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Now showing at Vue Bolton Middlebrook Leisure Park, The Linkway (o,Horwich,Bolton,Lancashire BL6 6JA 0871 224 0240

  • Capture The Flag
  • Creed
  • Dad's Army
  • Daddy's Home
  • Deadpool
  • Dirty Grandpa
  • Goosebumps
  • Goosebumps 3D
  • Kanye West - Season 3
  • Point Break
  • Point Break 3D
  • Pride And Prejudice And Zombies
  • Ride Along 2
  • Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie
  • Spotlight
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens 3D
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Lady In The Van
  • The Revenant

Capture The Flag 3 stars

Twelve-year-old Mike Goldwing is a gifted kite surfer, whose NASA astronaut father has been training for months to travel to the moon until injury shatters that dream. When multi-billionaire Richard Carson announces his intention to fly to the moon to prove that the Apollo 11 mission was a hoax, Mike unexpectedly finds himself aboard a rocket heading for the moon in the company of his grandfather Frank, best friend Amy and long-suffering lizard sidekick Igor.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Science Fiction
  • CastLorraine Pilkington, Sam Fink, Philippa Alexander.
  • DirectorEnrique Gato.
  • WriterJordi Gasull, Patxi Amezcua.
  • CountrySp
  • Duration94 mins
  • Official site
  • Release29/01/2016

Ever since the landing module of Apollo 11 touched down on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969 and Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind, conspiracy theorists have pointed to an elaborate cover-up. They maintain that the iconic footage was faked at a film studio closer to terra firma, and back up these bold claims with supposed proof of scientific inaccuracies in the grainy recording.

Capture The Flag is a family-friendly computer animation which teases the possibility of the hoax and ultimately debunks it by travelling back to the moon in the company of a NASA veteran and two children. Enrique Gato's Spanish adventure, which has been dubbed into English for UK audiences, has its sentimental heart in the right place and there are numerous heavy-handed verbal references to the importance of family over work or personal gain.

It's all terribly well-intentioned and predictable, shot largely from the perspective of a gung-ho boy, who just wants to make his parents proud. A night time journey over water festooned with ravenous alligators is played for laughs rather than Jaws-style scares, while a half-hearted romantic subplot between two children is addressed with the lightest touch. Kissing? Eurgh! Gross!

Twelve-year-old Mike Goldwing is a gifted kite surfer, who takes to the waves with best friends Amy Gonzalez and Marty Farr to compete in games of capture the flag. Mike and co always fall short but the youngster doesn't let failure get him down.

His father Scott is a NASA astronaut, who has been training for months to travel to the moon until injury shatters that dream. It's a repeat of the Goldwing curse: Scott's father Frank was also an astronaut, who failed to follow in the footsteps of Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

When multi-billionaire Richard Carson announces his intention to fly to the moon to prove that the Apollo 11 mission was a hoax, the President of the United States hurriedly authorises a joint mission between existing and old NASA staff to beat Carson to the Stars And Stripes planted in 1969.

A twist of fate results in Frank heading to the moon with grandson Mike, gal pal Amy and long-suffering lizard sidekick Igor. Meanwhile, back at Mission Control, Mike's mother Samantha frets about her boy's safety and pint-sized gadget wizard Marty overcomes glitches that jeopardise the success of the mission.

Capture The Flag boasts colourful visuals, slapstick humour and chases to entertain young audiences, who dream of their own adventures in the starry firmament. Vocal performances are solid but don't invest the characters with any quirks or additional colour. Carson is a particularly unthreatening chief villain.

Adults, who demand narrative sophistication from their animated fare, may want to abort lift-off before the end credits but Gato's film is a sprightly 94 minutes and doesn't outstay its welcome.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Creed 4 stars

Adonis Johnson ricochets between juvenile detention centres and care homes, until Mary Anne Creed takes him in. She is the first wife of his father, boxing legend Apollo Creed, who died in the ring before he was born. Boxing is in Adonis' blood and he turns down a promotion to chase his sporting dreams. He heads to Philadelphia to seek out Rocky Balboa, in the hope the boxing legend will become his trainer.

  • GenreAction, Drama, Romance
  • CastMichael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad.
  • DirectorRyan Coogler.
  • WriterRyan Coogler, Aaron Covington.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration133 mins
  • Official sitewww.creedthemovie.com
  • Release15/01/2016

Almost 40 years since Sylvester Stallone first donned his boxing gloves as Rocky Balboa, the Oscar-nominated actor delivers an emotional wallop as the retired prizefighter in Ryan Coogler's brooding and testosterone-fuelled drama. It's a glorious return to form for the 69-year-old New Yorker, delivering one of his finest performances for decades as the iconic bruiser who faces a battle of attrition against an invisible adversary that can't be outmuscled in the ring.

With a revitalised Stallone in its corner, Creed taps into four decades of nostalgia, but as the title intimates, Balboa isn't the main attraction. Instead, writer-director Coogler focuses on the ascendance of a young brawler (Michael B Jordan), whose tragic past is inextricably linked with Rocky's fading glory.

It's an interesting juxtaposition and the script, co-written by Aaron Covington, focuses heavily on the surrogate father-son relationship that underpins the usual array of training sequences and bruising skirmishes.

Sadly, the meticulous attention to detail of the breathlessly staged fights, including one set piece shot in a single take, doesn't extend to the characterisation. Jordan overcomes his protagonist's woes with scant blood, sweat or tears and a romantic subplot between the title character and a feisty singer-songwriter (Tessa Thompson) pulls its punches. On these counts, Creed is a lightweight.

As an orphan growing up in 1990s Los Angeles, Adonis Johnson (Alex Henderson) ricochets between juvenile detention centres and care homes, until Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) takes him in. She is the first wife of his father, boxing legend Apollo Creed, who died in the ring before he was born.

Mary Anne nurtures Adonis and he blossoms into a caring man (now played by Jordan) with a steady job. Boxing is in Adonis' blood and he turns down a promotion to chase his sporting dreams. "I didn't take you in for you to go backwards. You're better than this!" despairs Mary Anne.

Unperturbed, Adonis heads to Philadelphia to seek out Rocky (Stallone), in the hope the boxing legend will become his trainer. Despite initial misgivings, Rocky mentors Adonis and when the newcomer lands a lucrative televised bout with Liverpudlian hard man 'Pretty' Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew), the scene is set for a classic showdown between cocky champion and underdog.

"One step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time," advises Rocky, inspiring his hot-headed protege to step out from the shadow of the father he never knew.

Creed doesn't deviate too far from a winning formula, allowing Stallone to pass on the mantle to a new generation. Jordan is an instantly likable sparring partner and he certainly meets the physical demands of the role with aplomb.

On-screen chemistry between the two men simmers nicely, even when the script descends into cloying sentiment and cliches.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Dad's Army 2 stars

England, 1944. The Second World War is on a knife edge and in the cosy community of Walmington-on-Sea, blustering bank manager George Mainwaring proudly leads the local Home Guard. Colonel Theakes reveals that he intends to sort the military wheat from the chaff and "Walmington feels chaffy." Soon after, Mainwaring learns that a German spy has infiltrated the town and is transmitting secrets back to Berlin.

  • GenreComedy, Historical/Period, War
  • CastCatherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Daniel Mays, Bill Paterson, Toby Jones, Tom Courtenay, Blake Harrison.
  • DirectorOliver Parker.
  • WriterHamish McColl.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration100 mins
  • Official site
  • Release05/02/2016

How do you improve on the perfection of Jimmy Perry and David Croft's sitcom Dad's Army, which began active service in 1968 and remains a jewel in the crown of the BBC comedy archives? You don't.

If you're director Oliver Parker and screenwriter Hamish McColl, you pepper a flimsy plot that would barely stretch to one TV episode let alone 100 minutes with the show's catchphrases and pray our abiding affection for the characters will compensate for long passages without a discernible punchline.

Original cast members Ian Lavender and Frank Williams are conscripted to cameo roles to heighten the whiff of nostalgia. Limp innuendo-laden banter about sausages barely merits a smirk, pratfalls are predictable and a terrific ensemble cast of gifted comic actors go on patrol without an arsenal of decent one-liners.

From uninspired beginning to muddled end, it's a cultural smash'n'grab that goes through the motions and will ultimately be remembered as a badly missed opportunity.

England, 1944. The Second World War is on a knife edge and in the cosy community of Walmington-on-Sea, blustering bank manager George Mainwaring (Toby Jones) proudly leads the local Home Guard. His hapless rank and file includes Sergeant Wilson (Bill Nighy), Lance Corporal Jones (Tom Courtenay) and Privates Frazer (Bill Paterson), Pike (Blake Harrison), Walker (Daniel Mays) and Godfrey (Michael Gambon), a mild-mannered soul who frequently drifts off into his own world.

The fate of the Home Guard hangs in the balance when Colonel Theakes (Mark Gatiss) reveals that he intends to sort the military wheat from the chaff and "Walmington feels chaffy." Soon after, Mainwaring learns that a German spy has infiltrated the town and is transmitting secrets back to Berlin.

This search for a traitor coincides with the arrival of glamorous magazine writer Rose Winters (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who intends to pen a flattering article about the heroics of the Home Guard. George is smitten and finds Rose most charming and agreeable.

"They said that about the Ripper," coldly retorts Mrs Mainwaring (Felicity Montagu), hard-nosed leader of Walmington-on-Sea's women's auxiliary army, which includes Pike's mother (Sarah Lancashire) and Walker's sweetheart Daphne (Emily Atack).

Dad's Army opens with a limp set piece involving a stand-off between the Home Guard and runaway livestock. "We're supposed to be locking horns with the Hun not Bertie the bull!" despairs one of the men, echoing our mounting frustration.

Jones lightens the darkening mood with a few moments of physical humour, including choking on a slice of cake, while Nighy relies on his usual snorts and tics for merriment. Montagu, Lancashire and co bring a diluted degree of girl power to proceedings that might be dismissed as tokenism without their characters' pivotal involvement in the hare-brained and lacklustre denouement.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Daddy's Home 3 stars

Mild-mannered nice guy Brad Taggart is married to sex bomb Sarah and has two beautiful step-children Dylan and Megan from her first marriage. Out of the blue, Sarah's first husband Dusty Mayron makes contact and persuades Brad to let him visit the children. She urges extreme caution, describing her ex as what might happen if "Jesse James and Mick Jagger had a baby". Brad's benevolence is tested to breaking point as Dusty swaggers into town, intent on reclaiming his position as alpha male.

  • GenreAction, Comedy, Romance
  • CastWill Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church.
  • DirectorSean Anders.
  • WriterSean Anders, John Morris, Brian Burns.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration96 mins
  • Official sitedaddyshomemovie.tumblr.com
  • Release26/12/2015 (selected cinemas)

Grown men degenerate into petty, vindictive and jealous children in Sean Anders' comedy of bad parenting and clashing egos. The perfect storm of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg's first on-screen pairing - the goofy 2010 cop caper The Other Guys - has blown over, leaving behind the overcast skies of a mean-spirited game of testosterone-fuelled one-upmanship that is surprisingly light on belly laughs and charm.

A misfiring script stacks the odds heavily in favour of one of the actors, lavishing misery on his rival to the point that any initial pangs of sympathy are supplanted by incredulity and ultimately disdain. By the time the three writers are ready to engineer the obligatory reversal of fortune, it's too little, too late.

A colourful supporting performance from American stand-up Hannibal Buress as a handyman, who inexplicably takes up residence on the family sofa and referees arguments between the two men, is a pleasing diversion.

Ferrell plays to type as mild-mannered nice guy Brad Taggart, who works at a smooth jazz radio station called The Panda under a politically incorrect boss (Thomas Haden Church). Life is great for Brad: he is married to sex bomb Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and has two beautiful step-children Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) and Megan (Scarlett Estevez) from her first marriage.

Out of the blue, Sarah's first husband Dusty Mayron (Wahlberg) makes contact and persuades Brad to let him visit the children. She urges extreme caution, describing her ex as what might happen if "Jesse James and Mick Jagger had a baby", but Brad is unperturbed, believing that it's important for Dylan and Megan to have their biological father in their life, even if he is a scoundrel.

"You can find the good in just about anything. I love that about you," coos Sarah. Brad's benevolence and patience are tested to breaking point as Dusty swaggers into town, intent on breaking up the happy home and reclaiming his position as alpha male.

Daddy's Home is a morass of half-baked ideas and sketches, which fail to gel as a satisfying battle of the hirsute sexes. Only when the rivalry between the central characters descends into a literal showdown of their respective manhoods - off-camera thankfully - does the film turn promise into genuine giggles.

Ferrell goofs ad nauseum while his deadpan co-star repeatedly removes his shirt to poke fun at his musclebound screen image. Cardellini transfers her mom's fickle affections as and when the script decrees, and is almost superfluous to scenes of fraternal bonding drizzled in sickly sentiment that masquerade unconvincingly as a resolution to the madness. Who's the daddy? Certainly not Anders' uneven picture.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Deadpool 4 stars

Former Special Forces operative Wade Wilson discovers he has cancer. He is offered a second chance by The Recruiter, who works for an experimental program known as Weapon X, which promises to induce a regenerative mutation to the cancerous cells. Wade undergoes treatment and is transformed into a mentally unstable hero called Deadpool, who is blessed and cursed with accelerated healing powers, disfigured skin and a politically incorrect sense of humour.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Science Fiction
  • CastMorena Baccarin, Gina Carano, Ryan Reynolds, TJ Miller, Ed Skrein.
  • DirectorTim Miller.
  • WriterRhett Reese, Paul Wernick.
  • CountryUS/Can
  • Duration108 mins
  • Official sitewww.fox.co.uk/deadpool
  • Release10/02/2016

Just when it seemed that the Marvel Comics takeover of multiplexes was becoming a homogenous exercise in rapacious cross-branding, along comes Deadpool to deliver a swift kick to the franchise's dangling nether regions. Tim Miller's hyperkinetic origin story is like a newborn puppy that has yet to be house-trained: boundlessly energetic, blissfully oblivious to the rules, and prone to leave a steaming hot mess in a favourite pair of slippers when your guard is down. "I may be super, but I'm no hero," grins Ryan Reynolds' titular man in figure-hugging red spandex, breaking down the fourth wall to address us directly. He's not joking, for once. In an opening salvo of high-speed automotive carnage that combines gratuitous dismemberment with gleeful irreverence, his masked avenger ricochets bullets through the heads of bad guys and pushes a car cigarette lighter into the mouth of one unfortunate henchman. "Don't swallow," he quips. The relentless barrage of pop culture references and post-modern in-jokes hinges on Reynolds' ability to charm us and he barrels through every frame with a cocksure swagger that is impossible to resist. Former Special Forces operative Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is a low-rent assassin for hire, who works out of a bar called Sister Margaret's Home For Wayward Girls run by his wise-cracking buddy Weasel (TJ Miller). A loner by heart, Wade falls in love with sassy sex club worker Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who shares his passion for creative love-making. "Happy International Women's Day," she purrs, giving him one eye-watering new experience. The furious bed-hopping ends when Wade discovers he has inoperable cancer. A recruiter (Jed Rees) from an experimental program known as WeaponX invites Wade to undergo a radical procedure, which aggressively attacks the cancerous cells. Sadistic program director Ajax (Ed Skrein) and henchwoman Angel Dust (Gina Carano) torture and abuse Wade, transforming him into a hideously deformed mutant with the power of self-healing. Reborn as Deadpool, Wade moves in with a no-nonsense landlady named Al (Leslie Uggams). "She's the Robin to my Batman... except she's old, black and blind," he quips. Aided by two bona fide X-Men - Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) - Wade vows revenge on Ajax and his underlings. Relentlessly lurid and unapologetically foul-mouthed, Deadpool is a sinful treat. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick's script is crammed to bursting with zinging one-liners and a miasma of filth and toilet humour. Some gags narrowly miss their target, but the duds are invariably followed up in quick succession by sly digs at comic book conventions or self-referential barbs at the expense of Reynolds' good looks. Director Miller relies too heavily on slow-motion in his action sequences, but when it comes to the machine-gun dialogue, his film doesn't pause for breath.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Dirty Grandpa 2 stars

Seventy-something man of mystery Dick Kelly buries his wife and emotionally blackmails his grandson Jason into driving him to their summer home in Florida. "It's what she would have wanted," Dick assures Jason, who is a corporate lawyer in the same firm as his father. The two men hit the road and are soon diverted to Daytona Beach, where Jason has a chance to reignite romance with old flame Shadia while perpetually libidinous Dick pursues Shadia's obliging friend, Lenore.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
  • CastZoey Deutch, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Aubrey Plaza.
  • DirectorDan Mazer.
  • WriterJohn Phillips.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official sitewww.dirtygrandpa.movie
  • Release29/01/2016

In the prank TV show Jackass and a subsequent feature film, Johnny Knoxville donned latex to give octogenarians a bad name as politically incorrect grandpa Irving Zisman. Director Dan Mazer and screenwriter John Phillips channel a similar vibe of old men behaving crudely in this raunchy cross-generational road trip that pairs raging bull Robert De Niro and wholesome High School Musical alumnus Zac Efron.

It's a tantalising juxtaposition - wizened, worldly experience and youthful exuberance - and Phillips' expletive-laden script should mine a rich vein of humour by upending expectations about how these characters behave in polite society.

Alas, the drunken fraternity humour that runs rampant is wearisome and occasionally distasteful, including double standards in its treatment of homophobia. De Niro visibly savours his feisty old coot's potty-mouthed outbursts.

For his part, Efron gamely loses his shirt and his trousers, flashing his washboard stomach in a series of humiliations that include a mistaken case of exposure to a minor on a beach.

Seventy-something man of mystery Dick Kelly (De Niro) buries his wife and emotionally blackmails his grandson Jason (Efron) into driving him to their summer home in Florida. "It's what she would have wanted," Dick assures Jason, who is a corporate lawyer in the same firm as his father (Dermot Mulroney) and is poised to walk down the aisle with his controlling fiancee (Julianne Hough).

Jason arrives at his grandfather's home and walks in on the old timer in a state of gleeful undress, enjoying a pornographic film. "You caught me taking a number three," cackles Dick, without a flush of shame.

The two men hit the road and are soon diverted to Daytona Beach, where Jason has a chance to reignite romance with old flame Shadia (Zoey Deutch) while perpetually libidinous Dick pursues Shadia's obliging friend, Lenore (Aubrey Plaza).

"The greatest gift a grandson can give his grandfather is a hot college girl who wants to have unprotected sex with him before he dies," declares Dick but standing in his way are loutish college dudes Cody (Jake Pickering) and Brah (Michael Hudson).

Dirty Grandpa drinks from the same filthy glassware as The Hangover and its bromantic brethren. The two leads throw themselves into the fray with abandon, weathering numerous indignities including a topless dance off in search of cheap laughs.

Amidst the filth, scriptwriter Phillips dispenses pat life lessons about taking charge of your destiny and respecting elders. A running gag involving a drug dealer (Jason Mantzoukas) and two inept police officers (Mo Collins, Henry Zebrowski) runs out of puff while the sight of De Niro repeatedly shoving his thumb up his co-star's bottom as a laddish prank gets a thumbs down on its first airing let alone the fourth or fifth.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Goosebumps 4 stars

Gale Cooper moves from New York to Delaware with her teenage son Zach. Their new next door neighbour is the mysterious Mr Shivers, whose daughter Hannah is also an enigma. Zach and his new friend, socially awkward student Champ, break into Mr Shivers' home and discover he is actually renowned author RL Stine. In the process of uncovering the truth, Zach accidentally unleashes Slappy from Night Of The Living Dummy. The demented mannequin releases monsters from the rest of Stine's books.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Family, Family
  • CastDylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Jack Black, Ryan Lee.
  • DirectorRob Letterman.
  • WriterDarren Lemke.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration103 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/GoosebumpsUK
  • Release05/02/2016

Comic whirlwind Jack Black ramps up his manic energy to gale force 10 in this fast-paced fantasy adventure based on the series of children's books by RL Stine. Directed with brio by Rob Letterman, Goosebumps is a wicked delight, packed full of spooks and scares that should have adults jumping out of their seats almost as often as little ones.

Explosions of comic book violence, including a slip-sliding tussle between the Abominable Snowman and high school students on an ice rink, are orchestrated with black humour and vim. Darren Lemke's lean script barely pauses for breath between the eye-popping set pieces, but still finds time to flesh out a compelling teenage love story that remains the right side of sickly sweet.

Digital effects are impressive, seamlessly integrated with live action to conjure scenes of large-scale destruction including a runaway ferris wheel and a town under attack from a giant praying mantis.

It's huge fun, especially in 3D when some of the ghoulish things that go bump in the night appear to leap out of the screen. Letterman opens with the calm before the computer-generated storm as Gale Cooper (Amy Ryan) arrives in Delaware with her teenage son Zach (Dylan Minnette) to take up the position of vice-principal at Madison High School.

Their new next-door neighbour is the mysterious Mr Shivers (Black), whose daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush) is also an enigma. Zach and his socially awkward student Champ (Ryan Lee) break into Mr Shivers' home and discover that the truculent father is actually renowned author RL Stine.

In the process of uncovering this startling truth, Zach unlocks one of Stine's books and accidentally unleashes Slappy (voiced by Black) from Night Of The Living Dummy. The demented mannequin subsequently releases monsters from the rest of Stine's back catalogue and the grotesque creations run amok in Madison.

"Why couldn't you have written about unicorns and rainbows?" shrieks Champ.
"Because that doesn't sell 400 million copies," snaps Stine, who realises the only way to defeat Slappy is to pen another bestseller on his typewriter.

Meanwhile, Champ's high school crush Taylor (Halston Sage) and Gale's sister Lorraine (Gillian Bell) are caught up in the mayhem as zombies, a werewolf and assorted monstrosities besiege the high school.

Goosebumps careens wildly between action, comedy and touching drama, with a generous smattering of pithy verbal gags that will go above the heads of children and strike a bullseye with parents. Black leads from the front, plying the wide-eyed lunacy that has served him well, with Minnette as his straight man and foil, whose prime concern is rescuing the people he loves.

Slappy's army of grotesque henchcreatures won't induce nightmares, but might just send a pleasing shiver down young spines. A tricksy treat.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 11th February 2016

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Goosebumps 3D 4 stars

Gale Cooper moves from New York to Delaware with her teenage son Zach. Their new next door neighbour is the mysterious Mr Shivers, whose daughter Hannah is also an enigma. Zach and his new friend, socially awkward student Champ, break into Mr Shivers' home and discover he is actually renowned author RL Stine. In the process of uncovering the truth, Zach accidentally unleashes Slappy from Night Of The Living Dummy. The demented mannequin releases monsters from the rest of Stine's books.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Family, Family
  • CastDylan Minnette, Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee.
  • DirectorRob Letterman.
  • WriterDarren Lemke.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration103 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/GoosebumpsUK
  • Release05/02/2016

Comic whirlwind Jack Black ramps up his manic energy to gale force 10 in this fast-paced fantasy adventure based on the series of children's books by RL Stine. Directed with brio by Rob Letterman, Goosebumps is a wicked delight, packed full of spooks and scares that should have adults jumping out of their seats almost as often as little ones.

Explosions of comic book violence, including a slip-sliding tussle between the Abominable Snowman and high school students on an ice rink, are orchestrated with black humour and vim. Darren Lemke's lean script barely pauses for breath between the eye-popping set pieces, but still finds time to flesh out a compelling teenage love story that remains the right side of sickly sweet.

Digital effects are impressive, seamlessly integrated with live action to conjure scenes of large-scale destruction including a runaway ferris wheel and a town under attack from a giant praying mantis.

It's huge fun, especially in 3D when some of the ghoulish things that go bump in the night appear to leap out of the screen. Letterman opens with the calm before the computer-generated storm as Gale Cooper (Amy Ryan) arrives in Delaware with her teenage son Zach (Dylan Minnette) to take up the position of vice-principal at Madison High School.

Their new next-door neighbour is the mysterious Mr Shivers (Black), whose daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush) is also an enigma. Zach and his socially awkward student Champ (Ryan Lee) break into Mr Shivers' home and discover that the truculent father is actually renowned author RL Stine.

In the process of uncovering this startling truth, Zach unlocks one of Stine's books and accidentally unleashes Slappy (voiced by Black) from Night Of The Living Dummy. The demented mannequin subsequently releases monsters from the rest of Stine's back catalogue and the grotesque creations run amok in Madison.

"Why couldn't you have written about unicorns and rainbows?" shrieks Champ.
"Because that doesn't sell 400 million copies," snaps Stine, who realises the only way to defeat Slappy is to pen another bestseller on his typewriter.

Meanwhile, Champ's high school crush Taylor (Halston Sage) and Gale's sister Lorraine (Gillian Bell) are caught up in the mayhem as zombies, a werewolf and assorted monstrosities besiege the high school.

Goosebumps careens wildly between action, comedy and touching drama, with a generous smattering of pithy verbal gags that will go above the heads of children and strike a bullseye with parents. Black leads from the front, plying the wide-eyed lunacy that has served him well, with Minnette as his straight man and foil, whose prime concern is rescuing the people he loves.

Slappy's army of grotesque henchcreatures won't induce nightmares, but might just send a pleasing shiver down young spines. A tricksy treat.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 11th February 2016

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Kanye West - Season 3 3 stars

Premiere of the singer's album.

  • GenreMusical, Special
  • CastVanessa Beecroft, Kanye West.
  • Duration90 mins
  • Official site

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Thursday 11th February 2016

Point Break 2 stars

Seven years after an unexpected tragedy, extreme sports thrill-seeker Johnny Utah reemerges as a rookie FBI agent, desperate to prove his worth. Instructor Hall dispatches Johnny to France in the company of British agent Pappas to identify robbery suspects among the big wave surfers. By chance, Johnny rides a monstrous tube of water with gang leader Bodhi and is welcomed into the fold by accomplices Roach, Chowder and Grommet.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Romance, Thriller
  • CastRay Winstone, Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Delroy Lindo, Teresa Palmer.
  • DirectorEricson Core.
  • WriterKurt Wimmer.
  • CountryUS/Ger/Chi
  • Duration114 mins
  • Official sitewww.pointbreakmovie.co.uk
  • Release05/02/2016

Released in 1991, the original Point Break starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves was a testosterone-fuelled, homoerotic classic of the era about an emotionally scarred FBI agent, who goes undercover to bring down a gang of bank-robbing surfer dudes. Buff male characters shot lingering glances at each other dressed in tight-fitting wet suits, performed daredevil feats of one-upmanship and famously described Reeves' pretty boy thrill-seeker as young, dumb and full of one particular bodily fluid.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Academy Award for The Hurt Locker almost 20 years later, embraced the preposterousness of the set-up and charted an undeniably entertaining path through the water-drenched madness.

Ericson Core's muscle-flexing remake seeks the same extreme sports nirvana, but falls desperately short. The philosophical mumbo jumbo of the original film has been elevated to ludicrous new heights by screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, while action sequences rely too heavily on digital trickery to dazzle.

Crucially, the central relationship between the reckless cop and the sensei-like leader of the robbers lacks tantalising moral ambiguities or shifts in the balance of power. Sad to say, the 2016 incarnation should be retitled Pointless Break.

The film opens with Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) and best friend Jeff (Max Thieriot) filming a motorcycle ride along a hilltop for their online fan base. A leap across a chasm onto a needle of rock culminates in tragedy and Johnny retires from the scene.

Seven years later, he reemerges as a rookie FBI agent, desperate to prove his worth to Instructor Hall (Delroy Lindo). Johnny gets his chance when he realises that a four-strong team of extreme sports fanatics are committing crimes in order to complete the fabled eight ordeals of Ono Ozaki, an environmentalist and athlete, who believed in harnessing the planet's natural forces to find the path to enlightenment.

Hall dispatches Johnny to France in the company of British agent Pappas (Ray Winstone) to identify suspects among the big wave surfers. By chance, Johnny rides a monstrous tube of water with gang leader Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez) and is welcomed into the fold by accomplices Roach (Clemens Schick), Chowder (Tobias Santelmann) and Grommet (Matias Varela).

They invite Johnny to shrug off past mistakes and seek pure adrenaline rushes around the world. "We can only have responsibility for our own path," counsels Bodhi. "Let others have theirs."

Point Break is a shadow of its former self, lacking all of the swaggering charm that allowed us to overlook the gaping plot holes and leaps in logic. Ramirez smoulders alone, Bracey is a bland hero and his romantic subplot an Australian daredevil (Teresa Palmer) is a fruitless diversion.

Director Core enlists some of the best athletes and stuntmen to enliven his action set pieces. Alas, even their impressive feats of strength and nerve-racking endurance can't save the film from a spectacular wipeout.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Point Break 3D 2 stars

Seven years after an unexpected tragedy, extreme sports thrill-seeker Johnny Utah reemerges as a rookie FBI agent, desperate to prove his worth. Instructor Hall dispatches Johnny to France in the company of British agent Pappas to identify robbery suspects among the big wave surfers. By chance, Johnny rides a monstrous tube of water with gang leader Bodhi and is welcomed into the fold by accomplices Roach, Chowder and Grommet.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Romance, Thriller
  • CastRay Winstone, Delroy Lindo, Luke Bracey, Edgar Ramirez, Teresa Palmer.
  • DirectorEricson Core.
  • WriterKurt Wimmer.
  • CountryUS/Ger/Chi
  • Duration114 mins
  • Official sitewww.pointbreakmovie.co.uk
  • Release05/02/2016

Released in 1991, the original Point Break starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves was a testosterone-fuelled, homoerotic classic of the era about an emotionally scarred FBI agent, who goes undercover to bring down a gang of bank-robbing surfer dudes. Buff male characters shot lingering glances at each other dressed in tight-fitting wet suits, performed daredevil feats of one-upmanship and famously described Reeves' pretty boy thrill-seeker as young, dumb and full of one particular bodily fluid.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Academy Award for The Hurt Locker almost 20 years later, embraced the preposterousness of the set-up and charted an undeniably entertaining path through the water-drenched madness.

Ericson Core's muscle-flexing remake seeks the same extreme sports nirvana, but falls desperately short. The philosophical mumbo jumbo of the original film has been elevated to ludicrous new heights by screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, while action sequences rely too heavily on digital trickery to dazzle.

Crucially, the central relationship between the reckless cop and the sensei-like leader of the robbers lacks tantalising moral ambiguities or shifts in the balance of power. Sad to say, the 2016 incarnation should be retitled Pointless Break.

The film opens with Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) and best friend Jeff (Max Thieriot) filming a motorcycle ride along a hilltop for their online fan base. A leap across a chasm onto a needle of rock culminates in tragedy and Johnny retires from the scene.

Seven years later, he reemerges as a rookie FBI agent, desperate to prove his worth to Instructor Hall (Delroy Lindo). Johnny gets his chance when he realises that a four-strong team of extreme sports fanatics are committing crimes in order to complete the fabled eight ordeals of Ono Ozaki, an environmentalist and athlete, who believed in harnessing the planet's natural forces to find the path to enlightenment.

Hall dispatches Johnny to France in the company of British agent Pappas (Ray Winstone) to identify suspects among the big wave surfers. By chance, Johnny rides a monstrous tube of water with gang leader Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez) and is welcomed into the fold by accomplices Roach (Clemens Schick), Chowder (Tobias Santelmann) and Grommet (Matias Varela).

They invite Johnny to shrug off past mistakes and seek pure adrenaline rushes around the world. "We can only have responsibility for our own path," counsels Bodhi. "Let others have theirs."

Point Break is a shadow of its former self, lacking all of the swaggering charm that allowed us to overlook the gaping plot holes and leaps in logic. Ramirez smoulders alone, Bracey is a bland hero and his romantic subplot an Australian daredevil (Teresa Palmer) is a fruitless diversion.

Director Core enlists some of the best athletes and stuntmen to enliven his action set pieces. Alas, even their impressive feats of strength and nerve-racking endurance can't save the film from a spectacular wipeout.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 11th February 2016

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Pride And Prejudice And Zombies 3 stars

Mr Bennet teaches his five daughters Elizabeth, Jane, Lydia, Kitty and Mary martial arts so they can take care of themselves in an era of marauding zombies. The girls' mother Mrs Bennet is more concerned with finding them wealthy husbands. The arrival of Mr Bingley in town sends Mrs Bennet into a frenzy of excitement and she dispatches the girls to a ball with instructions to catch his eye. Bingley is smitten with Jane, while Elizabeth meets her match in Bingley's haughty friend, Mr Darcy.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Comedy, Horror, Romance
  • CastLily James, Lena Headey, Douglas Booth, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Matt Smith.
  • DirectorBurr Steers.
  • WriterBurr Steers.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration108 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/PPZMovie/
  • Release11/02/2016

If the casual mention of the undead in the title of Burr Steers' horror comedy almost seems like an afterthought, the jarring on-screen presence of the flesh-hungry predators confirms it. Adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith's parody novel, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies puts a gruesome twist on Jane Austen's period drama, transplanting the heaving bosoms and unspoken desire to a bodice-ripping 19th-century Britain where young women are skilled in swordplay as well as needlecraft. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains," primly declares the film's spunky heroine, Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James), in her opening voiceover. The two narrative strands - repressed desire and gore - are awkward bedfellows. The film fizzes when Steers and his attractive cast play Austen's vacillations of the heart straight, buoyed by simmering screen chemistry between James and Sam Riley as a suitably brooding Darcy. However, every time reanimated corpses shuffle into view and sink their gnashers into one of the supporting cast, the ensuing bloodbath is a bore. Mr Bennet (Charles Dance) teaches his five daughters Elizabeth (James), Jane (Bella Heathcote), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), Kitty (Suki Waterhouse) and Mary (Millie Brady) martial arts so they can survive in an era of marauding zombies. The girls' mother Mrs Bennet (Sally Phillips) is more concerned with finding them wealthy husbands. The arrival of Mr Bingley (Douglas Booth) sends Mrs Bennet into a frenzy of excitement and she dispatches the girls to a ball with instructions to catch his eye. Bingley is smitten with Jane, while Elizabeth meets her match in Bingley's haughty friend, Darcy (Riley). Bumbling Parson Collins (Matt Smith) also has his beady eye on Elizabeth, but she is resistant to his dubious charms. The girls are crestfallen when Bingley and his entourage abandon leafy Hertfordshire for the safety of London, which is now a walled fortress. Soon after, roguish soldier Mr Wickham (Jack Huston) arrives in the countryside and begins to poison Elizabeth against Darcy. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is a lacklustre genre mash-up. Fight sequences unfold largely in slow motion to accentuate the swish of frocks as blades scythe through zombie flesh, but there's a laughable absence of blood. During an opening melee in which the Bennet sisters pirouette through a full-scale assault by the undead, there isn't a single rivulet of blood or scrap of flesh on their pristine blades. Die-hard fans of gore will have to seek their thrills elsewhere - Steers keeps most of the violence off screen, opting to shoot from the perspective of zombies as they suffer grisly demises. Dialogue gleefully distorts Austen's lyrical prose. "You are as unfeeling as the undead!" Elizabeth admonishes Darcy. In some ways, so is Steers' film.

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Ride Along 2 3 stars

Ben Barber is fresh out of the Police Academy and keen to prove himself on the mean streets of Atlanta. His impetuosity has dire consequences for Detective James Payton and his partner Mayfield during a meeting with a drug dealer. As a result, Lieutenant Brooks dispatches Payton to Miami to follow a lead and Ben begs to come along to make amends. During the subsequent investigation, the two men work closely with Detective Maya Cruz to bring down sadistic crime lord Antonio Pope.

  • GenreAction, Comedy, Drama, Romance
  • CastTika Sumpter, Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Benjamin Bratt.
  • DirectorTim Story.
  • WriterMatt Manfredi, Phil Hay.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official sitewww.uk-ridealong2.tumblr.com
  • Release22/01/2016

During a lull in Tim Story's sequel, a two-dimensional character with a modicum of common sense asks Ice Cube's deadpan detective why he suffers a fool like Kevin Hart's accident-prone rookie. The veteran Atlanta cop explains that Hart might be a buffoon and a major liability to the police department but every now and then, he achieves a moment of staggering, jaw-dropping brilliance.

Ride Along 2 is not one of those moments. This dim-witted cops and robbers caper lazily recycles the set-up of the original film and transplants the chaotic gun fights and male posturing to Miami. The sun may be sizzling over the south eastern coast, which is festooned with beach babes in skimpy bikinis and strutting studs in linen shirts, but there are dark clouds over every aspect of the sequel.

Story directs at a lacklustre pace, which suggests he signed on with the returning cast purely for a pay cheque, while parallel romantic subplots beggar belief. The second film opens with videogame addict Ben Barber (Hart) fresh out of the Police Academy and keen to prove himself on the mean streets of Atlanta.

His impetuosity has dire consequences for his soon to be brother-in-law, Detective James Payton (Ice Cube), during an undercover sting. Consequently, Lieutenant Brooks (Bruce McGill) dispatches Payton to Miami to trace a suspect and Ben begs to tag along to make amends for his costly blunder.

However, the rookie is in the midst of planning his wedding to Payton's sister Angela (Tika Sumpter), and there are sharp differences of opinion between the groom and feisty wedding planner (Sherri Shepherd). In order to eliminate the friction, Angela implores her brother to take her fiance to Miami for a few days.

During the subsequent investigation, the two men work closely with ballsy local detective Maya Cruz (Olivia Munn), whose no-nonsense approach to policing piques Payton's romantic interests. "The girl is devil spawn with lady parts!" hyperventilates Ben in protest. Meanwhile, the Atlanta cops pool their resources to apprehend a computer hacker (Ken Jeong) and bring down powerful crime lord Antonio Pope (Benjamin Bratt).

Ride Along 2 splutters and wheezes from the Fast & Furious-style opening sequence replete with a throwaway cameo for Tyrese Gibson. Action set pieces lack pizazz including a centrepiece car chase, which is visualised as a videogame a la Grand Theft Auto in Ben's head and consequently lacks pulse-quickening thrills.

The mismatched double act of Ice Cube and Hart fail to convince us that they could suffer an hour together without drawing weapons let alone work effectively to bring down a major crime cartel. "Give the dwarf a sedative!" barks the rapper, referring to his hyperactive co-star's diminutive stature. We'll take two, please, to dull the pain left by Story's film.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie 3 stars

Charlie Brown develops a crush on a Little Red Haired Girl, who moves in across the street. Unable to talk to her, even with the encouragement of Snoopy, Charlie resolves to catch the girl's eye by winning his school's talent competition. His plan goes horribly awry and he becomes the laughing stock of his school. Meanwhile, Snoopy daydreams about becoming a First World War fighter plane pilot and protecting his pooch sweetheart Fifi from the notorious Red Baron.

  • GenreAdaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
  • CastNoah Schnapp, Madisyn Shipman, Francesca Capaldi, Hadley Belle Miller.
  • DirectorSteve Martino.
  • WriterBryan Schulz, Craig Schulz, Cornelius Uliano.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration93 mins
  • Official sitewww.peanutsmovie.com
  • Release21/12/2015

If unabashed sweetness is your weakness then you will be completely helpless in the company of Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie. Written by Craig and Bryan Schulz, the son and grandson of Charles M Schulz, Steve Martino's film marries the old-fashioned, wholesome sensibilities of the syndicated comic strips with state-of-the-art computer animation.

The episodic nature of the script suggests that several bite-size adventures for the titular pooch and his self-doubting master have been sandwiched together and passed off as a fluid narrative. It's candy floss filmmaking: colourful, sugary and easily digested, expertly spun out of hot air by a vast team of talented animators, who have managed to replicate familiar character designs in shiny 3D.

The Peanuts Movie is a big, heady whiff of nostalgia. It's hard to resist the innate charm and vulnerability of Charlie as he laments his inability to talk to the new girl at school ("I just came down with a serious case of inadequacy!") and searches for inspiration in a self-help book entitled 10 Ways To Be A Winner. Everyone loves a trier.

Charlie Brown (voiced by Noah Schnapp) faces his nemesis - the Kite-Eating Tree - and once again comes off second best to Mother Nature. "You'll never get that to fly. Why? Because you're Charlie Brown!" snorts Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller). The luckless lad refuses to be downhearted. "Charlie Brown is not a quitter," he tells himself.

Soon after, a Little Red Haired Girl (Francesca Capaldi) moves in across the street with her family and Charlie develops the most terrible crush. "She's not that pretty," grumbles Lucy dismissively. Unable to talk to his new neighbour, even with the encouragement of Snoopy (Bill Melendez) or his chums Peppermint Patty (Venus Schultheis), Linus (Alexander Garfin) and Pig-Pen (AJ Tecce), Charlie resolves to catch the girl's eye by winning his school's talent competition.

His plan goes awry and he becomes the laughing stock of the school. Subsequent attempts to win the affection of the Little Red Haired Girl by learning to dance, and writing a school report on "Leo's Toy Story by Warren Peace" also end in humiliation.

Meanwhile, Snoopy daydreams about becoming a First World War fighter plane pilot and protecting his pooch sweetheart Fifi (Kristin Chenoweth) from the notorious Red Baron. As dogs of war go, he's irrepressibly cute.

Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie is a delightful, gossamer thin diversion. In an age of increasingly sophisticated, multi-faceted animations, Steve Martino's film harks back to simpler and unabashedly sentimental times of linear storytelling and wholesome messaging.

Laidback vocal performances include archive recordings of Melendez as Snoopy and Woodstock. The main feature screens with an animated short, Cosmic Scrat-astrophe, which follows the acorn-fixated sabretoothed squirrel from the Ice Age series into outer space.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

Spotlight 4 stars

Deputy Managing Editor Ben Bradlee Jr presides over the Boston Globe newsroom and has direct responsibility for the Spotlight team led by Walter "Robby" Robinson. Down in the basement, Robby and his colleagues Michael Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer and Matt Carroll are hard at work on a potentially explosive story. Attorney Mitchell Garabedian claims to have documents which prove Cardinal Bernard Law knew about sexual abuse within the diocese and did nothing.

  • GenreBiography, Drama, Historical/Period, Thriller
  • CastRachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber, Michael Keaton, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci.
  • DirectorTom McCarthy.
  • WriterTom McCarthy, Josh Singer.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration129 mins
  • Official sitewww.spotlightthefilm.com
  • Release29/01/2016

At its best, investigative journalism is a scalpel that slices through fatty rhetoric and cuts readers to the bones of institutions that should be defending our interests. In early 2002, the Spotlight Investigations team of the Boston Globe ran a series of meticulously researched articles, exposing the sexual abuse of minors in the Boston archdiocese.

Coverage of the scandal rippled far beyond the city boundaries and compelled other victims to come forward and share their horrific testimonies, which sent shockwaves through the Roman Catholic Church.

The newspaper was subsequently awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in Journalism for its courageous and comprehensive coverage, which lifted a heavy veil of secrecy stretching back several decades.

Thomas McCarthy's impeccably crafted drama pays tribute to the close-knit team of tenacious editors and reporters, who tirelessly pursued the truth and wrung their blood, sweat and tears into the exposes.

Deputy Managing Editor Ben Bradlee Jr (John Slattery) presides over the Boston Globe newsroom and has direct responsibility for the Spotlight team led by Walter "Robby" Robinson (Michael Keaton).

Down in the basement, Robby and his colleagues Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d'Arcy) invest thousands of hours following leads and gathering evidence. Their work is valuable but costly and incoming Boston Globe editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) makes clear he is willing to make difficult cuts.

"I'm focused on finding a way to make this paper essential to its readers," he tells Robby. The team is hard at work on a potentially explosive story. Attorney Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci) claims to have documents which prove Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou) knew about sexual abuse within the diocese and did nothing.

Marty authorises Robby to quietly pursue the story before he is personally summoned to a meeting with the Cardinal.
"I find that this city flourishes when its great institutions work together," purrs the holy man.
"I'm of the opinion that for the paper to best perform its function, it needs to stand alone," boldly retorts Marty.

Battle lines are drawn and Robby pleads with his writers so keep their emotions in check as they are confronted with horrific stories of shattered innocence. "I don't want the Chancery getting wind of this before we know what we have," he implores.

Spotlight is a clinical, precise and riveting dramatisation of a protracted search for the ugly truth in a city in the thrall of the church. The ensemble cast are exemplary with Ruffalo gifted the film's stand-out scene of unfettered indignation that undoubtedly secured him his Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

Some of the characters don't feel fully formed, sacrificed perhaps in favour of a forensic pursuit of the facts. Josh Singer and director McCarthy's script crackles with tension and as the printing presses of the Globe begin to roll, we finally relax.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens 4 stars

Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia bear the deep emotional scars of their encounters with the Dark Side of the Force, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and his protege Kylo Ren. A valiant scavenger called Rey, First Order stormtrooper Finn and Resistance X-wing pilot Poe Dameron become embroiled in the battle between good and evil.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • CastCarrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong'o, Max von Sydow, Oscar Isaac, Peter Mayhew, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels, Daisy Ridley.
  • DirectorJJ Abrams.
  • WriterJJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration135 mins
  • Official sitewww.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-vii-the-force-awakens
  • Release17/12/2015

Give the people what they want, but little else. Director JJ Abrams, who defied the Do Not Resuscitate order on Star Trek and reanimated that wheezing intergalactic saga, atones for George Lucas' cardinal sin of Episode I: The Phantom Menace with a rollicking and unabashedly old-fashioned battle beyond the stars that should shatter box office records rather than fans' sky high dreams.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the sincerest form of flattery of Lucas and his galaxy far, far away that has inspired religious fervour since the heady summer of 1977. Episode VII busily reconstitutes elements from the original trilogy as a giddy 135-minute showdown between the light and dark sides of the Force approximately 30 years after tumultuous events of Return Of The Jedi.

Verbal references and visual nods to earlier chapters abound: the thrum of duelling lightsabres, the beeps of deadpanning droids, the slow and steady countdown to interplanetary doom by hulking superweapon. It's the greatest hits of Star Wars, lovingly and slickly repackaged with an impressive cast of fresh-faced newcomers and wizened old hands, swish digital effects and John Williams' grandiose orchestral score.

The gossamer thin storyline is hand-me-down and some of the plot holes large enough for a four-legged AT-AT combat walker but rejoice, padawan hopefuls, rejoice: the Force is palpable in Episode VII and can only get stronger in subsequent films.

The Rebel Alliance's hard fought victory at the Battle of Endor is a fading memory. The First Order has risen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire, under the yoke of snarling Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his unpredictable protege, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) spearheads the rebellion, which includes fearless X-wing starfighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Outrageous misfortune brings together self-doubting heroes and villains including self-sufficient scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) from the desert planet Jakku, First Order stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and a cute rolling BB-8 droid hardwired with killer comic timing.

Their fates conveniently entwine with wisecracking smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), prophetic canteen owner Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o), ruthless First Order base leader General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the mechanised Morecambe and Wiser: C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). "The galaxy is counting on us," growls Han.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens panders shamelessly to the intergalactic faithful, striking a delightfully pleasing balance between adrenaline-pumping thrills, laconic humour and soap opera histrionics. Ridley and Boyega make a sizable impact amidst the cacophonous sound and merchandising fury, capturing the vulnerability and anguish of conflicted characters haunted by murky pasts.

Ford has lost none of his bounder's roughly hewn, twinkly eyed charm, delivering droll one-liners with consummate ease. Director Abrams shepherds his handsomely crafted behemoth through every comfortingly predictable turn with aplomb. "Chewie... we're home," grins Han as he is reunited with the ramshackle Millennium Falcon early in the film. And so are we.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens 3D 4 stars

Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and his sister Leia bear the deep emotional scars of their encounters with the Dark Side of the Force, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and his protege Kylo Ren. A valiant scavenger called Rey, First Order stormtrooper Finn and Resistance X-wing pilot Poe Dameron become embroiled in the battle between good and evil.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • CastJohn Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong'o, Max von Sydow, Oscar Isaac, Peter Mayhew, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill.
  • DirectorJJ Abrams.
  • WriterJJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration135 mins
  • Official sitewww.starwars.com/films/star-wars-episode-vii-the-force-awakens
  • Release17/12/2015

Give the people what they want, but little else. Director JJ Abrams, who defied the Do Not Resuscitate order on Star Trek and reanimated that wheezing intergalactic saga, atones for George Lucas' cardinal sin of Episode I: The Phantom Menace with a rollicking and unabashedly old-fashioned battle beyond the stars that should shatter box office records rather than fans' sky high dreams.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the sincerest form of flattery of Lucas and his galaxy far, far away that has inspired religious fervour since the heady summer of 1977. Episode VII busily reconstitutes elements from the original trilogy as a giddy 135-minute showdown between the light and dark sides of the Force approximately 30 years after tumultuous events of Return Of The Jedi.

Verbal references and visual nods to earlier chapters abound: the thrum of duelling lightsabres, the beeps of deadpanning droids, the slow and steady countdown to interplanetary doom by hulking superweapon. It's the greatest hits of Star Wars, lovingly and slickly repackaged with an impressive cast of fresh-faced newcomers and wizened old hands, swish digital effects and John Williams' grandiose orchestral score.

The gossamer thin storyline is hand-me-down and some of the plot holes large enough for a four-legged AT-AT combat walker but rejoice, padawan hopefuls, rejoice: the Force is palpable in Episode VII and can only get stronger in subsequent films.

The Rebel Alliance's hard fought victory at the Battle of Endor is a fading memory. The First Order has risen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire, under the yoke of snarling Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his unpredictable protege, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) spearheads the rebellion, which includes fearless X-wing starfighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Outrageous misfortune brings together self-doubting heroes and villains including self-sufficient scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) from the desert planet Jakku, First Order stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and a cute rolling BB-8 droid hardwired with killer comic timing.

Their fates conveniently entwine with wisecracking smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), prophetic canteen owner Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o), ruthless First Order base leader General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the mechanised Morecambe and Wiser: C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). "The galaxy is counting on us," growls Han.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens panders shamelessly to the intergalactic faithful, striking a delightfully pleasing balance between adrenaline-pumping thrills, laconic humour and soap opera histrionics. Ridley and Boyega make a sizable impact amidst the cacophonous sound and merchandising fury, capturing the vulnerability and anguish of conflicted characters haunted by murky pasts.

Ford has lost none of his bounder's roughly hewn, twinkly eyed charm, delivering droll one-liners with consummate ease. Director Abrams shepherds his handsomely crafted behemoth through every comfortingly predictable turn with aplomb. "Chewie... we're home," grins Han as he is reunited with the ramshackle Millennium Falcon early in the film. And so are we.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

The Danish Girl 4 stars

Einar Wegener is a well respected artist in 1920s Copenhagen. His bohemian wife Gerda, who is also a painter, asks Einar to stand in for an absent female model so she can complete a canvas. The touch of soft fabric on Einar's skin awakens long dormant feelings. Adopting the guise of flame-haired Lili Elbe, Einar confronts the deep-rooted belief that he has been born into the wrong body.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance
  • CastAlicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Eddie Redmayne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch.
  • DirectorTom Hooper.
  • WriterLucinda Coxon.
  • CountryUK/Ger/US
  • Duration120 mins
  • Official sitewww.thedanishgirl.co.uk
  • Release01/01/2016

During a momentous 2015, the transgender community has advanced the fight for acceptance, equality and understanding into popular culture and the mainstream media. Barack Obama became the first President to mention transgender people in his State Of The Union address, America confirmed a timetable for transgender soldiers to serve openly in the military, reality star Caitlyn Jenner graced the cover of Vanity Fair and award-winning TV shows Transparent and Orange Is The New Black blazed a trail for modern trans activism.

The Danish Girl is a fictionalised account of Lili Elbe, a pioneer of the movement, who was one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery in the 1920s. Director Tom Hooper, who collected an Academy Award for The King's Speech, adopts a restrained and painfully polite approach to the subject matter, artfully navigating a maelstrom of conflicting emotions.

Thankfully, his British reserve doesn't get in the way of us connecting to the characters, aided by tour-de-force performances from Eddie Redmayne as Lili and the luminous Alicia Vikander as his conflicted wife. Their commitment to demanding roles, including a deeply moving scene of full-frontal nudity for Redmayne, elevates Lucinda Coxon's script and guarantees a deluge of saltwater tears from audiences, who believe that love transcends all boundaries.

Einar Wegener (Redmayne) is a respected artist in 1920s Copenhagen, who falls in love at first sight with his bohemian wife Gerda (Vikander). She is also a painter and asks Einar to stand in for an absent female model so she can complete a portrait of their flamboyant ballerina friend, Ulla (Amber Heard).

The touch of soft fabric on Einar's skin awakens long-dormant feelings. Adopting the guise of flame-haired ingenue Lili Elbe, Einar confronts the deep-rooted belief that he has been born into the wrong body. "It doesn't matter what I wear. When I dream, they're Lili's dreams," Einar tearfully confides to his shell-shocked spouse.

Supported by Gerda and childhood friend Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts), Lili approaches controversial surgeon Warnekros (Sebastian Koch) to correct nature's mistake. However, the medical procedure is both experimental and highly dangerous, and Gerda might not only lose her husband on the operating table, but also Lili.

The Danish Girl treads an exceedingly safe path, but it's hard to resist the aching emotion that courses beneath each exquisite, painterly frame. Redmayne and Vikander are mesmerising, conveying their protagonists' inner torment with each trembling touch or tear-stained glance. Both deserve Oscar recognition.

Resplendent cinematography and costumes capture the tightly-buttoned restraint of an era when a man who openly questioned his gender was labelled a schizophrenic or pervert by the medical establishment.

Thankfully, times have changed - too slowly, perhaps - but well-crafted stories of triumph against adversity like this are timeless.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

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The Lady In The Van 3 stars

Playwright Alan Bennett moves into a house in Camden and is befriended by well-to-do neighbours. Soon after, a cantankerous vagrant called Miss Shepherd bullies Alan into letting her take up temporary residence in his driveway. Months turn into years and the playwright despairs as he becomes Miss Shepherd's guardian and suffers regular visits from interfering social services worker Miss Briscoe.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Drama
  • CastDame Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent.
  • DirectorNicholas Hytner.
  • WriterAlan Bennett.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration104 mins
  • Official site
  • Release13/11/2015

Teasingly billed as "a mostly true story", The Lady In The Van is an entertaining screen adaptation of Alan Bennett's award-winning 1999 play, based on his experiences of a sharp-tongued vagrant called Miss Shepherd, who camped outside his driveway for more than 15 years.

The playwright has lovingly adapted his stage work, employing the same cute theatrical device of the real Alan and an internal self, who endlessly pontificate on the tramp's shady past as they mooch about a north London home.

"Writing is talking to oneself and I've been doing it all of my life," quips the real Alan to neatly explain the duelling on-screen narrators, both played with warmth and wit by Alex Jennings.

Dame Maggie Smith reprises her eye-catching stage role as the eponymous and fragrant tramp, unleashing an array of withering putdowns that would surely have her imperious Dowager in Downton Abbey clucking with approval. It's a tour-de-force performance from the national treasure, tinged with pathos and regret, which reminds us that Smith is a gifted physician comedian as well as a twinkly-eyed sniper with a sardonic one-liner.

Alan (Jennings) moves into a house in Camden and is befriended by well-to-do neighbours including opera fans Rufus (Roger Allam) and Pauline (Deborah Findlay), who live opposite, and statuesque Ursula Vaughan Williams (Frances de la Tour).

Soon after, a cantankerous woman called Miss Shepherd (Smith) settles in their street in her ramshackle vehicle and bullies Alan into pushing her transport, when it refuses to start during a downpour. "You wouldn't see Harold Pinter pushing vans down the street!" Alan berates himself.

When council bureaucracy threatens the old woman's future, the playwright foolishly agrees to let her take up temporary residence on his driveway for a few weeks. Months turn into years and the playwright despairs as he becomes Miss Shepherd's guardian and suffers regular visits from interfering social services worker Miss Briscoe (Cecilia Noble).

When a police officer called Underwood (Jim Broadbent) begins to harass the old woman late at night, Alan speculates about her former life. Meanwhile, Miss Shepherd seeks forgiveness for unspoken sins in the confessional of the local priest (Dermot Crowley). "Absolution is not like a bus pass," the holy man tenderly proclaims. "It does not run out."

The Lady In The Van is an amusing and heart-warming tonic for these cold winter months. Director Nicholas Hytner, who helmed the Olivier Award-nominated stage production, reunites with his leading lady with obvious relish.

He also includes cameos for most of the cast of The History Boys, his last collaboration with Bennett, including James Corden as a market trader, whose cheeky banter fails to curry favour with Miss Shepherd. Supporting characters are sketched lightly in comparison, but all observe Smith's virtuoso performance with admiration.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 11th February 2016

The Revenant 4 stars

Hugh Glass guides a team of 19th-century fur trappers and hunters under the command of Captain Andrew Henry. The men come under attack from Native Americans and Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear, which is protecting its cubs. Captain Henry leaves behind two men, Fitzgerald and Bridger, to tend to Glass and his son, Hawk. Fitzgerald decides to expedite matters by killing Hawk and dragging Glass' near lifeless body into a freshly dug grave. The explorer regains consciousness and vows revenge.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Drama, Romance, Western
  • CastLeonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck.
  • DirectorAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
  • WriterAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mark L Smith.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration156 mins
  • Official sitewww.foxmovies.com/movies/the-revenant
  • Release15/01/2016

If film awards were bestowed for dogged determination and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, The Revenant would sweep the 2016 Oscars. Mexican auteur Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu chose to shoot his sprawling historical epic in chronological order using natural light.

These bold aesthetic choices limited filming to just a couple of hours each day and when Mother Nature decided to withhold snow from the unforgiving Canadian wilderness, the entire production moved to Argentina at considerable expense.

Actor Tom Hardy was forced to drop out of the comic book adventure Suicide Squad to accommodate the extended filming schedule, the budget ballooned and one crew member famously described the mood on set as "a living hell".

Trials and tribulations behind the scenes haven't tarnished Inarritu's audacious vision because The Revenant is a tour-de-force of technical brio and emotionally cold storytelling. It's not a journey into the heart of darkness for the sentimental or faint of heart. Explosions of violence are graphic and a horrifying bear attack early in the film unfolds in a single, unbroken take that shreds our nerves beyond repair.

Leading man Leonardo DiCaprio puts himself through the wringer for his art. In one stomach-churning scene, the fervent vegetarian eats a wild bison's liver on camera because the role demands it. Such unswerving dedication makes him a deserved frontrunner for the Academy Award.

He plays 19th-century explorer Hugh Glass, who guides a team of fur trappers and hunters under the command of Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). The men come under attack from Native Americans led by tribal chief Elk Dog (Duane Howard), whose daughter Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk'o) has been kidnapped.

The interlopers flee for their lives and Glass is subsequently injured in a mauling from a grizzly bear, which is protecting its cubs. Henry leaves behind two men, Fitzgerald (Hardy) and Bridger (Will Poulter), to tend to Glass and his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), while the rest of the trappers head for safety.

"Glass is to be cared for... as long as necessary," orders the Captain, "and a proper burial when it's time. He's earned that." Fitzgerald decides to expedite matters by killing Hawk and dragging Glass' near lifeless body into a freshly dug grave.

The explorer regains consciousness some time later and vows to hunt down the men who killed his boy. "I ain't afraid to die," growls Glass. "I done it already."

The Revenant is a gruelling two and a half hours in the company of a filmmaker who refused to compromise. Aided by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Birdman), Inarritu conjures a nightmarish and unflinching vision of a grieving father's revenge mission.

DiCaprio is mesmerising, dragging his wounded body across frozen landscapes before locking horns with Hardy's scowling rival in an adrenaline-pumped climax that leaves us gasping for air.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 11th February 2016

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