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: Karen Hassan in Cellar Door

New this week: Karen Hassan in Cellar Door

 

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
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 (Sun only), 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

CELLAR DOOR ★★★☆☆
Directed by Viko Nikci. Starring Karen Hassan, Catherine Walker, Mark O’Halloran, Una Carroll, Ian McElhinney. 15A cert, lim release, 90 min
Interesting, experimental Irish horror that seems to concern a young woman searching for her baby in an institution run by the Catholic Church. Before long, the connecting thread from one sequence to the next gets lost in the creative jumble. Too much of Cellar Door feels like an unstructured juxtaposition of striking sequences. It does, however, come together in its closing minutes and – no small compliment – will repay a second viewing. A cult following awaits. 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

DESTROYER ★★★☆☆
Directed by Karyn Kusama. Starring Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford. 16 cert, gen release, 121 min

New this week: Nicole Kidman in Destroyer
New this week: Nicole Kidman in Destroyer

Detective Erin Bell (Kidman at full stretch) staggers, still drunk from the night before, onto a sunny southern Californian crime scene. She recognises the victim and, following some ridicule from her attending colleagues, staggers away in the opposite direction. A sluggish screenplay flips between the contemporary ragged Erin and her lone wolf investigation and a bank robbery committed 17 years ago by a gang she and an another undercover cop (Sebastian Stan, understated and completely wasted here) had infiltrated. Destroyer really wants to be a blazingly lit, freewheeling noir in the style of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. Despite good performances and tech specs, it’s not. TB

A DOG’S WAY HOME ★★★☆☆
Directed by Charles Martin Smith. Starring Ashley Judd, Jonah Hauer-King, Alexandra Shipp, Wes Studi, Edward James Olmos, voice of Bryce Dallas Howard. PG cert, gen release, 96 min

New this week: A Dog’s Way Home
New this week: A Dog’s Way Home

A simple variation on The Incredible Journey (the celebrity-voiced 1993 version, not the gently narrated ’63 original), this very American pet tale pivots around Bella, a pitbull puppy who is raised by stray cats and voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard. When Bella is adopted by kindly VA hospital worker Lucas (Hauer-King) and his war veteran mom (Judd), the pooch seems set for life. Even dog-loving viewers may flinch at some of the schmaltz. Just the same, this is a decent family film. TB

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 (Mon only); IFI/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
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

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
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 interested 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

THE MULE ★★★☆☆
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy Garcia, Alison Eastwood, Taissa Farmiga, Ignacio Serricchio. 15A cert, gen release, 117 min

New this week: Clint Eastwood in The Mule
New this week: Clint Eastwood in The Mule

The great man plays a nonagenarian who drives drugs across the US for the Mexical cartels. It’s messy and tonally unsure, but there are worse ways of spending your time than watching Clint snarl, shuffle and frown his way through another geriatric meltdown. The other stars appear cowed, as if performing before a personification of the US constitution. Indeed, the whole film seems flattened by the distinction of Eastwood’s presence. It scarcely matters that little else is up to scratch. 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

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 (Wed only), 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

SECOND ACT ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Peter Segal. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Leah Remini, Vanessa Hudgens, Treat Williams, Milo Ventimiglia, Charlyne Yi. 12A cert, gen release, 104 min

New this week: Charlyne Yi, Alan Aisenberg, Jennifer Lopez and Annaleigh Ashford star in Second Act
New this week: Charlyne Yi, Alan Aisenberg, Jennifer Lopez and Annaleigh Ashford star in Second Act

When her godson invents a wildly embellished CV, hardworking Maya (Lopez) is plucked from the floor of a dollar store and thrust into the go-go corporate world of ill-defined biochemical giant. JLo watchers will recognise this plot from Maid in Manhattan, in which Lopez’ charlady poses as an uptown girl, and Jenny from the Block, in which Lopez trumpets her humble origins. The silly film’s hopelessly muddled script takes in a magic tree (yes, there is a magic tree), a family reunion, many gal pal sessions, a romantic subplot, and a competitive product launch in which Maya’s band of funny misfits take on the company’s A-listers led by Hudgens. Some moving moments, but one wishes Lopez was better served by the material. 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-Mon); Light House, Dublin (Sat/Tues 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, Light House, Dublin (Fri 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

VICE ★★★☆☆
Directed by Adam McKay. Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, Jesse Plemons, Lily Rabe, Tyler Perry, LisaGay Hamilton. 15A cert, gen release, 132 min

New this week: Amy Adams and Christian Bale in Vice
New this week: Amy Adams and Christian Bale in Vice

McKay brings the same class of ribald pastiche he used for The Big Short to an examination of Dick Cheney, vice-president under George W Bush (Rockwell). The problem with his approach here is that little of what’s being discussed is difficult to understand. We don’t need to be talked down to. But Vice is never boring. Bale’s performance offers a grand example of what Orson Welles used to call “king acting”, while Adams is solid as Lynne Cheney. At least 50 percent of the gags zing home. DC

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