Talking Movies

March 10, 2019

Notes on Fighting with my Family

Fighting with my Family was the catch-up film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Stephen Merchant is the decidedly unlikely writer/director of this sports comedy-drama about the cheesy world of wrestling, which is fixed not fake as Nick Frost is quick to point out. Frost and Lena Headey are the proprietors of World Association of Wrestling, based in Norwich, but their children Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden have the chance to hit the big-time when they try out for the WWE during a London event. But coach Vince Vaughn only takes Pugh with him to Florida for SEAL/NXT training. As the Goth Pugh struggles with the talentless bikini babes being more popular than her with the wrestling audience the embittered Lowden spirals into drink and rage back home. And that is where Merchant’s name on proceedings becomes curious. A wonderful dinner party where Frost and Headey try and fail to impress the classy parents (Merchant and Julia Davis) of Lowden’s girlfriend is pure Merchant, but then the sports drama surrounding such sequences is a familiar tale differentiated only by the theatrical nature of the sport depicted in training montages.

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March 3, 2019

Notes on The Aftermath

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 8:13 pm

Keira Knightley’s new post-war romance was the film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

The Aftermath seems to be attempting to surf on the eddies left by Atonement, but this is a far more muted drama, and its startlingly more explicit affair comes out of nowhere. Indeed one imagines that pages 55 and 75 has been stapled in reverse order in the shooting script. Knightley’s character lost her son in the Blitz, Alexander Skarsgaard lost his wife in the firebombing of Hamburg. Yet there is no reason for her jumping from ‘I hate the Germans, they killed my son’ to jumping Skarsgaard. But if only it had come after the film’s best scene, where Knightley plays the piano. The first time she has properly played since her son died, using the copy of Debussy’s Claire de Lune inscribed by Skarsgaard’s dead wife. As Skarsgaard’s daughter joins in, and all are then reduced to tears by Knightley’s broken monologue about her dead son Skarsgaard sits down to comfort her. That scene should precede their affair…

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February 26, 2019

Notes on Cold Pursuit

Liam Neeson’s thriller Cold Pursuit was the film of the week the other day on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Cold Pursuit is a curious exercise in repetition and variation, being a remake of the tremendous Norwegian black comedy In Order of Disappearance with Neeson taking on the Stellan Skarsgard role, and the same director Hans Petter Moland directing the same scenes again. And yet often they aren’t the same scenes. The original showcased rambling absurdities to do Martin McDonagh proud, a highlight being two gangsters so distracted over an argument about whether it was better to be poor in Africa than Scandinavia; because at least you’d have sunshine; that they fail to notice Skarsgard kidnapping a child in the background. That discussion is gone, as is the subtext about immigration involved in a Swede being citizen of the year in a Norwegian town while he accidentally starts a turf war between a Norwegian drug gang and a Serbian drug gang. This remake instead showcases unpleasant vulgarities, and an odd fascination with the mundanity of cranking up platforms in warehouses and morgues. Neeson in a rampage role is also inherently less funny casting than Skarsgard.

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February 19, 2019

Alas the Screen, I knew it

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 9:35 pm

Hope springs eternal, but after three years hope has run out – the Screen cinema like the Classic in Harold’s Cross is now merely a hole in the ground awaiting development.

StoneUsher

This familiar sight will in future only exist, increasingly bafflingly, in the pages of Ed O’Loughlin’s novel Not Unkind and Not Untrue.

It is a sad day, and comes about a year after the equally lamentable destruction of the immense screen 1 of the Savoy; the Screen’s bigger brother. In both cases it had been a while since I had been to either institution but they held fond memories for me. As a blow by blow description hereabouts back in 2010 recorded my team twice won the Screen Cinema Film Quiz (held in Doyle’s pub the second time, and the now transmogrified MacTurcaills the first time) and its prize of a free private screening in the cinema – but the film to be finished by 2pm. A prize put to excellent use the first time, with a glorious screening on their biggest screen of Apocalypse Now. Repertory outings in 2010 and 2011 were my last visits to the Screen, and it must be concluded that their programming of 1980s and 1990s seasons and showings of the likes of Casablanca and A Shot in the Dark failed to keep them in business against the Lighthouse, while, for my own part, from 2011 on I opted for the IFI over the Screen because of cheaper prices (and free tickets accruing) by way of the IFI membership card. I’ll miss it.

February 17, 2019

Notes on Happy Death Day 2U

Sequel Happy Death Day 2U was the film of the week on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle much earlier today.

Having finally caught up with Happy Death Day recently I was greatly looking forward to its hasty sequel. What could be better than Scream meets Groundhog Day: Part II in which Jessica Rothe’s Tree having attained the mastery of her time loop and become a better person gets to help someone else thru the same nightmare with hard-bitten savoir faire? Funny you should ask… My suspicions were flagged when I saw on the poster on the way in ‘based on characters by’. The problem with hasty sequels is that while you can re-assemble your cast, sets, VFX team, stuntmen, cinematographer, and composer quite readily, you will then usually find yourself doing your best Chico Marx – “Whaddya know? We forgotta da script!”. In this case, whaddya know, we forgotta da scriptwriter, as Christopher Landon decides he can both direct and write at the same time. Like Gerald Ford, walking, and chewing gum, he is badly mistaken. By the end of Happy Death Day 2U you have only the memory of a slasher flick, buried under slapstick.

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February 14, 2019

Any Other Business: Part XXIV

What is one to do with thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a blog post proper? Why round them up and turn them into a twenty-fourth pormanteau post on matters of course!

The Valley of the Short

National Geographic’s Valley of the Boom has been an odd watch. Coming off the back of 4 seasons of The West Wing re-runs on TG4 it’s been quite nice to see Bradley Whitford in light suits walking around corridors again, but this time affecting a drawl and dispensing gnomic wisdom. Elsewhere it’s been fascinating learning about Facebook before Facebook in the shape of TheGlobe.com, but there’s no compelling reason this couldn’t all have been a documentary; even if that would mean losing Josh Lyman himself. Making it a docudrama is a baffling decision, and one which ‘creator’ Matthew Carnahan seems to have interpreted as license to war on the fourth wall to make sure we understand that what little drama there is is not as factual as the documentary surrounding it. Interestingly enough in light of Vice’s suffering the law of diminishing returns when employing the tricks of The Big Short the deployment of those self-same tricks here actually work reasonably well, and even include a musical number; something filmed for but dropped from Vice.

You Don’t Know Dick

All roads lead back to Vice… The more I’ve thought about Vice the more uneasy I am about it. McKay’s interest in Dick Cheney is that which animates all Presidential biographers – the years in the Oval Office. So why bother making a film about the years leading up to it as well, and not just zero in on those eight years? Those eight years, after all, are what really (and clearly) gets McKay’s goat. And yet Vice gallops thru them, offering Cheney’s infamous (and cheerfully repeated by myself and Emmet Ryan during writing sessions, explicitly mentioning that Vice-Presidential imprimatur) “Go F*** Yourself” to Senator Patrick Leahy, and his accidental shooting someone while hunting, almost totally decontextualised, purely because they had to be included; because they’d been fodder for the SNL writers, as McKay once was. The scene in which Cheney demands to see all intelligence, no matter how flimsy, is presented as his quest for a fictional casus belli to invade Iraq. I’ve been thinking though of how that scene could be written, with the same misgivings by the agency directors, and the same outcome, but an entirely different and equally plausible motivation for Cheney’s actions. The truth is that is possible for many scenes in Vice, because McKay always assumes the absolute worst of Cheney, usually in the absence of any information whatsoever. So try this on for size as reason for trampling the constitution beneath his feet:

CIA: There’s only one source for that, Mister Vice-President, that’s why it’s not included.

CHENEY: I want to see everything.

FBI: But, Mister Vice-President, we have to sift thru the intelligence to determine what’s credible.

CHENEY: Do you? Is that what you did when you dismissed as ‘racial profiling’ a flag on an Arabic man saying he didn’t need to learn how to land the plane, just how to fly it? 3,000 Americans are dead because we dropped the ball. We dropped the ball, and they died. So from now on I see EVERYTHING. I don’t care how ‘credible’ you think it is. I need to see EVERYTHING. We are not going to have another 9/11, not on my watch. Now get out of here, and don’t fumble the f****** ball again…

And now perhaps imagine how McKay would handle a similar scene involving President Obama justifying lethal drone strikes on American citizens without any due process.

 

Our long national nightmare is over

And once again with The West Wing re-runs on TG4, because Declan Rice’s statement last night contained a fatal phrase that immediately had me humming Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore ditty. I have felt, almost from the beginning of this will he/won’t he saga, that it was unseemly. And as it progressed I felt it was increasingly humiliating for us to be so desperately begging someone to play for us. Especially as he is ‘a proud Englishman’. Sing it!

But in spite of all temptation

To belong to other nations

He remains an Englishman!

January 27, 2019

Notes on Vice

Postmodern Dick Cheney biopic Vice was the film of the week much earlier today on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Vice, perhaps fittingly, stands in relation to writer/director Adam McKay’s The Big Short as George Bush Jr stands in relation to Jeb Bush; not nearly as competent but more likely to be showered with unearned prizes. The Big Short was sprawling, but, despite following three storylines; Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, Finn Wittrock and Brad Pitt, and Christian Bale; was surprisingly focused in explaining the housing bubble and credit crunch they were all betting on. You would think that following just one character, Dick Cheney, would make for a tighter movie. And you would be wrong. This is a ramshackle mess; exemplified by its opening in 1963, purposelessly jumping forward to 9/11, and then back to 1963 again, followed by opening credits that feel like they belong in an early 1970s crime movie, about 15 minutes in.  There’s another two hours to go after that conceit and McKay has here achieved the unenviable and baffling feat of making a film that is both far too long yet also doesn’t go into enough detail on anything.

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Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part X

What a week it’s been in the continuing cultural meltdown two tribes go to war turn it off and on again freakout of Trump’s America…

Playing a Trump Cad

I have recently fallen into the seductive but dangerous trap of watching the movies I recommend as TV choice for the week on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle. And so yet more of my free time enjoyably disappeared re-watching Speed for the first time in a while. As I mightily enjoyed Dennis Hopper’s villainy; whooping it up as he snarled Joss Whedon’s quotable dialogue at Keanu Reeves; and sat thru numerous TV spots for Christian Bale in Vice, I had a light-bulb moment. The perfect actor to play Donald Trump is the late, great Dennis Hopper. His performance in Speed, notably the comic timing, the sneering and taunting, along with notes from his sinister turn as the unpredictable, childishly explosive, sexually aggressive Frank in Blue Velvet, would provide an admirable palette for portraying President Trump in the Oval Office. Were it not for the fact that we are talking about the late, great Dennis Hopper. I’ve previously sighed over Michael Shannon’s comments about his aggressive lack of interest in playing Trump, even as he is happy to portray Guillermo Del Toro’s latest one-dimensional villain. Trump’s speeches are rarely played uninterrupted on Sky News for as long as Obama’s were, but one of the rare occasions they gave him some airtime I was taken aback at what it reminded me of – for all the world he was performing the opening monologue on a late night talk-show. His satirical invective was aimed at very different targets, but the madly free-wheeling style following the ebbs and flows of audience feedback was like an improv comedian ditching his script to go after the trending topics on Twitter. The ad hominem attacks of Trump aren’t so dissimilar to Colbert mocking Trump’s Yeti pubes or Meyers mocking a Trump’s aide receding hair. That bullying joy in cruelty, aligned with the obvious insecurities that drive Trump, seems like fertile ground for any actor. But especially for an actor who used his magic box of memories for any number of undesirables; determined to find motivations that made monsters someone whose skin he could inhabit.

January 23, 2019

An Engineer Imagines headed to cinemas

An Engineer Imagines, a cinematic tribute revealing the monumental legacy of Peter Rice, has announced a national cinema release from March 1st.

Many of the world’s modern architectural treasures including the Sydney Opera House, the Lloyd’s Building in London, the Inverted Pyramid at the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre in Paris were made possible through the innovation of Irish engineer Peter Rice. A genius who stood in the shadow of architectural icons. Until now.

New Irish documentary An Engineer Imagines, traces Rice’s extraordinary life, from his humble beginnings at 52 Castle Road, Dundalk, through his studies at Queen’s University Belfast and on to London, Sydney, and Paris. Considered to be one of the most important engineers of the 20th century, Rice was awarded the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) shortly before his untimely and tragic death in 1992. Rice simultaneously pushed the boundaries of art and science to achieve the unimaginable. With their revolutionary use of materials and sometimes impossible-seeming structural elements, Rice’s buildings exposed and celebrated the structural elements that underpinned them. Directed by 2014 BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer Marcus Robinson, An Engineer Imagines is a visual celebration of a visionary designer. Boasting Robinson’s trademark, spectacular 35mm time-lapse photography, the film stunningly captures Rice’s inspiring creations, while the man himself is vividly brought to life by conversations with his family, collaborators, and his own writings.

Director Marcus Robinson describes the filmmaking process, “Filming and directing this homage to one of the world’s greatest structural engineers has been a moving and life-affirming experience. It is as though at every step of the way, we have been guided by the transcendent spirit of Peter Rice, brought to life by the loving words of those who knew him best and by the extraordinary buildings that bear his innovative touch.” Producer Brian Willis recalls seeing the exhibition which inspired the film, “I was drawn to the story of Peter Rice when I went to an exhibition celebrating his work back in 2013. I couldn’t believe that here was someone who was world-renowned in his field, working with the world’s top living architects, and I didn’t know about him. I thought, I should do something about that. This was a story that deserved recognition from a much wider audience.” Robert McCann Finn of Sentioar the distributor of the film commented “We are delighted to be working with Fine Point Films and Igloo Films in bringing Marcus’s incredible cinematic vision and craft to cinema audiences across Ireland. Peter is one of the forgotten cultural giants of Ireland’s modern history and we hope audiences and the wider public will be as mesmerised as we were when we first saw An Engineer Imagines.”

An Engineer Imagines will be on limited release in Irish cinemas 1st March.

The IFI will present an Opening Night Screening + Panel Discussion on 1st March. Tickets are available here.

QFT Belfast will present a Special Preview +Panel Discussion on 26th Feb with further screenings from 8th March.

January 20, 2019

Notes on Glass

M Night Shyamalan’s unorthodox sequel Glass was the film of the week early this morning on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

And an unorthodox but pithy and accurate review would be that Glass is never boring but is utterly pointless. Shyamalan has, after patient coaching by producer of our times Jason Blum, clearly got his confidence back. But that might not necessarily be a good thing. Lady in the Water after all was clearly the the work of a supremely confident auteur, a man in any way insecure would never stretch 30 minutes of material into a feature movie. The Happening, when the wheels really fell off the wagon, was when Shyamalan was clearly unsure of his material and this infected his actors; as I noted at the time, the difference between the strained marriages in Unbreakable and The Happening is what happens when the actors no longer believe what they’re saying because they sense the director no longer believes. That is not a problem here. The always wonderful Sarah Paulson commits with every ounce of her being to a very silly role in much the same manner that Maggie Gyllenhaal did in White House Down.

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