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


Tag: reviews

Film review — Sister Street Fighter

She’s a street fighter, alright, and also a house fighter, a dungeon fighter, a mountain fighter, a rope-bridge fighter…there’s never a dull moment. And it’s ridiculously well composed for what’s essentially an exploitation cash-in. More…

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Film review — Dead or Alive

Despite its many and varied excesses, this remains one of Takashi Miike’s more accessible Yakuza-themed crime thrillers. No, I’m deadly serious. Just think of the ending as a metaphor. More…

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Film review — First Cow

I was so not in the mood to watch this; my attention waned from time to time and it took me a while. Some stories require the right mindset more than others. Nevertheless it’s a beautiful film in its appreciation of nature, in its raw simplicity (that invites multiple readings), even in its agonising sadness. More…

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Film review — Grunt! The Wrestling Movie

This could have been a cheap cash-in on the rock ’n’ wrestling craze. Instead it’s…a mockumentary? Like if Paul Bartel made This Is Spinal Tap but about the Los Angeles territory. So, more surreally, blackly humorous than laugh-out-loud funny, then. And it gasses out before the climactic battle royal, alas. But there’s such effort here for a subject that wasn’t accustomed to respect when The Wrestler came out in 2008, let alone when this appeared in 1985. That’s absolutely fascinating to me. More…

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Film review — The Tomorrow War

Half this movie is dreary combat porn for FPS heads. The other half’s a bunch of cut scenes to spout dodgy totalitarian philosophy. Threaded through it is a plot that rips off everything from the Alien prequels to Arrival, of all things. The whole endeavour’s calculatedly cynical, without an ounce of wit to it. More…

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Film review — Greenland

Gerard Butler’s penance for Geostorm. It holds too close to the small-scale family drama for such a cataclysmic premise and its plot beats are laughably predictable, but in a weird way that makes it work better for watching at home. More…

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Film review — Censor

Excuse me for expecting something a little less by-the-numbers. Censor echoes the pervasive, literal darkness of similarly themed films like Berberian Sound Studio. But in this case, rather than bringing us into the protagonist’s paranoiac experience, the dream-like mood from the outset creates a distancing effect that dulls any effort to disturb and makes it impossible to connect with it on anything more than a superficial level. There’s substance here — the analogy of film censorship with the edits minds can make of memories affected by trauma is worth exploring — but it’s obscured by the style. More…

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Film review — Old Joy

Yo La Tengo are objectively great, but why would you get them to soundtrack your film when Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is…right there? Anyway, this is a deceptively simple piece that’s ostensibly about two used-to-be-closer friends hanging out on a weekend in the woods. One (Will Oldham) is a free-spirit type who’s found himself cast adrift while the other (Daniel London), and most everyone else he knows, has settled down. It smartly plays on the stereotype of the social misfit who sells out and conforms to society’s expectations — getting a job and a house, starting a family and all that — when it’s really Oldham’s Kurt who is trapped playing his own role and has condemned himself to a lonely, transient existence, while London’s Mark hasn’t so much changed his philosophy as found a different way to express it and be fulfilled. There’s no message of hope or grief to take away from it; it just is what it is. More…

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Film review — Category III: The Untold Story of Hong Kong Exploitation Cinema

Many years ago, a very good friend of mine burned me some CDs and DVDs of Category III stuff like Ebola Syndrome and Red to Kill but I misplaced the discs in a spring clean and two subsequent moves and I’ve still never seen them. I’ve probably missed my chance now I’ve aged out of my ‘transgressive’ phase, so this is the closest I can get. And it’s fine; passion for the subject and competent talking-head setups count for a lot as the substance is a bit threadbare. I’m also not sure how much anyone not already familiar with the wilder side of Hong Kong cinema will get out of it. For instance, it barely even acknowledges the magnificent Story of Ricky, and constantly references classics like The Boxer’s Omen without bothering to explain why they have the reputations they do. Isn’t that what documentaries like this are for? More…

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Film review — Sputnik

This Russian sci-fi horror has a decent premise and appropriately bleak setting and all that, but the execution is half-baked, full of logic holes and worst of all terrifically dull. More…

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Film review — The Doors

This is not a knock on Val Kilmer or the rest of the cast, but two hours of Jim Morrison’s insufferable bullshit is just too much. Still, was nice to see Michael Wincott who is a gentleman and a scholar. More…

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Film review — No New Kinda Story: The Real Story of Tooth & Nail Records

DVD extra-standard hagiography of the pioneering US Christian rock label. I would have preferred a deeper examination of its place in the indie label environment and how it straddled the worlds of ‘Christian music’ (as a distinctly US phenomenon) and ‘secular’ rock, punk, hardcore, etc. That it doesn’t even bother to explain what the Cornerstone festival was shows the level we’re at here. I know more now than I did before, sure, but there’s another film to be made here. More…

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Film review — Piercing

You can’t just slap on the themes from Tenebre and Profondo Rosso like it’s the seasoning that makes your dish. Maybe work on the ingredients and their preparation first. More…

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Film review — Zappa

It’s clearly made by someone (noted Blind Idiot God fan Alex Winter) with a passion for the work. But the presentation seems overly drab and stuffy for a musician whose music has such a zany reputation. Maybe that’s a problem of being too close to the thing, to feel like treating it in anything but the most reverent manner would be too frivolous or inappropriate when the opposite is more likely the case. More…

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Film review — The Net

Finally saw the whole thing after half-watching from midway through on Channel 4 one weekday afternoon a million years ago. It’s actually a decent story as these things go, but hangs on a hook so preposterous that it could only have allowed suspension of disbelief if it were set years ahead of right now, let alone 1995. More…

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Film review — Billy Liar

My 1,500th film logged on Letterboxd, and perhaps not the wisest choice for Sunday night viewing. I feel alienated somewhat from the small-town ennui as Bradford is hardly a small town; I’ve been to smaller places than that in England’s Midlands and there’s a distinctly more connected-to-the-outside-world feel than what you’d often find here in Ireland, even nearly 60 years after this was made. But the world is what you make of it, I suppose. More…

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Film review — In the Earth

Ben Wheatley essentially remixes A Field in England as a Nigel Kneale-style sci-fi horror for his most interesting project in years. More…

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Film review — Rawhead Rex

This is genuinely great stuff. Way ahead of its time in being a horror movie that’s set in contemporary Ireland, and which nods to our genuine pre-Christian folklore, without selling to the Yanks with backwards stereotypes. The accents are all over the shop, mind, but I think we can let that slide. More…

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Film review — Ape vs Monster

Why did I watch this?! It’s an Asylum production so I should have switched it off at the start; it’s a typically dull ‘mockbuster’ of theirs. I do have to say the two main women in the cast are pretty decent, especially given all the heavy lifting they have to do with the double burden of a rotten script and their shockingly poor male co-stars (Eric Roberts excepted, but he’s just there for the payday and the catering). More…

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Film review — In Search of Darkness: Part II

Maybe I was just in a better mood, but this feels decidedly superior to how I rated the first instalment. Perhaps it’s the more grab-bag choice of second-string ’80s horrors that prompts more enthusiasm here, or maybe it’s what feels like a stronger selection of talking heads who are more engaged with the material at hand. I enjoyed it, anyway, and it makes me want to give Part I another shot. More…

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Film review — Anti-Life

It’s probably not the wisest choice to take the time in your zero-budget Alien rip to directly reference (okay, I’m being too charitable…lift) dialogue from its influences when it only makes one contemplate how much I’d rather be watching one of those decades-old movies. Also, I’m pretty sure Thomas Jane was paid more per minute of screen time than Bruce Willis, despite the latter’s top billing. More…

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Film review — A Hard Day’s Night

What a strange film. In hindsight I can understand the choices made (the artsy black-and-white cinematography when colour was all the rage, the dry humour et al speak to the band’s interests in and around music) but I can’t conceive of how teeny-boppers comprehended any of it. Perhaps they were simply satisfied getting to see the Fab Four on the big screen and didn’t care about the medium itself, although they did get ripped off on the songs: only a handful of full performances, and one of them’s done twice. More…

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Film review — Class of 1984

Right-wing vigilante fantasy meets grade-A ‘the kids are outta control!’ panic-sploitation. Featuring a gang that vacillates unnervingly between the toothlessness of childish pranks and out-and-out rape and murder. The payoff is truly something. More…

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Film review — Mortal Kombat

I’ve browsed so many reviews saying this is boring and I can only imagine it’s because the bombastic bullshit of the usual superhero action flick had broken their brains. Is it lower-key than you might be expecting? Sure. It holds a lot back, arguably too much. But it’s never boring. More…

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Film review — Hackers

Letterboxd says I watched this nine years ago but it clearly left zero traces. Nothing about it jogged my memory; indeed the biggest impression was just how much trouble the makers had in 1994 trying to visualise the concept of being, for lack of a better phrase, into computers. Which is funny because War Games did it pretty well a decade before. More…

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Film review — Jiu Jitsu

Recycled Predator plot notwithstanding, this had all the right ingredients — Tony Jaa, my boy Frank Grillo, JuJu Chan from Wu Assassins and crazy Nicolas Cage — but it needed to be much shorter and snappier. You know, like actual jiu jitsu. It also could have done without those silly comic book transitions; they didn’t work in the director’s cut of The Warriors and they don’t work now. More…

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Film review — The Brood

Forty-two years later and The Brood is still a shocker. Cronenberg’s transgressiveness is all the stronger here for its groundedness; the most thrilling moments are in the realm of the mundane rather than the obviously grotesque body horror. It’s also about more than the maker’s messy divorce, but let’s not get too academic: it is very much about that, too, and the parts where Cronenberg sublimates his anger into imagery are uncomfortable in the worst way. More…

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Film review — Run

Run is far too slowly paced to work as the taut chiller it wants to be. When it most needs to quicken, to ramp up that tension, it shifts down to a jog and begs for the skip-forward button. And by the time it’s ready to sprint for the finish, it’s already chosen the wrong line. Shame…I quite liked Searching and all. More…

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