Thursday 14 December 2017

Cinema review: X-Men: Apocalypse - it's just too damn long

Cert 12A; Now Showing

Departure is an interesting reflection on love starring Juliet Stevenson (right).
Departure is an interesting reflection on love starring Juliet Stevenson (right).

Aine O'Connor

Apocalypse is on the very verge of completing transference to a new body when the process is scuppered and he, reputedly the oldest and most powerful of all Marvel mutants, is locked, in stasis, under a collapsed pyramid in Cairo. It takes nearly four thousand years for someone to leave a door open enough to awaken Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) with sunlight, which might explain why he is quite so annoyed when he gets a glimpse of what the world has become.

After swiftly dispatching some pesky dissenters he learns English from the TV and finds out about the 1980s and the Cold War. This just makes him madder so he sets about recruiting four new sidekicks, the main man amongst whom is Magneto (Michael Fassbender.) In the 10 years since X-Men: Days of Future Past, Magneto / Eric has been hiding out as a normal family man in Poland but when that cover is blown, it doesn't take much to convince him to destroy the earth.

Over in the X-Mansion Professor X (James McAvoy) still has hair when Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) rocks up with a young Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a young Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), who falls for a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). But there's a world to be fought for, souls to be saved and just two hours and 20 minutes to do it in. In 3D and CGI. Director Bryan Singer delivers amazing visuals and lots of action from a tenuous plot and a ropey script. I liked Isaac as the bad guy, he wasn't too recognisable bar the eyes, Fassbender and Lawrence are always very watchable, the rest of the mutant heroes, anti-heroes and baddies do what they can. There's a little joke about how "third movies are always the worst". This is the third, or the ninth, it isn't the worst but but there are far too many characters and it's just too damn long. 3 Stars


Club Cert; Now Showing

There is nothing particularly original in the plot of Andrew Steggall's debut feature, but the manner in which it unfolds does offer an interesting spin on a coming-of-age story. The youngest character, 15-year-old Elliot (Alex Lawther), might be indulging in some stereotypical teenage behaviours but he is in many respects the story's most emotionally developed character because he is the only truly honest one.

Elliot and his mother, Beatrice (Juliet Stevenson) arrive in the Languedoc village where they have owned a home for many years. Beatrice doesn't speak French and hasn't made any friends but is clearly sad to be selling the home and aware that although nothing has been said, there is more at stake than the end of a French dream. She seems suddenly aware too that the son she keeps babying by reminding to wash his hands is growing fast. Another end in sight.

The son, for his part, is aware of the end which his mother faces but is more interested in the possibilities of his own sexual beginnings and the interesting young Clément (Phénix Brossard). Clément has been sent from Paris to stay with his aunt while his mother is dying of a brain tumour that has rendered her a different person. He calls Elliot on his Byronesque stylings and teenage angst but for all his nettle-clutching affectations, Elliot is more honest than anyone else. Especially his father (Finbar Lynch), who appears late and briefly.

A little languorous in places, it's nonetheless an interesting reflection on love, loss and being honest, above all with yourself. It also looks lovely thanks to DoP Brian Fawcett. 3 Stars

Aine O'Connor

A Hologram for the King

Cert 12A: Now Showing

The most innocuous stories can sometimes be the most divisive. Tom Twyker directs his own adaptation of Dave Eggers' novel, a sort of Eat, Pray, Love for businessmen, pleasant, middle-age, middle class, middle of the road, feel-good stuff. And some people love it, some hate it. I found myself, um, in the middle.

Alan Clay's (Tom Hanks) once impressive career has collapsed, his marriage is over and he can't afford his daughter's college fees. A business trip to Saudi Arabia is a last chance at salvation.

As a plot it's fine but as a message about taking charge of life, it is poorly paced. His love interest (Sarita Choudhury) is lovely but the effortless everyman Hanks as an object of desire is a little hard to believe. It's an easy, sometimes funny, night out. 3 Stars

Aine O'Connor

The Silent Storm

Cert 16. In selected cinemas

Screened at the BFI London Film Festival in 2014, you have to ask why it's taken so long to secure distribution for Corinna McFarlane's debut which stars the  formidable Andrea Riseborough and Homeland's Damian Lewis. It may be because this inelegant and heavy-handed drama is a stinker.

On a sleepy Scottish island, post-WWII, Lewis booms and trills to the nth degree of ham as joyless Calvinist local minister Balor. His Puritanical zeal clashes with wife Aislin (Riseborough, assisting Lewis with the iffy-accent chores).

Things worsen when a strapping delinquent (Ross Anderson) comes to stay.

The scenery is the only respite from the all-thumbs filmmaking that features overwrought music, ghastly fade-outs and even a psychotropic interlude. 1 Star

Hilary A White

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