Project Nim

I really enjoyed ‘Man on Wire‘ (directed by James Marsh), which documented Philippe Petit’s daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City’s World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974. Marsh’s new film, Project Nim, is released in Ireland on August 12th and tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone on the upper West Side in the 1970s. The trailer looks really good so I’ve got high hopes.

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2011

If there’s one festival more than any other that I’ve attended in recent years, it’s the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. I went along to the launch event on Tuesday evening in Tripod to get the lowdown. Running from the 17th – 27th February, the 2011 programme features over 130 screenings plus a myriad of special events, panel discussions, public interviews and industry masterclasses. It’s a tribute to the hard work of the festival team and sponsors that they’ve managed to pull together one of the best lineups the festival has ever seen. It’s even more of an an achievement when funding for the arts has been hit as much as it has over the past year couple of years.

Launching the festival programme were award-winning actors Maura Tierney (ER, Liar Liar), who is currently in Dublin for rehearsals of God of Carnage at The Gate Theatre, and Charlene McKenna (Raw, Dorothy Mills). The festival opens strongly with a debut Gala Screening of Richard Ayoade’s (The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh) Submarine. Audiences will also be treated to a succession of Irish premieres, including: George Nolfi’s action-packed The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon; Emilio Estevez’s second film starring Martin Sheen, The Way; the tense thriller Unknown, starring Liam Neeson and Aidan Quinn; Irish film Wake Wood from the legendary Hammer Films starring Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle and Timothy Spall; Ken Loach’s thriller Route Irish, set on the most dangerous road in Iraq, and his son Jim Loach’s first feature Oranges and Sunshine as well as two of the shortlisted films for best foreign language Oscar, Incendies (Canada) and Life, Above All (South Africa).

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The Fighter

As happens with most preview screenings over on, an email went out to the group but I responded back damn fast on this one. The Fighter, starring Mark Whalberg and Christian Bale, was a film I’d singled out from the first trailer and a half day off work was well worth it.

The film is based on the real-life story of boxer Micky Ward from Lowell, Massachusetts. Micky has grown up in the shadow of his older half-brother and trainer Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). It’s clear that Dicky was once a fantastic fighter but over the years has slipped in with the wrong crowd.He’s still living off the prestige of his high flying days and believes that there’s still time for his comeback. If there’s a single film this year that manages to capture blue collar life as well as The Fighter does, I’d be surprised. Micky works on the roads and struggles to make his family realise that he deserves a genuine shot at success in the ring. It’s a testament to the spirit of the man, and Mark Whalberg’s performance, that he makes you believe he can go all the way. Charlene (Amy Adams), a smart local barmaid, becomes the stable influence Micky needs to make him realise that he can’t waste any more time. It’d be remiss not to mention the excellent performance of Micky’s mother played by Melissa Leo. Whilst being the foundation of her extensive family, she’s content to focus on Dicky to the detriment of his brother.

I’m always struck by how Christian Bale constructs his complete being into characters. Here he has lost weight and become a frail frame on which he hangs a delusional man, haunted by who he was and who he could be in the future. The interplay between Whalberg and Bale is utterly convincing of a sibling respect tested to the extreme by the choices Dicky is making. When Micky finally gets some fights under his belt it’s clear that he’s learning from the errors his brother made in the ring. The creative decision to use TV cameras for the fight scenes is inspired as it lends a visceral quality to the action. Ward takes a lot of punishment and I’ve never been more convinced of how brutal the sport is. I won’t go into any further plot details as I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice is to say that you’re treated to a fantastic acting ensemble, a sharp script and beautiful urban cinematography. The Fighter could go twelve rounds with Rocky any day. Highly recommended.

The Fighter is on general release from February 2nd.

The Social Network

I’ve been looking forward to The Social Network ever since the first teaser hit the web. Written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by David Fincher and focused on the biggest start up our generation has known, it lived up to hype. It tells the story of how Mark Zuckerburg went about building his empire which stretches to 500 million users. Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuck and really nails the part, portraying him as a socially awkward individual who never really found a role for himself. A few of the reviews I had read in advance suggested that they didn’t demonise him and I don’t think they do. From what I’ve read and seen of him it seems as if he’s never really had a lot of close friends and generally comes across as being quite aloof. Maybe I’m making a snap judgment about the guy from the films portrayal and media clips.

The supporting cast are all very good with Andrew Garfield a standout as Eduardo Saverin, the guy who was with Zuckerburg from the start. He’s the voice of reason whilst also being naive to the business environment they’re emerging into. You can’t help but root for Saverin by the closing act (especially when contrasted to the Winklevoss twins). I’d recommend you catch the film and also read this New Yorker piece which, while quite big, provides great background on the man himself. The Social Network is released on 15th October.