Monday, 27 April 2015

Week 17: Force Majeure

Writer/Director: Ruben Ostlund
Seen: Sunday 26th April 2015
Venue: Eye Cinema Galway
Snacks: Salty popcorn with malteasers mixed in (yeah you know it!!!)
Mood: Contemplative

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In Galway we do not get a great deal of the vast amounts of brilliant world cinema around  (as I have ranted about previously) so we were delighted to stumble upon the Eye Cinema showing Force Majeure. A Swedish film by director Ruben Ostlund about a young couple Tomas (Johannes Kuhnkne) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) travelling to the French Alps with their two young children on holiday.
The scenery is beautiful, there is plenty of snow, the sun is shining and everything should be perfect but a random snow avalanche during lunch one day leaves the couple shaken in more ways than one.
I dont want to give too much away but it isn’t an action film (as you might think from the premise)  its a film about the roles we play.The role of patriarch and the idea that once that is compromised it is very difficult to redeem oneself. After the incident in question the couple struggle to maintain normalcy both in their own ways trying to deny and gloss over  what has happened until they eventually break down in truly awkward style in front of two friends who have come to visit. Tomas tries to justify his actions leading to his eventual emotional breakdown which is prolonged and desperate.

It is a film about gender roles particularly the idea of masculinity and  the notion of protection within a family.What happens in a situation when you act first by pure nature and thought is just something that occurs after the fact?
What would any of us do when confronted with our own immortality, in that fleeting moment before possible danger? The translation of force majeure is superior force and this can be taken to mean many things when looking at this film, the force of nature (as in the force of the landscape that surrounds us) but also the force of our own nature and what we do when we betray ourselves.
The film is beautifully shot and the acting is on point by both leads.The direction is sharp from Ruben Ostlund and I will be interested in seeing his other films. All in all a well deserved winner of Winner of the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard competition in Cannes in 2014.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Week 16: Get Hard

Director: Etan Cohen
Writer: Ian Roberts, Etan Cohen, Adam McKay and Jay Martel 
Seen: Sunday the 10th of April
Venue: IMC Galway
Snacks: Nuts
Mood: Bemused

This week we were hit once again with the central challenge of writing this blog, choosing a film to see from the increasing amount of crap that comes to our cinema screens. Fortunately there was one good film available and an Irish production to boot (we are all about encouraging home grown talent) unfortunately we had already seen it at the Galway Film Fleadh last year. Glassland is the second film by a young and brilliant director Gerard Barrett and for those of you who read this I can’t recommend Glassland enough. It is a brilliantly acted, directed, gripping and relevant film about contemporary Ireland so go and see it if you get the chance. I wrote a review for Film Ireland last year for its Fleadh screening, which you can read at this link .  
So rather than go and see Glassland again and kind of cheating, we decided to pick something from the rest of the bunch and our choices were very limited. In the end it came down to Get Hard or Child 44 and to be fair you couldn’t get more different films. So we decided none of us were willing to sit and watch Tom Hardy fumble his way through a bad Russian accent in Child 44, so we opted for the lighter Get Hard which if nothing else has the amusing head of Will Ferrell.

Ok, this will probably be the briefest review I have written. I am not going to get into the debate about if the film is homophobic as some reviews have critiqued it for, I will let you decide that for yourselves if you get to see it. What I will say is Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart carry this film and they are pretty funny, but the jokes I felt were somewhat weak because I felt like I had heard all the gags before. The premise of the film could have been interesting - a rich, white guy is learning street smarts from a struggling black guy to survive in jail – but again I felt there just wasn’t anything original about it. However, if you like the two main actors than you will most likely enjoy Get Hard.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Week 15: Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Director: Brett Morgen
Writer: Brett Morgen
Seen: Friday the 10th of April
Venue: IMC Galway
Snacks: Too busy to get any
Mood: Nostalgic  

Week 15 of this blog and it’s a week of firsts, the first week that we witnessed such lengthy (very lengthy) queues for a film, and also it is the first review of a documentary. Documentaries visit the big screen probably less than any other genre so as someone who watches a lot of docs on the small screen I was delighted to hear this one was coming to Galway, albeit for one night only.

The doc in question is the much anticipated, immersive and impressively made Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, directed by documentarian Brett Morgen. I have seen The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) which is a brilliant insight into the lifestyle of the once maverick producer Bob Evans who was behind classics like The Godfather (1972) and Chinatown (1974), and I will be seeking out other films by Morgen after this. 

It was a strange night at the IMC in Galway as the foyer of the cinema resembled more the entrance to a rock concert than that of a cinema. It was packed with a wide demographic of grungy types, from the 30 somethings (we were well represented) who can remember when Nevermind first came out. To the teenagers who wore their Nirvana t-shirts proudly and with a strut, for the one night screening event. Why the IMC only had the doc for one night I don’t know because obviously, judging by the substantial crowd, there was an appetite to see this film. Nevertheless, it was inspiring to see such a large crowd and wide age range. The crowds also illustrated the power and longevity of the music that Kurt Cobain created in his short life.

Montage of Heck is an extremely well-crafted film that concentrates on the life rather than music of Kurt Cobain. After a challenged childhood Kurt soon looked to his creative side mainly music to help escape the problems of a detached teenager in “middle America”. Rapidly a talent would emerge helping him form one of the biggest bands of the 20th century. Kurt certainly started off pursuing fame and influence equally he certainly did not expect to reach the heights Nirvana went on to reach. He grew increasingly uncomfortable with all the baggage that came with such worldwide fame, reinforcing the old saying “be careful what you wish for”.

This film kept me engaged from the very first frame. Talking heads are limited instead there is animation and archival footage of Cobain’s life on and off stage especially some interesting footage with his wife Courtney Love and daughter Francis Bean. The images are backed up by a play list of Nirvana tracks which made me both nostalgic and exhilarated and the sound amplified by the cinema system was to great effect, so if you see this at home, play it loud!

I can’t say enough good things about this engrossing film, but if I were to be critical of anything it would be that the absence of Dave Grohl which was both apparent and suspicious. The filmmaker has stated that he interviewed Grohl but the footage couldn’t be used because he hadn’t time to edit it (hmmmm…ok).  It goes without saying that for Nirvana fans, Montage of Heck is a must see, but even for those who aren’t this brilliantly made documentary will keep you entertained and engrossed for its duration.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Week 14: While We're Young

Director: Noah Baumbach
Writer: Noah Baumbach
Seen: Friday 3rd April 2015
Venue: IMC Galway
Snacks: Ben & Jerrys clever cookies & phish food
Mood: Eggcellent
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Director Noah Baumbach has made several films that I am very fond of the darkly funny ‘Greenberg’ (2010) also starring Ben Stiller and the delightfully quirky ‘Frances Ha’ (2012) - which if you haven’t seen make it your business to do so!! After a dry couple of weeks film wise I was very much looking forward to seeing Baumbach’s latest offering ‘While We’re Young’.

Starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts as the middle aged,childless Cornelia & Josh whose lives are knocked sideways when life seems to catch up with them, their contemporaries are all parents, they do not know where they fit any more and they certainly don't want to admit to themselves that they are getting older. It is at this time of uncertainty in amidst the cries from their friends of ‘but you would make great parents’ that they meet young hipsters Jamie & Derby, played to perfection by Adam Driver & Amanda Seyfried.
Jamie & Derby are young, vibrant and full of hope, they represent everything that is great about being young. Cornelia & Josh are soon hooked by their bohemian lifestyle of ice cream making, home made furniture and listening to 80’s classics on vinyl.

Of course things inevitably turn sour. Ben Stiller's character Josh is a documentary film maker who has produced one great film and has for the last 8 years been trying to create his second one, it has completely consumed him until Jamie comes along and literally sweeps him off his feet. However, all is not as it seems and the relationships disintegrate as quickly as they were formed.

This is mainly a film about growing older, the acceptance and realisation of that. There is another theme running through the film about how film makers, especially documentary film makers can manipulate their audience to make a better overall ‘experience’ and whether this is right or not BUT it kinda fell short for me as I didn’t feel a conclusion was met.
There is also one MAJOR thing at the end of film which really didn’t gel with me, I can't reveal this as it would be considered a ‘spoiler’ but suffice to say I thought it was at odds with certain other parts of the film.

Overall this was a really enjoyable film, a lot of ‘laugh out loud’ moments and some great acting. I didn't enjoy it half as much as the aforementioned Baumbach films but it is still very good mainly because of superb performances from all involved, special mentions to Ben Stiller (I think he really has found his niche here) and the quirky weirdness of Adam Driver.