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Film of the week: Bombshell

Cert: 15A; Now showing

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Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie in a scene from Bombshell

Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie in a scene from Bombshell

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Alexa Demie in Waves

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Alexa Demie in Waves

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys For Life

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys For Life

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Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie in a scene from Bombshell

Sexual harassment in the workplace only became a crime, and gradually at that, under the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015. For a long time various degrees of gender-based discrimination were not illegal - and even after they were it was difficult to shift a mindset that saw nothing wrong in asking young women questions in job interviews, from what their "family plans" were to commenting on the size of a colleague's breasts. Most gender discrimination was against women.

In Bombshell, Jay Roach directs Charles Randolph's screenplay based on the true story of the women of Fox News who brought down station boss Roger Ailes for sexual harassment.

When she decided to take on election candidate Trump about his treatment of women, newscaster Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) got the brunt of his ire, "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes." Then, "Blood coming out of her wherever."

She got death threats from his supporters. Her boss Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) is undecided on Trump and his support for Kelly. His mind is occupied first by new, ambitious beauty Kayla (the only fictional character, played by Margot Robbie) and then by a sexual harassment case brought by former Fox star Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman.) It can only work if other women, like Kelly and Kayla, come forward.

Because of the relative recency of the legislation, many women know exactly what it feels like to be sexually harassed and in its depiction of this, the self-blame, the confusion, the film is spot on.

The notion of sisterhood among women who were the very poster girls for Fox News, the bastion of right-wing anti-feminist rhetoric is interesting. They had all tacitly accepted that their success, their value was related to their appearance,

Roger Ailes was a leg man and no female presenter ever wore trousers behind her Plexiglass table. The film doesn't dig too deep in this, but it does put it out there showing that this was no feminist collective working together. Lots to think about so, but it is also very entertaining and the performances top notch.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Just Mercy

Cert: 12A; Now showing 

This is a week of great movies and director Destin Daniel Cretton's Just Mercy is another case in point.

Cretton, who co-wrote with Andrew Lanham, tells the true story of a fight to undo a race-based miscarriage of justice. It's a great story, well told, and elevated by terrific performances which adds to the growing body of work about the all too long ignored depth and reality of institutional racism in the US.

In 1988, Alabama man Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) was convicted of murder and sent to death row. Newly minted lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B Jordan) wants to uses his education to make a difference and in McMillian he finds an initially reluctant case in point. Foxx is wonderful in the role, Jordan is too and Brie Larson offers excellent support as Eva Ansley.

The story is fairly predictable and obvious in the miscarriage of justice sense, there is no did-he-or-didn't-he element and these stories have been told before. However, that doesn't mean they're not worth telling. But it is also powerful in its depiction of how invested a system can be in being right that it loses sight of what is actually right. It's a film that knows what it wants to be. To all but the fussiest palate it's a satisfying watch.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Waves

Cert: 15A; Now showing

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Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Alexa Demie in Waves

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Alexa Demie in Waves

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Alexa Demie in Waves
 

No matter how together and responsible they might seem to be, teenagers are just not wired for full appreciation of cause and effect. And this is in many ways what lies beneath Trey Edward Schults's third feature, a powerful, stressful, heartbreaking yet hopeful portrait of a middle-class African American family in the midst of a series of events.

Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr) is a high achiever under pressure from his parents (Sterling K Brown and Renée Elise Goldsberry). All set for a wrestling scholarship he doesn't look after an injury and events spiral.

The focus then shifts to his sister Emily (Taylor Russell) who has her own issues to deal with. Schults tells this story about family, parental projection, grief, guilt and so much more almost impressionistically. It's emotional and it lingers and the performances are spot on. If only for discussion purposes it would make a great secondary school outing.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

A Hidden Life

Cert: 12A; Now showing 

You have to be in the mood for Terrence Malick movies, they're always beautiful but they're always long and the point can be elusive. However, his latest offering, still beautiful and still long, and you do still have to be in the mood, is based on a true story and I found it moving, thought-provoking and remarkably relevant.

In 1943, Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) was called up to fight for the Nazis. He had completed his training and afterwards, back home in the glorious Tyrol with his much-loved wife Fanny (Valerie Pachner) and their three young daughters he had a crisis of conscience, eventually realising that he could not swear allegiance to Hitler.

Franz might not have been the only one who disliked the Nazis' murderous xenophobia, but he was the only one who did so openly in a community where 'Heil Hitler' had become the new 'hello' and there were serious repercussions for his family. When he was called for active duty the decision got tougher as the repercussions became more serious. The film is beautifully shot, acted and directed, and you come out with a moral dilemma. But it's three hours long and a lot is unsaid. Which is why you have to be in the mood for a Terrence Malick movie.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Bad Boys for Life

Cert: 16; Now showing 

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Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys For Life

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys For Life

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys For Life
 

It's been 17 years since Will Smith and Martin Lawrence were last Bad Boys on screen and 25 years since they first did it. In this third instalment lots has changed and nothing has. Directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi's film is pedestrian in terms of plot, action and script, but the chemistry that gave the first two films that near cult status is very much still there.

Things have moved on for policing in Miami: there is a new hi-tech unit under Rita (Paola Núñez) and Bad Boy Marcus Burnett (Lawrence), who would like to retire and enjoy his new grandfatherhood. His partner Mike Lowery (Smith), however, wants no such change, and when new bad guys appear and make it personal, Mike wants to deal Bad Boys-style. Lots of shooting, chases and wise-cracking ensues. It's Smith and Lawrence's show but shockingly there are also three juicy enough roles for women over 40. It's silly, violent and exactly what it intends to be - great fun.

★★★ Aine O'Connor

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