Esther McCarthy reviews Juliet, Naked and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Juliet, Naked (15A) ****
As Duncan, the music-obsessed boyfriend of Annie (Rose Byrne), Chris O'Dowd succeeds in giving us a flawed character without alienating him from viewers.
Along with the reliably good Byrne and Ethan Hawke, who only seems to be getting more charismatic with age, a terrific cast weave the most out of this charming adaptation of Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel, even when it occasionally loses its way.
Set in an English seaside town, the movie centres on the relationship between Annie and Duncan. Duncan, in true Nick Hornby style, is something of a music obsessive - his fixation, however, is focused on one act.
In the early 90s, cult folk rocker Tucker Crowe (Hawke) was on the cusp of mainstream success having attracted a loyal cult following, when he disappeared from the public domain. Ever since, a devoted group of keyboard warriors, led by Duncan, have been speculating as to his whereabouts and his long-awaited comeback.
Growing impatient with her boyfriend’s fixation, she logs onto his fansite and airs her views, prompting contact from Tucker himself, who happens to agree with everything she’s said.
It builds into a quirky and charming romantic comedy/drama, and while it drifts out of gear at times, there’s a great deal to enjoy here.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG)
Mackenzie Foy plays Clara, a princess lamenting the death of her mother, who is gifted a jewellery box on their first Christmas apart. Desperate to find the key to open it, she is drawn into a parallel world, where she encounters a soldier and the leaders of three realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets.
It is here that she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley) who is desperate to overcome a malevolent force in the fourth realm known as Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) to return harmony to this other world.
Directed by Lasse Hallstom and Joe Johnston, the film blends impressive sets with special effects to create an escapist tale for families that should prove a seasonal hit.
There are flaws - the set-ups are somewhat convoluted and the pace occasionally drags and feels flat in the second hour - but the Nutcracker and the Four Realms delivers enough storytelling power to satisfy its audience.