Six of the best films to see at the cinema this weekend

New this week: Jake Gyllenhaal in a survivor’s story, an ageless assassin in ancient Japan, and clever Yuletide horror

Based on a true story, Stronger tells the story of Jeff Bauman, who lost both his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. Video: Lionsgate

 

Stronger ★★★★
Directed by David Gordon Green. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown, Frankie Shaw. 15A cert, general release, 119 min

Jeff Bauman was the young man who, after losing both legs beneath the knee in the Boston Marathon bombing, helped identify the culprit from his hospital bed. Inevitably there was talk of a “Hollywood movie”. But they always say that. The film actually exists and it’s a very powerful study of PTSD. Jake Gyllenhaal is superb as an ordinary guy who begins to struggle under the pressure to be “Boston strong”. Review/Trailer DC

Blade of the Immortal ★★★★
Directed by Takashi Miike. Starring Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi. 16 cert, general release, 141 min

Takashi’s 100th film follows the cursed warrior Manji (Kimura), a dying ronin who is made ageless by the sacred bloodworms of an 800-year-old witch. Fifty years after this vampiric interaction, and Manji, still grieving the loss of his sister, is approached by a young girl who wishes to hire the deathless depressive as her bodyguard and handy assassin. The director is as sharp as ever, and the film is the undisputed corpse pile-up of the year. Review TB

Better Watch Out ★★★
Directed by Chris Peckover. Starring Levi Miller, Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Patrick Warburton, Virginia Madsen. 16 cert, general release, 89 min

Cunning Christmas horror seemingly traps 12-year-old Lukas (Miller) and his 17-year-old babysitter, Ashley (The Visit’s DeJonge) in a home invasion movie, only to transform into a pleasingly zeitgeisty dissection of male entitlement. The film was originally called Safe Neighbourhood; a better title might have been It Came from Friendzone. It’s no Christmas Evil (the grandaddy of Santa slasher flicks), but it definitely makes our naughty list. Review TB

Wonder ★★★★
Directed by Stephen Chbosky. Starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Mandy Patinkin, Daveed Diggs, Izabela Vidovic, Sonia Braga. PG cert, general release, 113 min

Before the studios became entirely fixated on franchises, Hollywood used to make inspiring dramas that ended with standing ovations or children joyfully running toward the cameras. Audiences would leave with life lessons and snivelling into the sleeves. Wonder is just such an old-fashioned delight. Your brain may have cynical questions. Your brain is going to shut up. Even if you somehow manage to withstand the mighty screen chemistry of Wilson and Roberts and the cuteness of Tremblay, nothing can counter the emotional clout of Sonia Braga as Via’s late grandma. And did we mention the puppy? Review TB

Battle of the Sexes ★★★★
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Starring Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Eric Christian Olsen. 12A cert, general release, 121 min

Hugely entertaining, impressively compassionate attempt to dramatise the 1973 tennis match between legendary champ Billie Jean King (Stone) and arch self-publicist Bobby Riggs (Carell). Carell hams with abandon as a chancer constantly surveying the horizon for his next mark or hair-brained scheme. Stone brings out the gentleness in a famously tough competitor. At two hours, Battle of the Sexes occasionally drags, but it’s the Feminist vs Male Chauvinist Pig showdown that we need right now. Review TB

THE DISASTER ARTIST ★★★★
Directed by James Franco. Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Sharon Stone. 15A cert, limited release, 104 min

Franco hits directorial gold with a good-natured drama following the creation of “the worst film ever made”: Tommy Wiseau’s belated cult hit The Room. It’s a tribute to Franco’s skills that his depiction of Wiseau is simultaneously hilarious and endearing. Adapted from the award-winning 2013 memoir The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, Franco’s 14th film as director casts brother Dave (excellent) as Greg Sestero, the line producer and star of The Room. A second cult looms. Review/Trailer TB

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