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: Élodie Bouchez in In Safe Hands, showing exclusively at Triskel Christchurch in Cork

New this week: Élodie Bouchez in In Safe Hands, showing exclusively at Triskel Christchurch in Cork

 

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, Light House, Dublin (Fri/Sat/Mon/Tues only), 87 min DC

BALLOON ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Michael Herbig. Starring Friedrich Mücke, Karoline Schuch, David Kross, Alicia von Rittberg, Thomas Kretschmann
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 as 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, QFT, Belfast, 125 min TB

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

BRIGHTBURN ★★★☆☆
Directed by David Yarovesky. Starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Emmie Hunter, Becky Wahlstrom

New this week: Elizabeth Banks in Brightburn
New this week: Elizabeth Banks in Brightburn

Directed by David Yarovesky. Starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Emmie Hunter, Becky Wahlstrom A couple adopt the alien humanoid who lands on their Kansas farm. But he has powers. The film-makers are not pointing just towards the generic traditions of the superhero, but also specifically towards the origin story of Superman. The conceit works brilliantly until, in the closing 20 minutes, Brightburn clatters disappointingly into a fatal uncertainty. Playing very much like a horror film, it gets at the parents’ terrible self-deceptions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t know how to end. 16 cert, gen release, 90 min DC

CHILD’S PLAY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Lars Klevberg. Starring Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson, voice of Mark Hamill

New this week: Child’s Play
New this week: Child’s Play

Tolerable reboot of the 1980s scary-doll horror that spawned an increasingly comical franchise. The new version of Chucky, brand-named as Buddi, is an electronic plaything that connects to the other devices in a home’s “internet of things”. It seems likely that Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri will inspire many more horror films, but kudos to this venerable series for getting in there first. It’s funny, unpretentious and – released on the same day – an outrageous troll on Toy Story 4. 16 cert, gen release, 90 min DC

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

FIVE SEASONS: THE GARDENS OF PIET OUDOLF ★★★★☆
Directed by Thomas Piper. Featuring Piet Oudolf

New this week: Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf
New this week: Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

Gardening mags and blogs describe Piet Oudolf as a “rock star garden designer”. It’s nice to know that there are such things. Best known for the High Line in New York City – that extraordinary walkway across a disused railway – Oudolf certainly swaggers in a way that sets him apart from the folk on Ground Force. Piper’s documentary follows its subject around the world as he develops fascinating and innovative designs. It is lovely, revelatory and relaxing to behold. Club, IFI, Dubln, 74 min TB

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, Triskel, Cork; IFI, Dublin; Light House, Dublin (Fri/Sat only), 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

IN SAFE HANDS/PUPILLE ★★★☆☆
Directed by Jeanne Herry. Starring Sandrine Kiberlain, Gilles Lellouche, Élodie Bouchez, Olivia Côte, Clothilde Mollet, Miou-Miou
French writer-director Herry’s adoption drama casts a bunch of Francophone reliables as the adults who come into contact with Theo, a baby born to an unready 21-year-old student who gives the child up for adoption. Her experiences are shaped by a French system that allows the baby to be given away anonymously. Like Xavier Legrand’s nerve-wrecking 2017 drama Custody, this attempts to marry the generic with the procedural. It is not quite so successful, but it remains a serious, gripping entertainment. Club, Triskel, Cork, 109 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, Reid Scott, 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

MABOROSI ★★★★☆
Directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda. Starring Makiko Esumi, Tadanobu Asano, Akira Emoto, Sayaka Yoshino

New this week: Maborosi, on Friday and Saturday only
New this week: Maborosi, showing in Belfast on Friday and Saturday only

Before Kore-eda, recent winner of the Palme d’Or, mastered his instantly recognisable brand of soft-spoken, slow-burning interpersonal drama, he was a documentarian, an influence that tells throughout Maborosi (1995), his defiantly sombre debut feature. The title loosely translates as “phantom” or “will o’ the wisp”, and it’s an appositely haunting film about haunted people, a notion that subverts the film’s social realist inclinations. An overdue rerelease for a slice of cinematic history. Club, QFT, Belfast (Fri/Sat only), 109 min TB

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, 142 minTB

TOY STORY 4 ★★★☆☆
Directed by Josh Cooley. Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves

New this week: Toy Story 4
New this week: Toy Story 4

Inevitable, wallet-pinching sequel to a series that seemed completed w wen it reached trilogy status. This time round the toys are on a road trip. Toy Story 4 is better than such late add-ons are normally allowed to be. The jokes are nippy and subversive. The inevitable middle-act chaos is less haphazard than that in Finding Dory. Some long-standing annoyances have been addressed. Bo Beep gets her story. Woody’s status as a narc and a class traitor is undermined. G cert, gen release, 100 min DC

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