Good cinema news - the Light House in Dublin and Palas in Galway are both reopening tomorrow, and the streaming options still remain plentiful. New releases include The Traitor, Marco Bellocchio's account of the true story of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), the first Sicilian Mafia boss to turn state's evidence, a must-see for Mafia movie fans (BFI now).
How to Build a Girl (Amazon Prime now) is based on Caitlin Moran's best-selling novel. Beanie Feldstein, Alfie Allen and Emma Thompson star in this heart-warming coming-of-age story.
Spy Intervention (VOD now) is a comedy spy romance featuring Poppy Delevingne and Drew Van Acker.
Lawyers have a bad name but the rousing The Fight documentary, about the lawyers of the ACLU who have taken on the Trump administration, on www.ifihome.ie (July 31) is worth a view. Curzon will have the equally timely but disturbing Canadian film White Lie, featuring a great central turn by Kacey Rohl as a young woman who uses a cancer diagnosis as a money-spinner (July 31).
Recent cinema catch ups include Honey Boy, Shia LaBeouf's lovely autobiographical story of his life as a child actor with his father (Amazon), Charlie's Angels (July 31, Sky/NOW TV) the remake - which I wish I could say was good, but I can't.
The Kindness of Strangers (Amazon) is one you really need to make your own mind up about because the audience/critic divide on the merits of the film was so sharp. It's a drama with a good heart and a good cast, heavy on meaning and emotion. But the biggest, and best release is Knives Out (July 31, Amazon and others) a star-studded, Agatha Christie style whodunnit.
Slightly older films coming to VOD include Life - with Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds discovering life on Mars. It's quite Alien but it's good. Spike Lee's very funny, sharp Blackkklansman has just landed on Netflix, and Country Strong, not a million miles off A Star is Born but with Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw, is available on Amazon. Look out for Cruel Intentions and Gangs of New York, both on Amazon now.
Family movies to watch out for are The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Sky Cinema/NOW TV now) and Trolls World Tour from tomorrow. My Best Friend's Wedding with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz probably qualifies as a family movie too (Amazon, Tuesday).
Life With Music
VOD; July 27
Director Claude Lalonde’s film (from a screenplay by Louis Godbout) was called Coda for its very brief pre-Covid release in the US but has been renamed for its VOD release tomorrow. A May-to-December story of sorts, it is well acted but a bit ponderous and despite a lovely soundtrack, is not really a film to lift your mood.
Henry Field (Patrick Stewart) is a world famous pianist who, after a long gap, returns to the stage. His manager Paul (Giancarlo Esposito) pushes him but Henry has dreadful stage fright. Enter Helen Morrison (Katie Holmes), a journalist and fan who feels she knows him and wants to write a profile. Henry isn’t keen but when she sees him freeze at a promotion and steps in to help, he is convinced.
They each have a past, they begin to craft a present, what will the future hold? The music is lovely, the performances are good and the script isn’t bad. It’s also beautifully shot. Some of the scenes and set-ups are rather cliched but I think the main issue is the lack of momentum, something compounded by the way in which the story is told. By moving back and forth, it creates a sense of momentum that the end of the film doesn’t deliver on in terms of emotion; to be fair, it set itself a hard task. It’s grand, but just doesn’t quite work.
★★ Aine O’Connor
Cert: 15A; in selected cinemas July 27
Kelly O’Sullivan’s debut feature, (she wrote and stars in it, while Alex Thompson directs) is not for everyone — but I am going to suggest that those for whom it is, will love it. I certainly did, from start to finish I found it honest, funny, frank, realistic, moving, refreshing and admirable.
The film starts as it means to continue, tonally if not literally, with period sex. Bridget (O’Sullivan) meets Jace (Max Lipchitz) at a party and they hook up. It’s the day before Bridget’s interview to become nanny to Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams) daughter of super right-on woke feminists Maya (Charin Alvarez) and Annie (Lily Mojekwu). Bridget’s life is a bit all over the place. She feels a failure but doesn’t do much about it, and she isn’t that interested in children. But six-year-old Frances wakes her from inertia because both Frances and Bridget are a bit bratty.
Their relationship is at the heart of the film but it is about the life of women, the politics, the pressure, the leaking. Those are conversations that lucky women have with close friends but far too many don’t have at all. If you’re of the opinion that such things are private, well, this won’t be for you, but it is all dealt with so matter-of-factly and any humour in it is inherent, not exploitative. I thought it worked incredibly well and I really liked it.
★★★★ Aine O'Connor
Streaming now; BFI and others
Josephine Mackerras shot her debut feature as writer/director in her own apartment, with her own son, and funded it largely with her own money, well, credit card. It was a leap of faith that paid off because Alice is a real little gem.
Alice (Emilie Piponnier) seems to have a lovely life in Paris. She and her doting husband Francois (Martin Swabey) along with their son are all strawberry-blonde cuteness. When her card is rejected in a shop, she discovers not a banking error but a financial meltdown. All their money is gone and when she tries to get answers as to why, her husband disappears too. Alice discovers he has been using high-end escorts and almost by chance, she becomes an escort herself and makes a good friend, Lisa (Chloe Boreham).
This has an echo of Belle De Jour but Alice veers off in its own direction, one that is interesting and feels good. Parts of it are unfeasible but there is an underlying wisdom and reality, a theme of self-respect that will resonate for many. With — shock for a French-ish film involving escorts — hardly any nudity.
★★★★ Aine O'Connor
Cert: G; in cinemas July 31
For one of the first young children cinema releases of our new times, I enlisted the expert help of my nine-year-old niece Chloe. She feels that this film, based on the Bayala toy range, is suitable for anyone from three or four upwards because it looks nice and has a pretty good but straightforward story.
A lot has happened in the kingdom of Bayala before we meet the characters. The world as it once was changed when evil queen Ophira (Lisa Ortiz) stole the last dragon egg, removing the magic from all the elf and fairy tribes. She also kidnapped Surah (Madison Mullahey) a sun elf, and raised her in the shadow land. But when Surah escapes and reunites with her twin Sera (Jessica Webb), magic happens again when a dragon egg is found. But the egg must hatch with its parents so the sisters set off on a quest that will save their world.
There is a nice simple story with strong girl leads, a message about diversity, acceptance, judgement and plenty of fairies. The animation is simple but fine. Small children should be happy.
HHH Aine O'Connnor