Sunday 21 October 2018

Movie reviews: The Dark Tower will please an audience younger than it should

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Idris Elba faces down evil in Stephen King's The Dark Tower
Idris Elba faces down evil in Stephen King's The Dark Tower

Stephen King wrote the books from which this long-anticipated film version of The Dark Tower was mined. However, the film feels as if Dan Brown wrote a cross between Cowboys & Aliens and The Matrix. 'Tis a strange creature that doesn't do any of the talent in it justice, however, it might make good fantasy, sci-fi fare for tweens.

In a New York wracked by unexplained earthquakes, 11-year-old Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) has been having the same nightmare since his father died. His mother (Katheryn Winnick of Vikings) has married a cliche stepdad and their poor parenting arguments are conveniently expository. The nightmares feature the same things and people and Jake's walls are covered in pictures of what he sees. His shrink can't help, so Jake is selected for a weekend psychiatry camp, but one of the people sent to collect him has the sewn-on skin of Jake's nightmares so he flees, finding a house in Brooklyn, also seen in his dreams, which is a portal to another layer of earth.

In this Mid World, he meets The Gunslinger (Idris Elba) a jaded hero fighting to save the Dark Tower, a force of good which is under threat from the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). This stupendously smooth and shiny-faced Man in Black is specifically collecting special children like Jake for his evil purpose. So who is hunting who in this tale of good v evil?

Nikolaj Arcel has written some great Danish films but is less successful as director and co-writer here. The dialogue is dodgy, the emotional impact weak, the story squished. However, the effects are good, there are a few laughs and it will please an audience younger than it should. HH Aine O'Connor

The Hitman's Bodyguard

Cert: 16; Now showing

The idea of mouthy North Americans making crass noise for two hours is the last thing anyone asked for in the Age of Trump. Earplugs, however, are not mandatory for every minute of this bloody-buddy comedy is an adequate vehicle for the combined star hit of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson.

Reynolds is Michael, a private security specialist for the corporate market who loses his much-touted "Triple-A" status when a client is bumped off on his watch.

His ex-squeeze in Interpol (Elodie Yung) cajoles him into escorting notorious assassin Darius (Jackson) to The Hague to testify in a war-crimes tribunal against an Eastern European dictator (Gary Oldman, hamming it up). They bicker their way there with nasty Slavic goons hot on their heels.

You're entering a world where a man can fly through a windscreen and run a mile so best park your intellect in the cloakroom and loosen your belt.

One gag remains on repeat (Michael picks lock until no-nonsense Darius blasts door open). The jaunty, goofy tone also sits a bit awkwardly with the level of graphic violence being spattered about.

But those leads do make for a canny enough double act, while Reynolds fans will be happy to see the actor quip his way (as always) through the obligatory torture scene.

Patrick Hughes's film also peddles a good line in quality car chases and fight choreography. ★★★ Hilary A White

Everything, Everything

Cert: 12A; Now showing

With Twilight, it was fangs. In Fifty Shades... it was S&M. Now we have Everything, Everything, where the big over-arching thrill making our heroine all hot-and-bothered is the chance her dark suitor will, um, pass on germs.

The love-sickness metaphor can't be overlooked in Stella Meghie's forcefully soft-focused teen romance based on the YA bestseller by Nicola Yoon. Amandla Stenberg is Maddy, a perfectly balanced and attractive 18-year-old who is housebound due to severe combined immunodeficiency (or Scid). The prospect of new boy-next-door Olly (Nick Robinson) flirting via text from his bedroom window is tantalising as actual contact with him could bring her out in a very real fever. Narrative devices don't get more blunt.

Life is otherwise idyllic, it seems. Maddy and her doctor mother (Anika Noni Rose) dwell in the kind of affluent glass box that architects like to build as pet projects. Not exactly Rapunzel or the Little Mermaid then, but nonetheless Maddy and her throbbing hormones are longing to be part of the outside world which very much means letting charming, sweet and vaguely troubled Olly inside her off-limits home/heart.

Despite the low-hanging metaphors and cloying, prettified dreaminess of it all, this is accurately aimed at its young target market and should elicit the desired effect in them.

A peculiar twist also sits amid the myriad plot holes. ★★★ Hilary A White

Final Portrait

Club Cert; Now showing

There is a fine line between perfectionism and egomania. Or maybe there is no line. Either way, it is one of the topics raised in Stanley Tucci's biopic of the Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.

Like most modern biopics, it focuses on a short period in his life rather than the whole span but it gives a good sense of the man. Tucci wrote it from James Lord's book on Giacometti and an episode about a period they spent together in Paris in 1964.

An art writer, Lord (Armie Hammer) is coming towards the end of a stay in the French capital where he has spent time with the sixtysomething Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush), his brother (Tony Shalhoub), wife (Sylvie Testud) and girlfriend (Clemence Poesy) when the artist offers to do a portrait of him.

Lord is delighted, a delight that wanes slowly as Giacometti wrecks every near completed version, complaining it's no good, leaving Lord forced to change flight after flight.

The performances are great and although niche market, it's not turgid. There are light moments even as it ends up feeling like we're waiting for Godot. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

An Inconvenient Sequel

Cert: PG; Now showing

If you believe climate change is self-evident, it's hard to imagine that anyone wouldn't believe it. Yet a survey in the a few weeks ago suggested it is not a concern to 33pc of respondents.

So while the sub-message of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is 'I told you so', there is still work to be done. Ten years since his award-winning doc, Al Gore's mission continues. Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk's film is less cohesive and compelling than the first film but it is a logical follow-on.

It's also a very timely reminder that when politics is about principle instead of power, it can be a valuable force. It is most likely to preach to the converted and although Gore was right about too much 10 years ago, the film is not without hope. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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