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


Category: Screen

Film review — Don’t Fall in Love with Yourself

It’s only taken, what, 25 years until they started making professionally produced documentaries about the weirdo music I got into at the turn of the century. And honestly the music and aesthetic of The Locust (and this is mostly about The Locust, despite all the other things Justin Pearson has done) is still so impactful to my brain today; so anti-orthodox in terms of conception, and intimidatingly so. Thirty-second songs with herky-jerky rhythms and blast beats and screaming and synths? Still very much my shit. More…

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Film review — Perfect Days

Everyone else is all about the comparisons to Ozu, which are natural to make, but for me this is Wim Wenders’ Kikujiro. I can’t really explain why; it’s just a feeling. More…

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Film review — Without Warning

Suspension of disbelief immediately broken upon the appearance of John de Lancie — one of television’s most recognisable extraterrestrials — as a ‘field reporter’. Yeah, like I’m falling for that one. More…

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Film review — City of the Living Dead

I go hot or cold on Fulci flicks and this one sits in the middle for me, albeit leaning towards the warmer side. I know that sounds like an odd thing to say about a film where one of the highlights is a crazed dad drilling through the skull of his daughter’s fancy man but there you go. More…

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Film review — Even Hell Has Its Heroes

Less a documentary than an extended music video, an aesthetic exercise as meditative as Earth’s latter-day music. I’d love to know if it would convert anyone unfamiliar with Dylan Carlson and his musical exploits over the decades, because as much as I enjoyed it (especially when Adrienne Davies carefully considers her approach to drumming), overall it feels like a hibernaculum, opaque and impenetrable — but rewarding if you have managed to crack it open. More…

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Film review — Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell, Bastards!

Having not yet seen the famed Branded to Kill, this was my introduction to hamster-cheeked Joe Shishido in a leading role. He’s got an oddball charm that reminds me a little of what Elliott Gould would bring to Philip Marlowe a decade later. But it’s tempered somewhat by everyone else around him being just as odd, which does not a tense gangster thriller make. More…

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Film review — Next of Kin

An effectively spooky, twisty little horror thriller here, with shades of the greats (Hitchcock, Argento, Kubrick) but without getting completely lost to its influences. And not to mention a pulse-pounding synth score from Klaus Schulze that’s employed at just the right moments. More…

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Film review — Dario Argento: Panico

Here’s a strange one, mostly played straight — talking heads, clips from films and interviews, you know the score — but partly staged, like an attempt to underline the kayfabe of the documentary form but done as ham-fistedly as the director’s latter filmography. More…

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Film review — The Beekeeper

I have a lot of time for Jason Statham, as you’d know if you know me well, but this… I’m not convinced it wasn’t ‘written’ by a large language model. More…

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Film review — The Story of Microdisney: The Clock Comes Down the Stairs

Watching this really hammered home for me how much the story of Cork’s Microdisney mirrors that of Brisbane’s Go-Betweens. So of course it turns out they befriended each other in the 1980s London squat scene and remained somewhat close in the decades since. You wouldn’t know any of that from watching this documentary, mind, which feels like a glaring omission of context. But maybe you don’t need all the dots connected to see the picture for what it is. More…

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Film review — Primal Rage

A film of highs and lows. The Hallowe’en party has some frankly incredible costumes, but it’s followed shortly after by a lazy continuity-error shot of a body on the ground a good couple of minutes before it’s supposed to end up there. Oh well. Doesn’t seem like the leading man got up to much in the years since but his co-stars did well for themselves: one’s a psychotherapist, one had a memorable run on Sunset Beach and another got into animation and currently has a show on Nickelodeon. More…

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Film review — Decision to Leave

This one reminded me of Lee Myung-se’s M that I saw last year, which explains a lot why I didn’t connect with it: those magical realist touches are a flourish too much for me. And that’s besides an uncomfortably uneven tone that tries to harmonise a lurid ‘black widow’ thriller with a dry comedy of manners and much goofier moments. Also, people talk about how this looks so exquisite and I’m like, really? This film? With that fake-ass CGI mountain? Not for me. More…

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Film review — Final Justice

I feel like the only reason the MST3K people have to rip this apart is their very specific distaste for Joe Don Baker, which I don’t get at all. Sure, he looks like if Powers Boothe got really into dairy, but he’s got an everyman charm that brings a certain verisimilitude to his roles, especially here. And anyway, who doesn’t love cheese? People who hate life, that’s who. I mean, except for vegans and the lactose intolerant. Fun fact: the woman who plays Baker’s buddy cop in this one is the current European Commissioner for Equality. More…

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Film review — Albert Brooks: Defending My Life

Albert Brooks deserves better than this tribute to be sullied by so many unnecessary talking heads, a disconcerting number of whom have been cancelled (or as we used to say, rightfully ostracised for doing really shitty things). More…

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Film review — Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins

There’s a parallel universe where they cut their losses and go with Kate Mulgrew as the unlikely but actually pretty believable action hero. Instead we get this weird mashup of comic-book magic tomfoolery and disjointed Bond-lite action set-pieces that desperately needs a plot to make it all work but there’s just nothing here. Reminds me a lot of Buckaroo Banzai in that respect: just a mess that has no real reason to be remembered but was probably shown repeatedly on cable so it became some kind of pop cultural touchstone for a certain cohort of American millennials. More…

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Film review — Rage of Honor

There’s a brief but stupendous sequence roughly halfway through this where a traditional Argentine dance is intercut with Sho Kosugi bashing henchmen’s faces in. I don’t expect high art from these things but that was remarkable (as is the main villain who looks like if René Aubergonois and Andrew Robinson got merged in a transporter accident) and I was disappointed it never returned to those heights, and indeed reached some dispiriting lows (at one point Sho massacres a bunch of Amazonian tribespeople who don’t appear to be baddies, just people defending their land?). More…

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Film review — Pray for Death

After a thrilling start, this one gets really bogged down in all that ‘story’ business when all we’re really here for is to see Sho Kosugi kick some ass. I guess he needs some motivation or whatever for the third-act revenge against the sociopathic mob killer Limehouse, and that’s a grisly, weapon-filled one definitely worth waiting for. Even Sho’s son Kane has a go at being a ninja James Bond with a gadget-rigged bicycle. More…

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Film review — Freelance

John Cena the Movie Star is pretty decent in small doses. Unfortunately he’s all over this piece of military-industrial complex propaganda in excelsis. Five stars if it were a satire, but I’m pretty sure they mean every bit of it. More…

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Film review — Jake Speed

This flick has a cute concept: the protagonists of pulp adventure novels are actually real, and write up their escapades to fund their future activities. But the execution leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. More…

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Film review — The Mirror Crack’d

Caught the first half of this on a visit to my mam’s and had to find out what happens. Quite the ensemble cast! And unexpectedly biting for its quaint English village setting. The tragic denouement doesn’t really gel with the tone, alas, but it’s hardly a wasted couple of hours. More…

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Film review — Unmasking the Idol

The ninja movie as Bond pastiche, from an era when pick-up trucks, hot air balloons and monkey sidekicks were the height of awesomeness. If that were ever the case. More…

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Film review — Stay Tuned

Surprising good, this one. Like the best bits of UHF, with a bigger budget, an arguably more appealing lead in everyman John Ritter and a decidedly darker edge (and no, I’m not referring to the presence of real-life despicable villain Jeffrey Jones). Some decent use of CGI that’s aged fairly well, too. And a bonus Chuck Jones animated sequence! What’s not to love? (OK, I mean besides real-life despicable villain Jeffrey Jones.) Also, this technically counts as a wrestling movie. More…

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Film review — The 6th Day

I’m sick with a cold so I’m only in the mood for watching schlock and this fit the bill. Amazingly I’d never seen it before; it’d make for a decent double bill with Total Recall, but definitely the B picture in that pairing. More…

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Film review — The A-Team

Second viewing, this time a hotel TV watch. I remember it being quite confusing and boredom-inducing the first time around, so I was surprised that it held my attention pretty much throughout. It’s still not great by any means, though, as it generally eschews the show’s gimmicks for Bourne-indebted self-serious action that drains away most of the fun. If they’d kept things as boneheadedly simple as the original (which I loved as a child; I had the van and the figures with the squishy heads and everything), they might’ve been on to something. More…

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Film review — Merry Christmas

I’m glad I stuck it out past the very broad ‘comedy’ of the first half an hour as it’s a real heart-warmer. And that toddler is a hell of an actor. More…

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Film review — The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix

My my, the Norwegians have been holding out on us! Aardman eat your heart out: here’s a stop-motion flick about an oddball inventor with anthropomorphic animal companions that beat Wallace and Gromit to the screen by a good 14 years and remains technically impressive today, nearly half a century on. What a shame it’s only got half an hour’s worth of story, stretched out to an interminable 90 minutes. More…

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Film review — Robot Holocaust

A cheapo mash-up of sword-and-sandal derring-do and post-apocalyptic nonsense, helmed with blatant lack of interest by a jobbing porn director and presumably left on a shelf to collect dust for a few years until Charles Band needed output for his video rental supply deals (lifting his brother’s theme for Laserblast appears to be his only input here, as it’s fairly inept even by Empire Pictures’ standards). More…

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Film review — Mitchell

I watched the MST3K piss-take of the TV edit, which only made me want to see the original more. Not that it’s brilliant or anything, but I feel cheated out of the dune buggy chase. More…

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Film review — The Creator

Hard to watch this in November 2023 and not see parallels between its blatant orientalism and the othering that’s driven the Palestinian genocide. Though I admit I smirked at the bit when the evil empire rolls in with super-tanks replete with US Army logo in lowercase, because they’re nice and friendly guys, really, honest, just ignore the communities being crushed under the tank treads and the AI suicide bombers they use a few minutes later, nothing to see here, nosiree. More…

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Film review — When Evil Lurks

Set in an alternative Argentina where religious faith has been rendered futile by a plague of literal demonic possession, a pair of brothers have to fight the evil of the demons themselves and the banal evil of a society that’s refused to accept responsibility for the crisis, with the most grim results imaginable. A true modern feel-bad classic that works both without and because of its allegories to the contemporary world’s ills, and a film I will never watch again so help me god. More…

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Film review — The Hidden

Jack Sholder’s follow-up to Freddy’s Revenge is another possession story but one that’s mis-sold as a horror movie when it’s really 90% squib-heavy shoot-’em-up action thriller, with some breathtaking stunt work to boot. Kyle MacLachlan’s also great as the oddball sidekick to Michael Nouri’s gruff detective in an alien-human buddy-cop pairing that beat Alien Nation to cinemas by about a year. More…

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Film review — Dark Harvest

The hunter-becomes-the-hunted angle is a novelty, but there’s too much about this retro-styled teen horror (you know it’s for teens as its subtext is rendered as explicit text with all the subtlety of an axe to the face) that makes zero sense, so much it distracts from any tension it tries to build or any shocks it elicits from its CGI bodily violence. More…

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Film review — Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

Watched Arrow’s commentary version with Kim Newman and the film’s publicist Stephen Jones, which is mostly “ah so-and-so, what a lovely person” ad infinitum but I don’t mean that in a bad way. The film itself, well… It’s certainly a tour de force for Doug Bradley. The less said about the Cenobites 2.0 and the horribly dated budget morphing effects, the better. More…

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Film review — Night of the Living Dead

Dumped on by reviewers of its time who had no idea what would come in the remake-mania of the 2000s and beyond, and unfairly so. Taken in the broader context, Tom Savini makes a decent stab of it, changing just enough to make the enterprise worthwhile (the racial politics are dialled down somewhat for a Ripley-inspired feminist angle). But that horrid synth-preset soundtrack is inexcusable. More…

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Film review — Dr. Giggles

Larry Drake isn’t bad as the villainous fake physician, but his copious one-liners don’t land like they should; the tone isn’t quite right. It also takes far too long to get going with the kills and spills, and when it does most of the protagonists suffer from a severe case of the stupids. More…

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Film review — Gegege no Kitaro Yokai Kiden Mateki Elohim Essaim

There’s a moment in the middle of this children’s (?) movie when it turns into a sex comedy and then I was really like ‘What the hell am I watching?!’ Still, I do also have to acknowledge the detailed production design which would look so much more impressive if it hadn’t been shot on video. More…

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Film review — Spooky Kitaro: The Great Yokai War

A little boy with one of the Residents in his hair teams up with his friends and a bunch of fellow monsters from Japanese folklore to fend off an invading force of “Western yokai” comprising a Dracula, a Frankenstein, a Wolf Man, a witch and a random floating eye thing. It’s classed as a feature but it’s only 40 minutes long so I have no idea how or when this would have been shown. More…

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Film review — Love God

Essentially a ’90s Troma flick with a veneer of respectability (it was produced and released on the same slate as Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm by the company that would become Focus Features). Would be easily mistaken for Henenlotter’s New York scuzz if not for the frantic quick-cut editing and constant era-specific alt-rock soundtrack, replete with some recognisable bands (though ironically enough not the Butthole Surfers, even though more than one reviewer has suggested this looks like how a Butthole Surfers album sounds). Would I prefer to hear Blind Idiot God’s “747” in a better film? Yes, yes I would. More…

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Film review — Freak Out

Not good. While I’ll give this made-by-gorehounds horror “comedy” is produced with some technical and compositional flair despite its pocket-money budget, the leads are written like children less out of the potential for comedic incongruity than as a way to disavow the constant casual homophobia and misogyny. More…

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Film review — Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh

This is when I dropped out of the 24-Hour Horror Movie Mind Melter for the evening; like Bee says, it’s not Phantasmagoria without Roberta Williams, and this sequel in name only (or rather the cut scenes thereof) swaps much of the gory horror for softcore titillation that makes the terrible acting even harder to look past. More…

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