Sing Street

First apologies to those expecting a film review last week.

As John Lennon once wrote – Life interrupts when you are making other plans, and in that musical train of thought it is kind of appropriate that the movie up for review this week is Sing Street. Also the fact that this movie is Irish with St Patrick’s Day having just passed is also quite apt.

This movie is a love letter to 1980’s Dublin, now I lived through this era and was about the same age as the main character in this movie. It was a bit more grim than this movie portrays. This movie has certainly got it’s rose tinted glasses on and by the end of the movie you really won’t mind that it did.

Sing Street portrays teenage life for Conor Lawlor ( Ferdia Walsh – Peelo ). Home life is a bit fractured for Conor. His parents portrayed by Aidan Gillan and Maria Doyle – Kennedy respectfully are on the verge of separating, this means that the family have to re – examine the finances and Conor has to transfer to Synge Street – Christian Brothers School, see what the filmmakers did there. For those not in the know the Christian Brothers in Ireland had a fearsome reputation for implementing their rule of law and these don’t disappoint and he also has to deal with the school bully as well !!

Conor’s eyes one day drift across the road from his school and he sees the girl of his dreams ( Lucy Boynton ). Before he knows what has happened, he finds himself talking to this girl who informs him that she is heading off to London very soon to become a model. Despite himself he informs her that he is in a band and they just happen to be looking for a model for their first video, one problem – he has yet to set up this band.

Well quicker than you can say it, he and some mates from school set up said band and pretty much try to find their sound. Starting out as a faux Duran – Duran inspired band morphing into a Cure – styled band and then sort of alighting finally on more of an Indie vibe to their music. Despite the fact that girl of his dreams says she has a boyfriend, he keeps admiring her from a distance and in time she warms to his charms.

This movie sort of by accident has become part three of Irish director John Carney’s musical trilogy, the other’s being the very successful Once and the more overlooked Begin Again. While watching this movie, ones mind can’t help wandering to another movie about another small Dublin band, The Commitments. But there the comparisons stop, this band pretty much get on well with each other and the school bully even ends up as their roadie.

Whether you grew up in this era as teenager or not does not really matter, but it certainly helps as this movie wallows in 80’s nostalgia. Long before You Tube, your weekly teenage life revolved around Thursday night in front of the television watching Top Of The Pops on the BBC, well at least if you lived on the east coast of Ireland , the television signal from a Welsh TV transmitter just about reached that far. A feel good movie to be sure and I shouldn’t forget to mention another Irish actor Jack Reynor’s star turn as Conor’s older long haired brother who tries to steer Conor in the right direction musically.

A musical treat, go you won’t be disappointed and one of the best Irish movies in many a long while.

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Hail Caesar

I have seen quite a few other positive reviews of Hail Caesar this week and while I did enjoy it and enjoy the Coen Brothers quirky and inventive sense of humour, for me at least it lacked something.

Right off the bat, this is a movie that has some great set pieces and is beautifully realised ,but not sure that all the scenes tied together. This is the Coen Brothers love letter to the golden era of Hollywood.

Set in 1950’s America, we find Eddie Mannix ( Josh Brolin ) as the head of Capitol Pictures, he spends most of his time trying to portray his movie stars in a positive light to those in the trade and gossip press. However despite his best efforts some of his movie stars find it hard to stay on the straight and narrow. At the same time, he is also being headhunted by Lockheed Aerospace for a top position with the company.

His biggest challenge however is presented when the star of his latest picture, Hail Caesar – Baird Whitlock (|George Clooney ) is kidnapped by a shadowy rag tag band of communist sympathising Hollywood writers called The Future who feel they have been unfairly targeted by those in power. That in essence is the heart of the story with individual well crafted scenes tacked on.

There are quite a few laugh out loud moments in this movie, my favourite being when the actress Francis Mc Dormand,  who portrays a film editor finds herself being drawn into her own editing machine thanks to her bad choice of clothing. Another one of note is between Laurence Laurenz ( Ralph Fiennes ) an English Hollywood director who tries to direct Tobey ( Alden Ehrenreich ) an actor who is perfectly cast for his Western hero role but has been shoehorned into a role by the studio that really does not suit him. Why ? well despite Laurence’s best efforts, Tobey just can’t shift that Western drawl.

Everybody in this movie is giving great performance, but I suppose I could sum up the movie like this. You know when you get that big box of chocolate delights at Christmas, but you open it up and there are way too many of those long blue wrapped ones and not enough of the Strawberry centered ones in the mix. You hoped for more but what you got wasn’t truly satisfying.

 

The Green Shamrock – My Personal Alternative To The Oscars

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Well we all know that the 2016 Oscars are upon us again and there is a good chance that the current frontrunners will be the winners on the night and I hope that all the winners and losers have a great night.

However I have decided to come up with my personal alternative – The Green Shamrock , being Irish as I am. So here’s my personal choices for winners. Your choices might differ from mine and apologies for the obvious Irish bias in the results.

P.s some of these may correspond with the choices of the Oscar voters and any similarities are purely a coincidence.

Best Picture – Mad Max : Fury Road. For me it was a toss up between Brooklyn and Mad Max : Fury Road. Very different movies I think you will agree.

I liked Brooklyn for it’s ability to transport us all to what it feels like that first time you leave home. But in the end my sci-fi gene took over a I plumped for Mad Max : Fury Road. For most of the running time I didn’t know what was going on, but found myself just strapping myself in and enjoying the ride.

Best Director – Adam McKay – The Big Short. How do you explain the recent financial crisis to the first timer ? With comedy of course. Some great main performances and celebrity cameos to boot.

Best Actor In A Leading Role – I went for Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs. It would have been so easy to tell this story as a purely linear one. But I felt that just taking snapshots of the man’s life, gave us a real insight to both his genius and his ability to tick people off in his search for excellence.

Best Actress In A Leading Role – My choice was Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn. A look said it all. Saoirse Ronan has been working up this role with all the parts she has played before. I for one can’t wait to see what role she will take on next. Every part she has inhabited so far have all been equally memorable.

Best Supporting ActorMark Rylance for Bridge Of Spies.  A performance that might be overlooked at the Oscars. Which is a shame as his performance made the movie for me. A great Cold War thriller worthy of the pen of John Le Carre.

Best Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl. A truly touching and affecting performance, about a wife’s support for her husband and his life changing choice. Don’t forget to check out some of her previous performances also – Ex Machina and Testament Of Youth, another actress on the up.

 

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

First of all apologies for being a little late with this review.

No you did not read it wrong, there are zombies in this costume drama or should I even be writing this the other way around.

Most adaptations of Pride and Prejudice start ” It is a truth universally acknowledged … ” and then we are introduced to the Bennett family, but this version is a little different. I have never seen the Bennett household so well defended.

This movie is based on the comic novel of the same name written by Seth Grahame – Smith which itself is based on the novel by Jane Austen, she must be turning in her grave with this adaptation ( intentional zombie pun there readers ).

If you know the story of Pride And Prejudice this movie and the book pretty much sticks to the outline of the original text, where it differs is that the Bennett sisters have been trained in martial arts in the far east and are very adept with muskets and their maintenance. They are also quite handy with knives. All this is to keep the constant zombie hordes at bay from the Bennett property.

The city of London has also become fortress like with only one bridge in and out after the zombie plague arrived on English shores from the New World on a ship.

The Bennett sisters however, between the zombie invasions are all in search of a man to wed and like nothing better than attending the odd ball. Mr Darcy ( Sam Riley ) is his usual sullen self but does catch the eye of Elizabeth Bennett ( Lily James ) thanks to being quite adept at killing off the odd zombie or two. After a bit of twoing and frowing and a great deal of misunderstanding and one or two zombie battles the pair finally hook up, fall in love and join forces to try and defeat the zombies one last time.

Well given the name of the movie, you will have to suspend belief from the beginning and your enjoyment of the movie will depend on this. Just one note of caution however, make sure when your mother or great aunt ask the name of this movie, at first they may want to accompany you to the cinema, resist the temptation to bring them. After all there’s bound to another Pride And Prejudice adaptation along soon and that’s the one you should recommend to them !!

Deadpool

Just let me say before I get into the review unlike a lot of the most recent superhero movies from Marvel and other studios this is one that you will not be able to take your children to, in fact even the younger teenage market that most of these movies seem to be specifically aimed at these days will not be able to view this movie either. It’s a 16 cert in Ireland and I am sure something similar could be said for both the UK and the US.

This movie has been a long time in getting to the screen, if the talk is to be believed 10 years in fact. If you like your superhero cleancut and a goody – goody, well this movie is probably not for you. If however you like yours a little rough and darker, then rock up to the cinema with money in hand and you are in for a good trip to the movie.

From the minute the credits roll you know that this is not your typical superhero movie, none of the main characters are named, just a smart quip is inserted in it’s place.

We find Wade Wilson  ( Ryan Reynolds ) a.k.a Deadpool at the start of the movie fighting it out with unnamed baddies and he is full of quick one-liners and comebacks.

As with most superhero movies that are telling an origin story, we then find out how Deadpool came to be. It turns out that he has been given bad news on the health front after just hooking with the girl of his dreams Morena Baccarin ( Copycat ) and takes up an offer from an unnamed man in black who promises to cure him. During this he encounters the villain of the peace Ajax  ( Ed Skrein ) , who has given him a face like the dark side of the moon and also making him invincible.

Deadpool is none too happy with his new makeover and seeks out Ajax in the hope that he can reverse what has been done to him and to seek his revenge. In a side story he is being tempted to join up with the X – Men universe by Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, but Deadpool being the superhero he is, though he doesn’t like that title. He does his best to resist their advances but finds that he can’t defeat Ajax without their help.

This movie knows the audience that it is playing to and takes great delight in giving them what they want with a twisted sense of humour for good measure.

P.s Like a lot of other Marvel movies don’t be tempted to rush out unless you have a bus or a train to catch.But stay till the end credits roll. Not to find out what happens next, but for a cheeky 80’s John Hughes movie reference, certainly sent me out of the cinema with a smile on my face.

Zoolander 2

It has been quite a few years since Ben Stiller gave us Derek Zoolander’s first outing, so you are probably asking yourself did we need a Zoolander 2, well based on this current film I will not be counting the days till Zoolander 3 comes out. A bit like the character Ben Stiller portrays, a beautiful looking film fashion wise but don’t look too deeply for an in depth story.

To say that this movie is celebrity cameo heavy is an understatement. In the first movie the spotlight was shone on the fashion industry, in this movie it seems that half the fashion and celebrity world is in on the joke.

At the start of the movie it seems that something or someone is killing off worldwide celebrities, what to do. Find Zoolander – who as he describes himself now as a hermit crab thanks to his wife’s death and losing custody of their child some time ago. Now in the present day Zoolander tracks down Hansel ( Owen Wilson ) and they hook up with Valentina ( Penelope Cruz ) from Interpol’s Fashion Police and head to Rome and alsoto try and reconnect with his now teenage son.

It turns out that their fashion nemesis Mugatu ( Will Ferrell ) is behind this secret organisation and has enlisted the help of fashion’s great and good on the premise of having discovered the mythical Fountain Of Youth and the chosen one.

As I said earlier the movie is most memorable for it’s celebrity cameos and you find your self going ” How did they get them to do that “.

But also for some great comic performances. In particular Kristen Wiig as a practically unintelligble and unrecognisable – possibly German fashion designer and Benedict Cumberbatch as a – ‘ well we can’t tell what gender it is eyebrowless ‘ – supermodel. The admission price is worth it for those performances alone.

This is slight movie with not much substance behind it and if that’s what you are looking for in a night’s entertainment no problem, but a bit like peering into Zoolander’s brain there’s little there.

The most memorable thing about this movie is maybe that it is now in the Guinness Book Of World Records for the longest selfie stick selfie photo. Mmmh !!

 

 

Reservoir Dogs – Revisited

Well I thought I would be reviewing a different movie this week but one of my local cinemas was running a one off showing of Reservoir Dogs so I went along to visit Quentin Tarantino’s first large screen movie effort. You should be able to catch it probably on DVD or online on one of the streaming services out there.

I should say at this point that the first time round for this movie when it was originally released I was not a fan of this movie, maybe it was a shock to the system then that it was so graphic.

Having seen quite a few Quentin Tarantino movies now including the most recent The Hateful Eight, I thought that this movie deserved a second go. I am happy to report that second time around I can now see why this movie is loved by many movie fans.

We are used to seeing this style of movie in sequence, so it is a brave filmmaker that decides to tell the story in no particular order at all. That first scene with all the movie’s cast moving slo-mo across the screen with a 70’s soundtrack in the background is as nearly as iconic as that Beatles album cover Abbey Road.

We never really find out the names of all main protagonists as they are all given names of colours. Steve Buscemi’s little speech in the diner about wanting to change his name from Mr. Pink provides, what I think is one of the movie’s most particularly funny scenes.

After having seeing many more Quentin Tarantino movies since this movie was released, the violence while graphic probably does not shock in the way that it did when it came out first. However that is not to lessen one particular scene involving a captured cop.

It is very obvious even to the casual movie viewer that Quentin Tarantino is heavily influenced by movies of the 1970’s in particular and that influence can even be seen in his most recent effort.

Now I could give you an in depth breakdown of the movie scene by scene, but just let me say that if have yet to see this movie and you want to see Quentin Tarantino honing his craft this is a good starting point. Even if you have seen it before, like myself maybe go and revisit it like I did, it’s storyline is still as strong today as when it was released and as Tarantino was influenced by 70’s cinema I am sure in turn this will go onto influence future filmmakers.

Just a final note not particularly related to this movie, but if your cinema is running a movie from years past treat yourself. I have been to many re- releases of late and quite a few modern filmmakers could learn quite a thing or two. I think you will agree with me if you do to.