The Place Beyond The Pines
Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes
The appealingly hot combo of Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper (together at last!) is an instantaneous, neon-bright lure for writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to Blue Valentine, an ambitious crime drama that passes the narrative baton between its two stars before handing it off to their teenage sons for a harrowing climax. Anyone who’s seen Blue Valentine will know not to expect much jollity in The Place Beyond the Pines, although Gosling offers a few laughs thanks to the side-splittingly awful fake tattoos plastering his body and a pair of baggy trousers with white-skull motif he rocks in one scene. His motorcycle stuntman bank-robber, Avery Cross, tries hard at being toughguy cool but Gosling presents him as a dead-end loser. Meanwhile, Cooper, hell-bent on proving he’s not just the Hangover man, plays a rookie cop whose solitary encounter with Cross wreaks a different kind of havoc on both their lives in Cianfrance’s intimate, emotionally draining journey about fathers, sons and human frailty.
In The House
Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ernst Umhauer
Out French film-maker François Ozon has supplied some of our favourite Gallic flicks, often featuring gay subplots or outrageously camp scenarios (Water Drops on Burning Rocks, 8 Women). This comic tour de force about a jaded literature teacher (Luchini) who falls under the spell of a manipulative student (Umhauer) marks a change of pace for Ozon but is none the worse, exploring the line between truth and fiction in a compellingly voyeuristic way. Captivating performances, not least by KST as the prof’s spiky wife.
James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens
James Franco crooning a beachfront piano rendition of the Britney Spears ballad Everytime while Uzi-wielding teen queens Gomez, Hudgens and Ashley Benson dance around him in pink ski masks is the undoubted highpoint of Spring Breakers. If only the rest of hipster writer-director Harmony Korine’s hyper-violent crime fantasy about girls gone wild in Florida had been half as sublime. Instead, his Disney-starlet-tweaking concept is unravelled by the mind-numbingly repetitive delivery of a 'message' as hollow as the bikini-clad characters.
Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand
Matt Damon and director Gus Van Sant go worthy with this gentle drama about 'fracking', the practice of extracting natural gas from shale using environmentally toxic methods. It’s a testament to their talents that Promised Land ends up being surprisingly compelling, with McDormand and Krasinski as, respectively, Damon’s corporate mission partner to convince floundering farmers to sell their land and the green campaigner out to disrupt their efforts. Early promise fizzles but it’s still a heartfelt message movie with unexpected twists.
Mathieu Kassovitz, Iabe Lapacas, Malik Zidi
Writer-director-star Mathieu Kassovitz delivers a searing indictment of colonial oppression and political bungling in his based-on-truth account of an obscure 1988 uprising on the Pacific island of New Caledonia. Expertly reconstructing a chain of events that began with the rebels taking police hostages to electioneering machinations back in Paris that led to the final assault on their jungle hideout, Kassovitz (Amelie, La Haine) makes every moment count in a taut, engaging political drama.