A motorcycle stunt rider is reunited with his lost love and finally meets his son for the first time in THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (15: Studio Canal), a crime melodrama giving Ryan Gosling the chance to exploit his pin-up status.
But it’s also a smart, sprawling and beautifully crafted morality tale about the relationships between men, particularly fathers and sons.
Gosling’s biker character, Handsome Luke, gives up life on the road to support the boy he never knew he had, but he ends up drawn into crime.
Then writer/director Derek Cianfrance, who previously directed Gosling in Blue Valentine, changes lanes in an unexpected way.
He introduces troubled, ambitious cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), who is also facing problems being a father. The last third of the film sees their boys crossing paths in yet another turn of fate.
Most of the movie’s power is derived from its many twists and while it relies a little too much on coincidence, it superbly explores the more sensitive side of the male psyche.
> My heart sank when I heard that Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror classic was being remade by a Uruguayan director making his feature film debut. I wasn’t the only reviewer who asked, ‘What’s the point?’
But fear not, as EVIL DEAD (18: Studio Canal) is a true reboot which captures the spirit of the cult original while tweaking the basic cabin-in-the-woods plot in all the right places.
Five friends are in a remote forest to help one of their number kick her drug habit. Her ravings about demons are seen as symptoms of cold turkey withdrawal until proceedings take a dark turn into full malevolent and mutilating possession after an ancient book of the dead is quoted.
Although the energy drops off a little between the splatter, this maniacal nightmare pulls out all the stops in the top-drawer scare and hardcore gore departments.
> The sectarian struggles of Northern Ireland in the late 1970s seems an unlikely backdrop for a feel-good comedy drama.
Yet GOOD VIBRATIONS (15: Universal), a biopic of Belfast music promoter Terri Hooley, is an exciting reminder of the power of rock.
Small-time DJ Hooley (Richard Dormer) launches a record shop on a wing and a prayer, branching out into record production when unsigned local bands start pouring through his door.
Only the Undertones, whose song Teenage Kicks was a flagship release for Hooley’s Good Vibrations label, ever really dented the charts.
But this charming film isn’t so much bothered with his success on a grand scale as it is with the way he reinvigorated a city at war.
With Hooley as Pied Piper, it shows how the city’s music fans did everything the politicians couldn’t, coming together – all faiths and backgrounds – to beat an unlikely path for the peace process to follow.
> Hard-hitting suspense shocker THE SEASONING HOUSE (18: Kaleidoscope) is clearly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski.
A deaf-mute Balkans orphan is kidnapped and forced to work in a brothel, looking after the women who have been imprisoned there as sex slaves for the military.
She puts her knowledge of the building’s crawl-spaces to use in planning revenge against those responsible for her suffering. The horror is harrowing, the splatter murders startling and the claustrophobia strongly evoked.