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Now showing at Reel Cinema York Odeon Buildings, 3 Blossom Street,York,North Yorkshire YO24 1AJ 01904 733633

  • Get Santa
  • Paddington
  • St Vincent
  • The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1
  • The Imitation Game

Get Santa 3 stars

movie title

Getaway driver Steve Anderson is released from prison after two years behind bars. His return to the outside world coincides Santa Claus crash-landing in the British countryside. Steve's nine-year-old son Tom, who lives with his mother Alison and her new partner, discovers the figurehead of Christmas asleep in the garage and the boy telephones his old man for help. Steve races to Tom's aid and they embark on a madcap quest to save Christmas, defying Steve's parole in the process.

  • GenreAction, Comedy, Family, Family, Romance
  • CastJim Broadbent, Stephen Graham, Warwick Davis, Rafe Spall, Kit Connor, Joanna Scanlan, Nonso Anozie.
  • DirectorChristopher Smith.
  • WriterChristopher Smith.
  • CountryUK/US
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official site
  • Release05/12/2014

After the nightmare before Christmas of Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?!, it seemed like we were in for tidings of discomfort and joylessness. Thankfully, Christopher Smith's festive fable lifts the gloom with a predictable yet magical tale of a fractured family, which is reunited by the power of the season.

The writer-director is evidently a huge fan of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, crafting an uplifting resolution that is strongly reminiscent of Spielberg's classic, including a swollen orchestral crescendo that should perhaps be entitled An Unabashed Ode To John Williams. Get Santa might not scale the dizzy heights of the 1982 film it hopes to emulate, but what Smith's script lacks in subtlety and sophistication, it makes up for in heart-warming sentiment and an abundance of wholesome cheer, plus a herd of flatulent reindeer guaranteed to have tykes giggling with glee.

Admittedly, there are moments when the tone becomes sickly sweet and threatens to send the audience into sugar shock but what is Christmas without garish excess?

Getaway driver Steve Anderson (Rafe Spall) is released from prison and heads straight to a meeting with his parole officer, Ruth Morbury (Joanna Scanlan), who insists that he checks at in 5pm every day except for December 25. "Miss an appointment and I'll presume you're stealing," she growls.

His release coincides with the mysterious appearance of reindeer on Tower Bridge, which sparks a media circus. It transpires that Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) has crash-landed and needs help to get his sleigh airborne.

Steve's nine-year-old son Tom (Kit Connor), who lives with his mother Alison (Jodie Whittaker) and her new partner (Joshua McGuire), discovers the figurehead of Christmas asleep in the garage and the boy telephones his old man for help.

Having waited two years, one month and three days to be reunited with his boy, Steve races to Tom's aid and they embark on a madcap quest to save Christmas, defying Steve's parole in the process.

Meanwhile, Santa finds himself behind bars with some of Steve's old block mates including The Barber (Stephen Graham), Knuckles (Nonso Anozie) and Sally (Warwick Davis).

Get Santa rests largely on the shoulders of newcomer Connor and he's a natural, sparking lovely on-screen rapport with Spall. Broadbent, who previously voiced Santa in the computer-animated jaunt Arthur Christmas, brings warmth and gravitas to his role.

Whittaker is shamefully underused, but Scanlan savours her limited screen time, channelling the villainous spirit of Pam Ferris in Roald Dahl's Matilda. Lapland sequences, which were shot in Yorkshire, benefit from splendid production design and some nifty digital effects to bring to life a glittering wonderland populated by Santa's little helpers, who apparently cannot take flight.

"If we fly over 1,000 feet, we explode," explains one with obvious distress. An act of elf-destruction - you learn something new every day.

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Thursday 18th December 2014

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Paddington 4 stars

movie title

A young Peruvian bear with a passion for the British heads to London in search of a new home. At Paddington train station, he meets a boy called Jonathan Brown and his parents, who offer the lovable creature, christened Paddington, a temporary haven. At large in a strange city, Paddington wreaks havoc in the Brown household. Then an evil museum taxidermist named Millicent glimpses the wondrous bear and realises that he would make the most perfect addition to her collection.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Family
  • CastHugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Nicole Kidman, Imelda Staunton.
  • DirectorPaul King.
  • WriterPaul King.
  • CountryUK/Fr
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official sitewww.paddington.com
  • Release28/11/2014

More than 50 years after he first appeared in print, author Michael Bond's beloved bear Paddington has finally arrived on the big screen in his first star-packed family adventure. Upcoming director Paul King's film lovingly weaves the traditional tenets of the duffel-coat wearing bear's story into a modern narrative.

Like the books, the film starts in deepest, darkest Peru, where a well-mannered three-foot bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) lives with his elderly Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon). In their youth, Lucy and Pastuzo were visited by a kindly English explorer who left his red hat with his furry friends.

When their home is threatened, Aunt Lucy packs her nephew off to the safety of London to track down the explorer, who has promised that there will always be a home for them in the capital.

Of course, after sailing the oceans in a boat filled with supplies of his treasured marmalade, the bear finds London isn't actually that friendly. In fact it's pretty miserable what with the drizzly weather and glum commuters pushing and shoving their way out of Paddington station and ignoring his pleas for a home.

"Sorry, we haven't got time for this," cries worrywart Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville), while his moody daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) exclaims she's "embarrassed" to be near the small grisly, who has a 'Please look after this bear' sign around his neck.

Luckily, warm-hearted Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) and son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) vow to take the furry chap home for the night. Naming him Paddington after the station where they found him, the Browns introduce their guest to kindly housekeeper Mrs Bird (Julie Walters).

But disaster soon strikes when Paddington tries to freshen up in the bathroom, resulting in a flood, two earwax-stained toothbrushes and a sharp telling off. Determined to find the explorer, Mrs Brown takes Paddington to see her friend Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent), an antiques dealer who might have clues to his existence.

In doing so, they attract the attention of cranky curtain twitcher Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi) and a slimy associate of villainous taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) who is hell-bent on "stuffing that bear". With Millicent determined to get her mitts on Paddington to display him in the Natural History Museum, the Browns find themselves on a humdinger of a cat and mouse chase to try and keep their furry friend safe.

As comforting and sweet as Paddington's beloved marmalade, King's delightful adaptation has heaps of heart and enough humour and carefully plotted cameos to ensure everyone more than grins and bears his adaptation.

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Thursday 18th December 2014

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St Vincent 4 stars

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Vincent lives in a ramshackle house in Brooklyn with a pet cat and dreams of the past. He owes a small fortune to bookie Zucko, who is reluctantly threatening to smash Vincent's kneecaps unless fortunes change. Lady Luck smiles on the sexagenarian loner when struggling single mother Maggie and her son Oliver move in next door and Vincent exploits Maggie to become the lad's babysitter.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
  • CastNaomi Watts, Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard, Jaeden Lieberher.
  • DirectorTheodore Melfi.
  • WriterTheodore Melfi.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official sitewww.stvincentfilm.com
  • Release05/12/2014

A modern-day Scrooge is moved by the plight of a young boy in Theodore Melfi's touching and frequently uproarious comedy. There are neither jingling bells nor ghostly visitations in St Vincent - the only spirits are swigged from a bottle - but Dickens' underlying theme of the redemption of the human spirit rings true in this valentine to Bill Murray.

The Oscar-nominated star of Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Lost In Translation is in riotous form in Melfi's delightful film, deploying split-second comic timing to devastating effect as he reveals a beating heart of gold beneath the shambolic appearance of his penny-pinching curmudgeon.

His irascible old coot might gamble, smoke and drink to excess, and seek physical pleasure in the company of a heavily pregnant Russian prostitute, but we fall head over heels for Murray's virtuoso portrayal and it's a love affair that endures the film's occasional lull or sloppy characterisation.

Newcomer Jaeden Lieberher is magnificent as the spirited tyke, whose innocence and unwavering faith provide a beacon of hope for the self-destructive codger to stumble back into the land of the living. Writer-director Melfi wrings us dry of laughter and tears in the process.

Vincent (Murray) lives in a ramshackle house in Brooklyn with a pet cat and dreams of the past. He owes a small fortune to bookie Zucko (Terrence Howard), who is reluctantly threatening to smash Vincent's kneecaps unless fortunes change.

Lady Luck smiles on the sexagenarian loner when struggling single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Lieberher) move in next door and Vincent exploits Maggie to become the lad's babysitter. "He's sort of cool, in a grouchy sort of way," Oliver assures his mother about his new guardian.

While Maggie works long hours to keep a roof over their head, Vincent introduces Oliver to horse racing, his feisty Russian companion-for-money Daka (Naomi Watts) and an elderly woman with Alzheimer's called Sandy (Donna Mitchell), who he visits at an expensive nursing home.

When Vincent's schoolteacher Brother Geraghty (Chris O'Dowd) asks his impressionable charges to deliver a verbal report on someone they consider a 21st-century saint, Oliver knows exactly who he wants to canonise.

St Vincent is anchored by Murray's award-worthy performance, but supporting cast is equally impressive, often in underwritten roles. McCarthy abandons her usual schtick to embody a mother in crisis and Watts plies a thick cod-eastern European accent as the working girl looking for a break.

O'Dowd scene-steals with aplomb as a holy man with heavenly quips: "I'm a Catholic, which is the best religion because we have the most rules." Aided by a leading man in rude health, writer-director Melfi doesn't slather on the sentimentality too thick as he exposes glimmers of hope for each dysfunctional character and encourages them to walk towards the light comedy.

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Thursday 18th December 2014

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The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies 3 stars

movie title

The company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield fails to slay the dragon Smaug in his Lonely Mountain lair. The majestic creature takes to the skies and Bilbo Baggins watches in horror as Smaug prepares to incinerate Lake-town and its residents. Bard the Bowman possesses the last remaining black arrow and is the only thing standing between the dragon and total annihilation. Elsewhere, Gandalf is imprisoned at Dol Guldor by the Necromancer, who unleashes legions of orcs upon the Lonely Mountain.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Fantasy
  • CastSir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Hugo Weaving, Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • DirectorPeter Jackson.
  • WriterFran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson.
  • CountryNZ/US
  • Duration144 mins
  • Official sitewww.thehobbitblog.com
  • Release12/12/2014

Almost 13 years to the day since director Peter Jackson first transported us to Middle Earth, the Oscar-winning New Zealand filmmaker completes his tour of duty of JRR Tolkien's novels. It has been a long and sometimes gruelling slog since The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King. Giddy expectation has crashed and burned, with only a few smouldering embers for ardent fans to stoke in the hope that Jackson might redeem himself with this concluding chapter of The Hobbit trilogy.

Alas, The Battle Of Five Armies bids farewell to the hobbits, dwarfs and elves with a whimper rather than a bang. The script occasionally deviates from Tolkien's source text, contriving one superfluous and protracted interlude with elvish allies Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) to provide a flimsy bridge between the two series.

Jackson's mastery of action sequences is beyond doubt - the two set pieces, which bookend this film, are executed with flair, precision and a miasma of impressive digital effects.

However, all that technical sound and fury without comparable emotional heft makes for increasingly wearisome viewing. We should be thankful this concluding jaunt is the shortest of the six: a mere 144 minutes.

The company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) including Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) watches in horror as the mighty dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) incinerates Laketown. As the flames rise, Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) prepares to launch the last remaining black arrow at the beast.

His children seek cover with elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and badly injured dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner). Nearby, the Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry) and snivelling henchman Alfrid (Ryan Gage) make their escape in a barge laden with gold.

At Dol Guldur, Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) escapes from the clutches of the Necromancer (Cumberbatch again) and beats a hasty path to the mountains, where various tribes will converge. "You must summon our friends, bird and beast - the battle for the mountain is about to begin!" bellows the wise wizard.

As the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance, Thorin sacrifices everything in his selfish pursuit of the mythical Arkenstone.

The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies follows a similar template to earlier pictures, resolving plot strands including the forbidden romance of Tauriel and Kili as the blood flows in brutal fight sequences. Comical interludes with Alfrid seem to jar with the darker tone that pervades this chapter, including the inevitable loss of at least one hero in the melee.

Freeman's performance provides a flimsy emotional fulcrum while co-stars battle with their characters' demons or hordes of bloodthirsty orcs. As the end credits roll, accompanied by an original song from Billy Boyd who played Pippin in The Lord Of The Rings saga, we feel a sense of relief rather than sadness.

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Thursday 18th December 2014

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 4 stars

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Katniss Everdeen barely survived the Third Quarter Quell and she gathers her strength in the company of her friends, architect of the rebellion Plutarch Heavensbee and the President of District 13, Alma Coin. The scent of rebellion is in the air and the people look to Katniss to lead them against President Snow and the armed forces of Panem. However, Peeta has been captured by Snow and is being manipulated to quell the uprising.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Drama, Family, Romance, Science Fiction
  • CastJennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci.
  • DirectorFrancis Lawrence.
  • WriterDanny Strong, Peter Craig.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration123 mins
  • Official sitewww.thehungergames.co.uk
  • Release20/11/2014

The spectre of war casts a long shadow over the penultimate chapter of the blockbusting dystopian thrillers based on Suzanne Collins' bestselling trilogy. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 follows the lead of the Harry Potter and Twilight sagas by cleaving the final book in two.

This decision - driven as much by greed as artistic necessity - results in a dark, brooding two hours of self-sacrifice almost completely devoid of the propulsive action sequences that distinguished the earlier films. Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen, a pawn in the battle of wits between the money-rich Capitol and the impoverished Districts, remains a mesmerising constant.

She delivers another emotionally bruising performance, especially in early scenes when her battle-scarred teenager stares over the smouldering ruins of her beloved District 12, littered with charred skeletons of friends and neighbours who were incinerated as they fled.

This hellish vision brings Lawrence to her knees, unable to hold back racked sobs of pain. The floodgates open and screenwriters Peter Craig and Danny Strong take their time channelling her aching sense of loss into an all-consuming rage that will set the Capitol ablaze this time next year. "If we burn, you burn with us!" she bellows down a camera lens at President Snow (Donald Sutherland). We don't doubt it.

Katniss barely survived the Third Quarter Quell. Separated from fellow tributes Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Johanna (Jena Malone), who are being held in the Capitol, Katniss gathers her strength in a secret underground complex. Her allies include childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), mentor Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson), chaperone Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), architect of the rebellion Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and District 13 President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore).

The people of the Districts look to Katniss to lead them against President Snow and the armed forces of Panem. "We're going to stoke the fire of this revolution that this Mockingjay started," growls Plutarch, commissioning a series of propaganda videos directed by Cressida (Natalie Dormer) with Katniss as the reluctant star. Meanwhile, Snow initiates his own forceful media campaign fronted by Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and a clearly disoriented Peeta.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1 is the calm before the storm of full-blown conflict. It's a slower burn than previous films and lacks some of the on-screen electricity since Katniss and Peeta are separated but Lawrence burns bright as the eponymous "girl on fire".

Effie's role is expanded from the book to bring some comic relief to the subterranean gloom. "Everything old can be made new again - like democracy!" she chirrups. Maybe so, but as Part 1 makes abundantly and agonisingly clear, you have to sacrifice innocent lives to sweep away the past.

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Thursday 18th December 2014

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The Imitation Game 4 stars

movie title

Socially awkward mathematician Alan Turing arrives at Bletchley Park where Commander Denniston presides over a group of the country's keenest minds in the hope that one of them can break the Enigma code. Turing ploughs his own furrow and raises eyebrows by recruiting Joan Clarke to the team. She is a beautiful mind like Turing, inspiring him to greatness by observing, "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things people never imagine."

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Gay, Thriller, War
  • CastKeira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Matthew Beard.
  • DirectorMorten Tyldum.
  • WriterGraham Moore.
  • CountryUK/US
  • Duration114 mins
  • Official sitewww.theimitationgamemovie.com
  • Release14/11/2014

In December 2013, The Queen granted a posthumous royal pardon to Alan Turing. The London-born mathematician had been prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952 - a criminal act at the time - and he undertook a treatment of chemical castration with oestrogen injections rather than serve time behind bars.

It was an undeservedly inglorious end for a brilliant man, who was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code and should have been feted by our battle-scarred nation as a hero. Based on a biography by Andrew Hodges, The Imitation Game relives that race against time to decipher German communications and bring the Second World War to a swift conclusion.

Morten Tyldum's masterful drama neither shies away from Turing's homosexuality nor lingers on it, framing nail-biting events at Bletchley Park with the mathematician's 1951 arrest in Manchester. "If you're not paying attention, you'll miss things," Turing teases us in voiceover.

Indeed, you'll miss impeccable production design, an unconventional yet touching romance, subterfuge and sterling performances including an Oscar-worthy portrayal of the socially awkward genius from Benedict Cumberbatch.

Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) sits in a police interrogation room with Detective Nock (Rory Kinnear), facing a charge of indecency with a 19-year-old unemployed man called Arnold Murray. "I think Turing's hiding something," Nick informs his Superintendent (Steven Waddington), who is keen to wrap up the conviction.

In flashback, we witness Alan's arrival at Bletchley Park where Commander Denniston (Charles Dance) and Major General Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong) preside over a group of the country's keenest minds in the hope that one of them can break Enigma.

Hugh Alexander (Matthew Goode), John Cairncross (Allen Leech) and Peter Hilton (Matthew Beard) work alongside Turing, but he ploughs his own furrow and raises eyebrows by recruiting Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley) to the team.

She is a beautiful mind like Turing, inspiring him to greatness by observing, "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of that do the things people never imagine."

Punctuated by school day scenes of the young Turing (Alex Lawther) and his first love, an older boy called Christopher (Jack Bannon), The Imitation Game is a beautifully crafted tribute to a prodigy, whose invaluable contribution to the war effort was unjustly besmirched by bigotry.

Cumberbatch is mesmerising, trampling over the egos of fellow code breakers without any concern for their feelings as he vows to solve "the most difficult problem in the world". It's a tour-de-force portrayal, complemented by strong supporting performances from Knightley, Goode et al as the close-knit team who note, "God didn't win the war. We did."

The pivotal Eureka moment sets our pulses racing, heightened by Alexandre Desplat's exquisite orchestral score. Director Tyldum navigates the fractured chronology with clarity and flair, ensuring that his heart-rending film doesn't itself become a perplexing puzzle.

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Thursday 18th December 2014

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