What a bumper week!
What with Batman turning 80 and the equally aged Superman looking increasingly hokey, it's high time we had a new kid on the superhero block.
Thing is, DC superhero Shazam is just as old as those two crime-fighting duffers and, in fact, made his comic book debut as the first superhero to bear the Captain Marvel name as far back as 1939. Since then copyright actions from Marvel et al and a name change have rather left him on the fringes of mainstream comic book culture.
Bravo so for DC Comics and director David F Sandberg - who's usually found churning out pulpy horror movies like Annabelle: Creation - for dusting down Shazam's uber cheesy outfit and, indeed, attitude for this coming-of-age (quite literally) superhero flick with a big heart and lots of comedy chops. Read our full review here.
The Keeper ****
This is the amazing true story of Bert Trautmann - a German prisoner of War during WWII who became a post-war hero as a goalkeeper at Manchester City.
German actor David Kross - who you might remember from The Reader - plays Trautmann in this engaging biopic, which also delves into Trautmann's private life, and the effect the horrors of war had on him.
If you're not a football fan you shouldn't disregard The Keeper. This isn't a sport film as such - it's the compelling story of a truly remarkable man. Read our full review here.
Last Breath ****
Last Breath is a dramatic, sometimes moving film which tracks the lives of deep sea divers working on the seabed in the North Sea while in the throes of a challenging occurrence involving one of their team.
Real footage, filmed by the divers' helmet cameras lends palpable drama to this remarkable documentary. The film also knits in additional reconstructed scenes featuring the self-same individuals who were confronted with challenges they had never before experienced. A fearfully disorienting sequence of events was set in train some '12 hours steam' from Aberdeen that fateful September night in 2012.
The Topaz, the ship which carried the divers, was 100 metres in length and 20 metres in width and had been locked into position in the North Sea, to allow maintenance work to be done on the seabed. This was the vessel from which the men would dive, having ensconced themselves in the diving bell. Read our full review here.
Pet Sematary ****
We've said it before and we'll probably say it again but if you're making a horror movie, you can't go far wrong with a demonic cat named after Winston Churchill and a changeling waif.
They both take centre stage in this unnervingly effective and moving new adaptation of Stephen King's (possibly) scariest novel. It's not short on scares and a pervading sense of dread, but this story of a happy young family brought low by evil outside forces and their own demons is built on solid performances and very human emotions.
When Dr Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) and his family move to rural Maine to escape the Boston rat race, it seems they've arrived in a country idyll. Their house backs onto 50 acres of forest and countryside, but there among the dreaming oaks and verdant pastures is a pet cemetery where local kids bury their dead animals. Beyond that again, is swamp land which was once a Native American burial ground, a strange gateway between life and death in the misty, petrified forest. Read our full review here.
The Sisters Brothers ****
Let's all try really hard to forget that Holmes & Watson ever happened at Christmas, because John C Reilly has truly paid his double act dues for 2019. First came the misty-eyed magic of Stan and Ollie in January (what do you mean you didn't go twice?), and now we have The Sisters Brothers, a Western where Reilly gets the perfect partner in crime, Joaquin Phoenix.
Guns-for-hire Eli and Charlie Sisters are almost out of ammo. The sensitive Eli (Reilly) is tired of the killing, the clientele and the after-hours antics of oafish younger brother Charlie (Phoenix). He tells him: "We've had a good long run, we're still alive, we've a bit of our youth left - this is a chance to get out." But, of course, there's one last job. It involves gold - and you know how that usually turns out...
If you were asked what would be the unlikeliest film that Rust and Bone and A Prophet director Jacques Audiard could make, chances are a Western would be neck and neck with a musical. And yet here he is, saddling up for his English-language debut with Spain standing in for California in 1851. And how. Read our full review here.
Missing Link ***1/2
The charming, earnest and dizzyingly ambitious stop-motion animation Missing Link is a beautifully captured tale of friendship, identity and empathy.
In Victorian London, intrepid explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) wishes to earn himself a place in a highly exclusive institution, headed by the pompous Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry).
In order to prove himself to be one of the foremost investigators of myths and monsters, Lionel travels to America's Pacific Northwest to discover one of the world's most legendary creatures - Bigfoot. Read our full review here.
The Limit Of ***1/2
Alan Mulligan's noirish slow-creeper is based on a solid premise involving an exploitative bank and the subversive, vengeful act that aims to rock the financial institution to its foundations.
Dublin, Ireland, soulless, sterile office blocks and we are at the tail-end of the most recent recession where James Allen (Laurence O'Fuarain) works for a bank, which according to a TV news report, has a reputation for "aggressive selling and a willingness to foreclose on families suffering mortgage arrears".
Moody and troubled though he appears to be, James is valued as a keen seller of financial products. His colleague Alison (Sarah Carroll) is also a model employee yet fails to get the promotion she hoped for. Read our full review here.
Happy as Lazzaro **1/2
In Happy as Lazzaro - whose original Italian title is Lazzaro Felice - director Alice Rohrwacher has aimed to make a meaningful but surreal parable for our times, rather than an attractive period piece, which is what it is for the first half.
The film begins with real promise but fizzles in its second act into a foggy portentousness.
However, newcomer Adriano Tardiolo is never less than mesmerising as the mercurial Lazzaro. Read our full review here.
Five Feet Apart **
Actor Justin Baldoni's (Jane the Virgin) directorial debut takes a nauseatingly shallow look at a life-shortening genetic disorder and never rises above being a banal teen drama.
Adapted from Rachael Lippincott's bestselling YA novel about two love-struck teens with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), the story revolves around photogenic leads - Haley Lu Richardson and Riverdale's Cole Sprouse - who run the risk of cross-infection if they come closer than six feet apart. The title refers to the foot the pair 'take back' as their romance blossoms.
It's jaw-droppingly mawkish when it should be heartfelt, offensively trivial when it should be poignant, and draining when it should be inspiring. Read our full review here.
Director Tim Burton's live action take on Disney's 1941 animated classic struggles to get off the ground. In fact, it struggles to find the elephant in the room.
The floppy-eared pachyderm goes under the radar in a CGI adaptation that lacks heart and falls flat. Unlike our misfit hero's ears, the narrative sticks out for all the wrong reasons.
Colin Farrell makes the most of the thin script as a father struggling to keep up with his kids. Read our full review here.
The Man Who Wanted to Fly ****
Frank Shouldice's charming documentary looks at the lives of two elderly brothers in Co Cavan and the dream of one to fly an aircraft.
Well settled in the locality, the Cootes go back 150 years in the Cavan townland of Dromore, which is close to the town of Bailieborough. Ernie and Bobby are the two brothers, living in the same yard in adjoining dwellings. A sensible arrangement.
Eighty-two-year-old Bobby wants to pilot a plane. He has the cash to buy a microlight aircraft; he has been saving for about 13 years. What use is hoarding money? He wants to spend it - money will be of no use to him later on. What's more, he has his field of dreams in the parish of Maudabawn. A helpful neighbour, Seanie McBride, has mown a field cross-ways for the runway. There is even a hangar for the plane. This is no fly-by-night operation. Read our full review here.
Lords of Chaos ****
When it comes to choosing the toughest watch of 2019, Lords of Chaos will dominate many a list. This chill-to-the-bone chronicle of the early years of the Norwegian black metal scene, and the murders, church burnings and suicide that came to define it, is such a deeply unsettling experience that even the steeliest of viewers may find that the events depicted are preying on their mind days later.
Director Jonas Åkerlund's film works as both an elegy to lost youth and a study of what happens when, as he says, the lines between reality and fantasy become blurred and groupthink takes over. With an opening credits coverall, Åkerlund states what follows is "Based on truth, lies... And what actually happened."
What's not up for debate is Åkerlund, his cast and crew's rock-solid commitment to telling this story - among the many shocks here is the fact that they shot Lords of Chaos in just 18 days. Read our full review here.