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: Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Naomi Watts in Luce

New this week: Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr and Naomi Watts in Luce


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
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

Directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan. Voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloë Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, Allison Janney. PG cert, gen release, 87 min
They’re ugly and they’re boring. They’re gonna leave you snoring. They’re totally worth ignoring. It’s time for a Charlize Theron intervention. The woman has an Oscar; as Morticia, she’s not supposed to be almost as exquisitely miscast as Chloë Grace Moretz is as (a now perky) Wednesday. There are a few decent set-up jokes. (“I want to live somewhere disgusting, somewhere corrupt, somewhere no one in their right mind would be caught dead in”. Cue Welcome to New Jersey sign.) There are some pointless pop culture references. The designs are faithful to Charles Addams’s original 1930s comics but that aesthetic is completely at odds with shiny 3D CG animation. Don’t expect any of the wit or charm of the 1960s TV show or Barry Sonnenfeld’s big-screen adaptations. Monstrous. But not in kooky, spooky way. TB

Directed by Tom Harper. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Courtenay, Himesh Patel, Anne Reid, Vincent Perez. 12A cert, gen release, 100 min
James Glaisher (Redmayne) was the daring meteorologist who, in 1862, broke the world record for altitude when his balloon ascended to 35,000 feet. In old-fashioned, matinee style, Harper’s film builds a grand romantic adventure - Jones is super as his fictional companion - around the story’s central spine. You can get the facts from Wikipedia; The Aeronauts devises irresistible new legends. Lovely Victoriana. Great chemistry between the leads. At least one heart-stopping moment of tension. Well worth your time. DC

Directed by Bart Freundlich. Starring Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn. 12A cert, lim release, 110 min
This gender-swapped remake of a 2006 Danish film by Susanne Bier is rather more interesting than the typical Euro-drama snapped up for a Hollywood remake. Isabel (Williams) has dedicated her life to working with orphans in Calcutta. Theresa (Moore) is the rich mogul who lives a picture perfect life with her handsome artist husband (Crudup). Isabel is put out when this potential benefactor insists that she come to New York for a meeting – and even more put out when elaborate plans for a wedding for Theresa’s daughter (Quinn) get in the way. Plot twists ensue. A lovely facsimile, albeit with some neat inversions. TB

Directed by Deon Taylor. Starring Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, Mike Colter, Reid Scott, Beau Knapp, Nafessa Williams. 15A cert, gen release, 108 min
Harris is a New Orleans cop on the run from corrupt colleagues. Black and Blue initially gets by on momentum and righteous anger. The film is clued into institutional racism and the challenges facing a working-class black woman in the police force. Harris has just the right sort of stressed charisma to convince as the prey in a desperate pursuit. Unfortunately, the absurdities mount so rapidly that, by the halfway point, it proves hard to care about her predicament. DC

Directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo. Starring Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, Micah Stock. 15A cert, Light House, Dublin, 104 min
Brittany (Bell) is a 28-year-old living in New York and scraping enough money from her job as an off-Broadway theatre greeter to live a boozy lifestyle with her passive-aggressive roommate Gretchen. When Brittany visits her doctor in the hope of scoring some Adderall, he suggests that she should lose 55 pounds. So Brittany takes up running and finds an equally unfit exercise companion in Seth (Stock). Together, they hatch the idea of running in the New York City Marathon. Unhappily, just as it looks as if Brittany is getting her act together, self-sabotage kicks in. Crowd-pleasing and – and whisper it – uplifting. TB

Directed by Shelly Love. Starring Bronagh Gallagher, Lola Pettigrew, Mary Moulds. 15A cert, gen release, 95 min
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 Ian Fitzgibbon. Starring Pat Shortt, Charlie Murphy, Peter Coonan, Moe Dunford, Tommy Tiernan, Aisling O’Sullivan, Jana Moheidan. 16 cert, IFI, Dublin, 87 min
Adapted by Kevin Barry from his own stories, Dark Lies the Island offers a compendium of outrages from a depraved small town. Directed by the reliable Fitzgibbon, the film cloaks its interweaving narratives in a persuasive oily light that suggests submersion in the neighbouring deathly lake. A strong cast works hard at heightening already gamey characters. But the picture doesn’t hang together as it should. There’s more atmosphere than there is cohesion. Young Moheidan holds her own among starry company. DC

Directed by Mike Flanagan. Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon. 16 cert, gen release, 150 min
In this intermittently successful sequel to The Shining, McGregor plays the psychic Danny Torrance, son to mad Jack, now grown into a disappointed drunk. Ferguson is Rose the Hat, a sort of MTV witch - Stevie Nicks’s titfer and Joan Jett’s strides - who sucks power from kids with Danny’s gifts. This works well as mid-level Stephen King for much of its duration, but, by the close, the dysfunctional relationship with Kubrick’s movie becomes too much to bear. Ends as a Shining theme-park ride. 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, Light House, Dublin (Sat only), 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 true 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 Bill Condon. Starring Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter. 15A cert, gen release, 110 min

New this week: Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren in The Good Liar
New this week: Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren in The Good Liar

Roy (McKellen) is charming, gentlemanly, and a practised career conman who preys on the women he meets online. He can hardly believe his luck when he chances on the widowed Betty (Mirren). Trusting, warm, and in possession of some sizeable assets, Betty may be the last big score Roy needs to retire. But might the kindly Betty be getting under his skin? Even if you can’t spell the word “thriller”, you’ll likely realise that there’s a big but coming. Unhappily, that but is a pile of stupid. 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 Martin Scorsese. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin, Harvey Keitel, Stephen Graham, Bobby Cannavale, Aleksa Palladino, Domenick Lombardozzi, Kathrine Narducci, Ray Romano. 16 cert, lim release, 209 min
When it was announced that Scorsese was to reunite with De Niro and Pesci (and belatedly invite Pacino into the Family) for a tale of postwar gangsterism, premature comparisons were, not unreasonably, drawn with Casino and Goodfellas.

New this week: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in The Irishman
New this week: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in The Irishman

The master’s study of hitman Frank Sheehan is, however, in a very different mood: subdued, unhurried, wintery. The digital de-aging is occasionally a distraction, but the gorgeous performance and rigorous period detail are (ahem) to die for. Pacino is a standout as union boss Jimmy Hoffa. DC

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

Directed by Joe Talbot. Starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Mike Epps, Finn Wittrock. 15A cert, lim release, 121 min
A young African-American man takes back the San Francisco house, subsequently a casualty of gentrification, that his family first acquired in the 1940s. A deliciously strange, aurally seductive reverie on how cities change and how they stay the same, Last Black Man has much to say about how African-American people have been edged out of the neighbourhoods they helped create. But it is the cinematic poetry that stays in the brain. Skateboards down mighty hills. A rowboat in the choppy bay. Unlike anything else in cinemas. 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, QFT, Belfast, 93 min
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

LUCE ★★★★☆
Directed by Julius Onah. Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr, Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Norbert Leo Butz, Brian Bradley. 15A cert, gen release, 110 min
At 17, Luce (Harrison) is a dashing high schooler, as admired on the track as he is on the debate team. Luce’s charms are challenged by his prickly African-American history teacher, Mrs. Wilson (Spencer), who calls on Luce’s caucasion parents (Watts, and Roth) after he writes an essay on the Pan-African activist Frantz Fanon. Mrs Wilson is equally alarmed by a bag of illegal fireworks she has found in Luce’s locker. The boy, we learn, was adopted from war-torn Eritrea, where he was a child soldier. His parents have seen him through years of therapy and rehab. Is Mrs Wilson, knowing Luce’s personal history, simply projecting? Is she being overly hard on him because he’s African-American? Or is something genuinely sinister going on? A provocative film to mull over. TB

Directed by Joachim Rønning. Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Warwick Davis. PG cert, gen release, 118 min
Largely useless effort by Disney to follow-up a five-year-old hit that almost everyone expected to flop. Aside from anything else, the title makes no sense now. Jolie’s fairy is not really evil anymore. Most of the time she’s an absolute charmer. The story’s worthwhile messages are packaged in baffling fantasy baloney that fails to achieve the discipline of your average Care Bear movie. Still, it may do well enough for those who really, really want to like it. DC

Directed by Werner Herzog. Featuring Mikhail Gorbachev, Werner Herzog, George Shultz, James Baker. PG cert, lim release, 91 min

New this week: Werner Herzog and Mikhail Gorbachev in Meeting Gorbachev
New this week: Werner Herzog and Mikhail Gorbachev in Meeting Gorbachev

Werner Herzog doesn’t half like Mikhail Gorbachev. He explains that most Germans have “overwhelming approval for you personally. We love you.” Dispelling any suspicion that he is among the dissenters, Werner adds: “I love you.” The unrelenting adulation is a problem. More than a few interesting lines of inquiry are not followed to satisfactory conclusion. But Meeting Gorbachev remains a fascinating study of a remarkable man: from life on a small farm to one of the 20th century’s key political forces. DC

MONOS ★★★★★
Directed by Alejandro Landes. Starring Sofia Buenaventura, Moises Arias, Julianne Nicholson, Moises Arias, Deiby Rueda, Karen Quintero, Laura Castrillon. 15A cert, QFT, Belfast; IFI/Light House, Dublin, 103 min
Lord of the Flies is an obvious reference for this nervy, thrilling tale of child guerilla soldiers. But there’s also something Aguirre, the Wrath of God in Colombian director Landes’ surreal, wildly beautiful third feature. The near feral teenage commandos, known only by their nicknames (Dog, Bigfoot, Rambo, Swede, Smurf, Boom Boom), take their orders from The Messenger (Salazar), who represents a mysterious paramilitary called The Organisation. When two of the Monos, Lady (Quintero) and Wolf (Giraldo), are tasked with watching over an American prisoner (Nicholson) and a cow called Shakira, a series of events implodes their rough society. Easily one of the best films of 2019. TB

Directed by Gavin Hood. Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Rhys Ifans, Adam Bakri, Ralph Fiennes. 15A cert, gen release, 112 min
A translator at GCHQ who leaked documents exposing illegal US spying in the run-up to the Iraq War, Katherine Gun (Knightley) eventually owned up to her offense and was tried at the Old Bailey. Hood’s study of her fascinating story does not stint on the info. Lucid explanations of complex shenanigans abound. But Official Secrets is very much at home to melodramatic shorthand. The journalists at the Observer are, in particular, straight from chewed-pencil cliche central. DC

Directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Zack Gottsagen, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal, Thomas Haden Church. 12A cert, QFT, Belfast; Cineworld, Dublin, 97 min
Zak (Gottsagen), a 22-year-old with Down syndrome, lives in a retirement home where his attempts to leave are thwarted by kindly (if exasperated) Eleanor (Johnson). With the help of his mischievous roommate (Dern), wannabe wrestler Zak breaks out and heads cross-country in order to track down his wrestling hero (Church). Along the way, he befriends Tyler (LaBoeuf), a troubled petty thief who has fallen foul of local crabbers. With more than a nod to Huckleberry Finn, Zak, Tyler and eventually Eleanor make their way downriver on a raft. Zack Gottsagen is the first Down syndrome lead in a hit summer picture, and he more than holds his own against an extravagantly gifted ensemble. TB

Directed by Will Becher and Richard Phelan. Voices of Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Amalia Vitale, Kate Harbour, Simon Greenall, Emma Tate, Andy Nyman, Chris Morrell, Joe Sugg. G cert, gen release, 87 min
Popular anarcho-primitivism icon Shaun the Sheep is, as ever, attempting to bring Mossy Bottom farm back to Year Zero with a series of antics designed to undermine the central authority. It falls to long-suffering canine apparatchik Blitzer to impose order on the sheep’s gleeful mayhem, while the farmer, corrupted by capitalist hegemony and dreams of a new tractor, fritters his labour on opportunistic schemes designed to capitalise on recent extraterrestrial activity. A chilling reminder that landowners are an inherently corrupt class. This teetering social structure is further undermined by the appearance of Lu-La, an adorable alien and future Aardman backpack,who shares Shaun’s appetite for chaos. TB

Directed by Ken Loach. Starring Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone, Katie Proctor, Ross Brewster. 15A cert, lim release, 101 min
A middle-aged man signs on as a “self-employed” driver for a delivery firm. His life falls apart. Collaborating again with writer Paul Laverty, Loach does an excellent job of explaining how “the gig economy,” relieves employers of moral and legal responsibilities. The research feels spot-on, but the heart-breaking performances are what really drive the film. Hitchin and Honeywood are great as mum and dad. Stone and Proctor are next-level as the children. Loach is still at the top of his game. DC

Directed by Tim Miller. Starring Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta. 15A cert, gen release, 128 min
The verdict is in! Terminator: Dark Fate is the best Terminator sequel since Judgment Day! Sadly, that’s such a low bar an Olympian limbo dancer couldn’t get under it. Lest we forget: there are time-lapse rotting fruit videos that offer more thrills than the miscast, misspelled Terminator: Genisys. Interestingly, there has been rather less shade thrown at this new gender-swapped Terminator than say, the gender-swapped Ghostbusters. In an alternate timeline, yet another AI menace has taken over and the fate of humanity rests with Mexican car factory worker named Dani (Reyes. Enter a lady cyber-soldier (Davis) from the future to save Dani’s ass from a New Improved Terminator (Luna). Enter hard-bitten Linda Hamilton to save both their asses. Enter Arnie to save everyone. The diversity window dressing can’t hide Dark Fate’s inconsequentiality. It has no real point or purpose beyond triggering a Proustian feeling for the first two films in the franchise. Pointless. And very loud. TB

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