The all-star 'comedy' The Book Club is the big release this weekend, but there's plenty of good stuff on screens for when the weather turns.
The Book Club *1/2
The debate about decent roles for actresses of a certain age in Hollywood is likely to come to a juddering halt with the release of this gobsmacking half-witted "grey pound" rom-com. A stellar cast, including four of the most esteemed actresses of modern cinema in Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen, Candice Bergen and Diane Keaton (not to mention some pretty high calibre male performers), appear in a movie that was surely cooked up during a script brain-storming session involving too many marketers and too much Voltarol.
The Book Club clanks along like a bus full of ripe American tourists heading to Killarney. The stream of deeply unfunny double entendres includes a prolonged and fairly tittersome sight gag involving a Viagra-induced bout of priapism caused by a mickey finn (chortle). The script wouldn’t make it as far as a Fox drama for grown-ups and the wink-wink smut may actually have been plundered from an ITV sitcom from 1974. Read our full review here.
The Breadwinner *****
Kilkenny-based animation and film studio Cartoon Saloon has already given us two aesthetically breathtaking Oscar-nominated features in The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea - and The Breadwinner is no different. In fact, in many ways it rises above them.
The mesmerising, youth-aimed movie is adapted from the award-winning novel by Canadian writer Deborah Ellis (who also co-wrote the script), and centres on 11-year-old Parvana (voiced excellently by newcomer Saara Chaudry), who lives under extreme patriarchal rule in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Just a couple of minutes into this empathetic and sophisticated animation, you understand why the movie earned the Academy's attention.
Set in 2000-1 when women were banned from leaving their homes unless they were escorted by men, forbidden from going to school, and when learned citizens were beaten for wanting to read and write; the inspiring animation gives viewers an insight into the injustice and repression of this totalitarian society. Read our full review here.
On Chesil Beach ****
Saoirse Ronan is adamant that playing the newly-emigrated Eilis in Brooklyn took more out of her emotionally than the role of Chesil Beach's just-married hero, Florence.
For audiences, the sobs-to-scenes ratio could be exactly the same on Ian McEwan's Dorset coast as it was in Colm Tóibín's New York.
The year is 1962, and Florence and husband Edward (Billy Howle) have arrived for their wedding night at the kind of hotel that feels like it's been in mothballs for at least half a century.
They've barely put the key in the honeymoon suite door when the walls start closing in. The conversation is as stodgy as the food and the double bed across the room takes on the properties of quicksand. Read our full review here.
Solo: A Star Wars Story ***1/2
Is Solo: A Star Wars Story the Star Wars spin-off fans were baying for? Perhaps not. But this Han Solo origins story is a breezily entertaining, if slightly forgettable, romp through the Star Wars universe.
It wasn't all plain sailing bringing this franchise spin-off to the big screen, which usually doesn't bode well for mega-budget blockbusters.
The film had a highly-publicised switch-up of directors months into production, with Ron Howard taking over from Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street) and re-shooting a reported 70% of the film. Luckily, any backstage discord doesn't come across in the finished product which zips along nicely for its 135-minute running time. Read our full review here.
Watch our interview with star Emilia Clarke:
Show Dogs **1/2
How's this for a crossbreed - a family, buddy cop movie with talking dogs? Like a snap back to Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs, here's an occasionally charming and occasionally funny kids' movie about a police dog who goes undercover at a Vegas dog show to bust an illegal trade in rare animal smuggling.
Voiced by rapper Ludacris, our main canine is Max, a no-nonsense maverick of a Rottweiler with a badge who reluctantly teams up with a bungling NYPD detective played by Will Arnett to collar (sorry) the bad guys.
In a clear lift from Miss Congeniality, this all involves macho and unkempt Max undergoing a transformation from gruff loner to primped pooch so he can enter the competition with Arnett posing as his proud owner. Read our full review here.
Edie (Sheila Hancock) has dutifully nursed her husband George for 30 years following a stroke. Now that George has passed on, she wants to fulfil a lifelong wish to climb Mount Suilven in the Scottish Highlands.
Thus begins a passage of looking back. Edie still keeps the old postcard that her father sent many years before, after he had climbed to the summit of Mount Suilven. The affectionate, pithy wording had urged her to climb the mountain herself sometime.
Eighty-three-year-old Edie - short for Edith - never did get that chance, although she has cherished the desire all her life. Her marriage, though it yielded a daughter, was dutiful, functional. Her husband denied her freedom and affection, nipping in the bud her desire to climb the mountain. In her newly widowed state, the idea begins to ferment that now, with no one there to protest, she might climb this mountain and fulfil the dream or obsession. Read our full review here.