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84. Touch of Evil (#241)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and this week with special guests Charlene Lydon and Grace Duffy, 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 Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.

A murder in a small border town stokes local tensions, as Ramon Miguel Vargas finds himself drawn into an investigation overseen by Police Captain Hank Quinlan. As Quinlan pursues his lines of inquiry, Vargas quickly comes to realise that his would-be partner is not what he appears to be.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 241st best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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91. El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes) (#136)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Aine O’Connor, 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, Juan José Campanella’s El secreto de sus ojos.

Prompted by a desire to bring closure to an old case, retired detective Benjamín Espósito sets out to write a novel documenting his experiences during the turbulent seventies. Prying into his earlier investigation reawakens painful memories, and powerful emotions.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 136th best movie of all-time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Ni juge, ni soumise (So Help Me God)

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

So Help Me God is a very strange film, in that it is very difficult to imagine how exactly this documentary got made.

Anne Gruwez is a judge working in Brussels. As part of her role in the criminal justice system, she not only supervises on-going investigations, but also hear minor cases on something approaching a one-on-one basis. So Help Me God follows roughly a year in the life of Gruwez, splitting its attention between her on-going stewardship of a cold case murder investigation and the more routine cases that she hears on a daily basis. What emerges is a fascinating and compelling examination of the Belgian legal system.

So Help Me God has an amazing amount of access to the workings of the criminal investigations overseen by and the criminal cases heard by Anne Gruwez. No faces are blurred, no voices are disguised. There is no artificial barrier created between the audience and the subjects, no attempt to disguise identities. In many ways, So Help Me God feels very much like a particularly eccentric workplace documentary, with little sense of any red tape or restrictions upon the production team. It is a testament to directors Yves Hinant and Jean Libon that they were able to construct such a candid film.

So Help Me God is fascinating and engaging viewing, even if there is a sense of something decidedly less quirky and amusing resting somewhere beneath its polished and charming exterior.

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Daredevil – Semper Fidelis (Review)

This month, we’re doing daily reviews of the second season of Daredevil. Check back daily for the latest review.

There is probably no greater single missed opportunity during the second season of Daredevil than the trial of Frank Castle.

The show does not necessarily do a great job with Elektra, but that character was always going to be deeply problematic owing to her comic book origin. Ironically, the changes that the show makes to her arc do little to alleviate the issues with the character, just shunting them around a little. The Hand are also ill-served by the second season as a whole, but it is hard to imagine how the Hand might have made a credible and organic season-long threat in the first place. Even Frank Miller made a point to tie them into his larger character/thematic arcs.

This visual is more compelling than anything actually tied to the trial of Frank Castle.

This visual is more compelling than anything actually tied to the trial of Frank Castle.

In contrast, the trial of Frank Castle is a legitimately good idea. In fact, it is a brilliant idea. On paper, the idea of “the trial of Frank Castle” is one of the smartest concepts applied to the character in recent memory. The season has struggled with the challenges posed by Frank Castle, opting to smooth the rough edges off the character by having him walk through a familiar “avenging father” arc three times over the course of the year. Building a trial arc around Frank Castle goes a long way towards mitigating that; it is a story about Frank that doesn’t need to soften him.

More than that, it is an arc that seems designed to shore up some of the season’s weaknesses. The second season of Daredevil suffers from a lack of generality, a feeling that Matt and his cast exist in the tapestry of a larger New York; not the version of New York seen in The Avengers, but a real place inhabited by real people somewhat disconnected from undead ninjas and blind devil vigilantes. By providing a public spectacle, the trial of Frank Castle provides the opportunity for Daredevil to anchor itself back in a living and breathing New York.

The hole in things...

The hole in things…

It also ties neatly into Matt Murdock’s secret identity as a defence attorney, in a manner that is more interesting and engaging than simply offering a half-assed impression of Law & Order. By its nature, “the trial of Frank Castle” is a plot that is only really possible in the shared fictional space of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, it is a concept that is a more intriguing application of the shared universe than “… gee, I hope Iron Man shows up.” It plays with some of the genre’s core ideas in a way that is fairly novel and ripe for commentary and metaphor.

It is a shame that the show messes up this plot point so spectacularly.

Trial be there.

“Absolutely, one hundred percent, not guilty.”

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The X-Files – Apocrypha (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Eyes are a major recurring motif in Apocrypha.

To be fair, eyes were a frequently recurring motif throughout The X-Files. Rob Bowman managed a couple of beautiful shots of reflections and peeping in 731, for example. It makes sense that The X-Files should place such emphasis on eyes – it is a saga about truth and belief and faith, all of which must be explored through perception. “I want to believe,” Mulder’s iconic poster proclaims. As the cliché goes, seeing is believing.

Iconic Mulder/Scully pose!

Iconic Mulder/Scully pose!

That is definitely the case here, with Apocrypha built to a climax where both the audience and the characters are explicitly refused the opportunity to see key moments. Mulder and Scully are escorted out of the North Dakota silo before they can see anything incriminating. The audience doesn’t even get to see the space ship taking off. Even the death of Luis Cardinal takes place off-screen, with Mulder revealing it in a throwaway line in the show’s penultimate scene.

With all of this going on, it makes sense that so much of the imagery in Apocrypha should be built around eyes – with the black oil infection manifesting in its hosts’ eyes, the shooting of the silo as a giant eye staring into space, and even the design of the alien space ship evoking the Eye of Providence.

Up in the sky!

Up in the sky!

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The X-Files – Piper Maru (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Piper Maru and Apocrypha continue a pretty clear thematic throughline for the show’s third season mythology episodes.

As with The Blessing Way/Paper Clip and Nisei/731, Piper Maru and Apocrypha tell a story about how we relate to the past. In particular, in keeping with the rest of the third season mythology, it is a show about the legacy of the Second World War. The X-Files is a show that is sceptical of the decisions made by the American government towards the end of the Second World War, particularly as those decisions shaped and moulded the present. In many ways, The X-Files is a show about history and legacy, trauma and consequence.

A fish out of water...

A fish out of water…

Piper Maru and Apocrypha are less direct about this connection than the earlier mythology episodes. They aren’t about the war criminals given safe habour after the Second World War in return for scientific knowledge or tactical advantages. Instead, Piper Maru and Apocrypha are shows about dredging up the past and confronting the consequences of past actions. These two episodes are not only steeped in American popular history, but also in the show’s internal continuity. The majority of what happens here is driven by events we’ve seen in the show.

At the same time, Piper Maru and Apocrypha represent an attempt to boldly expand and push the mythos forward in the same way that Colony and End Game did at this point in the second season. The result is an intriguing two-parter that feels a little muddled and messy, an example of the show stumbling slightly as it tries to grow outwards. Although the mythology is still working a lot more efficiently than it would in later seasons, there is a sense of clutter beginning to filter in.

The eyes have it...

The eyes have it…

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Absolute Justice

They’ve lost their power. And I’m not talking about magic genie-rings or batarangs. I’m speaking about their real power. You don’t need them anymore.

– Lex Luthor discusses superheroes

Are superheroes redundant? In many ways, they’ve formed the basis of an American mythology in the twentieth century – many fo the classical superheroes represent a pantheon of gods not unlike the Greek or the Roman conception of the same. This is particularly true of DC’s panel of major superheroes, who may as well sit atop Olympus looking down on humanity. However, the past few decades haven’t necessarily been kind to the notion of the superhero – increasingly deconstructed and darkened and shaded and compromised beyond any similarity to their original status – and you’d be forgiven for wondering whether the genre has passed its sell-by date. This is the question at the core of Justice, the twelve-part maxi-series by Alex Ross and Jim Kreuger.

A league of their own?

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