Cert U Stars 3

Magic, mechanical mayhem, warring kingdoms and a battle between wizardry and science all feature in this upbeat and swashbuckling animated fairytale, an exciting and fun fable based on traditional European fairy tales and updated with the gloss of steampunk design and some superhero-style fisticuffs.

Gerda is the kind hearted, impetuous and brave young daughter of wizards who lives in a warm and sunny medieval kingdom, but she’s frustrated by a lack of power of her own.

Her land is ruled by a cruel king who favours science over magic and by exploiting their greed and gullibility of his subjects, begins to banish all magicians – including Gerda’s parents – to the Mirrorlands, the dreaded realm of the feared Snow Queen.

And so Gerda with her brother Kay, and friend Alfida, Gerda goes in pursuit of a magic key to free her loved ones and along the way discovers her own hidden powers.

The Snow Queen herself is a nicely acerbic monarch who although limited by a magic spell to her icy realm, is able to appear to Gerda as a ghostly spirit.

Yes it all feels a lot like a riff on Disney’s Frozen but on a creative level more akin to the animated capers of The Nut Job, or Tad The Explorer films.

There’s some jarringly out of place references to Alcatraz and suchlike and occasional use of modern slang but your little kids won’t care, they’ll be carried along by the epic sweep of the adventure on a journey of honey hued vistas. featuring lava lakes, giant rock monsters, and sky pirates.

However there’s a surprisingly intricate styling to the charming cityscapes, which feature robot-like street sweepers and trolley trams, and it’s full of slapstick silliness with mischievous and cute critters.

So it will entertain its target audience of your little ones, and without any songs to pad out the running time, it makes it’s a brisk enjoyable affair for the grown-ups.


Cert PG Stars 3

This uplifting and heartwarming fable sees Richard Dreyfuss give some teeth to a drama which makes a quiet yet passionate plea for more considerate treatment for the elderly and recognise their experience and expertise remains of value to society.

A billionaire entrepreneur advertisers a lottery which offers twelve winners a place in an X Factor-style public vote to decide which person will be offered a free seat on the first commercial flight in space.

Although Angus has an affecting friendship with his young grandson, relations with his daughter and in-laws are more fraught and Angus lies to them about having entered the competition.

Plus he’s desperate to escape the confines of his nursing home and the script happily launches rockets at the exploitation of the elderly thorough the astronomical cost of care.

Dreyfuss bestows the lonely widower with an agreeably spiky dignity, humility and wisdom, and there’s a welcome refusal to engage in twinkly-eyed mawkishness as Angus attempts to have a close encounter with destiny


Cert 15 Stars 3

This tense, atmospheric and claustrophobic sea-going Irish thriller ploughs ahead on strong currents of horror, sci-fi, and fairytales, skippered with a firm and sure hand by Neasa Hardiman on her feature film directorial debut.

When a fishing trawler becomes stranded in a military exclusion zone, a mysterious parasite infects the crew’s precious water supply.

Causing emotional outbursts, psychosis and violence among the increasingly desperate and dwindling crew, they resort to extreme measures to save themselves.

Veterans Dougray Scott and Connie Nielsen play the grizzled captain and his wife who due to being in financial straits, have taken on a fare-paying passenger.

Hermione Corfield is a thoughtful and reserved presence as marine biology student struggling to get her sea legs, but her auburn hair is a red flag to the superstitious sailors.

Taking its name from John Masefield’s evocative poem about the attraction to and obsessive nature of seafaring, the film’s intelligent photography captures the cold beauty and changing moods of the sea, while the scenes of isolation and deadly contagion make for a terrifyingly timely and uncomfortable watch.


Stars 2

Hoping to cast a spell over the young adult Twilight audience, this gothic love story fails to enchant.

When the mysterious and beautiful Lena moves to a new town she meets the studious Ethan at high-school. Due to being a witch, Lena is forbidden to love a mortal, but passions quickly develop and she is torn between her true love and an age old curse.

But the characters are thinly written, jokes fall flat, the dialogue is workaday and Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich as the central pair are fail to engage with each other or us.

Bringing a welcome sense of absurd are Brit stars Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, and while he’s a purring pianist in a pyjama suit, she Thompson alternates between sour and evilly captivating.

The inconsistent tone veers between lightweight gothic romance and high camp pantomime, and despite the spells and witchcraft, there is not much magic being cast here.


Stars 4

This brightly wrapped Christmas present from the Dreamworks Studio is a fast moving, heart warming CGI animated adventure story with some very familiar voices behind the mythical characters.

Jack Frost is a carefree flying spirit who spends his days using ice and snow to cause mischievous mirth among children, whose life of puckish fun is abruptly ended when he’s recruited by the Guardians.

They’re a band of fairytale figures led by Santa Claus, and include the Easter Bunny and the Toothfairy, who tneed him, to help them stop the Boogeyman giving all the world’s children nightmares. Forever.

Chris Pine leads the excellent supporting cast which includes Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin and Isla Fisher, while The Boogeyman is played with devilish self-pitying glee by a terrific Jude Law, who’s clearly having a ball.

He dwells in a foreboding tower from where he dispatches terrible black steeds on dark clouds to spread fear among sleeping children.

This is an enjoyable and well crafted magic box of entertainment containing exciting rooftop fights, some hefty slapstick and a hissable baddie, all tied up with ribbons of dazzling animation.

It’s generous in providing the audience with a multitude of small touches such as the Northern Lights being a Bat-Signal for the fairytale heroes, while the yetis and elves of Santa’s grotto who are the unsung heroes of the movie.

Some of the dialogue isn’t as sharp as it could be and the focus of the festive holidays  seems more concerned with receiving than giving, but it all barrels along with warmth, peace and goodwill to all mankind. If you don’t enjoy this you probably don’t like Christmas.


Cert PG 87mins Stars 1

This ferociously poor animated adventure is a beastly trap for unsuspecting parents hoping to entertain their own little monsters at the start of the summer holidays.

A young teen discovers he turns into a sticky-palmed monster whenever he’s over-excited. This forces his father to explain they’re not human after all and are really from a secret island of monsters.

So the boy does a bunk and sets off to find his long lost mother, encountering a mildly evil scientist and other vaguely creepy and stupidly annoying characters along the way.

Underneath the skin of the barely TV standard animation is a message of accepting the skin we’re given.

But we’re not listening because it’s poorly dubbed by a voice cast you won’t have heard of, is devoid of laughs and has less mystery and intrigue than an episode of Scooby Doo.

If my 6 year old is naughty, I’m going to threaten to take him to see it.


Cert PG 81mins Stars 5

Be swept away on waves of imagination by this remarkable animated fable.

Many familiar elements are borrowed from sources such as Robinson Crusoe, and the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. But Dutch writer/directer Michael Dudok de Wit crafts something fresh and uniquely wonderful.

It’s visually inspired by Japanese and Chinese art and uses traditional ink and watercolour in an elegant hand drawn style.

Deep currents of love and loss stir beneath the surface of what begins as a traditional adventure story and evolves into a rich exploration of the circle of life.

When an unnamed man is stranded on a tropical island, his attempts to escape on a raft are thwarted by a giant red turtle.

Without a word of dialogue, but with many an exclamatory grunt and cry, their relationship moves from antagonism to understanding.

Beaten to the best animated Oscar by Disney’s more obvious offering, Zootropolis, this is a breathtakingly beautiful, magical and moving experience.


Cert 15 106mins Stars 4

The pungent atmosphere of this throat-grabbing British thriller is a heady mix of earthy lust, poisonous snobbery and cold-hearted corruption.

It’s a modern-day fairytale inspired by infamous ‘Beast of Jersey’, a 1960’s paedophile who preyed on the islands inhabitants.

Moll is a red-haired Cinderella who escapes her strict mother to pursue a romance with a local poacher, only to see him suspected of being a multiple child rapist and murderer.

Irish actress Jessie Buckley will be familiar from Tom Hardy’s TV series, Taboo, and gives a mesmerising performance which swings from dead-pan subtlety to raw physicality. Johnny Flynn is vulnerable and wolfish as her boyfriend, Pascal.

A haunting choral soundtrack reinforces the timeless nature, and the arch script is a great example of how filmmakers are choosing to side-step the plot-ruining internet, by pretending it doesn’t exist.

This is a scarily confident directorial debut by writer Michael Pearce, and I’m intrigued to see what beastly surprises his talent serves up next.


Cert U 90mins Stars 2

The boys in blue are back for another animated adventure, but this time the girls are doing it for themselves.

Following the success of Disney’s female-led adventures such as Frozen, and Zootropolis, this latest ham-fisted Smurf reboot tries to offer a more female friendly experience.

Smurfette leads Brainy, Hefty, and Clumsy into the Forbidden Forest on a journey of self-discovery, where they find a lost village of female Smurfs.

This is an attempt to address a longstanding criticism regarding Smurfette’s status as the only girl in the village. Unfortunately the clumsy script reduces her status from a spare rib to a non-Smurf, saying she was created from a piece of clay by an evil Smurf-hating wizard.

Despite this bizarre twist, it’s generally good natured and filled with slapstick and shenanigans. However all but the youngest of kids will struggle to be entertained, and the patience of parents will be tested to the limit.



Cert PG 139mins Stars 5

Be spellbound as Emma Watson swaps the wizarding world of Harry Potter for a fairytale featuring a fantastic beast.

Having found global fame as Hogwarts schoolgirl swot, Hermione, Watson takes centre stage in Disney’s big budget, live action adventure. It’s a remake of their own musical from 1991, which was the first animated movie to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

Surrounded by the cream of camp theatricality, and the finest CGI technology, it would be cruel and unfair to suggest Watson is the film’s least animated performer. She is faultless as the bookish, brave and beautiful, Belle.

Dan Stevens is demonically horned and hairy as then Beast. The English actor’s stock has only risen since escaping the upstairs confines of TV’s Downton Abbey.

The story is unchanged. To rescue her father from the frozen castle of the Beast, young Belle sacrifices her own freedom. The majestic monster is really a cursed Prince. He must earn her love or remain a creature forever. And time is running out.

To ensure a box office success, Disney have deployed the full creative might of their empire. There is excellence everywhere, from the superb cast, to sumptuous costumes and detailed design.

From the Oscar wining title track, to the boisterous ‘Gaston’ and the glorious ‘Be Our Guest’, the show stopping tunes are the magic which elevates this above last year’s excellent live action, Cinderella.

Competing for the limelight are old hams and grand dames of the theatre, such as Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen. They breathe life into the castle’s other inhabitants, the talking clock, teapot, candelabra, and so on.

Bill Condon doesn’t direct the film, as much as pilot this jazz handed juggernaut safely into cinemas. It’s far from ground-breaking but it is enchanting, exciting and funny.

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