DEN OF THIEVES Cert 15 Running time 140 minutes Stars 3

An increasingly beefy Gerard Butler rips into his role as a sleazy Los Angeles cop in this effective action heist thriller.

If you’re in the right mood the Scots actor can turn any old nonsense into entertainment, and thankfully his material here is a cut above his previous outing in the all-round disaster movie, Geostorm.

He’s hunting a crew of former marines turned ruthless bank robbers who are led by Pablo Schreiber. They’ve muscled O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s barman into being their getaway driver in a plan to steal $30million from the only LA bank which has never been robbed.

Among the deafening shoot-outs, well staged action and a great deal of toxic machismo, there are conflicted loyalties and muddled morality, with the cops boasting of being worse than the bad guys and the thieves enjoying loving family lives.

There’s no lack of ambition but it fails in comparison with its biggest influence, Michael Mann’s 1995 crime classic, Heat.





JOURNEY’S END Cert 12A Running time 107 minutes Stars 4

Salute the sacrifice of First World War soldiers with this wonderfully acted and sobering account of comradeship in the trenches.

A hundred years after the events, this fifth film adaptation of Simon Reade’s play is far from revolutionary. However the attention to detail is so good you can almost smell the trench foot, mustard gas and dead rats.

We bunker down in the cramped wooden mess of the officers of ‘C’ company, presumably so the camera doesn’t get wet outside along with the rank and file.

Ahead of a new German offensive and barely 60 yards from the enemy guns, Asa Butterfield, Sam Claflin and Paul Bettany are some of the posh actors trying to survive.  

In this earnest expression of horror and fear, it’s not just the nerves which are shot to pieces.

There’s much stiff upper lip talk of putting on a good show. And this very fine British film certainly does just that.





LAST FLAG FLYING Cert 15 Running time 125 minutes Stars 4

Hit the road for a funeral in the company of three impeccably crafted characters.

With honest chemistry, mournful perception and tremendous ability, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston play three former Vietnam war soldiers who reunite in 2003.

As Carell wrestles with the US government for ownership of his late son’s corpse, his companions squabble for influence over the grieving man’s soul.

A strength of Texan director and writer Richard Linklater is his never being afraid of making his characters at times unlikeable.

Moments of black comedy brings shade to the script’s deep sadness and humanity, and though strongly anti-war and anti-authority, this is a salute to comradeship and finding dignity and honour in the service of others.

This is an unofficial sequel to Hal Ashby’s 1973 drama The Last Detail, which saw Jack Nicholson Oscar nominated for best actor. And though the names have been changed, it’s interesting to see Cranston’s take on the same role.

12 STRONG Cert 15 Running time 130 minutes Stars 3

Mount up for action with Chris Hemsworth in this impressively staged real life war movie.

The Thor star saddles up as the leader of a dozen special forces soldiers who ride horseback into Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attack on the twin towers.

It’s a covert operation, and with military intelligence being what it is, only one of them knows how to ride. 

With a forward operating base nicknamed The Alamo, this feels as if it’s a western armed with automatic rifles.

They’re on a mission to assist local warlord take a strategically important city. In the grand tradition of General Custer, they find themselves outnumbered 5000-1 and facing missile launchers and tanks.

There are shades of Lawrence of Arabia as Hemsworth leads the locals’ charge into battle, but he’s no Peter O’Toole and Danish director Nicolai Fuglsig is certainly no David Lean.

There’s probably a really good thaddle Thor joke in here somewhere, put I just can’t seem to find it.

Though the action scenes are bloodily effective, the pace never manages to gallop.


MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE Cert 12A Running time 142 minutes Stars 2

Slog your way through the  pedestrian third and final episode of this meandering sci-fi adventure.

Conceived as male-orientated cash-in on Jennifer Lawrence’s wildly successful Hunger Games series, it’s set in a ravaged future where an incurable disease has shattered civilisation and created a race of rabid zombies.

Having escaped the lethal maze of the title, our immune merry band of photogenic outlaws have to break into the remaining city of a totalitarian regime, to rescue one of their own.

There’s a nifty train heist in a well constructed and exciting pre-title sequence, but it’s a misleading advert for the grind which follows.

Due to a serious on-set accident to lead hunk Dylan O’Brien, there’s been a three year gap since the previous episode.

Given the fickle nature of its young adult target audience and a longer than intended wait, it will be interesting if anyone still cares.

By the time this remarkably unmemorable marathon was over, I certainly didn’t.


EARLY MAN Cert PG Running time 88 minutes Stars 4

English football is stuck in the dark ages in this deliriously daft family animation.

The makers of Wallace and Gromit return to the big screen with a pre-historic adventure, created in their trademark clay model characters and traditional stop-motion technique. 

From the kick off it’s filled with their familiar combination of slapstick, puns and glorious attention to detail.

determinedly populist plot pits the local underdogs versus wealthy European sophisticates in a game of football.

Caveman Dug and his tribe are captured by a Bronze Age invaders, and only by agreeing to a football match can Dug’s tribe win their freedom.

Dug has to train his agricultural inclined players to work as a team, relying on hard work and heart, rather than those suspicious innovations of skill and tactics.

Exploitative foreign administrators and gloating Germanic players come in for some harsh treatment, and the way bad guys have used their mineral wealth to find a team of high maintenance mercenary foreign players will not be lost on fans of the beautiful game.

And there’s no escaping the gentrification of the game, with the principal players being voiced by posh actors Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston, while working class Johnny Vegas is pushed firmly to the back of the team.

From the beginning scene featuring a homage to the stop motion masterpieces of filmmaker Ray Harryhausen, this is is a riot of references to British film history and terrace culture.

So the famous words of commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme mingle with nods to Terry Gilliam and Gregory’s Girl. 

There’s a return to the directors chair for four time Oscar winner Nick Park, it’s his first feature film since the wonderful 2005’s Wallace And Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Another rabbit features prominently here, and despite some close shaves, no animals were harmed in the making of this movie.



DOWNSIZING Cert 15 Running time 135 minutes Stars 2

A diminished Matt Damon runs in ever decreasing circles in this ponderous sci-fi satire.

The Bourne Identity star gives a pleasantly guileless performance as occupational therapist, Paul.

To solve financial worries, he signs up to be shrunk to five inches tall and live in an experimental community. However the reality of his gilded existence is not exactly as it says in the brochure.

It’s consistent in tone, well designed and acted, but over long, patronising and only intermittently entertaining.

And as in his previous two films 2011’s The Decendents and 2013’s Nebraska, writer and director Alexander Payne offers plenty of disdain for the working class, portraying them as fat, lazy, stupid and drunk.

Nor is the film’s premise isn’t as original as it thinks, being considerably less exciting than the 1957 classic The Incredible Shrinking Man, and a lot less fun than 1989’s huge hit, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Out on Wednesday.



THE COMMUTER Cert 15 Running time 104 minutes Stars 4

Rattle along with Liam Neeson in this express thriller.

Including 2014’s entertaining airline action movie, Non-Stop, it’s the grizzled Irishman’s fourth film with Spanish director, Jaume Collet-Serra.

With knowing nods to work of Alfred Hitchcock, a keen sense of paranoia underpins the hefty leading man performance, whistle stop storytelling and knuckle cracking fist fights.

Neeson plays Mike, a newly unemployed insurance salesman taking the train home to his loving wife and family.

Vera Farmiga is the glamorous femme fatale who offers to pay Mike $100,000 to find a fellow passenger, but won’t say why.

She’s part of a criminal conspiracy which pits society’s little guys against each other in a desperate duel in the pursuit of cash.

Following this pointed critique of capitalism, the script argues there are more noble contributions to be made to society than living life as a wage slave.

Add in some terrific popcorn thrills and it makes for a very tasty ticket.

COCO Cert PG Running time 105 minutes Stars 4

There’s plenty of snap, crackle and pop in Pixar’s latest animated family adventure.

Bursting with warmth and life it’s a musical feast of fun celebrating the Mexican feast of the day of the dead.

When twelve year old Miguel ignores his family’s wishes, he’s accidentally transported to the land of the dead, a mesmerising neon wonderland.

In grave danger, Miguel must find a way back to land of the living before sunrise or be stuck there forever. 

Miguel is helped on his journey by a goofy spirit guide called Dante, and Hector, a skeletal guitar player.

Music and memory are mixed in the magical song Remember Me, totally in tune the film’s message of remembering and respecting our forebears.

One of many elements paying respectful homage to Mexican culture, contributing to Coco becoming the country’s biggest box office hit.

And Pixar’s family fun continues in June, with the super-powered sequel, The Incredibles 2.


THE POST Cert 12A Running time 116 minutes Stars 5

Steven Spielberg delivers another first class parcel of entertainment with this cunningly constructed real life political thriller.

A prelude to the 1972 Watergate scandal, it sees a newspaper uncover damning evidence the US government knew from a very early stage the Vietnam war could not be won. 

Known as The Pentagon Papers, President Nixon demands the documents remain  classified information and goes to war with the press. 

Tom Hanks stars as Ben Bradlee, defiant editor of the venerable newspaper, The Washington Post. He makes a great double act with Meryl Streep stars as Kay Graham, his inexperienced socialite publisher.

Together they risk their careers, prison, and the existence of the newspaper, to defend their constitutional rights.

And it’s Streep who owns the film, delicately essaying a woman slowly recognising the iron lady within herself. Having won Oscars for lesser performances such as her portrait of Margaret Thatcher, it’s astonishingly the three times Oscar winner been snubbed for the major awards so far.

With a further seventeen nominations under her belt, it’s Streep’s first collaboration with Spielberg, compared to Hanks’ fourth.

With Spielberg’s 31st full theatrical feature being such a marvellously assured affair, it’s all too easy to take the maestro’s elegant filmmaking for granted.

Elevating a straightforward script and setting about his business with diligence and well-honed economy, the worlds greatest living director calls on his years of expertise and craftsmanship to create a timely call to arms against unaccountable governance.

And under the cover of the macho posturing between the White House and the press, Spielberg and his conspirators smuggle in a quietly rousing and inspirational account of female empowerment and emerging self awareness.

I was in inky fingered hot metal heaven watching the majestic printing presses grumble into action. There is a wonderful throw away gag about sub editors which was lost on the non-print journalists in my screening, and the ‘primitive’ technology on show may fascinate, bemuse or terrify online hacks.

A nomination for the Producers Guild of America for best film tells us this is still in the running for the biggest Academy Award, and on Oscar night there’s no reason why this thoroughbred film can’t be first past the post.