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What's On

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Now showing at Empire Basildon Festival Way, Festival Leisure Park,Basildon,Essex SS14 3WB 0871 471 4714

  • Bastille Day
  • Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Captain America: Civil War 3D
  • Captain America: Civil War: An IMAX 3D Experience
  • Demolition
  • Eddie The Eagle
  • Eye In The Sky
  • Friend Request
  • Kung Fu Panda 3
  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • The Huntsman: Winter's War
  • The Jungle Book
  • The Jungle Book 3D
  • Zootropolis

Bastille Day 3 stars

During a scouting mission around Paris, pickpocket Michael Mason notices a young woman, Zoe Naville, in a state of distress. She isn't paying attention to her shopping bag so Michael expertly swipes it when her back is turned. He takes the valuables and casually discards the bag, unaware that a bomb in buried inside. The device detonates and Michael is unwittingly framed as a terrorist. US operative Sean Briar, who is assigned to the CIA station in Paris, vows to apprehend Michael before the French authorities.

  • GenreAction, Thriller
  • CastRichard Madden, Charlotte Le Bon, Kelly Reilly, Idris Elba.
  • DirectorJames Watkins.
  • WriterAndrew Baldwin.
  • CountryFr/US
  • Duration92 mins
  • Official site
  • Release22/04/2016

A small-time criminal is in the wrong place at the wrong time in director James Watkins' action-packed thriller, which promotes Idris Elba as the next iteration of agent 007 when Daniel Craig holsters his Walther PPK for good. Shot on location in London and Paris, Bastille Day boasts a thrilling rooftop chase performed by the actors rather than stunt doubles. Elba is a surly, muscular presence at the centre of every action sequence. After one breathless chase, his strapping 6-foot 3 CIA agent asks a petty criminal why he decided to run. "You were coming after me. Have you seen yourself?" comes the tongue-in-cheek response. Budgetary constraints and haphazard plotting from screenwriter Andrew Baldwin conspire against the leading man, and misfiring on-screen chemistry with co-star Richard Madden undermines Watkins' dream of crafting a mismatched buddy cop movie in the vein of 48 Hours or Lethal Weapon. Foregoing expensive slam-bang thrills, Bastille Day opts for murky political intrigue and a grand conspiracy that confirms the biggest crooks are powerful men in suits, who should be serving and protecting the public, not greedily fleecing them. Expert pickpocket Michael Mason (Madden) steals passports, accessories and smartphones at major tourist hot-spots like the Sacre-Coeur at Montmartre to fulfil orders for middleman Baba (Eriq Ebouaney). During a scouting mission, Michael spies a young activist, Zoe Naville (Charlotte Le Bon), in a state of distress. She isn't paying attention to her shopping bag, so Michael expertly swipes it when her back is turned. He takes the valuables and casually discards the bag, unaware that a bomb is buried inside. The device detonates, killing innocent bystanders, and Michael is unwittingly condemned a terrorist by CCTV footage. Rogue US operative Sean Briar (Idris Elba), who is assigned to the CIA station in Paris under Karen Dacre (Kelly Reilly), vows to apprehend Michael before an elite French SWAT team led by Rafi (Thierry Godard). A game of cat and mouse between Briar, Michael and Rafi plays out around the arrondissements. Meanwhile, the real bombers plan their next move, creating a public relations nightmare for the embattled French Minister of Homeland Security, Victor Gamieux (Jose Garcia). Bastille Day was originally scheduled to open in February, but the film's release date was, understandably, pushed back two months in the aftermath of the terror attacks in the French capital. Opening scenes of the bomb blast outside a metro station in a bustling square are chilling without seeming gratuitous. Elba effortlessly copes with the physicality of his role, but Madden is a tepid sidekick, and Le Bon is completely superfluous. There are undeniable pleasures here - including an occasionally hilarious verbal exchange - but they are scant and slight.

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Thursday 5th May 2016

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Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice 3 stars

Gotham City and the world at large struggle to come to terms with the arrival of Metropolis' modern-day saviour, Superman. Formidable vigilante Batman fears the actions of Superman and declares war. While the two figures are locked in battle, inflamed by the scheming of Lex Luthor, a new threat arises. Just when all hope seems lost, Wonder Woman enters the fray to bring together Batman and Superman in Gotham City's hour of need.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction
  • CastHenry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot, Diane Lane, Jesse Eisenberg.
  • DirectorZack Snyder.
  • WriterChris Terrio, David S Goyer.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration151 mins
  • Official sitewww.batmanvsuperman.dccomics.com
  • Release25/03/2016

Heroes rise and fall in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, a super-powered smackdown involving two of DC Comics' most popular characters that neatly tees up a blitzkrieg of Justice League features and blockbuster spin-offs. With Zack Snyder, director of Man Of Steel, at the helm, every frame is crammed to bursting with artfully composed destruction. Gun barrels unleash spinning cylinders of hot metal in lustrous slow motion, a female victim tumbles to the floor amidst a cascade of milky white pearls from her broken necklace, exploding vehicles pirouette through the nighttime air during a high-velocity chase. While visuals stage a full-scale assault on the eyes, Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer cranks up the volume in collaboration with Dutch producer Junkie XL. If nothing else, Batman V Superman delivers a cacophony of slam and bang. Screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S Goyer haven't scrimped on character development or narrative, knitting together sinewy subplots with flashbacks and dream sequences involving Thomas Wayne (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) to embellish the origin stories of the titular combatants. Unquestionably, there is a leaner two-hour film lurking within this bloated beast, but brevity has never been one of Snyder's virtues. The world struggles to come to terms with the arrival of Metropolis' modern-day messiah, Superman (Henry Cavill). A committee led by Senator June Finch (Holly Hunter) asks uncomfortable questions about the god-like protector and his ability to crush humanity. Martha Kent (Diane Lane) tells her son that he doesn't owe the human race anything but Clark's heart belongs to Daily Planet co-worker Lois Lane (Amy Adams). "I don't know if it's possible for you to love me - and be you," she worries. Unfortunately, tortured vigilante Batman (Ben Affleck) holds Superman accountable for the deaths of the innocent and declares war. "Maybe it's just Gotham City and me - we have a bad history with freaks dressed as clowns," snarls the orphaned philanthropist, who is aided by his sardonic butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons). While the two crimefighters are locked in battle, inflamed by the scheming of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), a new threat arises. When all hope seems lost, Amazonian warrior Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) enters the fray... Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice aims for a similarly downbeat tone to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, replete with explosions of bone-crunching violence. Action sequences are robust but the miasma of digital effects sometimes reduces skirmishes to a blur. Snappy dialogue sounds like it has been torn from the pages of comic books and Affleck and Cavill engage in a battle of topless posturing and chisel-jawed stoicism. Eisenberg's twitchy, psychotic archnemesis stays the right side of pantomime - just. "Nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman," screams Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White (Laurence Fishburne). I beg to differ.

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Thursday 5th May 2016

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Captain America: Civil War 4 stars

The US political establishment insists on the introduction of legislation to control the Avengers. Tony Stark aka Iron Man submits to these demands but Steve Rogers aka Captain America, who has always been a staunch patriot and followed orders, refuses to accede, especially when his good friend Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier is threatened. The gulf between Stark and Rogers forces the remaining Avengers to take sides. A battle royale unfolds just as a diabolical new enemy emerges and threatens mankind.

  • GenreAction, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastChris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Don Cheadle.
  • DirectorJoe Russo, Anthony Russo.
  • WriterStephen McFeely, Christopher Markus.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration147 mins
  • Official sitewww.marvel.com/captainamerica
  • Release29/04/2016

The fragile alliance between the Avengers is shattered in the third Captain America film, directed at a breathless pace by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo. Opening with a flashback to 1991 that sets one major character on their self-destructive path, Civil War underscores its bombastic title by pitting former allies against each other in a series of dizzying showdowns that cleave apart the Marvel Comics universe. Scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely repeatedly inhabit the blurred lines between heroism and villainy, examining the moral conundrums faced by superpowered warriors who have pledged to protect the innocent from the righteous crossfire. Alas, no one emerges unscathed from the melee and the deep psychological wounds inflicted in these bombastic 147 minutes suggest that this muscular chapter signals a bittersweet end for some characters while blatantly teeing up standalone spin-offs for Spider-Man and Black Panther. "Victory at the expense of the innocent is no victory at all," solemnly intones King T'Chaka (John Kani) from the battle-scarred nation of Wakanda. If that is true then Captain America: Civil War is a crushing defeat for everyone except thrill-seeking cinema audiences. A year has passed since the events of Avengers: Age Of Ultron and the US Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) insists on the introduction of legislation - The Sokovia Accords - to control the superheroes. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), reluctantly submits, telling his compatriots: "I'm doing what has to be done to stave off something worse." Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), who has always been a staunch patriot, refuses to sign, fearful of the consequences of the Avengers relinquishing their independence. The gulf between Stark and Rogers forces the remaining Avengers to take sides. Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes, aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Prince T'Challa, aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) all stand shoulder to shoulder with Stark. Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes, aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), pledge their allegiance to Rogers. A battle royale between the two factions unfolds just as a diabolical new enemy, Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), threatens mankind. Captain America: Civil War could easily trim 20 minutes from its bloated running time without diminishing the impact of the special effects sequences or the pivotal plot twists. The Russo brothers choreograph destruction on a grand scale, including an adrenaline-pumping motorcycle chase on the rubble-strewn streets of Berlin. Evans and Downey Jr puff out their chests for supremacy in every lavish frame, while Johansson somersaults sexily between the feuding factions. A protracted sequence involving Stark, a nerdy Peter Parker and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) sows seeds of hope that next year's reboot, Spider-Man: Homecoming, might revitalise the webslinging vigilante with whip-smart humour. Miracles might happen.

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Thursday 5th May 2016

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Captain America: Civil War 3D 4 stars

The US political establishment insists on the introduction of legislation to control the Avengers. Tony Stark aka Iron Man submits to these demands but Steve Rogers aka Captain America, who has always been a staunch patriot and followed orders, refuses to accede, especially when his good friend Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier is threatened. The gulf between Stark and Rogers forces the remaining Avengers to take sides. A battle royale unfolds just as a diabolical new enemy emerges and threatens mankind.

  • GenreAction, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastChris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson.
  • DirectorJoe Russo, Anthony Russo.
  • WriterStephen McFeely, Christopher Markus.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration147 mins
  • Official sitewww.marvel.com/captainamerica
  • Release29/04/2016

The fragile alliance between the Avengers is shattered in the third Captain America film, directed at a breathless pace by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo. Opening with a flashback to 1991 that sets one major character on their self-destructive path, Civil War underscores its bombastic title by pitting former allies against each other in a series of dizzying showdowns that cleave apart the Marvel Comics universe. Scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely repeatedly inhabit the blurred lines between heroism and villainy, examining the moral conundrums faced by superpowered warriors who have pledged to protect the innocent from the righteous crossfire. Alas, no one emerges unscathed from the melee and the deep psychological wounds inflicted in these bombastic 147 minutes suggest that this muscular chapter signals a bittersweet end for some characters while blatantly teeing up standalone spin-offs for Spider-Man and Black Panther. "Victory at the expense of the innocent is no victory at all," solemnly intones King T'Chaka (John Kani) from the battle-scarred nation of Wakanda. If that is true then Captain America: Civil War is a crushing defeat for everyone except thrill-seeking cinema audiences. A year has passed since the events of Avengers: Age Of Ultron and the US Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) insists on the introduction of legislation - The Sokovia Accords - to control the superheroes. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), reluctantly submits, telling his compatriots: "I'm doing what has to be done to stave off something worse." Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), who has always been a staunch patriot, refuses to sign, fearful of the consequences of the Avengers relinquishing their independence. The gulf between Stark and Rogers forces the remaining Avengers to take sides. Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes, aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Prince T'Challa, aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) all stand shoulder to shoulder with Stark. Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes, aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), pledge their allegiance to Rogers. A battle royale between the two factions unfolds just as a diabolical new enemy, Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), threatens mankind. Captain America: Civil War could easily trim 20 minutes from its bloated running time without diminishing the impact of the special effects sequences or the pivotal plot twists. The Russo brothers choreograph destruction on a grand scale, including an adrenaline-pumping motorcycle chase on the rubble-strewn streets of Berlin. Evans and Downey Jr puff out their chests for supremacy in every lavish frame, while Johansson somersaults sexily between the feuding factions. A protracted sequence involving Stark, a nerdy Peter Parker and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) sows seeds of hope that next year's reboot, Spider-Man: Homecoming, might revitalise the webslinging vigilante with whip-smart humour. Miracles might happen.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 5th May 2016

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Captain America: Civil War: An IMAX 3D Experience 4 stars

The US political establishment insists on the introduction of legislation to control the Avengers. Tony Stark aka Iron Man submits to these demands but Steve Rogers aka Captain America, who has always been a staunch patriot and followed orders, refuses to accede, especially when his good friend Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier is threatened. The gulf between Stark and Rogers forces the remaining Avengers to take sides. A battle royale unfolds just as a diabolical new enemy emerges and threatens mankind.

  • GenreAction, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastChris Evans, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson.
  • DirectorJoe Russo, Anthony Russo.
  • WriterStephen McFeely, Christopher Markus.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration147 mins
  • Official sitewww.marvel.com/captainamerica
  • Release29/04/2016

The fragile alliance between the Avengers is shattered in the third Captain America film, directed at a breathless pace by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo. Opening with a flashback to 1991 that sets one major character on their self-destructive path, Civil War underscores its bombastic title by pitting former allies against each other in a series of dizzying showdowns that cleave apart the Marvel Comics universe. Scriptwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely repeatedly inhabit the blurred lines between heroism and villainy, examining the moral conundrums faced by superpowered warriors who have pledged to protect the innocent from the righteous crossfire. Alas, no one emerges unscathed from the melee and the deep psychological wounds inflicted in these bombastic 147 minutes suggest that this muscular chapter signals a bittersweet end for some characters while blatantly teeing up standalone spin-offs for Spider-Man and Black Panther. "Victory at the expense of the innocent is no victory at all," solemnly intones King T'Chaka (John Kani) from the battle-scarred nation of Wakanda. If that is true then Captain America: Civil War is a crushing defeat for everyone except thrill-seeking cinema audiences. A year has passed since the events of Avengers: Age Of Ultron and the US Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) insists on the introduction of legislation - The Sokovia Accords - to control the superheroes. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), reluctantly submits, telling his compatriots: "I'm doing what has to be done to stave off something worse." Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), who has always been a staunch patriot, refuses to sign, fearful of the consequences of the Avengers relinquishing their independence. The gulf between Stark and Rogers forces the remaining Avengers to take sides. Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James Rhodes, aka War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Prince T'Challa, aka Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), and Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man (Tom Holland) all stand shoulder to shoulder with Stark. Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes, aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), pledge their allegiance to Rogers. A battle royale between the two factions unfolds just as a diabolical new enemy, Baron Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), threatens mankind. Captain America: Civil War could easily trim 20 minutes from its bloated running time without diminishing the impact of the special effects sequences or the pivotal plot twists. The Russo brothers choreograph destruction on a grand scale, including an adrenaline-pumping motorcycle chase on the rubble-strewn streets of Berlin. Evans and Downey Jr puff out their chests for supremacy in every lavish frame, while Johansson somersaults sexily between the feuding factions. A protracted sequence involving Stark, a nerdy Peter Parker and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) sows seeds of hope that next year's reboot, Spider-Man: Homecoming, might revitalise the webslinging vigilante with whip-smart humour. Miracles might happen.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 5th May 2016

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Demolition 3 stars

Banker Davis Mitchell is left emotionally numb by the death of his wife Julia in a car accident. Unable to grieve and unmoved by his colleagues' and loved ones' concern, Davis turns to customer services representative Karen for support. They eventually meet and Davis becomes entwined in Karen's life and that of her troubled teenage son Chris, who has become cold and distant to her lately. As time goes on, Davis reverts to more extreme tactics to feel again.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
  • CastNaomi Watts, Heather Lind, Jake Gyllenhaal, Judah Lewis, Chris Cooper.
  • DirectorJean-Marc Vallee.
  • WriterBryan Sipe.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration99 mins
  • Official sitewww.foxsearchlight.com/demolition
  • Release29/04/2016

Grief, we're told, comes in many different forms. There's no wrong way to grieve, apparently. Except of course, there is. And nowhere is grief more structured than in Hollywood. There, grief is either a granite albatross weighing the sufferer down until eventually they crack and, more often than not, scream at a coldly beautiful landscape until finally, their artful tears fall, or, it is quite the opposite; it is a fully formed thing from the offset. This much-seen Hollywood version of grief is a blanket which the sufferer is wholly covered and fully in tune with, basking in their loss while a soundtrack of touching acoustic songs play out as the screen is flooded with a golden-tinged montage of 'better times'; long beach walks, ice creams licked off noses and soft punches on the arm, before realising with a shrug, that of course, "This..." - be it selling the house, finding a new partner, or donating their beloved's cardigan - "...is what he/she would have wanted". Demolition, the new comedy drama from Wild and Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee, then offers neither trope for its anti hero, Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal). It's not a version of grief any of the dearly departed would want for their loved ones. Widowed after a car accident killed his wife Julia (Heather Lind), the young banker is left with a numbness he can't shake. He's not just numb about his high-flying job at the bank, where his father-in-law Phil (Chris Cooper) also happens to be the boss, or his covetable home and possessions, he's also indifferent to Julia's death and unmoved by his colleagues and loved ones' needs for him to heal, or at least heal in a way they understand. The only person who penetrates his apathetic exterior is Karen (Naomi Watts). As the customer services representative for a vending machine company, Karen receives a letter of complaint from Davis about the machine in the hospital which gobbled his money, but didn't give him his goods on the night of his wife's death. But while he writes about the complaint, he also expands on his life and loss, until eventually his letters become increasingly confessional in tone to the point where Karen and Davis meet and strike a friendship. Soon, Davis becomes entwined in Karen's life and that of her troubled teenage son Chris (Judah Lewis) who has become cold and distant to her lately. As time goes on, Davis reverts to more extreme tactics - much to the shock of Phil - to feel again and, with the help of Karen and Chris, to rebuild his life and, in turn, unlock the struggles Chris is going through. While sentimentality could be rife, Demolition avoids it largely due to the welcome flashes of humour and thoughtful performances from Gyllenhaal and his young co-star Lewis, but it's just a shame that Watts is underwritten.

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Thursday 5th May 2016

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Eddie The Eagle 3 stars

Since he was a boy, Eddie Edwards has driven his father Terry to distraction with his burning dream to compete in the Olympics. He discovers a loophole in the rulebook that would allow him to become Britain's only representative in the ski jump. Aided and abetted by his mother Janette, Eddie heads to Germany to a ski jumping training centre run by hard-drinking former ski jumper Bronson Peary. The veteran takes pity on Eddie and helps the newcomer to master the basics so he can compete.

  • GenreBiography, Comedy, Drama, Family
  • CastHugh Jackman, Taron Egerton, Keith Allen, Jo Hartley, Iris Berben, Tom Costello Jr.
  • DirectorDexter Fletcher.
  • WriterSean Macaulay, Simon Kelton.
  • CountryUS/UK/Ger
  • Duration106 mins
  • Official sitewww.foxmovies.com/movies/eddie-the-eagle
  • Release01/04/2016

When Baron Pierre de Coubertin kindled interest in the modern Olympic movement at the end of the 19th century, he proposed a series of ideals to epitomise the spirit of the sporting contest. "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well," he professed. That mantra of fearless yet honest participation was perfectly exemplified by Cheltenham-born athlete Eddie Edwards, who became a media sensation in 1988 when he represented Great Britain in the ski jump in Calgary. His remarkable story of triumph against gravity, which swelled the patriotic hearts of a nation, provides the creative spark for Dexter Fletcher's silver medal-winning comedy drama. Screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton don't let the truth get in the way of telling a good yarn, slaloming between historical fact and humorous artistic licence to ensure their film remains giddily airborne. Fletcher's light touch behind the lens concentrates on the camaraderie between a remarkable underdog and his fictional trainer, who defied the snooty naysayers to prove that anything is possible when you take a leap of faith. Since he was a boy, Eddie (Taron Egerton) has driven his father Terry (Keith Allen) to distraction with a burning dream to compete in the Olympics. The young man struggles to find a sport that suits him, so he switches attention to the Winter Olympics and discovers a loophole in the rulebook that would allow him to become Britain's first representative in the ski jump since 1929. Aided and abetted by his mother Janette (Jo Hartley), Eddie heads to Germany to a ski jumping training centre run by hard-drinking former competitor Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), who was booted off the US team by legendary coach Warren Sharp (Christopher Walken). Bronson takes pity on Eddie and helps the newcomer to master the basics. However, Dustin Target (Tim McInnerny), chairman of the British Olympic Committee, refuses to let Eddie compete on a technicality and adds a qualifying standard of 61m to the rulebook at the last minute. With time running out before the Calgary games, Eddie hits the European ski jumping tour with Bronson, determined to soar to break records rather than bones in his quest for Olympic qualification. Eddie The Eagle is an unabashedly crowd-pleasing delight for all ages. Egerton brings a sweetness and steely resolve to his plucky fish out of water, who defiantly tells a crowded news conference: "I did not come here as a novelty act... and I will not be going home as one." Jackman offers robust support, rabble-rousing from the sidelines as effects sequences allow his younger co-star to take flight. In real life, Edwards never climbed atop the Olympic winner's podium, but this charming film is champion.

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Thursday 5th May 2016

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Eye In The Sky 3 stars

Operation Cobra has been tracking the movements of radicalised British men and women, who have joined the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab. One high profile target is under surveillance at a house in Kenya. At a command base in Sussex, Colonel Katherine Powell has a direct link to US drone pilot Steve Watts and she watches in horror as covert footage reveals targets in the house are wearing suicide vests primed for an imminent attack.

  • GenreDrama, Thriller, War
  • CastBarkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Helen Mirren.
  • DirectorGavin Hood.
  • WriterGuy Hibbert.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official sitewww.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/eyeinthesky
  • Release15/04/2016

The art of modern warfare is no longer consigned to battlefields on the ground. Devastating missile attacks, pinpointed by drones, have allowed politicians to strike at the heart of supposed terrorist networks without having to stare into the whites of the enemies' eyes. Yet with greater power comes crushing responsibility - all technology is prone to error and one misplaced explosion can be exploited as propaganda to intensify the cycle of violence. "Revolutions are fuelled by postings on YouTube," observes one nervous politician in Eye In The Sky, an intelligent and timely thriller that asks if there is such a thing as acceptable collateral damage in the pursuit of global freedom. Gavin Hood's nerve-racking film, tightly scripted by Guy Hibbert, doesn't have the answer to that complex moral conundrum. Instead, events on screen put the characters - and us - through the emotional wringer as a joint American and British taskforce decides if the slaughter of one innocent child is a tolerable consequence of neutralising a jihadist cell. Operation Cobra has been tracking radicalised British men and women linked to the Somali group al-Shabaab. One high profile target, Susan Danford (Lex King), is under surveillance at a house in Kenya, monitored by agents including Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi). Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) takes control of the operation from London while Foreign Secretary James Willett (Iain Glen), who is at an arms fair in Singapore, watches a live video feed from a US drone piloted by Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) in Nevada. At a command base in Sussex, Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) has a direct link to Watts and explains that the objective is "to capture not kill". When covert footage reveals targets in the house are wearing suicide vests primed for an imminent attack, priorities change. The clock is ticking and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic deliberate. Meanwhile, Watts and his spotter, Airman Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox), notice a nine-year-old girl (Aisha Takow) selling bread near the target house, who would be killed in a missile strike. Eye Is The Sky is dedicated to Rickman. He delivers a tightly coiled performance as the go-between, who needs political and legal assent before issuing his command. Mirren is in equally imperious form while Paul exudes the anguish of a man wrestling with the consequences of defying orders. Hibbert's lean script envisions an almost tragic-comic contrast between the Brits, who repeatedly refer up the chain of command, and the unflinching Americans. This gallows humour dissipates some of the suffocating tension. With the precision of a drone missile, Hood's film begs uncomfortable questions about matters of life and death when they can be distilled to the squeeze of a joystick trigger in an air-conditioned cubicle thousands of miles from the intended kill zone.

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Thursday 5th May 2016

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Friend Request 3 stars

Laura is one of the most popular students at her college with more than 800 friends on Facebook, which whom she shares every aspect of her hectic social life. She regularly posts pictures and updates involving her boyfriend Tyler and close pals. Shortly after troubled classmate Marina Mills commits suicide, Laura and her friends receive threats, seemingly from the dead girl's account. One by one, Laura's nearest and dearest perish in grisly and cruel fashions.

  • GenreHorror, Thriller, World
  • CastConnor Paolo, Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley.
  • DirectorSimon Verhoeven.
  • WriterPhilip Koch, Matthew Ballen, Simon Verhoeven.
  • CountryGer
  • Duration92 mins
  • Official site
  • Release22/04/2016

Communication via online networking sites could kill your social life - and you - in German director Simon Verhoeven's ghoulish horror. A familiar array of attractive, yet vacuous, American college students are easy prey for Friend Request, which boasts a similar plot to the 2014 thriller Unfriended, albeit without that film's neat stylistic quirk of depicting slaughter in browser windows on the heroine's desktop screen. Verhoeven's picture is more conventional and achingly predictable, telegraphing misery for each unsuspecting victim as a malevolent spirit wreaks havoc in the real and dream worlds, accompanied by deafening shrieks on the soundtrack. These hoary, cheap scare tactics were outdated when fax machines were the latest technological marvel and certainly won't impress audiences who hanker for sophisticated shocks and nail-biting sustained tension. On an emotional level, we might feel concern or sympathy for the characters if the director and his two co-writers had invested time in developing their intricately intertwined personal relationships. Unfortunately, with so many people to dispatch in 92 minutes, the emphasis throughout is on cruel and gory demises. Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is one of the most popular students at college and she shares every facet of her life, including her volunteer work, with more than 830 friends on Facebook. She regularly posts pictures of her boyfriend Tyler (William Moseley) and pals Olivia (Brit Morgan), Isabel (Brooke Markham), Gustavo (Sean Marquette) and Kobe (Connor Paolo), who has an unrequited crush on Laura. Troubled classmate Marina Mills (Liesl Ahlers) sends a friend request to Laura and, out of compassion tinged with pity, she accepts. Soon after, Marina becomes alarmingly possessive and clingy. "Is she your friend or your first mental patient?" cruelly asks Tyler. A little white lie about a birthday party tips Marina over the edge and Laura reluctantly clicks the Unfriend button on Facebook. Online rejection sparks tragedy and Marina commits suicide with a dramatic flourish, sending shockwaves across campus. As Laura wrestles with her guilt, her inner circle of friends receives creepy threats from the dead girl's Facebook account. One by one, Laura's nearest and dearest perish in grisly fashion, and hapless police struggle to make sense of the carnage. "You really know a lot of dead people," deadpans dithering Detective Cameron (Shashawnee Hall). Laura resolves to break the deadly curse that has fallen upon her. Friend Request won't dissuade audiences from using smartphones to access a miasma of social media channels as soon as the end credits roll. Debnam-Carey and her co-stars aren't called upon to deliver compelling performances, just to master various expressions of shock and terror. Death sequences lack originality and most include a swarm of computer-generated black wasps, which are supposedly linked to witchcraft. Hashtag bogus pocus.

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Kung Fu Panda 3 3 stars

After 500 years of incarceration in the Spirit Realm, megalomaniacal yak Kai steals the chi of every kung fu master including his one-time friend, Oogway. Only the Dragon Warrior - overweight dumpling-obsessed panda Po - can bring Kai's reign of terror to an end. So the power-crazed yak returns to the mortal plane and gallops towards the Jade Palace to lock horns with Master Shifu and his plucky disciples.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family
  • CastJack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, JK Simmons, Bryan Cranston, David Cross.
  • DirectorJennifer Yuh, Alessandro Carloni.
  • WriterGlenn Berger, Jonathan Aibel.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official sitewww.kungfupandainternational.com/intl/uk/
  • Release11/03/2016

Prepare for the return of awesomeness in Jennifer Yuh Nelson's energetic martial arts comedy which kicks computer-animated butt and comes close to matching the rumbustious fun of the 2008 original. Screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger flashback to overweight panda Po's tortured past as the inspiration for this tale of identity and retribution, taking the story into far darker territory.

However, Jack Black's whirlwind vocal performance provides a generous smattering of belly laughs and the visuals are gorgeous and colourful, notably in the frenetic set pieces which punctuate the narrative.

The introduction of the 3D format almost warrants the additional ticket price, adding depth to the gorgeous rolling landscapes of ancient China replete with bamboo forests and ornate palaces. Younger audiences will get just as much fun though from the traditional 2D version without the discomfort or distraction of the plastic spectacles.

Overweight panda Po (voiced by Black) is living his dream as an all-action bear, honing his skills under the watchful eye of mentor Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). However, he is haunted by fragmented memories, which eventually reveal how his father came to be a goose called Mr Ping (James Wong). It transpires that an evil peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) is the cause of Po's deep emotional wounds.

Spurred on by a dire warning about pandas from an elderly soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh), Shen and his army of snarling wolves are on a collision course with Po, armed with a deadly weapon that could bring China to its knees. Thankfully, Po can always rely on The Furious Five - Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Tigress (Angelina Jolie) and Viper (Lucy Liu) - to avert disaster.

Kung Fu Panda 2 doesn't quite soar to the dizzy heights of DreamWorks' last animated feature, How To Train Your Dragon, but Yuh Nelson's film plays to its strengths. The sequel relies heavily on Black to unleash his verbal fireworks and to continue sparking potential romance with Jolie's kung fu kitty. Hoffman's comic timing is impeccable and Oldman delivers his lines in suitably Machiavellian tones.

The action sequences are bigger and more complex but still fall short of the intricacy of Pixar's most recent pictures. Hopefully DreamWorks Animation will have learnt lessons about animated sequels from Shrek, which dazzled us in its original incarnation but became a creatively empty husk by yesteryear's Shrek Forever After.

Alas, the feel good revelations at the end of Kung Fu Panda 2 suggest that as long as box office tills ring, there will be more chapters in Po's journey of self-discovery. Having achieved inner peace in this instalment, expect Kung Fu Panda 3 to tackle global child obesity by having its rotund hero achieve outer peace through a crash diet.

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Ratchet & Clank 3 stars

Ratchet is a mechanic on Planet Veldin in the Solana Galaxy, who dreams of becoming a Galactic Ranger like his valiant idols, Captain Qwark, Cora and Brax. Chairman Drek and his hulking robotic henchman Victor invade Veldin with their war bots, but Ratchet and his cute robotic sidekick Clank unexpectedly save the day. Their gallantry is rewarded with promotion to the Galactic Rangers, which sows the seeds of Captain Qwark's intense jealousy.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Children, Children's, Science Fiction
  • CastJim Ward, David Kaye, James Arnold Taylor.
  • DirectorJericca Cleland, Kevin Munroe.
  • WriterKevin Munroe, Gerry Swallow, T J Fixman.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration94 mins
  • Official sitewww.ratchetandclankthemovie.com
  • Release29/04/2016

Hollywood's turbulent relationship with the video gaming industry has frequently ended in tears including forgettable big-screen renderings of the Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Hitman franchises. The visceral thrill of assuming control of a digitised protagonist, whose destiny is literally in your hands, can't be replicated at 24 frames per second. Four films inspired by hugely popular games including The Angry Birds Movie, Warcraft and Assassin's Creed loom large on the horizon, and the 2016 onslaught begins with Kevin Munroe and Jericca Cleland's computer-animated romp. Ratchet & Clank is an energetic battle beyond the stars that affirms anyone can have a positive impact on the world. "To be a hero, you don't have to do big things, just the right ones," sermonises one of the otherworldly characters, trumpeting a message of self-belief and courage that is hardwired into the linear and simplistic script. There's no quibbling with the film's worthy intentions. It's just a shame that the quality of the animation, vocal performances and narrative sophistication couldn't have strived for greatness too. Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) is a furry, cat-like creature called a Lombax, who works as a mechanic on Planet Veldin in the Solana Galaxy, in a ramshackle workshop owned by his mentor and surrogate father, Grimroth (John Goodman). While he may be a wizard with a wrench, Ratchet openly dreams of becoming a laser gun-wielding Galactic Ranger like his idols, Captain Qwark (Jim Ward), Cora (Bella Thorne) and Brax (Vincent Tong). "Dream smaller, it leads to less disappointment," counsels Grimroth tenderly. Unperturbed, Ratchet attends a trial for the Rangers. "You may not have this chiselled jaw or God-given pectoral region but if you have heart, you may have what it takes," beams Qwark encouragingly to prospective candidates. Soon after, diabolical Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) and his hulking robotic henchman Victor (Sylvester Stallone) invade Veldin with their war bots. Ratchet and his cute mechanised sidekick Clank (David Kaye) unexpectedly save the day and their gallantry is rewarded with promotion to the esteemed ranks of the Galactic Rangers, which sows the seeds of Captain Qwark's jealousy. Chairman Drek and his chief scientist, Doctor Nefarious (Armin Shimerman), exploit these divisions to destroy the Galactic Rangers from within before they unleash their aptly named superweapon: the Deplanetizer. Ratchet & Clank is a solid and broadly comic introduction to the eponymous champions, who have appeared on various PlayStation platforms. Locations, weapons and flimsy plot threads from the games are merrily woven together into a conventional clash between good and evil. Heroes are immensely likable and pantomime villains cackle at regular intervals as they set their fatally flawed schemes in motion. Visuals are colourful and shiny if lacking in meticulous detail, especially when viewed on a widescreen canvas. Munroe and Cleland's picture encourages us to dream big, but its ambitions are extremely limited.

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Robinson Crusoe 3 stars

Robinson Crusoe is shipwrecked on a tropical island, which is home to a parrot called Tuesday and his friends: a chameleon called Carmello, a feisty kingfisher called Kiki, an echidna called Epi, a pangolin called Pango, a tapir called Rosie and a doddering old goat called Scrubby. The animals are initially wary of the human interloper but eventually live in harmony with Robinson. Unfortunately, scheming cats May and Mal also survive the shipwreck and plot to seize control of the sun-kissed idyll.

  • GenreAdaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
  • CastGeorge Babbit, Ron Allen, Laila Berzins, Yuri Lowenthal, Colin Metzger, Lindsay Torrance.
  • DirectorBen Stassen, Vincent Kesteloot.
  • CountryBel/Fr
  • Duration90 mins
  • Official sitewww.robinson-crusoe.co.uk
  • Release06/05/2016

Published in 1719, Daniel Defoe's chronicle of a shipwreck survivor who lives alone on an island for 28 years, is a beautifully crafted study of solitude, resourcefulness and British imperialism. The gnawed bones of the book are still visible in Vincent Kesteloot and Ben Stassen's computer-animated retelling, but this Robinson Crusoe is a resolutely child-friendly edition, told from the perspective of birds and animals which befriend the title character during his tropical isolation. Cuteness and gentle humour trump sophisticated storytelling and harsh realism throughout. The feathered and furred critters speak to each other and trade one-liners - although Robinson can't understand their grunts, growls, purrs and squawks. The wildlife is extremely tame. Robinson (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal) heads to sea with his shaggy dog Aynsley (Doug Stone) and quickly falls foul of the ship's gnarly cats, May (Debi Tinsley) and Mal (Doucette again). A violent storm shipwrecks Robinson on an island, which is home to a macaw called Mak (David Howard) and his friends: a chameleon called Carmello (Colin Metzger), a feisty kingfisher called Kiki (Lindsay Torrance), an echidna called Epi (Sandy Fox), a pangolin called Pango (Jeff Doucette), a tapir called Rosie (Laila Berzins) and a doddering old goat called Scrubby (Joey Camen). Mak has always been a dreamer and believes the glittering treasures, which sometimes wash up on the sun-kissed idyll, indicate a brighter future over the horizon. The other denizens of the island reject the bird's fantasies. "My dear macaw, you must wake up and smell the papaya," wearily intones Carmello. Robinson's unexpected arrival adds fuel to Mak's suspicions that the world doesn't begin and end on the island. The animals are initially wary of the human interloper, but eventually live in harmony with the gangly shipwreck survivor in a makeshift tree house. Unfortunately, Machiavellian moggies May and Mal also avoid a watery grave and they plot revenge from nearby Curse Island, flanked by their army of hungry kittens. Robinson Crusoe is a simplistic and sporadically entertaining journey of self-discovery. The colourful animation pops, but vocal performances are flat and some of the gags misfire, although early scenes are a rich source of humour as the island's denizens study a human for the first time. "He's stripped off his skin!" shrieks Kiki as Robinson removes a jacket. Co-directors Kesteloot and Stassen choreograph energetic action sequences to take advantage of the 3D format. This eye-popping extra dimension is used smartly in one breathless chase along a network of irrigation pipes that carries precious water to the tree house and other parts of the island. The camera careens along the precariously constructed flumes, occasionally swooping along vertiginous rock faces that support the pipes. It's a long way down.

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The Huntsman: Winter's War 2 stars

Scheming Queen Ravenna rules over her realm in the south with a steely glare. Her kind-hearted sister Freya gives birth to a baby girl, who subsequently dies, unleashing a wave of grief and fury in Freya that transforms her into The Ice Queen. She moves north, establishes her own kingdom and kidnaps children from nearby villages to mould into an army of heartless soldiers. She demands that the warriors under her control never open their hearts to love but Eric and Sara defy their queen.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
  • CastColin Morgan, Jessica Chastain, Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Sam Claflin, Charlize Theron.
  • DirectorCedric Nicolas-Troyan.
  • WriterCraig Mazin, Evan Spiliotopoulos.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration117 mins
  • Official sitewww.huntsmanmovie.co.uk
  • Release04/04/2016

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? Alas, not Cedric Nicolas-Troyan's functional prequel-cum-sequel to the 2012 fantasy Snow White And The Huntsman, which promises a yarn "that comes long before happily ever after". The Huntsman: Winter's War boasts jaw-dropping costumes, sets and production design, plus special effects-laden action sequences awash with rampaging goblins and a shape-shifting arch-villainess. However, all of the slick, digitally rendered beauty cannot disguise uneven performances and a plodding script by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, which cynically melds Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen and the Brothers Grimm to woo audiences, who hanker for a live-action version of Frozen. Kristen Stewart is noticeably absent as Snow White, who appears fleetingly in flashback, but Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron reprise their roles as swaggering hero and scheming megalomaniac, on a collision course with destiny. If risible regional accents were a crime punishable under UK law, Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain would be sentenced to life without parole. Her gung-ho attempts at a Scottish burr catalyse several moments of unintentional hilarity when her acrobatic warrior isn't somersaulting through breathlessly orchestrated fight sequences. Scheming Queen Ravenna (Theron) rules over her realm in the south with a steely glare, aided by the shape-shifting magic mirror. Her kind-hearted younger sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), falls madly in love with the Duke of Blackwood (Colin Morgan), who is promised to another, and falls pregnant with his child. Shortly after the birth of a baby girl, the Duke torches the infant in its crib, unleashing a wave of grief and fury in Freya that transforms her into The Ice Queen. She moves north, establishes her own kingdom and kidnaps children from nearby villages to mould into an army of heartless soldiers. "Do not love. It's a sin... and I shall not forgive it," snarls Freya to her trembling charges. Two of her finest warriors - Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) - defy this edict as adults and are cruelly punished. Seven years later, taking us beyond the events of the previous film, Snow White has vanquished Ravenna but the magic mirror continues to exert a malevolent control. Eric leads a mission to consign the golden adornment to sanctuary, aided by dwarf Nion (Nick Frost) and his half-brother Gryff (Rob Brydon). "What happens if Freya gets the mirror?" asks Sara. "She'd be unstoppable", growls Eric, laying the groundwork for a showdown between former allies. The Huntsman: Winter's War barely breaks sweat as it warps familiar fairy tales to facilitate a heavy-handed fable about love's redemptive glow. Blunt's solid portrayal of warped motherhood compensates for Theron's campy theatrics that threaten to nudge a bloodthirsty conflict into the realms of pantomime. Hemsworth glowers with his shirt on, Chastain simpers and Frost and Brydon provide comic relief alongside Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach as a pair of potty-mouthed female dwarfs.

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The Jungle Book 3 stars

A young boy called Mowgli is raised by wolves Akela and Raksha. The boy's presence in the jungle is an affront to Shere Khan, the Bengal tiger, who resolves to kill Mowgli. Thus the man cub must leave his wolf parents and embark on a perilous journey of self-discovery in the company of Bagheera the black panther and Baloo the bear. En route, Mowgli has a crushing encounter with Kaa the python and is sweet-talked by the deceptively dangerous King Louie.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Drama, Family, Family
  • CastIdris Elba, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong'o, Giancarlo Esposito, Sir Ben Kingsley, Neel Sethi.
  • DirectorJon Favreau.
  • WriterJustin Marks.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration106 mins
  • Official sitewww.disney.co.uk
  • Release15/04/2016

The bare necessities of a contented life will come to you by going on safari with Jon Favreau's technically dazzling romp through the stories of Rudyard Kipling. Not since James Cameron's Avatar has a 3D digital world been conjured with such depth and precision. Shot in downtown Los Angeles and beautifully rendered as untamed wilderness on computer hard drives, this immersive Jungle Book retains the wide-eyed charm of the 1967 Disney animation including three songs and comic relief from a rascally bear named Baloo, voiced to droll perfection by Bill Murray. "You have never been a more endangered species than you are now," the hirsute honey thief informs an Indian porcupine (Garry Shandling) during one amusing altercation. Vibrant colour radiates off the screen and gooey sentimentality oozes like sap during the rousing final act, but scriptwriter Justin Marks isn't afraid to hack into darker territory. Shere Khan the Bengal tiger evokes a heartbreaking scene from The Lion King in his relentless, blood-crazed pursuit of Mowgli, and the animated version's jazziest interlude - I Wan'na Be Like You with jungle VIP King Louie and his swingin' band of monkeysicians - is repurposed as a terrifying chase. Man cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is raised by wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) as a brother to other pups. A terrible drought necessitates an uneasy truce between predators and prey around the watering hole, and other denizens of the jungle finally get to see Mowgli close-up. The boy is an affront to Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who lost an eye to a fiery torch wielded by Mowgli's father. "A man cub becomes man, and man is forbidden!" snarls the big cat, who demands the child be handed over to him for slaughter. Akela and Raksha refuse but Mowgli acknowledges his presence jeopardises the lupine clan. So he embarks on a perilous journey back to civilisation in the company of his protector, Bagheera the black panther (Sir Ben Kingsley). En route, Mowgli gathers honey for greedy Baloo (Murray) and is pressurised into sharing the secret of "the red flower" - fire - with menacing Gigantopithecus, King Louie (Christopher Walken). The Jungle Book flexes its digital muscles in every impeccably crafted frame, festooning the screen with a menagerie of anthropomorphised critters that are just as realistic as the shipwrecked tiger in Life Of Pi. Sethi is a tad wooden in comparison but it must be difficult for a 12-year-old newcomer to find an emotional core when the rest of the cast and lush backgrounds only spring to life in post-production. Vocal performances are strong, replete with disorienting use of Scarlett Johansson's seductive whisper in surround sound during Mowgli's crushing encounter with python Kaa. Trust in me: Favreau's film is a majestic walk on the wild side.

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The Jungle Book 3D 3 stars

A young boy called Mowgli is raised by wolves Akela and Raksha. The boy's presence in the jungle is an affront to Shere Khan, the Bengal tiger, who resolves to kill Mowgli. Thus the man cub must leave his wolf parents and embark on a perilous journey of self-discovery in the company of Bagheera the black panther and Baloo the bear. En route, Mowgli has a crushing encounter with Kaa the python and is sweet-talked by the deceptively dangerous King Louie.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Drama, Family, Family
  • CastIdris Elba, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong'o, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Murray, Sir Ben Kingsley, Neel Sethi, Scarlett Johansson.
  • DirectorJon Favreau.
  • WriterJustin Marks.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration106 mins
  • Official sitewww.disney.co.uk
  • Release15/04/2016

The bare necessities of a contented life will come to you by going on safari with Jon Favreau's technically dazzling romp through the stories of Rudyard Kipling. Not since James Cameron's Avatar has a 3D digital world been conjured with such depth and precision. Shot in downtown Los Angeles and beautifully rendered as untamed wilderness on computer hard drives, this immersive Jungle Book retains the wide-eyed charm of the 1967 Disney animation including three songs and comic relief from a rascally bear named Baloo, voiced to droll perfection by Bill Murray. "You have never been a more endangered species than you are now," the hirsute honey thief informs an Indian porcupine (Garry Shandling) during one amusing altercation. Vibrant colour radiates off the screen and gooey sentimentality oozes like sap during the rousing final act, but scriptwriter Justin Marks isn't afraid to hack into darker territory. Shere Khan the Bengal tiger evokes a heartbreaking scene from The Lion King in his relentless, blood-crazed pursuit of Mowgli, and the animated version's jazziest interlude - I Wan'na Be Like You with jungle VIP King Louie and his swingin' band of monkeysicians - is repurposed as a terrifying chase. Man cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is raised by wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) as a brother to other pups. A terrible drought necessitates an uneasy truce between predators and prey around the watering hole, and other denizens of the jungle finally get to see Mowgli close-up. The boy is an affront to Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who lost an eye to a fiery torch wielded by Mowgli's father. "A man cub becomes man, and man is forbidden!" snarls the big cat, who demands the child be handed over to him for slaughter. Akela and Raksha refuse but Mowgli acknowledges his presence jeopardises the lupine clan. So he embarks on a perilous journey back to civilisation in the company of his protector, Bagheera the black panther (Sir Ben Kingsley). En route, Mowgli gathers honey for greedy Baloo (Murray) and is pressurised into sharing the secret of "the red flower" - fire - with menacing Gigantopithecus, King Louie (Christopher Walken). The Jungle Book flexes its digital muscles in every impeccably crafted frame, festooning the screen with a menagerie of anthropomorphised critters that are just as realistic as the shipwrecked tiger in Life Of Pi. Sethi is a tad wooden in comparison but it must be difficult for a 12-year-old newcomer to find an emotional core when the rest of the cast and lush backgrounds only spring to life in post-production. Vocal performances are strong, replete with disorienting use of Scarlett Johansson's seductive whisper in surround sound during Mowgli's crushing encounter with python Kaa. Trust in me: Favreau's film is a majestic walk on the wild side.

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Zootropolis 4 stars

Judy Hopps becomes the first serving rabbit police officer in the city of Zootopia. Inducted into the force by Mayor Leodore Lionheart, Judy is initially assigned to traffic duty by Chief Bogo, who doubts her abilities due to her size. During one of her shifts, Judy defies orders and she suffers the wrath of Bogo. In order to prove her worth, Judy vows to solve the case of a missing resident, Mr Otterton, within 48 hours or she will resign.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Drama, Family, Family
  • CastJason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Idris Elba, Octavia Spencer, JK Simmons.
  • DirectorRich Moore, Byron Howard, Jared Bush.
  • WriterPhil Johnston, Jared Bush.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration108 mins
  • Official sitemovies.disney.co.uk/zootropolis
  • Release25/03/2016

Creatures great and small live in perfect harmony in Byron Howard and Rich Moore's anthropomorphic animated feature that continues Disney's winning streak under the creative leadership of John Lasseter. Zootropolis is a beautifully crafted parable that elegantly combines a noir detective thriller, buddy cop comedy and coming of age story with the studio's trademark visual splendour. It's a tour de force of uproarious laughter and tears, accompanied by a gorgeous genre-melding orchestral score from Michael Giacchino that tugs the heartstrings. Screenwriters Jared Bush and Phil Johnston engineer plentiful hairpin twists and turns, mining comedy from mammalian traits while underscoring each bravura set piece with valuable life lessons about prejudice, tolerance and teamwork. Neat visual gags abound including, a small time weasel criminal selling bootleg DVDs of Disney animations Wreck-It Rhino and Wrangled, or familiar chain stores that have been cutely rebranded for creature customers. Zootropolis even cheekily pokes fun at Frozen's song of empowerment, Let It Go, before unleashing its own infectious anthem, Try Everything, sung to the rafters by Shakira in the guise of a chart-topping savannah diva called Gazelle. Bunnyburrow carrot farmer Stu Hopps (voiced by Don Lake) and wife Bonnie (Bonnie Hunt) try to dissuade their daughter Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin) from pursuing her dream of becoming the first serving rabbit police officer in Zootropolis. "If you don't try anything new, you'll never fail," chirpily professes Stu. Unperturbed, Judy earns her police badge as part of the Mammal Inclusion Initiative championed by Mayor Leodore Lionheart (JK Simmons) and his diminutive second in command, Assistant Mayor Dawn Bellwether (Jenny Slate). Judy is initially assigned to traffic duty by Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), who doubts her abilities. In order to prove her worth, the new cop on the block vows to solve the case of a missing resident. "I will give you 48 hours to find Emmitt Otterton. You strike out, you resign," growls Chief Bogo, sensing an opportunity to rid himself of the bouncing bunny. With the clock ticking, Judy gathers evidence from concerned wife Mrs Otterton (Octavia Spencer) and implores a con artist fox called Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to help her break the case. Working with an animal who should be her sworn enemy, Judy stumbles upon a grand conspiracy involving Arctic shrew Mr Big (Maurice LaMarche), who presides over the criminal fraternity in Tundratown with his polar henchbears. Zootropolis is 108 minutes of unadulterated joy, rendered in exquisitely detailed animation. Vocal performances are flawless, particularly Goodwin as the dreamer with a big heart, who truly believes that anyone can achieve their dreams if they put their paws to it. A protracted sequence involving a three-toed sloth called Flash (Raymond S Persi), who works Department of Mammal Vehicles, is nothing short of genius. Hop to it - Zootropolis is the bunny's whiskers.

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