Movie round-up: This week’s films, February 5-11

NEW RELEASE
Being Good 

Part of the Japan Foundation Tour, when a primary school teacher (Kengo Kora) discovers that one of his pupils is being abused by their parents, he decides that he must do something to help. Meanwhile in the same city, a seemingly good mother can’t help lashing out at her own child. (Mon 8/Tue 9, MAC)

Bolshoi Babylon (PG)

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In 2013, Sergei Filin, the Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet was blinded in one eye and suffered third degree burns in an acid attack, his assailants alleging they’d been hired by former principal dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko. The resulting scandal revealed the Ballet was riddled with political infighting, corruption, betrayals and conspiracies; a microcosm of the country itself. With extraordinary behind the scenes access, the documentary follows Filin’s recuperation, his succession by Vladimir Urin and Dmitrichenko’s trial. (MAC)

Dad’s Army (PG)

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With no advance screenings other than the national premiere, it’s clear the studio was anticipating poor reviews for this latest big screen version (the original cast starred in one in 1971) of the evergreen cosy BBC comedy series. Even the cast admitted reservations about taking it on. And they’ve not been disappointed. The lifeless ‘action’ sequences have been panned along with the old school slapstick and befuddled Britishness, but then surely that’s always been part of the charm. Like most adaptations of TV sitcoms, the plot’s just something to hang familiar running gags (and lines) and character traits on, and that’s exactly what director Oliver Parker has done.

The premise remains the same, set during WWII in the fictional Walmington-on-Sea, a bungling, misfit group of reserves from the Home Guard, led by the pompous self-important Captain Mainwaring (Toby Jones) are charged with patrolling the coastal path near an alleged camp to be used in the Allied invasion. There is, however, a German spy on the loose, trying to uncover the plans. While out on manoeuvres, the platoon meet Rose Winters (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a female reporter whose some to write a feature about the Home Guard and – oh, you already guessed. And if not her true nature is revealed very early on, leaving the storyline to revolve around how long – if ever – it will take before the men discover the truth. Especially when they’re all dazzled by her charm and beauty, particularly mummy’s boy Pike (Blake Harrison), posh Sgt Wilson (Bill Nighy), who tutored her at Oxford and still harbours a crush, and Mainwaring whose ego she flatters be comparing him to Churchill.

Other than some frequent nudge, nudge innuendo and the introduction of the men’s other halves (including Felicity Montague as Mrs Mainwaring, who commands a women’s unit, and Sarah Lancashire as Pike’s mom), this is pretty much content to mirror the original, except without being anything like as funny. Much (like the ‘big’ shoot-out) falls leadenly flat and some scenes (notably the one involving Mainwaring being chased by a bull – which seems to be in slow motion, but isn’t) are just embarrassing. Indeed, the pacing throughout seems to have been sponsored by Mogadon.

It’s not without its amusing moments, and the cast (which also includes Michael Gambon as the doddery, bladder-challenged Godfrey, Tom Courtney as Private Jones, Daniel Mays as the spivvy Walker, and Bill Patterson baring his arse as dour undertaker Frazer ) seems to be having fun, probably considerably more so than audiences who’ve paid their grey pound for this cosy but bland nostalgia. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Electric; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

Goosebumps (12A)

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It may be damning with faint praise, but this is easily Jack Black’s best on screen performance since School of Rock. Created by R.L. Stine, Goosebumps is a publishing phenomenon, a 200 plus series of young adult horror-comedy stories that (as the film reminds us) has sold some 400 million copies. The inspired twist in this big screen adaptation that marries live action with excellent CGI animation is that the monsters are all real, Stine’s imagination having brought them to life through his trusty typewriter (an important if slightly confused plot point given the film’s climax in which another character bashes out a new story) and having to subsequently confine them within locked copies of the original manuscripts.

Moving to small town Madison with his recently widowed mom (Amy Ryan), high schooler Zach Cooper (Dylan Minette) is delighted to find his new neighbour is attractive, perky Hannah (Odeya Rush). He’s rather less delighted to meet her reclusive father, Mr Shivers (Black) who makes it very clear he should keep well away from his daughter. However, having heard screams and thinking Hannah in danger from her dad, he calls the police only for Shivers to claim Hannah has flown back to her mother. Unconvinced, Zach enlists his new friend, school nerd and self-confessed coward Champ (Ryan Lee), and the pair sneak into the Shivers house to investigate. Having negotiated a cellar covered with bear traps, they then discover a bookcase full of Goosebumps manuscripts and, when Champ unlocks one, out comes a Yeti. Inevitable chaos follows as Hannah tries to get it back into the book, her father eventually coming to the rescue and admitting to the boys that, yes, he is in fact R.L. Stine.

However, it’s not over yet as, returning home, they find another of his creations is free, his evil alter ego Slappy the Dummy (voiced by Black). And now Slappy, not best pleased at having been imprisoned in his own story, is out for revenge, by releasing all the other monsters – among them a bunch of homicidal garden gnomes and a vampire poodle – and destroying the books so they cannot be sucked back in.

What follows is pretty much your usual trash the town monster mash fare with explosions, narrow escapes, fights and car chases (albeit being chased by a giant praying mantis), although I do think the runaway Ferris wheel may be a first. But director Rob Lettermen infuses it with a gleeful exuberance that rattles things along in hugely entertaining comic-book scary form, throwing in a pleasing dose of self-awareness along the way. Playing it knowingly big, but in a good way, Black, sporting heavy-rimmed black glasses, is terrific, simultaneously intimidating and droll, both a protective father (for a clever twist of a reason) and nastily vain (one wry scene has him slagging off arch rival Stephen King), while Minnette, Rush and Lee are all engagingly solid and likeable support. There’s also amusing turns by Jillian Bell as Zach’s highly extrovert aunt and Timothy Simons and Amanda Lund as a comic riffing double act of an ineffectual cop and his overly enthusiastic rookie partner, And, naturally, the real Stine gets to make a brief walk on too. The final scene sets things up for a sequel, the first Jack Black movie in 13 years where that’s actually a welcome proposition. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

Point Break (12A)

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The release date brought forward, possibly in the wake of poor US reviews, although there is a nod to the ex-presidents disguises of the original, this remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s cult Patrick Swayze/Keanu Reeves 1991 action-thriller swaps surfing for extreme sports as athlete-turned-FBI-agent-in-training Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) is charged by his handler (Ray Winstone), with infiltrating a gang of Robin Hood eco-activists (as opposed to the original’s self-serving anti-establishment rebels) who, headed up by the brooding Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez), are knocking off banks, etc and redistributing the loot. In the process they’re also attempting complete the Ozaki Eight, a series of spiritual enlightenment Ordeals that take on the forces of Nature named for environmentalist-guru Ozaki Ono, who died attempting the third. Naturally, seduced by their philosophy, Utah finds himself compromised and torn between duty and his new friendships, which also happen to include sexy gang member Samsara (Teresa Palmer).

If you want a lot of images of stunning natural landscapes punctuated by extreme sports action like jumping from planes, surfing really big waves, snowboarding down mountains, free climbing or riding bikes over vertiginous canyon peaks, then you’re in luck. If you want coherent plot, emotional depth or involving characters you might want to wait for Kung Fu Panda 3. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

Trumbo (15)

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The decade spanning the late 40s to the late 50s was the darkest period of Hollywood history, a time when, gripped by the Cold War and the fear of communism, the House Un-American Activities Committee pursued all or any Americans who were – or were suspected of being – members of the Communist Party. It particularly targeted those in the movie industry, writers, actors and directors whose political affiliations and sympathies did not toe the All-American capitalist line and who were, therefore, seen as subversive elements looking to bring down the nation.

One such was Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), a self-confessed party member and writer of such Oscar winners as Kitty Foyle and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Summoned to testify before the Committee in 1948, he refused and, along with nine others (Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz and Adrian Scott, subsequently dubbed the Hollywood 10), having been given up by his friend Edward G Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg, rather better-looking than the real thing), whose leftist sympathies crumbled under the pressure of unemployment, was found guilty of contempt and jailed.

On his release, Trumbo found himself blacklisted by the studios. So, he began writing under pseudonyms, getting work with King Brothers, a B movie production company headed by Frank King (John Goodman) who hired Trumbo, who in turn recruited other fellow blacklisters, to turn in new or fix existing scripts. Then, in 1953, Trumbo’s screenplay for the Gregory Peck/Audrey Hepburn romcom Roman Holiday won the Oscar, although it was credited to his friend Ian McClellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk) as did The Brave One in 1956, this time credited to Robert Rich (here fictional, but in reality King’s nephew).

By now, rumours were circulating Hollywood as to the real author of these scripts, actively fuelled by poisonous Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren in full on Wicked Queen mode) who used all her power and influence to blackmail or intimidate producers, directors and stars into not working on anything Trumbo touched. However, she came unstuck in threatening Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) who had hired him to work on a movie about a Roman slave gladiator. Douglas’s defiance led acclaimed director Otto Preminger to Trumbo’s door to write a screenplay for his next film, Paul Newman starrer Exodus. Both that and Spartacus went on to win Oscars, and both credited Trumbo with the screenplay, effectively ending the blacklist. Even so, it was not until 2011 that he received his credit for Roman Holiday.

Directed by Jay Roach (best known for the Austin Powers and Meet the Parents/Fokkers), it’s a striking departure from his usual fare, but still veins its serious concerns with a strong vein of humour, much encapsulated in Cranston’s droll playing of Trumbo’s eccentricities (such as writing in the bath) and his razor sharp wit (in one memorable scene, confronted by staunch patriot John Wayne, who headed the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, he reminds him that he spend the war “stationed on a film set, wearing makeup, shooting blanks”).

Although, as written by John McNamara, five of the Hollywood 10 are compressed into the fictional figure of Arlen Hird (Louis C.K), and producer Buddy Ross is also a composite, it’s generally a faithful account of the facts and those involved. However, it’s better dealing with Trumbo’s professional life than his personal (how the marriage and family as affected, for example) with supportive wife Cleo (Diane Lane) and budding civil rights activist daughter, Nikola (Elle Fanning) feeling like obligatory adjuncts rather than vital inputs.
It’s not the first film to tackle the blacklist, with past outings including Woody Allen in The Front, Robert De Niro with Guilty By Suspicion and even Jim Carrey in The Majestic, and there’s arguably a far more harder-hitting, darker story to be told about the toll taken by the McCarthy hearings and their trampling over the Constitution, but, as a witty, entertaining and ultimately uplifting tale of how fundamental right triumphed over misguided wrong this fully deserves its Academy nominations. Incredibly, it’s only playing on one screen in the entire West Midlands. (Everyman)

NOW PLAYING
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (15)

13hours Directed by Michael Bay, this recounts the true story of how, when, on September 11, 2012, Islamic militants attacked the American Special Mission and a secret CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, killing the US ambassador Christopher Stevens, and several others, a small security team held off the insurgents until rescue finally arrived. Bay details events before, during and after the attack, underlining the lack of proper security at the embassy and the failure of those in charge to be alert to possible militant action on the anniversary of 9/11, as well as the refusal of the State Department to allow reinforcements to help the Americans under attack.

John Krasinski stars as Jack Da Silva, newly returned to Libya, to join his friend Tyrone Woods (James Dale) as part of the six man team charged with protecting the CIA personnel but under strict orders from the Chief (David Costabile) not to engage with any militants. Told to do nothing when the Ambassador’s compound is breached, Woods defies orders and leads his men to try and save him and his security team, eventually forced to flee back to the CIA Annex where they have to defend the 32 Americans trapped inside against repeated attacks.

Although Bay clearly has spineless bureaucrats and liberal politicians in his sights as responsible for the loss of American lives, there’s no big gung ho speeches, merely almost two hours of on the ground confusion and chaos (in many ways this resembles Blackhawk Down) as the team try to distinguish who among the Libyans and local militias are on their side and who are not (the Libyan police don’t come out of it well, but it doesn’t tar everyone with the same brush), punctuated by some intense firefights as seen through night-vision glasses. Although it takes some heavy-handed time out to detail the personal side of things with the guys Skyping their families or talking about trying to be a good husband/father, as a visceral action movie it’s genuinely tense, gritty and involving and there’s nothing glamorous about the bloody battles that Bay stages with a frightening authenticity. (Odeon Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall)

The Big Short (15)
The Big ShortJust named Best Film at the PGA awards, Adam McKay’s inspired indignant satire on the mortgage housing crisis of 2005 that led to 2008’s global financial meltdown is now a serious Oscar frontrunner. Based on a book about the collapse of the subprime-mortgage market and driven by hyper-caffeinated energy, whimsical touches like Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie delivering to-camera lessons explaining financial concepts such as collateralised-debt obligations mirror the sheer absurdity of what happened while still delivering a stinging, attack on those that let it.

Although the time span’s never quite clear, it follows three parallel stories across three years. Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), an autistic, glass-eyed, metal loving hedge fund manager, reckons the US housing market bubble will burst and sets out to short (bet against) it, investing millions that the likes of Goldman Sachs, thinking he’s off his head, are more than happy to take.
Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a brash, Deutschebank egotistical trader gets wind of Burry and decides to cash in too, leading him team with Mark Baum (Steve Carrell), a self-loathing idealist who heads a credit-default-swap team under the Morgan Stanley umbrella. Then there’s Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley, start-up whizz kids looking to play with the big boys, who, stumbling on Vennett’s prospectus, call on retired investment banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) to help them out.

With frequent to camera explanations of the jargon, it invites audiences to root for characters who, rather than exposing the frauds and assuming the banks genuinely have no idea what’s going on, set out to profit from what will, ultimately, prove the collapse of the economy. There are no heroes here, just winners and losers.

With a cast that also features small but effective turns by Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei, Rafe Spall and Karen Gillan, it rattles along, sharp humour and biting indignation consistently underlining the sheer brazen audacity of those culpable, such as the smug CDO manager only too happy to smilingly confirm all of Braun’s worst fears about the system’s corruption. And, as the end pointedly makes clear, who got away with it too. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Electric; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Broadway Plaza; Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

Capture The Flag (PG) Young Mike Goldwing’s dad, Scott, and grandfather, Frank, were both astronauts. However, the cancellation of the space programme means Scott’s dreams will never come true while Frank’s were crushed when he was replaced in the final manned Apollo mission. After which he turned his back on his family and now lives in an astronauts’ retirement home. However, when billionaire oil tycoon Richard Carson announces he’s going to the moon to prove the Apollo XI moon landing never happened and claim the planet for himself (so he can mine it for a new energy source that will give him control over the Earth) and Scott’s appointed as commander of a NASA mission to stop him, Mike sees a chance to reconcile the two by persuading Frank to join the team of trainers.

But, when sabotage puts his dad out of commission, Mike decides to sneak onboard and go to the moon himself. Things don’t go to plan, and the rocket takes off early, with not only Mike, but his friend Amy and his granddad too. Now they have their work cut out to rescue the American flag and put an end to Carson’s plans. Moving briskly along with a solid mix of action and sentiment, as well as techno-equipped lizard to amuse the youngsters, this Spanish-made CGI animation may not rival Pixar or DreamWorks, but it’s a lot of fun. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

Creed (12A) Although its star (Michael B Jordan) and director (Ryan Coogler) have been snubbed by the Oscars, Sylvester Stallone seems a sure thing for Best Supporting Actor, reprising his role as Rocky Balboa. This time round, he’s on the other side of the ropes when he’s persuaded to come out of retirement and train Adonis Johnson (Jordan), the illegitimate son of his late opponent and friend, Apollo Creed, as he seeks to make his name in boxing without trading on his father’s reputation.

Plotwise, it follows a predictable path, playing a familiar surrogate father/son riff as it casts an eye over themes of legacy and black youths/absent fathers, throwing in a health scare along the way to cement the bonding process. However, aided by strong performances, Coogler mostly avoids manipulative sentimentality as the film makes its way to the inevitable big fight, here staged at Liverpool’s Goodison Park as, pressured to box under his father’s name, Creed takes on the defending British lightweight champ retired Rocky to be his trainer. Naturally, after initially refusing to be drawn back into that world, the pair eventually team up as the predictable plot sets up the inevitable big championship fight, here between Adonis and the defending light-heavyweight champ, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). Solid stuff that fully deserves to wear a champion’s belt. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC; Empire Great Park; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

Daddy’s Home (12A) As expected, the pairing of Will Ferrell as insecure but steady nice guy stepdad Brad competing with Mark Wahlberg as the kids’ unreliable Alpha male biological father, Dusty, suddenly back in their lives after several years absence, is a bland sub-sitcom as the latter seeks to undermine and embarrass the former at every opportunity, Brad becoming ever more erratic in his attempts to measure up. Inbetween predictable knockabout slapstick there’s the equally predictable genitals size comparisons gags and assorted other obligatory raunchy banter (mostly from Thomas Haden Church as Brad’s boss) as well as tired racist misunderstanding set-ups. Avoid. (Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

The Danish Girl (15)

The Danish Girl Having already won an Oscar playing someone physically trapped inside their own body, Eddie Redmayne is  Oscar nominated for doing it again in director Tom Hooper’s classically styled factional story of Lili Elbe, an early recipient of sex reassignment surgery.

A successful Danish landscape artist, Einar Wegener (Redmayne) is married to less successful portraitist Gerda (Alicia Vikander, another Oscar nod); however, when she asks him to stand in for a sitting by prima ballerina Ulla (Amber Heard), Einar’s contact with the stockings and dress unlocks something buried inside. Initially, his new cross-dressing predilections serve to spice up their sex life, but when first Gerda proposes he attend a reception dressed as Lili, Einar’s supposed cousin, and ‘she’ is propositioned, and then Gerda’s portraits of Lili become all the rage, so his female alter-ego assumes dominance. Seeing himself as a woman trapped in a man’s body, supported by Gerda and childhood friend art dealer Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), Lili seeks to make the ultimate transformation. Elegant, tasteful and understated, it eschews some of the actual facts and events, but, driven by outstanding performances, it’s an utterly mesmerising work. (Odeon Broadway Plaza; Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

Dirty Grandpa (15)
dirty 2Robert DeNiro hits an all time low in this crass, crude Judd Apatow knock-off as a horny widower who, the day after his wife’s funeral, persuades his grandson Jason (Zak Efron) to go with him to Daytona Beach so he can bed potty-mouthed college girl Lenore. With scenes of DeNiro’s character (aptly named Dick) jerking off to porn, regularly prodding Efron in the balls and backside, and Jason being constantly mistaken for a lesbian and penises in the shape of a swastika drawn on his forehead, this surely has to be the worst things you’ll see all year. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall)

The Good Dinosaur (PG) Set in a sort of vague Prehistoric Wild West, Pixar’s latest animation skews young and low on plot in a variation of the boy and his dog chestnut, the difference being that the boy is a dinosaur trying to find his way home and the dog is the feral young human with whom he forges a bond. (Cineworld NEC, Solihull; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Vue Redditch, Star City)

In The Heart of the Sea (12A) In 1819, under the captaincy of novice George Pollard Jr (Benjamin Walker) and experienced first mate Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), the whaling ship The Essex set sail from Nantucket harbour in search of whale oil. Finding the usual area fished out, they headed into the South Pacific where, in November 1820, the ship was attacked and sunk by a giant white sperm whale, the survivors not finding rescue for a further three months at sea in the small row boats, resorting to cannibalism to stay alive. Their story provided the basis for Herman Melville’s great American novel Moby-Dick and, framed by the last living survivor (Brendan Gleeson) unburdening his soul to Melville (Ben Wishaw), is retold here by Ron Howard, focusing on the clash between Pollard and Chase and the subsequent struggle to survive, stalked (though this never actually happened) by their aquatic nemesis.

The onboard scenes are effective, especially as the ship is destroyed, and the performances are perfectly fine, but there’s very little tension, the dialogue creaks and some of the CGI is decidedly subpar. When Melville published Moby Dick it was savaged by the critics. Today it’s regarded as the great American novel. Howard’s resolutely underwhelming film is unlikely to enjoy a similar reappraisal. (Vue Star City)

Joy (12A)

joyHer third film for director-writer David O’Russell, casts Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, a divorced New York mother of three who, sharing house with her ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) and divorced dysfunctional parents (Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen), has long since lost sight of the potential she once showed. That is until, cleaning up a broken class on the yacht of her dad’s widowed new Italian girlfriend, Trudy (Isabella Huppert), she comes up with the idea of a self-wringing mop.

Persuading Trudy to invest, she eventually manages to get a shot on QVC, a new cable TV shopping channel run by Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) and, after an initial hiccup, her mop becomes a runaway success. However, the involvement of dodgy business partners, threatens to turn triumph into bankruptcy disaster until Joy finally takes matters into her own hands. A true American Dream fairy tale with a few bumps in the road along the way, narrated by Joy’s supportive grandmother (Diane Ladd), it’s uneven and at times eccentric, Lawrence delivering a straight and often intense dramatic performance that won her a Golden Globe Best Actress award while those around her are more caricatured, but, as inspirational against the odds entrepreneurial stories go this is like The Apprentice with brass knobs on. (Odeon Broadway Plaza)

Labyrinth (PG) A timely screening in the wake of Bowie’s death, this is one of his best screen performances with Jennifer Connolly as the bratty teen who is given 13 hours to solve a labyrinth and rescue her baby brother after she wishes for him to be taken away by the Goblin King (Bowie). (Wed 10, MAC)

Man With A Movie Camera (U) Made in 1929, this, his first, is one of the most celebrated works of Russian experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov, a narrative-free, poetic vision of urban Bolshevik Russian life. (Tue 2, Electric)

Le Mepris (15) Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 psychological drama about the disintegration of a screenwriter’s marriage during the making of a new film by Fritz Lang, who plays himself in a cast headed by Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance and Brigitte Bardot. (Tue 2/Wed 3, MAC)

The Revenant (15) It looks like a close fight between this, Spotlight and Mad Max for the Film/Director Oscars, but Leonardo DiCaprio will finally get to walk away with a golden man for his portrayal of Hugh Glass, a real life frontiersman and trapper who, in 1823, attacked by a bear and left for dead by those supposed to ensure him a proper burial, over the course of six weeks, crawled and rafted the 200 miles back to Fort Kiowa in South Dakota before setting back out to seek revenge on the two who had abandoned him. Directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, this embellishes the true story by giving Glass a half-Pawnee son who is then murdered in front of his eyes by the brutal Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), thereby driving his determination to survive and gain vengeance. From the brutal ferocity of the opening attack by a tribe of Native Americans to the grizzly attack and painful, slow trek across forbidding frozen terrain, Glass taking shelter in the carcass of a dead horse, it’s a relentlessly harrowing, bleak story that was clearly just as tough to film. Diversions into hallucinatory flashbacks and present delirium underscore the film’s existential spiritual drama while the stunning photography reinforces the man vs. nature themes, but at a punishing and oftimes extremely graphic 156 minutes you’ll need every bit the same fortitude as Glass. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

Ride Along 2 (12A) A loud, brash spot-the-difference sequel to the 2014 black buddy cops comedy that one again shows you should never underestimate the power of low brow. Set a year on, screw-up security guard Ben (Kevin Hart) is due to wed Angela, sister of top cop buddy Ben (Ice Cube), but first he gets to accompany his future brother-in-law to Miami on a drug ring case. Here, they quickly get involved with AJ (Ken Jeong doing his usual comic relief shtick), a local hacker who has evidence implicating sleazy businessman Pope (Benjamin Bratt) as South Florida’s drugs kingpin. As well as simply reworking the original, it also recycles pretty much every other cop/buddy comedy set up too, including having Hart pretend he’s royalty and Cube his underling and being attacked outside a building (by a croc) while his buddy chats away obliviously by the window. It’s karaoke filmmaking at his screechiest. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

Room (15)
ROOMWith several of the other major trophies already under her belt, Brie Larson seems a safe bet for Best Actress in Emma Donoghue’s adaptation of her own bestseller. Helmed by Britain’s Lenny Abrahamson (himself among the director nominations) it also features an astonishing performance from Jacob Tremblay as Jack, the six-year-old son of Larson’s Joy who has never experienced the world or life outside of the 10×10 garden shed in which his mother had been kept captive since she was abducted as a teenager. Eventually, Joy enlists her son to pull off a daring escape, freeing them both from the claustrophobic prison, as the drama shifts it focus to how Jack adapts to a world he’s never known other than through his mother’s stories and interference-riddled TV programmes, while Joy endures a post-traumatic breakdown trying to cope with her regained freedom and feelings of guilt over her son. There’s some obvious plot holes and the emotional charge isn’t as strong in the second act, but, fuelled by its terrific central performances (a small but potent cameo by William H. Macy as Joy’s father), this powerful psychological drama will stay with you. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC; Solihull; Electric; Showcase Walsall)

Sisters (15) Discovering their folks have sold the family Florida home and are moving into a retirement condo, middle-aged siblings, Kate (Tina Fey) and Maura (Amy Poehler) decide to throw one final house party. Except this time, terminally sensible Maura wants to let her hair down and for party animal Kate to stay sober as the “designated mom”. Add to the mix that, embarrassed by mom’s irresponsibility, Kate’s teenage daughter has been secretly staying with her aunt, but has come to Florida under the impression her mom’s got a job and they’ll both be moving in with her grandparents.

This is basically all a preamble to the party itself where, with their old unfulfilled classmates, nice guy neighbour James (Ike Barinholtz) and Kate’s school nemesis Brinda (Maya Rudolph) indulging in booze and drugs, everything descends into predictable house trashing chaos before more lessons about growing up, facing responsibilities and being who you are not who you think you were are duly trotted out. Not consistently funny, but the central deadpan performances are a treat. (Vue Star City)

Snoopy and Charlie Brown : The Peanuts Movie (U) Animation studios Blue Sky affectionately and faithfully revive Charles M. Schulz’s classic characters, following the comic strip formula of running parallel, thematically linked, stories about both Charlie and his pet beagle, Snoopy. Thus, the former shyly tries to get new neighbourhood arrival Little Red-Haired Girl to see him for who he really is, not the loser his friends all regard him as while Snoopy sets about writing a book about himself as a famous World War I fighter pilot battling legendary German flying ace, The Red Baron. Schulz’s cartoons generally saw the world as one of constant disappointment, the message here is more upbeat, about striving to be the best you can, even if you don’t succeed. Firmly skewed young, its gentle melancholia and ultimate upbeat ending should strike a chord with kids who feel themselves sidelined among their friends but it isn’t going to give the Minions any sleepless box office nights. (Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

Spotlight (15)

spotlight 2Nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Film), directed by Tom McCarthy this is another true story, telling how Spotlight, the Boston Globe’s investigative team, editor Robby Stewart (Michael Keaton) and reporters Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachael McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), uncovered systematic child abuse by the city’s Catholic priests and a cover up that embraced the highest levels of the city’s religious, legal and governmental bodies, triggering further revelations that went all the way to the Vatican.

Assigned by new editor in chief Marty Baron (Liev Schrieber) to check out a previous story in the paper about how the Cardinal knew about but never acted on a Catholic priest who had allegedly molested children in six different parishes over the last 30 years. With Rezendes pushing Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), the victims’ lawyer, for information, his colleagues pursue other avenues, including a lawyer (Billy Crudup) who handled earlier molestation cases against another priest, and which were settled out of court. The further the team dig, the deeper and wider the problem clearly goes.

A classic investigative journalism drama, it carries you along on a wave of righteous anger as the team is consistently blocked by those in high positions, yet persevere to confront those responsible with exposure. Fuelled by electric ensemble performances, it sweeps you along as its addresses both personal pain and the far wider corruption in the system. You want an argument for not neutering the freedom of the press to pursue stories in the public interest? Here it is. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Electric; Empire Great Park; Everyman; Vue Star City)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D (12A) With George Lucas taking a backseat, director JJ Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt dispel sour memories of Episodes I-III with a triumphant resurrection that may tread familiar narrative ground, but does so with a fresh heart. Set some 30 years on from the destruction of the Empire, Luke Skywalker is missing and the dark forces have regrouped as the First Order, its stormtroopers led by the mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who possesses both the Force and a red light sabre.

Built around the search for a map revealing Skywalker’s location, the film’s basically a lengthy chase between Ren and his forces and scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and renegade stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) who have come into possession of BB8, a droid belonging to Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a fighter pilot for the Resistance now headed by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), that contains the vital key. Their eventually joined by returning legends Han Solo (a soulful Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) as the plot turns into a race against the clock to stop the First Order launching planet-destroying weapon as the force also proves strong in another of the new characters. Rattling along from explosive opening to nail-biting climax by way of a stunning shock revelation and death, the force is strong with this one. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

The 33 (12A)

33Yet another true story, this recounts the events of 2010 when an explosion at the San Jose mine trapped 33 Chilean miners underground for 69 days while an international team worked to rescue them and bring all out alive. The fact that it was a resounding success, inevitably makes the film a bit of an anticlimax, since it’s a bit hard to sustain any real sense of tension. As such, in addition to offering some backstories to the miners, it also focuses extensively on events above ground, noting how the mine owners ignored warnings about its stability and initially attempted to stop the news breaking and the Chilean government’s determination not to have this turn into a globally televised tragedy. There’s also personal stories like that of Jessica Vega, the wife of one of the miners, who gave birth while her husband was trapped.

Meanwhile underground, with Antonio Banderas playing Mario Sepúlveda, the miners’ public face, it charts the dynamics between a large group of men trapped in claustrophobic conditions, ranging from despair and internal tensions to personal epiphanies about their relationships. It’s not going to win any prizes for its dialogue (or some of the accents), and while it remains an undeniably inspirational human story, the forced melodrama and rote screenplay means you’re never as involved as you were with the real life news reports. (Vue Star City)

The 39 Steps (U) Alfred Hitchock’s 1939 wrong-man thriller adaptation of John Buchan’s spy novel with Robert Donat stumbling on a conspiracy that sees him both the unted and the hunter ina race against the clock. (Sat 6: Electric)

Youth (15)
Youth 2Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel shine as, respectively, a retired composer-conductor and an arthouse film director planning his next project in a Swiss spa in director Paulo Sorrentino’s slow going, but melancholic, gently amusing film about lost hopes, ageing, passions, finding peace and the difference between simple and simplicity. For personal reasons Fred (Caine) is refusing to conduct his best known work for Prince Phillip’s birthday and is trying to deal with the fallout from the collapse of his daughter’s (Rachel Weisz) marriage (her husband’s taken up with Paloma Faith), while Mick (who’s her father-in-law) is faced with some caustic home truths from his Hollywood veteran muse (Jane Fonda) who he was expecting to star in his new film. Also among the guests is Sporting Fellini influences and populated by an array of eccentrics, including Paul Dano as a cerebral actor who resents being best known for playing a robot, who observes proceedings and occasionally dispenses words of wisdom, it’s a specialist taste but worth savouring. (Everyman)
CINEMAS
Cineworld 5 Ways – 181 Broad St, 0871 200 2000
Cineworld NEC – NEC 0871 200 2000
Cineworld Solihull – Mill Ln, Solihull 0871 200 2000
The Electric Cinema – 47–49 Station Street, 0121 643 7879
Empire – Great Park, Rubery, 0871 471 4714
Empire Sutton Coldfield – Maney Corner, Sutton Coldfield
0871 471 4714
The Everyman – The Mailbox 0871 906 9060
MAC – Cannon Hill Park
Odeon Birmingham -Birmingham, 0871 224 4007
Odeon Broadway Plaza – Ladywood Middleway, 0333 006 7777
Odeon West Bromwich – Cronehills Linkway, West Bromwich 0333 006 7777
Reel – Hagley Rd, Quinton Halesowen 0121 421 5316
Showcase Walsall – Bentley Mill Way, Walsall 0871 220 1000
Vue Redditch – Kingfisher Centre, Redditch 08712 240 240
Vue Star City – Watson Road, 08712 240 240

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