Tag Archives: Brendan Gleeson

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Live Die Repeat (2014) 3.21/5 (6)

 

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Rating: The Good – 80.5
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 113 mins
Director: Doug Liman
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton

After decades of waiting for an action sci-fi that can match those of the late 80’s and early 90’s in class and smarts, Doug Liman, Christopher McQuarrie, and Tom Cruise have come up with the goods. Set during a future war for the planet against a horde of prescient aliens, the Cruiser headlines as a cowardly press officer who is railroaded into the infantry on the eve of humanity’s attempt at a D-Day style liberation of Europe. However, during the battle he gets killed and caught in a time loop that sees him re-live the same day over and over again which allows him to hone his initially hapless skills and, at the same time, avoid the pitfalls of the previous day.

The concept which inspired Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s graphic novel All You Need is Kill (brilliantly adapted as “Live, Die, Repeat” before some drone snatched “Edge of Tomorrow” off a low shelf) may have been the classic video game scenario, but Liman adds so much more polish and depth to the concept that, as with Groundhog Day, Cruise’s most wearing and touching battle is his fruitless and unending dance with time. However, that Liman merely tantalises us with this heaviness only to constantly kickstart the scenario with energetic optimism is his masterstroke. Thus, the danger with the Groundhog premise, namely repetition boredom, isn’t as much sidestepped here as it is leapfrogged…. in a funnel of brilliantly edited, pulsating action! They even make the mechanised exoskeleton (which everyone from James Cameron to Neill Blomkamp has failed to actualise) look cool while also making it work for the script.

Cruise is to be commended for playing such an unflattering character with real gusto and whether it be tapping the humour, hopelessness, and/or heroism of his circumstances, he makes for a smashing lead. As his comrade in day-tripping, Emily Blunt is equally strong in an admirably feminine way and watching the pair burst their way off the beaches of Normandy in a whirlwind of mechanised alien fighting (along to Christophe Beck’s muscular score) is just spine-tingling.

McQuarrie, Jezz and John-Henry Butterworth deserve their fair share of credit too for delivering the freshest but most purposeful screenplay the genre has seen in quite some time but it’s Liman’s mastery of time-playing that deserves most respect. A coalescence of shot composition, alternate camera angles, and editing tempo that propels the plot forward in a series of groundhog-esque transitions. So good is this part of the movie, that the scenes in which a more traditional narrative is employed suffer immensely by comparison and even begin to drag. The relative facelessness of the aliens becomes more obvious at these points too alerting us to the fact that this is one area where Live Die Repeat (the original title has thankfully been restored for home-market release) fails to live up to the classics of the genre and is more in tune with today’s more generic movie evil. In the long run, however, these issues are eminently forgivable because the rest of this movie is such an irresistible blast from the past that it’s as likely to stand the test of time. Do Not Miss!

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The Village (2004) 4.29/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 66.8
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Duration: 108 mins
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Joaquin Phoenix

An isolated old time village of people, hiding from the cruelty of the towns and cities, share an uneasy truce with a species of carnivorous creatures living in the surrounding woods. When one of the young folk breaches the border, the creatures begin entering the village to seemingly offer a fresh warning. However, when that same man is injured, his fiancée decides to cross those same woods in the hope of reaching a town and bringing back medicine, an action that challenges the village elders’ reasons for their isolation in the first place.

The Village is a deeply curious film that arguably defies its ultimate betrayal thanks to remarkably polished direction and a story that bears all the texture and resonance of a hardened mythology. First thing that needs to be said here is that M. Night Shyamalan initially concocts an elegant fairytale that comments on society and its traditions with the same grace and primal fear that has defined the classics. Strongly influenced by the folk tales of his Indian background, his creatures in this film are inspired devices in both conception and depiction. The sounds they make and the half glimpses that we are treated to all promise to add richly to the lexicon of horror, a genre in desperate need of new form lest we be left with the continued flogging of the vampire, werewolf, and zombie staples. Being savage and monstrous, yet possessing the outward trappings of a society or culture that has emerged in parallel to human culture, these creatures play so delicately on our archetypes of terror and so deeply in the recesses of our minds that they invigorate in a manner that recalls the chills of Harryhausen’s Medussa. All clicks and unbearable hideousness. The corners and bends to the mythos realised in striking colour contrasts upon Roger Deacons’ otherwise starkly painted canvas. In the haunting violins of James Newton Howard’s softly beautiful score. A remarkablly visceral piece of filmmaking.

The screenplay struggles (even contrives) to live up to the weight of this singular achievement but Shyamalan’s cast, the kind of that would normally bedeck a Spielberg epic, still manage to act their socks off. Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and Adrien Brody are all excellent, Howard and Brody especially. They are helped ably by the director’s extraordinary ability to capture subjectivity in dialogue not to mention frame significant moments or build to powerful crescendos. There are also more of those lovely moments of innocent humour that have marked Shyamalan’s previous movies.

Unfortunately, at the final hurdle this undeniably talented filmmaker falls victim to his reputation and quite literally undoes the entire fabric to his film. In the end, storytelling is paramount and he appears to betray that for no other reason than to add a fairly insipid twist. It’s feels like a body-blow to the audience, counting surely as one of the more disappointing reversals ever and if you’ve managed to avoid hearing of this twist, you’ll probably guess it far in advance.

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Lake Placid (1999) 2.86/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 66.9
Genre: Comedy, Horror
Duration: 82 mins
Director: Steve Miner
Stars: Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt

Something nasty lurks beneath the surface of a peaceful lake and a motley group of experts and law enforcement types are called in to investigate. There’s nothing new here. However, what separates Lake Placid from the rest is its unfettered lighthearted approach and the better than decent cast of Bill Pullman, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, and (err!) Bridget Fonda who play off each other to often hilarious effect. For some reason, this little movie has been quite maligned over the years. Perhaps because it spawned a series of vapid sequels or perhaps because it only just preceded the SyFy Channel’s foray into b-movie creature feature rip-off hell. But it shouldn’t be blamed for either and in fact, if the slew of cheap knock-offs maintained the same respect for getting the basics of film-making just right, then they wouldn’t be so much fodder for this unusual little sub-generation of “so-bad-its-good” bottom feeders.

Lake Placid does everything that the Goliaths of its sub-genre did. Like Jaws and Piranha, it roots the entire story in personality and understands that the more time spent on its principal characters, their background, and their relationships with each other, the more enjoyable the movie becomes (not to mention cheaper). After all, while the shots of Jaws are terrifically exciting, what draws us back to Amity Island again and again is the ambiance, the vibe, the characters, and their quirky personalities and affectations. Naturally, Lake Placid doesn’t tease all these out in as impressive a manner as Spielberg did but they are all present and accounted for.

Fonda is given the perfect role for her typically prissy and somewhat dour personality which bleeds through into most of her roles. She’s the fish out of water (soon to be thrown into water) paleontologist exiled from her Manhattan museum when her boss and former lover takes up with another assistant. Pullman is the aw-shucks local fish-and-game officer in charge of the investigation while Gleeson is the uncouth sheriff who has to babysit them. Though Fonda and Pullman strike up a nice easy chemistry, the fireworks in the film come from Gleeson’s burly sheriff and Oliver Platt’s unhinged crocodile expert who constantly butt heads, punch heads, and get on each other’s nerves. Platt in particular has an assorted bag of hilarious zingers which he fires off at his less sophisticated rival at altogether random intervals just to get his goat.

Though the crocodile itself remains in the background for most parts of the film, it maintains its relevance in so much as how the very theory of one swimming the backwaters of Maine sets the various players in support of or opposition with each other. When it does appear, the special effects and animatronics which bring it to life are actually really impressive and with Miner’s ability to balance them with the drama, it provides for some nice b-movie tensions and thrills.

So if you like to see great actors having fun with each other and with the little story their film is telling, don’t listen to the naysayers. Just switch your brain off and enjoy the banter.

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