5 Best Movies to Watch by Colm Meaney

Staff & contributors

The last work by legendary American director John Huston is this exquisitely rendered adaptation of a James Joyce short story. The Dead is nestled inside an intimate festive dinner shared by the family and close friends of the Morkan sisters, two well-to-do elderly spinsters living in Dublin in 1904. The film is a family affair in more ways than just that, too: for Huston’s final feature, son Tony wrote the script and daughter Anjelica (as Gretta) was its star.

As with so many end-of-year gatherings, the prevailing mood of the dinner is one of sentimental nostalgia, as the hosts and their guests swap memories, toast each other, and tearily reminisce about the way things were. Anjelica Huston’s performance is also a quiet architect of that atmosphere, as Gretta slips in and out of dreamy reveries throughout the evening to the puzzlement of her husband Gabriel (Donal McCann) — something that surges to the fore in an astonishingly moving final revelation. Huston directed the film on his proverbial deathbed, which infuses it with significance — but, even if it wasn’t the capstone to his illustrious career, The Dead would still stand as one of the finest treatments of mortality and longing ever committed to the screen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anjelica Huston, Bairbre Dowling, Brendan Dillon, Cathleen Delany, Colm Meaney, Dan O'Herlihy, Donal Donnelly, Donal McCann, Helena Carroll, Ingrid Craigie, Kate O'Toole, Maria McDermottroe, Marie Kean, Paul Grant, Rachael Dowling, Sean McClory

Director: John Huston

Featuring a Pre-Bond Daniel Craig, Layer cake can be described as a mix between Lock Stock, Two Smoking Barrels and Scarface—a darkly funny and incredibly violent film. It features great acting from Craig and the rest of the cast, action that will keep you on the edge of your seat once it gets moving and a complex and deep theme that can make you reconsider your worldview. This is a true action movie for the thinking man (or woman).

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ben Brazier, Ben Whishaw, Brinley Green, Burn Gorman, Colm Meaney, Daniel Craig, Daniel Moorehead, Darren Healy, Darren Sean Enright, Dexter Fletcher, Dimitri Andreas, Don McCorkindale, Dragan Mićanović, Francis Magee, George Harris, Ivan Kaye, James Dodd, Jamie Foreman, Jason Flemyng, Kelly-Marie Kerr, Kenneth Cranham, Kerri Kravin, Louis Emerick, Marcel Iures, Matt Ryan, Matthew Vaughn, Michael Gambon, Nathalie Lunghi, Neil Finnighan, Nick Thomas-Webster, Peter Rnic, Rab Affleck, Sally Hawkins, Sienna Miller, Stephen Walters, Steve John Shepherd, Tamer Hassan, Tom Hardy

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Rating: R

TV’s Alan Partridge — Steve Coogan’s brilliant skewering of small-time celebrity vanity — gets the big-screen treatment in this suitably parochial action thriller. The premise feels like the kind of ridiculous scenario the radio DJ would fantasize about in between songs: Pat (Colm Meaney), an ex-employee of North Norfolk Digital, returns to the station armed and takes his former colleagues hostage, refusing to negotiate with anyone but Alan. Those familiar with Coogan’s painfully self-absorbed character will foresee that going straight to his already delusions-of-grandeur-filled head, and it does; as one character puts it, he’s like a puffed-up robin.

Much of the hilarity comes from the way Alan’s obvious glee at the heroic position he’s found himself in distracts him from actually saving the day, but there is equally sharply drawn satire in the supporting characters, too. Favorites from the TV series, like Alan’s put-upon assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu) — herself a brilliant feat of perceptive comedy — make welcome returns here, but, like Alan, their eccentricities are made accessible enough that Partridge virgins won’t feel their ignorance. With all the original writers back onboard (including Armando Iannucci, the comedy genius behind The Death of Stalin and Veep), Alpha Papa is another reliably hilarious entry in the Partridge canon. Back of the net.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alan Rothwell, Anna Maxwell Martin, Anna Stockton, Colm Meaney, Dan Mersh, Darren Boyd, Diane Morgan, Dustin Demri-Burns, Eleanor Matsuura, Elizabeth Berrington, Felicity Montagu, Jayne Secker, Jessica Knappett, John Boyd, Karl Theobald, Kieran Hodgson, Lucy Briers, Martin Glyn Murray, Monica Dolan, Nigel Lindsay, Peter Singh, Phil Cornwell, Rita Davies, Robert Whitelock, Sean Pertwee, Simon Delaney, Simon Greenall, Simon Kunz, Steve Coogan, Tim Key

Director: Declan Lowney

Rating: PG-13

Revolutionaries come in many forms. Some prefer to rally in the streets, while others, like the businessman Bernard Garrett, championed race equality in his field of finance. Discreetly and rather dangerously, he purchased buildings and offered loans to his fellow Black men at a time when they were denied these rights and more. It was an ingenious plan hatched at a precarious time, and the film captures how Garrett (Anthony Mackie) managed to pull it off (for the most part). 

The Banker doesn't get as thrilling as it could be, but it is fueled by a smart script that unapologetically gets to the nitty-gritty math of it all, as well as engaging performances by Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult. The film effectively revives Garrett's inspiring story for a modern audience, turning it into an important piece of American history that won't soon be forgotten. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anthony Mackie, Bill Kelly, Chris Gann, Colm Meaney, Craig Welzbacher, Daniel Johnson, David Maldonado, Gregory Alan Williams, James DuMont, Jaylon Gordon, Jessie T. Usher, Michael Harney, Nia Long, Nicholas Hoult, Paul Ben-Victor, Samuel L. Jackson, Taylor Black

Director: George Nolfi

Rating: PG-13

In Marlowe, Liam Neeson joins the lofty lineup of actors who have stepped into the shoes of Raymond Chandler's titular detective, famously played by Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, and Elliott Gould. These are big boots to fill — and, if you’ve been paying attention to Neeson’s career over the last decade or so, you’ll be aware that he hasn’t exactly been stretching himself, dramatically speaking.

But Marlowe is something of a happy anomaly in Neeson’s filmography, because it has more than just adrenaline-pumping ambitions. Written by director Neil Jordan (of Michael Collins fame) and William Monahan (the screenwriter behind The Departed), the 1930s Hollywood-set plot is steeped in noir’s characteristic cynicism, giving it the seductive pull of that well-loved genre. It’s true that a not insignificant portion of the dialogue is so hard-boiled you can see the cracks — a clunkiness that’s repeated in a couple of the phoned-in supporting performances and the movie’s awkward action sequences. However, with a couple of bright spots in the starry cast, handsome production values, and a labyrinthine plot that just about passes muster as homage and not muddle, there are enough noir trappings here to keep the movie slinking along well enough, even if it ultimately isn't nearly as memorable as Marlowe’s previous screen incarnations.

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Alan Cumming, Alan Moloney, Colm Meaney, Daniela Melchior, Danny Huston, Darrell D'Silva, Diane Kruger, François Arnaud, Gary Anthony Stennette, Ian Hart, Jessica Lange, Julius Cotter, Kim DeLonghi, Liam Neeson, Mark Schardan, Michael Garvey, Minnie Marx, Mitchell Mullen, Patrick Muldoon, Roberto Peralta, Seána Kerslake, Stella Stocker, Tony Corvillo

Director: Neil Jordan

Rating: R