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: the original Ringu (Ring), on limited release

New this week: the original Ringu (Ring), on limited release

 

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

THE AFTERMATH ★★★☆☆
Directed by James Kent. Starring Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, Martin Compston, Flora Li Thiemann, Fionn O’Shea. 15A cert, gen release, 108 min

New this week: Keira Knightely in The Aftermatch
New this week: Keira Knightely in The Aftermath

Late 1945. Rachael Morgan (Knightley) and her husband Lewis (Clarke) arrive in Hamburg as part of the occupying forces. They end up sharing a mansion with an emotionally damaged architect named Stefan (Skarsgård) and his equally troubled daughter. Soon Stef and Rach are at it on the hall table. The Aftermatch is dramatically inert, but as Knitting Pattern Cinema goes it’s pretty enough. The leads are forever wearing ochre cardies while standing near complementary shades of mahogany. 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

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

CAPERNAUM ★★★★★
Directed by Nadine Labaki. Starring Zain Alrafeea, Yordanos Shifera, Treasure Bankole, Cedra Izam. 15A cert, QFT, Belfast; IFI/Light House, Dublin, 120 min
The blub tells us that Labaki’s film concerns a poor Lebanese child who sues her parents for bringing her into this awful world. Eugh? Don’t worry. That framing device is mere decoration on a stunningly effective neo-realist drama concerning a child set adrift in Dickensian poverty. The director’s skill in manipulating her hero’s progress through an endlessly dangerous city and in drawing a relaxed, sincere performance from young Zain Alrafeea establishes her as an impresario of some genius. Hugely powerful melodrama. DC

COLD PURSUIT ★★★★☆
Directed by Hans Petter Moland. Starring Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson, Emmy Rossum, Domenick Lombardozzi, Julia Jones, John Doman, Laura Dern. 16 cert, gen release, 118 min
Yes, this is the film Liam Neeson was promoting when he went off the rails. The film-makers will regret that his unwise remarks have distracted from the actor’s best action film since The Grey. He plays a snow plough driver who goes on a rampage after his son is killed by hoodlums. Adapting his own Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, Moland displays a cinematic gift that favours balance over flair. The humour is pitch black. The violence is insanely heightened. 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

AN ENGINEER IMAGINES ★★★★☆
Directed by Marcus Robinson. Featuring Peter Rice, Michael McElhatton, Renzo Piano, Jonathan Glancey. G cert, lim release, 88 min

New this week: An Engineer Imagines
New this week: An Engineer Imagines

This study of Irish engineer Peter Rice (the brains behind the Pompidou Centre) offers us the full biographical analysis. Structured around Rice’s book of the same name, An Engineer Imagines is maybe a little short of mathematical detail, but its treatment of its subject’s life and philosophy cannot be faulted. There can be no greater compliment than to say it sends one out eager to learn more. Nice photography. Warm interviews. 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

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Stephen Merchant. Starring Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn. Dwayne Johnson. 15A cert, gen release, 108 min

New this week: Florence Pugh in Fighting with My Family
New this week: Florence Pugh in Fighting with My Family

The Rock plus The Office and Extras co-creator Stephen Merchant sounds like an unlikely tag-team, but this cheery comedy inspired by the life of Saraya-Jade Bevis (aka Paige) who went from the less salubrious boroughs of Norwich to WWE Divas Champion at age 21, makes for a winning alchemy. It’s hard to argue with the results, however formulaic, and even when the material is thin, Pugh is there to, literally and figuratively, do the heavy lifting. TB

FOXTROT ★★★★★
Directed by Samuel Maoz. Starring Lior Ashkenazi, Sarah Adler, Yonaton Shiray. 15A cert, lim release, 113 min

New this week: Foxtrot
New this week: Foxtrot

From the virtuoso opening scene (a woman faints upon the arrival of Israeli soldiers who can only be the bearers of bad news) every single sequence in Moaz’ long-awaited follow-up to Lebanon is unexpected. Foxtrot touches on military downtime previously explored in Zero Motivations, as punctuated and punctured by Kafkaesque machinations, comic book grammar, and a nerve-shredding checkpoint sequence. TB

FREE SOLO ★★★★★
Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin. Featuring Alex Honnold. PG cert, PG cert, QFT, Belfast (Mon/Thurs 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

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
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

THE HOLE IN THE GROUND ★★★★☆
Directed by Lee Cronin. Starring Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall. 15A cert, gen release, 90 min

New this week: Seána Kerslake in The Hole in the Ground
New this week: Seána Kerslake in The Hole in the Ground

Cronin’s fine horror debut sends Kerslake into the woods with her young son. After an encounter with the (massive!) titular hole, he becomes weirdly altered. The director does throw too much at us too quickly. The weirdness needs a little more reality to set it into proper relief. His handling of the horror machinery is, however, masterful and Kerslake is as captivating as ever. A lot of weight is placed on her shoulders and she carries it without breaking a sigh (though she does scream a bit). DC

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
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, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, 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
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 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

ON THE BASIS OF SEX ★★★☆☆
Directed by Mimi Leder. Starring Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Sam Waterston, Kathy Bates, Jack Reynor. 12A cert, gen release, 120 min
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jones) is a first-year student at a male-dominated Harvard Law School. When her husband Martin (Hammer), a second-year student, falls ill with cancer, she attends both his lectures and her own. No law firm will hire Ruth, even though she graduated top of her class, so she ends up in academia until her husband brings a tax code case to her attention. Might Section 214 of the Internal Revenue Code allow the future US supreme court judge to take on the entire damned system? There’s nothing in Daniel Stiepleman’s screenplay that captures the sense of mischief and discovery that jollies along the concurrent RBG documentary. On the Basis of Sex is well-intentioned, cheesily enjoyable and rather uninspired. TB

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

RINGU ★★★★☆
Directed by Hideo Nakata. Starring Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rikiya Otaka, Yoichi Numata. 15A cert, lim release, 95 min
Twentieth anniversary reissue of classic Japanese horror film about haunted video tape. The ghost-delivery system could hardly seem more antiquated now if it made use of carrier pigeons. But the notion of a mad rumour, passed about eagerly by teenagers, makes even more sense in the social media age. Indeed, Ringu (Ring) now seems like one of the most influential films of its era. The overseas release revitalised (and respooked) the horror genre. DC

SAUVAGE ★★★★☆
Directed by Camille Vidal-Naquet. Starring Félix Maritaud, Éric Bernard, Nicolas Dibla, Philippe Ohrel. Club, lim release, 99 min

New this week: Félix Maritaud in Sauvage
New this week: Félix Maritaud in Sauvage

Sauvage makes for a fascinating variation on the tart with a heart trope. Indeed, the miseries heaped upon the nomadic sex worker in Vidal-Naquet’s debut feature can recall the tragic donkey in Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar. In common with that beast of burden, the life of Maritaud’s Leo (his name is never used in the movie) unfolds as a series of intimate encounters, some cruel and some kind. Maritaud, who put in a star-making turn in Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM, is a heartbreaking revelation in the central role. 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,  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

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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