SAVING MR. BANKS
Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti
Emma Thompson gets her best role in years as P.L. Travers, the British-Australian author who kept her precious magic nanny Mary Poppins out of the clutches of Walt Disney (Hanks) for decades before finally giving in to his persuasive advances. Sort of. Saving Mr. Banks outlines the two weeks that the prim and proper Travers gave Walt and his boys to convince her that Mary Poppins the film musical was a grand idea, and Thompson makes her the meanest screen biddy since Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Watching Travers flinch and fume as the songwriting Sherman brothers (Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak) run another sugary ditty by her is a hoot. The film intersperses mirthful scenes of Poppins’ creation with dark flashbacks to Travers’ youth, growing up with an alcoholic dreamer father played by Colin Farrell. Which, quite frankly, would be all the excuse you’d need to grow up as curdled as Travers did.
Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Portia Doubleday
This adaptation of Stephen King’s high-school-apocalypse tome was never likely to knock Brian DePalma’s original off its lofty perch. It's a faithful effort and Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore bring the prestige factor as persecuted Carrie and her religious-fanatic mother, but the rest of the cast are thoroughly forgettable, and the unleashing of Carrie’s telekinetic revenge lacks the raging horror of the original, even with cheesy effects replaced by flashy CGI. A half-baked replica of DePalma’s rapturous landmark.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR
Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux
Since a fairytale launch in Cannes, where it won the prestigious Palme d’Or, this three-hour lesbian love story has been making headlines for a bitter war of words between director Abdellatif Kechiche and actress Lea Seydoux over the long, gruelling shoot. But their spat doesn’t spoil the creation; a vibrant portrait of sapphic intimacy set over several years, notable for its explicit sex scenes and an astonishingly naturalistic performance by Seydoux’s co-star, sultry newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos.
Iain De Caestecker, Alice Englert, Allen Leech
Primal fears get a terrifying probing in director Jeremy Lovering’s debut, a microbudget frightfest that plonks a young couple (Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert) in Backwoods Ireland and unleashes holy terror on them as they drive around trying to find the hotel they’ve booked for a romantic layover. Lovering kept his actors in the dark about what was going to happen next. The result is strippedback horror at its most effective, as supremely unsettling as it is mercifully ungory.
Mateusz Banasiuk, Bartosz Gelner, Marta Nieradkiewicz
Given the current situation for LGBT citizens in Putin’s Russia, this is a timely gay love story about coming out of the closet in homophobic Poland. Kuba is a star swimmer sharing a tiny flat with his mum and long-time girlfriend, whose meeting with university student Michal leads to a flowering love and passion. Floating Skyscrapers is a familiar and beautiful, heartfelt plea for acceptance.