Almost every film in cinemas this week, reviewed and rated

'The Irish Times' what-to-see guide to the movies now in cinemas across Ireland

New this week: John Boyega in Pacific Rim: Uprising

New this week: John Boyega in Pacific Rim: Uprising

 

ANNIHILATION ★★★★
Directed by Alex Garland. Starring Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac. Netflix, 115 min
Portman, Leigh and the rest investigate a mysterious portal in Garland’s impressive adaption of Jeff VanderMeer’s philosophical science-fiction novel. The more familiar aspects of Annihilation are enlivened by the female dynamic, which seldom conforms to simplistic group archetypes. Portman’s Lena is a complicated heroine with complicated feelings about her husband. This is no ordinary gender-swapped rescue mission: her journey is motivated as much by guilt and obligation as it is by love. An arresting, visually impressive puzzler, going straight to Netflix on this side of the Atlantic. TB

BLACK PANTHER ★★★
Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker. 12A cert, gen release, 134 min
Marvel’s first outing with a black protagonist stars Boseman as an African king who, from time to time, fights oppression as the lithe Black Panther. Coogler has as much right to direct a so-so children’s film as the next chap, but a little more roughage would have been nice. It’s efficient, fun and very well acted. But the excess of CGI is suffocating and the surface plot is impossible to care about. Just good enough. DC

COCO ★★★★
Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina. Voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Edward James Olmos. PG cert, gen release, 105 min
The latest from Pixar risks telling children (and all others) a tale of the Mexican Day of the Dead. On paper, the mythology scans as complicated and dark, but in the capable hands of Oscar-winner Unkrich and Pixar veteran Molina, Coco is accessible for even the youngest. The animation eschews the tiring photo-realism of Cars 3 and The Good Dinosaur in favour of the transporting carnivalesque, replete with a stage show by Frieda Kahlo and candy-coloured Xoloitzcuintli. Welcome back. TB

DAMO AND IVOR: THE MOVIE ★★
Directed by Rob Burke, Ronan Burke. Starring Andy Quirke, Ruth McCabe, Simon Delaney, Tina Kellegher, Enda Oates. 15A cert, gen release, 90 min
It is unfortunate for Andy Quirke, prime perpetrator of this effluvial comedy, that it emerges in the wake of the justifiably celebrated Young Offenders. It’s a bad time to be making bad jokes at the expense of working-class wasters. Then again, Damo and Ivor: The Movie is not significantly worse than Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie. Inspired by some TV series that I won’t pretend to have seen, this hangs on the relationship between Dublin twins – one posh, one working-class – who, following separation at birth, end up living with their colourful granny in the Northside. Imagine The Prince and the Pauper with endless masturbation jokes and you’re halfway there. DC

EARLY MAN ★★★★
Directed by Nick Park. Voices of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Miriam Margolyes, Timothy Spall, Rob Brydon, Richard Ayoade. PG cert, gen release, 88 min
The latest stop-motion treat from Aardman Animation follows a group of prehistoric oddballs as they prepare for a football match against more technologically advanced neighbours. The film is not quite up to the standards of Wallace & Gromit. But what is? The puns are solid. The characters are charming. And the animation retains the homemade feel that began winning fans 40 years ago. It cheers you up simply to know they still exist. DC

A FANTASTIC WOMAN/UNA MUJER FANTÁSTICA ★★★★★
Directed by Sebastián Lelio. Starring Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Kuppenheim, Nicolas Saavedra, Amparo Noguera. 15A cert, IFI, Dublin, 104 min
This Chilean drama, which won the best foreign language picture at the Oscars, details the struggles of a trans woman to make a life for herself following bereavement. Which makes it sound heavier than it actually plays. Yes, there are moments of anger and frustration, an extended scream against lazy assumptions and blinkered bigotry. But it is also light, funny, wry and inspiring. The first transgendered person ever to present at the Oscars, charismatic star Daniela Vega allows a vulnerability to peak through the carapace of confidence. She is in virtually every scene, and she owns every one of them. DC

GAME NIGHT ★★★★★
Directed by John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein. Starring Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Jesse Plemons, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Michael C Hall. 15A cert, gen release, 100 min
Even semi-amusing studio comedies are now so rare that, when a properly funny one arrives, the temptation is to have it stuffed and mounted. Game Night concerns insanely competitive yuppies (Bateman and McAdams) who devote their evenings to gaming exercises in mid-brain one-upmanship. One event, a staged murder mystery party, goes quickly out of control. The trick is to keep the dialogue so sharp and the relationships so cleanly defined that nobody bothers to question the increasingly preposterous plot turns. Directors Daley andGoldstein follow up their hilarious, unfairly derided updating of National Lampoon’s Vacation with a critical hit that shows were right about them all along. So there. DC

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN ★★
Directed by Michael Gracey. Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya. PG cert, gen release, 105 min
This energetic musical – inspired by circus impresario PT Barnum (Jackman) – boasts plenty of razzle dazzle, at least two proper toe-tappers, and lovely turns from Efron, Zendaya, and Keala Settle. But it is let down by flimsy plotting, shallow characterisation, tacky CG backgrounds, miscasting, and a dishonest depiction of historical freak-shows. Too much smoke and mirrors. TB

GRINGO ★★★
Directed by Nash Edgerton. Starring David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley, Yul Vazquez, Harry Treadaway. 15A cert, gen release, 110 min
Edgerton is a high-flying suit in Big Pharma; Theron is his partner in crime. Shenanigans ensue in a plot that takes a company-wide switch to medical marijuana, a Mexican cartel, and Oyelowo staging his own kidnap. Various characters arrive and quickly exit the stage. Some, particularly Copley’s conscious-pricked bounty hunter, are memorable. Others, particularly a blink and you’ll miss her Seyfried, serve no narrative purpose whatsoever. It’s chaotic, but it moves at a pace and is aware of its own silliness. TB

I GOT LIFE/AURORE ★★★★
Directed by Blandine Lenoir. Starring Agnès Jaoui, Thibault de Montalembert, Pascale Arbillot. Club, IFI, Dublin, 90 min

New this week: I Got Life, exclusively at the IFI, Dublin

Unusual, very welcome cinematic investigation of the menopause. As middle age properly sets in, Aurore (Jaoui) is cast adrift on a mini-odyssey. She reassesses age, race, social status and the importance of sex. At times, the film comes across like a less cerebral version of Mia Hansen-Løve’s Things to Come – Jaoui doesn’t strive for Huppert’s intellectual heft – but it never loses its easy, digestible, amusing tone. An unheralded gem. DC

I, TONYA ★★★★
Directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale. 15A cert, gen release, 110 min
Searing, politically edgy study of the journey that took Tonya Harding (Robbie) from ice skating star to the most reviled woman in 1994 America. The film’s sympathies lie with Harding, roundly abused by her ruthless mother and manager, LaVona (Janney), and her violent, shotgun-wielding husband (Stan). The film’s treatment of domestic violence is occasionally a little uneasy. But a fired-up Robbie and an incandescently horrid Oscar-winning Janney make it work. A blast. TB

LADY BIRD ★★★★★
Directed by Greta Gerwig. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley. 15A cert, gen release, 94 min
Gloriously funny, surprisingly moving comic-drama about the struggles between a feisty teenager (Ronan, delightful) and her harassed mum (Metcalf, nuanced) in millennial Sacramento. For somebody so often identified as the most fashionable of cinematic hipsters, actor-turned-director Gerwig proves (not for the first time) to have an enormously generous spirit. Nobody is perfect in the Lady Bird universe. But nobody is fully malign either. Laurie gets her moment of catharsis. Ronan is eventually allowed the chance to breath. Essential. DC

MARY MAGDALENE ★★★
Directed by Garth Davis. Starring Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tahar Rahim, Ariane Labed, Denis Menochet, Lubna Azabal, Tchécky Karyo. 12A cert, gen release, 120 min
The film is here to contradict the myth that Mary Magdalene, first witness of Christ’s resurrection, was a prostitute. That aside, the film-makers’ purpose remains obscure. The picture is peppered with feminist asides, but those philosophies don’t power the narrative as we might expect. Yes, the story is told from Mary’s perspective. Her eyes are, however, always on the Nazarene. Still, it is well cast and nicely shot. Mara is a rooted Mary, Phoenix a charismatic Jesus. DC

MONSTER FAMILY
Directed by Holger Tappe. Voices of Emily Watson, Nick Frost, Jessica Brown Findlay, Celia Imrie, Catherine Tate, Jason Isaacs. PG cert, gen release, 93 min
It was brave of the producers of this Euro-baloney to hire a writer called Catharina Junk. Watson voices a bookstore owner who accidentally phones Dracula and gets caught up in his yearning for company. Frost is a workaholic dad who repeatedly farts out a green gas that causes all those around to swoon. Isaacs is Dracula. Based, somewhat incredibly, on an actual book, Monster Family does seem to have had proper money put its way. Though never pretty, the computer animation is slick enough to compare with the mid-price efforts of American competitors. DC

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING
Directed by Steven S DeKnight. Starring John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman. 12A cert, gen release, 110 min
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim was no masterpiece – a flashy, epic fight between giant robots and giant lizards – but it had some style and sweep. It doesn’t look as if they’re even trying here. Boyega is predictably charming as a roguish Prince Hal figure who, after living the wild life, gets quickly lured into the fight against scaly things, but the plot is incoherent, the action boring and the dialogue mindless. No fun at all. DC

PETER RABBIT ★★★
Directed by Will Gluck. Starring Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, Sam Neill, Daisy Ridley, Elizabeth Debicki, Margot Robbie, James Corden, Sia. G cert, gen release, 94 min
Having seen off the mean-spirited elder Mr McGregor (Neill), Peter and his woodland chums fall out with a younger, high-strung McGregor (Gleeson). Cordon’s Peter doesn’t bear much resemblance to Beatrix Potter’s naughty creation. Still, though there are shades of the dreaded Alvin and the Chipmunks, director Will Gluck (Easy A) has a flair for slapstick and comic sadism. Yes, it’s a travesty of the original material, but it’s a passably amusing travesty. TB

RED SPARROW ★★
Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Jennifer Lawrence. Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons, Ciarán Hinds. 16 cert, gen release, 140 min
Red Sparrow
has a big idea. Or at least notions. Or we think it does. We open with the ghastly idea that recently recruited former ballerina-turned-spy Lawrence has been sexually penetrated by her mark. Rampling plays the headmistress of a (we’re quoting the script) “whore school” where (quote) girls learn to have “magic pussies”. The film is big on torture porn and violence against women while doubling as a showcase for J-Law’s ludicrious accent and many, many outfit changes. There is a post-Cold War caper buried in the muddled, insanely boring Red Sparrow. But apparently it has no intention of surfacing or blowing its cover. TB

THE SHAPE OF WATER ★★★★
Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer. 15A cert, general release, 123 min
In this winner of four Oscars, including best picture and director, Hawkins plays a lonely mute janitor who falls for a (literally) fishy humanoid imprisoned in a CIA research centre during the cold war. Anybody who savoured Del Toro’s work on Pan’s Labyrinth will be at home in The Shape of Water’s green universe. Alexandre Desplat’s score wheezes warmly beneath a story that powers towards an epiphany so inevitable that...Well, if you haven’t worked that out we won’t spoil it for you. Maybe it’s a bit too cosy. Remarkable nonetheless. DC

THE SQUARE ★★★★
Directed by Ruben Östlund. Starring Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary, Linda Anborg, Christopher Laesso. 15A cert, IFI/Light House, Dublin, 151 min
Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Östlund’s baggy satire takes on the form of the art gallery within which much of its action takes place. There a great scene involving confrontational performance art. There is a weird moment with a monkey. If you don’t like those then move on to the next exhibit. There is a holding narrative, but we drift away from that story for uncomfortably long stretches. Often spectacular. Occasionally confusing. A welcome oddity. DC

SWEET COUNTRY ★★★★★
Directed by Warwick Thornton. Starring Hamilton Morris, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown. 15A cert, IFI, Dublin, 114 min
It is nine years since Thornton’s Samson and Delilah was awarded the Camera d’Or prize at Cannes. Happily, Sweet Country, the best Oz-based neo-western since John Hillcoat’s The Proposition, proves well worth the wait. The film concerns a 1920s-era manhunt for an aboriginal stockman (Morris) who has killed a vicious white veteran in self-defence. Thornton’s direction, cinematography and screenplay could not be more impactful or ochre. The ensemble cast are excellent. And the frontier has seldom looked so forbidding. TB

THE THIRD MURDER ★★★★
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Starring Masaharu Fukuyama, Suzu Hirose, Shinnosuke Mitsushima. 15A cert, lim release, 125 min

New this week: The Third Murder, on limited release
New this week: 'The Third Murder', on limited release

A state defender (Masaharu) is assigned an apparently open-and-shut case. The perpetrator (Yakusho) has allegedly killed his factory-owner boss, burned the corpse and stolen the victim’s wallet. The lawyer is tasked with pleading the court down from the death penalty to a life sentence, but soon realises there is more to the case than meets the eye. The 12th feature from Our Little Sister director Hirokazu is an enigmatic tangle of anti-death penalty campaigning, murder mystery, and legal procedure. TB

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI ★★★
Directed by Martin McDonagh. Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Lucas Hedges, Clarke Peters, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, Caleb Landry Jones, Kerry Condon, John Hawkes. 15A cert, gen release, 115 min
Martin McDonagh’s third film as director starts quite brilliantly. Oscar winner McDormand plays a desperate mother who refuses to take the murder of her daughter lying down. Harrelson is the decent police chief, Rockwell his racist deputy. Sadly the beautifully knotted narrative begins to fray over messier second and third acts. The uneasy treatment of racism becomes more noticeable. The improbable twists become harder to forgive. A shame. DC

TOMB RAIDER
Directed by Roar Uthaug. Starring Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi. 12A cert, gen release, 118 min
Lara Croft climbs things, shoots things and solves things. Stand upwind, folks: the first unforgivable stinker of 2018 has landed with a big plop. Ordinarily, videogame movie adaptations this atrocious are sequels, but somehow this unwanted Tomb Raider reboot remarkably matches all the terribleness of Silent Hill: Revelation 3D and Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li without a first instalment. Vikander may be as beautiful and capable as Angelina Jolie, but she has none of the latter’s A-list qualities. TB

UNSANE ★★★
Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Claire Foy, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Amy Irvine, Polly McKie, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Gibson Frazier. 16 cert, gen release, 97 min

New this week: Claire Foy in Steven Soderbergh's Unsane
New this week: Claire Foy in Steven Soderbergh's 'Unsane'

Soderbergh latest experiment – shot entirely on an iPhone – is one really good one and one very unsatisfactory one. The good one sees Foy imprisoned against her will in a mental facility. Are we seeing her hallucinations? Is it really an insurance scam? In the last third, sadly, it turns into a disappointingly crude Gothic melodrama. Everyone’s very good in it. The director makes a virtue of his still-novel shooting method. But the script needed work. DC

WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST ★★★
Directed by Lorna Tucker. Featuring Vivienne Westwood. 15A cert, lim release, 84 min

New this week: Vivienne Westwood profiled in Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist
New this week: Vivienne Westwood profiled in 'Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist'

“Do we have to cover every bit of it?” grumbles 76-year-old Vivienne Westwood. “It’s so boring.” No. She doesn’t want to talk about The Sex Pistols. Her strange friendship with Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson is glimpsed only through archive footage. And it falls to her son, Joseph Corré, to do the talking about Malcolm McLaren, who casts a formidable shadow across the film, nonetheless. You’ve heard of an unreliable narrator: trust the commendably testy Vivienne Westwood to be an unreliable subject. TB

A WRINKLE IN TIME ★★★
Directed by Ava DuVernay. Starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine. PG cert, gen release, 109 min

New this week: Oprah Winfrey in 'A Wrinkle in Time'
New this week: Oprah Winfrey in 'A Wrinkle in Time'

A young girl (Reid, very good) searches mysterious dimensions for her missing father (Pine) in a messy, wild but very enjoyable sci-fi epic. A Wrinkle in Time’s colouring-outside-the-lines is matched by an alarming sincerity. No wonder Oprah literally towers over the picture and the excellent young cast. An empowering motion picture for 10-year-old girls, this is the movieverse’s answer to broccoli: a film for smart, earnest little girls like Lisa Simpson to enjoy between recycling projects. TB

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE ★★★★★
Directed by Lynne Ramsay. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, John Doman, Judith Roberts. 18 cert, lim release, 90 min
Ramsay returns with a searing revenge drama set in a terrifying, heightened version of New York City. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a private operative who spends most of his time rescuing victims of sexual slavery. A US senator hires him to recover his daughter and punish those who put her through hell. The first death triggers a veritable cornucopia of butchery. It is a brash, noisy, violent picture, but it is also a subtle, intricate, thoughtful one. DC

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