Four new films to see in cinemas this week

Kenneth Branagh's Belfast and Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley, plus Mass and Cicada

Judi Dench, Jude Hill and Ciarán Hinds in Belfast

Judi Dench, Jude Hill and Ciarán Hinds in Belfast

 

BELFAST ★★★★☆
Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Jude Hill, Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan. 12A cert, gen release, 98 min
Delightful monochrome celebration of Belfast before the Fall from one of its proudest sons. Balfe and Dornan are knitting-pattern lovely as parents to a young tyke (Hill in a super juvenile turn) plainly modelled on Branagh. It is clear from early on that this a sentimental vision drawn from childhood memory. Anyone in search of sociopolitical motivations need look elsewhere. A gorgeous, proudly unreliable glance over the shoulder. A tribute to an often maligned city. No doubt a source of incoming controversy. What else would you expect from a film called Belfast? Full review DC 

NIGHTMARE ALLEY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn. 15A cert, gen release, 150 min

Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley
Cate Blanchett and Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley

A carnival huckster (Cooper) takes his act to high society. Del Toro follows up his Oscar-winning The Shape of Water with this plush, stylish, starry adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel. The film is some 40-minutes longer than the punchy 1947 version, which starred Tyrone Power. The 2022 update misses both its seedy spirit and postwar cynicism. Production designer Tamara Deverell and costume designer Luis Sequeira create an arresting spectacle, but one that is, ultimately, too luxurious for the sleazy travelling show and 1940s hoboism at the heart of the movie. Full review TB

MASS ★★★★☆
Directed by Fran Kranz. Starring Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton. Limited release, 110 min

Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton in Mass
Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton in Mass

Gail and Jay (Plimpton and Isaacs) are visibly jittery. Linda (Dowd) and her husband Richard (Birney) seem less easy still. Without anything that sounds like exposition, Franz’s script reveals that a lawyer and a therapist have arranged for this meeting, and that Richard and Linda’s son was the killer in a high school shooting spree six years previously – and Gail and Jay’s son was one of the victims. The performances, carefully calibrated characters and unexpected detours in the conversation ensure that Mass remains an absorbing piece of cinema. Sometimes hard to watch, but always gripping. Full review TB

CICADA ★★★★☆
Directed by Matthew Fifer and Kieran Mulcare. Starring Matthew Fifer, Sheldon Brown, Sandra Bauleo, Cobie Smulders, Michael Potts, Scott Adsit, David Burtka, Bowen Yang, Jo Firestone. Limited release, 93 min

Sheldon Brown and Matthew Fifer in Cicada
Sheldon Brown and Matthew Fifer in Cicada

Ben (Fifer), an awkward hypochondriac still processing childhood abuse, and Sam (Brown), who, though apparently more confident, has not yet come out to his family, work their way through psychological crises while meandering about an attractively shot New York City. Made on location, featuring integrated bursts of improvisation, Cicada highlights unchanging highlights of Gotham life. A glimpse of the Empire State Building from Washington Square Park. Tunnels in Central Park. Though heavily improvised, the film has a an attractive, lolloping rhythm throughout. Only Smulder’s weirdly misconceived role as a whacky therapist clunks. Full review DC

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