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: Sandrine Bonnaire and Eriq Ebouaney in A Season in France, showing exclusively at Triskel, Cork

New this week: Sandrine Bonnaire and Eriq Ebouaney in A Season in France, showing exclusively at Triskel, 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/Sun/Tues only), 87 min DC

ANNABELLE COMES HOME ★★☆☆☆
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

THE CHAMBERMAID/LA CAMARISTA ★★★★★
Directed by Lila Avilés. Starring Gabriela Cartol, Teresa Sánchez

New this week: Gabriela Cartol in The Chambermaid
New this week: Gabriela Cartol in The Chambermaid

Avilés’ remarkable, rigorously researched debut concerns itself with the day to day rigours of working in a luxury Mexico City hotel. One of the film’s lesser pleasures is the detail it offers on how Eve’s job is done. The film is, however, most remarkable for its gentle teasing out of workplace relationships. This is not the worst job in the world, but its pressures clearly wear away at the soul. A gripping and oddly beautiful gem. Club, lim release, 102 min DC

THE DEAD DON’T DIE ★★★★☆
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

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, 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
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, QFT, Belfast, 84 min TB

HORRIBLE HISTORIES: ROTTEN ROMANS ★★★☆☆
Directed by Dominic Brigstocke. Starring Sebastian Croft, Emilia Jones, Nick Frost, Craig Roberts, Kim Cattrall, Kate Nash, Rupert Graves, Alex Macqueen, Derek Jacobi, Lee Mack, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ella Smith

New this week: Emilia Jones and Sebastian Croft in Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans
New this week: Emilia Jones and Sebastian Croft in Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans

The Pythonesque sketches, silly songs and goofy energy of TV’s Horrible Histories makes a seamless transition to the big screen. Brainy Roman teen Atti (Croft) accidentally upsets the bratty Emperor Nero (Roberts) and is exiled to Britain. There he is captured by Orla (Jones), a plucky Celt who hopes to join the revolt led by Boudica (Nash). Before we get to the crucial Battle of Watling Street, we meet a wistful Roman commander (Mack), a game Cattrall as Agrippa, and Jacobi hilariously reprising his star-making turn from I, Claudius. The songs are a bit ramshackle and the scatalogical jokes may well date from the period depicted, but there’s an infectious sense of fun. PG cert, gen release, 92 min TB

JAWS ★★★★★
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

New this week: Roy Scheider and Bruce in Jaws
New this week: Roy Scheider and Bruce in Jaws

You know what this is. From 1975, Jaws (back in a restored print) is among the most gripping entertainments Hollywood ever dreamt up. John Williams’s borderline avant-garde score is – let’s not pussyfoot – a serious contender for the best ever in a Hollywood production. Scheider, Shaw and Dreyfuss trade men-at-work dialogue that would have pleased Howard Hawks. It became the highest-grossing film ever and helped close off Hollywood’s post-classical era, but we can’t really blame Spielberg for that. 12A cert, lim release, 124 min DC

THE LION KING ★★☆☆☆
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

MARIANNE & LEONARD: WORDS OF LOVE ★★★★☆
Directed by Nick Broomfield. Featuring Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Ron Cornelius, Helle Goldman

New this week: Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen in the documtary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
New this week: Marianne Ihlen and Leonard Cohen in the documtary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love

In 1960, struggling Leonard Cohen relocated to the Greek island of Hydra, a haven for artists, the plant-waterers and cat-minders of artists, and free love. There he met Marianne Ihlen, the ex-wife of novelist Axel Jensen and the mother of a young son. She became Cohen’s lover, the maker of his sandwiches, and the stunning blonde who sat at his feet while he dropped acid and banged out an incomprehensible novel. Who would ever be a muse? That’s the question underpinning Broomfield’s romantic, angry, funny, sorrowful new film, which contextualises Cohen’s carelessness and Ihlen’s passivity within contemporaneous social and cultural climate. 15A cert, gen release, 102 min TB

MIDSOMMAR ★★★★★
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 his 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

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
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

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

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

A SEASON IN FRANCE/UNE SAISON EN FRANCE ★★★★☆
Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. Starring Eriq Ebouaney, Sandrine Bonnaire, Aalayna Lys, Ibrahim Burama Darboe
Schoolteacher Abbas (Ebouaney) has left the war-torn Central African Republic with his surviving family more than a year before Chadian auteur Haroun’s (A Screaming Man) jolting drama begins. Abbas and his brother Etienne now do cash-only jobs in France, where their status remains uncertain. Abbas is troubled by visions of his wife, who died as they fled from Africa, but he has attempted to build some kind of life. His two young children are enrolled in school and he is romantically involved with a kindly florist (Bonnaire). Etienne, who lives in a makeshift shelter under a motorway overpass, is the more troubled sibling, and his final actions make for the most shocking film scene of the year. Club, Triskel, Cork, 100 min TB

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
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

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

VARDA BY AGNÈS ★★★★☆
Directed by Agnès Varda. Featuring Agnès Varda
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, QFT, Belfast, 115 min TB

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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