Some war movies depend on epic vistas, massive armies and battle scenes that would test the best CGI people, while others are somewhat more down beat, tight and personal, Beaufort is one of them. From the opening acts we see people trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Joseph Cedar’s 2007 work does not come across as a war glorification or justification piece, it is a story about some young men and women in a war setting. Based on the novel by Ron Leshman, Cedar wrote the screen play. It is smartly done, after 18 years of ensuring Hezbollah did not blow up the fort, it is now their last act to be done. Before they can leave the fort and destroy it, they must first actually safely leave the fort. This is not as easy as it seems as they are in effect the rear-guard of the Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon. There is also the added issue of the road-side explosives which will prevent them from leaving.
Young officer Commander (Lieutenant) Liraz (Oshri Cohen , Lebanon, 2009) is the person in charge. While his troops respect him there is still tension, not least of all from the visiting senior officers who do not seem to consider or understand their situation. 18 years previously Israeli forces took Mount Beaufort, as much out of bravado as anything else, faced with the crusader fort now in their hands they had to keep it, what we see are the last troops preparing to leave. To leave they must make the road safe and that is the responsibility of bomb disposal expert Ziv (Ohad Knoller, Yossi and Jagger, 2002). The tension between the bomb disposal officer and the troops mirrors the overall tension – they want to get out, but get out alive.
The setting contrasts the decrepit and often claustrophobic nature of the camp. Inside we see tunnels, corners, sparse but effective rooms and resources which contrast with the picturesque beauty of their mountain setting. In deed we hear that the ancient castle is a type of “No-man’s land” where an easy peace exists, as much out of a sense of reverence and history for the place as well as anything else. The Camp often takes on the air of a space-craft with the long angled tunnels or corridors it almost a cross between a 25th century space ship and a WWI trench. It is an ensemble piece crafted to bring together a world of different people all trying to survive their common situation but each in their own way. It is a war movie but not one which requires constant bloody action to keep us engaged, as I mentioned this is more about the people, much like Das Boot (Wolfgang Peterson, 1981), indeed we see some of the same claustrophobia and witness some of the tension between the ordinary officers and the political or staff officers.
As the film moves to its logical conclusion we are kept from achieving that end until Cedar says so, it is a full story and if you are not familiar with the works of Joseph Cedar, this is a good place to start. To his credit the movie side-steps the mine field that is the real political situation which gives place to the movie. This is not a political movie in a small ‘p’ sense of the word, the Arab, Israeli situation is kept to a minimum, however we are shown some of the many ways the larger conflict has impacted the young soldiers. Death hangs over everybody on the mountain, we are left in no illusions about that, a fact that adds to the tension of what we see, at any stage any of the troops can die. Life is at the disposal of others, either those bombing them or their senior leadership.
This film looks to the old idea of the eyes being the windows to the soul, something which pre-scores evolution. Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt, Seven Psychopaths, 2012) is a post-doctorate researcher fascinated with the human eye. He is enthralled by eyes both from the perspective of the aesthetic ( he has a collection of hundreds of photographs he has taken of people’s faces and particularly their eyes) and their evolutionary importance; something which he is convinced science has over-looked. In to this mix comes a young woman who he meets at a party (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Juliette, Juliette, 2013) who he becomes smitten with. Not knowing who she is, he tries to find her, only to “discover her” from a series of numbers as he bought a lottery ticket at 11.11 on the 11th on a road where the number 11 bus passes etc. He follows the clues and eventually meets her.
In parallel to this he also acquires a new first year lab research student, who he initially dismisses as another air-head whose work he will pass if she just stays away from the lab, however it soon becomes apparent that she does actually know something about the work he is doing. From here on Ian’s life seems to move in Parallel, just as him home life is progressing so too are his professional efforts. The team are looking a genetic marker that will change the way we look at evolution, however it is a long-shot and likely to take years. Just as his career is looking to the long view, his relationship is proceeding quickly.
Then one fateful day, news comes through that they have found a candidate animal which has the gene but no eyes – exactly what is needed. Now they should be able to genetically build an eye in to this animal, a genetically perfect one. His joy here is quickly removed as Sophie is killed in an accident. Here is perhaps the weakest moment for in the midst of his grief he turns to his assistant and they begin a relationship which immediately jumps 7 years to where there are married and about to have their first child. There was perhaps just a little too much speed there.
Married and now with a young son, all is good until one day they get a call asking them to attend a clinic with their son as he might be showing indicators of autism. They bring the child to be tested only to realise that the test is not for autism but some kind of memory test. Memory of a past life. The researcher believes the child may have the memories of somebody who died previously. The trouble is, this is not a million miles from Ian’s own research. This gets him asking questions.
Although always seeing himself as a rational scientist, his objective belief system starts to take a beating. Using his knowledge of the human eyes together with his database access, they quickly see a pattern emerging. Something that should not have happened. Different people around the world, such as his dead former girl-friend, Sofi share certain characteristics, but none of these people are ever alive at the same time.
In many ways this film is like “Upstream Color” (Shane Carruth, 2013) both movies are for us to work at. We are brought along but not given too much help. In ?Upstream Color we are given almost no help, here there is enough to keep us from having to struggle too much, while at the same time have us wanting more.
This is a smartly directly movie, which does not strain itself beyond its capabilities, it is very watchable and a lot less taxing than Upstream Color.
Ah, yes, you can always trust the New Zealanders to do the right thing. Housebound is one of those rare events; a comedy horror movie which actually delivers on all fronts. We start off at a bank, where our star Kylie and her boyfriend are failing miserably to rob an ATM. The court later sentences her to 8 months home detention. And so she arrives home to her Mother’s house far out from her city life. As it happens the security guard, Amos, (Glen-Paul Waruto) monitor her is a local, something that proves useful. As she begins to settle in, or not settle in she also has to talk with Denis, her court appointed counsellor , yet another annoyance. One of her biggest annoyances is her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata, Sons and Daughters, 1982) Miriam runs an ordered house along with her second husband, Graeme (Ross Harper, The devil Dared me to, 2007) and both “lazy” daughter and “uptight “ mother are having to come to terms with each other.
In to this mix is her mother’s belief that the house is haunted, she accepts this as a fact and is not too bothered by it, by standards. Kylie is having none of this nonsense, or at least nothing until she notices some strange sounds and happenings. Through the usual disasters Amos is brought in and together they eventually go ghost hunting.
What they find is a mystery which might involve a young girl who died many years ago when the house was a care-home, maybe she is the disturbance, or is it the strange boy/man who used to live next door, the same boy nobody has seen for over 10 years.
Kylie is now convinced there is something in the house, there is, and on one particular night when Denis and her doctor are present, there is an attack, Denis is injured and taken away to hospital.
Kylie and Amos try to find out what happened, as they do the mystery deepens – but here is the important part, never overly darkens.
This is not a big movie with a huge story line, loads of sets and special effects, no it is a simple ghost story type movie told well and with a sense of humour. The sense of humour is important, it is excellently carried through without changing the essential nature of the movie or taking away from the suspense.
I’m deliberately not giving too much away. The cast is typically understated and calm as is with many of the ANZAC offerings, the suspense works and the story never gives too much away before it needs to. You will sit down and enjoy this film. It is good old-fashioned fun, with perhaps a subtle message about appreciating what we have and not rushing to judgement.
7/10 purely because it kept me entertained without having to get too bloody or too silly.
This movie starts off on a fairly standard note, there is little in the first part of the movie to suggest how Ari Folman’s (Waltz with Bashir, 2008) direction would go. The movie is based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem using Folman’s screenplay.
The movie starts in the family home of a gracefully aging movie star being lectured to by her agent, Al, (Harvey Keitel, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014). She has been essentially side-lined by the industry because of how hard she is to work with, however the studio have an offer for her. Against this background we learn she has two children, both mid to late teens and one of them, her son Aaron is suffering from an ailment which will eventually cause him to be both deaf and blind but in the meantime he is fascinated by flying and his kites.
After much persuasion from Al she eventually agrees to meet with the studio boss, Jeff Green (Danny Huston, Masters of sex, 2014) who informs her that there is a fundamental way in which the studios are working and that essentially actors and actresses are no longer needed. He makes her an offer she cannot refuse, but true to form she does and needs to be convinced of it. She eventually agrees but puts in some conditions, not least of all, that the “life” time-span of the contract would be 20 years, if they wanted it again it would need to be renewed. The studio will take a digital image of her and use that for making movies, she just needs to retire and not act – anywhere in the world.
We then see Robin in her early 60’s arriving at the gates of Miramount Studio’s animated City. We are not told what this is until we get there. At this stage the film turns to animation of a style reminiscent of Waltz with Bashir and more than subtle homage to the Japanese. It seems everybody is now taking a drug which allows them to essentially be who they imagine themselves to be. She arrives at a convention as a guest of the studio, only to discover she is the 6th Robin Wright to book-in. The hotel is a frenzied mix of studio executive types and other strung out and visibly the worse for wear. Nobody is who they seem, the drug takes care of that. The entire hotel and convention scene is one of bacchanalian and hedonistic partying, perhaps reminiscent of the scenes from an imagined world’s ending. It turns out it might be.
The new contract is needed because it turns out that the technology of 20years ago is no old hat and the new contracted is needed, now Robin Wright will be a sensation – a sensual sensation rather than just an image. She agree and goes to the launch where she rails against the studio machine and is promptly removed, but as this happens there is a revolution of sorts at the hotel. In the middle of this revolution the studio police come after her and the execution scene is straight from Paths to Glory, (Stanley Kubrick, 1957). After this we see how she is in fact suffering from a type of drug induced poisoning which dooms her to life in this alternative reality. She is put in to a sleep with the hope of waking her up once a cure is found. She is woken and advised to stay in this world but goes back to the old world where she quickly sees reality. It is not a good place. The world she left behind has changed, freedoms are removed, society has fallen victim to the drug, there are now two types of people – the “management” who are not on the drug and everybody else whose lives are controlled by it.
Part live action part animation this movie looks at a number of issues and how they affect not just Hollywood. Do we recognise when we have it good, how much of what is around us is illusion and what is reality. How do we know the difference and how do we make it happen?
This is a slightly challenging film to watch, mainly because it does actually challenge you to listen, watch and experience the movie.
6.5/10 this a better than average film, not perfect, but given the experimental nature of this work it stands up well and provides a very entertaining piece of work that does leave you asking questions.
The last of the Hobbit trilogy and the ending of the Lord of The Rings epic cinema journey that started half a generation ago. I will dispense with the usual description of a back-story just to say that this film takes up where the last finished, exactly. One of the more painful initiatives of Hollywood studios in the last few years is the introduction of a two-part film offering. Not only have we had to work through various trilogies, but we are now having “Concluding Film Part 1” , part 2, etc. With these movies I think we got a compromise. The Hobbit is a much shorter book, with in many ways a far less complex story-line.
I enjoyed, but was not a fanatical follower of the original trilogy and also to an extent these current Hobbit movies. Indeed I felt there was something lacking in the original cinema releases which needed the Director’s cuts to improve. When I bought the DVD’s for the first three films I made no bones about using the fast-forward button at certain times to move past what seemed like story filler. Indeed you got a sense of Epic when watching the first three movies. With This Hobbit series, the lack of additional storyline showed with a much tighter production.
And so I come to “The Battle of the Five Armies”. Some purists consider this movie as essentially “filer” with all of the key elements of the story having been covered in the previous offerings. Such is cinema, that often a “footnote” in a book can turn in to the major element of a movie, and so it was with the five Armies.
The movie, opens quickly with Smaug having been woken and stirred from the mountain, now attacking Lake Town with the Master (Stephen Fry, Ros na Rún, 2011) firmly focused on ensuring the town’s gold escapes under his care while Bard (Luke Evans, Dracula Untold, 2014) struggles to escape from jail. He does and eventually manages to Kill Smaug. I have to say the Smaug slaying scene reminded me of the writing of Sir Terry Pratchett, in one of his earlier books the men of the night Watch have to shoot down a dragon but must first ensure it is a “million-to-one” shot as they are the only ones that work.
Once Smaug is dead, the scene is quickly set for what is to come. It is made clear to all that now that Smaug is no longer protecting the mountain. There will be a number of people laying claim to the mountain and its contents. Faced with the growing popularity of the mountain and the associated military build-up outside Thorin Oakenshield begins to suffer the same fate as Smaug, falling completely under the spell of the gold, in a manner that closely resembles the power of the original Gold Rings.
From here on the film works to serve the main title. As we see the armies build up. I did find myself counting the armies to who were all five. One thing that is noteworthy is that the epic nature of the earlier movies is not there to the same extent. An example of this is the army brought to the mountain by Thorin’c cousin, Dain (Billy Connolly, Brave 2012), not only does he bring some much appreciated dwarfish humour but his army is clearly limited, we can see from one flank to the other, likewise with the elves, there is an obvious limit to resources. Gone is the vast scale of the previous battle scenes.
This difference actually works. When I heard that the climax to the film/series was a 45 minute battle scene my heart sank, however, it was, as ever, nicely done and nowhere as intense as in the first trilogy.
Overall this and its companion two movies are, or at least feel, shorter than the previous offerings, not in terms of actual screen time but in how they feel. The editing is so sharp the movie almost feels episodic in parts, I could nearly predict a scene ending so that we could jump to elsewhere in the story.
Overall I preferred these films to the earlier set. The cast is well mixed from the series stalwarts such as Legolas (Olrando Bloom, Romeo & Juliet , 2014) to Kili (Aidan Turner, Being Human, 2009). As sequels go they work far better than Star Wars Ep’s IV-VI (granted, I thought they were not as bad as other said they were). Here they did not need to create a new legend and back-story, we already knew it. However it could be argued that certain elements were need to fall into place to position the original LofTR’s films, this is perhaps best seen when Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine, 2013), Lord Elrond (Hugo Weaving, Cloud Atlas, 2012) and Saruman (Christopher Lee, Dark Shadows, 2012) fight the Wraith Kings to save Gandalf (Ian McKellen), we see after the fight a glint in Saruman’s eyes as to what the future holds, but that is the only clue, one look into his eyes.
The plot is as simple as ever – Good guys on a mission, need to face their own issues as well as the world ganging up on them, while the world around them is getting ready for an Armageddon scale battle, just to complicate things. However faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, they still manage to overcome everything and as usual the series ends with the necessary Hobbit quota returning to the Shire. One final word to Martin Freeman (Sherlock, 2010) who gives us a fantastic Bilbo Baggins who manages to keep us with him the entire way along (I could have quite happily edited out a number of Hobbit (the people not the movie) related scenes out of the original LofTR, but that’s just me.
Sharp and well assembled this film works on its own as well as part of the famous series. Certainly work some free time over the vacation period.
Sometimes life has a habit of catching up with us and throwing a curve-ball we could have done without. This is what happened Lola (Franka Potente, Blow, 2001) one morning. A life hangs in the balance. Directed by Tom Tykwer (Cloud Atlas, 2012). The film is broken into a number of parts, there is the first “Act” which sets the story and then three “runs” which are the same scenario played back but slightly differently each time. Each run looks at the impact of actions on individuals giving us a number of flash-forwards.
The problem is Lola’s boyfriend, Manni, (Moritz Bleibtreu, Das Experiment, 2001) who can best be described as a petty criminal, has 100,000 DM which he has to get to his”boss” following a series of car transactions, cross border smuggling and diamonds. Sounds easy enough, he would use Lola’s scooted to deliver the money. , or at least it was. We learn from the opening call that Manni was waiting for Lola but she never turned-up, her scooter was stolen, as a result he had to use the metro to get the money delivered. The problem is, he lost the money on the train while he was heading to drop-off it off after he panicked and left it behind him after he saw two security guards. A tramp on the train finds the money. He must have the money or else he is a dead man.
Desperate for help he rings Lola, he has about 20 minutes before his boss, Ronnie turns-up looking for his money and most likely kills Manni for not having the money. He blames Lola’s failure with the scooter as the cause and essentially loses the plot repeatedly blaming her until she tells him to stop and that she has a plan to get the money to him within 20minutes. He has a plan also, rob a convenient supermarket. Lola disagrees and asks him to wait, she has a she is going to ask her father who is a bank manager.
This is where the film starts to earn its stripes. The first run scenario kicks-off with a carton sequence of Lola running to get to the bank. As she passes various people such as the lady with the child in the pram, we discover that these people also have stories, stories which are sometimes influenced by events during the day. The woman later steals a baby after losing her own. Then there is the man who offers to sell his bicycle, we later see him being robbed off his bike, but all ends well for him as he marries a nurse who took care of him. As this is going on we see her father (Herbert Knaup, The lives of Others, 2006) in his office having a heated discussion with another woman. When Lola gets there , after literally bumping into one bank clerke and showing us her future history, she asks her father for the money, he says no. To add to her troubles he announces to her that he is leaving her mother to marry another woman and also that he is actually not her father. Leaving him she runs to the supermarket, Manni is about to raid the place, she joins him but in the trouble that follows is shot. Shouting “Stop” the run ends.
The second run starts with the original phone call. Repeating the run, she passes the woman with the pram, this time round she wins the Lottery,, while the cyclist is a drug addicted bum. Getting to the bang, her father is arguing with the woman saying he cannot leave, she tells Lola not to interfere, the argument expands and Lola leaves running in to a security guard. She takes his gun and holds up her father, forcing him to get cash out of the bank. After a number of delays the bank is surrounded, but it turns out the police think the bank is being robbed by somebody else. She gets to Manni, but this time he is knocked down by an ambulance as he goes to rob the store. They talk about what she would do if he died, but he is not dead yet.
The third run starts as with the others. This time she avoids the woman, who in this reality goes on to have a religious experience. The guy with the bicycle this time stops at a sausage stand, and who is there only the original bum from the train who offers to buy him a drink, telling him how strange things can happen. As Lola runs to the bank she hits into a car owned by a colleague of her father’s. This time her father and the other woman are discussing the possibility of children. As Lola gets there she see her father drive off with his colleague, desperate she goes into a casino and actually wins the money she needs. Meanwhile Manni actually sees the tramp cycle past him, he chases the tramp and manages to get the money from him by pointing a gun to his face, the tramp gives him the money and asks for the gun, which Manni gives him. Lola eventually arrives, worried that Manni is not there she looks around, seeing him getting out of the car with his boss, all happy. Walking away Manni asks here is everything was okay…
This movie not only asks “What if?” but also tries to answer it. A first class film which stands the test of time
This is the story of a young 15 year old boy growing up in the working-class north of England in the late sixties. The hero, Billy Casper (David Bradley, All quiet On the Western Front, 1979) is having a hard time of it growing up, being bullied both at home and school. What we see is a young man trying to get by in his own way. Billy is no angel, he’s not above swiping milk from the delivery float. His family background is nothing to write home about, his father having left them many years previously, his older half-brother verbally abuses him and his mother sees him as a lost cause.
While on his meandering wonders one day he robs a kestrel chick. This triggers something. As he is too young for the library, he robs a book on Falconry and sets about learning what he can. His life is driven by a desire not to end-up down the mines like so many before him. Slowly as he rears the chick a bond takes hold and Billy start to come out of himself. There may be a purpose in life. His schoolwork starts to improve as his outlook improves.
The dour nature of life as portrayed can be seen in the “football” scene when his P.E. teacher (Brian Glover, The company of Wolves, 1984) is trying to instil some interest in the lads as against the day dreaming of world cups and football glory. We see him as one of those petty angry adults which seem to fill the lives of young people as they try to find their way about in life.
Things however take a turn when he is told to put a bet on certain horses. Billy unfortunately thinks the horses will lose and so buys food for himself and Kes. The horses win and Jud is extremely angry at losing him money. He exacts revenge in the most cruel way, hurting Billy where it hurts most.
Like many Ken Loach films it is not necessarily an easy film to watch initially. That said I was around the same age or younger than the hero of the peace when I first saw this movie. Back in the days of 1 TV land, I had to watch what my parents were watching and they wanted to watch this. Thankfully.
It showed me that cinema does not have to be all happy-clappy to be good. Life can be hard and it is not always just mindless entertainment. However this is not an overly bleak film, Glover’s P.E. teacher and Billy himself and his attitude provides some witty and humorous dialogue.
This is one of Loach’s earliest films after cutting his teeth on BBC radio plays and as with much of the output to follow over the years, it is his view of a grinding realism. There is a message here like with so much else of his work. There are a number of messages, from the individual’s perspective to the view of how society treats people. We are shown more than a few examples of how Billy and others are essentially victims of a society which seems to have other things on its mind. Looking at the cinematography it is cold and harsh, the scenes are grey and overcast much of the time.
Alfred Hitchcock once said that the sign of a good movie is one where you can watch the film without volume and still follow it. You can certainly do that here. This is not a fun film, it is not a rip-roaring comedy, it is a look at a bleak life which somehow does not turn you off, indeed it manages to affect you. This is genuinely one of the 10 best and possibly most influential British films over any time period. This is a gritty piece of neo-realism.
Set in Ireland it is the story of three perpetual losers, who despite their many schemes are still as broke as ever and find themselves driving the length of the island trying to pull of that One scam which will set them up. Events kick off in Belfast where the guys, looking for a few pounds, agree to interfere with a greyhound race, in return for a greyhound to them from a local bookie, the kind of bookie (Sean McGinley, Republic of Doyle, 2010) who you do not want to owe money to and things go downhill from there. Directed by Paddy Breathnach (I went Down, 1997) and staring Allen Leech (The Imitation Game, 2014), who is nominally the brains of the outfit, Ciaran Nolan (dead Men Walking, 2008) the superstitious and unlucky unfortunate who at least tries to do something; and of course “Cerebral Paulsy” the grass smoking, brain fried one of the three constantly catching up.
Having been sold a pig-in-poke as it were, the dog they were given is useless and not capable of doing any good. This of course provides a whole set of challenges for the boys. Their luck might be changing though. They have been noticed by others. The wealthy widow of a former dog owner has a dog that can do what is needed, she gives them the dog, as a means to destroy their not so friendly bookie.
They enter the dog I a race only to find it did not even leave the box at the start. As if their day could not get any worse, the bookie finds them, kidnaps them and lets it be known that he finds them personally responsible for the race they nobbled and demands £50,000 from them. Not having this, they need to produce it fast. They head south to the Republic to try the dog but to no avail. About to give up, they sell the dog to travellers (Pat Short, Garage 2007) where they quickly realise the dog is actually guite good, it is just that he does not chase plastic hares, only real ones.
They guys decide to rob back the dog. Needless to say this does not exactly go as planned and a night of mayhem ensues. The rest of the film is about the three boys making their way south to the coursing fares and in the process trying to raise cash to enter the dog in the necessary races while at the same time avoiding Belfast bookies and various travellers.
Eventually as they get set-up at the Clonmel Coursing festival, their bookie and the travellers are also there and all want their share of the guys. The dog proceeds to win its races and of course draw the attention of said folks. Ultimately the boys are trapped in to a corner which Scud manages negotiate themselves out of. The negotiations work for them, and the film closes with us seeing how the guys are finally seeing some success.
What Breathnach manages to do is not only to pull together the story by Pearse Elliot (Shrooms) who he wrote with a number of times, but managed to do it so well. There are a number of set-piece situational gags, some excellent one liners and even a couple of continuing character jokes. The movie works well, some of the gags are sign-posted but that possibly adds to the enjoyment as we have a certain sense of expectation. It might be tempting to compare this movie to others such as RocknRolla (Guy Ritchie, 2008). On the surface they are both drama comedies but are very different styles, Dog is more of a series of well stitched together sketches while with RocknRolla the humour flows differently, bit excellent comedies, but both very different comedies both is style and nature. Man About Dog needs to be viewed as an Irish comedy and with the associated style.
This 1947 British classic was directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man, 1949) and starred James Mason (the Desert Rats, 1953). The story is based on the book by F.L. Green. The movie is about the impact on the lives of all those around Johnny McQueen (Mason). The film is set in a Northern Irish city, pick one of the two…and revolves around McQueen as he tries to survive a botched raid. The movie does not explicitly name any organisation just the “Organisation” . McQueen is a leading figure in the Organisation and having been lying low for about six months following his prison escape he has been ordered to execute a raid to raise funds. The film is set against the background of post-war Britain.
The remains of the war are all around and rationing is still in place. The scene is dark and broody, the movie has a classic British Noir feel. The shadows are there and contain menace. Is his heart in it? From what we can gather, he is a changed man since his time in prison, so much so that one of his team asks if he should be on the raid. We learn that McQueen is a person of some worth in Republican circles. The raid fails. McQueen injured and already on the run, must find safety on the streets of the city. As he scrambles for help he must hide in those corners, the snug of a crowded bar, air-shelter, where ever he can. All the time there is one person looking to help him, Kathleen ( Kathleen Ryan, Captain Boycott, 1947) the woman in whose house he has been hiding. She has fallen in love with him and will go to any lengths to protect him.
Often for a movie to work it needs to work on a number of levels dealing with the characters, the environment and the story itself. Adam & Paul is one of those movies. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, 2014). The screenplay is by Mark O’Halloran ( Garage, 2007) who also plays the part of Adam alongside the late Tom Murphy (Man about Dog, 2009) who played Paul. Broadly speaking Adam & Paul is a comedy following two drop-out drug-addicts. On another level it is about following our two eponymous heroes on their journey through typical days in the lives of our two friends.
The two are life-long friends, whose decline in life is mirrored in each. Adam, is the slightly smarter of the two with Paul often looking to him for a form of leadership. The film follows the two as the wake in field on a mattress only to find that Adam is glued to the mattress. Having resolved this difficulty , they proceed to stock up on their drug supply only to have a run-in that requires their immediate exit. This more or less sets the scene for the day as they meander through Dublin, escaping dogs, meeting old friends, who it turns out are not happy with A&P as they missed the Month’s Mind of a friend earlier that morning. The guys are made to know just how unwelcome they are. In the course of the meeting one of the girls let’s slip that there will be a reception in the memory of their old friend, to which they are not invited. A lack of invitation will not stop them from attending.
Through-out the day Paul has a series of mishaps, from injuring his leg with a moped, to hurting his arm in an attempted smash and grab. The day is punctuated with misadventures and attempts to steal the funds they need for their drugs. As the day progresses, they head over to the apartment of an old friend, one they have been told to stay away from . When they arrive the door is open but thetre is nobody at home. Showing that there is really no honesty between thieves, the guys are ready to steal from her when they hear a baby crying, this stops them and when their friend returns.
This takes us up to about half way through the film and so far so good in relation to our two friends. Carefully written we have had the luxury of being observers, but they carefully shot scene of them mugging a young man with down-syndrome shows us that their actions are not as amusing and “harmless2 as first thought. They later meet-up with Crank who is not pleased that the story is around that he owes them money. He gets them to keep lookout as he and another get up to no good in a local garage, Adam & Paul, needless to say mess this up and do not notice the police arriving, Crank & Co. are arrested.
Without giving a blow by blow account of their travails, the two, having found a dumped TV decided to try and sell it. With the help of another guys, they go to a housing project to sell it to a particular person, the sale falls through and as they are leaving they pass the apartment of one of their dealers which is being raided by vigilantes. Moving past the two hangout in the common area outside the project. As they do the attacking vigilantes destroy the drug-dealer’s home throwing his belongings , including his drugs out onto the ground below where the two guys are cooling their heels. As they are two bags of the dealer’s drugs land near them. Christmas!
Adam & Paul leave to enjoy their new found luck. We next see them early morning on the beach as Paul wakes up only to discover his friend dead, having over-dosed. Paul takes his drugs and leaves.
What might be seen at first glance as a comedy of errors relating to a day in the life of two feckless idiots, might also be seen as a carefully scripted work showing that these two are not as harmless as they seem, death, injury, mistrust and pain follow them. By the end of the movie our view of the two is changed completely and far less forgiving than what it was at first.
I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with Mark O’Halloran, he’s a person serious about his craft and it shows.
This has proven to be a surprisingly controversial movie, dividing many as to whether or not it is a great comedy/drama or an insulting pastiche of stage Irishness. At first glance the insulted side of the room may have the case, however if you actually watch the movie for the nuances it is more complex than the first glance might suggest. I fall in to the camp that suggest the movie is a classic.
Despite the famous scene of Wayne grabbing O’Hara and kissing her, we should remember that the female characters are quite strong in this film, Not only do we have her but also “The Widow Tiillane”, note the title of “The” Widow Tillane. Some reference sites simply give the character’s name, this is to underplay the title. In Ireland the prefix of “The” was and is still used to denote a person of singular importance; for example a not dissimilar work, The Field by the late John B Keane gives us the main character of “The Bull McCabe” again reinforcing the impact of the person. This is by way of commenting on the attention to detail in the movie which is often over-looked.
Directed by John Ford (Rio Grande, 1950) and starring just about anybody in Hollywood who ever claimed to have an Irish connection. The story is a steel-worker and retired boxer, Sean Thornton, played by John Wayne (She wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1949) who having had enough of the violence of the ring (event become clearer as the movie progresses) where he was a champion boxer who once killed an opponent in the ring, something which weighs heavily on him. He is returning to the place of his birth, a small cottage just outside the town of “Inisfree” after growing up in Pittsburgh. We don’t know much about his background, it was poor and likely that of tenant farmers.
On returning he engages the services of local hackney driver , Michaleen Oge Flynn,[ Michalín Óg Flynn – in the correct form] (Barry Fitzgerald, The Naked City 1948) who as it turns out, is also the local match-maker. Life is never as simple as it might otherwise be.
Shortly after returning Thornton spies the fiery Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara, Only the Lonely, 1991), who is very much the red-head in looks and temperament. Pretty soon Thornton expresses an interest, only to be told by Michaleen that there are rules to follow, Thornton does not have much time for the rules, but goes along with the customs. Now, Mary Kate lives at home with her brother, known by various people as “Squire” or “Red” Will Danaher (Victor McLagen, The Informer, 1935) , and Squire Danaher has his eyes on two things, a piece of land next to his own and the widowed owner of that land. Needless to say he’s not only unhappy about his sister being associated with the “Yank” but also majorly upset when he hears that Thornton is buying the property.
The film progresses with Thornton settling in and getting to know the locals, not least of all the Reverend Cyril Playfair (Arthur Shields, The River 1951) who as an enthusiastic sports fan was aware of Thornton’s history and the fight that caused him to turn from boxing. These friendships allow Thornton to get an understanding of where he is and what he can do. One thing he is intent on doing is buying the old family homestead, which The Widow Tillane (Barefoot in the Park, 1976) is happy to do. This is the land Squire Danaher wanted and the selling of the land to Thornton makes for trouble.
Danaher may not be able to stop his sister from marrying Thornton, but he can withhold her dowry of cash, furniture and heirlooms . This causes Mary Kate much upset, who is made even more upset by Thornton not being overly bothered by the dowry, not appreciating the importance of it. All this tension rises set against the backdrop of a small Mayo village where life goes on, or at least tries to. This is where the attention to detail is important, such as the attempts to by rounds in the bar, as funny as they are, it is the character of the “Brigadier” who shows the understanding Ford had for the times and the people, because in the pub with also was the local [old] IRA commander, the War of Independence is over and there is no malice between them (there might never have been). An important part of the village life is the part played by the local clergy, both Catholic and Anglican.
Father Lonergan (Ward Bond, Rio Bravo, 1959) is the local Parish Priest who is assisted by Fr. Paul (James O’Hara, Suddenly 1954 – James was the brother Of Maureen). Fr. Lonergan must be the voice of reason advising and plotting to get all the right people married and happy. His plotting extends to helping the local Anglican Minister when his Bishop is visiting; Fr. Lonergan hides his collar and tells the parishioners to shout like “good Protestants” cheering when the Bishop passes, Rev Playfair’s parish is small and he fears he might be moved to another Parish, so Fr. Lonergan’s help is much needed. This should not be seen as anything special, there was never any issues between the vast majority of Catholic and Anglican clergy at this time with many working together to face common challenges.
Needless to say all the tension between Danaher and Thornton reaches boiling point, here Thornton brings Mary Kate back to Danaher, no dowry, no marriage. The money is forthcoming, he would accept the wedding over the disgrace of forcing his sister’s marriage to be annulled. We see that the money was not important to Mary Kate despite all the tension, it was the principle of the matter.
Given the people in question, it is only a matter of time before there is a fight, today we have car chases, then there were the fights up and down the length of the main street, here was no better. Adding to the comedy of the situation, the fight will be under “Marquis of Queensbury” rules. I’m not sure if the good Marquis such a lose interpretation of his rules. The local train is delayed as the locals all rush to follow the fight as it makes its way through the village, even Rev. Playfair has a bet with his Bishop as to the possible winner. At one stage the fight breaks for a drink in the pub before continuing.
As is often the case in these situation , the fight ends with both men starting to become friends, Mary Kate returns home with her integrity intact and ultimately we see Squire Danaher eventually courting with the Widow Tillane; happy endings.
This film is rightly regarded as a classic. Having won a Oscar for its director, Ford, it is still as fresh today as when it first appeared. What makes the film works is the light-hearted approach to the situation. The cinematography is magnificently suited to the locality, the script is tight and nuanced. Usually only appearing every Christmas of St. Patrick’s Day, dig it up, sit back and enjoy. By the way, as a trivia exercise you might want to look at who is related to whom; The Shields Brothers, the O’Hara family, the Wayne family and also Ford’s only family members are all involved in one way or another.
Some great quotes from the movie:
I knew your people, Sean. Your grandfather; he died in Australia, in a penal colony. And your father, he was a good man too.
There’ll be no locks or bolts between us, Mary Kate… except those in your own mercenary little heart!
My Brother The Devil was written and directed by relative newcomer; Sally El Hosani, although having been involved in the film and TV business this was her first leading activity in a movie, it is to here credit that the end result is an excellent product which deserves to stand tall among other films and movies being produced today. The film revolves around two brothers, the sons of Egyptian immigrants who a growing up on the estates of inner-city London. Older Brother Rashid (James Floyd, The Infidel, 2010) is one of the cool guys who runs with the local gangs, while his younger brother , Mo, (Fady Elsayed, Sixteen, 2013)looks up to his brother with a sense of wonderment and wants to follow in his footsteps. Rashid on the other hand does not want his brother following him, he wants better for his brother.
We see both sons as they look to find their respective places in society. Just as Rashid is trying to get out of the gang related life he is living, as he does this, we see just how little respect these people have for the individual as they happily drag in young Mo to run drugs and other errands . this happens as Rashid is moving away from the gangs and as he does so, meets Sayyid (SaΪd Taghmaoui, The Kite Runner, 2007) with whom, after some initial struggles, Rashid and Sayyid begin a relationship, which ultimately strains the relationship between both brothers. While younger Mo is looking to find his way in life he struggles between the gangs, his more innocent teen friends and his older brother who now has the dark shadow of his sexuality hanging over him.
Both brothers must find their way in life, both must overcome the challenges ahead of them, but more importantly they begin to realise that their chances are better together. There is some subtly direction, the cool gang members are perhaps not as cool as they might seem, are they just the usual “corner-boys”, nothing to live up to or as in the case of Rashid, actually something to grow out of.
This is a debut film, made on a budget with a cast that is only partially professional, if I was inclined to do so, I would find issue with this film and some of the actors in a few places, but the acting from the main characters is all excellent, the story is one which catches us, grabs us by the neck and does not let go until the end. Some people have discussed the impact of Islamic fundamentalism, while other have decried the “toughness2 of the local gang members, there is no Islamic message here, it is simply a story of two boys growing up in their own culture. The brothers just happen to be from an Egyptian background, as and for the gang members not being overly hard; well it is Hackney not LA, what we see are kids growing up trying to be hard, a different thing. The movie has been compared to My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) and I can see that, it might also stand comparison to Beautiful Thing (1996).
This is not a depressing film, rather it is engaging, sharply photographed and lean form a story telling perspective seek out the DVD or see if your service streams it.
Directed by David McKenzie (Hallem Foe, 2007), Starred Up could easy have been a failed ego-trip, instead it is a carefully crafted study of the violence and pressures on on inmate and how the effect those around him. The main protagonist (I’m not sure if you can say Hero) is a young man Eric Love (Jack O’Connell 2008), still in his teens, who has been “Starred-Up”, essentially he has been transferred from juvenile prison to the adult regime. This we quickly learn is because of his temper and propensity for violence. Immediately there are two comparisons to be made here; initially Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet (2009) where we see outsider Malik El Djebena (Tahir Rahim) settle in to prison life and learn how to exist and even grow (in his way) by learning how to deal with the gangs and hierarchy in the prison. Both prisons deal with adapting to life “on the inside” as do many more. One film which goes beyond that is Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson (2008) with Tom Hardy (Warrior, 2011) where we see prison life through the story of Britain’s hardest and most disruptive prisoner.
Young Eric is full of attitude and has more than enough fellow inmates to knock the spirit out of him, Once he is in his cell, his first act is to put together the necessary ingredients for a home-made shank and hide them about his cell. Given his background he has unfortunately come to the attention of the Deputy Governor (Sam Spruell, The Hurt Locker, 2008), a man, who can best be described as not a very good example of a Prison Service employee, corrupt and violent he has it in for the young lad. Despite all of this against him, there is a ray of light, or two.
Pretty soon we Eric come under the protection of another prisoner, who it turns out has a level of respect and authority in the prison, that prisoner is the lieutenant for the prisoner kingpin and also happens to be Eric’s father; Neville Love (Ben Mendelsohn, The Place behind The Pines, 2012) who has a difficult relationship with his son, not least of all because of his absence in his son’s life, but also in trying to protect him and the tension inherent in the situation. Eric is sent to group counseling which starts-off with the usual conflict and fighting, but only for the intervention of his father and counselor Baumer, is he allowed to continue. The two strike up a friendship which ultimately leads to Baumer’s dismissal due to his coming up against the Deputy Governor.
The movie progresses to the inevitable show-down through Eric finding his place in the pecking-order and not particularly liking it. While he is willing to play by the general rules, he cannot and will not accept personal treats and affronts, from anybody this ultimately leads to him making enemies who would prefer to see him dead. His enemies eventually attempt to make a move, which he is able to see off to a degree. There is a tension which is constructed well and manages to maintain a degree of “reality”.
Normally a movie of this sort might not grab me, but the feedback was such that I thought I would try it and I am glad I did. All of the cast put in performances which should be good for their careers. The characterisation is excellent, with us following those we are meant to and striving to see them succeed. This is not a prison movie, it is a road movie set in a prison.
I could give a blow-by-blow account of the various turns and developments which ultimately bring the film to its climax, instead I would suggest sit back and enjoy, one of the best British films of recent years. There are quite literally no punches pulled here, it is violent and graphically so in places but not gratuitously. The impact on O’Connell’s career can be seen through his following roles, it is immediate and justified.
I’ve been catching up on my notes and publishing a few reviews as I find them. One such is The Family, which I had almost forgotten about until I was reminded of it in a conversation. My earlier post here was of Predestination, a film which I almost overlooked, except for the cast caught my attention, this one caught my attention straight away when it was released. With Robert De Niro (The Godfather Part II, 1974) and Michelle Pfeiffer (People Like Us, 2012) leading the charge as the husband and wife team leading their family to various safe-houses for their own protection after turning against their mob background. They are supported by Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black, 1997) a long suffering US Federal Agent who must ensure their safety, something which is a lot easier said than done, given the Blake family’s inability to put mob-style habits behind
The family is completed by son, Warren (John D’Leo, Wonderlust, 2012) who together with his sister Belle (Dianna Agron, Glee 2009) must settle in to a new school, by now this is “old-school”. Quickly both apply their talents to settling in. Warren has a knack for identifying potentially financially rewarding situations while his sister proves to be more than able to look after herself, either with the local boys who want to get to know her or some of the more light fingered students.
What we have is a comedy of errors, associated with the family trying to settle into rural France, Normandy to be exact. As various challenges crop up, they must struggle to cope with them as a normal family rather than apply mob-style solutions.
This can have its own difficulties, but with the family being hunted by the Mob, things get even more difficult. Eventually just as the family is starting to settle in , after the barbeque, the pummeling of a plumber who tried to rip them off and the father, Frank, sinking himself in it by describing himself as a history writer and sparking the interest of the village movie club.
The Mob get to find the family and descend on the sleepy village removing the police and fire-brigade before they attack the family, unfortunately for the mob hit men, they are recognized by the kids traveling to the house what ensues is a typical Besson style action sequence, namely one which has no reflection on reality but is fun to watch.
To sum-up “The Family” is a lighthearted romp through the often cliched mafia movie genre. De Niro has settled in to the comedy role as he matures, a role which suits him, hopefully we will get a few more. This film is never going to win best movie or any of number of would-be awards but it is entertaining and delivers what it set out to do. When you get a Besson film, you get entertainment and fun, not necessarily always too conventionally, but always in a way that enures things get blown up and people die loudly.
Written and directed by Peter and Michael Spierig, the team behind Daybreakers (2010). Time travel has been conquered, at least to a limited extent based on a time zero in the early 1980’s. From this time limited travel over a period of 53 years is possible. However the time travel take its toll on those who travel, slowly degrading them physically and mentally. The number of jumps in time is regulated and overseen. The time travel itself is secret and limited to 12 agents in the Temporal Bureau, the travel is controlled and monitored, with strict rules about missions and and deviations from missions. The impact of travel is carefully monitored. Noah Taylor (Lawless, 2012) plays the part of Mr. Robinson, the shadowy figure who seems to interweave the lives of our protagonists, his role and influence becoming clearer as the story progresses.
The Story opens with an agent (Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight, 2013) trying to stop a bomber detonating his latest effort when the arrest goes wrong and the agent is blown-up and nearly killed, such are his injuries that his have needs to be reconstructed. The reconstruction allows him time to get ready for his last case, the travel back to hunt for the “Fizzle “ bomber, a serial bomber whose works have been escalating to the extent that in March 1975 he killed almost 10,000 people in New York.
Our agent recovers and returns to the time as a barman, he he meets a woman a single mother (Sarah Snook Sleeping Beauty, 2011), with a fascinating story, one she says cannot be beaten. The story details her unique life from the day she was dropped off in an orphanage and the various struggles she had fitting in (her younger self played by Freya Stafford) right up to her adult life and the challenges she has faced. We see how these challenges have quite literally shaped her. The agent listens and actually offers her a a chance to make do a wrong, a chance she finds unbelievable, she takes him up on the offer. He lets slip a little detail of her life, how did he know this, he explains it away, but we are warned.
Pretty soon, it becomes obvious that things are not as they seem. This is a thriller, one where suspense is not a dirty word. I am tempted to say there are a number of twists to this move with plot developments coming left, right and center, but that would be to do the film a dis-service. This plot is one of the most well thought-out I’ve come across in years, there are not twists in the plot so much as well directed curves which ultimately lead us to the climax.
I cannot say too much because to say anything risks giving away an excellent plot. This is a film where all of the aspects must come together for it to work. The script is tight, remarkably so, the cinematography is aligned perfectly to the plot developments, with the subtle stylization for the different time periods. Movies with twists are often just average movies where a writer or producer etc. decides something else is needed. Here there is nothing else needed. This is a carefully plotted story which brings you along .
If you are the type to run about in and out to the kitchen making coffee or pop corn during a movie, then this one is not for you. Once you turn on this film you need to sit down and watch it through. This is a story with no space fillers or padding. It is brilliantly executed. A lot cold be said to analyze this film and the subject of time travelling paradoxes, but that would ruin the experience of the movie. That said it would be no harm to understand the concepts of the paradoxes.