dir Mike Mitchell; voices Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake 16/US ****
Almost ludicrously happy, this colourfully animated musical comedy makes up for a thin plot with quick wit. It's fairly impossible to wipe the smile off your face from start to finish, even in the movie's deliberately feeble attempt to generate some dark tension. And as Justin Timberlake's pathologically bouncy theme tune says, you can't help but want to dance.
dir-scr Kenneth Lonergan; with Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges 16/US ****
Anchored by the cast's raw performances, this drama is packed with big themes that everyone in the audience can identify with, from strained family connections to the lingering effects of grief. It sometimes feels like writer-director Kenneth Lonergan has dumped rather a lot of misfortune on these beaten-down characters, but the film maintains a strong sense of hope simply because none of them will give up.
dir Antonio Campos; with Rebecca Hall, Michael C Hall 16/US ****
The true story of Christine Chubbuck is turned into an eerily intense personal odyssey that grows increasingly uncomfortable to watch. Director Antonio Campos vividly explores Christine's growing stress without trying to explain it away, which makes it resonant as a depiction of the cumulative effect of the daily struggles everybody experiences. And Rebecca Hall is quite simply awesome in the role.
dir-scr Maren Ade; with Peter Simonischek, Sandra Huller 16/Ger ****
A riotously astute look at modern life, this German comedy holds the attention by simply refusing to be even remotely predictable. As writer-director Maren Ade follows a father and daughter through a twisty series of events, she not only highlights some pungent issues facing Europe, but she more importantly digs deep inside to reveal the prankster in all of us. And to remind us that we need to laugh more.
dir Park Chan-wook; with Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri 16/Kor ****
Korean maestro Park Chan-wook adapts Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith into a stylish, twisty drama set in Korea and Japan during WWII. It's a visually ravishing film about passion and subterfuge, told in three chapters that flip the perspective in unexpected directions. So even if the themes are a little thin, the film looks so amazing and has such a wickedly labyrinthine plot that it's thoroughly riveting.