Cert PG 95mins Stars 4

There’s an acute emotional intimacy to this deliberately downbeat drama based in Oldham’s community of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It’s a religion pretty much all but ignored by cinema and is part of the multi-faith working class town where it’s shot on location with local accents.

At the story’s heart are a trio of wonderfully natural and unsentimental performances, lead by Siobhan Finneran. She plays a devout single mum who struggles to square the demands of her congregational elders with the needs of her young adult daughters, Molly Wright and Sacha Parkinson.

As questions of faith and religion battle family and science, the script by debut director Daniel Kokotajlo is careful to not to condemn the religion and offer an explanation how a middle aged woman finds herself in a rainswept shopping precinct and spreading the word of Jehovah.

Catholicism is dismissed as being as ‘airy-fairy’, which is possibly the nicest comment my religion has received in the history of movies.


Cert PG 114mins Stars 4

Unleash your inner dancing queen and boogie in the glorious sunshine glow of whats’ going to be the smash hit of the summer.

This unashamedly feel good sequel to 2008’s poptastic box office chart buster is another sequinned celebration of sisterly love and the unbreakable bonds of motherhood.

Once again the irresistible platinum-plated pop tunes of ABBA set the tone for this flamboyant escapist fantasy, which sees the original cast reunite in a split storyline which flicks between events now and from twenty five years ago. 

In the present Amanda Seyfried is organising her Greek island hotel’s grand opening night and frets about her relationship with Dominic Cooper, while a deliciously lusty Christine Baranski and a lovelorn Julie Walters banter for space alongisde Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard.

There’s a conspicuous deficit of Meryl Streep as Seyfried’s vivacious screen mother, Donna. However the younger version of the character is played in the earlier timeline by Lily James, and the former Downton star treats us to a barnstorming turn worthy of Streep herself.

Bristling with defiance, optimism and enthusiasm, we see how Donna meets a trio of buff and eager suitors who become responsible for the confusion surrounding her daughters parentage.

All this turning back time sets up a show-stopping singing turn by the ever fabulous Cher. It’s one of many preposterous and crowd-pleasing scenes, my favourite of which is set at sea and best described as Dunkirk with a disco beat.

This brazen and cheerfully loopy sense of fun mingles with heartfelt multi-generational bonding and the pains of summer loving.

Among the barely choreographed mass dance-alongs and ill advised attempts at singing lurks a finger so firmly on the pulse of its intended audience it was rewarded at the packed-out world premiere with an all singing and dancing ovation. 

And if you’re a fan of the first film then you’ll love this second outing just as much as they clearly did.


Cert 15 81mins Stars 3

This brisk low budget British coming of age drama is a nightmarish revenge tragedy which is at times as darkly uncomfortable to watch as the name suggests.

Young Lily Newmark gives a well judged performance full of awkward angles as a teenage girl at at a school trying to fit in with the local mean girls.

Her clumsy attempts are hampered by her shyness and sexual innocence, plus the social inadequacies of her mother, a terrific Joanna Scanlan.

She’s weighed down with a club foot and a hunchback which emphasise the collision of reality and fantasy which lie at the heart of the script, by debut director, Deborah Haywood.

Putting her characters through a wringer of social media betrayal, self harm, alcohol abuse, she maintains our sympathy as the mother and daughter seek refuge in self created fantasies, one of which involves a glamorous air stewardess, played with toothy splendour by former Girls Aloud singer, Nadine Coyle.



Cert 12A 102mins Stars 4

Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson cements his place at the pinnacle  of the Hollywood pile with another hugely entertaining action adventure to follow this year’s Rampage, and the Jumanji sequel.

He plays a former marine injured in a hostage rescue and now wears a prosthetic leg, working as a safety assessor in Hong Kong on the world’s tallest and most hi-tec building.

When a criminal gang set the building on fire, he must swing in to action to save his wife and kids.

The international cast and setting brings maximum appeal to the Chinese cinematic market, now the globes biggest.

There’s no escaping Skyscraper is built on the foundations of 1974 disaster classic The Towering Inferno, and 1988 terrorist thriller, Die Hard, while the tone is peak Arnold Schwarzenegger at his cheesey action best.

It’s an express elevator ride of slick stunts and knowingly preposterous plotting, and as the cast kept commendably straight faces I grinned my way through 220 floors of pure popcorn fun. 




Cert 12A 97mins Stars 3

Dip a big toe into the feel good waters of this very British comedy.

Rob Brydon plays an accountant whose midlife crisis sees him leave his wife and teenage son, and seek refuge in the arms of a synchronised swimming team comprised of middle aged men.

Brought together by the pointlessness of existence, they find themselves unexpectedly competing in the unofficial World championship in Milan.

It’s kept afloat on bubbles of charm by the likeable and familiar cast, which includes Jane Horrocks, Downton’s garrulous Jim Carter, and This Is England’s Thomas Turgoose.

Best in show is Charlotte Riley as the team’s instructor, whose drill sergeant manner is all the more ferocious for using her native Teesside accent.

Oliver Parker’s direction keeps everything fluid, and it’s played in the same tone as his previous work such Dad’s Army and Johnny English Reborn.

So it’s heart is always in the right place, even if the chaps’ arms and legs frequently aren’t.



Cert 15 Stars 4

Yorkshire born writer director, Andrew Haigh, made one of this year’s best indie films with this understated and emotional coming of age drama, based on the novel by Willy Vlautin.

The impressive Charlie Plummer completes his transition from child star to adult actor as Charley, who finds work caring for an ageing racehorse, Lean On Pete. There he meets Chloe Sevigny’s jockey, and Steve Buscemi’s horse trainer.

To save Pete from the slaughterhouse, Charley leads him on a road trip across the US full of hope, heartbreak and adventure in search of a new place to live.




Cert 15 97mins Stars 3

This brisk and effective prequel to the hugely successful horror action trilogy is a typically blood splatting mix of carnage and satire.

It shows how a far right government uses a mass psychological experiment named the ‘purge’, to exploit the anger of social deprivation to cull the poor and so consolidate political power.

When New York’s Staten Island is quarantined and for twelve hours all crime, including murder, is legal, some turn to prayer and others to party.

However it soon becomes a warzone, with violence inflamed by social media, and a drug dealer must run the gauntlet of violence to rescue his former lover. Y’Lan Noel has a muscular charisma as Dmitri, and Lex Scott Davis is dainty but deadly as Nya.

The costume department has great fun creating nightmarish masks and outfits as booby trapped teddy bears and needle gloves are macabre additions to machine pistols and drone warfare.

I doubt this first Purge is the last one.


Cert PG 94min Stars 1

The spirit of Bridget Jones lives on in this madly derivative and disposable shaggy dog story which is very much the runt of the British comedy litter.

Sarah is a London singleton who unexpectedly inherits a pug called Patrick from her wealthy grandmother.

However despite her reluctance and after recovering from a wave of canine chaos, Sarah finds her love life and career improving with Patrick around.

The likeable Beattie Edmondson might be a decent actress when not being asked to do a pale imitation of Renee Zellweger with substandard material.

In real life she’s the daughter of comedians Adrian Edmondson and Jennifer Saunders, with the latter bumbling about on screen as Sarah’s fellow teacher.

Unapologetically influenced by the work of Four Weddings writer, Richard Curtis, there are lots of posh people saying things such as ‘bonkers’ and calling each other ‘pudding’.

It even has the cheek to include a clip from his Notting Hill among all the desperate and predictable nonsense.


Cert PG 113mins Stars 3

I’m never happier than browsing in a bookshop, and this period drama provides plenty of dark corners to lose oneself in.

It’s illuminated by the intelligent and elegant performance of Emily Mortimer, who plays childless war widow, Florence, who’s determined to open a bookshop in a disused house in the snobbery and gossip-ridden fictional fishing village of Hardborough. 

However Patricia Clarkson’s powerfully connected matriarch has longstanding plans for the building and begins an insidious campaign to close the shop.

Bill Nighy brings solemn charm as an eccentric reclusive landowner, and Julie Christie’s opening voice-over helps set a mournful tone and an indicator of the tragic events to follow.

Northern Ireland is a majestic stand-in for 1950’s Suffolk, while the wintery photography, decaying grand houses, and tales of death in the marshes, add to the gothic atmosphere.

Adapted from Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel this is a defence of free thinkers against stifling nonconformists and a passionate love letter to the written word.


Cert 15 122mins Stars 4

There’s a grim foreboding looming over this bone dry sequel to 2015’s scorching crime action thriller.

Once again we’re in thrown in to the vicious warfare on the US Mexican border, contested by Federal agents, police and gangsters, with civilians caught in the crossfire.

Sadly Emily Blunt doesn’t return as she’s too busy making the Mary Poppins sequel which is due at Christmas, and there’s no denying she’s a big miss.

However this allows the brooding charisma of Benicia Del Toro to take centre stage, reprising his role as Alejandro.

The attorney turned assassin is so world weary he no longer celebrates Christmas, but is lured from his hideout in Colombia by the promise of revenge on the cartel boss who murdered his family.

He’s recruited  by a beefy Josh Brolin, who again plays a dark ops CIA agent, now tasked with starting a war between the Mexican cartels in order to shore up the US southern border.

But among the shifting sands of foreign policy, corrupt police elements and rival cartels, Alejandro finds himself protecting the teenage daughter of the man he’s sworn to kill.

Young Isabela Moner is very strong in her role of few words, conveying an inner conflict as she begins to experience the violence through which her fathers wealth is generated.

Scriptwriter Taylor Sheridan is responsible for some of the best thrillers in recent years, such as Wind River, and throws in contemporary concerns into the complex mix of allegiances and motives.

So we see people smuggling, domestic terrorism, drone warfare, African piracy and a great deal of military hardware.

Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski achieves brilliance in his helicopter arial work, and by shovelling dust and dirt over the moral murk, he brings a parched intensity to the intense and bloody action sequences.

And I wouldn’t rule out a return for Blunt to conclude a third chapter.