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Non-Review Review: Maps to the Stars

It is a cliché to suggest that Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood.

Sure, quite often these are celebratory meditations on how great Tinseltown is – Argo was the story of how Hollywood saved the lives of Americans caught up in the Iranian Revolution; Hitchcock celebrated the making of Psycho. Sometimes these are more cynical and jaded explorations of how Hollywood works, seeking to expose the community’s seedy underbelly to the world – Robert Altman’s The Player remains the definitive example, but films like What Just Happened probably count as well.

These stock Hollywood-story-about-Hollywood are the weakest aspects of Maps to the Stars. The movie often feels like it’s trying too hard to add a surface gloss of what people expect from a film about Hollywood, on top of a much more interesting and compelling tale of dysfunction and decay. Maps to the Stars is held together by a rake of terrific performances and a wonderfully creepy central metaphor, but it feels let down by the more superficial elements of the script.

We're all in the gutter...

We’re all in the gutter…

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My 12 for ’13: Stoker & A Vampire Story Without Vampire

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 5…

Stoker is one of the most underrated gems of the year. Released early on, Chan-wook Park’s psychological horror easily gets lost in the shuffle. Which is a shame, because it’s a wonderfully disturbing little thriller, one crafted with an incredible eye for beauty. Even the name is somewhat appropriate, evoking the creator of the modern vampire story. Stoker is in essence a vampire movie made without a vampire, although Matthew Goode’s Uncle Charlie is a convenient stand-in.

stoker4

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Non-Review Review: Stoker

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

Stoker is, without spoiling anything, essentially a vampire movie without a vampire. It’s a psychological thriller with a decidedly charged sexual undercurrent. It’s also a story of the things we keep secret, the dangers of blood and unwholesome desires. Park Chan-wook does an excellent job adapting Wentworth Miller’s screenplay for film, and the result is a strange and macabre beauty, a film that is occasionally a little too ethereal for its own good, but remains compelling and uncomfortable viewing.

Shear terror...

Shear terror…

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Non-Review Review: Albert Nobbs

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012. It’s getting its Irish theatrical release this weekend, so I thought I’d re-post this one.

Albert Nobbs is a fascinating little film that plays host to two fascinating central performances. It’s no secret that the movie has been something of a passion project for Glenn Close since she first played the role on stage, and she relishes the opportunity to bring the eponymous character to the big screen. Just as impressive is Janet McTeer as her confident and an unlikely friend. However, the movie suffers a little bit from a script that offers clever and enticing symbolism and metaphor, at the expense of offering an accessible narrative.

Close call...

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Non-Review Review: Albert Nobbs

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

Albert Nobbs is a fascinating little film that plays host to two fascinating central performances. It’s no secret that the movie has been something of a passion project for Glenn Close since she first played the role on stage, and she relishes the opportunity to bring the eponymous character to the big screen. Just as impressive is Janet McTeer as her confident and an unlikely friend. However, the movie suffers a little bit from a script that offers clever and enticing symbolism and metaphor, at the expense of offering an accessible narrative.

Close call...

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Non-Review Review: Jane Eyre

This latest in the long line of Jane Eyre adaptations stands quite well among them. My better half, whom I readily defer to in matters of culture (if not, sadly, also taste), assures my that it represents a relatively faithful and incredibly thorough exploration of the classic gothic romance, condensed down into a relatively short two-hour-and-ten-minute film. It really is a well-made film, produced with genuine skill and class from everybody on board, and I’d go so far as to suggest that the few problems I had with it stemmed directly from its source material.

Love is in the Eyre...

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Non-Review Review: The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right is a charming and engaging little dramedy with a wonderful cast. It manages the wonderful feat of making an on-screen family seem “real” – there are any number of sequences in this which viewers will spot from years of family interactions. It’s an interesting study of how a strange “interloper” can have a surprisingly destablising effect on a family unit – how it all it takes is this one catalyst to bring all this unsung tension to the surface. But it’s never heavy or self-important. Sure, the ending is more than a little awkward, but the movie’s smart and funny enough to keep you engaged with it to the final reel.

And that’s saying nothing of the cracking David Bowie soundtrack? It has Won on it!

Paul gets a crisp reception...

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