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: Pierre Deladonchamps and Vincent Lacoste in Sorry Angel, exclusively at the Triskel in Cork

New this week: Pierre Deladonchamps and Vincent Lacoste in Sorry Angel, exclusively at the Triskel in Cork

 

AT ETERNITY’S GATE ★★★★☆
Directed by Julian Schnabel. Starring Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac, Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Niels Arestrup
There are some of the usual visual correlatives in Schnabel’s Vincent Van Gogh biopic – the yellow room has rarely been yellower – but there is much more besides. Here is a film that makes a genuine effort to engage with the artist’s mental torments while putting forward fresh (albeit contentious) suggestions about his route to a bloody death. It’s an attractive piece of work as well as a thoughtful one. Dafoe excels as the painter. 12A cert, Triskel, Cork; IFI, Dublin (Wed/Thurs only), 111 min DC

ASH IS PUREST WHITE ★★★★★
Directed by Zhangke Jia. Starring Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Xiaogang Feng

New this week: Ash Is Purest White
New this week: Zhao Tao in Ash Is Purest White

China, 2001: Qiao (played by the director’s partner and longtime lead Zhao Tao) is a young woman who lives in a shabby coal-mining town where the pit faces closure. Her boyfriend Bin (Liao Fan) is a dashing young jianghu who runs a local seedy nightclub. When Bin’s supremacy is challenged by younger wannabe mobsters, Qiao fires the shots that disperse them and goes down for Bin’s unregistered gun, serving five years in his stead. Their relationship – a series of abandonment – mirrors seismic societal shifts. Zhangke’s longform drama maintains an intriguing relationship with social realism., as the film throws a weird, extraterrestrial curveball before returning to interpersonal pyrotechnics and rich allegory. Club, lim release, 138 min TB

AVENGERS: ENDGAME ★★★☆☆
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Bautista, Chadwick Boseman, Josh Brolin, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Winston Duke, Karen Gillan, Dana Gurira, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Rene Russo, Tilda Swinton, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong, Laetitia Wright

New this week: Avengers: Endgame
New this week: Avengers: Endgame

All your favourite Marvel superheroes are back to raise half the universe from the dead. Avengers: Endgame is the same length as Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev and that director didn’t expect you to sit through the end credits in the hope of seeing Nick Fury. Fair enough. Marvel has been churning out these vehicles since 2008 and even the unconvinced must admit that they are masterpieces in the art of logistics. Everyone gets a crack at the zippy dialogue. Surprises. Twists. (And some tedium.) 12 cert, gen release, 181 min DC

CAPTAIN MARVEL ★★★☆☆
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Annette Bening
It’s a shame the first episode in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a female protagonist isn’t just a little better. Larson does well enough in a role that would better suit an actor less wedded to underplayed naturalism. The 1990s nostalgia is played for laughs. Sadly, an amusing centre is squeezed into a wafer by a silly framing space operetta that tries the patience. 12A, gen release, 123 min DC

THE DIG ★★★★☆
Directed by Andy Tohill, Ryan Tohill. Starring Moe Dunford, Emily Taaffe, Francis Magee, Lorcan Cranitch, Katherine Devlin, Aimee Brett

New this week: The Dig
New this week: Moe Dunford in The Dig

Following a spell in jail for his involvement with the killing of a young woman, Ronan Callahan (Dunford) rides into town to encounter near-complete hostility. Sean McKenna (Cranitch), the victim’s brother, has taken to digging up the bog in search of the still-missing body. This being an Ulster western, the searchers stay in pretty much one place and pursue their hunt through a Sisyphean process that, involving piles of earth, would suit the characters in a Samuel Beckett play. Powerful, rough, odd. 15A cert, gen release, 97 min DC

DONBASS ★★★★☆
Directed by Sergei Loznitsa. Starring Tamara Yatsenko, Liudmila Smorodina, Olesya Zhurakovskaya, Boris Kamorzin, Sergei Russkin, Petro Panchuk

New this week: Donbass
New this week: Donbass

A film-maker of no little ambition, Loznitsa constructs his film in form of 13 equally cynical, comparably despairing vignettes. The unavoidable topic is the conflict between Ukrainian nationalists and Russia’s proxy Donetsk “People’s Republic”. As is the way of anthology films, some segments work more effectively than others. But the desire to spread plague about both houses is maintained with impressive rigour throughout. This remains a very dark comedy that groans under the grim detritus of a still intractable conflict. Club, lim release, 121 min DC

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE ★★★☆☆
Directed by S Craig Zahler. Starring Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Laurie Holden, Fred Melamed, Udo Kier, Thomas Kretschmann, Don Johnson
This grindcore cops-and-robbers variation has downtime in the downtime. Forget fast cuts: every Ritalin shot is medium-close, still and hideously coloured with snot green, blaring red, or puked mustard interiors and filters. “Being branded a racist in today’s public forum is like being branded a communist in the 1950s,” Don Johnson’s police sergeant scolds Mel Gibson. The racial politics of Dragged Across Concrete are nothing if not provocative. Arriving after the brilliant Bone Tomahawk and Brawl in Cell Block 99, it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed by Zahler’s third wayward meta-anti-film, even if it does reaffirm the writer-director as the most imaginative creator-of-worlds in the business. 18 cert, gen release, 158 min TB

DUMBO ★★★☆☆
Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Roshan Seth
The new Dumbo does hit many of the familiar beats. Had Tim Burton and his team cut Baby Mine they would have deserved any horsewhipping that came their way. But we should be grateful that, unlike the recent Beauty and the Beast, this is not a straight retread of the original. Burton makes good use of his cast: Farrell is sympathetic as a circus all-rounder; Green is glamorous. Unfortunately, Dumbo himself is stranded in the unhappy valley between anthropomorphism and verisimilitude. PG cert, gen release, 112 min DC

EIGHTH GRADE ★★★★★
Directed by Bo Burnham. Starring Elsie Fisher, Daniel Zolghadri, Fred Hechinger, Imani Lewis, Luke Prael, Catherine Oliviere, Josh Hamilton

New this week: Eighth Grade
New this week: Elsie Fisher (centre) in Eighth Grade

Enormously engaging study of a young girl (Fisher, brilliant) preparing for the jump into the US high school system. There isn’t an enormous amount of plot. Kayla finds herself at a birthday party for one of the cool girls and ends up slinking away in appalled shame. She makes friends with a nice older girl (yes, they do exist in this world) when visiting her new high school. And so on. There is much awkwardness here, but also a great deal of hope and warmth. Essential. 15A cert, gen release, 93 min DC

GRETA ★★★★☆
Directed by Neil Jordan. Starring Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea
Frances (Moretz), an earnest young woman who works at a snooty New York restaurant, finds a handbag and immediately sets about returning it to its owner. The bag belongs to an older woman, Greta (Huppert), who invites Frances in for tea at her cosy little home. One upended table later and Frances has a diabolical lady stalker on her tail. The camp carrying on and mostly female cast provide a hyper-meta-commentary on 1990s stalker films of old, particularly the girlishly energised Single White Female, Poison Ivy and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. A compellingly weird fairytale. 15A cert, gen release, 99 min 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, Kristen Wiig, F Murray Abraham
When dragonslayer Grimmel (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. PG cert, gen release, 104 min TB

LITTLE ★★★☆☆
Directed by Tina Gordon. Starring Regina Hall, Marsai Martin, Issa Rae, Justin Hartley, Tone Bell, Rachel Dratch
Yet another entry to the sub-genre of body-swap comedies that sees a grown-up inhabit a child’s body (or vice versa). Little works through most of the familiar cliches.. Once again, the protagonist takes an awfully long time to accept the unlikely evidence of her own eyes. But a stunning juvenile performance lifts the film above the pack. Hall is under-used as a bossy CEO, but Martin is just brilliant as the kid she becomes. Messy but fun (and a little transgressive). 12A cert, gen release, 109 min DC

LORO ★★★☆☆
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Starring Toni Servillo, Elena Sofia Ricci, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kasia Smutniak, Euridice Axen, Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Roberto De Francesco
Sorrentino, the director of Il Divo and The Great Beauty, inevitably gets around to the story of Silvio Berlusconi. It’s a film of two interlocking halves: a pimp assembles a harem to ensnare the ex-president; the old man (Servillo) plots a return from near isolation. Oddly, the part that sounds most like a Sorrentino joint – the one revelling in Felliniesque excess – is the less satisfactory. The endless bunga-bunga is exhausting. Servillo’s portrayal of a brooding exile is engaging. 18 cert, IFI, Dublin, 150 min DC

THE MAN WHO WANTED TO FLY ★★★★☆
Directed by Frank Shouldice. Featuring Bobby Coote, Ernie Coote
For 50 years and more, Bobby Coote has dreamed of flying. Shot over five years, this delightful documentary follows the Co Cavan octogenarian on his eventful journey to the clouds But this is not just Bobby’s story: His 80-something brother Ernie thinks Bobby is a genius yet believes that flying is best left to the birds. Bobby is helped toward his goal by friends and neighbours and flying experts at Newtownards. Working with cinematographer Dave Perry and a lovable cast of characters, director Shouldice has fashioned both a marvellous feel-good movie and a compelling portrait of life in rural Ireland. 12A cert, lim release, 86 min TB

MID90S ★★★★☆
Directed by Jonah Hill. Starring Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Na-Kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Alexa Demie, Katherine Waterston
Kids hang, get up to no good, and ask wildly inappropriate questions ( “Would you rape your parents if you had to?”, “Don’t thank me; that’s gay”) in mid90s, Jonah Hill’s promising debut as a writer-director. Stevie (The Killing of a Sacred Deer’s Suljic) is a 13-year-old in 1990s LA who falls in with the older, cooler kids he meets at a skate shop. Hill’s clever, observational dialogue flags how arbitrary teen social standing can be. For all their chilling, the shifting group dynamics between the charismatic Ray (Smith), the sweary Fuckshit (Prenatt), and Ruben (Galicia) – as filmed by Fourth Grade (McLaughlin) – crackle and seeth. Drugs are taken. Heads are cracked. House parties are low-key wild. Super Nintendo controllers are used inappropriately. 16 cert, gen release, 85 min TB

MISSING LINK ★★★★☆
Directed by Chris Butler. Voices of Hugh Jackman, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, David Walliams, Timothy Olyphant, Matt Lucas, Amrita Acharia, Zach Galifianakis
Daredevil explorere Sir Lionel Frost (Jackman) longs to be recognised for his feats but has, thus far, failed to impress the snoots at the club. When an expedition to photograph the Loch Ness monster goes wrong, Sir Lionel heads westwards in search of Bigfoot. When he finally meets the lonely sasquatch (Galifianakis), he hatches a plan to travel to Shangri-La, where, in theory, the loveable creature can finally be among his own kind. Director Butler, cowriter of Kubo and the Two Strings and codirector of ParaNorman, has fun with British colonialism. A vertiginous sequence on an ice-bridge is as nail-biting than any live action (or CGI) scene you care to mention. There are good jokes, a playful sensibility, and a genuine sense of jeopardy. PG cert, gen release, 94 min TB

PET SEMATARY ★★★★☆
Directed by Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer. Starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Obssa Ahme
Dr Louis Creed (Clarke) and his family, including winsome daughter Elle (Laurence) relocate to a small town in Maine amd into a home that backs onto ancient tribal lands where the barrier between life and death is permeable. The family are soon plagued by horrible visions. And that’s before Louis and kindly neighbour (Lithgow) decide that they’d rather not tell Ellie that her beloved cat has been killed on the dangerous Chekovian road out front, opting instead for the titular graveyard that brings animals back as evil shadows of themselves. This superior horror often resembles Mary Lambert’s 1989 adaptation, but it has more than a few nasty surprises. 16 cert, gen release, 101 min TB

RED JOAN ★☆☆☆☆
Directed by Trevor Nunn. Starring Judi Dench, Stephen Campbell Moore, Sophie Cookson, Tom Hughes, Ben Miles, Nina Susanna, Tereza Srbova
It takes a quality – not a gift exactly, but a quality – to make something so boring of such a fascinating subject. Adapted from a novel by Jennie Rooney, Red Joan gestures towards the true story of English civil servant and Soviet spy Melita Norwood, arrested in her 80s for passing nuclear secrets to the Russians half a century earlier. Dench tries her admirable best in the framing sequences, but the film is dead as dust at its period core. Quaint. Inert. Confused. 15A cert, lim release, 101 min DC

SHAZAM! ★★★☆☆
Directed by David F Sandberg . Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Djimon Hounsou, Grace Fulton, Ian Chen, Jovan Armand
The latest DC romp concerns a teenager (Angel) in overcast Philadelphia who somehow or other gains the ability to transform into an adult superhero with Batman’s jaw and a circus strongman’s leotard. Feels like a family film from the dying years of the first Bush administration. The jokes have a good-nature roughness to their edges. But Shazam! doesn’t seem quite comfortable in its own universe and outstays it welcome some time before the bish-bash ending. 12A cert, gen release, 131 min DC

THE SISTERS BROTHERS ★★★☆☆
Directed by Jacques Audiard. Starring John C Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rebecca Root, Rutger Hauer, Carol Kane
Adapted from Patrick deWitt’s novel by Audiard and his screenwriting partner Thomas Bidegain, The Sisters Brothers concerns two fraternal bounty hunters. Eli Sisters (Reilly) and his younger brother Charlie (Phoenix) work for a crime boss known only as the Commodore (Hauer). Their latest assignment is to hunt down a chemist, the Hermann Kermit Warm (Ahmed), a mission that is complicated by a tracker (Gyllenhaal) who has a significant head start. The film is often fun but hovers unconvincingly between tones. – a scene in which Reilly tries tooth powder for the first time could have featured in Holmes and Watson. Still, there’s some terrific back and forth between Reilly and Phoenix. 15A cert, gen release, 122 min TB

SORRY ANGEL/PLAIRE, AIMER ET COURIR VITE ★★★★☆
Directed by Christophe Honoré. Starring Pierre Deladonchamps, Vincent Lacoste, Denis Podalydès, Quentin Thébault, Sophie Letourneur
In early ’90s Paris, Jacques (Deladonchamps) is a HIV-positive writer who lives, on alternate nights, with his young son. His domestic arrangements are complicated. A helpful middle-aged upstairs neighbour assists with the boy and just about everything else. Jacques has an on-again. off-again lover, and tends to another ex-lover who is dying from Aids. It’s hardly the time to embark on a passionate affair, and yet, when Jacques meets a young Breton named Arthur (Lacoste), that’s exactly what happens.. Against worsening health, Jacques and the others quietly live according to the original French title: “Give Pleasure, Love and Run Fast”. Club, Triskel, Cork, 133 min TB

STYX ★★★★☆
Directed by Wolfgang Fischer. Starring Susanne Wolff, Gedion Oduor Wekesa, Felicity Babao, Alexander Beyer, Inga Birkenfeld

New this week: Styx
New this week: Susanne Wolff in Styx

Rike (Wolff), a German doctor, sets sail alone on a 11-metre yacht. She is headed to Ascension Island, a mid-Atlantic paradise between Africa and Brazil, when she encounters a sinking boatload of desperate African migrants. The medic radios for help and is instructed to keep her distance. But one refugee, a young boy (Wekesa), floats over to her vessel in need of medical attention. The moral dilemma at the centre of Styx works both literally and figuratively. Fischer’s second feature is so minimalist it makes All Is Lost look like Waterworld. The film ends unsatisfactorily – because it has to. “I have no answers for you,” Rike tells the boy. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.” Club, lim release, 94 min TB

US ★★★★☆
Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright-Joseph
Peele follows up the era-defining Get Out with a horror film about an African-American family meeting their doubles while on holiday. Us follows in a grand tradition of Doppelgänger horrors that stretches back to The Student of Prague more than 100 years ago. Michael Abels’s choral jabs increase the unease. Mike Gioulakis’s camera risks impenetrable levels of darkness. Nyong’o is stunning in twin roles. But the film does lack its predecessor’s satirical punch. 16 cert, gen release, 116 min DC

THE WHITE CROW ★★★★☆
Directed by Ralph Fiennes. Starring Oleg Ivanko, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Chulpan Khamatova, Ralph Fiennes
A young Rudolf Nureyev stares at The Raft of the Medusa byThéodore Géricault, picking out meaningful details. His swooning appreciation is matched by The White Crow’s appreciation of its subject, a metatextual case of Stendhal Syndrome. The White Crow recounts the confusion around Nureyev’s defection to the West in 1961, a snap, characteristically impetuous decision that had more to do with squabbling than politics. It moves between Nureyev’s provincial childhood in Ufa, his education in Leningrad, and his feted performances in Paris with the Kirov Ballet. Ukrainian soloist Ivenko, in his first acting role, is hardly a ringer for Nureyev, but he has the comportment, the eyelashes, the attitude, and Mike Eley’s camera understandably loves him. Fiennes’s circumspect turn is matched by his considered direction. 15A cert, IFI, Dublin (Fri/Mon only), 127min TB

WILD ROSE ★★★★☆
Directed by Tom Harper. Starring Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, Ashley Shelton, James Harkness, Gemma McElhinney, Daniel Campbell
Kerry’s own Jessie Buckley plays a Glaswegian ex-con who dreams of making it to Nashville. Some films build themselves so determinedly around a central performance that you can’t imagine them existing without their star. Buckley triumphs in all areas: she can do comedy; she can do sass; she can sing. She and a fine supporting cast are so strong that the film’s missteps (an awkward subplot involving posh Okonedo, a silly celebrity cameo) are easily overlooked. A literal crowd-pleaser. It will greatly please crowds. 15A cert, gen release, 100 min DC

WONDER PARK ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Dylan Brown. Voices of Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, John Oliver, Mila Kunis, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong
June (voiced by Denski), is a creative eight-year-old who makes a miniature amusement park from bendy straws alongside her doting mother (Garner) and a treasured stuffed monkey toy named Peanut. Wonder Park, as the imaginary fairground is called, is staffed by a narcoleptic bear, naughty beavers, and a sassy warthog (Kunis). When June’s mother announces that she is sick, the distraught little girl bins Wonder Park and fusses over with her bumbling dad (Broderick). She is sent to math camp, only to run away from an appallingly supervised school bus and into into the forest where – hang on a minute – she wanders into the real Wonder Land now beset by darkness and chimpanzombies. Huh? PG cert, gen release, 85 min TB

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