Matthew McConaughey continues his transformation from heartthrob to compelling character actor in rites-of-passage story MUD (15: Entertainment One).
But some things never change and he spends much of the film shirtless, just to let his fans know that Hollywood star status has not stopped him going to the gym. Two 14-year-old boys exploring an island on the Mississippi discover a fugitive (McConaughey) who has made his home there.
The wanted man (his name is, indeed, Mud) tells the lads he is on the run from bounty hunters after killing a man and promises them his wreck of a boat if they help him reconnect with his long-lost sweetheart (Reese Witherspoon). As they ferry messages to the woman in question, the youngsters are forced to come to terms with the complexity of adult relationships.
Exposure to a world of troubled romance and potentially lethal vengeance proves an eye-opener for the idealistic Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and his more circumspect pal Neckbone (Jacob Lofland). Their gradual emotional journey is as dramatic as the scenery around the river where the tense drama plays out.
This is a junior adventure story echoing Huckleberry Finn and Stand By Me, a tale which is in no hurry to unfold, but beautifully done, exquisitely performed and filled with terror and wonder.
> Pierce Brosnan is a humble sort of hero in sprawling romantic comedy LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (15: Arrow), which blends British and Danish cultures against a pretty Italian backdrop.
Danish woman Ida (Trine Dyrholm), recovering from treatment for cancer and the abrupt end of her marriage, goes to Italy to attend her daughter’s wedding.
The trip leads to her meeting the groom’s father, Philip (Brosnan), a lonely widower, and a relationship develops that helps both to move on from their past troubles.
Director Susanne Bier is better known for a melodramatic style, but there’s only a touch of that here as the pair overcome their life-changing traumas to celebrate the marriage of their children.
They seize their own chance at happiness, too, but it’s a bumpy road to love, littered with drunk exes and desperate in-laws.
Bier has a knack for dissecting complicated relationships and the results are mostly very funny. The younger lovebirds tend to drag the story down, and the tears and tantrums on the big day are pure contrivance, but Brosnan and Dyrholm have a sparky rapport and a sugary frosting of feel-good sentiment saves the day.
> Plot points and characters from the classic 1967 Space Seed TV episode have served the Star Trek film series well, and they appear again in thrill-a-minute blockbuster STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (12: Paramount).
Benedict Cumberbatch is terrific as the rogue Starfleet officer who turns intergalactic terrorist, prompting the Enterprise crew to track him to the planet Kronos where the Klingons are on war alert.
The story is built primarily around the burgeoning friendship between Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto), which means that other key characters are either sidelined or, in the case of Alice Eve’s new recruit, weakly drawn.
But it pulls out all the action stops, beginning in full-throttle adventure mode and sustaining the warp-speed spectacle all the way to the epic finale in San Francisco.