STEPHEN Martin looks at what’s in store for the Irish over the next five months.
“I pulled the lever on the slot machine and just kept hitting the jackpot,” says Vince Gilligan, the brilliantly innovative creator of the morally-whacky drama series Breaking Bad.
There’s good news for avid watchers of the Irish-American scriptwriter’s cult hit, about an honest-to-goodness chemistry teacher who becomes a drug dealer to finance his cancer treatment.
From this Sunday (August 11) Breaking Bad fans will be able to view the anticipated final eight episodes via online website Netflix, directly after their screening in the US.
Commenting on the drama’s habit of raising tricky questions about the fickle nature of moral laws, lead actor Bryan Cranston says the climax “will offer no apologies”.
This is just one imminent item of interest for Irish film and television watchers.
2013 has been fruitful so far and the second half of the year looks pretty busy. Back at the Oscars in January we saw an unmatched third Best Actor award for Daniel Day-Lewis and though it’ll be a while before we see him again, other Irish faces will be on view much sooner.
As we swelter in the summer heat it might seem odd to talk of Christmas films (only 140 shopping days to go), but Fionnula Flanagan will make a festive appearance in offbeat family comedy When Angels Sing, an updated reworking of the Scrooge story.
Before then the enigmatically beautiful Flanagan can be seen in Lance Daly’s eagerly-awaited Life’s a Breeze, with Pat Shortt, and with Stephen Rea in the quirky Spanish “foodie movie” Menu Degustacion (Tasting Menu).
Rea himself is making good use of his passport, gaining plaudits across Europe. He’ll shortly be around the fringe circuit in eerie Hungarian-based psycho-drama Styria and the equally chilling Bulgarian production Asylum.
Rea has proved himself a strong exponent of the Gothic sensibility, with his lugubrious, world-weary physiognomy and these movies fit that billing.
Meanwhile Gabriel Byrne can be seen in Le Temps de L’aventure (Just a Sigh), a French remake of David Lean’s classic romance Brief Encounter (1945).
Ireland’s other leading men of international renown, like Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Farrell, have such crowded schedules that release dates for their work extends into 2015.
But Neeson’s upcoming Third Person is a multi-dimensional love story directed by Paul Haggis, who drew great praise for Crash (2004), a film in similar vein. These days Neeson is using his purring Aintrim burr to great effect in animation movies, including a voiceover part in The Lego Movie, due out next year.
Pierce Brosnan’s Scandinavian-based romance Love is All You Need is one of the surprise highpoints of the year so far and his upcoming Love Punch, with Emma Thompson, also looks promising. Set in Paris, it’s a dark rom-com with a twist involving a divorced couple trying to con a conman who conned them both in the first place.
Also, on home ground, Brosnan is working on a future project with Terry Loane, director of the touching Belfast boyhood tale Mickybo and Me (2004).
Colin Farrell constantly proves himself an intriguing top-tier movie star, shifting between mainstream action stuff (like the third-rate Dead Man Down) to thoughtful, unusual fayre like the forthcoming Saving Mr Banks.
Also starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson (who must have a taste for Irish heartthrobs), it covers the controversy surrounding the making of Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964). Who’d have thought? Should be “supercalifragilisticexpiali-docious”.
Farrell’s best film character to date is the haunted hitman in Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges (2008). Farrell’s In Bruges co-star Brendan Gleeson has teamed up again with McDonagh’s brother John Michael, following their success with the irony-loaded commentary on modern-day Ireland, The Guard (2011).
Their new feature, due in November, is titled Calvary and has Gleeson playing a well-intentioned priest overseeing a small community in Sligo.
Described as the “flipside” to The Guard’s Sgt. Gerry Boyle, Gleeson’s character here is an idealist who has his faith in humanity shaken when he’s threatened with murder while hearing a sinner’s confession.
McDonagh has described the film’s line-up as “the best ensemble cast ever assembled in the history of Irish cinema,” which he probably doesn’t mean earnestly.
But McDonagh does have Aiden Gillen, Chris O’Dowd and Kelly Reilly in there, as well as the always value-for-your-money David Wilmot.
Also among McDonagh’s performers is Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan) who is becoming a frontline name in his own right.
Next month Gleeson will make his first foray into the rom-com genre opposite Rachel McAdams in Richard Curtis’ (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral) much-anticipated About Time, a feature about a man who discovers that he can travel in time and change what happens and has happened in his own life.
Following that Gleeson will feature in Lenny Abrahamson’s as yet undefinable narrative Frank, partially based on bizarre Mancunian musician Chris Sievey, whose inflatable-headed stage persona ‘Frank Sidebottom’ both delighted and baffled audiences during the 1980s.
Frank is played by Michael Fassbender, who is also developing his project on Celtic legend Cuchulainn — from the eccentrically ridiculous to the mythically sublime.
Saoirse Ronan is due soon at UK cinemas in the Orwellian-styled war story How I Live Now. Alas, Ronan carries a lone flag for emerging Irish female talent, although stalwarts Bronagh Gallagher, Maria Doyle-Kennedy and Brenda Fricker will soon make fresh appearances.
Lastly, Cillian Murphy stars in BBC2 drama Peaky Blinders, set in 1920s Birmingham, in which Murphy plays the leader of a cut-throat gang of criminals. Peaky Blinders could possibly be the cult hit of the autumn schedules.