Category Archives: Film Reviews

Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon – Spellbound (1945) – Beanmimo


This is a guest blog I wrote for MovieRob’s Hitchcock Blogathon.

MovieRob

hitchcockFor our next review for the Alfred Hitchcock blogathon (our 31st), we present you with a review of Spellbound by Ben Moore of Beanmimo.

Thanks Ben for being a part of this!

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Spellbound (1945) directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Bu Ben Moore of Beanmimo

An aloof and professional psychiatrist (Ingrid Bergman) falls for the new head of psychiatry (Gregory Peck) but once he begins to display odd behaviour (leading to a manhunt) she has to use her psychoanalytical skills to find out whether he is guilty or innocent of murder.

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The first time I watched this dark chapter on Hitchcock’s repertoire was about 25 years ago and it left me with three lasting impressions: Dali’s dream sequences, the old and shrewd psychiatrist played by Michael Chechov and it was the first time I had seen Ingrid Bergman outside of Casablanca.

Audiences today will find the plot use of basic Freudian…

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Lucy – Film Review


Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), an American student in Taiwan, is forced to becoming a drug mule for a criminal gang. While being held captive she is exposed to the drug which gives her access to a rising percentage of her brain capacity.

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Luc Besson peppered my late teens and twenties with his wonderfully unique and fast paced films like Subway, The Big Blue, La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element. Here he continues with one of his strongest themes i.e. increasingly kick ass female lead characters surrounded by a bunch of fairly helpless men.

This premise has been covered before (recently in the enjoyable but weakly concluded Limitless) but Besson takes a different view of how heightened brain capacity could affect a human. As opposed to the enjoyment, playfulness and commercial end of higher functioning we saw in Limitless, Lucy tries to treat the increasing awareness in a philosophical and scientific manner.

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But, and yes there is a big ‘but’ here… no, I lie, there are a lot of little ‘buts’ here. It begins slowly as little-to-no-background Lucy finds herself at the mercy of the stereo-typically one dimensional Taiwanese gangsters. This is inter cut with neuroscientist Professor Norman (an underused Morgan Freeman) giving a lecture on the potential effects of increased brain function (hammering home the foreshadowing Lucy’s development). His lecture on human development is punctuated by irrelevant images depicting survival and procreation.

Besson has also tried to make an action film here as well. The result is that we are given snatches of what is going through Lucy’s mind as her brain begins to view the world through a dazzlingly different lens. Just as this is getting interesting we must endure lengthy car chases and western like stand offs between various characters.

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Another ‘but’ is that the script is lazy and we are left no identifiable characters expect perhaps Pierre Del Rion (Amr Waked) the French Policeman who after being helpful for a brief moment seems to lose so much relevance to the plot at one stage he actually asks Lucy what she needs him for.

I am all for suspension of disbelief but there are too many conveniences to overlook here and a few plot holes to navigate around which drowns the enjoyment of a good concept. Even the end which is clever and messy at the same time cannot save the overall enjoyment.

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One thing Besson does not overlook is the use of Scarlet Johansson’s feminity. As per his usual feisty heroines, she dresses up and down, looks amazing, kicks ass and all the while Lucy’s initial character disappears cleverly into her evolving intellect.

Besson maybe just trying to outdo himself in the powerful female lead characters as I do believe If you put Lucy and Leeloo (from The Fifth Element) on a room together, Lucy would be the winner while as a movie it is the loser.

Fun but flawed.

5/10

Lucy is in Irish cinemas now.

Check your local Irish Cinema here

The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Film Review


The growing colony of genetically enhanced apes is pitted against the human survivors of the virus which has more than decimated the earth’s population.

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Shouldn’t the ‘Rise’ have come after the ‘Dawn’? In my book events like the Sun rising, an idea, or any urge you may happen to have will have a dawn before they begin to rise. I just wanted to get that out of the way.

I was expecting an ‘Empire Strikes Back’ or ‘Back to the Future II’ sort of darkness from ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ and it delivered this to a point but, disappointingly, only to a point. The first half an hour is gripping and had me on the edge of my seat. But before I knew it I has slumped back, weighed down by a sudden rush of sentimentality – an emotion I did not expect too much of in this chapter.

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It is not necessary to have seen the first film in the Apes franchise to appreciate the events in this chapter as they fill you in with a now tried and trusted ‘news’ montage in the opening scene. You will, however, have to put up with subtitles in the first half of the film because the apes use a combination of sign language, grunts and the odd English word to communicate. Personally subtitles don’t bother me and the story does warrant the as the apes only begin to speak more when faced with the human survivors.

The look and feel of the film is excellent. The home of the ape colony and their embryonic evolution with regard to hunting and family values is treated with equal amounts of thrilling and touching respect. The human characters are as two dimensional as they were in the first episode but I feel this is a choice rather than a weakness as this, after all, is the story of the Apes. Without giving too much away the overgrown look of San Francisco reminds me of ‘I am Legend’ in the slick detail they provide.

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The battle scenes are tense and the rising politics in the ape colony are believable as the different apes have different motivations about how humans should be treated. The filmmakers have infused the apes politics with the hallmarks of the Roman Empire far beyond the main character’s name of Caesar.

But all this does not help that about an hour of the film is achingly slow and sentimental. It is as if they had an hour of plot and then split it in half and filled it with rice cakes. Whatever they have planned for the next instalment they should have dumped 50% of the sentimental parts here and taken the first half an hour of the next movie’s plot and used it in this one.

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While overall it disappointed me the final sequence leaves you wanting more and so it manages to entertain by the skin of its grubby fingernails. I will be in the cinema for the first day of the final part (whatever they decide to call it, “The Brunch of the Planet of the Apes” perhaps) to see how they conclude this reboot.

6/10

In cinemas now!

 

Edge of Tomorrow – Film Review


Preview screening thanks to IMC Cinemas

Tom Cruise (Tom Cruise) is an advertising executive turned military PR man who, after an act of insubordination, is sent directly to the front-line in a war against the Mimics, alien invaders, who have attacked the Earth. Here he becomes stuck in a time loop.

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O.k. he does actually have a character name but they are all beginning to blur. The problem with Tom Cruise movies is that he usually wields more power than anyone else on the production. This works both for the movies he is involved in but also against them. He brings values to most areas of his movies that are rarely seen in such abundance on other sets with the exception of plot and character development. Here the productions seem to rely on the Tom Cruise factor which will bring audiences to the cinema. For example I find his sci-fi movies flat (with the exception of Minority Report where he was matched with the power wielding skills of Spielberg).

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Edge of Tomorrow is both slick and silly.  If you can forgive 1) a messy “time loop“ plot, something to do with blood and the Omega (brain) Mimic (the aliens), 2) the aliens themselves who, beyond being told that they Mimic human behaviour, just seem to thrash around like giant, wild, multi-tentacled, vortex-mouthed insects on a killing spree and 3) the ‘romantic’ plot which seems to have been hammered in with a wooden clog this… movie is actually a bit of fun.

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Once the time loop is in action and Tom is having his Groundhog Day on the beaches in France where the frontline action takes place (an odd hat tip to the Normandy landings?) the movie is entertaining and funny. The multiple time loops could have become boring but instead it is used to good comic effect as we see certain scenes for the first time but soon realise that Tom is wearily going through the paces. Cruise is not his usual ‘top of his game’ character in this movie. He is thrown in at the deep end with a good supporting cast all willing him to fail. Brendan Gleeson plays a tough General, Bill Paxton is perfect as an equally hard-nosed platoon leader and Emily Blunt provides the love interest as a War Hero.

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Of course many science fiction fans will be interested in the suit of armour he wears. In movie terms it is at once a beefed up version of suits we have seen in the Alien franchise and Elysium. While not being as powerful as the ones seen in Avatar it still holds an impressive and refreshingly limited amount of firepower. In reality I am told (with authority) that is looks very like the suits currently being developed by Ekso Bionics in the U.S.

Visually it is worth a trip to the cinema and if you think you might be disappointed try an afternoon show that won’t be as expensive!

7/10

Edge of Tomorrow opens in Irish Cinemas on 30th May

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Review


Self-healing and generally cranky mutant Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back to his younger body in the 1970’s to avert disaster in a future that threatens both Mutants and Humans.

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Days of Future past fits snugly in with the rest of the X-Men franchise, even more snugly than a few of the other installments. Perhaps it is because Bryan Singer is back at the helm. Both the self-referential dialogue and the humour is jacked up to ninety as he deftly handles the new additions to the cast since his last outing in X-Men 2.

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This is an X-Men love in which deals both with a dystopian future filled with a new and more than agile threat to both Humans and Mutants in the form of Sentinels. Then we are thrown back to the 1970s where Wolverine has to re-unit the threesome of high ranking mutants, Charles Xavier (Professor X), Eric Lehnsherr (Magneto) and Raven Darkholme (Mystique) who are at each other’s throats in an attempt to change the future. Really beyond that there is very little else I can say about the plot without causing a rift in the space time continuum or at least spoiling the story for X-Men fans.

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Singer brings with him a true love of the X-Men characters as we see Xavier dealing with personal struggles (in a very 70s fashion) which James McEvoy portrays with an ease I felt was missing from X-Men: First Class. Michael Fassbender is utterly commanding as the vengeful and ice-cold Magneto, again his character has grown from the first film, while Jennifer Lawrence is magnificent as a hardened Mystique who is on a mission all of her own. Of course Wolverine remains as cranky as he is true of heart.

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The set pieces are put together at a mind bending pace and quality and as always there are a few new mutant powers thrown in for good effect. Last but not least there is one slow-mo scene with a teenage Quicksilver which threatens to steals the entire show!

Fans of X-Men will approve and as it is the 7th film in the series I don’t think the producers are too worried about what the others think.

8/10

Thanks to 20th Century Fox Ireland  for choosing me as one of their winners for their ticket competition!

X-Men: Days of Future Past in in Irish cinemas now.

Check your local Irish Cinema here

Frank Directed by Lenny Abrahamson – Film Review


An aspiring songwriter,  Jon, stumbles into the position as a keyboard player of an experimental and unpronounceable band, Soronprfbs, led by the enigmatic papier-mâché head wearing Frank as they embark the recording of their first album.

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Lenny Abrahamson has doubled back to the tone of poignant humour he first delivered to us in Adam & Paul. Though Frank deals with mental instability and depression it covers it up with a lovely gentle humour, much as Frank (Michael Fassbender) covers up his own head with a cartoon visage.

Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is the every-man character who is thrown into the world where Frank, who never takes off his mask, is revered as a genius by the rest of the dysfunctional band. Instead of meeting these deficiencies head on Jon is naively swept along with the rest of the members into believing Franks genius status. But the longer he stays the more he gets to know and tries to understand the human and troubled side of Frank.

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Domhnall Gleeson plays a very similar inexperienced character to the role in About Time even down to the English accented narration and he wears it with comfort. Though we do not see Michael Fassbender’s face he is convincing as the revered front man whose layers are slowly peeled away. Maggie Gyllenhaal is more than believable as the terrifyingly psychotic theremin player. While Scoot McNairy is Don the informal manager/Bass player of the band who get’s the lion’s share of the best lines and uses them naturally. All of the performances are great.

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Abrahamson has paced the movie in his usual easy going stride. The humour is dry and evenly scattered throughout the plot alongside heavier scenes dealing with the theme of depression which becomes more evident toward the end of the story.

I cannot say it is an overwhelming movie but I left with a sad but warm feeling in my heart.

7/10

Frank is now playing in Irish Cinemas

Check your local Irish Cinema here

A Thousand Times Goodnight – Film Review


Preview courtesy of Eclipse Pictures and Arrow Films

Rebecca, a world class War Photographer, finds that the risk that comes with her job creates tension between herself and her family.

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A Thousand Times Goodnight was shot mostly where it set. The action movies from a striking opening section in Kabul to a slower pace in the Irish home of the Rebecca’s family. We see the effects of her stress filled job spill over the lives of her husband and two children. Norwegian Director Erik Poppe and ex- war photographer himself does seem more at home with the scenes of armed conflict than he is with domestic engagements.

Juilette Binoche gives an inwardly emotional performance as she copes with her own hangover from the warzone and slowly realises that it is tearing her family apart. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau delivers an equally subdued performance as her long suffering-in-silence- until now husband Marcus. Amber’s Lauryn Canny plays the older of the two children. She gives a fine performance. We believe that her mother’s job is having a profound effect on her life. The tense relationships between the characters were realistic to a point. In particular the Binoche and Canny’s Mother-daughter relationship felt authentic.

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But the film is not without its faults. The slower domestic aspect of the plot was always going to be difficult to balance the erratic warzone scenes but it was hampered further by an uncomfortable combination of flat dialogue and uneven acting in quite a few places. Even the casting of two obviously Irish children did not seem plausible to me as their parents are Norwegian and French. Perhaps I am being a little harsh because as the story unfolded I was swept up and did enjoy the rest of the film.

Maria Doyle Kennedy and Larry Mullen Jnr. provide an understated support to the two main cast leads.

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Despite the bumps I encountered while watching this I still came away moved and also I felt I learned had learned what motivates someone to be a war photographer and the impact it has on their family while being disappointed that the domestic portion did not get as much professional attention as the emotionally charged conflict scenes.

6/10

A Thousand Times Good Night opens in Ireland on May 16th

Check your local Irish Cinema here