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


Tag: reviews

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-seque 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 — 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…


Film review — Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I came out of Godzilla II feeling a lot better about it than when I went in. Are there too many humans in it? Yes, and in particular it could do without all of the family drama that feels glued on in appeal to an audience that has no business seeing a monster movie in the first place. (Vera Farmiga’s character… I don’t even know what’s going on there.) Are the monster fights smothered in darkness? Of course; we should all know by now that it hides a multitude of sins for hard-pressed CG artists. Do these things ruin the experience? Not even close to the point of exasperation. This is the direction the Legendary franchise hopefully wants to go in; not the cerebral pretensions of 2014’s seemed-good-at-the-time-but-in-hindsight-a-bit-dull Godzilla, or the cynical mean-spiritedness of Kong: Skull Island, but the popcorn crowd pleaser of the Roland Emmerich school (and I also suggest this film serves as an up-yours to said director of Godzilla ‘98). More…


Film review — Dead Man’s Shoes

It feels like Dead Man’s Shoes one doesn’t get the love it deserves, even compared to Shane Meadows’ other work like This Is England. But it’s one of the best horror films I’ve seen, that’s for sure. Warts and all. What a crying shame it’s hardly ever regarded as such. More…


Film review — Spring Breakers

I was not expecting Jeff Jarrett to pop up in the first few minutes here. Anyway, he’s only on the fringes, where the promise of a more interesting story lies. The main thrust is a fairly confused mash-up of violent crime thriller, exploitation aesthetic (I do not get Spring Break; isn’t it just Rumspringa for assholes?) and Malick-esque impressionism that carries no message; it’s only provocative like someone poking you with a finger. Yet I didn’t not like it, and I can’t quite put my own finger on why. Maybe it’s because I’m reading into the depth implied but never explored. More…


Film review — Figures in a Landscape

Figures in a Landscape takes an escape-pursuit story filled with thrills and bravery and derring-do and turns it into intimate, avant garde theatre, landing the viewer in the company of two utter reprobates (Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell in an early role) as they’re menaced by a black helicopter across anonymous mountain terrain. An outstanding experience, to say the least. More…


Film review — Destroyer

Well, it destroyed me. In all seriousness, kudos to Karyn Kusama for this devastating revenge drama that’s really only let down by the Nicole Kidman’s uncanny valley ageing makeup, and being about half an hour longer than the story required. More…


Film review — Happy Death Day 2U

As unnecessary as sequels get, especially one as overstuffed as this, and to a film among the best horrors of recent years. But it’s still an interesting experiment in turning a slasher film (albeit a very knowing, trope-upending one) with vague sci-fi trappings inside-out as a sci-fi adventure with occasional horror-thriller leanings. More…


Film review — What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Lucky me got to watch the advance stream of this as an early backer of the crowdfunded project. And it’s exactly what it says it is: two hours of the people that made Deep Space Nine — the writers and the cast — looking back on what made their brand of Star Trek so special, and what makes it still resonate today, 20 years after its last episodes were broadcast. Part talking-heads documentary, part oral history, part reminiscence, and part speculation on what might have been, it all comes together like the picture of a dream convention panel. An unashamed feelgood movie, for sure. More…


Film review — Escape from L.A.

You know what? In hindsight, this isn’t nearly as bad as it seemed at the time. It definitely pales in comparison to the original, but really only in the ropey CGI and its moments of ridiculous self-parody. Otherwise, it makes a decent case for being the last not-absolutely-terrible John Carpenter flick. More…


Film review — The Ninth Configuration

It’s appropriate that I watched this one at Easter, not for the pat Messianic referencing but because it feels as hollow as a chocolate egg. Remember when eggs used to come with the treats inside them? Good times… More…


Film review — Rocky II

Essentially, Rocky II is the first movie rebooted for broader audience tastes. It’s no Evil Dead 2 in those stakes, mind. More…


Film review — Rocky

First time watching this all the way through, and I can see why it’s so well regarded. The grit and grime feel real, and Stallone treads a fine line between mild-mannered humility and ferocious determination like he’s rarely if ever done since. Shame about the dodgy sexual politics, though; even for the era it’s pretty rough. More…


Film review — I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

What begins as a promising quirky romance with a decidedly bleak edge descends into dreadful self-absorption before the second hour drags its lack of a point to oblivion. Watch Toradora! instead: it hits most of the same beats, yet with far more substance and emotional resonance. More…