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Best & Worst – Ranking Ireland’s Cinema Releases from November 2013

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It’s the end of November so we figured we’d create a new monthly feature to i) compile all our reviews from the last 30 days and ii) write shorter reviews of  some titles that we didn’t get around to scribbling about before now. Add them all together and you end up with a list of what our reviews suggest were the best and worst films to hit Irish cinemas in the last month! Boom.

For those of you who like a bit of order to proceedings we’re starting with the best rated films and working our way through to the worst, PMcG denotes a review and rating from Páraic and NW means it’s from Nigel. Disagree with these ratings? Shout at us on facebook.com/Spooool.

Oh and may we be so bold as to recommend our brand new podcast as the perfect listening accompaniment to this post?

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Beauty in the Breakdown – ★★★★½ (PMcG)

Exarchopoulos and Seydoux transform what could have been a tiresome melodrama into an emotionally draining experience which you will be unable to forgot for some time to come.

READ FULL REVIEW

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The Broken Circle Breakdown

Bluegrass beats the blues – ★★★★½  (NW)

Remember how awesome the music from films like Cold Mountain and O Brother, Where Art Thou was? Well why don’t we throw that energy and feeling in with the story of a couple of musicians who are madly in love and have a child who develops terminal cancer? Felix van Groeningen’s film is Belgium’s entrant into the Foreign Language Film category at the 2014 Oscars and if there’s any justice in the world he’ll at least get a nomination. Leading the line are the terrific pairing of Johan Heldenbergh (who also wrote the play on which the film is based) as Didier and Veerle Baetens as his wife Elise. The film’s musical numbers will haunt and enthral you in equal measure in this unusual toe-tapping weepy.

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The Counsellor

No country for the faint of heart – ★★★★ (PMcG)

If you imagine John Grisham and Stephen King got together with Hitchcock to make a picture you’re beginning to get the idea.

READ FULL REVIEW

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

You say you want a revolution? – ★★★★ (NW)

… a really cool film with a ton of great moments and characters you can actually root for when the going gets tough, something you can’t really say about too many entrants on 2013′s slate of blockbusters.

READ FULL REVIEW

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Drinking Buddies

Hipster Love – ★★★★ (PMcG)

Record players, vinyls, bushy beards, skinny jeans, craft beers, rollie cigarettes, fixie bikes and trucker hats will all be found in Joe Swanberg’s tail of platonic love. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson both work at a micro brewery, they’re the best of buds and love having lunch together and going for drinks but no funny stuff happens as both are in committed relationships. Over the following 90 minutes – note the perfect film length – we are enthralled by the telling glances, will-they-won’t-they scenarios and frustrated false starts. Like a good bra Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston give support to Wilde and Johnson but let them take center stage. Director Swanberg is a machine when it comes to directing independent or underground cinema so hopefully this little gem of a movie will garner him a wider audience. So get a 6 pack of PBR and settle in some Friday evening for a realistic look at love.

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Gravity

The final frontier – ★★★½ (NW)

If you’re able to put the one-dimensional characters and script niggles aside you’re in for one of the most thrilling and unique cinema experiences of the year.

READ FULL REVIEW

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Philomena

Mum’s the word – ★★★½ (PMcG)

Judi Dench won an Oscar back in 1999 for her thirty second or so appearance in Shakespeare in Love where she played Queen Elizabeth. With Philomena she may be the only real competition for Cate Blanchett come award season. Dench plays the title character in this true life story of a women who was forced to give up her child by the Catholic nuns running a convent in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. By chance Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) comes across her story and wants to tell it, thus embarking on a journey to America in the hopes of finding her son. Depending on your age Philomena will either represent your own mum or grandmother and Dench beautifully captures this “ah sure I’m grand” attitude. We identify with Coogan’s younger, quicker to anger character and this dichotomy is the perfect device for capturing the widest audience. Coogan co-wrote the script and his ear for dialogue combined with Stephen Frear’s eye behind the camera provides a heartbreaking tale of motherly love.

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In Fear

Driving in the dark – ★★★½ (NW)

Proof if needed that sometimes there’s nothing more scary than a wonderfully simple horror concept that’s been well executed.

READ FULL REVIEW

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The Butler

Oprah’s Oscar? – ★★★  (NW)

My two thoughts before going to see Lee Daniels’ The Butler. i) So.. Many… Actors… ii) This trailer is grotesque, looks like someone is demanding awards recognition. So… what a relief it was to find that the film is actually interesting, engaging and moving. Forrest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who worked there for 34 years. Danny Strong’s script is at its best when showing the differences between different presidents and the subplots of Gaines’ failing relationship with his troublesome son could have been dealt with a lot better. Daniels has coaxed a terrific performance out of American’s chat-show queen Ricki Lake Oprah Winfrey as Gaines’ wife Gloria and I’ll eat my hat if she doesn’t get an Oscar nod. It’s hard as a Caucasian Western European to really connect to the civil rights movement material and while its emotional impact is still strongly felt, it will have resonated so much more with American audiences.

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Don Jon

Fails to Climax – ★★ (PMcG)

The piece is humorous when being honest but overall it’s riddled with cliches and one dimensional caricatures.

READ FULL REVIEW

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Parkland

JF(just o)K – ★★ (NW)

The biggest problem that could be thrown at the film is that by featuring such a big cast you really struggle to connect with any one character here.

READ FULL REVIEW

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