Wednesday 13 December 2017

Trouble in Gotham for Lego Batman

* The Lego Batman Movie (G, 104mins), 3 Stars
* Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (15A, 113mins), 2 Stars
* Meetings with Ivor (12A, 81mins), 3 Stars
* Prevenge (16, 88mins), 2 Stars

Pieced together: Lego Batman and Robin
Pieced together: Lego Batman and Robin

Paul Whitington

The Lego Movie deserved all the praise it got, and in a film full of good things Will Arnett's Batman stood out. Now he has his own movie, and must do battle with a diminutive Joker while Gotham City, as always, goes to pot. The Lego version of Batman speaks in a gravelly murmur like Christian Bale, but is even more self-absorbed and conceited: he refers to himself in the third person, and craves the adulation of the crowds.

"I don't do 'ships'", he boasts at one point, meaning relationships, but away from the spotlight, he's a bit of a loser, with no friends, a sad obsession with romcoms and only his faithful retainer Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) to keep him company. But the Batman gets a land when he accidentally adopts an annoyingly keen orphan (Michael Cera).

The Lego Batman is inherently funny: his little legs work furiously to keep up, and mock his grandiose pretensions. This film is peppered with hilarious lines and priceless moments, but it's all a little one-note, and so noisy and relentlessly busy that it wears out its welcome.

It's odd that America's adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced so few good films and so many ordinary ones, but Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk definitely belongs to the latter category. Directed by Ang Lee, and based on an acclaimed satirical novel, its promising central idea might have become something substantial but instead gets mired in confusion and cliché.

It's 2004, and 19-year-old infantryman Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) has become a national hero after footage emerged of him running to his dying sergeant's aid and defending him from Iraqi insurgents.

Billy and his squad have returned to the US on a media tour, and are due to appear onstage with Destiny's Child during an American football game. But Billy is haunted by flashbacks of Iraq, and by conversations with his sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart), who doesn't want him to go back. Meanwhile, he and his comrades must endure the crazy hoopla of a football game, and slowly realise that their fellow Americans haven't an effing clue what's going on in Iraq.

We, meanwhile, have no effing idea what's going on at all. Is this a pro-war film, an anti-war film, or a scatter-gun attack on American culture? Effed if I know.

Something of a legend within Irish psychiatry, Ivor Browne has long been known for his gifts as a therapist and his opposition to the over use of anti-depressants. He's now 87, but has lost none of his vigour and intellectual curiosity, and in Alan Gilsenan's absorbing documentary Meetings with Ivor, he looks back on his life and has informal sessions with some well-known faces.

Tommy Tiernan and he ponder the performer's need to be loved, Nell McCafferty gives Browne a piece of her mind, Mary Coughlan undergoes excruciating regression therapy, and in my favourite sequence, Browne and the playwright Tom Murphy exchange emotions silently while listening to an aria. His opinions are robust, his criticisms insightful: he's an original thinker, even if one doesn't always agree with him.

I'm a big fan of Alice Lowe's work, and in Prevenge, the actor and writer makes her directorial debut, playing a woman whose pregnancy is not going as smoothly as it might. Because although everything is as it should be medically, Ruth may not be entirely right in the head, a suspicion raised in the opening scene when she seduces and murders a seedy pet shop owner.

Ruth's partner died in a climbing accident, and she blames everyone else who was involved, leaving a long list of enemies whom she sets about killing.

This robust premise is playing out rather artlessly by a film that never quite decides if it's a comedy or a slasher movie, and as a consequence does neither particularly well. There are funny moments, but it's pretty bleak stuff.

Irish Independent

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