Four new films to see this week

Ferocious Furiosa is the craziest show on Earth. Plus Irish documentaries on Charlie Bird and Chinese music competitors, and an eerie Pakistani social horror

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga ★★★☆☆

Directed by George Miller. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke, Alyla Browne, Lachy Hulme, Nathan Jones, John Howard. 15A cert, gen release,148 min

Massive, clunking prequel to Mad Max: Fury Road starring Taylor-Joy as the road warrior who will later grow into Charlize Theron. Without even the tendrils of emotional connection that united the characters in that last episode, Furiosa sometimes loses itself in repetitive spectacle. It is like watching the greatest circus performers on Earth overstay their welcome and cause the audience to grow blase about the spinning plates and tamed lions. That noted, nobody could sit through one minute of Furiosa without being caught up in the shot-to-shot peril. Full review DC

Ransom ’79 ★★★☆☆

Directed by Colm Quinn. Featuring Charlie Bird. PG cert, limited release, 84 min

Fascinating documentary following Charlie Bird as, in the months before his death, he investigates a story from his early career. Back in 1979, a note was sent to the Department of Agriculture demanding £5 million on the threat of introducing foot and mouth disease to Irish livestock. Working with director Quinn and the versatile writer Colin Murphy, Bird draws on hidden reserves of energy to — with great economy — lay out a web that captures a surprising amount of the era’s discontents. It’s a gripping tale that, inevitably, also comprises a farewell to a much-liked figure. Full review DC


Piano Dreams ★★★★☆

Directed by Gary Lennon, Richard Hughes. G cert, gen release, 86 min

This delightful doc from Irish filmmaker Lennon follows three talented young Chinese pianists as they negotiate a fiercely competitive landscape. Xia Xidi (8) competes in insane piano battles against classmates at the bidding of his stern, paternal music teacher. Xi Yingying (12) hopes to be a concert pianist. Zhou Yu’ang (19) plans to study at an American conservatory. In the final act, thanks to editor Cara Holmes’ clever cuts, we anxiously wait to learn the results of Xia’s competition, Xi’s exam, and Zhou’s college applications. No matter the outcome, there’s a certain melancholy in knowing they can’t all be the new Lang Lang. TB

In Flames ★★★★☆

Directed by Zarrar Kahn. Starring Ramesha Nawal, Bakhtawar Mazhar, Omar Javaid, Mohammad Ali Hashmi, Adnan Shah Tipu. 15A cert, gen release, 98 min

The impressive Nawal plays Mariam a young medical student whose father has died in mysterious circumstances. When her grandfather also dies, her family are in serious jeopardy. As all of the bills, debts and modest assets were in the grandfather’s name, other adult men in the extended family have a right to seize them. Hitchcockian tensions mount as men occupy the same eerie, dangerous space as The Birds. This Pakistani film is at its best when it trades in real-world patriarchal controls and abuses rather than things that go bump in the night. A remarkable debut feature with a nail-biting denouement. Full review TB

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Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic