WHAT Hollywood always needs is cinematic superheroes to knock the living daylights out of Really Bad Guys — and out of the box office too.
So do filmgoers who enjoy heroes with amazing superpowers, unusual costumes and, best of all, playing fair to the comic books that spawned them.
Recently, such devotees were in thrall to Marvel Comics’ superhero Thor. Now it’s the turn of DC Comics to again unleash their classic characters onto the big screen, courtesy of director Zack Snyder and a plot-packed screenplay by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, who definitely do the entertaining business.
When legions of hideous winged monsters, led by demonic huge-horned villain Steppenwolf (a splendidly satanic Ciaran Hinds), invades Earth seeking three magic energy-filled “Motherboxes” to use to destroy the planet, only super-heroes can save mankind.
And that leaves Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman, still shattered by the death of Superman, to assemble “a team of people with special abilities” to sort out Steppenwolf.
Which he does, with the amusing aid of DC stalwarts Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), fast-and-furious Flash (Ezra Miller) and merrily mutating teenage Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Aided by dazzling special effects, they deliver two thoroughly enjoyable hours of magical thrills and fantasy action.
Directed by Dee Rees
SET in the rural US South, the friendship between two returning second world war veterans sparks racial tension in this epic drama whose themes and issues sadly still resonate.
This adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel centres on a white family and a black family who are pitted against one another by a ruthless social hierarchy but who are bound by the farmland they share on the mud-filled Mississippi Delta.
Directed and co-written by Dee Rees (Pariah) this is a powerful yet relentlessly slow, bleak and violent drama.
You can’t help but sympathise with the despair of Laura (a sublime Carey Mulligan) when her husband Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) moves their young family from the urban confines of Memphis to the mud-caked Mississippi Delta and then saddles her with his racist and misogynistic father Pappy (Jonathan Banks).
When her charismatic brother-in-law (Garrett Hedlund), just back from the war, becomes friends with distinguished war hero Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), eldest son of the poor black neighbours (Rob Morgan and a phenomenal Mary J Blige), it sends the local white supremacists and Laura’s father-in-law into a racist, violent frenzy which is very difficult to stomach.
Having fought for his country as an equal, Ronsel finds it hard to return to segregation and being treated worse than an animal. The injustice and irony is inescapable and, given the recent rise of the US far right and white supremacists, this slow-burning but hard-hitting period drama has never been more relevant.
Ingrid Goes West (15)
Directed by Matt Spicer
“I STRUGGLE with my addiction to social media as much as anyone,” says debut director Matt Spicer and co-writer of this film with David Branson Smith.
He proves it with this witty, acerbic indictment of today’s all-too prevalent Instagram obsession as he follows Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) who, mentally unstable and obsessed online with social media “influencer” Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), inherits enough to move to California’s Venice Beach to befriend her internet idol in actuality.
Ingrid rents a house from Batman-batty and future accomplice Dan Pinto (O’Shea Jackson Jnr) who successfully invades Sloane’s life by kidnapping and then returning her beloved dog. But, increasingly deranged, he becomes dangerous to Ingrid’s new “friend.”
Plaza, who also produced, is cruelly convincing as Olsen and well-chosen supporting players deliver strong support. Making the most of the rightly prize-winning screenplay, Spicer’s ironic satire of internet addiction, combined with dark black comedy and unexpected suspense, makes for a memorable directorial debut.
Directed by Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson
Based in a remote fishing village in Iceland, this coming-of-age tale about two teenage friends is a raw, moving drama with captivating performances from its young cast.
Set in the Icelandic wastelands, it has best mates Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Christian (Blaer Hinriksson) experiencing a tumultuous summer when the former tries to win the heart of a girl while the latter discovers he has feelings for his friend — a scenario which never tends to end well.
It’s an impressive first feature by Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson, who captures the heartaches of being an adolescent thanks to his outstanding cast. Einarsson and Hinriksson are electric to watch as they portray the pains of teenage angst to remarkable effect.
The film, bordering on the bleak, explores the loss of innocence, gay and straight sexual awakenings and teen betrayal, set against the backdrop of a dysfunctional home life.
A poignant look at growing up.
Good Time (15)
Directed by Josh Safdie
and Bennie Safdie
HAVING escaped the saccharine-saturated world of Harry Potter, Robert Pattinson found stardom as young vampire Edward Cullen in the series of Twilight films.
Now, in a mesmeric characterisation, Pattinson erases memories of frequently anodyne previous performances in the role of criminal Constantine “Connie” Nikas who, after a botched New York bank robbery, spends an increasingly dangerous night rescuing his younger brother Nick (Benny Safdie) from jail.
It’s a gut-wrenching, one expletive-laden thing after another thriller, with Pattinson, bearded and not easily recognisable, hitting all his dramatic targets head-on.
Jennifer Jason Leigh makes a potent, though relatively short, appearance while the unfamiliar faces of the key supporting players add considerable dramatic force to a film that genuinely thrills from start to finish and the New York locations are perfectly chosen.