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: Welcome to Marwen

New this week: Welcome to Marwen

 

AQUAMAN ★★★☆☆
Directed by James Wan. Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison. 12A cert, gen release, 143 min
The latest DC adaptation starts promisingly with the future Aquaman’s dad discovering a watery Atlantean (Kidman) next to his remote lighthouse. The marry and raise the hero. All those bits are really charming. Then the sub-Thor mythological stuff begins and the superstructure judders. There’s only so much fabulous maritime vulgarity a chap can handle and Wan exceeds the average human limit sometime before the first hour. Aquaman is still more digestible than any DC flick since Wonder Woman. DC

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY ★★★★☆
Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander, Allen Leech, Mike Myers. 12A cert, gen release, 134 min
Squabbling is a defining characteristic of Bohemian Rhapsody, which blazes through Freddie Mercury’s life in a series of agreeably cheesy vignettes: Freddie’s Parsi origins and disapproving dad, his lifelong love for Mary Austin (Boynton), the tours, the parties, the loneliness between, the hangers-on, and various eruptions of creative differences with the band. The final scene, a flawless, moving replication of Queen’s entire 20-minute set from Live Aid, is absurdly impressive, with Malek interpreting Mercury as a geomagnetic storm. A kind of magic. TB

BUMBLEBEE ★★★★☆
Directed by Travis Knight. Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Angela Bassett. 12A cert, gen release, 109 min
Good grief. After a decade of ear-splitting rubbish, Michael Bay’s Tranformers sequence has (without Bay at the helm) delivered a glorious entertainment. Travis Knight’s shamelessly Spielbergian film casts Steinfeld as a rebellious teen in 1987 who encounters autobot Bumblebee in the form of a VW Beetle. She belatedly allows humanity into the series and – after the horrid objectification of female bodies in earlier episodes – hollows out some welcome feminist space. Fun for all. It’s like Knight and Bay! DC

THE CAMINO VOYAGE ★★★★☆
Directed by Dónal Ó Céilleachair. Starring Danny Sheehy, Liam Holden, Brendan Begley, Breandán Moriarty, Glen Hansard. PG cert, lim release, 97 min
It takes some class of determination to row all the way from Ireland to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. It takes more to do so in a traditional naomhóg. Yet four brave men -- poet Sheehy, artist Holden, musician Begley and stonemason Moriarty – set out to do just that in three gruelling yearly stages, beginning in 2014. Musician Glen Hansard joined them later. Ó Céilleachair’s film records the journey with care and grace. You’ll feel uplifted and a little exhausted by the close. DC

CREED II ★★★★☆
Directed by Steven Caple Jr. Starring Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Phylicia Rashad, Brigitte Nielsen. 12A cert, gen release, 130 min
The follow-up to Ryan Coogler’s excellent Creed also stands as a belated sequel to Rocky IV. Ivan Drago (Lundgren) is back and his son is challenging for the title. Will Donnie Creed (Jordan) fight the man who killed his dad? Will Rocky (Stallone, OBVIOUSLY) be in his corner? That would be telling. We can reveal that Creed II is almost as sleek as its predecessor and certainly as well acted. If you don’t leave punching the air you may wish to throw in the towel. DC

FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD ★★☆☆☆
Directed by David Yates. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Zoe Kravitz, Alison Sudol, Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller, Callum Turner, Jude Law, Claudia Kim. 12A cert, gen release, 134 min
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
was a bit of a marvel. Yates’ picture fleshed out the Harry Potter universe without disappearing up its own Quidditch. What has gone wrong? Redmayne is back as the magical zoologist Newt Scamander in a confusing, overpopulated film that plays like the work of a particularly anal Potter Reddit. The march of non-personalities serves to bury many of the characters we liked so much from the first film. Oh, well. The costumes, at least, are lovely. DC

THE FAVOURITE ★★★★★
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, James Smith, Mark Gatiss. 15A cert, gen release, 119 min. Opens January 1st

New this week: Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in The Favourite
New this week: Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in The Favourite

It is 1708 and, as the War of the Spanish Succession takes a breather, cynical Sarah Churchill (Weisz), Duchess of Marlborough, and sly Abigail Hill (Stone), later Baroness Masham, squabble for the attentions of dotty Queen Anne (Colman). Lanthimos transforms what could have been a straight-up period drama into a savage, weird, twisty comedy of appalling manners. The dialogue sparkles. The photography is weirdly brilliant. The performances are flawless. A near masterpiece. DC

FREE SOLO ★★★★★
Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin. Featuring Alex Honnold. PG cert, lim release, 99 min
Some way into the year’s most white knuckle film, rock climber Alex Honnold recalls that more than one ex-girlfriend has told him that he has a personality disorder. By then we’re deep into his two-year preparations to climb the sheer wall of El Capitan, a kilometre-high sheer granite impossibility in Yosemite National Park. If he manages it, he’ll be the first climber to scale the monolith free solo. That’s as in without ropes and safety equipment, as in one finger and toe at a time up a landmark that looks like it belongs in a Roadrunner cartoon. Personality disorder? The man is bonkers. Terrifying but magical. TB

THE GRINCH ★★★☆☆
Directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney. Voices of Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Cameron Seely, Angela Lansbury, Pharrell Williams. G cert, gen release, 86 min
The latest adaptation of the 1957 Dr Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is jeopardised by a distinct lack of bah humbugging. The Grinch, as voiced by Cumberbatch, dotes on his loyal dog, Max. and spoils Fred, the fat reindeer he enlists into his Christmas-stealing scheme. We’re told the Grinch’s heart is two sizes too small, but there’s nothing in his interactions with the Whos of Whoville to support this abnormal cardiovascular theory. As all-ages Christmas porn goes, it’s a huge improvement on The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and the unlovely Jim Carrey Grinch. TB

KHRUSTALYOV, MY CAR ★★★★☆
Directed by Aleksei German. Starring Yuriy Tsurilo, Nina Ruslanova. Club, lim release, 150 min
Yuri Glinshi (Tsourilo), an alcoholic brain surgeon and former Red Army general, is sent, for a spell, to the gulag. The journey east is a Boschean nightmare, in which he is assaulted anally with the handle of a shovel, but only marginally more grotesque than everything else in the film. Stark, high-contrast monochrome photography, a ceaseless, roving camera, Altmanesque overlapping dialogue and entirely random incidents make for chaotic viewing. People come and go without introduction or elucidation. All of them are in keeping with the Soviet’s auteur Aleksei German’s grim view of humanity. A lack of either political or geographical context and the fragmented dizzying narrative add to an escalating sense of unease. TB

THE LAST MOVIE ★★★★☆
Directed by Dennis Hopper. Starring Dennis Hopper, Stella Garcia, Don Gordon, Julie Adams, Sylvia Miles, Tomas Milian, Peter Fonda, Henry Jaglom, Samuel Fuller, Kris Kristofferson, Russ Tamblyn, Michelle Phillips, Dean Stockwell, John Phillip Law. Club, IFI, Dublin, 108 min
Hopper’s follow-up to Easy Rider was a famous catastrophe. The director and star returned from Peru with a chaotic meta-western that pointed a smug (if unsteady) finger at western decadence. This 1971 release has rarely been revived, but it deserves attention for novelty value alone. Brassed up with very of-their-time solar flares, swelling with ambitions and possibilities, it reflects an openness to the wildest experiment in American cinema that slunk back underground shortly afterwards. DC

MARY POPPINS RETURNS ★★★☆☆
Directed by Rob Marshall. Starring Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Salah, Joel Dawson, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke. G cert, gen release, 130 min
Some reviews have claimed that the revisiting of Mary Poppins is “practically perfect in every way”. It’s not. It’s not terrible either. One might reasonably call it astonishingly adequate in every regard. Blunt is well-cast, if a bit too flinty, and throws herself into the role with abandon. Taking the Dick Van Dyke chair, Miranda can’t decide whether to do proper Cockney or comically heightened Cockney. The songs are tolerable. There’s no story to speak of. But, yes, it’s fine. DC

MORTAL ENGINES ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Christian Rivers. Starring Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang. 12A cert, gen release, 128 min
It’s some years into a dystopian future and marauding city-machines – like Laputa and Howl’s Moving Castle – rove around in search of smaller, weaker city machines to absorb and enslave. The cruellest imperialists of the lot live in the City of London, an endlessly greedy empire determined to gobble all of continental Europe while knowing all the while that their own entire system is unsustainable. Ahem. Sheehan and Jihae shine amid spectacular steampunk visuals and a mess of generic world-building. TB

MUG ★★★★☆
Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska. Starring Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Robert Talarczyk, Malgorzata Gorol, Agniezska Podsiadlik, Roman Gancarczyk. 15A cert, lim release, 91 min
Jacek (the brilliant Kosciukiewicz) is already a heavy-metal outsider in small-town Poland when a horrible accident during the erection of the world’s biggest Jesus statue leaves him requiring the country’s first face transplant. His girlfriend (Gorol) dumps him and his own mother can’t stand to look at him. Only his stern, loyal sister (Podsiadlik) continues to love him unconditionally. The unholy relations between Catholicism, ethno-nationalism, and rightist sentiment hang around the margins of Szumowska’s clever, affecting film. TB

NATIVITY ROCKS! THIS AIN’T NO SILENT NIGHT ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Debbie Isitt. Simon Lipkin, Daniel Boys, Craig Revel Horwood, Bradley Walsh, Meera Syal, Helen George, Ruth Jones, Celia Imrie, Hugh Dennis and Anna Chancellor. G cert, gen release, 100 min
Coventry, as the fictional mayor of that place reminds us in Nativity Rocks!, has survived bombing and rationing and poverty. But can it withstand a fourth film in the Nativity sequence? Kind of. The plot concerns the staging of a rock opera to help the city win most Christmassy spot in the land. Characters come and go randomly.There’s a lot of chatter about family and Christmas and the magnificent city of Coventry – did we mention Coventry already? It’s still marginally more tolerable than the last one. TB

THE OLD MAN & THE GUN ★★★★☆
Directed by David Lowery. Starring Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Isiah Whitlock Jr, John David Washington, Tom Waits. 12A cert, gen release, 92 min
Redford (allegedly in his last role) and Spacek are delightful as an ageing bank robber and the woman who offers him a belated shot at domesticity. Lowery’s film has the grace to treat its elder characters with respect. It does that by treating them like human beings: nuanced characters with the same needs as people their grandchildren’s age. Scored to great tunes by Scott Walker and The Kinks, it could hardly offer a more satisfactory swansong to an admired star. DC

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET ★★★☆☆
Directed by Phil Johnston, Rich Moore. Voices of John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P Henson, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Alfred Molina, Ed O’Neill, Sean Giambrone. PG cert, gen release, 112 min
Ralph (Reilly), former brute from the platform game Fix-It Felix Jr, and Vanellope von Schweetz (Silverman), speed star from racing game Sugar Rush, are living in equilibrium when a vital part for Sugar Rush gets broken. The two use their arcade’s newly upgraded internet connection to access the world that lies beyond the wires. The sequel to Wreck-It Ralph is a bit ramshackle in its plotting, but there are many good jokes about current online discontents. DC

SHOPLIFTERS ★★★★★
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Starring Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki, Kiki Kirin. 15A cert, lim release, 120 min
Kore-eda was a deserved winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes with this Dickensian tale of a family of thieves who – out of common decency – adopt an abused young girl. The Japanese film-maker has been constructing quiet, nuanced masterpieces for 20 years and Shoplifters shows all his talents to advantage. The film creeps up on you. It yields its pleasures stealthily. It has, however, more to say about questions of public and private morality than whole libraries. DC

SINK OR SWIM/LE GRAND BAIN ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Gilles Lellouche. Starring Mathieu Amalric, Guillaume Canet, Benoît Poelvoorde, Jean-Hugues Anglade. 15A cert, lim release, 104 min

New this week: Sink or Swim
New this week: Sink or Swim

Following on from Oliver Parker’s Swimming with Men, the second 2018 comedy to feature a male synchronised swimming team belly-flops into cinemas with all the finesse one might expect from a French film that peaks with the use of Phil Collins and Phillip Bailey’s Easy Lover. Flying in the face of the Full Monty formula, the latest broad, surprisingly mirthless comedy from Lellouche wastes little time explaining how a group of mismatched middle-aged men come together to perform aquatic acrobatics. Laurent Tangy’s playful cinematography is the most fun thing about the lacklustre exercise. Not waving, but drowning might have been a more apt title. 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
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

SORRY TO BOTHER YOU ★★★★★
Directed by Boots Riley. Starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross. Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer. 16 cert, gen release, 112 min
Stanfield is “Cash” Green, a flunking millennial reduced to living in his uncle’s garage and working a low-paid telemarketing position. Cash struggles at work until a veteran (Glover) advises him to use his white voice. As a “power caller”, Cash leaves behind the troubles of his friends and coworkers as they struggle to unionise against a rigged system. It’s only when he is invited to a party with a bonkers chief executive (Hammer) that he realises just how rigged. Busy, boundless and brilliant, this is the madcap Marxist adventure comedy you need to see right now. TB

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE ★★★★☆*
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman. Voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoë Kravitz, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine. PG cert, gen release, 117 min
One alternative version of Spider-Man encounters many others in a dazzling animation from the team behind The Lego Movie. The candy-charged flash manages to accommodate soul and sincerity. The film’s embrace of diversity stretches beyond the social to the sub-atomic and the quantum mechanical (no, really). The structural innovation helps confirm – despite welcome advances in representation – how conservative most Marvel films are. Easily the best superhero movie of 2018. DC

A STAR IS BORN ★★★★★
Directed by Bradley Cooper. Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron. 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

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS ★★★★☆
Directed by Tim Wardle. Featuring Edward Galland, David Kellman, Robert Shafran. 12A cert, lim release, Dublin, 97 min
“When I tell people my story, they don’t believe it,” says Robert Shafran at the start of this astonishing documentary. It transpires that, adopted as a baby, he was one of triplets whose later meeting the film relates with great lucidity. Working with Irish editor Michael Harte, director Wardle crafts an impeccable sequence of reveals, that take in a refugee from the Holocaust, unethical scientific design, and files that can’t be opened until 2055. A surefire Oscar contender. TB

WELCOME TO MARWEN ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Merritt Wever, Janelle Monáe, Eiza González, Gwendoline Christie. 12A cert, gen release, 115 min. Opens January 1st
In a sort of true story, Carell plays a damaged outsider artist who built a Belgian village in his garden and played out sexy adventures concerning the second World War. One can imagine this working as an early Todd Haynes film in the style of Superstar. Something transgressive. Something experimental. Something that’s actually meant to be creepy. Here, the icky imagined world sits surrounded by the same sort of sentimental guff that characterised Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump. DC

THE WILD PEAR TREE ★★★★☆
Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Starring Aydin Dogu Demirkol, Murat Cemcir, Serkan Keskin. Club, QFT, Belfast, 188 min
Sinan (Demirkol), a recent graduate, returns to his maritime home with plans to self-publish a philosophical tome inspired by those surroundings. He argues with dad. He buttonholes a famous writer. Turkish director Ceylan’s latest conversational epic is gorgeously filmed and features more elegantly constructed philosophical musings. The daunting length and narrative inertia are, perhaps, in danger of becoming directorial fetishes, but there is something miraculous about Ceylan’s ability to draw us into inaction. DC

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