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Film reviews: Arbitrage | Broken City | Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Glinda (Michelle Williams) in Oz the Great and Powerful. Picture: Disney

Glinda (Michelle Williams) in Oz the Great and Powerful. Picture: Disney

  • by ALISTAIR HARKNESS
 

Our roundup of the latest releases

Arbitrage (15) ***

A fairly rote Wall Street-set morality tale bolstered by a decent performance from Richard Gere as an overextended hedge fund manager whose business and personal life are spiralling out of control. Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Brit Marling co-star.

Broken City (15) **

Sludgy, cliché ridden political drama starring a phoning-it-in Russell Crowe as the corrupt Mayor of New York and Mark Wahlberg as the down-on-his-luck private investigator he hires to follow his adulterous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), but who inevitably discovers more than he bargained for. It’s cartoonish, silly stuff dressed-up as serious, high-minded filmmaking.

Cloud Atlas (15) ***

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry lead an all-star cast playing multiple roles across six-different story strands that jump back and forth between the South Pacific in the 1840s, 1930s Edinburgh, San Francisco circa 1973, contemporary London, 21st-century Seoul and some unspecified post-apocalyptic future. It doesn’t all work, but there’s more than enough here to make taking this nearly three-hour journey worthwhile.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (15) *

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton team up to play grown-up versions of the titular fairytale orphans. With their childhood experiences providing them with their calling in life, they now spend their days as leather-wearing, firearm-bearing guns-for-hire, traveling from village-to-village, dispensing flaming justice to witches while trading barbed – but in no way amusing – insults with one another. A grim fairytale indeed.

Mama (15) ***

A pair of sisters are raised in the woods by an evil maternal spirit after their homicidal stockbroker dad takes the financial crash out on his nearest and dearest. They are found and placed in the care of their artist uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his bass-playing Goth girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain). A few decent scares follow, but the film eventually collapses into silliness the more it has to explain the titular demon.

Oz the Great and Powerful (12A) ***

Part loving tribute, part modern reboot, this sort-of prequel to The Wizard of Oz offers plenty to enjoy without really nailing what makes Victor Fleming’s 1939 adaptation of L Frank Baum’s story such an enduring classic.

Robot & Frank (12A) ****

Frank Langella plays a retired and increasingly forgetful cat burglar who uses the home help robot his son has given him to help him return to crime. The amusingly inventive heist that follows explores in subtle and heartbreaking ways how memory becomes a defining part of who we are and where we’re going.

Side Effects (15) ****

In what he says is his final film, Steven Soderbergh uses the unscrupulous practices of multinational drug companies as a jumping-off point for a moody, sophisticated but gleefully twisty thriller. Jude Law plays an overworked psychiatrist who prescribes a powerful new antidepressant to Rooney Mara, with unexpected consequences for everyone.

Stoker (15) ****

A twisted, Gothic family drama in which dysfunction is exacerbated by the arrival of a mysterious relative, the film offers a great showcase for Mia Wasikowska to be more than a withering wallflower as the arrival of her charmingly malevolent uncle (Matthew Goode) catalyses a fairly bonkers coming-of-age-tale. Nicole Kidman co-stars.

Wreck-It Ralph (PG) ****

An imaginative and entertainingly anarchic return to form for Disney Animation that absorbs the best lessons of Pixar to tell the story of a video game character who, tired of always being the bad guy, jumps into another game in an effort to prove his worth as a hero. Chaos ensues, but so too do wonderfully defined characters, great jokes and a loving tribute to gaming culture.

 

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