Tag Archives: Aidan Gillen

Movie Review: Sing Street (2016)

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Rating: A-/ Fifteen-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is in a bit of a bind. His squabbling parents (Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) are officially broke and have decided to transfer him from his posh private school to a tough inner city Dublin school, which it soon becomes clear is a complete hellhole where the students go totally fucking Lord of the Flies and the teachers sit back and  do nothing. Bullied on his first day by the virulent Barry (Ian Kenny,) Conor finds a release by starting a band with some classmates to impress an aspiring model (Lucy Boynton) one year his senior, despite not knowing the first thing about music. Continue reading Movie Review: Sing Street (2016)

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Still (2014)

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A note to curious viewers looking for the next great revenge flick- make no mistake, “Taxi Driver” this is not. Also, movie goers expecting Aidan Gillen to go all “Dead Man’s Shoes” on a group of thugs will be sorely disappointed. Aidan Gillen is no Paddy Considine (it’s okay, Gillen- we love you anyway) and “Still” is a drab, painfully slow-moving exercise in banality.

Tom Carver (Gillen) plays Tom, a middle-aged photographer barely developed beyond his long-standing grief at the death of his teenaged son in a hit-and-run, his mean streak (displayed toward his ex-wife Rachel (Amanda Meeling,) and his substance abuse problem. When a gang of youths rather abruptly begins terrorizing him, engaging in behavior that predictably leads to the assault of his girlfriend (Elodie Yung,)

Tom is unsure of what to do about the attacks but his journalist friend Ed (Jonathan Slinger ) convinces him to take action, spewing Republican rhetoric (‘these are minors! They’ll get a couple of years tops in a cushy facility with a big-screen TV and an XBox! An XBox!’) while getting himself and Tom plastered. Tom finally decides to man up and get brutal revenge on his tormentors. But at what cost?

Too much exposition, too much talking (blah-blah-blah) and not enough substantial dialogue… oddly, one of the biggest problems about “Still” is the color scheme. Obviously a low-budget flick (that’s putting it nicely,) this film has a dull, flat palate and a few scenes are appear to be shot through a reddish color filter that is just distracting. Color filters can be effective and arresting, look at “Cold in July,” based on a novel by Joe R. Landsdale. Those colors grabbed you and didn’t let you go. The colors in “Still” are lifeless and sometimes seem simply arbitrary.

Aidan Gillen is okay (sporting an inflection weirdly reminiscent of his character in “Game of Thrones” and his trademark smirk) but Elodie Yung and Sonny Green (as the lead hood) leave a lot to be desired in the acting department. The real travesty of this movie, however is the ending. Let me set the scene (spoilers, obviously.)

***Spoilers***Spoilers***Spoilers

The teen criminals have gang-raped Tom’s girlfriend, put a flayed cat on his doorstep, and beaten a little boy Tom has befriended, almost killing him in the process. Tom abducts one of the boys and prepares to put him on a nightmarish (and potentially fatal) high, when the teen begs for mercy and drops a bombshell. Apparently, Tom’s son ran with the gang and died (surprise!) not in a hit-an-run, but in a game of chicken with his group.

To put the icing on the cake (drumroll, please,) Tom’s dearly departed son was involved in the murder of a woman when he was alive. Isn’t it convenient that the gang that randomly targeted Tom were also directly associated with his son. The boy’s ultimatum is this- if your son was a piece-of-shit thug like me, why can’t you have mercy and spare my miserable life? The problem is, Tom has already given the little schmuck the killer injection. And, thus, the poor lad (and animal abuser, rapist, and bully) dies in the sobbing Gillen’s arms. And the credits roll. No shit.

Seriously, fuck this movie. You wait the whole fucking film for Gillen to get an awesome and well-deserved revenge, and he ends up offering unconditional forgiveness to the kid through a plot contrivance for something that is irrelevant (so, my son was a shit. Does that make you any less of a shit?) Forget the rape, forget the assault of a young kid, forget everything. Just bask in the emotion of the moment. Fuck 😛

The thing is, I’m not a glutton for sadistic retribution. I’m pretty Liberal in a lot of ways. But I was expecting a revenge film with themes of grief and sadness. Not fucking grief porn, and pretty poorly executed grief porn at that. There was no reason Tom should have let a turd-squirt like that off the hook. Thus, the film is a massive let-down. So it’s not just the cheap quality, or the dodgy acting, or the total lack of likable characters. It’s everything. It’s all of the above.  Plus the shitstain of an ending. Pity.

***End of Spoilers***End of Spoilers***End of Spoilers

I love Aidan Gillen, including his low-budget roles (“Buddy Boy,” “Treacle Jr.”) But this movie is a fail. Maybe if I’d gone in with slightly different expectations it would have been a passable experience. Alas. This movie is not totally terrible, but it’s hardly worth bothering with. Pass, dear and few readers. Definitely pass.

Wake Wood (2010)

Wake Wood starts out with an unnerving premise and goes downhill as the film’s tyke goes on a killing spree. Her name is Alice, and she has had a happy life. Why does she kill?

Well maybe if you were resurrected during a Pagan ritual, you’d have problems too. After Alice (Ella Connelly) is killed in a dog attack, her parents Patrick and Louise (Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle) would do anything to have her back.

They move to Wake Wood, the kind of community that exists primarily in horror movies, cloistered and isolated, with weird locals who come into the house uninvited.

“How would you like to get you daughter back?” asks creepy villager Arthur, played by Timothy Spall (not a direct quote). “That’s not funny,” replies Patrick. a believable response. But conveniently, Louise caught a glimpse of a resurrection ritual. She believes him.

The ritual can bring the deceased back for three days, so the bereaved can say their goodbyes. It requires that another person’s body be used in the process of resurrecting the girl. Conveniently (or not so conveniently), an older man in the village was recently crushed to death by a cow.

The ceremony is prepared, but the child’s parents lied about one important detail — Alice has been dead for more than a year, which creates a rift in the Pagan magic. Will Alice come back a normal little girl? Or the bad seed reborn?

You should have been able to figure out the answer to this question without my little commentary in the first paragraph. And forgive me, but I don’t buy that a seven-something year old girl, albeit an undead one, could rip a woman’s heart out of her ribcage. Which also happens in the movie. Keep up with me, folks!

Notice how I’m using the word “convenient” a lot? “Wake Wood” runs on unlikely occurrences, close calls, and horror cliches, like “car breaks down,” “woman runs into *gasp* her husband,” and the inevitable “child kills animal” archetypes. All this and a scene pulled straight from Carrie.

Ella Connelly, as the girl, has all the cuteness and wide-eyed sincerity of a young Dakota Fanning, but Dakota Fanning she is not. Although she could act happy and sweet, she wasn’t really convincing as an infernal child-gone-wrong.

Which brings us to the ending. Eva Birthistle is the highlight of this film, portraying grief and distress naturally. Timothy Spall is a great actor in an underdeveloped, criminally underwritten role, therefore hindering his capacity for greatness.

Aidan Gillen, who did a commendable job playing a mentally ill stutterer in the indie Buddy Boy some years back, practically sleepwalks through this role.

His apparent mindset: play the part, jump the hoops, collect the paycheck. There’s little passion or commitment to this role. Now that I think about it, his character in Buddy Boy was a bit stiff, a little under-reactionary.

But it fit the character, and Aidan Gillen had some spark playing the nervous wreck. Gillen now plays Patrick as detached to the extreme, facing horrific and astonishing occurrences with mild anxiety. He plays a concerned husband, but that’s about it. Despite it’s initially chilling premise, Wake Wood fails to deliver. Although it has potential as a thriller, it ultimately fails as a movie.

Calvary (2014)

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Calvary[ ˈkalv(ə)rē ]

 the hill outside Jerusalem on which Jesus was crucified.

The meaning of the title will become gradually more clear to you after viewing this film, which is directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of Martin McDonagh, the critically acclaimed filmmaker of the well-received black comedies “Seven Psychopaths” and “In Bruges.” “Calvary” is something of a dark comedy too, though it is more soulful and melancholy than you might expect.

The plot concerns Father James (Brendan Gleeson, who played in John Michael’s previous effort, “The Guard,” and his brother’s film, “In Bruges”) an acerbic but well-meaning priest, widower, and father of a self-destructive adult daughter, Fiona (Kelly Reilly.) Fiona is fresh from a suicide attempt, and she and Father James are attempting to mend their broken relationship.

James tries to offer counsel to the locals of a small Irish village, whether they want it or not. Far from appreciating his much-needed advice, the townspeople spit bile in James’ direction, and are certainly quite weirdly sinister as a whole. Apparently the fallout between the general public and the Catholic Church is to be placed on Father James’ shoulders and his alone.

The story begins, quite literally, when Father James receives a death threat during confession from a man who was sexually abused by the clergy and believes that the act of killing a good priest will send a grander statement then that of killing a bad one. The speaker is quite direct; he is to meet his assassin at the seaside a week from then, but Father James does not act the way you might expect him to about this arrangement.

The plot unfolds a bit like a reverse mystery-thriller, with James knowing the killer’s identity but with us only finding it out at the climactic scene. And sometimes, the villagers seem a bit too malevolent, like something out of a horror movie. But as a whole, they’re very well-acted, with the exception of Owen Sharpe as gay gigolo Leo, who just needed to go away and get out of my sight. His voice alone was enough for me to request euthanasia from the person nearest-by.

Brendon Gleeson is an excellent actor though, and the movie is carried on his able shoulders. The relationship between him and his daughter seems real and touching. The movie has a lot to say about the declining relations between organized religion and the modern people, and the understandable anger and distrust that followed the Catholic sexual abuse scandals.

I recall a scene where Father James is walking down the road and strikes up a conversation with a young teen girl. Seething, her father pulls up in his vehicle and bawls his daughter out for speaking to this potential child-molester. Because he’s a priest or because he’s a man, I wonder? Either or, the scene has a lot of valid things to say about this jaded day and age.

“Calvary” is not my ‘new favorite movie’ or anything, not by a long shot, but I think the good outweighs the bad on this one. It’s very much a commentary on Ireland- the approach to Christ and Catholicism, the devastated wake of the troubles, and the financial disaster looming over this beautiful but impoverished country. Gleeson excels in the role he is given, and the film offers a few laughs as well as chilling commentary on this scapegoat’s journey and the audiences’ eventual realization perhaps the only person you can save is yourself, and sometimes not even that.

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Buddy Boy (1999)

Buddy Boy, Mark Hanlon’s debut, is a haunting and potent film about dead end lives that provokes more questions than answers but remains bizarrely interesting throughout.

The film provides a look into the surrealistic existence of emotionally stunted, stuttering misfit Francis (Aidan Gillen), who lives with his trollish invalid stepmother (actual amputee Susan Tyrrell), in a squalid apartment.

Suffering from overwhelming guilt concerning his sexuality, his religion, and himself, he goes to confession monthly, admitting every impure thought and indiscretion. The contrast between faith and the id is revealed in the opening, which presents the viewer with a montage of religious imagery followed by Francis, uh… pleasuring himself to a pair of voluptuous breasts in a magazine.

Like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, this is the high point of his day, which soon descends into woeful monotony. He finds a new pasttime in spying on his attractive neighbor Gloria (Emmanuelle Seigner, controversial Polish director Roman Polanski’s wife) through a hole in his apartment.

Then they meet. Gloria is strangely attracted to Francis, which would be unfeasible if she weren’t clearly lonely and desperate too. She tells him she is a vegan, a word he doesn’t understand, but he catches on. According to her, she doesn’t care what he eats, but then she buys him a “Meat Is Murder” t-shirt, which is a mixed message if I ever saw one. This further accentuates the character’s conflicting beliefs and desires.

Gloria is pretty and nice, too nice, and Francis begins believing irrational things about her pastimes, focusing on her eating habits. Meanwhile he becomes increasingly psychotic (?) and has a falling out with God. Is Francis going insane? Or is meat back on the menu? Buddy Boy is an enigma — although declared a religious allegory by IMDB users it at times seems to be making a statement against Christianity.

In fact Francis spends so much time obsessing about his masturbating, sinning ways that the viewer wishes the poor guy would just snap out of it. The movie is a triumph of atmosphere — the bleakness and decay of Francis and Sal’s apartment is palpable, while Gloria’s big-windowed, pleasingly green abode seems to spell change for the troubled young man.

The problem, it seems, is the vast contrast in acting styles between Aidan Gillen (Francis) and Susan Tyrrell (his stepmom, Sal). Gillen, from the GLBTQ show Queer as Folk (which I haven’t seen), plays his character sensitively and gently, as a fundamentally benevolent albeit strange outcast damaged by trauma and psychosis. Susan Tyrrell plays his abusive stepmom more like a SNL skit. Maybe her broad performance is the fault of the material.

When an actress’ character is scripted to beat a plumber over the head with her artificial leg (one of the stranger scenes in this story), maybe there isn’t much room for subtlety. Buddy Boy, nevertheless, is an intriguing first feature and a fascinating story.

It walks a fine line between being campy and profound, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like the humanization of Francis, a character who might be written off as a scummy voyeur, or worse, as white trash. It raises interesting questions, contains twists, and transports you, which is something films should accomplish, but rarely do.