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Now showing at Reel Cinema Burnley Centenary Way, Manchester Road,Burnley,Lancashire BB11 2EJ 01282 416329

  • A Most Violent Year
  • American Sniper
  • Big Hero 6
  • Ex Machina
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into The Woods
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (Subtitled)
  • Mortdecai
  • Paddington
  • Taken 3
  • The Gambler
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1
  • The Theory Of Everything
  • The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death

A Most Violent Year 4 stars

movie title

Abel Morales owns a fleet of oil transport trucks that carry valuable fuel to customers across the city. One of his trucks is hijacked and the driver Julian is been badly beaten. Threats to Abel's livelihood become personal, targeting his children and wife Anna, whose gangster father used to own the company. "Let me deal with this," pleads Abel. "You better," she retorts. "Because you won't like what's going to happen once I start getting involved."

  • GenreAction, Drama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastJessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Elyes Gabel, Albert Brooks.
  • DirectorJ C Chandor.
  • WriterJ C Chandor.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration125 mins
  • Official site
  • Release23/01/2015

According to statistics, 1981 was the most violent year in New York City history in relation to the population. Over the 12 months, more than 1.2 million crimes were recorded including 60,000 aggravated assaults, 5,400 forcible rapes and 2,220 murders.

A crack epidemic had the city in a chokehold and Mayor Ed Koch seemed powerless to curb gang warfare and spiralling lawlessness on the subway system. Writer-director JC Chandor, who was Oscar nominated for the 2012 thriller Margin Call, uses this turbulent period as a backdrop to his masterful and searing portrait of crime and brutal punishment.

Centred on a married couple, who are struggling to keep their heating oil distribution business afloat, A Most Violent Year powerfully conveys the personal and professional sacrifices of a devoted husband and wife, who become one of the shocking statistics.

The film's pacing is deceptively steady and slow, lulling us into a false sense of security as Chandor ups the stakes for his beautifully sketched characters, forcing them to take greater risks to protect their nearest and dearest.

Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) owns a fleet of oil transport trucks that carry valuable fuel to customers across the city. He's a small player but hopes to expand by clinching a deal for property on the Brooklyn waterfront that will allow him to take delivery of oil from the river. Having put down 700,000 US dollars as a deposit, Abel has just 30 days to close the transaction or the vendor keeps the downpayment and can sell the land to a competitor.

Soon after, Abel learns that one of his trucks has been hijacked and the driver Julian (Elyes Gabel) has been badly beaten. Union rep Bill O'Leary (Peter Gerety) asks Abel to allow the drivers to carry unlicenced guns as a deterrent but the boss strongly objects, knowing that it will take just one stray bullet to arouse the suspicions of the crusading Assistant District Attorney (David Oyelowo).

Threats to Abel's livelihood become personal, targeting his children and wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), whose gangster father used to own the company.
"Let me deal with this," pleads Abel.
"You better," she retorts. "Because you won't like what's going to happen once I start getting involved."

A Most Violent Year hits a sweet spot on every level, from Chandor's measured direction and lean script, to the powerhouse performances. Isaac is mesmerising as an honourable family man, who refuses to sink to the depths of some of his rivals, sticking to the path of righteousness for as long as he dare.

Chastain essays another ballsy woman of substance, cutting through her husband's rose-tinted idealism with harsh home truths. When oblivion beckons for Abel and Anna, we discover the true strength of their moral compasses in the face of the corruption and senseless bloodshed.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

American Sniper 4 stars

movie title

Born and raised in Odessa, Texas, Chris Kyle becomes a professional rodeo rider until injury forces him to reassess his priorities. He enlists with the military and his keen eye - nurtured by his father who taught him to hunt at an early age - sets Kyle apart as a sniper. During four tours of duty in Iraq, he gains the reputation as the most lethal sniper in American military history, with 160 confirmed kills to his name.

  • GenreAction, Biography, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance, War
  • CastBradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, Luke Grimes.
  • DirectorClint Eastwood.
  • WriterJason Hall.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration132 mins
  • Official sitewww.americansnipermovie.com
  • Release16/01/2015

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. Born and raised in Odessa, Texas, Chris Kyle became a professional rodeo rider until injury forced him to reassess his priorities. He enlisted with the military and his keen eye - nurtured by his father who taught him to hunt at an early age - set Kyle apart as a sniper.

During four tours of duty in Iraq, he gained the reputation as the most lethal sniper in American military history, with 160 confirmed kills to his name. Such was his notoriety, the enemy nicknamed him "The Devil Of Ramadi" and put a sizable bounty on his head.

When Kyle eventually returned home, deeply scarred by clashes with insurgents and the deaths of his brothers in arms, he gradually regained his humanity and reconnected with his family by working with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a bitter twist, having survived Iraq, Kyle was killed by one of those traumatised veterans on a Texas shooting range. His achievements are celebrated in Clint Eastwood's impeccably crafted biopic, which opens on a rooftop in Iraq with Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) staring down a telescopic sight as a woman and her young son emerge from a building.

Tensions steadily cranks up as Kyle places his finger on the trigger. "They'll fry you if you're wrong," warns his compatriot Goat-Winston (Kyle Gallner). We rewind initially to Chris' childhood, where he learns how to handle a gun with his father Wayne (Ben Reed). "You're going to make a fine hunter some day," says the old man tenderly.

When dreams of bull-riding turn sour, Chris enlists and he meets Taya (Sienna Miller) in a bar. They marry and she raises their family alone while Chris fights overseas and attempts to outwit an elusive rival sniper called Mustafa (Sammy Sheik).

With each successive tour, Chris returns home unable to communicate effectively with his loved ones. "I need you to be human again," pleads Taya. "I need you to be here."

American Sniper unfolds from Kyle's fervently patriotic perspective and the lack of narrative balance might trouble some audiences. Eastwood is more interested here in the psychology of a father and husband than wading through the murky politics and morality of modern warfare.

Battle sequences are choreographed with meticulous precision and Cooper, who bulked up for the role, affects a drawl to perfection as he conveys the demons that haunt Kyle and drive him further from the people that love him the most.

Miller is solid in a meaty supporting role, reminding Chris of his responsibilities to his family as well as his country. "I'm making memories by myself. I have no one to share them with," sobs Taya. Kyle's memory is polished to a lustre by Eastwood's film.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

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Big Hero 6 4 stars

movie title

Fourteen-year-old Hiro Hamada idolises his older brother Tadashi, who is one of the star pupils of Professor Robert Callaghan, head of the robotics program at San Fransokyo University. A fire at the university ends in tragedy and poor Hiro is consumed with grief until his brother's greatest creation, a self-inflating personal healthcare robot called Baymax, helps the teenager to come to terms with his loss.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Science Fiction
  • CastRyan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, TJ Miller, Daniel Henney, James Cromwell, Genesis Rodriguez, Damon Wayans Jr.
  • DirectorDon Hall, Chris Williams.
  • WriterRobert L Baird, Daniel Gerson, Jordan Roberts.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration114 mins
  • Official sitemovies.disney.com/big-hero-6/
  • Release30/01/2015

Never underestimate the soothing power of a hug. With one simple squish, you can provide comfort, encouragement or a simple how-do-you-do that transcends a thousand well-chosen words. Big Hero 6 is the cinematic equivalent of a warm hug, embracing the old-fashioned family values of the Walt Disney brand alongside cutting-edge computer technology that audiences now expect to dazzle their senses.

Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams marry dizzying action sequences that look even more spectacular in 3D to an emotionally rich story of a lonely boy's unshakable bond with his self-inflating robot protector, recalling the magical 1999 animated feature The Iron Giant.

The inquisitive automaton Baymax is the stuff that sweet celluloid dreams are made of: tender, loving and unwittingly hilarious. Every child will want their own marshmallow man to snuggle at night and keep them safe from the harsh realities of modern life that weigh heavily on the film's grief-stricken adolescent hero.

"I see no evidence of physical injury," informs the robot as he scans the boy's body.
"It's a different kind of hurt," laments the teenager.

Fourteen-year-old Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) idolises his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), who is a star pupil of Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell), head of the robotics program at San Fransokyo University.

A fire on campus culminates in tragedy and shell-shocked Hiro is inconsolable until his brother's greatest creation, a personal healthcare robot called Baymax (Scott Adsit), helps the teenager to confront his loss. As the boy discovers Baymax's functionality, he also stumbles upon a secret: the fire might not have been an accident.

Indeed, a greedy entrepreneur called Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk) might have started the blaze. Aided by Tadashi's loyal friends GoGo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and Fred (TJ Miller) plus an upgraded Baymax, Hiro resolves to discover the truth about the deadly inferno.

Based on an obscure title from the Marvel Comics universe, Big Hero 6 is a rip-roaring opening salvo in a potential new franchise. Directors Hall and Williams orchestrate the requisite thrilling set pieces with brio, including an unconventional dash through the undulating streets of San Fransokyo that knowingly flouts traffic laws.

"There are no red lights in a car chase!" squeals GoGo. The animators and script never lose sight of the central relationship of Hiro and Baymax, sketching that bond in exquisitely deft strokes. Grown men will be choking back tears.

Big Hero 6 is preceded by Patrick Osborne's Oscar nominated short Feast, which charts the relationship between a Boston terrier and his master from puppyhood to middle age in a series of vignettes. It's a pick of the animated litter that leaves an indelible mark on the heart, just like Hall's and Williams' turbo-charged main feature.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

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Ex Machina 4 stars

movie title

Nathan is a talented computer programmer at a hi-tech firm run by the enigmatic Caleb. As part of a company-wide competition, Nathan wins a weekend at the CEO's remote island retreat, journeying to the lush paradise in a private helicopter. Once he gains entry, Nathan discovers he has been hand-picked by Caleb to take part in a ground-breaking experiment: to interrogate a functioning artificial intelligence prototype called Ava.

  • GenreDrama, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastAlicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Chelsea Li, Corey Johnson, Sonoya Mizuno.
  • DirectorAlex Garland.
  • WriterAlex Garland.
  • CountryUS/UK
  • Duration108 mins
  • Official sitewww.meet-ava.com
  • Release23/01/2015

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the original Star Wars trilogy, Alien, Blade Runner and The Terminator peddled artificial intelligence as science fantasy, the reality of conscious machines seemed a distant dystopian nightmare. Today, with voice-activated personal assistants on our mobile devices, automated restaurants and sophisticated software tracking every keystroke, a world controlled by computers appears within our sweaty grasp.

For his bravura directorial debut, London-born author and screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later) explores mankind's unquenchable desire to give birth to sophisticated automata that learns from its mistakes.

Shot largely within the confines of a state-of-the-art complex, which has enough fibre-optic cabling in the walls "to reach the moon and lasso it", Ex Machina is a deeply disturbing thriller that explores the murky moral ramifications of creating a robot that could pass for human.

Nathan (Domhnall Gleeson) is a talented computer programmer at a hi-tech firm run by the enigmatic Caleb (Oscar Isaac). Out of the blue, Nathan wins a weekend at the CEO's remote island retreat and journeys to the lush paradise in a private helicopter.

At the compound entrance, Nathan is issued with a security pass that he must carry at all times. Inside, he learns that he has been hand-picked by Caleb to take part in a ground-breaking experiment: to interrogate a functioning artificial intelligence prototype called Ava (Alicia Vikander).

"If you created a conscious machine, that's not the history of man, that's the history of gods!" gushes Nathan. The programmer is dumbstruck by Ava's beauty and her ability to respond intelligently to his questions. Very quickly, Nathan grows emotionally attached to Ava and he is distressed when she warns him not to trust Caleb.

The programmer's emotions are further complicated when he learns that Ava is the latest iteration of the CEO's secret work and will, by necessity, be scrapped to make way for a newer model.

Ex Machina exerts a vice-like grip on our attention, anchored by riveting performances from the central trio. Gleeson exudes sufficient sweetness and naivete to convince us he would be an unsuspecting pawn in Caleb's diabolical and ultimately deadly game. In stark contrast, Isaac bristles with machismo and menace as he voyeuristically documents Nathan's burgeoning attraction to Ava. "Did you design Ava's face based on my pornography profile?" Nathan cheekily asks his mentor.

Vikander, who studied at the Royal Swedish Ballet School, sets the screen ablaze with her deliciously ambiguous portrayal. Flawless visual effects blend seamlessly with her luminous performance to expose Ava's inner workings as she prowls her Perspex prison cell.

Like Nathan, we're bewitched by her as she devours knowledge and begs for help to avoid the scrapheap. There's no chance of Garland's gripping film suffering a similarly grim fate.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

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Inherent Vice 3 stars

movie title

Larry "Doc" Sportello is a private eye and hippie, who lives in a ramshackle house on Gordita Beach. Alluring old flame Shasta Fay Hepworth returns unexpectedly to beg Doc's help tracking down her new beau, billionaire land developer Michael Z Wolfman. Shasta claims Wolfman has been kidnapped and consigned to a mental institution by his money-grabbing wife. Doc takes on the case and intrigue piles upon deception as unearths the truth about Wolfman's disappearance.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastOwen Wilson, Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon.
  • DirectorPaul Thomas Anderson.
  • WriterPaul Thomas Anderson.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration149 mins
  • Official sitewww.inherentvicemovie.com
  • Release30/01/2015

Somewhere in the psychedelic haze of pot fumes that shroud Inherent Vice, there is a groovy slice of California noir spluttering to be seen and heard. Patient audiences, who indulge the whims of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson will be rewarded with a hallucinogenic crime caper crammed with quirky characters including another eye-catching lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

However, Anderson doesn't make it easy to fall in love with his picture. Pacing is deliberately pedestrian and the running time, one puff shy of two-and-a-half hours, is a test of mental and physical endurance.

His script, adapted from Thomas Pynchon's novel of the same name, demands constant attention. Very little happens over the course of the 149 minutes but Anderson presents the narrative as an almighty tangle of convoluted plots threads. Take a toilet break at your peril.

Larry "Doc" Sportello (Phoenix) is a private eye and hippie, who lives in a ramshackle house on Gordita Beach and occasionally drifts into an office he rents, replete with a sassy receptionist (Maya Rudolph).

Alluring old flame Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) returns unexpectedly to beg Doc's help tracking down her new beau, billionaire land developer Michael Z Wolfman (Eric Roberts). "She was laying some heavy combination of face ingredients on Doc that he couldn't read," explains the rambling voiceover that accompanies this drug-fuelled lunacy.

Shasta claims Wolfman has been kidnapped and consigned to a mental institution by his money-grabbing wife (Serena Scott Thomas). Doc takes on the case and also agrees two further assignments: to help Hope Harlingen (Jena Malone) track down her missing saxophonist husband (Owen Wilson), and reunite Black Guerrilla Family member Tariq Kahlil (Michael K Williams) with a wayward bodyguard (Christopher Allen Nelson), who owes him money.

The trails lead to a massage parlour where Jade (Hong Chau) tells Doc to "beware of the Golden Fang". Intrigue piles upon deception and Doc seeks guidance from sexy Deputy District Attorney Penny Kimball (Reese Witherspoon) and bullying local cop, Lieutenant Detective Christian F "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin).

Inherent Vice is the first film adaptation of Pynchon's kaleidoscopic oeuvre and it's easy to see why filmmakers have steered well clear. Anderson does an admirable job conveying the freewheeling attitudes and paranoia of the era without tying himself completely in narrative knots.

Phoenix seems to be having a blast throughout and colourful supporting turns, including Martin Short as a drug-snorting dentist with wandering hands, churns the underlying black comedy.

That menagerie of dopers, musicians, hustlers, white supremacists and surfers is bewildering and Anderson regularly introduces new characters to keep our brains as scrambled as his bewildered hero. Inherent Vice is a trip - whether the multiplex masses will want to embark on this journey into the criminal underbelly of neon-lit 1970s L.A. is open to debate.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

Into The Woods 4 stars

movie title

The Baker and his wife yearn for a child but cannot conceive. The Witch, who lives next door, promises the couple their heart's desire if they bring her four objects before the next blue moon: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. As the fated hour approaches, the Baker and his wife resort to increasingly desperate measures to source the objects.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance
  • CastChris Pine, Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Mackenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracey Ullman, Johnny Depp, Lilla Crawford.
  • DirectorRob Marshall.
  • WriterStephen Sondheim, James Lapine.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration125 mins
  • Official sitewww.movies.disney.com/into-the-woods
  • Release09/01/2015

Traditionally in fairytales, the bedraggled heroine wins her dashing prince, evil stepmothers get their comeuppance and abducted children escape the clutches of a witch by pushing the treacherous hag into her oven. Nothing epitomises Happily Ever After like the heady aroma of roasting human flesh.

Into The Woods keeps turning the pages on these archetypal characters, imagining what might happen as they come to terms with their actions and - in most cases - suffer the repercussions.

Light comedy and heartrending tragedy skip hand in hand in James Lapine's screenplay and Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics, which are ambrosia for director Rob Marshall, who propelled the 2002 film version of Chicago to Oscar glory.

This has nearly as much razzle dazzle including gorgeous costumes, picturesque sets and digitally enhanced magical effects. Thankfully, Marshall tones down the swirling camerawork and snappy editing here, adopting a gentler rhythm, which is less exhausting on our eyes over two hours.

The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) yearn for a child but cannot conceive. The Witch (Meryl Streep) next door promises the couple a family if they bring her four objects before the blue moon: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.

The Baker and his wife head into the woods with six magic beans and encounter 12-year-old Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), who is off to market to sell his cow Milky White, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), who is fleeing from a ball thrown by a charming Prince (Chris Pine), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), who intends to visit her Granny (Annette Crosbie) but would make a tasty snack for the lascivious Wolf (Johnny Depp), and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), who is consigned to a tower which can only be accessed by lowering her flaxen hair to a smitten lover (Billy Magnusson).

As the fated hour approaches, the childless couple resorts to desperate measures to collect the objects for the Witch.

Into The Woods establishes its mood with a dazzling overture, "I Wish", elegantly introducing the characters before their fates intersect. Streep is typically spellbinding. Her voice soars and our hearts break in her solo to motherhood, "Stay With Me".

Corden and Blunt add to the film's emotional heft while Pine and Magnusson are hysterical as regal brothers in their chest-beating, thigh-slapping duet "Agony" atop a cascading waterfall. With such a large cast to juggle, the script occasionally feels disjointed and some gear changes from broad pantomime to heartbreaking grief are jarring.

But Marshall doesn't shy away from delivering bitter pills in the final act courtesy of a marauding giant (Frances de la Tour). Everything has a price, especially your heart's desire, so be careful what you wish for.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

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Kingsman: The Secret Service 3 stars

movie title

Gary Unwin, who is known to his friends as Eggsy, is on the downward spiral to drugs and crime. He is dismissed as a hopeless cause by everyone except agent Harry Hart, who believes Eggsy would make an excellent crime-fighting operative. So Hart takes Eggsy under his wing and enrols the young man in a gruelling training programme against more eloquent and refined peers.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Comedy
  • CastColin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Jack Davenport, Samuel L Jackson, Tom Prior, Mark Hamill.
  • DirectorMatthew Vaughn.
  • WriterMatthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman.
  • CountryUS/UK
  • Duration129 mins
  • Official sitewww.kingsmanmovie.com
  • Release29/01/2015

Directed at full pelt by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an outrageous James Bond-esque caper with an unpleasant and sadistic streak. This hare-brained tale about a secret organisation of impeccably tailored British agents dedicated to world peace lampoons the conventions of the spy genre with an arched eyebrow.

"Nowadays, they're all a little serious for my taste," opines Colin Firth's lead operative about modern-day spy films, one of several self-referential winks in Vaughn and Jane Goldman's script. "Give me a far-fetched plot any day," he quips, and that's just what Kingsman delivers in spades.

Unfortunately, the film also serves up a blitzkrieg of gratuitous on-screen barbarity. The violence doesn't support the plot, the plot is constructed to support as much wanton carnage as Vaughn can cram into each frame.

This stomach-churning slaughter reaches a nauseating crescendo in a Southern church where Firth's good guy squares off against a congregation of brain-washed bigots, racists and homophobes, who apparently deserve to die in lurid close-up while Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird strums on the soundtrack. The film was cut by UK censors to secure a 15 certificate but I wouldn't want my nephews, if they were 15 or 16, anywhere near Vaughn's giddy bloodbath.

Gary Unwin (Taron Egerton), who is known to friends as Eggsy, is on a downward spiral despite an impressive IQ. He is powerless to stop his mother Michelle (Samantha Womack) suffering abuse from her boyfriend (Geoff Bell), and a spot of joy-riding leads to a brief stay in a police cell.

Eggsy is dismissed as a hopeless cause by everyone except dapper secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who believes the young man has untapped potential as a crime-fighter. So Hart enrols Eggsy in a gruelling training programme against sneering posh lads Charlie (Edward Holcroft), Barnaby (Matthew William Jones) and Hugo (Tom Prior), and friendlier rivals Grace (Sophie Cookson) and Roxy (Alisha Heng).

The recruits test their strength and guile in a series of challenges devised by gadget geek Merlin (Mark Strong). Against the odds, Eggsy shines brighter than some of the supposed creme de la creme and when technological wizard Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) and his blade runner henchwoman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) threaten mankind with a radical solution to climate change, Eggsy puts his training to good use alongside his stiff upper-lipped mentor.

Kingsman: The Secret Service leaves an exceedingly nasty taste in the mouth that is difficult to shake, garnished with crude sexism in the closing frames. Firth is a debonair action hero, contrasting sharply with Egerton's bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Jackson has fun with his lisping megalomaniac, who gags at the sight of blood. If we did the same watching Vaughn's undeniably stylish film, we'd all need urgent medical assistance inside the first 20 minutes.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

This film is also showing at:

Kingsman: The Secret Service (Subtitled) 3 stars

movie title

Gary Unwin, who is known to his friends as Eggsy, is on the downward spiral to drugs and crime. He is dismissed as a hopeless cause by everyone except agent Harry Hart, who believes Eggsy would make an excellent crime-fighting operative. So Hart takes Eggsy under his wing and enrols the young man in a gruelling training programme against more eloquent and refined peers.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Comedy
  • CastMichael Caine, Mark Strong, Jack Davenport, Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L Jackson, Tom Prior, Mark Hamill.
  • DirectorMatthew Vaughn.
  • WriterMatthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman.
  • CountryUS/UK
  • Duration129 mins
  • Official sitewww.kingsmanmovie.com
  • Release29/01/2015

Directed at full pelt by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an outrageous James Bond-esque caper with an unpleasant and sadistic streak. This hare-brained tale about a secret organisation of impeccably tailored British agents dedicated to world peace lampoons the conventions of the spy genre with an arched eyebrow.

"Nowadays, they're all a little serious for my taste," opines Colin Firth's lead operative about modern-day spy films, one of several self-referential winks in Vaughn and Jane Goldman's script. "Give me a far-fetched plot any day," he quips, and that's just what Kingsman delivers in spades.

Unfortunately, the film also serves up a blitzkrieg of gratuitous on-screen barbarity. The violence doesn't support the plot, the plot is constructed to support as much wanton carnage as Vaughn can cram into each frame.

This stomach-churning slaughter reaches a nauseating crescendo in a Southern church where Firth's good guy squares off against a congregation of brain-washed bigots, racists and homophobes, who apparently deserve to die in lurid close-up while Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird strums on the soundtrack. The film was cut by UK censors to secure a 15 certificate but I wouldn't want my nephews, if they were 15 or 16, anywhere near Vaughn's giddy bloodbath.

Gary Unwin (Taron Egerton), who is known to friends as Eggsy, is on a downward spiral despite an impressive IQ. He is powerless to stop his mother Michelle (Samantha Womack) suffering abuse from her boyfriend (Geoff Bell), and a spot of joy-riding leads to a brief stay in a police cell.

Eggsy is dismissed as a hopeless cause by everyone except dapper secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who believes the young man has untapped potential as a crime-fighter. So Hart enrols Eggsy in a gruelling training programme against sneering posh lads Charlie (Edward Holcroft), Barnaby (Matthew William Jones) and Hugo (Tom Prior), and friendlier rivals Grace (Sophie Cookson) and Roxy (Alisha Heng).

The recruits test their strength and guile in a series of challenges devised by gadget geek Merlin (Mark Strong). Against the odds, Eggsy shines brighter than some of the supposed creme de la creme and when technological wizard Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) and his blade runner henchwoman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) threaten mankind with a radical solution to climate change, Eggsy puts his training to good use alongside his stiff upper-lipped mentor.

Kingsman: The Secret Service leaves an exceedingly nasty taste in the mouth that is difficult to shake, garnished with crude sexism in the closing frames. Firth is a debonair action hero, contrasting sharply with Egerton's bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Jackson has fun with his lisping megalomaniac, who gags at the sight of blood. If we did the same watching Vaughn's undeniably stylish film, we'd all need urgent medical assistance inside the first 20 minutes.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 3rd February 2015

Mortdecai 1 stars

movie title

When a priceless Goya masterpiece disappears without trace, clueless Inspector Martland calls in aristocratic art dealer and notorious scoundrel Charlie Mortdecai to unravel the mystery. Charlie agrees to take on the case for a sizable fee plus expenses and he criss-crosses the globe flanked by his trusty manservant Jock Strapp in search of the missing painting. En route, Charlie must placate his demanding wife Johanna and resist the seductive charms of Georgina Krampf.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Comedy, Romance
  • CastOlivia Munn, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Ewan McGregor, Aubrey Plaza, Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • DirectorDavid Koepp.
  • WriterEric Aronson.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration107 mins
  • Official sitewww.mortdecaithemovie.com
  • Release23/01/2015

In David Koepp's poorly executed crime caper, the eponymous hero repeatedly seeks assurances from his hulking manservant that their hare-brained mission to retrieve a stolen painting will end in success. "I couldn't say, sir," dryly responds the lackey. Well I could say: it will end in boredom, despair and disbelief, and an occasional sympathetic titter for a starry cast, who have to wrap their weary laughing gear around the flaccid one-liners that litter Eric Aronson's haphazard script.

Based on the first book of author Kyril Bonfiglioli's cult trilogy, Mortdecai is an anachronistic tale of puckish rogues, swordplay and bitter love rivalry, which lampoons a culture of privilege that remains blissfully out of touch with the grim realities of modern life.

The irreverence and borderline insanity of Bonfiglioli's writing fails to mesh with exaggerated performances, cartoon violence and Carry On-style innuendos. As depictions of stereotypical British aristocracy go, this is more Downmarket Shabby than Downton Abbey.

Johnny Depp proudly combs his moustache and adopts a velvety British accent as art dealer Charlie Mortdecai, who is in dire financial straits. "We're staring down the barrel of insolvency," despairs his luscious wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is denying her husband physical satisfaction until he removes the manicured monstrosity from his exceedingly stiff upper lip.

All hope seems lost for Charlie - it's lost for us in the film's opening sequence - until high-ranking MI5 officer Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor) and his sidekick Maurice (Guy Burnet) pay a visit to Mortdecai manor.

A priceless Goya masterpiece, rumoured to contain the code to a secret bank account of Nazi millions, has been stolen from a restoration house by revolutionary Emil Strago (Jonny Pasvolsky).

The police implore Mortdecai to use his shady connections to locate and retrieve the painting before Strago can sell it to finance a violent worldwide uprising. Flanked by trusty manservant Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), Charlie criss-crosses the globe in search of his prize, aided by dodgy car mechanic Spinoza (Paul Whitehouse), American billionaire Milton Krampf (Jeff Goldblum) and his nymphomaniac daughter (Olivia Munn).

Mortdecai is a car crash of broad physical comedy, crass culture clashes and preposterous action sequences, draped awkwardly around Depp's predictably showy performance.

Channelling the spirit of Terry Thomas replete with gap tooth, though none of the charm, Depp careens from one limp scene to the next like a bull in a cheap china shop. Paltrow struggles to catalyse screen chemistry with her buffoonish leading man while Bettany takes most of the bruising punches in the skirmishes that punctuate an outlandish plot.

It's a mystery how some of the so-called gags - "The file was thick and well-handled like a Welsh barmaid" - will translate for audiences across the Atlantic. On these rarefied shores, it's toe-curling comedy tumbleweed.

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Paddington 4 stars

movie title

A young Peruvian bear with a passion for the British heads to London in search of a new home. At Paddington train station, he meets a boy called Jonathan Brown and his parents, who offer the lovable creature, christened Paddington, a temporary haven. At large in a strange city, Paddington wreaks havoc in the Brown household. Then an evil museum taxidermist named Millicent glimpses the wondrous bear and realises that he would make the most perfect addition to her collection.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Family
  • CastHugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Nicole Kidman, Imelda Staunton.
  • DirectorPaul King.
  • WriterPaul King.
  • CountryUK/Fr
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official sitewww.paddington.com
  • Release28/11/2014

More than 50 years after he first appeared in print, author Michael Bond's beloved bear Paddington has finally arrived on the big screen in his first star-packed family adventure. Upcoming director Paul King's film lovingly weaves the traditional tenets of the duffel-coat wearing bear's story into a modern narrative.

Like the books, the film starts in deepest, darkest Peru, where a well-mannered three-foot bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) lives with his elderly Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon). In their youth, Lucy and Pastuzo were visited by a kindly English explorer who left his red hat with his furry friends.

When their home is threatened, Aunt Lucy packs her nephew off to the safety of London to track down the explorer, who has promised that there will always be a home for them in the capital.

Of course, after sailing the oceans in a boat filled with supplies of his treasured marmalade, the bear finds London isn't actually that friendly. In fact it's pretty miserable what with the drizzly weather and glum commuters pushing and shoving their way out of Paddington station and ignoring his pleas for a home.

"Sorry, we haven't got time for this," cries worrywart Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville), while his moody daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) exclaims she's "embarrassed" to be near the small grisly, who has a 'Please look after this bear' sign around his neck.

Luckily, warm-hearted Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) and son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) vow to take the furry chap home for the night. Naming him Paddington after the station where they found him, the Browns introduce their guest to kindly housekeeper Mrs Bird (Julie Walters).

But disaster soon strikes when Paddington tries to freshen up in the bathroom, resulting in a flood, two earwax-stained toothbrushes and a sharp telling off. Determined to find the explorer, Mrs Brown takes Paddington to see her friend Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent), an antiques dealer who might have clues to his existence.

In doing so, they attract the attention of cranky curtain twitcher Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi) and a slimy associate of villainous taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) who is hell-bent on "stuffing that bear". With Millicent determined to get her mitts on Paddington to display him in the Natural History Museum, the Browns find themselves on a humdinger of a cat and mouse chase to try and keep their furry friend safe.

As comforting and sweet as Paddington's beloved marmalade, King's delightful adaptation has heaps of heart and enough humour and carefully plotted cameos to ensure everyone more than grins and bears his adaptation.

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Taken 3 3 stars

movie title

Ex-government operative Bryan Mills has put the past behind him and is looking forward to an overdue reconciliation with ex-wife Lenore and daughter Kim. Their happiness is cut short when Lenore is brutally murdered and Bryan is framed for the heinous crime. Determined to clear his name and unmask the real culprit, Bryan goes on the run with the CIA, FBI and police led by Franck Dotzler in hot pursuit.

  • GenreAction, Thriller
  • CastFamke Janssen, Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Forest Whitaker, Leland Orser, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell.
  • DirectorOlivier Megaton.
  • WriterLuc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen.
  • CountryFr
  • Duration109 mins
  • Official sitewww.taken3movie.com
  • Release08/01/2015

History repeats with predictably calamitous consequences in Olivier Megaton's high-octane thriller Taken 3. In previous films, former Special Forces operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) single-handedly brought down an Albanian human trafficking ring and its underworld offshoots. He left devastation and an impressive double-digit body count in his wake.

Surely, the east European criminal fraternity would have learnt that Mills and his family are off-limits. Alas, the Russians haven't received that memo because they foolishly try their luck against the hulking avenger in this frenetically edited instalment.

Scriptwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen attempt to convince us that the third film is different from its predecessors by engineering a murderous twist that transforms good guy Bryan from righteous hunter into wanted fugitive. However, once the turbo-charged car chases and bruising fisticuffs begin in earnest, Taken 3 eases back into a familiar bloodthirsty groove.

As the film opens, Bryan is playing doting father to his grown-up daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), who is settling down with her boyfriend (Jonny Weston). Ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) continues to question her marriage to second husband, Stuart St John (Dougray Scott), and Bryan gives her a key to his flat if she needs to get away.

Soon after, Bryan returns home to find Lenore in his bed with her throat slit. He's the prime suspect and manages to escape local police so that he can call Kim and deliver the bad news about her mother.

"Someone murdered her in my apartment. It looks like I did it," Bryan confesses. Determined to clear his name and unmask the real culprit - tattooed kingpin Oleg Malankov (Sam Spruell) - Bryan goes on the run from the CIA, FBI and police led by Detective Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker).

"This is going to end badly for you," yelps one officer during a chase.
"Don't be such a pessimist," deadpans Bryan, who risks everything to exact his bone-crunching brand of justice with the help of retired CIA pals Sam (Leland Orser), Bernie (David Warshofsky) and Casey (John Gries).

Taken 3 delivers a cacophonous conclusion to the franchise that has reinvented Neeson as a big screen action star. Megaton orchestrates the set pieces with brio, sacrificing plausibility at the altar of increasingly outlandish thrills and spills.

Whitaker lends gravitas to his underwritten role as the canny cop, who begins to doubt Bryan's guilt, while Neeson barks his perfunctory dialogue with aplomb. "How did I escape?" he growls at one juncture, cueing a cheeky flashback that explains his miraculous survival of a flaming car wreck.

The leading man's ability to evade certain death becomes a delicious and unintentional running joke. On this evidence, nothing short of a direct hit from a nuclear warhead could stop him. Taken 4 A Ride is surely just a matter of time.

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The Gambler 3 stars

movie title

College professor Jim Bennett loses at the blackjack table in an underground den run by one of his creditors, Mister Lee, leaving Jim with seven days to find 240,000 US dollars. Without enough money to stake at a table, Jim borrows 50,000 US dollars from Neville Baraka and also turns to his mother for help. A further loan from a hulking gangster called Frank gives Jim the collateral he needs to gamble himself back into the black.

  • GenreDrama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastMark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson.
  • DirectorRupert Wyatt.
  • WriterWilliam Monahan.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration111 mins
  • Official sitewww.thegamblermovie.com
  • Release23/01/2015

Silence is golden for everyone except American screenwriter William Monahan. With an Oscar on the mantelpiece for The Departed, his English language reworking of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, the Massachusetts-born scribe attempts a similar feat of alchemy with this modern update to the 1974 film of the same name directed by Karel Reisz.

Alas, Monahan's penchant for excessively wordy set pieces proves an insurmountable distraction. He arms the cast with polished one-liners and barbed retorts that would draw blood if his woe-begotten characters weren't so emotionally cold and distant.

After the first hour of endless verbosity, I hoped - in vain as it transpired - that Monahan would rein in the dialogue and let actions speak a hundred words instead. No such luck. But then good fortune is in perilously short supply in Rupert Wyatt's film, which unfolds through the bloodshot eyes of a college professor, whose daredevil antics at the blackjack table have left him heavily in debt to men who trade in violence.

From the moody opening frames, all bets are off whether the eponymous gambler will end his losing streak and evade a knee-capping - or something worse. The misery begins with Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) striding into an underground den run by one of his creditors, Mister Lee (Alvin Ing).

The night ends badly, as usual, leaving Jim with seven days to find 240,000 US dollars. "Get me my money," threatens Mister Lee. Without enough money to stake at a table, Jim borrows 50,000 US dollars from Neville Baraka (Michael Kenneth Williams) and also turns to his mother (Jessica Lange). "I don't want to understand the nature of your problem. I just want you not to have it," she snarls.

A further loan from a hulking gangster called Frank (John Goodman) gives Jim the collateral he needs to gamble himself back into the black. Meanwhile, Jim spars with his students and sparks an affair with his most talented pupil, Amy (Brie Larson).

As time runs out for Jim to settle his spiralling debts, Neville issues a stark warning: "I'm going to kill that pretty little blonde girl, mail you the pictures, and kill you next."

The Gambler stakes everything on Monahan's screenplay and incurs losses. Wahlberg is elevated by the material but those long speeches, including a centrepiece rant in the lecture theatre, become wearisome.

He verbally jousts with Lange in fiery form as a matriarch who is sick of hauling her son out of the mire. Larson is shamefully underused in an underwritten supporting role.

Director Wyatt should crank up tension every time Jim sits down at a card table. Instead, we savour the momentary silence as the lead character stops philosophising to concentrate on the deck.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 4 stars

movie title

Katniss Everdeen barely survived the Third Quarter Quell and she gathers her strength in the company of her friends, architect of the rebellion Plutarch Heavensbee and the President of District 13, Alma Coin. The scent of rebellion is in the air and the people look to Katniss to lead them against President Snow and the armed forces of Panem. However, Peeta has been captured by Snow and is being manipulated to quell the uprising.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Drama, Family, Romance, Science Fiction
  • CastJennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci.
  • DirectorFrancis Lawrence.
  • WriterDanny Strong, Peter Craig.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration123 mins
  • Official sitewww.thehungergames.co.uk
  • Release20/11/2014

The spectre of war casts a long shadow over the penultimate chapter of the blockbusting dystopian thrillers based on Suzanne Collins' bestselling trilogy. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 follows the lead of the Harry Potter and Twilight sagas by cleaving the final book in two.

This decision - driven as much by greed as artistic necessity - results in a dark, brooding two hours of self-sacrifice almost completely devoid of the propulsive action sequences that distinguished the earlier films. Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen, a pawn in the battle of wits between the money-rich Capitol and the impoverished Districts, remains a mesmerising constant.

She delivers another emotionally bruising performance, especially in early scenes when her battle-scarred teenager stares over the smouldering ruins of her beloved District 12, littered with charred skeletons of friends and neighbours who were incinerated as they fled.

This hellish vision brings Lawrence to her knees, unable to hold back racked sobs of pain. The floodgates open and screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong take their time channelling her aching sense of loss into an all-consuming rage that will set the Capitol ablaze this time next year. "If we burn, you burn with us!" she bellows down a camera lens at President Snow (Donald Sutherland). We don't doubt it.

Katniss barely survived the Third Quarter Quell. Separated from fellow tributes Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Johanna (Jena Malone), who are being held in the Capitol, Katniss gathers her strength in a secret underground complex. Her allies include childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), chaperone Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), architect of the rebellion Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and District 13 President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore).

The people of the Districts look to Katniss to lead them against President Snow and the armed forces of Panem. "We're going to stoke the fire of this revolution that this Mockingjay started," growls Plutarch, commissioning a series of propaganda videos directed by Cressida (Natalie Dormer) with Katniss as the reluctant star. Meanwhile, Snow initiates his own forceful media campaign fronted by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and a clearly disoriented Peeta.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 is the calm before the storm of full-blown conflict. It's a slower burn than previous films and lacks some of the on-screen electricity since Katniss and Peeta are separated but Lawrence burns bright as the eponymous "girl on fire".

Effie's role is expanded from the book to bring some comic relief to the subterranean gloom. "Everything old can be made new again - like democracy!" she chirrups. Maybe so, but as Part 1 makes abundantly and agonisingly clear, you have to sacrifice innocent lives to sweep away the past.

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The Theory Of Everything 4 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death 3 stars

movie title

At the height of the Second World War, stern headmistress Jean Hogg and caring young teacher Eve Parkins abandon their school in London to evacuate a group of pupils to the safety of the countryside. Dr Rhodes leads the school party to its new home: the dilapidated Eel Marsh House. Unaware of the dark history of their refuge, the teachers and pupils settle into a routine but the spectre of the house latches onto one boy.

  • GenreDrama, Horror, Romance, Thriller, War
  • CastJeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Phoebe Fox, Oaklee Pendergast.
  • DirectorTom Harper.
  • WriterJon Croker.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration98 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/TheWomaninBlackAngelofDeath
  • Release01/01/2015

Ghost stories are well suited to the visual medium of film because what terrifies us aren't the things we can see in the cold light of day but the unspoken horrors that lurk just out of shot or in the inky blackness of a dimly lit background. The monsters that induced wide-eyed terror in our childhood lurked under the bed or in the wardrobe.

They were silent, deadly menaces, conjured by febrile imaginations and drip-fed on our irrational yet all-consuming fear. Over the decades, filmmakers have preyed mercilessly - and sometimes masterfully - on this deep-rooted, primal paranoia to quicken the pulse and whiten our knuckles.

Hammer Horror's 2012 film version of The Woman In Black, based on Susan Hill's celebrated horror novella of the same name, certainly hit a raw nerve. Blessed with a post-Harry Potter leading role for Daniel Radcliffe, the resolutely old-fashioned haunted house yarn became the most successful British horror film for 20 years.

When those box office tills started ringing, Tom Harper's sequel was a foregone conclusion. Set 40 years later during the Blitz, Angel Of Death continues the reign of terror of the vengeful ghost, which haunts the cobweb-strewn hallways of Eel Marsh House.

Stern headmistress Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory) and sensitive teacher Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) evacuate a group of London schoolchildren to the countryside including a shell-shocked boy called Edward (Oaklee Pendergast), whose parents perished in the latest barrage of German bombs.

Their guide, Dr Rhodes (Adrian Rawlins), shepherds the school party to its new home: the dilapidated Eel Marsh House. "The place has been deserted for years," he assures the women and their wards.

Unaware of the building's grim history, the school party settles into a new routine. The spectre of the house (Leanne Best) latches onto Edward, who is being bullied, and exacts revenge on one tormentor Tom (Jude Wright) before turning her attention to the other interlopers.

Eve musters her courage to protect her young charges, aided by a handsome pilot called Harry Burnstow (Jeremy Irvine), who is stationed nearby.

The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death is bereft of original ideas and resorts to a familiar array of ominous creaks and groans to herald the arrival of the eponymous spirit. Fox's plucky heroine puts herself in harm's way with such foolhardy regularity, you have to question her suitability as a teacher.

Meanwhile, McCrory purses her lips for portentous remarks like, "Our worst enemy is ourselves: our fears, doubt, despair. That's what will destroy us." Duly noted.

In response, perhaps, to complaints from parents about the 12A classification of the first film, Harper's sequel sports a 15 certificate and a warning about strong horror and threat. Ironically, the original was scarier and shoe-horned more jump-out-of-your-seat boos into 90 minutes.

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