Saturday 16 December 2017

Ice Age 5: still on the run from extinction

* Ice Age: Collision Course (G, 94mins), 2 Stars
* Queen of Earth (No Cert, IFI, 90mins), 4 Stars
* Notes on Blindness (G, 90mins), 4 Stars
* No Home Movie (No Cert, IFI, 115mins), 3 Stars

Take five: Ice Age Collision Course
Take five: Ice Age Collision Course

When I saw the first 'Ice Age' movie 14 long years ago, I thought to myself 'that was reasonably amusing, quite annoying', and felt sure we'd never be hearing from Sid the Sloth and Manny the Mammoth again. Then it made $450million at the box office, leading to sequels that clocked up as much as $800million a piece, and so we can say with some confidence that this fifth instalment will not be the last. In it, Manny's daughter is about to get married when a giant asteroid appears in the sky and hurtles towards the Earth.

Faced with annihilation, Manny, Sid, Diego and friends join forces with a demented weasel to try and save themselves and the planet. John Leguizamo does a terrific job as usual voicing the hopelessly romantic Sid, but there's surreal quality to the writing of Ice Age 5 that suggests the influence of narcotics.

It's all a bit manic, especially towards the end, but the animation is impressive and kids do seem to love this stuff, especially that unfortunate dino-squirrel thing that gets endlessly squashed, pulped and pummelled as it continues its existential quest to capture that elusive acorn.

I like Alex Ross Perry's films: they're sharp and bitchy and uncomfortably close to the bone. In his latest, Queen of Earth, Elisabeth Moss delivers an almost overwhelmingly powerful performance, playing a woman overwhelmed by grief.

Reeling from her artist father's suicide, Catherine is pushed over the edge by the collapse of her relationship with James, and retreats to the country summer house of her best friend, Ginny (Katherine Waterston).

In flashbacks, we discover that Catherine and James were one of those disgustingly gushy couples who indulged in showy displays of togetherness. We also find out that Ginny's singleness is almost as important to Catherine as her own relationship, and she's not happy when her friend hooks up with a handsome neighbour.

Their increasingly tenuous friendship is grounded in bitterness and jealousy, and during a long week of supposed healing, their differences come to a head.

Queen of Earth is all about atmosphere and acting: it's a tense, talky drama about two old friends who are coming to the painful realisation that they no longer really like each other. They're not very likeable either, but this film certainly is.

A documentary with a difference, Notes on Blindness is based on the life of John Hull, a theologian and academic who began keeping an audio diary as he went blind. Born in Australia, he was married with children and lecturing at Birmingham University when his sight began to rapidly deteriorate before disappearing entirely.

Directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney have dramatised his story while retaining a gritty authenticity by using the original audio tapes and getting actors to lip-sync to them. The result is sombre, but mesmerising, as we follow the late Mr Hull's journey through anger and resentment to acceptance and enlightenment.

Chantal Akerman's No Home Movie is mired in sadness and tragedy. The Belgian director apparently shot over 40 hours of footage in making this intimate documentary portrait of her mother Natalia, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor who died soon after the shoot.

She's clearly frail, and slowly withdrawing from the world, a fact you feel the film-maker is struggling to process as she follows her mother's mournful progress around her Brussels apartment.

It was clearly a difficult film to make, and it's also difficult to sit through, though there are moments of rare perception. Chantel Akerman committed suicide last year.

Irish Independent

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