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Non-Review Review: Electric Boogaloo – The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

There is a lot of affection on display in Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films.

Sure, it’s the kind of affection that comes qualified with awkward laughter and wry self-aware sarcasm, but it seems like a lot of the participants in this documentary exploring the eventful life of the infamous film studio are pleasantly surprised that the ride lasted as long as it did. If there is one big recurring motif throughout the film, it is sheer wonderment at how the studio managed to continue operating – churning out questionable film after questionable film. There are commentators who seem in awe at the factory-like conditions of the studio.

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To be fair, Electric Boogaloo does afford a platform to those commentators with legitimate grievances against the studio. Writers lament the changes that their scripts went through, actors make observations about questionable choices made by directors, partners observe the difficulty of dealing with material churned out by the studio. More than one commentator offers their own crude impression of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. However, most of these observations come from a place of mild bemusement or open awe at what the studio got away with doing.

Writer and director Mark Hartley covers an impressive amount of material in his documentary, even if it suffers a bit from lack of focus. There is an incredible energy and sense of fun about the whole project – acknowledging that Golan and Globus had a tremendous influence on how the movie industry currently works, without romanticising their process. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a fascinating watch for any film fan.

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My 12 for ’13: Honorable Mentions

Over the next few days, I’ll be revealing my favourite twelve films of 2013. I suspect that it will be a slightly quirky and eccentric list – I doubt anybody but myself will agree on every choice, but I hope that encapsulates the diversity and brilliance of the year that we’ve had. Indeed, I was actually quite impressed with the quality of films that were released in 2013, from large tentpoles through to more intimate and low-key film-making.

In fact, I was so impressed that I thought I’d put together a list of brief honourable mentions of the films that didn’t quite make the cut for my top twelve films of 2013.

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Non-Review Review: Gravity

Gravity is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking, and one of the highlights of the year. It’s a bold and visually stunning survival movie, built around the most simple of premises with incredible craftsmanship. It’s a lean and well-constructed thriller that manages to effortlessly capture the impossible isolation experienced by those flying in the void. Never over-wrought or over-strained, Gravity is an absolutely beautiful accomplishment for all involved.

Floating in a most peculiar way...

Floating in a most peculiar way…

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Watch! Spike Lee’s Oldboy Trailer!

If you haven’t watched the original Oldboy, you should really do so now. I’m not as head-over-heels in love with it as most, but it’s a stunningly powerful piece of film making, “visceral” in the strongest sense of the word. After years of trying to get the film off the ground, the American remake is incoming. I remember when there was gossip about a Steven Spielberg and Will Smith version, which it’s hard to imagine working anywhere near as effectively as the original. The team of Spike Lee and Josh Brolin, on the other hand, looks more likely to deliver something as twisted and bold as Pan Chan-wook’s original.

Anyway, the trailer’s below. So have a look and let me know what you think.

Non-Review Review: John Dies at the End

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Don Coscarelli is that most frustrating of film-makers. He’s a remarkable talent able to produce a story with the zany off-kilter madness of Bubba Ho-tep, but can also produce something as disappointing and as frustrating as John Dies at the End. It isn’t that John Dies at the End is completely without charm. It can occasionally be a wittily subversive take on the staples of American horror, from the works of H.P. Lovecraft through to the gore of seventies and eighties schlock-fests.

The real problem with John Dies at the End is that, for all its charm and its wit, it feels terribly unoriginal.

Sauced...

Sauced…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Missing Children (End of Watch)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #3

I was not as taken with End of Watch as some were. I enjoyed the film, and I think both Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal gave superb performances, but I think that the decision to structure the arc of these two police officers was a bit of a mistake – as the film resorted to clichés like drug cartels putting out a hit on these two individual cops. The film started as an impressively grounded and candid exploration of what life must be like in the line of fire, but then it became a much more conventional film (albeit shot in an unconventional manner).

Still, when End of Watch was good, it was great. It was raw, powerful stuff that gave an impression of what it must be like to do that job day-in and day-out. At its best, it demonstrated the obvious toll that these small day-to-day incidents must take on those protecting and serving. Often it was the smaller sequences that worked best, those with little-to-no connection to the overriding “cartel” arc – the kinds of things that felt like the stuff that must confront officers of the law on a daily basis.

None was more powerful than the rather simple house call investigating the disappearance of two small children.

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Dancing (Monsieur Lahzar)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #5

Sometimes it’s the simplest moments that stick in the memory. Monsieur Lahzar was a superb little French-Canadian film that went under the radar last year. It’s a film that I really recommend. Comedian Mohamed Fellag gives a wonderfully moving central performance as a replacement teacher helping his class deal with the suicide of his predecessor. The eponymous Lahzar is so buttoned down that it’s oddly affecting to watch him interact with the children, but it’s the smaller private moments that allow Fellag to really craft and define his character.

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My 12 for ’12: Jeff Who Lives at Home & Living in Hope

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #9

The eponymous Jeff, from Jeff Who Lives at Home, feels like something of a cousin to the Judd Atapow “manchild” that we’ve seen popularised in films like Knocked Up of The 40 Year Old Virgin. He’s unreliable, lazy and smokes a not inconsiderable amount of pot. His mother can’t even count on him to fix a shutter door on her birthday, although he is quick to offer seemingly vacuous philosophical insights garnered from Star Wars and Signs. His brother Pat is hardly a run-away success, trapped in a failing marriage and prone to sit around Hooters all day, but at least he has thrived when compared to Jeff. Jeff is, by all accounts, a fool whose own naivety leads him to get beaten and mugged within the first half-hour of the film.

However, at the heart of Jeff Who Lives at Home, is a surprisingly romantic idea. There’s the notion that the universe is somehow a far more compassionate and understanding place than we might suspect. Jeff’s logic and reasoning might be far from convincing, and it’s easy to be cynical. However, Jay and Mark Duplass craft a story that suggests sometimes things work out just right.

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Non-Review Review: End of Watch

For its first two thirds, End of Watch is a rather novel examination of the routine of the boys in blue who patrol X-13, the most notorious district within Los Angeles’ notorious South Central. Centring on two police officers, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, it offers a portrayal of the Los Angeles Police Department that feels almost novel. Rather than centring on the city’s infamous racial tensions, or the allegations of corruption within the force, End of Watch offers a candid and insightful examination of what an average day on the beat might look like, helped along by natural interplay between leads Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

The movie runs into problems with its third act, when it opts to abandon its naturalistic, almost documentary, approach to these officers and their world, forcing a climactic confrontation that never really feels like it entirely belongs.

Arresting drama…

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Non-Review Review: What Richard Did

The latest film from Lenny Abrahamson is a solid slow boil moral and psychological drama. It treads well-worn ground, exploring the relationship between guilt and entitlement, but does so in a relatively charming way, navigated by Abrahamson’s solid direction and a great central performance from Jack Reynor. However, it’s hard not see this as a variation on a familiar story, one we’ve seen rendered in an American and a British context quite often. Malcolm Campbell’s overly melodramatic script never quite manages to ground to film in a particularly Irish setting, despite the posh Blackrock background and the occasionally recognisable landmark. Even the title change, eschewing the novel’s Bad Day in Blackrock for a more generic What Richard Did seems to try to broaden the scope of the film, losing a lot of the more potentially fascinating avenues that could be explored.

More than his ego is bruised…

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