What’s on

Tara Brady and Don­ald Clarke’s picks of the cur­rent film re­leases

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - CINEMA -

ABOM­INABLE ★★★

Di­rected by Jill Cul­ton. Voices of Chloe Ben­net, Al­bert Tsai, Ten­z­ing Nor­gay Trainor, Ed­die Iz­zard, Sarah Paul­son, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong. Gcert, gen re­lease, 98 min Shang­hai teen Yi (Ben­net) is griev­ing for her late fa­ther and feel­ing dis­tant from her mother and grand­mother when she en­coun­ters a Yeti on the roof of her apart­ment block. Yi and her friends name the adorable mon­ster “Ever­est” and em­bark on an epic cross-coun­try quest to reunite the crea­ture with his fam­ily at the high­est point on Earth. A kalei­do­scope of colours, Abom­inable is the most sen­so­rial fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment since A Wrin­kle in Time. And it shines as a trav­el­ogue that makes the mag­i­cal best of its Chi­nese land­marks. TB

LA BELLE EPOQUE ★★★★

Di­rected by Ni­co­las Be­dos. Star­ring Daniel Au­teuil, Guil­laume Canet, Do­ria Til­lier, Fanny Ar­dant. 15A cert, QFT, Belfast, 115 min Be­dos’s French com­edy sounds, on pa­per, like one of the un­likely films around which the ac­tion turns in the TV se­ries Call My Agent. Au­teuil plays an ag­ing il­lus­tra­tor who pays a mys­te­ri­ous com­pany to restage the mo­ment in 1974 when he met his now es­tranged wife (Ar­dant). The high con­cept should run out of steam quickly, but Be­dos keeps enough plates spin­ning to dis­tract even the most un­for­giv­ing ob­server. Ar­dant is par­tic­u­larly strong in a film that even­tu­ally gains real emo­tional trac­tion. DC

BUD­DIES ★★★★

Di­rected by Arthur J Bres­san Jr. Star­ring Ge­off Ed­holm, David Schachter. Lim re­lease, 81 min David (Schachter), a 25-year-old type­set­ter, has vol­un­teered at the gay cen­tre to be a buddy to an Aids pa­tient. His first en­counter with Robert (Ed­holm) is not a roar­ing suc­cess. The two men are very dif­fer­ent. Robert is 32, fiercely po­lit­i­cal, fight­ing his fourth bout of pneu­mo­nia, and all alone. Shot on 16mm film in nine days in 1985, Bud­dies was the first and ar­guably still the best fea­ture-length Aids drama, ten­der, an­gry, funny and ur­gent. A fi­nal shot of David as a lone pro­tester with a hand­writ­ten sign out­side the White House, set to the lush strings of the New York Salon Quar­tet, makes for a strangely hope­ful spec­ta­cle, against book­end­ing shots of a printer punch­ing out a list of those who have died from Aids. Trag­i­cally, that roll-call would soon in­clude writer, di­rec­tor and editor Arthur J Bres­san and star Ge­off Ed­holm. TB

CATS ★★

Di­rected by TomHooper. Star­ring James Cor­den, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jen­nifer Hud­son, Ian McKellen, Tay­lor Swift, Rebel Wil­son, Francesca Hay­ward, Ray Win­stone. PG cert, gen re­lease, 110 min From the get-go, Cats strug­gles against ugly CG back­drops and odd fram­ing. It never looks like a movie, nor do the un­a­mus­ing in­ser­tions of di­a­logue into sung-through pieces ever sound like a movie. There are some con­vinc­ing per­for­mances, es­pe­cially Derulo’s rowdy Rum Tum Tug­ger and Hay­ward’s charm­ing Vic­to­ria. Hud­son gives Mem­ory plenty of welly, even if she tends to emote in all the wrong places. But the “dig­i­tal fur tech­nol­ogy” is dis­tract­ing and dis­turb­ing. Ev­ery time Cats set­tles into an avant-garde shape, an ear twitches or a tail flicks and you’re back think­ing about how ghastly the ac­tual cats look. Why do they have breasts but no nip­ples? Why do some have furry feet and oth­ers wear shoes? What kind of mon­strous chimera are th­ese? What we have here is fea­ture tech­nol­ogy that, to bor­row an old Ir­ish phrase, needs to be put be­yond use. TB

CIT­I­ZEN K ★★★★

Di­rected by Alex Gib­ney. 15A cert, lim re­lease, 128 min Gib­ney’s doc­u­men­tary about post-Soviet Rus­sia is a com­pelling if dis­con­cert­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Mikhail Khodor­kovsky re­counts sev­eral com­pelling twists of fate as he jour­neys from Glas­nost hus­tler to oli­garch to dis­si­dent. Gib­ney, work­ing with BBC archival footage, thrillingl­y re­lates the Wild West cap­i­tal­ism of the Yeltsin years, as preda­tory nascent cap­i­tal­ists swooped in to buy up the stock vouch­ers given out to ev­ery cit­i­zen. This sick­en­ing spec­ta­cle is made worse by the sub­ject’s glee­ful ac­count and his sub­se­quent ac­qui­si­tion of a size­able chunk of Siberia’s oil­fields and a per­sonal for­tune of some $15 bil­lion. It’s only when Khodor­kovsky chal­lenges Vladimir Putin’s au­thor­ity that he finds him­self con­victed of tax eva­sion, money-laun­der­ing, and em­bez­zle­ment. He in­sists that the years he spent in prison be­tween 2005 and 2013 have made him a more thought­ful per­son. The jury is out. TB

FROZEN2 ★★★

Di­rected by Chris Buck, Jen­nifer Lee. Voices of Kris­ten Bell, Id­ina Men­zel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Ster­ling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Al­fred Molina, Martha Plimp­ton, Jason Rit­ter, Rachel Matthews. PG cert, gen re­lease, 103 min Dis­ney risks a se­quel to its de­servedly enor­mous Snow Queen vari­a­tion. The thin­ness of the story – some­thing about an en­chanted for­est – in­vites us to pon­der in­ad­e­qua­cies that were easy to ig­nore amid the de­li­cious clock­work of the first film. Olaf the snow­man is more like the mas­cot for a Slo­vakian fast-food chain than one would pre­fer. Kristoff works bet­ter as a comic turn than as a ro­man­tic lead. Anne is kind of . . . bor­ing? But Frozen 2 just about gets by on slick pro­fes­sion­al­ism. DC

HONEY BOY ★★★

Di­rected by Alma Har’el. Star­ring Shia LaBeouf, Lu­cas Hedges, Noah Jupe, FKA Twigs, Clifton Collins Jr, Maika Mon­roe. 15A cert, lim re­lease, 95 min LaBeouf’s script makes lit­tle ef­fort to con­ceal its au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal lean­ings. Jupe is ex­cel­lent as the young Otis, a child ac­tor strug­gling to stay sane with a dad on con­stant hair trig­ger. As im­ages on the fi­nal cred­its con­firm, LaBeouf plays the older man as a ver­sion of his own fa­ther: round glasses, strag­gly hair, scuffed, post-hip­pie cloth­ing. The per­for

mance are ex­cel­lent and Har’el di­rects with au­thor­ity. But some greater dis­tance from the au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ori­gins might have been nice. Feels very raw. DC

THEIRISHMA­N ★★★★★

Di­rected by Martin Scors­ese. Star­ring Robert De Niro, Al Pa­cino, Joe Pesci, Anna Paquin, Har­vey Kei­tel, Stephen Gra­ham. 16 cert, lim re­lease, 209 min When it was an­nounced that Scors­ese was to reunite with De Niro and Pesci (and be­lat­edly in­vite Pa­cino into the Fam­ily) for a tale of post­war gang­ster­ism, pre­ma­ture com­par­isons were, not un­rea­son­ably, drawn with Casino and Good­fel­las. The mas­ter’s study of hit­man Frank Shee­han is, how­ever, in a very dif­fer­ent mood: sub­dued, un­hur­ried, win­tery. The dig­i­tal de-ag­ing is oc­ca­sion­ally a dis­trac­tion, but the gor­geous per­for­mance and rig­or­ous pe­riod de­tail are (ahem) to die for. Pa­cino is a stand­out as union boss Jimmy Hoffa. DC

JU­MANJI: THENEXT LEVEL ★★★

Di­rected by Jake Kas­dan. Star­ring Dwayne John­son, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gil­lan, Nick Jonas, Awk­wa­fina, Danny De Vito, Danny Glover. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 123 min We re- renter the Ju­manji video game in a fol­low-up to the hugely suc­cess­ful se­quel. The melange of good ideas and half-good ideas fight against one another for too long. The pas­tiche of gam­ing tropes adds lit­tle new to a con­ver­sa­tion. Yet, for all its weird com­pro­mises, Ju­manji: The Next Level never stops be­ing good fun. The sheer ran­dom­ness of the ex­er­cise keeps you awake as might an evening spent at the wrong end of an army fir­ing range. And we like th­ese ac­tors. DC

THEKINGMAK­ER ★★★★

Di­rected by Lau­ren Green­field. Lim re­lease, 100 min They say com­edy = tragedy + time. A strange per­ver­sion of that for­mula un­der­pins this gob­s­mack­ing por­trait of Imelda Mar­cos, 33 years af­ter pro­tes­tors stormed Mala­canang Palace and found 2,700 pairs of de­signer shoes be­long­ing to the for­mer dic­ta­tor’s wife. A gen­er­a­tion later she was back in the Philip­pines, run­ning her son Bong­bong for vice-pres­i­dent and strong­man Ro­drigo Duterte for pres­i­dent. The out­ra­geous­ness is pow­ered along by some $5 to $10 bil­lion plun­dered by the US-backed regime, a sin­is­ter Google cam­paign, and his­tor­i­cal ig­no­rance. Schoolchil­dren in­ter­viewed speak of the good old days of mar­tial law un­der Fer­di­nand and Imelda, a time de­fined by 3,257 known ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and 35,000 doc­u­mented tor­tures. “When I see Manila, I feel so de­pressed and sad,” says Mar­cos, with­out a hint of irony. “Be­fore, dur­ing my time, there were no beg­gars. I had a place for them”. A ter­ri­fy­ing re­minder that those with ab­so­lute power don’t make good re­tirees. TB

KNIVES OUT ★★★★

Di­rected by Rian John­son. Star­ring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Ar­mas, Jamie Lee Cur­tis, Toni Col­lette, Michael Shan­non, Don John­son, Christo­pher Plum­mer. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 130 min John­son brings a starry cast to­gether for a de­light­ful pas­tiche of the big-house who­dun­nit. The di­rec­tor knows the trick here is to pile the rev­e­la­tions on so rapidly that au­di­ences have no time to no­tice the thin­ness of the struc­ture. Re­veal­ing gen­uine af­fec­tion for genre, dec­o­rat­ing the ac­tion with brown wood, he makes no con­ces­sions to safety in his vig­or­ous ham­mer­ing of the ac­cel­er­a­tor. It’s over be­fore you have time to ques­tion the logic. Great fun. DC

LAST CHRIST­MAS ★★

Di­rected by Paul Feig. Star­ring Emilia Clarke, Henry Gold­ing, Michelle Yeoh, Em­maThomp­son. 12A cert, gen re­lease, 103 min Not a sin­gle joke lands as cutesy Kate (Clarke), an elf with West End dreams in a year-round Lon­don Christ­mas store, meets Tom (Gold­ing), a Manic Pixie Dream Boy who dances down al­ley­ways and of­fers swoony, lifeal­ter­ing ad­vice like “Look up”. Back at home, Kate strug­gles with an over­pro­tec­tive Croa­t­ian mother (Thompson, chan­nelling Mau­reen Lip­man with none of the fun) and her Brexit-in­duced pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing de­ported back to war-torn Yu­goslavia (?) The script, co-au­thored by Thompson, is sim­ply not there. Worse, Ge­orge Michael’s mu­sic is never prop­erly in­te­grated into the story. In com­mon with much of the film, it’s just hang­ing around like an ugly bauble. TB

LIT­TLE WOMEN ★★★

Di­rected by Greta Ger­wig. Star­ring Saoirse Ro­nan, Em­maWat­son, Florence Pugh, El­iza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Ti­mothée Cha­la­met, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Bob Odenkirk. PG cert, gen re­lease, 135 min 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. TB

LONG DAY’S JOUR­NEY INTO NIGHT ★★★★

Di­rected by Bi Gan. Star­ring Tang Wei, Huang Jue. Lim re­lease, 138 min “Any­time I saw her I knew I was in a dream again,” says the enig­matic hero of Bi Gan’s hyp­notic, Del­phian epic. The words are spo­ken over a frag­mented light­show and are as much as we can say for cer­tain about this ob­tuse, spec­tac­u­lar drama. There’s more than a touch of mid-’90s Wong Kar-Wai dreami­ness – so much green, so much neon – in the sat­u­rated colours and voiceover-driven story. Hongwu Luo is re­turn­ing to ru­ral Kaili for the fu­neral of his fa­ther. At home, he re­calls the death of a child­hood friend, Wild­cat, and Wan Qi­wen, a great lost love. She may be some­one “who dis­ap­peared”. We’re told she shares her name with a movie star, but she may also be called Kaizhen. And sud­denly it’s not that film at all, but a vir­tu­oso imag­ined re­boot of Luo’s past that un­folds as a con­tin­u­ous 59-minute shot. For­get the big brand space opera: here’s the sea­son’s pre-em­i­nent work of event cin­ema. TB

OR­DI­NARY LOVE ★★★★

Di­rected by Lisa Bar­ros D’Sa and Glenn Ley­burn. Star­ring Liam Nee­son, Les­ley Manville, David Wil­mot, Amit Shah. 12A cert, lim re­lease, 92 min Joan ( Manville) and Tom (Nee­son) are a long-mar­ried and con­tented Belfast cou­ple who go for walks along the coast (as far as the tree and turn) and lightly bicker over how much beer to buy. They lost a daugh­ter years be­fore, but th­ese days adding Worces­ter­shire sauce to the soup is the most seis­mic de­vel­op­ment in their lives – un­til Joan dis­cov­ers a can­cer­ous lump on her breast. Co-di­rec­tors Bar­ros D’Sa and Ley­burn fcame to promi­nence with the ri­otous Cher­ry­bomb and Good Vi­bra­tions. Work­ing from a per­sonal screen­play from Owen McCaf­ferty, the film paints an in­ti­mate por­trait of a cou­ple in del­i­cate brush strokes. Ig­nore the unas­sum­ing ti­tle: this love story is ex­tra­or­di­nary. TB

SO LONG, MY SON ★★★★

Di­rected By Wang Xiaoshuai. Star­ring Wang Jingchun, Yong MeiWang Yuan, Du Jiang. QFT, Belfast (Sat only), 185 min In his 13th film, Wang Xiaoshuai, one of the lead­ing in­ter­na­tional fig­ures of the sixth gen­er­a­tion, plays with chronol­ogy in a man­ner that re­vi­talises the long­form PRC pic­ture. There are re­peated flash­backs to a reservoir, when the pre-teen son of Yao­jun and Liyun’s is ca­joled into swim­ming by his friend Hao­hao, and drowns. Hao­hao’s guilt stays with him and im­pacts on his par­ents’ close friend­ship with Yao­jun and Liyun. That es­trange­ment deep­ens af­ter Hao­hao’s mother forces Liyun to abort her sec­ond preg­nancy, in keep­ing with the gov­ern­ment’s one-child pol­icy. When Dengism kicks in, the griev­ing par­ents are forced to move to a far-flung dis­trict. There they adopt an or­phan (with a cru­cial back­story) who comes to re­sent be­ing a sub­sti­tute for a dead son. Sev­eral of the plot twists might sit easy in a racy soap opera, but they power the grandly-scaled film along. TB

SPIES IN DIS­GUISE ★★★

Di­rected by Troy Quane, Nick Bruno. Voices of Will Smith, TomHol­land, Rashida Jones, Ben Men­del­sohn, Karen Gil­lan, Reba McEn­tire, Rachel Bros­na­han. PG cert, gen re­lease, 101 min Smith voices a suave spy who gets trans­planted into the head of a pi­geon in the lat­est ho-hum fam­ily film from Blue Sky An­i­ma­tion. Will as a con­fused bird is much more en­ter­tain­ing than Will as James Bond. For the larger part of the mid­dle act, the film-mak­ers have enor­mous fun with the di­etary, so­cial and scat­o­log­i­cal habits of the fly­ing rat. The look is all sec­ond-hand In­cred­i­bles. The faces are those of the voice tal­ent. But it’s funny enough. DC

STAR WARS: THERISE OF SKY­WALKER ★★

Di­rected by JJ Abrams. Star­ring Car­rie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Wil­liams, Adam Driver, Daisy Ri­d­ley, John Boyega, Lupita Ny­ong’o, Os­car Isaac, Domh­nall Glee­son, Richard E Grant, Kerri Rus­sell, Ian McDiarmid. 12A, gen re­lease, 141 min The clos­ing film in third tril­ogy fails to sat­is­fac­to­rily or­der the var­i­ous strands left hang­ing. We be­gin with a fu­ri­ous col­lec­tion of nar­ra­tive bits that strug­gle to form a co­he­sive pat­tern. It’s as if Abrams opened the door on a room full of squab­bling chick­ens and, rather than mak­ing any ef­fort to calm them down, closed it again and let them sort it out for them­selves. There is some good ac­tion, but “fan ser­vice” trumps nar­ra­tive sense through­out. DC

PHO­TO­GRAPH: CLAIRE FOLGER/LION­S­GATE

Kather­ine Lang­ford, Toni Col­lette, Jamie Lee Cur­tis, Don John­son, Michael Shan­non, Riki Lind­home and Jae­den Martell in Knives Out.

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