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Non-Review Review: The Canal

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

Ghosts are all around us.

As the opening scene of The Canal quite clearly states, the deceased endure long after their passing. Whether as images captured on camera or stories repeated in hushed tones, the dead haunt us. What are ghosts but the voices of history reaching out to the individual like some nightmare lodged deep in the collective unconscious? The “stone tape” theory of paranormal activity suggests that horrific events leave their mark, a blood stain that won’t wash out. What if that stain is psychological? What if ghosts are nothing but tales that echo in the darkness?


It is not an entirely original concept, to be fair. The idea of ghosts that exist as stories (or as media) is quite an old idea. In fact, one particular jump scare in The Canal owes quite a specific debt to Ringu, the iconic Japanese horror story about a ghost trapped inside a haunted video cassette. That scene is not the only parallel; The Canal centres itself upon a man working at the National Archives who finds himself processing old footage. No sooner has he discovered the gory details of a brutal murder in his home than it seems that those same ghosts come to life.

The Canal hits a few speed bumps in its final act, but – for most of its runtime – the film is a thoroughly compelling modern day ghost story. Writer and director Ivan Kavanagh wears his cinematic homages on his sleeve, drawing quite openly from directors like Roeg or Kubrick. The Canal is an unsettling and fascinating Irish horror film.


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Non-Review Review: Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang in Pyongyang

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

Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang in Pyongyang tells a story that would seem almost too absurd or too far-fetched if it were a scripted drama. The documentary charts the former NBA star as he attempts to organise a friendly basketball game between North Korea and the United States. The idea came from Kim Jong-Un, who had struck up an unlikely friendship with Rodman during an earlier trip to the isolated dictatorship. Over December 2013 and January 2014, Rodman helped to organise the most unlikely basketball friendly in history.


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Non-Review Review: The Price of Desire

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

I have been informed that reviews for The Price of Desire are embargoed, despite the fact it was screened as the gala opening of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015, a high-profile event with tickets available to the public that afforded the film a significant public platform. (In the interest of disclosure, I purchased my ticket with my season pass – purchased for €245. Individual tickets for this screening were €20.)  As a courtesy to any fellow reviewers affected by the embargo, I have taken down the review.

However, as the film is eligible for the festival’s “audience award”, I am leaving my rating in place.

All audience members are asked to rank films in the festival from 1 (worst) to 4 (best). In the interest of full and frank disclosure, here is my score: 1 thepriceofdesire1

Win! Tickets to the Jameson Cult Film Club Screen of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on Monday 23rd March!

The interactive Jameson Cult Film Club screening is widely regarded as one of the most hotly anticipated  events in the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival schedule, and this year is no different. Jameson  are kicking off the 2015 series of Jameson Cult Film Clubs with Guy Richie’s iconic crime comedy, Lock,  Stock and Two Smoking Barrels which will be screening during the Jameson Dublin International Film  Festival in a secret location on Monday 23rd March.

Jameson Cult Film Club screening of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels - 23.03.15

One of the film’s title characters, ‘Eddy The Gambler’, aka actor Nick Moran will be present for an exclusive Q&A with the audience before the movie, hosted by Dave Fanning. The venue, which is only revealed to ticket holders, will be completely transformed into a series of sets from the movie, while live theatre and special effects timed perfectly with on-screen action help to transport the audience right into the heart of London’s gritty East End.

Nick Moran

For your chance to win tickets to win tickets to this exciting screening, simply answer the below question:

You must be over 18 to enter this competition. Contact details provided will be used only to contact the winning entries.

Jameson Cult Film Club logo(1)

You can also register for free tickets to Jameson Cult Film Club events at their website. You really should. It’s a fantastic celebration of classic cinema.

Non-Review Review: Borgman

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

Part of what is so fascinating about Borgman is just how little Alex van Warmerdam is willing to tell us about what is going on. There are points when van Warmerdam’s biting black comedy seems to veer from domestic drama into straight-up fantasy, with very little concession made to explaining the events seen on screen to the audience. Who (or what) is the eponymous drifter? What does he want? Why does he do whatever it is that he seems to be doing?

Van Warmerdam doesn’t feel obligated to provide any explicit answers, and Borgman feels much stronger for it.


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Non-Review Review: Hide Your Smiling Faces

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

Kids these days, am I right? Hide Your Smiling Faces feels like an eighty-eight minute extended catalogue of various fears and insecurities about the children growing up in today’s world. Following the tragic death of a young boy, Hide Your Smiling Faces focuses its attention on the young kid’s closest friend and that friend’s older brother – exploring their different emotional reactions to the loss. Writer and director Daniel Patrick Carbone adopts a naturalistic approach to dialogue, trying to lend Hide Your Smiling Faces an authenticity or realism.

Unfortunately, the film is simply too dull for its own good, mistaking inertia for pensiveness and inactivity for pensiveness. It seems like Hide Your Smiling Faces spends most of its runtime trying to convince the audience – and itself – that less is more. Sadly, sometimes less is less.


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Non-Review Review: Mystery Road

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

Mystery Road is mostly atmosphere. Its plot is fairly standard neo-noir drugs thriller fare; its characters are pretty stock. However, Ivan Sen’s Australian thriller has a palpable sense of dread and anxiety that seems to press down on the film. There’s a slow boil pressure cooker at the heart of the film, which rather brilliantly taps into standard film noir storytelling conventions and translates them effortlessly to the Outback.


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Non-Review Review: The Grand Seduction

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

The Grand Seduction is nowhere near as cynical as it needs to be, and nowhere near as cynical as it thinks that it is. The story of a small Canadian town harbour in desperate need of a doctor in order to win a lucrative contract from a nebulous oil corporation, The Grand Seduction sets itself up as a vicious satire of these sorts of communities. Trying desperately to convince a visiting doctor to stay in their small community, the locals fashion themselves an endearingly quaint façade, manipulating their guest to get what they want.


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Non-Review Review: The Stag

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

On the surface of it, The Stag feels like an Irish version of The Hangover; a “lads going wild before the wedding” comedy that thrives on men behaving badly and even features the bride’s brother as a reluctant invitee and breakout character. Of course, there are any number of differences – substituting the wilds of rural Ireland for the glitzy glamour of Vegas, the decision to make the groom a main character more than a plot device, the nature of the breakout character’s anti-social personality – but The Stag essentially takes a tried and true comedy template and runs with it.


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Non-Review Review: Locke

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2014.

Lock a character in a tight space for an extended period of time, crank up the pressure, watch the results. It’s a tried and true method of generating compelling drama – albeit one that depends on a wide range of variables. Films like Phone Booth and Buried demonstrate – to varying degrees of success – the appeal of such a format. If you can get a good actor in a tight space for an extended period of time and crush them, the results are inevitably fascinating.

At the same time, it’s a very delicate cocktail. The set-up has to be convincing, the script has to be tight without being contrived, the direction needs to be spot on, the performance needs to be perfectly modulated. Steven Knight’s sophomoric feature-length film manages to maintain this fine balance for Locke‘s eighty-five minute runtime. Essentially an hour-and-a-half locked in a car with Tom Hardy, Locke is a powerhouse of a feature, an utterly compelling and heartrending watch.


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