X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (USA/12A/143mins)
Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters.
THE PLOT: When the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse (Isaac), awakens from a deep, deep sleep, he’s soon rallying a small group of henchmen around him as he sets out to rid the world of, well, underachieving bums like you and me. Soon after he loses his wife and kid, and smalltown Polish factory worker identity, Magneto (Fassbender) becomes Apocalypse’s right-hand man for his dastardly world-cleansing plan. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Professor Charles Xavier is having a little trouble teaming up against Apocalypse and co with his beloved CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Byrne) after he wiped all memory of their love affair from her memory. Suffering a different kind of growing pain are Jean Grey (Turner) and Scott Summers (Sheridan), each feeling that they don’t really belong at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters…
THE VERDICT: Following pretty much the exact same pattern as 2014’s Days Of Future Past, the new ‘X-Men’ starts off pretty damn ropey, all by-the-numbers plotting, Star Trek set designs and second-rate cosplay costumes. And then that little Billy Whizz Quicksilver shows up in delicious slo-mo and sets the world to rights. And just as with that 2014 outing, the latest instalment of this hit-and-miss comic book superhero franchise suddenly gets interesting. And funny. And even groovy.
There’s lots to overcome here, which may explain that slow first half. McAvoy doesn’t quite deliver the necessary gravitas as the Prof, ‘Game of Thrones’ ginger Sophie Turner initially seems more like a pubescent Boy George than a teenage Jean Grey, and the big Mr Deep Freeze baddie of the piece looks like he was designed, and made, by a 12-year-old.
Still, all’s pretty good that ends pretty good, as they’re forced to say quite a lot in Hollywood – and ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ ends pretty good.
Review by Paul Byrne
Directed by Andrew Stegall. Starring Juliet Stevenson, Alex Lawther, Phénix Brossard, Finbar Lynch, Niamh Cusack, Patrice Juiff.
THE PLOT: It’s France, it’s a faded marriage, and Beatrice (Stevenson) is clearing out the family holiday home with her 15-year-old son, Elliot (Lawther). When Elliot makes friends with Clément (Brossard), he’s soon helping with the furniture moving. And kissing Beatrice on the sly. And getting handjobs from Elliot.
Hey, when in France…
When the man of the soon-to-be-sold house, Philip (Lynch), arrives, tensions rise, as awkward family truths have to be confronted.
Hey, when in France..
THE VERDICT: As you may have gathered, there’s something very French about this UK/France production, despite all the heavy hitters being English. Swap Stevenson for Kristan Scott Thomas, and you’d be on very familiar ground. Described by its debuting writer/director Andrew Steggall as “a mythological eulogy to love and loss”, the overriding sense of melancholy and the wallowing in the sensual world as much as the praxtical gives Departure a seductive gaze.
That Stegall overplays the sensual world imagery every now and then is perhaps forgiveable, given the forlorn storyline and the beautiful Languedoc landscape. And Stevenson is, as always, compelling to watch, a woman drowning, but keeping all her panic beneath the water…
Review by Paul Byrne