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


Tag: film

Film review — Ip Man 4: The Finale

The American white devil really gets a skewering in this final instalment of the Ip Man series, where a racist Scott Adkins beats up old people for kicks; more subtle is the anti-Japanese sentiment, but it’s also there. More…

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Film review — Ip Man 3

Too much story, too little time: this one takes a big turn in the third act, when the A plot evaporates (I guess Mike Tyson’s pretty expensive) and the B plot takes its rightful place, but doesn’t have enough breathing room for a satisfactory outcome. The hospital lift fight is a great touch, though. More…

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Film review — Penitentiary III

Look, I guess this Rocky-in-prison flick (which is also technically a wrestling movie, thanks to the Haiti Kid’s big supporting role) is probably a labour of love, and its cheapness is not unrelated to Cannon betting the house on Masters of the Universe that same year. But if ever one’s reach exceeded one’s grasp… watching this is such a chore. Let’s just say I’m thankful for YouTube’s variable playback speed setting. More…

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Film review — Apollo 11

This didn’t really need to work hard to inspire awe — the archival footage does it all on its own — but it’s the unnecessary embellishments, those moments where the soundtrack takes over the atmosphere, that pull it back from being a perfect document of a moment in history. More…

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Film review — Initial D

Here’s a real misstep from the writer-director partnership responsible for Infernal Affairs: a curiously low-energy adaptation of the popular boy racer manga that doesn’t transplant the action to Hong Kong despite using an all Cantonese-speaking cast (bar one Japanese woman whose lines are clumsily dubbed, and whose character falls into misogynist tropes). I wouldn’t be surprised if Justin Lin watched this while making Tokyo Drift and felt the pressure lift. More…

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Film review — The Heroine

This one’s on Netflix as Young Tiger. Why, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that it’s a frustratingly haphazard crime thriller, with a missing purse McGuffin, that feels every moment of its hour and 20 minutes and then some. It’s got Jackie Chan in a minor role as a heel with a comedy mole stuck to his cheek, and he only busts out one stunt: a car roof grab performed at a sedate 10mph or so. It’s also got taxis like the Toyota Corolla my grandad drove in the ’80s so I didn’t entirely waste my time. 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 — Hollow Man

After a string of important (if not always financially successful) Hollywood statements, Paul Verhoeven made this, an adaptation of The Invisible Man where the title could also reference its conspicuous lack of substance — on first impression, anyway. The script and structure are at least partly to blame; two or three minor setups or dialogue tweaks could have avoided mounting confusion with character motivations that makes this film seem overly hurried and much sillier than it ought to be. More…

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Film review — Rambo: Last Blood

Rambo goes Taken as a western, with surprisingly satisfying if gratuitously visceral results. It’s also got the smarts to keep its right-wing politics in its back pocket, though there’s no mistaking its racist, imperialistic worldview. 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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Film review — Becky

Never would I have imagined we’d get a remake of Fight For Your Life in the year of our lord Twenty-Twenty. More…

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Film review — Judge Dredd

There’s a lot to love about this film. No really, hear me out! There’s the cast, which runs from Max von Sydow and Jürgen Prochnow to James Remar and Ian Dury; a veritable who’s-who of ‘that guys’. The iconic uniforms are adapted by Gianni Versace, no less. And the overall production design is on point; it really does look the part, given the era when it was made. More…

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Film review — Blood Brothers

This one’s a bit of a drag, alas, with a dearth of gripping combat and a thin love quadrangle plot that isn’t enough to sustain the two-hour run time. However, the impressive geometry of its shot composition does count for a lot. More…

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Film review — Come Drink with Me

No option to watch this on Prime Video without the atrocious dubbing (or with subtitles to translate the on-screen text and mid-film song) but holy moly it’s beautifully composed stuff, scene after scene, shot after shot. More…

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Film review — Searching

Did you spot the big clue to unravelling the mystery right at the start? I sure did, then forgot about it till the final act, which is actually a good sign for how engrossing the story is despite the desktop interface gimmick. The one big mark against, alas, is (not a spoiler, you won’t know what I mean until the end) its unfortunate treatment of mental illness as a deviant character trait; I thought we were over that by now. More…

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Film review — Fear City: New York vs The Mafia

“There’s a strange bond that sometimes exists between law enforcement officers and criminals. They both live by codes of honour and respect more stringent than most normal people. And there’s a certain psychological connection there.”

That’s one of the cops of this piece, inadvertently revealing the police psyche as we see it plain as day today. More…

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Film review — Matinee

Something tells me we won’t be getting any equivalent comedy-drama reminiscences of the Gulf War period in the next few years. More…

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Film review — Archive

Archive has an interesting story to tell in as far as how toxic masculinity can imbue one’s best intentions and response to grief — then chucks it for a cop-out ‘sci-fi’ twist that centres the problematic protagonist at the expense of its themes. A lost opportunity, indeed. More…

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Film review — The Old Guard

Charlize Theron can do better than squander her potential as an action hero on a mean-spirited, cynical, crypto-anti-abortionist slog like this. More…

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Film review — While You Live, Shine

Paul Duane’s endearing, engaging documentary follows an American record collector and musicologist to the place of his dreams, a village in northern Greece where the continuity of its folk music and community tradition has remained unchanged despite the ravages of capitalist modernity. A beautifully composed film, indeed. More…

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Film review — The Thing

I don’t mess with John Carpenter’s The Thing; it’s far too well made, so good at what it does, and affects me on such a deeply visceral level, that the experience is genuinely horrifying and not at all enjoyable. This remake masquerading as a prequel is actually a more bearable experience, but only because the CGI renders the titular monster far less ‘real’, and eventually verges on silly, ‘Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond’ territory. Mary Elizabeth Winstead holds her own as the cool head within the heated macho atmosphere, which is a plus. But the story’s own logic doesn’t hold up at several crucial moments, and when your head’s out of a story like this, it’s done for. More…

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Film review — Weathering With You

Screened (or rather, streamed) as part of this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, this is Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Your Name and unfortunately a slighter film overall, with a whimsy that takes the edge off its emotional rawness. Nevertheless, it remains true to the director’s common themes of love embattled by circumstances, and the marginalisation of spiritual culture (or cultural spirituality) in contemporary Japanese society, with a fantastical tale of a ‘sunshine girl’ whose prayers can banish the rain, but only put it off to another time – a fairly blunt metaphor for the need to face up to one’s responsibilities in life. Needless to say it looks impeccable, in the attention to those little details that seems beyond the vision, if not the capabilities, of mainstream western animation. More…

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Film review — Family Romance, LLC

Sadly slept on the invite to the first day Q&A with Werner Herzog about his latest film, which seems to have been a few years in the making; odd for a digitally shot, vérité-style drama that could’ve been made in a week or less, given the end results. It hooks on a real-life Tokyo company that rents actors to fill voids in people’s lives, whether that’s Insta-fame, wishing to win the lottery or, in the case of the main plot strand, a missing father. What it lacks in surface emotion, it makes up for in philosophical provocation – even if an argument can be made that it slips into Orientalist cliché, what with that notion of ‘typical Japanese reserve’, and the pit stop at the kawaii hedgehog café. (The hedgehogs are cute, though.) More…

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Film review — You Should Have Left

A brilliant idea for a mind-bending chiller that unfortunately leans into the wrong kind of horror, going the sub-Shining route rather than digging deep into the non-Euclidean, spacetime-warping weirdness that could have made it a winner. More…

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Film review — Our Little Sister

A likely story, you might say if someone told you the plot — a trio of twentysomething sisters discover a younger, teenage half-sibling after their father’s death, and welcome her into their literally ramshackle home and figuratively ramshackle lives — but in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s hands, the realness of this manga adaptation shines through. Bittersweet without that desperation to tug at the heart-strings, and ultimately satisfying in its deliberate end without an ending, on a note of hope for new beginnings. Love it. More…

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Film review — Una

Adapting theatre for film takes more than just blocking scenes differently for the camera but keeping the stagey dialogue and projected interactions. In this case, it makes for a poorly rendered film of what’s actually an important story that excoriates patriarchal control. Rooney Mara is good as the titular young woman damaged by childhood abuse, both emboldened by maturity and confused in her predicament. But Ben Mendelsohn essays a real creep in her erstwhile abuser, who more or less picks up where he left off when Una re-enters his sights. They deserved a better vehicle than this. More…

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Film review — The Big Lebowski

Rewatched for the first time in years and… I could take it or leave it, now. The episodic nature really highlights how flimsy the story is, and it’s not nearly as funny as it thinks it is. It makes me wonder, did I really like it back in the day, or just go along with consensus? Fuck it. More…

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Film review — Fastball

It’s an easy watch for 90-odd minutes, but there’s not much here. Some baseball players don’t understand physics; that’s about it. More…

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Film review — Scarface

Almost three hours and only one unmistakably Hitchcockian moment? That’s positively restrained for Brian DePalma! Its politics are kind of fucked (that’s screenwriter Oliver Stone for you) and the brownface is pretty egregious. It’s also quite jarring in its clashing of near Shakespearean drama with ’80 action movie excess. I’ll be damned if I wasn’t engrossed, though. More…

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Film review — Contact

Never saw this when it came out, nor on countless opportunities to see it on TV since, and… it’s fine? I’m a sucker for sentimentality but I felt strangely distanced from this one. The climax is as underwhelming as everyone says. And I have a feeling it’s up there in Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos’ lists. More…

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Film review — Da 5 Bloods

The contemporising that Spike Lee couldn’t help himself from including at the end of BlacKKKlansman gets a better airing here, in a film that’s probably a reel too long and is as on-the-nose as you might expect but arrests with its confidence, blending drama and documentary feel in a (ghosts of) war film that never lets you forget what you’re watching. More…

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