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58. Die Hard – Christmas 2017 (#122)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Ciaran Mooney, Gerry Mooney and Helen Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, a Christmas treat. John McTiernan’s Die Hard.

Travelling across the United States to reunite with his estranged wife, New York cop John McClane finds himself embroiled in a high-stakes hostage crisis on Christmas Eve.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 122nd best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: A Little Chaos

Perhaps what is most remarkable about A Little Chaos is how deftly the film blends stock romantic comedy tropes with the trappings of a loftier period piece drama. A Little Chaos fictionalises the construction of the gardens at Versailles, undertaken at the behest of King Louis XIV. However, A Little Chaos uses this historical event as the backdrop for a series of quirky romantic misadventures. Matthias Schoenaerts plays André Le Nôtre, the stickler for order who is forced to take on some hired help to ensure that he meets the assigned deadlines.

Kate Winslet is Sabine De Barra, who is hired to design one of the garden’s fountains. Whereas Le Nôtre advocates for order, De Barra argues for a little randomness. The two are introduced at loggerheads, their philosophical positions made clear when De Barra presumes to move a single potted plant in a sequence arranged by Le Nôtre. Inevitably, attraction blossoms as the two find themselves working harder and harder to meet the targets set by the sitting monarch.

Another feather in her cap?

Another feather in her cap?

For all the promise of the title, A Little Chaos packs very few surprises. The formula is quite clearly honed, and it is easy enough to plot the various character arcs and dynamics across the movie’s runtime. Indeed, A Little Chaos might even have benefited from some tightening, feeling quite stretched across its two-hour runtime. At the same time, Alan Rickman has assembled quite the cast for his second film as director. A Little Chaos can count on a superb ensemble – both above and below the title – to carry it when things get a little indulgent.

A Little Chaos is not as fun or as playful as it might be. On the other hand, it looks and feels very impressive, with an occasionally clunky script brought to life by a talented array of actors.

Long live the king!

Long live the king!

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Jameson Cult Film Club: Die Hard

I had the pleasure of attending Wednesday evening’s Jameson Cult Film Club screening of Die Hard. As we’ve come to expect from the guys, it was a wonderful evening hosted in the Tivoli Theatre, from the black-and-white cop car waiting to greet us outside right down to the cut out copy the Nakatomi lobby sculpture, the team clearly put the usual amount of love and affection into crafting an immersive experience for the audience.

(My personal favourite moment was the decision to announce that the film would be starting shortly by having an Alan-Rickman look-alike and his goons storm the dance floor. It was a lovely touch, particularly given the decision to have the directions shouted by the gun-weilding goons rather than the Rickman impersonator.)

Photos and more after the jump.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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A View to a Bond Baddie: Alec Trevelyan

To celebrate James Bond’s 50th birthday on screen, we’re going to take a look at the character and his films. We’ve already reviewed all the classic movies, so we’ll be looking at his iconic baddies, and even at the character himself.

Alec Trevelyan stands out amongst Bond’s foes on the big screen because he’s really the first to be constructed explicitly to contrast with Bond. You could argue that many of the outings in the series are more preoccupied with the villain than with Bond himself, and GoldenEye stands out as one of the films most tightly focused on Bond himself. Alec Trevelyan, as such, exists as a more direct mirror to Bond than most of his foes. The bad guy even operates under the code name “Janus.” There are several implied reasons – his knack for treachery and betrayal, the scar on the side of his face. However, it also suggests that Bond and Trevelyan exist as two sides of the same coin.

Smart Alec?

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince represents a fairly significant improvement in quality from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It seems the movie franchise is finally getting a handle on this sort of serialised story-telling, as the movie serves more as a collection of sub-plots leading into Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows than it does as a story in its own right. However, there’s a sense that the series is getting a bit better at balancing all the competing demands for screentime, and it even manages to explain the title mystery, albeit in a slightly off-hand manner (almost as an after-thought).

Storm clouds are gathering over Hogwarts...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?”

– Hermoine, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Truth be told, before I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was easily my favourite instalment of the series. It’s the perfect balance between the lighter start of the series and the much darker end of it, straddling the two distinct tones with ease, and managing to walk the line between it’s under-plotted predecessors and over-plotted successors. It’s still not quite perfect, but it genuinely feels like things are changing and world is lot more vast than the earlier films had led us to believe.

The series is finally firing on all cylinders...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets works much better as an episodic collection of scenes than a single story. It’s prone to fluctuate between rather brilliant moments and a few misfires here and there. It definitely feels extremely childish, as if the studio was attempting to construct a G-rated Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the John Williams soundtrack adding to the effect, the set design of the eponymous chamber looking like some forgotten archeological tomb, and even Julian Glover being afforded a small cameo (okay, he was in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but the point stands). It’s strange to look back at the second instalment, after all that has unfolded since, and look at how much more juvenile and simplistic it all seems in retrospect.

Malfoy drives stick...

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Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II is probably the strongest entry in the film series, and offers a fitting code to the saga of the famous boy wizard. Sleaker, leaner and meaner than most of its predecessors, I can actually understand – artistically – why Warners opted to split the final book into two distinct chapters. In many ways, the previous instalment (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I) felt like another year with the Hogwarts crowd, while the finale here represents an epilogue to the entire series. Threads hinted at and developed since the first film are all tied up here, and – isolated from a lot of the soap opera of early episodes – the last in the series provides some stunning closure.

The wiz kid returns...

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The Devil Eire Effect: Historical Films and Villains…

I wrote a little while ago about how suspicious I am concerning “true stories” that make it to the big screen. Truth be told, life doesn’t exactly fit into the three act structure or one-hundred-and-twenty minutes of screen time – I understand that changes need to be made. Real life characters are often boiled down or reduced to mere collections of quirks, the hero faces a more streamlined obstacle than they did in real life and sometimes even ends up a far better person for it. However, I was sitting down watching The King’s Speech at the weekend and I couldn’t help wondering if we really needed for Albert’s elder brother David and his American fiancée Wallis to be portrayed as nothing more than scheming villains, just because we needed to root for Albert a little more.

The Simpsons?

Note: The ever-wonderful TV Tropes describe this as a “Historical Villain Upgrade” if you’re looking for more examples of what I am talking about…

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John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey Theatre

The Abbey is very much selling Frank McGuinness’ adaptation of Henrik Ibsin’s John Gabriel Borkman as a timely piece of work. Set during a recession and focusing on a former banker who has managed to avoid squalor by assuring his property ends up in the hands of his sister-in-law (though she bought it at auction rather than the fact he assigned it to her), it is an easy enough sell in modern Ireland. However, the play’s themes are much more universal than that – it’s a story about our attempts to live vicariously through others and attempt to define ourselves contrary to whatever plans those around us might have, a reflection on how easily and readily we construct elaborate cages for ourselves (but cages that we insist are actually throne rooms). However, the main draw to this theatrical run – and perhaps the factor behind its near-constantly sold-out status – is a lead performance from Alan Rickman as the eponymous banker-turned-outcast.

Cool...

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