It’s perhaps fitting that the horror genre cannibalises classics of bygone decades and churns out glossy remakes to sate the bloodlust of new generations.
So it’s no surprise that the seminal 1976 thriller, based on Stephen King’s brilliantly crafted story of an outcast schoolgirl who discovers she possesses devastating telekinetic powers, should be given some 21st-century spit and polish.
Award-winning feminist director Kimberly Peirce, who shepherded Hilary Swank to her first Oscar in the harrowing true story ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, is an intelligent and intriguing choice for the remake.
Unfortunately, working within the confines of Lawrence D Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s script that slavishly follows King’s text and the superior 1976 film, Peirce is powerless to embellish the narrative with her own insights or brio.
All that distinguishes the two incarnations is the inclusion of video sharing as a means of bullying the titular character and a miasma of digital effects in the pivotal prom night sequence.
Distinguished by committed performances from Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore, ‘Carrie’ resembles its predecessor too closely to justify an exhumation more than 25 years after Brian De Palma’s gripping entry. Pacing is sluggish and the climactic bloodbath fails to quicken the pulse.
Wisely, Peirce does not attempt to replicate the iconic jump-out-of-your-seat coda of the original. She allows the visual effects team one final, fittingly lacklustre flourish, consigning her remake to a shallow grave.
Star Rating: 2½
RottenTomatoes.com rating: 50%
Saving Mr Banks
Almost 50 years after Mary Poppins first charmed cinema audiences, Robert Stevenson’s magical film continues to cast a spell with its lively characters, heart-warming sentiment and hummable tunes.
Yet the colour-saturated fantasy, which won five Oscars including Best Actress for Julie Andrews, almost never materialised on the big screen.
Australian-born British novelist PL Travers famously rebuffed Walt Disney’s efforts to purchase the rights for more than 20 years.
That infamous tug-of-war between the writer and Hollywood filmmaker is recreated in Saving Mr Banks, an elegant and witty comedy emboldened by tour-de-force performances from Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.
Saving Mr Banks has an embarrassment of riches from the stunning lead performances to John Lee Hancock’s assured direction and Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith’s script, which intercut events in 1960s California with vignettes from Travers’s turbulent childhood in 1906 Australia.
Thompson is formidable, tossing verbal grenades at anyone who dares to besmirch Travers’s literary creation, while slowly revealing the chinks in the writer’s armour.
Screen chemistry with Hanks is delightful.
Hancock strikes just the right balance between humour and heart-tugging sentiment, culminating in a glitzy world premiere screening where Travers finally shares Mary with the rest of the world and in so doing, sets herself free.
Star Rating: 4/5
RottenTomatoes.com rating: 92%
Dating back to 1621 Massachusetts, Thanksgiving is one of the biggest national holidays in America, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
The centrepiece of this gathering of the generations is a roast turkey.
In Jimmy Hayward’s computer-animated comedy, the feathered fowls strike back, attempting to change the main course of history so that they can be granted a stay of execution every winter.
‘Free Birds’ offers a surprising alternative to turkey for the Thanksgiving feast, which should appeal to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
It’s light-hearted gobbledygook that lacks visual sophistication or belly laughs.
Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler deliver solid vocal performances while Colm Meaney is a lacklustre villain, though.
The script, co-written by Scott Mosier, is sporadically amusing, like a disclaimer caption at the beginning of the film what affirms this is a work of fiction – “Except for the talking turkeys. That’s totally real.”
But there’s little originality or verve on screen and the plot twists and turns in obvious directions.
Parents will probably be stifling yawns.
Star Rating: 2½
RottenTomatoes.com rating: 21%
In selected cinemas…
Jeune Et Jolie (Young and Beautiful)
Teenager Isabelle (Marine Vacth) goes on summer holiday with her parents (Geraldine Pailhas, Frederic Pierrot) and precocious younger brother, Victor (Fantin Ravat).
After a whirlwind romance with a hunky German tourist, Felix (Lucas Prisor), she gives up her virginity to him, then casts him aside.
Isabelle returns to college in Paris while earning extra money as an escort, catering to the whims of older gentleman.
Most of the customers mean nothing to Isabelle apart from one elderly father, Georges (Johan Leysen), who is gentle, considerate and sweet.
Isabelle is forced to make a spur-of-the-moment decision, she must live with her actions, which ultimately brings her into contact with Georges’s wife Alice (Charlotte Rampling) in Francois Ozon’s delicately observed portrait of sexual awakening.
The Best Man Holiday
Almost 15 years after his breakout hit ‘The Best Man’, writer-director Malcolm D Lee reunites the cast for this soapy comedy drama full of regrets and recriminations set in the run-up to a Christmas gathering that none of the characters will ever forget.
In the film, award-winning writer Harper (Taye Diggs) has never lived up to the promise of his first book, and his most recent manuscript has failed to charm his editor Stan (John Michael Higgins).
So Harper turns his attentions to his heavily pregnant wife Robyn (Sanaa Lathan) and a forthcoming trip to the home of his estranged former best friend, Lance (Morris Chestnut), who is now a star with the New York Giants.
The two men haven’t spoken since Lance discovered Harper slept with his sweetheart Mia (Monica Calhoun) in college.
The old friends reunite at Lance and Mia’s palatial home and tensions from the past quickly resurface, rubbing salt into old wounds and forcing the men and their wives to confront their insecurities and fears.