Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Erza Miller, Mae Whitman
Director: Stephen Chbosky CERT 12A, 102 mins
The plot: While a film version of The Catcher In The Rye, the greatest teen-alienation novel ever, remains a distant prospect, author Stephen Chbosky delivers an adaptation of his own 1999 bestseller, set in early-’90s Pittsburgh. Charlie (Lerman), a troubled teen in his freshman year of senior high, cherishes his invisibility, until he meets an older group of fellow outsiders. “Welcome to the island of misfit toys,” declare step-siblings Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Miller). Alcohol, mild drug use, spilled secrets, heartache and mixtapes featuring cool UK indie bands ensue.
What’s right with it? Not every writer is the best person to adapt their work for the screen, let alone direct the resulting movie, but Chbosky earns his spurs here. Casting is key: those who only knew Logan Lerman from routine Hollywood fare Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief and The Three Musketeers couldn’t guess how heartbreakingly brilliant he is as Charlie, eschewing angsty showboating with a masterclass in quiet strength. Emma Watson, as vulnerable free spirit Sam, should win over a fair few naysayers, and Paul Rudd as a sensitive English teacher is a bonus.
What’s wrong with it? Not a lot, although the self-congratulatory bubble inhabited by Charlie’s new pals may grate a little. The epic quest to discover the identity of a beloved song (the not-terribly obscure Heroes by David Bowie) is unintentionally comic.
Verdict: Heavy themes, deftly handled, vivid characters and brave performances drag the teen movie from the usual clichés. Funny, sad, tender and true. 4/5 @charlesgant
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
Director: Olivier Megaton CERT 12A, 91 mins
The plot: Following the brutal events of Taken, relatives of the slain sex traffickers swear revenge on retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson). They get their chance when his ex-wife (Janssen) and teen daughter Kim (Grace) join him in Istanbul.
What’s right with it? In Taken, Kim was just a damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued by Superdad; here, she helps save the day after both her parents are kidnapped.
What’s wrong with it? If you like your action graphic and bloody, you’ll decry the decision to pursue a broader audience with a lower certification (Taken was a 15). The depiction of Albanians is, once again, unflattering.
Verdict: Unlikely action star Neeson, 60, slums it once more with another bout of entertaining nonsense. 3/5 @charlesgant
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransone
Director: Scott Derrickson CERT 15, 109 mins
The plot: True-crime writer Ellison (Hawke) moves his family into a new home – also the scene of brutal, unsolved murders. Finding mysterious home-movie footage, he tries to unravel the mystery for his latest book.
What’s right with it? This is genuinely creepy from the off, mixing haunted-house horror with serial-killer terrors and then some. Ethan Hawke is excellent as the obsessive investigator, and we loved The Wire’s James Ransone as an amusingly inquisitive Deputy Sheriff.
What’s wrong with it? It’s hard to root for Ellison, given the decisions he makes, and the ending is faintly preposterous.
Verdict: Paranormal Activity fans will get a kick out of this chilling horror, which will propel you from your seat more than once. 3/5 @annasmithjourno