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- Gone Girl
- Love, Rosie
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3D
- The Best Of Me
- The Boxtrolls
- What We Did On Our Holiday
Gone Girl 4 stars
On her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne vanishes without trace. Her husband Nick works with the police to front a high-profile media campaign to secure the safe return of his "amazing Amy". In the glare of the spotlight, fractures appear in the Dunnes' marriage and police and public both question Nick's innocence. With Amy's creepy ex-boyfriend Desi Collings as another suspect, Detectives Rhonda Boney and Jim Gilpin search for answers.
- GenreAdaptation, Drama, Romance, Thriller
- CastNeil Patrick Harris, Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Boyd Holbrook, Scoot McNairy, Missi Pyle, Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens.
- DirectorDavid Fincher.
- WriterGillian Flynn.
- Duration149 mins
- Official sitewww.gonegirlmovie.cok
Ignorance is bliss when it comes to Gone Girl. If, like me, you haven't read Gillian Flynn's 2012 psychological thriller and you know nothing of the serpentine twists that propelled the novel to the top of the bestsellers list then jealously guard your cluelessness.
There's an undeniable delight watching Flynn wrong-foot us with this spiky satire on media manipulation and the glossy facade of celebrity marriages. When the central characters promise to love, honour and obey, till death do them part, one of them takes that vow very seriously.
Admittedly, you have to dig deep beneath the surface of David Fincher's polished film to find the jet black humour but it's there, walking hand-in-hand with sadism and torture that propel the narrative towards its unconventional denouement.
The film version of Gone Girl is distinguished by a career-best performance from Rosamund Pike as the pretty wife, who vanishes without trace on her fifth wedding anniversary and is presumed dead at the hands of her handsome husband (Ben Affleck).
Pike has to plumb the depths of human emotion in a demanding and complex role, by turns brittle and steely, terrified and driven. She's almost certain to earn her first Oscar nomination.
In stark contrast, Affleck is solid but little more as the spouse who pleads his ignorance but hides secrets from the people he adores. As battles of the sexes go, it's a resolutely one-sided skirmish.
On the morning of his anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) calls detectives Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) to his home. There are signs of a struggle and his wife Amy (Pike) is missing.
Nick's sister Margo (Carrie Coon), who has never liked Amy, assures her sibling that everything will be fine. "Whoever took her's bound to bring her back," she quips cattily.
Nick and Amy's distraught parents (David Clennon, Lisa Beth) front a high-profile media campaign to secure the safe return of "amazing Amy". In the glare of the spotlight, fractures appear in the Dunnes' marriage and police and public question Nick's innocence.
Gone Girl holds our attention for the majority of the bloated 149-minute running time, with a couple of lulls and a disjointed final act. Pike's mesmerising theatrics light up the screen and there is strong support from Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's creepy old flame.
Fincher's direction is lean, complemented by snappy editing and a discordant score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who won the Oscar for their music to The Social Network.
Once you regain your balance from Flynn pulling the rug from under your feet, this is a slick yet slightly underwhelming whodunit that doesn't quite scale the dizzy heights of shock and suspense previously achieved by Jagged Edge, The Usual Suspects or indeed, Fincher's 2005 film, Se7en.
Love, Rosie 3 stars
Rosie Dunne and Alex Stewart have been best friends since they were children: completely at ease in each other's company. This seemingly unbreakable bond shatters when Alex and his family move from Dublin to America. Rosie and Alex vow to remain best friends despite the distance that separates them, but those thousands of miles are hard to bridge.
- GenreComedy, Romance
- CastJaime Winstone, Tamsin Egerton, Lily Collins, Art Parkinson, Christian Cooke, Sam Claflin.
- DirectorChristian Ditter.
- WriterJuliette Towhidi.
- Duration102 mins
- Official sitewww.facebook.com/LoveRosieFilmUK
Cecelia Ahern's 2004 novel Where Rainbows End provides the inspiration for this romance about two best friends, who take a leap of faith and wonder if they might have made a terrible mistake. Rosie Dunne (Lily Collins) and Alex Stewart (Sam Claflin) have been best friends since they were children: completely at ease in each other's company. This seemingly unbreakable bond shatters when Alex and his family move from Dublin to America. Rosie and Alex vow to remain best friends despite the distance that separates them, but those thousands of miles are hard to bridge. Rosie can always rely on her sassy best friend Ruby (Jaime Winstone) to buoy her spirits. Meanwhile, Alex is charmed by the beautiful Sally (Tamsin Egerton). The years pass, but Rosie and Alex feel the same undeniable connection and they must decide whether to gamble everything on being together or accept that fate has other plans for them on divergent paths.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3D 3 stars
Genetically modified turtle brothers Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello grow up in the sewers of New York under the guidance of their mentor: a giant rat called Splinter, who teaches them Ninjitsu. Aided by plucky journalist April O'Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick, the turtles wage war on a shadowy figure called Shredder and his army, known as the Foot Clan, who are spreading fear and terror throughout the Big Apple.
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Romance
- CastTohoru Masamune, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Arnett, Megan Fox, William Fichtner.
- DirectorJonathan Liebesman.
- WriterAndre Nemec, Josh Appelbaum, Evan Daugherty.
- Duration101 mins
- Official sitewww.ninjaturtlesmovie.co.uk
- Release11/10/2014 (Scotland); 17/10/2014 (UK & Ireland)
The adventures of turtle brothers Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael began life in the mid 1980s as an irreverent comic book and rapidly spawned an animated TV series, a trilogy of films and a dizzying array of merchandise. Turtle power has endured to the present day, including a computer-animated series on Nickelodeon.
It's no surprise then that Jonathan Liebesman, director of Wrath Of The Titans, has resurrected the heroes in a half shell for the big screen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an outlandish, action-heavy romp that remains faithful to earlier incarnations, condensing the characters' back-story into a snazzy comic book-style opening sequence.
Die-hard fans will enjoy the heavy whiff of nostalgia, but if Liebesman was hoping to indoctrinate a new generation, he has cowabungled it. His film is incredibly violent, albeit bloodless, reducing two very young boys in my screening to distressed screams.
The lack of spilt blood is preposterous, especially when the turtles face chief villain Shredder, who sports armour festooned with blades. Razor sharp projectiles scythe through the air but miraculously don't nick flesh. Shredder by name but not by nefarious nature.
Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) grow up in the sewers of New York City. They flourish under rat mentor Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who teaches Ninjitsu to his surrogate sons.
During one of the turtles' sorties above ground, Channel 6 news reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) glimpses the crime-fighters, who are preparing for war with hulking terrorist Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his army, the Foot Clan.
Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello fear exposure so they track down April and spirit her to their subterranean lair. "It's our Fortress Of Solitude, our Hogwarts, our Xavier's Academy," whispers Donatello, piling on the pop culture references.
Once April learns of the turtles' noble quest to destroy Shredder, she pledges her allegiance and ropes in wisecracking cameraman, Vern (Will Arnett), and prominent businessman Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who has publicly declared war on the Foot Clan in a televised speech.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles updates the characters for the modern era. Thus Mikey has a penchant for cat videos on the internet and the three scriptwriters shoe-horn verbal references to films and TV shows with abandon: "Maybe she's a Jedi," whispers Mikey after April reveals she knows Splinter's name without an introduction.
The turtles are rendered through motion-capture performances and look rather creepy, but they somersault to perfection in action set pieces including a tumble down a snow-laden mountainside.
Alas, the hefty budget hasn't stretched to remedying basic continuity errors like when Fox's plastic heroine emerges from a downpour with dry, flowing hair. Believe that and you'll lap up this bland turtle soup.
The Best Of Me 2 stars
At high school, Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier fall head over heels in love but it's a forbidden romance because she is a good girl from a prominent family bound for college and he has the misfortune to be born into a viper's nest of criminals. A tragic accident separates the lovers. Twenty years later, Dawson returns to his hometown to honour a friend's dying wish and he crosses paths with Amanda, who is now married. The spark of attraction still burns bright.
- GenreAdaptation, Drama, Romance
- CastMichelle Monaghan, Schuyler Fisk, Luke Bracey, James Marsden, Liana Liberato.
- DirectorMichael Hoffman.
- WriterMichael Hoffman, Will Fetters, J Mills Goodloe.
- Duration118 mins
- Official sitewww.facebook.com/TheBestOfMeUK
Nicholas Sparks' hopelessly romantic fictions are catnip to Hollywood. Just as fast as the bestselling American novelist can churn out another heart-tugging tale of love lost and found (and lost again), film-makers immortalise the yearning and heartache with as much gloss as they can muster.
In 2012, Zac Efron flexed in a tight-fitting vest opposite Taylor Schilling for The Lucky One. The following year, Josh Duhamel's hunky widower protected Julianne Hough's battered beauty in Safe Haven. Now, James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan stare dreamily into each other's twinkling eyes for this swoonsome yarn about two childhood sweethearts gifted a second chance at happiness when they least expect it.
Sparks has been writing to a predictable, winning formula for years and director Michael Hoffman keeps to the same well-trodden path signposted with regret and guilt as he cuts between timeframes two decades apart.
It's the kind of film in which the handsome and chiselled hero proclaims his undying devotion and the heroine replies, all dewy-eyed and glossy-lipped: "You want me to fall back in love with you? How can I do that if I never stopped?" How indeed...
At high school, Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) and Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato) fall head over heels in love. Alas, it's a forbidden romance because she is a good girl with wealthy parents (Jon Tenney, Caroline Goodall) and aspirations to attend college and he has the misfortune to be born into a viper's nest of criminals ruled by the slippery and abusive Tommy Cole (Sean Bridgers).
A tragic accident separates the teenage lovebirds and they embark on different paths. Twenty years later, Dawson (now played by James Marsden) receives a telephone call from lawyer Morgan Dupree (Clarke Peters) to inform him that his good friend and surrogate father Tuck Hostetler (Gerald McRaney) has died.
Dawson ventures back to his home town to honour Tuck's dying wish and finds that the deceased has sneakily arranged for Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), who is now married, to help scatter the ashes. "We're not here for a reunion, we're here for Tuck," Amanda reminds Dawson.
The spark of attraction between the couple still burns bright and Dawson and Amanda wrestle with their feelings as they honour the memory of a man they both held dear.
The Best Of Me is gooey and emotionally manipulative, building to the inevitable moment when the central characters must decide their fates. Marsden and Monaghan are a good-looking pairing. So too are Bracey and Liberato's younger incarnations although he looks too old to convincingly pass for 18. Someone at the high school should check Dawson's birth certificate.
Screenwriters Will Fetters and J Mills Goodloe regurgitate dialogue from the book with due reverence. Love is a many-splendoured, yet unapologetically cliched, thing.
The Boxtrolls 4 stars
An orphaned boy named Eggs is raised by gentle subterranean creatures that have been unfairly demonised by the terrified, fromage-fixated residents of Cheesebridge. When pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher and his henchmen begin to exterminate the Boxtrolls, Eggs joins forces with the surviving creatures and a girl called Winnie to protect the beasties from harm.
- GenreAdaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Fantasy
- CastToni Collette, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jared Harris, Sir Ben Kingsley.
- DirectorGraham Annable, Anthony Stacchi.
- WriterIrena Brignull, Adam Pava.
- Duration97 mins
- Official sitewww.theboxtrolls.co.uk
Based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls is a rollicking stop-motion animated romp from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman that proves weird can be truly wonderful. With faint echoes of Raymond Briggs' Fungus The Bogeyman, Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi's quirky fantasy imagines a race of subterranean creatures, who root through bins in search of spare parts for their mechanical creations.
Despite a hearty appetite for slimy bugs, these pungent, green-skinned denizens of the underworld are cute rather than scary, possessing relatable human traits such as a passion for music or a quivering fear of the unknown. They spare troll blushes by wearing empty cardboard boxes and the former contents of these mouldering cartons provide each expressive character with a name such as Fish, Knickers, Sweets, Clocks and Fragile (ho ho!).
The meticulous detail of the movable figures and miniature sets is impressive, and co-directors Annable and Stacchi corral a vast team of animators, who produce thrilling chases and quieter moments of ribald humour.
The well-to-do, Victorian-era city of Cheesebridge is visited under the cloak of darkness by the eponymous beasties. One dark night, a Boxtroll called Fish (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) kidnaps the infant son of a local inventor (Simon Pegg) and spirits away the child to the underground lair.
This shocking act plays into the grubby hands of pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Sir Ben Kingsley). "Prepare to say bye-bye to your brie, cheerio to your cheddar!" cackles Snatcher, striking fear into the heart of Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) and the other fromage-fixated noblemen.
They grant Snatcher a place at the cheese-tasting top table if the exterminator and his henchmen - Mr Trout (Nick Frost), Mr Pickles (Richard Ayoade) and Mr Gristle (Tracy Morgan) - kill every last Boxtroll. Unaware that he is human, abducted boy Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) ventures above ground with the Boxtrolls and encounters Lord Portley-Rind's snooty daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning).
She initially believes the horror stories about Boxtrolls devouring children - "Eat me. I'm sure I'm delicious!" - but once Winnie learns the truth about Eggs' past, she agrees to help vanquish Snatcher and his snivelling cohorts.
The Boxtrolls is a delight for the young and young at heart, hinging on the notion that families come in all shapes and sizes. Irena Brignull and Adam Pava's script is laden with verbal and visual gags, striking a gently mischievous tone throughout like when Winnie spots Eggs tugging at the crotch of his uncomfortable suit and whispers, "Don't snatch them in public. That's why they are called privates!"
Frost, Ayoade and Morgan provide the majority of the comic relief between action-packed set-pieces. Remain seated during the end credits for a hilarious scene of existential angst, which succinctly reminds us how pain-staking and time-consuming the stop-motion animation process is.
What We Did On Our Holiday 4 stars
Gordie McLeod is poised to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Scottish Highlands. His self-obsessed son Gavin is hosting the lavish party to impress the neighbours and hopefully secure the captaincy of the local golf club. As the party beckons, Gavin's less successful brother Doug and his wife Abi arrive with their three children in tow. The birthday celebrations are unexpectedly thrown into disarray and a media scrum descends on the family's doorstep.
- GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
- CastDavid Tennant, Billy Connolly, Rosamund Pike, Amelia Bullmore, Ben Miller, Emilia Jones, Harriet Turnbull, Bobby Smalldridge.
- DirectorAndy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin.
- WriterAndy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin.
- Duration95 mins
- Official site
In 2007, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin abandoned the conventions of a tightly scripted sitcom and took a more fluid approach to mining laughs in the breakout hit Outnumbered. While the adult characters' lines were committed to the page, the young actors were allowed to improvise around suggestions from Hamilton and Jenkin, and consequently delivered natural performances, reacting instinctively to set-ups and punchlines.
The writer-directors adopt the same winning recipe for this uproarious feature film debut, an ill-fated family road trip laced with absurdity that touches the heart and tickles the funny bone.
Once again, it's the younger cast who scene-steal with aplomb, explaining why a bout of car sickness is a source of joy ("It's like being a fountain!") and succinctly distilling the anguish and betrayal of parental infidelity into a single throwaway line: "Dad had an affair with a Paralympic athlete with one foot."
That's not to say that Hamilton and Jenkin short-change the rest of the ensemble cast including David Tennant, Rosamund Pike and Glaswegian firebrand Billy Connolly. They snaffle a generous smattering of belly laughs too, like when Connolly's cantankerous grandfather tries to explain Hitler's seizure of land in terms a bairn might understand: "Like Monopoly, but with more screaming."
Gordie McLeod (Connolly) is poised to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Scottish Highlands. His self-obsessed son Gavin (Ben Miller) is hosting the lavish party to impress the neighbours and hopefully secure the captaincy of the local golf club.
Gavin's long-suffering and neurotic wife Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) remains in the background, occasionally exploding with pent-up rage. As the party beckons, Gavin's less successful brother Doug (David Tennant) and his wife Abi (Rosamund Pike) arrive with their three children in tow: 11-year-old Lottie (Emilia Jones), who scribbles repeatedly in her notebook so she can remember which lies she is supposed to tell; six-year-old Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge), who is obsessed with Vikings; and five-year-old Jess (Harriet Turnbull), whose best friends are two rocks christened Eric and Norman.
The birthday celebrations are unexpectedly thrown into disarray and a media scrum descends on the family's doorstep along with an interfering Social Services officer called Agnes (Celia Imrie), who casts doubt on Doug and Abi's ability to nurture their dysfunctional brood.
What We Did On Our Holiday is a rip-roaring riot, laying bare the petty jealousies and deep-rooted fears within a family while dealing with serious issues through the unblinkered eyes of the three children.
Tennant and Miller spark a fiery sibling rivalry with excellent support from Pike and Bullmore, the latter proving that it's the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Hamilton and Jenkin eschew cloying sentimentality in the film's tricky final third, striking a pleasing and ultimately winning balance between musing and amusing.