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280. Apocalypse Now (#53)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, this week with special guests Alex Towers and Brian Lloyd, 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 second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

In the midst of the Vietnam War, Benjamin Willard is given a special assignment. He is tasked with taking a patrol boat up the Nung River in pursuit of Colonel Walter Kurtz. Kurtz has apparently gone completely rogue, no longer responding to directives from command. Willard is instructed to terminate Kurtz’s command, by any means necessary. However, as Willard journeys deeper into the country, he finds himself drifting further and further from reality, embracing some sort of primal insanity.

At time of recording, it was ranked 53rd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On “The Fabelmans” as a Horror Story About Filmmaking…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist yesterday evening. With the release of The Fabelmans on streaming today, it seemed like a good opportunity to explore Steven Spielberg’s loosely autobiographical family drama.

Spielberg’s recent films are preoccupied with his legacy, and the way in which his work has altered the cultural landscape. The Fabelmans is a much more personal movie, one that is more preoccupied with the art of filmmaking. The Fabelmans is a story about the power of the camera, and its ability to see things that are hidden from the human eye. The camera captures dreams, but it also reveals truths. The Fabelmans doesn’t romanticise this, but approaches with a palpable fear and dread.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Podcast! Vampire Videos – “Shadow of the Vampire (2000)”

I was thrilled to be invited to join the great Dan Owen and Hugh McStay for an episode of their new podcast, Vampire Videos.

It was a thrill to get to talk about, and revisit, Shadow of the Vampire. It was the first time I had watched the meta horror commentary in decades, so it was fascinating to return to it with new eyes and a deeper understanding of the film’s historical context. It’s a movie that ties together the history of the vampire and origins of cinema as a medium, constructing a pitch black horror comedy about the paradox of the movie camera as an instrument that both steals life and grants immortality.

You can listen directly to the episode below or by clicking here.

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.


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.



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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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