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


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Film review — Honey Boy

No time to write up a proper review of this one, but I have thoughts. Mostly around the idea of this being yet another narrative of familial abuse and estrangement where redemption is achieved through reconnection and forgiveness as if that path is mandatory. Honey Boy presents itself as something different, and to be fair it’s remarkably staged and beautifully shot, with performances that deserve awards attention for going where you might not expect. (And yes, I know it’s Shia LaBeouf adapting his own relationship with his father for the screen.) But in essence it’s as clichéd as the rest of ’em. And that cliché, an almost bullying edict (‘You must forgive your parents even if they’ve been extraordinarily shitty to you!’), is not something I care to stomach. More…


Film review — Rosemary’s Baby

It’s one of life’s great ironies that a film which ranks among the most affecting cinematic depictions of coercive control and emotional abuse was made by a man who later raped an underage girl and got away with it. More…


Film review — Paradise Alley

Sly was perhaps entitled to a little self-indulgence after the breakout success of Rocky, and the results very much betray the sense of a hungry talent desperate to get all his ideas on the page and on the screen. So, we get a schmaltzy period drama set in post-WWII Hell’s Kitchen, realised in all its ragged glory. And it’s kind of a mess of competing storylines, most of which are forgotten by the final reel, and with the main thread — the carny wrestling hustle that brings Stallone and his brothers the ticket out of the slums they so crave — not even getting out of the blocks until more than halfway in. But it’s clearly got heart, which counts for something. More…


Film review — Her Smell

If Vox Lux is ‘Lars von Trier does A Star Is Born’, then Her Smell, at least in its first half, is like Gaspar Noé having a go — if he were into stagey drama that’s over-enamoured with its own writing. More…


Film review — The King of Comedy

Robert De Niro blah blah blah — this picture really comes to life through Sandra Bernhard’s tangibly unhinged superfan. That more wasn’t made of her talent is an indictment of the era, I suppose. More…


Film review — Eli

This fairly rote haunted-house medical horror from the director of the fine Citadel and terrible Sinister 2 takes such a gonzo twist in the final act that it’s worth persevering. More…


Film review — Dolemite Is My Name

Eddie Murphy attempts both an affectionate tribute to Rudy Ray Moore, and to make amends for the casual homophobia and misogyny that marked much of his own rise to stardom, and more or less succeeds at both? I didn’t see that coming. (Mind you, we never do learn what happened to the vagrants that Dolemite nicked his act from, do we?) More…


Film review — Avengement

In all seriousness, who needs S Craig Zahler and his crypto-fascism when you’ve got Scott Adkins fighting his way through Belmarsh prison and an East London pub? More…


Film review — Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Where action movies often go wrong is not that they try to do too much — that’s pretty much what we expect — but that they never know where to end. Hobbs and Shaw is case in point. It’s poor enough that this squanders the chemistry The Rock and Jason Statham have undeniably displayed in previous Fast and the Furious outings; but a story that drags on past the point of caring, while rendering too many of its probably-cool-on-paper set-pieces as Michael Bay-esque screen noise, just isn’t forgivable. Sometimes, even for a bombastic action film, less is more. More…


Film review — In the Tall Grass

I looked up the synopsis of the original story, written by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, and it’s King by numbers. Haunted grass? Check. Man who’s manipulated into sublimating his shortcomings as a husband and father into psychotic rage? Check. Unsatisfyingly denouement? Oh, you’d better believe that’s a check. But in the hands of Vincenzo Natali, who’d previously never really fulfilled the promise of Cube all those years ago, the story is something else. It’s an adaptation that adds a mind-bending twist to the premise while foregrounding its themes of power, patriarchy and toxic masculinity, though it does tend to get a tad too obvious about those for its own good. More…


Film review — In the Shadow of the Moon

‘Ambitious but flawed’ is a cliche, but it nevertheless applies to Jim Mickle’s follow-up to the hardcore Cold In July — a sci-fi mystery that holds its cards so close to its chest, I’d imagine it’ll lose many viewers before the reveal finally comes. Mickle’s previous was more successful at the bait-and-switch plotting move, and with its period depictions. There’s a jarring sense of not-quite-rightness here that ultimately distracts and detracts from the story. More…


Film review — Wing Commander

OK so it’s bad. The plot is the epitome of derivative, the leads are poorly cast and directed, it looks decidedly ropey when its opts for CGI over practical effects. The aliens look pants and should’ve been scrapped. All of those things. But hear me out. More…


Film review — First Blood

A man looks forward to a reunion but immediately faces crushing disappointment. He’s needlessly criticised for his choice of clothes and hairstyle, and made to feel decidedly unwelcome when all he wants on a trying day is something to eat. Then the whole thing devolves into an argument, and by the end of the night he’s eating his roast alone in the dark … To hell with Die Hard, First Blood is a real Xmas movie. More…


Film review — Long Shot

A rom-com fairy tale for nerds, pretty much. It’s got heart, for sure. It’s also got some suspect politics, of all kinds. More…


Film review — Shanghai Fortress

I’m not sure whether the not-so-subtle Chinese exceptionalism here is just a dig at the Yanks, or whether they really believe in it. In any case, all the flash-bang action and noble sacrifices leave no impression when both sides in this fight are so thinly drawn. More…


Film review — Ma

By failing to make hay with its premise, and being just that bit too obvious about the stuff it does explore (the flashbacks especially, coming far too early and building a backstory the viewer doesn’t really need to know), Ma slips from a potentially top-tier thriller to merely an OK one. More…


Film review — The Secret Garden

So this one completely passed me by in 1993. I guess I wasn’t the target audience, and that year was all about Jurassic Park for me, but you’d think there’d be some lingering memory of its existence, at least, not least because I do remember the mid-70s BBC adaptation being repeated on children’s TV around that same vague time period. Anyway. More…


Film review — Blackhat

Blackhat takes itself far too seriously for such a preposterous story. I mean, one minute our man’s a hacker, the next he’s shooting guns, then he’s in a radiation suit? What?! It hardly even matters that he’s barely, y’know, doing stuff with an actual computer. I understand it’s difficult to make a concept like cybercrime cinematic, but surely not that hard to make it not this. More…


Film review — Shinjuku Triad Society

An early criminal underworld joint from Takashi Miike betraying an obsession with sodomy that goes beyond the usual homosexuality-as-deviance trope so common in the hard-boiled cop thriller. More…


Film review — Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

It’s an odd duck, this: a study of a revered local hero in hipster capital Portland that’s also character piece with no characters, as faces and bodies seem to flit in and out of the subject’s life. Gus Van Sant writes and directs here with affection but also an aimlessness that doesn’t do the work any favours because unlike, say, Gerry, it’s not exactly the point. More…


Film review — Orphan

A trimmer edit and a tighter script — say, down to 90 minutes — might have solved some of the frustrating ‘people would never behave that way!’ issues that mar what’s otherwise an effectively chilly Hitchcockian/De Palma-esque thriller, especially in its all-out final act. More…


Film review — Molly’s Game

Before I saw either, I kept getting Molly’s Game confused with Miss Sloane. Now that I’ve finally watched the former, I still don’t see the difference. More…


Film review — Fist of Fury

There’s a solid 40 to 50% of this film that isn’t Bruce Lee just straight up murdering people with his feet and fists and it would be better off without it, to be honest. More…


Film review — Beautiful Boy

A reminder that very personal stories of the needle and the damage done don’t necessarily universalise, especially when the tincture is tainted with so much white privilege. More…


Film review — Creed

Creed is… less than what I’d expected? Maybe it was too much to want something different than what amounts to a near-literal retread of the original Rocky. And especially one that’s so impatient to get to an ending it neither needs nor deserves that it fails to explore and expand upon the unique aspects it really has going for it. When it does stop to breathe, those are the moments when it truly comes alive as its own thing. More…


Film review — Miracle Mile

Here’s a film of two halves if there ever was one: a meet-cute romcom spins off as an After Hours-style comedy of errors before sliding into decidedly grim apocalyptic terror. It’s all deeply weird and like nothing else I’ve seen, that’s for sure. More…


Film review — Bipolar Rock ‘N’ Roller

This portrait of combat sports commentator Mauro Ranallo doesn’t pull many punches when it comes to his personal struggles with mental health. I’m not sure how successful it is at dispelling myths or erasing stigma, but it’s certainly heartening to see how many people in his life were willing to look beyond the ‘crazy’ to the real person and their value. More…


Film review — I’m Gonna Git You Sucka

The gag timing leaves a lot to be desired, but the Wayans are almost there with this one, so very close to the formula that would click in near every respect with Don’t Be a Menace… Who knew at the time that would be their peak? More…


Film review — The Wanderers

Early 1960s Americana nostalgia, apparently, but cut with enough racism and sexism to make for uncomfortable viewing. I mean, even at the time, let alone 40 years after it was made. More…


Film review — The Wandering Earth

It’s hard to put a finger on why this doesn’t quite work, but it probably has something to do with the emotional disconnect between the grounded but standard drama at its core (family and its meaning, etc) and the entirely separate, ultimately lifeless spectacle of Jupiter threatening to swallow the earth. As well as it’s technically put together, it also feels a lot longer and more meandering than it is. More…