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: The Lion King

New this week: The Lion King


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

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 (Sun only), 87 min DC

Directed by Gary Dauberman. Starring Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
Stop the Ghost Train – I want to get off. The third Annabelle film is thin gruel that seems to know as much. The film, which was co-written by the wildly talented James Wan, attempts to offset its many limitations by briefly drafting in the big guns. Thus, Farmiga and Wilson essay The Conjuring’s Ed and Lorraine Warren for all of two short scenes, entrusting their haunted artefact room where the eponymous doll lurks menacingly to their secretly psychic daughter (Grace), her teenage babysitter (Iseman) and a troubled best friend (Sarife). What could possibly go wrong? Too much. Watching this often feels like being part of a focus group to ascertain the next spin-off monster franchise. 15A cert, gen release, 106 min TB

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. G cert, lim release, 90 min DC

Directed by Alison Klayman. Featuring Steve Bannon, Louis Aliot, Sean Bannon
If you didn’t view Steve Bannon as a world class troll before, this documentary portrait may just change your mind. Red-faced, soda-swilling and frequently looking more than a little green around the gills, the former White House adviser certainly looks like an armchair warrior. His health and dietary habits are, in common with many of his unpalatable habits and beliefs, dismissed in well-rehearsed, self-deprecating one-liners. Director Klayman, who won big at Sundance in 2013 with Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, allows Bannon to do his everyman shtick, but never succumbs to the Stockholm Syndrome that too often kicks in with personality politics. Club, IFI, Dublin, 90 min TB

Directed by Jim Jarmusch. Starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi
Jarmusch tackles the zombie movie in an amusing comedy about a midwestern town that goes all weird thanks to a shift in the Earth’s poles. There are few variations on the familiar conventions. What Jarmusch does bring is an awareness of contemporary panics and neuroses. He can deny (and he has) that The Dead Don’t Die is an “anti-Trump movie”, but the prevailing sense that something has gone profoundly wrong in the republic is very much of our time. 16 cert, gen release, 105 min DC

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, Light House, Dublin, 130 min DC

GWEN ★★★★☆
Directed by William McGregor. Starring Maxine Peake, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Richard Harrington, Mark Lewis Jones, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Jodie Innes

New this week: Maxine Peake in Gwen
New this week: Maxine Peake in Gwen

This lovely, spooky thing stars young up-and-comer Worthington-Cox as Gwen, a teenager struggling to take care of a younger sibling (Innes) and ailing mother (Peake) in dankest 19th-century Snowdonia. The crops are not growing properly and the sheep have been slaughtered. An attempt to sell their meagre vegetables at market ends with the death of the family horse. All the while, mother is behaving in increasingly erratic ways and engaging in occultish looking bloodletting rituals in her room. Are these actions borne of scientific ignorance, or is something more witchy going on? 15A cert, lim release, 84 min TB

Directed by Jon Favreau. Voices of Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, JD McCrary, Seth Rogan, Shahadi Wright Joseph
Pseudo-live action version of the 1994 animation concerning a young lion (voiced by McCrary and then Glover), his dead dad (Jones) and his jerk of an uncle (Ejiofor). This Lion King is certainly a remarkable technical achievement. Scrunch your eyes and you could be watching a half-interesting nature documentary. Yet nobody has done anything worth doing to character or story. It’s as if, 50 years ago, Nasa invested all that money in developing the world’s shiniest technology and used it to repeat the Mayflower’s voyage to Plymouth Rock. PG cert, gen release, 118 min DC

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

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

Directed by Ari Aster. Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, Will Poulter
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 three friends on a trip to the remote Swedish commune where one of them 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

Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Starring Tom Schilling, Sebastian Koch, Paula Beer, Saskia Rosendahl, Oliver Masucci
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, IFI, Dublin, 189 min DC

ONLY YOU ★★★★☆
Directed by Harry Wootliff. Starring Laia Costa, Josh O’Connor, Peter Wight, Lisa McGrillis, Stuart Martin, Bobby Rainsbury, Kevin O’Loughlin
Elena (Costa) and Tom (O’Connor) have a meet-cute moment while competing for a late-night taxi in Glasgow on New Year’s Eve. But after some drunken fumbling and clumsy mansplaining of Elvis Costello’s I Want You, they end up in a relationship. There’s a small catch:: she’s actually 35 to his 26, and soon the relationship is a battle against infertility. Writer-director Wootliff’s sensual, heartful, and carefully observed drama is produced by Tristan Goligher (45 Years, Weekend) so it’s not surprising that Only You is powered along by the same romantic realism that defines Andrew Haigh’s work. 15A cert, QFT, Belfast, 118 min TB

Directed by Ron Howard. Featuring Luciano Pavarotti, Bono, Harvey Goldsmith, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras

New this week: Princess Diana and Luciano Pavarotti in the documentary Pavoratti
New this week: Princess Diana and Luciano Pavarotti in the documentary Pavoratti

Tolerable documentary on the legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Recordings were remastered. Video was restored. More than 53 interviews were conducted. Yet we end up with few revelations and few unexpected analyses. The film undoubtedly has a purpose. With its impeccable audio and visuals, it will play well to fans who, were the tenor still with us, would enjoy live relays of his performances. But this is by-the-numbers stuff. Bono is good value, mind. 12A cert, lim release, 114 min DC

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

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

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

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
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

STUBER ★★★☆☆
Directed by Michael Dowse. Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Iko Uwais, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Jimmy Tatro, Mira Sorvino, Karen Gillan
Amusing variation on the mismatched cop genre, with Bautista as a temporarily blinded officer who hires Nanjiani do drive him from incident to incident in dangerous Los Angeles. Bautista and Nanjiani prove to be a perfectly complementary comic partnership. The former’s looming aggression fails to wholly conceal a latent sensitivity. The latter’s gentle introspection is seasoned with streaks of sombre dissatisfaction. The plot is as dumb as a bag of spanners, but Stuber is fun throughout. 15A cert, gen release, 93 min DC

Directed by Annabel Jankel. Starring Anna Paquin, Holliday Grainger, Emun Elliott, Kate Dickie, Lauren Lyle

New this week: Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger in Tell It to the Bees
New this week: Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger in Tell It to the Bees

In a Scottish village in 1952, Lydia (Grainger) is struggling to provide for herself and a young son. Her husband (Elliott) has come back from the war a changed man and now refuses to help his family. The locals have no time for Lydia as she was pregnant before she got married. Fortunately, Lydia befriends Jean (Paquin), a doctor who has returned to take over her late father’s practice. Jean offers Lydia and her son a place to stay, a housekeeping position for Lydia, and, finally, lesbian romance. The boy, meanwhile, bonds with the bees of the title. Flat and featuring one-dimensional characters. Club, IFI, Dubln, 106 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

Directed by Agnès Varda. Featuring Agnès Varda

New this week: Agnès Varda in the documentary Varda by Agnès
New this week: Agnès Varda in the documentary Varda by Agnès

This final film from the late photographer, film-maker, conceptual artist and pioneer of the Nouvelle Vague offers a timely retrospective of her life’s work. It’s a freewheeling affair anchored by a (kind of) Ted talk on what Varda calls cine-writing. Theme trumps chronology as she takes the viewer through her early years as the only woman to emerge alongside Godard, Truffaut and Rivette, her seminal 1962 feature Cleo from 5 to 7, and her marriage of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg director Jacques Demy. Varda died in March; watching the sprightly, energetic creature at the heart of this picture, it’s hard to believe she’s gone. 15A cert, lim release, 115 min TB

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 TRISKEL

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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