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: Kodi Smit-McPhee in Alpha

New this week: Kodi Smit-McPhee in Alpha

 

ALPHA ★★★★
Directed by Albert Hughes. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chuck, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhanness, Jens Hultén, Leonor Varela. 12A cert, gen release, 96 min
A tremendous all-ages action picture with a dash of Jack London-brand adventuring and a smidgeon of William Goldman’s The Inheritors, Alpha is an absorbing origins story for the domestication of the dog. Keda (the magnetic Smit-McPhee), is left for dead during a bison hunt. Having befriended an equally injured wolf, boy and proto-dog undertake a perilous journey toward home, defined by many electrifying set pieces. TB

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP ★★★
Directed by Peyton Reed. Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer. 12A cert, gen release, 117 min
In the aftermath of the Marvel Civil War, Ant Man (Rudd) and The Wasp (Lilly) attempt to rescue Wasp Emeritus (Pfeiffer) from something called the quantum zone. It’s lightweight. It’s confusing. Not nearly enough is stolen from The Incredible Shrinking Man. Oh well. With all the overly pompous franchise movies cluttering up cinemas, it remains a pleasure to sink into something so unapologetically goofy. The mad San Francisco chases suggest a hallucinatory What’s Up, Doc?. DC

APOSTASY ★★★★★
Directed by Dan Kokotajlo. Starring Siobhan Finneran, Molly Wright, Robert Emms, Sacha Parkinson, Steve Evets, Bronwyn James 12A cert, IFI, Dublin, 95 min
The excellent Finneran plays Ivanna, a council employee who has raised two adult daughters within the Jehovah's Witnesses. Luisa (Parkinson) is showing signs of deviation from the elders’ strict regulations. Alex (Wright), who has a form of anaemia and feels guilt after inadvertently receiving a transfusion, has learned Urdu to aid her evangelising in that community. What follows is a tense, focused drama that at times takes on the quality of psychological horror. A singular British film. DC

BLACKKKLANSMAN ★★★★
Directed by Spike Lee. Starring John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Jasper Pääkkönen, Corey Hawkins, Ryan Eggold, Michael Joseph Buscemi. 16 cert, gen release, 135 min

John David Washington and Topher Grace in BlacKkKlansman
New this week: John David Washington and Topher Grace in BlacKkKlansman

Coming off as a spicy mix of 1970s cop show, blaxsploitation thriller, civil rights jeremiad and didactic documentary, Lee’s latest circles around the true story of a black cop who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. With one swift movement, the sharp John David Washington (son of Denzel) shakes off his family history and carves out a place just for himself. The collision of styles is exhilarating. Terence Blanchard’s soundtrack is a blast. What’s not to like? Spike’s best in decades. DC

THE CHILDREN ACT ★★★
Directed by Richard Eyre. Starring Emma Thompson, Fionn Whitehead, Stanley Tucci, Jason Watkins, Ben Chaplin, Anthony Calf, Eileen Walsh. 12A cert, gen release, 105 min

Stanley Tucci and Emma Thompson in The Children Act
New this week: Stanley Tucci and Emma Thompson in The Children Act

Can a committed performance save an otherwise painfully flawed project? On this evidence, the answer would be: “Erm, maybe, just about.” This honest, solid adaption of an Ian McEwan novel posits a dilemma that will cause few viewers many sleepless nights: should a teenage Jehovah’s Witness be allowed to refuse an essential blood transfusion? Thompson’s judge seems to know the answer too, but endures some silly plot turns with dignity while everyone shouts “of course not” at the screen. DC

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN ★★
Directed by Marc Forster. Starring Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Toby Jones. G cert, gen release, 104 min
Who is it for? Disney’s latest live-action translation – referencing the likable, Americanised Winnie the Pooh flicks – imagines Christopher Robin (McGregor) as a depressed middle-aged, executive in gloomy postwar London. One day he encounters Pooh in the park (sounds worse if you say it out loud) and undergoes a reassessment of his priorities. At least Spielberg’s Hook had a workable internal logic. The final impression here is closer to the hipster arrogance of Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are. Baffling. Morose. Sluggish. DC

THE DARKEST MINDS ★★
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson. Starring Amandla Stenberg, Mandy Moore, Bradley Whitford, Harris Dickinson, Patrick Gibson, Skylan Brooks, Gwendoline Christie. 12A cert, gen release, 103 min
This dull film imagines a world in which a mysterious disease grants special powers to those affected. As is eventually the case in most universes that allow superheroes, the authorities clamp down on the mutants. We’ve seen some entries to the exhausted YA dystopian school recently, but Nelson’s hopeless adaptation of some book you’ve never heard of breaks new ground in its determination not to surprise. Once again the urge towards individuality is combined with an obsession with forming cliques. DC

DOG DAYS ★★★
Directed by Ken Marino. Starring Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Adam Pally, Eva Longoria, Rob Corddry, Tone Bell, Jon Bass, Michael Cassidy, Thomas Lennon, Tig Notaro, Finn Wolfhard, Ron Cephas Jones. PG cert, gen release, 113 min
This is now officially a thing. Arriving at rear-sniffing distance from Disney’s pug-themed Brit-com Patrick, Dog Days confirms a new subgenre with a wet nose. Remember the rom-com? The 20th century form of visual storytelling that ended when Matthew McConaughey put his shirt back on? Like that, but with added dog and fewer abs. The LA-set Dog Days unfolds as an Altmanesque daisy chain. All possible similarities with the auteur behind Nashville begin and end with choral effect. Wish fulfilment with a waggly tail. TB

DUBLIN OLDSCHOOL ★★★
Directed by Dave Tynan. Starring Emmet Kirwan, Ian Lloyd Anderson, Seána Kerslake, Sarah Greene, Ciaran Grace, Mark O’Halloran, Liam Heslin, Stephen Jones. 16 cert, gen release, 95 min
Tynan’s well-made adaptation of director Kirwan’s two-handed play hangs around encounters between Jason (Kirwan), an aspiring DJ, and Daniel (Lloyd Anderson), his heroin-addicted brother. Those sequences offer a convincing advertisement for the play, but the surrounding opened-out action feels chaotic and plotless. The language is steeped in a quasi-poetic romanticism that too often curdles on screen. For all that, Dublin Oldschool constructs a vivid portrait of the “sesh” life that many generations will savour. DC

THE EQUALIZER 2 ★★★
Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Starring Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Orson Bean. 15A cert, gen release, 121 min
In an age when far too many superheroes are brooding on rooftops, wandering in and out of each other’s movies and fending off intergalactic marauders, The Equalizer fulfils a far more straightforward function. He equalises things. It’s an elegant premise. Primal, even. As with its predecessor, The Equalizer 2 – hell yes, an honest, old-fashioned numbered sequel – stars Washington as Robert McCall, a former super soldier with mad skills in some kind of super-special ops. Denzel broods magnificently. TB

THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES ★★★★
Directed by Mark Cousins. Featuring Orson Welles, Mark Cousins. Club, Club, QFT, Belfast; IFI/Light House, Dublin, 115 min
Mark Cousins, the restless Northern Irish cineaste, has wisely structured his documentary around one, under-explored aspect of Orson Welles’ career: a collection of drawings and paintings that takes us through the entire life. The result is as idiosyncratic as we expect from Cousins – affectionate monologues delivered to “Dear Orson” – but the insights are sound, the wit effervescent and the research diligent. Much interesting material on Welles’ journeys in the west of Ireland. DC

FIRST REFORMED ★★★★
Directed by Paul Schrader. Starring Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric Kyles. 15A cert, Light House, Dublin (Sat only), 113 min
Schrader examined the work of Yasujir Ozu, Robert Bresson and Carl Theodore Dreyer in a 1972 book under the heading Transcendental Style. The meditative First Reformed, Schrader’s 21st film as a director, is as transcendental as anything he has ever made. Reworking the malady of Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest and the plot of Ingmar Bergman’s Winter Light, First Reformed concerns the Rev Toller (a mournful Hawke) and the widow of an environmental activist (Seyfried). TB

THE GUARDIANS/LES GARDIENNES ★★★★
Directed by Xavier Beauvois. Starring Nathalie Baye, Laura Smet, Iris Bry, Cyril Descours, Nicolas Giraud, Olivier Rabourdin. Club, IFI, Dublin, 134 min
Working from a 1924 novel by Ernest Pérochon, Beauvois (Of Gods and Men) and editor/cowriter Marie-Julie Maille have crafted a historical chronicle of the women left behind in rural France during the first World War. A romance between a returning soldier and a farmhand adds drama to an immaculate and tasteful picture. Under the bucolic gaze of cinematographer Caroline Champetier (Holy Motors), there’s not a single frame of this historical drama that might not hang in a gallery collection titled “After Monet”. TB

THE HEIRESSES/LAS HEREDERAS ★★★★
Directed by Marcelo Martinessi. Starring Ana Brun, Margarita Irún, Anna Ivanova, Nilda Gonzalez, María Martins, Alicia Guerra,Yverá Zayas. Club, IFI, Dublin, 98 min
Chela (Brun) and Chiquita (Irún) are two wealthy older lesbians living a life that is very much fur coat and no knickers. Now that Chela’s inheritance has dwindled, the women are slowly selling bits and pieces from their elegant home. When Chiquita is sent to debtors’ jail, Chela starts to drive her elderly neighbour to her weekly card game. This brings in a small income and allows her to befriend other women, including the ridiculously racy Angy (Ivanova), a bisexual with considerable flirtation skills. This Paraguayan award-winner is a welcome new entry into the same subgenre as Gloria and Aquarius. TB

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: A MONSTER VACATION ★★★
Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. Voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez , Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Mel Brooks. G cert, gen release, 97 min
By the time you read this, this third instalment of this monstrously successful trilogy will be tipping the franchise toward the $1 billion mark; not bad for a film where the best joke is: “He’s the mummy but you’re the one in De Nile.” Vampirologists may quibble about Dracula (Sandler) and his daughter (Gomez), crossing water and sunbathing without a care in the world, but the film is, for better or worse, every bit as good as its predecessors. Even watched beside various incarnations of the Addams and the Munsters, Hotel Transylvania remains the most family-friendly and proudly silly of all the monster dynasties. TB

THE INCREDIBLES 2 ★★★★
Directed by Brad Bird. Voices of Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Brad Bird, Bill Wise. PG cert, gen release, 125 min
Terrific sequel to Pixar’s superhero saga finds Bob Parr, the sometime Mr Incredible, left at home with young Violet (who turns invisible), younger Dash (who moves speedily) and baby Jack-Jack (who does a lot of things). Meanwhile, Helen Parr is drawn into a scheme to rehabilitate the superhero reputation. The animation is glossier than ever. The design is so gorgeous you yearn to wear it home. It is, however, the jokes that really stand out. Excellent family entertainment. DC

THE KING ★★★
Directed by Eugene Jarecki. Featuring James Carville, Greil Marcus, Chuck D, Emmylou Harris, Immortal Technique, Van Jones, Alec Baldwin, Ethan Hawke, The Handsome Family, Mike Myers Dan Rather. Club, lim release, 107 min

The King documentary
New this week: The King

Less than an hour into Jarecki’s sprawling documentary, the director turns to the chief of his road crew. “What do you think I’m doing with this movie?” asks Jarecki, the award-winning film-maker behind Freakonomics, Why We Fight and The Trials of Henry Kissinger. The chief doesn’t know any more than we do. Jarecki crams musicians (M Ward, John Hiatt, The Handsome Family) into the back seat of the Elvis Rolls Royce and lets them play while he tears about Tupelo, Memphis, Nashville. It’s really a film about America and Donald Trump. Random, but never dull. TB

LUIS AND THE ALIENS
Directed by Christoph Lauenstein, Wolfgang Lauenstein, and Sean McCormack. Voices of Callum Maloney, Dermot Magennis, Ian Coppinger, Lea Thompson, Simon Torl, Lucy Carolan, Eoin Daly, Orlando Leyba, Joey Guila, Will Forte. PG cert, gen release, 86 min

Luis and the Aliens
New this week: Luis and the Aliens

Lonely Luis befriends visiting flubbery aliens and, ugh, honestly, you won’t care. Not too far into this inconceivably atrocious animation there comes a moment when the beleaguered viewer will realise that the character who keeps saying “hey dogs” and “cray cray” to his parents is a parody of a wannabe American teen. That’s rich coming from a German-Luxembourgish-Danish feature that trades entirely on fake Americana. Clear off back to outer space. TB

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN ★★★
Directed by Ol Parker. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Lily James, Christine Baranski, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Cher, Colin Firth, Andy García, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep. PG cert, gen release, 114 min
The follow-up to the Abba smash alternates between the aftermath of the first film and flashbacks to the three romances that caused the famous paternal confusion. Here We Go Again is actually superior in almost every way. The new cast members are amusing. The film-makers just about get way with unearthing a few less well-known Abba songs. Crucially, the direction is more than competent. Sunnier than a lifetime of holidays, James is a real standout as the younger version of Streep. DC

THE MEG ★★
Directed by Jon Turteltaub. Starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis. 12A cert, gen release, 113 min
Who would win in a fight, Jason Statham or a prehistoric shark? That’s the neat meme-generated premise at the heart of this $150 million B-picture. (Tune in next summer for who would win, Statham or a trillion lions?) Director Turteltaub seems to have entirely misinterpreted the mechanics of the creature feature. With reverse Spielbergian logic, the beast is unveiled too early and increasingly diminishes in visual impact. Roger Corman would never have signed off on such shoddy work. TB

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT ★★★
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Monaghan, Sean Harris, Wes Bentley. 12A cert, gen release, 147 min
Cruise’s Ethan Hunt tracks down missing plutonium. Fallout fairly froths over with terrific, clattering violence that – staged with as little CGI as possible – makes competing summer flicks such as Skyscraper feel like clouds of generic software. The tile-crunching fight in a Parisian bathroom is better even than the loo bust-up in the opening of Casino Royale. For all that, you couldn’t say it has anything like a plot. And Cruise looks increasingly odd. DC

POPE FRANCIS: A MAN OF HIS WORD ★★★
Directed by Wim Wenders. Featuring Pope Francis. PG cert, lim release, 96 min
Wenders talks to Pope Francis, intercutting the interview with footage of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s early life and monochrome recreations of Saint Francis of Assisi’s experiences. No film called A Man of His Word is going to draw much blood from the subject. Sure enough, Wenders lets him off on clerical abuse and includes no mention at all of abortion. Francis still emerges as an impressive personality: engaged, intelligent, compassionate. DC

SICILIAN GHOST STORY ★★★★
Directed by Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia. Starring Julia Jedlikowska, Sabine Timoteo , Gaetano Fernandez, Corinne Musallari. Club, Light House, Dublin, 122 min
This imaginative adult fairy tale chronicles the blossoming relationship between 13-year-old Giuseppe (Fernandez) and 12-year-old Luna (Polish-newcomer Jedlikowska), who, in spite of their parent’s disapproval, have fallen in love. One day, Giuseppe, the privileged son of a mob boss, disappears. Luna searches for him, wandering through the increasingly otherworldly woodlands, to no avail. The story shares kinship with the similarly lush The Spirit of the Beehive and Pan’s Labyrinth. TB

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME ★★★
Directed by Susanna Fogel. Starring Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan, Gillian Anderson, Ivanna Sakhno, Fred Melamed, Jane Curtin. 15A cert, gen release, 117 min

Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis in The Spy Who Dumped Me
New this week: Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis in The Spy Who Dumped Me

We really, really don’t need another spy spoof (still less another whose title alludes to the 10th Bond film). But, for its first hour, The Spy Who Dumped Me suggests that there might be some petrol left in this tank. Before spinning into chaos, Fogel’s sharply scripted film makes good, contrasting use of its two leads: Kunis is exasperated; McKinnon contains her tendencies to excess. Then, alas, it falls apart like a clown car. DC

TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES ★★★
Directed by Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath. Voices of Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Halsey, Lil Yachty, Michael Bolton, Will Wheaton, Stan Lee. PG cert, gen release, 84 min
For those unfamiliar with the gloriously silly comics and animated TV series, Teen Titans Robin, Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Cyborg are the other guys of the DC Extended Universe. As their first feature film opens, the gang are too busy rapping about their own brilliance to stop the gigantic, marauding Balloon Man, who is smashing up the city. As with Lego Batman, Teen Titans Go! is as fun and self-referential as the DC action films are ponderous. TB

UNDER THE TREE/UNDIR TRÉNU ★★★★★
Directed by Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson. Starring Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson, Edda Björgvinsdóttir, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, þorsteinn Bachmann, Lára Jóhanna Jónsdóttir, Selma Björnsdóttir. Club, IFI, Dublin, 89 min
What’s the most astonishing dark act of screen comedy you can think of? Think dirtier than The Dirties, holidaying with Sightseers, faultier than Fawlty Towers, terrorising with Four Lions. Under the Tree raises (or possibly lowers) the bar for the nastiest, meanest, pettiest act committed by seemingly ordinary folk. We’re told that good fences make for good neighbours, but even Trump’s wall couldn’t made a dent in the simmering feud at the black heart of this killer – literally and figuratively – Icelandic comedy. Unmissable. TB

UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB ★★
Directed by Stephen Susco. Starring Colin Woodell, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, Andrew Lees, Connor Del Rio, Stephanie Nogueras, Savira Windyani. 15A cert, gen release, 93 min
The second Unfriended is, we are told, a standalone sequel, which is a polite way of saying that it’s trading on the success of the 2014 original without any of its verve or invention. Twentysomething Mattias (Woodell) and his various chums, including a tech boffin and chief of exposition (Lees), an internet conspiracy nut (Del Rio), and a lesbian couple (Rittenhouse and Gabriel), sit down on Skype for an old-fashioned game of Cards Against Humanity. And then the laptop starts peeping. And a digital portal appears leading to the Dark Web. And Lees explains what the Dark Web is. Figuratively speaking, Unfriended 2 puts a sheet over its head and says “whooo; the internet is scary”. But, literally speaking, this Blumhouse makeweight is seldom as scary as a sheet. TB

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