Movie round-up: this week’s new film releases, February 26-March 3

NEW RELEASES

Grimsby (15) So gross and crude as to make Judd Apatow and Roy Chubby Brown look like something off CBeebies, it has to be said that there are moments (most notably involving a misunderstanding about a blocked toilet) when Sacha Baron Cohen’s spy spoof is achingly funny. Equally, there are moments when its Viz-like humour involving sex and sperm are just plain squirm-inducing.

And even at a brief 83 minutes, it still strains the running time with running gags (jokes about Daniel Radcliffe and Donald Trump getting AIDS) and Baron Cohen sticking things up his arse. He plays Liam Gallagher lookalike Nobby Butcher, a lager-swilling layabout football fanatic father of innumerable kids with names like Django Unchained and Gangnam Style (cue ‘hysterical’ comedy about youngsters saying f*** off) who lives in the urban hellhole that is Grimsby (it’s not really twinned with Chernobyl but it has topped a poll as the worst place in the UK) with his latest sex-mad missus (Rebel Wilson, wasted).

As a boy, he and his younger brother Sebastian were separated when orphaned (as detailed in sentimental flashbacks that sit oddly with the vulgarity elsewhere) and he’s spent the last 28 years trying to find him. Sebastian (a game Mark Strong playing deadpan), it transpires, has followed a rather different path and is now a top MI6 agent, first seen chasing down (a decent first person shooter styled action sequence as you might expect from Transporter director Louis Leterrier) someone who has information about an imminent assassination. Cut to the London charity summit held by actress cum philanthropist Rhonda George (an uninvolved Penelope Cruz) who seems to the target. Sebastian is just about to prevent the hit when Nobby turns up, leading to the killing of the World Health Organization’s director and, assumed to have pulled the trigger, Sebastian being forced to go on the run with an MI6 hitman (amusingly named Chilcott) assigned to take him down.

Naturally, Nobby suggests he hides out in Grimsby with his proudly scum family and big-bellied mates (whom it invites you to both laugh at and with) before they set off to track down the real assassin and prevent a plot to dramatically reduce the world’s underclasses. It’s a mission that takes them to South Africa and variously sees Oscar nominees Barkhad Abdi and Gabourey Sidibe reduced to respectively playing a heroin dealer and the hotel maid on whom Nobby goes down and a jaw-dropping obscene and admirably committed graphic set piece involving an elephant vagina and penis that makes an earlier scene of Nobby sucking Sebastian’s testicles seem positively refined.
Baron Cohen’s wife, the frequently very funny Isla Fisher, is given almost nothing to do (and certainly no laughs) as Sebastian’s contact at mission control,  even so she fares better than the likes of Ian McShane, Johnny Vegas and, as the lovable paedophile, Ricky Tomlinson. There’s some satirical one-liners (notably about Fifa), but ultimately this is lazy, juvenile vulgarity and, while never Boring, its  far less scabrously inventive than Borat or Bruno.

(Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

The Forest (15)
forest

Given a PG13 rating in the States (the equivalent of a 12A), it’s hard to understand why this clichéd, contrived and confused horror was given a higher certificate here, the scariest thing about it being the dismal quality of the acting and script. To be fair, Natalie Dormer has proven herself in both Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, but she’s given almost nothing to work with as Sara, the identical twin whose troubled sister Jesse (Dormer with a different hair colour) goes missing in the Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, infamously known as the “suicide forest” because that’s where many Japanese go to top themselves.

Catching a plane to Tokyo, Sara, convinced her sister’s still alive, unlike the complacent Japanese cops, determines to track her down, to which end, after a quick culture clash gag about eating live fish, she hooks up with Aiden (Taylor Kinney), a travel journalist and his local ranger mate Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) who offer to guide her. Warned not to go ‘off-path’ and not to believe everything she sees, naturally Sara proceeds to do both, prompting the inevitable running around crazily and screaming in response to the equally inevitable sudden appearances of figures she, naturally, alone can see. Being a horror movie set in Japan, one of these is, of course, dressed like a creepy schoolgirl. Metaphorically unable to see the forest for the trees, first time director Jason Zada does little to make the place particularly foreboding, a lack of atmosphere that matches the two dimensional characters and generally wooden acting.

A muddled script never fully explores the repressed memories of the childhood tragedy at the root of the sisters’ troubles and, throwing character to the wind, the last act’s red herrings and twists smack of narrative expediency to set up a sequel. Among the overwhelming ineptitude, there is one inspired moment. Enquiring at the forest office as to whether they’ve seen her sister, the receptionist says, yes, they have her and asks her to follow downstairs. “What is this place?” she asks suspiciously. The woman pauses, looks back and replies – “The basement.” It’s full of the corpses of suicides, but not Jess’s. Never mind, says the lady, cheerily, if she comes back tomorrow there’ll be more bodies. Such gallows humour belongs in a far better film.

(Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park; Odeon Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

Janis: Little Girl Blue (15)

Janis

After last year’s award-winning documentary about a self-destructive big-voiced female rock star with a drink and drugs problem, here’s another. Directed by Amy Berg and narrated by Cat Power , it uses letters she wrote over the years to chart Joplin’s rise to stardom from her smalltown Texas background, first fronting Big Brother and the Holding Company and then as a solo artist with hits such as Piece of My Heart and Me and Bobby McGee, before overdosing at 27. Drawing on archival footage and interviews, it reveals someone who, lacking in self-worth, emotionally scarred from being bullied as a child and obsessed with being a disappointment to her family was eventually destroyed by the fears of not being good enough. (Fri/Tue: Electric)

Meet The Patels (PG)

patelsApproaching 30, Ravi Patel is an unmarried Indian-American, something of great concern to his legendary matchmaking mother and advise-dispensing father who, unaware that he’s just broken up with a white girl he’s been dating for two tears, reckon it’s time he got married. To which end, they’re going on a family trip to India so he can meet some prospective brides for an arranged marriage, just like themselves. They just have to be a Patel. Not related, just from the same small area of India.

And so, he agrees to go along with his parents’ matchmaking, a quest that takes him not only through a series of dates in India but, when that proves fruitless, also across the USA to find a suitable American Patel by way of various weddings, Indian matrimonial websites and a Biodating system for Indians, a sort of CV distributed to prospective matches. Throughout all this, he’s accompanied by his older filmmaker sister Geeta, resulting in this cheerfully amateurish documentary, intercut with amusing animated interviews, that turns the spotlight on finding love and the generational and cultural pressures on first-generation Indian Americans. Insightful, funny, touching and with a happy ending you can see coming a mile off, this is a real treat. (Sun 28: MAC)

Secret In Their Eyes (15)

S-196Thirteen years after the brutal rape and murder of Carolyn, the teenage daughter of his counter terrorism partner Jess (Julia Roberts), former FBI agent Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) returns to Los Angeles to ask Claire (Nicole Kidman), now the District Attorney and the woman for whom he still holds a torch, to reopen the case, under the radar, saying he’s finally tracked down the man responsible.

Claire initially worked on the case when she was assistant to her old boss, Martin Morales (Alfred Molina) and conspired to help Ray and DA agent Bumpy (Dean Norris) bend the rules and gather enough evidence to bring in the young suspect, only to see him walk way because he was an informer inside a mosque suspected of being a terrorist cell and, in the wake of 9/11, a pragmatic Morales placed homeland security higher on the agenda than Carolyn’s murder. Shortly after this, the alleged killer vanished and the guilt-ridden Ray has spent all the time since trying to find him. Now he’s convinced that Marzin (Joe Cole), an ex-con car thief, is the one. And he’s determined to finally see justice served and give Jess, worn down over the years, peace.

Adapted writer/director Billy Ray from the Argentinean thriller El Secreto de Sus Ojos, it moves between two time frames as flashbacks reveal what happened in 2009 and the present day scenes follow Ray, Bumpy and Claire’s attempt to find and capture Marzin. Only gradually do the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and not until the final reel is the whole chilling truth revealed, but along the way it builds a steely tension as it explores raw-nerved themes of obsession, grief, passion and compromise, and deals with how all of these affect and drive the relationships between the central characters.
At times, it’s difficult to work out where you exactly are in the timeline and the sexual tension between Ray and Clair feels somewhat redundant. Even so, its subtext about the cynical acceptance of collateral damage in the name of security and the power of the performances carry you through, Ejiofor and Roberts especially strong as the driven Ray and distraught Jess, although Kidman too has her moment in a scene where she goads the killer into revealing himself. It doesn’t have quite the same intensity or impact as the original, but the gaze still compels. Quite why it’s been buried by the distributor is a mystery. (Cineworld NEC)

NOW PLAYING

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (U) The fourth outing by the helium-voiced animated furry trio of Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney), a misunderstanding leads them to believe Dave (Jason Lee) is going to propose to his new girlfriend Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley). Worse, her mean teenage son Miles (Josh Green) convinces them they’ll then be dumped back in the forest. Since none of them want this marriage, they join forces to stop it happening and head for Miami. Cue gratuitous musical numbers, the Chippettes as judges on American Idol, and an overdone running joke involving buffoonish air marshal (Tony Hale) and, of course, some fart gags.

Slung together with little care, commitment or craft, the whole thing reeks of lazy filmmaking. Under 10s will love it, parents will wish it was titled Road Kill. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

The Big Short (15)

Adam McKay’s inspired indignant satire on the mortgage housing crisis of 2005 that led to 2008’s global financial meltdown is 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. (Vue Redditch, Star City)

A Bigger Splash (15) Recuperating on a Sicilian island with filmmaker boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) following an operation on her vocal cords, former Bowie-esque rock star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is taken by surprise when her former flame and his old friend, extrovert producer Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes in a dark-comedy manic turn), turns up with his newly found moody daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). It’s soon apparent that he’s not just there to renew old acquaintances. Contriving to get Marianne alone while leaving Paul (whom, as flashbacks show, he encouraged to take up with her) with the Lolita-like Penelope (who has her own agenda), he proceeds to try and reclaim the woman he gave away. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, it’s another remake of 1969 French psychodrama La Piscine (previously remade as Swimming Pool in 2003), a measured melodrama of ever tightening tensions and emotions that ultimately boil over into fatal tragedy. Stirring together stunning landscapes and smouldering sex, there’s some missteps (tangential concerns about the growing number of immigrants), but, driven by powerful performances (Fiennes devouring scenery as he dances to the Stones’ Emotional Rescue), its flaws are easily forgiven. (Electric; Everyman)

Bone Tomahawk (18)

bone 2Kurt Russell’s second Western in as many months (he even sports much the same whiskers as in The Hateful Eight), it’s no less bloody (a disemboweling, throat slicing and cleaving a body in two), but, at 132 minutes, it’s half an hour shorter and far fewer ‘lighthearted’ moments than Tarantino’s.
Leaving her broken-legged husband Arthur (Patrick Wilson) in bed, Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons), the nurse of small town Bright Hope, is called on to treat the prisoner (David Arquette, seen slicing a sleeping man’s neck in the opening sequence before he and his partner run into a little trouble after desecrating a native burial ground) shot in the leg by Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Russell). The next morning, Hunt discovers a stable boy has been eviscerated, horses stolen and O’Dwyer, the prisoner and deputy Nick missing. An arrow found in the jail is identified by the local expert as belonging to troglodytes, a tribe of mud-caked cannibalistic cave-dwellers far removed from what even he, as Native American, would identify as Indians. So, despite being assured it’s a suicide mission, Hunt, accompanied by Arthur, elderly widower “backup deputy” Chicory (Richard Jenkins) and gentleman – if bigoted – gunslinger John Brooder (Matthew Fox), sets off to the rescue.

Splicing Western tropes (specifically John Ford’s The Searchers) with inbred cannibal horror genre movies such as The Hills Have Eyes, writer-director S. Craig Zahler unfolds things at a slow, measured pace, favouring characterisation and smart and occasionally snarky dialogue (a highlight is Jenkins’ monologue about a flea circus) over action (though the climax is particularly brutal) but never slackening the race against the clock tension. The four leads are excellent, each giving an individually distinctive performance and each offering a different facet of masculinity, one of several themes this unusual but utterly absorbing film explores. (Electric; Vue Star City)

Brooklyn (12A) Saoirse Ronan is up there among the Best Actress tips for her outstanding portrayal of a young Irish girl who, in search of a better life, leaves her small-minded village in 50s Ireland for the US, boards with a bunch of extrovert girls in a house run by an eccentric landlady (Julie Walters), gets a job in a department store and falls for a young but poor Italian. But then tragedy calls her home, where she’s courted by a well to do local lad (Domhnal Gleeson) and finds herself caught between two worlds and two choices.(Fri-Wed: Electric)

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. (Vue Redditch, 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 Everton’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. (Vue 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. (Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

Dad’s Army (PG) Unquestionably the best thing about this feature revisit of the beloved BBC comedy series is the casting, not only to the actors perfectly channel the original’s cast characters, in some cases they even look like them. A pity then that, directed by Oliver Parker, it’s in the service of such a ponderous film with a screenplay peppered with innuendo and farcical slapstick. Set in Walmington-on-Sea towards the close of WWII, a misfit group of Home Guard reserves, led by the pompous Captain Mainwaring (Toby Jones) are charged with patrolling the coastal path near an alleged camp for the Allied invasion.

There is, however, a German spy on the loose. Enter Rose Winters (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a reporter there to write a feature about the Home Guard and – oh, you already guessed. Her true nature revealed early on, the plot revolves around how long it will take before the men discover the truth. Especially when they’re all dazzled by her 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 by comparing him to Churchill. Other than 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 nearly as funny. Much falls leadenly flat and some scenes are plain embarrassing.

The cast (which also includes Michael Gambon as the doddery Godfrey, Tom Courtney as Private Jones, Daniel Mays as the spivvy Walker and Bill Patterson as dour undertaker Frazer) seem to be having fun, probably considerably more so than those in the audience. Dud’s Army. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

Deadpool (15)

deadpool 1Having now taken almost $500million, this latest addition to the Marvel movie universe has proven itself the polar opposite of Ryan Reynolds’ last outing as a superhero, Green Lantern, which gets an amusing reference here. Following an experiment to give him superpowers (by triggering his mutant genes) after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, former urban mercenary Wade Wilson (Reynolds) dons the black and red spandex and sets out for revenge on the equally enhanced sadist (Ed Skrein) and his superstrong sidekick (Gina Carano), who left him hideously scarred, determined to have the process reversed so he can get his life and his girl (Morena Baccarin) back.

With cameo appearances by a couple of X-Men (Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead) trying to keep him in line, it’s not only viscerally ultra-violent and peppered with inventive sexually explicit dialogue, but knowingly self-aware, Deadpool constantly stepping out of the action to address the audience and acknowledge they’re watching a movie, poking fun at the superhero franchise conventions as he goes. Blackly comic and explosively entertaining, with Reynolds letting rip with razor sharp timing and inspired repartee that references everything from Sinead O’Connor to, well, Ryan Reynolds, it’s like a Grindhouse Guardians of the Galaxy on ecstasy with the dial turned up to 11. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

Dirty Grandpa (15) Robert 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 NEC; Vue Redditch, Star City)

The Finest Hours (12A)

finestOne night in the winter of 1952, off the coast of Cape Cod, a ferocious storm of hurricane-force winds and 60-foot waves ripped two oil tankers apart. With the main Coast Guard engaged in a rescue mission for one of the ships, on discovering there was a second, the Pendelton, a mostly inexperienced four man team of set out in a 36-foot lifeboat to try and save the 33 sailors trapped on its crippled stern.

Opening with a prologue wherein by-the-book Coast Guard Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) falls for Miriam (Holliday Grainger) on a blind date, having established the relationship stakes it then shifts forward a year, as she proposes to him but before he can follow protocol and ask his brusque commanding officer (Eric Bana) for permission to marry, news of the wreck arrives, He’s ordered to pick a crew and get out there, despite it being unlikely they’ll ever make it past the sandbar in one piece. As he says, you have to go out there, no one says you have to come back. So, joined by two fellow members of the team (one of whom he has history with over some past unsuccessful rescue) and a sailor who happened to be there for the night, they set out, losing their compass pretty early on.

Meanwhile, out at sea, bookish chief engineer Ray Sebert (Casey Affleck) takes command, much to the resentment of one insubordinate seaman, and seeks to keep what remains of the broken tanker afloat until the scornful survivors can be rescued, on the off chance anyone actually knows they’re out there or can find them. And thus the film cuts back and forth between the two boats while also intermittently following events back on land as Miriam discovers that Bernie’s been sent to what might prove his death.

Like the stock one dimensional stereotype characters (including a salt of the earth, jolly cook), this is a familiar old fashioned disaster/against the odds movie and, as such, goes through all the predictable paces and guff about masculinity, breaking rules and leadership. With the crashing waves a constant threat of being ripped apart or sunk, the scenes at sea are well mounted (though the fact they’re so dark renders the 3D pointless), but whenever the focus shifts to shore, any tension the film achieves dissipates. Both Affleck and Pine are solid as men having to show leadership under duress, finding redemption in the process, but ultimately the film never really engages, a less than perfect storm. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park; Odeon Broadway Plaza; Reel; Vue Redditch, Star City)

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; Vue Star City)

Goosebumps (12A) Jack Black’s best since School of Rock, he plays a fictionalised version of R.L. Stine, creator of the phenomenally successful Goosebumps young adult horror books, now hiding out in smalltown America with daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush) under the name of Mr.Shivers. This is because, the monsters he created in his stories became real and he’s got them trapped inside sealed copies of the manuscripts. At least until the arrival of new neighbour Zach Cooper (Dylan Minette), the son of the new high school principal(Amy Ryan), who, thinking Hannah’s in danger, breaks into the house with nerdy new buddy Champ (Ryan Lee) and accidentally unleashes the Yeti. Shivers manages to get him back into the book, only to find he’s not the only one to have escaped. So too has his evil alter ego, Slappy the Dummy (voiced by Black), who, out for revenge, releases all the other monsters, among them a bunch of homicidal garden gnomes, and destroying the books so they cannot be sucked back in.

What follows is your usual trash the town monster mash fare, but director Rob Lettermen infuses it with a gleeful exuberance that rattles things along in hugely entertaining manner, throwing in gleeful self-awareness and a moving twist along the way. Simultaneously intimidating and droll, Black is terrific, while Minnette, Rush and Lee are engagingly likeable support with Timothy Simons and Amanda Lund a very funny double act of a couple of local cops. 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 Redditch, Star City)

How To Be Single (15)
HTBS-06712rDeciding she needs some time to find herself and discover what it’s like to be alone, Alice (Dakota Johnson) puts her relationship with Josh (Nicholas Braun), her boyfriend since college on hold. Starting a new job with a law firm (though she never actually seems to go to work), she’s taken under the wing of party hard, drink a lot, shag everyone , wild child co-worker Robin (Rebel Wilson) on a guide to living the single, independent Manhattan life. Alice has fun, but having decided to get back with Josh, she’s taken aback to discover he’s met someone else.

Meanwhile, her workaholic obstetrician older sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), finds herself unexpectedly broody while Lucy (Alison Brie), a marriage-obsessed regular at the bar all the characters visit. And then there’s Tom (Anders Holm), the casual sex, commitment avoiding bartender equivalent of Robin who strikes up a friendship with both Alice and Lucy and widowed father David (Damon Wayans Jr.) with whom the former gets involved.

An uneven riff on Sex And The City (which, along with Bridget Jones, it references) that wanders between Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day as it flits between the vaguely interconnected characters, it’s sporadically very funny and, at times, quite touching, but is also too cluttered, ploddingly directed, thinly plotted and, constantly shifting in tone, never really strikes a romantic spark. Lucy’s storyline seems to exist separately to the others and, while the exuberant Wilson is the film’s raunchy comedic centre, without a story or arc of her own, that’s all she is, further muddying as to whether the film is advocating relationships or not. Never as entertainingly vulgar as Bridesmaids, never as warmly romantic as Love, Actually, it’s worth a one night stand, but you won’t want to stay for breakfast. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

The Lady In The Van (12A) Slightly plodding and tonally unsure adaptation of Alan Bennett’s autobiographical play about the eccentric old dear (a terrific Maggie Smith reprising her stage role) who lived in a van in his drive for 15 years. (Fri 26-Sun 28:MAC)

Oddball and the Penguins (U) Pitched at youngsters, this is the true Australian story of how the dwindling population of a colony of Little Penguins was saved from extinction (and the island’s sanctuary status preserved) when a local chicken farmer had the idea of his Maremma Sheepdog protecting the birds from the predatory foxes. Fictionalised to include a romance between his ranger daughter and her tourism exec American boyfriend (who supports turning the island into a whale watching station), a cute young granddaughter and a weirdo dog catcher, its old fashioned feel, look and charm are more Babe than Alvin, which makes for a refreshing change. (Vue Star City)

Point Break (12A) A remake of Kathryn Bigelow’s cult 1991 action-thriller starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves swaps surfing for extreme sports as athlete-turned-FBI-agent-in-training Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) infiltrates a gang of Robin Hood eco-activists who, headed up by the brooding Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez), are knocking off corporates and redistributing the loot to the people, honouring nature by completing the Ozaki Eight, a series of spiritual enlightenment ordeals, in the process. Becoming part of the crew, he joins them as they follow their paths and take on death-defying challenges, getting involved with female gang member Samsara along the way, until forced to try and stop their latest job. Now he has to bring them down before the final challenge and Bodhi disappears.

Departing from the philosophical set up whenever it suits narrative demands and with Bracey lacking in the on screen charisma department, there’s some breathtaking stunt work and stunning natural landscapes, but involving characters, emotional connections and consistent logic were clearly not on the final checklist. (Vue Star City)

The Power In Our Hands (tbc) Making newly digitised archive footage available to the public for the first time, this is a documentary about the Deaf community’s fight for civil rights and, principally, the right to be heard. Marking the 125th anniversary of the British Deaf Association, rather than focusing on medical definitions of hearing loss, it presents Deaf people as an active and resilient community that has long campaigned for the recognition of British Sign Language. (Mon 29: MAC)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (15)

ppz 2What it says on the tin, an intermittently entertaining mash-up of Jane Austen and the living dead that mostly follows the novel’s basic plot regarding the romantic fortunes of the Bennet sisters and, in particular, the prickly relationship between Elizabeth (Lily James) and Mr. (here Colonel) Darcy (Sam Riley), but set in another universe where the sisters have been trained in the martial arts because England is plagued with zombies. It’s an uneven one-joke affair, well staged on the one hand but lacking the necessary chemistry between Darcy and Elizabeth on the other, featuring a delightful comic turn by Matt Smith as the self-important parson Mr. Collins but wasting Lena Headey as an eye-patched, sword-wielding Lady Catherine. (Vue Star City)

The Revenant (15) BAFTA winner for Best Film, Director and Actor, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that this will be repeated at the Oscars and Leonardo DiCaprio will 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; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Showcase Walsall; Vue 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; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)
Room (15)

ROOM 2With a BAFTA already in the can, 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, Solihull; Empire Great Park)

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. (Vue Redditch, Star City)

Spotlight (15)

SPOTNominated for six Oscars (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; 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 (BAFTA winner 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; Empire Great Park; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

Triple 9 (15)

triple-9John Hillcoat previously directed The Proposition and The Road, two powerful films, the former written by Nick Cave and the latter adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel. This is the first produced screenplay by Matt Cook and it feels like both he and Hillcoat sat in a locked room watching Antoine Fuqua films on a loop before starting work. A gang of dirty cops (Anthony Mackie, Clifton Collins Jr), an ex-cop (Aaron Paul and criminals (Chiwetal Ejiofor, Norman Reedus) are blackmailed by the Russian-Israeli mafia, (headed up by Kate Winslet in another unrecognisable turn) into pulling off a robbery. It goes smoothly, but then she demands another (part of her leverage is that her sister, Gal Gadot, is mother to Ejiofor’s son), except this one seems impossible. The only way to pull it off is by staging a triple 9, the police code for officer down, which will distract the cops. Casey Affleck, the rookie detective working with his uncle (Woody Harrelson) on trying to bring down the mafia, is the targeted to die, but inevitably things go pear-shaped, leading o a bloody finale of double crosses, shoot out and revenge.

It’s intense and bloody with plenty of involving twists and action, and the performances, Affleck especially, are all solid, but, at the end of the day, everything here has been done before and better. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Electric; Empire Great Park; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

Trumbo (15)
trumbo 2During the height of the Cold War, the House Un-American Activities Committee pursued all and any Americans who were – or were suspected of being – members of the Communist Party. Hollywood was part and parcel of the witch-hunt, blacklisting writers, actors and directors whose political sympathies did not toe the All-American line. Most notable among these were a group dubbed The Hollywood 10, among them Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), a self-confessed party member and Oscar winning screenwriter. Refusing, along with the others, to testify before the Committee, sold out by his friend Edward G Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg), whose leftist leanings crumbled under the pressure of unemployment, he was found guilty of contempt and jailed.

On release, blacklisted by the studios, he began writing under pseudonyms to keep afloat, getting work with a B movie company headed by Frank King (John Goodman) and, in turn recruiting other blacklisters to churn out scripts. Then, in 1953, while credited to his friend Ian McClellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk), Trumbo’s screenplay for Gregory Peck/Audrey Hepburn romcom Roman Holiday won the Oscar as did The Brave One in 1956, this time credited to Robert Rich.

With rumours circulating as to the real author, backed by arch-patriot John Wayne, poisonous Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) used all her influence to blackmail or intimidate producers, directors and stars into not working on anything Trumbo touched. However, refusing to be threatened, Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) hired him to work on Spartacus as did director Otto Preminger for Paul Newman starrer Exodus. Both won Oscars, and both credited Trumbo, effectively ending the blacklist.
Directed by Jay Roach, it’s a striking departure from his Austin Powers/Meet the Fokkers usual fare, but still enfolds serious concerns with a considerable humour, particularly in Cranston’s droll performance. A largely faithful account of events and those involved, with Diane Lane as supportive wife Cleo and Elle Fanning as his budding civil rights activist daughter, while there’s arguably a far more harder-hitting story to be told about the toll taken by McCarthyism, as a wittily entertaining and ultimately uplifting tale of how fundamental right triumphed over misguided wrong this fully deserves its Academy nominations. (Electric; MAC)

Youth (15)
YouthMichael 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. (Electric)

Zoolander No. 2 (12A)
A misfire at the US box office, fifteen years on from the equally flop original Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson reteam as narcissistic supermodels Derek Zoolander and Hansel, lured out of their reclusive existences for a convoluted storyline that entails Derek’s attempt to reunite with his young son and teaming up with Interpol fashion division agent Penelope Cruz to crack a case that has seen the world’s best looking pop stars murdered in what turns out to involve a legend of the fountain of youth and the descendents of the world’s first supermodel, created by God alongside Adam and Eve, and the escape from prison of revenge-seeking flamboyant evil mastermind Mugatu (Will Ferrell). With an unrecognisable Kristen Wiig as a scheming fashionista, a deluge of cameos that includes Justin Beiber, Sting, Tommy Hilfiger and Anna Wintour playing themselves and a hilarious Benedict Cumberbatch as androgynous supermodel All, it freewheels along with wild abandon, spraying verbal and visual gags in all directions. Beyond mere criticism, you either surrender to its self-indulgent silliness or you don’t. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Electric; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch, Star City)

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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