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: Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: Last Blood

New this week: Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: Last Blood

 

ANGEL HAS FALLEN ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Starring Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith. Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Nick Nolte, Danny Huston. 15A cert, gen release, 121 min
Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler) is framed for an assassination attempt on the president (Freeman) because of an expensive conspiracy engineered by a former chum (Huston) and private military contractors. Much shooting ensues. Despite poor notices, xenophobic underpinnings and outrageous fear-mongering, the first two Fallen films grossed more than $376 million worldwide, along the way killing off many way-too-good-for-this-trash character actors (Angela Bassett! Noooo!). Following on from the eye-watering Islamophobia of London Has Fallen, Angel Has Fallen concerns the enemy within rather than pesky armed foreigners. That’s some cause to be cheerful. So too is the appearance of Nolte as a Unabomber-styled hermit. And that, alas, is where the fun ends. TB

AD ASTRA ★★★★☆
Directed by James Gray. Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland. 12A cert, gen release, 123 min

New this week: Donald Sutherland, Brad Pitt and Sean Blakemore in Ad Astar
New this week: Donald Sutherland, Brad Pitt and Sean Blakemore in Ad Astra

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

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2 ★★★☆☆
Directed by Thurop Van Orman. Voices of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader, Rachel Bloom, Nicki Minaj, Awkwafina, Sterling K Brown, Eugenio Derbez, Danny McBride, Peter Dinklage. G cert, gen release, 97 min
Red (Sudeikis), the franchise’s heavily eyebrowed avian hero, is suspicious when his former porcine adversaries the Bad Piggies request a truce, but the showering of icy boulders suggests that pig and bird-kind have a common foe. Enter Zeta (Jones), the megalomaniac purple queen of hitherto undiscovered Eagle Island. Zeta is apparently determined to take over both Pig and Bird Islands, and has a particular beef with the Lebowski-alike Mighty Eagle (Dinklage). Nobody expected The Angry Birds Movie (2016) to become the third highest-grossing film of all time based on a video game. The second film is not as entertaining, but it has some great voice talent, it breezes brightly along, and it has a nice anti-Thatcher message: “There is no such thing as the individual; there is only society.” We’re paraphrasing. TB

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

THE CHAMBERMAID/LA CAMARISTA ★★★★★
Directed by Lila Avilés. Starring Gabriela Cartol, Teresa Sánchez. Club, QFT, Belfast (Fri/Sat/Sun only), 102 min
Avilés’ remarkable, rigorously researched debut concerns itself with the day to day rigours of working in a luxury Mexico City hotel. One of the film’s lesser pleasures is the detail it offers on how Eve’s job is done. The film is, however, most remarkable for its gentle teasing out of workplace relationships. This is not the worst job in the world, but its pressures clearly wear away at the soul. A gripping and oddly beautiful gem. DC

DORA AND THE LOST CITY OF GOLD ★★★★☆
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

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
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

EXTRA ORDINARY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman. Starring Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Claudia O’Doherty, Jamie Beaming, Terri Chandler, Risteard Cooper. 15A cert, gen release, 94 min
A driving instructor with psychic powers (Higgins) romances a client in rural Ireland. You couldn’t accuse Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman of selling us short on knockabout content. Extra Ordinary packs a staggering amount of material into its busy 94 minutes. It’s an intimate romp about everyday people, but, unusually for a film set in rural Ireland, it also opens portals to eternal damnation. You don’t see that every day. American import Forte is good value as a pompous rock star. DC

THE FAREWELL ★★★★☆
Directed by Lulu Wang. Starring Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo. PG cert, gen release, 98 min

New this week: Awkwafina in The Farewell
New this week: Awkwafina in The Farewell

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

FAST & FURIOUS: HOBBS & SHAW ★★☆☆☆
Directed by David Leitch. Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eddie Marsan, Cliff Curtis. 12A cert, gen release, 136 min
Deranged, overheated spin-off from the Fast franchise finds Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) attempting to disable a “programmable bio-weapon of Biblical proportions”. There is not nearly enough of automotive mayhem and what we do get rarely reaches the heights of top episodes such as Fast Five or Furious 7. A chase through London was clearly filmed in Glasgow. A late Samoan pile-up relies too heavily on the physically implausible. They need to get back to basics. DC

FOR SAMA ★★★★☆
Directed by Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts. Featuring Waad al-Kateab, Hamza al-Kateab. Club, QFT, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 94 min
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. DC

GAZA ★★★★☆
Directed by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell. 12A cert, Light House, Dublin (Tues only), 92 min
This beautifully shot documentary is careful with the details. Opening credits tells us that Gaza is a narrow strip of coastline bordered by Israel and Egypt, home to nearly two million Palestinians. The Islamic resistance movement Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007. Since then Israel has imposed a blockade and completely sealed its borders. Filmed between the Israeli war in 2014 nd the border protests in 2018; the movie’s very existence is enough for some to dismiss it as propaganda or “manipulative and disingenuous”. That’s a shame, as Gaza studiously avoids direct political engagement, Final scenes bring us up to May 2018 and some of the bloodiest clashes in Gaza’s history leaving 60 dead protesters and 2,500 injured. It’s a tragic ending for an already sorrowful, moving film. TB

GOOD BOYS ★☆☆☆☆
Directed by Gene Stupnitsky. Starring Jacob Tremblay, Keith L Williams, Brady Noon, Molly Gordon, Lil Rel Howery, Will Forte, Midori Francis. 16 cert, gen release, 90 min
Produced by Seth Rogen and others from the Superbad camp, Good Boys presents three youngsters with a mission to be completed before, yes, they attend a wild bash in the suburbs. In this instance, it’s a “kissing party” and they need a few tips before puckering up. Here’s something you didn’t know you needed, but might have guessed you were going to get anyway: a comedy about, but not for, though apparently by, half-brained 12-year-old boys. DC

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. TB

IT: CHAPTER TWO ★☆☆☆☆
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

THE KITCHEN ★★☆☆☆
Directed by Andrea Berloff. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elisabeth Moss, Domhnall Gleeson, Common, James Badge Dale, Margo Martindale. 16 cert, gen release, 102 min

New this week: Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy and Elisabeth Moss in The Kitchen
New this week: Tiffany Haddish, Melissa McCarthy and Elisabeth Moss in The Kitchen

McCarthy, Haddish and Moss play mob wives – husbands all in jail – running a crime ring on the west side of Manhattan in the 1970s. Berloff’s flick promises dress-up and violence to the heavy sounds of a great musical era. That’s surely enough to be going on with. Not quite. The actor are all strong, but the story is half-baked and the character arcs make no sense. It kicks along to obvious beats and then dribbles out weakly in a flat last reel. DC

THE LION KING ★★☆☆☆
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

ONCE UPON A TIME IN . . . HOLLYWOOD ★★★★☆
Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Scoot McNairy, Luke Perry, Al Pacino, Margaret Qualley, 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

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, IFI/Light House, 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

RAMBO: LAST BLOOD ★★★☆☆
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

THE SOUVENIR ★★★★★
Directed by Joanna Hogg. Starring Honor Swinton-Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton, Richard Ayoade, Jack McMullen, Frankie Wilson. 15A cert, Triskel, Cork; Light House, Dublin (Fri/Wed only), 120 min
Striking, austere drama concerning the relationship between a young film student (Swinton-Byrne) and a well-off man (Burke) with an addiction issue. Set in the early 1980s, the picture is clearly autobiographical but, teased out by the cast from a rough outline, it takes on a bitter, brooding life of its own. Swinton-Byrne (daughter of Tilda) is convincingly fragile as the protagonist. Burke allows dark depths as her difficult lover. Hogg’s aesthetic is not always welcoming, but the raw honesty is daunting. DC

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME ★★★☆☆
Directed by Jon Watts Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, JB Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei, Jake Gyllenhaal. 12A cert, gen release, 129 min
You have to feel for the film-makers. Arriving after the much-loved Spider-Man: Homecoming and its buzzier, Oscar-winning animated cousin, Spider-Man: Into the Multiverse, the eighth Spider-Man film since the turn of the millennium is already facing something of a Sisyphean task. The final official film in Marvel Phase Three feels awfully minor after the grandiloquence of Avengers: Endgame. But Far from Home’s lack of narrative sophistication is often offset by its splendid cast. Holland’s Spider-Man maybe the most charming screen incarnation to date. The British-born actor has restored the fun that was leeched out of the franchise during the po-faced Andrew Garfield years. Zendaya, who does more with MJ than anyone might have reasonably thought possible, is never less than magical. TB

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

UGLYDOLLS ★☆☆☆☆
Directed by Kelly Asbury. Voices of Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monáe, Ice-T, Blake Shelton, Wanda Sykes, Gabriel Iglesias, Emma Roberts, Jane Lynch, Wang Leehom, Bebe Rexha, Charli XCX, Lizzo, Nick Jonas, Pitbull. G cert, gen release, 87 min
This is less a movie than a contemplative space wherein the viewer – or more accurately the participant – explores the shifting dynamic between the eponymous plush toys and the hegemony of play. Moving through unexamined assumptions about The Self, The Body and Othering, UglyDolls creates a terrifying sense of confinement and operates as a profound yearning for escape that lingers far beyond the experience itself. The film’s relatively short chronology challenges and tilts traditional understandings and readings of the moment. Challenging. TB

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