Movie Round-Up: this week’s new film releases, Jun 24-July 1

NEW RELEASE

Independence Day: Resurgence (12A) They had 20 years to prepare, runs the trailer, setting up the return of the would-be world destroying aliens. Unfortunately, it often seems that Roland Emmerich only had 20 minutes to come up with the plot and dialogue for his sequel to one of the best loved disaster movies of the last century. This fails to carry the same emotional impact of the original, with fewer characters with whom you feel a connection, and nor, and not for want of trying, does it have an iconic moment to match Will Smith punching an alien in the face (although there is a tongue-in-cheek nod, albeit with less effective results). It also borrows rather obviously from Alien and other threats from outer space movies and, while the scale of global destruction is gargantuan (using an anti-grav weapon to turn the planet’s edifices against it, the initial assault the aliens drop Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper on London), it’s been seen many times, a cliché acknowledged when Jeff Goldblum quips how “they do like to get the landmarks”. Although both the White House and the Eiffel Tower manage to escape this time round.

Which is not to say that it isn’t massive popcorn entertainment, Emmerich a master of spectacular excess who makes Michael Bay look restrained. The cheerfully cheesy set-up plays expositional catch up, letting us know that the world has used the alien technology left behind to make huge strides (though everyone still uses bog-standard laptops and  mobile phones) and to come together in worldwide unity (the new US president – Sela Ward –  talks of how there’s been no armed conflict, and yet the film immediately switches to a meeting with an African warlord -Deobia Oparei- and his heavily-tooled men), while scientist David Levinson (Goldblum) now heads up the senior figure anti-alien defence, which has its HQ in Bejing and  an outpost on the Moon. Stationed there is bad-boy orphan pilot Jake (Liam Hemsworth), part of the international legacy squadron headed up by Dylan Hellier (Jessie T. Usher), the son of Will Smith’s character (who’s demise is brushed away in one line), with whom he has history after (as revealed in a  confused flashback) almost causing his death. Jake’s also got a thing going with Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), who gave up her place in the squadron to care for her dad, the former President (Bill Pullman), who’s not been the same since forging a mental link with the invaders last time round.

New to the cast are Travis Trope as Jack’s fellow pilot and friend Charlie, and Chinese singing star (Angelababy) as Rain, another pilot and also daughter of the alien-defence commander. For all the tale of multi-culturalism, she and Oparei are the only significant foreign characters in what is very much an American-led resistance.  Meanwhile, also back for more are, briefly, Vivica Fox as Hellier’s mother, Charlotte Gainsbourg as Levinson’s French psychologist old flame, Catherine, Judd Hirsch as his kvetching father (now peddling his I Saved The World autobiography round old folks’ homes) who gets to save the almost obligatory busload of kids and a dog, and Brent Spiner who, as scientist Brackish Okun, fortuitously wakes up from his 20-year coma in time to provide the comic relief and figure out the meaning behind the mysterious symbols  David and Catherine have been tracking and solve their connection to the chatty white orb the President ordered to be shot down when it appeared in the skies out of nowhere, but which turns out to present a  deadly threat to the aliens.

Ah yes, then. Led by their monstrous Queen, they’ve come back to steal the Earth’s molten core and this time their ship’s 3,000 miles in diameter (though it still manages to sneak up unnoticed), leading to not one but two race against the clock life or extinction climaxes. Naturally, pretty much repeating the strategy of the original, salvation comes with seconds and a just few miles of Earth crust to spare, although the film neglects to explain what happens to the mile-wide bore hole into the Atlantic once the drill vanishes.

Veterans of this sort of shtick, Goldblum and Pullman provide the deadpan slyness, leaving the others to take care of the melodramatics as the film slips into its raison d’être of blowing things up and providing work for hundreds of special effects teams, racing along to clock in at actually twenty minutes less than the first before a coda that paves the way for the already announced sequel as, thanks to the talking white ball nice alien, Earth takes the fight to the enemy. I’m thinking Independence Day: Retaliation.  (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch,  Star City)

 

Cemetery of Splendour (tbc)

CEMETERY_OF_SPLENDOURA new film from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (whose Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives won the Palme d’Or in 2010), it revolves around a mysterious sleeping sickness. Soldiers afflicted by it are stationed in a temporary clinic in a former school, and nursed by volunteers, including Jenjira, who becomes profoundly affected by the memory-filled space.

While doctors  try  easing the men’s troubled dreams, and young medium Keng helps visitors communicate psychically with their comatose loved ones, Jen senses a connection between the soldiers’ illness and the ancient, mythical site on which the clinic is built. Embracing  Weerasethakul’s characteristic sense of mysticism and the spiritual, the film addresses the living ghosts that inhabit Thai history and consciousness. (Tue-Thu: MAC)

Fire at Sea (tbc)

_fire_at_seaA documentary on the migrant crisis, this focuses on Samuele, a 12-year old who loves hunting with his slingshot and lives on Lampedusa,  an island in the middle of the Mediterranean that also happens to be Europe’s most symbolic border, crossed by thousands of migrants in the last 20 years in search of freedom. The film captures the island’s history, culture and the everyday reality of its 6,000-strong local population as hundreds of migrants land on its shores on a weekly basis. (Wed/Thu: MAC)

 

Elvis & Nixon (12A)

elvis 2You couldn’t make it up.  On December 21, 1970, Elvis Presley, the most famous entertainer on the planet, met with President Nixon, the most powerful man on the planet, having written him a letter asking to become a federal agent at large for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, apparently so he could go undercover and help America in its fight against drugs and communism. As this was before Nixon became so paranoid he taped everything that went on the Oval Office, there’s no evidence as to what went down in the meeting, although events leading up to and after it  are documented and the photo of Nixon with Presley is the most requested from the National Archives.

However, writers Joey and Hanala Sagal and Cary Elwes have put together a sharp, insightful and satirical screenplay about what might have happened. It’s actually not the first film to imagine what happened in the Oval Office, Elvis Meets Nixon having being directed by Allan Arkush (whose main claim to fame was sci fi robot romcom Heartbeeps) in 1997, but, covering the same ground, Liza Johnson’s comes with bigger stars. Sporting a King-size black wig(and the facial rash he’d developed on the flight to LA), Michael Shannon may not greatly resemble Presley but he undeniably inhabits him while Kevin Spacey is Nixon, while the cast’s rounded up by Alex Pettyfer as Presley’s lifelong friend (and subsequent Billy Joel/Beach Boys manager) Jerry Schilling, Johnny Knoxville as Sonny, another inner sanctum assistant, and Colin Hanks as Nixon aide “Bud” Krough alongside Even Peters as Nixon’s P.A. Dwight Chapin, both of whom are keen for the meeting to go ahead and give the President, who famously had no time for the counterculture,  some credibility among the youth vote.

Given the absurdity of the situation, it would be hard to play this any other way than for laughs, of which they are many (amusingly Elvis declares himself travelling undercover, but cheerfully wanders around airports and cafes in full regalia), but it also steps back on a couple of occasions to offer thoughtful and poignant meditations on the nature and cost of celebrity, Elvis explaining to Schiller how becoming who he is has caused him to lose who he was (“When I walk into a room, everyone remembers their first kiss watching one of my movies, but they never see me”, just as Nixon remarks how he feels misunderstood and uncomfortable with himself.

It’s a low key affair (which explains why it’s only getting a very limited release), but one full of such nice touches as an airport encounter with an Elvis impersonator, a  Drug Enforcement Administration official’s incredulity at Presley’s request, Elvis nervously rehearsing how he’ll greet Nixon, the one celebrity awed by the other, and a lovely moment as a smug Nixon invites Elvis to touch the moon rock given him by Aldrin, only to be told he has one too. Catch it while you can. (Cineworld Solihull; Electric)

Matar a un Hombre (15)

MATARA Spanish psychological thriller based on real events, this offers a portrait of an ordinary man driven to murder in defence of his family when their neighbourhood is overrun with thugs. A compelling tale of vigilante revenge, approached in a restrained and non-sensationalist style, using  music and silence to build tension as it follows the protagonist’s humiliation step by step.  (Sun: MAC)

The Measure of a Man (tbc)

the-measure-of-a-manMade redundant  from his  position as a machinist, fifty-one-year-old Thierry get work  as a  supermarket security officer. However, he’s soon confronted by a moral dilemma that forces him to question whether, in order to keep his job, he should accept everything asked of him. (Until Tue: MAC)

The Meddler (12A)

meddlerUnderstandably, but nevertheless disappointingly, showing in just a handful of out of town cinemas, writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s follow-up to Seeking A Friend for the End of the World affords Susan Sarandon her best role in years. Sporting a  broad New Jersey accent, she plays Marnie Minervini, who, recently widowed, has inherited more than she could ever possibly want, but  has also been left without a feeling of guilt about her new wealth and lacking a sense of purpose. No longer defined as a wife, she sets out to redefine herself again as a mother, leaving her East Coast home and, having purchased an i-Phone to send a barrage of voice mails  turning up on the doorstep of her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne), in LA.

With history clearly  between them, and, both depressed after the break-up of her relationship with Jacob and under pressure over the sitcom (loosely based on her own family) she’s writing, Lori’s not overly pleased to have her needy and often suffocatingly  affectionate mom interfering in her life. Told to give her daughter space, Marnie instead channels her parenting needs into a variety of strangers, buying an i-Pad for one of Lori’s friend’s baby shower, paying for the lesbian wedding of another (Cecily Strong), to whom she becomes a surrogate mother,  and even befriending an assistant at local Apple Store (Jerrod Carmichael) by not only driving him to the night classes she’s encouraged him to start, but also studying with him. She also pays regular visits to her daughter’s bemused therapist (Amy Landecker), ostensibly to ask about Lori, but affording the film a chance to spell out Marnie’s own hang ups.

Somewhere along the line, she also strikes of  tentatively romantic friendship with a retired Harley-riding, chicken-keeping cop (JK Simmons), who just might be the one to refocus her on living her own life rather than running those of others.

In other hands, Marnie might have been some shrill, bullying and overbearing harpy, but Scafaria and Sarandon make her and her indiscriminate acts of generosity both sad and touching, clearly underscoring the character’s emotional need as she gradually begins to understand herself. Mixing comedy and poignancy, despite its whimsical sitcom feel, its love letter to motherhood has  an air of honesty about it (indeed, some of the events actually happened) that rings true and, for those who seek it out, provides a warm and uplifting glow. (Cineworld NEC; Showcase Walsall; Vue Star City)

 

The Secret Life of Pets (U)

pets4Ever wondered what your pets get up to when you’re not around? Well, this new animation from the team behind Despicable Me (complete with a Minions joke) suggests they’re not just curled up in their baskets waiting for you to come home. When his owner, Katie, brings home  Duke (Eric Stonestreet), a scruffy mongrel with abandonment issues, from the rescue centre, her terrier, Max (Louie CK), finds his life isn’t as cushy as it used to be. Indeed, he’s a pretty mad Max. However, in his attempt rid himself this rival, following a run-in with a bunch of collar-stealing alley cats (headed up by a particularly mangy specimen voiced by Steve Coogan), the pair end up captured by New York’s Animal Control, prompting a rescue mission across Manhattan from their four-legged friends, among them sardonic fat cat Chloe (Lake Bell) and over-excitable pug Mel (Bobby Moynihan). They’re led by Gidget (Jenny Slate), a feisty Pomeranian with a big crush on Max and some hidden kung fu skills, who enlists the help of Tiberius (Albert Brooks), a red-tailed hawk who finds it hard to keep his bird of prey instincts under control, and Pops (Dana Carvey), an old Basset Hound bloodhound who, half paralysed, is fitted with a set of wheels.

Meanwhile, Max and Duke have to become buddies and work together when they’re first forced to join up with and then find themselves on the run from Snowball (Kevin Hart), a crazy former magician’s white bunny who has assembled an army of abandoned pets, the Flushed Pets, an alligator and tattooed pot-bellied pig among them, who live in the sewers and have vowed revenge on all domesticated pets and their owners.

Essentially, it’s an animal version of Toy Story with Max as Woody and Duke as Buzz Lightyear, the interloper competing for their owner’s affections, the Flushed Pets the equivalent of  Sid’s cannibalised toys and the other animals from Max’s apartment block  standing in for Woody’s fellow toys. It doesn’t have the same emotional depth as the Disney classic nor is it as clever or as complex as their latest animal outing, Zootopia. There’s also too many peripheral characters to give them all the time and attention they warrant (disappointingly, headbanging poodle Leonard is just a one-note gag who only appears at the start and end) and, after an inspired and often hilarious and well-observed start (including a canine fantasy sequence as Mac and Duke break into a sausage factory), the plot gradually descends into a series of action movie chases.

However, impressively animated and taken at a nifty pace, it’s never less than entertainingly fun and serves up its inevitable message about friendship and family without (save for the clumsily handled sequence where we learn how Duke originally wound up in the pound) trowelling on the sentimentality. Just keep the kids away from the pet shop on the way home. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch,  Star City)

 

NOW PLAYING

Alice Through The Looking Glass (PG)

alice 1Children familiar with the Lewis Carroll classic will find little mirrored in this sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. Certainly the central  characters are here, though Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Matt Lucas) had already appeared in the first film, but   a plot involving a literal race against time to save the Mad Hatter bears no relation to the book.

You can’t accuse it of not having an overactive imagination or being sluggish. Rarely pausing for breath, it hurtles from one visually eye-popping sequence to the next, and in terms of digital effects, you get certainly get your money’s worth. But it’s all taken at such a rush that the beating of the emotional heart (it’s ultimately about friendship and family) is rarely heard above the visual noise.

It opens some years on from the previous film, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is now  grown and captain of her late father’s ship, The Wonder. Returning after a lengthy voyage, she discovers that her spiteful former suitor, Hamish (Leo Bill), now runs the company and that the fate of the family home rests with her mother (Lindsay Duncan) signing over The Wonder.

All of which culminates in a visit from caterpillar turned butterfly Absalom (Alan Rickman) who tells her the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is in a terrible state and Alice plunging through a dimensional mirror back to Underland. Here, she discovers that, having found the first hat he ever made, the Hatter believes his family to still be alive and not incinerated by the Jabberwocky as he previously thought. That nobody believes him has sent him into a deep dark depression, his orange hair turned white.

Alice resolves to help by travelling back in time to save his family. Which involves stealing something called the Chronosphere, a time travelling gyroscope belonging to the part-human/part-clock Time (a terrific Sacha Baron Cohen) himself, ignoring his warnings that you can’t change the past and you might make the present worse. So, Alice goes Back to the Future, then.

Meanwhile, Time, who’s besotted with the exiled Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), who wants the Chronosphere for her own purposes,  is in pursuit, giving occasion for a plethora of time puns at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and an explanation of how it came to be always one minute to teatime.

So, basically, this is an origin story as Alice first meets the younger Tarrant Hightop when he was just an apprentice to his disapproving hatter father (Rhys Ifans) and discovers why there’s history between him and the Red Queen, and then when he was just a boy, where we learn how the young Iracebeth came to have such a large head and that sister, Mirana, The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) wasn’t always quite the paragon of virtue she seems.

Although the core performances (Wasikowska, Bonham Carter, Baron Cohen and Depp) are all strong, it’s an often exhausting affair trying to keep up with the cluttered plot, the emotions getting lost in the sensory overload, but the kids will likely delighted with the visual effects and the eccentricity on offer. Whether you reckon the glass is half full or half empty probably depends on how old you are.    (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch,  Star City)

 

The Angry Birds Movie (U)  Launched in 2009, the  iPhone game goes big screen as, sketching in the origin story over the opening credits and with a couple of flashbacks, we’re introduced to the Bird Island paradise of assorted flightless birds who live a contented, harmonious and good-natured existence. There are exceptions, of course, most notably Red (Jason Sudeikis doing feathered flippancy), a sarcastic cardinal bird with big eyebrows and anger management issues to the extent that he’s been exiled to live in a house on the beach.

Sentenced by the judge to anger management classes under ‘free rage chicken’ therapist Matilda (Maya Rudolph),  he meets up with three other anger-prone avians, hyperactive goldfinch Chuck (Josh Gad), quite literally short-fused blackbird Bomb (Danny McBride) who has a habit of exploding, and the bulky, monosyllabic Terrence (Sean Penn).

The main plot finally kicks in as a  ship rolls into the island, from which emerge Leonard (Bill Hader), a bearded green pig, and his assistant, proclaiming that they come in peace, but who patently have a hidden agenda. Naturally, even after loads more pigs turn up, the birds refuse to pay heed to Red’s suspicions until the swine make off with all the eggs (green ham and eggs, geddit Dr Seuss fans!) which they intend to turn into a hard boiled banquet. Now it’s time to turn to Red  for help who, along with his new buddies, sets off to find the Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), the island’s long missing guardian, and take the fight to Piggy Island.

With a staple plot about the misfit coming good and the message about accepting who you are and the strength of family, along with the obligatory bodily function gags, older members of the audience can have fun spotting the pop culture puns, among them nods to The Shining and, ahem, Jon Hamm.

Fitfully rather than consistently amusing as it wings its way to the big action sequence as the birds attack the pig city and Leonard’s citadel, it’s well animated and entertaining enough for a flutter, though having seen a mommy bird regurgitating into her chicks’ paper bags,  some kids might be well put off taking lunch boxes to school. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch,  Star City)

 

Barbershop: A Fresh Cut (12A)

barrberSomething of an unexpected threequel, this new visit to the Chicago barbers finds it now catering for both sexes,  Calvin (Ice Cube)  and his staff, Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) among them, looking after the men while the newly installed Angie (Regina Hall) and her team, which includes Terri (Eve), cater to the women. As before, the film mixes comedy and comment, and while the previous film concerned urban gentrification, this one looks at the problem of urban gang warfare. Indeed, appointments have to be scheduled so rival gangs don’t come in for a cut on the same day.

It’s not just out on the streets, the problem also hits close to home with Calvin concerned that his teenage son (Michael Rainey Jr) in trouble at school,  may be about to join a gang. Calvin’s considering relocating to a safer neighbourhood, thereby setting up the film’s theme as to whether you stay and try and make things better or leave and let everything go to hell. So, he declares a 48-hour truce in the neighbourhood and offers free haircuts for the weekend in an attempt to fix things.

Along with returning cast members such as Anthony Anderson (now running food-truck business Gangsta Grub) and Sean Patrick Thomas, there also new blood in the shape of R&B star Nicki Minaj and rapper Common as, respectively, Angie’s employee Draya  and Rashed, who’s married to Terri (Eve), the co-worker she has eyes on, as well as J. B. Smoove as wheeler-dealer One-Stop, Lamorne Morris as the nerdy Jerrod, who everyone thinks is gay, and  Utkarsh Ambudkar as Raja, an  Indian haircutter whose speciality is  “the Lupita”.

Although there’s a political aspect (with Reggie Brown appearing as President Obama), it is, essentially, played for the laughs  and, as such, delivers a suitably trim restyling.  (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West

The Boss (15)

the bossMelissa McCarthy can be very funny, but sometimes this is in spite of the material. Case in point here, a new, unnecessarily foul-mouthed comedy in which she plays Michelle Darnell, a Trump-like celebrity entrepreneur and motivational speaker with abandonment issues (she was raised in an orphanage) who, stitched up by her tycoon former-lover Renault, née Robert (a hammy Peter Dinklage) after screwing him in a deal, is locked up for insider trading and emerges from prison a few months later to find herself broke and homeless. So, she imposes herself on single mom former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and her tweenage daughter  Rachel (Ella Anderson), while she tries to get back on top. When she takes Rachel to her youth group and discovers they’ve been making money flogging cookies, given that Claire makes great brownies, Michelle forms her own troop, Darnell’s Darlings, going into partnership with Claire and taking to the streets selling brownies, by any means necessary, sparking  a turf war run-in with Rachel’s old group that turns into a full-on street battle. Meanwhile, still burning for revenge, Renault has his eye on the business.

An unlikeable manipulator who uses  her sharp tongue and vicious wit to belittle and humiliate people in order to keep any emotional attachments at a distance, needless to say, the plot’s programmatic sentimentality  sees her realising her mistake and looking to repair broken relationships, including with her mentor (Kathy Bates). The problem is that, while there some hilarious moments, the level of wit is mostly centred around endless references to blow jobs. By the time it gets to the last act’s bungled heist and rooftop samurai sword fight, it’s clear that inspiration and imagination have left the building.

Darnell is actually based on an earlier character McCarthy created during her stint with Los Angeles comedy troupe, The Groundlings, and you can’t help feeling that the film is just an extended sketch with considerably more swearing. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC;  Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Vue Star City)

Captain America: Civil War (12A)  Echoing  Batman v Superman’s concerns over the collateral damage resulting from battle between  super beings as well as thoughtful reflection on whether the worth of one individual outweighs the greater good, the latest addition to the unfolding Avengers-related saga is the best yet. Opening with a 1991 prologue involving Hydra turning Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) into the Winter Soldier and his subsequent attack on a car to steal its mysterious contents, which proves to have far reaching resonances for one of the major characters as the plot unfolds,  things switch to Lagos where Captain America (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the Scarlet Witch, (Elizabeth Olson) have tracked down Crossbones, who escaped at the end of The Winter Soldier. In the ensuing battle, several innocent bystanders are killed, prompting the US Secretary of State (William Hurt) to inform The Avengers that they have to agree to be brought  under the jurisdiction of the United Nations. Weighed down by guilt over events in Age of Ultron, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) agrees, Steve Rogers, however, is adamant they need to have the independence to act and refuses.

Battle lines are quickly drawn when an attack on the UN building during the signing kills the King of Wakanda and footage implicates Barnes in the bombing, though it transpires he’s been framed by vengeance-seeking villain Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). With orders to take him down, Captain America decides it’s his responsibility to get there first. On the other hand, Wakanda’s Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), otherwise the vibranium-armed Black Panther is determined to avenge his father.

Suffice to say, things end up with Team Captain America, now joined by Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and a starstruck Scott Lang/Ant Man (Paul Rudd) pitched against Iron Man, War Machine, the Black Panther and Vision (Paul Bettany), with Romanoff caught between divided loyalties. Stark also has another ally as Tom Holland make his bow as the new Spider-Man, delivering a nice line in wisecracks.

There is, of course, loads of spectacular action, most notably the slug-fest at an airport that sees a decidedly big change in Lang’s powers, but the heart of the film lies in the emotional muscle it flexes as friendships and responsibilities are put under pressure.  If there’s a flaw it’s the need to repeat Barnes’s Hydra compliance programming to facilitate the third act, but even that has a solid ultimate payoff. Packed with human drama and fully dimensional characters, despite the quips, it’s a sober, serious affair that makes the two plus hours pass quickly and leaves you hungry to see where things move to for The Avengers: Infinity War. (Vue Star City

The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case (15)

conjuring2Firmly established as his generation’s finest horror director, following the Fast and Furious 7, James Wan returns to the genre, reuniting Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real life Catholic demon hunters Lorraine and Ed Warren and, once again, drawing on a true story, here, in 1977, that of the  Hodgson family in Enfield,  the most documented haunting in England.

Opening with a flashback to the case that put the Warrens on the map, the Amityville Horror, Lorraine seeks to find out whether Ronald DeFeo, Jr. was truly possessed, as he claimed, when killed six members of his family. During the séance, Lorraine is confronted by a demon in the form of a tall white-faced nun and has a vision of her husband’s death, before being shocked out of her trance.  Saying nothing, but putting spook hunting on the back burner, she again experiences a vision of the nun and Ed’s death, all the more disturbing since he’s just painted a portrait of the figure. At which point they get a call saying a  family in England could do with their help. Arriving in Enfield, they discover that single  mother  Peggy  Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) and her four children are being tormented by the ghost of an elderly former resident who died in the armchair in the sitting room of their run down council house. He’s particularly focused on 11-year-old Janet (Madison Wolfe), who frequently gets levitated, thrown around and possessed. Needless to say, it’s not long before they too are up their necks in flying furniture, swivelling crosses and the usual haunted house paraphernalia. Naturally, the demon of Lorraine’s vision, proves to have an integral part in the proceedings.

Although Wan adopts the familiar tropes (creaking doors, toys moving of their own accord, brief glimpses, sudden jolts) to serve up the tension, shocks and general feeling of looming dread, he does so with a masterful unsettling effect that never leaves you feeling cheated. At over two hours, it is undeniably too long and overly repetitive, but, O’Connor’s gorlummy accent and Franka Potente’s caricature sceptic  parapsychologist notwithstanding, the performances are strong, Wolfe and Farmiga’s especially so, and there’s a strong an compelling visual energy to it. And, when it finally gets there, the final showdown cranks things up to a suitable climax. There’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but Wan makes it worth seeing again.  (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch)

Gods of Egypt  (12A)

Gods-of-Egypt-Greeted by a  fusillade of scathing reviews, while it might be going against prevailing critical wisdom, I found this rather fun. Sure, it’s cheesy and lacking anything remotely resembling sophisticated storytelling or nuanced acting, but, if you go in expecting something in the manner of Jason and the Argonauts  or Flash Gordon, then there’s much popcorn pleasure to be had.

Set in Ancient Egypt where god and mortals mingle (the former prone to suddenly turning into their mythological forms), Osiris (Bryan Brown) is about to pass on the crown to his playboy son, Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Lord of the Air, when along comes his brother, Set (Gerard Butler), the god of disorder who, pissed off at having to rule the desert while his brother gets all the city perks, swiftly kills Osiris, defeats his nephew,  plucks out his eyes, thereby robbing him of his power to transform, and establishes himself as the new ruler. Taking Horus’ woman, Hathor, the goddess of love, to his bed in the process.

Meanwhile, back in mortal territory, Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a  thief with  little time for the gods, is persuaded by his lover, Zaya (Courtney Eaton), a big Horus fan, to steal back the eyes which Set’s got stored in some booby-trapped vault. Fortuitously, she works for the architect who designed it (Rufus Sewell), so she can furnish the maps. However, while the heist is successful, Zaya ends up dead, leading Bek to strike a deal with the exiled Horus to restore his eye (and help recover the other), if he promises to return her from the underworld. Horus agrees, but neglects to mention that resurrecting the dead isn’t actually possible.

And that’s the basic set-up, the rest of the film revolving round the quest to recover the second eye, which involves enlisting the quite literal know-it-all God of Wisdom, Thoth (Chadwick Boseman), to solve the riddle of the Sphinx and battling an assortment of Set’s underlings while, as part of his plan for world domination,  Set, in turn, despatches his father, Ra (Geoffrey Rush), who lives in a sort of orbiting space station where’s he’s constantly fending off some beast that wants to devour the  (flat) Earth. Naturally, it all ends with Set and Horus, transforming into the deity incarnations, finally going head to head.

Director Alex Proyas (I Robot) enthusiastically trowels on the action and effects (when gods bleed, they bleed liquid gold) to glorious kitsch excess, the cast rising to the occasion to deliver dialogue like “Give me my eyes!” with gleefully knowing  winks. Ok, much of the film is just a repetitive series of fights and chases, and, when you get down to it, it is, frankly all rather silly. But big grin fun all the same. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch,  Star City)

The Jungle Book (PG) Directed by Jon Favreau, Disney deliver a visually spectacular live action version of their iconic 1967 animation. Featuring impressive newcomer Neel Sethi as pretty much the only human on screen, it combines Kipling’s original book (the Water Truce appears here) with much-loved elements from the animation, including Baloo – voiced by Bill Murray –singing The Bare Necessities and, splendidly voiced by Christopher Walken, King Louie, here the last surviving Gigantopithecus, bringing a sense of menace to I Wanna Be Like You. The story, should you need reminding, tells how, having been found in the jungle by Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the panther, and raised by wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), the animals have to keep Mowgli safe from the one-eyed human-hating tiger, Shere-Khan (Idris Elba), and python Kaa (a brief but memorable and chilling turn by Scarlett Johannson) and return him to the human world.

Jumping straight in with its mix of tension and action as Mowgli, racing through the jungle canopy,  initially appears to be trying to outrun a wolf pack intent on bringing him down, the film combines humour, emotional clout  and scares (some of the scenes centred around King Louie may be a bit intense for younger eyes) in equal measure.

Sethi makes for a winning screen presence, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the scene stealers here are a magnificently laid back Bill Murray as a slacker Baloo and Walken’s raspy-voiced, mafioso-like King Louie who wants the man-cub to give him the secret of man’s red flower. They, like the other talking animals are so incredibly photorealistic you’d swear they were flesh and blood, Shere-Khan being a particular triumph of detail. Likewise the digital creation of the lush jungle is breathtaking, all the more given the whole film was shot inside a building in Los Angeles.

If you’re being picky, then some of the contemporary dialogue (“you’re kidding, right”, says Mowgli) doesn’t gel with the setting, but that’s a very minor niggle in a very terrific film. (Empire Great Park; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Showcase Walsall)

 

Me Before You (12A)

meA Brit take on the Nicholas Sparks school of doomed romance, Thea Sharrock’s adaptation of  Jojo Moyes’  bestseller benefits greatly from the effervescent presence of  Emilia Clarke as twenty-something Louisa Clark who, after losing her job at her small seaside town café, becomes  carer and companion to Will (Sam Claflin), the son of a  wealthy family living at a country house, who, following an   accident, has gone from high flying financier to a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, paralysed from the neck down.

Understandably somewhat bitter, Will isn’t the most sociable of folk, but, predictably, Emily’s enthusiasm and sweetness melt the frosty condescension  and even get him to laugh. Although Emily’s already got a triathlon-obsessed boyfriend (Matthew Lewis), the friendship between her and Will slowly turns   to something more, particularly when Will’s ex turns up with his best friend to announce they’re getting married.

There is, however, a major spoke in the wheel in that Will promised to give his parents (Charles Dance, Janet McTeer) six months before checking into Dignitas to put an end to what he sees as a life not worth the living.  So can Emma persuade him to change his mind.

Since the trailer pretty much gives away the entire plot, you’ already know that’s not to be, but the journey to the foregone tear-stained conclusion is nonetheless sweetly engaging as she gives him at least a temporary reason to live and he awakens her to  new possibilities and horizons. Although the support cast, which includes Jenna Coleman as Emma’s sister, Katrina,  have little to do, Claflin exudes charisma without having to move a muscle (or at  least very few of them) while Clarke is an irrepressible force of sunshine optimism.  (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull; Electric; Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Everyman; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza; Reel; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch,  Star City)

 

Money Monster (15) Jodie Foster’s latest directorial outing is another swipe at  wheeler dealer corporates and how their financial machinations can impact on the ordinary man in the street. George Clooney stars as titular fast-paced TV financial programme presenter Lee Gates, a slick talking, ego-driven showman who uses dance routines, costumes, sound effects and film clips to spark up his stock market tips. On his latest show he’s talking about how Ibis Clear Capital, a company he’d bigged up, has somehow managed to lose $800 million of capital overnight through what they’re calling a computer glitch. He wants to interview their CEO, Walt Camby (Dominic West) to get a clearer explanation, but Camby’s off in one of his private jets and no one know where he is. Least of all the company’s head of PR, Diane Lester (Caitriona Balfe), who’s been roped in as stand in for what will be basically be a non-probing puff piece

With  Gates’s long-standing director Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) in the control room, everything’s going as normal. Until she spots a figure lurking behind the scenery. This turns out to be Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a delivery man who followed Gates’s advice and  invested the $60,000 left him by his mom in Ibis and has now lost the lot. He wants explanations too. Except he intends to get them with a gun and forcing Gates to wear a vest laden with enough Semtex to take out the entire studio.

And so, with the cameras still rolling and Fenn talking things through via Grants’ ear piece, the whole thing goes out live, as Lee variously tries to use logical argument and his charm on Kyle, inevitably making things worse, while, negotiation proving a no go, the cops try to get into position to take a shot. However, as the stand-off continues, information starts coming in to the studio that the computer glitch might in fact be a smokescreen for  “human fingerprints.”

Playing  out in pretty much real time, Foster keeps the tension tight, but also allows room for humour, most hilariously where the police set up a feed with Kyle’s pregnant girlfriend (Emily Meade) that decidedly does not go as they assumed.

Quite possibly the result of having three screenwriters, it’s at times a little disjoined with some shorthand plot notes and creaky  contrivances such as stoner Icelandic hackers to facilitate the unearthing of corporate malfeasance. The transition from the studio to a Wall Street showdown also somewhat deflates the tension and the ending is an inevitable given, but, while hardly in the same biting satire league as The Big Short, it delivers highly watchable entertainment along with a sizeable side-helping of wish-fulfilment. (Vue Star City)

Mother’s Day (12A)

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Following Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, this is Gary Marshall’s third  sentimental romcom based around an annual celebration. As before, it features multiple interconnected plot lines and characters as everyone prepares to celebrate all things mumsy. However, this time round, it lacks the engagement, spark, warmth and poignancy of its predecessors, resulting in the near two hours feeling stretched remarkably thin.

The best thing here is Jennifer Aniston as Sandy, an Atlanta divorcee with two young sons who is shocked to find her ex-husband (Timothy Olyphant), with whom she remains on good terms, has remarried to a twentysomething sexpot (Shay Mitchell) whom she resents as being her kids’ new mom.  Sandy is best friends with Jesse (Kate Hudson) who is married to Indian doctor Russell (Aasif Mandvi), has a young boy, and lives next door to her sister, Gabi (Sarah Chalke), who is engaged to Steve. Or at least that’s what she’s told their parents, Flo (Margo Martindale) and Earl Robert Pine). In fact she’s gay and has a wife called Max (Cameron Esposito), along with an adopted son, and mom and dad are redneck homophobic racists. Which is also why they don’t know about Jesse’s family and Russell thinks they’re both in a dementia home. But, hey, they’ve decided to drive across state for a surprise visit. You can pretty much write what happens next yourself.

Then there’s recently widowed Bradley (Jason Sudeikis), who doesn’t feel much like celebrating mother’s day (mom, a home movie cameo by Jennifer Garner, was a marine), much to the pain of his two daughters, Rachel and Vicky. The final strand concerns English wannabe stand-up Zack (Jack Whitehall) who wants to marry his girlfriend Kristin (Britt Robertson), with whom he has a baby daughter, but she’s got cold feet on account of being adopted. She knows who her birth mother is, but has never had the courage to confront her. However, since this happens to be home shopping network star and self-professed childless Miranda (Julia Roberts in), who’s visiting Atlanta on a book signing (and for whom Sandy’s been invited to submit a new set design), it’s probably time to introduce herself.

Everything plays out exactly as expect, even if not always convincingly (exposed to the grandchildren, Flo and Earl pretty much reconstruct themselves overnight) in a screenplay that variously involves a wedding, a medical emergency and a runaway vehicle. There are a few laughs, mostly involving Aniston, and a last act assault on the tear ducts, but far too much is coastingly flat, even resorting to poorly staged slapstick,  the casting of Hector Elizondo as Miranda’s manager reminding how much sharper Marshall (and indeed Roberts) was with Pretty Woman.  (Vue Star City)

The Nice Guys (15) An inspired pairing of  a top form Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, as written and directed by Shane Black, set in 1977 Los Angeles (soundtracked to the likes of Earth Wind & Fire and an extended riff on the opening to Papa Was A Rolling Stone), this combines the hard boiled noir and corruption/conspiracy/cover up  of L.A. Confidential or Chinatown with the wisecrack banter  of such mismatched buddy cop movies as 48 Hrs or Black’s own Lethal Weapon.

Crowe is Jackson Healy, a burly bordering on overweight enforcer who’ll take a few bucks to persuade people to stay away from other people, and Gosling is Holland March, a former cop turned earnest but not entirely effective low rent private eye whose wife’s death has left him with a guilt hang up, a drink problem and a disapproving, feisty 13-year-old daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) who, it turns out, is probably smarter than the two of them together.

Their paths cross in the case of Amelia (Margaret Qualley), March trying to track her down, Healy warning him not to.  March has been hired by the mother of porn star Misty Mountains, killed in the opening spectacular scene as her car flies off a road and through a house, but who she’s convinced she saw two days after her death. He’s persuaded that the woman in question was actually Amelia, an activist with a group protesting over a car manufacture’s pollution and, as it later turns out, the missing daughter of  Department of Justice bigwig Judith Kuttner (Crowe’s LA Confidential co-star Kim Basinger). It appears that she and her boyfriend made an ‘experimental’ film designed to reveal high level corruption, and now the boyfriend is dead and anyone else connected with the film, which was supposedly destroyed in a fire, seems to be going the same way.

So, when Healy’s involvement is changed from preventing Amelia being found to tracking her down and keeping her safe, the two guys become reluctant partners in a plot that bounces between murder scenes, gunfights, drunken misadventures, Boogie Nights-style parties and intimate confessionals, neither of them quite having a firm grip on what’s going on or what they’re doing. Meanwhile, there’s a cold blooded killer by the name of John Boy (cue Waltons gags) also on Amelia’s trail, with a rather more deadly agenda.

A guilty popcorn pleasure that’s as hilarious as it is often violent, it plays the noir storyline straight, but still has a knowing glint of self-awareness in its eye as it embraces the genre clichés, liberally punctuating it with brilliantly timed gleeful physical comedy such as the scene as Gosling attempts to hold open a toilet cubicle door with his gun and pull up his trousers while having a conversation with Crowe. Hopefully a franchise awaits. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Everyman; MAC;  Odeon Broadway Plaza; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch,  Star City)

Tale of Tales (15)

tale 2Italian director Matteo Garrone makes his English language debut with a bizarre intertwined compendium of dark fairy tales and folk myths from the 16th-century collection of one  Giambattista Basile, three stories (The Enchanted Doe, The Flea and The Flayed Old Lady) linked by a reflection on the foolishness that power can bring.

Set in a medieval somewhere, it opens with the queen (Salma Hayek), unable to  conceive, consulting a  mysterious necromancer who advises her and her husband (John C Reilly) that she can have a child if she consumes the heart of a sea monster, cooked by a virgin, but that there will be a price to be paid. This, turns out to be the king’s death  in the slaying of the beast. Nevertheless, after eating the heart, the queen duly gives birth that night, her son growing to become the albino prince Elias (Christian Lees). However, having inhaled the fumes, the servant girl too has a child, Elias’s identical twin Jonah (Jonah Lees). The boys become friends, but the queen forbids her son to play with a commoner, laying the ground for another eventual sacrifice.

Meanwhile in an adjoining kingdom, after hearing her sing, the debauched  sex addict king (Vincent Cassel) becomes obsessed with bedding what he’s convinced is some virginal teen. In fact, she’s Dora (Hayley Carmichael), a  wizened hag  who lives in a squalid cottage with her equally wizened sister Imma (Shirley Henderson). Sensing an opportunity, Dora agrees to sleep with the king, provided it’s in complete darkness. Needless to say, he discovers the deception and has her thrown out of the window, However, instead of falling to her death, she’s rescued by yet another mysterious stranger who transforms her into a beautiful young woman (Stacy Martin) who, ultimately, becomes queen. However, her youth and new status sends her sister on a downward spiral into madness as she takes rather drastic means to try and rejuvenate her skin too.

The third tale involves a king (a terrific Toby Jones) who becomes obsessed with a  flea, feeding it until it becomes giant-sized, neglecting his daughter (Bebe Cave) in the process. When the flea finally dies, the king turns his attention back to Violet, who’s desperate to get married to some brave, strong and handsome charmer. Unwilling to lose her, he arranges a contest he believes to be unwinnable, only to inadvertently end up marrying her off to an ogre, precipitating yet another bloody outcome.

Garrone intercuts between the three stories in a way that underlines their connected threads, producing a visually striking film that is by turns creepy, funny,  tragic, erotic and deranged, conjuring up a melting pot of Monty Python, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll, Gustave Doré and David Cronenberg. Dark, grotesque and transgressive, like the fairy tales on which it is based, it conjures physical, metaphysical and psychological horror to mesmerising and cautionary effect. (Electric)

Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles: Out of the Shadows (12A) What would Vin Diesel do?” wonders one of the Turtles during yet another action sequence. Well, were he sensible he’d probably turn down something like this empty, noisy and narratively-confused sequel of the adventures of the mutated amphibians named after famous Italian painters.

Despite having saved the city, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael are still hiding underground, fearful of being labelled as freaks and monsters. Still, at least arch nemesis Shredder (Brian Tee) is safely under wraps. Or at least he was, until he was freed on his way to prison and escaped through  some sort of portal designed by fame-seeking mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) who’s also engineered a purple ooze that can transform humans into mutated versions of their inner animals, in this case turning moronic  cons Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) into a superstrong – and super stupid – warthog and rhino, respectively. The ooze, of course, might also work in reverse, giving the Turtles, the chance to become human, something Leonardo rejects without, to their anger, consulting either Michalangelo or  Donatello, thereby causing a rift in the team and setting up the skimpy theme of the importance of friendship.  Meanwhile, Shredder’s planning to open some space gateway and bring through Krang, a sort of  betentacled blob of chewing gum living inside an armoured robot, and his world-crushing war-machine.

Assisting the turtles are reporter April O’Neil (the ever vacuous Megan Fox) and former cameraman, Vern (Will Arnett), who, having taken  credit for saving the city now parades around referring to himself as The Falcon. They’re also joined by corrections officer Casey Jones (Steven Amell looking like he wished he was anywhere else), wielding a hockey stick and pucks as weapons.

The whole thing screeches soullessly along, roping in Laura Linney, who inexplicably signed on to play police chief Rebecca Vincent, along the way to a climax plundered from The Avengers as the whole thing collapses into a series of CGI setpieces. It will, of course, at pack in the less discriminating crowds, before being consigned back to the shadows where it belongs. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue Redditch,  Star City)

Warcraft- The Beginning (12A)

8J07_BV050_COMP_149161R_G_SRGB_000000_HRFollowing on from Moon and Source Code, director Duncan Jones takes on the effects  laden, motion capture adaptation of the fantasy videogame for an origin story about the cross-dimensional war between the hulking, tusk-teethed Orcs from Draenor and the humans of Azeroth.

Their world dying, using the life force of their captives, Orc sorcerer  Gul’dan, who commands the mystic power of the Fel, opens a portal between the worlds to send through a war party to take more prisoners and provide enough power for the rest of the Horde to follow. The advance guard includes Wolfrost clan chief Durotan (Toby Kebbells), his pregnant wife, Draka, second-in-command Orgrim Doomhammer and Blackhand (Clancy Brown), who becomes the Horde Warchief.

Pitted against them are widowed Lothar (Travis Fimmel), who commands the armies of Stormwind’s King Lane (Dominic Cooper), Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer, providing light comedic relief), a young magician who’s quit his training to follow his own calling, and Medivh (Ben Foster), a Merlin-like figure who serves as the realm’s Guardian and is himself being tainted by the Fel. Following an initial battle, they’re subsequently joined by Orc-Draenei former slave Garona (Paula Patton) who provides both Lothar’s  romantic interest h and a pivotal role in the film’s climax. Realising that their world  dying is actually down to Gul’dan’s use of the Fel, Durotan proposes an alliance with the humans, inevitably leading to a major fall-out with Blackhand.

While flawed, this is  impressive and involving, balancing bloody combat with character-driven storytelling and moments of humour, tenderness and poignancy.  Although the Orcs are no relation to Tolkien’s, there is much in common with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, while the film also sports the influence of  King Arthur  and Avatar, not to mention the inevitable comparisons with Game of Thrones. By far the best videogame adaptation yet, it looks amazing, the pace and drama never flag and the cast deliver performances appropriate to the genre, the final moments setting things up for a sequel worth waiting for. (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Broadway Plaza, West Brom; Showcase Walsall; Vue  Star City)

 

When Marnie Was There (U) Adapted from a  British ghost story, the latest – and perhaps last –  offering from Japanese hand-drawn animation masters Studio Ghibli, directed by  Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty) this, in both subtitled and dubbed (featuring Hailee Stanfield) versions, tells of Anna, an emotionally distant and friendless  adolescent tomboy who, sent to live with her adoptive grandparents in the country on account of her asthma, becomes obsessed with an  old mansion where she encounters and becomes friends with  the mysterious Marnie. Except the place has been abandoned and empty for years. (Electric- subtitled)

X Men: Apocalypse (12A)

x menPicking things up 10 years after the end of Days Of Future Past, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Hank ‘Beast’ McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) are taking in more gifted students at the Westchester school, among them  Scott ‘Cyclops’ Summers (Tye Sheridan), the brother of Alex (Lucas Till) aka Havok from First Class, and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), the former who emits destructive red beams from his eyes while the latter has mind control powers that rival the professor’s. Meanwhile, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is in East Berlin rescuing mutants like blue-skinned teleporter Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) while Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has gone to ground, working in a steel factory in Poland and living a quiet life with his new wife and daughter. All that changes with the awakening of the villain seen in the Ancient Egypt prologue, an immortal dubbed Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) who, later described as the world’s first mutant, is in the process of having his consciousness transferred into a new body when a rebellion against his rule leaves him entombed.

Now finally freed, he’s determined to reshape the world to his vision, wiping away centuries of civilization and any humanity deemed unfit to survive. For this, he needs his traditional four followers, here in the guide of winged mutant Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), with her lethal powerbeam arm, weather-controlling African street orphan Ororo (Alexandra Shipp) and Magneto who, after the tragedy that has befallen his family, has turned back to the dark side

All of which leaves Prof X, Beast, Mystique, the novice new recruits and, making  welcome returns, the speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), the CIA agent and Xavier’s former romance whose memories of their relationship he removed, as the film heads towards yet another bout of mass global destruction.

Directing for the fourth time, Bryan Singer brings a depth of emotion to his flawed characters while also delivering bar-raising set pieces and visual effects.  It does take a while to get up and running, but, once the plot kicks in, the excitement never slacken as it builds to its Phoenix climax. And, of course, there’s also the much anticipated cameo of a certain steel-clawed military experiment known as Weapon X. It’s difficult to see where the X-Men franchise goes from here, having basically come full circle back to where it began, but fans should most definitely see Apocalypse now.   (Cineworld 5 Ways, NEC, Solihull;  Empire Great Park, Sutton Coldfield; Odeon Birmingham, Broadway Plaza, West Brom; 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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