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Later this month the experienced writer/producer Stephen Cleary will be in the fair city of film to provide two intriguing workshops on interest to budding storytellers on screen. Running next week with Film Network Ireland, the workshops will provide an opportunity to advance their knowledge of story structure, genre writing and more.

We decided to chat to Stephen on Power & Gender in Storytelling ahead of his upcoming workshop on the 23rd and 24th.

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Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie McDowell Runtime: 95 mins


Ready Or Not manages to balance fun with suspense, its fast pace keeps the viewer onboard throughout the simple but bonkers premise. The film opens with Grace, who is marrying into the Le Domas board game dynasty (or dominion as they prefer), practicing her vows ahead of a garden wedding in the grounds of the Le Domas’ estate. We soon meet her fiance Alex who in a bout of flirty banter suggests they ditch the wedding and run away together. Turns out this isn’t a bad idea.

While Grace and Alex are making out in his room, they’re interrupted by his elderly Aunt Helene who announces that it’s time they come and join the family for a game. Alex goes on to explain that this is a quirky family tradition; each married couple must take part in a game starting at midnight to initiate the new family member. Grace agrees to humour her new in-laws and joins the fam in a room hidden in the middle of the house by big antique doors which wouldn’t look out of place in Cluedo. Here, Alex’ father Tony goes on to explain that the Le Domas’ attribute their wealth and success to a deal to a wager his great-grandfather made during a sea voyage with Mr. Le Bail. The wager involved a mysterious box which Tony explains randomly selects the game to be played by the incoming family member. Grace draws Hide and Seek, the family play an old-timey Hide and Seek song on a gramophone and she goes off to hide. What she doesn’t know is that if they catch her, they’ll kill her.

Ready Or Not borrows from the story lines of cult horror, the aesthetics of adventure stories, mingles it together with fabulous acting from Samara Weaving and the fast pace carries us through what is quite a bare premise. The Le Domas house is stunning and the directors take the time to give us sweeping views of the chandeliers, gorgeous staircase and massive grounds in a way that’s reminiscent of Spanish horror. The characters are quite broadstrokes; all we know about Grace is she was a foster child and that she’s been with Alex for 18 months, we get a sense of her personality but we don’t really get a feel for the others. The film has a You’re Next vibe but it actually gives Grace more credit than Erin gets in You’re Next; Grace hasn’t been trained by her father to be a survivalist, her ability to adapt and react to this situation and come out on top is entirely down to her own competence. She knows when to hide and when to fight and it’s refreshing to see a woman in a horror film who isn’t just screaming and falling over.

At times it feels like the film is dipping its toe into social commentary territory, like when the maids get killed and the family barely react or when Grace exclaims ‘Fucking rich people’ when she’s running for her life but it’s all very surface-level stuff, particularly because the film is moving at breakneck speed through its plot. Still, we’re in a safe pair of hands with duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett who have collaborated previously on horror titles VHS, Southbound and Devil’s Due. They’re well versed in the genre and it allows them to turn horror conventions on their head. Ready Or Not is slick and it blends in humour in a way many horror films of the moment are trying and failing to accomplish. This film should have been released earlier in the summer, it definitely had the mileage.

(4 / 5)

Director: Ari Aster Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe Runtime: 147 minutes

Watching Midsommar feels like watching someone boil a frog. And no matter how much pretty lighting and composition you use in the process, you can’t help thinking “Why are we boiling this frog?”

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Director: Olivia Wilde Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein Running Time: 102 minutes

The premise of Booksmart is simple; two bookish besties are about to graduate high school attempt to have a wild night before heading their separate ways. This formula of loser-lets-loose has basically become a subgenre; think I Love You Beth CooperSuperbad, Netflix’ Good Kids even. Booksmart does something a little different in spotlighting a friendship between two teenage girls – there’s a specific undercurrent at play here that feels fresh. But does Booksmart rely too heavily on tropes?

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A Quiet Place was a stunning debut from John Krasinski, showing that the horror genre has the scope to be emotionally-intelligent when handled properly. The film follows Lee Abbott (played by John Krasinski), Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) and their children, who are struggling to navigate a world overrun by violent aliens who are attracted by any level of noise. The only way to stay safe is to stay silent. Not an easy feat with young children in tow.

For a film built around silence to have such masterful foley is truly impressive; the distinctive clicks the aliens emit send your skin crawling. In limiting shots of the aliens head-on and teasing with glimpses and low angles instead, Krasinski creates and maintains a strong sense of dread which carries the film during its less eventful moments.

But what earns A Quiet Place a space on the best of 2018 list is its successful suturing of the audience into the mindset of its characters. Our fear is borne from what’s at stake for them, not jump scares or gore. We’re on edge because Lee is scared for his little girl, who can’t hear and is therefore the most at risk of making noise. We’re on edge because Evelyn is pregnant and that baby is bound to cry when it’s born.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is wholesome teenage fantasy. It tells the story of Lara Jean (played by Lana Condor), a sweet and shy girl who develops crushes very easily but struggles to actually make connections with boys. This will be a bittersweet memory for many, and a fresh of breath air for current teenagers frustrated watching media feed them ideas of breezy confident teens engaging in casual sex (which is fine and real but not the reality for all). Watching this film is akin to curling up with a hot drink at a sleepover and finding out that you’re not as different as you thought.

The film doesn’t ridicule or sneer at its characters, unfortunately this is a rarity for media aimed at teenage girls! We recognise young girls as a lucrative demographic but boy do we hate em for it. Director Susan Johnson deftly explores LJ’s urge to make a connection and by the end we understand that losing her mother young has given Lara Jean a fear of loss so strong that she can’t let any of her crushes get close. There are visual separations and frames throughout the first half of the film to reflect the distance LJ fiercely maintains, this gradually breaks down and the colour palette moves from gentle pastels to sharp vibrant blues and reds when Lara Jean and Peter (Noah Centineo) finally kiss. It’s a well-constructed film which accounts for its mass popularity.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a great example of American-Vietnamese representation. Because Lara Jean and her sisters just exist as American-Vietnamese people, it’s there but it’s not signposted constantly because it’s just part of who they are, an aspect of their experience – which is how whiteness and white characters relationship with race is always portrayed.

Director: J. A. Bayona Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Isabella Sermon Running Time: 128 minutes

The central conflict of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t about dinosaurs, it’s not even about being pro-dino rights or pro-bioweapons. The central conflict is the friction caused by J. A. Bayona’s directing style bumping against the constraints of this franchise, like a T-rex testing an electric fence who can’t help getting burnt.

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Established in 1999 by Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey and Paul Young, Kilkenny-based studio Cartoon Saloon has released exactly 3 feature length films. All 3 have received Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature Film.

If you get the chance to see The Breadwinner, a poignant and uplifting exploration of a young girl’s life growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan, you’re likely to understand why.

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Director: Steven Spielberg Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk Runtime: 116 minutes

Steven Spielberg’s name has long been synonymous with the Great Hollywood Blockbuster. When we hear the name Spielberg, we imagine runaway boulders, we feel the ground quiver under the weight of reptilian feet, we choke on seawater. Hearing that Spielberg was tackling a historical docudrama about a newspaper was a little surprising. But rest assured, The Post is not overwrought history reeled out to humour a director’s quirk. The Post documents a defining moment for the Washington Post newspaper, with deep resonance in the current political climate.

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