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Director: Philippa Lowthorpe Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley, Keira Knightly, Greg Kinnear, Lesley Manville, Rhys Ifans Running time: 106 mins

Misbehaviour benefits from the pedigree of a strong cast, a compelling story and a seasoned director at the helm; Philippa Lowthorpe was the first woman to win Best Director at the Baftas, and she’s won twice. The costuming, make up, hair and set design all evoke the new era being born and really ground the story in a time and place which feels fully realised. Misbehaviour has all the ingredients to make it a hit but unfortunately it falls down on building layered and sympathetic characters and it’s difficult to stay on board, especially when the plot holds no surprises (which isn’t the film’s fault necessarily because you can’t have spoilers for history!)

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Director: Lorcan Finnegan Starring: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris Running Time: 97 minutes

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Even as news reports were starting to darken and arrive ever closer to our doors, while sitting in the sold out screening for the Opening Gala of VMDIFF 2020 it was difficult to imagine just how real Vivarium would become. Or how quickly the energy of a film premiere, glamorous stars ; a room packed full of people eagerly anticipating the uncertainty and possibilities of the immediate future, would feel like a bittersweet memory of oohhh, a billion years ago.

If Vivarium is a horror, it’s a horror about the domestic drudgery, a blunt jab at how social constructs can be so narrowly confined, widely expected and hellish to navigate that they can feel like a trap from which there is no escape. The fact that we all have to stay indoors right now with unknown and deadly consequences lurking ominously over us all the time has made the film’s blunt, exaggerated parody of suburbia very real in ways that director Lorcan Finnegan and writer Garret Shanley (who paired previously on Without Name) might never have anticipated when putting this story together, and it would be hard to blame the average viewer for running a mile from its ideas at the moment. The black joke has gotten a few shades darker, but the film is so committed to the bit, so giddily weird, it manages to pull off the delivery.

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Director: Céline Sciamma Starring: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino Running Time: 120 minutes

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“Do all lovers feel like they’re inventing something?”

So whispers the besotted Héloïse in a fit of passion in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The exploration of that spark, that fierce and intense rush of feeling is central to the latest feature by Céline Sciamma, her own work continuing to evolve and innovate in exhilarating fashion here following the “accidental trilogy of youth” that was Water Lilies, Tomboy and Girlhood. Love as shown here between painter Marianne and her subject Héloïse has that feeling of invention, the sudden arrival of something entirely new and brilliant and unique and though what emerges between these two can’t hope to last in the way that they would prefer, the depth of emotion and ideas brought to light by Sciamma and her excellent crew lifts Portrait into so much more than the typical Forbidden Romance.

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Director: Leigh Whannell Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen Running Time: 124 minutes

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Leigh Whannell is in the director’s seat for this modern adaptation of the 1897 sci-fi horror tale by H.G Wells. Whannell has had plenty of horror experience on screen, as a long time collaborator with James Wan. He’s also dipped his feat into directing with some impressive results. Insidious 3 was arguably the second best film of the series, and 2018’s Upgrade was well received by critics.

 

At a time when Ireland has just seen its first conviction for coercive control handed down in February of this year, it would be an understatement to say that the timing is appropriate to clear up narrow misconceptions about domestic abuse. It’s not always about physical abuse, nor is it exclusively about sexual harassment. Often, it’s a sociopathic lust for control. This is an aspect that The Invisible Man attempts to tap into, with limited success.

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Director: Bong Joon-ho Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Chang Hyae-jin Running Time: 132 minutes

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The long anticipated Parasite from acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho has arrived on Irish big screens right at the end of what has turned out to be an incredible run of Oscar contenders. While in many ways the Academy Awards could well be regarded as an over inflated industry award, it is difficult not to get caught up in all of the fuss surrounding what is unquestionably the most notable event of the year in film. Similarly, while it might make more sense to maintain objectivity when reviewing films, it’s often challenging to suspend your own excitement for films that you’ve been personally routing for. On it’s own merit, I had been eagerly anticipating the release of Parasite for months. As someone who was first introduced to the now well-established perceptive craft of Bong Joon-ho since The Host in 2006, I was even more delighted that his latest work seemed to be getting the level of international traction that many South Korean films in the last year have undeservedly lacked. Casting memory back through the last couple of years, there seems to have been at least one highly impressive hit coming out of the country every year. In 2016 there was Train to Busan, a frantic and kinetic zombie movie tracking the desperation of a father and daughter to escape a lethal viral outbreak. In 2017 there was Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, a stylish period thriller that picked up the BAFTA for Best Film Not In The English Language. Then there was Lee Chang-dong’s Burning in 2018, a slow burning psychological mystery. All of these features could more than match the weight of any Oscar winning Hollywood films in recent years, but many were regrettably limited to selected art house screenings.

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Directors: Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence Running Time: 124 minutes

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It isn’t much of an exaggeration to call the Bad Boys series to date some of the most hateful films ever to make it to the multiplex. Bad Boys II was particularly repugnant; a cruel, homophobic, racist, cynical indulgence in all of the worst excesses of director Michael Bay, mindless and reactionary even by 2003 standards. That’s on top of incoherent action and grimly repeated buddy cop tropes, just about jolted into life by the chemistry of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. Action movies have moved on, and most big budget blockbusters at least try to hide it when they have fascistic overtones or adolescent sensibilities. So seventeen years later and with its stars both in very different places in their careers, was there any good reason to resurrect these crass cops, besides their sworn oath to be bad boys til’ they die? Improbably, yes. This is very much the post Hot Fuzz vision of Bad Boys, its ludicrous macho bullshit has been exposed so thoroughly but so lovingly since by films like Edgar Wright’s that the only real way to move forward is to acknowledge and embrace the OTT tropes. Like a lot of aging franchises, For Life asks the question if it’s old gunslingers still have any gas left in the tank. Then, to raucous effect, it blows up that tank, doubling down on every excess and wallowing in something wonderfully wild.

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Director: Robert Eggers Starring: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe Running Time: 109 minutes

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Flying witches, talking goats, mystical seagulls. That’s only a select few of the mad and intriguing things that director Robert Eggers has brought to his first two feature films; 2015’s The Witch and, now, The Lighthouse. There is no doubt that Eggers likes to challenge cinema goers or, more accurately, create stories that demand attention and encourage debate. A straightforward cinema experience is not something you are going to get here, but you are, without a doubt, the better for that. With The Lighthouse, Eggers delivers an atmospheric psychological thriller unlike any other you’ll see all year. This is an intoxicating, feverish, unnerving and often hilarious experience and one that will have fans ruminating on its messages for years.

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