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


Tag: Letterboxd

Film review — Brats

Wasn’t feeling this one. Andrew McCarthy centres himself in a conversation about the consequences of the ‘Brat Pack’ label placed on that group of young ’80s Hollywood actors. Not unreasonably, he has his own bitterness and neuroses about the branding, some of which are shared by fellow brats but notably those who didn’t quite parlay their potential and notoriety into a high-profile career. More…

###

Film review — I Saw the TV Glow

Has the distinct air of a short blown up to a feature — but making up for the absence of any additional plot or character development with stylish atmosphere, which only goes so far before it diffuses into nothing. The metaphors and more direct allusions (it’s far more text than subtext) are laid on too thick for my liking. But the overall sentiments are worth exploring. More…

###

Film review — Civil War

Alex Garland trolls us with a deliberate provocation that has nothing new or profound to say, and it’s proud of it. Is ‘war journalists are an odd bunch?’ a fascinating or unique observation? Not on this surface level, which leans into all the ‘adrenaline junkie one minute, dead-eyed and emotionless the next’ clichés. More…

###

Film review — The Zero Boys

A twist on the typical slasher with too many ideas for its own good (the killers are both too smart and too dumb to make any sense of them at all) but one hell of a parting shot. More…

###

Film review — Hiruko the Goblin

The Tetsuo guy got studio backing for his follow-up flick, a sweaty teen adventure horror (adapted from a manga) that mashes up your favourite ’80s genre memories with Japanese folklore and results in something that’s much more my bag. Reportedly a troubled production where nobody wanted to work with a novice director, it’s a one-off in Shinya Tsukamoto’s oeuvre and it’s a shame he never revisited this kind of fare. More…

###

Film review — Dante’s Peak

It’s Jaws if the shark were a volcano (there’s even a character named “Dreyfus”, for crying out loud) but Pierce Brosnan doesn’t get to blow up the volcano at the end. More…

###

Film review — Brainiac: Transmissions After Zero

Going into this documentary, I knew very little about the subject other than that they were on Touch & Go and met a premature end in a similar vein to the Minutemen. The film did a nice job of selling me on the band and their regional importance, it’s a fitting tribute in that respect, but it also wants me to believe that an act with a sound as oddball and abrasive as theirs had any chance of breaking out in the mainstream. Even in the post-Nirvana gold rush of the ’90s that was never going to happen. And some of the talking heads feel decidedly out of place. (Is Melissa Auf der Maur really a Brainiac fan? Her ‘making up her homework on the spot’ energy suggests not.) More…

###

Film review — Banned from Broadcast: The Movie – Saiko! The Large Family

Most recent reviews of this Japanese faux-documentary are from Gen Z-ers and younger Millennials who found it via a horror YouTuber’s recent video essay on the subject and hey, I’ll celebrate anything that gets young people to engage with media on a critical level, especially if it’s something beyond the Western-dominated mainstream. More…

###

Film review — Running Out of Time

A downtrodden police detective finds himself in a battle of wits with a terminally ill master criminal in a thriller that never really rises above being a jolly good time but that’s OK, because sometimes a jolly good time is all you need. More…

###

Film review — Rolling Thunder

The Mike Baldwin of Knots Landing goes ham on the outlaws who murdered his wife and son in a sweltering setting that makes me feel clammy just looking at it. The sombre character study of the first half is deeply affecting, but there’s some grade-A squib work here, too. I think we can all agree the cops in First Blood should’ve watched this one before deciding to pick on poor John Rambo. More…

###

Film review — A Goofy Movie

The animators should be very proud of the river rapids sequence; that hand-crafted, roughly hewn look to the rippling waves and rushing water is up there with Ghibli’s finest. If only the story were as finely crafted. More…

###

Film review — Winter Evening in Gagry

I admit I only half paid attention this one (the second film of Important Cinema Club’s 24-Hour Musical Movie Mind Melter on Twitch) as I was struck by a sudden headache and reading subtitles was out of the question. It’s a tale as old as showbiz: a star tap-dancer in his day is, decades later, largely forgotten but for the interest of one passionate upstart who seeks his mentorship. So far, so clichéd but it’s rendered with genuine feeling, not to mention that very Russian melancholy and end-of-the-Soviet-era sociopolitical subtext. More…

###

Film review — Prisoners of the Lost Universe

An inept trash fantasy, shot in apartheid South Africa and starring a dubbed-over John Saxon who’s trying way too hard, the other one from Battlestar Galactica and a wrestler who supposedly faced off with both a pre-Nailz Kevin Wacholz and a pre-Undertaker Mark Calaway on cultural boycott-breaking tours. More…

###

Film review — Immaculate

I had this occult/nunsploitation/body horror pegged as being wildly unhinged from the way people were talking about it. So imagine my disappointment… Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine for what it is, but if only it had leaned into its pulpier urges. More…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###

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…

###