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: Clive Owen and Will Smith in Gemini Man

New this week: Clive Owen and Will Smith in Gemini Man


AD ASTRA ★★★★☆
Directed by James Gray. Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland. 12A cert, gen release, 123 min
From the iconic swagger of The Right Stuff to the gals-at-home of Apollo 11, space travel is a butch business. Gray’s seventh feature is part of a strange subgenre, one that covers everything from Solaris to 2001 to Interstellar. Ad Astra is a ponderous, $80 million epic concerning Major Roy McBride (Pitt, never better), a cool-headed, slow-pulsed, emotionally stunted astronaut who is recruited to journey to Neptune. The mission: find the father (Jones, as brilliantly mad as a box of frogs) he believed was dead, as said patriarch is believed to be responsible for electrical pulses that may soon destroy Earth. At times the film is so thoughtful and interior, the dialogue sounds like it came from a classy mindfulness app. But its set pieces make for some of the most thrilling scenes of the year. TB

Directed by Jill Culton. Voices of Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong. G cert, gen release, 98 min

New this week: Abominable
New this week: Abominable

Shanghai teen Yi (Bennet) is grieving for her late father and feeling distant from her mother and grandmother when she encounters a Yeti on the roof of her apartment block. Yi and her friends name the adorable monster “Everest” and embark on an epic cross-country quest to reunite the creature with his family at the highest point on Earth. A kaleidoscope of colours, Abominable is the most sensorial family entertainment since the similarly textured A Wrinkle in Time. And it shines as a travelogue that makes the magical best of its Chinese landmarks, including the Gobi Desert, Huangshan, and the Leshan Giant Buddha. The lush visuals make for a pleasing tourist guide. TB

BAIT ★★★★★
Directed by Mark Jenkin. Starring Edward Rowe, Simon Shepherd, Mary Woodvine, Giles King, Isaac Woodvine, Chloe Endean, Georgia Ellery. Club, IFI, Dublin, 89 min
Cinema can still be magic and light! Jenkin achieved a degree of prominence among film anoraks with his 2015 exposé of Cornwall’s housing crisis, shot on a clockwork Bolex cine-camera on monochrome 16mm and developed in a coffee solution. The promising auteur brings the same evocative and ghostly methodology to his extraordinary debut. There is heft behind the phantasmagoria and a story that is certain to resonate with many Irish fishing communities. Martin (Rowe, glowering magnificently) and Steven (King) are bickering brothers in a Cornish fishing village. Martin continues to eek out a living by selling fish and lobster door-to-door; Steven uses their late father’s boat to ferry tourists along the coast. It doesn’t help that the family home has been sold to well-heeled interlopers (Shepherd and Woodvine) as a weekend getaway. A romance between the couple’s daughter (Ellery) and Martin’s apprentice (Woodvine) adds to a sour atmosphere. There are battles concerning everything from parking spots to lobster pots, between the tourists and the traditionalists, disputes that gradually escalate from clipped exchanges to violence. TB

Directed by Shelly Love. Starring Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Pettigrew, Mary Moulds. 15A cert, gen release, 95 min

New this week: Lola Pettigrew in A Bump Along the Way
New this week: Lola Pettigrew in A Bump Along the Way

Pamela (Gallagher) believes that she is unable to have more children until, after a boozy encounter with a younger man, her body informs her otherwise. Her teenage daughter (Pettigrew) is embarrassed. The baby’s father is useless. Pamela settles in for a traumatic nine months. Tess McGowan wrote the screenplay while pregnant and the dialogue throbs with an authenticity that never gets in the way of the light comedy. Gallagher is a star. Derry weaves its angular charms. An unexpected delight. DC

Directed by Chris Morris. Starring Marchánt Davis, Anna Kendrick, Denis O’Hare, Jim Gaffigan, Danielle Brooks, Adam David Thompson, James Adomian, Michael Brown, Malcolm M Mays, Pej Vahdat, Kayvan Novak. 15 cert, gen release, 87 min

New this week: Anna Kendrick in The Day Shall Come
New this week: Anna Kendrick in The Day Shall Come

“Based on a hundred true stories”, Morris’s second feature (nine years after Four Lions) touches on efforts by the FBI to encourage harmless oddballs towards acts of terrorism that the agency can then bravely thwart. You know what they say about the relative strangeness of fact and fiction. Morris has transformed these fascinating yarns into the first out-and-out dud of his career. Muddled, desperate, suspiciously short, it feels like a salvage operation on an idea that curdled in production. DC

Directed by James Bobin. Starring Isabela Moner, Eugenio Derbez, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Jeff Wahlberg, voices of Danny Trejo, Benicio Del Toro. PG cert, gen release, 102 min
Remember when Paramount announced a live action Dora the Explorer and we all made barrell-scraping gestures and memes? Remember when the first stills of Isabella Moner as Dora emerged to shrieks of “You ruined my childhood!”? Well, to paraphrase its pint-sized Latina heroine: “Haters no hating” – this all-ages action-adventure, fashioned after the hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, is a delight. A starry cast, including Del Toro (who voices Swiper the Fox) and Trejo (Boots the Monkey), have a ball with big, broad performances. Except, of course, for Moner, who plays Dora dead straight, a turn as magical as it is astute. TB

Directed by Michael Engler. Starring Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton. PG cert, gen release, 122 min
Big-screen adaptation of the late TV series concerning Yorkshire nobs and their underlings. The team have picked up an idea from the most famous episode of forerunner Upstairs Downstairs, when the Bellamy family was visited by Edward VII. Now George V and Queen Mary are dropping in on the Crawley household. The ensuing chaos triggers a clatter of interweaving subplots that allow most surviving characters a neat story arc. It’s very cosy, but perfectly in tune with the series’ values. Dame Maggie steals it. DC

Directed by Lulu Wang. Starring Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo. PG cert, lim release, 98 min
It doesn’t sound like a charming idea, but this delicate, moving Chinese-American comedy concerns a family of liars and a dying granny. Awkwafina plays Billi, an aspiring writer who learns that her beloved Nai Nai is terminally ill but who, crucially, doesn’t know it. Thus the family hastily arrange a wedding for Billi’s cousin and his Japanese fiancee, an occasion that will allow them to gather around Nai Nai in her home without signalling the severity of her condition. Horrorified Billi, however,is not invited lest she break down and give the game away. She turns up anyway, and the family holds a collective breath. Lulu Wang’s semi-autobiographical story is a lovely, warm family picture featuring a star-making turn from Awkwafina. TB

Directed by Ang Lee. Starring Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong. 12A cert, gen release, 117 min
The makers of Gemini Man – primarily director Lee and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Flashdance) – have, thanks to motion catpure, digitally recreated a younger, Fresh Prince of Bel Air-era Will Smith to do battle with his 50-year-old equivalent. A four-minute tussle between the pair is impressive. But for all the tech vanguardery you can’t help but feel that this is the film Bruckheimer and Smith ought to have made sometime between Enemy of the State and Bad Boys. Gemini Man! The second biggest blockbuster of 1999! Retro. TB

Directed by John Crowley. Starring Ansel Elgort, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Nicole Kidman. 16 cert, gen release, 149 min
Dreary adaptation of Dona Tartt’s novel concerning an orphan travelling the nation with Carel Fabritius’s eponymous painting. In a part of modest size, Nicole Kidman allows herself to be wheeled sedately from elegant living room to wood-panelled hall and, in the later stages, to be cosmetically aged-up to more or less her current age. Oakes Fegley grows up convincingly into Ansel Elgort. It’s attractive, adequately acted, smoothly edited and as dead as Carel Fabritius. Why bother? DC

Directed by Dolly Wells. Starring Grace Van Patten, Emily Mortimer, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Timm Sharp, John Early, Nat Wolff, Condola Rashad. 15A cert, lim release, 92 min
As Dolly Wells’s rough-hewn, heartful film debut opens, Lillian (Grace Van Patten of The Meyerowitz Stories, in a star-making turn) and her boyfriend are breaking up on account on her shocking lack of adulting skills. Lillian’s absent father, who is busy with his new girlfriend in France, is well connected enough to find his aimless daughter a spare room with a musician friend and his partner, Julia (Mortimer), a reclusive novelist. Within days Julia’s husband walks out, leaving the two nightmarishly mismatched women to exchange a series of terse handwritten house rules, notes that surprisingly and delightfully blossom into something like friendship. TB

Directed by Lorene Scafaria. Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Cardi B, Mercedes Ruehl. 16 cert, gen release, 110 min
So here come words we weren’t expecting to write: give Jenniffer Lopez the freaking Oscar for Best Supporting Actress now. The trailer for the tremendously entertaining Hustlers makes it look like a hen party extravaganza. But the film, in which dtrippers skim their Wall Street clientele using a heady mix of feminine wiles and MDMA, has far more wit and emotional heft. It’s a sturdy crime caper with an unexpectedly big heart and two tremendous performances: Wu works every acting muscle. Lopez, who is alternately maternal, sisterly, steeley and warm, reminds you that she has more old-school star wattage than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s Brad and Leo can muster together. TB

Directed by Andy Muschietti. Starring James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard. 16 cert, gen release, 169 min
The sequel to the fairground-scare-ground hit picks up 27 years later, when the now grown-up Losers’ Club are summoned back to Derry to once again stand against supernatural child-killer Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Skarsgård). By the time the Losers reassemble for an appallingly staged sequence in a Chinese restaurant – characterised by a lazy consumption montage and unscary monsters – It: Chapter Two has already squandered any goodwill amassed by its predecessor. With silly creatures and three jump-scares in a purgatorial running time, it falls back on embarrassing attempts at humour. Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning strikes up as black goop oozes. Worst of all, Jack Nicholson is copied and pasted in for a “Here’s Johnny!” punchline as Chastain’s character cowers in a cubicle. You’ll sink too. TB

JOKER ★★★★☆
Directed by Todd Phillips. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Brian Tyree Henry, Marc Maron, Dante Pereira-Olson, Douglas Hodge, Sharon Washington. 16 cert, gen release, 122 min
Brutal, focused tale of a man going homicidally insane that also happens to be an origin story for Batman’s most notorious villain. Phoenix, whose title character kicks everything else into distant wings, spares no effort in keeping us diverted throughout. Wipe off the make-up and you will, however, find nothing but more make-up beneath. The upcoming Shaun the Sheep film works harder at arguing its sociological thesis. Maybe that shouldn’t matter. Beautifully made and impressively propulsive, Joker is one impressive hunk of nihilism. DC

JUDY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Rupert Goold. Starring Renée Zellweger, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon. 12A cert, gen release, 118 min
Zellweger, essaying the late Judy Garland during her sorry last months in 1969, is practised, polished, dedicated and exercised. The Academy will likely lap it up. But watching Judy the viewer never forgets that they are watching a performance. That’s not Zellweger’s fault. Nobody puts the iconic Garland in a corner. The Chicago and Bridget Jones star works awfully hard to produce a passable impression. But the film around her is classy teatime TV movie, replete with too many close shots, naff unconvincing period details and bad wigs. TB

THE KING ★★★★☆
Directed by David Michôd. Starring Timothée Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Lily-Rose Depp, Robert Pattinson, Ben Mendelsohn. 15A cert, gen release, 140 min

New this week: Timothée Chalamet in The King
New this week: Timothée Chalamet in The King

The King is “based on” Shakespeare’s Henry IV and Henry V, but sadly you have to settle for dialogue by Michôd and Edgerton. It is some measure of the film-makers’ achievement that, despite an unsatisfactory performance from Chalamet as young Henry V, that settling requires no enormous effort. This is a satisfactory hunk of late medieval hokum covered in enough filth to distinguish it from Sunday-night telly, but not so much that it ceases to be fun. Edgerton is a decent, less drunk Falstaff. DC

Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Sharon Stone, Melissa Rauch, David Schwimmer, James Cromwell, Robert Patrick, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright. 15A cert, lim release, 96 min
Over the past decade, Steven Soderbergh has devoted his energy to a sketchy class of cinema that delights greatly in its own cleverness. That form continues with this amusing, often clever treatment of themes raised by the Panama Papers. The Laundromat starts well with its study of an widow (Streep) uncovering financial irregularities while seeking compensation for a boat accident. It then loses its way in a serious of enjoyable, sketchy vignettes on related financial outrages. Make a proper film again, Steven. DC

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. PG cert, gen release, 118 min
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. DC

Directed by Dermot Lavery and Michael Hewitt. Featuring Kenneth Branagh, Brendan Gleeson, Roma Downey, Liam Neeson, Bríd Brennan, Stephen Rea, Ciarán Hinds, James Nesbitt, Michelle Farley, Adrian Dunbar, Bronagh Gallagher, Susan Lynch. 12A cert, lim release, 93 min

Dessie Trainor, a Catholic who lives on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, in July at the grave of his mother, a Protestant who was killed in a sectarian gun attack by loyalists in April 1975. One of Trainor’s brothers was killed in a bomb attack on their house, also in 1975, and a second brother was killed in a gun attack by loyalists in 1978. Photograph: Liam McBurney
Dessie Trainor, a Catholic who lives on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, in July at the grave of his mother Margaret, a Protestant who was killed in a sectarian gun attack by loyalists in April 1975. One of Trainor’s brothers was killed in a bomb attack on their house, also in 1975, and a second brother was killed in a gun attack by loyalists in 1978. Photograph: Liam McBurney

Released in the same week Arlene Foster claimed the Belfast Agreement is not a “sacrosanct” piece of legislation, Lost Lives is a sobering, triggering reminder of the Bad Old Days. The film, an adaptation of Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, a unique 1999 chronicle of the 3,700 killed in 30 years of the conflict, was written over seven years by journalists David McKittrick, Brian Feeney, Chris Thornton, David McVea and the late Seamus Kelters. Many talented actors solemnly intone – there is no other way – the awful details. Archive footage is poignantly employed. A beautiful score performed by the Ulster Orchestra, punctuated by evocative vocals, adds to the impossible sense of sadness. TB

Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Damon Herriman, Austin Butler, Emile Hirsch, Scoot McNairy, Luke Perry, Al Pacino, Lena Dunham, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant. 18 cert, gen release, 161 min
An actor and his stunt double have adventures in LA. Tarantino’s ninth film is really about the end of various eras, and, looming throughout, the Manson murders could hardly offer a more definitive full stop to one version of the late 1960s. But that’s all the killings are here: a closing parenthesis to the director’s massive aside on the pop culture of his childhood. It’s rambling and occasionally dubious, but the dialogue zings and the period detail bings. No one else is doing anything like this. DC

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Starring Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, Penélope Cruz. 16 cert, IFI, Dublin, 113 min
Banderas is hypnotically captivating as a blocked film director in an exquisite, autumnal drama that escapes 8 ½ comparisons to breathe fresh Almodóvar air. The dextrous flitting between past and present and between trauma and comedy is, no doubt, the result of meticulous paring, but, on screen, it flows as smoothly as the most linear of narratives. Cruz spreads warmth as the protagonist’s mother in flashbacks. The images gleam. A great later work from an original for the ages. DC

Directed by Adam Grunberg. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim. 18 cert, gen release, 89 min
John Rambo seeks to recover his niece (Monreal) from hoodlums in the last (?) film in a successful series. Last Blood is heading inexorably to a finale that weaves some flavours of Home Alone into the video-nasty stew. Yes, the movie is made to a formula, but it’s a formula that’s been all but abandoned. It’s not exactly a film for grown-ups. But it’s not a film for children either. That’s something to hold on to. DC

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett. Starring Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Kristian Bruun, Elyse Levesque, Nicky Guadagni. 16 cert, gen release, 95 min
A young bride (Weaving, super) gets involved in a deadly game at her rich in-laws’ mansion. What the film lacks in characterisation it makes up in sheer, hurtling momentum. Weaving has irresistible Final Girl energy as an initially spooked character who gains superhuman resolution as the danger escalates. The film-makers also have a sure grasp of when to ease off the shackles and allow full grand guignol to kick in. Ready or Not is an absolute hoot. 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. G cert, gen release, 100 min
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. DC

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