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: the documentary Maiden, on limited release

New this week: the documentary Maiden, on limited release

 

THE AFTERMATH ★★★☆☆
Directed by James Kent. Starring Keira Knightley, Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Clarke, Martin Compston, Flora Li Thiemann, Fionn O’Shea. 15A cert, gen release, 108 min
Late 1945. Rachael Morgan (Knightley) and her husband Lewis (Clarke) arrive in Hamburg as part of the occupying forces. They end up sharing a mansion with an emotionally damaged architect named Stefan (Skarsgård) and his equally troubled daughter. Soon Stef and Rach are at it on the hall table. The Aftermatch is dramatically inert, but as Knitting Pattern Cinema goes it’s pretty enough. The leads are forever wearing ochre cardies while standing near complementary shades of mahogany. DC

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL ★☆☆☆☆
Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Lana Condor, Idara Victor, Eiza Gonzalez, Jeff Fahey, Casper Van Dien. 12A cert, gen release, 121 min
Awful adaptation of some comic about a broken robot who is turned into a heroine by an eccentric scientist. Why bother with speculative fiction if your speculations are so deadeningly unsurprising? You’ll find more startling dystopias in the average Ken Loach film. After enduring two hours of this twaddle, we learn that we have been watching an origin story for a character that creators James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez expect to resurface throughout the coming decade. Good luck with that. DC

BORDER/GRÄNS ★★★★★
Directed by Ali Abbasi. Starring Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson, Ann Petrén, Sten Ljunggren. 16 cert, lim release, 110 min

New this week: Border
New this week: Eva Melander (right) in Border

Melander is mesmerising as Tina, an unusually perceptive customs officer at a Swedish seaport. Buried beneath Oscar-nominated makeup that renders her faintly Neanderthal, walking with a perennially slumped frame, Tina can literally smell evil from the travellers. The explanation for these mysteries unfolds in a dark tale that allows ancient myth to blend with dirty Swedish realism. Adapted from a tale by John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of Let the Right One in, Border shares that film’s intelligent menace. DC

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? ★★★★★
Directed by Marielle Heller. Starring Melissa McCarthy, Richard E Grant, Dolly Wells, Jane Curtin, Ben Falcone, Anna Deavere Smith, Stephen Spinella. 15A cert, gen release, 108 min
McCarthy excels as boozy Lee Israel, the real-life biographer of Estée Lauder and Tallulah Bankhead, who, in the early 1990s, launched a second career as a forger of literary correspondence. Grant (like McCarthy, Oscar-nominated) is her even boozier, serially untrustworthy pal. The compactness of Can You Ever Forgive Me? has invited inevitable under-appreciation. It’s a great New York movie. It’s a great film about friendship. It’s also a great cat movie (if that’s your bag). DC

CAPERNAUM ★★★★★
Directed by Nadine Labaki. Starring Zain Alrafeea, Yordanos Shifera, Treasure Bankole, Cedra Izam. 15A cert, IFI/Light House, Dublin, 120 min
The blurb tells us that Labaki’s film concerns a poor Lebanese child who sues his parents for bringing him into this awful world. Eugh? Don’t worry. That framing device is mere decoration on a stunningly effective neo-realist drama concerning a child set adrift in Dickensian poverty. The director’s skill in manipulating her hero’s progress through an endlessly dangerous city and in drawing a relaxed, sincere performance from young Alrafeea establishes her as an impresario of some genius. Hugely powerful melodrama. DC

CAPTAIN MARVEL ★★★☆☆
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Djimon Hounsou, Annette Bening, Lee Pace, Lashana Lynch, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg, Jude Law. 12A, gen release, 123 min

New this week: Djimon Hounsou, Algenis Perez Soto, Brie Larson, Rune Temte and Gemma Chan in Captain Marvel
New this week: Djimon Hounsou, Algenis Perez Soto, Brie Larson, Rune Temte and Gemma Chan in Captain Marvel

An alien descends to Earth in the 1990s and seeks to make sense of inexplicable memories. It’s a shame the first episode in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a female protagonist isn’t just a little better. Larson does well enough in a role that would better suit an actor less wedded to underplayed naturalism. The 1990s nostalgia is played for laughs. Sadly, an amusing centre is squeezed into a wafer by a silly framing space operetta that tries the patience. DC

COLD PURSUIT ★★★★☆
Directed by Hans Petter Moland. Starring Liam Neeson, Tom Bateman, Tom Jackson, Emmy Rossum, Domenick Lombardozzi, Julia Jones, John Doman, Laura Dern. 16 cert, gen release, 118 min
Yes, this is the film Liam Neeson was promoting when he went off the rails. The film-makers will regret that his unwise remarks have distracted from the actor’s best action film since The Grey. He plays a snow plough driver who goes on a rampage after his son is killed by hoodlums. Adapting his own Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, Moland displays a cinematic gift that favours balance over flair. The humour is pitch black. The violence is insanely heightened. DC

A DOG’S WAY HOME ★★★☆☆
Directed by Charles Martin Smith. Starring Ashley Judd, Jonah Hauer-King, Alexandra Shipp, Wes Studi, Edward James Olmos, voice of Bryce Dallas Howard. PG cert, gen release, 96 min
A simple variation on The Incredible Journey (the celebrity-voiced 1993 version, not the gently narrated ’63 original), this very American pet tale pivots around Bella, a pitbull puppy who is raised by stray cats and voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard. When Bella is adopted by kindly VA hospital worker Lucas (Hauer-King) and his war veteran mom (Judd), the pooch seems set for life. Even dog-loving viewers may flinch at some of the schmaltz. Just the same, this is a decent family film. TB

AN ENGINEER IMAGINES ★★★★☆
Directed by Marcus Robinson. Featuring Peter Rice, Michael McElhatton, Renzo Piano, Jonathan Glancey. G cert, QFT, Belfast; Light House, Dublin, 88 min
This study of Irish engineer Peter Rice (the brains behind the Pompidou Centre) offers us the full biographical analysis. Structured around Rice’s book of the same name, An Engineer Imagines is maybe a little short of mathematical detail, but its treatment of its subject’s life and philosophy cannot be faulted. There can be no greater compliment than to say it sends one out eager to learn more. Nice photography. Warm interviews. DC

EVERYBODY KNOWS/TODOS LO SABEN ★★★☆☆
Directed by Asghar Farhadi. Starring Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Ricardo Darín, Eduard Fernández, Bárbara Lennie, Inma Cuesta, Elvira Mínguez. 15A cert, lim release, 133 min

New this week: Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in Everybody Knows
New this week: Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in Everybody Knows

Cruz and Bardem, lovers years before, meet up at a wedding in Spain. Everything is picturesque until her daughter goes missing and every second guest is placed under suspicion. If Everybody Knows emerged as the first film from a promising Spanish director then we might reasonably find ourselves praising it to the horizon. But, coming from the director of A Separation and The Salesman, it feels a little underpowered. Good performances; pretty visuals. Second-level Farhadi is better than none. DC

THE FAVOURITE ★★★★★
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, James Smith, Mark Gatiss. 15A cert, gen release, 119 min
It is 1708 and, as the War of the Spanish Succession takes a breather, cynical Sarah Churchill (Weisz), Duchess of Marlborough, and sly Abigail Hill (Stone), later Baroness Masham, squabble for the attentions of dotty Queen Anne (Oscar winning Colman). Lanthimos transforms what could have been a straight-up period drama into a savage, weird, twisty comedy of appalling manners. The dialogue sparkles. The photography is weirdly brilliant. The performances are flawless. A near masterpiece. DC

FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Stephen Merchant. Starring Florence Pugh, Lena Headey, Nick Frost, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn. Dwayne Johnson. 15A cert, gen release, 108 min
The Rock plus The Office and Extras co-creator Stephen Merchant sounds like an unlikely tag-team, but this cheery comedy inspired by the life of Saraya-Jade Bevis (aka Paige) who went from the less salubrious boroughs of Norwich to WWE Divas Champion at age 21, makes for a winning alchemy. It’s hard to argue with the results, however formulaic, and even when the material is thin, Pugh is there to, literally and figuratively, do the heavy lifting. TB

FREE SOLO ★★★★★
Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin. Featuring Alex Honnold. PG cert, PG cert, QFT, Belfast (Sun/Wed); Triskel, Cork; IFI (Sun)/Light House, Dublin, 99 min
Some way into the year’s most white-knuckle film, rock climber Alex Honnold recalls that more than one ex-girlfriend has told him that he has a personality disorder. By then we’re deep into his two-year preparations to climb the sheer wall of El Capitan, a kilometre-high sheer granite impossibility in Yosemite National Park. If he manages it, he’ll be the first climber to scale the monolith free solo. That’s as in without ropes and safety equipment, as in one finger and toe at a time up a landmark that looks like it belongs in a Roadrunner cartoon. Personality disorder? The man is bonkers. Terrifying but magical. TB

GREEN BOOK ★★★☆☆
Directed by Peter Farrelly. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Sebastian Maniscalco, Dimiter D Marinov, PJ Byrne. 12A cert, gen release, 130 min
Farrelly moves from Dumb and Dumber to the quasi-true story of an Italian-American goodfella (Mortensen) who drove an African-American pianist (Ali) about the segregated South in the 1960s. It’s not the subtlest film: the racial politics are crude; the two actors lay it on with a trowel; the denouement is shamelessly sentimental. And yet the darn thing works. The gears engage. The motor runs smoothly. The destination is achieved. There are worse things in heaven and earth. DC

THE HOLE IN THE GROUND ★★★★☆
Directed by Lee Cronin. Starring Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall. 15A cert, gen release, 90 min
Cronin’s fine horror debut sends Kerslake into the woods with her young son. After an encounter with the (massive!) titular hole, he becomes weirdly altered. The director does throw too much at us too quickly. The weirdness needs a little more reality to set it into proper relief. His handling of the horror machinery is, however, masterful and Kerslake is as captivating as ever. A lot of weight is placed on her shoulders and she carries it without breaking a sigh (though she does scream a bit). DC

INSTANT FAMILY ★★★☆☆
Directed by Sean Anders. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty. Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro. 12 cert, gen release, 118 min
A happily married couple (Wahlberg and Byrne) fumble their way into foster care adoption by taking on three siblings, including a rebellious 15-year-old girl (played by Moner, Wahlberg’s Transformers co-star), with predictably tumultuous and mostly amusing results. Poised indelicately between shameless smaltz and slappy slapstick, Instant Family may be blunt and messy, but it’s easily a career best for the director of Sex Drive and Horrible Bosses 2. TB

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD ★★★★☆
Directed by Dean DeBlois. Voices of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Justin Rupple, Kristen Wiig, F Murray Abraham. PG cert, gen release, 104 min
When dragonslayer Grimmel (F Murray Abraham) threatens, Hiccup (Baruchel) and the good denizens of Berk have little option but to move their dragon to the possibly mythological realm of the title. The Night Fury-obsessed Grimmel, however, has other plans. The Hidden World introduces a “wild and skittish” Light Fury love interest for Toothless and zips along, punctuated by credible action sequences and gleeful silliness. Sit tight for the emotional finale. We’re going to miss this franchise. TB

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK ★★★★★
Directed by Barry Jenkins. Starring KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Dave Franco, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal. 15A cert, gen release, 119 min
Jenkins’s wonderful follow-up to his Oscar-winning Moonlight adapts James Baldwin’s novel concerning a New York couple caught up in the malign jumble of legal evasions and societal dishonesties that worked to constrain African-Americans in the 1960s. Layne is the young pregnant woman fighting to stay aloft when her partner (James) is wrongly convicted of rape. The massed harmony of lighting, music and set dressing sets Beale Street apart. Both beautiful and angry. DC

THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING ★★★☆☆
Directed by Joe Cornish. Starring Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Rebecca Ferguson, Patrick Stewart, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Angus Imrie. PG cert, gen release, 120 min
Cornish’s retelling of the King Arthur myth in suburban London looks and feels like something the BBC might have broadcast on a Tuesday afternoon in the mid-1980s. The juvenile actors are satisfactory without doing anything to trouble the scorers at Bafta. It engages with social issues, but remains firmly in the middle ground mapped out by Grange Hill and Blue Peter. The special effects are so-so. It’s grand, but how it came to cost $60 million is anybody’s guess. DC

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER ★★★★☆
Directed by Sara Colangelo. Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Anna Baryshnikov, Rosa Salazar, Michael Chernus, Gael García Bernal. 15A cert, lim release, 97 min

New this week: Parker Sevak and Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Kindergarten Teacher
New this week: Parker Sevak and Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Kindergarten Teacher

Lisa (Gyllenhaal, excellent) overhears one of her students, a precocious five-year-old named Jimmy (Sevak), recite a poem, which is, in turn, rapturously received at her adult poetry class when she passes it off as her own composition. That’s a cringe-making act of deception, but it’s merely an amuse-bouche for the spiralling, toe-curling obsession that follows. Lisa decides that little Jimmy is a prodigy and she’s going to do everything she can to nurture his talent against a soul-crushing world. A fiendishly ambivalent film that segues from poetry appreciation and midlife crisis drama into thriller. TB

THE LEGO MOVIE 2 ★★★☆☆
Directed by Mike Mitchell. Voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph. G cert, gen release, 107 min
“Everything is not awesome,” sing the Lego Movie collective at a late, crucial juncture in this serviceable sequel. Set five years after the 2014 original, the fourth Lego movie sees the jolly borough of Bricksburg transformed into the Apocalypseburg and under siege from alien Duplo invaders. It falls to everyman master builder Emmet (Pratt), his far more capable chum Lucy (Banks) and a collective that includes Batman (Will Arnett) to take on the marauders. It lacks the snap and crackle of both its predecessor and The Lego Batman Movie, but there are some good jokes and a winning self-awareness. TB

MAIDEN ★★★★☆
Directed by Alex Holmes. Featuring Tracy Edwards, Sally Creaser, Angela Farrell, Jo Gooding, Nancy Hill, Jeni Mundy. 12A cert, lim release, 97 min
Back in the 1980s, nobody wanted a “girl” on their yacht. Well, at least not as part of the crew. Runaway teenager Tracy Edwards had other ideas. She was persistent enough to gain employment as a cook and a cleaner on various boats before she hit upon the idea that landed her in the history books. Having raised enough money to buy a second-hand vessel, Edwards put together an all-female crew and entered the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. The press were bemused or outright dismissive: yachting journalist Bob Fisher called the team “a tin full of tarts”. The women soon proved them all wrong. In common with its subject matter, this is a real crowd-pleaser with a strong finish. TB

MARY POPPINS RETURNS ★★★☆☆
Directed by Rob Marshall. Starring Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Salah, Joel Dawson, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters, Angela Lansbury, Dick Van Dyke. G cert, gen release, 130 min
Some reviews have claimed that the revisiting of Mary Poppins is “practically perfect in every way”. It’s not. It’s not terrible either. One might reasonably call it astonishingly adequate in every regard. Blunt is well-cast, if a bit too flinty, and throws herself into the role with abandon. Taking the Dick Van Dyke chair, Miranda can’t decide whether to do proper Cockney or comically heightened Cockney. The songs are tolerable. There’s no story to speak of. But, yes, it’s fine. DC

ON THE BASIS OF SEX ★★★☆☆
Directed by Mimi Leder. Starring Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Sam Waterston, Kathy Bates, Jack Reynor. 12A cert, gen release, 120 min
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jones) is a first-year student at a male-dominated Harvard Law School. When her husband Martin (Hammer), a second-year student, falls ill with cancer, she attends both his lectures and her own. No law firm will hire Ruth, even though she graduated top of her class, so she ends up in academia until her husband brings a tax code case to her attention. Might Section 214 of the Internal Revenue Code allow the future US supreme court judge to take on the entire damned system? There’s nothing in Daniel Stiepleman’s screenplay that captures the sense of mischief and discovery that jollies along the concurrent RBG documentary. On the Basis of Sex is well-intentioned, cheesily enjoyable and rather uninspired. TB

RBG ★★★★☆
Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen. Featuring Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Ginsburg, James Steven Ginsburg, Nina Totenberg, Clara Spera, Gloria Steinem. Club, Light House, Dublin (Fri only), 97 min
There are a few moments of levity in this fond documentary portrait of the life and career of US supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She works out wearing a shirt that reads “Super Diva”, enjoys some banter with the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia, and is bemused by her nickname, the Notorious RBG. Mostly, as she herself notes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a far more solemn, serious person than her place in pop culture might suggest: “I tend to be rather sober,” she says. A documentary as sober as its subject might have spent more time on the fascinating archival audio from some the cases Ginsburg argued, but this breezy primer is hard to argue with. TB

RINGU ★★★★☆
Directed by Hideo Nakata. Starring Nanako Matsushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rikiya Otaka, Yoichi Numata. 15A cert, Light House, Dublin (Fri/Sat only), 95 min
Twentieth anniversary reissue of classic Japanese horror film about haunted video tape. The ghost-delivery system could hardly seem more antiquated now if it made use of carrier pigeons. But the notion of a mad rumour, passed about eagerly by teenagers, makes even more sense in the social media age. Indeed, Ringu (Ring) now seems like one of the most influential films of its era. The overseas release revitalised (and respooked) the horror genre. DC

SCOTCH: THE GOLDEN DRAM ★★★☆☆
Directed by Andrew Peat. Featuring Jim McEwan, Richard Paterson, Dr Bill Lumsden, Ian MacMillan, Charles MacLean, Lynne McEwan, Brodie Nairn, Georgie Bell, Robbie Hughes. PG cert, lim release, 89 min

New this week: Scotch: The Golden Dram
New this week: Scotch: The Golden Dram

Rolling, windswept hills. Men with moustaches and blazers sniffing (or rather divining) at glasses. Cabers are tossed. Peat is collected. Nobody, but nobody, is going to question Scotch: The Golden Dram’s Scottishness. I half-expected the Loch Ness monster to wander into the frame (it’s amphibian, right?) and dance the Gay Gordons. There are no scenes of caramel gloop being added to an industrially produced clear alcoholic substance in this affectionate portrait of the Scottish whiskey industry, which takes a quasi-mystical view of uisge-beatha. TB

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