'Strangerland' falls short as Icelandic 'Rams' takes 1st prize

Niall McCann


Niall McCann

'Strangerland' falls short as Icelandic 'Rams' takes 1st prize

In the week that the date of the next Irish General election was announced I tried to distract myself from the sheer joy of it all, the excitement borne out of which party would hold power when all have cast their ballots, tweedledum and tweedledee (or even tweedlearla).

It’s like being asked to describe at length the difference between two jelly beans, they might be different colours but they both taste of plastic, though markedly less rewarding or interesting. So yes distraction, or perhaps a better word would be immersion or interaction, leaving behind the negative connotations of distracting oneself from the world, so yes interaction with but with what exactly? Well this week Greg Dulli played Whelans in Dublin and it was one of the gigs of the year so far (yes I know it’s only February). Dulli, lead singer and songwriter with the Afghan Whigs, that great American band who were at the forefront of all that was good about the 1990’s grunge scene.

What made the Afghan Whigs stand out was their incorporation of influences far beyond anything any of their contemporaries were bothered with, these influences ranged from soul to gospel, blues and R&B, Dulli went on to form the Twilight Singers and the Gutter Twins, the latter with his frequent collaborator Mark Lanegan.

On the night the set focused heavily on the latter two incarnations of his musical persona and a trip through some of Dulli’s better know work from the last twenty years outside of the Whigs themselves though a small number of their songs also feature here.

Dulli is a great songwriter, a charismatic front man and someone blessed with a startlingly impressive voice and vocal range. There was a variety of arrangements, with musicians joining and leaving the stage throughout the evening. The night ends with a version of David Bowie's Modern Love, with Dulli telling us that the “world was a better place with Bowie in it and that we should “keep him alive in their hearts!”

BUY: Afghan Whigs - Black Love. Afghan Whigs - Do to the Beast. Twilight Singers - Blackberry Belle.

In cinemas this week:


Director: Kim Farrant

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Maddison Brown, Nicholas Hamilton

Running Time: 111 min

This Australian/ Irish co - production has an interesting premise but eventually becomes as lost as the missing children the story details, swallowed by the red sandstorm that blasts the small town in the middle of nowhere that the film is set.

Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes play Catherine and Matthew Parker a married couple that you wouldn't really describe as happily married.

The family forced to move after their daughter who is 15 was found to be having a sexual relationship with one of her teachers.

Now living in a small village a world away from snazzy Sydney it is clear trouble is brewing and the sandstorm forecast to hit the town is not the only thing brewing in the background.

Recalling seminal Australian films such as Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock and Wake in Fright, in it’s use of the Australian outback as sinister backdrop for sinister people doing sinister things but the film gets lost in it’s own self importance and runs out of steam well before it’s end.

The film does feature strong performances that you would expect from a cast like this and we have seen Kidman in similar roles as this before and grief is something she specialises in.

Most impressive here is the cinematography from Irish dop PJ Dillon. A missed opportunity.

2 out of 5


Director: Rob Letterman

Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Halston Sage, Jillian Bell

Running Time: 103 min

Jack Black plays the children's horror writer RL Stine, whose daughter Hannah has mysteriously disappeared.

In trying to track her down, her friends Zach and Champ unknowingly unleash Stines horrific creations from his novels on their small town of Madison as our heroes race against the clock to save their friend.

What ensues will please any fans of the source novels, any fans of Jack Black and playful frights. An enjoyable rerun at the Goosebumps series.

3 out of 5


Director: Grimur Hakonarson

Starring: Sigurdur Sigurjonsson, Theodor Juliusson, Charlotte Boving, Jon Benonysson, Gudrun Sigurbjornsdottir, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson

Running Time: 93 min

Wildly inventive, subtle and surprising - this gentle comedy about two warring Shepard brothers in Iceland, winner of Un Certain Regard at last years Cannes film festival, is a delightful surprise. Despite the fact the two brothers live side by side and have done for years, they almost never speak.

When communication proves necessary, a smart, loyal dog carries messages from one old grumpy bugger to another. but they almost never speak.

A crises sparked by an annual ram competition puts in motion a chain of events which will either thaw or further freeze relations between the two siblings and what unfolds is one of the most delightful films you will see not only this month but all year long.

Hilarious, affecting and inventive.

Hopefully it will screen in Dundalk, it does, being Icelandic feature subtitles but that's nothing to be afraid of.

4 out of 5

Also screening:


Tom McCarthy's must see film about the journalists who exposed systematic child abuse in the Catholic Church in Boston.

Nothing surprising here for Irish people but essential cinema.

Cast includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams.

4 out of 5