distinct and unique. For all that Lynch is a surrealist, David Lynch: The Art of Life allows him to make a strong case as the only sane man in an insane world.

davidlynch4

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The 250, Episode #9 – Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) (#198)

Angel faces hell-bent for violence…

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and this week with special guest Phil Bagnell, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, François Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups.

The feature-length début of François Truffaut is credited as one of the defining films of the French new wave. Young student Antoine Doinel finds himself on the cusp of his teenage years, balancing a fragile home life with the demands of his education in Paris during the late fifties.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 198th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

podcast-the400blows

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Non-Review Review: Trespass Against Us

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

Trespass Against Us is a relatively solid crime thriller, albeit one that suffers slightly from heavy-handedness and clumsiness.

At its core, Trespass Against Us hews close to a tried and tested crime movie formula. Chad is a family man who is working hard to ensure that his children have a better life than he ever enjoyed, making sure that his children get an education that was never available to him and trying to do right by his long-suffering wife. At the same time, Chad struggles against his familial connections to organised crime, with his free-wheeling driving skills inevitably drawing him into his father’s tangled web of plotting and scheming.

"I knew it was you, Chad, and it breaks my heart."

“I knew it was you, Chad, and it breaks my heart.”

The most innovative aspect of Trespass Against Us lies in the decision to transpose those tried-and-tested character and plot beats to a novel setting. Audiences are well accustomed to epic crime stories about familial obligations set within the Irish American or Italian American communities, but Trespass Against Us unfolds against the backdrop of a family of Irish Travellers living in rural England. It is an interesting juxtaposition, given how relatively under-exposed that community is.

Trespass Against Us earns a lot of credit based on the novelty of its setting and the fantastic cast that it has assembled. However, a lot of that goodwill is squandered on a very conventional plot and an awkward clunking heavy-handedness that trips the script up in its third act.

"I keep telling you 'til Gordo's blue in the face..."

“I keep telling you ’til Gordo’s blue in the face…”

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