True-story thriller Hotel Mumbai is in cinemas, and on Sky, from this weekend, with Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch, Meryl Streep in The Laundromat and psychological horror Don't Let Go also on screens.
Hotel Mumbai ****
Anthony Maras's gripping and graphic dramatisation of the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai does not spare on savagery in a story about acts of heroism from ordinary people and acts of evil by the brigand of Islamic terrorists who unleashed jihad in a series of coordinated attacks on the Indian city.
One hundred and seventy-four people were left dead after four days of carnage, and for his unflinching and incredibly intense movie Maras zooms in on the Taj Hotel, the five-star pleasure dome which became the main focus of the terrorists' hate.
In a story as big and terrible as this, the personal experiences of a group of hotel guests are front and centre - an arrogant Russian businessman, a British-Muslim heiress and her American husband and their infant son, backpackers caught up in the carnage, and the actual staff of the hotel, in particular the always-excellent Dev Patel as waiter Arjun. Read our full review here.
The Goldfinch **
On paper, this film adaptation of The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt's labyrinthine doorstep of a novel, has everything going for it.
John Crowley, the director of the Oscar-nominated Brooklyn, is behind the lens; acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins brings his exquisite vision to every scene; Peter Straughan (who also untangled Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for the big screen) wrote the screenplay; Nicole Kidman is among the cast; and that Pulitzer prize-winning book is, after all, the source material.
However, transferring a multi-layered 800-page book to the screen has proved too difficult a task, even for those considerable talents. At two-and-a-half hours in duration, every detail of the celebrated (by some) text seems to have been crow-barred into some kind of place and although such fidelity is admirable it makes this tale of art world skulduggery, occasional violence, childhood trauma and adult obsession ponderous and sluggish. Read our full review here.
Don't Let Go ***1/2
David Oyelowo stars as Jack Radcliff, a homicide detective who clearly has a very strong relationship with his young niece, Ashley (an impressive Storm Reid). Her father, Jack's brother Garret (Bryan Tyree Henry), is unreliable, bipolar and has a history of drug abuse. Family bingo, eh?
Ashley's always ringing Jack, but one day she calls, begging for help. When he gets to her house he finds her and her parents dead. It seems to be a double murder and suicide initiated by Garret, and Jack feels guilty for pushing his brother a little too hard to get his act together.
Things get very strange a couple of weeks later when Jack gets a call from Ashley. And then another, and other, until it dawns on him that his deceased niece is calling from the past, when she was still alive. Read our full review here.
The Laundromat ****
Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z Burns have, in their sixth feature together, fashioned an amusing burlesque which won't change the world - or indeed US tax avoidance - but it will pass a pleasant 90 minutes or so.
Meryl Streep plays Ellen Martin, James Cromwell plays her husband, and they are a retired couple who take a cruise boat around Lake George in New York to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. All is well in a sedate, elderly American way until a dreaded - and indeed mildly cartoonish - tidal wave suddenly submerges the boat. The hubby drowns, Meryl is left distraught, though she has her daughter and her two grandchildren to keep her company in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, the increasingly forlorn and dotty matron - yes, it's Meryl avowedly in a comic role - tries to recoup her insurance claim following the boat accident. Despite dogged perseverance and a flight to the West Indies, all she finds is a Russian doll sequence of shell companies, each hiding behind another company's equally fictitious status. Read our full review here.
Ad Astra ****1/2
The Latin phrase 'Ad Astra' translates in English as 'to the stars' - and after watching this space opera viewers will be left with more than a twinkle in their eye.
The 122-minute cinematic odyssey chronicles a journey through the vastness of the cosmic unknown, while decoding the darkness that comes with the conflicting voyage of self-acceptance.
Leading astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) is cool, calm and collected - his pulse has never gone above 80bpm - but his unresolved daddy issues beat loud and clear. Read our full review here.
The Farewell ***1/2
Made with the necessary narrative and directorial guile to get the Oscars in its sights, and with dialogue in English and Mandarin Chinese, The Farewell presses all the right buttons and is a heart-warming tale about cultural dislocation.
Lulu Wang's story could be based on one of those big Asian-American family saga fictional blockbusters, always written by a Chinese-American or Korean-American female novelist.
It isn't necessarily this as such, but is, rather, based on a true story or, more properly, "based on an actual lie" as the opening credits inform us. But it might as well be a capacious tugs-at-the-heart novel, ready to greet you when next you pass through an airport. Read our full review here.
Rambo: Last Blood **
But this last post for the 37-year-old franchise is a cheap and rushed send-off. There are plenty of bodies but not much soul.
Don't remember him this way. Read our full review here.
Downton Abbey ***
Well bless our stars! The King and Queen of Engerland are coming to visit Downton Abbey and upstairs and down(ton)stairs have got their bloomers in a right old twist.
Well, not quite. Those doughty souls skulking in the dim light of the basement do indeed go into a scurrying and skivvying meltdown, while those in the gilded, over-upholstered rooms above sigh manfully with aristocratic poise, loll elegantly on settees, and murmur stuff about "duty" in accents you could use to carve a chandelier.
So here it is, then! Julian Fellowes' long-awaited Downton Abbey movie and it will not disappoint fans of the lifestyles of the fantastically rich and the fantastically well-bred. Clichéd, silly, and with a plot more telegraphed than a Midwest highway in 1930, it really does lay it on thick. Read our full review here.
The Hustlers trailer does the film little justice.
It amps up the raucous fun this crime caper from writer-director Lorene Scafaria offers but doesn't hint at the emotional heft that elevates this movie from good to great.
Based on a 2015 New York magazine long-read article by journalist Jessica Pressler, played here with aplomb by Julia Stiles, Hustlers follows a group of strippers who turn to ethically dubious tactics to swindle money out of their targets when the recession hits. Read our full review here.
Extra Ordinary ****
Extra Ordinary writing-directing duo Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman's feature film debut is a remarkable achievement - a wholly unique cinematic experience that is grounded with a lot of heart.
This delightfully silly supernatural comedy follows Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins), a driving instructor in a small Irish town who has sworn off her supernatural abilities after an exorcism went horribly wrong in her childhood.
She becomes romantically interested in her new driving student Martin Martin (Barry Ward), an eligible and charming local widower. It soon turns out he has only engaged her services to try to persuade her to help him and his teenage daughter Sarah (Emma Coleman) rid their home of his late wife who has been haunting them from beyond the grave. Read our full review here