Artemis Fowl Cert 12A, Disney+
A 12-year-old Bond villain in a world of faeries - this was the recipe that saw Wexford writer Eoin Colfer hit pay dirt in 2001 and go on to become one of the nation's top-selling authors. Artemis Fowl, a series about a junior criminal mastermind, sold by the bucket-load to a generation of young readers who liked having the word 'hero' prefixed with 'anti'.
Film rights were quickly acquired but a litany of hiccups, from studio buy-outs to the Weinstein sex scandal to the pandemic, meant heavy delays. And the hiccups haven't ended there, it seems. Having to watch Kenneth Branagh's $125 million phantasmagoria squashed into the home-cinema screen is perhaps an anticlimax in itself, but its scatty, disjointed and suspiciously lean 90-minute run-time brings a niggling suspicion that last-minute hacking has gone on. Add to this the number of scenes in a 2018 teaser trailer that have not made the final cut.
The script by playwright Conor McPherson and Paddington writer Hamish McColl has lightened the diabolical demeanour of Artemis and instead leapt forward several books to the character's emerging selflessness. This might irk fans but would not necessarily be a deal-breaker for newcomers provided our hero's motivations and struggles were compelling. Alas, this Artemis (played by new discovery Ferdia Shaw) is a two-dimensional apparition.
It's not all bad. Colin Farrell is reliable as the boy's father, Artemis Sr. While off on one of his artefact-finding missions, he is taken prisoner by a mysterious enemy who demands as ransom a magical relic. Also pursuing the item are officials in the underground realm of faeries (led by a croaking Hibernian Judi Dench), who dispatch a hirsute tunnelling dwarf (Josh Gad) and a plucky elf officer (Lara McDonnell) to stop the item falling into the wrong hands. It all hurtles along with decent spirit towards a big crashing showdown at the Fowls' clifftop mansion in Ireland, where Artemis Jr and bodyguard Domovoi (Nonso Anozie) await.
Gad and Dench pack the best lines, and younger viewers should get a kick out of the combo of slick, hi-tech action and magical creatures. Whether this slipshod start can spur a franchise remains to be seen, however.
★★★ Hilary A White
Cert: N/A; now VOD
There is an awful lot simmering in Marie Kreutzer’s hard-to-define film. Mental illness, women in a work environment, acute stress, family, denial… it is all there in a clever, thoughtful and well-acted piece of cinema.
Lola (Valerie Pachner, above) is ambitious and profoundly private. She lives in Vienna and commutes to wherever her business-consulting company demands. It’s a very high-stress business and Lola is in the middle of a contract which will decide her corporate future. But her sister Conny (a hauntingly good Pia Hierzegger) has one of her mental health episodes and Lola as guardian must take care of her.
Slowly Lola’s personal and professional stories unfold, from fear that mental illness is hereditary, to the complexities of your boss being your girlfriend (Mavie Hörbiger). It also looks at the pressure we put on ourselves. It’s a sparse film in some respects, and you have to pay attention, it doesn’t give pat answers, and although it slows sometimes, it is ultimately rewarding and quietly moving.
★★★★ Aine O’Connor
Cert: N/A; VOD everywhere
The combination of comedian Pete Davidson and writer/director Judd Apatow guarantees a film not for the easily offended. But in this outing, a semi-autobiography of star and co-writer Davidson, the potential offence is mostly just bad language which, although copious, feels appropriate. Not all of the humour works, the film takes too long to get going and the lead character is complex and often hard to like, but that feels brave and it holds the film together.
Scott (Davidson) is 24 years old, living with his mother (Marisa Tomei), and his sister (Maude Apatow) is about to head off to college. Their father, a firefighter, died in a hotel fire when Scott was seven (Davidson's father was a firefighter who died in 9/11) and as an adult Scott hides his feelings underneath humour and chronic passive aggression and is so devoted to his own failure to launch that it is virtually a career. When his mother finally gets herself a new boyfriend (Bill Burr), the dynamic changes.
Scott is a real pain sometimes but that, oddly, mostly works because it adds authenticity through the try-too-hard jokes.
Essentially it's a redemption story with added Steve Buscemi, but that still won't make it to everyone's taste.
★★★ Aine O'Connor
In case there was any doubt that the world had gone outright bonkers, a new documentary has set out to shower praise on Showgirls, Paul Verhoeven’s famously awful 1995 stripper drama. You Don’t Nomi (UK Cert 18, on demand) looks at how the most ridiculed film in modern times has morphed into something of a cult classic beloved by Queer Cinema aficionados.
The Australian Dream (UK Cert 15, on demand) puts the documentary microscope on to the issue of racism in Australian Rules football. Daniel Gordon’s film follows indigenous AFL star Adam Goodes and uses his experience with casual racism to look at broader themes of identity and belonging in modern Australia.
Dark and quirky science-fiction is next, courtesy of Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe (UK Cert 12, on demand). Emily Beecham (who took the Best Actress gong at Cannes for this), Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox and our own David Wilmot comprise a fine cast in this tale of a greenhouse experiment ending in a floral nightmare.
The 2012 Steubenville high school rape case was part of the inspiration for Louise O’Neill’s novel Asking For It. Roll Red Roll (Netflix, from tomorrow) is a documentary examining the background to the shocking gang-rape incident and the efforts by the perpetrators’ parents to cover up the assault. True crime blogger Alexandria Goddard, who played a major role in exposing the story, features here.
An all-girl Bonnie & Clyde with a difference is found in US crime thriller Stray Dolls (Cert 15, on demand). In the sleazy environs of a roadside motel, a recent immigrant with gang history tries to start a new life but is drawn into a series of violent heists by a colleague and fellow runaway. Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon turns up in Sonejuhi Sinha’s feature debut.
Regarded as Italy’s answer to Larry David, writer-director Gianni Di Gregorio brings us a summery slice of comedy-drama about three men in the winter of their years. Citizens of the World (Curzon Home Cinema) ambles along laconically with a trio of retirees looking to relocate some place where their pensions might afford them a higher quality of life. It’s very late in the day for these old dogs to be learning new tricks — or is it?
Hilary A White
Sunday Indo Living