Director: Garth Jennings (2017) BBFC cert: PG

This giddy animated musical comedy is stuffed with silly sparkling fun and will make you grin until the top of your head falls off.

Produced by the inspired creators of the Minions Movie and The Secret Life of Pets, it’s a gloriously mad musical mashup of TV’s The X Factor and Gene Wilder comedy The Producers.

Buster is a cuddly Koala whose theatre is going to be closed by the bank unless he has a hit show. He advertises a singing competition but a typo means the winnings are far more than he can afford.

As creatures of every stripe and hue perform a dizzying number of pop, rock and soul tunes, the story squeezes in bank robberies and car chases among the first night nerves and pushy showbiz parents.

The animals are stuffed with Judy Garland’s ‘lets do the show right here’ spirit and just about keep Buster’s show on the road. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Hudson are among those providing the pipes.


Eddie The Eagle

Director: Dexter Fletcher (2016)

This slushy sports biopic of an amateur ski jumper chasing his Olympic dream fails to fly.

The sentimental tone is light but the humour lands as heavily as its hero, but with far less frequency and grace.

A gurning Taron Egerton captures the spirit of of Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards in all his gormless glory.

He’s a teetotal, socially awkward, bespectacled sporter of alarming knit wear. The possessor of a chin the late Jimmy Hill would be proud of.

After Eddie suffered a childhood illness, doctors told him he shouldn’t play sport.

So with an Alp sized chip on his shoulder, this otherwise very ordinary bloke is driven to become an Olympian to prove them wrong.

He’s not fussy about at which sport he fails at so plumbs for the ski-jump.

With no other British competitor in the field it gives him the best chance of qualifying for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

In a less than olympic effort from the IOC, also on the same bill were the Jamaican bobsled team who inspired the film Cool Runnings (1993).

It was watching that film which inspired producer Matthew Vaughn to tackle this project. Egerton also starred and more successfully in Vaughn’s sexist spy caper Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015).

The obstacles littering Eddie’s way are a lack of finance, ability and parental support.

Plus he must face down mockery from fellow competitors and institutional bullying from Tim McInnerny’s snooty British Olympocrat.

The story turns into an odd couple comedy when he teams up with a fictional coach called Bronson Peary.

Aussie charmer Hugh Jackman plays disgraced former ski star turned cynical alcoholic.

Eddie’s no chicken and lacks a fear of heights. Headless on the slopes, he’s too dim to be wary of the potential lethal nature of the sport.

Adding to this lack of heroism is the knowledge he can’t win, so there’s nothing at stake and no drama.

Actor turned director Dexter Fletcher made the feel good musical Sunshine On Leith (2014) but can’t make this material lift off.

He does a great job of conveying the awe inducing spectacle of the slopes but it’s downhill in all other aspects.

When even the presence of reliable old stager Jim Broadbent can’t raise a smile, your film really is in trouble.

Christopher Walken wanders in very late in the games as ski guru Warren Sharp and looks as comfortable in his surroundings as Eddie does on the slopes.

Dialogue stresses Eddie’s reservations about appearing in the media spotlight. This is at odds with the real life footage shown at the film’s end of Eddie taking a very public bow at the closing ceremony.

And Edwards hasn’t been slow to exploit the media invented nickname of ‘Eddie the Eagle’. His real name is Michael.

Which in presenting this under achieving and over eager self publicist as a plucky underdog, this film duly takes.




Director: Brian Helgeland (2015)

This barnstorming biopic of cockney crime lords the Krays is a double barrelled blast of brutal and funny entertainment.

The exhausted tale of London’s most infamous gangsters is given a fresh impetus by a pair of magnetic performances by Tom Hardy as twins Reggie and Ronnie.

So well defined are their characters at times I forgot I was watching the same actor.

London is in transition from fifties post war austerity to the swinging sixties. The Krays see an opportunity to expand from their poor East end roots to the moneyed lights of the celebrity-filled West end.

We see their rise through the eyes of Reggie’s wife Frances. Their mother who normally looms large in their legend is a minor figure.

The script rockets through the boys’ rivalries with the Richardson mob, their dealings with the mafia and the murder of Jack ‘the hat’ McVitie.

Reggie is the older of the brothers, a charmer with brains. He’s an ambitiously ruthless businessman who owns clubs, runs protection rackets and wants to break into the casino trade.

Ron is a philosopher fool with fists of iron. His tenuous grasp of reality and impulsive behaviour are disastrous for those nearest to him.

Though unquestionably devoted to each other, the nearest the boys come to affection is beating seven bells out of each other.

Their fall is framed as a tragedy with Greek references peppering conversations.

Reggie is seemingly destined for great things but is thwarted by his love for his brother Ronnie; the most unpredictable of loose cannons.

Frances is a fragile pill-popping poppet who struggles as her husband fails to become the straight businessman he professes he wants to be.

Ozzie actress Emily Browning is fine but forced to deliver a terribly written and utterly unnecessary voice over. It ruins every scene it witters over.

Tara Fitzgerald plays her disapproving mother and antagonises Reggie by wearing black to their wedding.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson is played with pipe-wielding gusto by Kevin McNally. Christopher Eccleston is always two steps behind as Keystone cop Detective Superintendent ‘Nipper’ Read.

There’s great support all round from Colin Morgan, David Thewlis, Paul Anderson, Taron Egerton and Chazz Palminteri. The latter plays Angelo Bruno, the head of the Philadelphia crime family with whom the twins strike a lucrative deal.

The occasionally larky tone may chafe with those who believe it inappropriate in a story where real people are murdered.

However it’s titled Legend for a reason. It makes no attempt to be definitive or exhaustingly accurate. Nor does it offer an apology for not being so.

It presents a glamourised, heightened view of a specific period and is anchored by the emotional truth it offers of the twins’ complex relationship.

Write-director Brian Helgeland won Best Screenplay Oscar for LA Confidential (1997), more recently he wrote Ridley Scott‘s Robin Hood and Paul Greengrass’ Green Zone. (Both 2010.)

Previously he directed Mel Gibson in the thriller Payback (1999) and baseball biopic 42 (2013).

Legend is extremely confident and ambitiously crafted. There is excellent production design by Tom Conroy and gorgeous costume by Caroline Harris.

The dynamic soundtrack and expertly executed camera moves are hugely influenced by Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic Goodfellas (1990).

HIs famous Copacabana tracking shot is transplanted to Frances’s introduction to Reggie’s club. It’s one of several ambitious and expertly executed camera moves.

It’s the work Brit cinematographer Dick Pope was Oscar nominated last year for Mr Tuner and is a regular Mike Leigh collaborator.

Hardy is currently 3 to 1 to be the next James Bond, but on this showing he might just be too good an actor.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Director: Matthew Vaughn (2015)

This glossy smug spy spoof lacks much spark or charm, it’s as flat and laboured as the later Roger Moore Bond movies it offers homage to.

The Kingsmen are an aristocratic, super-rich secret spy agency who operate without any pesky political oversight or accountability.

They’re an exclusive and aspirational club for the Bullingdon boys only with nattier outfits. Putting great stock by personal grooming, they’re based in a Tailor’s shop in Savile Row.

Head of the outfitters is Michael Caine who played spy Harry Palmer. All the agents sport Palmer’s famous wide brimmed specs because the film can’t resist its little jokes. It also references The Man From UNCLE and The Men In Black.

Brolly carrying agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) sees the opportunity to atone for the death of a colleague by putting forward his son Eggsy (Taron Egerton) for recruitment.

Only he’s turned out to be a bit of baseball cap wearing chav and so must be properly attired, trained in espionage and taught to use violence to subjugate the working classes.

Although the script plays lip-service to meritocracy, Eggsy is chosen due to being of good stock and all the other potential recruits are public school types. The only female recruit of note is Roxy (Sophie Cookson) and she of course is a gorgeous lesbian.

Meanwhile billionaire Richmond Valentino (a lisping Samuel L. Jackson) is plotting to create a new world order involving the murder of millions using micro-chips.

Politicians can’t be trusted to hang on to their integrity in the face of Valentino’s money, though a supple-buttocked Scandinavian Princess holds firm. Because she’s royal you see.

Valentino is assisted by a decorative blade-footed assassin called Gazelle (Sofia Boutella). Having demonstrated her ability early doors, she’s mostly there to look pretty.

Poison pens, explosive cigarette lighters, jet packs and underground bases add to the retro atmosphere of the 1970’s sexual politics.

In the absence of decent jokes, obscenities are used as punchlines to scenes, the action set pieces are all too familiar and aside from a colourful moment of pomp and circumstance, there’s little that will raise an eyebrow.

Based on comic book by Mark Millar who also wrote the Vaughn directed Kick Ass, it’s the fifth script collaboration between Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Stardust, Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class, The Debt).

It’s most similar in tone but lacks the fresh energy and originality of the uproariously violent and funny Kick Ass.

Roger Moore single-handedly mocked his own image with far more grace, talent, charm and wit than is mustered here. Check out North Sea Hijack for a rather better service.