Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.


Film review — Orphan

A trimmer edit and a tighter script — say, down to 90 minutes — might have solved some of the frustrating ‘people would never behave that way!’ issues that mar what’s otherwise an effectively chilly Hitchcockian/De Palma-esque thriller, especially in its all-out final act. More…


Film review — Molly’s Game

Before I saw either, I kept getting Molly’s Game confused with Miss Sloane. Now that I’ve finally watched the former, I still don’t see the difference. More…


Film review — Fist of Fury

There’s a solid 40 to 50% of this film that isn’t Bruce Lee just straight up murdering people with his feet and fists and it would be better off without it, to be honest. More…


Film review — Beautiful Boy

A reminder that very personal stories of the needle and the damage done don’t necessarily universalise, especially when the tincture is tainted with so much white privilege. More…


Film review — Creed

Creed is… less than what I’d expected? Maybe it was too much to want something different than what amounts to a near-literal retread of the original Rocky. And especially one that’s so impatient to get to an ending it neither needs nor deserves that it fails to explore and expand upon the unique aspects it really has going for it. When it does stop to breathe, those are the moments when it truly comes alive as its own thing. More…


Film review — Miracle Mile

Here’s a film of two halves if there ever was one: a meet-cute romcom spins off as an After Hours-style comedy of errors before sliding into decidedly grim apocalyptic terror. It’s all deeply weird and like nothing else I’ve seen, that’s for sure. More…


Film review — Bipolar Rock ‘N’ Roller

This portrait of combat sports commentator Mauro Ranallo doesn’t pull many punches when it comes to his personal struggles with mental health. I’m not sure how successful it is at dispelling myths or erasing stigma, but it’s certainly heartening to see how many people in his life were willing to look beyond the ‘crazy’ to the real person and their value. More…


Film review — I’m Gonna Git You Sucka

The gag timing leaves a lot to be desired, but the Wayans are almost there with this one, so very close to the formula that would click in near every respect with Don’t Be a Menace… Who knew at the time that would be their peak? More…


Film review — The Wanderers

Early 1960s Americana nostalgia, apparently, but cut with enough racism and sexism to make for uncomfortable viewing. I mean, even at the time, let alone 40 years after it was made. More…


Film review — The Wandering Earth

It’s hard to put a finger on why this doesn’t quite work, but it probably has something to do with the emotional disconnect between the grounded but standard drama at its core (family and its meaning, etc) and the entirely separate, ultimately lifeless spectacle of Jupiter threatening to swallow the earth. As well as it’s technically put together, it also feels a lot longer and more meandering than it is. More…


Film review — Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I came out of Godzilla II feeling a lot better about it than when I went in. Are there too many humans in it? Yes, and in particular it could do without all of the family drama that feels glued on in appeal to an audience that has no business seeing a monster movie in the first place. (Vera Farmiga’s character… I don’t even know what’s going on there.) Are the monster fights smothered in darkness? Of course; we should all know by now that it hides a multitude of sins for hard-pressed CG artists. Do these things ruin the experience? Not even close to the point of exasperation. This is the direction the Legendary franchise hopefully wants to go in; not the cerebral pretensions of 2014’s seemed-good-at-the-time-but-in-hindsight-a-bit-dull Godzilla, or the cynical mean-spiritedness of Kong: Skull Island, but the popcorn crowd pleaser of the Roland Emmerich school (and I also suggest this film serves as an up-yours to said director of Godzilla ‘98). More…


Film review — Dead Man’s Shoes

It feels like Dead Man’s Shoes one doesn’t get the love it deserves, even compared to Shane Meadows’ other work like This Is England. But it’s one of the best horror films I’ve seen, that’s for sure. Warts and all. What a crying shame it’s hardly ever regarded as such. More…


Film review — Spring Breakers

I was not expecting Jeff Jarrett to pop up in the first few minutes here. Anyway, he’s only on the fringes, where the promise of a more interesting story lies. The main thrust is a fairly confused mash-up of violent crime thriller, exploitation aesthetic (I do not get Spring Break; isn’t it just Rumspringa for assholes?) and Malick-esque impressionism that carries no message; it’s only provocative like someone poking you with a finger. Yet I didn’t not like it, and I can’t quite put my own finger on why. Maybe it’s because I’m reading into the depth implied but never explored. More…


Film review — Figures in a Landscape

Figures in a Landscape takes an escape-pursuit story filled with thrills and bravery and derring-do and turns it into intimate, avant garde theatre, landing the viewer in the company of two utter reprobates (Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell in an early role) as they’re menaced by a black helicopter across anonymous mountain terrain. An outstanding experience, to say the least. More…


Film review — Destroyer

Well, it destroyed me. In all seriousness, kudos to Karyn Kusama for this devastating revenge drama that’s really only let down by the Nicole Kidman’s uncanny valley ageing makeup, and being about half an hour longer than the story required. More…


Film review — Happy Death Day 2U

As unnecessary as sequels get, especially one as overstuffed as this, and to a film among the best horrors of recent years. But it’s still an interesting experiment in turning a slasher film (albeit a very knowing, trope-upending one) with vague sci-fi trappings inside-out as a sci-fi adventure with occasional horror-thriller leanings. More…


Film review — What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Lucky me got to watch the advance stream of this as an early backer of the crowdfunded project. And it’s exactly what it says it is: two hours of the people that made Deep Space Nine — the writers and the cast — looking back on what made their brand of Star Trek so special, and what makes it still resonate today, 20 years after its last episodes were broadcast. Part talking-heads documentary, part oral history, part reminiscence, and part speculation on what might have been, it all comes together like the picture of a dream convention panel. An unashamed feelgood movie, for sure. More…


Film review — Escape from L.A.

You know what? In hindsight, this isn’t nearly as bad as it seemed at the time. It definitely pales in comparison to the original, but really only in the ropey CGI and its moments of ridiculous self-parody. Otherwise, it makes a decent case for being the last not-absolutely-terrible John Carpenter flick. More…


Film review — The Ninth Configuration

It’s appropriate that I watched this one at Easter, not for the pat Messianic referencing but because it feels as hollow as a chocolate egg. Remember when eggs used to come with the treats inside them? Good times… More…


Film review — Rocky II

Essentially, Rocky II is the first movie rebooted for broader audience tastes. It’s no Evil Dead 2 in those stakes, mind. More…


Film review — Rocky

First time watching this all the way through, and I can see why it’s so well regarded. The grit and grime feel real, and Stallone treads a fine line between mild-mannered humility and ferocious determination like he’s rarely if ever done since. Shame about the dodgy sexual politics, though; even for the era it’s pretty rough. More…


Film review — I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

What begins as a promising quirky romance with a decidedly bleak edge descends into dreadful self-absorption before the second hour drags its lack of a point to oblivion. Watch Toradora! instead: it hits most of the same beats, yet with far more substance and emotional resonance. More…


Film review — Escape Room

‘The Crystal Maze, but evil’ is a money concept. Treading the same beats at Cube and Saw, but with more noxious moral and ethical politics? Not so much. More…


Film review — Twilight Zone: The Movie

Slighter than expected, to tell you the truth. Only Vic Morrow’s racist tirade at the very beginning packs any punch, and that perhaps has more to do with the degradation of contemporary discourse sharpening the cut of those words. More…


Film review — Studio 54

I’m not going to review the form, here — like virtually all contemporary documentaries, it’s your bog-standard combination of talking head interviews, archival footage and voices over pans of photographs — but on substance, it’s worth the investment, even if its sorely lacking its most crucial voice. More…


My Letterboxd reviews for December 2018-January 2019

Mostly Netflix originals fare in December and January, and not a standout among them. The best film I saw in this period was, and I’m happy to say this, a new Ben Wheatley film. Because I really didn’t get on with Free Fire, but Happy New Year, Colin Burstead — which screened on the BBC to ring in 2019 — is for me his best since A Field in England. Apparently his next project is a new adaptation of Rebecca, but seeing as the Hitchcock original is unimpeachable, I can’t see what else he can bring to the table. It’s repeating a mantra for many a film fan but still: more original stuff, please. More…


Film review — Mercy Black

Mercy Black’s debt to The Babadook is obvious, but it also nods to Wes Craven’s nightmares as much as the internet creepypasta like Slender Man that inspired its story, lending some depth that belies its meagre resources. More…


Film review — Dune

I’m surprised not to find a previous record of this one here, as I’m sure I’ve watched it within the last decade. But anyway, this was my first time with the Alan Smithee ‘extended cut’ and… yeah, I can see why David Lynch took his name off it. The extra hour adds nothing to improve the film, or make the story clearer. Indeed, with that hamfisted Frank Herbert voiceover intro it actively takes away from the theatrical cut’s unique ‘what the fuck is going on here’ quality. I don’t want to know about artificial intelligence or rebellions from generations before, I just want to be thrown head-first into its stately weirdness. It remains a triumph of production design, one of which everyone involved should be proud. How Lynch feels about it today is his prerogative, but it’s a shame there’s no love left there anymore. More…


Film review — Triple Frontier

Extrajudicial killings are bad, but they stole millions of dollars from a drug cartel so yay? (As an action heist thriller, it was fine, yet highlights a gulf in charisma and presence between Oscar Isaac and Baffleck and his fellow jocks.) More…


Film review — Phase IV

Saul Bass to Paramount Pictures: “Hey fellas, I’ve got a great idea: The Andromeda Strain, only slower and more tedious.” More…


Film review — ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre

I’ve only got one connection to the Troubles: I wouldn’t be here if my mam had taken a couple more minutes to change her shoes after work on 17 May 1974. Because she’d been hastier than usual that day, she was already at Connolly Station when the UVF car bomb on Talbot Street exploded. The same terrorist thugs, today a bottom-feeding gang of drug traffickers, were also responsible for the murder of three members of the Miami Showband — whose story is told in this brief but to-the-point documentary charting the surviving members’ fight to uncover the British state collusion behind the killings. (And while it hasn’t been proven, we all know they did it.) More…


Film review — Katie

It’s hard to do a documentary about someone who’s still on the ascendancy, whose life doesn’t really have enough drama for Story with a capital S. So as a narrative, it’s middling, however inspirational its subject or well shot and produced the final package. More…


Film review — Us

Us is like a rollercoaster that breaks at the top so instead of hurtling down, it kind of shudders along the slope and rolls to a safe stop. That first half? Amazing stuff. And then it goes where it goes. It feels like it would play great to a crowd, though; I wish I’d seen it in a fuller cinema, and I never say that about any film. More…


Film review — Peppermint

Preposterous libertarian-fascist, right-wing vigilante fantasy that, given the Beijing production money, fits squarely into what I’d imagine are Chinese conceptions of American cultural imports. More…