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  • Life of Crime 2014

    ★★½ Rewatched

    Capsule review from my ADFF coverage at Next Projection

    The high-ceilinged halls of the obscenely elegant Emirates Palace were thronged with talent from the UAE and abroad on Thursday night as the ninth annual Abu Dhabi Film Festival kicked off with an invite-only screening of Daniel Schechter’s Life of Crime. The ceremonies typical of such lavish events had each successive speaker increasingly emphasising that the movie really was coming quite soon now don’t worry. It needn’t have hurried; a good…

  • Life of Crime 2014

    ★★½ Watched 24 Oct, 2013 1

    Review from Next Projection

    When, halfway through the opening night screening of Life of Crime at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, a good portion of the audience led by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan himself walked out in reaction to a bare-breasted sex scene, they might just as easily have departed in protest of the film itself. Daniel Schechter’s adaptation of the late Elmore Leonard’s The Switch, however innocuous an effort it may be, is a terribly uninteresting one…

  • Who Is Dayani Cristal? 2014

    ★★★ Watched 14 Nov, 2013

    Capsule review from my Cork 2013 coverage at Next Projection

    The grisly demise that threatens throughout to befall the characters of Walkabout is precisely that which opens Who Is Dayani Cristal?, Marc Silver’s documentary chronicling his and producer/narrator Gael Garcia Bernal’s efforts to uncover the identity of a decomposing body found in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. It’s an affecting piece, if perhaps an unfocused one: Silver finds no shortage of human drama in the story of this tragic death,…

  • Jersey Boys 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 16 Jun, 2014

    “That’s a nice colour for you,” smiles Frankie Valli at his wife-to-be, “you should always wear that.” If you tune your ear just right, you can hear the Eastwood detractors’ pencils sharpening. With Jersey Boys, his thirty-third feature film as director, he has made a Clint Eastwood movie, and it’s a fool that takes that for a bad thing. In that unmistakeable piano-tinkling and the underlit aesthetic that thrives in the shadows, there is the authorial mark of a master…

  • The Big Ask 2014

    ★★ Watched 30 May, 2014

    It’s to the bereaved Andrew’s bizarre request of his female friends that they sleep with him to alleviate his emotional pain that the title of The Big Ask refers, but that’s nothing beside the movie’s assuming of its audience the restraint not to leap through the screen and slap him. The kooky premise indie lives or dies on its ability to invest us in the absurdities it takes for granted, and for all its outpourings of emotional honesty, this new…

  • The Birder 2014

    ★★½ Watched 20 Mar, 2014

    Review from Next Projection

    Do birds have teeth? That’s the kind of casual mental wandering provoked by the tedium of The Birder, a movie every bit as mild-mannered as the separated ornithologist whose passing-over for a promotion provides the plot its decidedly immobile momentum. It’s about as captivating a presence too. Ted Bezaire’s sophomore feature is stupendously staid, milquetoast to match its protagonist and almost impossible to entertain in the mind for more than a moment past the closing credits.…

  • Sx_Tape 2014

    Watched 17 May, 2014

    “Some tapes shouldn’t be made” warns the poster for SX_Tape, a sentiment the movie goes on to prove profoundly. Even the foremost fan of found footage can’t deny its ostensible ability to excuse amateur aesthetics and churn out creepy crowd-pleasers for no money at all has made for a dreary deluge of terrible films in the wake of Paranormal Activity’s profit margins. At its oft-unsung best—see The Bay and Trollhunter for recent examples—it is, like any genre convention or conceit,…

  • 13 Sins 2014

    ★★½ Watched 19 Apr, 2014

    It takes no exceptional insight into the ways of the world today to realise the reason behind the boom in violently-inclined what-would-you-do-for-money thrillers of late. From the well-liked ilk of Cheap Thrills to the far-less feted likes of The Brass Teapot, American cinema especially has taken fiscal desperation to entertainingly exploitative new ends. Enter 13 Sins, a loose reworking of the 2006 Thai film 13 Beloved that’s at once a remake smartly shifted to a specific new context and a…

  • The Sea 2014

    ★★ Watched 06 Sep, 2013

    Review from Next Projection

    One unfamiliar with the elliptical structure of John Banville’s Man Booker-winning novel The Sea might fairly assume the ephemeral nature of its film adaptation’s scenes to be but a desperate attempt on the part of director Stephen Brown to hide the turgid literariness of its lines as best he can. Banville, adapting his own work, certainly needn’t worry about adding an Oscar to his mantelpiece: The Sea, in script form, is a dreadful mess, poorly transforming…

  • Calvary 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 13 May, 2014 1

    Genre has never lent itself terribly well to Irish cinema: the folklore is too fairy-filled for horror; the war never hit hard enough for noir; the absence of guns makes almost absurd the idea of action. To have made of Calvary a full-fledged western, then, is quite the accomplishment for the sophomore filmmaker John Michael McDonagh, who broke box office records with The Guard in 2011. He has made a far finer film this time, a caustic comedy that dredges…

  • ETXR 2014

    ★★ Watched 08 Apr, 2014

    Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"

    Following on the heels of last year’s Shotgun Wedding and the recent How to Be a Man, along comes ETXR to continue the new Fox Digital Studio’s distribution deal with Netflix. It’s exciting to see a studio playing with new formats and taking—admittedly tiny—chances on newcomer talent; alas, in the case of this latest outing at least, it’s not paid dividends. Trevor Sands’ film starts strong, introducing the down-on-his-luck DJ whose…

  • Something Must Break 2014

    ★★½ Watched 03 Jun, 2014

    Capsule review from my Transylvania Film Fest coverage at Next Projection

    Minds inclined to meander might, at a concluding point of Something Must Break, be drawn to dwell on Laurence Anyways. There’s a near-identical shot in each film—albeit at the beginning in the other—with near-identical connotations; the difference, of course, is that this new effort never earns its iteration. As the transgender Sebastian strides down the street, head held high for the first time as Ellie, the movie celebrates the…