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Now showing at City Screen Picturehouse 13-17,Coney Street,York,Yorkshire YO1 9QL 0871 902 5726

  • Dolphin Tale 2
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into The Woods
  • Jupiter Ascending
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Merchants Of Doubt
  • Royal Opera Live Encore Screening: Andrea Chenier
  • Selma
  • The Metropolitan Opera Live Encore Screening: Les Contes D'Hoffmann
  • The Theory Of Everything
  • The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death
  • Whiplash
  • Wild

Dolphin Tale 2 3 stars

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Several years have passed since young Sawyer Nelson rescued plucky dolphin Winter with the help of Dr Clay Haskett and Dr Cameron McCarthy. Elderly dolphin Panama dies and leaves Winter without a surrogate mother or pool mate. Under regulations, Winter cannot be housed alone and so the race begins to find another companion for Winter before Clearwater is forced to give up its beloved dolphin to another aquarium.

  • GenreDrama, Family, Family
  • CastNathan Gamble, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, Harry Connick Jr.
  • DirectorCharles Martin Smith.
  • WriterCharles Martin Smith.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration107 mins
  • Official sitewww.seewinter.com
  • Release03/10/2014

Released in 2011, Dolphin Tale fictionalised the incredible true story of a bottlenose called Winter, who was snared in a crab trap in Florida and lost her tail. The plucky mammal was rushed to nearby Clearwater Marine Hospital where dedicated staff rehabilitated Winter by fitting her with a silicon and plastic tail similar to prosthetics worn by human amputees.

The dolphin's remarkable recovery and her subsequent celebrity have ensured a steady stream of visitors to Clearwater, where Winter now shares a tank with another bottlenose called Hope.

Filmmaker Charles Martin Smith, who captained the original film, clearly fell in love with Winter because he writes and directs this uplifting yet wholly unnecessary sequel. Young audiences will happily wade through pools of sugary sentiment in order to enjoy heart-warming scenes with the dolphins and a stranded sea turtle christened Mavis.

Parents, however, won't find a great deal to buoy their interest besides footage during the end credits of two real-life rescues that inspired Smith's flimsy script.

Several years have passed since Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble) rescued plucky dolphin Winter with the help of Dr Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr) and prosthetics expert Dr Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman).

The teenager now works at Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) with Clay's spunky daughter Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff), his grown-up cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell) and trainer Phoebe (Austin Highsmith). Families flock to CMA to see Winter, which delights aquarium owner Phillip J Hordern (Tom Nowicki), who hopes to expand the site.

Sadly, those plans are put on hold when Winter's companion, an elderly dolphin called Panama, dies and leaves the plucky bottlenose without a pool mate.

Under regulations, Winter cannot be housed alone and a visiting inspector (played by director Smith), tells Clay, "I'm giving you 30 days to correct the problem." The race begins to find another companion for Winter before Clearwater is forced to give up its beloved dolphin.

Meanwhile, Sawyer realises his feelings for Hazel run deeper than friendship and the lad considers leaving Winter for three months to participate in a prestigious marine biology programme aboard a tall ship.

Dolphin Tale 2 serves no dramatic purpose other than to reignite interest in CMA and its real-life star attraction. Gamble is a likable if somewhat bland protagonist and the nascent romance with Zuehlsdorff remains chaste.

Connick Jr flashes his dazzling pearly whites to distract our attention from the hoary dialogue while Freeman makes fleeting appearances as the crotchety prosthetics wizard, who tells one pre-pubescent member of CMA staff, "I've got jars of peanut butter older than you."

Given the product's short shelf life, his character may not survive for a third splash in the dolphin pool.

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Sunday 1st February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015

Inherent Vice 3 stars

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Larry "Doc" Sportello is a private eye and hippie, who lives in a ramshackle house on Gordita Beach. Alluring old flame Shasta Fay Hepworth returns unexpectedly to beg Doc's help tracking down her new beau, billionaire land developer Michael Z Wolfman. Shasta claims Wolfman has been kidnapped and consigned to a mental institution by his money-grabbing wife. Doc takes on the case and intrigue piles upon deception as unearths the truth about Wolfman's disappearance.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastOwen Wilson, Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon.
  • DirectorPaul Thomas Anderson.
  • WriterPaul Thomas Anderson.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration149 mins
  • Official sitewww.inherentvicemovie.com
  • Release30/01/2015

Somewhere in the psychedelic haze of pot fumes that shroud Inherent Vice, there is a groovy slice of California noir spluttering to be seen and heard. Patient audiences, who indulge the whims of writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson will be rewarded with a hallucinogenic crime caper crammed with quirky characters including another eye-catching lead performance from Joaquin Phoenix.

However, Anderson doesn't make it easy to fall in love with his picture. Pacing is deliberately pedestrian and the running time, one puff shy of two-and-a-half hours, is a test of mental and physical endurance.

His script, adapted from Thomas Pynchon's novel of the same name, demands constant attention. Very little happens over the course of the 149 minutes but Anderson presents the narrative as an almighty tangle of convoluted plots threads. Take a toilet break at your peril.

Larry "Doc" Sportello (Phoenix) is a private eye and hippie, who lives in a ramshackle house on Gordita Beach and occasionally drifts into an office he rents, replete with a sassy receptionist (Maya Rudolph).

Alluring old flame Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) returns unexpectedly to beg Doc's help tracking down her new beau, billionaire land developer Michael Z Wolfman (Eric Roberts). "She was laying some heavy combination of face ingredients on Doc that he couldn't read," explains the rambling voiceover that accompanies this drug-fuelled lunacy.

Shasta claims Wolfman has been kidnapped and consigned to a mental institution by his money-grabbing wife (Serena Scott Thomas). Doc takes on the case and also agrees two further assignments: to help Hope Harlingen (Jena Malone) track down her missing saxophonist husband (Owen Wilson), and reunite Black Guerrilla Family member Tariq Kahlil (Michael K Williams) with a wayward bodyguard (Christopher Allen Nelson), who owes him money.

The trails lead to a massage parlour where Jade (Hong Chau) tells Doc to "beware of the Golden Fang". Intrigue piles upon deception and Doc seeks guidance from sexy Deputy District Attorney Penny Kimball (Reese Witherspoon) and bullying local cop, Lieutenant Detective Christian F "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin).

Inherent Vice is the first film adaptation of Pynchon's kaleidoscopic oeuvre and it's easy to see why filmmakers have steered well clear. Anderson does an admirable job conveying the freewheeling attitudes and paranoia of the era without tying himself completely in narrative knots.

Phoenix seems to be having a blast throughout and colourful supporting turns, including Martin Short as a drug-snorting dentist with wandering hands, churns the underlying black comedy.

That menagerie of dopers, musicians, hustlers, white supremacists and surfers is bewildering and Anderson regularly introduces new characters to keep our brains as scrambled as his bewildered hero. Inherent Vice is a trip - whether the multiplex masses will want to embark on this journey into the criminal underbelly of neon-lit 1970s L.A. is open to debate.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

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Into The Woods 4 stars

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The Baker and his wife yearn for a child but cannot conceive. The Witch, who lives next door, promises the couple their heart's desire if they bring her four objects before the next blue moon: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. As the fated hour approaches, the Baker and his wife resort to increasingly desperate measures to source the objects.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance
  • CastChris Pine, Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Mackenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracey Ullman, Johnny Depp, Lilla Crawford.
  • DirectorRob Marshall.
  • WriterStephen Sondheim, James Lapine.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration125 mins
  • Official sitewww.movies.disney.com/into-the-woods
  • Release09/01/2015

Traditionally in fairytales, the bedraggled heroine wins her dashing prince, evil stepmothers get their comeuppance and abducted children escape the clutches of a witch by pushing the treacherous hag into her oven. Nothing epitomises Happily Ever After like the heady aroma of roasting human flesh.

Into The Woods keeps turning the pages on these archetypal characters, imagining what might happen as they come to terms with their actions and - in most cases - suffer the repercussions.

Light comedy and heartrending tragedy skip hand in hand in James Lapine's screenplay and Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics, which are ambrosia for director Rob Marshall, who propelled the 2002 film version of Chicago to Oscar glory.

This has nearly as much razzle dazzle including gorgeous costumes, picturesque sets and digitally enhanced magical effects. Thankfully, Marshall tones down the swirling camerawork and snappy editing here, adopting a gentler rhythm, which is less exhausting on our eyes over two hours.

The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) yearn for a child but cannot conceive. The Witch (Meryl Streep) next door promises the couple a family if they bring her four objects before the blue moon: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.

The Baker and his wife head into the woods with six magic beans and encounter 12-year-old Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), who is off to market to sell his cow Milky White, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), who is fleeing from a ball thrown by a charming Prince (Chris Pine), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), who intends to visit her Granny (Annette Crosbie) but would make a tasty snack for the lascivious Wolf (Johnny Depp), and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), who is consigned to a tower which can only be accessed by lowering her flaxen hair to a smitten lover (Billy Magnusson).

As the fated hour approaches, the childless couple resorts to desperate measures to collect the objects for the Witch.

Into The Woods establishes its mood with a dazzling overture, "I Wish", elegantly introducing the characters before their fates intersect. Streep is typically spellbinding. Her voice soars and our hearts break in her solo to motherhood, "Stay With Me".

Corden and Blunt add to the film's emotional heft while Pine and Magnusson are hysterical as regal brothers in their chest-beating, thigh-slapping duet "Agony" atop a cascading waterfall. With such a large cast to juggle, the script occasionally feels disjointed and some gear changes from broad pantomime to heartbreaking grief are jarring.

But Marshall doesn't shy away from delivering bitter pills in the final act courtesy of a marauding giant (Frances de la Tour). Everything has a price, especially your heart's desire, so be careful what you wish for.

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Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

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Jupiter Ascending 3 stars

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The queen of the royal alien house of Abrasax dies, leaving behind three children Balem, Kalique and Titus to bicker over the inheritance. This power struggle is temporarily interrupted by amazing news: a plucky caretaker called Jupiter Jones possesses the genetic hallmarks of royalty and is heir to planet earth. Jealous Balem puts a bounty on Jupiter's head and a genetically engineered ex-military hunter called Caine Wise is dispatched to protect her.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction
  • CastEddie Redmayne, Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Douglas Booth, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, James D'Arcy, Sean Bean, Tuppence Middleton, David Ajala.
  • DirectorAndy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski.
  • WriterAndy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration127 mins
  • Official sitewww.jupiterascending.com
  • Release06/02/2015

Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis battle beyond the stars in this big budget sci-fi spectacular written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski, creators of The Matrix trilogy. The queen of the royal alien house of Abrasax dies, leaving behind three children Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) and Titus (Douglas Booth) to bicker over the inheritance. This power struggle is temporarily interrupted by amazing news: a plucky caretaker called Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who was born under a night sky, possesses the genetic hallmarks of royalty and is heir to planet earth. A genetically engineered ex-military hunter called Caine Wise (Tatum), who possesses incredible powers of smell, is dispatched to deliver this news to Jupiter. Unfortunately, jealousy Balem does not want to lose a prize like earth so he puts a bounty on Jupiter's head and a squad of cyber hunters led by Ibis (David Ajala) marks her for death. With Caine as her valiant protector, Jupiter must evade the clutches of Ibis and his men to fulfil her epic destiny.

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Wednesday 4th February 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service 3 stars

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Gary Unwin, who is known to his friends as Eggsy, is on the downward spiral to drugs and crime. He is dismissed as a hopeless cause by everyone except agent Harry Hart, who believes Eggsy would make an excellent crime-fighting operative. So Hart takes Eggsy under his wing and enrols the young man in a gruelling training programme against more eloquent and refined peers.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Comedy
  • CastColin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Jack Davenport, Samuel L Jackson, Tom Prior, Mark Hamill.
  • DirectorMatthew Vaughn.
  • WriterMatthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman.
  • CountryUS/UK
  • Duration129 mins
  • Official sitewww.kingsmanmovie.com
  • Release29/01/2015

Directed at full pelt by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an outrageous James Bond-esque caper with an unpleasant and sadistic streak. This hare-brained tale about a secret organisation of impeccably tailored British agents dedicated to world peace lampoons the conventions of the spy genre with an arched eyebrow.

"Nowadays, they're all a little serious for my taste," opines Colin Firth's lead operative about modern-day spy films, one of several self-referential winks in Vaughn and Jane Goldman's script. "Give me a far-fetched plot any day," he quips, and that's just what Kingsman delivers in spades.

Unfortunately, the film also serves up a blitzkrieg of gratuitous on-screen barbarity. The violence doesn't support the plot, the plot is constructed to support as much wanton carnage as Vaughn can cram into each frame.

This stomach-churning slaughter reaches a nauseating crescendo in a Southern church where Firth's good guy squares off against a congregation of brain-washed bigots, racists and homophobes, who apparently deserve to die in lurid close-up while Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird strums on the soundtrack. The film was cut by UK censors to secure a 15 certificate but I wouldn't want my nephews, if they were 15 or 16, anywhere near Vaughn's giddy bloodbath.

Gary Unwin (Taron Egerton), who is known to friends as Eggsy, is on a downward spiral despite an impressive IQ. He is powerless to stop his mother Michelle (Samantha Womack) suffering abuse from her boyfriend (Geoff Bell), and a spot of joy-riding leads to a brief stay in a police cell.

Eggsy is dismissed as a hopeless cause by everyone except dapper secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who believes the young man has untapped potential as a crime-fighter. So Hart enrols Eggsy in a gruelling training programme against sneering posh lads Charlie (Edward Holcroft), Barnaby (Matthew William Jones) and Hugo (Tom Prior), and friendlier rivals Grace (Sophie Cookson) and Roxy (Alisha Heng).

The recruits test their strength and guile in a series of challenges devised by gadget geek Merlin (Mark Strong). Against the odds, Eggsy shines brighter than some of the supposed creme de la creme and when technological wizard Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) and his blade runner henchwoman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) threaten mankind with a radical solution to climate change, Eggsy puts his training to good use alongside his stiff upper-lipped mentor.

Kingsman: The Secret Service leaves an exceedingly nasty taste in the mouth that is difficult to shake, garnished with crude sexism in the closing frames. Firth is a debonair action hero, contrasting sharply with Egerton's bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Jackson has fun with his lisping megalomaniac, who gags at the sight of blood. If we did the same watching Vaughn's undeniably stylish film, we'd all need urgent medical assistance inside the first 20 minutes.

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Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
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Merchants Of Doubt 3 stars

Documentary about the professional sceptics, who accept money from corporations to cast doubt on the scientific facts of climate change and hopefully delay government action. Tracing the birth of this industry back to the 1950s, when tobacco companies waged a very public war against the perception that cigarettes were harmful, the film meets key figures on both sides of the argument.

  • GenreDocumentary, Indie
  • DirectorRobert Kenner.
  • WriterRobert Kenner.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration96 mins
  • Official site
  • Release12/12/2014 (selected cinemas)

In his 2008 documentary Food, Inc., director Robert Kenner explored how big corporations influence our eating habits. In this follow-up, the filmmaker considers another form of manipulation: the professional sceptics, who accept money from corporations to cast doubt on the scientific facts of climate change and hopefully delay government action. Tracing the birth of this industry back to the 1950s, when tobacco companies waged a very public war against the perception that cigarettes were harmful, Kenner meets key figures on both sides of the argument and Republican Congressman Bob Inglis from South Carolina, who crossed that divide and now believes that climate change is one of the defining issues of our time.

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Tuesday 3rd February 2015

Royal Opera Live Encore Screening: Andrea Chenier 3 stars

David McVicar directs Umberto Giordano's passionate drama of liberty and love during the French Revolution, based loosely on the life of the eponymous French poet. Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role opposite Eva-Maria Westbroek as the Countess' daughter Maddalena de Coigny and Zeljko Lucic as servant Carlo Gerard under the baton of conductor Antonio Pappano.

  • GenreDrama, Musical, Romance, Special
  • CastZeljko Lucic, Jonas Kaufmann, Denyce Graves, Eva-Maria Westbroek.
  • DirectorDavid McVicar.
  • WriterUmberto Giordano.
  • CountryUK
  • Official sitewww.roh.org.uk/cinemas

David McVicar directs Umberto Giordano's passionate drama of liberty and love during the French Revolution, based loosely on the life of the eponymous French poet. Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role opposite Eva-Maria Westbroek as the Countess' daughter Maddalena de Coigny and Zeljko Lucic as servant Carlo Gerard under the baton of conductor Antonio Pappano.

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Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015

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Selma 4 stars

In 1960s America, political bureaucracy and prejudice deny the African-American electorate the chance to vote. Martin Luther King entreats the President to right this democratic wrong but Lyndon Johnson and his adviser Lee C White don't consider voting rights to be high on their list of priorities. So King and his team head to the community of Selma, Alabama to lead a peaceful protest march with their friends from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

  • GenreDrama, Historical/Period
  • CastCarmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Giovanni Ribisi.
  • DirectorAva DuVernay.
  • WriterPaul Webb.
  • CountryUK/US
  • Duration128 mins
  • Official sitewww.selmamovie.com
  • Release06/02/2015

In 1960s America, political bureaucracy and prejudice deny the African-American electorate the chance to vote in the forthcoming election in which President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) hopes to be returned to the White House. Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) entreats the President to right this democratic wrong but Johnson and his adviser Lee C White (Giovanni Ribisi) don't consider voting rights to be high on their list of priorities. So King and his team head to the community of Selma, Alabama to lead a peaceful protest march with their friends from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Local police under the jurisdiction of George Corley Wallace Jr (Tim Roth) meet this act of resistance with extreme force, attacking protesters with batons as TV cameras capture the brutality for millions of horrified viewers. Consequently, pressure grows on Johnson to intervene while King takes temporary leave of his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) and family to spearhead a second, larger march.

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Monday 2nd February 2015

The Metropolitan Opera Live Encore Screening: Les Contes D'Hoffmann 3 stars

Yves Abel conducts a live staging of Offenbach's operatic masterpiece at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Tenor Vittorio Grigolo takes on the title role of the tortured poet and unwitting adventurer in Bartlett's Sher's production, sharing the stage with Hibla Gerzmava, Erin Morley and Christine Rice as the embodiments of Hoffmann's desire and Thomas Hampson portrays the shadowy Four Villains.

  • GenreMusical, Special
  • CastErin Morley, Christine Rice, Vittorio Grigolo, Thomas Hampson, Hibla Gerzmava.
  • DirectorBartlett Sher.
  • WriterJacques Offenbach.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration225 mins
  • Official sitewww.metoperafamily.org/metopera/
  • Release31/01/2015 (selected cinemas)

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Tuesday 3rd February 2015

The Theory Of Everything 4 stars

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Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking falls head over heels in love with English literature student Jane Wilde at 1960s Cambridge University. Their fledgling romance is tested by his diagnosis with motor neurone disease. Stephen's parents Frank and Isobel try to warn Jane off their son, fearful of emotional devastation that will be wrought if he dies within the two years predicted by doctors. However, she defies everyone, determined to love Stephen for as long as they are together.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Romance
  • CastEddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis.
  • DirectorJames Marsh.
  • WriterAnthony McCarten.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration123 mins
  • Official site
  • Release01/01/2015

In Scottish novelist JM Barrie's most beloved work, Peter Pan famously contemplates his mortality on Marooner's Rock and observes, "To die will be an awfully big adventure". For more than half a century since he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has - happily - pushed aside his awfully big adventure and astounded the medical community.

Defying the short life expectancy associated with the rare condition, he has married twice, raised a family and altered our narrow perception of the universe including the publication of his worldwide bestseller, A Brief History Of Time.

As Hawking remarked at a press conference in 2006, "However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope." Those inspirational words are repeated verbatim in The Theory Of Everything.

Based on the memoir Travelling To Infinity by Jane Wilde Hawking, James Marsh's deeply moving drama charts the romance of Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) and first wife Jane (Felicity Jones) from fleeting glances at a party at mid-1960s Cambridge University through their subsequent battle against MND.

Stephen's parents Frank (Simon McBurney) and Isobel (Abigail Cruttenden) initially warn Jane off their son, fearful of the emotional devastation that will be wrought if he dies within the two years predicted by doctors. "It's not going to be a fight, Jane. It's going to be a very heavy defeat, for all of us," laments Frank.

Love must find a way and Jane defies everyone, even a pessimistic Stephen, to stand beside her soul mate. "I want us to be together, for as long as we've got," she tells him. "If that's not very long then - well, that's just how it is."

Her resolve inspires Stephen to continue his search for "one single elegant equation to explain everything". Aided by choirmaster Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox) and carer Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake), Jane raises the couple's three children and holds their marriage together.

The Theory Of Everything is anchored by two of the year's best performances. Redmayne is simply astounding, affecting a mesmerising physical transformation that surely warrants an Oscar. He brilliantly conveys every raw emotion or flash of impish humour with his eyes or the twitch of a facial muscle.

Jones is equally compelling as his soul mate, who sacrifices everything in the name of love. The scene in which she finally acknowledges hard-fought defeat to save the relationship and tearfully tells Stephen, "I have loved you... I did my best," is heartbreaking.

Director Marsh uses simple visual motifs to illuminate the complex cosmology, such as a swirl of cream in a cup of coffee to represent a spiral galaxy in Stephen's mind. With its delicate balance of tear-stained drama, deeply felt romance and comedy, The Theory Of Everything hits upon a winning formula.

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Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
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The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death 3 stars

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At the height of the Second World War, stern headmistress Jean Hogg and caring young teacher Eve Parkins abandon their school in London to evacuate a group of pupils to the safety of the countryside. Dr Rhodes leads the school party to its new home: the dilapidated Eel Marsh House. Unaware of the dark history of their refuge, the teachers and pupils settle into a routine but the spectre of the house latches onto one boy.

  • GenreDrama, Horror, Romance, Thriller, War
  • CastJeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Phoebe Fox, Oaklee Pendergast.
  • DirectorTom Harper.
  • WriterJon Croker.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration98 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/TheWomaninBlackAngelofDeath
  • Release01/01/2015

Ghost stories are well suited to the visual medium of film because what terrifies us aren't the things we can see in the cold light of day but the unspoken horrors that lurk just out of shot or in the inky blackness of a dimly lit background. The monsters that induced wide-eyed terror in our childhood lurked under the bed or in the wardrobe.

They were silent, deadly menaces, conjured by febrile imaginations and drip-fed on our irrational yet all-consuming fear. Over the decades, filmmakers have preyed mercilessly - and sometimes masterfully - on this deep-rooted, primal paranoia to quicken the pulse and whiten our knuckles.

Hammer Horror's 2012 film version of The Woman In Black, based on Susan Hill's celebrated horror novella of the same name, certainly hit a raw nerve. Blessed with a post-Harry Potter leading role for Daniel Radcliffe, the resolutely old-fashioned haunted house yarn became the most successful British horror film for 20 years.

When those box office tills started ringing, Tom Harper's sequel was a foregone conclusion. Set 40 years later during the Blitz, Angel Of Death continues the reign of terror of the vengeful ghost, which haunts the cobweb-strewn hallways of Eel Marsh House.

Stern headmistress Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory) and sensitive teacher Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) evacuate a group of London schoolchildren to the countryside including a shell-shocked boy called Edward (Oaklee Pendergast), whose parents perished in the latest barrage of German bombs.

Their guide, Dr Rhodes (Adrian Rawlins), shepherds the school party to its new home: the dilapidated Eel Marsh House. "The place has been deserted for years," he assures the women and their wards.

Unaware of the building's grim history, the school party settles into a new routine. The spectre of the house (Leanne Best) latches onto Edward, who is being bullied, and exacts revenge on one tormentor Tom (Jude Wright) before turning her attention to the other interlopers.

Eve musters her courage to protect her young charges, aided by a handsome pilot called Harry Burnstow (Jeremy Irvine), who is stationed nearby.

The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death is bereft of original ideas and resorts to a familiar array of ominous creaks and groans to herald the arrival of the eponymous spirit. Fox's plucky heroine puts herself in harm's way with such foolhardy regularity, you have to question her suitability as a teacher.

Meanwhile, McCrory purses her lips for portentous remarks like, "Our worst enemy is ourselves: our fears, doubt, despair. That's what will destroy us." Duly noted.

In response, perhaps, to complaints from parents about the 12A classification of the first film, Harper's sequel sports a 15 certificate and a warning about strong horror and threat. Ironically, the original was scarier and shoe-horned more jump-out-of-your-seat boos into 90 minutes.

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Monday 2nd February 2015

Whiplash 5 stars

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Nineteen-year-old Andrew Neiman is determined to be the top drummer at his music conservatory. So he practices night and day and catches the eye of the school's most revered and feared teacher, Terence Fletcher, who is well known for terrorising students that don't meet his idea of perfection. Soon after, Fletcher requests that Andrew transfers into his class and he becomes the alternate drummer. When the opportunity arises for Andrew to prove himself, he rises to the occasion.

  • GenreDrama, Film, Musical, Romance
  • CastMelissa Benoist, Miles Teller, Paul Reiser, JK Simmons, Austin Stowell.
  • DirectorDamien Chazelle.
  • WriterDamien Chazelle.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration106 mins
  • Official sitewww.sonyclassics.com/whiplash/
  • Release16/01/2015

The fresh paint of 2015 has barely dried and already we have a strong contender for the film of the year. Inspired by writer-director Damien Chazelle's experiences in a fiercely competitive high school jazz band, Whiplash is an electrifying tale of a 19-year-old drummer's bruising battle of wits with his monstrous college tutor.

As the title intimates, pain is acute in Chazelle's lean script that pulls no punches in its depiction of the pursuit of musical excellence, which propels the self-destructive student to the brink of a mental and physical breakdown.

Drumming sequences are edited at a frenetic pace, spattered with the real sweat of lead actor Miles Teller, who performs all of the energy-sapping solos as if his life depended on it. It's a bravura performance complemented by JK Simmons' jaw-dropping portrayal of the foul-mouthed, bullying conductor, who verbally abuses students that fall short of his impossible demands for metronomic and percussive perfection.

Staring at his terrified charges, Simmons' musician-turned-mentor preys upon teenage fears and insecurities, kindling intense rivalry between band members for his own sadistic pleasure. Early in the film, he picks on one nervous trombonist's weight and snarls, "I will not let you cost us a competition because your mind's on a Happy Meal and not on pitch." He's just getting warmed up.

Nineteen-year-old Andrew Neiman (Teller) is determined to excel at his Manhattan music conservatory and avoid the regrets which haunt his writer father (Paul Reiser). So he practises night and day and catches the eye of the school's most revered teacher, Terence Fletcher (Simmons).

Soon after, Andrew transfers to Fletcher's class and becomes the alternate drummer in the band behind lead player Carl (Nate Lang). When the opportunity arises for Andrew to impress, he rises to the occasion but alienates himself from the rest of the band.

A fledgling romance with Nicole (Melissa Benoist), who works at Andrew's local cinema, is sacrificed in a cold, cruel fashion that would have Fletcher smacking his lips with glee. The game of one-upmanship between teacher and pupil spirals out of control as Andrew struggles to meet the lofty expectations of his maniacal mentor and earn the right to play at a concert in the rarefied surroundings of Carnegie Hall.

Whiplash delivers one emotional wallop after another as Andrew practises until his hands bleed and Simmons belittles those herculean efforts by growling, "Is that the fastest you can go? It is no wonder Mommy ran out on you!"

We root for the beleaguered 19-year-old with every display of frenzied stick-work, urging Andrew to wipe the smug grin off Fletcher's face. Our investment in the characters is immense and Chazelle rewards us with an astounding denouement that saps every ounce of energy from our bodies. We're delirious, euphoric and physically spent.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 1st February 2015
Monday 2nd February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

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Wild 4 stars

movie title

In 1994, 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed decides to come to terms with the death of her mother by embarking on a gruelling 1,100-mile solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington. She is ill-prepared for her odyssey, weighed down by a cumbersome backpack overstuffed with useless items including the wrong gas canister for her cooking stove. Cheryl gradually nurtures her survival instincts to overcome her fears and the perilous terrain.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama
  • CastLaura Dern, Gaby Hoffmann, Reese Witherspoon, Thomas Sadoski.
  • DirectorJean-Marc Vallee.
  • WriterCheryl Strayed, Nick Hornby.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration115 mins
  • Official sitewww.howwilditwas.com
  • Release16/01/2015

It's a perfect paradox. Sometimes to find yourself, you have to completely lose yourself: strip yourself bare of home comforts, temporarily sever emotional ties and stare your demons in the eye. Only when you hit rock bottom with an almighty thump can you honestly assess your strengths and frailties, and gain a deeper appreciation for the people who are important to you.

In 1994, 26-year-old Cheryl Strayed decided to come to terms with the death of her mother by embarking on a gruelling 1,100-mile solo trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington.

She was ill-prepared for her odyssey, weighed down by a cumbersome backpack overstuffed with useless items including the wrong gas canister for her cooking stove. Alone in this unforgiving wilderness, Cheryl initially relied on the kindness of strangers to survive, but gradually nurtured her survival instincts to overcome her fears and the perilous terrain.

She subsequently penned the moving memoir Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail, which British novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy) has adapted beautifully and elegantly for the big screen.

Jean-Marc Vallee's film opens with Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) at a critical and painful juncture of her trek. Standing on a ridge above a breathtaking northern Californian vista, she removes one of her hiking boots and a bloodied sock then tears off a loose toenail.

The jolt of pain sparks a miasma of flashbacks to Cheryl's past and her bond with her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern), who is diagnosed with lung cancer and dies when Cheryl is 22. There are scenes of domestic intimacy and tension with her ex-husband Paul (Thomas Sadoski), and her best friend Aimee (Gaby Hoffmann), who sends food parcels for Cheryl to collect along the route.

Her exhausting journey is punctuated by nightmarish memories of Cheryl's descent into sex- and alcohol-fuelled oblivion - a futile effort to salve the pain of Bobbi's death, which sounds the death knell for her marriage. "I'm going to walk myself back to the woman my mother thought I was," Cheryl resolves.

Anchored by a tour-de-force performance from Witherspoon that is a shoo-in for Oscar consideration, Wild is an emotionally uplifting drama that celebrates the endurance of the human spirit and the restorative power of a mother's love.

Vallee, who helmed yesteryear's Oscar winner The Dallas Buyers Club, directs with flair, juxtaposing the picturesque splendour of Cheryl's surroundings with the internal darkness that nudges her to the brink of self-destruction.

The fragmented timeline doesn't impact greatly on dramatic momentum and Hornby sketches some powerful scenes of threat and self-reflection including a moving encounter on the trail with a woman and her grandson that finally opens Cheryl's floodgates and loosens ours too.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 1st February 2015
Tuesday 3rd February 2015
Wednesday 4th February 2015
Thursday 5th February 2015

This film is also showing at:

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