With an unforgiving running time, Spielberg's 'BFG' outstays his welcome

Newstalk's film critic Philip Molloy also looks at 'Star Trek Beyond'

BFG, Mark Rylance, Spielberg, Star Trek Beyond,

Ruby Barnhill as Sophie in 'The BFG' [Disney]

The BFG (PG)

Steven Spielberg obviously thinks that British theatre actor Mark Rylance can do anything. After seeing him in Wolf Hall on TV, he cast him in Bridge Of Spies for which the seasoned thespian won a ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Oscar; he is now committed to the sci-fi thriller Ready Player One and The Kidnapping of Edgardo Morata, in which Rylance will play Pope Pius IX. And this week we find him as the tall, cartoonish jug-eared title character testing the perspective of a cobbled, lamp-lit London in a new live action film version of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

As the titular giant, the character’s chief job in life is to catch dreams and distribute them while people sleep, by way of a trumpet-like dream blower. When a precocious orphan named Sophie spies him one night, he kidnaps her and takes her back to Giant Country, where the two become friends and, ultimately, allies against the hulking neighbors who bully BFG mercilessly for preferring vegetables to a diet of tasty “human beans.”

Sophie falls in and out of peril in The BFG, but her predicament is considerably softened by the wonder of finding herself miniaturised in her new friend’s magical, ship-like lair, whether she’s taking cover in a goopy green snozzcumber or trying her first fizzy sip of frobscottle, which results in a particular passing of gas known as a whizzpopper. Portrayed by Ruby Barnhill in a gratifyingly un-cutesy breakout performance, Sophie emerges as a courageous, resourceful heroine, capable of holding her own even when confronted by scary monsters 10 times her height.

Overall, The BFG is too long at almost 120 minutes, but the central performances and the rich, twisted use of language carry it remarkably.

Star Trek Beyond (12A)

Star Trek Beyond is the latest movie in an originally unsteady space series which began on NBC television as long ago as September 1966. Generally speaking, Star Trek has “lived long and prospered” since then without ever becoming a fully-blown competitor to the movie that was responsible for its revival in the cinema, Star Wars.

One of the narrative strands that has surfaced again and again in Star Trek – especially in Star Trek in the cinema – sees some villainous renegade with a grudge against the United Federation of Planets trying avenge himself on his old comrades. And that is what happens here.

Captain Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Starship Enterprise are three years into a five year mission, exploring the outer reaches of space when a cry for help draws them into an ambush by a lizard-like, vampire community which wants to use a powerful artefact in Kirk’s possession to cause havoc in the galaxy. When the Enterprise is damaged and forced to crash, Kirk has to find transport and reunite the disparate elements of his crew to recover his position, and his ability to fight back.

Thus Star Trek Beyond develops into a dark, fast-moving space adventure with personality and narrative drive and a collection of credible set pieces. Chris Pine, who is growing into the role of James T Kirk, stars with Simon Pegg, Zachery Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Idris Elba as the baddy. Talk of a sequel has already begun.

Downton Abbey actress Penelope Wilton will appear on this week’s The Picture Show to discuss her role as Queen Elizabeth II in The BFG, while screenwriter and actor Simon Pegg will discuss his work on Star Trek Beyond. Tune in from 6pm or listen back to the podcasts here.

To listen back to Philip’s movie discussion with George from last night’s The Right Hook, please listen to the podcast below:

For more movie news on Newstalk.com, please click here.