Rise of the Guardians *****
Trouble with the Curve **
Alex Cross **
Death of a Superhero ***
Feckless Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) has a grand old time of it in Rise of the Guardians (G), instigating snowball fights with the kids and causing adults to slip on frosted sidewalks, but Jack is a troubled boy: no one can see him, and no one believes he truly exists. Is it because Jack, unbeknownst to himself, has yet to realise his destiny as one of the Guardians? The rise of the dream-poisoning bogeyman, aka Pitch (Jude Law), brings together Nicholas St North (Alec Baldwin), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman (silent throughout, sadly) as they make a final stand on behalf of the hopes and dreams of the world’s children, but they need Jack to find his true worth, and perhaps even learn to believe in himself. Adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire from William Joyce’s children’s book, and directed by Peter Ramsey, Rise of the Guardians is a hugely enjoyable animated movie that is aimed squarely at a young audience. But while the kids will thrill to the beautiful, pin-sharp animation, the expertly marshalled action sequences and a plot that unabashedly pitches good against evil, adults will find the quietly profound subplots about faith, hope and redemption equally entertaining, and perhaps even touching. Sit back, open your heart and enjoy.
Clint Eastwood made something of a fuss in announcing his retirement from acting with Gran Torino (2008), so Trouble With the Curve (12A) must have been a very special script indeed to tempt him back in front of the cameras. Right? Erm, no. A widower and aging baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves, Gus (Eastwood) is losing his sight, and with it his will to live. Dispatched to scout a potential superstar batter in North Carolina, Gus is irritated to discover that his estranged daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), has taken time out from her pressured career as a lawyer to act as his eyes. Can the pair reconcile? Will Mickey find romance with failed baseball pitcher-turned-scout Johnny (Justin Timberlake)? The great curveball the characters have trouble with, of course, is life itself, which insists on eluding their expectations.
Unfortunately, the movie itself — written by Randy Brown and directed by Robert Lorenz — lacks the kind of unexpected spins, drops or curves we associate with tricky baseball pitchers, being instead the slowest and most telegraphed of deliveries, lobbed straight and soft in what appears to be perpetual slow motion.
Alex Cross (15A) stars Tyler Perry as its eponymous hero, a happily married homicide detective who tangles with a killer known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox), a man who thrives on inflicting torture and pain. Directed by Rob Cohen from a novel by James Patterson, the movie also stars Rachel Nichols and Edward Burns as a pair of romantically linked detectives.
All of the main actors are competent in very limited roles, but this is a movie that is much more interested in plot than character. Twist and turn is heaped upon the most unlikely of scenarios in a slick and pacy police procedural which boasts the style, emotional depth and utter implausibility of a feature-length CSI episode.
An accomplished artist obsessed with superhero comic-books, Irish teenager Donald (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is dying of cancer as Death of a Superhero (15A) opens. Ian Fitzgibbon’s film, which Anthony McCarten adapts from his own novel, is for its first half a thoughtful and occasionally profound story about a young man struggling to accommodate a teenager’s usual coming-of-age interests — girls, mainly — with the awareness of his imminent death.
The solid platform established by strong performances from Brodie-Sangster, Andy Serkis as Donald’s psychiatrist and Aisling Loftus as the love interest are undone by the second half of the movie, however, which erodes the viewer’s emotional involvement by evolving into a gauche caper-style tale of Donald trying to lose his virginity before he dies.
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