Ireland might be small, but the impact of its cinema is proudly outsized. Here're the Time Out picks for the 10 best Irish movies.
Has a cultural phenomenon ever inspired such devotion, such passion, such—for want of a better term—extreme nerdiness than the Star Wars saga? From the films to the figures, the tie-in novels to the TIE-fighter coffee mugs, the blogs to the chat rooms to the international fan conventions, it’s the closest thing cinema has to a unifying faith. Exactly why this should be is unclear, even to those of us who worship at the shrine of Skywalker—but we reckon a lot of it has to do with the characters of Star Wars. They can be intensely heroic or irretrievably evil. They can be alluringly human or repulsively alien. Remote and robotic or cuddly and cute. But the characters in Star Wars are endlessly fascinating. A note to the nerds: with one notable exception, these characters are all drawn from the official six-film canon, rather than the novels and console games of the “expanded universe.”
Already one of the most fêted Korean filmmakers of the modern era, Hong Sang-soo last month picked up his biggest prize to date, the Golden Leopard from the Locarno International Film Festival. With dialogue-based films that can repeat the same situation and echo the same themes over and over again, his work is a far cry from the stylistic offerings of Bong Joon-ho or Park Chan-wook. So what is it that people find in his work? It’s a hard question to answer, as viewers’ reactions to his work come from a personal place, but when delving into his catalogue, here are a few things to keep in mind. Being a Hong Sang-soo fan, like I am, requires a lot of patience. Though he has now made 17 films (with an 18th already underway), Hong isn't the kind of filmmaker you can binge on, so going through his filmography takes time. The reason is not because they’re dense or because they bear so many similarities to each other, but rather because each of his films is an experience—a measured rumination on our desires and egos. It takes time to unpack them and, if you let them in, they stay with you, simmering over time. Watching his work also requires that you pay careful attention to details. Despite the seemingly casual and sometimes stuttering nature of the endless conversations that link each chapter of his oeuvre that make his work appear to have an attitude of indifference permeating it, the reality is, nothing is ever left to chance. Hong has a reputation for fiddling with scen
“Daddy, what’s a Communist?” a young girl on a pony asks her famous screenwriter father. You should brace yourself for this kind of exchange in Jay Roach’s earnest if too-soft biopic about Dalton Trumbo, the Oscar-winning firebrand who fought his way back from the blacklist. Bryan Cranston mined unlikely humor from his teacherly manner as Breaking Bad’s Walter White, but here, as the fussy, orotund Trumbo, he’s let down by a script that, for the most part, papers over the Spartacus scribe’s legendary severity. Trumbo goes for a tone that’s more scrappy and inspirational, as this ousted ex-A-lister enlists his kids as couriers, builds a network of collaborators and wins two Academy Awards undercover. On the periphery of Cranston are performances that supply sparks of the flintier film that might have been: Michael Stuhlbarg as actor Edward G. Robinson, who goes from supporting Trumbo to selling him out, and Helen Mirren as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (the film could have used more of her viciousness). Is it too much to ask of a movie about writing that it devote some time to the ego that often drives such careers? Commie or not, Trumbo swanned around on a wave of self-regard. Roach, whose TV gigs (HBO’s Recount) reveal a penchant for tidiness, gives us someone closer to a fallen angel. Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf
It couldn’t have been easy for the Coens to just be silly again, especially after such recent soulful triumphs like Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and A Serious Man (2009). God love ’em for insisting on it: Hail, Caesar! weds the backstage Hollywood shenanigans of their 1991 gem Barton Fink to a more manic pace. It doesn’t seem new for them, yet as super polished, mannered, slightly surreal comedies go, the movie feels as rare as a unicorn. As ever with these siblings, the details win us over. Hail, Caesar! is set within the unusually rich seam of transitional early-’50s showbiz, a moment when swimming sirens (Scarlett Johansson) and singing cowboys (Alden Ehrenreich, deceptively sharp under his 10-gallon hat) rubbed elbows with finicky European directors (Ralph Fiennes, extending his sublime comic run from The Grand Budapest Hotel) and secret Communist “study groups.” At the top of the food chain is Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a Kirk Douglas–like A-lister who’s been drugged and smuggled off the lot of his epic Roman picture. Enter Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the studio’s fixer, worried about the fallout. The plot never runs out of steam, but you’ll soon see it as an excuse for dazzling bits of business: a spaghetti strand turned into a lasso, an excruciatingly funny piece of on-set dialogue direction (some cowpokes will never become urbane smoothies) and Channing Tatum in a screwy-sailor dance number that plays like a reason to make the film. Purring over it all is that g
Despite its title, Dan Trachtenberg’s Twilight Zone–style thriller actually lives at two addresses. First there’s the minimalist claustrophobic drama that unspools in an underground bunker, one that's riven by mistrust. If you’re a fan of sweaty post-apocalyptic handwringing, lengthy scenes of problem-solving and those rare occasions when movies feel like live theater, this is where you’ll want the film to linger. Then there’s the maximalist action flick (no spoilers here) that 10 Cloverfield Lane becomes—perhaps unavoidably, given its arbitrary attachment to 2008’s monster mash Cloverfield. The relocation is a letdown after so much exquisitely concentrated old-school craft. Right from the start, you know you’re in confident hands. Bear McCreary’s frenetic orchestral score accompanies a teary yet wordless breakup, as Mary Elizabeth Winstead—the young, impressive actor with a determined jawline like Sigourney Weaver’s—hangs up on her boyfriend, leaving behind a diamond ring and taking to the road with a bottle of Scotch. A car crash brings her down. She awakens, bloodied and nervous, chained to the wall of a cell. Her captor (John Goodman, channeling his creepy Barton Fink side) tells her an “attack” has happened, rendering the outside world uninhabitable. And we see just enough of that to wonder if he’s right. Maybe he's her savior whose only crime is having a jukebox full of Tommy James and the Shondells. Or maybe not. Enough can’t be said about this section of 10 Cloverfi
Talking animals In a Disney film? Nothing new there. But this animated adventure takes the idea somewhere fresh by giving us a distinctly human world, with cities, streets and ice cream parlors populated by almost every mammal you can think of—apart from our own two-legged species. So, a moose reads the evening news, a buffalo (voiced by Idris Elba) runs the police force and a lion (J.K. Simmons) is mayor. Two humans remain in charge, directors Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph). Their film is zippy and fun but also layered with a let’s-all-get-along message that feels more relevant and engaged than your average kids’ movie (including feminist gags about not calling women animals “cute”). Our main concern is a bunny, Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin), who hails from simple stock but dreams of being a small cop in the big city, to her parents’ horror. After Judy graduates from the academy, she’s lumbered with parking-meter duty. Luckily, her chance to shine comes when she hooks up with a crafty fox (Jason Bateman), and together they pick up the whiff of a corruption trail, taking the film into noirish Chinatown-lite territory. The world that Zootopia creates is intelligent and fascinatingly detailed—it feels more like a Pixar labor of love than a straight-up Disney film. Its manic energy and never-ending supply of animals will appeal to kids. But there are also some fantastic set pieces for older audiences, including a brilliant comic slow burn with a very leisure
Only a few months after the hit Joseon Era drama The Throne, director Lee Joon-ik returns with a very different kind of film. A black and white biopic set during World War II, when Korea was occupied by Japan, Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet is a much smaller film that sees him team up with arthouse director Shin Yeon-shick, who served as the scriptwriter. Lushly filmed and sensitively performed, the period drama follows the young poet Dong-ju and his friend Mong-kyu as they look to get into university. While Dong-ju writes verses about the harsh realities of their lives, Mong-kyu becomes active with dissenters, which invites negative attention on them both.With its fluid and articulate script, Dongju falls more in line with Shin’s indies (such as The Russian Novel) rather than Lee’s bigger-budget fare. Yet certain commercial concessions, be they romantic or comic, do wean their way in throughout, resulting in a slight discord. Perhaps this is just as well, as without a certain familiarity with Korean history or literature (not to mention the language), the film’s tone and deliberate pacing can be heavy-going.Young stars Kang Ha-neul and Park Jung-min, who are surrounded with excellent veteran performers, are well cast and do particularly strong work in the film’s dramatic yet tastefully observed finale. Still, given the pedigree behind it, one can’t help but feel that Dongju could have offered viewers something more tangible.By Pierce Conran (Producer at 2MrFilms, film critic