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; Chris Hemsworth in Bad Times at the El Royale

New this week; Chris Hemsworth in Bad Times at the El Royale

 

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE ★★
Directed by Drew Goddard. Starring Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Offerman. 16 cert, gen release, 141 min
A bunch of one-note oddballs – Hamm’s seedy salesman, Erivo’s soul singer, Bridges’ whiskey priest – arrive at a Lake Taho motel and fall out. If Goddard is going to make a film that so shamelessly echoes the post-Tarantino follies of the mid-1990s, are we allowed to just reprint a review from that same era? Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead sounds about right. The actors are all fine, but El Royale outstays its welcome long before the final, exhausting showdown. 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, general 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

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, general 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

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

COLUMBUS ★★★★
Directed by Kogonada. Starring John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin , Michelle Forbes. Club, IFI, Dublin, 104 min
It seems only fair that modern architecture – including Eero Saarinen’s Irwin Union Bank building and the Miller House and IM Pei’s Cleo Rogers Memorial Library – takes centre stage in debuting writer-director Kogonada’s carefully calibrated, minimalist drama. Taking cues from the clean, unfussy lines of those constructions, Columbus concerns a book translator (Cho) who finds himself stranded in the Indiana town of the title, where he befriends an architectural enthusiast (Richardson). Could pass as an American remake of a hitherto undiscovered Yasujiro Ozu drama. TB

CRAZY RICH ASIANS ★★★
Directed by Jon M Chu. Starring Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Gemma Chan. 12A cert, gen release, 121 min
Rachel (Wu), a Chinese-American professor at NYU and a hugely likable clever-clogs, accompanies her suave boyfriend Nick (Golding), a Chinese businessman from Singapore, home for his best friend’s wedding. Only then does Rachel learn that Nick is the heir to a real-estate empire, a “crown prince” as the locals have it. Nick’s imperious mother (Yeoh) expects him to return to Singapore and marry a suitable – read rich -– local. A big-skirted Cinderella story that coasts along on the chemistry between Wu and Golding and is entirely resistant to attempts at Maoist analysis. 12A cert, gen release, 121 min TB

FACES PLACES/VISAGES VILLAGES ★★★★
Directed by and featuring Agnès Varda and JR. Club, QFT, Belfast; Triskel, Cork, 89 min
This fun, freewheeling documentary hatched between 89-year-old cinema veteran Varda and 33-year-old outdoor installation artist JR is just about the most adorable film of the year. Although slow on stairs, there is a spring in her step as the director of Cleo From 5 to 7 takes to road with JR’s camera-shaped van and a printer capable of producing the giant photographic images he uses in his large-form artworks. Rolling into various villages around France, they find suitable subjects and make enchanting art. An absolute delight. TB

FIRST MAN ★★★★
Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Christoher Abbott, Ciarán Hinds, Olivia Hamilton. 12A cert, gen release, 141 min

New this week: Ryan Gosling in First Man
New this week: Ryan Gosling in First Man

Fine study of Neil Armstrong from the director and star of La La Land. The film is great on the sensual assault of space travel, but it is most notable as a character study. Who better to play such a famously unknowable character than the perennially blank Gosling? Foy will get more demanding roles in her career, but she may be relieved that her dreaded “wife part” is more fleshed out than is usually the case. Spectacular, but also intimate. DC

THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS ★★★
Directed by Eli Roth. Starring Cate Blanchett, Jack Black, Kyle MacLachlan, Owen Vaccaro, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, Colleen Camp, Lorenza Izzo. PG cert, gen release, 105 min
Roth’s unexpected kids’ movie wastes no time in whisking the viewer and its 10-year-old protagonist, Lewis (Vaccaro), into a strange new gothic world. It’s 1955, and following the death of his parents Lewis is sent to to live with his oddball, kimono-wearing uncle (the always amiable Black), a warlock, and his good witch neighbour (Blanchett). Together they must undo some bad magic left behind by their enchanted house’s previous owner, Isaac Izzard (MacLachlan). This is whimsical new territory for the director behind such gory standards as Hostel and The Green Inferno, but Roth has crafted a very convincing Spielbergian family entertainment. 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

JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN ★★
Directed by David Kerr. Starring Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, Emma Thompson. PG cert, gen release, 89 min
As long ago as 2003, Johnny English, an entirely superfluous spy spoof, was already underwhelming and outmoded when it transitioned from likable TV advertising campaign to the big screen. The belated 2011 sequel didn’t offer much of an improvement, but it was an absolute riot placed beside this unnecessary, half-baked third film. Emma Thompson, playing a half-bright British PM, the charming talents of Kurylenko and Lacy (playing a tech-bro billionaire), and even Atkinson’s contortions are squandered by a script that doesn’t seem to contain a single joke. TB

THE LITTLE STRANGER ★★★★
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter, Liv Hill, Oliver Zetterström, Kate Phillips, Dixie Egerickx, Josh Dylan. 15A cert, gen release, 111 min
The director of Room returns with a queasy, unclassifiable adaptation of Sarah Waters’s novel concerning a young doctor (Gleeson) caught up with a crumbling dynasty in postwar England. There has been some criticism of the distributors for flogging the film has a straight-up ghost story. That is in there. But The Little Stranger is more a drama about class, money and the British postwar rearrangement. A comparison with Brideshead Revisited would as useful as any with The Turn of the Screw. DC

MANDY ★★★★★
Directed by Panos Cosmatos. Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke. Club, lim release, 121 min

New this week: Nicolas Cage in Mandy
New this week: Nicolas Cage in Mandy

Ostensibly, this is a movie in which logger Red (Cage) exacts a terrible (but appropriate) revenge against a Manson Family-like religious cult and their cannibal biker cohorts from hell (actual hell) – we don’t wish to spoil these adversaries, but wow! – after they have abducted his girlfriend Mandy (Riseborough). Any summary ignores the incredible textures in the film. Cheddar Goblin Macaroni, anyone? It’s fascinating to observe Cage snake his way in and around the 1980s largesse of the project. As Roache’s creepy man-child leader has it: “You’re a special one, Mandy.” TB

THE MEETING ★★★
Directed by Alan Gilsenan . Starring Ailbhe Griffith, Marie Keenan, Terry O’Neill, Kevin McCormack, Brenda McSweeney, Allan Keating. 15A cert, Light House, Dublin (Sat only), 95 min
Griffith, victim of a terrible rape, plays herself in a re-enactment of her formal meeting with the attacker. Arranged in co-operation with Restorative Justice Services, the interview travels over much painful ground. Griffith emerges with great dignity. Her assailant obfuscates and rationalises. No viewer with any empathy could fail to be moved, but the awkward format – Griffith faces an actor on the other side of the table – never properly comes together. And the sentimental final shot is a real error. DC

NIGHT SCHOOL
Directed by Malcolm D Lee. Starring Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, Rob Riggle, Taran Killam, Romany Malco, Keith David, Loretta Devine. 12A cert, gen release, 111 min
The director of Girls Trip fails to find anything worthwhile to do with the least awful performer from that puzzlingly well-received film. The gifted Haddish plays a teacher attempting to usher Hart through a high-school equivalency exam. Stretching each routine out to criminal over-extension, the picture (which somehow lists six screenwriters) fluffs its few promising turns and leans heavily into its most overused cliches. Haddish has nothing to work with. Hart is a menace. See me after class. DC

1945 ★★★
Directed by Ferenc Török. Starring Péter Rudolf, Tamás Szabó Kimmel, Dóra Sztarenki, Bence Tasnádi. Club, IFI, 91 min

New this week; Ági Szirtes and Dóra Sztarenki in 1945
New this week; Ági Szirtes and Dóra Sztarenki in 1945

Two strangers arrive in a small Hungarian town in August of 1945, thereby kicking off a community-wide panic in this monochrome drama. Cinematographer Elemér Ragályi’s elegant black-and-white tableaux and the heavy historical subject matter can’t quite compensate for a frantic, cluttered script that demands so many comings-and-goings, at times it could be mistaken for an episode of ’Allo ’Allo. But Török’s engaging, if cluttered feature has important and timely things to say about historical guilt and remembrance. TB

ROSIE ★★★★
Directed by Paddy Breathnach. Starring Sarah Greene, Moe Dunford, Ellie O’Halloran, Ruby Dunne, Darragh McKenzie, Molly McCann. 12A cert, gen release, 82 min

New this week: Rosie
New this week: Sarah Greene in Rosie

Working from a script by Roddy Doyle, Breathnach gives us a troubling, moving study of how homelessness now functions. Greene and Dunford are super as a couple flung into a hotel when their landlord sells up. Rosie is claustrophobic throughout, but Doyle’s durable humanism does provide some light in the darkness. The mechanism of society has become clogged, but the film wastes no time blaming those who merely maintain the cogs and levers. DC

A SIMPLE FAVOUR ★★
Directed by Paul Feig. Starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Kelly McCormack , Andrew Rannells, Rupert Friend. 15A cert, gen release, 117 min
“This is bananas!” cries an exasperated Kendrick towards the end of this utterly baffling film. This is only occurring to you now, Anna? Feig, the hugely talented comic director behind Bridesmaids and Spy, directs hugely talented people in this tonally bewildering muddle. Darcey Bell’s hot source novel of the same name is, by all accounts, a dry thriller in the style of Gone Girl. How that translated into this weird, uncertain comedy is a mystery. The messy plot concerns a peppy mommy vlogger (Kendrick) who is asked by her glamourous new chum (Lively) to pick up her son from school. Every character is two-dimensional. Every twist is pointless. The final reveal will leave you apoplectic with rage. TB

SMALLFOOT ★★★
Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick. Voices of Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common, LeBron James, Danny DeVito. Gina Rodriguez, Yara Shahidi, Ely Henry, Jimmy Tatro, G cert, gen release, 96 min

New this week: Smallfoot
New this week: Smallfoot

Smallfoot, an inversion of the Big Foot myth in which Abominable Snow Persons are terrified to learn that humans are real, is bogged down with elaborate mythology introduced in song. But once the film gets into its stride, it’s a likable and zany family fable. The voice cast is charming and the creature design appealing, even if the human characters, as is often the case in CG animation, don’t really cut it. The theme – your leaders are lying to you – is a welcome swerve for a kid’s film, as is a rap number performed by Common that rhymes: “Over time/ We Surmised/ We were facing genocide.” Deep. TB

A STAR IS BORN ★★★★★
Directed by Bradley Cooper. Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Dave Chappelle, Rebecca Field, Michael Harney, Shangela Laquifa Wadley. 15A cert, gen release, 135 min
A triumphant return to an indestructible Hollywood warhorse. Gaga exceeds all expectations as the talented working-class ingenue propelled to fame by Cooper’s soused rocker. Leaning into the male lead like a bird investigating promising movements among the undergrowth, she is exotic when she’s ordinary and rooted when she’s fantastic. Cooper is equally strong – browned to the colour of yesterday’s tea – as a decent man laid low by addiction. The music is great. The nimble camera-work is a pleasure. What’s not to like? DC

VENOM ★★★
Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Starring Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott. 15A cert, gen release, 112 min
Hardy places a journalist infected with a symbiotic alien in Sony’s latest unconnected Marvel adaptation. With reviews embargoed until day of release and the star telling reporters his best bits have all been cut out, Venom was shaping up to be a disaster of Green Lantern proportions. It’s rubbish all right – too much CGI, too little story – but, thanks to some Nic Cageian excess from the star, it’s perfectly entertaining rubbish. Less up itself than Infinity Wars. DC

THE WIFE ★★★★
Directed by Björn Runge. Starring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Annie Starke, Harry Lloyd, Elizabeth McGovern. 15A cert, lim release, 100 min
It’s 1992 and the long-suffering wife (Close) of a much-lauded American novelist (Pryce) travels to Stockholm, where her husband will receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s a moment of triumph that unexpectedly leaves all parties reeling, with just a little prodding from a fanboy journalist (Slater, excellent) eager to write the author’s autobiography. Working from a clever script by Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge), Swedish director Runge’s film version of the 2003 Meg Wolitzer novel pivots around a subtle, inscrutable turn from Close, making her the bookies’ favourite to win the Best Actress Oscar next spring. TB

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