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

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

Directed by Bart Layton. Starring Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Udo Kier, Ann Dowd. 15A cert, gen release, 117 min
Directed by Bart Layton. Starring Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Udo Kier, Ann Dowd Here is a tricksy account of a heist that swerves between interviews with the older, wiser people portrayed in the movie and the events performed by actors. It's clever even when its characters aren't. Based on a botched 2004 robbery, director Layton's script concerns Spencer Reinhard (the brilliant Keoghan), an art student with notions, and Warren Lipka (Peters), a rebellious jock pal with no notion, and the mad scheme they cook up to steal a priceless edition of John James Audubon's The Birds of America from Transylvania University. If it can't quite escape the shadow of bigger, better heist movies, the cutaway interviews make for an interesting diversion, the performances are nervy, and the action unfolds at breakneck speed. TB

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

BLACK 47 ★★★★
Directed by Lance Daly. Starring Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Stephen Rea, Freddie Fox, Barry Keoghan, Moe Dunford, Sarah Greene, Jim Broadbent. 15A cert, gen release, 99 min


The first widely released feature to focus on the Great Famine is an unmistakable genre piece. It's The Outlaw Josey Wales with fewer Comanches but more rain. Weaving is the weathered cop pursuing Frecheville's bereaved avenger across the devastated west of Ireland. At times, the determination to include every historical detail causes the package to strain. But the grey pools of Declan Quinn's cinematography and the evocative strains of Brian Byrne's score keep the brain twitching in even the glummest moments. DC

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

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

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

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Starring Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc. 15A cert, IFI/Light House, Dublin, 85 min
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

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

Directed by Paul Schrader. Starring Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric Kyles. 15A cert, QFT, Belfast, 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 Bergman's Winter Light, First Reformed concerns the Rev Toller (a mournful Hawke) and the widow of an environmental activist (Seyfried). TB

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
"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

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
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

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

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

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

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

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, the Stath 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

Directed by Desiree Akhavan. Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher, Jr, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, Owen Campbell, Kerry Butler, Quinn Shephard, Emily Skeggs, Melanie Ehrlich, Jennifer Ehle. 16 cert, lim release, 91 min

This Sundance-winning drama, based on the book by Emily M Danforth, follows the titular Montana teen to a Christian conversion "therapy" camp after her lesbian relationship with her best friend is dramatically – excruciatingly – discovered at a homecoming dance. Moretz, Lane and Goodluck are outstanding. Taking cues from director Akhavan's delicately poised, observational humour, Ashley Connor's cinematography gleams from where there ought to be gloom. An effective, touching drama that also manages to engage with pressing social issues. TB

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

Directed by Corin Hardy. Starring Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Blocquet, Charlotte Hope, Ingrid Bisu, Bonnie Aarons.. 16 cert, lim release, 96 min

Scary nuns stomp across Romania in the latest film set in the Conjuring universe. The stupidity and lack of rigour – at one stage, a priest seems to be dictating a nun's vows from the Old Testament – doesn't entirely undermine the gallant efforts of a likable cast. Bichir is charismatic, Bloquet is funny. Twenty years her sister Vera's junior and her absolute spit, Taissa Farmiga is funny, loopy and confident in the habits of the "Final Girl". Still bad though. DC

Directed by Marc Turtletaub. Starring Kelly Macdonald, David Denman, Daniel Sherman, Austin Abrams, Bubba Weiler. 15A cert, gen release, 103 min

When I say that Puzzle is not at all what you'd expect from a film about the competitive jigsaw-puzzling community, you will surely tick another cliched critical gag off a too-long list. But it really isn't. Macdonald is delightful and touching as a middle-aged mom who, unaware that life has passed her by, finds enlightenment while indulging in just that pastime. The jigsaw stuff is largely incidental to a well-wrought feminist fable. DC

Directed by Michael Mayer. Starring Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Corey Stoll, Elisabeth Moss, Mare Winningham, Jon Tenney, Glenn Fleshler, Michael Zegen, Billy Howle, Brian Dennehy. 12A cert, lim release, 99 min

Ronan is so good at her job that she manages to enliven the bad acting required for Constantine's densely symbolist (read terrible) play that kick-starts this adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull. Ronan is this-is-how-you-act-in-Chekhov good. And Bening is so good at her job that she finds high, broad, laugh-out-loud humour in every line of Michael Mayer's screenplay. But the material stubbornly refuses to congeal into a movie shape. And the constant, desperately overcompensating camera movement makes one want to smash the dolly. TB

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

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

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

Directed by Christopher Martin. Featuring Marie Colvin, Paul Conroy, Julian Lewis Jones, Janine Birkett, Ziad Abaza, Karine Myriam Lapouble, Nathan Dean Williams. Club, lim release, 95 min

Based on Paul Conroy's memoir and bolstered by his likable, hard-worn testimony, Under the Wire chronicles the last days of Sunday Times correspondent Marie Colvin. Much of the grainy footage dates to 2012, when the two illegally entered Syria to report on the shelling of the Isis stronghold in Homs. Colvin, with her trademark eyepatch, had a reputation for going where other frontline journalists would never dare. It's a tribute to Conroy's storytelling skills that Under the Wire maintains a gripping narrative. Against that, much of the film, with its dark tunnels and haggard reconstructions, is unwatchable. As well, the film doesn't do enough to tease of the politics of the Syrian conflict, and it fails to profile either Colvin or Conroy with anything like enough depth. TB

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

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
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