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


Tag: Letterboxd

My Letterboxd reviews for December 2018-January 2019

Mostly Netflix originals fare in December and January, and not a standout among them. The best film I saw in this period was, and I’m happy to say this, a new Ben Wheatley film. Because I really didn’t get on with Free Fire, but Happy New Year, Colin Burstead — which screened on the BBC to ring in 2019 — is for me his best since A Field in England. Apparently his next project is a new adaptation of Rebecca, but seeing as the Hitchcock original is unimpeachable, I can’t see what else he can bring to the table. It’s repeating a mantra for many a film fan but still: more original stuff, please. More…


Film review — Mercy Black

Mercy Black’s debt to The Babadook is obvious, but it also nods to Wes Craven’s nightmares as much as the internet creepypasta like Slender Man that inspired its story, lending some depth that belies its meagre resources. More…


Film review — Dune

I’m surprised not to find a previous record of this one here, as I’m sure I’ve watched it within the last decade. But anyway, this was my first time with the Alan Smithee ‘extended cut’ and… yeah, I can see why David Lynch took his name off it. The extra hour adds nothing to improve the film, or make the story clearer. Indeed, with that hamfisted Frank Herbert voiceover intro it actively takes away from the theatrical cut’s unique ‘what the fuck is going on here’ quality. I don’t want to know about artificial intelligence or rebellions from generations before, I just want to be thrown head-first into its stately weirdness. It remains a triumph of production design, one of which everyone involved should be proud. How Lynch feels about it today is his prerogative, but it’s a shame there’s no love left there anymore. More…


Film review — Triple Frontier

Extrajudicial killings are bad, but they stole millions of dollars from a drug cartel so yay? (As an action heist thriller, it was fine, yet highlights a gulf in charisma and presence between Oscar Isaac and Baffleck and his fellow jocks.) More…


Film review — Phase IV

Saul Bass to Paramount Pictures: “Hey fellas, I’ve got a great idea: The Andromeda Strain, only slower and more tedious.” More…


Film review — ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre

I’ve only got one connection to the Troubles: I wouldn’t be here if my mam had taken a couple more minutes to change her shoes after work on 17 May 1974. Because she’d been hastier than usual that day, she was already at Connolly Station when the UVF car bomb on Talbot Street exploded. The same terrorist thugs, today a bottom-feeding gang of drug traffickers, were also responsible for the murder of three members of the Miami Showband — whose story is told in this brief but to-the-point documentary charting the surviving members’ fight to uncover the British state collusion behind the killings. (And while it hasn’t been proven, we all know they did it.) More…


Film review — Katie

It’s hard to do a documentary about someone who’s still on the ascendancy, whose life doesn’t really have enough drama for Story with a capital S. So as a narrative, it’s middling, however inspirational its subject or well shot and produced the final package. More…


Film review — Us

Us is like a rollercoaster that breaks at the top so instead of hurtling down, it kind of shudders along the slope and rolls to a safe stop. That first half? Amazing stuff. And then it goes where it goes. It feels like it would play great to a crowd, though; I wish I’d seen it in a fuller cinema, and I never say that about any film. More…


Film review — Peppermint

Preposterous libertarian-fascist, right-wing vigilante fantasy that, given the Beijing production money, fits squarely into what I’d imagine are Chinese conceptions of American cultural imports. More…


Film review — The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

It’s tempting to compare Theranos to the Fyre Festival debacle, but we’re dealing with a different situation here, one where capitalist greed and general arsehole-iness doesn’t play the same kind of part. Whereas Billy McFarland was an ignorant grifter who knew his concept wouldn’t fly from the earliest stages but pursued it anyway (and the Instagram kids, being marks, fell for it), Elizabeth Holmes really does seem like she was inspired by the Edison lesson of faking it till she made it. She really did want to be a Steve Jobs-esque Silicon Valley pioneer and ‘disrupt’ the established infrastructure of blood testing. All she needed was that one breakthrough that would solve all her problems, as they continued to pile up and eventually avalanche on top of her. One can’t help but imagine that if she were a man, one who, say, blustered about fanciful transport tunnels or cave rescue robo-coffins with nowt to show for them, the big idea would still be a thing. More…


Film review — Pacific Rim

Second viewing, still boring. I would say unremarkable, but there’s a lot one can say about its manifold problems: the rampant otaku fetishism; the forced nomenclature absent context or explanation, like ‘jaegers’ (very quasi-fascist, that one) and ‘chasing the rabbit’; the determination to stuff into less than two hours a whole series worth of plot (the ‘human element’ I complained about previously, which was a bit unfair as that’s what most giant robot manga/anime is about, ultimately). The film rushes through the bullet points of its treatment at a breathless pace without anything really happening, and the results just wash over and away down the drain. Quite a remarkable feat, actually, to make a movie about massive monsters and the machines that fight them so dull. More…


Film review — Raising Cain

Watched the re-cut of this, which is supposedly approved by Brian De Palma himself. He’s such an idiosyncratic filmmaker, especially here, where the Hitchcock references are in full effect along with confident nods to his own oeuvre. The combination is so heightened, so deliriously odd that it could not possibly be recreated by anyone else. Essential viewing, also, for anyone who appreciates what Shyamalan was trying to do with Split. More…


Film review — Lords of Chaos

Oh boy. Some people are going to absolutely hate this one. I, on the other hand, liked it a lot. Do not go into this expecting any kind of affectionate, reverential depiction of the origins of Norwegian black metal; this is very much a tragicomedy of more universal themes, taking great artistic licence with the true kvlt lives it depicts. The contrasts are jarring at first: the parodic tone of kids dressed in black, wailing in American-accented English about death (a deliberate aesthetic choice flying in the face of ‘the scene’ and its carefully cultivated self-seriousness), cut through with sudden, shocking violence in all its visceral verisimilitude. It could come off like it’s taking the piss. But if you know anything about black metal, you’ll be fully aware of its contrived artifice. It’s all kayfabe, just tag team wrestlers in facepaint. Except for the ones who believed their own hype, and took things too far. (Which is what some will accuse director Jonas Åkerlund, an original member of Bathory, of doing with this very film.) More…


Film review — Await Further Instructions

Distracting self-conscious references aside — the themes are blunt enough without the family also being named Milgram — there’s a messed-up body horror edge that nudges this above average for a low-budget chiller. More…


Film review — Halloween

The rare ‘sequel/soft reboot that’s really a greatest hits compilation’ that manages to pull it off without succumbing to post-modern ironic detachment, though that’s arguably unavoidable in an age where even Scream would be considered a vintage movie (it was made almost a quarter of a century ago, after all). More…


Film review — Velvet Buzzsaw

I felt the same way about The Square: satirising the art world is shooting fish in a barrel. But that’s pretty much all The Square was about. Velvet Buzzsaw has a different problem, in that it can’t make up its mind whether it wants over-the-top mania like a souped-up psychotronic slasher, or genuine horror tension like writer/director Dan Gilroy’s incredible previous, Nightcrawler. Either mode renders the other ineffective. More…


A Letterboxd list of ESPN documentaries

To keep track of what I still need to see. I watched quite a few of the initial series of 30 for 30 last summer; I can watch a good documentary about sport (or anything, really) any day. #link


My Letterboxd reviews for April 2018

Elsa Lanchester and Colin Clive in Bride of Frankenstein

I tried to make up for not watching any films in the first two weeks of April by watching seven over the latter half. And five of them involved actual trips to the cinema: one a press screening in Dublin, one at the fleapit down the road, one in the basement of the local arts centre (a regional screening as part of the Japanese Film Festival), and a double-bill at the IFI. My pick of the month is one I won’t be reviewing till later in May, but my thoughts on the rest are below. More…


My Letterboxd reviews for March 2018

Alexander Skarsgård in Mute

And I thought my February in movies was bad: only seven films watched in March. Not even two a week. And April isn’t looking much better, considering almost half the month has gone by and I haven’t seen a single movie. Quality, not quantity, I keep telling myself, even when the results don’t always bear that out. More…


My Letterboxd reviews for December 2017 & January 2018

A scene from the 2016 anime film Your Name.

Late with my monthnotes, and late with my Letterboxd reviews as well. Since we’re well into the new year by now, I’m overdue in noting that I logged 171 viewings over the course of 2017, which is about 50 more than I managed the previous year.

Even accounting for the fact that some were shorter (circa 1 hr) documentaries, that’s still a better than average showing. Mind you, I didn’t write as many full-length reviews as I have in previous years, but it surely indicates I was watching more for my own enjoyment and/or edification. (That also classifies as CPD as far as I’m concerned.) More…


My Letterboxd reviews for November 2017

Frank Grillo in Wheelman

Another few weeks of genre-hopping, thanks to a free month of Shudder that I ended up letting lapse as I couldn’t find much of anything I wanted to watch. So it goes.

But it was also a month that included one of my favourite films of the year. Shame it bypassed cinemas and went straight to Netflix. The new straight to video? I sure hope not.

Obviously Netflix is better than that, but there is a clear sense that it serves serialised ‘prestige’ TV much better than first-run feature films. And I get the feeling even Netflix’s honchos recognise this, going by all the promos I’m seeing for Bright (which isn’t out till the end of this month). More…


My Letterboxd reviews for July & August 2017

The Boy and the Beast

I may not have been blogging much here, but I did ramp up my movie-watching over the summer — mostly thanks to my dive into ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series (not all of which I’ve reviewed, mind).

Among the films I watched in July and August is one of the best of the year thus far in War for the Planet of the Apes. And on average the quality has been pretty good, with only a handful of duds to speak of. More…


My Letterboxd reviews for June 2017

A still from Glow: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Despite promising to myself that I would more carefully audit the quality of the films I watch for pleasure/personal edification, I still managed to watch one of the worst things I’ve seen in many a year. Must do better in July. More…


My Letterboxd reviews of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3-6, A Walk in the Woods, and Akira

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors:

The third entry in the Freddy franchise trades the inventive gore and straight-up weirdness of the original, and the sexuality allegory of the unfairly maligned second effort, for a more fantastic scenario that nevertheless has its queasy moments (the ‘string puppet’ scene near the start, especially). It’s not as well paced as you might remember it (Freddy’s barely in it; I doubt Robert Englund had to wear the makeup for more than a week) and pretty much runs out of steam in the final act, where it’s more a showcase for the technical skills of the special effects artists than a story worth following. Indeed, I forgot about the Harryhausen tribute at the end; I burst out laughing, but not in a bad way.

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My Letterboxd reviews of The Void, Wake in Fright, and Sorcerer

The Void:

The first ‘straight’ genre pastiche from the Astron-6 collective, The Void is a film very much in thrall of its influences in lieu of its own worldbuilding: it’s basically Carpenter’s The Thing, Prince of Darkness and a few others crossed with Fulci’s The Beyond, by way of Hellraiser and Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft flicks. What’s more, the awful lighting makes it largely impossible to appreciate the practical effects, which are Empire Pictures weird-veering-on-hokey rather than other-worldly terrifying, so I don’t know why they bothered. I didn’t hate watching it, though.

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My Letterboxd reviews of A Silent Voice, Life, The Discovery, The Believers, and A Decade Under the Influence

A Silent Voice:

Yoshitoki Ōima’s slice-of-life manga perhaps naturally loses some of its plot clarity and character development in the translation to the big screen, compressing an 18-month-long story into a two-hour movie and all that. But the spirit is intact, as a disconnected group of teenagers – one of them deaf – try to mend the wounds they inflicted on one another when they were younger and knew no better. Emotionally genuine, and beautifully animated. Very much recommended if you liked Toradora!

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My Letterboxd review of Kong: Skull Island

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

I really wanted to like this. I really did. I was even willing to forgive the handful of creaky moments in its first half hour — paper-thin characters, hackneyed set-ups and more — because the pace is so exciting. When the titular giant ape makes his first appearance, it’s at a genuinely unexpected moment, and the chaos is handled beautifully by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer). I was ready for a thrill ride.

But it’s all downhill from there. You see, it’s one thing to reference other movies, to pay visual or thematic homage; that’s something the otherwise narratively impoverished A Cure for Wellness does to its credit. It’s another, however, to simply mash-up the plots of a few different movies and hope that nostalgia will fill the cracks.

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My Letterboxd reviews of Logan, A Hologram for the King, This Is Spinal Tap, and Mascots

Logan:

So James Mangold finally got to make his R-rated Wolverine. And? Strip away the air of ‘serious film’-ness surrounding this super-anti-hero flick and it’s a fairly ordinary road movie, gussied up by a gritty pomo western style, relatively extreme violence, and uncharacteristic potty-mouth dialogue. All very cute, like when Jackman says ‘fuck off’ in that Avengers cameo. Fanboys can shove it.

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My Letterboxd review of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

Macon Blair’s directorial debut, a blackly comic revenge film, suffers from first-film-itis for much of its running time. Its obvious influences (mostly his old filmmaking pal Jeremy Saulnier, with a smattering of Edgar Wright) get in the way of a story that’s unevenly focused as it is, one minute a me-against-the-world drama, the next a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style cringe comedy. Things improve markedly in the final act, however, with an explosion of violence that brings a film with quirky, flighty tendencies back down to earth hard. David Yow (he of noise rock legends The Jesus Lizard) is a revelation as the primary heel of the piece, and Elijah Wood brings his usual charm as the oddball sidekick, but it’s Melanie Lynskey in the lead who holds it all together, just about, as the woman who decides she can no longer bear to let the bastards get her down.


My Letterboxd reviews of Sadako vs Kayako, This Was the XFL, High-Rise, History of the Eagles, and Any Given Sunday

Sadako vs Kayako:

Unexpectedly decent, this. The postmodern Wes Craven approach is writ large in its first half, and the obvious references pay off in grisly amusement rather than belly-laughs, as they should. It’s also effectively atmospheric, as the tropes start to die off and our main characters succumb to the creeping realisation that there are no rules to this horror movie. If there’s anything really wrong it it, it’s that it suffers from the same problem as that other colossal horror tussle: it’s far too long before the titular characters go one on one.

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My Letterboxd reviews of Underworld, Evil Dead, The End of the Tour, Voice Without a Shadow, and Criminal

Underworld:

A humourless action slog for the World of Darkness set. A bit more fighting and a lot less blathering on about bloodlines and whatnot would’ve helped.

Evil Dead:

Fede Alvarez’s reboot of the Sam Raimi horror classic pretends to add depth with a thinly veiled subtext of demonic possession as metaphor for drug addiction, but it’s drowned out amid a witless torrent of wince-inducing gore — and a thoroughly nasty, cynical tone. I walked out on this halfway through when it first hit cinemas, and after catching up on Netflix I see I didn’t miss much.

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My Letterboxd reviews of London Has Fallen, The Neon Demon, Unstoppable, Sisters, It’s Alive, I Saw the Devil, The Watcher, and Love Exposure

London Has Fallen:

Olympus Has Fallen comes with a certain charm to its ridiculous premise and theatrical violence. Only a trace of that tongue-in-cheek attitude is present in this cheap and nasty sequel, which takes its jingoism far too seriously. It’s also a film that constantly takes its audience for mugs, and can’t even be bothered to get Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman in the same place on the same day. That’s pathetic.

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My Letterboxd reviews of Therapy, The Forest, Spectral, 31, Dead Ringers, Suicide Squad and White of the Eye

Therapy:

Here’s a diegetic twist on the found-footage horror where the meta-narrative is more than just a series of links between episodes, as a team of cops race against time to rescue a missing family from a masked assailant, following clues from digital cameras recovered at the crime scene, but uncover a mystery far more messed-up than anyone could have expected. Props to French film prodigy Nathan Ambrosioni (he’s only 17, the bastard!) for a decent attempt at the kind of genre blend that usually separates or scrambles. However, it’s still primarily a found-footage psycho slasher, set in a spooooky abandoned building, in the deep, dark woods — hitting the cliché trifecta — so your mileage may vary.

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My Letterboxd reviews of Phantasm II, III and IV

Phantasm II:

It takes a good while for this belated sequel to get going, through a messy, meandering first half-hour that feels a lot longer, till all the pieces are in place for a souped-up showdown between our heroes and the nefarious Tall Man, gleefully icky and technically impressive (for its day) special effects and all.

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My Letterboxd reviews of Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion, #Horror, Anguish, Father’s Day and The Baby

Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion:

Stylistically confident by any measure, let alone for an exploitation sleaze-fest.

#Horror:

Who the hell called this #Horror when a far better title (Slashtag!) is staring you right in the face? It’s not even really a horror film, anyway, not until the last 20 minutes. Psychological thriller, then? Maybe, at a stretch, when most of it plays as a cyberbullying-themed tweenage drama with some blunt social commentary shoehorned in. First-time director (but long-time actor, fashion industry figure and multimedia artist) Tara Subkoff throws all her influences into the mix here, and it shows. More focus would help, but it’s hardly the worst film ever; these no-star reviews are taking the piss.

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