Film of the week: The Meg

Cert: 12A; Now showing


Jason Statham heads the cast in underwater adventure 'The Meg'
Jason Statham heads the cast in underwater adventure ‘The Meg’
Pope Francis

It scares me when Jason Statham smiles, and he does quite a lot of it in this slightly tongue-in-cheek underwater monster adventure. It’s big, ridiculous and good fun.

Jonas Taylor (Statham, absolutely unsmiling) appears in the prologue which sees him abort a dangerous rescue mission because he believes the nuclear submarine they’re rescuing is being attacked by something unknown. Accused of being crazy, he retires to Thailand to drink. Several years later, and a state-of-the-art deep sea exploration centre funded by a dodgy billionaire (Rainn Wilson), begs Taylor to return. One of their submarines has been attacked and stranded deeper than any other sub has ever gone, the crew are trapped and only Jonas can save the day.

Everyone is initially wary of the loose cannon, but soon he proves himself, smiles at lots of people and everything is great. Until it turns out that what attacked the submarine has managed to escape the sub-ocean in which it lived, and this 80ft shark, the Megalodon, is loose in the Pacific. Cue more day-saving for Jonas.

Director Jon Turteltaub keeps it light, the film knows what it is and pays homage to its obvious parent Jaws but also The Abyss (Jonas’s ex-wife is one of the sub crew he rescues). The cast is more gender and racially representative of the blockbusting adventures of old (Li Bingbing, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Masi Oka all play good roles), but it also ticks the genre boxes with humorous black man (Page Kennedy), fat man (Olafur Darri Olafsson).

This is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s not a classic movie but it is great fun and not as gory as Jaws, so fine for most kids. ★★★ Aine O’Connor

 

Pope Francis:  A Man of His Word

Cert: PG; Now showing

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Pope Francis

With Ireland’s first proper introduction to the incumbent pontiff looming, the feeling is one of a collision that could go either way. A starkly different habitat awaits Pope Francis compared to the one that JPII mumbled affectionately at in 1979. By the same token, this is a very different design of Pope too. While we know he has ruffled feathers with his Franciscan humility and reformative manoeuvres, it’s probably time we got to know him a bit better.

That’s where Wim Wenders comes in. Wenders has form in fine documentary portrayals of Latin American icons such as Buena Vista Social Club and Sebastiao Salgado. Here he sits down with the erstwhile Jorge Mario Bergoglio to explore his world view in his own words. We see Francis on the ground at the worst humanitarian crises of recent years and flexing his diplomatic muscle, while dramatised depictions of St Francis of Assisi illustrate where the humble, hands-on approach originates. Films such as these must show us the less-seen colours of a subject, and to this extent, Wenders succeeds. Francis looks us square in the eye as he decries the Church’s obsession with wealth, clerical abuse, warmongering governments and the plight of this planet.

Mind you, a slightly mealy-mouthed answer to his view on homosexuality reminds us that, while he is a huge improvement, there’s still a way to go to catch up with a turning world. ★★★★ Hilary A White

The Darkest Minds

Cert: 12A; Now showing

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Teen fiction, and the cinema born of it, took a much darker turn in recent years; compare Grease to The Hunger Games. The huge success of the latter and things like Twilight meant that darker, even dystopian tone is now a template, and The Darkest Minds adheres to that template, with mixed results. It is clearly meant to be the first in a series – it’s based on a book trilogy – and it works in some ways, but whether it has the oomph to fulfil its three-trick promise is another question.

The fact that it is meant to be the first in a series, perhaps explains why director Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s film is a bit too heavy on exposition. A virus strikes children, some die, others recover with varying degrees of supernatural powers, from a touch of telekinetics to full-on fire machine. The children are all taken away, put in camps and colour-coded according to their power. Our heroine is Ruby (Amandla Stenberg), who has been masquerading as less powerful than she really is. She escapes and teams up with fellow runaways Zu (Miya Cech), Chubbs (Skylan Brooks) and Liam (Harris Dickinson) as they search for a rumoured child-friendly safe zone. There’s a clumsy love story, a twist and lots of timely allegories. But, despite too much exposition, the film does leave some strange, unanswered questions. Like, er, did no-one have any more kids? There is some violence but younger teens should enjoy it. However, it doesn’t feel like it will spawn a frenzied following. ★★★ Aine O’Connor

Unfriended: Dark Web

Cert: 15A; Now showing

The clue is in the title of Stephen Susco’s internet-based horror. Six friends get involved in something they hadn’t bargained for when one of them joins their Skype game night on a purloined laptop. Mathias’s (Colin Woodell) first task with his new laptop is to smooth things over with his deaf girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras), then he joins the online game night, and starts receiving messages destined for the laptop’s former owner.

Norah C IX, at first, seems to be a faceless ladies’ man, but another message reveals a secret network and a transfer of $10m in Bitcoin. What this fee might be for becomes apparent from a hidden file on the computer. Norah C IX is also a hacker, who has traced Mathias and threatens Amaya if it is not returned. And that is just the plot outline.

Lots goes on over a 90-minute run time, all the action takes place on-screen, new pieces of info arriving via pop-up screens and it trots along very well. There are some bits of daftness, none of these tech-savvy folk have their cameras covered, but it’s a good idea and, although not terrifying, it keeps your brain engaged. ★★★ Aine O’Connor

 

The Image You Missed

Club: Cert; Now showing

Donal Foreman’s documentary tells a private story through public content, so manages to be both personal and to offer a broader perspective. Director and cinematographer Arthur MacCaig was an Irish-American who had a deep, somewhat slanted fascination with the Troubles.

His son uses his estranged father’s work, much of it previously unseen, to offer visuals that cover that remarkable time in history. At the same time the voiceover begins “Dear Arthur,” and becomes an attempt to understand the man who could be so passionate about a political situation and so removed from fatherhood. MacCaig died suddenly, at 60, so the story, told elliptically, comes back around to a kind of understanding of a situation that could never fully offer closure. ★★★★ Aine O’Connor

Sunday Indo Living

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