It's a great weekend for great films.
Queen & Slim ****
You may have been on some bad Tinder dates but nothing will ever be quite like the one that throws together two mismatched young black Americans (Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, interviewed above) in this gripping tale of romance flowering in the festering gutter of racism.
It's a grimy portrait of modern America that fair crackles with nervous energy, a freewheeling allegory that is also a romantic road movie and a serious indictment of the US's eternal and seemingly intractable problem with race.
Making her feature debut, Melina Matsoukas (interviewed above with writer Lena Waithe), directs in a loose and vivid style. Call it a date movie but one that embraces black history, birthright, family, and protest - wrapped up with all the energy and tension of a neat little thriller. Read our full review here.
The Lighthouse *****
Some dreams - HB bringing back the Kilimanjaro ice cream, Deftones releasing another album as great as White Pony, Irish people returning to say 'yes' instead of 'absolutely', Christopher Walken appearing as a panellist on RTÉ2's Soccer Republic ('I. Watched. Shel-bown. They. Played. Bohemians.') - seem destined to never come true.
Here's one that has: Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe bringing out the best and worst in each other in The Witch director Robert Eggers' metaphysical Mutt and Jeff, set off the coast of 19th-Century New England. "Nothing good can happen when two men are left alone in a giant phallus," Eggers contends. He's so wrong!
What The Witch did for goats' place in cinematic history The Lighthouse does for seagulls. Bar Oscar nominations for Eggers, Pattinson and Dafoe - another dream, only cinematographer Jarin Blaschke received a nod - there can be no higher compliment. Read our full review here.
Uncut Gems ***** (on Netflix from January 31)
It is rare that a film as relentlessly propulsive and uniquely gripping as Uncut Gems comes along - probably about as rare and mesmerising as the uncut opal around which a lot of the action centres in this high-octane thriller.
From acclaimed sibling filmmaking duo Josh and Benny Safdie, who were behind the excellent 2017 crime drama Good Time starring Robert Pattinson, Uncut Gems similarly thrives on chaos and a mounting sense of stress that verges on panic-inducing.
Adam Sandler is fully immersed in the role of Howard Ratner, a fast-talking Manhattan diamond district jeweller who funds his compulsive gambling habit with increasingly high stakes dodgy dealings. Read our full review here.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood ****
Fred Rogers was the host of the US public television series Mr Rogers' Neighborhood and a cultural icon to millions of Americans.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not a biopic. It tells the true story of what transpired when a hard-nosed investigative journalist was assigned to write a profile of Rogers, played here by a magical Tom Hanks.
The cynical journo, played by Matthew Rhys (The Americans), sneers at this fluffy assignment. As he goes to meet Rogers his wife pleads, "Please don't ruin my childhood." As if... Read our full review here.
Richard Jewell ****
Clint Eastwood has just made his strongest film since Gran Torino. The true story at its centre is riveting. There are three superb performances. The collective aim to restore a man's honour has been achieved - but not without further controversy.
Richard Jewell was the security guard who discovered a bag filled with explosives at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and helped to save hundreds of lives by evacuating the area before the bomb went off. He was hailed as a hero - but within days he became an FBI suspect. His life was torn apart when his name was leaked to the media.
Jewell was never charged with any crime and was subsequently exonerated, with the bomber, Eric Rudolph, captured in May 2004. Jewell passed away in 2007 at the age of 44 after suffering poor health for a number of years. Read our full review here.
The Rhythm Section **
The producers of James Bond are involved in this little cousin of Bond. So, you can see the board meeting at Paramount. Pump money into it. Have exotic locations - Madrid, Tangier, Marseille, the undulating hills of Surrey - use the usual London and New York stuff as filler. Parts of the film were shot in an unidentified Dublin, so there's more exotic.
If the Bond folk are involved the 'money' box is ticked. Likewise, the 'exotic location' box is ticked, but you wouldn’t miss much if you miss The Rhythm Section.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote ***
Terry Gilliam's long-plagued dream project finally hits the big screen after a 25-year wait, but his ambitious tale feels like it's past its sell by date.
As chronicled in 2002's captivating documentary Lost in La Mancha, the Monty Python member’s project was mired in countless issues from the get-go - natural disasters, lawsuits, insurance setbacks, location issues, a cast injury (Jean Rochefort), financial hang-ups, recasts and false starts - all hindered the project over the last three decades.
In a role once meant to star the late and great Robin Williams, Johnny Depp and Ewan McGregor among others, Adam Driver stars as Toby, a big-shot but artistically unfulfilled Hollywood TV commercial director, who longs for the resurgence of his film making heyday.
When he comes across a bootleg copy of his award-winning black-and-white student film about the 'ingenious gentleman' Don Quixote, he hunts down his former cast: his Sancho Panza died from booze, his bewitching leading lady Angelica (Joana Ribeiro) has scarpered to Madrid, and his charming Javier, a deluded elderly cobbler (Jonathan Pryce), is still convinced he's the errant knight.
What follows is a hallucinatory and frustratingly disjointed journey through the Spanish countryside as Toby is forced to reluctantly play his part as a trusted squire to the wannabe chivalrous 'Knight of the Woeful Countenance'. Read our full review here
The Personal History of David Copperfield *****
The ninth film based on Dickens' eighth novel, The Personal History of David Copperfield is an impressive addition to the CV of the great Armando Iannucci (The Day Today, Brass Eye, The Thick of It, Veep), who both wrote and directed, and it's a major step up from his previous movie, the more cult-ish The Death of Stalin.
Quite simply, this is his move to centre-stage, mainstream movie-making. And he's played it like a Celluloid Lionel Messi.
The cast is fantastic, which means Dev Patel had to be on top form in the titular role. Alongside him are the likes of Tilda Swinton (a captivating Betsey Trotwood), Hugh Laurie (superb as Mr Dick), Peter Capaldi (a great Mr Micawber), Ben Whishaw (an impressively appalling Uriah Heep), and our own Bronagh Gallagher as Mrs Micawber and Rosaleen Linehan as Mrs Gummidge. Read our full review here.
The Grudge ***1/2
Even by horror film standards, this is a pretty downbeat movie, as all the characters involved are either doomed or suffering from a bad deal in life. And despite it being highly derivative, it's also very enjoyable in a blood-soaked Scooby-Doo kind of way, with lots of look-out-behind-you and jump-scary moments.
The reboot's premise is pretty straightforward. After a young mother inexplicably murders her family in her own house, a detective attempts to investigate the case, only to discover that the house is cursed by a ghost with - you've guessed it - a grudge.
The Grudge rattles along at a fine pace and the body count is impressively high. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep a viewer interested right up to the final surprise. Read our full review here.