Archive for the 'Movies' Category

Jul 23 2008

Dark Knight: Dissecting The Film

Published by under Movie Review,Movies

After The Dark Knight last night everyone was on a high (admittedly I was the only one jumping around the place like a jackrabbit on drugs) and a group of us gathered outside the Savoy first of all to give out overwhelmingly positive post mortems. The buzz and the vibes outside the cinema were a great experience.

The Joker

Mr Rick ran off (apparently he has to get into work a little earlier than usual for the next few weeks) as did the Mulley (Sir, it was a pleasure finally meeting you properly, if ever so briefly), but a group of us headed for Grand Central to further autopsy the film. Anto, Maybury and his far better half Debs, Doyle, Niamh, Lady Anon and myself spent the next hour pouring over our favourite moments, our favourite lines, our shock moments and our best bits.

David then asked the irritating question “So, who’s better – Nicholson or Ledger?” Why would you ask such a question, Sir?

I don’t know. Nicholson’s Joker was perfect for Burton’s Batman. In the late eighties his OTT mania was considered frightening while today, as Lady Anon suggested, it is almost parodic. I think Ledger’s performance was better but I’ll have to watch The Dark Knight a few more times before I can call him better than Nicholson.

Darragh seemed to find the finale and the Joker’s ending all too easy, but I don’t think many agreed. Without going down the route of spoilers, it’s clear there was so much mystery, madness and violence prior to his ultimate downfall. To me, it didn’t seem too simple at all.

The Dark KnightOne thing that definitely divided the group was the character of Rachel Dawes, played by the adequate Katie Holmes in Batman Begins, but by a far more rounded Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight. One issue that came up was that, though Gyllenhaal was a better actress, the character departed so much from the Dawes of the first movie that it was difficult to buy into her role. I personally loved her as the torn love interest, but I can see the point.

One thing I definitely differed with some on was my adoration for Aaron Eckhart. As Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent, he stole the screen whenever he was on it, even earlier in the movie. He was the truest heart of the movie and to watch his downfall was the most riveting dramatic plot point. Any fans of the franchise will know that Dent is destined to ruin, to be disfigured and driven mad to become Two Face. Interestingly he begins the movie as the White Knight, the perfect symbol of truth and justice, a man who believes in order and does not leave anything to chance. The symbolic use of his perfect coin, with the same image on either side, which later becomes disfigured at the same moment Dent goes through his most traumatic experience, is one of my favourite moments in the film.

Speaking of favourite moments – when the Joker blew up the hospital, but it didn’t go according to plan, his reaction, the childish disappointment, was brilliant. It was that very moment that showed how truly incredible Ledger was in the role. It was both hilarious and frighteningly monstrous in the same moment – and that is the Joker.

Anyone else have any favourite moments? Anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet might want to avoid reading the comments.

9 responses so far

Jul 23 2008

The Dark Knight

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

11.45pm Tuesday 22nd July 2008

The Dark KnightThis is going to be my least considered, least thought out, least clinical review of a movie ever and I may come back with a second more critical review next week. This is all emotion and gut reaction as I write off the cuff having just seen the movie mere hours ago. And damn my guts are reacting like crazy right now.

It’s years since I’ve come out of a movie on such a buzzing high. The Dark Knight, follow on to 2006’s Batman Begins, lived up to all the extensive hype and then surpassed it. I am ridiculously happy right now and it’s all because of a movie. I literally came bounding out of the Savoy on O’Connell Street, propelled by the pure adrenalin The Dark Knight pumped into my veins.

The Dark KnightFrom the opening scenes when a group of the Joker‘s hoodlums rob a mob bank we are immediately sucked back into the world created by Christopher Nolan in Batman Begins. And it is a world far more real, far darker and far more exciting than the previous Gotham incarnations by Joel Schumacher in particular, but also by Tim Burton. The reveal of the Joker in the opening few minutes will be remembered as one of the greatest entrances of a movie character ever. His utterance, “I believe whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you……stranger. ” is probably the most memorable line from the movie.


It is, of course, Heath Ledger playing the role which was seemingly impossible to follow after Jack Nicholson‘s interpretation in Burton’s Batman. But we do not see Ledger on the screen – we only see the Joker. The Joker doesn’t look like Ledger, doesn’t sound like Ledger, doesn’t even move like him. We’ll never know but I suspect had he not died, he still would be gaining an Oscar nod for the frightening role. As it is, it’s almost guaranteed.

As crazy and out of control as he is a the start of the movie, he descends further into a startling madness as the film progresses towards a brilliant stand off near the end when he almost pleads with Batman to hit him, to hurt him. Ledger nailed this part. There is a lot of humour in the role but at many points it’s difficult to know whether to laugh for fear of how far the Joker will take the crazy. It’s the unpredictability that makes the character so menacing and amazing to watch.


The JokerIn fact, the unpredictability is one of the strongest themes throughout the movie and it is probably the unpredictable nature of the film that makes it so tense and magnetic. Everyone I spoke with after the movie said they wanted to see it again, some wanted to go right back in and watch it again – I was one of those.

Throughout, the chaotic Joker is unpredictable, and so too is Wayne/Batman, as he learns what he must become in order to defeat his nemesis, but even moreso, we witness this unpredictable leave-it-to-fate side of Harvey Dent (I won’t reveal anymore about his storyline just yet).

Aaron Eckhart, as the incorruptible District Attorney Harvey Dent is, for me, the single best piece of casting in the film, and I include Ledger’s Joker in this. He is a pivotal part of the Good versus Evil theme of the film, where the Joker represents the darkest evils of human nature and Dent stands for the truest good, the hope and beacon of humanity. Far more epic in scale than the cataclysmic action scenes is the drama that unfolds between Dent’s seemingly unfailing goodness and the Joker’s desperate desire to corrupt all. The dark tragedy that presents itself is shocking and gives pause for thought. The question of whether the White Knight of Gotham will turn dark is as important to the film’s title as the reference to Batman is.

The Dark Knight

While the theme of good versus evil plays out with Dent and the Joker, the strong theme of order versus chaos plays out both in the hearts and minds of Gotham’s citizens (most notably where the citizens are presented with some monstrously difficult choices), but also in the mind of Bruce Wayne. The Joker has no moral code, he has no rules and seems to act without rhyme or reason except to corrupt and destroy the moral fibres of everyone he touches. Bruce Wayne learns how far into chaos Batman must descend to maintain order. In one of the darkest moments in the movie, Batman breaks the legs of a mob boss to get information. At one point he beats up the Joker while in custody, revealing to the joker how far he is prepared to go.


The Dark KnightThere are a number of shocks along the way relating to many of the main characters and that’s where this movie excels. I was on the edge of my seat from very early on, right up to the incredible closing monologue. There was so much hype surrounding the build up to this movie, aided in part by the untimely death of Heath Ledger by accidental overdose. The many movie posters, the ‘leaked’ viral clips, the piece-of-a-puzzle advertising websites. All of this lead to an anticipation that could not meet expectations…and yet The Dark Knight has met expectations and exceeded them. I will be going to see this movie again next week, maybe more than once. I suspect a large proportion of the preview audience will do the same.

Does it deserve to be number one on the IMDb top movies list? Maybe! I’ll get back to you with my answer.

Well Deserved Pimping:

I have to say a massive thank you to Anthony for giving me his spare ticket to the preview (I doubt I could bare to wait another few days to see this film) and I, of course, would like to thank for supplying the preview tickets in the first place. In recent times I’ve been lucky enough to get ticktes to Wall•E, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Indiana Jones and Wanted and I am very grateful to the guys at for this.


5 responses so far

Jul 17 2008

Where’s Wall•E

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

Where’s Wall•E? Well, he showed up in Cineworld on Monday evening and I was lucky enough to get to see him, thanks to and their preview screenings.

I’ve enjoyed most of what Pixar have had to offer over the years. I’ve watched the company grow as I have gone from being a child to an adult and I remember seeing the cute Pixar shorts with Luxo Jnr in the late 80’s with the bouncing lamp (they still use this lamp in their logo).

Over the years they have teamed with Disney and have produced cartoon instant classics, such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Ratatouille, but though I enjoyed them and laughed along and though I was highly impressed with their style and cartooning, none of them ever managed to reach the heights of Disney‘s The Lion King (and other earlier Disney cartoons), in my opinion, in creating a movie that truly crossed all the divides and made you forget that you were watching a ‘silly cartoon’ and just appreciate the great story, the strong emotion and characterisation that gave life to the blobs of colour on screen. Until now.

I was nervous about seeing Wall•E. The premise isn’t particularly easy to swallow. Essentially, the humans have destroyed Earth through pollution and overconsumption and in an effort to save humanity they have gone on a space voyage, leaving robots behind to clean thing up. Many years later, the humans have not returned and there is only one little robot left, Wall•E, who goes about his day tidying up and collecting trinkets and listening to show tunes from early Hollywood musicals.

An obvious set up for a movie, yes?

Wall EWell, I didn’t think so, and was dubious as to how they could make good story out of it. There’s minimal dialogue throughout as Wall•E can only make a few limited sounds and the only other main characters in it are another more modern ‘female’ robot (presumably Wall•E is a male ‘robot’) and a cockroach Wall•E keeps as a pet.

It turns out that this odd premise lends itself to some hilarious slapstick and visual comedy, it raises some very current issues such as the global warming crisis, the problems of consumerism and the dehumanisation of the masses, and it also allows for some truly moving, beautiful scenes that had this grown man, at least, wiping a bit of dust out of his eye more than once.

Notably this movie does not pump the ‘humans are ruining the world’ vibe down our throats. Unlike 2006’s Happy Feet that seemed to batter the viewer over the head with the guilt stick, Wall•E is more interested in the prospect of hope for reversing the situation. It was refreshingly light on selling the moral message, but still had a fable-like ending all the same.

Wall EFrom the start the comedy does not let up and this is the movie’s strongest suit. Right through to the predictable love story and onwards to the crisis points of the film the comedy is relentless and it is mostly down to the expressions of the main character. Indeed, these expressions are what make the movie so great.

With minimal dialogue every emotion, every quizzical look, every exasperated glance must be timed to perfection on the ‘faces’ of the robots and Pixar nails it. Even the more minimalist styled robot, Eve, the love interest, shows rage, frustration, love, laughter and sadness through a few subtle changed in her ‘eyes’. Wall EThere is a truth in the unspoken dialogue between the two main characters that could not be revealed through words. That is the genius of the movie.

I went to see this with three other blokes and no kids. If we can do it, so can you – don’t worry about it being a cartoon, don’t worry about people looking at you oddly. This brilliant movie is well worth a few stares.

Thakns again to for tickets to the screeneing. My account can be viewed here.

Wall•E Trailer

9 responses so far

Jul 09 2008

Overlooked Classics: Shattered Glass

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

Stephen GlassTen years ago, The New Republic magazine, reportedly the inflight magazine of Air Force One, published an issue which contained the now infamous Stephen Glass article, Hack Heaven. The article, a clever coup for such a young journalist (aged 26), told the story of a young hacker who, instead of being sued, is hired by Jukt Micronics after he successfully hacked their system. The kid becomes wealthy overnight and even has his own agent. The story is a sensation and Glass confirmed his status as a great journalist within the close-knit group at The New Republic.

It was then that he began to gain attention from his rivals at Forbes Digital, a technology webzine. Annoyed at being scooped by The New Republic, and in an effort to do a follow up story, Adam Penenberg of Forbes began fact checking Glass‘s article and immediately began to see holes. He could find no existence of Jukt Micronics, nor the wealthy hacker or his manager. Thinking he had discovered that the great New Republic had been duped, he got very excited about this new story and went about contacting Charles ‘Chuck’ Lane, editor of New Republic. From this point on things begin to unravel for Glass as he is unable to sufficiently answer any of the questions posed to him about the origins and veracity of his article. In a very short space of time Lane confronts Glass over this story and others he has written both during Lane‘s tenure and during the tenure of Michael Kelly, the previous editor. It becomes apparent that many of the facts in Glass‘s articles have been fabricated and in even more cases the entire stories were fiction. The acclaimed New Republic had been publishing fictitious articles and the scandal was about to break.

True Story

The true story of the events of Stephen Glass and The New Republic magazine are now legendary and is a cautionary tale for modern news publishers everywhere. Director and writer Billy Ray did an incredible job of bringing this incendiary story to the big screen. His first foray into directing will guarantee him a bright and strong future in the field.

Looking at the story, firstly: it is a tale that is well known and though the final moment, where the full extent of Glass‘s lies is revealed, is completely inevitable, Billy Ray managed to tell the story with nail-biting suspense, wringing every bit of juice from the story without dragging it out. From the hopeful open scenes, where Glass, in ‘flashback’, is lecturing to a class of student journalists, through to his first errors where he uses his amiable boylike charm to squirm out of difficulty, on to his final admissions of guilt, harangued from him by Lane, a man in a highly unenviable position, the story plays out with pace and style reminiscent of All The Presidents Men, a film which is seen by many as the quintessential movie about journalistic integrity.

Hayden ChristensenRay‘s direction is impeccable as he draws us into the story in such a way that we truly care for every character in it. His sparse use of music and the ease at which he allows scenes to unravel without forcing the point, particularly when showing us Penenberg and Forbe‘s side of the story, makes this movie artistically beautiful, without losing any of the entertainment value and pace needed to keep us on the edge of our seats.

But it is his casting that his genius shines: in the hands of George Lucas, Hayden Christensen is a wooden puppet, but as Stephen Glass he is sensational, balancing upon the high wire act of maintaining his golden boy image while the fraudulent weasel hides beneath. Remarkably, though surrounded by some very likeable characters who Glass lies to and manipulates, the true genius of this movie lies in the fact that we are rooting for Glass right the way to the end. It’s impossible not to like Christensen‘s heavily flawed anti-hero.

And his co-stars are equally impressive. Chloë Sevigny, as Caitlin Avery, is almost a big sister to Glass, protecting him from criticism, while criticising him herself for being so modest and not demanding more respect from those around him. She has been completely taken in by his charm and her eventual let down is beautifully emotional.

Steve Zahn as Penenberg and Rosario Dawson as his cut-throat colleague, Andy Fox, are the movie’s examples of ‘real’ journalists, who chase stories, demand credit and dispense with the niceties when a story is breaking. They not only further the plot, but also provide an excellent contrast to Glass‘s goody-two-shoes attitude. One suspects that if he had been working at Forbes Digital, they would have seen through him far sooner.

Peter SarsgaardBut huge credit must be given to Peter Sarsgaard for his role as Chuck Lane, who takes over from his predecessor (Michael Kelly, played by a very solid Hank Azaria) at a time when the magazine is resenting the hierarchy who are demanding big changes from its writers. Where Kelly was willing to lose his job to defend his staff, Lane is seen as a backstabber, walking over Kelly‘s still warm grave. Throughout the film, we are presented with his story, as much as Glass‘s, as we are shown his emotional turmoil, the pressure he is receiving from above as well as the disdain he receives from his staffers. As he is being tugged from all sides, he must then uncover the truth behind Glass‘s lies and save the magazine’s reputation. He has a number of wonderful scenes in the latter half of the movie, including one particularly moving moment in the closing minutes of the film. An Oscar worthy performance.


The negatives in this movie are not numerous. Glass‘s good boy image is perhaps a little fake and the narrative structure based around his lecture to journalism students is not required. It seems to take us away from the story rather than further it. Although, the irony of Stephen Glass lecturing students on journalistic integrity is clever – it is a joke that quickly wears thin.

Additionally, it might have been interesting to see some of his other faked articles explored onscreen, but this is not a real negative – it is more a testament to how well the stories Hack Heaven and Spring Breakdown play out.

Released in 2004 (2003 in the US), Shattered Glass went mostly overlooked by the public though received wide critical praise. If it’s only success was to show that Hayden Christensen was hiding some great acting talent, then this film should be heralded. But it did so much more – it is a dramatic piece about integrity without ever becoming preachy; it is emotional without falling into the love story trap or slipping down the slopes of sop; it tells a well known story with such tension and pace that I found myself on the edge of my seat, even though I knew how it would end. Director Billy Ray has created a classic movie that will be watched by film students and potential journalists for years to come.

Previous Posts:

Overlooked Classics: The Hudsucker Proxy

Overlooked Classics: Dolores Claiborne

9 responses so far

Jul 04 2008

Jameson’s Movies On The Square

Published by under Blog,Movies

Back again is the Jameson’s Movies on the Square season. Last years event brought Terminator, Donnie Darko, Shawshank Redemption and Psycho, among others, back to the big screen and this year looks to be just as good.

I’m sadly going to miss The Commitments (with a live band) tonight – it will be showing tomorrow evening too (bandless). But I will really be trying to catch Annie Hall on the 19th July and Some Like it Hot on 2nd August (my birthday, by the way). I’m most looking forward to the closing event though – Monty Python’s Life of Brian – on 22nd August.

(any excuse to play some Monty Python)

Each movie will be screened on Meeting House Square in Templebar and the tickets are…wait for it…FREE!!! They must be pre-booked and are available at the Temple Bar Cultural Information Centre at East Essex Street, Temple Bar.

Here is the full listing as according to

Opening Gala
Friday July 4th, 9.30pm
The Commitments and live music
from one of Ireland’s best known contemporary bands
Tickets available from June 28th
Please note that the Gates will open at 9pm.

Saturday July 5th, 10.30pm
The Commitments
Alan Parker (1991)
Jimmy Rabbitte has a plan…to bring soul to Dublin.
Tickets available from June 28th

Saturday July 12th, 10.30pm
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Larry Charles (2006)
Kazakh TV correspondent Borat is sent to America to report on the greatest country in the world. However, Borat becomes more interested in the whereabouts of Pamela Anderson. High Five!
Tickets available from July 5th

Saturday July 19th, 10.30pm
Annie Hall
Woody Allen (1977)
Alvy Singer, neurotic New York comedian falls in love with ditsy singer and photographer, Annie Hall.
Tickets available from July 12th

Saturday July 26th, 10.30pm
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Jay Roach (1997)
A 1960’s secret agent is brought out of cryofreeze in the 1990’s to oppose his arch-nemesis, Dr Evil. Bringing his own brand of free love to the ‘90’s, Austin Powers is anything but subtle. Groovy, baby!
Tickets available from July 19th

Saturday August 2nd, 10.30pm
Some Like it Hot
Billy Wilder (1959)
When two musicians witness a mob hit, their only way out of the state is in an all female band disguised as women!
Tickets available from July 26th

Saturday August 9th, 10.00pm
Stranger Than Fiction
Mark Forster (2006)
An IRS auditor suddenly finds that his entire life is the subject of narration only he can hear. Harold Crick isn’t ready to go. Period.
Tickets available from August 2nd

Saturday August 16th, 10.00pm
Little Miss Sunshine
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris (2006)
The dysfunctional Hoover family take a cross country trip in their VW bus, chasing 7 year old Olives dream of being crowned ‘Little Miss Sunshine’.
Tickets available from August 9th

Closing Gala
Friday August 22nd, 9.30pm
Life of Brian
Terry Jones (1979)
Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door. He spends his life being mistaken for the Messiah. A motion picture destined to offend nearly two thirds of the civilised world. And severely annoy the other third.
Tickets available from August 16th


All Jameson Movies on the Square events are FREE TICKETED events.

Tickets can be collected in person from the Temple Bar Cultural Information Centre at 12 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Temple Bar Cultural Information Centre opening hours
Mon-Friday 9am – 5.30pm
Saturday 10am- 6pm
Sunday 12noon -3 pm

3 responses so far

Jun 27 2008

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Published by under Blog,Movies,Music

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Repo! is one of the movies I’ve most looked forward to in years. I mention it now because there is a new trailer just released.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is a new musical from the director of three of the Saw movies, Darren Lynn Bousmann. The gist: A worldwide epidemic encourages a GeneCo, a genetic engineering company, to launch an organ-financing program similar to getting a loan for your car. However, the repossession clause is a killer. Mwahahah!

Starring the incredible Tony Head (of Buffy fame) as the Repo Man, his voice is just one of the many things this film has to offer – I can’t recommend his album, Music For Elevators enough. Sarah Brightman is marked for repossession and Paul Sorvino plays the head of GeneCo. Paris Hilton also appears in the movie, but don’t let that put you off too much – she’s been getting good reviews.

It looks to be a kind of cross between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Saw and I am dying to see it.

Released in August in the US, there is no release date for this side of the world yet, but hopefully it will be around the same time.

You want more?

7 responses so far

Jun 18 2008

The Irish Values Debate: Part One – What Are Values?

For two reasons, I have decided to divide my thoughts on this topic into a few posts. Firstly, as we are now all well aware, I’m incapable of brevity and I have so much to write on this topic that it has to be divided across a number of posts. Secondly, this topic does seem to have some very definite chapters to it and I would like to get peoples opinions on different sections of the debate before delving into the whole thing head first.

Writers Festival ‘Debate’

As I have already said, the Irish Values Debate at the Project Theatre on Thursday evening, chaired by Emer Coffey, with Ivana Bacik, Roy Foster and Alan Gilsenan on the panel, was less of a debate and more a case of widespread agreement. There were so may issues that were not analysed and attacked to their fullest and there were yet more areas that were completely avoided. I said in my post on Friday that I would return to this topic as there was plenty I wanted to add to last Thursday’s debate but was unable (I’m not a Senator, Historian or Director, you know).

These views are simply my opinions. They are far from set in stone and my views and viewpoints are constantly shifting. This is healthy – it allows me to be persuaded by reasoned arguments and adds to my minuscule knowledge base. So, I opening encourage comments on this topic and would love to hear the views and ideas of the blogging community, from first time readers, from anyone who might be interested in where Ireland is and where Ireland is going, from a moral standpoint.

What are Values?

I suppose this is going to be the hardest part of the piece. Opinions are easily constructed, but facts, figures and solid explanations of the current state of affairs is harder to draw up. Each section of Irish society has its own set of values, from those who differ politically to those who differ socially and financially, from those who differ in religious ideas to those who differ in age and era in which they were raised. So, it would be a long and arduous task to list and compare all of these values, which is why, I think we need to look at the core values of the Irish, the set of morals and ideals that makes up our collective moral code.

There are values which are common to much of the civilised, developed world. Common decency is a term that was bandied about last Thursday but I’m not sure the panelists entirely understood what it meant. I’m not sure I do. It seems like such a vague concept and yet each of us probably has a defined concept of what ‘common decency’ means. The trouble is, my common decency may be your social faux pas. But surely there are points within this concept of ‘common decency’ which we all adhere to. Hense the ‘common’ part of it.

Be kind to others – or at the very least don’t go out of your way to cause harm to others. Immediately we have an element of selfishness creeping in. We would all like to to consider ourselves kind individuals, but how many of us are truly kind to those around us when we are in a hurry to catch the bus, when our favourite TV show is starting, when we’ve had a rough day at work. It’s far too difficult to bolt down a true definition of something as simple as ‘Be kind to others’. I think, for the sake of petty argument we will examine ‘aspirational common decency’. This covers the values that we each aspire to and for the most part seek to achieve. There will always be dips in the graph but the dips act as the exceptions that prove the rule.

Aspirational Common Decency

So, what comprises Ireland’s ‘aspirational common decency’? Yes, be kind to one another – not bringing harm upon those around you. Taking it further – help those in need. Ireland has a great reputation for charitable acts and, as a nation, we give generously. So, can we chalk this up as another Irish Value? I think so.

Is forgiveness an important part of the common decency package? I’m not sure – I don’t think so. In my limited experience forgiveness has rarely featured, with many people baring grudges for a very long time. Perhaps forgiveness is a virtuous trait afterall, above that of a common value. I doubt many people would rate being forgiving as an important facet of their character. I look forward to being corrected.

Religion and Ideologies

I do not want to bring religion and ideologies into it yet because there are many values and rules of morality that are particular to some religions, which make them no more nor less valid than other values, but I want ot focus of the common core values at present. But I would propose that for the most part, beleaguered beliefs and blind faith have been replaced with rationality and the scientific process.

I will briefly touch on the Ten Commandments, as I hope to return to the Church’s influence on our morals and our values in a later post. The Commandments (and many other Church teachings) provide us with a set of rules to which we should adhere.

1. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have false gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
3. Remember thou keep the Sabbath Day.
4. Honour thy Father and thy Mother.
5. Thou shalt not kill.
6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
7. Thou shalt not steal.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.

Needless to say, some of these we will discard as religious dogma for the moment (false Gods and the Sabbath Day are religious values and I will cover them in another post), some of these are more than a mere value-set. They are law. We should not kill, and yet capital punishment is still practiced in much of the Eastern world and in the very Western land of the USA. So, there is still some ambiguity even in this most obvious value.

It is illegal to steal and I guess the false witness thing could be construed as the origins of laws on fraud. But adultery, though frowned upon by many, is almost acceptable in today’s society. Coveting your neighbour’s wife and goods – surely ‘keeping up with the Jones’ is not just accepted but even expected in some circles? As for honouring thy father and mother – it is increasingly common for there to be no father in the family (I will accept that sometimes it is the mother that is no longer around too) and I have met some parents who absolutely should not be parents and deserve no ‘honouring’ whatsoever. When I was younger it struck me as odd that Commandment number 4 did not include ‘honour and respect thy children in return’.

Integrity, Respect, Diversity and Chivalry

The Irish value education and spirituality (not just religion) is part of our culture. Other values such as integrity, respect for oneself and for others, trust, honesty, a duty to bear the consequences of our actions and general politeness and chivalry are global values that we strive for to differing levels. In recent times, we have rapidly needed to incorporate diversity into our value system – cultural diversity and the acceptance of new people, ways of life and behaviours. But are these values that we strive for or are they merely foisted upon us without us having the opportunity to discuss and choose this direction? This raises the issue of collaboration with the new cultures, the question of social equality and unity through diversity. We need to ask ourselves if the acceptance of other cultures enhances or ‘muddies’ our own culture – we must decide if this is a good or bad thing.

National Pride has always found a place in Irish society. In modern times with GAA being in vogue, along with the Irish language (thank you Des Bishop) is Neo-Nationalism a core value of the Irish people today? And how does this (if it does at all) conflict with the influx of foreign cultures?

Recent times have seen ambition and an emphasis on social and financial success come to the fore. This has always been in existence but is certainly easier to see in Celtic Tiger and post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. We will need to ask if this emphasis on ambition has been to the detriment of creativity and amiability.

Environmental awareness too has seen much media attention in recent years, but do we consider it part of our value system? Should we? How much do we owe our descendants to look after our natural resources, our air quality, our landscapes?

I mentioned chivalry above and it’s fair to say that ‘chivalry’ is an old fashioned word, but does that mean chivalry is no longer relevant? Ladies and gentleman with ‘old-fashioned’ good manners, please and thank yous, punctuality, opening doors for people (not just women), modesty, being a good father/mother/husband/wife/partner, honesty, dressing tidily out of respect for others, genuine interest in others (not always talking about oneself), integrity and discretion – these are all aspects of chivalry. Some or all may be relevant, some may be pointless and antiquated. Think on this: is there such a thing as modern chivalry, where, out of respect for others, we excuse ourselves from the table before checking our Blackberry’s?

Is chivalry anachronistic and no longer a requirement in todays society? I don’t believe so, but it perhaps needs a redefinition.

Politics and Irish Life

Should we lump political duty into our developing value set? Politics may have once been a noble pursuit, but that idea has long been superceded by moral flexibility, naked ambition, manipulation and the pursuit of power. I have heard it many times that those who want to become politicians should never be allowed. Recent years has seen some awful political disgraces in Irish society, but for the most part we, as a nation, have just accepted it and moved on. So, while political duty and honesty within politics should be part of our set of values, I suspect it is not. I suspect most of us just don’t care.

The Debate?

These are my views on what Values are and, in particular, what values are relevant and should be under discussion when we look at the current state of our nation and the future of Ireland. But the questions that I hope to debate are firstly whether these values have changed significantly over my lifetime, over the past quarter of a century, and secondly has the change been a positive or negative thing for Irish society. Has our value system changed for the better – are we better people as a result, are we a better society as a result – or has our looser morals and loss of ‘traditional values’ made for a darker society – are we losing our identity as the friendliest people in the world, are we heading for ruin?

Over the few posts I put together on the issue of Modern Irish Values, maybe we’ll find the answers, but for the moment, I am asking the question, what are Values? Have I been too broad in my definition? Have I left something out? Are there any values which are quintessentially Irish or is our debate destined to be one of world values and global identity?

The Irish Values Debate – What are Values?

Update: In my next post on the subject, I hope to talk about The Role of Catholicism in Irish Values, looking at it’s past, the current situation and what role, if any, it will play in Ireland’s future.

5 responses so far

Jun 11 2008

The Credible Hulk

Published by under Blog,Movie Review

A huge thank you to for tickets to see The Incredible Hulk last night in the Savoy. Darragh and I grabbed a pint before hand and chatted about a variety of things – the last version of the Hulk being one of them. I was apprehensive about seeing this movie, the newest incarnation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby‘s Not So Jolly Green Giant, after Ang Lee’s dire Hulk in 2003. I wondered if Louis Letterier‘s direction could do for the Hulk franchise what Batman Begins did for Gotham’s Caped Crusader.

Step One: Eric Bana has been replaced by the far superior actor, Edward Norton, in a role that surprised me. Norton, famous for his dramatic turns in 25th Hour and American History X and the more commercial Fight Club, seems to have shunned the spotlight in recent years. It was refreshing to see someone of his callibre take on a role that was inevitably 50% CG (seemingly Norton gave the movie a complete rewrite before taking on the role). Someone at Marvel has a massive ingenious plan in the works with the casting of Norton as Bruce Banner and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. One can only wonder who will be playing Captain America – my money is on Ryan Gosling.

Step Two: Assume the viewer has some concept of the origins of the Hulk. Ang Lee’s Hulk went 40 minutes before revealing ‘the big guy’. The script by Zac Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand and Fantastic Four) and Norton, gives the audience a brief re-run of the back story during the opening credits before getting straight into the story of the on-the-run Bruce Banner.

Step Three: Hulk Smash! The Incredible Hulk should not be an arthouse exercise, it should not have audiences questioning their existence or pondering the injustices committed by man to man. It should have plenty of car-throwing, building-smashing, tank-totaling action and this movie has this in abundance. The action sequences are what define the Hulk – he is, after all, a giant green monster. The dramatic pauses and difficult moral decisions are left to Bruce Banner and Norton can do that in his sleep. Getting the character of the Hulk right was the most important part of this film and for the most part, they pull it off.

In interviews, Letterier claimed he wanted to recreate the realism of Gollum from Lord of the Rings, using similar techniques to achieve it. For much of the movie, where the Hulk is in the dark or we catch fleeting glances of him, Letterier has got it perfect, but this is not Gollum. Much of the creature effects left me feeling a little disappointed. I wanted to feel something for the character of the Hulk, but I was left pondering the level of detail in the the skin, the impact of the bullets, the cartoonish raindrops on his body. Much of it was excellent (the huge fight scenes with ‘the Abomination’ were visually brilliant), but most of the time the character was a little like graffiti on an otherwise beautiful landscape. And while the two CG monsters fighting at the end of a movie is getting a bit tired at this stage (Iron Man proved it could still be done with style), this is a movie about the Hulk – it could not go any other way.

Step Four: Get the supporting cast right. In recent years, William Hurt has proven himself to be one of the great actors of our time. Since his showstopping turn in David Cronenberg‘s History of Violence, he has really shone. As General Ross, he will not win any Oscars, but he brings a gravitas and respect to the role which may not otherwise be there.

Tim Roth, as Emil Blonsky/The Abomination, was perfect. Roth was one of my favourite actors from the nineties, but after Million Dollar Hotel and Planet of the Apes, I lost interest in his increasingly obscure roles. It was a treat to see him take on a role like this. In interview he claimed he was convinced by his kids to do this more mainstream, comic-book role. Maybe he should listen to them a little more. Tim Blake Nelson, remembered for his role as the hilarious dimwit, Delmar, in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, steals the screen when he’s there. His energy and excitement do not fit with the small role he has in The Incredible Hulk and it’s clear he has been set up to return (as the new bad guy, The Leader, perhaps) in the potential sequel.

The casting of Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, Banner’s long time love interest, was a bit of a damp squib. Played by Jennifer Connelly in Ang Lee’s Hulk, perhaps Connelly should have been given the opportunity to reprise her role. Tyler isn’t bad, but she certainly doesn’t add anything to the movie and when she is placed in peril, I don’t think anyone really cares.

Step Five: Give the Fanboys something to enjoy. I am not a big comic-book eek and I don’t know the many back-stories, sideline plots and various crossovers the Hulk has seen and been through over the past 46 years, but I did spot a number of nods and there was a wonderful moment where Banner fluffs his iconic “You won’t like me when I’m angry” line. This movie will please the fans and the hints towards a forthcoming Avengers movie must be whetting many a geek’s appetite. I can’t wait. Spoiler (highlight to view): Robert Downey Junior’s Tony Stark appearing at the end of the movie was the greatest moment in the whole movie.

Louis Letterier, Zac Penn and Edward Norton have managed to make a movie that more than makes up for the abomination that was 2003’s Hulk. This is not the greatest comic book movie ever made and definitely falls short of last month’s Iron Man, but it has given a renewed vigour to a faded story and I already welcome a sequel. The Incredible Hulk is credible again. Go see it and enjoy the action packed fun.

Update: Rick reviews it further here and is less positive than I am about it.

8 responses so far

Jun 09 2008

Tickets To Tom Stoppard At The Dublin Writers Festival

Published by under Overlooked Classics,TV

Sir Tom Stoppard, one of the world’s most celebrated and influential playwrights and author of the fantastic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, will be one of the highlights of the Dublin Writers Festival which runs from this Wednesday to Sunday in a number of locations in Dublin City Centre, including the Project Arts Theatre, MacNeill Theatre, Morrison Hotel, FilmBase, Peacock Theatre and Irish Writers’ Centre

On Friday at 6pm, Tom Stoppard will be in the MacNeill Theatre in Trinity College and if you would like a pair of tickets to attend this unique event, it’s very easy: just leave a comment and tell me why I should give you the tickets. Are you a Stoppard fan? Are you an avid reader and want to attend something at the writer’s festival? Are you just curious? Perhaps you just find Tom Stoppard extremely sexy? Whatever your reason, this is a great opportunity to witness first hand the mind of a a literary genius.

Click on the programme for a better idea of what else is on at this years Festival or click here or here for more information.

3 responses so far

Jun 06 2008

Beer And Laughter In Kilkenny

Published by under Adoption,Blog,Movies,Night Out

I almost feel like I should apologise for lengthly blog posts. I like to read short, snappy, to-the-point posts and I’m fully aware that I have a tendency to rabbit on in a random, rambling way. I do try to spice my posts up with pictures, odd punctuation(!) and the use of bold type but I wonder if people really read it or do they just scan. Either way, here is my recollections of my highlight-of-the-year-so-far long weekend in Kilkenny.

Darragh Doyle

I’m sure Mr Doyle has had enough praise of late with his epic blog post and subsequent Blog Award, but I can’t write this post without first thanking him for dragging us down to Kilkenny over the weekend, for putting us up (or is it ‘putting up with us’?) in his home, and for guiding us around the maze that is the Kilkenny Cat Laughs Festival. Thank you so much Darragh. You rock muchly!

The Journey Down

After the Wedding on Friday, we went back to my uncle’s house for the night and by the time we finally got up on Saturday, everyone else had already left. So, we pulled ourselves together, packed the car, switched on the GPS and got on the road…to Dunnes Stores just around the corner. After a surprisingly delicious breakfast (I’ve had some very bad experiences in some Dunnes Stores cafés) we finally embarked upon the Cill Chainnigh trail. Firstly stopping off in Graiguenamanagh (home of May’s Monthly Blog Award Winner), where we said a brief hello to Darragh and Niamh, we then headed into Kilkenny City (because if you call it a town the locals will stone you) where we picked up a chilled out and happy (he had just found free wi-fi) Anthony.

Returning to Graiguenamanagh for tea, sandwiches and showers, it wasn’t long before we were sitting in the window of Morrisson’s Dinky Bar in Kilkenny City, waiting for the final member of our motley crew, Mary, to join us. Drinks ensued and we were laughing away long before we hit the first of our comedy gigs. A small regret: Darragh was volunteering for much of the festival so had to depart and leave the rest of us to it. Needless to say this provided him with some great opportunities, not least the opportunity to interview the meek Josh Thomas. But we would meet up with him after the gig.

The Watergate Scandal

In 1972, Richard Nixon‘s staff broke into a hotel room at the Watergate Hotel which was the beginning of the end for the crooked President. Fraud, coercion, illegal wiretapping and political espionage were among the many crimes committed and it all stared at the Watergate Hotel.

The Watergate Theatre in Kilkenny is nothing like that. Random, hectic, zany, bizarre – therein lies the improvisational skills of Ian Coppinger, Michelle Read, Paul Tylak, Brendan Hunt and Michael Orton-Toliver. From singing musicals about the word ‘Meanwhile’ to the simulation of a man giving birth, from Donkeys doing the long jump (because cheese is great) to Super Hero Serial Killers, there was genius and hilarity in abundance.

We headed down to the Rivercourt Hotel, where Darragh was based to have our ‘final’ drink of the night. We were lucky to find a bunch of seats and nestled into them for the next couple of hours, before heading towards the taxi rank. This was looking to be the low point of the night – the queue for the taxis must have been approximately three hundred and seventy eight kilometers long (no exaggeration), and Graiguenamanagh seemed like a distant hope. So, we decided to head up to the Kilkenny Ormond for a final final drink of the night. We, like James Bond (me) , Jason Bourne (Anthony) and Maxwell Smart (Darragh) all rolled into one tipsy group, managed to wrangle our way into the Festival Club, where, after each evening’s carry-on, all the performers would go. We were thrilled to catch up with Mr Ken and have an all-too-brief beverage with him. Meeting him almost eclipsed our photo op with the Improvarios, Brendan Hunt and Michael Orton-Toliver. Two lovely guys who were a fine example of American talent sneaking nicely into a very Irish festival.

The night also saw Des Bishop perform Léim Thart (Jump Around), both as Gaeilge agus as béarla. The man is very funny, and while he might not be my favourite comedian, he is one of the most provocative and inspirational I’ve seen in years. He is one of the reasons I’ve started to learn Irish (all over again).

The great Jason Byrne also posed for a photo-op with us, but I was too nervous to ask for a photo with Máiread Farrell (I’m not joking). I love her on Ray D’Arcy‘s show and she was very funny on the Panel when I saw her earlier this year in the Mermaid Theatre. I need to grow a backbone, or ask Darragh to attack more people for me.

We were the last to leave the club that night and is it any wonder – we had the privileged opportunity to perform on stage at the Smithwick Cat Laughs Festival.

A night that should have ended in a long queue for a taxi a number of hours earlier ended up being an amazing amalgam of meeting great people, dancing madly and admiring others from afar. We left the Ormond around 5am and, magically, a taxi was waiting for us. Mr Reggae Taxi Driver brought us home to Graiguenamanagh in the bizarre fog of Kilkenny and we all flopped straight into bed, already looking forward to what the second day might bring.

For more succinct retellings of the weekend’s events, please visit Lottie’s blog here or Anthony’s blog here and there.

8 responses so far

May 21 2008

The Hottest Woman Alive(?)

Published by under Blog,Movies

I don’t think there’s a man on this planet who can say he didn’t find Jessica Rabitt sexy. Look at her, she’s gorgeous:

Jessica Rabbit

Just when you thought she couldn’t get any sexier, Pixeloo has brought Jessica Rabbit to life:

Click for larger image

14 responses so far

May 20 2008

I’m Sad…

Published by under Blog,Movies

Oh woe is me. Instead of going home to watch the Eurovision Semi-Finals, I have just been invited to the Indiana Jones Premiere in the Savoy instead.

Poor me! 🙂

9 responses so far

May 10 2008

Overlooked Classics: The Hudsucker Proxy

Published by under Overlooked Classics

Not long after playing the sleezy Griffin Mill in Robert Altman’s The Player and just prior to playing the iconoclastically hopeful Andy Dufresne in Shawshank, Tim Robbins further flexed his diverse acting muscles by playing the hapless Norville Barnes in the Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy.

Joel and Ethan Coen have time and time again proved their wit and dark humour: Fargo, Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski. With Hudsucker, they proved they had great filmmaking skills too.

Opening with a spectacular shot of snow falling over a beautiful city, we pan in over the rooftops until it comes upon the Hudsucker Industries building, with a huge clock about to ring in the New Year. And we are presented with a man about to jump to his death. The rest of this hilarious film is told through flashback as we watch the fascinating tale of Norville Barnes and what brought him to that ledge.

Barnes, a country bumpkin hick, hits the Big Apple with the intention of becoming a New York City executive. His timing is magical as he enters the doors of Hudsucker Industries just as the Hudsucker board determines it needs a patsy to run the company into the ground so it can buy up shares when the company goes public in a month. Not knowing that he is actually expected to run the company down, full of energy and completely incompetent, he tries his best to save the company, but with bad advice from big cheese Mussburger (Paul Newman) he is destined to follow the board’s plan to take the share price to the floor. Barnes hires Amy (the fast-talking Jennifer Jason Leigh, in a role very different to last week’s Dolores Claiborne) as his assistant, but unbeknownst to him, she is a reporter trying to expose him. The only kink in an otherwise incredible movie, Leigh’s grating portrayal of a 40’s or 50’s wisecracking strong woman is too over the top, but this only further highlights the brilliance of both Robbins and Newman.

The film is punctuated by sparkling art direction, fabulolus sets, snappy dialogue, and terrific supporting turn from Paul Newman, make this a classic movie that missed out on many deserving awards.

6 responses so far

May 03 2008

Overlooked Classics: Dolores Claiborne

Published by under Blog,Movies,Overlooked Classics

If you are stuck for something to watch this weekend, you could do worse than head out to your local DVD store (when did we stop calling them Video shops?) and rent out Dolores Claiborne. Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, this movie is beautiful, a perfect mix of stark storytelling and wonderful acting.

Dolores Claiborne, played by Kathy Bates, works as a maid for a wealthy and tyrannical woman in remote Maine. When she is arrested for the elderly woman’s murder, Dolores’ daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Lee) returns from New York, where she has become a famed reporter. In the course of uncovering the truths to mystery of what has happened, as well as addressing some difficult questions from the past and Selina’s troubled childhood, much is revealed about their family’s domestic strife. As small town justice relentlessly grinds forward, surprises lie in store for the viewer.

There is an epic arc of a storyline that is reminiscent of some of Kings other work, Stand By Me and Shawshank Redemption come to mind, where the visceral horror of much of his other work is replaced by emotional trauma and the examination of human interactions.

Directed by Taylor Hackford, who was nominated for an Oscar for Ray a few years back, the strong script and incredible direction still only come second to the truly amazing performance by Kathy Bates. She may have missed out on the Oscar nomination for this movie, but her performance here far outstrips her maniacal turn as Annie Wilkes (in another King adaptation, Misery). Playing an abused wife and a put-upon house maid, she only rarely lets her guard down. Instead she maintains a gruff and cantankerous exterior, which does her no favours when going up against the detective investigating the murder. But it is in her relationship with her daughter, Selena, that we see the heartbreaking history in the characters eyes. Jennifer Jason Lee is not the greatest actress who has ever graced the screen, but as a foil to Bates’ Claiborne, she plays the tragic Selena perfectly. Young Selina too, played by Ellen Muth of the TV series Dead Like Me, is a harrowing character – her portrayal of the young girl, I guarantee, will bring a tear to your eye.

If you’ve never seen this movie, give it a go. I assure you that you will not be disappointed. If you have already seen it, watch it again – so much more to the relationships, the back stories and the beautiful film making is picked up on in the second and third watching.

4 responses so far

May 02 2008

Iron Man

Published by under Blog,Movie Review,Movies

As the Cinemagic Festival draws to a close, the organisers reflect on six months work, sponsorship deals, input from children, the organisation of each event and the patting on the backs of those who deserve to be patted on the back.

And in screen 17 of Cineworld Cinema on Parnell Street at 7.20, as all of this celebratory oration ensued, I patiently bit my nails waiting for the closing movie, Iron Man to begin. Credit where it’s due. This past week has seen workshops, classes and events designed immerse young people in the world of film and screen and to nurture talents of other young up-and-coming filmmakers of the future.


The silver screen outing of the iconic Iron Man is the perfect mix of comedy, drama and superhero campness and mayhem. Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark is a solid role. It is not a simple lock-and-load action hero. It requires some gritty acting to pull off a character that sees a story arc begin with a millionaire playboy lifestyle, move into tortured kidnap victim, emerge into a born again humanitarian only to be driven by a sense of guilt and revenge to become a potential hero to the world. Downey is perfect in this role. Drawing upon his own life, he plays a man who possesses incredible talent but is wasting it on a lifestyle of alcohol and loose women.

Seen again in the upcoming Edward Norton take on the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk, Marvel seem to have realised that high octane action and massive explosions cannot cut it anymore. Perhaps being burned by Bana’s Hulk, they now see that quality acting and intelligent writing is required to bring the often decades of comic book complexities to the big screen.

Iron Man surpasses expectations. The excellent script did not miss a beat and the direction made sure that each character (including the excellent support act of Terrence Howard in the role of Stark’s friend, Jim Rhodes) were explored beyond a 2D stereotype. On top of acting and script prowess, this movie does not fail to deliver on heavy duty action and huge landscapes. As we travel from the deserts of Afghanistan to the cities of California to the beautiful home of Tony Stark, we are greeted by destruction and mayhem at very turn. Even the lighthearted comic elements of the movie are infused with action (the scenes in which Stark tests his burgeoning technology are fantastic).

This film is also a perfect example of good use of CG. Needless to say the big flying machine and the robot battle scenes are epic in their use of computer generated imagery, but it is the more sybtle use of CG (notably when Gwyneth Paltow’s Pepper Potts must reach her hand into Tony Starks chest cavity) that prove that Hollywood is finally learning to utilise the available technologies rather than simply pump a load of CG action in and hope for profits (see the aforementioned Hulk or the last of the Matrix movies, Revolutions).

The first blockbuster of 2008, Iron Man sufficiently whets the appetite in preparation for Indiana Jones return, the tentative big screen version of Speed Racer, Shyamalan’s The Happening, the updated Incredible Hulk, and of course the huge Dark Knight. I can’t wait!

Once again, a huge thank you to Darragh and to all those involved in the Cinemagic Festival. Congratulations on a very successful week and I look forward to next year’s events.

12 responses so far

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