Friday, July 22, 2011

"Spider" short film

Written by: Nash Edgerton and David Michod

Directed by Nash Edgerton

Starring: Nash Edgerton, Mirrah Foulkes

The people who brought you The Square and Animal Kingdom combine their powers here to great cinematic effect. I shall say no more...just watch!

It's all fun and games until someone loses and eye...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Horrible Bosses

Written by: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

Directed by Seth Gordon

Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell

Rating: 8/10

If it’s satisfying, edgy summer comedy you’re after look no further! Horrible Bosses is naughty enough to ensure the odd shocked snigger, but funny enough to ensure you don’t spend too long shifting uncomfortably in your seat. The plot is simple, three best friends agree to murder each others horrible bosses. Riffing on Strangers on a Train and Throw Momma From the Train (which was itself riffing on Strangers, how very post-post), Horrible Bosses combines the squirmy suspense of the former and the darkly comic nasty streak of the latter to produce a very enjoyable and funny comedy.

Nick (Bateman) is working for a faceless corporation and taking all kinds of rubbish from his boss Dave (Kevin Spacey) with a view to an impending promotion. Dale is being sexually harassed by his boss Julia (Jennifer Aniston) and getting little sympathy from his friends and Kurt’s lovely boss just died leaving his cokehead idiot son (Colin Farrell) in charge. The guys are so miserable that they somehow come to the conclusion that their only solution is to “whack” their bosses.

The trick to pulling off this potentially tired little plot is to ensure that the cast of performers are on the ball at all times. Playing it safe with some of TV’s strongest comedy actors Jason Bateman (Arrested Development), Jason Sudeikis (SNL) and Charlie Day (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), the three leads were clearly cast for skill and not box office draw. This ploy works, bigtime! The three actors hit every comic beat and squeeze every ounce of juice out of each joke. As loveable as these guys are, the bosses are equally despicable. Spacey, Aniston and Farrell are clearly having a blast here with their rather vaudeville characters. The chemistry and fun created by the cast reminds me of early Farrelly Brothers movies, where so much of the energy was created by actors just having a blast at being ridiculous. The villains are all breaking out of their usual moulds and playing to their underused comic abilities.

It may not be the most original story but it is delicately plotted so that the many twists and turns are given the right amount of comic punch. Sometimes simple is best and watching these hapless guys indulging this absurd fantasy is about as simple as comedy gets. There’s something about these wish-fulfilment comedies that can playfully strike a chord with something very primal in audiences. This enables a sort of forgiveness that encourages the essential suspension of disbelief. It’s necessary with films like this to avoid thoughts like “there’s no way they’d ACTUALLY do something like this”. That sort of thinking is utterly pointless and denies the viewer the opportunity to enjoy the ride. So, word of warning, this is not a documentary, this is a farcical comedy and should be treated as such.

Apart from the fact that this is rather conventional fare and the end could have used a bit more punch, Horrible Bosses is a hilarious comedy and thanks to the easy-on-the-eye cast and a colourful cinematographer it’s a very pleasant film to watch. The script is tight, the laughs are plentiful, and the jokes are naughty! What more could you want in a summer comedy?!

 - Charlene Lydon (from:

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Guard

Written & Directed by: John Michael McDonagh

Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot

Rating: 8/10

The Irish sense of humour is a strange beast; disrespectful but warm, xenophobic but friendly, indignant yet self-deprecating. A strange beast it may be but it is also one of this nations finest attributes. With The Guard, John Michael McDonagh has managed to capture the spirit of Irish humour with all it's darkness and all it's irreverent charm. Following Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Gleeson) during an uncharacteristically action-packed week on the beat in rural Galway, the film sees three philosphising drug smugglers arriving in town, followed closely by straight-laced FBI agent Wendell Everett (Cheadle).

Gerry is smart as a whip but doesn't suffer fools gladly and likes to indulge in drink, drugs and prostitutes whenever possible. He is not your conventional rural Irish guard. His intolerance of the bureaucracy involved in police work, especially a big case like this, is the backbone of the character but essentially he is also a man of great integrity and compassion where he feels it's deserved. As he becomes unwittingly embroiled in this case, Gerry manages to offend but ultimately endear himself to the straight-laced American Wendell  Everett, who is getting something of a hard time from the locals. Over time these two highly intelligent men from completely different backgrounds learn to respect each other amidst a sea of mind games and cutting jibes flying both ways.

Don't be fooled by the elements of "bromance", The Guard is a character study, plain and simple. The plot and the supporting cast are secondary to exploring this fascinating character. Brendan Gleeson relishes the role of a lifetime with class, dignity and humour, allowing the character to remain just mysterious enough that we never know what to expect of him. This bravura performance helps to cover up some of the flaws in the film, most notably, the poor direction especially when it comes to the final act action scenes. As streamlined as the script is, the film would have benefited hugely from a more experienced director. That being said The Guard is hugely enjoyable, the jokes are killer, the main cast are superb and there is just enough intelligence to raise the bar, but not enough to make it feel pretentious.

Credit must go to Mark Strong, David Wilmot and Liam Cunningham for their portrayal of a trio of drug smugglers who are smart enough to know not to underestimate Gerry but stupid enough to think that they could emerge victorious. They are funny but somehow also menacing, giving the film an essential sense of danger. The dark undertones in the film help to ensure that audiences know that there is always something at stake and this is not your average comedy.

The Guard is exactly what the Irish film industry needs right now, a brave, solid genre film with enough substance to endear itself to an international market. With a cracking cast, an endlessly quotable script and a unique voice, this film is undoubtedly a classic of Irish cinema.

 - Charlene Lydon

Cell 211

Written by: Jorge Guerricercaechevarria, Daniel Monzon

Directed by: Daniel Monzon

Starring: Alberto Ammann, Luis Tosar, Marta Etura

Rating: 7/10

It is Juan Oliver's first day as a prison officer, a job he took to provide for his wife and forthcoming baby. Juan Oliver is a quiet, earnest, likeable young man with a more than usually intuitive. Unfortunately for him, as he is being given the tour of the prison all hell breaks loose as the prisoners attack the guards and take over the prison. Left for dead, abandoned by the guards, Juan Oliver finds himself stuck in the prison with no hope of escape. In order to survive, he poses as a new inmate and manages to befriend the leader of the prisoner, the powerfully charismatic but terrifying Malamadre (which, I believe translates as "son of a bitch").

As Juan Oliver becomes deeper embroiled in the negotiations and rises quickly through the ranks to become Malamadre's right hand man, he begins to see the dark underbelly of the authorities and his loyalty is swayed as his somewhat naive and optimistic view of the institution he works for falls asunder.

As a thriller, Cell 211 is a superior effort. The screenplay is intelligent, tight and well paced. The characters are defined and believable while the universally strong performances bring nuance to what could easily have been just a bunch of thugs. Recalling similar film like John Hillcoat's remarkable Ghosts of the Civil Dead and Hector Babenco's Carandiru (with which this film shares many traits), Cell 211 is a prison thriller that delivers. It may not be emotionally visceral enough to leave you haunted afterwards, but it is certainly a slick, brilliantly executed film. Director Daniel Monzon does not shy away from violence and cruelty, nor does he revel in it. There is a refreshing respect and fear of pain in this film. Every act of violence, whatever the reason behind it is harrowing without being gratuitous. The film's strength lies in the fact that we stay with Juan Oliver throughout and even as his character faces the darkest of moments, the audience remains with him, feeling his madness, feeling his pain. However, the film does allow itself to get bogged down in political preachiness which can be tiresome after a while.

The focus on media interaction gives the film a fresh, contemporary spin, setting it apart from other, more claustrophobic prison movies. There is a sense that what's going on outside the prison shocks the prisoners as much as what's happening inside the prison shocks the outside world. A solid effort, Cell 211 deserves an audience and I have no doubt that it will find it. Perhaps it's small theatrical release won't have them coming in their droves but this is one that should catch on with a DVD release. Worth a watch.

 - Charlene Lydon

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

Written by: Steve Kloves

Directed by: David Yates

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes

Rating: 8/10

Many years ago, about a decade now, I decided that difficult as it may be I was going to use the medium of film to experience the story of Harry Potter. I decided against reading the books despite the many temptations over the years. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was the culmination of my decade of patience and I was proud of myself for having achieved this small feat. 

As a non-reader of the book I feel I have definitely missed out on some of the more intricate plotting that is glossed over in the films for the sake of brevity. I can feel that some of the characterisation is lacking, as well as a lot of background information that enriches the plot. That being said, these films do a remarkable job at telling the story of Harry, his friends and the magical world he inhabits.

The final chapter of the story is about as hyped as a film could be. A decade of fretting about "he who must not be named" finally pays off as Hogwarts finally faces the Death-Eaters in an epic battle of both wits and magic.

The films opens with the truly breathtaking image of the dreaded Dementors hovering around Hogwarts, now a very different place than the benevolent, warm home to young wizards we’ve come to know and love. This opening shot, dark and beautiful, sets the tone for what is to come. The ensuing film is visually grandiose and emotionally dark enough to ensure that the audience can feel genuinely fearful for the lives of the characters. Anyone could die, it’s a cruel story and Voldemort is a seriously dangerous presence.

The first act of he film sees Harry, Ron and Hermione on an exhilarating chase through a Dickensian goblin bank in search of one of Voldemorts horcruxes (objects where Voldemort has hidden part of his soul in the hope that he will remain immortal). This part of the film is fun and lively but it feel a little redundant as we patiently wait for the real battle to begin. As soon as Harry, Hermione and Ron get back to Hogwarts and are reunited with their friends things start to seriously pick up. Battles are fought, families are torn apart, young lives are lost and secrets are revealed. From this point on, the film becomes everything a fan could have hoped for!

There are some pretty serious plot points that are lost on non-readers like me, as they are washed over in the hope that you’re having so much fun you’ll turn a blind eye. Good strategy and it totally worked! On me at least. I was having way too much fun on the edge of my seat to care that I didn’t quite understand why certain things were happening. It’s cheating of the highest order but at this stage in the story the need for further magical gobbledegook and funny new words is not a priority for me. I’d rather go along for the ride and not have to worry too much about exposition. Anyway, this instalment is strictly about the characters, their relationships and the culmination of everything that has come before and how it has fit together to bring us to this point. This final part of the story is about resolving the story in a meaningful way and giving us an end point for the characters who have so richly (and subtly) evolved throughout the series. At this point, I must mention Neville Longbottom who is a character I dismissed as comic fodder but who surprised me by stepping up to the plate and becoming a true hero in his own right. This is a character who has evolved slowly over the course of series and who has sneaked into our hearts by proving again and again, much like Ron that being born with super wizard skills isn’t everything, it’s overcoming the obstacle of mediocrity that counts.

Having said that, I would be remiss in leaving out the wonderful Malfoy family. I was surprised at where the story took them, but delighted with the non-judgmental sense of understanding and (almost) pity for them as they play their part in the story. Lucius, Narcissus and Draco have long been one of my favourite elements of the Harry Potter universe (not least because of Narcissus’ wonderful hair and costumes) and for me, their story in the final film was immensely satisfying, brave and lacking in sentimentality.

The final act sees some wonderful twists and developments concerning a character that is close to my heart (no spoilers here) and a fresh perspective breathes new life to a character many people may have written off. HP readers will know what I’m referring to but I won’t discuss it any further here for fear of spoiling anything. But I will say this: the plot development in question is the single most wonderful thing the series has ever done and it made every flaw in the series worthwhile, for me at least and opened my eyes to the vastness the story and the clever plotting that has been so subtly interwoven from the very start.

The cultural impact of the Harry Potter books is undeniable and although the films have never quite been masterpieces (except perhaps The Prisoner of Azkaban), they have still consistently made for entertaining blockbusters, always reliable as solid films, if not always perfect. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is not perfect. Yet again, David Yates proves himself to be a mediocre director with a great eye for visuals. The 3D is pointless, I would definitely recommend the 2D version and there are some hugely significant emotional moments in the film that felt much flatter than they should have. However, the film is a triumphant conclusion to the story and a fantastically thrilling summer blockbuster. Prepare to shed a tear or two because things get quite emotional in the second half…

Goodbye for now Harry, Ron, Hermione, Albus, Severus, Draco, Voldemort, et al, I look forward to getting to know you in more depth when I begin the journey all over again in book form!

 - Charlene Lydon

Monday, July 11, 2011

We Love Summer...Weekend at Bernies!

The beauty of summer movies is that they don’t have to be classy, they don’t have to be clever, they just need to be fun! For me at least, Weekend at Bernie’s has a lot to offer those in need of some summer madness. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, here’s the plot in a nutshell. Larry and Richard, two down on their luck office workers uncover an anomaly which suggests someone is ripping off the insurance corporation they work for. Their shady boss Bernie, the real culprit, invites them to his place in The Hamptons during a massive New York heatwave where he plans to have them ‘silenced’. The plot thickens when the dodgy characters Bernie is involved with decide to ‘silence’ him instead, killing him and leaving him propped up at his desk with sunglasses on. When Larry and Richard arrive for their well-deserved weekend of fun, they realise what has happened but fate (and the prospect of ‘getting laid’) intervenes to ensure that they can’t quite find the time to phone the cops.

In the true spirit of ’80s comedy, a lot of over-the-top nonsense ensues whereby Larry and Richard must pretend to everyone, from party to party that Bernie is alive, just kind of ‘wasted’. This is easier than you imagine when everyone’s an airhead, a floozy or just completely hammered for the whole weekend. This is 1980’s New York we’re talking about here, hedonism is rampant for the well-heeled. Weekend at Bernie’s feels like Some Like it Hot crossed with a Bret Easton Ellis novel, completely ridiculous, over the top and slyly commenting on the hollow lifestyles of the rich and famous. Is that a stretch? Maybe it is.
At the heart of Weekend at Bernie’s is the desperate hunger to get out of the heat of Manhattan. The director does a good job of painting a picture of the unpleasantness of New York City in the sticky heatwave. It looks like the last place you’d ever want to be and therefore somewhat believably gives the guys an incentive to want to stay in The Hamptons at all cost. Disbelief must be suspended tremendously if you are to have any fun watching this film, but if you can just roll with it, it’s very funny and has an unjustly ignored fantastic central performance from Terry Kiser as Bernie. For two thirds of the film, he is dead. He has no lines. But the physicality of his performance is more than admirable, it’s downright brilliant!
With a premise like this, you’ll either love the film or hate the film, but it’s difficult not to crack a guilty smile here and there at the sheer absurdity and hideous lack of morality displayed by pretty much everyone in the film. Necrophilia, grave-robbing, desecration of a corpse via staple-gun, if it weren’t so damn sunny and nonchalant this would be a dark, dark piece of cinema. We’d all be shifting uncomfortably in our seats, unable to stay on board with these horribly selfish characters. But if you can allow yourself the indulgence Weekend at Bernieswill evoke that feeling of desperately trying to enjoy the perfect summer weekend when you know it’s fleeting, even if you have to cart a corpse around with you to do it.
Sun, sand, women in bikinis, speedboats, creepy kids armed with a bucket and spade and of course a dead guy with his shoelaces tied to your shoelaces as you cruise the beach… that’s the recipe for a great summer movie!

P.S. Best Halloween Costume EVER -