THE AGE OF ADALINE
(US, 2015) Dir: Lee Toland Krieger. Stars Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman, Amanda Crew, Ellen Burstyn. "Never mind that the story is far fetched, the film engages largely due to a winning central performance by Blake Lively as the ageless Adaline, who spends her life running instead of living because she fears someone will learn her secret ... The piece de resistance features a well cast Harrison Ford as Adaline’s former lover, when the past and the present are fused together in a cleverly constructed scenario," says Louise.
A ROYAL NIGHT OUT
(UK, 2015) Dir: Julian Jarrold. Stars Sarah Gadon, Emily Watson, Rupert Everett, Jack Reynor. "The ordinary and the extraordinary sit side by side in this charmer of a film in which the two closeted royal princesses go incognito on V-E day for a night out in London..... Beautifully capturing the upstairs downstairs nature of the story, director Julian Jarrold film has a feather light touch, encapsulating the humour and essence of amazement as Elizabeth and Margaret are exposed to people, places and situations they have never experienced," says Louise.
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
(US, 2015) Dir. Kevin Feige. Stars Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johnasson, Hayley Atwell, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson. "High scale escapism is in abundant supplies in this tornado of action and special effects in which Marvel's heroes are ready, willing and able save the world… While the visuals are extraordinary and the wry humour is welcome, what's missing is a coherent story with light and shade," says Louise.
(US, 2014) Dir: Francois Girard. Stars Dustin Hoffman, Garrett Wareing, Josh Lucas, Kathy Bates, Debra Winger, Eddie Izzard. "While there may not be too many surprises in this warm-hearted feel-good movie about music, belonging and nurturing the gifts you are given, Boychoir soars by grace of its clear narrative, strong cast and the pure harmonious voices that can only be described as celestial," says Louise.
(US, 2015) Dir: Kenneth Branagh. Stars Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgard, Derek Jacobi. "There are many highlights, but none more memorable than the sequence when the clock strikes midnight …It’s a bumpy ride for the radiant Ella (Lily James) …as the night comes to a crashing end as the pumpkin bursts – just like her dreams," says Louise. "Disney’s live action Cinderella benefits from Ken Branagh’s kudos in being able to attract the kind of cast and achieving the kind of tone such a well known and loved fairy tale needs," says Andrew.
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIS
(France, Switz, Germany, US, Belg, 2014) Dir: Olivier Assayas. Stars Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz. "Superlative performances are the reason to watch this engrossing, occasionally self-indulgent film that explores the female psyche and responses to age, self-image and changing times within the acting world," says Louise.
COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK
US, 2014) Dir: Brett Morgen. Documentary. "This in-depth look into the twisted, tormented world of Kurt Cobain is like a stream of consciousness – a trip of a film that above all, captures the essence of the workings of the mind of the Nirvana singer and guitarist. Its brilliance is in its ability to portray a sense of being inside Cobain’s head, his music and the demons that plagued him, although the film is too long and repetitive, making us feel desperate to escape and come up for air. Die-hard fans will lap it up," says Louise.
(US, 2015) Dir: Alex Garland. Stars Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac. "Although there’s a fatal flaw that diminishes its overall satisfaction rating, Alex Garland (who penned 28 Days Later) has conceived a dazzling film filled with intrigue and an innate edginess that is elevated by three startlingly good performances," says Louise. "Borrowing body parts from the age old horror/sci-fi workbook, Alex Garland makes a female Frankenstein movie (sort of) and interrogates the pursuit of AI in the process. I won’t reveal what he thinks is the answer or end result, but there are serious leaps of faith involved for the audience in the execution," says Andrew.
FAST AND FURIOUS 7
(US, 2015) Dir: James Wan. Stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez. "Nothing is impossible in his no holds barred thrilling actioner in which cars leap from planes, skyscrapers and cliff-tops as stunts accelerate to levels that almost break the sound barrier," says Louise.
(US, 2015) Dir: Tim Johnson. Voices: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez. "Adapted from Adam Rex’s novel in praise of family and friends, Antz director Tim Johnson’s film is original and fresh, with an easy to understand narrative that finds its endearing protagonist Oh (voiced by Jim Parsons) on a journey that takes him from zero to hero," says Louise.
LONGEST RIDE, THE
(US, 2015) Dir: George Tillman Jr. Stars Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Alan Alda. "Like earlier film adaptations, including The Notebook… The Longest Ride delivers romance, passion, heartbreak and surprises – beautifully. It also boasts a superb cast, including the hunky and extremely handsome Scott Eastwood, whose resemblance to his father Clint in his heyday is disconcerting.. The film is an ideal chick flick, date movie and emotional tour de force for anyone who is a romantic at heart," says Louise.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
(Aust, 2015) Dir: George Miller. Stars Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne. "Like the earlier Mad Max films, in which edgy stunts and bravado filmmaking are an integral part, George Miller's Fury Road is a visceral experience: a head-on collision of surreal imagery in an eye-boggling apocalyptic reality ... While the undercurrent of emotion drives the film like a throbbing V8 engine, it is the impact of Oscar-winning cinematographer John Seale's visuals that make it, along with its mind-blowing stunts and relentless action ...It's one hell of a film," says Louise.
PITCH PERFECT 2
US, 2015) Dir: Elizabeth Banks. Stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow. "It’s the offbeat nature of the characters and their approach to the a cappella music they sing that gives this upbeat sequel edge. In musical terms, you might say it feels syncopated. …a spirited film that feels fresh, using humour and music to distinctly coat the narrative," says Louise.
SHAUN THE SHEEP
(US, France, 2014) Dir: Mark Burton, Richard Starzack. Voices of Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes. "A baa baa shop quartet, a cat making Hannibal Lecter noises and a dog disguised as a surgeon are some of the elements of this Aardman stop animation that relies on simple ideas, keenly observed action and a flock of humour. But don’t set your expectations too high," says Louise. "The wonderful English eccentricity of Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit captured our hearts and minds, their naïve antics and slam dunk adventures fed our funny bones. There is still a trace of all that in Shaun the Sheep, but not the distinctive personas nor the full bottle of wit, " says Andrew.
SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: SPONGE OUT OF WATER
(US, 2015) Dir: Paul Tibbitt, Mike Mitchell. "In praise of teamwork, this second SpongeBob movie in 3D with its combo of adorable animated characters and integrated live action is bright, amusing, clever, naïve and hugely inventive," says Louise.
TESTAMENT OF YOUTH
(UK, 2014) Dir: James Kent. Stars Hayley Atwell, Alicia Vikander, Taron Egerton, Kit Harington, Dominic West. "Perhaps sticking too faithfully to the book (and emphasized by Max Richter's sentimental score), the filmmakers end up making a rather gloomy chick-flick, rather than the war drama with a modern heroine, which it might have been," says Andrew. " The mix of dreams and pragmatism is a potent cocktail in this cinematic and moving adaptation of Vera Brittain's memoir about her wartime experiences," says Louise.
(US, 2014) Dir: Stars Shelley Hennig, Heather Sossaman, Moses Storm. "There are enough truths and scares in this teen horror flick to make anyone jumpy, all the action taking place online and through social media ... It's well done but whether the concepts of betrayal as depicted by this nasty snuff revenge movie is a positive influence for the young target market, is questionable," says Louise.