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Now showing at Odeon Cinema Garrick Lane,The Old Market,Hereford HR4 9HR 0871 224 4007

  • A Walk Among The Tombstones
  • Billy Elliot - The Musical: Live Encore Screening
  • Gone Girl
  • If I Stay
  • Jersey Boys
  • Let's Be Cops
  • Pride
  • The Boxtrolls
  • The Boxtrolls 3D
  • The Equalizer
  • What We Did On Our Holiday

A Walk Among The Tombstones 3 stars

When a shootout with robbers ends in tragedy, booze-sodden NYPD cop Matt Scudder hangs up his badge and gets sober with the help of AA then re-invents himself as a private investigator. He is hired by Kenny Kristo to track down the sadistic kidnappers, who demanded a hefty ransom for his wife Carrie, took the money and still killed their terrified captive. In the course of his enquiries, Matt befriends homeless teenager TJ, who wants to learn how to be a detective.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Thriller
  • CastLiam Neeson, David Harbour, Dan Stevens, Adam David Thompson, Boyd Holbrook, Brian 'Astro' Bradley.
  • DirectorScott Frank.
  • WriterScott Frank.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration114 mins
  • Official sitewww.awalkamongthetombstones.net
  • Release19/09/2014

A grizzled private detective meets his match in a pair of sadistic kidnappers in Scott Frank's gritty thriller. Adapted from Lawrence Block's novel of the same name, A Walk Among The Tombstones establishes its grim tone with soft-focus opening credits depicting a blonde woman (Laura Birn) rousing from slumber under the gentle caress of her lover.

As the camera pulls back, we notice a tear trickle down the woman's porcelain cheek and a strip of metallic tape across her mouth, transforming a beatific dream into a nightmare of intolerable cruelty.

Unspeakably bad things continue to happen to good people throughout Frank's film without any guarantee that justice will prevail. Liam Neeson wades through this moral quagmire in typically robust fashion as the private eye, who risks his life for clients in order to atone for one particular sin committed during his inglorious past as an NYPD cop.

The role is more cerebral than the gung-ho avenging angels in the Taken series and Non-Stop, but director Frank duly caters to fans of Neeson's renaissance as a tough-talking action hero with one bruising fight sequence. When a shoot-out on the streets of 1991 New York City ends in senseless tragedy, booze-sodden officer Matt Scudder (Neeson) hangs up his badge and embraces sobriety with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous.

He re-surfaces as an unlicensed private detective, working out of his apartment in Hell's Kitchen. Fellow AA member Peter Kristo (Boyd Holbrook) approaches Matt with an urgent request to help his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens), who has just paid a 400,000 dollar ransom for his wife (Razane Jammal).

The kidnappers took the money then dismembered their hostage. Matt visits Kenny in his plush apartment and the former cop deduces the grief-stricken husband is a drug dealer. Interestingly, the perpetrators knew this from their ransom demand: "You'd pay a million for her if she was product."

Despite initial misgivings, Matt agrees to help Kenny unmask the merciless perpetrators, Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson), who are already scoping their next target. In the course of his enquiries, Matt encounters homeless teenager TJ (Brian 'Astro' Bradley), who needs a father figure to keep him safe on the mean streets of the Big Apple.

A Walk Among The Tombstones is a solid and involving genre piece that lays the groundwork for further adaptations of Block's series of books dedicated to Scudder. Matt's sweetheart Elaine, who is prominent on the page, is missing in action from Frank's film, allowing us to concentrate on the case and the relationship between Matt and TJ that feels like a convenient plot device rather than a fully realised surrogate father-son bond.

Neeson doesn't have to stretch himself in the undemanding and hard-hitting lead role, while Downton Abbey heartthrob Stevens makes little impact amidst the explosions of brutality.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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Billy Elliot - The Musical: Live Encore Screening 5 stars

Recorded live at the Victoria Palace theatre in London's West End, this Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation of the acclaimed British film concerns a spirited 11-year-old boy from County Durham, who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer against the turbulent backdrop of the 1980s miners' strike, with script and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton John. Directed by Stephen Daldry.

  • GenreFamily, Family, Musical, Special
  • DirectorStephen Daldry.
  • WriterLee Hall, Elton John.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration180 mins
  • Official sitewww.billyelliotthemusical.com

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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Gone Girl 4 stars

On her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne vanishes without trace. Her husband Nick works with the police to front a high-profile media campaign to secure the safe return of his "amazing Amy". In the glare of the spotlight, fractures appear in the Dunnes' marriage and police and public both question Nick's innocence. With Amy's creepy ex-boyfriend Desi Collings as another suspect, Detectives Rhonda Boney and Jim Gilpin search for answers.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastNeil Patrick Harris, Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Boyd Holbrook, Scoot McNairy, Missi Pyle, Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens.
  • DirectorDavid Fincher.
  • WriterGillian Flynn.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration149 mins
  • Official sitewww.gonegirlmovie.cok
  • Release02/10/2014

Ignorance is bliss when it comes to Gone Girl. If, like me, you haven't read Gillian Flynn's 2012 psychological thriller and you know nothing of the serpentine twists that propelled the novel to the top of the bestsellers list then jealously guard your cluelessness. There's an undeniable delight watching Flynn wrong-foot us with this spiky satire on media manipulation and the glossy facade of celebrity marriages. When the central characters promise to love, honour and obey, till death do them part, one of them takes that vow very seriously. Admittedly, you have to dig deep beneath the surface of David Fincher's polished film to find the jet black humour but it's there, walking hand-in-hand with sadism and torture that propel the narrative towards its unconventional denouement. The film version of Gone Girl is distinguished by a career-best performance from Rosamund Pike as the pretty wife, who vanishes without trace on her fifth wedding anniversary and is presumed dead at the hands of her handsome husband (Ben Affleck). Pike has to plumb the depths of human emotion in a demanding and complex role, by turns brittle and steely, terrified and driven. She's almost certain to earn her first Oscar nomination. In stark contrast, Affleck is solid but little more as the spouse who pleads his ignorance but hides secrets from the people he adores. As battles of the sexes go, it's a resolutely one-sided skirmish. On the morning of his anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) calls detectives Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) to his home. There are signs of a struggle and his wife Amy (Pike) is missing. Nick's sister Margo (Carrie Coon), who has never liked Amy, assures her sibling that everything will be fine. "Whoever took her's bound to bring her back," she quips cattily. Nick and Amy's distraught parents (David Clennon, Lisa Beth) front a high-profile media campaign to secure the safe return of "amazing Amy". In the glare of the spotlight, fractures appear in the Dunnes' marriage and police and public question Nick's innocence. Gone Girl holds our attention for the majority of the bloated 149-minute running time, with a couple of lulls and a disjointed final act. Pike's mesmerising theatrics light up the screen and there is strong support from Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's creepy old flame. Fincher's direction is lean, complemented by snappy editing and a discordant score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who won the Oscar for their music to The Social Network. Once you regain your balance from Flynn pulling the rug from under your feet, this is a slick yet slightly underwhelming whodunit that doesn't quite scale the dizzy heights of shock and suspense previously achieved by Jagged Edge, The Usual Suspects or indeed, Fincher's 2005 film, Se7en.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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If I Stay 3 stars

movie title

Musical prodigy Mia Hall goes for a drive along snow-laden roads with her parents Denny and Kat, and little brother Teddy. Mia wakes from a head-on collision and watches paramedics rush her lifeless body into an ambulance. At the hospital, where her grandparents solemnly await news, Mia observes from a distance as medical staff attempt to save her life on the operating table. "This kid's waking up an orphan... if she ever wakes up," one doctor tells his staff.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Romance, Teenage
  • CastJamie Blackley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Liana Liberato, Joshua Leonard, Stacy Keach.
  • DirectorR J Cutler.
  • WriterShauna Cross.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration107 mins
  • Official sitewww.ifistaymovie.com
  • Release29/08/2014

Young adults who shed their body weight in tears at The Fault In Our Stars earlier this summer, will be similarly dehydrated by the conclusion of RJ Cutler's heart-tugging drama. Based on Gayle Forman's bestselling novel, If I Stay centres on a talented teenager in limbo between life and death, who must choose between waking from her coma or skipping merrily towards the light.

How the heroine makes this choice isn't entirely clear. Nothing happens when she whispers in the ear of her baby brother that she intends to fight for life but as soon as her resolve weakens and she pleads with the universe to end her misery, it's mere seconds before the pearly gates swing open and beckon her come hither.

Screenwriter Shauna Cross sidesteps a serious discussion of mortality by distilling the teenager's ruminations into a series of flashbacks and montages of an enviably carefree childhood and a fairy-tale school romance.

Add into the overwrought mix the heroine's natural aptitude for the cello and her impending audition for the world renowned Juilliard School for Performing Arts in New York City, and it seems churlish, not to mention ungrateful, for her to consider anything but a return to terra firma.

The musical prodigy is Mia Hall (Chloe Grace Moretz), who has never felt like she fits in with her parents Denny (Joshua Leonard) and Kat (Mireille Enos) or little brother Teddy (Jakob Davies). "I've always felt like this Martian in my family," Mia tells Adam (Jamie Blackley), her school's resident dreamboat, who plays guitar in the band Willamette Stone and is destined for great things, including falling for Mia.

Their romance burns bright until Willamette Stone are signed to a record label and the pressure of touring takes Adam away from Mia. Soon after, Denny and Kat pack the children into the car for an ill-fated drive down snow-laden roads.

Mia wakes from a head-on collision and watches paramedics rush her lifeless body into an ambulance. At the hospital, where her grandparents (Stacy Keach, Gabrielle Rose) solemnly await news, Mia observes from a distance as medical staff attempt to save her life on the operating table.

"This kid's waking up an orphan... if she ever wakes up," one doctor tells his staff.

If I Stay shamelessly tugs heartstrings, constructing an idyllic cocoon of love for Mia, which is shattered to smithereens by cruel misfortune. Moretz and Blackley are an attractive pairing and spark pleasing screen chemistry that sustains our interest through some mawkish and emotionally manipulative moments.

The fractured chronology is unavoidable but hampers dramatic momentum, reducing a middle section laden with reminiscence and regret to a crawl. A hoary and contrived finale is sign-posted well in advance so teenagers have plenty of time to arm themselves with enough tissues to contain their sobs and sniffles.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

Jersey Boys 3 stars

movie title

Frankie Valli, Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi garner the attention of music producers and fans in 1962 New Jersey. When they join forces with talented lyricist Bob Crewe, the stairway to stardom beckons. However, tensions between band members, sparked by Tommy's mounting debts, threaten to tear apart The Four Seasons before they can realise their dreams.

  • GenreBiography, Drama, Historical/Period, Musical
  • CastFreya Tingley, Christopher Walken, Francesca Eastwood, Michael Lomenda, John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen.
  • DirectorClint Eastwood.
  • WriterMarshall Brickman, Rick Elice.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration134 mins
  • Official sitewww.jerseyboysmovie.com
  • Release20/06/2014

Before Beatlemania reduced grown women to whimpering wrecks, The Four Seasons were the sharp-suited musical heartthrobs of 1960s America. The distinctive falsetto of lead singer Frankie Valli commanded attention on the radio and TV, producing three number one hits - Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry and Walk Like A Man - in the space of five months.

The band's meteoric rise inspired Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice to write the 2005 stage show Jersey Boys, which subsequently won four Tony Awards including Best Musical and continues to play to packed houses in London and New York. Like so many musicals before it, Jersey Boys struts and swaggers from the stage onto the big screen.

Pitched halfway between a traditional musical and a gritty portrait of the bonds of brotherhood in New York City of the era, Clint Eastwood's impeccably crafted period piece entertains but never truly delights. Like the stage show, the film is festooned with the group's toe-tapping hits including Beggin', Bye Bye Baby and Oh What A Night.

However, these languidly shot renditions lack the electrical charge of live performance and it's only in the film's closing act, and during the end credits, that there is any danger of audiences leaping out of their seats and shimmying down aisles.

Sixteen-year-old Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) lives with his parents (Kathrine Narducci, Lou Volpe), who urge him to stay out of trouble. Best friend Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) leads him astray and Frankie almost ends up in prison but escapes incarceration by virtue of his age.

With encouragement from local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), who becomes Frankie's fairy godfather (with the emphasis on godfather), the teenager pursues his musical ambitions by changing his surname to Valli and joining Tommy's band.

They recruit singer-songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) alongside bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and The Four Seasons are born. Talented lyricist Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) ushers the boys onto the stairway to stardom but Tommy's mounting debts create friction and threaten to tear the band apart.

Jersey Boys employs a similar narrative device to the stage production, allowing different members of the band to address the camera as their rags to riches story unfolds. Vocal performances are note perfect and there are some delightful comical interludes involving Doyle and Walken, the latter easing into his gangster groove with a twinkle in the eye.

The running time may be virtually the same as its theatrical counterpart but Eastwood's film feels pedestrian and emotional subplots, including Frankie's fractious relationship with his wife Mary (Renee Marino) and daughter Francine feel undernourished.

The period is beautifully evoked though by costumes and faultless art direction. Just as Frankie and the boys predict, we can't take our eye off of the screen.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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Let's Be Cops 2 stars

movie title

Ryan O'Malley and best friend Justin Miller misread the dress code for their college reunion party and turn up dressed as police officers. On the way home, the buddies embrace the power afforded by the uniform including an impromptu stop and search of goons working for sadistic Russian mobster Mossi Devic. The following day, Ryan buys a patrol car and persuades Justin to slip back into his fake cop persona to woo his crush and apprehend Devic.

  • GenreAction, Comedy, Romance
  • CastRob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr, Jake Johnson, Nina Dobrev, James D'Arcy.
  • DirectorLuke Greenfield.
  • WriterNicholas Thomas, Luke Greenfield.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration104 mins
  • Official sitewww.letsbecops.com
  • Release27/08/2014

If the title of Luke Greenfield's hare-brained buddy movie was a rhetorical question, the unequivocal answer would be: Let's not! Lifeless, limp and relentlessly unfunny, Let's Be Cops is a scattershot comedy about downtrodden pals, who don LAPD uniforms for a party and discover newfound respect because of the badge. Films of this ilk propel characters on a journey of self-discovery laden with mishaps and misadventures, at the end of which, they glean valuable life lessons about self-belief and courage.

The lessons we learn from Greenfield's picture are manifold: an amusing dramatic premise doth not a laughter riot make; it's never a good sign when you yearn to punch the lead characters within five minutes of them appearing on screen; and misfiring punchlines do not suddenly become hilarious if one of the actors delivers them AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE.

Ryan O'Malley (Jake Johnson) has frittered away 11,000 dollars he earned from a TV commercial for genital herpes. He lacks direction, as does best friend Justin Miller (Damon Wayans Jr), a videogame designer whose idea for an immersive experience as a LAPD officer is shot down in flames by his zombie-obsessed boss (Jonathan Lajoie).

These much maligned misfits misread the dress code for their college reunion party and turn up in costumes, which Justin bought for his videogame presentation. On the way home, the buddies embrace the power afforded by the uniform including an impromptu stop and search of goons working for sadistic Russian mobster Mossi Devic (James D'Arcy).

The following day, Ryan buys a patrol car and persuades Justin to slip back into his fake cop persona to woo his crush: a pretty waitress called Josie (Nina Dobrev), who dreams of swapping lunch orders for a career as a make-up artist.

Unfortunately, Josie is also the object of Devic's demented affections. Real-life officer Segars (Rob Riggle) swallows Ryan and Justin's buffoonish bluff and shares valuable surveillance on Devic. "He is the Devil's nephew!" warns Segars, whose hard-nosed superior, Detective Brolin (Andy Garcia), becomes suspicious of Ryan and Justin and decides to test their mettle.

Women apparently love a man in uniform but it's hard to imagine anyone loving Luke Greenfield's ridiculous comedy of errors, which attempts to hop on the 21 Jump Street bandwagon and misses by a mile. As a double-act, Johnson and Wayans Jr are irritating and it beggars belief that they accomplish their deception when the characters go out of their way to be exposed as charlatans.

Garcia must have been short of a month's rent to accept his thankless supporting role while Dobrev serves up a two-dimensional loved interest, who apparently has a track record for attracting psychos. Action sequences are perfunctory and the script makes ill-advised forays into homophobia, racism and misogyny in search of elusive giggles.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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Pride 5 stars

movie title

Mark Ashton is the charismatic and outspoken leader of impassioned campaigners, who operate out of the Gay's The Word bookshop in London. Reading news stories about the miner's strike, Mark recognises a cause to champion. "Mining communities are being bullied just like we are," he tells his coterie and they form LGSM - Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners - with the intention of raising funds for a randomly selected Welsh community.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Historical/Period
  • CastBill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay, Jessica Gunning, Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton, Joseph Gilgun.
  • DirectorMatthew Warchus.
  • WriterStephen Beresford.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration120 mins
  • Official sitewww.pridemovie.co.uk
  • Release12/09/2014

Theatre director Matthew Warchus, who succeeds Kevin Spacey as artistic director of the Old Vic in London next year, will need to de-clutter his awards-laden mantelpiece. His second feature film is a barnstorming culture-clash comedy drama based on the inspirational true story of a group of gays and lesbians, who supported the miners during the 1984 strike and raised thousands of pounds for beleaguered communities, which dared to stand up to the Thatcher government.

This uplifting story of solidarity in the face of adversity and police intimidation is an absolute joy; an unabashed, irresistible crowd-pleaser in the magnificent mould of The Full Monty and Billy Elliot that rouses the audience to bellowing laughter while choking back a deluge of hot, salty tears.

Pride embraces and subverts stereotypes, deftly weaving together stories of personal triumph and anguish as the spectre of Aids casts a long shadow over the gay community.

Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) is the charismatic and outspoken leader of young, impassioned campaigners, who operate out of the Gay's The Word bookshop in London run by Gethin (Andrew Scott). Reading news stories about the miner's strike, Mark recognises a cause to champion.

"Mining communities are being bullied just like we are," he tells his coterie comprising Mike (Joseph Gilgun), Jonathan (Dominic West), Jeff (Freddie Fox), Steph (Faye Marsay) and closeted new boy, Joe (George MacKay). They form LGSM - Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners - and rattle tins for a randomly selected Welsh community.

Mining representative Dai (Paddy Considine) invites Mark and co to the Dulais Valley where committee members Hefina (Imelda Staunton), Cliff (Bill Nighy) and Sian (Jessica Gunning) embrace the fund-raisers with open arms. However, some of the locals are repulsed.

"We're being backed up by perverts," sneers homophobic mother Maureen (Lisa Palfrey), kindling conflict between some of the neighbours and the LGSM.

Pride is a life-affirming ode to tolerance, acceptance and self-belief that defiantly lives up to its title, waving a flag for stellar home-grown filmmaking.

Performances are exemplary, ignoring a few wobbles with the Welsh accents, including a fiery turn from Schnetzer as a fresh-faced trailblazer and sobs aplenty from Mackay as the catering student, who cannot conceal his sexuality forever.

Scriptwriter Stephen Beresford strikes a perfect balance between hilarity and heartbreak, sharing polished one-liners among the ensemble cast including Menna Trussler as a clucky old dear, who labours under the illusion that all lesbians are vegetarians.

Warchus' film builds to a rousing crescendo that delivers a knock-out emotional wallop and opens the floodgates. As Frankie Goes To Hollywood professed during that turbulent summer of 1984: "When two tribes go to war/A point is all you can score." The characters in Pride score their points with unbridled passion and wit.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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The Boxtrolls 4 stars

movie title

An orphaned boy named Eggs is raised by gentle subterranean creatures that have been unfairly demonised by the terrified, fromage-fixated residents of Cheesebridge. When pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher and his henchmen begin to exterminate the Boxtrolls, Eggs joins forces with the surviving creatures and a girl called Winnie to protect the beasties from harm.

  • GenreAdaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Fantasy
  • CastToni Collette, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jared Harris, Sir Ben Kingsley.
  • DirectorGraham Annable, Anthony Stacchi.
  • WriterIrena Brignull, Adam Pava.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration97 mins
  • Official sitewww.theboxtrolls.co.uk
  • Release12/09/2014

Based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls is a rollicking stop-motion animated romp from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman that proves weird can be truly wonderful. With faint echoes of Raymond Briggs' Fungus The Bogeyman, Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi's quirky fantasy imagines a race of subterranean creatures, who root through bins in search of spare parts for their mechanical creations.

Despite a hearty appetite for slimy bugs, these pungent, green-skinned denizens of the underworld are cute rather than scary, possessing relatable human traits such as a passion for music or a quivering fear of the unknown. They spare troll blushes by wearing empty cardboard boxes and the former contents of these mouldering cartons provide each expressive character with a name such as Fish, Knickers, Sweets, Clocks and Fragile (ho ho!).

The meticulous detail of the movable figures and miniature sets is impressive, and co-directors Annable and Stacchi corral a vast team of animators, who produce thrilling chases and quieter moments of ribald humour.

The well-to-do, Victorian-era city of Cheesebridge is visited under the cloak of darkness by the eponymous beasties. One dark night, a Boxtroll called Fish (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) kidnaps the infant son of a local inventor (Simon Pegg) and spirits away the child to the underground lair.

This shocking act plays into the grubby hands of pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Sir Ben Kingsley). "Prepare to say bye-bye to your brie, cheerio to your cheddar!" cackles Snatcher, striking fear into the heart of Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) and the other fromage-fixated noblemen.

They grant Snatcher a place at the cheese-tasting top table if the exterminator and his henchmen - Mr Trout (Nick Frost), Mr Pickles (Richard Ayoade) and Mr Gristle (Tracy Morgan) - kill every last Boxtroll. Unaware that he is human, abducted boy Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) ventures above ground with the Boxtrolls and encounters Lord Portley-Rind's snooty daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning).

She initially believes the horror stories about Boxtrolls devouring children - "Eat me. I'm sure I'm delicious!" - but once Winnie learns the truth about Eggs' past, she agrees to help vanquish Snatcher and his snivelling cohorts.

The Boxtrolls is a delight for the young and young at heart, hinging on the notion that families come in all shapes and sizes. Irena Brignull and Adam Pava's script is laden with verbal and visual gags, striking a gently mischievous tone throughout like when Winnie spots Eggs tugging at the crotch of his uncomfortable suit and whispers, "Don't snatch them in public. That's why they are called privates!"

Frost, Ayoade and Morgan provide the majority of the comic relief between action-packed set-pieces. Remain seated during the end credits for a hilarious scene of existential angst, which succinctly reminds us how pain-staking and time-consuming the stop-motion animation process is.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 2nd October 2014

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The Boxtrolls 3D 4 stars

movie title

An orphaned boy named Eggs is raised by gentle subterranean creatures that have been unfairly demonised by the terrified, fromage-fixated residents of Cheesebridge. When pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher and his henchmen begin to exterminate the Boxtrolls, Eggs joins forces with the surviving creatures and a girl called Winnie to protect the beasties from harm.

  • GenreAdaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Fantasy
  • CastElle Fanning, Toni Collette, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jared Harris, Sir Ben Kingsley.
  • DirectorGraham Annable, Anthony Stacchi.
  • WriterIrena Brignull, Adam Pava.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration97 mins
  • Official sitewww.theboxtrolls.co.uk
  • Release12/09/2014

Based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls is a rollicking stop-motion animated romp from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman that proves weird can be truly wonderful. With faint echoes of Raymond Briggs' Fungus The Bogeyman, Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi's quirky fantasy imagines a race of subterranean creatures, who root through bins in search of spare parts for their mechanical creations.

Despite a hearty appetite for slimy bugs, these pungent, green-skinned denizens of the underworld are cute rather than scary, possessing relatable human traits such as a passion for music or a quivering fear of the unknown. They spare troll blushes by wearing empty cardboard boxes and the former contents of these mouldering cartons provide each expressive character with a name such as Fish, Knickers, Sweets, Clocks and Fragile (ho ho!).

The meticulous detail of the movable figures and miniature sets is impressive, and co-directors Annable and Stacchi corral a vast team of animators, who produce thrilling chases and quieter moments of ribald humour.

The well-to-do, Victorian-era city of Cheesebridge is visited under the cloak of darkness by the eponymous beasties. One dark night, a Boxtroll called Fish (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) kidnaps the infant son of a local inventor (Simon Pegg) and spirits away the child to the underground lair.

This shocking act plays into the grubby hands of pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Sir Ben Kingsley). "Prepare to say bye-bye to your brie, cheerio to your cheddar!" cackles Snatcher, striking fear into the heart of Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) and the other fromage-fixated noblemen.

They grant Snatcher a place at the cheese-tasting top table if the exterminator and his henchmen - Mr Trout (Nick Frost), Mr Pickles (Richard Ayoade) and Mr Gristle (Tracy Morgan) - kill every last Boxtroll. Unaware that he is human, abducted boy Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) ventures above ground with the Boxtrolls and encounters Lord Portley-Rind's snooty daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning).

She initially believes the horror stories about Boxtrolls devouring children - "Eat me. I'm sure I'm delicious!" - but once Winnie learns the truth about Eggs' past, she agrees to help vanquish Snatcher and his snivelling cohorts.

The Boxtrolls is a delight for the young and young at heart, hinging on the notion that families come in all shapes and sizes. Irena Brignull and Adam Pava's script is laden with verbal and visual gags, striking a gently mischievous tone throughout like when Winnie spots Eggs tugging at the crotch of his uncomfortable suit and whispers, "Don't snatch them in public. That's why they are called privates!"

Frost, Ayoade and Morgan provide the majority of the comic relief between action-packed set-pieces. Remain seated during the end credits for a hilarious scene of existential angst, which succinctly reminds us how pain-staking and time-consuming the stop-motion animation process is.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 2nd October 2014

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The Equalizer 3 stars

movie title

Robert McCall has turned his back on his past as a covert government operative and has fashioned an unremarkable life in suburbia. At night, McCall works his way through a list of 100 books everyone should read while enjoying a coffee at his local diner, where he befriends a sassy prostitute called Teri. When she ends up in hospital, battered and bruised at the hands of her controlling pimp Slavi, McCall exacts revenge and sparks a war with the Russian Mafia.

  • GenreAction, Drama, Thriller
  • CastMarton Csokas, Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, David Harbour.
  • DirectorAntoine Fuqua.
  • WriterRichard Wenk.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration132 mins
  • Official sitewww.equalizerthemovie.com
  • Release26/09/2014

Director Antoine Fuqua, who guided Denzel Washington to the Oscar podium in Training Day, reunites with the charismatic actor for this gratuitously violent reimagining of the beloved 1980s TV series.

Nostalgic memories of Edward Woodward's refined approach to justice and crime-fighting on the small screen are blown to smithereens by this brutish, big-screen rendering of The Equalizer. In a dizzying opening fight sequence, Washington impales a corkscrew in one henchman's noggin and repeatedly pummels a couple more as if he was tenderising a large slab of steak.

Each bone-cracking blow, stab and punch is captured in balletic close-up; a queasy dance of death that reaches a hilarious and frenetic crescendo with drills and sledgehammers in a hardware warehouse where the title character works when he's not coolly doling out just desserts.

Screenwriter Richard Wenk, who co-wrote The Expendables 2 with Sylvester Stallone, comes perilously close to the tongue-in-cheek tone of that film when Washington is asked by a work colleague how he hurt his bandaged hand and he drolly responds, "I hit it on something stupid". We presume he means the script, considering the implausibilities of the final act, steeped in mindless and repetitive bloodletting.

Robert McCall (Washington) has turned his back on his past as a covert government operative and has fashioned an unremarkable life in suburbia, where he nurses memories of his dead wife. By day, he earns a decent wage in a Home Mart warehouse and mentors another employee, Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis), through his security guard's exam.

By night, McCall works his way through a list of 100 books everyone should read while enjoying a coffee at his local diner, where he befriends a sassy prostitute called Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz). When she ends up in hospital, battered and bruised at the hands of her controlling Russian pimp Slavi (David Meunier), McCall exacts revenge. Justice seemingly prevails.

Unfortunately, Slavi and his goons are a link in a bigger chain controlled by the Russian Mafia and they dispatch sadistic fixer Teddy (Marton Csokas) to track down McCall. The Equalizer starts off promisingly, exploring the minutiae of McCall's daily life as a man scarred by grief and tormented by his past.

Washington is in his element in these early scenes, capturing the maelstrom of emotions that simmer beneath his character's placid surface. Once the first drop of blood is spilt, director Fuqua seizes every opportunity for wanton carnage, to the point that it seems like nothing short of a nuclear explosion will stop McCall in his tracks.

Csokas' vindictive antagonist has little depth beyond his propensity for cruelty and pain, which is something we experience as the running time drags unnecessarily into a third hour.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 2nd October 2014

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What We Did On Our Holiday 4 stars

Gordie McLeod is poised to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Scottish Highlands. His self-obsessed son Gavin is hosting the lavish party to impress the neighbours and hopefully secure the captaincy of the local golf club. As the party beckons, Gavin's less successful brother Doug and his wife Abi arrive with their three children in tow. The birthday celebrations are unexpectedly thrown into disarray and a media scrum descends on the family's doorstep.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
  • CastDavid Tennant, Billy Connolly, Rosamund Pike, Amelia Bullmore, Ben Miller, Emilia Jones, Harriet Turnbull, Bobby Smalldridge.
  • DirectorAndy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin.
  • WriterAndy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official site
  • Release26/09/2014

In 2007, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin abandoned the conventions of a tightly scripted sitcom and took a more fluid approach to mining laughs in the breakout hit Outnumbered. While the adult characters' lines were committed to the page, the young actors were allowed to improvise around suggestions from Hamilton and Jenkin, and consequently delivered natural performances, reacting instinctively to set-ups and punchlines.

The writer-directors adopt the same winning recipe for this uproarious feature film debut, an ill-fated family road trip laced with absurdity that touches the heart and tickles the funny bone.

Once again, it's the younger cast who scene-steal with aplomb, explaining why a bout of car sickness is a source of joy ("It's like being a fountain!") and succinctly distilling the anguish and betrayal of parental infidelity into a single throwaway line: "Dad had an affair with a Paralympic athlete with one foot."

That's not to say that Hamilton and Jenkin short-change the rest of the ensemble cast including David Tennant, Rosamund Pike and Glaswegian firebrand Billy Connolly. They snaffle a generous smattering of belly laughs too, like when Connolly's cantankerous grandfather tries to explain Hitler's seizure of land in terms a bairn might understand: "Like Monopoly, but with more screaming."

Gordie McLeod (Connolly) is poised to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Scottish Highlands. His self-obsessed son Gavin (Ben Miller) is hosting the lavish party to impress the neighbours and hopefully secure the captaincy of the local golf club.

Gavin's long-suffering and neurotic wife Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) remains in the background, occasionally exploding with pent-up rage. As the party beckons, Gavin's less successful brother Doug (David Tennant) and his wife Abi (Rosamund Pike) arrive with their three children in tow: 11-year-old Lottie (Emilia Jones), who scribbles repeatedly in her notebook so she can remember which lies she is supposed to tell; six-year-old Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge), who is obsessed with Vikings; and five-year-old Jess (Harriet Turnbull), whose best friends are two rocks christened Eric and Norman.

The birthday celebrations are unexpectedly thrown into disarray and a media scrum descends on the family's doorstep along with an interfering Social Services officer called Agnes (Celia Imrie), who casts doubt on Doug and Abi's ability to nurture their dysfunctional brood.

What We Did On Our Holiday is a rip-roaring riot, laying bare the petty jealousies and deep-rooted fears within a family while dealing with serious issues through the unblinkered eyes of the three children.

Tennant and Miller spark a fiery sibling rivalry with excellent support from Pike and Bullmore, the latter proving that it's the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Hamilton and Jenkin eschew cloying sentimentality in the film's tricky final third, striking a pleasing and ultimately winning balance between musing and amusing.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 2nd October 2014

This film is also showing at:

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