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Now showing at Odeon Basingstoke Leisure Park, Churchill Way West,West Ham,Basingstoke,Hampshire RG21 6YR 0871 224 4007

  • American Sniper
  • Big Hero 6
  • Birdman
  • Fifty Shades Of Grey
  • Focus
  • Into The Woods
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Laura Mvula Live At The Paradiso Amsterdam
  • Mr Turner
  • Project Almanac
  • RSC Live: Love's Labour's Won
  • Selma
  • Shaun The Sheep Movie
  • The Boy Next Door
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Subtitled)
  • The Theory Of Everything
  • The Theory Of Everything (Subtitled)

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.

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Wednesday 4th March 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.

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Wednesday 4th March 2015
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Birdman 5 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday 4th March 2015
Thursday 5th March 2015

Fifty Shades Of Grey 3 stars

movie title

As a favour to her roommate Kate, literature student Anastasia Steele interviews handsome and charming multimillionaire businessman Christian Grey. Anastasia is bewitched by Christian and makes clear her desire for him. In order to get closer to the object of her amorous affections, the student submits to Christian and he introduces her to an erotically charged world of submission, domination, lust and temptation.

  • GenreAdaptation, Romance, Thriller
  • CastDakota Johnson, Jennifer Ehle, Jamie Dornan, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden.
  • DirectorSam Taylor-Johnson.
  • WriterKelly Marcel.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration125 mins
  • Official sitewww.fiftyshadesmovie.com
  • Release13/02/2015

With its simplistic storyline about a naive heroine drawn to a dark, brooding hunk, who conceals monstrous desires, Fifty Shades Of Grey is Twilight with riding crops and plush furnishings. Sam Taylor-Johnson's flaccid film version of the EL James literary sensation preaches to the perverted in soft-core whimpers and sighs. Editor Lisa Gunning gently caresses each glossy sequence of writhing appendages to the strains of Danny Elfman's score or a soaring ballad from Annie Lennox and Sia. "Got me looking so crazy in love," purrs Beyonce beneath the picture's first impeccably lit montage of gym-toned flesh on flesh. Sadly the carnal abandon in her lyrics fails to translate as lustful hanky-spanky on the big screen. The plot is handcuffed tightly to the book. As a favour to her flu-riddled roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford), English Literature student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) interviews handsome billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for an article in the university newspaper. Anastasia is intoxicated but Christian initially pushes her away. "I'm not the man for you. You have to steer clear of me," he whispers. Irresistibly drawn to the businessman, Anastasia agrees to a date and Christian spirits her away to his red room festooned with S&M toys via a flight on his private helicopter. As she takes her first ride on his chopper to the throb of Ellie Goulding's chart-topping hit Love Me Like You Do, Taylor-Johnson's film reduces to an orgy of product placements and glossy fantasies that wouldn't look too shabby as TV commercials for luxury cars, designer fragrances or crumbly, flaky confectionery. Only in Taylor-Johnson's film, the beautiful heroine, who bites her lower lip as lazy shorthand for anticipatory sexual pleasure, wants to unwrap Dornan's sculpted torso rather than a glistening slab of milk chocolate. "I'm incapable of letting you go," confides Christian as he introduces wide-eyed Anastasia to his secret world of domination and submission, which didn't get UK censors hot under the collar, passing the film uncut. Nor me. I was more aroused by the immaculate shine on Christian's piano than anything in his boudoir of bondage: a set designer must have spent hours buffing those ivories. When Dornan and Johnson are fully clothed and enjoying comical scenes of flirtation, they kindle smouldering screen chemistry. As soon as one of them disrobes, those embers are extinguished. Kelly Marcel's script fails to flesh out the protagonists: Christian remains an enigma and Dornan gamely keeps a straight face as he barks lines like, "If you were mine, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week." The usual sexual inequality about on-screen nudity applies. While Johnson is depicted full frontal, Dornan's johnson remains artfully hidden by his co-star's creamy thighs or high thread-count bed sheets. In an early scene, Ana's roommate excitedly demands the lowdown on Christian and the heroine coolly responds that he was nice, courteous and clean. That's a fair summation of the film: two hours of polite, functional, beautifully shot foreplay that fails to locate the G-spot.

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Focus 3 stars

movie title

Nicky is a seasoned master of misdirection, who can charm even the most cynical targets into falling for his money-making schemes. He becomes romantically entangled with novice con artist Jess but realises that his feelings are clouding his judgement. So Nicky promptly ends terminates the relationship. Three years later, Nicky is in Buenos Aires at a race car circuit for a lucrative ruse. The stakes are high... then Jess reappears and throws the con man off his game.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastWill Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Gerald McRaney, BD Wong.
  • DirectorJohn Requa, Glenn Ficarra.
  • WriterJohn Requa, Glenn Ficarra.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration105 mins
  • Official sitewww.focusmovie.com
  • Release27/02/2015

The con men and women who bluff, distract and double-cross in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's light-fingered drama, operate by clearly defined rules. They perform hundreds of petty thefts rather than one major heist because there is safety in volume, they refuse to steal from the vulnerable, and they never allow sentiment to cloud their cold-hearted, cash-oriented judgement.

"Love will get you killed in this racket," grizzles one veteran of the hustle. It's surprising then that Ficarra and Requa ignore their character's pithy advice and stake heavily on a fraught romance between their anti-hero, a consummate con man, and his sassy sex-bomb protegee.

The writer-directors' gamble might have paid off if lead actors Will Smith and Margot Robbie were gifted snappier dialogue, and their bedroom scenes were choreographed with passion rather than softly-lit precision to kindle smouldering on-screen chemistry.

As it is, the biggest con in Focus is not the climactic swindle, which strenuously tests the bonds of honour between thieves, but the sizzle of that central relationship, which supposedly pushes both characters to the edge of reason.

Nicky Spurgeon (Smith) is a master of misdirection, who can sweet-talk cynical targets into falling for his money-making schemes. Aided by a large crew of pickpockets and accomplices including right-hand man Horst (Brennan Brown) and technical wizard Farhad (Adrian Martinez), Nicky follows the money.

During carnival season, he operates out of New Orleans and becomes amorously entangled with novice Jess Barrett (Robbie). "You get their focus, take whatever you want," explains Nicky, teaching her the tricks of his shady trade.

After one major sting, Nicky acknowledges his distracting feelings for Jess and he terminates the relationship. Three years later, Nicky is in Buenos Aires at a race car circuit for a scam involving team owners Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro) and McEwen (Robert Taylor).

The stakes are high and Garriga is protected by a straight-shooting bodyguard called Ownes (Gerald McRaney), who thinks sleep is for wimps. "I'll lie down when I get cancer or when I have sex," snarls the heavy. Just as Nicky is poised to initiate his elaborate scheme, Jess reappears and throws the veteran con man into an emotional tailspin.

Focus is a familiar tale of old scoundrels performing new tricks, which lacks the erotic charge of the co-directors' previous film, Crazy, Stupid, Love. Robbie is luminous and makes Smith seem lifeless, confirming her ability to steal a film after eye-catching work opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street.

Ficarra and Requa engineer a dramatic crescendo at the end of the first hour against the backdrop of an American football game. The second act in Argentina is an anti-climax by comparison that plays its winning hand far too early. In the absence of jeopardy, we lose everything, especially interest.

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Wednesday 4th March 2015
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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.

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Thursday 5th March 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.

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Wednesday 4th March 2015
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Laura Mvula Live At The Paradiso Amsterdam 3 stars

The Birmingham-born singer-songwriter performs her critically acclaimed debut album Sing To The Moon with The Metropole Orkest conducted by Jules Buckley in front of a live audience at the iconic Berlin venue.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Mr Turner 5 stars

movie title

Painter JMW Turner returns to London and the home he shares with his father William and housekeeper Hannah Danby. He channels his energy into his work, which continues to raise eyebrows at the Royal Academy Of Arts. During excursions to Margate, Turner meets Mrs Booth and her husband and rents a room from the couple so he can paint seascapes by the morning light. The burgeoning relationship between the artist and Mrs Booth sweetens the bitter pill of William's passing.

  • GenreBiography, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance
  • CastDorothy Atkinson, Paul Jesson, Timothy Spall, Ruth Sheen, Lesley Manville, Marion Bailey.
  • DirectorMike Leigh.
  • WriterMike Leigh.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration150 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/MrTurnerFilm
  • Release31/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

On his death bed, celebrated landscape painter and watercolourist Joseph Mallord William Turner, who was a divisive figure in the 19th-century art world, reportedly lamented, "So I am to become a non-entity." Mike Leigh's impeccably crafted biopic, which concentrates on the final 25 years of the artist's career, ensures the genius of Turner lives on.

Anchored by a magnificent central performance from Timothy Spall, Mr Turner is another glorious ensemble piece from the writer-director of Topsy-Turvy and Vera Drake.

Developed through improvisational workshops, which are the trademark of Leigh's filmmaking process, the script melds historical fact with personal interpretation to burrow deep beneath the surface of the characters and expose the desires and fears which drove some to greatness and others to despair.

When it comes to greatness, Spall's embodiment of an artist with few social graces and a surplus of talent is the stuff that Oscars were made of. The London-born actor spent two years learning how to paint like Turner so he could convincingly hold a brush and palette in front of the camera, allowing Leigh to capture visceral scenes of artistic creativity in full flow.

Mr Turner opens with the breathtaking image of the artist capturing the rising sun over fields in Belgium. He returns to London and the home he shares with his father William (Paul Jesson) and housekeeper Hannah Danby (Dorothy Atkinson).

The relationship between the two men is sketched in exquisite, heart-warming detail in these early scenes, with Turner warmly embracing his "daddy". Turner channels his energy into his work, which continues to raise eyebrows at the Royal Academy Of Arts.

"The universe is chaotic and you make us see it," observes Turner's good friend Mary Somerville (Lesley Manville). During excursions to Margate, Turner meets Mrs Booth (Marion Bailey) and her husband (Karl Johnson) and rents a room from the couple so he can paint seascapes by the morning light.

The burgeoning relationship between the artist and Mrs Booth sweetens the bitter pill of William's passing and Turner continues to clash with the artistic establishment, represented here by Sir John Soane (Nicholas Jones) and his coterie.

Mr Turner is a glorious period piece that offers us a glimpse behind the canvasses of a misunderstood maverick, who notes at one point, "When I peruse myself in a looking glass, I see a gargoyle."

Spall is imperious and Leigh surrounds his lead star with an impeccable supporting cast of familiar faces including Jesson as an honest, hard-working man of the world who believed "the rain falls, the sun shines and the onions grow" and Atkinson as the housekeeper who allows Turner to use her to sate his sexual desires.

The 150-minute running time passes too quickly, holding our attention with ravishing costumes and period detail as well as a haunting orchestral score from composer Gary Yershon. Very nearly a masterpiece.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Project Almanac 3 stars

movie title

Seventeen-year-old high school student David Raskin hopes to follow in the footsteps of his inventor father, who worked for the US military and died in a car crash when David was just seven. He looks through his father's belongings and stumbles upon the blueprints for a time machine. Using materials stolen from his high school, David builds the machine aided by his sister Christina and classmates Adam, Quinn and Jessie.

  • GenreScience Fiction, Teenage, Thriller
  • CastVirginia Gardner, Amy Landecker, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Jonny Weston, Sam Lerner, Allen Evangelista.
  • DirectorDean Israelite.
  • WriterAndrew Deutschman, Jason Pagan.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration106 mins
  • Official sitewww.projectalmanac.com
  • Release20/02/2015

Time waits for no man but it loops at dizzying speed for five enterprising teenagers in Project Almanac. Dean Israelite's found footage sci-fi thriller ponders the repercussions for a group of high school students, who build a time machine and exploit its power to rewrite history with a swipe of a smartphone screen.

"You have to kill Hitler - that's, like, time travel 101," quips one lad. "Why don't we sell this thing to Richard Branson for like a zillion dollars?" he adds with a wolfish, capitalist grin. Both excellent suggestions but Israelite's film focuses instead on the selfish dreams of the fresh-faced time travellers, anchoring a frenzied final act on the shaky assumption that a sensitive, practical 17-year-old would jeopardise dozens of lives for the most cloying, irrational desire.

There is a palpable lack of sympathy for any of the good-looking and intelligent characters, and dialogue repeatedly questions why a handheld camera would be constantly rolling and capturing all of the vital footage.

High school student David Raskin (Jonny Weston) intends to emulate his inventor father (Gary Weeks), who worked for the US military and died in a car crash on David's seventh birthday. The gifted lad is accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) but only secures 5000 US Dollars of the tuition fees.

David's mother (Amy Landecker) prepares to sell the family home but there is one scholarship application left. Rifling through his father's belongings, David stumbles upon blueprints for a temporal relocation device and videotape evidence that he attended his ill-fated seventh birthday party... as a teenager.

"You're telling me Dad left a time machine in the basement?" gasps his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner), echoing our incredulity. Using hydrogen canisters stolen from school, David builds his father's contraption aided by Christina, nerdy friends Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista), and high school crush Jessie (Sofia Black-D'Elia).

Experiments with the device, dubbed Project Almanac, begin in earnest: resitting Quinn's disastrous chemistry test, wreaking revenge on a girl (Michelle DeFraites) who is bullying Christina. Each step back in time sends ripples from the past to the present, beyond the teenagers' control.

Project Almanac is strikingly reminiscent of Josh Trank's superior 2012 fantasy Chronicle, employing the same first person perspective and equally slick special effects. The script nods and winks to forerunners of the genre including Back To The Future, Looper and Jean-Claude Van Damme's finest hour, Timecop, including a cute verbal reference to a stalwart of British television.

"You enter the time here and boom! You're Doctor Who," goofs Adam as he demonstrates the device's controls. Israelite's direction maintains a brisk pace and doesn't tarry on the science behind the predictable adolescent wish fulfilment. Because that would be a waste of everyone's time: past, present and future.

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RSC Live: Love's Labour's Won 3 stars

Benedick and Claudio return from the trenches weary with the world, and find themselves reacquainted with Beatrice and Hero in Shakespeare's comic romance, which has been reset to the autumn of 1918. Christopher Luscombe's production is broadcast live from Stratford-upon-Avon with Edward Bennett as Benedick and Michelle Terry as his sparring partner Beatrice.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Romance, Special
  • CastMichelle Terry, Tunji Kasim, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Edward Bennett.
  • DirectorChristopher Luscombe.
  • WriterWilliam Shakespeare.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration140 mins
  • Official siteonscreen.rsc.org.uk/loves-labours-won/
  • Release04/03/2014 (selected cinemas)

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Selma 4 stars

movie title

In 1960s America, political bureaucracy and prejudice deny the African-American electorate the chance to vote. Martin Luther King entreats the President to right this democratic wrong but Lyndon Johnson and his adviser Lee C White don't consider voting rights to be high on their list of priorities. So King and his team head to the community of Selma, Alabama to lead a peaceful protest march with their friends from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

  • GenreDrama, Historical/Period
  • CastCarmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Giovanni Ribisi.
  • DirectorAva DuVernay.
  • WriterPaul Webb.
  • CountryUK/US
  • Duration128 mins
  • Official sitewww.selmamovie.com
  • Release06/02/2015

More than 45 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, director Ava DuVernay honours the memory of the leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement with this impassioned biopic. While there are lingering doubts about the historical accuracy of Selma, the emotional wallop the film delivers is beyond question.

In particular, the recreation of the iconic march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge chills the blood. Oxford-born actor David Oyelowo delivers a breakout performance replete with Georgia accent as the activist. He is mesmerising and would surely have been in Oscar contention as Best Actor later this month had Paul Webb's script gifted him a few more barnstorming speeches.

DuVernay opens with a chilling act of violence that exemplifies racial tensions of the era. In 1960s America, political bureaucracy and prejudice deny the African-American electorate the chance to vote in the forthcoming election in which President Lyndon B Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) hopes to be returned to the White House by the people.

Martin Luther King Jr (Oyelowo) entreats the President to right this democratic wrong but Johnson and his adviser Lee C White (Giovanni Ribisi) don't consider voting rights to be high on their list of priorities.

So King and his team head to the community of Selma, Alabama to lead a peaceful protest march with their friends from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The President seeks a private audience with J Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), the first Director of the FBI, to discuss how to remove this thorn from his side.

"We can weaken the dynamic, dismantle the family," explains Hoover, referring to tensions between King and his wife Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo). In Selma, local police under the jurisdiction of Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth) attack protesters with batons as TV cameras capture the brutality for horrified viewers.

Consequently, pressure grows on Johnson to intervene while King takes temporary leave of his wife and family to spearhead a second march.

Selma skilfully ebbs and flows between events in Alabama and Washington, relentlessly cranking up the tension between figures on both sides of the debate. Oyelowo is supported by a terrific ensemble cast including Ejogo as the dutiful wife, who stands by her man despite his dalliances away from home. "Do you love me?" coolly asks Coretta in one of the film's most memorable scenes. "Do you love the others?"

Roth chews scenery as the Governor who believes resistance should be met with extreme force, while Wilkinson brings a touch of desperation to the most powerful man on Capitol Hill. Luther King Jr had a dream and through the lens of DuVernay's film, we are minded that we must all continue to chase it.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Shaun The Sheep Movie 4 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday 4th March 2015
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The Boy Next Door 2 stars

movie title

High school teacher Claire Peterson is separated from her cheating husband. Potty-mouthed pal Vicky, who is also the school's vice principal, urges Claire to sign the divorce papers but she hesitates for the sake of their teenage son Kevin. That changes when strapping 19-year-old Noah Sandborn moves in next door. One night of ill-advised passion lights the fuse on Noah's obsession and when Claire informs him that their romp was a booze-fuelled mistake, he responds with threats and violence.

  • GenreAction, Romance, Thriller
  • CastJennifer Lopez, John Corbett, Hill Harper, Ryan Guzman, Kristin Chenoweth, Ian Nelson.
  • DirectorRob Cohen.
  • WriterBarbara Curry.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration91 mins
  • Official sitewww.theboynextdoorfilm.com
  • Release27/02/2015

Never trust a good-looking stranger with your heart. The Boy Next Door harks back to a bygone era of jeopardy thrillers when Michael Douglas' unfaithful husband met his match in Glenn Close's bunny boiler and naive Bridget Fonda discovered you should never share living space with a single white female.

Alas, Rob Cohen's hokey yarn is more Facile Distraction than Fatal Attraction, courtesy of a clumsy, cliche-riddled script by Barbara Curry that fails to generate suspense. It doesn't help her cause that 27-year-old leading man Ryan Guzman, who flaunted his abs in the most recent Step Up films, has to pass muster as a high school senior.

"I'm almost 20," explains his character, inciting hoots of derision that become commonplace as the plot goes through predictable motions. Co-star Jennifer Lopez fares just as badly but with her additional credit as producer, she is granted carte blanche to look fierce and fabulous as an English literature teacher, who espouses Greek classics in figure-hugging skirts and heels.

Her lips are flawlessly glossed, her hair impeccably tousled, even when she is in the throes of a sex scene with Guzman and he is enthusiastically kneading her breasts as if they were balls of raw pizza dough.

Lopez plays Claire Peterson, who is separated from her cheating husband (John Corbett). Potty-mouthed pal Vicky (Kristin Chenoweth), who is also the high school's vice principal, urges Claire to sign the divorce papers but she hesitates for the sake of their teenage son Kevin (Ian Nelson).

That changes when strapping Noah Sandborn (Guzman) moves in next door and announces his manly presence by helping Claire with her sticky garage door.
"His parents died last year. I'm all he's got in the way of family," explains Noah's great-uncle (Jack Wallace).
"Seems like a nice boy," replies Claire dreamily.

One night of ill-advised passion lights the fuse on Noah's obsession and when Claire informs him that their romp was a booze-fuelled mistake, he responds by papering her classroom with explicit images and making suggestive comments about her cookies. Mary Berry would be mortified.

With a touch of tongue-in-cheek, The Boy Next Door might have achieved cult status like Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Regrettably, Cohen's film is deadly serious apart from Chenoweth's fleeting comic relief. Lopez doesn't convince as an educator of hormone-addled teenage minds.

Guzman gamely keeps a straight face as he woos Claire with Homer and whispers "a woman like you should be cherished" as he exfoliates her hands with his rippling six-pack during their beautifully lit tumble.

If there's one compliment you can begrudgingly pay The Boy Next Door, it's that their on-screen coupling is far steamier than any of the restrained slap and tickle in Fifty Shades Of Grey.

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The Imitation Game 4 stars

movie title

Socially awkward mathematician Alan Turing arrives at Bletchley Park where Commander Denniston presides over a group of the country's keenest minds in the hope that one of them can break the Enigma code. Turing ploughs his own furrow and raises eyebrows by recruiting Joan Clarke to the team. She is a beautiful mind like Turing, inspiring him to greatness by observing, "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things people never imagine."

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Gay, Thriller, War
  • CastKeira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard.
  • DirectorMorten Tyldum.
  • WriterGraham Moore.
  • CountryUK/US
  • Duration114 mins
  • Official sitewww.theimitationgamemovie.com
  • Release14/11/2014

In December 2013, The Queen granted a posthumous royal pardon to Alan Turing. The London-born mathematician had been prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 - a criminal act at the time - and he undertook a treatment of chemical castration with oestrogen injections rather than serve time behind bars.

It was an undeservedly inglorious end for a brilliant man, who was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code and should have been feted by our battle-scarred nation as a hero. Based on a biography by Andrew Hodges, The Imitation Game relives that race against time to decipher German communications and bring the Second World War to a swift conclusion.

Morten Tyldum's masterful drama neither shies away from Turing's homosexuality nor lingers on it, framing nail-biting events at Bletchley Park with the mathematician's 1951 arrest in Manchester. "If you're not paying attention, you'll miss things," Turing teases us in voiceover.

Indeed, you'll miss impeccable production design, an unconventional yet touching romance, subterfuge and sterling performances including an Oscar-worthy portrayal of the socially awkward genius from Benedict Cumberbatch.

Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) sits in a police interrogation room with Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear), facing a charge of indecency with a 19-year-old unemployed man called Arnold Murray. "I think Turing's hiding something," Nick informs his Superintendent (Steven Waddington), who is keen to wrap up the conviction.

In flashback, we witness Alan's arrival at Bletchley Park where Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) and Major General Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) preside over a group of the country's keenest minds in the hope that one of them can break Enigma.

Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech) and Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard) work alongside Turing, but he ploughs his own furrow and raises eyebrows by recruiting Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) to the team.

She is a beautiful mind like Turing, inspiring him to greatness by observing, "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things people never imagine."

Punctuated by school day scenes of the young Turing (Alex Lawther) and his first love, an older boy called Christopher (Jack Bannon), The Imitation Game is a beautifully crafted tribute to a prodigy, whose invaluable contribution to the war effort was unjustly besmirched by bigotry.

Cumberbatch is mesmerising, trampling over the egos of fellow code breakers without any concern for their feelings as he vows to solve "the most difficult problem in the world". It's a tour-de-force portrayal, complemented by strong supporting performances from Knightley, Goode et al as the close-knit team who note, "God didn't win the war. We did."

The pivotal Eureka moment sets our pulses racing, heightened by Alexandre Desplat's exquisite orchestral score. Director Tyldum navigates the fractured chronology with clarity and flair, ensuring that his heart-rending film doesn't itself become a perplexing puzzle.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 4 stars

movie title

Sonny and his business partner Muriel consider expanding into a second hotel to cope with demand, aided by Douglas and Evelyn. The arrival of an American writer called Guy sends Madge into a swoon while Sonny has lots to keep him occupied with his impending nuptials to the beautiful Sunaina. Douglas and Evelyn's romance continues to develop but the course of true love, even in twilight years, never runs smooth.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
  • CastRichard Gere, Bill Nighy, Dame Maggie Smith, Ronald Pickup, Tamsin Greig, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Dame Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Lillete Dubey.
  • DirectorJohn Madden.
  • WriterOl Parker.
  • CountryUS/UK
  • Duration122 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/marigoldhotel
  • Release26/02/2015

Towards the end of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a secret inspector is asked for an honest assessment of Jaipur's luxury development for residents in their golden years. The inspector concludes that behind the scenes, management of the hotel is shambolic but unerring affection for the staff makes it a four-star destination for "the elderly and beautiful".

The same honest appraisal applies to John Madden's entertaining sequel: Ol Parker's script is haphazard and several plot strands are flimsy but our emotional investment in the characters papers over the cracks.

Audiences who check in to this second chapter will be treated to the same pungent Jaipur backdrops and good-humoured service, with a fresh lick of dramatic paint courtesy of new arrivals, played with easy-going charm by Tamsin Greig and Richard Gere.

The dashing star of American Gigolo and Pretty Woman takes on sex symbol status here, causing groom-to-be Sonny (Dev Patel) to quip, "The man is so handsome, he has me urgently questioning my own sexuality." At 65 years old, Gere evidently still has it.

While the first film was lovingly adapted from Deborah Moggach's novel These Foolish Things, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tumbles straight out of the scriptwriter Parker's imagination. He struggles to provide each resident with a compelling narrative arc: some are surplus to requirements while others relish the trials and tribulations that test fledgling romances and fractious friendships to breaking point.

Sonny and business partner Muriel (Maggie Smith) travel abroad to seek investment for a second hotel from business chief Ty Burley (David Strathairn) and return to India, mindful that funding is dependent on a review from a secret inspector.
"How was America?" asks Evelyn (Judi Dench), welcoming them home.
"It made death more tempting," retorts Muriel.

English traveller Lavinia (Greig) and American novelist Guy (Gere) arrive soon after and Sonny is convinced that Guy must be the inspector so he ignores Lavinia and lavishes attention on the writer. Guy's arrival sends Madge (Celia Imrie) into a swoon - "Lordy lord, have mercy on my ovaries!" she swoons - while Douglas (Bill Nighy) struggles to communicate his feelings to Evelyn.

Meanwhile, Sonny is pre-occupied with his impending nuptials to Sunaina (Tina Desai) and a simmering rivalry for his fiancee's affections from snake-hipped family friend Kush (Shazad Latif).

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel delivers the same winning formula of laughter and tears, eliciting strong performances from Dench, Nighy and Smith at her acid-tongued, indomitable best.

The course of true love, even in twilight years, never runs smooth and Parker composes variations on a theme of amour, while peppering his script with pithy one-liners. "There is no present like the time," professes one wise soul. Madden's film is certainly a gift: you get everything you expect but nothing more.

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Wednesday 4th March 2015
Thursday 5th March 2015

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Subtitled) 4 stars

movie title

Sonny and his business partner Muriel consider expanding into a second hotel to cope with demand, aided by Douglas and Evelyn. The arrival of an American writer called Guy sends Madge into a swoon while Sonny has lots to keep him occupied with his impending nuptials to the beautiful Sunaina. Douglas and Evelyn's romance continues to develop but the course of true love, even in twilight years, never runs smooth.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
  • CastDame Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Ronald Pickup, Tamsin Greig, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Bill Nighy, Dame Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Lillete Dubey.
  • DirectorJohn Madden.
  • WriterOl Parker.
  • CountryUS/UK
  • Duration122 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/marigoldhotel
  • Release26/02/2015

Towards the end of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a secret inspector is asked for an honest assessment of Jaipur's luxury development for residents in their golden years. The inspector concludes that behind the scenes, management of the hotel is shambolic but unerring affection for the staff makes it a four-star destination for "the elderly and beautiful".

The same honest appraisal applies to John Madden's entertaining sequel: Ol Parker's script is haphazard and several plot strands are flimsy but our emotional investment in the characters papers over the cracks.

Audiences who check in to this second chapter will be treated to the same pungent Jaipur backdrops and good-humoured service, with a fresh lick of dramatic paint courtesy of new arrivals, played with easy-going charm by Tamsin Greig and Richard Gere.

The dashing star of American Gigolo and Pretty Woman takes on sex symbol status here, causing groom-to-be Sonny (Dev Patel) to quip, "The man is so handsome, he has me urgently questioning my own sexuality." At 65 years old, Gere evidently still has it.

While the first film was lovingly adapted from Deborah Moggach's novel These Foolish Things, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tumbles straight out of the scriptwriter Parker's imagination. He struggles to provide each resident with a compelling narrative arc: some are surplus to requirements while others relish the trials and tribulations that test fledgling romances and fractious friendships to breaking point.

Sonny and business partner Muriel (Maggie Smith) travel abroad to seek investment for a second hotel from business chief Ty Burley (David Strathairn) and return to India, mindful that funding is dependent on a review from a secret inspector.
"How was America?" asks Evelyn (Judi Dench), welcoming them home.
"It made death more tempting," retorts Muriel.

English traveller Lavinia (Greig) and American novelist Guy (Gere) arrive soon after and Sonny is convinced that Guy must be the inspector so he ignores Lavinia and lavishes attention on the writer. Guy's arrival sends Madge (Celia Imrie) into a swoon - "Lordy lord, have mercy on my ovaries!" she swoons - while Douglas (Bill Nighy) struggles to communicate his feelings to Evelyn.

Meanwhile, Sonny is pre-occupied with his impending nuptials to Sunaina (Tina Desai) and a simmering rivalry for his fiancee's affections from snake-hipped family friend Kush (Shazad Latif).

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel delivers the same winning formula of laughter and tears, eliciting strong performances from Dench, Nighy and Smith at her acid-tongued, indomitable best.

The course of true love, even in twilight years, never runs smooth and Parker composes variations on a theme of amour, while peppering his script with pithy one-liners. "There is no present like the time," professes one wise soul. Madden's film is certainly a gift: you get everything you expect but nothing more.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 4th March 2015

The Theory Of Everything 4 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday 4th March 2015
Thursday 5th March 2015

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The Theory Of Everything (Subtitled) 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, 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.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 5th March 2015
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