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: A Dog’s Journey

New this week: A Dog’s Journey


Directed by Zhangke Jia. Starring Zhao Tao, Liao Fan, Xiaogang Feng
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, IFI, Dublin, 138 min TB

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
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

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

Directed by Michael Chaves. Starring Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez

New this week: The Curse of La Llorona
New this week: The Curse of La Llorona

Expect jump scares, not surprises. This efficient, routine haunting film from the Conjurverse is set in 1973. Cardellini stars as Anna, a social worker and widow struggling to juggle her work and motherhood while mourning the death of her police officer husband. After a truancy case involving Patricia (Velásquez) goes horribly wrong, Anna unwittingly unleashes the mythological Mexican spook La Llorona upon her own kids. Things go predictably bump in the night. 16 cert, gen release, 94 min TB

THE DIG ★★★★☆
Directed by Andy Tohill, Ryan Tohill. Starring Moe Dunford, Emily Taaffe, Francis Magee, Lorcan Cranitch, Katherine Devlin, Aimee Brett
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, lim release, 97 min DC

Directed by Gail Mancuso. Starring Marg Helgenberger, Betty Gilpin, Henry Lau, Kathryn Prescott, Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad, Emma Volk
This sequel to the family-friendly reincarnation dramedy A Dog’s Purpose makes life a little easier for its canine protagonist, Bailey. As A Dog’s Journey opens, Ethan (Quaid) and Bailey have been joined by Ethan’s wife, Hannah (Helgenberger), her quarrelsome widowed daughter-in-law, Gloria (Gilpin), and a toddler granddaughter, CJ. When Gloria storms off in a huff, taking CJ with her, Ethan tells a dying Bailey to find the girl and look after her. A Dog’s Journey sticks rigidly to that premise, ditching the portmanteau form of its predecessor. The format continues to allow for many partings and doggy death scenes. Manipulative? Absolutely. Effective? Hell, yes. PG cert, gen release, 118 min TB

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 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

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

Directed by Joe Berlinger. Starring Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Haley Joel Osment, Kaya Scodelario, John Malkovich, Jim Parsons, Angela Sarafyan, James Hetfield, Jeffrey Donovan, Dylan Baker

New this week: Zac Efron in
New this week: Zac Efron in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

The folk behind this study of serial killer Ted Bundy work so hard at avoiding offence that they have little energy left to add anything of interest. Efron is chillingly smooth as the famously charismatic psychopath. Collins is conflicted as his fiancee. The procedural details are interesting, but this feels very much like high-end television. Set beside something like David Fincher’s contemporaneous Mindhunters, it seemsthin and unimaginative. Still, it is an achievement to exhibit such restraint with this material. 16 cert, gen release, 110 min DC

GIRL ★★★★☆
Directed by Lukas Dhont. Starring Victor Polster, Arieh Worthalter, Oliver Bodart, Tijmen Govaerts, Katelijne Damen, Valentijn Dhaenens
Rigorous, delicately handled drama from Belgium concerning a trans teen facing up to sex reassignment as she works her way through ballet school. Some controversy has arisen at the casting of the (brilliand) cisgender Polster. But Girl feels like a landmark film. There is a seriousness of purpose here that is rare in an age where most arguments are carried out in block capitals. The word “important” is, for once, worth brandishing. 16 cert, Triskel, Cork, 106 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

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

Directed by Jonathan Levine. Starring Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr, Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Alexander Skarsgård

Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron in Long Shot
New this week: Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron in Long Shot

What could have been the hippest comedy of 2008 is a gender-swapped Pretty Woman (yes, there’s an extended dance scene set to Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love), featuring a male journalist in the prostitute role. Insert your own punchline. Sadly, it isn’t 2008 and Long Shot’s upcycling of the central Knocked Up plank – successful career gal falls for loser stoner – feels dated, despite new unholstering with 2016 election fanfic. At one point in the film, Seth Rogen talks about nostalgia and pop cultures references: “Jimmy Fallon has made a career out of it.” That’s a bit rich coming from a script that trades entirely upon, well, nostalgia and pop culture references. 16 cert, gen release, 125 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

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

Directed by Carol Morley. Starring Patricia Clarkson, Jacki Weaver, James Caan, Toby Jones, Mamie Gummer, Devyn Tyler, Yolonda Ross, Aaron Tveit, Jonathan Majors
Clarkson stars as a glum New Orleans police detective investigating the homicide of an astrophysicist (Gummer) who specialised in black holes. The victim was found shot to death in an observatory managed by a shifty Toby Jones. Other suspects include a colleague and lover (Majors), her menacing wealthy father (Caan) and her mad-as-a-balloon mother (Weaver). Loosely based on Martin Amis’s book Night Train, Out of Blue plays with temporal jumps and scientifically themed meditations on Schrödinger’s cat and dark matter. It doesn’t quite come together, but there are enough reliable, muscular performers to steal scenes and keep things interesting. 15A cert, Triskel, Cork, 109 min TB

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

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, Light House, Dublin (Sat/Tues only), 122 min TB

Directed by Dome Karukoski. Starring Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson

New this week: Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins in Tolkien
New this week: Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins in Tolkien

By Saruman, there’s a lot of motivation and inspiration in this study of JRR Tolkien (Hoult) as a young man. We begin in a hilly shire, from which John Ronald Reuel is soon dispatched to a terrifying version of Birmingham: dark piles illuminated by fiery mills. It’s Mordor. So is the first World War. There is too much of that trite foreshadowing, but, as events progress, the characters develop lives of their own. Ultimately rather moving, 12A cert, gen release, 111 min DC

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

VOX LUX ★★★★☆
Directed by Brady Corbet. Starring Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy, Christopher Abbott, Willem Dafoe

New this week: Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy in Vox Lux
New this week: Natalie Portman and Raffey Cassidy in Vox Lux

A young woman (played first by Cassidy and then Portman) survives a school shooting to achieve accidental fame and become a world-conquering pop star. This is bravura film-making to a purpose. Nudging Natalie Portman towards a performance worthy of late Joan Crawford, Corbet delivers countless striking set pieces as the picture probes the politics of spectacle and the dynamics of contemporary fame. The orchestral score by the late Scott Walker is magnificent. The sense of menace is overpowering. A divisive triumph. 16 cert, lim release, 115 min DC

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

Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson. Starring Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Davíð Þór Jónsson, Magnús Trygvason Eliasen, Ómar Guðjónsson, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Margaryta Hilska

New this week: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in Woman at War
New this week: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in Woman at War

This Icelandic film opens with an act of sabotage, as the impressively jumpered 50-year-old heroine Halla (Geirharðsdóttir) uses a bow and arrow to take down a rural powerline. In her village no one suspects that the mild-mannered, t’ai chi practising choir mistress is spearheading a one-woman campaign against Iceland’s expanding aluminium industry. When Halla learns that she is in line to adopt a Ukrainian orphan (Hilska), she has to choose between her dream of having a child and her determination to save the world. As a comedy about the environment and an action film centred on a middle-aged woman, this curiosity is full of surprises. 12 cert, lim release, 101 min TB

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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