By on April 10th, 2015

Mise Eire (1960)

Mise Eire (1960) Dir. George Morrison – QFT Belfast 12 April

Who’s in it? Liam Budhlaeir, Padraig O’Raghallaigh (Voice)

What’s it about? Featuring as part of the BFI’s Conversations about Cinema: Impact of Conflict initiative, which offers ‘a timely reflection on the repercussions of conflict and the ways this has been presented through film’, George Morrison’s 1960 feature length documentary reflects on events in Ireland leading up to, during and following the 1916 Easter Rising in which Irish republican’s attempted to end British Rule in Ireland by establishing a independent Irish Republic while the British army was heavily engaged in World War I. The first Irish language feature film and the first Irish film to use an orchestral soundtrack, Mise Eire has been hailed as a masterpiece of Irish cinema, using original newsreel footage from the time to chronicle a pivotal point in the Irish Civil War, providing an historical perspective on a formative yet divisive chapter in Irish history. Due to the contentious nature of its subject matter, given the instability across Northern Ireland at the time, the film was initially banned in Belfast on its original release.

Memorable Moments?In one scene Volunteers and members of the ‘Citizens Army’ are seen marching along country roads in their best attire, the cheery score jarring somewhat with the tangible tension building as the revolutionary leaders mobilize the troops.

Look who’s talking: ‘George Morrison’s landmark Irish film is Ireland’s most significant historical documentary film and first wholly Irish language feature’ – Filmireland.net

Like that? Try this: The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006), is Ken Loach’s acclaimed look at the Irish Civil War. Full of Indy grit the film is perhaps less accessible than Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins (1996), on the same subject, though it arguably pulls fewer punches.

Trivia Pursuit: The film’s title, meaning ‘I am Ireland’, is taken from a 1912 Irish language poem by poet and revolutionary leader Padraig Pearse.


By on April 3rd, 2015

Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner (The Final Cut) 1982 Dir. Ridley Scott – QFT 4th April

Who’s in it? Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos

What’s it about? Twenty five years after the original theatrical release and fifteen years after the 1992 Director’s Cut, this definitive version of the sci-fi opus, for which Scott was given complete artistic control, is undoubtedly the film the Alien and Gladiator director wanted to make. It’s philosophical bent together with high concept visuals and innovative sound design make it an icon of the genre, at times vague and inaccessible yet bold and compelling. The film was adapted from Phillip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, featuring a group of rogue humanoids led by Rutger Hauer who hide out on the edge of a dystopian L.A. circa 2019 while trying to evade Harrison Ford’s Blade Runners, whose job it is to identify Replicants and “retire” them. With a superb symphonic score from Vangelis and art production reportedly inspired by Edward Hopper’s evocative Nighthawks painting, the film arguably takes it cue from Fritz Lang’s 1927 trail blazer Metropolis.

Memorable Moments? The opening shot of a futuristic L.A. is the film’s enduring eye candy, a sprawling mass of neon and flaming shadow over scored with Vangelis. A template recently replicated in 2011’s critically acclaimed Drive with an L.A. nightscape title sequence set to Cliff Martinez’ slick Electronica score.

Look who’s talking: ‘Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Scott’s mysterious, neo-noir Blade Runner has deepened with time.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (1997) takes more of a sci-fab approach with its own distinct imagery and colourful characterisation, as Bruce Willis’ retired soldier/taxi-driver is called upon to save the earth from dying hard as it faces Armageddon.

Trivia Pursuit: The Director’s Cut of the film wasn’t actually edited by Ridley Scott as he was busy with another project.

[PASSNOTES] X+Y (2014)

By on April 2nd, 2015


X+Y (2014) Dir. Morgan Matthews – QFT Belfast 21st Mar

Who’s in it? Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins

What’s it about? With a strong cast and a charming true events inspired story about a young autistic boy who finds confidence and a new lease of life through his love for Maths, Morgan Matthews finds a winning formula for converting his thought provoking 2007 documentary Beautiful Young Minds, on the ups and downs of the selection and training process for the International Mathematics Olympiad, into a funny and heartfelt feature. When Nathan (Butterfield), who has difficulty relating to people, is selected to represent Great Britain in the Maths Olympics he begins and beautiful journey of self discovery as he learns about himself and struggles to find the solution to the seemingly unsolvable problem of love. When Nathan teams up with unconventional teacher and Maths mentor Mr Humphreys (Spall) the pair discover an unlikely affinity founded on their mutually malfunctioning social skills and a prodigious ability with numbers. When the Maths team head to Asia for training Nathan is stumped by the irrational and confusing nature of his feelings for a pretty young female counterpart.

Memorable Moments? In one scene Mr Humprheys asks Nathan’s mother if he can continue mentoring him as he believes he has a unique talent ability with numbers, at which point Nathan drops a microscope from an upstairs window through the glass ceiling of the kitchen prompting the response “bit of a weird one”.

Look who’s talking: ‘Familiar formula yet Morgan Matthew’s feature debut adds up to a satisfying whole’ – Empire

Like that? Try this: Pi (1998), is Darren Aronofsky’s intensely surreal debut feature about a Maths genius who sees the world in terms of the mathematical ideal Pi and the psychological impulses which fuel his obsession with finding the formula in everything.

Trivia Pursuit: The film is inspired by the story of Maths prodigy Daniel Lightwing who has Asperger’s syndrome.


By on March 27th, 2015

Suite Francaise (2014)

Suite Francaise (2014) Dir. Saul Dibb – QFT Belfast 28th Mar

Who’s in it? Michelle Williams, Kristen Scott Thomas, Matthias Schoenaerts

What’s it about? Suite Francaise portrays the often impassioned relationship between occupier and occupied with warmth and colour against the cold, hard backdrop of the Nazi occupation of France, exploring the subtle nuances and overwhelming details of forbidden love amid the tragedy of war. Based on Irene Nemirovsky’s 2004 true life novel of the same name, Suite Francaise is set in German occupied France in 1940 during the early years of the Second World War and tells the story of french villager Lucille (Williams), anxiously awaiting news of her husband, a prisoner of war in a Nazi POW camp, when a troop of German soldiers and handsome German officer Bruno (Schoenaerts) roll into her quiet town and turn her world upside down. When Bruno is posted at Lucille’s house, despite her attempts to ignore him, perhaps inevitably, she falls for him. Searching for her missing husband while struggling with her conflicted feelings and with an overbearing mother-in-law (Scott-Thomas) to contend with, Lucille must come to terms with her confused new situation and decide where her loyalties lie.

Memorable Moments? In one sequence Parisien refugees are seen streaming into a small French village from the country, a long line of bodies as far as the eye can see, when panic breaks out as German fighter planes swoop down dropping bombs, scattering everyone into the wheat fields on either side of the narrow country lane.

Look who’s talking: ‘Sterling performances lift the occasionally soapy storyline in this semi-successful adaptation.’ – Empire

Like that? Try this: Starring Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin (2001) is a similarly themed adaptation in which a Greek fisherman’s wife falls in love with an Italian officer when her husband goes off to war.

Trivia Pursuit: The costume design was based on French magazines and movies of the period to ensure authenticity.

[PASSNOTES] ’71 (2014)

By on March 13th, 2015

'71 (2014)

’71 Dir. Yann Demange – QFT Belfast 15th Mar

Who’s in it? Jack O’Connell, Sam Reid, Sean Harris

What’s it about?’71 is an exhilarating action thriller set in Troubles era Northern Ireland which sees British squaddie Gary Hook (O’Connell) separated from his regiment when a routine RUC house raid quickly becomes a high stakes game of cat and mouse following a riot in Republican West Belfast. After seeing a fellow soldier shot dead in cold blood by the Provisional IRA, scared and disoriented, Hook goes on the run in a desperate attempt to make it back to his barracks alive. Lost and alone in the wrong place at the worst time, as dusk deepens to night, the chase is on through a seemingly endless labyrinth of terraced houses and narrow back-alleys, trying to avoid the paramilitaries who want him dead and tentatively seeking refuge among the locals. With an accomplished central performance from Belfast boy O’Connell, supported by a strong cast of local talent, including Good Vibrations star Richard Dormer, ’71 is a showcase of the best of contemporary British cinema, handling a sensitive subject with a deft touch and delivering a masterclass in escapist entertainment in the process.

Memorable Moments? At one point Hook crosses paths with a young Loyalist boy who guides him to a friendly part of town in a sequence which is as funny as it is tense and intimidating, offering a frightening insight into the tribal tendancies which lend the film it’s unique complexion.

Look who’s talking:‘Powerfully directed and acted, ’71 stays true to its fact-based origins while remaining as gripping as any solidly crafted action thriller.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: Shadow Dancer (2013) is a similarly familiar and thought provoking Belfast based Troubles thriller about an IRA member who turns informant for MI5 to protect her son.

Trivia Pursuit: The exterior shots were filmed on location with Blackburn, Sheffield and Liverpool doubling as 70s Belfast.


By on March 6th, 2015

Still Alice (2014)

Still Alice (2014) Dir. Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland QFT Belfast 6th-19th Mar

Who’s in it? Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart

What’s it about? Featuring a heartfelt, Oscar winning central performance from Julianne Moore as Alice Howland, a Columbia University Linguistics professor diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers, Still Alice is a heartbreaking and life affirming story about the fragility of our carefully crafted lives, the danger of taking anything for granted and the necessity of realising and appreciating what we have. Based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel of the same name, the film tracks Alice’s diagnosis after the first effects of the disease cause her to forget the words to a speech she gives at the University. The film is an intimate portrayal of the devastating impact the disease has on Alice’s husband (Baldwin) and their children as they struggle to come to terms with the fact that, in spite of her condition and the irrevocable changes it brings, she’s still Alice.

Memorable Moments? Alice tells her daughter (Stewart) that she wants to see her go to university, who complains that it’s not fair for her to use her condition to get her to go to college, to which Alice responds “It don’t have to be fair, I’m your mother”. In another scene Alice writes down important questions like ‘What is the name of your oldest daughter?’ and practices answering them so she doesn’t forget.

Look who’s talking: ‘Elevated by a gripping performance from Julianne Moore, Still Alice is a heartfelt drama that honors its delicate themes with bravery and sensitivity.’

Like that? Try this: Also featuring an 2015 Best Actor Oscar winning portrayal of a character with a degenerative disease, The Theory of Everything (2014) sees Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in this critically acclaimed biopic.

Trivia Pursuit: Co-director Richard Glatzer, who suffers from ALS and can’t speak, directed the film using a text to speech app on a tablet.


By on February 20th, 2015

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) Dir. Nora Ephron – Ulster Hall 21st Feb

Who’s in it? Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan

What’s it about? Probably the archetypal rom-com, in which two relative strangers are brought together apparently by providence, with a little help from family and friends. In this particular version of events widower Sam (Hanks) is forced into a seemingly inevitable cosmic collision with Annie Reed (Ryan), when his son Jonah, still missing his mother, calls into a radio show saying that all he wants for Christmas is a new wife for his dad and new mother for himself – naturally provoking an outpouring of estrogen fuelled marriage proposals from women all over the country. Hearing little Jonah’s impassioned plea while driving to Washington Annie decides, obviously, that she and Sam are meant to be together, despite the fact she’s already in love and engaged to someone else, and that she is yet to meet her soul mate. Ephron, Hanks and Ryan would collaborate again under similar narrative circumstances in 1998’s You’ve Got Mail. Sleepless in Seattle is undoubtedly mushy and sentimental but remains the quintessential chick flick, in the good sense.

Memorable Moments? In on scene David Hyde Pierce, channelling his role as fussy psychiatrist Niles from Frasier, tells Annie, “Annie, when you’re attracted to someone, it just means that your subconscious is attracted to their subconscious. Subconsciously.”

Look who’s talking: ‘Not one of the cleverer rom-coms of this ilk… but sweet and touching nevertheless and Tom Hanks is always watchable.’ – Empire

Like that? Try this: You’ve Got Mail (1998) reunited Hanks, Ryan and director Ephron for a similarly pitched rom-com in which the pair fall in love online, apparently anonymously, when in fact they already know and detest each other.

Trivia Pursuit: The role of Annie was originally offered to Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeifer, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Jason Lee and Jodie Foster, who all turned it down.


By on February 13th, 2015

The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The Philadelphia Story (1940) Dir. George Cukor – QFT Belfast 14th Feb

Who’ in it? James Stewart, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn

What’s it about?My Fair Lady director George Cukor brought together three Hollywood legends for this old school rom-com in which Hepburn’s headstrong socialite has her wedding plans scuppered by the arrival of ex-husband (Grant) and Jimmy Stewart’s charming and handsome young reporter. A situation comedy which, known at the time as a comedy of remarriage – in which a couple separate, flirt with other suitors and end up back with their spouse, the film mirrored the Hollywood Production Code of the day which prohibited the depiction of extra-marital affairs. The film was secured by Hepburn as a vehicle to help her re-launch her self as a serious box office contender, something Louis B Meyer was skeptical of given the star’s recent box office flops, so much so that he enlisted two known A-list quantities in Grant and Stewart to shore up what was at the time a bit of a gamble. Nominated for six Academy Awards, winning two, Best Actor for Stewart as well as Best Adapted Screenplay, it was a gamble that paid off for MGM, being selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1995.

Memorable Moments? The sequence in which Jimmy Stewart arrives at Cary Grant’s house the worse for wear after a night out is one of the scenes credited for winning Jimmy Stewart his Oscar. Stewart gets steadily more and more drunk showing off his astounding technical ability and natural talent.

Look who’s talking: ‘Offering a wonderfully witty script, spotless direction from George Cukor, and typically excellent lead performances, The Philadelphia Story is an unqualified classic.’ -Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: Bringing Up Baby (1938), sees Hepburn cast again as the kooky aristocrat (with pet leopard in tow) opposite Cary Grant’s straight laced paleontologist.

Trivia pursuit: Cary Grant donated his fee to the War Relief Fund.


By on February 10th, 2015

Tron (1982)

Tron (1982) Dir. Steven Lisberger – QFT Belfast

Who’s in it? Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner

What’s it about? When a hacker is abducted by a computer program he must escape his digital prison with help of a security program called Tron. Though not everyone’s cup of tea and ever so slightly dated by astronomical developments in modern special effects and digital imagery, 80s cult icon Tron was undoubtedly the most original and groundbreaking films of its time, spawning a loyal fan following, despite initial skepticism at the the time of release, and a recent big budget reboot in the shape of 2010’s disappointing flop Tron Legacy. The film’s development began in the 70s after director Lisberger became in engrossed with nascent arcade game Pong, after which he and producer Donald Kushner set up their own studio to develop their initial story idea as an animated short. Combining back-lit animation, live action and computer generated image, Tron was initially rejected by various studios until Disney took a chance on it. Despite relative success at the box office, the film was more of critical than commercial success, impressing critics with its creative vision and committed performances, in spite of a disappointing story.

Memorable Moments? In one scene Bridges’ character engages in a game of futuristic to-the-death handball, which he wins, but then incurs the wrath of David Warner’s villainous Sark by refusing to kill his opponent.

Look who’s talking:‘Though perhaps not as strong dramatically as it is technologically, TRON is an original and visually stunning piece of science fiction that represents a landmark work in the history of computer animation.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: Flight of the Navigator (1986), is a sci-fi adventure in which a young boy uses a spaceship to get back to his own time.

Trivia Pursuit: The film was awarded a visual effects Oscar 14 years after its release given as at the time CGI was considered cheating.


By on February 6th, 2015

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). Dir Alfonso Cuaron – QFT 8th Feb

Who’s in it? Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Thompson, Rupert Grint, Gary Oldman

What’s it about? Arguably the only one of the Harry Potter adaptations to live up to and exceed the expectations of the books, which undoubtedly made the films inevitable and a guaranteed success. Oscar Winning Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron faithfully brings to life the spirit of the beloved boy wizard’s adventures, as he gradually becomes a man and learns to choose what’s right over what’s easy. Harry’s third year at Hogwarts finds him under threat from infamous alleged murderer Sirius Black, the man who apparently betrayed his parent’s trust and handed them over to Lord Voldemort, and now seems to be after Harry to finish the job. Outstanding central performances from Gary Oldman as the charmingly unpredictable Sirius Black and a wonderfully wicked Helena Bonham Carter as unhinged psycho Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange – not to mention the scene stealing CGI addition of the Dementors of Azakaban – add a tangibly more mature dimension to the third installment of the madly successful franchise.

Memorable Moments? Beside a few moments from Emma Thompson’s Hermione Granger, most notably landing a haymaker of a right hook on Malfoy and, elsewhere, remarking “Is that really what my hair looks like from the back?”, the stand out sequence of the film is the genuinely frightening moment the Dementors board the Hogwarts Express, reminiscent of LOTR’s hooded Ringwraiths.

Look Who’s talking: ‘Under the assured direction of Alfonso Cuaron, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban triumphantly strikes a delicate balance between technical wizardry and complex storytelling.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: The other standout film from the Potter series is the decidedly darker The Half Blood Prince (2009), offering a more introspective and revealing character-centric approach.

Trivia Pursuit: The three young leads were asked to write a first person perspective essay on their characters.

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