CHAINED

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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

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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

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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

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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.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS

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This brightly wrapped Christmas present from the Dreamworks Studio is a fast moving, heart warming CGI animated adventure story with some very familiar voices behind the mythical characters.

Jack Frost is a carefree flying spirit who spends his days using ice and snow to cause mischievous mirth among children, whose life of puckish fun is abruptly ended when he’s recruited by the Guardians.

They’re a band of fairytale figures led by Santa Claus, and include the Easter Bunny and the Toothfairy, who tneed him, to help them stop the Boogeyman giving all the world’s children nightmares. Forever.

Chris Pine leads the excellent supporting cast which includes Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin and Isla Fisher, while The Boogeyman is played with devilish self-pitying glee by a terrific Jude Law, who’s clearly having a ball.

He dwells in a foreboding tower from where he dispatches terrible black steeds on dark clouds to spread fear among sleeping children.

This is an enjoyable and well crafted magic box of entertainment containing exciting rooftop fights, some hefty slapstick and a hissable baddie, all tied up with ribbons of dazzling animation.

It’s generous in providing the audience with a multitude of small touches such as the Northern Lights being a Bat-Signal for the fairytale heroes, while the yetis and elves of Santa’s grotto who are the unsung heroes of the movie.

Some of the dialogue isn’t as sharp as it could be and the focus of the festive holidays  seems more concerned with receiving than giving, but it all barrels along with warmth, peace and goodwill to all mankind. If you don’t enjoy this you probably don’t like Christmas.

PITCH PERFECT

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It’s time to sing song merrily on high with this gleefully uptempo tale set in the world of competitive a cappella, which rattles through its routine sports underdog plot with witty banter, great singing and plenty of verve and energy.

The always engaging Anna Kendrick stars as Beca Mitchell, who joins a University singing group called the Barden Bellas, where she finds herself out of tune with Anna Camp’s band leader, who’s obsessed with her troupe becoming the first all-female national champions.

Struggling against each other and the opposition, the Bellas must also cope with romance, fistfights, arrests, and repeated projectile vomiting.

Sadly after a lot of good work, the movie fails to take a cue from its own characters and plays the finale absolutely safe, leaving the audience entertained but not surprised.

A QUIET PLACE

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Writer and director John Krasinski co-stars alongside real-life wife, Emily Blunt, in this magnificently terrifying apocalyptic horror.

They play a married couple whose family are struggling to survive in a near future world where civilisation has been destroyed and humans are preyed on by creatures who hunt by sound.

Produced by Transformers supremo, Michael Bay, it scared up a thunderous £250m at the global box office on a tiny £13m budget. Smart, sharp and shocking, it’s a stunning example of how to use the simplest techniques to create nerve-snapping tension and will leave you silent with fear.