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Non-Review Review: The Fast & The Furious 6

The ideal The Fast & The Furious film could only properly be summated with hand gestures and poorly improvised sound effects. “Rrrrrrr….” and then (wavy hand movement) and then “smack!” and then (index finger jams into opposite palm), followed a “bb’tccccch…” and (outward gesture of hand indicating explosion). Fast Five came close to being that perfect macho car chase film, one less concerned with plot and performance than a riveting high-octane spectacle treating its human cast as much like props as the vehicles they drive.

The Fast & The Furious 6 backs away a great deal from the charm of the previous film. There’s the same dumb action set pieces delivered in a charmingly intense manner by Justin Lin, but the script feels over-plotted. There are lots of big emotional moments between an ensemble that really wasn’t built to give those sorts of performances. There are lots of shocking revelations from events several films earlier. There are lots of personal conversations where Lin has no idea what to do with the camera but circle around his actors and hope that the audience doesn’t get too bored.

Not so fast...

Not so fast…

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Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror (Review)

I’m the Doctor, and you’re nuts.

– the Doctor making friends, as usual

The Crimson Horror, much like Cold War before it, feels like a Mark Gatiss episode. Perhaps due to the fact he has been one of the most consistent contributors to the revived television show, Gatiss has developed his own technique and tropes, favouring particularly elements of Doctor Who, which tend to shine through in his scripts from The Unquiet Dead through to this latest instalment. While I’d be reluctant to name Gatiss among the strongest writers to contribute to the television show, it’s clear that he’s cracked a formula that works for him.

While The Crimson Horror feels a little too familiar in places, a little too conventional, it’s a solid instalment – much like Gatiss’ earlier addition to the season, Cold War.

He's got the formula down at this point...

He’s got the formula down at this point…

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Watch! New Fast & Furious 6 Trailer!

The folks from Universal Pictures Ireland just sent over these two clips from The Fast & the Furious 6. I actually quite liked Fast Five, so I’m a little curious if the franchise can maintain the relatively light touch and no-nonsense action movie vibe for another instalment. I remember watching one of the trailers at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival before the surprise film. The audience reacted much more strongly to two minutes of the tank and highway mayhem of The Fast & the Furious 6 than to a full two hours of the somewhat sterile Hollywood-violence-in-London of Welcome to the Punch.

Anyway, check them out below and let me know what you think.

 

Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Resurrection of the Daleks originally aired in 1984.

The universe is at war, Doctor. Name one planet whose history is not littered with atrocities and ambition for empire. It is a universal way of life.

Which I do not accept.

Then you deny what is real.

– yes, in case you’re wondering, the show did let Davros win a philosophical debate with the Doctor

It’s a bit of a cliché to suggest that writer and script editor Eric Saward didn’t actually like Doctor Who. It’s a bit of sensationalist nonsense that appears quite frequently in discussing his contributions to the series. The evidence most often cited in favour of this admittedly exaggerated position points out that Saward had a tendency to marginalise the Doctor within his stories, to portray the character as inefficient or ineffective within the context of an increasingly cynical universe. This characterisation of the Doctor as inherently weak really came to a head during the Colin Baker period of the show, but you can see traces of it during the Peter Davison era, most notably in Earthshock.

However, Resurrection of the Daleks also provides a pretty compelling case study, if only because it makes a compelling case for the Doctor as a massive hypocrite and a coward. You have to worry when the script seems to side more with Davros’ outlook on life than with that of the title character.

Putting the Fifth Doctor to the test...

Putting the Fifth Doctor to the test…

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Doctor Who: The Rings Of Akhaten (Review)

The Rings of Akhaten is a visual feast. Both the Mill and Millennium FX deserve a tremendous amount for realising the eponymous environment, which stands out as the perhaps the most impressively alien landscape to appear on Doctor Who since the show began broadcasting in high definition. It’s a solid demonstration that Doctor Who has come a long way since the eighties, and that the show is well able to keep pace with its American competitors. However, it also makes the news that the Mill has been forced to shut down all the more depressing – especially since that shut-down was partially due to the reduced number of Doctor Who episodes being produced each year.

In fact, a lot of the bigger problems with The Rings of Akhaten can be traced back to the decision to structure this seventh season of the revived show, split over two different years instead of across a single year. Most obviously, there’s the fact that we are half-way through this season of Doctor Who, and The Rings of Akhaten feels like the second or third episode of a given season. So much time is taken up with matters and concerns associated with the first half of a given season that The Rings of Akhaten ultimately feels quite light and almost insubstantial.

Burn with me...

Burn with me…

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Doctor Who: Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs originally aired in 1974.

How are you feeling now?

Hungry, tired and I’ve got a headache.

– Mark asks Sarah Jane how her viewing went. I can empathise.

Ah, ambition. It’s hard to fault it… although there is a point where you simply have to. Invasion of the Dinosaurs crosses that line in the first episode. I know that Doctor Who is a BBC television serial. I understand that the classic series hardly had a huge amount of money to hand when it needed special effects. I am well aware that the special effects for the following season’s The Ark in Space amount to some bubblewrap and green paint. There is an art to watching many of these classic stories, and that art involves being wilfully blind to the fact that the special effects aren’t up to scratch. Beyond that, it’s arbitrary. There’ll always be one silly special effect that undermines an otherwise impressive episode – which special effect and which episode will vary from person to person.

However, Invasion of the Dinosaurs makes the special effects the whole point of the exercise. The title tells you that you should be watching the dinosaurs. Malcolm Hulke was given the brief to write a story about dinosaurs in contemporary London. There might be a plot underneath it all, but the serial expects that you are here for the dinosaurs. And, if you are…

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

A smashing time...

A smashing time…

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Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth originally aired in 1964.

We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth. We are the masters of Earth.

– who are the Daleks trying to convince?

Watching the early years of Doctor Who, I often find myself struggling to measure the quality of a show as against its importance to the series as a whole. Sixties Doctor Who has perhaps an unfair reputation when it comes to quality. In fact, as a rule, I’ve been pleasantly surprised on my trips back to the archives for these reviews. However, it’s often much more interesting to look at the context and the legacy of these classic episodes, as the show begins to define what it is and what it isn’t, what it can do and what it can’t do.

In that context, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is a massively important story. It features the first returning monsters of the series (go on, guess!), the first departure of a companion, the first invasion of Earth, the first aliens in London. The list goes on and on. There’s an incredibly vast influence that The Dalek Invasion of Earth has on the half-century of Doctor Who that follows. It’s nearly impossible to deny the shadow that this adventure casts.

However, it’s also a very flawed piece of television, for all its iconic status. Indeed, watching these six episodes I’m more often struck by what is important rather than what is good.

The Daleks of London...

The Daleks of London…

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Non-Review Review: Le Capital

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

Thanks to Costa-Gavras, Le Capital looks amazing. It’s crisp, it’s vibrant and it’s beautiful. For a movie about financial corruption, it moves along relatively quickly and with a lot of visual flair. The problem with Le Capital, though, is that it’s really a very simplistic version of a story we’ve all seen countless times before. A person assumes a large amount of power, only for that power to have a potentially corrupting influence. Okay, Marc Tourneuil is already a successful executive when good fortune thrusts him into the role of CEO of one of France’s largest banks, and he’s certainly not naive when he negotiates his salary and bonus scheme, but Le Capital hints early on that there is some level of decency to Tourneuil before the wealth and influence start chipping away. As such, as the movie explores his corruption and the way that power erodes him, Le Capital feels like an engaging modern telling of a story that we’ve already heard quite frequently.

Byrne the bondholders...

Byrne the bondholders…

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“It’s None of Your Damn Business What I Think About That”: Tarantino and the Limits of Film Directors…

It’s a clip that’s gone viral. Tarantino lashing out at Channel 4 interviewer Krishnan Guru-Murthy has become something of in internet touchstone. “I’m shutting your butt down,” the director protests after getting another of those inevitable questions about the link between movie violence and real-life violence. It’s cringeworthy and awkward, and it plays into Guru-Murthy’s hands better than a straight answer would have, but I can’t help but empathise with Tarantino’s position.

Incidents like the shooting in Aurora or Connecticut shooting are truly horrifying and very hard for us to contextualise. I can understand Tarantino not wanting to get into that debate, because it’s really not the place of anybody involved in cinema to talk about it. It’s arrogant for anybody with any film background to try to relate their work to it, and it’s negligent of any journalist to try to sensationalise a link between film violence and real violence when the real questions are tougher, more uncompromising and more uncomfortable than a quick jab at Tarantino.

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My 12 for ’12: Room 237 & The Death of the Author

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 #10

Room 237 is a fascinating look at Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It has been described as “the best DVD extra ever made”, and it definitely succeeds as a lighthearted (but incisive) exploration at one of the best horror films ever produced. While it works on that level, Room 237 works even better as a demonstration of what Roland Barthes termed The Death of the Author, the awkward relationship that exists between a piece of art, its creator and the audience watching it.

On a larger scale, Room 237 is the story of how a film can be appropriated by people, and how sometimes the real cinematic magic unfolds in the gap between the screen and the audience watching it.

theshining7

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