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


Tag: streaming

Film review — Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

The rare retro horror documentary that’s nothing of the sort: it’s instead an affecting character study of a man whose burgeoning career in the movies was cut short by gay panic. It’s unflinching about the grind of the convention circuit, and the struggle for acceptance even this far into the 21st century. But it’s also inspiring and life-affirming: despite being thrown under the bus by the ignorant, and coming close to death with Aids, Mark Patton is still here — and hopefully more alive than ever. More…

###

Film review — Dead Kids

Not quite weird or offbeat enough to work as the knowing homage it’s intended to be. But it’s got some memorably strange moments, and it serves as a distant cousin to the same year’s Dead & Buried in their shared sense of a small town gone awry under the influence of sinister forces. More…

###

Film review — The Mourning Forest

The shame of living. That’s the prevailing thought I’m left with from Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest. It’s a slow, slow, neorealist meditation on grief, centred on a young woman working in a nursing home (and who we shortly learn has lost a child) and an elderly widower with signs of dementia and jumbled-up memories of his late wife. The two make an unlikely connection before a spur-of-the-moment road trip becomes a trek through the woods as the man struggles to find something he’s lost, literally and figuratively. For all its glacial pacing in its first third, the film blooms when the duo disappear among the trees, with allusions to the joys and pains of motherhood, the meaning of what it is to be alive — and the hurt we bear when we outlive those who claim our hearts. More…

###

Film review — Beyond Skyline

I knew going in this would be different from the first Skyline, but no one told me they Evil Dead II’ed it, and jazzed it up with yer ones from The Raid for good measure. More…

###

Film review — Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence

Maniac Cop 2 isn’t streaming anywhere but this one is, so… Insert ‘Maniac Cop is a tautology’ gag here. Anyway, the relatively few kills are fairly inventive, given the limitations of its hospital setting. And it’s got a satirical bent that prefigures the moral degradation of Nightcrawler by decades. Ted Raimi replacing his more illustrious brother for the TV reporter cameo was a bad omen, I have to say, but nothing prepared me for the nutzoid finale. This one goes out with a bang, indeed. More…

###

Film review — Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary

Perfunctory at best, with a real whiff of homework-done-on-the-school-bus from all the disconnected filler. Turns out there’s little remarkable to say about a horror movie that might deserve its positive reputation (it’s great, you should watch it) but is culturally irrelevant. And they really missed a trick not including the film’s sequel, which was made by the same director with a young star on the rise; that might have provided for some focus and a proper thesis to pull it all together. More…

###

Film review — Melancholic

It doesn’t quite stick the landing, alas, but there’s something compelling about the strange clash of almost lighthearted deadpan comedy, social satire and grim violence here. It’s epitomised in the protagonist — an underemployed college grad who gets a job in a bathhouse and stumbles into shady goings-on — where it’s never quite clear if he’s just socially awkward or living with a more serious condition. More…

###

Film review — Cure

Somehow never saw this one before, despite being all about Ringu and Audition back in the day. It’s a different beast, eschewing the supernatural and grounding its horror in arguably more disturbingly plausible psychological concerns. There’s a grim matter-of-factness and stark economy that work in its favour in this regard, at least until the final stretch when too much has to happen to wrap things up. More…

###

Film review — Skyline

Props for not dragging down the action with exposition dumps about the invading aliens and letting the audience figure things out. Shame about all that conservative moralising, though. More…

###

Film review — Downsizing

I read a thread on Twitter a few months ago that used the term ‘racist anti-racism’ — to describe efforts to express anti-racist sentiment, or do anti-racist work, that employ racist tropes, whether due to ignorance or hamfistedness or what. There’s a lot of it in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, a mess of a satire that consistently blunders into blind alleys whenever it tries to make a political point, and ends up doing more harm than good. More…

###

Film review — High&Low The Movie

I’m distracted by the veneer of toughness, the trappings of machismo on display here. The faces too handsome for more than a scratch or a blotted-on bruise; the clothes too expensive to get more than a scuff of dirt. The lit cigarette that never reaches the lips. The sheer absence of sexual tension (if there’s any eroticism, it’s of a profoundly chaste kind). I’d say it’s all an act, but the spirit of brotherhood seems real, and the fight choreography is impressively tight, so they’re not faking everything. More…

###

Film review — Five Element Ninjas

As the 1980s dawned, the cracks were clearly beginning to show in Shaw Brothers’ studio-bound kung fu productions. As much as this one has all the action and intrigue you’d expect, the obvious soundstage setting and magenta-paint bloodletting mark it as a relic from a time since passed. It’s fine, but only fine. More…

###

Film review — Ip Man 4: The Finale

The American white devil really gets a skewering in this final instalment of the Ip Man series, where a racist Scott Adkins beats up old people for kicks; more subtle is the anti-Japanese sentiment, but it’s also there. More…

###

Film review — Ip Man 3

Too much story, too little time: this one takes a big turn in the third act, when the A plot evaporates (I guess Mike Tyson’s pretty expensive) and the B plot takes its rightful place, but doesn’t have enough breathing room for a satisfactory outcome. The hospital lift fight is a great touch, though. More…

###

Film review — Penitentiary III

Look, I guess this Rocky-in-prison flick (which is also technically a wrestling movie, thanks to the Haiti Kid’s big supporting role) is probably a labour of love, and its cheapness is not unrelated to Cannon betting the house on Masters of the Universe that same year. But if ever one’s reach exceeded one’s grasp… watching this is such a chore. Let’s just say I’m thankful for YouTube’s variable playback speed setting. More…

###

Film review — Apollo 11

This didn’t really need to work hard to inspire awe — the archival footage does it all on its own — but it’s the unnecessary embellishments, those moments where the soundtrack takes over the atmosphere, that pull it back from being a perfect document of a moment in history. More…

###

Film review — Initial D

Here’s a real misstep from the writer-director partnership responsible for Infernal Affairs: a curiously low-energy adaptation of the popular boy racer manga that doesn’t transplant the action to Hong Kong despite using an all Cantonese-speaking cast (bar one Japanese woman whose lines are clumsily dubbed, and whose character falls into misogynist tropes). I wouldn’t be surprised if Justin Lin watched this while making Tokyo Drift and felt the pressure lift. More…

###

Film review — The Heroine

This one’s on Netflix as Young Tiger. Why, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that it’s a frustratingly haphazard crime thriller, with a missing purse McGuffin, that feels every moment of its hour and 20 minutes and then some. It’s got Jackie Chan in a minor role as a heel with a comedy mole stuck to his cheek, and he only busts out one stunt: a car roof grab performed at a sedate 10mph or so. It’s also got taxis like the Toyota Corolla my grandad drove in the ’80s so I didn’t entirely waste my time. More…

###

Film review — Hollow Man

After a string of important (if not always financially successful) Hollywood statements, Paul Verhoeven made this, an adaptation of The Invisible Man where the title could also reference its conspicuous lack of substance — on first impression, anyway. The script and structure are at least partly to blame; two or three minor setups or dialogue tweaks could have avoided mounting confusion with character motivations that makes this film seem overly hurried and much sillier than it ought to be. More…

###

Film review — Rambo: Last Blood

Rambo goes Taken as a western, with surprisingly satisfying if gratuitously visceral results. It’s also got the smarts to keep its right-wing politics in its back pocket, though there’s no mistaking its racist, imperialistic worldview. More…

###

Film review — Blood Brothers

This one’s a bit of a drag, alas, with a dearth of gripping combat and a thin love quadrangle plot that isn’t enough to sustain the two-hour run time. However, the impressive geometry of its shot composition does count for a lot. More…

###

Film review — Come Drink with Me

No option to watch this on Prime Video without the atrocious dubbing (or with subtitles to translate the on-screen text and mid-film song) but holy moly it’s beautifully composed stuff, scene after scene, shot after shot. More…

###

Film review — Searching

Did you spot the big clue to unravelling the mystery right at the start? I sure did, then forgot about it till the final act, which is actually a good sign for how engrossing the story is despite the desktop interface gimmick. The one big mark against, alas, is (not a spoiler, you won’t know what I mean until the end) its unfortunate treatment of mental illness as a deviant character trait; I thought we were over that by now. More…

###

Film review — Fear City: New York vs The Mafia

“There’s a strange bond that sometimes exists between law enforcement officers and criminals. They both live by codes of honour and respect more stringent than most normal people. And there’s a certain psychological connection there.”

That’s one of the cops of this piece, inadvertently revealing the police psyche as we see it plain as day today. More…

###

Film review — The Old Guard

Charlize Theron can do better than squander her potential as an action hero on a mean-spirited, cynical, crypto-anti-abortionist slog like this. More…

###

Film review — While You Live, Shine

Paul Duane’s endearing, engaging documentary follows an American record collector and musicologist to the place of his dreams, a village in northern Greece where the continuity of its folk music and community tradition has remained unchanged despite the ravages of capitalist modernity. A beautifully composed film, indeed. More…

###

Film review — Weathering With You

Screened (or rather, streamed) as part of this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, this is Makoto Shinkai’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Your Name and unfortunately a slighter film overall, with a whimsy that takes the edge off its emotional rawness. Nevertheless, it remains true to the director’s common themes of love embattled by circumstances, and the marginalisation of spiritual culture (or cultural spirituality) in contemporary Japanese society, with a fantastical tale of a ‘sunshine girl’ whose prayers can banish the rain, but only put it off to another time – a fairly blunt metaphor for the need to face up to one’s responsibilities in life. Needless to say it looks impeccable, in the attention to those little details that seems beyond the vision, if not the capabilities, of mainstream western animation. More…

###

Film review — Our Little Sister

A likely story, you might say if someone told you the plot — a trio of twentysomething sisters discover a younger, teenage half-sibling after their father’s death, and welcome her into their literally ramshackle home and figuratively ramshackle lives — but in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s hands, the realness of this manga adaptation shines through. Bittersweet without that desperation to tug at the heart-strings, and ultimately satisfying in its deliberate end without an ending, on a note of hope for new beginnings. Love it. More…

###

Film review — Una

Adapting theatre for film takes more than just blocking scenes differently for the camera but keeping the stagey dialogue and projected interactions. In this case, it makes for a poorly rendered film of what’s actually an important story that excoriates patriarchal control. Rooney Mara is good as the titular young woman damaged by childhood abuse, both emboldened by maturity and confused in her predicament. But Ben Mendelsohn essays a real creep in her erstwhile abuser, who more or less picks up where he left off when Una re-enters his sights. They deserved a better vehicle than this. More…

###

Film review — The Big Lebowski

Rewatched for the first time in years and… I could take it or leave it, now. The episodic nature really highlights how flimsy the story is, and it’s not nearly as funny as it thinks it is. It makes me wonder, did I really like it back in the day, or just go along with consensus? Fuck it. More…

###

Film review — Fastball

It’s an easy watch for 90-odd minutes, but there’s not much here. Some baseball players don’t understand physics; that’s about it. More…

###

Film review — Scarface

Almost three hours and only one unmistakably Hitchcockian moment? That’s positively restrained for Brian DePalma! Its politics are kind of fucked (that’s screenwriter Oliver Stone for you) and the brownface is pretty egregious. It’s also quite jarring in its clashing of near Shakespearean drama with ’80 action movie excess. I’ll be damned if I wasn’t engrossed, though. More…

###

Film review — Contact

Never saw this when it came out, nor on countless opportunities to see it on TV since, and… it’s fine? I’m a sucker for sentimentality but I felt strangely distanced from this one. The climax is as underwhelming as everyone says. And I have a feeling it’s up there in Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos’ lists. More…

###

Film review — Da 5 Bloods

The contemporising that Spike Lee couldn’t help himself from including at the end of BlacKKKlansman gets a better airing here, in a film that’s probably a reel too long and is as on-the-nose as you might expect but arrests with its confidence, blending drama and documentary feel in a (ghosts of) war film that never lets you forget what you’re watching. More…

###