Wednesday 21 August 2019

Cinema - Justice League: an ungainly looking sludgefest of gloopy CGI

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Justice League is an ungainly looking sludgefest of gloopy CGI and dull backdrops
Justice League is an ungainly looking sludgefest of gloopy CGI and dull backdrops
JOHN HUME: Had the courage to change the way of things

After the brief respite offered by Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman earlier this year, the DC Extended Universe returns to its default Frankenstein-like lurch with this clunky attempt to do for the superhero franchise what Avengers Assemble did for Marvel. Get them all on screen, mix up a bit of sword-measuring tension and chuck an all-powerful baddie into the middle. What could go wrong?

Lots, it turns out, especially when you have the increasingly insufferable Zack Snyder (Watchmen, 300) back at the wheel after last year's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but fixing only some of the problems of that horror show.

Like everything Snyder directs, it is an ungainly looking sludgefest of gloopy CGI and dull, dirt-hued backdrops cut with neon glare. Looking vaguely more lifelike are Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot as Batman and Wonder Woman. With some ancient hell-bent demon (apparently played via motion capture by Ciaran Hinds) surfacing, they go about seeking to recruit Aquaman (Game of Thrones' Jason Momoa), the Flash (an atypically annoying Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (a charmless Ray Fisher). Superman (Henry Cavill) is still brown bread from the last instalment (wink, wink).

Swat aside the naff and there are chinks of light. Amy Adams, back as Lois Lane, does a decent impression of a professional actor inhabiting a role. Momoa might have enough to pull off next year's solo outing as Aquaman and the camera still likes Gadot's mix of serenity and fire. The opening act could even be called tasteful and measured in a certain light. And just as soon as you think that, we're back to video-game figurines walloping into buildings. Enough. ★★

Hilary A White

In the Name of Peace

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JOHN HUME: Had the courage to change the way of things
 

Cert: PG; Now showing in IMC cinemas

The full title of Maurice Fitzpatrick's documentary, In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, lays out exactly what this comprehensive and impressive film sets out to do.

A companion piece to Fitzpatrick's book, the list of contributors alone is testimony to the esteem in which Hume is held for his role in achieving peace in Northern Ireland.

Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, John Major and Bertie Ahern and many more (Pat Hume gives her husband's perspective) describe how Hume set about achieving a goal he laid out in 1964. He understood that although the problems in Northern Ireland were tribal, they were also economic - and he knew that the only way to get Dublin and London to find a solution was by involving the US.

The remarkable journey of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient is laid out in some detail here. ★★★★

Aine O'Connor

Ingrid Goes West

Cert: 16; Now showing

According to director Matt Spicer, this project came about following a chat with co-writer David Branson Smith about a friend who is an "Instagram influencer". For those still living in a semi-normal world, this is someone who makes a living posting snaps of mundane but manicured scenes that depict an idyllic life. This individual, however, was noticing that one of her 200,000 followers was mimicking her snaps, look and even the way she spoke. 

The outcome is this muddled and excruciatingly dark comedy-drama that, given what we're starting to discover about the health risks of social media addiction, is hard to laugh at.

We first see Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) a distraught twenty-something, crashing a wedding and spraying mace in the bride's face. After treatment at a psychiatric facility, she finally rejoins the outside world. The outside world quickly becomes the online world when she discovers Instagram personality Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen) and forms an obsession with her apparently perfect LA life. After deciding that the two must somehow become besties, Ingrid uses her inheritance to move to LA and sets about worming her way into Taylor's "perfect" life.

Somewhere in here is a wry, Baumbach-like comedy about this warped era of online façades and screen addicts, but Ingrid is too tragic and disturbing a protagonist to allow for real fun. There are, however, a fine spread of performances (Olsen excels) and much food for thought (never a bad thing). ★★★

Hilary A White

Good Time

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Robert Pattinson's rebirth from Twilight hysteria has entailed mining a decidedly indie furrow - 2015's The Childhood of a Leader was superb - the latest of which is this adrenalised caper from NYC's Safdie brothers, Joshua and Ben.

The erstwhile R-Patz plays Connie, a small-time crook whose mentally disabled brother Nick (Benny Safdie) gets arrested after a bank job. Connie flees on foot and tries to get help from his girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for bail money. When that doesn't work, Connie tries to bust Nick out of hospital where he is being treated for injuries sustained in prison.

Every time it looks like Connie is getting somewhere, things go wrong, making for an exhausting thriller that throws mayhem and white heat at the screen to varying effect. Pattinson nails a back-breaking role and the Safdies direct with an unrelenting visceral edge. Much has been made of the electronic score by a Brooklyn artist called Oneohtrix Point Never, but the mixing is frankly terrible. At times, the screaming industrial soundtrack drowns out actual dialogue. ★★★

Hilary A White

Film Stars Don't  Die in Liverpool

Cert: 15A; Now showing

When Peter Turner met his neighbour he thought she was just a somewhat flirty older American woman. It was 1979, he was 28 and she was 55. Her name was Gloria Grahame and she had been famous, an Oscar-winning star of black and white movies (including It's A Wonderful Life). Her film career over by 1979, she was in England to play Blanche DuBois on stage when she struck up a romance with the young actor in the flat next door.

Paul McGuigan's film of Turner's memoir opens with Grahame (Annette Bening) in her English dressing room. She collapses and instead of hospital asks to be brought to Turner's (Jamie Bell) family home in Liverpool and his parents (Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham). The film begins towards the end of the story and weaves its way back and forth over the couple's two year romance. The time changes are marked through doorways or hallways and don't always work. However it's a great story of a woman obsessed with how she is perceived and her love affair with a much more open-hearted man.

Grahame's real life is more remarkable than her final love affair, as glimpsed in an awkward lunch with her mother and sister (Vanessa Redgrave and Frances Barber) but the film goes a different, more sentimental, and award friendly, route. The performances, and chemistry, are great and there is much to enjoy in a My Week With Marilyn kind of way.

★★★★

Aine O'Connor

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