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Now showing at Odeon Taunton Heron Gate, Riverside,Taunton,Somerset TA1 2LP 0871 224 4007

  • Big Hero 6
  • Birdman
  • Fifty Shades Of Grey
  • Focus
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Mr Turner
  • Selma (Subtitled)
  • Shaun The Sheep Movie
  • The Boy Next Door
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • The Theory Of Everything
  • The Wedding Ringer
  • Whiplash

Big Hero 6 4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

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Birdman 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Fifty Shades Of Grey 3 stars

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

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Focus 3 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

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Kingsman: The Secret Service 3 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Mr Turner 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Selma (Subtitled) 4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Shaun The Sheep Movie 4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

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The Boy Next Door 2 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

The Grand Budapest Hotel 5 stars

movie title

Zero Moustafa secures a coveted position as lobby boy at one of Europe's most celebrated establishments, the Grand Budapest Hotel, working underneath legendary concierge Gustave H. He lavishes physical and emotional affection on the customers, including ageing matriarch Madame D. When she perishes in suspicious circumstances and leaves a priceless Renaissance painting entitled Boy With Apple to Gustave in her will, grief-stricken relatives plot to bring down the concierge.

  • GenreAction, Comedy, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance
  • CastF Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Tony Revolori, Bill Murray.
  • DirectorWes Anderson.
  • WriterWes Anderson.
  • CountryUS/Ger
  • Duration100 mins
  • Official sitewww.grandbudapesthotel.com
  • Release07/03/2014

When Wes Anderson is good, he's very good - dare I say it, brilliant - and when he's occasionally off-key, the Texan writer-director still puts other filmmakers in the shade. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a tour-de-force of invention and creativity that leaves no narrative stone unturned in its quest for laughs and heartfelt emotion.

Anderson is in sparkling form, tracing the history of the titular establishment from 1932 to the present day through the eyes of two lovers, who become embroiled in a madcap crime caper involving a stolen painting.

It's a brilliantly bonkers ensemble comedy from a filmmaker who marries quirky production design with eccentric characters and wry humour, yet still manages to find a nub of humanity in every outlandish situation.

Anderson marshals an incredible cast including regular collaborators Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, plus he teases out an uproarious and energetic performance from Ralph Fiennes as the suave protagonist at the centre of the mystery.

The British actor's comic timing is impeccable. Nightmares conjured by his portrayals of Amon Goeth in Schindler's List or Voldemort in the Harry Potter saga are banished forever.

A neat framing device introduces Zero Moustafa (Tony Tevolori), who secures a coveted position as lobby boy at one of eastern Europe's celebrated establishments, the Grand Budapest Hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka. Zero works under legendary concierge Gustave H (Fiennes), who the lobby boy fondly remembers as "the most liberally perfumed man I've ever met".

Clients, especially older women, are putty in Gustave's well-manicured hands and he lavishes them with affection, including ageing matriarch Madame D (Tilda Swinton).

When she perishes in suspicious circumstances and leaves a priceless Renaissance painting entitled Boy With Apple to Gustave in her will, grief-stricken relatives including Madame's greedy son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) plot the concierge's downfall.

The finger of suspicion for Madame D's demise points at Gustave and he goes on the run with wily police chief Henckels (Edward Norton) and Dmitri's sadistic henchman (Willem Dafoe) in hot pursuit.

With the continent changing at frightening speed, Gustave and accomplice Zero attempt to outwit their pursuers and prove the concierge's innocence, aided by a pretty baker's assistant called Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).

The Grand Budapest Hotel offers audiences a luxurious five-star stay inside Anderson's vision. Every frame is beautifully crafted, set to a jaunty score by composer Alexandre Desplat.

If Fiennes is a revelation in a rare comedic role, supporting performances are equally memorable including Swinton's cranky grand dame and Jeff Goldblum's ill-fated lawyer.

Bookmarked into five chapters, the narrative twists and turns at delirious speed. "The plot thickens, so they say. Why? Is it a soup metaphor?" wonders Gustave aloud as the truth about Madame D's death comes into focus - and we lap up every sublime soupy metaphor with gusto.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

The Imitation Game 4 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 4 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

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The Theory Of Everything 4 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday 5th March 2015

The Wedding Ringer 3 stars

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Tax attorney Doug Harris is two weeks shy of marrying fiancee Gretchen at a lavish ceremony masterminded by flamboyant wedding planner Edmundo. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any close male friends to be his best man. The lovable loser seeks help from Jimmy Callahan, owner of The Best Man Inc. For 50,000 US dollars, Jimmy will adopt the identity of Doug's fictitious pal and recruit seven bogus groomsmen to complement Gretchen's gaggle of bridesmaids.

  • GenreComedy, Romance
  • CastKaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Josh Gad, Kevin Hart, Ken Howard, Cloris Leachman, Mimi Rogers, Olivia Thirlby.
  • DirectorJeremy Garelick.
  • WriterJeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration101 mins
  • Official sitewww.sonypictures.com/movies/theweddingringer/
  • Release20/02/2015

It is supposed to be the happiest day of a couple's life but a wedding is seldom the stress-free parade of well-behaved children, appropriate jokes, sobriety and family harmony promised by glossy bridal magazines. A single delay or mishap can become a wrecking ball that demolishes months of meticulous and expensive preparation.

And just when it seems the worst is over and everyone can draw breath, the best man nervously stands up, microphone clasped in a sweaty palm, to deliver a speech which is supposed to be the crowning glory of the toasts. It's only then you realise that one man's Dutch courage is another's alcohol poisoning.

The Wedding Ringer is a sweet-natured yet highly improbable buddy comedy of errors, which walks down the aisle with one hapless groom, who enlists professional help to ensure he gets the best best man for his beautiful blushing bride.

Tax attorney Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is two weeks shy of marrying fiancee Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) at a lavish ceremony masterminded by flamboyant wedding planner Edmundo (Ignacio Serricchio). As the son of an international tax attorney, who moved the family around the world, Doug never stayed in one place long enough to forge lasting friendships so he has no male companions to support him.

When Gretchen puts Doug on the spot about seating plans, he conjures up a fictitious best man called Bic Mitchum, who is a military priest from North Dakota. The lie weighs heavily on Doug and the lovable loser seeks help from Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner of The Best Man Inc.

For 50,000 US dollars, Jimmy will adopt the identity of the elusive Bic and recruit seven bogus groomsmen - Reggie (Affion Crockett), Lurch (Jorge Garcia), Bronstein (Dan Gill), Otis (Corey Holcomb), Fitzgibbons (Colin Kane), Kip (Alan Ritchson) and Endo (Aaron Takahashi) - to complement Gretchen's gaggle of bridesmaids.

As the big day approaches, Jimmy goes into charm overdrive to fool Gretchen's parents (Ken Howard, Mimi Rogers), sister (Olivia Thirlby) and grandmother (Cloris Leachman) and deliver Doug the wedding he deserves.

Written in broad strokes by director Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender, The Wedding Ringer raises one glass to male bonding and another to mawkish sentiment, sloshing contrivances in every direction. The unlikely central pairing of Hart and Gad, who voiced Olaf the self-deluded snowman in Frozen, occasionally sparkles.

Hart dials down his manic showmanship a notch or two and Gad oozes natural likability as a loner who can't believe he has landed the girl of his dreams. The script neatly jilts one garish stereotype at the altar but Garelick's film is amicably divorced from reality and evidently lost custody of the three-dimensional characters. For better or worse, The Wedding Ringer falls short of matrimonial bliss.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Whiplash 5 stars

movie title

Nineteen-year-old Andrew Neiman is determined to be the top drummer at his music conservatory. So he practices night and day and catches the eye of the school's most revered and feared teacher, Terence Fletcher, who is well known for terrorising students that don't meet his idea of perfection. Soon after, Fletcher requests that Andrew transfers into his class and he becomes the alternate drummer. When the opportunity arises for Andrew to prove himself, he rises to the occasion.

  • GenreDrama, Film, Musical, Romance
  • CastMelissa Benoist, Miles Teller, Paul Reiser, JK Simmons, Austin Stowell.
  • DirectorDamien Chazelle.
  • WriterDamien Chazelle.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration106 mins
  • Official sitewww.sonyclassics.com/whiplash/
  • Release16/01/2015

The fresh paint of 2015 has barely dried and already we have a strong contender for the film of the year. Inspired by writer-director Damien Chazelle's experiences in a fiercely competitive high school jazz band, Whiplash is an electrifying tale of a 19-year-old drummer's bruising battle of wits with his monstrous college tutor.

As the title intimates, pain is acute in Chazelle's lean script that pulls no punches in its depiction of the pursuit of musical excellence, which propels the self-destructive student to the brink of a mental and physical breakdown.

Drumming sequences are edited at a frenetic pace, spattered with the real sweat of lead actor Miles Teller, who performs all of the energy-sapping solos as if his life depended on it. It's a bravura performance complemented by JK Simmons' jaw-dropping portrayal of the foul-mouthed, bullying conductor, who verbally abuses students that fall short of his impossible demands for metronomic and percussive perfection.

Staring at his terrified charges, Simmons' musician-turned-mentor preys upon teenage fears and insecurities, kindling intense rivalry between band members for his own sadistic pleasure. Early in the film, he picks on one nervous trombonist's weight and snarls, "I will not let you cost us a competition because your mind's on a Happy Meal and not on pitch." He's just getting warmed up.

Nineteen-year-old Andrew Neiman (Teller) is determined to excel at his Manhattan music conservatory and avoid the regrets which haunt his writer father (Paul Reiser). So he practises night and day and catches the eye of the school's most revered teacher, Terence Fletcher (Simmons).

Soon after, Andrew transfers to Fletcher's class and becomes the alternate drummer in the band behind lead player Carl (Nate Lang). When the opportunity arises for Andrew to impress, he rises to the occasion but alienates himself from the rest of the band.

A fledgling romance with Nicole (Melissa Benoist), who works at Andrew's local cinema, is sacrificed in a cold, cruel fashion that would have Fletcher smacking his lips with glee. The game of one-upmanship between teacher and pupil spirals out of control as Andrew struggles to meet the lofty expectations of his maniacal mentor and earn the right to play at a concert in the rarefied surroundings of Carnegie Hall.

Whiplash delivers one emotional wallop after another as Andrew practises until his hands bleed and Simmons belittles those herculean efforts by growling, "Is that the fastest you can go? It is no wonder Mommy ran out on you!"

We root for the beleaguered 19-year-old with every display of frenzied stick-work, urging Andrew to wipe the smug grin off Fletcher's face. Our investment in the characters is immense and Chazelle rewards us with an astounding denouement that saps every ounce of energy from our bodies. We're delirious, euphoric and physically spent.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 5th March 2015
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