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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.

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Non-Review Review: 22 Jump Street

Comedy sequels can be a tough beast.

After all, a joke isn’t as funny the second time around and – if it is – there’s always the DVD.  Comedy sequels often find themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place. They have to pay homage and due respect to what came before, but they can’t simply tread out the same old jokes. It isn’t a case of simply doing the same thing but bigger, as with most sequels. Comedy sequels are a tough nut to crack.

The genius of 22 Jump Street is the way that it accepts this and turns it into the biggest joke of the film.

Jumping back into their roles...

Jumping back into their roles…

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Non-Review Review: This is the End

There’s a moment about half-way through This is the End when our bunch of celebrities are starting go stir-crazy, as they brave the apocalypse inside James Franco’s surprisingly fortified house. In the strange combination of idle boredom and growing madness, the group decide to improvise a trailer for the non-existent sequel to Pineapple Express. It is complete nonsense, but there’s a strange energy and a warm sense of humour to their “sweded” version of a Hollywood comedy, complete with remote-control car chases and homemade props.

It feels like something that only these actors would get – it’s just a bunch of people hanging out, fooling around, making the most of the materials available to them do something which feels incredibly niche. It’s a weird balance of something so experimental and so niche that it’s almost definitely a piece of post-modern art. (The movie even features an early scene of pretentious James Franco gleefully arguing that everything is art – even Jay Baruchel.) On the other hand, it’s accessible and fun, managing to seem – simultaneously – like an incredibly niche and charmingly broad piece of film.

It’s also pretty damn funny.

... and I feel fine...

… and I feel fine…

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Non-Review Review: Critters 3

I have a confession to make. I have never seen a Critters film before. They were always sitting there on the lower shelves of the horror section in the shop where I used to rent DVDs, but I just never picked one up. I can’t quite explain why – that sort of trashy horror-comedy would probably have seemed right up my street, but I guess I was probably more fascinated with the more iconic horror monsters and menaces. Anyway, my better half has always had a bit of affection for Leonardo DiCaprio, and when we discovered that his first big screen role was as a kid in Critters 3, I suggested that we could watch both watch it. And, I’m surprised to admit, it was nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Laugh it up, fuzzball…

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Non-Review Review: Jeff Who Lives at Home

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012. As the movie’s getting a delayed Irish release this weekend, I thought I’d share it again.

There’s a common misconception about the films of Mark and Jay Duplass. It’s easy to confuse their films with comedies. Just look at the cast they assembled for Cyrus, including Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly (with Marisa Tomei taking home her Oscar for a comedic turn in My Cousin Vinny), or even the one they’ve gathered here. After all, Jason Segel is still most recognisable from How I Met Your Mother or The Muppets or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Ed Helms’ filmography includes The Office and The Hangover and Cedar Rapids. While Jay and Mark Duplass include a wonderful amount of humour in their work, it tends to distract away from their core themes or ideas. Beneath the awkward triangle in Cyrus, there’s a coming-of-age family drama. Underneath the witty exterior of Jeff Who Lives at Home, there’s a sincere and optimistic romantic drama. And I’m a sucker for romantic drama.

Rub a dub dub, two men in a tub…

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Non-Review Review: 21 Jump Street

The review was embargoed until the 5th March 2012.

The obvious point of comparison to Jonah Hill’s big-screen adaptation of 21 Jump Street is the Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson version of Starsky & Hutch. After all, both take classic cult television shows and recycle them for modern audiences, taking dramatic plot devices that seem hilarious and goofy in hindsight and playing them as straight comedy. There is, however, one very crucial difference between that adaptation of a seventies cop show and this adaptation of an eighties cop show: 21 Jump Street works. Mostly.

White knights...

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Non-Review Review: Jeff Who Lives at Home

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

There’s a common misconception about the films of Mark and Jay Duplass. It’s easy to confuse their films with comedies. Just look at the cast they assembled for Cyrus, including Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly (with Marisa Tomei taking home her Oscar for a comedic turn in My Cousin Vinny), or even the one they’ve gathered here. After all, Jason Segel is still most recognisable from How I Met Your Mother or The Muppets or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Ed Helms’ filmography includes The Office and The Hangover and Cedar Rapids. While Jay and Mark Duplass include a wonderful amount of humour in their work, it tends to distract away from their core themes or ideas. Beneath the awkward triangle in Cyrus, there’s a coming-of-age family drama. Underneath the witty exterior of Jeff Who Lives at Home, there’s a sincere and optimistic romantic drama. And I’m a sucker for romantic drama.

Rub a dub dub, two men in a tub...

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Non-Review Review: Moneyball

I know nothing of baseball. Unlike the other great American sporting pastime of American Football (or, I guess, “football” to them), I simply can’t wrap my head around the activity, which seems (to me) to be a strange mix of rounders and the imaginary “whack bat” from The Fantastic Mr. Fox (which was undoubtedly intended as a parody of cricket, to mix my metaphors even further). It takes a lot for me to invest in a movie about an activity that I can barely comprehend, and Moneyball accomplishes that, by managing to craft one of the most telling and relevent sporting movies I’ve seen in quite some time. I think the film does struggle to establish an emotional connection, but it’s a very clever and very intriguing little movie.

Field of dreams...

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Non-Review Review: Cyrus

Cyrus is a film that it’s hard to work up passion about in either direction. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, to be entirely honest – I don’t actively dislike it or anything like that. It’s just an honest reflection on this attempt to merge the indie “mumblecore” sensibilities with more conventional mainstream movie-making. It’s funny in places, and features a great cast, but it ultimately feels far too self-assured, and more like it’s comfortable with its indie-movie clichés, rather than trying to tell its own story.

Family dysFUNction...

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Non-Review Review: Get Him to the Greek

I quite enjoyed Get Him to the Greek. It wasn’t quite as wonderfully put together as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but it’s a pleasant little comedy that treads familiar ground, but in a witty and confident manner. The movie isn’t exactly a laugh-a-minute, it is one of the better major releases so far this summer.

Aldous is about to have his world rocked...

Note: My brother and correspondent, Ciaran, reviewed the film earlier in the week. My thoughts aren’t too different than his – save a few details here or there (I maybe liked it a tiny bit more). It’s well worth a read.

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