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: Betty Gabriel in Upgrade

New this week: Betty Gabriel in Upgrade

 

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

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
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

C’EST LA VIE/LE SENS DE LA FÊTE ★★★★
Directed by Olivier Nakache & Éric Toledano. Starring Jean-Pierre Bacri, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Vincent Macaigne, Alban Ivanov, Suzanne Clément, Judith Chemla, Eye Haidara, Benjamin Lavernhe. Club, IFI, Dublin, 100 min

Jean-Pierre Bacri and Eye Haidara in C’est la Vie
New this week: Eye Haidara and Jean-Pierre Bacri in C’est la Vie

Everything is going wrong for beleaguered wedding planner Max (Bacri). Forget Bridezilla – C’est la Vie boasts Groomzilla Pierre (Lavernhe), whose micromanaging of his lavish 17th-century chateau wedding to Héléna (Chemla) prove trying for Max and his battalion of catering staff, musicians and serving staff. It looks fabulous, but behind the scenes, they’ve lost the DJ, the photographer keeps eating the canapes, the lamb spoils, and finally, the electricity blows, allowing DOP David Chizallet (Mustang) and the lighting department to conjure a spectacular set-piece. A wildly appealing new comedy from the makers of The Intouchables. TB

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
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

COLD WAR/ZIMNA WOJNA ★★★★★
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Starring Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc. 15A cert, lim release, 85 min

Joanna Kulig in Cold War
New this week: Joanna Kulig in Cold War

Nobody does doomed romance better than Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love), and Cold War is his doomiest romance yet. Love is not enough in this sorrowful, swooning Soviet-era drama concerning composer and pianist Wiktor (Kot) and the blonde, cherubic singer-dancer Zula (the mesmerising Kulig) who heads his folk ensemble. When the troupe reaches East Berlin, the pair have a clear chance to defect but it soon becomes clear that only one of them has any desire to cross the Iron Curtain. Thus begins a decade of border-crossing, partings and reunions. Almost indecently moving and easily one of the films of the year. TB

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, Light House, Dublin (Sun only), 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

THE GUARDIANS/LES GARDIENNES ★★★★
Directed by Xavier Beauvois. Starring Nathalie Baye, Laura Smet, Iris Bry, Cyril Descours, Nicolas Giraud, Olivier Rabourdin. Club, Triskel, Cork; 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 HAPPYTIME MURDERS
Directed by Brian Henson. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Bill Barretta, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Dorien Davies, Kevin Clash, Leslie David Baker, Joel McHale. 16 cert, gen release, 90 min

Leslie David Baker and Joel McHale in The Happytime Murders
New this week: Leslie David Baker and Joel McHale in The Happytime Murders

“Show the judge on the puppet where this film touched you.” If you find that joke inappropriate then I wouldn’t recommend going anywhere near this atrocity from the family that brought you the Muppets. The crude adult comedy sends Detective McCarthy in search of a lunatic killing puppets in a low-rent noir LA. The puppets are ugly. The transgressive gags are truly, truly disgusting. The rip-offs from Who Framed Roger Rabbit are shameless. DC

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

I, DOLOURS ★★★★
Directed by Maurice Sweeney. Featuring Dolours Price, Lorna Larkin, Enda Oates, Gail Brady, Lauren Beale. 15A cert, lim release, 83 min

Dolours Price in the documentary I, Dolours
New this week: the late Dolours Price in the documentary I, Dolours

Constructed around a lengthy interview between veteran journalist Ed Moloney and the late IRA volunteer Dolours Price, Sweeney’s picture confirms the subject as a fiercely articulate woman with a chilling certainty of purpose. I, Dolours does more. In charting Price’s journey from civil rights activist to convicted bomber to peace process sceptic, it offers an efficient history of the entire conflict. The reconstructions are unnecessary, but this remains an essential watch for anyone with even a faint interest in the Troubles. DC

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, Light House, Dublin (Sat/Sun only), 107min
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
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 just about gets 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. The Pope still emerges as an impressive personality: engaged, intelligent, compassionate. DC

SEARCHING ★★★★
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty. Starring John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La, Sara Sohn. 12A cert, gen release, 102 min

John Cho in Searching
New this week: John Cho in Searching

Following on the unlovely Unfriended: Dark Web, this is the second (and superior) recent film to be “set entirely on a computer screen”, with super-producer Timur Bekmambetov attached. Is John Cho the first Asian actor leading a Hollywood thriller? Throughout this nifty picture, Cho is easily the equal of Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson in the “What have you done with my wife/daughter?” stakes, as he moves through fraught, agitated, heartbroken, demented, and desperate states of mind. The Alfred P Sloan Prize-winning screenplay crafts a modern Rear Window from video chats, social media accounts, Gmail and even online pop-ups. TB

SICILIAN GHOST STORY ★★★★
Directed by Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia. Starring Julia Jedlikowska, Sabine Timoteo , Gaetano Fernandez, Corinne Musallari. Club, Light House, Dublin (Sun/Mon only), 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
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

UPGRADE ★★★
Directed by Leigh Whannell. Starring Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Harrison Gilbertson. 16 cert, gen release, 100 min
To paraphrase Alan Partridge, I’ve got genre pie all over my face. Stand back as the spine of Death Wish is grafted to the mind of Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey and performs the busting-bullet-time moves of The Matrix. Say hi to most unabashedly limitless joint since, well, Limitless. Marshall-Green’s Grey Trace – even the names scream genre – makes for an excellent mark as a quadriplegic who accepts an offer from a tech bro overlord (Gilbertson) to reattach Grey’s spine using a state-of-the-art chip, a device that soon manifests as a voice in his head. Together, Grey and doodah set about tracking down the men who killed his wife. But the chip, of course, has ideas of its own. Good clean gory fun. TB

YARDIE ★★★
Directed by Idris Elba. Starring Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Creary, Naomi Ackie, Akin Gazi, Calvin Demba. 16 cert, gen release, 102 min

Idris Elba on the set of Yardie
New this week: Idris Elba on the set of Yardie

Elba’s directorial debut offers a decent take on the Jamaican experience in London. The picture kicks off with an authentic depiction of the home island and then has much violent fun amid the grim streets of early 1980s Hackney. Aml Ameen overflows with charisma as a young man torn between the gangster life and a good woman in a decent job. The story is a bit haphazard and the motivations are not always clear, but Yardie has energy to burn. DC

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