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: Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki in Vita & Virginia

New this week: Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki in Vita & Virginia

 

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 (Sat only), 87 min DC

APOLLO 11 ★★★★★
Directed by Todd Douglas Miller
Yes, you do need another doc on the moon landing. Miller incorporates newly discovered 70mm footage into a film that tells the story from lift-off to splashdown with a careering energy that no previous documentarian has managed. Clocking in at a tidy 90 minutes, laid out in ruthlessly linear fashion, the film plays like one deep breath nervously exhaled. It’s also eye-wateringly beautiful to behold. There is little new information, but that scarcely matters. A classic. Club,QFT, Belfast; Cineworld/IFI/Light House, Dublin, 90 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, QFT, Belfast; Light House, Dublin, 102 min DC

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
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

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, Triskel, Cork, 104 min TB

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 FABRIC ★★★★☆
Directed by Peter Strickland. Starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Hayley Squires, Leo Bill, Gwendoline Christie, Julian Barratt
There are hints of the occult about Dentley & Soper, the department store at the centre of this unnerving portmanteau, with its hypnotic TV ads and in it’s witchy, imposing staff. It comes to pass that newly divorced Sheila (Jean-Baptiste) acquires a cursed frock. The second, less convincing story sees an unfortunate repairman (Bill) stuck with the dress as a prank at his bachelor party, before passing it on to his fiancee (Squires). Anthology films typically feature three stories, leaving In Fabric with either too few or too many. In common with Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy, the film is styled after the vibrant giallo films of the 1970s, notably those of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Unlike Strickland’s previous work, however, it always feels like homage rather than art in its own right. A fabulous, spooky thing just the same. 18 cert, QFT, Belfast (Tues/Thurs only); IFI/Light House, Dublin, 118 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

KNIFE + HEART/UN COUTEAU DANS LE COEUR ★★★★☆
Directed by Yann Gonzalez. Starring Vanessa Paradis, Nicolas Maury, Kate Moran, Jonathan Genet, Khaled Alouach, Félix Maritaud

New this week: Vanessa Paradis (left) in Knife + Heart
New this week: Vanessa Paradis (left) in Knife + Heart

Strap yourselves in. Writer-director Gonzales goes the full De Palma with this delirious magic giallo set against the world of gay 1970s porn. The spirit – and that must be the right word – of De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise casts a long, camp shadow. Paradis is brittle, unpredictable softcore auteur Anne Pareze, a pinch-penny boss, an on-set tyrant, and a mooning ex-lover who obsesses over her film editor (Moran). When her staff start getting bumped off my a mysterious grotesque with a gimp suit and switchblade-dildo, Anne incorporates her encounters with investigating officers into the “dramatic” scenes in her films. One encounter with the law turns up a vital clue: a feather belonging to a cryptozoological blind bird that lives in a remote, fairytale forest. This is proper, unbridled, fever-pitch cinema. In common with it’s heroine (or anti-heroine), it’s grand, unapologetic and more than a little trashy. 18 cert, QFT, Belfast; Triskel, Cork; 102 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

METAL HEART ★★★★☆
Directed by Hugh O’Conor. Starring Jordanne Jones, Leah McNamara, Moe Dunford, Seán Doyle, Aaron Heffernan
Two very different sisters – Jones the goth, McNamara the polished Heather – have adventures when their dad leaves them alone for the summer in middle-class Dublin. The temptation to reduce McNamara to an empty shell or oversell Jones’ maverick status is resisted. “Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean you’re interesting,” one barks. “Just because you’re superficial doesn’t mean you’re nice,” the other retorts. A generous, witty feature debut from actor O’Conor. 15A cert, lim release, 89 min DC

MIDSOMMAR ★★★★★
Directed by Ari Aster. Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Will Poulter

New this week: Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor in Midsommar
New this week: Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor in Midsommar

Dani (Pugh) is already struggling with a seriously ill bipolar sister and her indifferent boyfriend Christian (Reynor), when a horrifying murder-suicide claims the lives of her entire family. Feeling guilty, Christian reluctantly invites Dani to join him and his friends Josh (Harper) and Mark (Poulter) and Pelle (Blomgren) on a trip to the remote Swedish commune where Pelle was raised. Upon arriving in Halsingland where, in keeping with the title and geography, the sun never sets, the friends are given hallucinogens and asked to take part in a nine-day ritual held once every 90 years. Fans of The Wicker Man or will know that no good can come of this sojourn. Following on from last year’s Hereditary. Aster’s trippy second feature confirms him as the most fascinating genre auteur around. 16 cert gen release, 147 min TB

NEVER LOOK AWAY/WERK OHNE AUTO ★★★☆☆
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Starring Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Saskia Rosendahl, Oliver Masucci, Cai Cohrs, Ina Weisse, Evgeny Sidikhin, Mark Zak

New this week: Tom Schilling in Never Look Away
New this week: Tom Schilling in Never Look Away

Kurt (Schilling) graduates from art school in East Germany, falls for Ellie (Beer), a young fashion designer, has awkward interactions with her sinister father (Koch) and ultimately makes for the west. The film seems to loathe the business of art: the east is all bland social realism, the west all pretentious idiots. The variation on Joseph Beuys is plain insulting. But Donnersmarck, director of The Lives of Others, powers it forward like a bullet-stopping airport novel. Club, lim release, 189 min DC

PRISONERS OF THE MOON ★★★☆☆
Directed by Johnny Gogan. Starring Jim Norton, Cathy Belton, Garrick Hagon, Alan Devine, Matt Addis, Marty Rea, Eli Rosenbaum, Michael Neufeld
Gogan offers an alternative commemoration of the moon landing with this odd combination of documentary and historical recreation. Unfortunately, the oil doesn’t quite mix with the water. The wider study of Arthur Rudolph, a former Nazi who worked in the US space programme, is genuinely fascinating. The lengthy recreation of an immigration hearing from late in his life is much less successful. Nobody seems comfortable with the text. Everybody seems very Irish. 12A cert, Triskel, Cork, 75 min DC

THE QUEEN’S CORGI ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Ben Stassen and Vincent Kesteloot. Voices of Julie Walters, Tom Courtney, Sheridan Smith, Ray Winstone, Jack Whitehall, Matt Lucas
Rex (voiced by Whitehall), a present from Queen Elizabeth’s apparently doting husband, rises through Buckingham Palace’s canine ranks to become the sovereign’s spoiled and favourite Corgi. Any welcome similarities with Yorgos Lantimos’s depiction of the court of Queen Anne come to an end when a jealous doggie rival (Lucas) attempts to drown the pampered pooch beyond the palace walls. Rex is rescued and brought to a pound where, in the manner of Rose in Titanic, he is reinvigorated by contact with the lower orders, in particular a slinky Saluki (Smith). Elsewhere, the cutesypie Royals are joined by comical versions of the Trumps. Even the most fanatical supporter of the British monarchy will struggle to find cause for Union Jack waving. PG cert, gen release, 85 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

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME ★★★☆☆
Directed by Jon Watts Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal

New this week: Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far from Home
New this week: Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far from Home

You have to feel for the film-makers. Arriving after the much-loved Spider-Man: Homecoming and its buzzier, Oscar-winning animated cousin, Spider-Man: Into the Multiverse, the eighth Spider-Man film since the turn of the millennium is already facing something of a Sisyphean task. The final official film in Marvel Phase Three feels awfully minor after the grandiloquence of Avengers: Endgame. But Far from Home’s lack of narrative sophistication is often offset by its splendid cast. Holland’s Spider-Man maybe the most charming screen incarnation to date. The British-born actor has restored the fun that was leeched out of the franchise during the po-faced Andrew Garfield years. Zendaya, who does more with MJ than anyone might have reasonably thought possible, is never less than magical. 12A cert, gen release, 129 min TB

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
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

VITA & VIRGINIA ★★★☆☆
Directed by Chanya Button. Starring Gemma Arterton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isabella Rossellini, Rupert Penry-Jones, Peter Ferdinando
Interesting, flawed treatment of the relationship between Virginia Woolf (Debicki) and Vita Sackville-West (Arterton) that swivels between brave experiment and on-after-Lovejoy heritage telly. Button’s well-upholstered drama, a co-production with Dublin’s Blinder Films, is derived from Eileen Atkins’s theatrical translation of correspondence between the women and it too often looks that way. But Debicki is impressively odd and the electronic soundtrack from Isobel Waller-Bridge (yes, sister of Sophie) adds unexpected flavours for a period piece. 15A cert, lim release, 110 min DC

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

YESTERDAY ★★★★☆
Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran, Kate McKinnon
Yesterday, a musical fairy tale penned by Richard Curtis and directed with verve by Boyle, begins with a classic sci-fi “what if?” Jack (Patel), is a charming singer-songwriter struggling to find an audience in his native Clacton-on-Sea, despite the best efforts of his hard-crushing schoolteacher chum and part-time manager (James). Following a disastrous appearance at a music festival, Jack is on the verge of packing away his guitar for good when, following a mysterious worldwide blackout, he realises that he is now the only person who can remember The Beatles. One demo later and he’s on tour with Ed Sheeran (who proves a good sport) and under the thumb of a steely American agent (McKinnon, going full panto villain). Patel has a wide-eyed charisma, James, although underused, is a delight, and the earnestly covered music ensures this is a magical mystery tour worth boarding. 12A cert, gen release, 116 min TB

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