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Director: Antonio Campos Starring: Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Haley Bennett, Eliza Scanlen, Mia Wasikowska, Bill Skarsgård Running Time: 138 minutes


 

Based on the novel by Donald Ray Pollock, director Antonio Campos brings together an impressive ensemble cast to tell a story of intergenerational turmoil and malevolent superstition, set against the beautiful backdrop of Coal Creek, West Virginia.

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Director: McG Starring: Judah Lewis, Emily Alyn Lind, Jenna Ortega Running Time: 101 minutes


Released on Netflix in 2017, The Babysitter was a good example of what the streaming platform hopes for with a large amount of their ‘original’ films; fun, watchable, kind of disposable, and with a simple hook to lure viewers in: a murderous babysitter and a crew of high school clichés going after the kid who idolises her for a satanic ritual. It was a winking bit of playtime with horror tropes that new what it was and didn’t overstay it’s welcome, but what kicked it up a notch from ‘grand’ to ‘oh that was actually pretty good’ was Samara Weaving in the titular role, elevating proceedings through sheer force of charisma as she went on to do in Ready or Not and looks set to do in a fruitful career in Hollywood.

This sequel sees the return of some of the kids from the first film, as young Cole Johnson, now in high school, grapples with the events of the original. He’s a pariah in school and his parents doubt his mental health, nobody believing his side of the story. Weaving, now in high demand, is a shadow that hangs over Killer Queen, and while the film carries the same spirit of its predecessor quite well, it also serves as a strong indicator of the Aussie’s talent: it’s quality compared the first one is more or less proportional to the extent of her absence.

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Director: Charlie Kaufman Starring: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis Running Time: 134 minutes


 

Charlie Kaufman has never been one to shy away from unconventional projects. While his directorial debut came with Synecdoche New York in 2008, Kaufman made his bones in screenplay, penning Being John Malkovich in 1999, while perhaps being best remembered for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind five years later. Throughout this eclectic filmography has been a strong theme of existential uncertainty and metaphysical pondering. There’s also been a fair share of Kaufman’s work being referential to pop culture, sometimes satirical, sometimes more serious. Among these rather confounding patterns however stands a more clear characterisation of Kaufman. That is, his understanding and appreciation of storytelling stems from his impressive communicative abilities in the written form. To those most familiar with his career, he will likely be seen as someone who is best equipped to deliver if he grounds his film in an expertly crafted script. No doubt, this talent is one that Kaufman appears well versed in. Here however, on the back of films like Synecdoche New York that were famously difficult for audiences to penetrate, his task as a more deeply involved film maker requires a more balanced and nuanced skill-set.

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For years the Carlow Arts Festival has aimed to create a vibrant community in the Midlands fostering creativity, collaboration, innovation, participation, inclusion, diversity, and passion, but the Covid-19 Pandemic ensured that they were one of many endeavours in the arts who were forced to rethink their approach in 2020.

One of their efforts throughout the last month has been their Virtual Reality Cinema programme, which offered viewers the opportunity to replicate the experience of 360 degree filmmaking from the safety of their own home.

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Director: Claire Oakley Starring: Molly Windsor, Joseph Quinn, Stefanie Martini Running Time: 86 minutes


If one where to have a season of revelations of romance and identity in a tourist spot, they might prefer a glamorously lazy summer by the Italian riviera to say, the gloomy caravan’s of off-peak Cornwall. Yet that is where young Ruth, small and uncertain, finds herself in Make Up, the debut feature of English director Claire Oakley. Expanded from a concept for a looser, more abstract short, this seaside story appears elusive at first, Ruth wandering seemingly aimlessly around a holiday park in the dead of winter, but Make Up snaps into focus the clearer its aims become, and its setting and filming all feed into that feeling. We’re always lost until we know exactly where we are.

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Director: Alex Thompson Starring: Kelly O’Sullivan, Ramona Edith Williams, Charin Alvarez, Lily Mojekwu Running Time: 101 minutes


 

Being “real” is often one of the main aims of the indie dramedy; the gentle, sensibly chuckling low-budget-low-stakes affairs can pride themselves on being more connected to the genuine experiences of everyday life than contrived, overwrought Hollywood productions. Yet this kind of storytelling, chock a block at film festivals the world over, can take on their own stifling conventions and cliches, and the bad cases often present a reality that’s little more than the same platitudes of the big leagues, except mumbled. Saint Frances’ foundation of white slacker ennui doesn’t seem to offer much new on first glance, but through strong stains of period blood, ugly tears of postpartum depression and more, it does explore a number of truths and vulnerabilities with a welcome sense of honesty, the kind that too many films of this type end up glossing over with their Sundance-friendly optimism. Writer and star Kelly O’Sullivan and director Alex Thompson use a standard setup, but are happy to wander from it to more interesting places.

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Getting to take part in an actual, factual film festival this month in the Galway Film Fleadh was a revitalising tonic in a difficult time. We can’t wait to attend cinemas again in person in the fair city of film and beyond, once it’s safe and secure for all staff and audiences to do so, but it was great to have a festival on demand to take in films from home and abroad and we’ve put together a little round up of some of the films we took in during the Fleadh.

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Directors: Maeve O’Boyle, Lucy Kennedy and Aideen Kane Running Time: 95 minutes
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The Galway Film Fleadh opened last night with the world premiere of Irish documentary The 8th. With subject matter so closely tied to the recent national psyche of the country, going as it does through the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment which constitutionally banned abortion in the Republic, it can be difficult to assess Maeve O’Boyle, Lucy Kennedy and Aideen Kane’s documentary on it’s own merits. Functioning similarly Linda Cullen and Vanessa Gildea’s Marriage Referendum doc The 34th, the film plays out as a matter of historical record, but the filmmakers do allow the heavy emotions of the time their rightful place, elevating The 8th beyond the newsreel footage.

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Director: Neasa Hardiman  Starring: Hermione Corfield, Connie Nielsen, Dougray Scott Running Time: 89 minutes

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From the visceral threat of Jaws to the unnerving nightmares of H.P. Lovecraft, the sea has always been a fertile breeding ground for horror. To cast characters adrift into vast, unexplored and uncaring waters means that they are exposed to one essential real-life fears – the instinctual anxiety that kicks in when a human is fundamentally and literally not on their home turf. Start adding freaky monsters into the mix and you can really start turning the screw, just as Irish director Neasa Hardiman has done in Sea Fever. Set aboard a small Irish fishing boat that becomes infested with aquatic parasites, the isolated ship mates become their own vessels and are as much at risk from each other as they are the horrors of the deep. What the film lacks in originality, knowingly but practically taking inspiration from classics like Alien and The Thing, it has gained considerably in timeliness. Let’s hope we don’t start seeing every movie through an “of-the-moment” lens, but if the lifejacket fits…

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