Review: ‘A Good Woman Is Hard To Find’ puts power back in the most deserving hands.

Forced into an emotionally and physically abusive relationship under unusual circumstances, Sarah must navigate her family’s safety and survive financially. Essentially being held hostage by the ripple effect of a drug dealer’s irrational behavior, she strives to regain control of the situation all while attempting to solve the murder of her husband. The intrusive nature of the plot will stifle the viewer. You will not even realize how long you’ve been holding your breath.

Sarah Bolger, who terrified me in Emelie, now plays the complete opposite. She’s a woman on a mission for good. You will root for her. You will be nervous for her. You will cheer her on as she finds her voice. What she must do in self-defense is gruesome. Each beat is so genuinely played, you will not soon forget this performance.

There is a beautiful dichotomy in the fact that she is being terrorized and is financially empowered by her captor. But the abuse is not limited to him. She is verbally assaulted and disrespected where she goes. The assumptions made by everyone in her path are insulting and cruel. As a woman, this film is excruciating to watch. This is a complete complement to the authenticity of the judgment and misogyny (not just from men) that we deal with on a daily basis.

The practical FX are gruesome but completely necessary to feel connected with Bolger’s crisis. The augmented sound editing combined with slow-motion dynamics in a particular scene is visceral. A Good Woman Is Hard To Find proves to be an amazingly insightful commentary on power dynamics and a pretty satisfying story of revenge.

Review: ‘PILGRIMAGE’ takes blind faith on a journey against greed.

presents

PILGRIMAGE features an all star cast of Tom Holland (Spiderman: Homecoming, Captain America: Civil War), Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, Marvel’s “The Punisher”), Richard Armitage (Capitan America: The First Avenger, The Hobbit) and was directed by Brendan Muldowney (Love Eternal, Savage).

In Ireland, 1209, a small group of monks begin a reluctant pilgrimage across an island torn between centuries of tribal warfare and the growing power of Norman invaders.  As they escort their monastery’s holiest relic to Rome, the true value of the bejeweled relic becomes dangerously apparent and their path becomes increasingly fraught with danger.
Religion, faith, mysticism, belief; all of these things have caused heartbreak, wars, saving grace, and death. In Pilgrimage, Tom Holland plays a young monk who is essentially forced to protect and carry a relic to Rome. Alongside his mysterious protector, played by John Bernthal, he and an eclectic crew of soldiers and men of faith must battle hidden agendas and a higher power to achieve their mission. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the film, besides the fact that each actor must deliver lines in at least 2 languages, is the fact that Bernthal’s character has zero dialogue. He is able to pull off a fully fleshed out character whose background leads to many questions along the way. The fight sequences are nothing less than brutal, so be prepared. That being said, they are pretty awesome to witness.The chemistry between the cast is palpable. Holland certainly holds his own among some seasoned players. His vulnerability on screen grounds the film. Overall, Pilgrimage has a Lord of the Rings meets Willow kind of vibe with a thought-provoking final scene. You can catch the film in theaters today, as well as on VOD and Digital HD.

TITLE: PILGRIMAGE
IN THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON VOD AND DIGITAL HD: August 11, 2017
DIRECTOR: Brendan Muldowney
WRITER: Jamie Hannigan
CAST: Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal, Richard Armitage
GENRE: Action
DISTRIBUTOR: RLJ Entertainment

Review: In ‘MY NAME IS EMILY’ Evanna Lynch leaves Hogwarts behind.

Monument Releasing

Presents

 MY NAME IS EMILY

 A Film By

Simon Fitzmaurice

Opening Theatrically In US Cities On February 17

VOD To Release On February 24

MY NAME IS EMILY, the debut-feature written and directed by the amazing Simon Fitzmaurice, is a life-enhancing story starring Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter), Michael Smiley (The Lobster, Kill List) and newcomer George Webster (City of Dreamers, Blood Moon).

After her mother dies and her visionary writer father is institutionalized, Emily is placed in a foster home and a new school where she is ostracized. On her 16th birthday, when her father’s annual card fails to arrive, Emily knows something’s wrong. Enlisting Arden, her only friend at school, she sets off on a road trip adventure across Ireland to find her missing Dad and break him out of the psych ward. They are an odd couple, this pale girl and the boy in the velvet suit, and along the way, they both come to realize important truths about the nature of relationships, both to their parents and to each other. MY NAME IS EMILY is a story of madness, sadness and love.

In  2008, director Simon Fitzmaurice was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (ALS). Now completely paralyzed, Fitzmaurice typed the script for the film, through the movement of his eyes and iris recognition software, Eye Gaze. This is also how he communicated with cast and crew during the film’s six-week shoot. Given four years to live, Simon credits writing and filmmaking with having saved his life.My Name is Emily is a stunning coming of age film. Evanna Lynch shines in this complex role of a sad and brilliant young lady. The layers of this character come from the outstanding script from writer/director Fitzmaurice. Infusing philosophy, literature, poetry, loss and teenaged angst all intertwined into a story of finding oneself through letting go and letting people in. Michael Smiley is as wonderful as he’s ever been, touching the cornerstone of every possible emotion. George Webster, in particular, is one hell of a find. His natural ability to draw you in is reminiscent of the late Anton Yelchin. He will seduce you with his awkwardness and charm the pants off you all in the same scene. The honest chemistry between Lynch and Webster makes this film what it is. Another high note (pun not intended) is the glorious soundtrack. Each song evokes a familiarity that seems to fit perfectly into the moment. With a cool mix of voiceover moments and flashbacks, My Name is Emily is a true delight.

 

Review: ‘Trespass Against Us’ makes Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson family.

 

TRESPASS AGAINST US is set across three generations of the Cutler family who live as outlaws in their own anarchic corner of Britain’s richest countryside. Chad Cutler (Michael Fassbender) is heir apparent to his bruising criminal father, Colby (Brendan Gleeson) and has been groomed to spend his life hunting, thieving and tormenting the police. But with his own son, Tyson (Georgie Smith) coming of age, Chad soon finds himself locked in a battle with his father for the future of his young family. When Colby learns of Chad’s dreams for another life he sets out to tie his son and grandson into the archaic order that has bound the Cutler family for generations. He engineers a spectacular piece of criminal business involving a heist, a high-speed car chase and a manhunt, which leaves Chad bruised and bloodied and with his very freedom at stake. With the law cracking down and his father tightening his grip, Chad is forced into increasingly desperate measures. Featuring incredible performances – and an astonishing score by The Chemical Brothers – TRESPASS AGAINST US is at once an exhilarating crime thriller and a profoundly moving story about love and family.

There is no doubting the abilities of both Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson in this family crime drama. The two could very easily be related based on their spectacular on-screen chemistry. The action (predominantly in car chase form) is plenty and should be seen on the biggest screen possible for maximum clarity and impact. Gleeson does a brilliant job in making you squirm. Think about the most awful, offensive relative that shows up on holidays and multiply that feeling by 10. You are quickly sympathetic to Fassbender’s rock and a hard place persona. The little bit of mischievous joy he gets by rattling the cops is nothing in comparison to his brooding desire to be a better man for his wife and two kids. The last thing he wants is for history to repeat itself. He desperately tries to break the cycle, much to the chagrin of his father hence moving the plot along. Though even with the talent, there is a slowness and lack of back story that would have been nice to hear or see. The choice to make The Cutler’s a traveler family is cool in concept but I wish there had been a better explanation as to how our patriarch became so anti-establishment. One is left to assume. Ultimately, Trespass Against Us is a film about the line between family loyalty and self-preservation. The film is available on Direct TV and in theaters beginning today.

Check out a clip and the trailer below.

Directed by:                                          Adam Smith

Written by:                                             Alastair Siddons

Produced by:                                       Andrea Calderwood, Gail Egan, Alastair Siddons

Executive Produced by:                     Joshua Astrachan, Rose Garnett, Frederick W. Green, Peter Hampden, Phil Hunt, Norman Merry, Compton Ross

Starring:                                                  Michael Fassbender, Brendan Gleeson, Lyndsey Marshal, Killian Scott   

In Theaters January 20th, 2017

Running Time:                                       1hr 39min

Rating:                                                   R

Interview: Producer Kevin McCann of the Upcoming Film ‘The Rising’ about Ireland’s Easter Rebellion of 1916

As I’ve just come back from a two-week trip to Ireland, it only seems fitting that I was able to have a conversation with Kevin McCann, producer of the upcoming film The Rising about the 1916 Easter Rising. Fed up with British rule and 800+ years of oppression, a valiant group of patriots started a rebellion which lasted 6 days before it came to a close. Fifteen of the leaders of the rebellion were tried, convicted and put to death shortly after the rising. One of those leaders was Seán MacDiarmada and he is the focus of The RisingWhile the Easter Rising is a subject that has been referenced in other films (Michael Collins and The Wind That Shakes the Barley are two that come to  mind), MacDiarmada is a person who has not made an appearance and doesn’t have the recognition that someone like Collins or Eamon de Valera do. However, that doesn’t mean that he is any less important in a historical context.

macdiarmada

So this is what drove my conversation with McCann. As we trundle towards to the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, McCann is trying to capitalize on the attention on this milestone anniversary to produce the first film about arguably Ireland’s most important rebellion. He is currently on a tour of six cities (New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington DC) in order to find fund the $6 million production budget to get this film made and ready for its expected premiere date of March 17, 2016.

In one hour, McCann passionately described his efforts and motives for making this film. This was one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve had in quite some time. Being able to talk about some of my own heroes and why their struggle is still worthy of discussion today meant a great deal to me. Here’s what we talked about:

Kevin, Colin Broderick, Ms. Barbara Jones, Consul General of Ireland

How has your tour of America been treating you? What cities have you been to besides NYC and Boston?

I’ve been three times to Chicago and will be going to San Francisco, LA and Washington DC. I’m saying look – I’ve been working on this since 2012 and it won’t be made unless Irish Americans help. There isn’t money or really a sense of urgency in Ireland. Families of the signatories [of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic] are worried there will be no celebration, that a tumbleweed will be rolling through Dublin on April 24, 2016.

I’ve been coming to the US in regards to the film since October 2013. The response in the US has largely been very positive. Financing in Ireland is tough these days. I’m here to promote the movie and have one-to-one meetings. To inform people.

We did a Kickstarter late last year that netted 50,000 euros in 35 different countries. This is proof it’s not just an Irish story. We have a $6 million budget that needs to be raised almost exclusively privately. We got some production funding from the Irish Film Board. I was recently in Cannes, but distribution funding is scarce.

Why do you think it took so long for a film about the Easter Rising to come out? I know it was touched on briefly in [Neil] Jordan’s Michael Collins film.

I started to write a document about this. There seems to many reasons to ignore ’16. Next year is an election year and in Ireland a film this can be seen as advantageous to Sinn Fein only. All parties have the right to this, Fine Gael. Fianna Fáil. Why has it not been?…I don’t know. It will take an hour to explain. Political capital, not wanting to rattle  [England and Northern Ireland]. We aren’t quite a  fully formed nation yet. It’s almost a philosophical question – if we recognize someone as an Irish hero that responds to their conscience, it’s up to us to recognize us as an Irish people. If this happened in another country, they would have certainly looked into it.

I was interviewed by the Irish Times – first question they asked me, you’re making a film about ’16…are you a supporter of violence? What they’re saying is you’re an IRA man.

It’s very difficult to have a discussion about it. Irish politics have tainted it. Survivors guilt.

I genuinely feel that I MUST make a film about 1916. I started from a point of complete ignorance. I didn’t know 1916, the proclamation, who Sean MacDiarmada was. I see other men & women crying because we haven’t celebrated ’16 enough.

Kevin, Consul General, Josh Lucas, Colin(1)

MacDiarmada is a relatively unknown player in the historical context of the Easter Rising. What was the motivation to use him as the lead in this film as opposed to [Patrick] Pearse or [James] Connolly?

To be honest, I called to the library in County Leitrim, to ask if there a grant available to look into MacDiarmada as a subject of the film. There were films being shopped, but the scripts weren’t very good and they’ve all fallen by the wayside. This is a film that can compete. The people are going to be talking about 1916.

I didn’t know anything about MacDiarmada until I did a documentary called Leitrim During the Troubles. I wanted to research more about and the library gave me a grant of 1,000 Euros and it started there and snowballed. I moved to Belfast to learn more about him and work with Dr. Gerard MacAtasney [writer of The Mind of the Revolution]. He was a farmer’s son who cracked the world’s largest empire. You can’t get any better of a story than that of Sean MacDiarmada. Led his country from slavery to freedom. The hero gives up his life for the greater cause.

His mother was dead by age 9, his neighbors were being evicted from the land, so you have all of these perfect mythological things that are TRUE. Make the GOD DAMNED FILM. I have a particular interest in how the Irish treated those who participated in the Rebellion. The nation changed forever when the 16 were killed.

Seamus Heaney helped motivate me from that poem ‘From the Canton of Expectations – “what looks the strongest has outlived its term.”  Keep their faith and keep on the road and they would succeed. We will not go off this path, we will see it through. It was Goethe that said “Our duty is the demands of our day.” MacDiarmada followed this.

I think of Robert Emmet’s speech From the Dock from the  1803 Rebellion. MacDiarmada was motivated by this speech. It was part of his conscience.

Rebellion and violence isn’t an answer for every disagreement, but at the time, it was necessary.

They were looking for a democratic republic just like what happened in the US.

Has there been any pushback about making this film? Any threats against the production?

Every day. More pushback from folks in the South than the North. There is a lot of reluctance there. The whole question of the North hasn’t really been reconciled in the South. It hasn’t been properly discussed. There is fear that the film will make some moderate revisionist apology. Some people are content with their Irishness and are concerned that we are going to make a pro-violent and pro-IRA film, which is blather from both sides. So I carry on regardless. My responsibility is to the men and women of 1916 and to the people who want to know the history of Ireland.   It’s happening on our watch. It’s your responsibility as well [as an Irish-American]. What will you tell me in five years that you did to help remember this event?

The Easter Rising was funded through Irish America therefore 100 years later, we are following in the footsteps of MacDiarmada and [Patrick] Pearse as we are trying to get funding for this film.

I’ve seen that Liam Neeson likes the script. What role would he play if he joins the project?

That was two weeks ago. We want to see him help us make the movie through his contacts, not have a role. We are enthused with the fact that he’s read it and loves it. I think we’ll be able to make an announcement about this in two weeks. I hope.

[UPDATE: an announcement was made July 1 that Michael Neeson, Liam’s son, will be playing the young Michael Collins in The Rising, reprising the role Liam played in Neil Jordan‘s 1996 film.

I LOVE that Shane MacGowan is doing the theme song. Perfect. How did you come by that decision?

I know the former manager of The Pogues and he asked him for me. Connections. He’s just doing the theme song to feature at the end.

Kevin1

I just got back from a trip to Ireland where I met with President Higgins. I know he’s a big film guy (we spoke about Julia Roberts’ accent in Michael Collins and had a laugh). As a former Culture Minister, I would expect that this is something he would love to see made. Have you had any conversations with him or his staff about this?

You have to remember that filmmaking is perceived as profit-making venture so political leaders’ hands are tied when the project has commercial value. I’ve discussed it with his staff and asked for a meeting with him and hope to get one. There’s hesitancy in the Irish political establishment to discuss ’16. Next year is going to be our time.

Locations?

Dublin, studio, Leitrim, Irish countryside. MacDiarmada’s estate is still there and in perfect condition. That’s where he was born, raised, learned about nature, his place on the earth. You need only stand on the front doorstep and you’re looking into County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. And you see an example of the division. It’s not just divided North & South, but all axioms.

So that’s that. I want to give a huge thanks to Kevin for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me about this film. I contributed to the Kickstarter for this film and wish Kevin and his team nothing but luck. I think that this film is a terribly important step to recognize a series of leaders who put country before self and is incredibly important with respect to us as Irish-Americans. That we are only days after celebrating the 239th anniversary of the declaration of our own independence from the same colonialist country, the parallels between the rebellions are closely tied.

Should you wish to stay up to date with what’s going on with this film, check out their website. And more importantly, if you wish to contribute to the cause, you can also do that there. Here is their Facebook page as well as their Twitter. I will do my best to keep posting about the film especially as it careens towards production this November.

 

Jeremy’s Review: 2015 Oscar Nominated Shorts – Live Action

US_2015_OSCAR_SHORTS_Web_Poster_1500px_highI’m happy to say that most of the Live-Action shorts are more upbeat than their documentary predecessors. This crop of films come from a variety of countries (Tibet/France, Ireland, Israel, England and Switzerland) and cover a variety of topics. Most of them do a great job of pulling the cinematic equivalent of sleight of hand, leading us down one road only to pull the rug out from under us using our expectations against us. So let’s check them out.

Aya

AYA_stillA quirky little film, Aya grabs an idea that many feature films have explored before – happenstance. As Aya (Sarah Adler) waits for her boyfriend to arrive at the airport, a valet who is waiting for his client has to move his car and asks Aya to hold his sign until he comes back. The client, Mr. Overby (Ulrich Thomsen), arrives before the valet returns. Aya is left with a choice – tell him the truth, that she is just holding the sign for someone else, or actually drive Mr. Overby where he needs to go and see where the trip takes her. She obviously decides on the latter or there would be no movie. What transpires between the two is a back and forth in which each character gains knowledge about the other and perhaps themselves. I really enjoyed this one. While it had some fairly bizarre moments in it, the characters’ arcs were earned rather than forced. Directors Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis brought this one home. This is a film that deserved its nomination.

Boogaloo and Graham

BOOGALOO_AND_GRAHAM_stillFrom the outset of Boogaloo and Graham, you get the sense that something bad is going to happen. The film opens in Belfast in 1971. The camera follows British troops as they creep through an alleyway, residents of the flats that line watching them intently. If you know anything about Irish history, you’ll know that ’71 was a particular rough time during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. When the camera moves over a stone wall and we see a man (Martin McCann) huddled over a box, we expect the worst. We’ve been programmed this way as so many films point to an attack by the IRA or some other Republican paramilitary group on the British soldiers not five feet away. As the camera zooms in on the man, he pulls something from the box and we await the devastation to come…until it doesn’t. I craned my neck as if that would help me see what he held. What was it you ask? Not bombs, but two baby ducks for his sons, Jamesy (Riley Hamilton) and Malachy (Aaron Lynch). What unfolds after this tense moment is the story of how these two boys bond with their chickens, how they integrate them into the family despite the protestations of the boys’ mother (Charlene McKenna). This film is full of trickery on the part of director Michael Lennox, whose camera shots are witty and add great depth to an already fun story, as well as the script by scribe Ronan Blaney, which twists and turns your expectations. I loved this film and I hope the Academy does, too.

Butter Lamp (La lampe au beurre de yak)

BUTTER_LAMP_still

Perhaps the most interesting of the five nominated films, Butter Lamp takes place in Tibet and features a revolving set of groups gathering to have their pictures taken using a variety of different backgrounds the photographers have brought with them in what amounts to an interesting pictorial ethnographic study of the different peoples of the area. Infused with a good bit of humor, writer-director Wei Hu is able to create a story where the is seemingly none. Equipped with the best final shot of all of the films nominated in this category, Butter Lamp is incredibly pleasing and a lot of fun. When thinking about feature length films (80+ minute running times), it would seem hard to be able to tell a coherent story in only 20 minutes like this film. Wei Hu, like the rest of the writers and directors in this category, makes it look easy. The final shot in this film is really incredible. Be on the lookout for it.

 

Parvaneh

PARVANEH_stillSo, here’s where the films start get a little less humorous and venture into darker territory. Frankly, last year’s set were much more dark and even the last two films that are edgier in their material and approach still have their uplifting moments. Parvaneh fits that bill. A young Afghan girl (Nissa Kashani) living and working in Switzerland comes to a crossroads when her father needs money for an operation back home. As an illegal who is underage, she is not allowed to send money without proper ID, which she can’t get for obvious reasons. When she enlists the help of a girl, Emely (Cheryl Graf),  she meets on the street to get the money sent, the story hits a crossroads – will it all work out or will it turn into a Dancer in the Dark-like spiral into crushing depression? Luckily for us, it’s the former. Writer-director Talkhon Hamzavi creates a relatively in depth portrait of immigrant life in a foreign land, something that is commonplace these days with so many people displaced by armed conflicts throughout the world.

 

The Phone Call

THE_PHONE_CALL_still

Almost from the outset of Mat Kirkby’s The Phone Call, you can tell that it isn’t going to be a cathartic, uplifting piece that leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy. This film runs you through an entire gauntlet of emotions and it’s easy to see why this film has garnered some serious accolades leading up to the Oscars. Anchored by a truly incredible performance from the always outstanding Sally Hawkins (twice nominate for Oscar) as Heather, a woman who works at a crisis helpline. When she arrives at work, she has trepidation written all over her face. She is skittish, perhaps because of her personality, but perhaps because of the job. Shortly after sitting down, her phone rings. On the other line is a voice, breaking up and crying. After a brief pause, Stan (Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent) begins to tell his story – his wife passed away years ago and he just can’t bear to live any longer without her. He has taken a large dose of pills and doesn’t want to die alone. Heather uses all of the training she’s learned to try and keep him from ending his life, to keep him on the phone until she can find out key information about him so that she can somehow save his life. As their banter continues over the course of the _____ minutes, Heather continues to engage him, learning more about him, his wife and their life together – all things missing from her life. So in her attempts to save Stan’s life, she, in a way, saves her own. This film is gutting and is very tough to watch. It expertly drills into emotional depths that few feature films are able to. Hawkins’ performance is flat out incredible and shows why she is one of the best actresses in the business. Known more for her quirky, funnier roles, Hawkins is absolutely devastating in The Phone Call. I have no doubts that this film will take home the Oscar and it’s hard to argue against it winning. Kudos to Kirkby and his co-writer James Lucas for creating such an emotionally lush and layered film.

 

So there’s the Live Action shorts lowdown. Stay tuned for my reviews of the Animated shorts coming later this week and don’t forget to check here for dates and locations where you can see all of the Oscar nominated shorts.

Jeremy’s Review: Aoife Kelleher’s ‘One Million Dubliners’ an Absolutely Touching Portrait of Ireland’s Glasnevin Cemetery

OMD Portrait 2 1800pxIn the opening sequence of Aoife Kelleher‘s One Million Dubliners a funeral is being set and there is an incredibly pertinent quote from James Joyce‘s Ulysses: “In the midst of death, we are in life,” which is a careful reminder to us that even though we are inching closer to death with each day, there is still life to be lived. While pertinent, it may not make much sense to us in the beginning of the film as we allow ourselves to be taken on the journey that Kelleher takes us on in chronicling the history, the energy, the pulse of Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, Ireland. Read More →