DAMON Smith reviews the latest releases. This week: A down-on-his-luck prospector (Matthew McConaughey) stumbles upon one of the most lucrative finds in history in Gold. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play sweethearts who stand together in defiance of racial segregation, in the inspirational true story Loving... and Alice. (Milla Jovovich) prepares for the ultimate showdown with the undead in the horror sequel Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
LOVING (12A, 123 mins) Romance/Drama. Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Marton Csokas, Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, Jon Bass. Director: Jeff Nichols.
Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland)
The human heart refuses to be constrained by rationality or reason.
We are all slaves to those 10 ounces of throbbing muscle, savouring every flutter of pleasure in the knowledge that, inevitably, there will be murmurs of pain as we mourn those closest to us.
Loving is a handsomely crafted drama about two mild-mannered, yet courageous souls from opposite sides of the racial divide in late 1950s Virginia, who followed their hearts in strict defiance of The Racial Integrity Act, which criminalized interracial marriages in the state.
The unerring devotion of Richard Loving to his wife Mildred, in the face of fierce opposition from some friends and neighbours, led to a landmark 1967 legal ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that finally overturned decades of prejudice.
This remarkable courtroom battle against bigotry and bureaucracy provides writer-director Jeff Nichols with a deep emotional core that compels us to root for Richard and Mildred when all hope is lost.
Nichols' script draws inspiration from Nancy Buirski's celebrated 2011 documentary The Loving Story and invents some peripheral characters for the sake of dramatic expediency, without weakening the emotional wallop of the film's understated final act.
Construction worker Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) falls giddily in love with family friend Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga).
When she falls pregnant, the couple decide to marry.
Forbidden from consummating their relationship in Virginia, Richard and Mildred drive to Washington D.C. and return home with a marriage licence, which they proudly display on the wall of their home.
Sheriff Brooks (Marton Csokas) arrives soon after with his deputies and arrests the Lovings.
They are eventually released, but the couple must publicly keep their distance.
"All we got to do is keep to ourselves for a while and this'll blow over," Richard tenderly assures Mildred.
Alas, his optimism is misplaced and the couple narrowly avoids a one-year stint behind bars by agreeing that they will not return to Virginia together for 25 years.
The case eventually attracts the interest of American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) and trailblazing civil rights lawyer Phil Hirschkop (Jon Bass).
Meanwhile, freelance photographer Grey Villet (Michael Shannon) is commissioned to capture an intimate portrait of the Lovings' home life for TIME magazine.
Loving sensitively recreates a battle for justice waged by two quietly spoken people, who changed the course of history.
Edgerton is mesmerising as the stoic husband, whose only instruction to his legal team is to "tell the judge I love my wife".
Oscar nominee Negga is similarly radiant as the emotional rock in the eye of a legal storm.
Director Nichols beautifully evokes the era, allowing his camera to focus on the couple's tribulations against a backdrop of meticulous period detail.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 7.5/10
GOLD (15, 121 mins) Drama/Romance. Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Toby Kebbell, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood. Director: Stephen Gaghan.
Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland)
Exchange rates rise and fall, share prices plummet and rally, but a precious metal like gold never seems to lose its seductive lustre.
Stephen Gaghan's drama of corporate greed and misinformation is mined from a true story that sent shockwaves through the US stock market.
A haphazard script melts down outlandish facts and casts them with dramatic flourishes into a rags-to-riches fairytale anchored by a scene-stealing performance from Matthew McConaughey as a rogue gold prospector, who lets dollar signs cloud his judgement.
The handsome Oscar-winning star sports a generous belly, wayward combover and alarmingly crooked teeth, which he sinks gleefully into each preposterous twist, eliciting sympathy and Schadenfreude as his character ignores dire warnings from a hometown girlfriend to aggressively pursue his American dream.
Gold is a curious alloy of madness and melancholy that struggles to generate dramatic momentum between solid set pieces.
Gaghan's film ultimately can't decide whether to pity or punish its woefully misguided central character for his morally dubious actions, building to an unexpected coda that tarnishes the robust work of the ensemble cast and calls into question whether the title should in fact be Fool's Gold.
In 1988, prospector Kenny Wells (McConaughey) presides over the faltering family business - Washoe Mining Corporation - in Reno, Nevada.
Kenny and his associates sweat blood and tears from their makeshift office, the local bar, where Kenny's doting girlfriend Kay (Bryce Dallas Howard) serves drinks while her beau vows to "make the dollar holler".
One alcohol-fuelled night, Kenny has a vivid dream about Indonesia and, on a whim, he pawns Kay's watch to fly east, where he hopes to persuade geologist Michael Acosta (Edgar Ramirez) to join him on a madcap quest into the jungle.
Kenny invests every last cent to drill core samples and send them down river for analysis in the hope that gold lurks beneath the jungle canopy.
Miraculously, one sample shows traces of the precious metal and it seems that Kenny and Michael have stumbled upon an untapped reserve worth millions of dollars.
New York investment banker Brian Woolf (Corey Stoll) woos Kenny in order to secure a slice of the golden pie, while cutthroat rival prospector Mark Hancock (Bruce Greenwood) jealously observes the negotiations.
"These guys are going to tear you up," Kay tearfully warns Kenny. "Don't ask me to watch what happens next."
Gold wisely invests in a charismatic leading man, capable of polishing an uneven plot to a dull glister.
McConaughey is in his element, instructing one colleague that he "will be riding shotgun on my jockstrap" as he huffs and puffs through each implausible interlude.
Ramirez and Howard are poorly served in pivotal supporting roles and the two-hour running time feels considerably longer, especially in a sagging middle act rife with malaria and misdirection.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10
RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER (15, 106 mins) Horror/Action/Thriller/Romance. Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Ever Anderson, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken, William Levy, Ruby Rose. Director: Paul WS Anderson.
Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland)
Zombies are remarkable predators: voracious, relentless, untouched by emotion and virtually unstoppable (so long as they don't lose their heads).
The slavering undead have risen time and again in the Resident Evil film series, based on the popular Capcom video games.
British director Paul WS Anderson kick-started the cinematic blood-letting in 2002 with Ukrainian-born actress Milla Jovovich cast in the role of feisty warrior Alice.
Since then, there have been four gore-slathered sequels of diminishing purpose and plausibility, and Anderson has married his leading lady.
The sixth iteration of zombie-slaying mayhem promises to hammer a final nail into the franchise's rapidly rotting coffin.
Since Alice's exploits have generated in excess of one billion US dollars, don't be surprised if Resident Evil: The Final Chapter turns out to be a misnomer.
The flimsy story unfolds shortly after events of Resident Evil: Retribution.
Alice (Jovovich) has been left for dead in the smouldering ruins of Washington DC by sunglasses-clad assassin Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), one of the shadowy figures behind the Umbrella Corporation, which released the T-Virus and transformed humanity into snarling predators.
The plucky heroine fends off creatures above and below the rubble-strewn ground until Umbrella's computer operating system, The Red Queen (Ever Anderson), unexpectedly makes contact and urges Alice to return to the epicentre of the outbreak, The Hive.
The Red Queen claims some of the 4,472 uninfected humans on the planet can be saved if an airborne antivirus, secretly engineered by the corporation, is released within 48 hours.
Alice is understandably suspicious of the operating system's motives.
Nevertheless, she screeches and scythes her way back to Raccoon City.
En route, the gun-toting angel of death clashes with conniving Dr Isaacs (Iain Glen) and seeks refuge with a ragtag group of survivors including old ally Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), Claire's lover Doc (Eoin Macken), hot-head Christian (William Levy) and mechanic Abigail (Ruby Rose).
Alas, a zombie horde is heading straight for Alice and her outnumbered compatriots in their fortified tower, so they must gather weapons, muster courage and brace for one last stand.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is indistinguishable from previous instalments, and edited with the same dizzying fury.
Director Anderson orchestrates a greatest hits apocalypse, reviving familiar computer-generated beasties - zombie dogs, the Licker - and death sequences while crudely bolting together action-packed set pieces by borrowing liberally from the vehicular slaughter of Mad Max: Fury Road and the wanton flesh-ripping of The Walking Dead.
Jovovich cartwheels, pirouettes and punches through each tiresome showpiece, spewing one-liners as she dispatches foes in lurid close-up.
"My name is Alice. This is my story, the end of my story," she purrs in a voiceover that neatly plugs holes in the series' narrative.
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 4/10