Dallas Buyers Club lacks the strength of its convictions

Dallas Buyers Club purports to tell the story of the homosexual community’s struggle with the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, but does so through the perspective of that oh-so-marketable demographic: the straight white male.

After being diagnosed with the AIDS virus and given 30 days to live, Ron Woodroof sets about acquiring any medicine he can that may help him, even drugs that were not legal to sell in the US in 1985. He soon sees a hole in the market that can be filled by members of the gay community stricken by the epidemic and establishes the Dallas Buyers Club.

The Academy will no doubt give themselves a collective pat on the back for recognising this film, as they did when they rewarded Tom Hanks for his ‘brave’ performance as a gay man in 1993’s Philadelphia. Another film which skirts around the issue at hand whilst refusing to completely engage with it. Continue reading →

Do we buy RoboCop 2014 for a dollar?

In 2028, OmniCorp employ androids to police the streets of every country except the US where a bill prevents the use of robots in place of human police officers. By merging man and machine, the corporation hope to sway the American public to accept a new era of law enforcement.

RoboCop (2014) has some pretty big bio-mech boots to fill. Paul Verhoven’s 1987 genre classic looms large over pop culture. A high-concept genre film, soaked in gore and slick with satire, it’s a high benchmark for any remake.

Jose Padilha opts for a slick action film, sending the RoboCop suit through battles with Terminator-like cyborgs and a phalanx of ED 209’s, resulting in mess of CGI carnage that Verhoven’s practical effects could not hope to compete with. The action editing is sometimes too frenetic to follow, but seeing RoboCop revel in his agility is a real treat. Continue reading →

Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations charts the emergence and rise of the Belfast punk scene, seen through the eyes of record store and record label owner Terri Hooley. The film could be described as a spiritual brother to Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People – but while that film indulges in meta-textual fourth wall destruction, Good Vibrations keeps its dirty boots on the ground.

Socialist-minded Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer), dejected at the loss of old friends as the Troubles create a religious civil war, decides to take his substantial record collection and open a record store on the so-called ‘Bomb Alley’ in downtown Belfast. Terri is energised by the explosion of the punk scene and starts a record label to promote local punk bands like the Outcasts, Protex and famously, the Undertones.

Continue reading →

The Fast and the Furious (2001) – Best Point Break remake ever

SPOILERS AHOY!

This may be news to no-one, but I’ve only just caught up with this franchise, so humour me. Let me first lay some cards on the table: I’m a Point Break tragic. Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 surfing bank-robber bromance was the first M15+ film I ever saw, so for that reason alone it holds a special nostalgic place in my heart. The excitement at the time was immense. It had M rated violence! Boobs! Guns! Swearing! It’s been a great relief to find that throughout the many re-watches I’ve undertaken since that fateful soft-drink fueled sleepover (yeah, I was 10, that’s what cool kids did), it still holds up. Taut, stylish bank robbery sequences, a foot chase that was unrivalled in cinema until Casino Royale, and that bit where Keanu shoots his gun in the air and goes ‘ahhh.’ Patrick Swayze was never more watchable than when he inhabited the the hippy-guru-criminal-mastermind persona of the enigmatic Bodhi. And Reeves? What better way to utilize the actor’s perpetually stoned and bewildered persona by having the plot dictate that he impersonates a Californian surfer dude? ‘Vaya con Dios, Brah.’ Brilliant. Everyone just pretend he’s acting. Then, of course, there’s Gary Busey. Let off the chain as FBI agent Angelo Pappas, he leaves behind a trail of destruction and endlessly quotable dialogue: ‘I’m so hungry I could eat the ass end out of a dead rhino.’ Continue reading →

A Satanic Reading of Spring Breakers

Warning: here be spoilers.

Taking into account the combined power of all the bright, loud, disconnected edits in Harmony Korine’s latest offering, I found plenty to hate about Spring Breakers. Then, of course, there’s the repeated dialogue snippets (if characters say it over and over again it’s got to be important – right?), the obnoxious soundtrack and the murky sexual politics.

I could forgive all these creative choices that give form to this dream-haze odyssey if it weren’t for one thing: I hate the story, too. Character motivations are completely non-sensical so there’s not even a solid narrative to hold onto. There had to be something I missed. So after a lot of thinking, I’ve decided the only way the film makes sense is if you accept this simple truth: Brit and Candy are demons sent from hell. Continue reading →

Zero Dark Thirty

The fallout of the September 11th attacks have created a mixed bag in the cinema world. Dramas that focus on smaller, family stories (World Trade Centre, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) have sat awkwardly alongside sprawling political thrillers and combat films (Green Zone, The Hurt Locker). What Kathryn Bigelow achieves with Zero Dark Thirty is something altogether grander. An intense character study wrapped in a detective story disguised as a political thriller. She shuns conventional wisdom regarding pacing and utilises the near three-hour running time to carefully and succinctly lay out one of the greatest man-hunts of all time.

Zero Dark Thirty depicts the attack on the world trade centre by not visually depicting it at all. The film opens a title card of the famous date after which the screen remains black and the audio track is filled with frightened 911 callers. By resisting the urge to show the famous proverbial “money shot” of the towers crumbling, thereby buying audience sympathy for her manhunters right away, Bigelow and co. demonstrate an even hand that will guide the rest of the narrative. In condensing nearly ten years of international police work, the film makers wisely move quickly through the first few years before slowing events down as the search nears conclusion – the infamous compound assault unfolding in real time. Continue reading →