There may be a lack of spark in the bedroom, but there’s dry wit in abundance in HOPE SPRINGS (12: Momentum), with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a couple trying to recapture that old magic.
Streep’s desperate, middle-aged housewife feels her relationship with her unadventurous husband is becoming stale in this daring comedy drama.
When she hears of a marriage counsellor offering therapy sessions in his remote retreat in Great Hope Springs, she persuades her reluctant spouse to join her for a week.
Steve Carell plays the counsellor and avoids the wisecracks that are his trademark, getting laughs instead from the brutally frank questions he delivers with a polite smile.
His exchanges with the typically irascible Jones are especially funny, but David Frankel, who directed Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, mostly aims for understated humour and pathos.
He doesn’t delve too deeply into the emotional crux of the matter, but the intimate moments between the veteran twosome are touchingly portrayed.
> The erotic thriller has become little more than late-night TV movie fodder since the genre’s heyday with Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct.
KILLING ME SOFTLY (18: Entertainment In Video) will do nothing to change that as it’s just plain laughable and a film all concerned will want to forget.
Joseph Fiennes is the stock ‘mysterious stranger’ with whom Heather Graham falls passionately in love after a glance at a pelican crossing.
He’s a mountaineer and she leaves her comfortable life to embark on a steamy relationship, only to peak too early and gradually suspect he is hiding something. The explicit lovemaking was clearly intended as a selling point in this unlikely whodunnit.
> Director Tim Burton’s FRANKENWEENIE (PG: Disney), in which a lonely boy uses electricity to bring his dead dog back to life, is a genuine spine-tingling delight.
The animal’s presence in the sleepy neighbourhood leads to monster mayhem, while the young science geek’s classmates are soon also meddling with life and death to revive their own pets.
As with Corpse Bride, Burton uses stop-motion animation, although this time he opts for a monochrome palette to evoke old B-movie horror flicks.
The story wavers slightly in the middle, but the characters – a wickedly funny gallery of grotesques voiced by the likes of Martin Landau and Winona Ryder - keep you transfixed.
> Nerve-jangling horror is provided from the start in SINISTER (18: Momentum), which opens with an eerie scene showing a family being hanged from a tree.
Ethan Hawke plays a true-crime writer who moves into a house where several people died years previously, yet he keeps the building’s dark history a secret from his family.
While researching a book on the incident, he discovers old cine films of the deaths and as he watches them, he uncovers a supernatural force behind the tragedy.
A skilful blend of old-school, haunted-house horror and in-vogue found-footage fear, this disturbing shocker has an intense atmosphere of dread and sudden jolts.