Starring: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne
Director: Tom Hooper (CERT 12A, 158 minutes)
The plot: The massively successful stage musical (based on Victor Hugo’s celebrated 19th-century novel) finally makes it to the big screen. This is the epic story – pretty much entirely performed in song – of petty thief Jean Valjean (Jackman), who spends his life on the run from menacing police officer Javert (Crowe). He eventually makes good, becoming a mayor and factory owner, when he meets poverty-stricken worker Fantine (Hathaway), and pledges to take care of her daughter Cosette. As the years pass, Valjean flees to Paris, living in constant fear of being caught by Javert.
What’s right with it? Hugh Jackman’s intense interpretation of Valjean is phenomenal, while Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn) is a revelation as lovestruck student Marius. But the biggest surprise is newcomer Samantha Barks (streetwise Eponine) who steals the film.
What’s wrong with it? If we’re being picky, Russell Crowe’s voice just isn’t powerful enough to carry Javert. Non-musical- theatre fans may also struggle with two-hours-plus of singing.
Verdict: Transferring the stage show to the big screen was never going to be a simple task, but director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) brings an even greater depth to the story in this captivating adapation. The fact that the actors perform live vocals throughout the film (as opposed to lip-synching to a pre-recorded track) brings an astonishing new dimension to the score. This is the most epic film musical we’ve ever seen. You’ll be moved, you’ll sing along – and we guarantee you’ll also have a damn good cry. 5/5 @jeremymark7
Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
Director: Ruben Fleischer (CERT 15, 113 minutes)
The plot: In ’40s LA, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is the meanest mobster in town. But his days could be numbered thanks to an undercover police squad determined to bring him down.
What’s right with it? With Brolin in rock-jawed hero mode, it’s left to Gosling to bring the charm as the dapper cop with the hots for Mickey’s gal (Stone). Yet it’s Penn who steals the show with his flamboyantly villainous turn.
What’s wrong with it? The flashy action sequences, one of which was reconceived after last July’s multiplex massacre, rely too much on ostentatious slo-mo.
Verdict: The Untouchables it’s not. Yet fans of Ryan, Emma and vintage clobber will find lots to like in this stylish retro throwback. 3/5 Neil Smith
Starring: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley
Director: Lenny Abrahamson (CERT 15, 88 minutes)
The plot: Athletic, intelligent, popular Richard (Reynor) is enjoying the summer between school and uni, hanging out with his fellow middle-class Dublin pals. One fateful night, after a drunken party, he puts his privileged future in jeopardy – but will he made to face the consequences of his actions?
What’s right with it? Free of the usual clichés found in US teen flicks, this drama, set much closer to home, has a highly plausible naturalism. The young cast impresses.
What’s wrong with it? A somewhat oblique ending pushes the film into the arthouse realm, and feels like a bit of a cop-out.
Verdict: Our cinemas are awash with pricey Oscar bait. What Richard Did offers a refreshingly low-key alternative. 4/5 @charlesgant