Saturday, March 11, 2017

But I Digress... Where's the Blarney

By Cat

We’ve made it past the Ides of March and just around the corner is one of the most famous party holidays of all. Of course, I’m talking about Saint Patrick’s Day – where everyone loves to pinch people for forgetting to wear green and pretend that they’re Irish for a day. (I’ve tried to claim my green eyes were a built in pinch-proof system but, alas, no one usually buys it. Lucky for me, my favorite color is green so most of my wardrobe is in that color range anyway.) Oh, and of course there’s all the drinking.

There’s fun for the whole family in this holiday packed with shamrocks, rainbows, leprechauns and pots of gold. Everyone loves a good excuse for food and fun, right? Well if you would rather stay in than go out to crowds and rivers of green beer or the like; I’ve got a collection of movies and shows here to make your binge-watching hearts happy in the spirit of the season.

This is by no means an all-encompassing list. I picked 17 random productions filmed in Ireland, or have Irish main characters that are either dear to my heart or are on my ‘to-watch list.’ I tried to keep it mostly on the light side - there are some serious and award-winning movies out there that explore the darker sides of Ireland (The Troubles and conflict involving the IRA as an example). I hope you enjoy!

17 - Leprechaun (1993)

Viewing Options: Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, Xfinity Subscription, iTunes
Director: Mark Jones
Actors: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Anniston, Shay Duffin, Ken Olandt
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror
Rated: R
More Information Here.

Blurb: An evil, sadistic Leprechaun goes on a killing rampage in search of his beloved, but pilfered, pot of gold.

I’d bet you’d be a wee bit cranky, too, if you were locked in a box for 10 years. OK, so this movie isn’t the best movie ever. I don’t think it was meant to be. It’s campy and over the top. Most have even said it’s not even all that scary. Who cares, though! Just like whenever Friday the 13th rolls around, you can be sure to see the Jason Voorhees movies pop out of the woodwork; this list would be incomplete without this classic B movie. Besides, who doesn’t love Warwick Davis (Willow, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Rogue One)?! This was also the big screen debut for Jennifer Anniston (Office Space, The Iron Giant, We're the Millers).

16 - The Irish Pub (2013)

Viewing Options: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video
Director: Alex Fegan
Actors: Liam Aherne, Bobby Blackwell, Tom Breen, Patricia Brennan
Genre: Documentary, History, Music
Rated: Unrated
More Information Here.

Blurb: This film takes a loving look at traditional Irish pubs and the people who run them, highlighting the friendships they share with loyal customers.

I don’t usually get on the documentary bandwagon, but this and the next entry on the list seemed like appropriate exceptions to the norm. St. Patrick’s Day is often used as the patron holiday of drinking. There’s no better holiday to take a peek into the cultural cornerstone that is the Irish pub.

15 - Tales of Irish Castles (2014-)

Viewing Options: Netflix
Director: Sarah Share
Actors: Simon Delaney, Dave Swift, Marcus Seoige 
Genre: Documentary, History, TV Series
Rated: TV-PG
More Information Here.

Blurb: From early Norman fortresses to posh 20th-century estates, stone castles tell the tale of a millennium of Irish wars, politics, economics, and culture.

Castles bring to mind fairy tales and magic. They’re amazing structures that beckon to be explored and fire the imagination. This documentary series takes you through a collection of real Irish castles. Sure, there’s actual history involved rather than flights of fancy – but it’s fascinating all the same. I haven’t watched this series yet, but from what I can tell, the host is charismatic, animated, and isn’t one of those that just stands there and drones in monotone. (Bueller… Bueller…)

14 - The Boondock Saints (1999)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, iTunes
Director: Troy Duffy
Actors: Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Billy Connolly
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Rated: R
More Information Here.

Blurb: Fraternal twins set out to rid Boston of the evil men operating there while being tracked down by an FBI agent.

So this movie isn’t set in Ireland, but rather the good ol’ USA. Boston is one of the cities well-known for its large concentration of Irish immigrants and their descendants. The MacManus brothers – accents and all – are a pair of Irish imports. This isn’t a super serious movie. It blends comedy with crime thriller and there is some seriously over the top violence involved. 

Long before Daryl Dixon donned the leather vest with angel wings, Norman Reedus (Air, Sky, Triple 9) was already wearing a halo (albeit tarnished) as one of these ‘saints.’ Willem Dafoe (Platoon, American Psycho, John Wick) was amazingly bugnuts in this movie, as well. I can’t even give a good enough description for the ‘omg’ moments he inspires. You’ll just need to watch and see! 

Additionally, the lilting and upbeat opening theme of this film is one of my favorite pieces of music of all time -- The Blood of Cuchulainn by Jeff and Mychael Danna. It’s driving beat is laced with the ethereal sounds of the uilleann pipes (Ireland’s version of the bagpipe).

13 - In Bruges (2008)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, iTunes
Director: Martin McDonagh
Actors: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ciarán Hinds, Ralph Fiennes
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Rated: R
More Information Here.

Blurb: Guilt-stricken after a job gone wrong, hitman Ray and his partner await orders from their ruthless boss in Bruges, Belgium, the last place in the world Ray wants to be.

Native Dubliners Colin Farrell (Total Recall, Seven Psychopaths, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, In the Heart of the Sea, Assassin's Creed) get to let their true accents shine as IRA hitters on the run. I have seen this movie and absolutely loved it. 

Sure, it’s not set in the picturesque Irish countryside – but this pair brings a slice of Ireland with them in spirit to Bruges, Belgium (pronounced “broozh”). It is, however, hilarious and thrilling. There’s a little bit of everything in it from action to a shade of romance. The dynamic between the lead pair is enjoyable. These two find themselves in some crazy situations definitely worth checking out.

12 - The Fall (2013-)

Viewing Options: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, iTunes
Directors: Allan Cubitt, Jakob Verbruggen
Actors: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, John Lynch, Aisling Franciosi
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller, TV Series
Rated: TV-MA
More Information Here.

Blurb: A detective superintendent battles her own personal demons as she tries to get inside the head of a serial killer hiding behind a family-man facade.

I haven’t yet watched this series, but it looks really interesting. There are also three seasons of it, so I’ve got some catching up to do! I have affectionately dubbed this show ’50 Shades of Serial Killer.’ From what I’ve seen of previews, this really does seem a bit like Gillian Anderson’s (The X-Files, Johnny English Reborn, Hannibal) agent is tracking down a predator that explores a scenario of ‘what if the nay-sayers of a certain erotic series were right’ about Jamie Dornan’s (Marie Antoinette, Once Upon a Time, The Siege of Jadotville) character. I don’t think that this series meant to do that specifically, but it’s an interesting coincidence. Dornan didn’t appear in the first movie of that controversial series until 2015 and this series began in 2013, after all. I do intend to watch this at some point. Keep your eyes peeled for my review, if I do.

11 - Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, iTunes
Director: Robert Stevenson
Actors: Albert Sharpe, Janet Munro, Sean Connery
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Rated: Unrated
More Information Here.

Blurb: A wily old codger matches wits with the king of the leprechauns and helps play matchmaker for his daughter and the strapping lad who has replaced him as caretaker.

A handful of years before he began to order martinis shaken but not stirred, young and dashing Sean Connery (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Hunt for Red October, The Rock) starred in this adorable vintage Disney movie.

10 - Far and Away (1992)

Viewing Options: Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, Xfinity Subscription, iTunes
Director: Ron Howard
Actors: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Thomas Gibson, Robert Prosky, Barbara Babcock, Colm Meaney
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance 
Rated: PG-13
More Information Here.

Blurb: A poor 19th-century Irish tenant farmer runs afoul of his landlord in his ill-conceived pursuit of vengeance, and in the process has a meeting with destiny. He helps the landlord's daughter run away to America where they must struggle to find their way in a new land and find themselves in the process.

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. I could mic-drop there, really. Set aside that some things aren’t entirely historically accurate, and that the accents were maybe a wee bit off. Just let yourself sink into the fairytale-like story of a pair seeking The American Dream and personal freedom. It is a sweet movie that’s full of heart. 

This was also filmed when Tom Cruise (Legend, Top Gun, Knight and Day) and Nicole Kidman (Days of Thunder, Practical Magic, Cold Mountain) were freshly married and still madly in love in their happy honeymoon phase. That comes through in their characters and adds an underlying warmth to the movie. (It also makes for some good giggles in a certain scene where it’s said Cruise is really naked beneath that pot – or bedpan – whatever it was.) The soundtrack to this film is also amazing, with several numbers by one of my favorite Irish musicians, Enya.

9 - Patriot Games (1992)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Prime, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, Hulu Subscription, Epix Subscription
Director: Phillip Noyce
Actors: Harrison Ford, Sean Bean, Anne Archer, Thora Birch, Samuel L. Jackson
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rated: R
More Information Here.

Blurb: When CIA Analyst Jack Ryan interferes with an IRA assassination, a renegade faction targets him and his family for revenge.

Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Ender's Game, Age of Adaline) was an action movie icon of the 80s and 90s. This was one of his well-known films of the latter.  I love him to pieces – he reminds me a lot of my late maternal grandfather. I digress… the rogue IRA operative played by Sean Bean (The Hitcher, Game of Thrones, The Martian) is enough to fit this list’s criteria. If you want to know if Bean survives this movie or not – you’ll need to check out this Ford classic to find out.

8 - The Commitments (1991)

Viewing Options: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, iTunes
Director: Alan Parker
Actors: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Dave Finnegan, Bronagh Gallagher, Colm Meaney
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
Rated: R
More Information Here.

Blurb: After scouring Dublin to find musicians with soul, an aspiring band manager builds a band of locals with tons of raw talent -- and zero experience.


This movie’s a mix of good tunes and good story. Blues isn’t always my musical genre of choice, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying my ride with this making-of-a-band film. It follows some predictable recipes, but not to its detriment.

7 - Into the West (1992)

Viewing Options:  Xfinity or Amazon with STARZ channel subscription
Director: Mike Newell
Actors: Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin, Ciarán Fitzgerald, Rúaidhrí Conroy, David Kelly, Colm Meaney, John Kavanagh, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Cunningham
Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Rated: PG
More Information Here.

Blurb: Grandpa Ward gives a horse he found to his grandchildren, who keep it in their tower-block flat in Dublin. The horse is stolen from them, and the two young boys set out to find it and flee on it.

Gabriel Byrne (End of Days, Stigmata, Vampire Academy) stars with two adorable little Irish boys in this magical family tale. The horse is gorgeous and the tale is a little wild – in a good way. Imagine a horse inside an apartment, if you will. If you can’t wrap your mind around that, you’ll actually see it in this movie. The film is adorable, endearing, and one of my favorites. The story also takes a peek into the world of Ireland’s version of gypsies – The Travelers.

6 - The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, iTunes 
Director: John Sayles
Actors: Jeni Courtney, Eileen Colgan, Mick Lally
Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy 
Rated: PG
More Information Here.

Rotten Tomatoes Blurb: In this family film, set in Ireland, ten-year-old Fiona is sent to Donegal to live with her grandparents. On the nearby island of Roan Inish, she spies a wild child. Fiona believes that the child is her long-lost brother, who mysteriously disappeared when his cradle floated out on the tide.

Selkies are one of the many creatures that dwell within the vivid and magical landscape of Irish folklore. This movie dives in to that mythology as this adorably precocious little girl tries to search for her long lost brother. Rotten Tomatoes has this movie scored as 98% fresh.

5 - Song of the Sea (2014)

Viewing Options: Netflix DVD, Amazon Prime, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, iTunes 
Director: Tomm Moore
Actors: David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Fionnula Flanagan
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family 
Rated: PG
More Information Here.

Blurb: Ben, a young Irish boy, and his little sister Saoirse, a girl who can turn into a seal, go on an adventure to free the faeries and save the spirit world.

Irish writer, director, and animator Tomm Moore (Puffin Rock, Backwards Boy, The Secret of Kells) brings this beautiful story to life for a family-friendly adventure. I haven’t seen it yet but it is near the top of the list of movies I want to watch.  This film also explores the selkie mythology – though, this time in animated format. Rotten Tomatoes has this one as 99% fresh, as well. I sincerely hope that this makes it to Netflix streaming soon so that we have a chance to review this for you.

4 - Waking Ned Divine (1998) 

Viewing Options: Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, iTunes  
Director:  Kirk Jones 
Actors:  Ian Bannen, David Kelly, Fionnula Flanagan
Genre:  Comedy
Rated: PG
More Information Here.

Blurb: When a lottery winner dies of shock, his fellow townsfolk attempt to claim the money.

Imagine Weekend at Bernies (1998) set in Ireland – and instead of a bunch of young adult boneheads trying to take advantage of a dead guy, it’s a whole town of Irish folk in their ‘golden years’ pulling the wool over the lottery man’s eyes rather than dodging a hitman. From what I’ve heard about this movie, it just seems hilarious.

3 - Leap Year (2010)

Viewing Options: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, iTunes
Director: Anand Tucker
Actors: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott 
Genre: Comedy, Romance 
Rated: PG
Trust the Dice Review
More Information Here.

Blurb: Anna chooses February 29 to propose marriage to her boyfriend, but after meeting a charming innkeeper, she must evaluate her original plans.

Check out our recent review of this movie, linked above. I loved it. It’s endearing and the perfect movie to cuddle up with someone special for a night in with.

2 - Brooklyn (2015)

Viewing Options: HBOGo, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, Xfinity Subscription, iTunes
Director: John Crowley
Actors: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Emily Bett Rickards
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rated: PG-13
More Information Here.

Blurb: An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.


I have been absolutely dying to see this movie. I’ve missed it the few times I’ve seen it cycling through HBO and my DVR has eaten my recording of it at least once already. One of these days I’ll actually manage it. I was enchanted by the trailer for this movie. It made our November 2015 Top 20 list when it was released to theaters. The film was nominated for three Oscars and also many other awards (and even won a few). Irish actress Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones, Hanna, Byzantium) seems to have been born to play this role.

1 - The Secret of Kells (2009)

Viewing Options: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube (purchase), Vudu, Xfinity Subscription, iTunes
Directors: Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey
Actors: Evan McGuire, Christen Mooney, Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family
Rated: Unrated
More Information Here.

Blurb: When Vikings attack and Irish abbey, the young nephew of an abbott must brave an enchanted forest to complete work on a legendary book.

This is yet another Irish animated movie by Tomm Moore (Puffin Rock, Backwards Boy, Song of the Sea). It actually predated his prior film in this list. This one is also currently on Netflix streaming service and has been milling about in our list of potential movies for review. The dice keep narrowly missing landing on this title. I’ve heard so many good things about this movie. The Book of Kells is one of the most beautiful and well known illustrated manuscripts of all time. I am fascinated at a prospect of a film that takes a fanciful and magical twist on that.


Whatever your St. Patrick’s Day plans; have fun, be safe, remember your designated driver if you plan to consume mass quantities of green alcohol, and may the dice ever be in your favor.

But I Digress... is a weekly column for that can't be pinned down to just one thing. It's Cat's celebration of tangents, random references, and general fan geekdom that both intertwines with, revolves around, and diverges from our movie-review core. In homage to the beloved Brit comedians, we want to bring you something completely different!

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