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Director: Jason Reitman Starring: Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Ron Livingston, Mark Duplass Running Time: 96 minutes


When Diablo Cody is in a reflective mood, Jason Reitman tends to benefit. Though it will always be a divisive film based on its subject matter and the ‘hamburger phone’ of it all, Juno‘s rooting in the real life experiences of Cody as a teenager and the stories of adoptees and pregnant teens in her life gave it a laudable emotional honesty. The writer-director pair came back together for the underseen Young Adult, a darkly funny and deeply insightful look at arrested development, and the toll taken on the popular girl when she isn’t popular anymore, with a fantastic lead performance from Charlize Theron. Nearly seven years on, the now-trio have convened again for an honest look at parenthood in Tully. The result is raw, sly and very well done.

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Director: Faith Akin Starring: Diane Kruger, Denis Moschitto, Samia Chancrin Running Time: 106 minutes

In The Fade has a lot to offer its audience: a strong central performance from Diane Kruger, a moving story and compelling characters. Yet the film still lacks the power to stay with you once the credits roll. While easy to chew on throughout its reasonable runtime, director Faith Akin’s recent feature leaves you craving something a little more substantial.

The film, which won best foreign language feature at this year’s Golden Globes, tells the story of Katja (Diane Kruger), a German woman confronted with the tragic death of her husband and son following a terrorist attack. When suspects are discovered and brought to court, Katja battles with her need to exact revenge on the people who took her world from her. Should she leave the judicial system to their ways? Or, should she take matters into her own hands?

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville Running Time: 130 minutes


Throughout his long and acclaimed career, Daniel Day-Lewis has embodied personalities that burst forth from the screen, simply too powerful, or imposing, or strong of will to be restrained by mere celluloid and silver. From Christy Brown to Daniel Plainview to Abraham-by-God-Lincoln, DDL has method acted his way through dominating characters, willing audiences into awe, the most impressive man in the room when he isn’t really in it. In his supposed last performance, as the wonderfully and ludicrously named Reynolds Woodcock, DDL applies that same level of performance and applies it to a fussy dressmaker in the immaculate fashion scene of 1950s London. Working once again with Paul Thomas Anderson, the pair have taken what may seem at first glance to be an understated love story and intricately sown some of their best work just underneath the surface, a beautiful piece of work with as many hidden thrills as anything their fascinating main character himself might design.

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Director: Joe Wright Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristen Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane Running Time: 125 minutes


When the Bard gets boring, it’s increasingly appealing to distinguished actors to turn to Winston Churchill for their monologue jollies; “we shall fight them on the beaches” being as suitable for performance as anything Shakespeare ever did. Through various films, such noteworthy performers as Albert Finney, our own Brendan Gleeson, Brian Cox last year and um…Christian Slater, have donned the bowler hat, stuck up a V-sign and gotten down to speechifying, and now Gary Oldman picks up that mantle. Unrecognisable in impressive make up, Oldman’s turn in Darkest Hour is being put forth as a showcase for the veteran, a big Oscar-grabbing performance in a film that looks, as many do, back at Britain’s ‘darkest hour’ also in some ways as its finest. Let’s not forget, there was literally a film about this exact same time-period titled Their Finest released just last year. Rarely, if ever, do films of this type want to engage with Churchill the racist, the Churchill that sent soldiers into Tonypandy or helped starve India, or set up the Black and Tans and Darkest Hour is no exception, an effort to rouse and court applause and though it’s definitely well-made enough to receive that in some quarters, the film and Oldman’s central performance are both at their best when they tone down the bombast and openly admit just how close Britain came to ruin.

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It has been a year. In 2017 there was a lot for film fans to contemplate, but in what they say on the screen and in the wider film business. Month after month, entertaining, challenging and interesting films found their way onto Irish screens, either from Hollywood or any number of our own talented Irish directors. It was a year where the sickeningly pervasive culture of abuse in cinema was thrust into the headlines by brave survivors no longer willing to suffer in silence. It was also a year in great filmmaking, where talented, diverse directors were given the opportunity to show their talent, several for the first time, where performances transported us just as believably to the far-off future, the underprivileged, overlooked present and even outside the fluid realm of time altogether. This is Film In Dublin’s list of the best films of 2017, the films that moved us, entertained us, opened our eyes and otherwise expressed everything that cinema is meant to be, in a year that showed that cinema doesn’t always achieve those lofty ideals behind the scenes.

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Director: Tomas Alfredson Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones, Val Kilmer Running time: 119 mins


Nordic noir is something that Hollywood has been trying to crack for many years. Although movies, novels and TV shows on this side of the pond have slashed their way to nordic noir notoriety, Hollywood’s attempts to produce this type of dark, urban-based crime fiction hasn’t produced many results.

Expectations were high, however, when news broke of The Snowman; a Jo Nesbø novel adaptation directed by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy director Tomas Alfredson, starring Michael Fassbender and produced by none other than Martin Scorsese. On paper The Snowman should be a masterpiece. In reality, it couldn’t be further from one.

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Director: Kathryn Bigelow Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Jack Reynor Running Time: 143 minutes


Though the clothes and the music and the specific events make Detroit‘s setting of 1967 clear, it’s shot in a haphazard, shaky manner that suggests that this could be happening right now. The point is pretty clear of course, as the events recreated here, racial inequality, police brutality, an unjust legal system, are still happening right now. Bigelow’s film could just as easily be called Ferguson and while that does make its messages abundantly clear and easy to agree with, it may also be the biggest drawback. Here Bigelow and screenwriting collaborator Mark Boal roll up their sleeves and deliver their cinematic treatise on racism in the United States. There’s anger here to be sure, but it’s an scattergun anger, displeasure at a distance and what that results in is a film that’s unrelenting but unfocused. Are these Bigelow and Boal’s sleeves to roll up?

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Director: David Lowry Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara Runtime: 87 minutes


A Ghost Story plunges the depths of themes that most filmmakers have devoted their careers to exploring. The ambition and quiet confidence with which it delves into issues such as life, death, memory and time is, quite simply, something to be marvelled at and revered. While it may challenge some movie-goers, director David Lowry (Ain’t Them Bodies SaintsPete’s Dragon) has created a film that rewards those who are willing to listen and understand what it endeavours to explore: the enduring and resolute spirit of love in the face of significant loss. Make no mistake, A Ghost Story is 2017’s greatest film. Read more…

Director: Sofia Coppola Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning Running Time: 94 minutes


 

The films of Sofia Coppola have always been drawn to the loneliness of the privileged, the longings and feelings of isolation of people who on the face of it, should have it all. In adapting The Beguiled, Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel previously put on screen from the decidedly more male perspectives of Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood in 1971, Coppola pushes her usual focus even further. The privileged here are the Southern belles of a Virginia girls school during the American Civil War, their isolation a gated-off manor, longing for the fathers and husbands and men-folk off fighting the losing side in a moral divide, even their hardships are a result of the school’s slaves not being around anymore. It may seem like too much Coppola at first glance, but in this repressed white erotica of furtive glances and fancy dresses, she uses restraint to great effect, resulting in a lean, sharp film, taking her usual privileged perspective and flipping it to comment on another.

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Director: William Oldroyd Starring: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank, Paul Hilton Running Time: 89 minutes


It can tend to get a bit grim in the English countryside. The foggy fields suggest a certain emptiness, a setting where taciturn people keep secrets from each other until either their passions suddenly ignite or they Eleanor Rigby themselves to quiet, dignified, sad demises. Take the similarly cheer-resistant world of Russian literature and place it in that setting and you’re unlikely to end up with the feel good hit of the summer. But as evidenced by Alice Birch and William Oldroyd’s adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District, what you do end up with is a captivatingly twisted take on English costume drama that you can’t take your eyes away from.

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