Thursday, July 18, 2013

Interview with Jesse Eisenberg for Now You See Me

It's rare that I come in contact with a genuine movie star, and even more rare that it's one that admire as much as I admire Jesse Eisenberg. Along with giving one of my all-time favourite performances in what will probably be my favourite film of the decade, The Social Network I'm also fascinated by any interviews I have read/watched with him. He always comes across clever and interesting, but intolerant of nonsense.

My fears of igniting his temper aside, when the opportunity presented itself to interview Jesse, I just couldn't resist. As it turns out my interviewing skills are pretty rusty but it's still a pretty delightful interview.





Originally published on 4/7/2013 on Film Ireland
http://filmireland.net/2013/07/04/interview-jesse-eisenberg-now-you-see-me/

 - Charlene Lydon


Monday, March 11, 2013

OZ, The Great and Powerful


Written By: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay Abair
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: James Franco, Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz
Rating: 7/10

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the merry ol’ land of Oz, so off I went in my sparkly red shoes (egg on my face though, cos there wan’t a ruby slipper to be seen in Raimi’s version) to a Sunday morning family screening of Oz The Great and Powerful.

Raimi’s film is essentially the origin story for the wonderful wizard. Oz (Franco) is a selfish circus con-man whose tendency towards smoke and mirrors has left him devoid of any real sense of self. Like Dorothy, he is swept away in a cyclone and transported to a strange and magical world where he is soon recognised as the man who is destined to rule all of Oz. In order to gain the throne and a room full of gold, he must convince them, and himself, that he’s the man they need him to be

Knowing Sam Raimi and his tendency towards playfulness I was unsurprised but no less delighted to see him open his film with 4:3 monochrome, where it stayed until we enter Oz, where he then revealed in all its 3D glory, all the beauty and spectacle we would hope to see in Oz.

The plot sees  three witches struggling for power over Oz (the place AND the man), one is beautiful, naïve Theodora (Kunis) who falls in love with Oz as she leads him to meet her sister Evanora so they can plot to kill the wicked witch who has been banished to the woods but they suspect to be planning an uprising. But things get complicated when he finds the “wicked witch” and she turns out to be the beautiful, wise and good Glinda The Good.

The production design, CGI effects and cinematography are absolutely beautiful throughout the film, which instantly removed the slight alarm bell of cynicism that might have existed in me around this project. But it’s clear from the outset that love and passion went into the aesthetic of this film. Special mention must go to Gary Jones for the unbelievably beautiful costume design. All the actors seem to be having a blast camping it up in their roles (does Franco ever really do anything else?) and it’s especially nice to see Michelle Williams in a happy film for once.

At almost two and a half hours, I couldn’t help but feel that the thin plot didn’t really warrant the lengthy running time, but having said that I absolutely adored so many aspects of the film that I never really wanted it to end. Raimi’s stamp is all over the film in the most wonderful ways! His flying cameras, his sharp visual wit and not to mention his horrifying witch and flying baboons, there’s plenty on display here to keep his fans happy. But what about the most important audience of all? The children. What’s in it for them? Magic, a cute monkey, a lovely little china doll, action, scary villains and most of all a wonderful sense of what epic 3D cinema should be. Big! From where I was sitting (which was surrounded by hundreds of children) they seemed very, very pleased with themselves. One thing it is missing though – singin’ and dancin’;  but I guess I can’t have it all.

 - Originally published in Film Ireland: http://filmireland.net/2013/03/09/cinema-review-oz-the-great-and-powerful/

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A Rundown of Horror Films in 2012

Here's another little project I worked on this New Year's Eve. Another guest spot on the Under Your Bed podcast, this time discussing the best horror films of the past year.

I think both Bren and I agree that Cabin In The Woods is the year's best but we also discuss Grabbers, Sinister, Sightseers, Excision, Killer Joe and many other wonderful films. Enjoy! And check out the rest of the Under Your Bed podcasts. They're superb.

http://underyourbed.org/wp/blog/2012/12/31/the-horrorcast-episode-14-horror-2012/

My Favourite Films of 2012

1. Beasts of the Southern Wild
My top three are pretty much a tie, but Beasts pips the others to the post because of its sheer boldness and the fact that it is a startling debut that came out of nowhere. This odd little film could just as easily have been terrible but with it's delicate blend of beauty, sadness and joy, Benh Zeitlin has brought us one of the most perfect films in recent memory. All of the facets of this strange world fit together beautifully, not least of which is the power of the lead actress Quvenzhané Wallis, who jumped into first place in my favourite child performance of all time (replacing Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed) chart. At the end of the day I have a feeling that this film, it’s fine performances and it’s bloody marvellous soundtrack will stay with me for a long, long time. See below for a sample of the beautiful soundtrack.




2. Killing Them Softly
His CV might be short but it is flawless. Andrew Dominik has made only three films, Chopper, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford and now Killing Them Softly and his films just keep getting better and better. Receiving unfathomable mixed reviews upon its release, it seems that the films’ bleak economic backdrop might have been too on the nose for many but I found it refreshing to see America in such a stark light. I dare say that for future generations this will be the seminal film of this chapter of America’s history. A superb ensemble cast, a frankly stunning script and an atmosphere that chills to the bone. I’d pay good money for a spin-off following the exploits of Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy’s characters.

3. Killer Joe
As much as I loved Killer Joe I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to see how many other people did too. One of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences of my life, I was convinced that surely it was only my sick brain that could be so seduced by this trashy, unpleasant, nasty and vicious story. But no, other people are just as sick, it seems. In one fell swoop Matthew McConaughey’s name on a poster went from being the biggest turn-off to being the biggest incentive to see a film. His performance is unlike anything I have ever seen onscreen. I actually can’t even begin to compare it to something else. So slimy, so sleazy, so wise, so strangely sympathetic. Yurck! He leaves you wanting a shower with brillo pads. But I can’t help but allow my heart leap at that final shot. What is wrong with me???

4. Argo
Ben Affleck has proven himself to be a wonderful filmmaker already but Argo is the one that has catapulted him to the top of the Most Wanted list. This tight, tense hostage drama is very much a Hollywood picture but it is certainly more of the Sidney Lumet calibre. Some were let down by its (presumably) exaggerated airport chase-scene finale but personally I enjoyed and respected the fact that it was wearing it’s “Hollywood” on its sleeve and at the end of the day it had fun with its own cinematic knowledge. Kudos to Affleck who also managed to balance the sober and the absurd quite beautifully.

5. What Richard Did
Ok, this one is a little bit close to my heart as I worked on the film at script stage when I worked in script development and watched it grow into a real film. I saw its rough cuts, final cuts and poster mock-ups right up until, now a cinema programmer, I got to see it screened in my own cinema! What a thrill! Especially since the world LOVES this film almost as much as I do. Written by my good friend Malcolm Campbell and directed by another friend and constant inspiration Lenny Abrahamson this is a remarkably restrained, uniquely Irish, yet strangely universal story of a young over-achiever who makes a fatal mistake and must deal with the repercussions. I didn’t want to put it at the top of my list because that just seems like favouritism so I put it slap, bang in the middle so it’s all perfectly fair…dodgy logic. Take my word for it, it’s haunting, it’s brilliant and it’s the greatest Irish film of all time.

.




6. The Raid
This was the year that I started to appreciate Asian fightin' flicks. And it's all thanks to Gareth Evan's rambunctious, bloody, ridiculously well-made action film, The Raid. From the time I saw the brilliant trailer back in September 2011 I had a feeling this was going to be the one to convince me that there is something to be enjoyed in that genre. I was right. I was pretty sure I could only be disappointed and that the film couldn't possibly live up to the trailer but every lovingly crafted move, every brilliantly economical shot and every beat of the superb score allayed my fears immediately. To be fair, the 11am JDIFF screening of the film will go down as one of the most electric and lively two-hours of cinema-watching in Dublin's history so I definitely saw it in the right environment. But I've seen it twice since then and it's still wonderful. The simplicity of the plot, the videogame structure, the quiet intensity of lead actor Iko Uwais, it all adds up to slick action-packed fun!




7. Cabin In The Woods
I make no secret of my adoration of Joss Whedon and his weird and wonderful way of getting around pop culture in a way that nobody else can. I found myself underwhelmed by Avengers Assemble (sorry!) so The Cabin In The Woods is my Whedon flick of the year. He didn’t direct it but he co-wrote it with telly scribe extraordinaire Drew Goddard and in fairness the film has Whedon’s stamp all over it. A stroll (or manic turbo zoom) through horror cinema history, this film lovingly plays with and subverts pretty much every genre cliché in the book and gives us one of the most memorable, funny, sometimes scary and just plain classy postmodern films of our time. And no, I don’t think that’s hyperbolic (but maybe it is). It rubbed many up the wrong way as being too clever for its own good or for being too silly but it’s just pure Buffy, plain and simple. If you’re on board, it’s genius, if you’re not, it’s silly fluff. I’ve been having this argument my whole adult life.



8. Magic Mike
This one was (logically) marketed as a glamorous stripper movie with fit actors with their pecs out. I can see why that was necessary but it’s a shame this films wasn’t given a broader appeal to the arthouse crowd because it really is utterly fantastic. Not only am I now sold on Channing Tatum being an incredible actor (this, coupled with a brilliant turn in 21 Jump Street, the best comedy blockbuster of the year by far) but it also gave McConaughey (My Man of the Year by a mile) another chance to shine as gross, slimy club owner Dallas. Steven Soderbergh may seem like an odd choice to direct this film but his temperate direction but lack of restraint in showing the boys doing what they do best keeps the film on the fine line between garish and heartfelt. Brilliant. Also see below for Oscar-eligible song from my man of the year Matthew McConaughey...



9. Take This Waltz
I am definitely in the minority on this and maybe it has something to do with being a young person in a very long-term relationship or maybe it’s to do with having lived at Dufferin and Bloor in Toronto and allowing Sarah Polley to remind me of beautiful evening strolls along College to the gorgeous bars and restaurants of the area. Whatever the reason, something about Take This Waltz struck a chord with me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a relationship breakdown handled in such a mature, realistic and often ugly way. Michelle Williams' unsettled wife gives in to temptation after a long flirtation with an annoying hipster neighbour. As we watch the story unfold, it is difficult to remain on anyone's side. They are all behaving stupidly and nobody is doing the right thing and you just want to punch everyone by the end of the second act. But by the end of the third act, it becomes clear just how clever a storyteller Sarah Polley is. Gorgeously put together, brilliantly performed and just beautiful overall, I found Take This Waltz absolutely irresistible.


10. Looper
Of all of this year's big action blockbusters, this one has to take the biscuit not only for being absolutely cool on every single level, but it also has the privilege of being the only one that is completely original. I loved the story, I love Rian Johnson's style and I love the entire cast. Can't argue with that. My one and only gripe is JGL's ridiculous facial prosthetics. Distracting and unnecessary. Everything else was spot on. And extra points for Garret Dillahunt!


11. Lawless
I have a weakness for gritty violence. There - I said it. I was never going to dislike Lawless. It would go against everything I am. People weren't keen on it for some reason but I thought it was superb! Brilliant performances (yes, I even liked OTT Guy Pearce), interesting world, great pacing and a fantastic finale shoot-out. It goes without saying though, that Tom Hardy was by far the absolute star of the piece. Hardy, and Emmylou Harris singing Nick Cave-penned tunes. It undoubtedly tops my soundtrack of the year list (or maybe ties with Beasts).




12. The Descendants
Clooney, Payne, Hawaii. Enough has been said about this film throughout the year. I just want to acknowledge the tenderness, care and humour that came through in this screenplay, a deserving winner of the Best Screenplay Oscar. Absolutely wonderful. And Clooney has never been better. The complications, stress, fear and sadness of having a loved one in a hospital bed indefinitely is portrayed here with grace and humour with a superb cast, interesting subplots and terrific direction allowing the film to go down the typical weepie route. 

Oh...and my beloved Jim Rash did THIS during his Oscar acceptance speech.





Honorary Mentions

** EDIT: Oh my God I can't believe I forgot Moonrise Kingdom...I just re-watched it two days ago. It's truly lovely!

Holy Motors - a weird and wonderful fairytale from director Leos Carax and featuring an incredible central performance from Denis Lavant
21 Jump Street - a surprisingly witty and clever action comedy. 
The Hunger Games - Forget your Batmen and Spidermen and Iron Men, this was where it was at for me this year as far as action blackbuster franchises go. Clever, competent and featuring a truly inspirational heroine. 
The Artist - I almost forgot this was 2012. Beautiful film.
Sightseers - It kills me that I didn't fit this into the main list but I didn't have room for everything. Hilarious, unique and lovely! Ben, Alice and Steve are brilliant!
Grabbers - Irish writer Kevin Lehane delivers a sharp, clever and never patronising (despite it's unapologetic OIrishness) monster comedy. Superb! And Ruth Bradley plays a brilliant drunk!
Silence - Hypnotic, beautiful and refective. Pat Collins' film is the third Irish film on the list and probably deserves to be higher. Remarkable. If you missed it in the cinema, you can watch it here: http://www.volta.ie/films/silence
Silver Linings Playbook - I only saw this the other day so I need more time to process. Superb film though. Love the sober first half and completely absurd second half.
Your Sister’s Sister - Lynn Shelton delivers another mumblecore gem. Great cast, great tone.
The Hunt - Difficult to watch, and featuring a tremendous performance from Mads Mikkleson, this parable  about the nature of gossip is not without its flaws but deserves to be seen.
Safety Not Guaranteed - Mark Duplass again. He's superb. This brilliant sci-fi comedy romance indie drama won't stop traffic but it's highly enjoyable.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Under Your Bed Horrorcast

Check out my brief foray into the world of podcasting. Listen to my guest spot on Bren Murphy's fantastic Under Your Bed Horror Podcast.

I'm talking about my three favourite horror film; John Carpenter's Halloween, Roman Polanski's Repulsion and Rob Zombie's brilliant sequel The Devil's Rejects. It's never easy to pick only three favourite films so there's brief interludes of me gushing about Scream and Child's Play.


Apart from my guest appearance, have a rummage around the blog. It's only new but there's some interesting articles up there about the world of horror. And podcast #1 features talented Dublin writer Emmet Vincent.

Enjoy!

http://underyourbed.org/wp/blog/2012/07/28/the-horrorcast-episode-2-charlene-lydon/


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Written and directed by: Sean Durkin

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes, Hugh Dancy

Rating: 9/10

For such fascinating subject matter there really aren’t very many good films made about cults. I know there have been countless TV movies about the Manson family, Jonestown and Waco but it is sadly rare to see films that treat the subject with any kind of psychological depth. Sean Durkin’s debut film Martha Marcy May Marlene is one such rarity.

Focussing very much NOT on the machinations of life in a cult, but instead on the devastating psychological residue after one girl’s daring escape from the commune, the film's insight into life in the commune comes in flashes. These short but very telling snippets merely highlight what she went through and some of the ploys used to keep the members loyal. Durkin chooses not to dwell on life in the cult which serves the overall arc nicely but leaves the audience gagging to spend more time inside the commune and in the presence of their absolutely terrifying leader Patrick, a typically charismatic leader dripping with menace.


Martha, the young escapee is taken in by her older sister. Their relationship is complicated and it is clear that this is not the warmest environment for Martha as she tries to rejoin society. Her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) lives in a large lake house; very modern and very cold, with her new husband Ted, a short-tempered workaholic. It is the polar opposite of beat-up, energetic but strangely inviting house on the commune. As Lucy genuinely tries to understand her sister and sympathise with her there is always a sense that she is weary of Martha’s negative presence in her otherwise pleasant life. There are tender moments between the two and some affection but the sisters just cannot connect.

The two worlds the film inhabits, the lake house and the commune, seem equally oppressive to Martha and it is with great sadness that the audience slowly accepts that maybe this girl won’t ever feel part of any society.

Much of the film focuses on Martha’s paranoia after escaping the cult. She fears Patrick and she knows he will go to any lengths to get her back. The line is often blurred between what is happening in reality and what Martha’s mind is creating out of fear. For some this may prove tiresome and that’s understandable but there’s something to be admired in Durkin’s ability to stay true to his vision for the film and not to fall into any soap opera theatrics, though the film is not without its nerve-shredding scenes.

Martha, a complex, not always likeable character, is played with remarkable power and haunting sympathy by Elizabeth Olsen, sister to the not even remotely haunting Olsen Twins. Cast just two weeks before the shoot, Elizabeth’s wholesome beauty and melancholy eyes are sure to remain niggling at you for a long time after the films ends. The same can be said for John Hawkes as Patrick, whose sharp sneer and intelligent eyes will surely stay in your nightmares for a long time after. Like his Oscar-nominated turn as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone, Hawkes is both brimming with menace and oozing unconventional charm. The hold he has over Martha (or Marcy May, as he chooses to name her) and her naïve acceptance of his love packs a powerful punch mainly due to the wealth of subtle energy behind both actors’ eyes. Despite the depth of Patrick’s cruelty and devastating emotional manipulation there’s something in the performance that makes him strangely alluring; just seductive enough to ensure the situation is believable. Two extremely strong characters and equally strong performances carry the film into much more interesting territory.

Martha Marcy May Marlene may not be a perfect film and many will be frustrated by its lack of conclusions of any sort but it is certainly unique and it’s dozy, dreamy air makes for haunting cinema.

 - Charlene Lydon


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shame

Written by: Abi Morgan & Steve McQueen


Directed by: Steve McQueen


Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan


Rating: 7/10


Psychological afflictions don’t come much more interesting than sex addiction. It’s a sad, fascinating and deeply damaging disease and one which has been washed over by dozens of over-sexed fading movie stars who have touted it as the reason for their sudden stint in rehab. As we raise our eyebrows at these less than sympathetic characters the reality of the affliction becomes little more than a joke to most people. But of course sex addiction does exist and it’s ugly, deadening and painful to watch.

Director Steve McQueen, the king of “horribly stark” takes us on a journey over the course of a few days with Brandon, a handsome yuppie living it up in downtown Manhattan. He is also a sex addict. For a while it’s all piercing stares and visual examination of his clearly carefully sculpted body but it soon becomes very clear that for Brandon, sex isn’t sexy. It is creepy and it is cold and his hunger for it is a constant distraction. Things really kick off when his sister Sissy invades his life and invites herself on to his couch for a few days. Brandon’s world is cold, clinical and ordered and when a frazzled, damaged Sissy enters it, all hell breaks loose.

If Brandon is a closed book, Cissy is his polar opposite. She wears her naïve heart on her sleeve and it is horrible to see how broken she is but even worse to know (or guess, I suppose) that this is a situation she gets herself in time and time again. As we follow Brandon through his series of encounters and a particularly upsetting date with a woman who is smart, beautiful and who he really feels for we experience the depths of his problems and his despair.

Fassbender plays this role to perfection. His sculpted body and square jaw give him enough cheesy appeal to ensure we believe he would rarely find it difficult to attract women but his steely, cold eyes give him the mystique to buy into the fact that there’s more going on behind the eyes than we think.

The relationship between he and his sister is not explored fully but enough is shown and hinted at to presume that they did not have a conventional childhood. Both seem to understand each other in that level of familiarity that only exists between people who grew up together but they are also worlds apart in so many ways that they almost challenge each other to understand the alien worlds they each live.

Shame is a success on many levels. It is engaging and atmospheric and shows many of the ways in which sex addiction is unglamorous. However, I was slightly disappointed with the film’s ability to bring anything new to the table. As it ended I came away feeling that I’d seen all this before and at the end of the day for all its nudity and lingering focus on its subjects it didn’t feel very intimate and felt almost conventional. As engaging as it was, there was nothing to mull over when the credits rolled and no new perspective to justify the time we spent in Brandon’s company. Maybe I’ve been desensitised by four seasons of Californication, a subtler but no less unsettling exploration of sex addiction but I didn’t feel that Shame gave me any new material to consider on the subject.

Shame is enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing but ultimately unrewarding, I can’t help feeling like this is a somewhat shallow representation of a misunderstood and underestimated disease. That being said, there’s much to admire in the film and it’d definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

 - Charlene Lydon

Monday, November 14, 2011

rukkle wins People's Choice



I am absolutely DELIGHTED to announce that a website that I contribute to regularly and one which happens to be the ingenious brain-child of a great friend of mine won a major public vote and was
presented with a prestigious Big Mouth 2011 Eircom Spider Award by Dara O'Briain in the Convention Centre, Dublin.

The Spiders are an annual event honouring Irish individuals and organisations
for their outstanding achievements online and are considered an important
benchmark for distinction and merit in web-based business strategies. (AKA The
oscars for us web nerds!!!)

Congratulations to Dave and to rukkle for a well-deserved win!!

Read more here: http://rukkle.com/entertainment/rukkle-wins-peoples-choice-web-award/

www.rukkle.com.

Follow rukkle on twitter.com/rukkle and facebook.com/rukkle