BOOKSMART

Cert 15 Stars 4

Fantastically funny and heartwarming, this US high school comedy sees a pair of nerdy classmates determined to catch up on the two years worth of partying they’ve missed out on, the night before graduation.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are joyous with a winning chemistry, and are deftly directed with sympathy and care by actress Olivia Wilde, on her debut feature.

She gets the very best from her young cast, including an outrageous by turn by Carrie Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd, soon to be seen in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.

KURSK: THE LAST MISSION

Cert 12 Stars 4

You’ll need to hold your breathe while watching this handsome, gripping and sombre real life story of 2000’s Kursk Russian submarine disaster.

Matthias Schoenaerts is the stern-faced Navy captain-lieutenant who is one of twenty-three sailors trapped underwater after an onboard explosion has crippled his vessel and killed many of his crew during a military exercise in the icy Barents Sea.

Bond girl Lea Seydoux worries as his onshore wife, and Colin Firth is the British Commodore trying to navigate the heavy political weather in order to launch a last minute rescue.

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

Cert 18 Stars 4

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn team up as corrupt cops who become involved in a bank heists in this engrossing and hard boiled crime thriller.

With pacing, dialogue and characterisation worthy of the late great novelist, Elmore Leonard, it’s another stand out exploration of street level America from writer and director, S. Craig Zahler, who previously made the outstanding horror western, Bone Tomahawk.

A tale of the broken dreams of desperate, disaffected and bitter middle-aged white guys, the deadpan black humour, winning chemistry and terrific performances carry the lengthy slow burn which pays off with a superbly staged shoot-out.

CHAINED

Stars 1

This violent psychological thriller is shamelessly provocative, unconvincing and dull, and sees director Jennifer Lynch insulting the intelligence of the audience with a transparent attempt at courting controversy by treating a murderous sex offender with sympathy and understanding.

When a young boy is kidnapped by a Vincent D’Onofrio’s taxi-driving psychopath, Bob, he’s taken to a remote farmhouse where he’s chained to the kitchen sink and renamed Rabbit, where he’s forced to clean up the bloody cadavers that are the result of Bob’s night-time cruising for female victims.

Lacking wit, insight or even the cheapest of thrills or hollow spectacle, this is a contender for the worst movie of 2012.

THE ORANGES

Stars 2

Hugh Laurie returns to the big screen as a straying suburban dad in this weak and flavourless comedy drama.

His comfortable middle class routines are destroyed when the turbulent daughter of his best friend  returns home for Christmas, with alcohol and a shoulder to cry on conspiring to make David’s rocky marriage a little crowded.

The cast work hard to make the film work but the script has them swimming in marmalade. Nina is at least a spirited presence but poor Laurie is reduced to desperate gurning as he chases laughs.

There is some mildly creative profanity but the central romance is a montage of cinematic cliches. If a plucking guitar isn’t pouring syrup over a scene then uplifting festive songs are blasted out to warn the audience that something ‘amusing’ is happening.

This fruitless lemon squeezes the last drop of goodwill long before the end, and really takes the pith out of the audience as it does so.

THE HUNT

Stars 4

Fans of Scandinavian drama will enjoy this absorbing and darkly disturbing tale of mass paranoia set in a small Danish village.

It centres on the members of a close knit hunting party when Mads Mikkelsen’s primary school teacher, Lucas, is accused of indecent behaviour towards the child of another.

Investigation is followed by arrest and the loss of his job but as Lucas awaits formal charges, the village turns against him and a campaign of violence begins.

Lucas’s sense of isolation is heightened by the haunting winter landscapes and the semi-rural environment where everyone regularly carries knives and rifles.

Mikkelsen is on award winning form leading a uniformly excellent cast that includes Alexandra Rapaport and Thomas Bo Larsen.

The taut and paranoid atmosphere is punctuated only by the black humour of Lucas’s brother in law, who is not afraid making callous jokes in the face of extreme adversity at Lucas’s expense.

Slow and quietly gripping tension is firmly built and when violence erupts it’s with a powerful and shocking fury.

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE

Stars 2

Clint Eastwood drags his old bones out of acting retirement for this amiable and undemanding tale of family set in the world of baseball.

As Gus Lobel, Eastwood is a baseball scout who is given one last chance to prove his worth or he’ll be forcibly retired.

He is joined by Amy Adams as his estranged daughter on a scouting trip to North Carolina, where he’s to check out the boy who maybe the next big baseball star.

Eastwood enjoys himself as a beer guzzling, growling, gimlet eyed, grim faced monolith, but it’s the always engaging Adams who grabs centre stage as a corporate lawyer who’s juggling love, life and lawsuits.

John Goodman and Justin Timberlake offering support, but struggle with everyone else with a predictable plot as creaky as Clint’s knees, and dialogue as weak as his eyesight.

Despite the cast valiantly doing their best to raise the script far beyond what it deserves, this will be a poor epitaph to Eastwood’s career if it proves to be his last screen appearance.