Of all the Charles Dickens classics, GREAT EXPECTATIONS (12: Lionsgate) has been a firm favourite of mine since it was part of my English literature O-level syllabus.
During that study of the book, David Lean’s superb 1946 adaptation, starring John Miles, Valerie Hobson, Jean Simmons and Bernard Miles, was essential viewing.
Sadly, the remake is a grim and cheerless affair with the only high spots provided by Ralph Fiennes as escaped prisoner Magwitch (the role filled by Finlay Currie in the original) and Helena Bonham Carter as bitter old spinster Miss Havisham (previously played by Martita Hunt).
Both help shape the future of orphan Pip, who’s beaten by his sister (Sally Hawkins) and only has her kindly but ineffectual husband (Jason Flemyng) to look up to.
But Pip (played as a grown-up by War Horse’s Jeremy Irvine) is given the chance to better himself after a trust fund is opened in his name by a mysterious benefactor. He’s also able to present himself to Estella, Miss Havisham’s ward, who has always kept him at a distance.
Director Mike Newell drains every bit of colour in search of an ominous mood, which only makes the dark obsession at the heart of the story fall flat. And all final hopes and expectations are dashed by a bungled ending.
> Energetic fairy tale RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (PG: Paramount) is a magical delight and looks set to become definitive entertainment for all the family. Based on William Joyce’s book series, this animated adventure is a sort of child-friendly Avengers Assemble that focuses on iconic figures from folklore.
Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) gets serious when chosen by the Man In The Moon to join a tattooed Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), a confrontational Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), a flirty Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman to overthrow bogeyman Pitch (Jude Law).
He’s trying to get the children of the world to stop believing in them, which provides a classic good versus evil saga with plenty of humour and exhilarating chase action.
> Remember Mike Leigh’s TV play Nuts In May? Well, Kill List director Ben Wheatley’s British road movie SIGHTSEERS (15: Studio Canal) explores the same terrain, yet goes to far darker places.
Eccentric, indecently funny and far bloodier than you would expect, a Midlands couple embark on their first caravanning holiday together.
It’s an erotic odyssey for her (she’s even knitted a pair of crotchless knickers) and a tourist trip for him, with the Keswick Pencil Museum a dream destination.
When they encounter others who don’t share the same respect for the country code or are in some way different, the vacation turns into a thrill-killing spree. The mundane is mixed with the murderous which keeps things playfully sick yet entertaining.
> In horror sequel LAKE PLACID: THE FINAL CHAPTER (15: Sony), a game warden tries to catch a villainous poacher, but the pursuit leads them into a nature reserve that’s home to ferocious giant crocodiles.
A school swim team ends up on the menu when they mistakenly travel into the reptiles’ territory.