Grab the popcorn, there's plenty on at the cinema this weekend!
Birds of Prey ***
First, the good news. Director Cathy Yan has delivered an entertaining DC yarn that looks great, is bursting at the seams with cracking fight scenes, and doesn't overstay its welcome (like so many other super hero movies) by wrapping-up in less than two hours.
Newcomer Ella Jay Basco rivals Ewan McGregor for top marks while respectively playing teenaged thief Cassy Cain and narcissistic crime boss Roman Sionis, and it's also great to see a comic book adaptation directed, written, produced by and starring women. No mean feat that.
But I left the screening feeling less than enamoured by the sum of the film's parts. It felt like a sweary, violent kids' film, rather than something meaty for those aged 16 and over. Ultimately, it's a series of fight scenes rather than a story. Read our full review here
Plus One ***
Every month cool little films are in danger of going under the radar and have to depend on word of mouth to find an audience. Here's this week's - a salted caramel kind of comedy that offers some good advice for living, and loving.
The scene-stealing Maya Erskine and Hunger Games alumnus Jack Quaid p
lay Alice and Ben; friends since college trying to brave their way through wedding season. She's just been dumped; he's permanently all by himself.
Alice comes up with a plan that, in order to avoid banishment to the singles' table, they should accompany each other to the seemingly endless nuptials in their diaries. Of course, the longer you spend with someone the more you start wondering... Read our full review here
Winner of the Palme d'Or 2019 and Best Foreign Motion Picture at the Golden Globes, nominated in Best Picture and International Feature Film categories in the Oscars, Parasite attempts satire about Seoul's haves and have-nots.
You could see it as a toothless screwball comedy about the haves and have-nots in contemporary South Korean society or you might see it as brilliant satire . Rumors about its greatness, however, are greatly exaggerated.
Sure, it could have been great, if it hadn't lost purchase on its premise. The movie intrigues and holds your interest certainly for the first half. Read our full review here
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