Six of the best films to see in cinemas this weekend

New this weekend: Hustlers, Downton Abbey, For Sama, Phoenix

And the Oscar goes to? Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

And the Oscar goes to? Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

 

HUSTLERS ★★★★☆
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. Full review TB

DOWNTON ABBEY ★★★☆☆
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

Michelle Dockery, Geraldine James, Simon Jones and Matthew Goode in Downton Abbey
Michelle Dockery, Geraldine James, Simon Jones and Matthew Goode in Downton Abbey

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. Full review/trailer DC

FOR SAMA ★★★★☆
Directed by Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts. Featuring Waad al-Kateab, Hamza al-Kateab. Club, lim release, 94 min

For Sama
For Sama

Stunning documentary concerning the life of a young woman, her doctor husband and their young child in an increasingly ravaged Aleppo. Waad al-Kateab began For Sama as a sort of video diary – a record in case she didn’t make it out alive. It was picked up as citizen journalism and then transformed into a film that allows moments of beauty among its parade of horrors. Nothing cuts through the propaganda more incisively than human stories. Full review DC

PHOENIX/FØNIKS ★★★★☆
Directed by Camilla Strøm Henriksen. Starring Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin, Maria Bonnevie, Sverrir Gudnason, Casper Falck-Løvås. Club, IFI, Dublin, 85 min

Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin in Phoenix
Ylva Bjørkaas Thedin in Phoenix

Newcomer Thedin gives an affecting, nuanced performance as Jill, the put-upon teen at the heart of this delicate, powerful mental health drama. On the eve of her 14th birthday, Jill tiptoes into the darkened family apartment and around her unstable mother (Bonnevie). It falls to Jill to tend to her younger brother (Falck-Løvås). Then their estranged father (Gudnason), a jazz trumpeter whose white suit and furniture signals his unsuitability for family life, visits, allowing Jill a brief respite from being the primary caregiver, But the viewer is already aware than even this break is built on a lie. There are nods towards Pan’s Labyrinth as Jill’s woes manifest themselves in fleetingly glimpsed monstrous forms. Mostly, Phoenix prefers grim, powerful realism to the supernatural. Full review TB

BAIT ★★★★★
Directed by Mark Jenkin. Starring Edward Rowe, Simon Shepherd, Mary Woodvine, Giles King, Isaac Woodvine, Chloe Endean, Georgia Ellery. Club, QFT, Belfast (Sat/Sun/Wed only), 89 min

Edward Rowe and Chloe Endean in Bait
Edward Rowe and Chloe Endean in Bait

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. Full review TB

PAIN AND GLORY/DOLOR Y GLORIA ★★★★★
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Starring Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Julieta Serrano, Penélope Cruz. 16 cert, lim release, 113 min

Antonio Banderas and Nora Navas in Pain and Glory
Antonio Banderas and Nora Navas in Pain and Glory

Banderas is hypnotically captivating as a blocked film director in an exquisite, autumnal drama that escapes 8½ 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. Full review DC

Other ★★★★★ and ★★★★☆  films out and about: The Chambermaid, Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Gaza, Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood, The Souvenir, Yesterday. All current synopses here

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