Six of the best movies to see in the cinema this weekend

New this weekend: Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems, Sam Mendes’s 1917, and El Topo

Under pressure: Kevin Garnett, LaKeith Stanfield and Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

Under pressure: Kevin Garnett, LaKeith Stanfield and Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems

 

UNCUT GEMS ★★★★★
Directed by Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie. Starring Adam Sandler, Lakeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian. 16 cert, lim release, 135 min
The Safdies follow up Good Time with a grim, blackly comic thriller concerning a cash-strapped jeweller trying to flog a rare jewel before the bookies string him up. Sandler uses his talent to irritate for good in a film that never soothes when it can grate. Darius Khondji’s camera apes the spotty fuzz of aged 16mm. And the sheer noise of the thing? All this invites such total immersion in New York’s Diamond District that the picture takes on an anthropological flavour. Astonishing. Full review DC

1917 ★★★★☆
Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch. 15A cert, gen release, 119 min

Andrew Scott and Richard Madden in 1917
Andrew Scott and Richard Madden in 1917

Mendes composes his tale of the first World War – concerning a young corporal delivering a message through disputed territory – in what looks like one single shot. The result is a slice of prestige British film-making that nimbly avoids accusations of heritage cosiness. Distinguished actors turn up in smallish parts, but each has a worthwhile contribution to make. The script admits no puffing about patriotic sacrifice. It ends with emotional release and a beautifully neat closing of the circle. Full review DC

EL TOPO ★★★★★
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, Brontis Jodorowsky, Mara Lorenzio, David Silva, Paula Romo, Jacqueline Luis. Limited release, 124 min

Alejandro Jodorowsky and Brontis Jodorowsky in El Topo
Alejandro Jodorowsky and Brontis Jodorowsky in El Topo

It’s impossible to separate El Topo (1970) from the mythology attached to the film. For five decades, Jodorowsky’s wild second feature has, among cineastes, retained a strange, magical aura. The adventures of El Topo (The Mole) – a silent cowboy who roams the desert and defeats four mystical gunslingers – are as spectacular as they are surreal. Look here, a man without arms is carrying a man with no legs on his shoulders; look there, a landscape is littered with rabbit corpses. Plenty of contemporaneously artefacts have aged badly, yet El Topo has lost none of its power to shock and seduce. Full review TB

JOJO RABBIT ★★★★☆
Directed by Taika Waititi. Starring Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen. 12A cert, gen release, 108 min

Roman Griffin Davis and Taika Waititi in Jojo Rabbit
Roman Griffin Davis and Taika Waititi in Jojo Rabbit

Set in Germany during the closing days of the second World War, Waititi’s tricky comedy hangs around a deluded young man named Jojo Betzler (Davis). Like many others of his generation, Jojo has swallowed the Nazi ideology whole – so much so that he has taken Hitler as an imaginary friend. Not everything works here (mawkishness is an occasional danger) but we are never in any doubt that Waititi’s sympathies are in the right place. Johansson is strong as the boy’s mum. Full review/trailer DC

AMANDA ★★★★☆
Directed by Mikhaël Hers. Starring Vincent Lacoste, Stacy Martin, Isaure Multrier, Greta Scacchi. IFI, Dublin, 107 min

Isaure Multrier and Vincent Lacoste in Amanda
Isaure Multrier and Vincent Lacoste in Amanda

The pitch for this thoughtful French drama might make one think, not unreasonably, of such 1980s comedies as Three Men and a Little Lady, in which hapless men struggle to cope with new charges. David (Lacoste) is just such a specimen: an aimless twenty-something Parisian whose life turns upside down when he suddenly becomes the primary caregiver to his young niece (newcomer Multrier). So far, so Instant Family. But the film evolves into a fictionalised and pleasingly unsentimental variation of a traumatic 2015 news story. Full review TB

LITTLE WOMEN ★★★☆☆
Directed by Greta Gerwig. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Bob Odenkirk. PG cert, gen release, 135 min

Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women
Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women

Taking this glossy, flighty film on its own over-styled, over-wigged terms, it’s a fun, frolicsome affair. As Amy, the youngest and brattiest March, Pugh makes her character lovable and steals every scene she’s in, even going toe-to-toe with Streep (who brings a riff on her Florence Foster Jenkins). Ronan is a terrific, perennially breathless Jo. Chalamet’s Laurie bounces well off Ronan and Pugh (a blazing break-up row with the former is a highlight) but he fizzles with lesser screen partners. Dern is better than saintly Marmie deserves. Gerwig’s lightly metatextual script cleverly plays with chronology and Louisa May Alcott’s biography in ways that will require close attention from those unfamiliar with the literary source. This is a pleasing fairytale. But we’ve been prouder of our Little Women. Full review/trailer TB

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