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Film reviews: Great Expectations | The Hobbit | The Hunt | Rise Of The Guardians

Mads Mikkelson and Lasse Fogelstrom in The Hunt.

Mads Mikkelson and Lasse Fogelstrom in The Hunt.

A roundup of the films still showing in cinemas

GREAT EXPECTATIONS (12A) * *

The BBC’s second major adaptation of Great Expectations in less than 12 months, Mike Newell’s cinematic version of the Charles Dickens favourite can’t help but seem like a redundant and fairly uninspired way to close out a year of celebrations marking the bicentenary of the author’s birth. Offering very little that’s new beyond the cast, it’s lushly produced but dramatically inert, with even the tantalising prospect of Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham coming off like a live-action version of The Corpse Bride.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (12A) * *

This first instalment of Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s slender single volume children’s adventure can’t help but seem like a self-indulgent folly. Boasting the same epic treatment that Jackson brought to bear on his mammoth adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy a decade ago, An Unexpected Journey barely gets going as a mythological quest, despite a running time of nearly three hours. Instead it spends eons setting up characters and plots in needlessly intricate detail and loses focus on both the story at hand and, more worryingly, its hobbit hero: Bilbo Baggins. That’s a shame, because while Martin Freeman is perfect, the character isn’t very present and it takes a late appearance from Andy Serkis’s still-magnificent Gollum to remind us of how magical this could be.

THE HUNT (15) * * * *

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg delivers his most vital and effective film for nearly 15 years with The Hunt, a provocative and queasily compulsive Christmas-set drama revolving around a man falsely accused of child molestation in a small rural community. An inversion of his Dogme 95-initiating The Celebration (which explored the fall-out of sexual abuse allegations levelled against a father by his grown-up children), the film finds Mads Mikkelsen on damaged and defiant form as a nursery school teacher bewildered, then horrified, to find himself accused of inappropriate behaviour by the adorable four-year-old daughter of his best friend. It’s a powerful, provocative and timely film, one that doesn’t hector or moralise, but soberly encourages us to hold on to our humanity in times of hysteria – justified or otherwise.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (PG) * *

A Christmas movie in as much as it features Santa, this curious 3D animated adventure is set mostly at Easter yet focuses on he inauguration of Jack Frost (Chris Pine) into the titular Avengers-style cabal of folkloric heroes. The latter – which comprises the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, Santa and Easter Bunny – has been charged with protecting the world’s children against the creeping forces of evil, represented here by Pitch Black, a lord of darkness intent on turning everyone’s dreams into nightmares. The ensuing film is not without fun, but it’s too confused to really work and sidelining Christmas in a Christmas film is a terrible idea.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (15) * * * *

In Bruges writer/director Martin McDonagh’s second feature is both an entertainingly indulgent film about filmmaking and an enjoyably loopy action comedy that gets to have its cake, eat it and go back for seconds. Set in Hollywood and revolving around a successful Irish scriptwriter called “Martin McDonagh” (Marty for short), it follows Marty’s efforts to blitz through his alcohol-induced writer’s block to pen a screenplay for a movie called Seven Psychopaths which, despite its title, won’t betray his newfound desire to write something that’s more profound than a standard action film full of “guys with guns”. Colin Farrell takes the lead as the harassed writer and generously plays straightman to a myriad of crackpots played by the likes of Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits.

TINKER BELL AND THE SECRET OF THE WINGS (U) * *

Tinker Bell discovers she has a long-lost sister in this slight adventure for Peter Pan’s practically-minded pixie pal. At barely 70 minutes long, it’s more of a cinematic stocking filler than a full blown feature, but it’s still the only tot-friendly movie in cinemas this Christmas.

ALISTAIR HARKNESS

 

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EDINBURGH
FESTIVALS
2014

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