Latest movies reviewed: All films in cinemas this week rated

The Irish Times what-to-see guide to the movies now in cinemas across Ireland

New this week: Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots

New this week: Saoirse Ronan in Mary, Queen of Scots

 

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

BEAUTIFUL BOY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Felix Van Groeningen. Starring Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan. 15A cert, gen release, 121 min

Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy
New this week: Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy

Nicholas (Chalamet) has been missing for a few days before he turns up, clearly at the tail end of a drug binge and unable to talk to his worried father, David (Carell). It’s the start of a predictable, maddening pattern and downward spiral. Upon each return, Nicholas looks further gone than before, until finally, he’s stealing from his own family to pay for his crystal meth habit. The dual protagonist structure allows for two tremendous performances that hang off nothing in particular. The film ends so abruptly, there’s nothing Van Groeningen – the brilliant Belgian director who reinvented the weepie with The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012) – can do to convince the viewer that this is a movie. TB

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, QFT, Belfast, 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

COLETTE ★★★★☆
Directed by Wash Westmoreland. Starring Keira Knightley, Dominic West, Eleanor Tomlinson, Denise Gough, Aiysha Hart. 15A cert, gen release, 112 min
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Knightley) is a pigtailed teenager living in a corner of Burgundy who is not adverse to a roll in the hay with her parents’ slick and much older friend Willy (Henry Gauthier-Villars, played by West). It’s only after the naive country girl has married and moved to Paris with Willy that she and we come to realise that he’s a literary fraud. A womaniser, a bully, and gambler, Willy is reluctant to let the brink of poverty come between him and whoring, so he tells Colette to write a novel. She writes a bucolic tale recalling her rural childhood. He trashes it and demands a rewrite with a closer focus on the schoolgirls. The second draft is an overnight sensation, published under Gauthier-Villars’s name. It takes a while for Colette to emerge from his shadow, but she does so with gusto in this good looking cradle-to-grave biopic. TB

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

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
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, PG cert, QFT, Belfast (Sat only); IFI (Sat/Sun only); Light House, Dublin, 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 FRONT RUNNER ★★★★☆
Directed by Jason Reitman. Starring Hugh Jackman, JK Simmons, Vera Farmiga, Alfred Molina, Sara Paxton, Mamoudou Athie. 15A cert, gen release, 113 min
Composed of long, snaking takes and Altmanesque overlapping dialogue and soundtracks, The Front Runner parachutes the viewer into the cut and thrust of the 1984 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, just as Colorado senator Gary Hart is conceding to Walter Mondale. Hart has so much charisma, smarts and fabulous hair that they had to draught in the Greatest Showman himself to play the role. Fast forward to 1987: Hart is the presumed front-runner in the Democratic race until he is caught entertaining a pretty blonde named Donna Rice (Paxton), whom he met on a yacht named Monkey Business. The historical details are impeccable but the events have been pointedly repurposed as a cautionary tale that leads all the way to Trump. TB

GLASS ★★☆☆☆
Directed by M Night Shyamalan. Starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard. 15A cert, gen release, 129 min

New this week: Samuel L Jackson, James McAvoy and Bruce Willis in Glass
New this week: Samuel L Jackson, James McAvoy and Bruce Willis in Glass

Messy, largely boring sequel to Shyamalan’s Unbreakable and Split. Tough Willis, mad McAvoy and evil Jackson find themselves under the care of psychiatrist Paulson. The nice visuals and committed performances do not compensate for a story that rejoices in going nowhere interesting. The much-promised grand finale never arrives. The last reversal feels like a parody of the high Shyamalan style, and the theorising about comic-book lore is exhausting for those not wholly on board. Night’s gone off again. DC

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

KEEPERS OF THE FLAME ★★★☆☆
Directed by Nuala O’Connor. Featuring Diarmaid Ferriter, Mary Black, Aiden Gillen, Joseph O’Connor, Olivia O’Leary. G cert, Triskel, Cork (Fri-Mon), 89 min
The unpromising starting point is a dive into the Irish Military Service Pensions archive and a consideration of how payments were made, who gained and who lost out. Around that fulcrum, the documentary bends a comprehensive examination of the challenges that accompany commemoration. The reasonable, humane arguments are structured with the clarity you would expect from a professional historian such as Ferriter. It is, in the age of online fury, refreshing to hear contentious issues pondered in such measures tones. DC

LIFE ITSELF ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Dan Fogelman. Starring Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Samuel L Jackson. 15A cert, gen release, 117 min
Fogelman is revered in many quarters as the creator of This Is Us, the compellingly weepie US family drama. Unhappily, the prolific writer’s second feature feels like three seasons worth of possible plot points for that long-form drama distilled into a goopy, mawkish two hours.This idea is expanded upon by Abbey (Wilde) in her college thesis: “We think of the unreliable narrator as a gimmick,” she gushes. “But every story ever told has an unreliable narrator. The only truly reliable narrator is life itself but life itself is the ultimate unreliable narrator.” What now? This is not even the worst idea in the film. TB

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

MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS ★★★☆☆
Directed by Josie Rourke. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Jack Lowden, Joe Alwyn, David Tennant, Guy Pearce. 15A cert, gen release, 124 min
Perfectly adequate retelling of Queen Mary’s unhappy demise, featuring a determined Ronan as the Scotswoman and a wracked Robbie as her rival Elizabeth I. It’s a pretty unimaginative affair with too many baffling diversions from the facts. (Why does Mary, raised in France, speak with a Glaswegian accent?) Still, the pleasures of a classy production with classy performers are not to be wholly dismissed. It’s the best Sunday-night telly at the cinema this Friday. DC

MONSTERS AND MEN ★★★★☆
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. Starring John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Rob Morgan, Nicole Beharie, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Chante Adams. 15A cert, lim release, 95 min

John David Washington and Anthony Ramos in Monsters and Men
New this week: Anthony Ramos and John David Washington in Monsters and Men

Green’s thought-provoking debut feature concerns an incident in which an unarmed black man is shot dead by police on a Brooklyn street corner. There are obvious parallels with the Eric Garner case, but the writer-director isn’t interesting in a straight-up procedural. His film unfolds as a triptych, in which each segment chronicles a compromised, complex set of ethics and concerns. Dennis (BlacKKKlansman’s Washington) is a black police officer. Manny (Hamilton’s Ramos) is a former felon who records police brutality on his phone. Zee (Assassination Nation’s Harrison), a promising high school baseball star politicised by police harassment. A remarkably sure-footed first film. TB

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

RBG ★★★★☆
Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. Featuring Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Ginsburg, James Steven Ginsburg, Nina Totenberg, Clara Spera, Gloria Steinem. Club, QFT, Belfast (Sat only); Light House, Dublin, 97 min
There are a few moments of levity in this fond documentary portrait of the life and career of US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She works out wearing a shirt that reads “Super Diva”, enjoys some banter with the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia, and is bemused by her nickname, the Notorious RBG. Mostly, as she herself notes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a far more solemn, serious person than her place in pop culture might suggest: “I tend to be rather sober,” she says. A documentary as sober as its subject might have spent more time on the fascinating archival audio from some the cases Ginsburg argued, but this breezy primer is hard to argue with. TB

SHOPLIFTERS ★★★★★
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Starring Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki, Kiki Kirin, Mayu Matsuoka, Kengo Kora, Chizuru Ikewake. 15A cert, Triskel, Cork (Fri only); Light House, Dublin (Sun/Mon only), 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

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, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Zoë Cravitz, 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

STAN & OLLIE ★★★★☆
Directed by Jon S Baird. Starring John C Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Rufus Jones, Danny Huston. PG cert, gen release, 97 min
Touching, funny drama following Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (Coogan and Reilly) as they tour the UK and Ireland in declining years. That’s pretty much it. There are few significant revelations. The comedy is as gentle as the original films. The sentimental turns are worked ruthlessly. Nothing much happens that you don’t expect to happen. Yet it works like a dream. The two lead roles could hardly be better cast and Arianda steal every scene as Laurel’s bolshie Russian wife. DC

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

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS ★★★★☆
Directed by Tim Wardle. Featuring Edward Galland, David Kellman, Robert Shafran. 12A cert, Triskel, Cork (Fri-Mon only); Light House, Dublin (Sat only), 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

THE UPSIDE ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Neil Berger. Starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, Aja Naomi King, Golshifteh Farahani, Tate Donovan. 12A cert, gen release, 125 min
Useless remake of French smash The Intouchables (by one measure the highest-grossing domestic release ever in that country) starring Cranston as a quadriplegic millionaire and Hart as the irresponsible ex-con employed as his carer. The stars make a genuine effort and the ultimate message is more or less the right one, but the cliches and the stereotyping are too exhausting for words. Rich people like opera. Poor people are in touch with their emotions. And so on. DC

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
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

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