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

  • Boyhood
  • Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
  • Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes 3D
  • Earth To Echo
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy 3D
  • Hercules
  • Hercules 3D
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2
  • Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
  • The Purge: Anarchy
  • Transformers: Age Of Extinction
  • Transformers: Age Of Extinction 3D

Boyhood 3 stars

movie title

Drama about a boy's coming of age, shot over 12 years with the same crew and cast. When we first meet Mason Jr, he's preparing to move house with his mother Olivia and precocious older sister, Samantha. Errant father Mason Sr takes the children ten-pin bowling and dispense pithy words of wisdom. As Mason Jr blossoms into a sullen and awkward teenager, Olivia ricochets from a bad marriage to a drunk professor to a bad marriage to one of her students.

  • GenreDrama, Romance
  • CastPatricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater.
  • DirectorRichard Linklater.
  • WriterRichard Linklater.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration166 mins
  • Official sitewww.boyhoodmovie.tumblr.com
  • Release11/07/2014

In 2002, filmmaker Richard Linklater had a dream. The celebrated Texan director of Dazed And Confused and Before Sunrise, whose mother and father separated when he was seven, wanted to make a drama that realistically captured the bonds between parent and child. He announced his intention to create a close-knit family of cast and crew, who would reunite every year to shoot new scenes that accurately reflected the physical and emotional changes of the young stars.

Seven-year-old Ellar Coltrane was cast in the lead role and Linklater chose his then eight-year-old daughter Lorelei to portray the central character's older sister. The result is a directorial doozy of dazzling ambition and scope that falls short in terms of pacing and compelling narrative arcs.

From a technical perspective, Boyhood is a staggering achievement - a testament to Linklater's determination that could have fallen apart at any point in the past 12 years. From the fragments of each annual get-together, the writer-director has fashioned a naturalistic slideshow of the awkward transition from childhood to adulthood that will doubtless garner an Oscar nomination and a deluge of critical plaudits.

When we first meet Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane), he's preparing to move house with his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and precocious older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), who keeps him awake with her rendition of Britney's Oops!... I Did It Again.

Errant father Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) takes the children ten-pin bowling and the boy pleads for the introduction of safeguards to keep his ball out of the gutter. "You don't want bumpers - life doesn't give you bumpers," his old man counsels.

Major pop culture and political events including the publication of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince and Obama's presidential campaign allow us to date each chapter as Mason Jr blossoms into a sullen and awkward teenager.

En route, Olivia ricochets from a bad marriage to a drunk professor (Marco Perella) to a bad marriage to one of her students (Brad Hawkins), with occasional appearances from Mason Sr to dispense pithy words of wisdom.

By the very nature of its creation, Boyhood unfolds in fits and spurts, some more interesting than others. Coltrane starts the film as a cheeky cherub, who is slightly wooden in front of camera, but he grows in confidence and stature.

Arquette has surprisingly scant screen time considering she is primary care giver and the final edit runs close to three hours, while Hawke could almost have walked off the set of Before Midnight, given his character's penchant for rambling introspection.

It's easy to be blinded by the glorious gimmick that initiated Boyhood but if you judge Linklater's film purely on what made it to the screen, it's a fascinating yet flawed experiment.

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Thursday 31st July 2014

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes 4 stars

movie title

Simian flu has ravaged the globe, killing almost the entire human race. In San Francisco, one-time military man Dreyfus, who lost his entire family to the virus, leads the human survivors. The truce between humans and apes is tested to breaking point when a diplomatic mission led by Malcolm, his wife Ellie and teenage son Alexander enters the forest to request access to the O'Shaughnessy Dam, which provides the city with its electricity.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastKeri Russell, Gary Oldman, Andy Serkis, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell.
  • DirectorMatt Reeves.
  • WriterMark Bomback, Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration130 mins
  • Official sitewww.dawnofapes.com
  • Release17/07/2014

Blending state-of-the-art special effects with an intelligent script, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes conjures two hours of animal magic that looks set to be crowned king of the blockbuster swingers. Tim Burton's abortive Planet Of The Apes is now a distant memory thanks to the 2011 revamp Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and this superior sequel, which pushes the art of motion-capture performance to new limits.

Andy Serkis' exemplary work as Caesar, the super-intelligent chimpanzee who leads the ape uprising, is the film's emotional heartbeat. His ability to convey the character's rage, despair and passion through movement and subtle gesture is breathtaking.

Toby Kebbell is also compelling as Caesar's war-mongering rival, who believes the key to his species' survival is the extermination of humans. Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver's script elegantly draws parallels between the feuding primates, juxtaposing tender scenes of parenting with bruising skirmishes that create divisions on both sides.

Ten winters have passed since simian flu ravaged the globe. In the absence of law and order, basic resources such as water, food and electricity are dangerously depleted. One-time military man Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), who lost his entire family to the virus, leads survivors of the ALZ-113 virus in San Francisco.

He dispatches a team led by family man Malcolm (Jason Clarke) to access the O'Shaughnessy Dam, which provides the city with electricity. In the forest that envelops the dam, the scouting party encounters apes led by Caesar, including his ambitious second-in-command Koba (Kebbell), impetuous son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Bornean orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval).

Malcolm's trigger-happy compatriot Carver (Kirk Acevedo) shoots one of the apes and the humans are banished to their stronghold. Once Dreyfus learns about the neighbouring ape community, he asks Malcolm and co to refrain from telling the other survivors.

"They're talking apes with big-ass spears!" shrieks Carver. Malcolm realises that he must earn Caesar's trust to gain access to the dam so he prepares to return to the forest with wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and teenage son Alexander (Kodi Smith-McPhee).

"If you're not back in three days, we're going to go out there and kill every last one of them," warns Dreyfus.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a slick thrill ride with brains as well as brawn. The grim mood, which permeates the first half, leads to all-guns-blazing war and director Reeves orchestrates these brutal sequences with elan.

Digital effects are jaw-dropping, giving birth to a realistic army of blood-thirsty apes who cram every chaotic, blood-spattered frame. The film's strong anti-gun message comes through loud and clear, but the appetite for destruction overpowers diplomacy.

"I always think ape better than humans," laments Caesar as his dream of lasting peace founders. "I see now how like them we are."

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Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes 3D 4 stars

movie title

Simian flu has ravaged the globe, killing almost the entire human race. In San Francisco, one-time military man Dreyfus, who lost his entire family to the virus, leads the human survivors. The truce between humans and apes is tested to breaking point when a diplomatic mission led by Malcolm, his wife Ellie and teenage son Alexander enters the forest to request access to the O'Shaughnessy Dam, which provides the city with its electricity.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastAndy Serkis, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell.
  • DirectorMatt Reeves.
  • WriterRick Jaffa, Mark Bomback, Amanda Silver.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration130 mins
  • Official sitewww.dawnofapes.com
  • Release17/07/2014

Blending state-of-the-art special effects with an intelligent script, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes conjures two hours of animal magic that looks set to be crowned king of the blockbuster swingers. Tim Burton's abortive Planet Of The Apes is now a distant memory thanks to the 2011 revamp Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and this superior sequel, which pushes the art of motion-capture performance to new limits.

Andy Serkis' exemplary work as Caesar, the super-intelligent chimpanzee who leads the ape uprising, is the film's emotional heartbeat. His ability to convey the character's rage, despair and passion through movement and subtle gesture is breathtaking.

Toby Kebbell is also compelling as Caesar's war-mongering rival, who believes the key to his species' survival is the extermination of humans. Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver's script elegantly draws parallels between the feuding primates, juxtaposing tender scenes of parenting with bruising skirmishes that create divisions on both sides.

Ten winters have passed since simian flu ravaged the globe. In the absence of law and order, basic resources such as water, food and electricity are dangerously depleted. One-time military man Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), who lost his entire family to the virus, leads survivors of the ALZ-113 virus in San Francisco.

He dispatches a team led by family man Malcolm (Jason Clarke) to access the O'Shaughnessy Dam, which provides the city with electricity. In the forest that envelops the dam, the scouting party encounters apes led by Caesar, including his ambitious second-in-command Koba (Kebbell), impetuous son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Bornean orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval).

Malcolm's trigger-happy compatriot Carver (Kirk Acevedo) shoots one of the apes and the humans are banished to their stronghold. Once Dreyfus learns about the neighbouring ape community, he asks Malcolm and co to refrain from telling the other survivors.

"They're talking apes with big-ass spears!" shrieks Carver. Malcolm realises that he must earn Caesar's trust to gain access to the dam so he prepares to return to the forest with wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and teenage son Alexander (Kodi Smith-McPhee).

"If you're not back in three days, we're going to go out there and kill every last one of them," warns Dreyfus.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes is a slick thrill ride with brains as well as brawn. The grim mood, which permeates the first half, leads to all-guns-blazing war and director Reeves orchestrates these brutal sequences with elan.

Digital effects are jaw-dropping, giving birth to a realistic army of blood-thirsty apes who cram every chaotic, blood-spattered frame. The film's strong anti-gun message comes through loud and clear, but the appetite for destruction overpowers diplomacy.

"I always think ape better than humans," laments Caesar as his dream of lasting peace founders. "I see now how like them we are."

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

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Earth To Echo 3 stars

movie title

Best friends Alex, Munch and Tuck are devastated when a highway construction project tears apart their community of Clark County, Nevada, forcing the lads and their families to relocate to different parts of the country. On their last day together, they follow strange signals on their mobile phones into the desert and uncover a friendly alien robot, who has become stranded on Earth. The boys nickname the robot Echo and pledge to help their otherworldly friend return home.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Drama, Family, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction
  • CastReese Hartwig, Astro, Teo Halm, Ella Wahlestedt.
  • DirectorDave Green.
  • WriterHenry Gayden.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration91 mins
  • Official sitewww.callhimecho.com
  • Release25/07/2014

In 1982, ET phoned home and now another stranded extra-terrestrial requires assistance from pint-sized heroes to safely return to the stars in Dave Green's fantastical family-oriented adventure. Earth To Echo begs obvious similarities to Steven Spielberg's classic coming-of-age story and the 1987 fantasy *Batteries Not Included.

Green's special effects-laden picture lacks the emotional wallop of the former and the unabashed charm of the latter, but does tread a familiar path through fresh eyes by employing the found footage format a la Paranormal Activity.

Characters address an omnipresent video camera, verbalising their excitement and fear as a night-time bicycle ride into the desert becomes a rescue mission of galactic proportions. "I'm Reginald. I'm a bit of an acquired taste... that's what my mom says," confesses one of the boys in his endearingly nervous introduction.

Like all examples of the genre, the lens invariably points in the right direction, regardless of realism, to capture important conversations and push forward the storyline.

"What you're about to see is what happened to me and my friends one year ago," explains Tuck (Brian "Astro" Bradley). In fragmented footage, we meet Tuck's best friends Alex (Teo Halm) and Reginald aka Munch (Reese Hartwig) after they learn that a highway construction project is going to tear apart their community of Clark County, Nevada.

The lads will have to relocate to different parts of the country, signalling the end of their balmy childhood. On their last night together, the boys follow strange signals on their mobile phones into the desert. "I never understood why people like the outdoors," wheezes Munch.

They uncover a friendly robot, who has become stranded on Earth, and the boys pledge to help their otherworldly friend locate the missing parts of his spaceship so he can return home.

Plucky classmate Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) joins the trio as they evade shady government officials led by Dr Lawrence Masden (Jason Gray-Stanford), who are also hunting Echo. "He just wants to go home!" pleads one of the children. "That will not happen," sneers Masden, "that thing is far too valuable."

Earth To Echo is a state-of-the-art ode to ET and its imitators that ups the technical ante for a generation that prefers to swipe at tablets and smart phones rather than go outside and play. Green employs special effects at key junctures, but, for the most part, he's reliant on the young cast to carry his film.

Halm, Bradley and Hartwig are appealing without being too winsomely cute, and there are some genuinely touching scenes of the boys choking back emotion as the enormity of the situation, and the risks, become clear.

The titular robot's personality is encapsulated in a few beeps and trills that should, if nothing else, remind audiences to keep their mobile devices switched off for the duration.

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Thursday 31st July 2014

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Guardians Of The Galaxy 4 stars

movie title

Abducted from his parents as a child and raised by thieves, gung-ho American pilot Peter Quill is content to gallivant around the far reaches of space. He steals an orb, which is sought by Ronan and his army of Sakaarans, and evades capture by aligning himself with a motley crew of rebels comprising green-skinned assassin Gamora, genetically engineered raccoon Rocket, his tree-like sidekick Groot and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax The Destroyer, whose entire family was slaughtered by Ronan.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Science Fiction
  • CastBradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin.
  • DirectorJames Gunn.
  • WriterJames Gunn, Nicole Perlman.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration128 mins
  • Official sitewww.marvel.com/guardians
  • Release31/07/2014

From its visually stunning opening set to the funky strains of Come And Get Your Love by Native American rock band Redbone, Guardians Of The Galaxy lends the Marvel Comics big screen universe a delightful retro twang. The sardonic anti-hero is seldom parted from his Walkman and he inspires his cohorts to greatness with repeated references to Kevin Bacon and Footloose. As the slick special effects attest, the budget for this intergalactic romp is big - so too are the laughs courtesy of director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman. The opening sequence affectionately nods to Raiders Of The Lost Ark and when the mystery surrounding the film's fabled treasure is revealed, the space cowboy casually notes the trinket has "a shiny suitcase, Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon vibe". Gunn doesn't skimp on the spectacle - if anything, a couple of the outlandish set pieces are too long - but he adds a comic twist to each deafening blast of pyrotechnics. Thus a centrepiece prison break is underscored by Rupert Holmes' 1979 hit Escape (The Pina Colada Song) and when the anti-hero barely escapes death in his spaceship and an extra-terrestrial girlfriend stumbles up from the hold, he looks at her with embarrassment and confesses, "I'm going to be honest with you. I forgot you were here". Abducted from his parents as a child and raised by thieves led by blue-skinned tyrant Yondu (Michael Rooker), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a thief for hire, who steals a mystical orb sought by sadistic warlord Ronan (Lee Pace) and his army of Sakaarans. Peter evades Ronan's clutches and eventually aligns himself with a motley crew of mercenaries comprising green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), whose entire family was slaughtered by Ronan. When Peter learns the orb is an ancient artefact with the power to destroy the universe, he must put selfish desires to one side to repel Ronan and his underlings including fearsome intergalactic hunter Korath (Djimon Hounsou). Guardians Of The Galaxy is a blast. Pratt brings swagger and dry wit to his emotionally wounded hero, while Saldana adds sass and sex appeal to her otherworldly assassin. Bautista is marvellous as the hulk who takes everything literally - "Nothing goes over my head, my reflexes are too fast" - but almost every scene is stolen by the computer-generated double-act of Rocket and Groot. Cooper voices his feisty gun-toting fur ball with a wonderful blend of defiance and sarcasm, and breaks our hearts when it seems that he might be separated from his beloved sidekick forever. Cameos from Benicio Del Toro and Glenn Close hint at a wider canvas of political intrigue that director Gunn will be keen to explore in a sequel star-dated for release in 2017.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

Guardians Of The Galaxy 3D 4 stars

movie title

Abducted from his parents as a child and raised by thieves, gung-ho American pilot Peter Quill is content to gallivant around the far reaches of space. He steals an orb, which is sought by Ronan and his army of Sakaarans, and evades capture by aligning himself with a motley crew of rebels comprising green-skinned assassin Gamora, genetically engineered raccoon Rocket, his tree-like sidekick Groot and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax The Destroyer, whose entire family was slaughtered by Ronan.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Science Fiction
  • CastZoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Josh Brolin.
  • DirectorJames Gunn.
  • WriterNicole Perlman, James Gunn.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration128 mins
  • Official sitewww.marvel.com/guardians
  • Release31/07/2014

From its visually stunning opening set to the funky strains of Come And Get Your Love by Native American rock band Redbone, Guardians Of The Galaxy lends the Marvel Comics big screen universe a delightful retro twang. The sardonic anti-hero is seldom parted from his Walkman and he inspires his cohorts to greatness with repeated references to Kevin Bacon and Footloose. As the slick special effects attest, the budget for this intergalactic romp is big - so too are the laughs courtesy of director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman. The opening sequence affectionately nods to Raiders Of The Lost Ark and when the mystery surrounding the film's fabled treasure is revealed, the space cowboy casually notes the trinket has "a shiny suitcase, Ark of the Covenant, Maltese Falcon vibe". Gunn doesn't skimp on the spectacle - if anything, a couple of the outlandish set pieces are too long - but he adds a comic twist to each deafening blast of pyrotechnics. Thus a centrepiece prison break is underscored by Rupert Holmes' 1979 hit Escape (The Pina Colada Song) and when the anti-hero barely escapes death in his spaceship and an extra-terrestrial girlfriend stumbles up from the hold, he looks at her with embarrassment and confesses, "I'm going to be honest with you. I forgot you were here". Abducted from his parents as a child and raised by thieves led by blue-skinned tyrant Yondu (Michael Rooker), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a thief for hire, who steals a mystical orb sought by sadistic warlord Ronan (Lee Pace) and his army of Sakaarans. Peter evades Ronan's clutches and eventually aligns himself with a motley crew of mercenaries comprising green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), whose entire family was slaughtered by Ronan. When Peter learns the orb is an ancient artefact with the power to destroy the universe, he must put selfish desires to one side to repel Ronan and his underlings including fearsome intergalactic hunter Korath (Djimon Hounsou). Guardians Of The Galaxy is a blast. Pratt brings swagger and dry wit to his emotionally wounded hero, while Saldana adds sass and sex appeal to her otherworldly assassin. Bautista is marvellous as the hulk who takes everything literally - "Nothing goes over my head, my reflexes are too fast" - but almost every scene is stolen by the computer-generated double-act of Rocket and Groot. Cooper voices his feisty gun-toting fur ball with a wonderful blend of defiance and sarcasm, and breaks our hearts when it seems that he might be separated from his beloved sidekick forever. Cameos from Benicio Del Toro and Glenn Close hint at a wider canvas of political intrigue that director Gunn will be keen to explore in a sequel star-dated for release in 2017.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

Hercules 3 stars

movie title

Greek demigod Hercules completes his 12 mythical labours, which include slaying a hydra, capturing the Cretan Bull and defeating hellhound Cerberus, which guards the entrance to the underworld. The deposed King of Thrace hires Hercules and his band of mercenaries to train his army and bring to an end a bitter civil war. Unimaginable villains test Hercules's mythical power and he rages against his fate to be blessed with the strength of a God but endure the suffering of a mortal.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Romance
  • CastDwayne Johnson, Joseph Fiennes, Aksel Hennie, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt, Peter Mullan.
  • DirectorBrett Ratner.
  • WriterEvan Spiliotopoulos, Ryan Condal.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration98 mins
  • Official sitewww.herculesmovie.co.uk
  • Release25/07/2014

Classical Greek mythology gets a campy, testosterone-pumped rewrite in Brett Ratner's swaggering swords 'n' sandals romp. Based on the comic book series Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, this laboured re-imaging of the demi-God son of Zeus boasts slow-motion action sequences reminiscent of 300, albeit with reduced on-screen bloodshed to secure a 12A certificate.

Parents should exercise caution. These ancient civilisations are predisposed to outbursts of bad language that escape the wrath of Olympus, and when the film's lone female warrior is verbally dissed by a compatriot, she lowers the tone by sniping, "If only your manhood was as long as your tongue."

The minds of screenwriters Ryan J Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos remain in the gutter when it comes to the two-dimensional women that festoon the screen. These wenches swoon helplessly in Hercules' presence or encourage his valour with the promise of personal services.

Cristiano Ronaldo's girlfriend, Russian model Irina Shayk, makes fleeting appearances in flashbacks as Hercules' wife, who casually drops her robes for a gratuitous flash of her pert derriere. "You think you know the truth about [Hercules]? You know nothing..." growls the narrator as he transports us back to a time when power was seized with swords rather than diplomacy.

Hercules (Johnson) has completed his 12 labours, which included slaying a hydra and defeating the mighty Nemean Lion, and now this muscle-bound man of myth roams the land as a mercenary for hire.

His band of travelling companions includes soothsayer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), warrior Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), mute orphan Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Amazonian archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and silver-tongued storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who is also Hercules' cousin.

Lord Cotys (John Hurt), the ailing King of Thrace, promises Hercules and his company their weight in gold if they can train his farm hands to become an army and bring to an end a bitter civil war with rebel leader Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann).

The king's daughter Eugenia (Rebecca Ferguson) is wary of Hercules, so too is Cotys' loyal general Sitacles (Peter Mullan), but he cannot fail to be impressed as the king's weakling subjects are transformed into a well-drilled fighting machine.

Directed with destruction-oriented bombast by Ratner (Rush Hour), Hercules is undecided whether to take itself seriously or descend into tongue-wedged pantomime. Certainly, Sewell and McShane seem to be having a ball and Johnson trots out a couple of droll one-liners.

The set pieces are orchestrated at full pelt with a generous three-figure body count but once the screaming ends, deficiencies in the script are exposed. When the truth about Hercules' tragic past is revealed, Johnson's wail of anguish in close-up epitomises the film's heavy-handed approach to matters of the heart: more volume, less palpable emotion.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

Hercules 3D 3 stars

movie title

Greek demigod Hercules completes his 12 mythical labours, which include slaying a hydra, capturing the Cretan Bull and defeating hellhound Cerberus, which guards the entrance to the underworld. The deposed King of Thrace hires Hercules and his band of mercenaries to train his army and bring to an end a bitter civil war. Unimaginable villains test Hercules's mythical power and he rages against his fate to be blessed with the strength of a God but endure the suffering of a mortal.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Romance
  • CastDwayne Johnson, Joseph Fiennes, Aksel Hennie, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt, Peter Mullan.
  • DirectorBrett Ratner.
  • WriterEvan Spiliotopoulos, Ryan Condal.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration98 mins
  • Official sitewww.herculesmovie.co.uk
  • Release25/07/2014

Classical Greek mythology gets a campy, testosterone-pumped rewrite in Brett Ratner's swaggering swords 'n' sandals romp. Based on the comic book series Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, this laboured re-imaging of the demi-God son of Zeus boasts slow-motion action sequences reminiscent of 300, albeit with reduced on-screen bloodshed to secure a 12A certificate.

Parents should exercise caution. These ancient civilisations are predisposed to outbursts of bad language that escape the wrath of Olympus, and when the film's lone female warrior is verbally dissed by a compatriot, she lowers the tone by sniping, "If only your manhood was as long as your tongue."

The minds of screenwriters Ryan J Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos remain in the gutter when it comes to the two-dimensional women that festoon the screen. These wenches swoon helplessly in Hercules' presence or encourage his valour with the promise of personal services.

Cristiano Ronaldo's girlfriend, Russian model Irina Shayk, makes fleeting appearances in flashbacks as Hercules' wife, who casually drops her robes for a gratuitous flash of her pert derriere. "You think you know the truth about [Hercules]? You know nothing..." growls the narrator as he transports us back to a time when power was seized with swords rather than diplomacy.

Hercules (Johnson) has completed his 12 labours, which included slaying a hydra and defeating the mighty Nemean Lion, and now this muscle-bound man of myth roams the land as a mercenary for hire.

His band of travelling companions includes soothsayer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), warrior Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), mute orphan Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), Amazonian archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) and silver-tongued storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who is also Hercules' cousin.

Lord Cotys (John Hurt), the ailing King of Thrace, promises Hercules and his company their weight in gold if they can train his farm hands to become an army and bring to an end a bitter civil war with rebel leader Rhesus (Tobias Santelmann).

The king's daughter Eugenia (Rebecca Ferguson) is wary of Hercules, so too is Cotys' loyal general Sitacles (Peter Mullan), but he cannot fail to be impressed as the king's weakling subjects are transformed into a well-drilled fighting machine.

Directed with destruction-oriented bombast by Ratner (Rush Hour), Hercules is undecided whether to take itself seriously or descend into tongue-wedged pantomime. Certainly, Sewell and McShane seem to be having a ball and Johnson trots out a couple of droll one-liners.

The set pieces are orchestrated at full pelt with a generous three-figure body count but once the screaming ends, deficiencies in the script are exposed. When the truth about Hercules' tragic past is revealed, Johnson's wail of anguish in close-up epitomises the film's heavy-handed approach to matters of the heart: more volume, less palpable emotion.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

How To Train Your Dragon 2 4 stars

movie title

During one of his regular sorties with Toothless, Hiccup stumbles upon a lost world full of rescued dragons and a valiant dragon rider named Valka, who turns out to be Hiccup's long lost mother. A tearful family reunion with Hiccup's father Stoick is cut short when diabolical dragon hunter Drago Bludvist storms the lost world and takes control of all of the majestic creatures using a gargantuan Alpha dragon called a Bewilderbeast.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Family, Family
  • CastKristen Wiig, America Ferrera, Jay Baruchel, Djimon Hounsou, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler.
  • DirectorDean DeBlois.
  • WriterDean DeBlois.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official sitewww.howtotrainyourdragon.co.uk
  • Release27/06/2014 (Scotland); 11/07/2014 (nationwide)

Based on the book by Cressida Cowell, the 2010 computer-animated adventure How To Train Your Dragon soared tantalisingly close to perfection. Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois' brilliantly executed story of one boy's remarkable friendship with a supposedly fearsome dragon was deeply touching, distinguished by richly detailed visuals and an intelligent script.

The sequel, directed solely by DeBlois, expands the narrative arcs of the characters, testing their mettle in the aftermath of tragedy and conflict. Boys cross the rubicon to manhood, parents make selfless sacrifices to protect their brood and evil poisons an innocent heart.

As a wise woman in the film proclaims, "Good dragons under the control of bad people do bad things". Five years have passed since Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) befriended Toothless and the inhabitants of the village of Berk now live in harmony with the dragons.

Hiccup's father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) continues to preside over the people. He hopes Hiccup will accept his destiny as the next tribal chief but the boy prefers to soar through the clouds astride his trusty Night Fury.

During a regular sortie with Toothless, Hiccup stumbles upon a lost world of rescued dragons and a valiant rider named Valka (Cate Blanchett), who turns out to be a long-lost face from the past. "It's not everyday you find out your mother is some kind of crazy, feral, vigilante dragon lady!" whoops Hiccup.

A tearful family reunion with Stoick is cut short by diabolical dragon hunter Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), who storms this lost world and takes control of the majestic fire-breathing creatures using a gargantuan Alpha dragon. World domination beckons and all that stands in Drago's way are Hiccup, Toothless and the boy's plucky friends Astrid (America Ferrara), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and the twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (TJ Miller).

In almost every aspect, How To Train Your Dragon 2 matches its polished predecessor... except one. The addition of Oscar winner Blanchett to the vocal fold is a calamitous misjudgement. From the outset, the Australian actress is engaged in a futile tug-of-war with her Scottish accent that initially roams the British Isles and eventually strays across the entire Commonwealth.

Her verbal strangulations are horribly distracting and undermine some of the film's most emotionally charged moments of reconciliation and remembrance.

For his part, writer-director DeBlois charts a breathless course between drama, action and comedy, the latter delivered with scenery-chewing gusto by Craig Ferguson as Stoick's best friend Gobber the Belch. "[Valka's] meatballs could kill more beasts than a battle axe. I still got a few knocking around in here!" he grimaces, pointing to his belly.

Flying sequences deliver a vertiginous thrill, especially in 3D, including a couple of death-defying battles that slalom and swoop at dizzying speed. Blanchett aside, lightning nearly strikes twice.

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Thursday 31st July 2014

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Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie 2 stars

movie title

Agnes Brown proudly runs a fruit and vegetable stall in Moore Street Market, continuing a tradition that has been passed down in her family for generations. She hopes to pass the stall to daughter Cathy but a dastardly developer intervenes with plans to bulldoze the market. Aided by Cathy as well as next-door neighbour Winnie and her family, Agnes resolves to take on the Irish establishment and give it a good spanking.

  • GenreComedy, Drama
  • CastRobert Bathurst, Brendan O'Carroll, Nick Nevern, Jennifer Gibney, Eilish O'Carroll, Sorcha Cusack.
  • DirectorBen Kellett.
  • WriterBrendan O'Carroll.
  • CountryUK/Ire
  • Duration94 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/MBBDMovie
  • Release27/06/2014

First conceived for Irish radio and then as a series of books, the misadventures of feisty Dublin matriarch Agnes Brown transitioned seamlessly from stage to small screen in 2011 with the birth of the BBC sitcom Mrs Brown's Boys. Creator Brendan O'Carroll cast relatives and friends in supporting roles, ensuring the programme was a true family affair.

Critics may have been unkind but the series gained an ardent following. The 2013 festive special topped ratings on Christmas Day, trumping Doctor Who. Now, Agnes and her dysfunctional kin stampede the big screen under the direction of Ben Kellett. Lord help anyone who gets in her way!

Agnes proudly runs a fruit and vegetable stall in Moore Street Market, which has been passed down through the family for generations. The foul-mouthed harridan hopes her daughter Cathy (Jennifer Gibney) will take up the mantle but a dastardly developer, PR Irwin (Dermot Crowley), intervenes with plans to bulldoze the site.

"They won't take me without a fight, whoever they are," Agnes tells Fat Annie (June Rodgers). Unfortunately, Agnes has a 3.8 million Euro tax bill to settle stretching back to her grandmother's time. Aided by Cathy, her sons Mark (Pat Shields), Rory (Rory Cowan) and Dermot (Paddy Houlihan), and next-door neighbour Winnie (Eilish O'Carroll), Agnes resolves to take on the Irish establishment and give it a good spanking.

Dermot's best friend Buster Brady (Danny O'Carroll), bumbling lawyer Tom Crews (Simon Delaney) and a well-to-do barrister called Maydo Archer (Robert Bathurst), who is prone to stress-related Tourette syndrome, pledge their support to Agnes's seemingly hopeless cause.

Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie opens with a fire safety announcement from the eponymous matriarch "in case we have to ejaculate de building". This sets the crude tone for the next 94 minutes. Punchlines are depressingly predictable and the absence of a laughter track from a live studio audience exposes the script's dearth of gags and imagination.

O'Carroll evidently subscribes to the mantra: if it isn't funny on the page, add some profanities. While Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino would probably doff their baseball caps to this slurry of gratuitous expletives, repeated uses of cuss words for desperate laughs becomes wearying.

Aside from the large-scale musical numbers that bookmark the haphazard narrative and a pointlessly protracted chase sequence, the film has no obvious cinematic ambitions.

A hare-brained subplot involving Mr Wang (Brendan O'Carroll again), Chinese owner of a school devoted to training blind ninjas, embraces hideous stereotypes that the malformed character might himself describe as "a rittle bit lacist".

Like its small screen counterpart, Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie doesn't edit out gaffes and revels in moments when the cast corpse one another. If only we were so easily amused.

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Thursday 31st July 2014

The Purge: Anarchy 3 stars

movie title

Diner waitress Eva Sanchez fails to secure a pay rise to pay for drugs for her terminally ill father. She returns to her apartment crestfallen and forlornly prepares dinner for the old man and her daughter Cali ahead of the start of the annual Purge. Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, a grief-stricken father called Sergeant prepares to slay the drunk driver responsible for killing his young son. A siren sounds announcing the start of the Purge and Sergeant takes to the streets in his armour-plated car.

  • GenreAction, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastFrank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Kiele Sanchez, Zach Gilford, Zoe Soul.
  • DirectorJames DeMonaco.
  • WriterJames DeMonaco.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration103 mins
  • Official sitewww.thepurgeanarchy.co.uk
  • Release25/07/2014

Set in a dystopian future America, which has legalised murder for one night of the year, James DeMonaco's home invasion thriller milked every drop of gut-wrenching tension from its fiendishly simple premise. At the box office, which is Hollywood's trusted barometer of success, the film took almost 30 times its modest three-million dollar budget.

For the inevitable sequel, written and directed once again by DeMonaco, the action moves forward 12 months onto the streets of Los Angeles, where the divide between rich and poor, hunter and hunted is even more pronounced.

The elderly and sick sell themselves to the upper class families as human sacrifices on Purge night in exchange for a paltry fee for their loved ones and an underground anti-Purge movement has declared war on the New Founding Fathers of America. March 21, 2023, 4.34pm.

The denizens of LA slowly make their way home, preparing to batten down the hatches. Diner waitress Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) fails to secure a pay rise to pay for drugs for her terminally ill father (John Beasley).

She returns to her apartment crestfallen and forlornly prepares dinner for the old man and her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul). Meanwhile, on the other side of the city, a grief-stricken father called Sergeant (Frank Grillo) prepares to slay the drunk driver responsible for killing his young son.

A siren sounds announcing the start of the Purge at 7pm and Sergeant takes to the streets in his armour-plated car, bound for the driver's home with an arsenal of weapons in the boot. En route, he crosses paths with a stricken Eva and Cali, and a bickering couple, Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), whose car has broken down.

Against his better judgement, Sergeant allows these four terrified strangers to seek refuge in the car. "He's out here voluntarily," loudly whispers one of the group. "That means he's out here to do something nasty."

Like its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy trades in nail-biting suspense rather than gratuitous gore. The anticipation of a senseless kill - any time, any place - is more important than the actual dismemberment.

In the absence of obvious star names in the cast, DeMonaco relishes the luxury of being able to slice and dice his characters at will, heightening our sense of unease since there's no guarantee any of them will make it to 7am unscathed.

The underlying social commentary about the class and wealth divide is poorly developed and strains credibility on a wider canvas. However, as an unabashed adrenaline rush, DeMonaco's sequel comes close to replicating the nail-biting thrills and blood spills of the original.

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Thursday 31st July 2014

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Transformers: Age Of Extinction 2 stars

movie title

The alliance between humans and the robots has been broken and an elite CIA unit named Cemetery Wind now hunts the Transformers without mercy. Struggling inventor Cade Yeager and his family stumble upon Optimus Prime and help the Autobot leader to regain his strength. They head into the desert to reunite Bumblebee, Crosshairs, Drift and Hound. Together, the rebels must prevent fellow inventor Joshua Joyce from creating his own Transformer army led by the mighty Galvatron.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Romance, Science Fiction
  • CastJack Reynor, Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, TJ Miller, Li Bingbing, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci.
  • DirectorMichael Bay.
  • WriterEhren Kruger.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration165 mins
  • Official sitewww.thetransformersmovie.co.uk
  • Release10/07/2014

If Michael Bay, director of Transformers: Age Of Extinction, were immortalised on-screen as a "robot in disguise", his mechanised alter-ego might be Maximus Kaboom. For two decades, the Californian film-maker has been elevating wanton destruction to a blockbusting art form.

In Armageddon, he pitted Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck against a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with earth and orchestrated destruction to the sonic booms of Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor provided Bay with a turbulent backdrop to his 2001 war opus. Since 2007, he has been ensconced in the Transformers fold, bringing bombast to live-action adventures of the bestselling Hasbro toys.

This fourth instalment is crammed with Bay's usual visual excesses and motifs, including gleaming cars and a pouting female protagonist in hilariously short denim shorts. Five years have passed since the Battle Of Chicago, which provided the pyrotechnic-laden climax to Transformers: Dark Of The Moon.

The alliance between humans and robots lies in tatters and an elite CIA unit named Cemetery Wind under the control of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) hunts Transformers without mercy. On a family ranch, struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) discovers that a rusty truck he has just purchased is battle-scarred Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen).

Agents from Cemetery Wind descend on the homestead and Optimus protects Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), her secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) and Cade's mechanic sidekick Lucas (TJ Miller) in the ensuing gun fight.

The humans join forces with Optimus to reunite the Autobots - Bumblebee, Crosshairs (John DiMaggio), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Hound (John Goodman) - and the rebellion plots a swift response to inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who has created his own Transformer army led by the mighty Galvatron (Frank Welker).

Transformers: Age Of Extinction opens with Cade and Lucas scouring an abandoned cinema for scrap metal. "Sequels and remakes - bunch of crap!" growls the grizzled owner as he surveys memorabilia from bygone blockbusters that litter the tumble-down building.

Never has a truer word been spoken in one of Bay's exercises in hyperkinetic style over substance. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger repeatedly defies logic to contrive outlandish scenarios for pyrotechnics and carnage, including an alien spaceship that sucks up metal then drops magnetically charged cars and boats onto terra firma.

Wahlberg punches and leaps through gaping plot holes, trotting out the concerned father routine as younger members of cast perform gravity-defying gymnastics to emerge from clouds of razor-sharp shrapnel without a graze or smudged lip-gloss.

Action sequences are visual vomit: an incomprehensible spew of glistening metal and explosions that hurt the eyes especially in the large-scale IMAX format. "The war will be over soon," barks Grammer's Machiavellian politician during a momentary lull. The buttock-numbing 165-minute running time says otherwise.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

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Transformers: Age Of Extinction 3D 2 stars

movie title

The alliance between humans and the robots has been broken and an elite CIA unit named Cemetery Wind now hunts the Transformers without mercy. Struggling inventor Cade Yeager and his family stumble upon Optimus Prime and help the Autobot leader to regain his strength. They head into the desert to reunite Bumblebee, Crosshairs, Drift and Hound. Together, the rebels must prevent fellow inventor Joshua Joyce from creating his own Transformer army led by the mighty Galvatron.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Romance, Science Fiction
  • CastNicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Mark Wahlberg, TJ Miller, Li Bingbing, Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci.
  • DirectorMichael Bay.
  • WriterEhren Kruger.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration164 mins
  • Official sitewww.thetransformersmovie.co.uk
  • Release10/07/2014

If Michael Bay, director of Transformers: Age Of Extinction, were immortalised on-screen as a "robot in disguise", his mechanised alter-ego might be Maximus Kaboom. For two decades, the Californian film-maker has been elevating wanton destruction to a blockbusting art form.

In Armageddon, he pitted Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck against a gigantic asteroid on a collision course with earth and orchestrated destruction to the sonic booms of Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor provided Bay with a turbulent backdrop to his 2001 war opus. Since 2007, he has been ensconced in the Transformers fold, bringing bombast to live-action adventures of the bestselling Hasbro toys.

This fourth instalment is crammed with Bay's usual visual excesses and motifs, including gleaming cars and a pouting female protagonist in hilariously short denim shorts. Five years have passed since the Battle Of Chicago, which provided the pyrotechnic-laden climax to Transformers: Dark Of The Moon.

The alliance between humans and robots lies in tatters and an elite CIA unit named Cemetery Wind under the control of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) hunts Transformers without mercy. On a family ranch, struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) discovers that a rusty truck he has just purchased is battle-scarred Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen).

Agents from Cemetery Wind descend on the homestead and Optimus protects Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), her secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) and Cade's mechanic sidekick Lucas (TJ Miller) in the ensuing gun fight.

The humans join forces with Optimus to reunite the Autobots - Bumblebee, Crosshairs (John DiMaggio), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Hound (John Goodman) - and the rebellion plots a swift response to inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who has created his own Transformer army led by the mighty Galvatron (Frank Welker).

Transformers: Age Of Extinction opens with Cade and Lucas scouring an abandoned cinema for scrap metal. "Sequels and remakes - bunch of crap!" growls the grizzled owner as he surveys memorabilia from bygone blockbusters that litter the tumble-down building.

Never has a truer word been spoken in one of Bay's exercises in hyperkinetic style over substance. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger repeatedly defies logic to contrive outlandish scenarios for pyrotechnics and carnage, including an alien spaceship that sucks up metal then drops magnetically charged cars and boats onto terra firma.

Wahlberg punches and leaps through gaping plot holes, trotting out the concerned father routine as younger members of cast perform gravity-defying gymnastics to emerge from clouds of razor-sharp shrapnel without a graze or smudged lip-gloss.

Action sequences are visual vomit: an incomprehensible spew of glistening metal and explosions that hurt the eyes especially in the large-scale IMAX format. "The war will be over soon," barks Grammer's Machiavellian politician during a momentary lull. The buttock-numbing 165-minute running time says otherwise.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

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