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


Category: Screen

Film review — Prince of Darkness

John Carpenter’s three-picture deal with Alive Films in the mid-to-late ’80s produced only two features: 1988’s They Live and this one, from the year prior. They Live is generally feted as a cult classic and a high point for Carpenter, but let’s be honest that Roddy Piper and Keith David’s shared charisma does a lot of the heavy lifting; the budgetary limitations really show in its final act, which renders what’s meant to be a global conspiracy of alien dictatorship middlingly local. More…

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Film review — Bodies Bodies Bodies

This would be a four-star movie if it had leaned right into the socio-cultural send-ups and dropped the pretensions of verisimilitude. As it is, it doesn’t quite work as either the horror or comedy part of ‘horror comedy’, so we’re left with a drama that’s more along the lines of what the kids today mean by that word. More…

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Film review — The Executioner

I enjoyed this while I was watching it (Sonny Chiba bashing heads? What’s not to love?) but I’m not so sure about it now. Flashes of ultraviolence and arresting visual style don’t quite make up for the thin plot and wacky tendencies. (‘Wacky’ in this case meaning one character is a notorious pervert who persistently bothers the only woman in the ensemble.) More…

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Film review — In the Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson at 50

Despite what the opening on-screen text might lead you to believe, this is firmly for those who are already boned up on the story of King Crimson, its many faceted iterations and the legend of Robert Fripp. It doesn’t bother to explain such details as why KC transmogrified from flute-laden balladry to muscular hard rock to sinewy new wave to industrial-tinged metal, or extrapolate on the enmity between Fripp and the many, many other musicians who have created and performed with him under the moniker. It doesn’t tell us anything about why Fripp is so important within and without the band: there’s nothing about Bowie, Daryl Hall, Guitar Craft. But in fairness, what (former MTV Alternative Nation host) Toby Amies’ doc is about is in the title, no more and no less. More…

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Film review — Robowar

Pound-shop Predator with too much walkin’ ’n’ lookin’, not enough swearin’ ’n’ shootin’. But I didn’t fall asleep halfway though like I would have if it were an Asylum mockbuster, so there’s that. More…

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Film review — Meet Me in the Bathroom

This is OK, I guess, but it’s up to Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to point out that the scene this ostensibly surveys was bigger than The Strokes and included plenty of popular-on-Pitchfork bands like Oneida and even outliers like Sightings and Black Dice, none of whom get a look-in here beyond a name on a flyer. More…

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Film review — White Noise

Netflix are making quite the name for themselves for big-name, medium-buzz winter holiday comedies that fall completely fucking flat. I have no time for tired social satire and even more so when it’s told with this kind of self-satisfied, forced whimsy. It gets two stars only because it commits to the bit, despite the bit being on the level of an average New Yorker cartoon. No I have not read the novel but I have read DeLillo and anyway the book is nearly 40 years old and when you take it out of that context without any real effort at recontextualisation, then what are we even doing here? More…

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Film review — Stop Making Sense

Somehow I’ve avoided ever seeing this before now, maybe put off for years by the notion of people bopping among the seats at a cinema showing which sounds like my idea of hell to be honest. But the film itself is really something. More…

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Film review — Gimme Danger

Serious case of déjà vu while watching this one; I must have forgotten to log it before. Anyway! Why not see in 2023 with a decent documentary about one of the greatest rock bands? Let’s be honest, the title is a misnomer: it’s the story of Iggy and the Stooges, and how the latter fit into the narrative of the former. Perhaps Jim Jarmusch let his Iggy Pop adoration shape things that way, I don’t know. It is what it is. There are little things that annoy me, such as how it lacks context for some of the later players involved in the band’s early 2000s reunification, like J Mascis and Mike Watt, but perhaps that feeling is shaped by my own Watt fandom. So there’s that. More…

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Film review — F9

The self-referential nod-wink side-talk comes off as kind of smug, if I’m honest. Like, we’re nine films deep now and things got sillier than ’70s Bond a long time ago; it’s too late for breaking kayfabe now. Also, Letty shouldn’t have stuck her chopsticks in her ramen like that. Just saying. More…

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Film review — Young Frankenstein

I don’t know what the hell I was talking about in my prior review; this is pretty much a masterpiece. Sure, Mel Brooks has Marty Feldman over-egg some of the gags, but the attention to detail in recreating the look and mood of classic Universal horror is astounding. And few comedy bits ever can top the theatre sequence. “Hit it!” More…

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Film review — Yes, Madam!

It doesn’t hang around, does it? Nearly every scene has something to make you pop at either its ridiculousness or its astounding creativity. And it ends way harder than expected, to boot. I also note this was Michelle Yeoh’s third film and Cynthia Rothrock’s first yet both look like they’ve been doing it for years. Credit to all involved. More…

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Film review — Big Time Gambling Boss

I think what really swayed me to pick up the Radiance Blu-ray of this was the inclusion of a video essay by Chris D — yes the same Chris D from the Flesh Eaters and various SST band escapades. But I’m very glad I did as it’s one of those rare flicks that walks a fine line between simplicity and density. I’m not sure if there are any morals to yakuza stories, but if there’s a lesson, it’s probably this: if you’re a pragmatist by nature, it’s probably not a good idea to make an oath of brotherhood with a stubborn fool. More…

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Film review — Ocean’s Twelve

I guess you’d really want to have enjoyed these guys’ company considering this is a hangout movie with nearly all of the thrilling heist shenanigans of the original excised. This one ain’t for me, bro. More…

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Film review — Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan

There’s enough autobiography in this hagiography to make this a worthwhile watch for anyone who doesn’t know much about the man behind the name, beyond the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts. Don’t expect more than DVD-extra-level production values and you’re good to go. More…

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Film review — Journey to the Center of the Earth

What a strange experience this is. For a summertime spectacle flick, it feels remarkably low-rent, and lacking in any of the requisite awe and wonder. It looks like it was shot on a iPhone, and the world it illustrates is as barren and threadbare as the story. The slim cast — only three people for the bulk of proceedings — give the distinct impression they’ve been left to their own devices without any direction. No one involved is bringing much effort to the party. I’m probably giving it more words here than it rightfully deserves. But I’m honestly fascinated how a film this thoroughly lazy not only got made but released and marketed (and got a sequel). More…

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Film review — Radioactive Dreams

I admit I was only half-watching this as it’s really not my thing. Sure, Albert Pyun (RIP) had the huevos to shove in a blender a whole slew of ’80s gimmicks — post-apocalyptic fever, an overbearing new-wave soundtrack, crazes for retro fashion and dancing — in the hopes of a hit but the result is exactly the incoherent slurry you’d expect. More…

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Film review — Disciples of the 36th Chamber

I’m not sure why you’d want to portray your legendary cultural hero as an immature dickhead, but hey. It’s a slog until the grand finale, but that’s what we’re all here for. Also, foreshadowing! More…

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Film review — Smile

This film has something interesting to say about society’s obsession with witnessing tragedy, and how we really view mental illness, beyond the platitudes and lip service, which is refreshing considering how the subject is normally treated. It’s also a story that struggles for a sensible ending, and that’s told via by-now well-worn horror mystery tropes, from the inverted aerial shots to the sympathetic cop to the copious jump scares, which I think does it a disservice, even if it evokes an effectively harrowing, skin-crawling mood. More…

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Film review — Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero

Batman does nothing in this. It’s about 80% Barbara Gordon being a badass, 18% Robin stepping up and 2% at best of ol’ Brucie boy showing out for the grand finale. Meanwhile, the story isn’t sure whether it wants its Mr Freeze to be a tragic anti-hero or a comically ruthless villain, which might be a duality worth exploring if the scope were broader and the stakes were higher. More…

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Film review — The Protector

The poster is a lie: Jackie Chan never wields that cannon in the movie. But Danny Aiello does use it to blast a henchman off the top of a crane. Bombastic stuff like that makes the sleaze and cheese elsewhere bearable. More…

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Film review — Armageddon

Paris, a city of 19 million people, getting obliterated and instantly forgotten is the kind of perspective you need to understand that whole ‘freedom fries’ thing. More…

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Film review — Die Another Day

Y’know, when the Fast and Furious movies got this silly in the 2010s, it made them arguably more entertaining. With Bond in 2002 it’s just sad. More…

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Film review — The World Is Not Enough

This has the most entertaining intro to any Bond movie to date, and boasts some of the series’ most ludicrous set pieces (that helicopter circular saw thing is chef’s kiss) but the rest is meh: a convoluted yet humdrum plot with an un-engaging villain. This Bond is not enough. More…

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Film review — GoldenEye

Many moons ago, while on Transition Year work experience with my press snapper uncle, I was on the set of a Pierce Brosnan film in Roundwood in Co Wicklow. I remember there was a lunch at one of the village pubs (because there’s always more than one, isn’t there?) with one of Pierce’s sons (Sean I believe) and the PR guy Gerry Lundberg, who incidentally grew up around the corner from my childhood home. I was too chicken to go right up to the man himself for a photo op but nevertheless it’s the closest I’ve been to an actual James Bond. It’s a shame he’s one of the bad Bonds, but still. Anyway, there’s a reason why the N64 game of his 007 debut is much more fondly remembered than the movie itself. More…

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Film review — Licence to Kill

Bond meets Scarface Lite as the franchise misses the boat on both the killer-shark trend and the ninja craze. Timothy Dalton’s 007 feels at odds with the kind of forced antics that plagued the Roger Moore movies, even if this one does feature a death scene worthy of the decade’s gnarliest horrors. Also, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa would’ve made a pretty good Bond in his prime, wouldn’t he? More…

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Film review — The Living Daylights

This is the one where Bond beats Rambo to aiding the Afghan mujahideen so naturally it’s aged well, ahem. It’s bogged down by some overly convoluted plotting yet this is a decent outing for a new kind of Bond. They wouldn’t really pull the trigger on it till Bourne forced their hand in the Daniel Craig era, but Timothy Dalton brings the believably rugged charm the franchise desperately needed. More…

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Film review — You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night

I appreciate the passion of a project like this, though that same passion is what persuades them to include every talking-head clip and non-sequitur anecdote they could get their hands on. I’m just saying, this could’ve been edited into a less meandering and far more engaging two hours, perhaps. More…

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Film review — The Horror Show

Sean Cunningham produces his take on Freddy but aside from Brion James’ outrageously unhinged phantom killer and the always watchable Lance Henriksen, this is a poorly conceived mess. (And a poorly marketed one, too, as it was shoehorned into the House franchise post-release.) Wes Craven would get his own back by nicking the premise for Shocker, a much trashier yet relatively straight-forward and therefore far more entertaining affair. More…

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Film review — Barbarian

It’s this close to saying something about the rot at the heart of the American dream. But it settles for being just a movie about an asshole who only looks sympathetic in light of someone far worse than him. More…

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Film review — Live and Let Die

Yaphet Kotto brings a modicum of dignity that almost, but not quite, raises this above the level of racist nonsense. Expensive boat chases notwithstanding. More…

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Film review — V/H/S/99

Really enjoyed this one. It’s as uneven as any horror anthology but has a sense of fun (rather than revolting mean-spiritedness) that appeals to me. More…

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Film review — Matriarch

As a contemporary folk horror, it’s more effective than Alex Garland’s facile Men. But it’s still predicated on the notion of the child’s original debt to their parents. That cycle can be broken without the kind of sacrifice this story suggests. More…

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Film review — The Sound of 007

Recency bias means there’s way too much guff about Billie Eilish but this is a pretty entertaining, if ultimately slight, overview of the stories behind Bond themes both unforgettable…and not so memorable. More…

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Film review — Constantine

My SO was convinced this had its edges sanded down for a PG-13 because it’s so tame but it actually got an R rating. For what I have no fucking clue. Personally I rate it S for slow; swap out all that self-conscious moodiness for pulse-quickening action and we might have the makings of something worth remembering. More…

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Film review — AlphaGo

If this film has a significant flaw, it’s that it’s made from the perspective of the AI team. A deeper human story exists in Lee Sedol and how he comes to terms with a machine that seems to know him better than he knows himself. More…

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Film review — Psychic Killer

It’s got a creepy premise that would get a more effective, evocative twist a few years later in Aussie shocker Patrick. So maybe watch that instead of this cheap and lazy TV-movie-level schlock. More…

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Film review — Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge

This boasts a Honda Gold Wing with a sidecar and a phantom who busts out a sweet-ass spin kick that almost makes me re-evaluate my feelings about what’s very much an also-ran in the slasher stakes. Almost, but not quite. It sucks. But surprisingly, Pauly Shore is not the worst thing about it. More…

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Film review — Hellraiser

It’s got all the issues inherent in trying to ‘elevate’ horror by trying to make it ‘about things’ in the most facile manner possible, but this Hellraiser reboot (and it is a reboot, as it reimagines enough to set it in a separate dimension from the 1987 original) has got another problem that’s more annoying to me. More…

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