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Best & Worst – Ranking Ireland’s cinema releases from October 2015

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Here’s a rundown of what we saw in the last month with whoever reviews it getting the right to bestow a star rating, (NW or PMcG). As you’ll note from listening to the latest podcast our opinions vary differently on some of this month’s entrants…

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Macbeth

★★★★½ (PMcG)

Justin Kurzel of Snowtown fame has directed an equally gory, yet beautifully stunning take on the bard’s tale of love, power and morals.

Macbeth is presented in the original old English, yet they have taken a sword to the play leaving out chunks of the text allowing for much more sweeping shots of the breath-taking Scottish highlands. A strong set of performances from all concerned make this the best version of Macbeth to be committed to celluloid. So hie thee to a cinema and see all the direst cruelty in it’s intended form before it is heard no more.

 

Panti Bliss: Queen Of Ireland

★★★★ (NW)

A year ago “Equality activist and entertainer Rory O’Neill” was anointed as one of Ireland’s “People of the Year”, receiving the honour in the full drag costume of his creation Panti Bliss, who earlier in the year had become a viral sensation with her “Noble Call at the Abbey Theatre” video. The award was confirmation of O’Neill/Panti’s new status as a national treasure, which was cemented further as she became one of the faces of the successful Marriage Equality Referendum Yes campaign.

The book “Panti: a woman in the making by Rory O’Neill” makes for most of the story here in Conor Horgan’s documentary, so if you’ve read it you’ll likely just be updating with 2015 content of the marriage referendum and Rory’s return to Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. We get a mix of a few narrative techniques of talking head interviews, voice-over narration, Panti pieces to camera and archive footage – all of them work but you do get the sense of a project that had a lot of material to choose from, which really only came together fully in the editing suite. The whole film is only 82 minutes longer and sometimes feels more like a TV edit, with enough of a story here that the film could have been twice as long and still captivated the audience. All in all, a fascinating portrait of one of modern Ireland’s most important people.

 

Crimson Peak

★★★½ (NW)

Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak hasn’t done great business for Universal Pictures, with an emphasis on the horror story and an October release probably now being considered a misstep, with the film’s gothic romance elements resonating much more successfully than the ghost story elements. So while it may not be scary, it’s still very much worth your time featuring some wonderfully over-the-top theatrical performances from Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston as a pair of siblings in the latter part of the 19th century who entrap Mia Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing in a bid to secure her family’s fortune.

While plot and characters have their issues, they settle down to provide a terrific third act. Also, as it’s a Del Toro film you know you’re in for one hell of a visual feast, and he doesn’t disappoint with one of the most beautiful films of the year which fully warranted its limited IMAX run. The “haunted house” of the run-down Allerdale Hall sits on a red clay mine and so the floors and walls appear to be literally bleeding. Magical.

 

Suffragette

★★★½ (PMcG)

Sarah Gavron follows up her 2007 outing Brick Lane with the historic and heroic tale of the Suffragette movement and their campaign for women to have the right to vote. Written by Abi Morgan, she has the daunting task of turning an event from over a hundred years ago into a relevant and poignant story that today’s audiences can take something from. The film, while highlighting how much woman had to fight for their right for more than just partying, is a timely reminder to the women of today that while battles have been won the war is far from over.

 

Red Army

★★★½ (NW)

Issues with pacing and structure aside, this is blast and tells a really brilliant story. It even packs in a few absurdities and daft moments typical of any film that has Werner Herzog attached as a producer. – See more

 

Spectre

★★★ (PMcG)

The main fault is nothing seems at stake in Spectre, there is no real emotional core which Judi Dench provided in Skyfall and Christoph Waltz is no match for Javier Bardem. – See more

 

The Walk

★★★ (NW)

It’s impossible to not watch Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk and crave the real-life Philippe Petit and his wonderful story of the wire-walk between the Twin Towers as told in the 2008 documentary Man on Wire. But then you remember that that documentary film actually had to be incredibly inventive with the story of the crossing with no actual film footage, meaning this film with its expansive cinematography from Dariusz Wolski has an important place in the history of those famous buildings.

With the exception of that stunning World Trade Centre sequences, Zemeckis’ film is a little bonkers, setting back French stereotypes in the US a couple of decades with comic-book characterisations from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ben Kingsley. But if you can put the first half of the film aside, there’s that magical re-enactment of one of the most special moments in 20th Century American history.

99 Homes

★★★ (NW)

Roger Ebert favourite Ramin Bahrani has crafted a film that does its damnedest to be about America – its greed, its naivety and its character. – See more

 

The Program

★★½ (NW)

Sometimes you’re watching a film and while it’s all technically well made and acted, it can all feel a little pointless. This is sadly the case with The Program, Stephen Frear’s look back at the rise and fall of the cyclist Lance Armstrong. At this stage, any fan of sports or news will know most of the story inside-out and with a script that’s unwilling to stray off the legally water-tight path set out by journalist David Walsh’ book “Seven Deadly Sins” and the United States Anti-Doping Agency investigations.

Even if you know the story, then you will take something from the talent on-screen. Ben Foster’s performance as Armstrong (aided by performance enhancing drugs) is terrific and you feel a certain amount of empathy for him during his cancer struggle, before that infamous ego and moral blindness really kicked in.

 

Sicario

★★ (PMcG)

Denis Villeneuve is back with another tale of macho men doing what needs to be done in the escalating drug war that has ravaged America. Emily Blunt has the Agent Starling role where she seems only to be along so as to point out what they are doing is illegal. Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin are the manly men who shoot first and ask questions later. Benicio being the dangerous silent type and Brolin is so high up in the CIA that he gets to wear sandals in the office. Predictable story lines and polar characters make for a nothing new drugs war flick that like a piñata looks great but is pretty hollow on closer examination.

 

The Last Witch Hunter

★½ (NW)

Vin Diesel’s”Dungeons & Dragons” dress-up film should have been more fun than this… I actually had really high hopes that this might be a little bit smarter than it is, maybe featuring some clever battles and nice creature design, but really the whole thing quickly becomes so intensely boring and frustrating. Vinny needs to stick to the fast cars.

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