The best films out now
From Kenneth Branagh's nostalgic journey in Belfast starring Jamie Dornan to Guillermo del Toro's otherworldly Nightmare Alley with Bradley Cooper, here are the best films in cinemas this weekend
Although Kenneth Branagh’s reputation mostly rests on his gallant, theatrical performances as a regular Shakesperean actor, his directing credits are less well-received. Perhaps that’s because nowadays he’s opted for explosive superheroes and big-screen Poirot adaptations. But Belfast is a different direction entirely: Branagh’s getting personal.
Set in 1969, the film is based on his own experiences as a child growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Jamie Dornan plays the father of this family, disturbed by the rising violence and intimidation in the city. He starts to formulate plans to leave, but living anywhere outside Belfast feels like a fantastical proposition.
Photo: EPK/Focus Features
You can always expect Guillermo del Toro to deliver a unique, phantasmagorical experience with his movies. From Pan’s Labyrinth to The Shape of Water, the filmmaking fantasist loves to plunge into dark and weird worlds that feel so tangible on the screen. His new film Nightmare Alley is no different, exploring the carnivals of 1940s America.
The quiet man Stan (Bradley Cooper) stumbles into a job as a carnie, and gets to know all the showmen and women. This includes a geek manager (Willem Dafoe), a crystal ball psychic (Toni Collette), and a woman who can channel electricity (Rooney Mara). Learning the tricks of the trade, he decides to take his talents to the big city – in which he hatches a devious plot with the seductive psychologist Dr Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett).
Photo: Disney/Searchlight Pictures
Following her directorial stint on the starry drama Big Little Lies, British filmmaker Andrea Arnold is now releasing a small passion project. In her first documentary film, Cow, she examines the importance of cattle to our lives.
Arnold describes the film as ‘an endeavour to consider cows. To move us closer to them. To see both their beauty and the challenge of their lives. Not in a romantic way but in a real way. It’s a film about one dairy cow’s reality and acknowledging her great service to us.'
The Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (nicknamed ‘Joe’) is one of the most respected directors on the arthouse scene. He never submits to the studio system nor (until recently) ventures beyond his home country.
For Memoria, his first journey into the English language, he flies across the world to Colombia with Tilda Swinton. She plays Jessica Holland, a Scottish horticulturist visiting her sister in Bogotá. In her travels, she meets a local musician and a French archaeologist who’s building tunnels under the Andes mountains. But she's followed by strange noises, making her question her entire identity.
Photo: Match Factory Productions
Do you like scary movies? Well, the Scream franchise takes the mickey out of all of them. Perhaps that’s why it’s retained the strength to have the infamous Ghostface return (in some form) to every generation since the 90s. And now, the fifth instalment has arrived to redeliver slasher nightmares while simultaneously satirising them.
A new Ghostface killer is on the loose, preying on high-school horror fanatics. The classic heroes Sidney (Neve Campbell), Gale (Courteney Cox), and Dewey (David Arquette) emerge out of the shadows to, once again, stop the cinephilic psychopath from running riot.
Photo: EPK/Paramount Pictures
In recent years, female action heroes have become more populous in Hollywood movies. The 355 is the latest exciting example, gathering together Jessica Chastain, Penélope Cruz, Lupita Nyong’o and Diane Kruger for a teamwork thriller that channels the Mission: Impossible franchise.
A deadly weapon is obtained by mercenaries, and the CIA operative Mace (Chastain) decides to organise an international task force. She joins with BND agent Maria (Kruger), MI6 computer-whizz Khadijah (Nyong’o), and Colombian psychologist Graciela (Cruz) to prevent a global disaster.
Even the lighter, frothier examples of restaurant kitchens on-screen (like Masterchef) look like nerve-shredding nightmares. But director Philip Barantini pushes full-throttle into this dark, anxious world of cookery in Boiling Point – aggressively unfolding in one 90-minute shot moving through an east London restaurant.
The prolific Stephen Graham stars as head chef Andy who, as well as running the kitchen, deals with bad health inspections and nurses guilt about not seeing his son. Many other issues build and build, testing Andy to his limits.
Photo: Vertigo Releasing
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is stapled in history as the leader who proudly declared in 1938 that Adolf Hitler wasn't a threat, publicly holding up their recently negotiated Munich Agreement. The UK would declare war on Germany less than a year later. But what if Chamberlain wasn’t exactly the coward or the failure that history depicts him to be? Munich – The Edge of War, based on the novel by Robert Harris, aims to show a different side of the derided Prime Minister (portrayed by Jeremy Irons).
The film takes place during Chamberlain's negotiations with Hitler. Behind the scenes, in a fictionalised series of events, the British civil servant Hugh Legat (George MacKay) works in secret with German diplomat Paul von Hartmann (Jannis Niewöhner) to retrieve documents laying out the German chancellor's plans. The hope is to stop those plans before they start.
The movies love a bit of nostalgia, for better and worse. As certain auteurs grow older, that desire to travel back increases. Paul Thomas Anderson's new film Licorice Pizza not only goes back to the 70s, but it's also a belated return to a more youthful, liberated style.
Set in 1973, the film explores a sort-of love story between 15-year-old child actor Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and 25-year-old photographer’s assistant Alana Kain (Alana Haim). The colours of the 70s serve as a rocky backdrop to their weird relationship, filled with affection, jealousy, and hate. Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn also star.
Photo: EPK/Focus Features
Will Sharpe is a great allrounder in television. As well as delivering a memorable performance in the creative thriller Giri/Haji and writing the eccentric family drama Flowers, he also recently directed the excellently surreal true-crime drama Landscapers starring Olivia Colman and David Thewlis. Returning to the cinema for The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, Sharpe pushes his strangeness even further – diving into the aesthetically bizarre.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the English artist Louis Wain (1860-1939), whose chief preoccupation was cats. Sharpe captures Wain’s formative years as an anxious painter struggling to support his family. But soon Wain meets the equally peculiar governess Emily Richardson (Claire Foy), promptly falling in love.
In 2016, the French filmmaker Julia Ducournau made deep red waves with her gruesome debut: the cannibal horror film Raw. Now, she’s back to engender more nightmares in Titane.
Following in the footsteps of David Cronenberg's Crash, Ducournau's film follows the dark, fetishistic love between human and machine. An exotic dancer (Agathe Rousselle) endured a crash as a child, and now she's sexually obsessed with cars. Titane won the Palme D'Or at Cannes.
The Coen brothers have always been known as one filmmaking unit, despite credits suggesting the contrary. But for The Tragedy of Macbeth, Joel Coen is striking out on his own with a new black-and-white adaptation of the brutal Shakespeare play.
Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand play the murderous, conspiratorial couple desperate for the throne. Although every Shakespeare film mirrors its director's tastes, with Coen you can expect an especially cinephilic experience.
Ridley Scott’s second film in two months (after The Last Duel in October) dives into a strange, murderous true-crime scandal: one that blew up the fashion world. In 1995, Patrizia Reggiani ordered the assassination of her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci, heir to the Gucci empire. They were married for 10 years, and then endured a lengthy divorce battle involving corporate jealousy, a young lover and a complicit psychic.
Following her lauded performance in Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born, Lady Gaga returns to the big screen as Reggiani with Adam Driver playing Maurizio. House of Gucci also stars Salma Hayek, Jared Leto, Al Pacino and Call My Agent’s Camille Cottin.
Much as 80s movies idealised the 50s, many screen stories nowadays love to revel in the 80s. Just think of Stranger Things, IT, and Wonder Woman 1984. Now, director Jason Reitman – son of Ivan, the director of the original film – reanimates another treasured property from that era: Ghostbusters.
This reboot/sequel moves out of NYC and into a small town in Oklahoma. Single mum Callie takes her family to a weathered old house left by her father. Her kids Trevor (Finn Wolfhard from IT and Stranger Things) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) find an abandoned car nearby, one that bears the classic Ghostbusters insignia. And pretty soon, the surrounding town falls prey to its own colourful phantoms. Paul Rudd also stars.
Mainstream auteur Denis Villeneuve always delivers something new and challenging in his movies. Following Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, he tackles his biggest filmmaking challenge yet: Frank Herbert’s Dune. Many directors have tried and failed to bring Herbert’s famously complicated novel – sweating with interplanetary politics, religious factions, and capitalistic agendas – to the big screen, but in Villeneuve we trust.
Timothée Chalamet stars as Paul, heir to House Atreides, who’s shipped to the desert planet Arrakis. Arrakis houses the valuable resource Spice, which many world leaders are desperate to control. Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Oscar Isaac and Zendaya also star.
Photo: Warner Bros.
The 25th film in the James Bond franchise endured many explosive hiccups on its road to release, with Danny Boyle initially attached before he left due to creative differences. Cary Joji Fukanaga, director of True Detective, eventually replaced him and everything seemed to be going well… until Covid happened. With each postponed release date came another round of pressure. Bond not only has to save the world – he has to save the cinema.
Thankfully, No Time to Die is a good film and rose fast at the box office. Daniel Craig’s Bond movies took a more interconnected approach, all part of an ongoing story, and this one serves as the finale. The threat this time is from Lyutsifer Satin (Rami Malek), who’s intent on releasing a nanorobotic virus to cleanse the world. Also stars Naomie Harris, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw.
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