Monthly Archives: January 2011

And the Oscar might go to….

The nominations for the 2011 Oscars are finally in! Here are the main categories, with my own predictions highlighted – let’s see I right (or wrong) I get them!

Best Picture:
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Best Actor:
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Best Actress:
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
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THE FIGHTER: Boxing Clever

Directed by David O. Russell. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo. 114 mins.
Rating: Four/Five
In cinemas February 4

Based on the true-life story of a Massachusetts-born underdog boxer Micky Ward, The Fighter has all the makings of yet another Boston-based film about charming blue collar rogues just waiting for their chance to – dramatic pause – make somethin’ of themselves. But thankfully director David O. Russell abandons these clichés in favour of the gritty realities of dysfunctional family life, and while ostensibly a boxing film, The Fighter revolves around the struggles that take place outside the ring.

Set in a convincingly seedy Lowell, Mark Wahlberg plays Micky, a soft-spoken and malleable man who, though capable of defending himself in a boxing ring, is powerless in the face of his overbearing family – in particular his older crack-addicted brother Dickie (Christian Bale). Once the “Pride of Lowell”, Dickie has transformed from a promising boxer into a deluded waster who’s infantilized and enabled by his unquestioningly devoted mother (Melissa Leo). As Micky tries to further his boxing career he’s forced acknowledge that the weight of his brother’s reputation may well be holding him back.

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RABBIT HOLE: And so we fall.

Directed by John Cameron Mitchell. Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller. 92 mins.
Rating: Four/Five
In cinemas February 4

Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) are living a pseudo existence. Becca is a joyless Stepford wife who spends her days tending to her garden, making her delinquent sister crème brûlée for breakfast and avoiding social gatherings, while Howie disappears all day to his unidentified job. Their interactions with eachother are stilted and perfunctory, and it’s not until other characters force their way into the couple’s lives that the source of their anguish is revealed – the tragic death of their four year old son, eight months previously.

Adapted by John Cameron Mitchell, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play is a largely plot-free examination of grief, and so Rabbit Hole is completely dependent on its two leads. Thankfully, they are both incredible. Kidman’s impassive Becca is a blend of impassive steeliness that viciously attacks the platitude-spouting “God freaks” in her group therapy, and a well of brimming vulnerability in the face of Jason (Miles Teller), a teenager who has been traumatized in equal, if opposite, measure. Eckhart’s Howie, on the other hand, walks on eggshells to avoid confrontation with his wife even though he’s clearly a volcanic mess of understandable anger and guilt who, in the absence of non-existent answers, is just seeking release.

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HOW DO YOU KNOW: If it’s not a rom or a com, what is it (no question mark)

[116 mins]
In cinemas January 28

At one point during How Do You Know, a therapist is asked for a piece of general, all-round piece of advice, “something that would help anyone, in any situation.” His sage-like response is thus: “Figure out what you want to do with your life, and learn how to ask the questions to get there.” Quite a solid mantra. Unfortunately director James L. Brooks didn’t take his own his own advice. Despite a great cast and some interesting moments, Brooks has no idea what he wants to do with his film or what questions to ask to get there. Hell, forget what questions, just look at the title – he doesn’t even know how to punctuate them.

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HEREAFTER: Eastwood’s Afterlife drama is Dead in the Water

Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Matt Damon, Cécile de France, Frankie McLaren, George McLaren. 129 mins
Rating: Two/Five
In cinemas January 28

Following in the schmaltzy footsteps of Crash and Babel, Clint Eastwood’s overlong drama Hereafter uses three intertwining plotlines to demonstrate the inescapable interconnectedness of humanity and his own lack of originality. French journalist Marie (Cécile de France) has a near-death experience when she’s caught in a tsunami; Marcus (Frankie McLaren) is an English boy whose twin brother is killed in a car accident, and George (Matt Damon) is an enigmatic labourer burdened with an ability to communicate with the dead.

Damon’s storyline proves intriguing as George connects with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), a vulnerable young woman whose imprudent curiosity about George’s ability ultimately reveals it to be a curse, rather than a blessing. This emotional and superbly acted storyline could have been made an affecting feature, but Eastwood feels the need to hammer home the shocking message that death affects us all and so shoehorns in his other two dull and surprisingly detached narratives, which aren’t helped by blandness of their lead actors. Young actor Frankie McLaren and his brother George are particularly awkward, leading one to suspect that they’re the favourite nephews of one of the casting directors, as talent clearly had nothing to do with that decision. Continue reading

BRIGHTON ROCK: Not Rocking the Remake

In cinemas February 4
[111 mins]

Known for this successful screenplays (The American, 28 Weeks Later), Rowan Joffe’s directing debut marks a notably odd choice of project. Choosing to adapt Graham Greene’s 1939 novel, Joffe immediately sets himself up for comparison with the beloved 1947 adaptation starring Richard Attenborough – a comparison which was never going to reward him favourably.

Pinky (an extremely menacing Sam Riley) is a small town hoodlum whose gang run a protection racket based at Brighton race course. When naive waitress Rose (Andrea Riseborough) becomes the key witness in a one of Pinkie’s murders, he decides to court her in an attempt to earn her love and her silence. But with his gang beginning to doubt his ability, rivals taking over his business and Rose’s moxie-filled boss (Helen Mirren) asking questions, Pinkie starts to become more desperate and violent. As his treatment of Rose becomes increasingly vicious, she becomes ever the more dependent and eager to win his affections, leading to an incredibly interesting if underdeveloped examination of the dangerous and intoxicating nature of first love.

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BLACK SWAN: Shades of Grey

[108 mins]
Opens January 21

Perfectionist ballerina Nina (Natalie Portmas), is a troubled woman stuck in a state of stunted adolescence. Obsessive rehearsal and an eating disorder have kept her body in its pubescent form; her creepily devoted “Mommy” (Barbara Hershey) undresses and tucks her in at night; and, sexually inexperienced, she’s unable to process her feelings for her sleazy director Thomas (Vincent Cassel.)

But when Thomas offers her the dual lead role in Swan Lake, Nina is forced to grow up. And because burgeoning female sexuality is obviously a horrific, demonic force, Nina’s grasp on reality quickly disintegrates as her dream role becomes a nightmare of disturbing, violent hallucinations centred around Lily (Mila Kunis), a rival ballerina who oozes talent and pheromones in equal measure. Continue reading

Interview: Richie Baneham

If asked to list some Irish Oscar winners down your local pub quiz, it’s likely that the name ‘Daniel Day Lewis’ will spring to mind, followed by ‘Peter O’Toole’ and then maybe even yer man from The Frames. However last year it was Tallaght man Richard Baneham who walked away with a gong, having worked on the visual effects for James Cameron’s Avatar, the highest grossest film in history. And so, one year on from his win, with the 2011 Oscar nominations looming, we asked Baneham about his journey to Oscar stage, the pressure of living up to his award and the challenges facing visual effects artists.

Baneham studied classical animation in Ballyfermot College of Further Education, whose alumni also boast the Oscar-nominated animators of The Secret of Kells and Granny O’Grimm. Following his degree, the determined student moved over to the States with his soon-to-be wife Aisling, and spent years building up a good reputation in some of the smaller film studios. “One of my first main jobs was working on a movie – and I’m ashamed to say it – called The Swan Princess. But sure it payed the bills – hey, we were 22, all we needed was money to drink and pay our rent!” Continue reading

EXTRA, EXTRA: January 14

* He’s multitalented, but my God, don’t he know it…Mike Skinner, aka the conversational rapper The Streets is now officially turned to the world of film. Having directed his own music videos, he’s currently working on an untitled script with his longtime associate Ted Mayhem. According to Skinner it will be “a punchy thriller” set in a hospital that will likely be released via his website

* Director Scott Rudin has claimed that Angeline Jolie’s portrayal of Cleopatra in his upcoming biopic will not be that of a sexy seductress and is instead “a completely revisionist Cleopatra…She’s not a sex kitten, she’s a politician, a strategist.” Makes perfect sense – political women can’t be attractive! Sure everyone knows the second Jolie got involved in the United Nations she instantly turned into an absolute minger.

* According to Kevin Smith, film critics and movie blogs are the root of all evil and so he’s gonna take us all down…via, em, Twitter. Fed up with getting bad reviews, Smith is now refusing to participate in interviews or junkets, instead deciding to advertise upcoming movie Red State via a website that provides a 12 hour audio press release so that he doesn’t have to waste time talking to us heartless demons who are just going to slate him anyway. Another option would be, you know, just making a decent movie…

* Robert DeNiro is set to head the jury at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Eh, really? Sure he did The Godfather Part II, but that was in 1974 people! Since then he’s gone on to star in Little Fockers, Machete, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Analyze That – are we sure he’s still mentally equipped to judge films?

2010: You Spin me right round, baby right round

Following my list of the best films of 2010, I joined my wonderful buddy Mr. Gordon Hayden on his radio show We Love Movies on Spin 103.8

Listen to part one here, where we list our best & worst movies of the year from number 10 to number 6 & argue over the Millenium Trilogy starring Noomi Rapace & I explain why Green Zone ended a flirtation of mine before it ever really began!

Then get ready as we rant & rave about our ten most loved & hated films of 2010, & where the tension escalates to such extreme levels that my friendship with Gordon is put to the test…(not really though, I can’t resist the charms of that smile for too long :)) Listen in to all the drama here!