Sunday 24 February 2019

Movie reviews : Nightcrawler, Mr Turner, The Guarantee, Ouija

Rene Russo as the news editor and Jake Gyllenhaal as the cameraman in ‘Nightcrawler’
Rene Russo as the news editor and Jake Gyllenhaal as the cameraman in ‘Nightcrawler’
Timothy Spall as Mr Turner
Peter Coonan as David Drumm in 'The Guarantee'
One Million Dubliners

Nightcrawler (Cert 16). As dark and disorienting professional profiles go, Nightcrawler stands apart slightly from Scorsese's Bringing Out The Dead or Mark Romanek's One Hour Photo in that its protagonist is already certifiably creepy from the get-go.

In this case, the vocation is that of Los Angeles' freelance camera crews, who listen in on police radios before speeding to crime and accident scenes to get footage for sensationalist US morning news shows.

Dan Gilroy writes and directs this fun portrait of one Louis Bloom. In a role likely to stand out in his career, Jake Gyllenhaal essays the gaunt city psychopath, morbidly ambitious and possessed of a wide-reaching moral blindspot. He stumbles upon the phenomenon of the ambulance chasers while witnessing an accident and decides he has found his true calling.

The tale begins like some macabre curio as Louis leans into bloodied corpses and climbs the industry ladder held by no-nonsense news editor Rene Russo. Quickly, and unsurprisingly, he starts to get a little "hands-on" with his work, the crime scenes and the competition (Bill Paxton at his white-trash best).

Gilroy's nocturnal movements are something to behold. He shoots LA as a labyrinth of neon shadows and faceless loathing not too far from the city spellcasts of Michael Mann or Nicolas Winding Refn. The ashen complexion and sunken cheekbones (20lb were shed for the role) make Gyllenhaal's scavenger delightfully unnerving company and a memorable Halloween ghoul.

Strongly recommended. Now showing.

Hilary A White

Mr Turner (Cert: 12A)

The always reliable Timothy Spall, who has done some great work with Mike Leigh in the past, has already won best actor at Cannes for his turn as JMW Turner, the English painter famous for his use of light.  The character is well written by Leigh but Spall breathes full depth into the painter who we meet in the middle of his life around the beginning of the nineteenth century.

In his biggest budget, and first digitally shot film, Leigh uses actors he has worked with well before and some artistic licence to chronicle the last twenty five years of Turner's life. It's quite episodic and moves from segment to segment, beginning with Turner's return to the home he shared with his father (Paul Jesson) with whom he had a sweet but demanding relationship and their long suffering maid (Dorothy Atkinson) who the film suggests was secretly in love with her boss.

Turner did not have to wait to be dead before he became successful. However he had a peculiar manner, was thoroughly repellent in many respects but also strangely charming. He never married but is thought to have had a relationship with a widow (Ruth Sheen) with whom he had daughters and during one of his trips to the coast he met an innkeeper, Mrs Booth (a very enjoyable and deceptively simple turn by Marion Bailey) in whose hospitality he created some of his most famous works. Towards the end of his life he was aware of being mocked in certain circles,

As befitting the portrait of an artist, the film looks beautiful. It is clever and often amusing, an accessible portrait of a flawed genius. But at two and half hours it is very long.

Now showing.

Aine O'Connor

The Guarantee Cert: 15A

There's something highly appropriate about a film like The Guarantee opening in theatres so close to Halloween. Bearing in mind it's based on a fateful act that resulted in the creation of "zombie banks" that immediately set about bleeding thousands of Irish citizens dry, it's not that big a stretch to suggest this Ian Power directed feature fulfils most of the criteria required of classic horror. Nightmare on Kildare Street or The Grinches that Stole Christmas anyone? 

Based on a play by Colin Murphy, The Guarantee charts the lead-up to that infamous night in late September 2009 when the government, under Taoiseach Brian Cowen (Gary Lydon) and late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan (David Murray), decided to guarantee the holdings of Irish banks. Merging incisive archive footage with dramatic re-enactments, it tracks the movements and motivations of the various vested interests as global boom turned to global bust. Talk about a trip down bad memory lane.

We first encounter Anglo's Sean Fitzpatrick (Morgan Jones) and David Drumm (Peter Coonan) at a time when their hubris was about to hit the fan and Icarus-like descent was imminent. The attempt to limit collateral damage from their metaphorical meltdown had transformed the Dept of Finance into a crucible of chaos with Brian Lenihan and Taoiseach Brian Cowen tasked with managing a situation that would have tested the powers of a superhero.

Alas, superheroes were thin on the ground. On this evidence, the closest we had was UCD economist Morgan Kelly and we all know what he was told to do.

Artistic licence has obviously been taken with some of the interactions but the approach of mixing the factual with the fictional works brilliantly in delivering a spectacle that pulls off the difficult task of being both hugely entertaining and yet remains, a rigorous work. Read the books? You'll want to see this movie.

Now showing.

Padraig McKiernan

One Million Dubliners Cert: PG

I have rarely been so affected by a film as I was by One Million Dubliners. Aoife Kelleher's award-winning documentary about Glasnevin Cemetery captures both the history and day-to-day running of the cemetery as well as how much of a monument it is, not just to Irish life and death, but to humanity.

Central to the story is Shane Mac Thomais, historian and guide whose personal charm as well as his knowledge and affection for the cemetery prove as integral to the documentary as they were to Glasnevin for many years. Through the people who work there and the people who visit it, Kelleher pulls together the history of the cemetery from when it was founded by Daniel O'Connell, to its present role and plans.

The ladies in the flower shop explain that Michael Collins gets more flowers on Valentine's Day than anyone else and that he has, over time, had some great admirers. One of his most devoted is a French woman who visits several times a year, she is interviewed and shown walking with a French friend discussing "Mick."

In explaining the history of the Angels' Plot one of the guides explains that she has a daughter buried there and she speaks beautifully of the circumstances of that time, the 1980s, and what it means to her now to be able to visit the baby she never got to meet. A woman who visits her mother who died young describes just why she comes every week and what she feels.

The gravediggers explain the intricacies of their work, the man who works in the crematorium explains how it works. In overseeing death, their take on life, death and the afterlife is fascinating. Filming was just complete when a sad twist happened, it makes a great documentary into a touching eulogy. Bring tissues.

Now showing.

Aine O'Connor

Ouija Cert: 15A

Well they do say you should let sleeping dogs lie. On the evidence of formulaic horror flick, Ouija, something similar applies to departed spirits. Naturally, it isn't the type of advice that any of the central players in this Stiles White directed spookathon are inclined to steer by.

When high-school student, Debbie ( Shelley Hennig) takes her own life in suspicious circumstances, her best friend Laine (Olivia Cooke) is devastated. A sinister twist to the former's demise comes with the revelation that she had been playing with a ouija board prior to her death. Laine knows all about this ouija board as it's the same one they had played with together as kids. Laine is compelled to do some sleuthing in the spirit world. Faster than you can say don't try this at home, she and her pals are using the ouija board to get up close and supernatural with the spirit world. It won't come as a surprise to read that things start to go very bump in the night and er.. skeletons come out of the closet. Okay, so literally they come out of the basement and there's one in the attic, but let's not sweat the scary stuff.

Well made if clichéd, Ouija ticks most of the boxes required of a regulation genre offering but, overall, there isn't enough fear factor to make it easy to recommend unreservedly. The easily spooked will get their money's worth but for hardcore horror fans, it's more likely to be a case of Ouija bored.

Now showing.

Padraig McKiernan

Sunday Independent

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