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Despite my relatively low review rating on this site, Im an avid movie lover. My reviews don't reflect in any way the amount of films i've watched. I just like to add something a little more substantial than putting in a few stars to reflect my opinion. Although it is very tempting to take the easy route!
I notice some people like to keep a certain privacy on this site also which baffles me...? It's a social networking site at the end of the day and we seem to share a common interest. The more friends and film recomendations the merrier.
"I'm not high and mighty. I'm too high to be high and mighty"
As a companion piece to the marvellous Waking Life, director Richard Linklater delivered this experimental and solid little adaptation of Stephen Belber's stage play. Some may not have even heard of this one, let alone seen it as it's probably one of his most unseen works. As always with Linklater, though, it confirms his place as one of the most original and under appreciated of American filmmakers.
Jon (Robert Sean Leonard) is a local boy who catches a big break as an actor and returns to his home town to attend a film festival where he is appearing in a new movie. At a motel he meets up with Vince (Ethan Hawke), his old high school friend. However, Vince hasn't changed a bit and seems intent on bringing up things from the past which Jon seems happy to let go of. When (Uma Thurman), another friend from school appears, things don't quite add up as their past relationship has more to it than some of them care to admit.
Set entirely within the confines of a small, cheap motel room with bad decor, Linklater's ingenuity is apparent from the offset. He shoots on digital video achieving a true minimalism that fully captures the feel of a stage play. There's no music score or elaborate sound effects, but only the highly charged, back and forth interaction between Hawke and Leonard (reuniting after Dead Poets Society). This might not sound too appealing on the surface but it's entirely effective for the material and the inclusion of an old flame in Thurman, adds a captivating edge to the overall purpose and motivation of the three-dimensional characters.
As a chamber piece, dialogue is the order of the day here and it's sharply written and tensely delivered by all three cast members. Their awkwardness is apparent in their exchanges and they have us constantly wondering who to side with while Linklater utilises his environment to marvellous effect. In such a confined space, his movement with the camera is very impressive and he fully captures the claustrophobia and tension to perfection.
Sometimes Linklater will delver a film that just doesn't receive the recognition it deserves and Tape can certainly be included among these. Criminally overlooked upon it's release (and since) as this is a brilliantly realised adaptation that benefits from strong performances, inventive direction and maintains it's intensity right to the very end.
The first collaboration between director John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson was 2011's hugely original and hilarious Irish film "The Guard" which delivered one of Gleeson's most memorable roles and showed that McDonagh shared a similar offbeat approach to his brother Martin's "In Bruges". Martin went on to make the misjudged step to the U.S. with "Seven Psychopaths", meanwhile John wisely decided to remain in Ireland and produce the best film of them all.
With taking confession, Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) learns that a member of his church was abused by another priest from the time he was 7 years old. Now that that priest has died, the unknown confessor intends on retribution by killing Father James in a week's time. Uncovering the person proves to be a difficult task, though, as there are a number of locals who all have their own reasons to hate the Catholic Church.
Calvary: 1. (Art Terms) a representation of Christ's crucifixion, usually sculptured and in the open air 2. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) any experience involving great suffering.
The definition of "Calvary" is only the starting point on how perfectly McDonagh handles his affairs. The title itself is perfectly suited to the films themes as our protagonist, Father James is to be subjected to his own form of crucifixion. He's to atone, not for his own sins, but for those of another simply because killing a good priest will make more of a statement than killing a bad one. And so begins the story of a man forced to confront his own mortality.
As much as this seems like a foreboding and sombre journey (which it is to an extent) it's also a poetic and satirical one. It's, at once, a commentary on faith and compassion while managing a blackly comic absurdity in the vein of the hilarious Irish, parochial comedy series, "Father Ted". It also teases us with a whodunnit style murder mystery where each of the colourful cast of characters are hinted at being Father James' possible killer. The skill in this, is that what we hear at the beginning of the film is still only a threat yet we suspect each of the parishioners as if the murder has already happened - trying to decipher who the culprit is as the priest finds himself in a Manichaean conflict between good and evil.
It's the finely tuned balance of downbeat existential drama and off-the-wall gallows humour that's most impressive about McDonagh's second feature. The writing is sharp and well judged as are a whole host of supporting characters; from the suffering Kelly Reilly, the jovial Chris O'Dowd, to the mephistophelian Aidan Gillen and the salacious Dylan Moran. There's even a rare appearance from the great character actor M. Emmet Walsh. Anchoring it all, though, is a toweringly solid performance from the always reliable Gleeson. As a late starter to acting (aged 34), Gleeson has delivered some outstanding work but this is arguably his best work yet, and that's saying something. He's a soulful, avuncular character that possesses a quiet power and tolerance of the wayward, rural community mentality. Such a mentality is reflected in the environment and Larry Smith's sublime cinematography captures it in all it's stark beauty with a wonderfully fitting music score to compliment the images. Quite simply, no-one puts a foot wrong.
Touted as the second part of a planned "suicide trilogy" between McDonagh and Gleeson and if the third instalment is even half as good as this then we are in for yet another treat. "Calvary" has certainly received it's fair share of plaudits and may well feature in many "best of" lists at the end of the year. There's no doubt that it'll make mine. An absolutely solid and thought provoking piece of filmmaking.
Jon Burroughs (Domhnall Gleeson) is a young aspiring musician who luckily gets a chance to play keyboard with US band The Soronprfbs led by frontman Frank (Michael Fassbender). However, Frank is a very mysterious and enigmatic person and Jon finds himself involved in something he doesn't fully understand.
Rounding out the cast of delightful oddities we have strong performances across the board: Domhnall (son of Brendan) Gleeson yet again proves his worth in an ever increasing list of good roles while Scoot McNairy and, the always excellent, Maggie Gyllenhaal deliver yet more welcome eccentricity amidst the mayhem. The film works primarily on these appealing characters, their idiosyncrasies and differing emotional angst and still manages to make a commentary on the nature of art and the integrity of an artist.
With the shifts in tone and off-beat wackiness some may be left just as unsure about the film as they would be about pronouncing "The Soronprfbs" - the name of the avant-garde rock band at the films centre. However, with an open mind many will appreciate the sharp writing, excellent performances and the finely tuned balance of black humour. After this charming and engaging little dramedy, I wouldn't be surprised if all the cast and crew developed a big head. Fine work from everyone.
By now, most people will be aware of the Kickstarter project where people raise funds to get their projects of the ground. There have already been some notable films that have reached their goal in Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars movie and Jeremy Saulnier's marvellous Blue Ruin. Well, director Jennifer Kent has managed to do it again by raising $30,000 to add to her modest budget and make a feature length film of her 2005 short Monster. Most of these funds were channeled towards the art department and with the evidence onscreen, it's money well spent.
Single, widowed mother Amelia (Essie Davis) tries her best to manage her imaginative six year-old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who has a strong belief in monsters. One evening, he produces a strange children's book called Mr. Babadook for a bedtime story. Reluctantly, Amelia reads it but it only adds to Samuel's nightmares and his increasingly difficult behaviour. It's not before long, however, that fear strikes and Amelia begins to share her son's fantasy that a monster called the Bababook lurks throughout their home with no intention of leaving.
Without a doubt, it's impressively handled. However, (and I find myself saying this often with modern horror) it fails to maintain it's momentum. As we get closer to the revelation of The Babadook, we get further away from anything that resembles coherence or a convincing resolution. Maybe I missed the point but I was hugely disappointed in the direction the story took and I didn't make complete sense of it. As is often the case with shorts that are fleshed out into a feature film, they have a tendency to run out of steam and I got the impression that Kent had a similar problem here. She struggled to deliver a satisfactory ending, leaving me frustrated (yet again) with a horror that had a lot of potential but, alas, suffered the same fate as so many others.
Despite it's lacklustre denouement, there's no denying that this is a very accomplished debut from Jennifer Kent. Her knowledge of the genre is apparent and her ability to stage it well goes without question. I hoped for a little more towards the end but I'd imagine less critical fans of horror than myself will be far more satisfied.
Jim Mickle is not a director who's name you instantly recognise but he's one that's been chipping away at career for himself. Along with writing partner Nick Damici, they've delivered some relatively successful, low-budget horror films over the last few years with Mulberry St, Stake Land and We Are What We Are. With Cold In July they've went on a different path and again the results are quite impressive.
In 1980's Texas, an intruder breaks into a home and awakens family man Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) who shoots and kills him. After an investigation by local Sheriff Ray Price (Nick Damici), it's more or less a closed case and Richard is allowed to continue as he was. However, the intruder's father (Sam Shepard) is looking for retribution and begins to haunt Richard and his family which opens up all sorts of new information and how the intruder could have been a set-up, which draws Richard further and further into a dark underworld.
Based on the pulp novel by Joe R. Lansdale, there's much to admire in Cold In July's feel for Texan noir. It's reminiscent of the likes of Jim Thompson's After Dark, My Sweet or The Killer Inside Me in driving us down the dirt roads of seedy underworld gangsters and their depravity. Nothing is what it seems and that's exactly the appeal. What begins as a random act of self preservation soon becomes a quest for the truth and vigilantism. Dexter and Six Feet Under's Michael C. Hall carries the film very well but he's aided immeasurably by two old hands in Sam Shepard and Don Johnson. The latter doesn't appear till half way through the film but with his cowboy hat and his Cherry convertible, he injects real energy into the proceedings. Up until then, director Mickle had been tightening his grip steadily and deliberately with his honing of some impressive moments of brooding tension and utilising Jeff Grace's John Carpenter-esque synthesiser score to great effect.
It's certainly not without faults; plot strands are left unresolved or discarded entirely and the progression of our main character from doting family man to vigilante, stretches credulity. However, there's enough style going on to allow you to forgive its shortcomings. If, like me, you're a fan of trashy pulp noir then this should go down like a neat little shot.