We were on holidays (eh, separately) for the start of April so didn’t get to too much but still packed a few in. Check out the latest podcast for more… And some things have slipped through the net and have gone unseen so far, e.g. The Falling, Altman, The Duff
Note: This list is of course by no means complete, we’re only rankin’ wot we seez.
Note 2: Where two films get the same rating they’re ranked alphabetically
Force Majeure – ★★★★ (NW)
One of the most tense and gripping cinematic experiences you can imagine – though not for the reasons you would think. Hearing that a film is about a family who experience an avalanche while skiing would have you expecting a certain type of thrilling tension. Instead, the avalanche causes the father of the family to make a run for it and leave the family to their own devices – but when it turns out it was only a “mini avalanche”, he skulks back into shot acting like everything is all a-OK…. It’s all done in the one take with no edits in place to hide the blatant abandonment and cowardice that we’ve just seen.
Ruben Östlund’s directorial style is really unique and allows for long static shots that frame the family at a variety of weird angles. This serves to heighten the surreal mood and highlight the pseudo-surveillance and focus that goes on during a family holiday like this in a ski resort.
There’s a terrific third act which, if you interpret it like I did, will leave you smiling with Östlund’s hilarious and clever script taking a wonderful turn for the unexpected. Docked marks for a slightly bonkers scene in a disco.
(Mick McGovern also saw this film at JDIFF. Here’s his thoughts.)
Glassland – ★★★★ (NW)
Gerard Barrett’s film originally got a higher mark than this but it was a “festival buzz” review as we like to call it but this is undoubtedly a great piece of Irish film-making. Strong reviews in the UK press suggest this could even be a film that will have legs internationally – not something we can say about many Irish films not linked with a McDonagh or an Abrahamson…
Without giving anything away, the ending, and ultimately John’s decision of what is right and wrong, are somewhat controversial and will leave the viewer reeling as to whether this was the easy choice for him to make, or indeed even the best option for Barrett as director to take. Not everyone will like how things play out, but a film like this that leaves everyone with a “ah grand so” feeling at the end is pointless. (Galway Review)
Wild Tales – ★★★★ (PMcG)
Damián Szifrón must have felt uneasy when he heard the news of the Germanwings flight and it led to many a sharp intake of breath during viewing of his new feature film Wild Tales. A collection of six short stories, it recounts various unbelievable and exaggerated tales of people pushed to the end of their rope.
The film will appeal to people’s fantasies of revenge, with stories involving clampers and road rage and the final chapter puts the saying hell hath no fury like a woman scorned into glorious reality. Slightly overlong but a minor quibble when there is such variety on offer.
Cobain: Montage of Heck – ★★★½ (PMcG)
The most impressive element of Montage of Heck are the animated segments by Hisko Hulsing and Stefan Nadelman which use recorded audio by Kurt to flesh out his story. The rest is talking heads and previously unseen home movies stretching from his early childhood to near the time of his suicide.
Scheduling issues meant Dave Grohl was unable to take part or appear in the final cut but all else concerned are present and correct. A large pinch of salt must be taken when people are remembering events after the fact yet the documentary makes an attempt to present all sides. The frankness of some of the unseen footage makes for uneasy watching as we ponder should we ever had access to this footage in the first place? It seems though the dead have little say in the matter.
Frances Bean Cobain, Kurt’s daughter was involved in the process and maintained she wanted her father to be shown as a real human being and not the deity his fans had made him into. There is no doubt that Montage of Heck is a forthright portrayal of a gifted songwriter ravaged by drugs, track marks and all.
I Used To Live Here – ★★★½ (NW)
Frank Berry’s low-budget film explores the issue of teen suicide in Dublin, through the story of Amy (Jordanne Jones) and her friend Dillon (Dafhyd Flynn).
Featuring a cast of untrained members of the Killinarden community in Tallaght, Berry seemed to act as much as a social worker as a director here. The acting isn’t always flawless but it feels genuine, you sense the cast are just acting out slight variations on the real-life issues and problems they encounter.
It’s not often that you will see two films set in Tallaght coming out in the one month. Glassland may be the bigger and better overall film, but this feels considerably more real and affecting and the post-film conversations will be much more important.
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence – ★★★ (PMcG)
The last film in a trilogy by Roy Andersson which are about what it is like to be human. To say the film is droll and has a dark sense of humour is an understatement. Two novelty joke salesmen knit the film together traveling around trying unsuccessfully to sell their wares. This allows for much humour and pondering of the human condition.
Mixing between scenes grounded in the present day to historical settings (sometimes combining the two) and with a large peppering of absurd Monty Python like humour it’s hard to know where the film will take us next. An intense film with much to ponder makes it hard to penetrate at times and would certainly require many viewings. The only question being can the audience repeatedly put themselves through it. (JDIFF Review)
Avengers: Age of Ultron – ★★★ (NW)
Joss Whedon’s latest film follows on from the ridiculously successful 2012 film The Avengers which made 1.5 billion in worldwide gross and managed to make sense of a splintering Marvel universe by bringing together all these superstar characters and giving them all individual momentsto shine. The sequel reunites all the gang once again to take on a completely AI-powered baddie going by the name of Ultron. “He” is effectively the antithesis of Tony Stark, who built the AI with Bruce Banner to be a security force for the world to allow the Avengers to kick back a little. Obviously it gets hacked/corrupted and decides to destroy the world. Ooops.
With such high stakes in play you’d expect more, but instead we seem to be centring on the made-up city of Sokovia and seeing it floating in the air perilously close to destruction doesn’t really seem all that worrying to the Avengers or the audience, lacking the “crikey they’re really going for it in New York” feeling of the end of The Avengers.
There are far too many characters, most played by actors we recognise so you end up spending your time go “oh it’s your man…. Stellan Skarsgård… from Thor…. wait what is he doing with the fountain of knowledge?! Hold up…”. All the action that Whedon tries to fit in makes it hard to focus on and the inevitable talk of a longer director’s cut before the film has even opened in the US wouldn’t fill you with confidence.
But those gripes aside this is a tremendously fun film that just encourages you to sit back and enjoy. Hawkeye is brilliant here and for my money provides the heart and soul of the film. You have to admire Whedon for dropping in the very self-aware line… “We’re fighting an army of robots — and I have a bow and arrow… None of this makes sense”.
Ant-Man aside, this is the real culmination of Phase 2 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe which has included Iron Man 3 (brilliant), Thor: The Dark World (very good) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (excellent) and Guardians of the Galaxy (solid enough, but hilarious). With the group now expanded to include Paul Bettany’s The Vision and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, you wonder if it’s all downhill from here as bigger stops meaning better.
Here’s hoping this isn’t as good as it gets.
A Little Chaos – ★★★ (PMcG)
All the performances are fine with an excellant cameo from Stanley Tucci. The film has it’s tongue pressed firmly in it’s cheek when not in someones elses mouth. Not as saucy as Dangerous Liaisons or dramatic as Pride and Prejudice, A Little Chaos falls somewhere in between the two. (Full review)
John Wick – ★★★ (NW)
Action choreographers David Leitch and Chad Stahelski make the jump to directing a feature film with their Matrix star Keanu Reeves in the hot seat playing John Wick, a retired assassin – with style. The plot is perfunctory to say the least – John Wick’s wife dies but leaves him a dog to remember her with, gangster’s son accidentally kills dog, retired assassin goes on the rampage and tries to destroy gangster’s entire empire.
Needless to say, the reason you’ll watch and probably rewatch the film in youtube-friendly chunks are the great action sequences. They feature choreographed movement that has more in common with modern dance moves than your typical Hollywood action thriller. The camera doesn’t move much, instead allowing Keanu and Opposition Gangster to go all Fred and Ginger for us.
While We’re Young – ★★★ (PMcG)
The performances are great across the board with Adam Driver slightly edging it for best in class. The film is much colder than the recent Frances Ha, which was written along with the star and his girlfriend Greta Gerwig so it’ll be interesting to see how their follow-up Mistress America fares when it comes out later in the year. The film allows you head nodding appreciation for various bits and your age will no doubt dictate your reaction, but this feels like too personal a film to ever allow you full access. (JDIFF Review)
Good Kill – ★★½ (NW)
We’ve had enough of the Hollywood films which attempt to show the affect the war on terror has had on its soldiers. In Good Kill, Ethan Hawke plays an air force drone pilot who gets suited up every day in his Nevada home, kisses January Jones goodbye and heads off to an army base where he performs drone strikes and surveillance on terrorist targets in the Middle East – all from the comfort of an air-conditioned container. It feels like a glorified computer game with no GAME OVER in sight.
Ethan Hawke is a solid performer unsurprisingly and the film really does start off really well. At this stage, you feel director Andrew Nichol may actually be going somewhere new, but then it seems that he just fell into the old traps and created a formulaic story of a man who was doing the wrong thing… and then made some changes and did a tiny right thing hoping that makes it all OK. Oh and with some added alcoholic and chauvinism themes thrown in for good measure. The End.
Furious 7 – ★★ (PMcG)
Dazzingly stunts can’t sustain the daft scenarios.
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