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Movie reviews: Zoolander 2, Deadpool, A Bigger Splash, The Survivalist


Martin McCann  starring in The Survivalist

Martin McCann starring in The Survivalist

'Flamboyant': Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Penelope Cruz in 'Zoolander No. 2'.

'Flamboyant': Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller and Penelope Cruz in 'Zoolander No. 2'.


Martin McCann starring in The Survivalist

A beloved cult classic to some, a forgettable pantomime to me, Zoolander had the great misfortune to get released in America just two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and a film that might have made a fortune instead became a much-loved semi-dud. Fifteen years later, Ben Stiller has been persuaded to return to the scene of the fashion crime, as it were, in this new and even more flamboyantly idiotic adventure.

The once legendary male model Derek Zoolander has retreated to the wilds of New Jersey and been forgotten by the world until an emissary emerges from a blizzard to summon him to Rome. Top fashion designer Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) wants him and his pan-sexual and only slightly less stupid friend Hansel McDonald (Owen Wilson) to star in her new collection show. They go but it's a trap, and behind the scenes their old enemy Jacobim Mugatu (Will Ferrell) is plotting his rise and their downfall.

Zoolander No. 2 proceeds at a consistently hysterical pitch and, though it drags in parts, is worth watching for some genuinely hilarious moments. Mr. Stiller's dimwit routine has stood the test of time, Owen Wilson's deadpan comic timing is perfect, and Kristen Wiig's impenetrable Russian accent is a thing of beauty.

The idea of the punk superhero was fairly successfully explored in Kick-Ass, and the concept of a superhero comedy has been flirted with in the Iron Man films and Guardians of the Galaxy. Deadpool blends those influences into a new and spectacularly unpleasant adventure starring Ryan Reynolds as a blabber-mouthed anti-hero.

Wade Wilson is a well-intentioned mercenary working Manhattan's mean streets when he's diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He's reeling from this news when a mysterious stranger offers to inject him with a special serum that will cure his disease and unleash hidden mutant superpowers. It does that all right, but also severely disfigures him, after which he becomes a vengeful and unstable masked avenger.

Ryan Reynolds' career has floundered somewhat after a promising start.

This is not his first superhero film but it's certainly his most objectionable, and though the central character is supposed to have a certain ragged charm, he's merely loud, and obnoxious. Deadpool glorifies in lazy misogyny and head-popping violence, and has a profoundly reductive view of the teenage boys at whom it is presumably aimed.

I was hugely impressed by Luca Guadagnino's sweeping and stylish 2010 family saga I Am Love. Tilda Swinton starred in that and also heads the cast of A Bigger Splash, which is inspired by a 1970s French film called La Piscine, but also by the paintings of David Hockney.

Ms. Swinton is Marianne Lane, a rock star who's retired to a remote Italian island with her boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) to recover from an operation on her vocal cords.

They're getting along fine till Marianne's former lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes) turns up unannounced and proves a vortex of chaos.

Fiennes is superb playing the kind of person you'd love to see one day a year, then spend the other 364 recovering from him. I'm not really sure what it all means, but it is gorgeous to look at, and rather entertaining.

Less gorgeous but absolutely compelling is Stephen Fingleton's post-apocalyptic Irish drama The Survivalist. The world order has collapsed due to an energy crisis, and Martin McCann plays a lonely man who has learnt to survive in a hopeless climate.

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Killers and cannibals stalk rural Ireland, and he's initially hostile when a mother (Olwen Fouere) and daughter (Mia Goth) turn up looking for food. They reach an unsavoury arrangement, but his growing fondness for the girl may threaten his survival. It's a lean, grim and perfectly assembled thriller, a little gem in fact.

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