The idea of Stockholm syndrome, where hostages bond with their kidnappers, is examined to great dramatic effect in LABOR DAY (12: Paramount).
A 13-year-old boy is forced to grow up fast as he helps his lonely single mother (Kate Winslet) cope with depression. They encounter a stranger in distress (Josh Brolin) and offer to take him home and give him shelter – only to discover he’s an escaped convict and the subject of a police manhunt.
But before you can say “howdy” they are in love – all three of them.
Credibility is stretched by the speed of the emotional developments and more time is devoted to baking a pie than might be allocated to a Jamie Oliver cookery programme.
Yet the whole thing hangs together remarkably well as Winslet and Brolin have time to flesh out their characters and writer/director Jason Reitman skilfully cranks up the tension, leaving you anxious to find out how it all ends.
> The Muppets prepare to embark on a world tour, unaware that Kermit has been replaced by an evil genius who is his exact double in MUPPETS MOST WANTED (U: Walt Disney).
Kermit is mistaken for Rusian criminal mastermind Constantine and is sent to a gulag, while his dastardly doppelganger goes off on the tour with the rest of the gang. This provides the perfect cover for Constantine and sidekick Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) to carry out a heist.
There’s a goodly amount of amusing gags, but fewer belly laughs this time and a lot more star cameos, as if to distract attention away from the plot.
Self-deprecation is part of the Muppets’ charm and they’re always putting themselves down, apart from Miss Piggy. But when they sing about how the film is a sequel and therefore not quite as good as the last one, sadly it’s true.
One duff instalment won’t kill this relaunched franchise, but it’s unlikely to prove quite as much as a favourite with young viewers.
> Another sequel, RIO 2 (U: 20th Century Fox), is the same mix of colourfully frantic action, sharp sight gags and catchy musical numbers as the original.
In fact it’s overflowing with songs and slapstick as Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway), who is thrilled not to be endangered any more after her exploits in Rio, convinces her city slicker beau Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) to rediscover their rainforest roots when a flock of blue macaws is discovered deep in the Amazon.
The ecological message is pushed even harder than before, with the birds having to defend their habitat against illegal loggers, and many will enjoy the X Factor-style jungle auditions.
> Eisenberg is in a visible role in THE DOUBLE (15: Studio Canal), a thriller which sees Richard Ayoade’s second outing as a director following 2010 quirkfest Submarine.
He plays an office drone in a drab suit whose feelings for a fellow worker (Mia Wasikowska) go unrequited. His life takes a turn for the worse with the arrival of a new colleague (Eisenberg again), who is an exact physical double, but also arrogant, successful and sexually confident – his opposite in personality.
Eisenberg is terrific in dual roles and makes acting opposite himself seem totally natural, visually arresting and utterly compelling.