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: Helena Howard in Madeline’s Madeline, exclusively at Queen's University in Belfast and Triskel Christchurh in Cork

New this week: Helena Howard in Madeline’s Madeline, exclusively at Queen's University in Belfast and Triskel Christchurh in Cork

 

ASH IS PUREST WHITE ★★★★★
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 mirrors seismic societal shifts. Zhangke’s 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

AMAZING GRACE ★★★★★
Directed by Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack. Featuring Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland, CL Franklin

New this week: Aretha Franklin in Amazing Grace
New this week: Aretha Franklin in Amazing Grace

Brilliant documentary on the recording of the late Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel classic Amazing Grace. The release was delayed initially by a technical error and then as a result of legal action from Ms Franklin. Its eventual arrival provides the authors of online listicles a permanent starting point when considering the 10 greatest concert films of all time. The music is transcendent. The editing is perfectly paced. The congregation offer a vital snapshot of a time and place. A masterpiece of its type. G cert, lim release, 87 min DC

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, Karen Gillan, Dana Gurira, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Rene Russo, Tilda Swinton
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

THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA ★★★☆☆
Directed by Michael Chaves. Starring Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez
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, Light House, Dublin, 97 min DC

A DOG’S JOURNEY ★★★☆☆
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

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
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

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE ★★★☆☆
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
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, QFT, Belfast; IFI/Light House, Dublin, 110 min DC

FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY ★★★★☆
Directed by Carmel Winters. Starring Hazel Doupe, Dara Devaney, Johnny Collins, Hilda Fay, Lalor Roddy

New this week: Hazel Doupe in Float Like a Butterfly
New this week: Hazel Doupe in Float Like a Butterfly

This award-winning drama concerns a young Traveller girl who, a huge fan of Mohammad Ali, trains herself into state of pugilistic excellence in the early 1970s. Float Like a Butterfly is essentially a road movie using boxing as a tonal ingredient, a mode of feminist expression and a potential escape route. Already an experienced actor at just 17, Doupe immerses herself fully in a role that requires intelligence to be balanced with raw determination. Authentic, funny, moving. 15A cert, gen release, 101 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

HIGH LIFE ★★★☆☆
Directed by Claire Denis. Starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, Mia Goth, Lars Eidinger, Agata Buzek, Claire Tran, Ewan Mitchell, Gloria Obianyo

New this week: Juliette Binoche in High Life
New this week: Juliette Binoche in High Life

Told in jumbled form, Denis’s latest concerns a party of young people – and some of Binoche’s age – arguing on a spaceship headed for a black hole. The script, initially conceived by Nick Laird and Zadie Smith, now credited to the director and Jean-Pol Fargeau, is packed with further backstory, but so haphazard is the telling that those details are scarcely worth disentangling. It’s often fascinating, occasionally upsetting and consistently confusing. 18 cert, lim release, 113 min DC

THE HUSTLE ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Chris Addison. Starring Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Dean Norris, Ingrid Oliver, Tim Blake Nelson

New this week: Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway in The Hustle
New this week: Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway in The Hustle

The whimsical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which a debonnaire con artist (Michael Caine) competes with a gauche American huckster (Steve Martin), is itself a remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story. So it’s hard to see how four credited screenwriters working from a successful blueprint turned in the script for this crude, half-arsed sex comedy. The best scenes are (diminished) carbon copies of the original. Wilson is left with far too much to do and not enough material to work with, in every scene. Hathaway’s English accent is so appalling it drowns out all other considerations.. 15A cert, gen release, 94 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

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

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, Triskel, Cork, 150 min DC

MADELINE’S MADELINE ★★★★★
Directed by Josephine Decker. Starring Molly Parker, Miranda July. Helena Howard
“The emotions you are having are not your own. They are someone else’s. You are not the cat – you are inside the cat.” The third mesmerising, teeth-setting feature from writer-director Decker concerns the shifting dynamics between the troubled young woman of the title (Howard), her anxious mother (July) and Madeline’s experimental theatre group, a troupe overseen by the overbearing, plummy Evangeline (Parker). Formally fearless and endlessly intriguing, Madeline’s Madeline puts experimentation in the service of racketing tension. Howard puts in one of those rare, explosive turns that leaves you reconsidering the very nature of acting. 15 cert, QFT, Belfast; Triskel, Cork, 93 min TB

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, QFT, Belfast (Fri/Wed only), 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, Light House, Dubln (Thurs only), 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

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU ★★★☆☆
Directed by Rob Letterman. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Suki Waterhouse, Omar Chaparro, Chris Geere. Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy

New this week: Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) in Pokemon Detective Pikachu
New this week: Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) in Pokemon Detective Pikachu

Lapsed 21-year-old Pokémon trainer Tim (Smith) gets a call from faraway Ryme City, where humans and free-range Pokémon co-exist. The news is not good: Tim’s long-estranged police detective father and his Pikachu partner have been killed in an accident. There Tim is accosted by an eager junior reporter (Newton), who suggests there’s more to the accident than meets the eye. He also meets a Pikachu voiced by Reynolds. Imagine a fun, PG version of Deadpool that you didn’t want to kick in the head every second. The verbose pre-Raichu turns out to be a terrific innovation in a film that links back to the Mewtwo plot (not a spoiler; it’s in the trailer) of the original 1998 feature. If only the human characters were so engaging. PG cert, gen release, 104 min TB

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

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

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

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

WOMAN AT WAR ★★★★☆
Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson. Starring Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Davíð Þór Jónsson, Magnús Trygvason Eliasen, Ómar Guðjónsson, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Margaryta Hilska
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, QFT, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 101 min TB

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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