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: Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dornan in A Private War

New this week: Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dornan in A Private War

 

ALL IS TRUE ★★★★☆
Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Kathryn Wilder, Lydia Wilson, Hadley Fraser, Jack Colgrave Hirst, John Dagleish. 12A cert, gen release, 100 min
Charming, tender study of Shakespeare’s final days starring a big-nosed Branagh as the great man and Dench as his long-suffering wife. Written by Ben Elton, the film sits in odd relation to the author’s Shakespeare sitcom Upstart Crow. Branagh’s direction is not always subtle, but for the most part this is a balanced drama concerning the perils of unfettered contemplation in later life. As Shakespeare digs his garden, he fails to process accumulated regrets or push away ancient sorrows. DC

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL ★☆☆☆☆
Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Lana Condor, Idara Victor, Eiza Gonzalez, Jeff Fahey, Casper Van Dien. 12A cert, gen release, 121 min
Awful adaptation of some comic about a broken robot who is turned into a heroine by an eccentric scientist. Why bother with speculative fiction if your speculations are so deadeningly unsurprising? You’ll find more startling dystopias in the average Ken Loach film. After enduring two hours of this twaddle, we learn that we have been watching an origin story for a character that creators James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez expect to resurface throughout the coming decade. Good luck with that. 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 Oscar-nominated Malek interpreting Mercury as a geomagnetic storm. A kind of magic. TB

BOY ERASED ★★★☆☆
Directed by Joel Edgerton. Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Joe Alwyn, Xavier Dolan, Troye Sivan, Cherry Jones, Flea, Russell Crowe. 15A cert, gen release, 115 min
The sophomore feature from actor-turned-director Edgerton is an effective, starry adaptation of Garrard Conley’s gay conversion memoir. It’s beautifully crafted and acted, with particularly impressive work from the magnetic Hedges and Kidman, who conveys the internal conflict of mother realising that she will have to choose between her faith and her son with a series of blinks and tiny movements. But one can’t help but yearn for more of the genre punch that characterised Edgerton’s 2015 directorial debut, The Gift. TB

BURNING ★★★★☆
Directed by Lee Chang-dong. Starring Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong Seo, Steven Yeun. 16 cert, IFI (Tues only)/Light House, Dublin, 148 min
One of the most positively reviewed film in Cannes history, Lee’s adaptation of a slim Haruki Murakami story concerns an awkward love triangle between a shy young man, his occasional lover and her new, more sophisticated boyfriend. It’s not zippy. The characters are opaque. The narrative uncertainties and the social uneasiness contribute to a drama that delights in frustrating expectations. An impressive follow-up to the director’s Poetry. 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/Wed only); Triskel, Cork (Fri-Mon 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

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? ★★★★★
Directed by Marielle Heller. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Richard E Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin, Ben Falcone, Anna Deavere Smith, Stephen Spinella. 15A cert, gen release, 108 min
McCarthy excels as boozy Lee Israel, the real-life biographer of Estée Lauder and Tallulah Bankhead, who, in the early 1990s, launched a second career as a forger of literary correspondence. Grant (like McCarthy, Oscar-nominated) is her even boozier, serially untrustworthy pal. The compactness of Can You Ever Forgive Me? has invited inevitable under-appreciation. It’s a great New York movie. It’s a great film about friendship. It’s also a great cat movie (if that’s your bag). DC

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
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

ESCAPE ROOM ★★★☆☆
Directed by Adam Robitel. Starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, Nik Dodani. 15A cert, gen release, 100 min
This year’s Stateside horror hit is a high-concept PGish reworking of Saw, minus the torture porn and inventiveness. What’s left, you say? A reasonably diverting genre exercise that shares DNA with every second contemporary horror by its apparent mania for bumping off attractive young folk in a series of hostile environments. A mismatched bunch respond to a mysterious black box invitation that leads them to an anonymous Chicago office block. A shy maths whiz (Russell), a stockroom boy with limited prospects (Miller), a badass war veteran with PTSD (Woll), a high-flying money man (Ellis), an older former miner (Labine), and an Escape Room nerd (Dodani) must escape the escape rooms or die trying. Serviceable until they expand the universe in the final act. 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 (Sat/Tues only); IFI (Sun only)/Light House (Fri-Sat/Tues only), 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

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

GREEN BOOK ★★★☆☆
Directed by Peter Farrelly. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D Marinov, PJ Byrne. 12A cert, gen release, 130 min
Farrelly moves from Dumb and Dumber to the quasi-true story of an Italian-American goodfella (Mortensen) who drove an African-American pianist (Ali) about the segregated South in the 1960s. It’s not the subtlest film: the racial politics are crude; the two actors lay it on with a trowel; the denouement is shamelessly sentimental. And yet the darn thing works. The gears engage. The motor runs smoothly. The destination is achieved. There are worse things in heaven and earth. DC

HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U ★★★☆☆
Directed by Christopher Landon. Starring Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Ruby Modine. 15A cert, gen release, 100 min

New this week: Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U
New this week: Jessica Rothe in Happy Death Day 2U

Happy Death Day 2U revisits and reworks the pleasing conceit of the original with mixed results. It starts promisingly, by kicking the Groundhog Day meets Scream mash-up that made the 2017 film so appealing into the lap of one the original film’s minor characters, Ryan (Vu), before switching back to the original heroine, Tree (Rothe). It’s clear that writer-director Landon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) wants to expand the universe; it’s just not clear that he should. TB

INSTANT FAMILY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Sean Anders. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty. Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro. 12 cert, gen release, 118 min

New this week: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Julianna Gamiz and Gustavo Quiroz in Instant Family
New this week: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Julianna Gamiz and Gustavo Quiroz in Instant Family

A happily married couple (Wahlberg and Byrne) fumble their way into foster care adoption by taking on three siblings, including a rebellious 15-year-old girl (played by Moner, Wahlberg’s Transformers co-star), with predictably tumultuous and mostly amusing results. Poised indelicately between shameless smaltz and slappy slapstick, Instant Family may be blunt and messy, but it’s easily a career best for the director of Sex Drive and Horrible Bosses 2. TB

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD ★★★★☆
Directed by Dean DeBlois. Voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Justin Rupple, Kristen Wiig, F Murray Abraham. PG cert, gen release, 104 min
When dragonslayer Grimmel (F Murray Abraham) threatens, Hiccup (Baruchel) and the good denizens of Berk have little option but to move their dragon to the possibly mythological realm of the title. The Night Fury-obsessed Grimmel, however, has other plans. The Hidden World introduces a “wild and skittish” Light Fury love interest for Toothless and zips along, punctuated by credible action sequences and gleeful silliness. Sit tight for the emotional finale. We’re going to miss this franchise. TB

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK ★★★★★
Directed by Barry Jenkins. Starring KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal. 15A cert, gen release, 119 min
Jenkins’s wonderful follow-up to his Oscar-winning Moonlight adapts James Baldwin’s novel concerning a New York couple caught up in the malign jumble of legal evasions and societal dishonesties that worked to constrain African-Americans in the 1960s. Layne is the young pregnant woman fighting to stay aloft when her partner (James) is wrongly convicted of rape. The massed harmony of lighting, music and set dressing sets Beale Street apart. Both beautiful and angry. DC

THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING ★★★☆☆
Directed by Joe Cornish. Starring Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Rebecca Ferguson, Patrick Stewart, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Angus Imrie. PG cert, gen release, 120 min

New this week: Louis Ashbourne Serkis in The Kid Who Would Be King
New this week: Louis Ashbourne Serkis in The Kid Who Would Be King

Cornish’s retelling of the King Arthur myth in suburban London looks and feels like something the BBC might have broadcast on a Tuesday afternoon in the mid-1980s. The juvenile actors are satisfactory without doing anything to trouble the scorers at Bafta. It engages with social issues, but remains firmly in the middle ground mapped out by Grange Hill and Blue Peter. The special effects are so-so. It’s grand, but how it came to cost $60 million is anybody’s guess. DC

THE LADY EVE ★★★★★
Directed by Preston Sturges. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette. Club, IFI, Dublin, 94 min

On rerelease this week; Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve, exclusively at the IFI, Dublin
On rerelease this week; Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve, exclusively at the IFI, Dublin

Charles (Fonda), the bumbling heir to a brewery fortune, seems blissfully unaware of the many “dames” who flutter and fawn in his presence until he falls, literally – she sticks her foot out on purpose – for the streetwise Jean (Stanwyck). Charles – Hopsie to his friends – is just another mark for Jean and her smooth-talking father (Coburn). Until, of course, he becomes more than a mark. Hopsie gets wise just as Jean gets soft. Take two and Eve has reinvented herself as Lady Eve, a British aristocrat. She has revenge in mind: I need him, she says of Hopsie, “like the axe needs the turkey”. Flawless screwball comedy from 1941 ensues. TB

THE LEGO MOVIE 2 ★★★☆☆
Directed by Mike Mitchell. Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph. G cert, gen release, 107 min
“Everything is not awesome,” sing the Lego Movie collective at a late, crucial juncture in this serviceable sequel. Set five years after the 2014 original, the fourth Lego movie sees the jolly borough of Bricksburg transformed into the Apocalypseburg and under siege from alien Duplo invaders. It falls to everyman master builder Emmet (Pratt), his far more capable chum Lucy (Banks) and a collective that includes Batman (Will Arnett) to take on the marauders. It lacks the snap and crackle of both its predecessor and The Lego Batman Movie, but there are some good jokes and a winning self-awareness. 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

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
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 actors 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

A PRIVATE WAR ★★★☆☆
Directed by Matthew Heineman. Starring Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, Stanley Tucci, Greg Wise, Faye Marsay, Fady Elsayed. 15A cert, gen release, 110 min
Strongly acted biopic of the late war correspondent Marie Colvin from the director of Cartel Land. Pike creates a person who is at least the equal – and usually the superior – of the men around her, but who also remains separate, singular, at an angle. She moves with an assurance that never gives in to swagger. A veteran of conflict zones, Heineman makes a busy chaos of the action sequences. Unfortunately the script, rife with cliches, isn’t worthy of the talent interpreting it. 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 (Fri only); Light House, Dublin (Sun/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
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. 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

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

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
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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