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


Tag: download

Film review — Sisters with Transistors

Wonderful to put faces and voices to sounds I’ve been reading about in The Wire for many years. However, it feels contradictory to complain that Wendy Carlos refused to transcend the musical forms of dead white men by performing Bach on synths, when Delia Derbyshire’s best known for the distinctly melodious theme for Doctor Who and Suzanne Ciani made a living from advertising jingles. If your thesis is “the avant-garde versus mainstream expectations of what music is”, then maybe stick with it? More…

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Film review — Malignant

I’ll be charitable about the “giallo” thing as maybe that reviewer was reaching for “grand guignol”? Anyway, this is basically a mashup of Cronenbergian Henenlotterian body horror and De Palma-esque plot fuckery turned up to 11. More…

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Film review — Retribution

A suicidal artist gets possessed by the spirit of a vengeful mobster. That’s the plot, in a nutshell, but Retribution is a lot more than that. For one thing, it’s got that same New Yawk scuzz that makes Street Trash such a treat (even though it’s set in LA?). More…

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Film review — Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James

The film-makers dance around the question of whether Rick James became a monstrous asshole because of all the drugs, or whether he was attracted to the drugs because he was a monstrous asshole. But the talent is undeniable, as is the fact that racism made him a one-hit wonder in the general historical record. More…

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Film review — FM

I guess one person’s independent, counter-culture spirit is another’s corporate AOR with a side of rampant sexism. Just think that while these goobers were jamming to Jimmy Buffett, somewhere about 20 miles away the bands that would become Black Flag and the Minutemen were woodshedding for a real revolution. More…

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Film review — Yakuza Princess

Here’s a neat idea squandered. A lot less forgettable “my past…my destiny” drama clichés and a lot more of that flashy, occasionally inventive action might’ve done the trick. As would’ve cutting about 20 minutes. More…

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Film review — Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins

The combat is bloodless, the mood dour, the running time far too long. And the supernatural elements feel as out of place as the end titles referencing Enter the Void (I’m not kidding). Yet there are flashes of a decent action movie in here, despite the poor writing and weak direction. More…

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Film review — Lords of the Deep

Practical effects teams were at the top of their game in the late 1980s and the model work here is predictably top notch. Okay, maybe not the creature of the feature. As for everything else? The sets, the costumes? The cast? More…

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Film review — Grunt! The Wrestling Movie

This could have been a cheap cash-in on the rock ’n’ wrestling craze. Instead it’s…a mockumentary? Like if Paul Bartel made This Is Spinal Tap but about the Los Angeles territory. So, more surreally, blackly humorous than laugh-out-loud funny, then. And it gasses out before the climactic battle royal, alas. But there’s such effort here for a subject that wasn’t accustomed to respect when The Wrestler came out in 2008, let alone when this appeared in 1985. That’s absolutely fascinating to me. More…

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Film review — Censor

Excuse me for expecting something a little less by-the-numbers. Censor echoes the pervasive, literal darkness of similarly themed films like Berberian Sound Studio. But in this case, rather than bringing us into the protagonist’s paranoiac experience, the dream-like mood from the outset creates a distancing effect that dulls any effort to disturb and makes it impossible to connect with it on anything more than a superficial level. There’s substance here — the analogy of film censorship with the edits minds can make of memories affected by trauma is worth exploring — but it’s obscured by the style. More…

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Film review — Category III: The Untold Story of Hong Kong Exploitation Cinema

Many years ago, a very good friend of mine burned me some CDs and DVDs of Category III stuff like Ebola Syndrome and Red to Kill but I misplaced the discs in a spring clean and two subsequent moves and I’ve still never seen them. I’ve probably missed my chance now I’ve aged out of my ‘transgressive’ phase, so this is the closest I can get. And it’s fine; passion for the subject and competent talking-head setups count for a lot as the substance is a bit threadbare. I’m also not sure how much anyone not already familiar with the wilder side of Hong Kong cinema will get out of it. For instance, it barely even acknowledges the magnificent Story of Ricky, and constantly references classics like The Boxer’s Omen without bothering to explain why they have the reputations they do. Isn’t that what documentaries like this are for? More…

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Film review — Zappa

It’s clearly made by someone (noted Blind Idiot God fan Alex Winter) with a passion for the work. But the presentation seems overly drab and stuffy for a musician whose music has such a zany reputation. Maybe that’s a problem of being too close to the thing, to feel like treating it in anything but the most reverent manner would be too frivolous or inappropriate when the opposite is more likely the case. More…

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Film review — The Net

Finally saw the whole thing after half-watching from midway through on Channel 4 one weekday afternoon a million years ago. It’s actually a decent story as these things go, but hangs on a hook so preposterous that it could only have allowed suspension of disbelief if it were set years ahead of right now, let alone 1995. More…

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Film review — In the Earth

Ben Wheatley essentially remixes A Field in England as a Nigel Kneale-style sci-fi horror for his most interesting project in years. More…

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Film review — Ape vs Monster

Why did I watch this?! It’s an Asylum production so I should have switched it off at the start; it’s a typically dull ‘mockbuster’ of theirs. I do have to say the two main women in the cast are pretty decent, especially given all the heavy lifting they have to do with the double burden of a rotten script and their shockingly poor male co-stars (Eric Roberts excepted, but he’s just there for the payday and the catering). More…

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Film review — Mortal Kombat

I’ve browsed so many reviews saying this is boring and I can only imagine it’s because the bombastic bullshit of the usual superhero action flick had broken their brains. Is it lower-key than you might be expecting? Sure. It holds a lot back, arguably too much. But it’s never boring. More…

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Film review — Hackers

Letterboxd says I watched this nine years ago but it clearly left zero traces. Nothing about it jogged my memory; indeed the biggest impression was just how much trouble the makers had in 1994 trying to visualise the concept of being, for lack of a better phrase, into computers. Which is funny because War Games did it pretty well a decade before. More…

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Film review — Jiu Jitsu

Recycled Predator plot notwithstanding, this had all the right ingredients — Tony Jaa, my boy Frank Grillo, JuJu Chan from Wu Assassins and crazy Nicolas Cage — but it needed to be much shorter and snappier. You know, like actual jiu jitsu. It also could have done without those silly comic book transitions; they didn’t work in the director’s cut of The Warriors and they don’t work now. More…

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Film review — Godzilla vs. Kong

I didn’t hate it, but it’s not what I was hoping for. Early response gave me the impression it was monster fights from start to finish, when in reality it’s a Kong movie that occasionally guest-stars Godzilla, and spends the bulk of its time with characters who are less point-of-view than pointless. Then when it does get to the colossal tussles, there’s nothing particularly creative about them — something that would have made up somewhat for the consistently distracting holes in its own logic. I can accept a lot in a movie about giant monsters pounding the stuffing out of each other, but not that much. Anyway. Meh. More…

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Film review — Boss Level

I have a lot of time for Frank Grillo, but this…is not the vehicle to showcase his talents. The premise demands relentless action; what we get is dragged down into dullsville by the ‘hero needs a family drama’ mandate. More…

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Film review — Monster Hunter

Monster Hunter gives me similar feelings to what I had with Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, in that I mostly enjoyed my time with it and I’m down for watching a sequel. But for a film with epic promise, it feels very small; the locations are samey (a desert and…another kind of desert) and I counted a total of five monsters, only three of which have any real bearing on the plot. The editing is also odd; some sections feel excessively trimmed, and the cutting of the action scenes leaves much to be desired — it’s Tony Jaa, for fuck’s sake, let him do his thing! Milla Jovovich is acceptable as ever; she’s never really lit the screen alight for me. Jaa does a lot of the heavy lifting in their buddy pairing, all the more impressive as his character doesn’t speak English. Also, Ron Perlman with anime hair (as my SO put it so accurately) scores bonus points. More…

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Film review — What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael

The Pauline Kael primer, more or less. Fans of her work will probably be left wanting, despite (or because of) the hagiography. I was left with the impression of someone of whom I can appreciate the enthusiasm, but disagree with the methods. More…

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Film review — A Glitch in the Matrix

Unlike Room 237 — which was all curiosity about its subjects and their wackadoo theories, the topic at hand aside — A Glitch in the Matrix has a thesis. It’s not the strongest (to someone who started his philosophy degree the year The Matrix came out so never really saw what all the fuss was about) but it does the work of contextualising where solipsistic ideas like simulation theory come from, and the dark places they can end up. More…

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Film review — Roadgames

This one loses an entire star for its absolutely farcical score. It turns a neo-Hitchcockian Ozploitation thriller into a bloody Ealing comedy or something. More…

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Film review — The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

I could be glib about the Brothers Gibb and say ‘They’ll always be Les Tossers to me’ but I can’t deny those harmonies. The biggest downside to this (mostly posthumous) documentary is that it’s far too slight, and skips over much of the pre-superstardom days and records that should be more than footnotes in their story. Give me the four-hour cut with stuff about early albums like Cucumber Castle and whatever possessed them to give a record a title like Cucumber Castle. More…

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Film review — O Lucky Man!

The blackface (not once, but twice!) really sticks out like a sore thumb in what’s otherwise a film that resonates as much today as it must’ve done back in 1973, with all that seething anger against the system barely concealed by the offbeat mirth. More…

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Film review — Action USA

You know, I didn’t really care for this. More of a ‘couple of beers into film night with the lads’ kind of deal, methinks. Dug the explosions, though. So many explosions. More…

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Film review — Promising Young Woman

It would be so easy to cast this aside as a caricature of toxic masculinity. I mean, it’s practically begging for it. But what you have to realise is that men, the target of its satire and ire, are fucking clichés (being a man, I speak from experience) and this movie gets really, really gets that. More…

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Film review — Cobra

Cobra is brilliant, isn’t it? The first 40 minutes, and the hellish symbolism of the climactic fight scene, retain a powerfully unsettling weirdness even after all these years. The story does kind of lose its way once it’s taken out of the city and becomes more conventional Cannon action fodder, alas. If it had gone all-in on the murderous cult angle, we’d be talking about all-time classic; as it is, though, it remains criminally underrated. More…

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Film review — Antebellum

It’s one bravura visual sequence at the end, and written backwards from there, such that even The Village stands up to closer scrutiny. It does an unforgivable disservice to the message when the medium is this poorly constructed. More…

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Film review — Changing Lanes

Putting the film’s core macho rivalry aside, there’s a real whiff of MRA fantasy bullshit from Samuel L Jackson’s hard-done-by working stiff, and a depressing resignation to late-stage capitalistic amorality surfacing the road to Damascus for Ben Affleck’s Wall Street lawyer type. More…

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Film review — An American Pickle

The BiTiNg PoLiTiCaL sAtIrE will age faster than the artisanal scooter hipster shtick, and don’t think no one noticed the not-a-Sodastream-but-definitely-a-Sodastream image-sanitising product placement. But this is better than I’d expected. More…

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Film review — She Dies Tomorrow

If the performances were better (with the exception of Jane Adams, who is always worth watching), I might be more forgiving that this film cuts a sizeable cheque its story does not cash. More…

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Film review — Blue Vengeance

I do not get what others see in this. As a scuzzy thriller with urban decay as a metaphor (or not), it’s not a patch on the likes of Deadbeat at Dawn. And honestly I was out as soon as I realised the hitchhiking scenes were likely filmed on the pathways of a local park or something. The passion behind the project is clear; the results are what they are. More…

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Film review — Villains

Villains just about leans the right away between enthusiastic sampling and blatant rip-off of ideas, recycling its list of tropes and references into something that I think fairly counts as new. It also helps to have a co-lead as good as Maika Monroe is here, not to mention Kyra Sedgwick’s gleefully hammy turn. More…

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