Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

CinÉireann – Issue 9 (September 2018)

The latest issue of CinÉireann has just been released.

It’s full of the usual great stuff, mostly thanks to editor Niall Murphy. However, there’s also some other great stuff in there including Conor Murphy‘s regular column on cinematic education and Ronan Doyle‘s “Queer Ire” column. I contributed a piece on Black ’47, the Irish famine western that is one of my favourite films of the year so far, discussing it in the context of the mainstreaming of the postcolonial western.

As ever, there is some fantastic talent involved in the issue, and it is an honour to get a chance to write for CinÉireann. A massive “thanks” to the fantastic Niall Murphy over at Scannain for letting me be a part of it.

You can read CinÉireann as a digital magazine directly. You can even subscribe and get future issues delivered to you directly. Or click the picture below.

Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Venom

Transformative trauma is a cornerstone of the superhero genre.

Sometimes that trauma is emotional; the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne, the loss of Uncle Ben, the explosion of Krypton. Sometimes that trauma is physical; having piping hot metal coated over your bones as your memory is wiped, physically mutating into something unrecognisable as human, having your entire body turn to trauma. To misquote Stan Lee, “with great power comes great responsibility.” More often than not, it also comes with great suffering.

Back in black.

In its best moments, Venom seems to realise this. At the core of Venom is the traumatised character of Eddie Brock, who has watched his entire life fall apart and who suddenly finds himself sharing his body with a murderous alien entity with monstrous appetites. Brock is played by Tom Hardy, one of those rare actors with both immense physical presence and incredibly vulnerability. Unshaved and scruffy looking, with faded tattoos and wearing clothes that look like they haven’t been washed, Eddie looks like he’s been through hell even before his transformative experience.

There are moments when Venom almost plays as a weird psychological thriller about a character experiencing a real-time break from reality, a reporter who is losing his fragile grip on reality after suffering one too many personal and professional setbacks. As the situation gets worse, Eddie starts hearing voices in his head and losing control of his body. He finds himself in a situation where terrible things happen, but he is able to disassociate himself from the brutality and violence. Venom never quite commits to this idea, but it simmers through the story.

Wall’s well that ends well.

The first two acts of Venom are ropey and uneven, suffering from a fuzzy lack of detail and no strong focus on any of the film’s central ideas. Nevertheless, the film survives largely on the strength of Tom Hardy’s performance and the weirdness of the concept. However, things fall to pieces in the third act. Part of this is because Venom feels the need to transform into a regular superhero movie as it reaches its conclusion. Part of this is because Ruben Fleischer cannot direct action. Part of this is because of collision of clumsy exposition and muddled computer-generated imagery.

Venom loses what little control it has of itself as it reaches its climax.

MRI are we here?

Continue reading

100. Inception (#14)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode thrown in.

This time, Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Dom Cobb is one of the best extractors in the world, an artist who sneaks into people’s dreams and steals their secrets. However, after one botched job, Cobb is approached by a mysterious industrialist with an ambitious proposal: inception. If Cobb can plant an idea in his chief rival’s head, Cobb can finally go home to his long lost family.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 14th best movie of all-time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: A Star is Born (2018)

At one point in A Star is Born, Bobby Maine outlines his brother’s approach to music for the benefit of Ally.

According to Bobby, Jackson believes that all music can be broken down to “twelve notes between an octave.” By Jackson Maine’s logic, Bobby explains all musical expression is “those same twelve notes, played over and over again. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.” It is a strange moment, one that comes very close to self-awareness from writer and director Bradley Cooper, suggesting something very close to a mission statement for his directorial debut.

Ain’t playin’.

A Star is Born is the fourth major American motion picture with that name and that premise. There are countless other stories built around the same basic concept, which has itself been translated into various settings and contexts across the globe. The story of A Star is Born is familiar. An older man discovers a talented young woman and elevates her to stardom, while his own grip on celebrity slips away between his fingers. It is an archetypal Hollywood story, and perhaps a defining American fairytale. All Cooper can do is tell that familiar story in his own way.

There are certainly moments when A Star is Born seems to take this idea to heart. In terms of basic trappings and mechanics, A Star is Born gestures towards modernity, understanding that it needs to update its core premise in the way that each of its three forerunners did. There are any number of details within A Star is Born that position the film within the modern cultural context. This is a twenty-first century take on a familiar story, and it looks distinct enough from the earlier three iterations.

Has a nice sing to it.

However, there’s a recurring anxiety within A Star is Born, a sense of trepidation. In terms of style and sensibility, Cooper’s adaptation hews closest to the country-and-western infused seventies remake with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, which is a canny choice; it is probably the least seen and the least iconic iteration of the story, making it ripe for reinvention. However, there is also a strong sense that A Star is Born is reluctant to cross the four decades that have passed since that particular iteration of the familiar story.

The result is a film that feels at odds with itself. A Star is Born is inherently a metafictional text, suggesting a rebirth of Lady Gaga from a pop star to a credible leading actor in a prestige piece. Gaga acquits herself well in the role, but A Star is Born feels uncertain and untrusting of her. Repeatedly, A Star is Born seems to refuse to let Gaga be Gaga, instead adhering to a very fixed and very nostalgic seventies ideal of “authenticity.” This is a film that ends with the assertion that a modern pop star can only find herself when using her voice to deliver an ageing rocker’s words.

Doesn’t quite hit all the right notes.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Night School

Night School works better than it probably should, while never quite escaping its fundamental flaws.

Night School suffers from a lot of the structural issues that affect modern studio comedies. Most obviously, the film feels over-extended. It’s not just the run time, which clocks in at a muscular one-hundred-and-ten minutes, which is asking a lot for a broad comedy with a very simple premise. It is the individual jokes within the comedy, which are often stretched to breaking point and beyond. Perhaps the most egregious example is an early gag about finding hair in food at a restaurant, which goes on for what feels like five minutes built around the same standard social set-up.

To teach’s own.

There are very few major surprises in Night School. There are a few small and smart ideas buried in the mix, but they often feel crowded out by the broad jokes and the familiar clichés. There’s a recurring sense that Night School doesn’t always play to its strengths, at least below the headline. At the same time, the film understands that it lives or dies by the chemistry between its two leads, offering a conventional persona-driven conflict of manners that places Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish in opposition to one another before inevitably moving them into alignment.

Night School is diverting, if unsatisfying. It manages a passing grade, if little more.

Hart to Hart.

Continue reading

Maniac (Review)

Maniac is Inception meets Cloud Atlas, filtered through a prism of eighties retrofuturism.

That is to say that Maniac will not be for everybody. Indeed, there will be very many people for whom Maniac will simply not work, seeming too weird, too strange and too esoteric. Indeed, it often seems like Maniac is being weird for the sake of being weird, often populating even fairly standard character- or dialogue- driven scenes with small uncanny elements like a foul-mouthed purple robotic koala or a mostly-unseen alien ambassador with a “beautiful blue exoskeleton.” These elements often exist for their own sake. Even when they serve as symbolism, they are often deliberately obtuse.

No Stone unturned.

However, the surreal and contradictory imagery that populates Maniac is a large part of what makes the series so interesting. The bizarre dream-like imagery is very much at the core of Maniac, a bizarre fantasia where everything might possibly be a stand-in for something else or might simply have been plucked half-formed from the imagination with no deeper meaning. Maybe the beautiful alluring alien represents the hawk that a young boy took into his room; maybe the alien represents the predator brother that a young man wants to protect. Maybe sometimes a beautiful blue alien is just a beautiful blue alien.

Maniac is sure to be a polarising experience. Marmite for the television era. Indeed, based on early reviews, it already is. However, it is also a brilliant piece of work; inventive, demented, committed, affecting. This kooky cocktail won’t click with every viewer, but it’ll resonate deeply with those drawn in.

Taking the matter in hand.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: The Land of Steady Habits

“You’re mean,” observes a potential romantic partner of Anders Hill, around the halfway point of The Land of Steady Habits.

It would be reductive to suggest that this is the most bracing or cutting piece of character work in The Land of Steady Habits, but it is not entirely unfair. The Land of Steady Habits is very much a story of upper-class social anxiety, of wealthy characters without any real problems in their lives who instead fixate on the kinds of problems that less well-off people probably wish that they had. Anders Hill is a prime example. A solemn and depressive figure who has become alienated from his previously idyllic existence, Anders is a character who is entirely responsible for his current predicament.

Going steady.

In some ways, this is very typical of the work of writer and director Nicole Holofcener, who has adapted The Land of Steady Habits from a novel by Ted Thompson. The film’s status as an adaptation accounts for some of the details that distinguish the film from Holofcener’s other work, most notably the focus on a male (rather than a female) protagonist, but The Land of Steady Habits is very much of a piece with Holofcener’s other work. It is a wry and acerbic study of people who have everything except what they actually need, and who stumble around causing emotional carnage while looking for that something.

With that in mind, Holofcener’s films live and die based on the charm of the leading characters – on how much the audience is drawn into the hollow void at the centre of their existence. By that measure, The Land of Steady Habits is a mixed bag at best. Ben Mendelsohn is great as the pathetic and contemptible Anders Hill, an impotent affluent man-child who seems capable of mustering charm for only a few scarce minutes at a time. However, Anders himself is not anybody that it seems particularly interesting or exciting to spend ninety-eight minutes with.

Sofa, so good.

Continue reading