Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen steal the show this weekend in the wicked comedy Long Shot; Zac Efron curdles the blood as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, and Nicholas Hoult portrays JRR Tolkien in a new biopic of the Lord of the Rings author.
Long Shot ****
Jonathan Levine's raunchy political satire is a giddy symphony of outrageously wicked gags and scabrous laughs.
Seth Rogen reteams with Levine (after 50/50, The Night Before), this time, as a left-leaning and unemployed journalist who becomes a speechwriter for Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), the current Secretary of State who aspires to become the first female POTUS.
Long Shot is the rare, mercilessly funny gem that operates without a safety net and pushes the boundaries of offensiveness in ways that make us both chuckle and think. Read our full review here.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile ***1/2
When it comes to reinvention, Zac Efron has made 2019 a year to remember, bulldozing his song-and-dance man image with this leave-the-lights-on portrayal of serial killer Ted Bundy - in cinemas and on Sky from Friday May 3.
It would be a pity if Efron decides to hit the reset button after Extremely Wicked... because he is a far better dramatic actor than even fans may have given him credit for. He is also the latest in a long line to prove the theory that if you can do comedy you can do anything.
Directed by documentary maker Joe Berlinger - Netflix's Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, the Paradise Lost triptych about the so-called 'West Memphis Three' case - the film sets out to show how Bundy works his way into the life and mind of Elizabeth 'Liz' Kendall (Lily Collins), a single parent who meets him on a night out in Seattle in 1969 and quickly falls in love with him. Read our full review here.
To say that this biopic of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien is a little on the nose is a bit like saying Sauron was a very naughty boy.
Here is young Lieutenant Tolkien of the Lancashire Fusiliers sprawled in a bomb crater on the Western Front during World War One. Overcome with trench fever, he is tended to by a doggedly faithful private called Sam and as his malady descends, John Ronald Reuel begins to have visions of horseman doing noble battle on the dead marshes of the Somme and dark lords arising from the trenches. Next, a premonition of Gandalf's sainted white stallion Shadowfax is glimpsed, standing serene amid the carnage...
German flamethrowers become mighty dragons and, later, someone will remark of Wagner: "Why does it take six hours to tell the story of a magic ring?" Chortle. Read our full review here.
The Curse of Llorona **
Retro Seventies setting? Check! Wise old prelate who, like, knows stuff? Check! People being pinned against walls by malevolent forces? Check! A maverick former priest with a talent for macabre one liners? Check! Jump scares telegraphed loooong minutes in advance? Double check!
The latest frantic and very loud addition to the faint-by-numbers Conjuring "universe" sees a kind of Mexican banshee, who has killed her own children in a act of self-sabotaging revenge, come back from the dead - or possibly Spring break in Cancun - to claim the offspring of other more fortunate mothers. Read our full review here.
Woman at War **
A woman on an anarchic mission to destroy the electric power supply in Iceland is also faced with the prospect of an adoption coming through. She is betwixt and between, like the film itself, which lies somewhere between eco-protest and absurdist drama.
Woman at War is one of those offbeat films that steal into art houses now and then. You know the kind: an eccentric Scandinavian vehicle that, in the interests of rather limp comedy, jettisons the cut-and-dried story.
The perpetually frazzled 49-year-old Halla, walks around the Icelandic countryside cutting power lines and such like. Her accomplice-in-protest is a gruff sheep farmer in whose remote farmstead the woman finds herself as the film commences. Her family come from the locality, she explains to the man, she lives in the capital, Reykjavík. Read our full review here.
Avengers: Endgame *****
There will be no spoilers in this review.
Endgame picks up in the aftermath of Infinity War and we see how those who are left behind struggle to cope with half of the world's population disappearing before their eyes.
The remaining Avengers are all dealing with their loss in their own ways, but when someone (we're afraid to say anything too detailed) has an idea of how they might be able to undo Thanos' actions, they come together to give it their best shot, and they will only have one. Read our full review here.
Eighth Grade *****
Add this to the 2019 Oscars gripe list: Eighth Grade writer-director Bo Burnham (below) and star Elsie Fisher should have been nominated. This is as great a little story about endings and beginnings as you're ever going to see, taking everyone back to their younger selves to find the humour in poignancy and vice versa.
As she completes her last few days in middle school, Kayla (Fisher) finds the to-do list pressure is on like never before: to be cool, attractive, funny and have all the answers ahead of high school in September. But while she's dispensing the advice in her YouTube videos - "getting a lot of views" - Kayla feels she has no one to turn to herself with 'just' dad (Josh Hamilton) at home and no friends outside her room.
By rights they should fit climbing holds in every cinema showing Eighth Grade because the audience will be up the walls with embarrassment and worry as Kayla tries to get a grip on young adulthood - and viewers remember all the times they dangled by fingertips. Read our full review here.
Rike (Susanne Wolff) is the highly-skilled yachtswoman and paramedic who finds herself at the centre of a tense refugee drama in the open seas in Wolfgang Fischer's compelling and disturbing Styx.
Fischer's deliberately functional drama builds the tension incrementally from a low base until you are stone-cold riveted. Rike is a Cologne paramedic, established by a rather non-sequitur-style opening scene which details the aftermath of a car crash where we see her attending to the critically-injured driver.
The action then cuts to Gibraltar, with its vast Rock over-towering the airport and the football pitch, filmed in brilliant panoramic shots. Barbary apes clamber up and down, one of them wanders through a quiet street. Read our full review here.
The Dig ***
Moe Dunford sure has it tough in this stark debut feature from twin brothers Andy and Ryan Tohill. At various points in The Dig, the Waterford actor is whacked across the head with a spade and beaten up by thugs and left bleeding in the street.
Then he falls down a well and, possibly worst of all, gets gunged by a broken shower in a freezing-cold abandoned house out on the bog.
The whole time, you feel like the very earth is about to swallow Dunford up as he toils in Sisyphean agony, digging holes out on that vast and grimly beautiful bog somewhere in Ireland. Read our full review here.
Ash is Purest White *****
In Ash is Purest White, the imperious Qiao (played by Zhao Tao) and her edgy lover Bin (Liao Fan) are a Bonnie and Clyde couple, inextricably tied together despite fallings-out and prison spells.
Jobs are threatened in a city known for its vast mining enterprise while capitalists are fulminated against in a broadcast by Qiao's father. He is a diehard Communist, shouting, in vain it seems, into a radio microphone attached to a factory loudspeaker. But it's the love story between the two hardened lovers that captivates from start to finish in this marvellous film. Read our full review here.
Donbass is in effect a series of 13 fictional snapshots, with a screenplay from writer-director Sergei Loznitsa, based around real amateur footage from the beleaguered area in Eastern Ukraine.
Co-produced with French, Dutch and Romanian companies, the film was made with the support of the Creative Europe Programme (Media of the EU) and it was winner of the Cannes Un Certain Regard Best Director award in 2018.
Since 2014, the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine has been a battleground between pro-Russian separatists, nominally Putin supporters, and nationalists inclined to the West. World War II, Stalin's reign of terror and famine are still alive in people's memories and lace the voiced insults and the meaningful silences alike. There is some black comedy - fake news inevitably rears its head - and the fictional scenarios in Donbass are based on real events which have actually been filmed in Ukraine. The snapshots, or set-pieces, get murkier and more sordid as the film progresses. Read our full review here.