Geoff Cox’s DVD review: The Awakening, Machine Gun Preacher, Wuthering Heights

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GHOST stories are notoriously difficult to adapt for film and wraith relations movie THE AWAKENING (15: Studio Canal) is certainly not a classic.

The performances can’t be faulted and there are plenty of jumps and jolts and moments that make the back of your neck tingle.

Sadly, things go a little haywire in the third act and the tension racked up early on is lost in an orgy of melodrama and implausibility.

Haunted by the death of her fiance, paranormal investigator Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is a feisty exposer of supposed supernatural occurrences as hoaxes. She’s summoned to a remote boys’ boarding school by teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West), who tells her that his charges are being menaced by a mysterious spectre.

Florence finds that the sinister atmosphere in the school and the influence of its creepy housekeeper (Imelda Staunton hamming it up to great effect) refuse to disappear, despite her attempts to discover a rational explanation of events. If you can forgive the silly conclusion, it’s still satisfyingly scary.

> After flirting with romantic comedies, Gerard Butler seems to have accepted that tough guy roles are his true forte.

MACHINE GUN PREACHER (15: Lionsgate) certainly packs a punch, although Butler gets to show a sensitive side, too.

Based on a true story, he plays Sam Childers, a drug-dealing biker who comes close to killing a man, then gets religious and changes his ways.

Determined to now do God’s bidding, not the Devil’s, he embarks on missionary work in the Sudan, repairing homes destroyed during a civil war and building an orphanage in defiance of warnings from other aid workers. But he goes for his gun again as he takes a stand against the use of child soldiers by local warlords.

More worthy than remarkable, it’s a decent enough showcase for Butler.

> The latest adaptation of Emily Bronte’s beloved rural 19th century love story WUTHERING HEIGHTS (15: Artificial Eye) takes a boldly modernist approach designed to irritate purists.

The unknown cast is headed by Shannon Beer and Solomon Glave as the young Cathy and Heathcliff, who, in this provocative version, is black.

A Yorkshire hill farmer takes pity on a homeless boy and brings him back to his remote estate. The new arrival and the farmer’s daughter develop an obsessive bond as they grow up, but he is ultimately cast out by her brother. He returns years later, seeking to be reunited with his lost love and to avenge himself on her family.

You can almost smell the Yorkshire moors in the weather-beaten locations, shot in shallow focus so that we can seemingly reach out and touch every hair on a horse’s head and every snagged thread of wool on a thistle.

Yet perhaps it’s a touch too avant-garde as writer/director Andrea Arnold chases the action, handheld, like a Bourne movie.

> Colourful feline fairy tale PUSS IN BOOTS (U: Paramount) sees that suave, scene-stealing cat from Shrek 2 finally get his own swashbuckling adventure.

The dashing Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) finds romance with slinky Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) as they team up with Puss’s former partner-in-crime Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) on a quest for a golden goose.

This lively romp veers delightfully between Mother Goose, Zorro and a Sergio Leone western and is cleverly written, with minimal in-jokes and cat puns that are rife yet always amusing.

> There’s more human drama than flash-bang-wallop in war movie RESISTANCE (PG: Metrodome), which is set in an alternative reality where the D-Day landings have failed and Germany has invaded Britain.

In a remote Welsh valley, a group of farmers’ wives wake to find their menfolk gone. But where, and why? They have no more idea than the valley’s small force of occupying Germans.

The men have headed for the hills and formed a resistance group and the women left behind are forced to work with the invaders to survive the harsh winter.

So far, so interesting, but the film, starring Michael Sheen and Andrea Riseborough, never quite fulfils the promise of its premise.