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Clint on top form in lower league

Trouble With The Curve (12A)

HHH

Dir: Robert Lorenz

With: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake

Runtime: 111mins

CLINT Eastwood threw many people a curve when, contrary to expectation, he decided to come back out of "acting retirement" to take the lead in this family drama set against the backdrop of professional baseball.

While the ensuing film doesn't rate among his best, it's an entertaining piece of work that finds the cinema icon on good form. He plays veteran baseball scout Gus, who finds his career threatened by failing eyesight and new corporate ideas on recruitment (think Moneyball) while taking a scouting trip to the Carolinas to check on a hot prospect. Joining him is his estranged daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), who sees an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of her father even though it puts her career at risk.

Directed by long-time Eastwood assistant Robert Lorenz, Trouble With The Curve suffers from overly predictable storytelling and a woefully pat ending. But it remains worth seeing for the power of Eastwood. No-one plays prickly quite like Clint (he can even make ordering a dinner cheque seem menacing) but he's great at tapping into a more sensitive side. Adams brings out the best in him and the film thrives in their company.

Randy Brown's screenplay also has some astute observations on dealing with old age, family dynamics and corporate loyalty, even if it falls apart at the end. Hence, while this isn't quite Eastwood playing in the major leagues, it'll still make your day.

Reviewed by Rob Carnevale

Rise of the Guardians (PG)

HHH

Dir: Peter Ramsey

With (the voices of): Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin

Runtime: 97mins

IT WOULD be easy to write off this latest animation as a fairytale version of Marvel's Avengers, given the way it pits a bunch of heroes with special powers against a threat to Earth. But there is still plenty to recommend Rise of the Guardians, pictured left, to its target audience.

The heroes, or Guardians, in question include Santa (voiced by Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), who enlist new recruit Jack Frost (Chris Pine) in their battle to prevent Pitch Black (Jude Law) from invading children's dreams and turning them into nightmares.

Admittedly, David Lindsay-Abaire's script (based on William Joyce's novels) is blatantly generic, especially in its treatment of Jack Frost's story arc and over-emphasis on the importance of keeping dreams alive. But Peter Ramsey's direction is eye-catching, particularly in 3D, and delivers some stunning set pieces as well as several moments of visual humour, particularly involving the mute Sandman.

Law's villain is good value, too, adding to the Hollywood tradition of employing great British baddies, although some of the imagery surrounding him may scare younger viewers.

Hence, while Rise of the Guardians may ultimately lack the ingenuity of the very best animations, it capably gets the job done in keeping the little ones amused and even dazzled.

Reviewed by Rob Carnevale

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