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: Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth in Men in Black: International

New this week: Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth in Men in Black: International

 

ALADDIN ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Mena Massoud, Will Smith, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad
The ongoing campaign to make flesh of all Disney’s most popular animations hits a speedbump with Ritchie’s deeply peculiar take on a 1990s classic. The two romantic leads (Massoud and Scott) are charming and the best songs survive unharmed. But the ambience is that of an Arabian-themed family restaurant combined with an underdeveloped episode of Assassin’s Creed. The least said about Smith as the Genie the soonest mended. That is one flat singing voice. PG cert, gen release, 128 min DC

AMAZING GRACE ★★★★★
Directed by Alan Elliott, Sydney Pollack. Featuring Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland, CL Franklin
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, Triskel, Cork; Light House, Dublin, 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, 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

BALLOON ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Michael Herbig. Starring Friedrich Mücke, Karoline Schuch, David Kross, Alicia von Rittberg, Thomas Kretschmann

New this week: Balloon
New this week: Balloon

Balloon concerns the Strelzyks and the Wetzels, two families who built a hot air balloon from cloths in a cellar in Thuringia, East Germany, and flew it across the border into Bavaria in September 1979. Their journey was optioned by Disney and filmed Night Crossing in 1982. Whatever that film’s flaws, it was, at least, current. This misconceived cold war drama fails to find any contemporary relevance or parallels, and, as many German critics have noted, couldn’t have arrived at more insulting moment, given the growing post-reunification disparity between the former East and West Germany. Certain plot devices – the Stasi’s security chief living beside the Strelzyk family and a romance between the eldest son and the Stasi’s daughter – might have been deemed too sitcom for Leave It to Mrs O’Brien. Club, lim release, 125 min TB

BIRDS OF PASSAGE/PÁJAROS DE VERANO ★★★★★
Directed by Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra. Starring Carmiña Martínez, Jose Acosta, Jhon Narváez, Natalia Reyes, Jose Vicente Cots, Juan Martínez, Greider Meza
Breathtaking folk thriller that tells the story of an indigenous Colombian family’s destructive engagement with the drugs industry over several decades. Though not at home to sentimental notions of lost Edenic idylls, Guerra and Gallego take its characters from humble isolation to extremes of wealth and corruption. It’s the oldest story in the world: be careful what you wish for. But it has rarely been told with such imagination. Awash with magic, violence and family rivalry, Birds of Passage is one of a kind. 15A cert, IFI, Dublin (Fri/Mon/Wed only); Light House, Dublin (Mon only), 125 min DC

BOOKSMART ★★★★☆
Directed by Olivia Wilde. Starring Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, Austin Crute, Eduardo Franco, Noah Galvin, Skyler Gisondo
Super party-party comedy featuring Dever and Feldstein as a pair of high achieving students who, as they leave high school, make up for lost time by partying like they’ve never partied before. The result is a cavalcade of mayhem that somehow manages to argue for decency in an awful world. It is the sense of discovery that sets it apart. That and its warmth, generosity and openness of spirit. A delight. 16 cert, gen release, 102 min DC

DIEGO MARADONA ★★★★☆
Directed by Asif Kapadia. Featuring Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona, head coach of Argentina, celebrates his team's second goal during their World Cup 2010 qualifying match against Peru in Buenos Aires on October 10th, 2009. Photograph: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters
Diego Maradona, head coach of Argentina, celebrates his team's second goal during their World Cup 2010 qualifying match against Peru in Buenos Aires on October 10th, 2009. Photograph: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

Hugely impressive documentary on the legendary footballer from the man who brought us Senna and Amy. As in those films, the images are all drawn from archival footage – the football often filmed muddily at pitch level – with sparse fresh interviews rendered only as audio. Taking Maradona’s time at SSC Napoli as its spine, the picture passes in a dizzying rush that (appropriately, considering the subject) showcases Kapadia’s most stylish edits to date. Essential stuff. 15A cert, lim release, 130 min DC

DIRTY GOD ★★★★☆
Directed by Sacha Polak. Starring Vicky Knight, Katherine Kelly, Eliza Brady-Girard, Rebecca Stone, Bluey Robinson, Dana Marineci, Tachia Newall, Frieda Thiel
A young woman is scarred by an acid attack in this London-set Irish coproduction from Dutch director Polak. Jade (Knight) is discharged from hospital and returns to her mum’s flat, where her appearance causes her daughter to scream. Later Jade recounts a time when her daughter called her a monster during a hospital visit. “But it’s a nice monster,” Jade’s mum explained. Jade takes refuge in partying but finds it impossible to settle back into her old life. Craving invisibility, she wears a burqa. Craving intimacy, she takes to porn sites for dimly lit online sexual encounters. Newcomer Vicky Knight gives a terrific performance that is as complex as her sometimes maddening, frequently stupid but always sympathetic character. Club, Light House, Dublin, 104 min TB

DUMBO ★★★☆☆
Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, 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 a lot 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, Light House, Dublin, 93 min DC

GLORIA BELL ★★★★☆
Directed by Sebastián Lelio. Starring Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett, Holland Taylor, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Rita Wilson, Chris Mulkey
A successful remake of Lelio’s Chilean film concerning a divorcee coping indifferently with bad family and worse boyfriends. Gloria still exhibits more tolerance than most of her associates deserve. She still enjoys dancing and singing along to the power-pop ballads of her young adulthood. Her eventual meltdown is less a fist-in-the-air moment than a quiet-smile-of-satisfaction moment. Moore’s celebrity perhaps gets in the way, but this is still a very satisfactory transfer. 15A cert, QFT, Belfast; IFI/Light House, Dublin, 102 min DC

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Michael Dougherty. Starring Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Millie Bobby Brown, Charles Dance, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Zhang Ziyi, Bradley Whitford, O’Shea Jackson Jr, David Strathairn
“This is the single greatest disaster in human history!” Steady on there, newsreader. It’s not quite that bad, but there is a sense that this franchise is already in the throes of a severe identity crisis. Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla was too sedate. Kong: Skull Island was a very enjoyable postmodern romp. The new film is a chaotic amalgam of Saturday morning cartoon and low-end 1970s disaster movie. Attack of the dialogue from hell! 12A cert, gen release, 132 min DC

THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT ★★★☆☆
Directed by Kim Nguyen. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, Salma Hayek

New this week: Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard in The Hummingbird Project
New this week: Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård in The Hummingbird Project

If you see only one Canadian-Belgian drama about high-frequency trading and ultra-low latency direct market access this week, then consider this. An almost unrecognisable Skarsgård, sporting sloping shoulders and a mostly bald head, is impressive as Anton Zaleski, the tech-geek code-writing cousin of Vincent (a familiar weaselly turn by Eisenberg). Vincent has hatched a plan to lay a high-speed cable under the Appalachians and other far-flung spots. The idea is to gain a millisecond of information advantage – the speed of a hummingbird’s wing beat – for a head-start that could bring in billions from shares. director Nguyen’s screenplay never breaks down its lofty conceit into digestible Big Short- or Moneyball-sized chunks. 15A cert, lim release, 110 min TB

THE HUSTLE ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Chris Addison. Starring Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Dean Norris, Ingrid Oliver, Tim Blake Nelson
The whimsical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), in which a debonnaire con artist competes with a gauche American huckster, 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

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM ★★★★☆
Directed by Chad Stahelski. Starring Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Halle Berry, Saïd Taghmaoui, Jerome Flynn, Anjelica Huston
“After the first death there are no others,” Dylan Thomas wrote. Yeah, you obviously didn’t live long enough to see the John Wick films, boyo. The third film in the cycle finds our hero excommunicated and on the run. The films are certainly silly and a bit vulgar, but they are masterpieces of martial choreography. We have yet to see a genuinely brilliant video game adaptation, but the Wick films do amazing work with that world’s extravagant aesthetic. And Reeves is still a delight. 16 cert, gen release, 130 min DC

LATE NIGHT ★★★☆☆
Directed by Nisha Ganatra. Starring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling, Max Casella, Hugh Dancy, John Lithgow, Denis O’Hare, Amy Ryan
Late Night is loosely inspired by Kaling’s experience of being the only woman – and the only person of colour – in a writing room. Said room is a group of lads struggling to come up with new material for Katherine Newbury (Thompson). The icy TV chat show host, characterised by journalists as “Your Least Favorite Aunt”, is struggling with falling ratings and little or no capacity for the common touch. Upon learning that this season will be her last, a desperate Katherine barks an order to “Just hire a woman”. Enter Molly Patel (Kaling), a fan-girl with no experience but plenty of enthusiasm and cupcakes for all. Kaling’s zippy, big-hearted screenplay finds humour in the diversity hire experience. 15A cert, gen release, 102 min TB

MA ★★★☆☆
Directed by Tate Taylor. Starring Octavia Spencer, Kyanna Simone Simpson, Juliette Lewis, Skyler Joy, Diana Silvers, Luke Evans, Andrew Matthew Welch, Missi Pyle
Spencer plays slightly against type as a maniac who befriends teenagers in a fitful horror film from the director of The Help. The weirdly starry cast unexpected class to a picture that might once have been released in SCARO-VISION. The occasional pretentions to meaning are a tad misguided. More should have been made of Spencer’s warm side. But there is still plenty of fun to be had. At least two Stephen King plots are creatively re-invented. 16 cert, gen release, 99 minDC

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL ★★☆☆☆
Directed by F Gary Gray. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall
Largely terrible fourth episode of the sequence that casts Thompson (sardonic, amusing) and Hemsworth (wasted) as replacements for Will Smith and the other guy. From the off-the-peg urban locations to the generic title that treats the word “international” as instant coffee manufacturers once treated the word “continental”, Men in Black 4 (5? 8? 165?) is so perfunctory that, even before it’s over, the film has taken on the quality of a late sequel you’re not sure ever happened. Dull, confused, boring. 12A cert, gen release, 114 min DC

PAPI CHULO ★★★★☆
Directed by John Butler. Starring Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patino, Elena Campbell-Martinez, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Shaughn Buchholz
Butler’s follow-up to Handsome Devil concerns the unusual relationship between a depressed Anglo weatherman (Bomer) and the Spanish-speaking worker (Patino) he hires to paint a damned spot on his patio. The film dabbles in dangerous territory – it could easily have been patronising – but the director’s script and the two leads keep it aloft. The interplay is lively throughout. We end up with a small film that answers most of its own questions satisfactorily. 15A cert, lim release, 99 min DC

PAW PATROL: MIGHTY PUPS ★☆☆☆☆
Directed by Charles E Bastien. Voices of Chance Hurstfield, Kallan Holley
In a series of lectures at the Collège de France in the 1970s, Michel Foucault outlined a “secret history of the police”, a force that paid greater attention to regulating the marketplace than arresting criminals. The central task of the police, according to classical Foucauldian analysis, has also been to foil the possibility of revolution, the possibility of transgressing the order of capital: “For the bourgeoisie the main danger against which it had to be protected, that which had to be avoided at all costs, was armed uprising, was the armed people, was workers taking to the streets in assault against the government.” Paw Patrol: Mighty Pups, the first theatrical reiteration from the popular animated franchise, is the latest shadowy attempt to normalise state-sponsored thuggery. G cert, gen release, 70 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
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

ROCKETMAN ★★★★☆
Directed by Dexter Fletcher. Starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Gemma Jones, Bryce Dallas Howard, Steven Mackintosh
Hugely entertaining biopic of Elton John. The tunes are sung as part of elaborate dance numbers that spring spontaneously from the situation. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting breaks out when young Elton entertains potentially riotous punters at the pub in Pinner. And so on. Egerton is great in the lead. Madden is creepy as Elton’s manager and lover. But will you escape without having to endure Princess Diana’s funeral? No spoilers here. 15A cert, gen release, 121 min DC

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 ★★★☆☆
Directed by Chris Renaud. Voices of Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Tiffany Haddish, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Harrison Ford
Max (Oswalt), a nervy Jack Russell, spent all of 2016’s The Secret Life of Pets adjusting to life with Duke (Stonestreet), a Snuffleupagus-sized mutt adopted from the pound by Max’s human companion, Katie. In this colourful sequel, he takes rather less time warming to Katie’s new husband and son, a toddler who reduces Max to a mess of parental anxieties. And then there’s a family holiday. And then there’s a cat lady. And then a tiger needs rescuing from an evil Russian circus. These disparate subplots see the gang driving cars, hijacking a train, and (probably) gearing up to debate Slavoj Žižek. Though agreeably zany, it’s a sloppy affair, and Illumination’s weakest film since 2011’s Hop. G cert, gen release, 86 min TB

SUNSET/NAPSZÁLLTA ★★★★★
Directed by László Nemes, Starring Juli Jakab, Vlad Ivanov, Marcin Czarnik, Evelin Dobos, Judit Bárdos
Nemes reunites with Son of Saul co-writer Clara Royer for this sumptuous account of the last days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In 1913 Budapest, Írisz (Jakab) makes her way to the ritzy hat shop that still bears her family name. Her name immediately startles all those who hear it. Her parents perished in a fire on the site of the shop when Irisz was still an infant. There are rumours that she may have a brother, who may have started the blaze and who may have viciously murdered a count. Characters shift disconcertingly from benevolent to inscrutable to downright menacing from scene to scene. There are odd, archaic rituals with occultish undertones. A strange coda set in the trenches suggests that Sunset is a parable about class struggle, but the deliciously enigmatic screenplay lends itself to multiple readings. A splendid artwork to be admired and puzzled over, featuring fantastic feats of millinery. 15A cert, IFI, Dublin (Sat/Tues/Thurs only), 142 minTB

THUNDER ROAD ★★★★☆
Directed by Jim Cummings. Starring Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Macon Blair, Jocelyn DeBoer, Chelsea Edmundson, Ammie Leonards, Bill Wise
Stand aside, potentially embarrassing radio interview; here’s comes the most mortifying oration of the decade. Thunder Road’s overture is one unbroken, scarlet-making shot in which Jim Arnaud (played by Austin-based writer-director Cummings) gives a rambling eulogy at his mom’s funeral, characterised by choked sobs, an interpretative dance (without music), and tangents about getting bit by a disabled kid and school and coping with dyslexia. It doesn’t get any better for this teary cop struggling with grief and anger issues. He’s going through a messy uncoupling from his wife (DeBoer) and a custody battle for his awkward pre-teen daughter (Farr). This prickly, goofy film, powered along the unpredictability of its protagonist, announces Cummings as major new talent. 15A cert, QFT, Belfast; Light House, Dublin, 90 min TB

WE THE ANIMALS ★★★☆☆
Directed by Jeremiah Zagar. Starring Isaiah Kristian, Josiah Gabriel, Evan Rosado, Giovanni Pacciarelli, Raúl Castillo, Sheila Vand

New this week: We the Animals
New this week: We the Animals

For most of this impressionist coming-of-age about three biracial brothers and their dysfunctional parents, the siblings might as well be a single wild polycephalic organism growing up, largely unsupervised, in forested isolation. Jonah (Rosado), is the youngest and most individual, an individualism rooted in a growing awareness of his sexuality and the drawings and writings that he keeps in the springs of his bed. Based on an acclaimed novel by Justin Torres, We the Animals is so beautifully made that it feels a bit churlish to criticise its none-more-indie devices: the magic hour photography, dreamy post-Mallick voiceover, cavorting semi-feral children, 16mm presentation and scrappy animations can feel like the Greatest Hits of Sundance distilled into one woozy, hypnotic presentation. Club, QFT, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 94 min TB

X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Simon Kinberg. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Jessica Chastain, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee
The largely terrible 12th episode in the X-Men cycle finds Turner playing a version of Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey, who goes bonkers after having her powers hugely increased in outer space. Turner delivers all her lines as if trying to make sense to Siri while a pneumatic drill hammers nearby. You might reasonably conclude that the plot had been scribbled down on the back of a menu after a long, drunken lunch. If this is truly the last, we wish the franchise good riddance. 12A cert, gen release, 114 min DC

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