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


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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…


Book review — Art Sex Music, by Cosey Fanni Tutti

I felt like I wasn’t the only one tempted to google ‘Cosey Fanni Tutti transphobia’ after reading this memoir, but aside from this Jezebel interview which raises the question, it doesn’t seem to have provoked much discussion. Perhaps that’s because in this particular instance, the Genesis P-Orridge depicted here is an enormous arsehole who doesn’t deserve the respect of being appropriately gendered, though it still feels like some level of disrespect to the trans community. One would really have to ask trans people how they feel about that. More…


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…


Book review — Titan Shattered, by James Dixon

Despite my comments on this book’s predecessor, my distaste for this narrative (and its intermittent misogynist and homophobic sideswipes) grows with my conviction that all of us, the authors included, got worked. Big time. More…


New Directions in Grindcore

My second feature for Bandcamp Daily and one I still can’t believe I was commissioned to write — but that is the point of the site, to surface and celebrate smaller genres and scenes, no matter how far from the mainstream they might be. (Also, the overlap with that other article on Belfast music was inadvertent.) #link


My Goodreads reviews for 2017

Image from the cover of MASK: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, Vol 1

My low logging rate on Goodreads for 2017 belies how much I read on a given day; it just doesn’t come from books. That’s not because I’m too distracted for the long form, more that I’ve been having trouble losing myself in the worlds that novels require. (Or wanting to; it’s easier to watch good films or great TV, after all.) So last year’s record, as little as I read in qualifying matter, fairly reflects that. More…


Book review — Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore, by Albert Mudrian

An easy, breezy read about the biggest bands that defined extreme metal, much of it in their own words. It’s focused on a select few names, which is both good and bad: good in that it doesn’t get bogged down in enyclopaedic details (it doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive history) but bad in its Euro-American bias, more or less footnoting the contributions of bands and scenes in Asia and South America, not to mention lesser-known acts in the regions it does cover. Perhaps some of that is rectified in the updated edition (I read the original, from 2004) yet in any case, it leaves room for someone else to write that history unwritten here. 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…


Book review — Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir, by Carrie Brownstein

Did I enjoy this memoir? Sure; Carrie Brownstein is an engaging storyteller, even if her prose tends to the overwrought. There’s an honesty that shines through as she relates her musical history with the kind of self-deprecation you’d expect from a friend, not a braggart. But again we have a life story that cuts out way before the end; Brownstein’s transmuting into a comedy writer/performer is all but ignored, save for an epilogue that makes fleeting reference to a Portlandia episode. I can imagine reasons for doing this, but they let the book down regardless. More…


My Thumped review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Hold those other, glowing reviews you're bound to see with suspicion, as the latest entry in the Star Wars saga is a middling dud. Maybe if some people could step outside their fandom bubble for a minute... #link