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A Little Chaos 3 stars

movie title

King Louis XIV hires renowned landscape gardener Andre Le Notre to transform the grounds of Versailles into a fantasia "of exquisite and matchless beauty". It is a Herculean task, so Le Notre hires fellow landscapers to oversee different sections of the garden. Sabine De Barra catches his eye. She flouts rigid form and prefers a more haphazard approach to her planting. The arrival of Sabine in the court sets tongues wagging and incurs the wrath of Andre's jealous wife, Madame Le Notre.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance
  • CastAlan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci, Helen McCrory, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jennifer Ehle.
  • DirectorAlan Rickman.
  • WriterAlison Deegan, Alan Rickman, Jeremy Brock.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration117 mins
  • Official site
  • Release17/04/2015

Sexual tension and skulduggery blossom in the magnificent gardens of the Palace of Versailles in Alan Rickman's entertaining second directorial feature. A Little Chaos is considerably more formal and predictable than the title suggests, but what this lusty period romp lacks in originality, it compensates with colourful performances and an uplifting bouquet of courtly intrigues.

Rickman sows the seeds of our simple enjoyment with a largely British cast led by Oscar-winner Kate Winslet as a spirited landscape gardener, who refuses to kowtow to expectations or gender stereotypes.

She is nestled between handsome Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts as her green-fingered love interest and Stanley Tucci in a typically scene-stealing comic role as the effete Duc d'Orleans, who is a stranger to restrained sophistication and "speaks from the opposite end of the fashion scale".

Some of Britain's finest stately homes, estates and mansions including Blenheim Palace, Cliveden, Hampton Court Palace and Waddesdon Manor double handsomely for late 17th-century France. Rickman's garden is exceedingly well turned out.

The director makes his mark in front of the camera as King Louis XIV, who has hired renowned landscape gardener Andre Le Notre (Schoenaerts) to transform the grounds of Versailles into a fantasia "of exquisite and matchless beauty".

It is a Herculean task, so Le Notre hires fellow landscapers to oversee different sections of the garden. Sabine De Barra (Winslet) catches his eye. She flouts rigid form and prefers a more haphazard approach to her planting.

The arrival of Sabine in the court sets tongues wagging - "You are no one where everybody is someone," a chaperone tells her - and incurs the wrath of Andre's jealous wife, Madame Le Notre (Helen McCrory).

Fellow labourers including Moulin (Danny Webb) rush to support Sabine in her epic undertaking and the gardener wins the approval of the king's mistress Madame De Montespan (Jennifer Ehle) by challenging the monarch's description of women in his court as faded and overblown roses. "That fate awaits all roses, sire," Sabine responds confidently.

A Little Chaos has the requisite array of heaving bosoms, lingering glances and deceptions, accentuated by swathes of eye-catching costumes and composer Peter Gregson's lively score.

Winslet isn't stretched in the lead role but she brings grit and determination to her trendsetter. On-screen sexual tension with Schoenaerts barely simmers, while McCrory vamps it up to the hilt as the wicked wench who envies Sabine's ability to impress powerful men with her intellect.

Rickman downplays his beleaguered monarch and enjoys one truly delightful scene with Winslet, in which he casts off the king's finery to mourn lost love. The resolution of the entangled plots will surprise no one, but A Little Chaos is a hardy perennial that will weather most criticism and delivers gentle sprays of laughter and romance when it counts.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

Avengers: Age Of Ultron 3 stars

movie title

Tony Stark hopes to jumpstart world peace using a dormant artificial intelligence program but he unwittingly unleashes the villainous Ultron. Nick Fury marshals superhero team of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye to protect mankind from annihilation, testing the bonds of trust between the team members in the process. Uneasy alliances are forged and the Avengers cross paths with mysterious and powerful siblings Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • CastChris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, James Spader, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
  • DirectorJoss Whedon.
  • WriterJoss Whedon.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration141 mins
  • Official sitewww.marvel.com/avengers
  • Release23/04/2015

As the roaring success of last year's Guardians Of The Galaxy confirmed, our appetite for films set in the Marvel Comics universe is voracious. This eagerly anticipated sequel to the 2012 action adventure Avengers Assemble is poised to smash box office records with the same unstoppable clobber of a rampaging Incredible Hulk. Director Joss Whedon is back at the helm to lay the narrative groundwork for the 2016 blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War, which will tear the eponymous team apart as governments worldwide prepare to pass an act regulating superhuman activity. In many respects, Avengers: Age Of Ultron is business as usual. Whedon's film fleshes out the back stories of existing characters, introduces new friends and foes to the fray, and continues the relentless cross-pollination of this menagerie of mighty misfits. Marvel Comics chairman Stan Lee makes his traditional cameo and Whedon's script glisters with polished one-liners, including one gem to pithily illustrate how quickly an evil artificial intelligence can infect the World Wide Web: "He's spreading faster than a Catholic rabbit." While the sequel delivers exactly what we expect, it lacks some of the pizazz of the first film and pacing noticeably sags in the middle, plus overly enthusiastic editing of set pieces reduces some skirmishes to an incomprehensible blur, which strain the eyes in 3D. In the breathless action sequence which opens the film, the Avengers storm a Hydra stronghold in the central European city of Sokovia under the control of Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) in order to reclaim Loki's magical staff, the Chitauri Scepter. During the melee, emotionally scarred siblings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who have been subjected to secret Hydra experiments, are unleashed. Wanda infects the mind of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), using her dark sorcery to convince the billionaire that he will bring about the deaths of the entire team. Tormented by his nightmarish vision, Stark secretly plans to harness the power of the Chitauri Scepter to awaken a dormant artificial intelligence program to protect mankind. "I don't want to hear that 'man wasn't meant to meddle' medley," Stark tells scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) as justification for his covert operation. Instead, Stark unwittingly unleashes the villainous Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Steve Evans aka Captain America (Chris Evans) clashes with Stark for control of the Avengers comprising Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Banner aka The Incredible Hulk and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Rivalries intensify and fragile bonds of trust fray as mankind's survival hangs in the balance. Thankfully, the Avengers have a new, yet familiar, ally: an android called Vision (Paul Bettany). By introducing a hulking automaton arch-nemesis, Avengers: Age Of Ultron duplicates some of the large-scale digital destruction of the Transformers franchise. Spader's vocal performance lends gravitas to his mechanised megalomaniac while Downey Jr predictably snaffles the majority of the droll quips. Seeds of romance between Ruffalo and Johansson, sown in the first film, are heavily watered as a diversion from the bone-crunching. Running jokes about Captain America's aversion to swearing and the size of Thor's hammer don't run out of puff before the 141 frenetic minutes come to a suitably bombastic close. Marvel films have a habit of sneaking a teaser into the end credits. Age Of Ultron doesn't disappoint the ardent fan boys and girls on this front either.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 26th April 2015
Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

This film is also showing at:

Avengers: Age Of Ultron 3D 3 stars

movie title

Tony Stark hopes to jumpstart world peace using a dormant artificial intelligence program but he unwittingly unleashes the villainous Ultron. Nick Fury marshals superhero team of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye to protect mankind from annihilation, testing the bonds of trust between the team members in the process. Uneasy alliances are forged and the Avengers cross paths with mysterious and powerful siblings Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • CastChris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, James Spader, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
  • DirectorJoss Whedon.
  • WriterJoss Whedon.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration141 mins
  • Official sitewww.marvel.com/avengers
  • Release23/04/2015

As the roaring success of last year's Guardians Of The Galaxy confirmed, our appetite for films set in the Marvel Comics universe is voracious. This eagerly anticipated sequel to the 2012 action adventure Avengers Assemble is poised to smash box office records with the same unstoppable clobber of a rampaging Incredible Hulk.

Director Joss Whedon is back at the helm to lay the narrative groundwork for the 2016 blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War, which will tear the eponymous team apart as governments worldwide prepare to pass an act regulating superhuman activity.

In many respects, Avengers: Age Of Ultron is business as usual. Whedon's film fleshes out the back stories of existing characters, introduces new friends and foes to the fray, and continues the relentless cross-pollination of this menagerie of mighty misfits.

Marvel Comics chairman Stan Lee makes his traditional cameo and Whedon's script glisters with polished one-liners, including one gem to pithily illustrate how quickly an evil artificial intelligence can infect the World Wide Web: "He's spreading faster than a Catholic rabbit."

While the sequel delivers exactly what we expect, it lacks some of the pizazz of the first film and pacing noticeably sags in the middle, plus overly enthusiastic editing of set pieces reduces some skirmishes to an incomprehensible blur, which strain the eyes in 3D.

In the breathless action sequence which opens the film, the Avengers storm a Hydra stronghold in the central European city of Sokovia under the control of Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) in order to reclaim Loki's magical staff, the Chitauri Scepter.

During the melee, emotionally scarred siblings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who have been subjected to secret Hydra experiments, are unleashed. Wanda infects the mind of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), using her dark sorcery to convince the billionaire that he will bring about the deaths of the entire team.

Tormented by his nightmarish vision, Stark secretly plans to harness the power of the Chitauri Scepter to awaken a dormant artificial intelligence program to protect mankind. "I don't want to hear that 'man wasn't meant to meddle' medley," Stark tells scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) as justification for his covert operation.

Instead, Stark unwittingly unleashes the villainous Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Steve Evans aka Captain America (Chris Evans) clashes with Stark for control of the Avengers comprising Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Banner aka The Incredible Hulk and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

Rivalries intensify and fragile bonds of trust fray as mankind's survival hangs in the balance. Thankfully, the Avengers have a new, yet familiar, ally: an android called Vision (Paul Bettany).

By introducing a hulking automaton arch-nemesis, Avengers: Age Of Ultron duplicates some of the large-scale digital destruction of the Transformers franchise. Spader's vocal performance lends gravitas to his mechanised megalomaniac while Downey Jr predictably snaffles the majority of the droll quips.

Seeds of romance between Ruffalo and Johansson, sown in the first film, are heavily watered as a diversion from the bone-crunching. Running jokes about Captain America's aversion to swearing and the size of Thor's hammer don't run out of puff before the 141 frenetic minutes come to a suitably bombastic close.

Marvel films have a habit of sneaking a teaser into the end credits. Age Of Ultron doesn't disappoint the ardent fan boys and girls on this front either.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 26th April 2015
Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

This film is also showing at:

Avengers: Age Of Ultron 3D (Subtitled) 3 stars

movie title

Tony Stark hopes to jumpstart world peace using a dormant artificial intelligence program but he unwittingly unleashes the villainous Ultron. Nick Fury marshals superhero team of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye to protect mankind from annihilation, testing the bonds of trust between the team members in the process. Uneasy alliances are forged and the Avengers cross paths with mysterious and powerful siblings Wanda and Pietro Maximoff.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • CastChris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, James Spader, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen.
  • DirectorJoss Whedon.
  • WriterJoss Whedon.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration141 mins
  • Official sitewww.marvel.com/avengers
  • Release23/04/2015

As the roaring success of last year's Guardians Of The Galaxy confirmed, our appetite for films set in the Marvel Comics universe is voracious. This eagerly anticipated sequel to the 2012 action adventure Avengers Assemble is poised to smash box office records with the same unstoppable clobber of a rampaging Incredible Hulk.

Director Joss Whedon is back at the helm to lay the narrative groundwork for the 2016 blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War, which will tear the eponymous team apart as governments worldwide prepare to pass an act regulating superhuman activity.

In many respects, Avengers: Age Of Ultron is business as usual. Whedon's film fleshes out the back stories of existing characters, introduces new friends and foes to the fray, and continues the relentless cross-pollination of this menagerie of mighty misfits.

Marvel Comics chairman Stan Lee makes his traditional cameo and Whedon's script glisters with polished one-liners, including one gem to pithily illustrate how quickly an evil artificial intelligence can infect the World Wide Web: "He's spreading faster than a Catholic rabbit."

While the sequel delivers exactly what we expect, it lacks some of the pizazz of the first film and pacing noticeably sags in the middle, plus overly enthusiastic editing of set pieces reduces some skirmishes to an incomprehensible blur, which strain the eyes in 3D.

In the breathless action sequence which opens the film, the Avengers storm a Hydra stronghold in the central European city of Sokovia under the control of Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) in order to reclaim Loki's magical staff, the Chitauri Scepter.

During the melee, emotionally scarred siblings Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who have been subjected to secret Hydra experiments, are unleashed. Wanda infects the mind of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), using her dark sorcery to convince the billionaire that he will bring about the deaths of the entire team.

Tormented by his nightmarish vision, Stark secretly plans to harness the power of the Chitauri Scepter to awaken a dormant artificial intelligence program to protect mankind. "I don't want to hear that 'man wasn't meant to meddle' medley," Stark tells scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) as justification for his covert operation.

Instead, Stark unwittingly unleashes the villainous Ultron (voiced by James Spader). Steve Evans aka Captain America (Chris Evans) clashes with Stark for control of the Avengers comprising Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Banner aka The Incredible Hulk and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

Rivalries intensify and fragile bonds of trust fray as mankind's survival hangs in the balance. Thankfully, the Avengers have a new, yet familiar, ally: an android called Vision (Paul Bettany).

By introducing a hulking automaton arch-nemesis, Avengers: Age Of Ultron duplicates some of the large-scale digital destruction of the Transformers franchise. Spader's vocal performance lends gravitas to his mechanised megalomaniac while Downey Jr predictably snaffles the majority of the droll quips.

Seeds of romance between Ruffalo and Johansson, sown in the first film, are heavily watered as a diversion from the bone-crunching. Running jokes about Captain America's aversion to swearing and the size of Thor's hammer don't run out of puff before the 141 frenetic minutes come to a suitably bombastic close.

Marvel films have a habit of sneaking a teaser into the end credits. Age Of Ultron doesn't disappoint the ardent fan boys and girls on this front either.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 27th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

Birdman 5 stars

movie title

Riggan Thomson rose to fame playing a superhero called Birdman in three blockbuster films in the 1990s. Twenty years later, his career is stagnant and he is determined to establish himself as a serious artist by directing, writing and starring in a Broadway staging of Raymond Carver's short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. As opening night approaches, petty squabbles between Riggan and his cast - including Broadway star Mike Shiner - threaten to derail the vanity project.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Indie, Romance
  • CastMichael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough.
  • DirectorAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
  • WriterAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration119 mins
  • Official sitewww.birdmanthemovie.com
  • Release26/12/2014 (selected London cinemas); 01/01/2015 (nationwide)

According to Konstantin Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg, two founding fathers of method acting, the best performers possess the rare ability to channel deeply personal recollections and emotions through their characters. These actors don't just play a role as written, they share every breath and straining sinew with their alter ego.

In Birdman, Michael Keaton inhabits the role of a middle-aged Hollywood star, whose glory days as a big screen superhero are long behind him. It's the role of a lifetime for Keaton - the role of his lifetime, no less, nodding and winking to his two stints behind Batman's cowl under director Tim Burton in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Art and real life playfully blur in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's technically dazzling comedy, which was shot on location in New York. In one of the film's bravura handheld sequences, Keaton strides purposefully through crowded, neon-lit Times Square in just his underpants as tourists clamour with their mobile devices. Literally and figuratively, he bares his soul.

Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who deservedly won an Oscar for sci-fi thriller Gravity, meticulously splice together each interlude to resemble a single, unbroken 119-minute shot.

If you look closely, you can see the joins but, as a feat of split-second timing, balletic choreography and directorial brio, Birdman is jaw-dropping - right down to the moment the camera casually pans to a drummer on the street playing the same beats and rolls of Antonio Sanchez's improvised jazz score.

Riggan Thomson (Keaton) rose to fame playing a superhero called Birdman in three blockbuster films. Twenty years later, he masterminds a comeback with nervy producer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) by directing, writing and starring in a Broadway production of Raymond Carver's short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

As opening night approaches and revered critics including Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan) prepare to deliver their waspish verdict, petty squabbles between Riggan and his cast - popular Broadway star Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), leading lady Lesley (Naomi Watts) and current squeeze Laura (Andrea Riseborough) - threaten to derail the vanity project.

The leading man struggles to keep personal demons at bay, exacerbated by fractious exchanges with his spirited daughter Sam (Emma Stone).

Accompanied by a rambling voiceover from Riggan that reflects the character's mental unravelling, Birdman is a wickedly funny satire of a world of overinflated egos and barely concealed vices.

Performances are uniformly excellent, from Keaton's career-revitalising turn to Stone's fearless portrayal of a recovering drug addict and Norton's hilarious embodiment of an artist, who believes that, "popularity is just the slutty little cousin of prestige".

Peppered with affectionate verbal barbs aimed at Hollywood's current glitterati, Inarritu's picture is crammed to bursting with self-referential treats that demand a second and third viewing. Birdman is the post-Christmas gift that keep on giving.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

Child 44 3 stars

movie title

Leo Demidov, best friend Alexei Andreyev and cowardly rival Vasili Nikitin work side by side as Moscow's secret police under the aegis of Major Kuzmin. Alexei's young son dies on the train tracks in suspicious circumstances and the grieving father becomes convinced that a murderer is on the loose. When Leo investigates, Kuzmin shoots him down: "Stalin tells us murder is strictly a capitalist disease."

  • GenreAdaptation, Historical/Period, Romance, Thriller, War
  • CastJason Clarke, Tom Hardy, Vincent Cassel, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Noomi Rapace, Paddy Considine, Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman.
  • DirectorDaniel Espinosa.
  • WriterRichard Price.
  • CountryUS/UK/Cze/
  • Duration137 mins
  • Official sitewww.child44film.com
  • Release17/04/2015

Adapted from the first novel of Tom Rob Smith's award-winning trilogy, Child 44 is a dense crime thriller steeped in the suspicion and paranoia of the Stalin-era Soviet Union.

Scriptwriter Richard Price faces an uphill battle - one he doesn't always win - to condense more than 400 pages of political intrigue and sinewy subplots into a free-flowing narrative that won't distract multiplex audiences from their popcorn.

He succeeds in fits and spurts, aided by Swedish director Daniel Espinosa, who energised the Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds thriller Safe House, and performs some of the same magic here in propulsive action sequences.

Espinosa flexes his muscles in compelling early scenes, recreating a key moment in the Battle of Berlin in 1945, when Soviets raised their flag over the Reichstag building. War-hardened soldier Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) is the man wielding the standard, cheered on by best friend Alexei Andreyev (Fares Fares), while cowardly comrade Vasili Nikitin (Joel Kinnaman) watches enviously from the sidelines.

Fast-forward eight years and these three men are working side by side as Moscow's secret police under the aegis of Major Kuzmin (Vincent Cassel). Alexei's young son dies on the train tracks in suspicious circumstances and the grieving father becomes convinced that a murderer is on the loose.

When Leo investigates, Kuzmin shoots him down: "Stalin tells us murder is strictly a capitalist disease." Soon after, Leo's wife Raisa (Noomi Rapace) is branded a traitor but the policeman refuses to disown her. "You should have given me up - that's what wives are for," she coldly informs him, before they are banished to the bleak industrial town of Voualsk.

Leo is determined to unmask the boy's murderer and joins forces with local lawmaker General Nesterov (Gary Oldman) to disprove Stalin's assertion that there can be no murder in paradise. Meanwhile, the unlikely culprit, a factory worker called Vladimir (Paddy Considine), hunts more unsuspecting victims with impunity.

Based on the real life case of Andrei Chikatilo, the so-called Butcher of Rostov, who was sentenced to death for 52 murders, Child 44 is a slow burn that gets bogged down in exposition. Some of the cast are more comfortable than others with the thick Russian accents, including a couple of noticeable wobbles.

Hardy is a typically brooding and emotionally conflicted central figure, who is forced to address his own transgressions when murderer Vladimir scolds: "Hero, monster - we are both killers, you and I."

The bitter rivalry with Kinnaman's backstabbing compatriot is sketched in broad strokes while Rapace's love interest feels slightly undernourished too, although she relishes one pivotal scene in which Raisa laments the lack of free will afforded her sex.

Espinosa sustains tension, despite occasional dramatic detours that prolong the running time to a testing 137 minutes.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 26th April 2015
Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

This film is also showing at:

Cinderella 4 stars

movie title

Ella loses her mother and father, but inherits a vindictive stepmother Lady Tremaine and two brattish stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella. Treated as a servant by her new family, who cruelly nickname her Cinderella, the plucky heroine catches the eye of dashing Prince Charming, who must pick a bride to ensure the security of the kingdom. So he throws a lavish ball where Ella makes a grand entrance with some magical help from her Fairy Godmother.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Drama, Family, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • CastDerek Jacobi, Stellan Skarsgard, Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger, Cate Blanchett, Sophie McShera, Lily James, Ben Chaplin, Helena Bonham Carter, Hayley Atwell.
  • DirectorKenneth Branagh.
  • WriterChris Weitz.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration113 mins
  • Official sitemovies.disney.com/cinderella/
  • Release27/03/2015

Slavishly adapted from Disney's classic 1950 animated musical, Kenneth Branagh's live action version of the fairy-tale romance doesn't skimp on the period detail. Sandy Powell's luxurious costumes, Dante Ferretti's opulent set designs and Patrick Doyle's sweeping orchestral score conjure a magical world of unerring love in which even we gasp at the gargantuan splendour of the grand ball where the prince must choose his wife.

While this Cinderella unquestionably dazzles the senses, screenwriter Chris Weitz is shackled to fond memories of the hand-drawn film and consequently, he has almost no room for flourishes of originality.

The plot arc is predetermined, the ugly stepsisters don't hack off their heels or toes to squeeze into a misplaced glass slipper, and Helena Bonham Carter's fairy godmother isn't quite as eccentric as she or we would like as she engineers the film's best set-piece with a flick of her wand.

"I don't go transforming pumpkins for just anyone!" she chirps. No, the special effects wizards do and they accomplish the pivotal sequence with aplomb. Before all of the jiggery-pokery with a pumpkin, four mice and a goose, Ella (Lily James) is consigned to the kitchen by her vindictive stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and brattish stepsisters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera).

Emboldened by the dying words of her mother (Hayley Atwell) - "Have courage and be kind" - Ella tries to rise above the bullying. When the name-calling becomes too frightful, she escapes on horseback and catches the eye of the dashing Prince (Richard Madden), who must pick a bride at the behest of the dying King (Derek Jacobi).

So the Prince throws a lavish ball where Ella makes her grand entrance then disappears as the clock chimes midnight, leaving behind footwear that would surely pose a health and safety risk in any other film. "Find that girl - the forgetful one who loses her shoes!" decrees the Captain of the royal guard (Nonzo Anosie).

Cinderella will enchant a generation of girls, who dream of donning the tiara of a Disney princess. James and Madden are an attractive screen pairing, while Blanchett draws inspiration from Joan Crawford to cast a formidable shadow from beneath the brim of her character's extravagant hats.

"I do love a happy ending, don't you?" gushes one of the characters. Branagh's film certainly does, without a hint of irony. The main feature is preceded by the animated short Frozen Fever, which continues the adventures of sisters Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) as they prepare for a birthday celebration.

Lovable snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and hunky Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) also return and the script includes a cute reference to the blockbusting film when ice queen Elsa sneezes and chirrups, "A cold never bothered me anyway!" A generation of men, who take to their beds at the first sniffle, would disagree.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 26th April 2015
Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015

This film is also showing at:

Fast & Furious 7 3 stars

movie title

Following the death of corrupt British soldier Owen Shaw, Dominic Toretto, Brian O'Conner and their crew are granted permission to return to America as free men. Brian and Mia look forward to settling down and Dominic comes to terms with the return of Letty from the dead. Owen's older brother Ian seeks revenge for the killing of his sibling and he begins by slaying Han-Seoul-Oh. When the rest of the team learn about Han's death, they come together for one final and potentially lethal mission.

  • GenreAction, Romance, Thriller
  • CastDwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Djimon Hounsou, Lucas Black, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham.
  • DirectorJames Wan.
  • WriterChris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson.
  • CountryUS/Jpn
  • Duration137 mins
  • Official sitewww.fastandfurious7.co.uk
  • Release03/04/2015

It's not the gleaming high-octane motors, scantily clad women or outlandish gravity-defying stunts that will have audiences burning rubber to their multiplexes to see this seventh instalment of The Fast And The Furious franchise. Instead, it's the final screen appearance of handsome leading man Paul Walker, who died halfway through production, which will invariably guarantee supercharged box office returns for James Wan's sleek sequel.

Fast & Furious 7 is dedicated to Walker's memory and his unfinished scenes have been respectfully completed using previously unseen footage from earlier films, or by digitally grafting his facial features onto the bodies of his brothers, Caleb and Cody, who act as stand-ins.

The digital trickery is impressive and while the joins aren't completely seamless, we suspend our disbelief, which is already hovering in the troposphere after the stunt team mocks the laws of physics to drive one car out of the penthouse of an Abu Dhabi skyscraper and across the void to a neighbouring tower block.

Screenwriter Chris Morgan's desire to top the outrageous set pieces of previous films repeatedly sacrifices realism, going for broke when he hopes to persuade us that Vin Diesel, Walker and their co-stars could skydive their vehicles into position on a winding mountain road by driving cars out of an airplane and opening parachutes attached to their plummeting vehicles at the last second.

It's an understatement when one of the characters whoops, "I can't believe we pulled that off!" The action begins directly after events of Fast & Furious 6 with corrupt British soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) on life support in a London hospital.

Owen's older brother Ian (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O'Conner (Walker) and their crew. Ian hacks into the computer of federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to ascertain the whereabouts of the team and doles out a near fatal pummelling to Hobbs in the process.

"I'm gonna put a hurt on him so bad, he's gonna wish his momma had kept her legs closed," barks the hospitalised federal agent. Meanwhile, Dominic's crew prepare for war. "It looks like the sins of London followed us home," growls the bad boy, who reunites with fast-talking Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and technical wizard Tej (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) to neutralise the threat posed by Owen with help from a hacker called Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).

Fast & Furious 7 stitches together all of the previous films including a cameo for Lucas Black as Sean Boswell from the lacklustre third chapter Tokyo Drift. Diesel, Walker and co continue to display superhuman strength and resilience, surviving spectacular crashes with barely a graze, while Statham plies his usual brand of muscular destruction.

A heartfelt, if protracted, coda between Diesel and Walker provides the former with an opportunity to publicly say farewell to his cinematic brother in arms.

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Sunday 26th April 2015
Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

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Fast & Furious 7 (Subtitled) 3 stars

movie title

Following the death of corrupt British soldier Owen Shaw, Dominic Toretto, Brian O'Conner and their crew are granted permission to return to America as free men. Brian and Mia look forward to settling down and Dominic comes to terms with the return of Letty from the dead. Owen's older brother Ian seeks revenge for the killing of his sibling and he begins by slaying Han-Seoul-Oh. When the rest of the team learn about Han's death, they come together for one final and potentially lethal mission.

  • GenreAction, Romance, Thriller
  • CastDjimon Hounsou, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Lucas Black, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham.
  • DirectorJames Wan.
  • WriterChris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson.
  • CountryUS/Jpn
  • Duration137 mins
  • Official sitewww.fastandfurious7.co.uk
  • Release03/04/2015

It's not the gleaming high-octane motors, scantily clad women or outlandish gravity-defying stunts that will have audiences burning rubber to their multiplexes to see this seventh instalment of The Fast And The Furious franchise. Instead, it's the final screen appearance of handsome leading man Paul Walker, who died halfway through production, which will invariably guarantee supercharged box office returns for James Wan's sleek sequel.

Fast & Furious 7 is dedicated to Walker's memory and his unfinished scenes have been respectfully completed using previously unseen footage from earlier films, or by digitally grafting his facial features onto the bodies of his brothers, Caleb and Cody, who act as stand-ins.

The digital trickery is impressive and while the joins aren't completely seamless, we suspend our disbelief, which is already hovering in the troposphere after the stunt team mocks the laws of physics to drive one car out of the penthouse of an Abu Dhabi skyscraper and across the void to a neighbouring tower block.

Screenwriter Chris Morgan's desire to top the outrageous set pieces of previous films repeatedly sacrifices realism, going for broke when he hopes to persuade us that Vin Diesel, Walker and their co-stars could skydive their vehicles into position on a winding mountain road by driving cars out of an airplane and opening parachutes attached to their plummeting vehicles at the last second.

It's an understatement when one of the characters whoops, "I can't believe we pulled that off!" The action begins directly after events of Fast & Furious 6 with corrupt British soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) on life support in a London hospital.

Owen's older brother Ian (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O'Conner (Walker) and their crew. Ian hacks into the computer of federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to ascertain the whereabouts of the team and doles out a near fatal pummelling to Hobbs in the process.

"I'm gonna put a hurt on him so bad, he's gonna wish his momma had kept her legs closed," barks the hospitalised federal agent. Meanwhile, Dominic's crew prepare for war. "It looks like the sins of London followed us home," growls the bad boy, who reunites with fast-talking Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and technical wizard Tej (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) to neutralise the threat posed by Owen with help from a hacker called Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).

Fast & Furious 7 stitches together all of the previous films including a cameo for Lucas Black as Sean Boswell from the lacklustre third chapter Tokyo Drift. Diesel, Walker and co continue to display superhuman strength and resilience, surviving spectacular crashes with barely a graze, while Statham plies his usual brand of muscular destruction.

A heartfelt, if protracted, coda between Diesel and Walker provides the former with an opportunity to publicly say farewell to his cinematic brother in arms.

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Monday 27th April 2015

Get Hard 1 stars

movie title

Businessman James King is engaged to a beautiful woman, who happens to be the daughter of Mr Hart, president of the firm. James savours the trappings of his millionaire lifestyle until he is wrongfully convicted of tax evasion, which carries a 10-year prison sentence. He has 30 days to prepare for his stint behind bars. James turns for help to one of Mr Hart's employees, Darnell Lewis, who James mistakenly believes must have served time because he is African-American.

  • GenreComedy, Drama
  • CastWill Ferrell, Alison Brie, Kevin Hart, Craig T Nelson.
  • DirectorEtan Cohen.
  • WriterIan Roberts, Jay Martel, Etan Cohen.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration100 mins
  • Official sitewww.gethardmovie.com
  • Release27/03/2015

Etan Cohen's relentlessly homophobic and racist comedy of errors - the biggest being that the film was made - opens with a shot of actor Will Ferrell sobbing uncontrollably. We know exactly how he feels after 10 minutes of Get Hard, which presumably sets out to poke fun at rampant political correctness but completely misses a huge target.

I sincerely doubt that writer-director Cohen, who penned the script to the Ben Stiller-Robert Downey Jr comedy Tropic Thunder, which lampooned racial stereotypes with aplomb, set out to wilfully offend or denigrate.

However, it's difficult to find excuses for a crass and insensitive script that treats male rape as a running joke, reduces most women to sex objects and contrives a painfully laboured sequence at a gay-friendly cafe, where Ferrell's energetic co-star Kevin Hart counsels him to approach any man and ask for oral sex because "that's what they do".

A couple of decent gags, including a jibe at an Australian media mogul, momentarily sweetens an exceedingly bitter pill, but we're left with a very nasty taste in the mouth, even with a generous drizzle of syrupy sentimentality in the film's closing moments.

James King (Ferrell) is a trader at Walthrop Fund Management, who can speculate 28 million US dollars profit in a single day and believes that society reduces to "rich or poor, white or... miscellaneous". His pampered fiancee Alissa (Alison Brie) is the daughter of company chairman Martin Clark (Craig T Nelson), who is poised to make his future son-in-law a partner in the firm.

James savours the trappings of his millionaire lifestyle until he is wrongfully charged with 43 counts of fraud and 30 counts of embezzlement. The company lawyer (Greg Germann) advises James to plead guilty but he refuses and is subsequently handed a 10-year sentence at a maximum security prison.

With 30 days to prepare for a stint behind bars, James turns to Darnell Lewis (Hart), owner of a car wash business, who the shamed trader presumes must have served time because he is African-American. In truth, Darnell is a hard-working family man, who intends to build a better future for his wife (Edwina Findley Dickerson) and daughter (Ariana Neal).

James offers Darnell 30,000 US dollars to toughen him up. "Help me train to not be someone's bitch," grizzles the millionaire. So Darnell passes himself off as a tough-talking mentor using insider information gleaned from his jailbird cousin (Tip "T.I." Harris).

Get Hard limps from one moment of uncomfortable, deathly silence, where there should be laughter, to the next. Ferrell and Hart are a mismatched double-act, riffing obscenities at each other in the hope that something, anything, might warrant a pitying smile.

To quote Hart's despairing on-screen spouse: "This is nuts!" Incarceration would be preferable to having to sit through Cohen's film again.

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Sunday 26th April 2015
Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

Globe On Screen: Julius Caesar 3 stars

Shakespeare's classic historical drama.

  • GenreDrama, Special
  • CastAnthony Howell, Patrick Driver, George Irving.
  • DirectorDominic Dromgoole.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration167 mins
  • Official site

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Thursday 30th April 2015

Home 3 stars

movie title

An extra-terrestrial race called the Boov invades Earth under the command of Captain Smek with a view to claiming the third rock from the sun as their new home. The Boov round up the humans and relocates the entire species. A resourceful teenage girl called Tip, whose mother was abducted, evades capture and goes on the run. She crosses paths with an outcast Boov named Oh, who has been banished by his otherworldly kin. They join forces to save Earth.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • CastJim Parsons, Steve Martin, Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Jones.
  • DirectorTim Johnson.
  • WriterTom J Astle, Matt Ember.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration94 mins
  • Official sitewww.meettheboov.com
  • Release20/03/2015

Humans and cute aliens unite to save Earth in Tim Johnson's entertaining but shamelessly contrived computer-animated adventure. The new dog performing old tricks on the DreamWorks block, which previously housed Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon, lacks the belly laughs and heart-breaking emotion of those films, but merrily rehashes elements from all three.

Thus the extra-terrestrial invaders discover they like to wave their hands in the air like they just don't care to our music and the central duo discovers that self-sacrifice is an important part of friendship.

Johnson's film has some solid gags and the colour palette is bright, although there are disappointingly few visual tricks up the animators' sleeves to justify the increased ticket price for the 3D version.

In a neat piece of short-hand, the invaders turn out to be the extra-terrestrial equivalent of mood rings, changing colour to reflect their emotional state: yellow for fear, pink for love, red for anger, blue for sadness and green for dishonesty. It's a merchandiser's dream and every parent's nightmare: children begging for the same stuffed toy in multiple shades.

An extra-terrestrial race called the Boov invades Earth under the command of power-hungry Captain Smek (voiced by Steve Martin) with a view to claiming the third rock from the sun as their new home.

The Boov round up the humans and relocate the entire species to Australia. Back in America, a resourceful 11-year-old girl called Tip (Rihanna), whose mother (Jennifer Lopez) was abducted from their apartment, evades capture and goes on the run with her rotund pet cat.

She encounters a fugitive Boov named Oh (Jim Parsons), who has accidentally sent an email invitation to his "warming of house party" to everyone in the galaxy, including the Boov's sworn enemy, the Gorg. Tip and Oh are poles apart: she is spunky and brave, while he turns tail at the first sign of peril.

"If probability falls below 50%, the Boov give up," explains Oh. Working together, they forge a touching friendship and Tip helps her extra-terrestrial chum to embrace his flaws.

Based on the children's book The True Meaning Of Smekday by Adam Rex, Home ticks all of the boxes, but does so without any obvious verve, originality or sense of urgency. Parsons riffs on his nerdy character in The Big Bang Theory, while Rihanna lends her distinctive Barbadian tones to the plucky, pint-sized heroine.

She also has two songs on the soundtrack including the dance anthem Only Girl (In The World), which provides moments of unnecessary distraction as Tip talks over the top of the music.

At one point during the chase, Oh turns to Tip and screams, "This is not a sustainable friendship model." Johnson makes it work for 94 minutes, but only just.

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Sunday 26th April 2015
Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

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Penguins Of Madagascar 3 stars

movie title

Skipper leads a crack squad of penguins comprising Kowalski, Rico and Private. A grey wolf called Classified, who works for the elite inter-species task force North Wind, recruits the plucky birds to thwart nefarious octopus Dr Octavius Brine. The penguins collaborate with some of the best agents in North Wind including harp seal demolitions expert Short Fuse, snowy owl intelligence analyst Eva and plucky polar bear Corporal to defeat their tentacled adversary.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
  • CastChristopher Knights, Chris Miller, Tom McGrath, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Stormare, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Conrad Vernon.
  • DirectorEric Darnell, Simon J Smith.
  • WriterMichael Colton, John Aboud, Brandon Sawyer.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration92 mins
  • Official sitewww.madagascar.dreamworks.com
  • Release05/12/2014

Birds of a feather somersault, karate kick and bicker together in Eric Darnell and Simon J Smith's misfiring computer-animated spin-off from the Madagascar films. Frenetic and fast-paced, Penguins Of Madagascar initially sketches the back story of the four plucky Antarctic critters with a beak for adventure through the lens of a documentary film crew, who are keen to observe the flightless birds in their treacherous natural habitat.

The script soon fast-forwards to the conclusion of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and literally blasts the penguins into an outlandish spy caper replete with a menagerie of animal co-stars that should be a merchandiser's dream this Christmas.

The colour-saturated animation is a feast for the eyes and there are a few neat visual gags such as the penguins' novel approach to navigating a zebra crossing undetected. However, the four lead characters, who are boundlessly charming in small doses as sidekicks, grate slightly as heroes of their own half-baked story.

Hopefully the adorable Minions from the Despicable Me series will dodge a similar fate when they graduate to the limelight in a self-titled feature next summer.

Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath) leads a crack squad comprising Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) on a daring mission to break into Fort Knox in search of treasure: a luminous orange snack called Cheezy Dibbles.

From the offset, goofball Private is identified as the black penguin of the operation. "He's sort of our secretary-slash-mascot," observes Skipper. The hunt for Cheezy Dibbles leads the penguins into the clutches of nefarious octopus Dr Octavius Brine (John Malkovich), who intends to take over the world using his mutation serum.

Thankfully, Skipper and co escape and a subsequent chase with hench-octopi along the canals of Venice leads the penguins into the company of a grey wolf called Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch), who works for an elite inter-species task force known as North Wind.

Fellow agents include harp seal demolitions expert Short Fuse (Ken Jeong), snowy owl intelligence analyst Eva (Annet Mahendru) and plucky polar bear Corporal (Peter Stormare). The unlikely heroes join forces to defeat their tentacled arch-nemesis, but this collaboration will amount to nothing unless Skipper allows Private to discover the hero within.

Penguins Of Madagascar exhibits a similar lack of invention as the films which gave birth to Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. Brine's master plan for global domination bears an uncanny resemblance to events in Despicable Me 2 and the underlying message of tolerance and acceptance has been preached countless times before.

"If we've learnt anything on this delightful adventure, it's that looks don't matter. It's what you do that counts," declares Skipper.

A running joke involving celebrity names in one character's dialogue is a cute flourish but certainly not enough for these penguins to defy evolution and effortlessly take flight.

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Sunday 26th April 2015

Shaun The Sheep Movie 4 stars

movie title

Shaun and the flock grow tired of the daily routine on Mossy Bottom Farm under the watchful eye of Bitzer the sheepdog. So the herd hoodwinks the Farmer into taking a well deserved day. Unfortunately, the cunning plan goes awry and the Farmer ends up in the Big City suffering from a nasty bout of memory loss. Shaun and his fleecy friends head for the metropolis to bring the Farmer back home but they attract the attentions of a nasty animal containment officer called Trumper.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Children, Children's, Comedy, Family, Family
  • CastJohn Sparkes, Justin Fletcher.
  • DirectorRichard Starzack, Mark Burton.
  • WriterRichard Starzack, Richard Goleszowski, Mark Burton.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration85 mins
  • Official sitewww.shaunthesheep.com
  • Release06/02/2015

Bristol-based Aardman Studios works its stop-motion animated magic on a colourful big screen adventure for the mischievous sheep, who first appeared in Wallace and Gromit's 1995 escapade A Close Shave and has been baad to the bone in a self-titled CBBC series since 2007.

Drawing loving inspiration from other Aardman films including Chicken Run, Shaun The Sheep Movie is a shear delight, melding slapstick and subtler humour to appeal to young fans and their wranglers.

Directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzack shepherd this boisterous romp through various twists and turns at a breathless pace. They litter the screen with wry visual gags, including an airborne cow clearing the roof of the Over The Moon public house.

Stop-motion visuals burst with colour and action sequences are orchestrated with mind-boggling technical precision. As usual, Shaun is at the centre of the madcap action. The flock grows tired of the daily routine on Mossy Bottom Farm under the watchful eye of Bitzer the sheepdog.

So the animals hoodwink the Farmer into taking a well-deserved day off so they can do the same. Unfortunately, this cunning plan goes awry and the Farmer ends up with a nasty bout of memory loss after a high-speed journey to The Big City inside a runaway caravan.

Off the hoof, Shaun and his fleecy friends board the 62 bus from Mossy Bottom to the metropolis, determined to bring their beloved master back home. Unfortunately, they attract the attention of a nasty animal containment officer called Trumper, who doesn't want any farmyard escapees on the lamb on his patch.

Aided by an orphan dog named Slip, the sheep disguise themselves as humans to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting residents of The Big City and track down the Farmer.

In human form, the sheep enjoy haute cuisine at a bistro called Le Chou Brule, while the Farmer discovers a new calling with hair clippers at an upscale boutique. Back at Mossy Bottom, The Naughty Pigs run amok in the farmhouse, oblivious to the hare-brained antics of the other four-legged residents.

Shaun The Sheep Movie will have families flocking in droves to local cinemas. There's nothing woolly about Burton and Starzack's screenplay, which doesn't pause to bleat between set pieces, propelling the narrative forward without sacrificing the characterisation.

There are some lovely interludes here like Shaun's temporary incarceration in an animal shelter, which also houses a psychotic cat from the same litter as Hannibal Lecter and a dog with BARK and BITE tattooed on its knuckles.

As with other Aardman offerings, the animators' imprints are occasionally visible in the expressive clay protagonists, which is part of the film's undeniable charm. Ewe won't be disappointed.

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Sunday 26th April 2015

The Duff 4 stars

movie title

Bianca is invited to all of the parties with her best friends Jess and Casey, oblivious to the fact that she is the D.U.F.F. - Designated Ugly Fat Friend - of her social circle. When her next-door neighbour, hunky athlete Wesley, opens Bianca's eyes to the upsetting truth, she resolves to transform herself from an ugly duckling into a swan so that she might land a date with her dream beau, Toby.

  • GenreComedy, Female, Romance, Teenage
  • CastRobbie Amell, Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Skyler Samuels, Allison Janney, Ken Jeong, Bianca A Santos.
  • DirectorAri Sandel.
  • WriterJosh A Cagan.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration101 mins
  • Official sitewww.theduffmovie.com
  • Release06/04/2015

It seems rather disingenuous for Hollywood - an industry that reveres glamour, designer couture and age-defying beauty - to peddle wish fulfillment fantasies to female audiences that extol beauty as a quality that radiates purely from within.

Cinema's so-called ugly ducklings are invariably gorgeous actresses, who have neglected to wash their hair and put on make-up for a few scenes, dressed in oversized high-street fashions. Their transformation into glittering swans is just a couple of hours away, courtesy of a top stylist.

Ultimately, we're suckers for these widescreen fairy tales and The Duff continues the trend with sassiness and style. Ari Sandel's film is an unabashedly feel-good comedy about one young woman's journey from insecurity to self-acceptance that patrols the same high school corridors as She's All That, Clueless, Mean Girls and 10 Things I Hate About You.

Josh A Cagan's script, adapted from the novel by Kody Keplinger, embraces every well-worn cliche and convention, empowering its heroines to take control of their lives and defy magazine articles which dictate how they should behave or dress.

Thus one tomboy isn't fussed about attending her school's rites-of-passage prom because she already has a date in front of the TV. "There's a Vincent Price marathon on so I gotta watch that," she deadpans.

The devoted horror fan is Bianca (Mae Whitman), who attends parties with her best friends Jess (Skyler Samuels) and Casey (Bianca A Santos), oblivious to the fact that she is the D.U.F.F. - Designated Ugly Fat Friend - of her close-knit social circle.

When her next-door neighbour, hunky athlete Wesley (Robbie Amell), who is dating the school's queen bee Madison (Bella Thorne), opens Bianca's eyes to the upsetting truth, she resolves to transform from an ugly duckling in order to land a date with her dream beau, Toby (Nick Eversman).

Bianca recruits Wesley to polish her rough edges and in return, she improves his academic grades so he can secure a sports scholarship. With encouragement from her sassy mother (Allison Janney), whose mantra is "believe, retrieve, achieve... just don't conceive," Bianca realises that even the most beautiful girls at school are someone's D.U.F.F. and she shouldn't be defined by a cruel label.

Meanwhile, Madison grows jealous of Bianca's friendship with Wesley and dispatches her acolyte Caitlyn (Rebecca Weil) to spy on the odd couple.

The Duff is a heartfelt and frequently hilarious traipse through teenage angst, anchored by a luminous central performance from Whitman. She endears us to her snarky and cynical 17-year-old and shares winning screen chemistry with dreamboat Amell and Janney as the divorced mom who believes you should "project confidence with a power pant-suit combo".

Colourful supporting turns from Ken Jeong and Romany Malco, as members of school staff, up the laughter quotient to the brink of hysteria.

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Sunday 26th April 2015
Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water 3 stars

movie title

SpongeBob continues to work in the Krusty Krab diner, run by the irrepressible Eugene Krabs, where he is custodian of the secret recipe of the Krabby Patty, which is coveted by rival Plankton. Following a fight between the fast food moguls, the recipe vanishes. Bikini Bottom teeters on the brink of apocalypse and everyone blames Plankton. However, SpongeBob senses that dark forces are at play and it transpires that a greedy pirate called Burger Beard has stolen the recipe using a magical book.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
  • CastTom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke, Antonio Banderas, Rodger Bumpass, Clancy Brown.
  • DirectorPaul Tibbitt.
  • WriterJonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration92 mins
  • Official sitewww.squarepantsmovie.co.uk
  • Release27/03/2015

In the pantheon of animated films about absorbent bathroom products dressed in pleasingly geometric undergarments, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie stands tall. The 2004 feature film was a guilty pleasure, retaining all of the madcap charm and childish exuberance of the Nickelodeon cartoon series created by Stephen Hillenburg.

More than a decade later, SpongeBob and the residents of the underwater community of Bikini Bottom hit dry land in this deranged sequel, which splices colourful animation and live action.

Familiarity with the TV incarnation certainly helps because at its worst, Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel's script is a psychedelic mess that defies reasoning. For every trippy interlude, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water also delights with its unabashed exuberance and irreverence, cramming in all of the familiar characters plus a flock of seagulls to squawk the infectious theme tune: "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants! Absorbent and yellow and porous is he? SpongeBob SquarePants..."

Parents with a low threshold to boundless good cheer should prepare for a very long 93 minutes. SpongeBob (voiced by Tom Kenny) flips burgers in a diner run by the irrepressible Eugene Krabs (Clancy Brown), where he is custodian of the secret recipe of the Krabby Patty.

Arch rival Plankton (Doug Lawrence) attempts to steal the list of ingredients, but the recipe vanishes into thin air. In the absence of the famed Krabby Patty, Bikini Bottom teeters on the brink of apocalypse. "The sandwich gods are angry at us," screams scuba-diving squirrel Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence).

Everyone blames Plankton but SpongeBob knows he is innocent. It transpires that a greedy pirate called Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) has stolen the recipe using a magical book, which allows the salty seadog to rewrite history.

Plankton joins forces with his computer wife Karen (Jill Talley) to create a time machine to erase Burger Beard's meddling, but the plan fails. Unable to restore balance from beneath the waves, SpongeBob, loyal starfish pal Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Mr Krabs, Sandy and curmudgeonly Squidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass) venture onto dry land to defeat the pilfering pirate.

Burger Beard is armed to the teeth, so SpongeBob and co use the magical book to adopt superhero identities to defeat their nemesis.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water doesn't quite match the pure entertainment of the first film but it comes close. However, a protracted sequence involving a time-travelling dolphin called Bubbles (Matt Berry) is perhaps a hallucinogenic trip too far. Banderas appears to be having a ball as the hirsute antagonist, who has always dreamt of running his own burger bar.

Vocal performances are as lively as the animation, accompanied by a jaunty soundtrack including one upbeat song with the lyrics: "It's better when you and me equals we/Working together in harmony."

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Sunday 26th April 2015

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The Theory Of Everything 4 stars

movie title

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking falls head over heels in love with English literature student Jane Wilde at 1960s Cambridge University. Their fledgling romance is tested by his diagnosis with motor neurone disease. Stephen's parents Frank and Isobel try to warn Jane off their son, fearful of emotional devastation that will be wrought if he dies within the two years predicted by doctors. However, she defies everyone, determined to love Stephen for as long as they are together.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Romance
  • CastEddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis.
  • DirectorJames Marsh.
  • WriterAnthony McCarten.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration123 mins
  • Official site
  • Release01/01/2015

In Scottish novelist JM Barrie's most beloved work, Peter Pan famously contemplates his mortality on Marooner's Rock and observes, "To die will be an awfully big adventure". For more than half a century since he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has - happily - pushed aside his awfully big adventure and astounded the medical community.

Defying the short life expectancy associated with the rare condition, he has married twice, raised a family and altered our narrow perception of the universe including the publication of his worldwide bestseller, A Brief History Of Time.

As Hawking remarked at a press conference in 2006, "However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope." Those inspirational words are repeated verbatim in The Theory Of Everything.

Based on the memoir Travelling To Infinity by Jane Wilde Hawking, James Marsh's deeply moving drama charts the romance of Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) and first wife Jane (Felicity Jones) from fleeting glances at a party at mid-1960s Cambridge University through their subsequent battle against MND.

Stephen's parents Frank (Simon McBurney) and Isobel (Abigail Cruttenden) initially warn Jane off their son, fearful of the emotional devastation that will be wrought if he dies within the two years predicted by doctors. "It's not going to be a fight, Jane. It's going to be a very heavy defeat, for all of us," laments Frank.

Love must find a way and Jane defies everyone, even a pessimistic Stephen, to stand beside her soul mate. "I want us to be together, for as long as we've got," she tells him. "If that's not very long then - well, that's just how it is."

Her resolve inspires Stephen to continue his search for "one single elegant equation to explain everything". Aided by choirmaster Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox) and carer Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake), Jane raises the couple's three children and holds their marriage together.

The Theory Of Everything is anchored by two of the year's best performances. Redmayne is simply astounding, affecting a mesmerising physical transformation that surely warrants an Oscar. He brilliantly conveys every raw emotion or flash of impish humour with his eyes or the twitch of a facial muscle.

Jones is equally compelling as his soul mate, who sacrifices everything in the name of love. The scene in which she finally acknowledges hard-fought defeat to save the relationship and tearfully tells Stephen, "I have loved you... I did my best," is heartbreaking.

Director Marsh uses simple visual motifs to illuminate the complex cosmology, such as a swirl of cream in a cup of coffee to represent a spiral galaxy in Stephen's mind. With its delicate balance of tear-stained drama, deeply felt romance and comedy, The Theory Of Everything hits upon a winning formula.

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Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015

The Water Diviner 3 stars

movie title

Rugged farmer Joshua Connor possesses a rare gift for divining water, which he uses to irrigate the sprawling property he shares with his wife Eliza and three sons Art, Edward and Henry. The boys head off to war and perish in the ill-fated clash with Turkish forces on the Gallipoli peninsula. Their final resting places are unknown, like so many who fought, and Eliza is devastated. Joshua honours a promise to his wife to bring the remains of their boys back home.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Romance, War
  • CastOlga Kurylenko, Jai Courtney, Russell Crowe, Ryan Corr, Yilmaz Erdogan.
  • DirectorRussell Crowe.
  • WriterAndrew Knight, Andrew Anastasios.
  • CountryAustralia/
  • Duration111 mins
  • Official sitewww.thewaterdivinermovie.com.au
  • Release03/04/2015

In front of the camera, New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe has enjoyed critical and commercial success. He came to the fore in 1997 as a brutish detective prone to violence in L.A. Confidential. Successive Oscar nominations as Best Actor for The Insider, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind, including a win for Ridley Scott's swords and sandals epic, solidified his status as a performer with emotional depth to complement his physical presence.

More recently, he embraced political corruption as a shady mayor in Broken City, sang for his supper in Les Miserables and built an ark as a tormented Noah. For his directorial debut, Crowe casts himself as a crusading father, who will stop at nothing to locate his three fallen sons, in this fictional historical drama based on the book of the same name, which has been adapted for the big screen by Andrew Anastasios and Andrew Knight.

The Water Diviner is a solid first effort including well-choreographed scenes of conflict and self-sacrifice during the Gallipoli Campaign in late 1915. However, his film falls victim to heavy-handed sentiment when it comes to a central romance across the cultural divide that flourishes despite a total absence of on-screen chemistry with leading lady Olga Kurylenko.

Rugged farmer Joshua Connor (Crowe) possesses a rare gift for divining water, which he uses to irrigate the sprawling property he shares with his wife Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie) and three sons Art (Ryan Corr), Edward (James Fraser) and Henry (Ben O'Toole).

The boys head off to war and perish in the ill-fated clash with Turkish forces on the Gallipoli peninsula. Their final resting places are unknown, like so many who fought, and Eliza is devastated. Joshua honours a promise to his wife to bring the remains of their boys back home.

He seeks lodgings in Constantinople at a hotel run by Muslim widow Ayshe (Kurylenko) and her cherubic son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades). Unfortunately, the military refuses to allow Joshua safe passage to Gallipoli so he ignores protocol and makes his own way to the site, where he clashes with Australian Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Hughes (Jai Courtney).

Unexpectedly, a visiting Turkish officer, Major Hassan (Yilmaz Erdogan), takes pity and pledges his assistance to reunite Joshua with his boys because "he's the only father who came looking."

Blessed with lustrous cinematography, The Water Diviner is a heartfelt tale of broken men and redemption. Crowe doesn't have to stretch himself as a father in crisis, but his character's search for answers certainly tugs heartstrings including a devastating scene of his three boys scythed down by Turkish bullets.

The romantic subplot doesn't work and its resolution is unintentionally hilarious but the rest of Crowe's first foray in the director's chair shows promise.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 27th April 2015
Tuesday 28th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
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