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

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Beyond Clueless
  • Bolshoi Ballet Live: Swan Lake
  • Into The Woods
  • NT Live Encore: Treasure Island
  • Royal Opera Live: Andrea Chenier
  • Testament Of Youth
  • The Boxtrolls
  • The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas
  • The Theory Of Everything
  • Whiplash
  • Wild

A Most Violent Year 4 stars

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Abel Morales owns a fleet of oil transport trucks that carry valuable fuel to customers across the city. One of his trucks is hijacked and the driver Julian is been badly beaten. Threats to Abel's livelihood become personal, targeting his children and wife Anna, whose gangster father used to own the company. "Let me deal with this," pleads Abel. "You better," she retorts. "Because you won't like what's going to happen once I start getting involved."

  • GenreAction, Drama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastJessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Elyes Gabel, Albert Brooks.
  • DirectorJ C Chandor.
  • WriterJ C Chandor.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration125 mins
  • Official site
  • Release23/01/2015

According to statistics, 1981 was the most violent year in New York City history in relation to the population. Over the 12 months, more than 1.2 million crimes were recorded including 60,000 aggravated assaults, 5,400 forcible rapes and 2,220 murders.

A crack epidemic had the city in a chokehold and Mayor Ed Koch seemed powerless to curb gang warfare and spiralling lawlessness on the subway system. Writer-director JC Chandor, who was Oscar nominated for the 2012 thriller Margin Call, uses this turbulent period as a backdrop to his masterful and searing portrait of crime and brutal punishment.

Centred on a married couple, who are struggling to keep their heating oil distribution business afloat, A Most Violent Year powerfully conveys the personal and professional sacrifices of a devoted husband and wife, who become one of the shocking statistics.

The film's pacing is deceptively steady and slow, lulling us into a false sense of security as Chandor ups the stakes for his beautifully sketched characters, forcing them to take greater risks to protect their nearest and dearest.

Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) owns a fleet of oil transport trucks that carry valuable fuel to customers across the city. He's a small player but hopes to expand by clinching a deal for property on the Brooklyn waterfront that will allow him to take delivery of oil from the river. Having put down 700,000 US dollars as a deposit, Abel has just 30 days to close the transaction or the vendor keeps the downpayment and can sell the land to a competitor.

Soon after, Abel learns that one of his trucks has been hijacked and the driver Julian (Elyes Gabel) has been badly beaten. Union rep Bill O'Leary (Peter Gerety) asks Abel to allow the drivers to carry unlicenced guns as a deterrent but the boss strongly objects, knowing that it will take just one stray bullet to arouse the suspicions of the crusading Assistant District Attorney (David Oyelowo).

Threats to Abel's livelihood become personal, targeting his children and wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), whose gangster father used to own the company.
"Let me deal with this," pleads Abel.
"You better," she retorts. "Because you won't like what's going to happen once I start getting involved."

A Most Violent Year hits a sweet spot on every level, from Chandor's measured direction and lean script, to the powerhouse performances. Isaac is mesmerising as an honourable family man, who refuses to sink to the depths of some of his rivals, sticking to the path of righteousness for as long as he dare.

Chastain essays another ballsy woman of substance, cutting through her husband's rose-tinted idealism with harsh home truths. When oblivion beckons for Abel and Anna, we discover the true strength of their moral compasses in the face of the corruption and senseless bloodshed.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 25th January 2015
Monday 26th January 2015
Tuesday 27th January 2015
Wednesday 28th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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Beyond Clueless 3 stars

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American teen dramas and comedies are a rite of passage for many British audiences. This affectionate documentary surveys the genre by drawing together clips from more than 250 films from the late 1990s to the early noughties. Narrated by Fairuza Balk, the documentary shines a spotlight on the good, the bad and the ugly of the genre set to a suitably upbeat soundtrack.

  • GenreDocumentary, Horror, Indie, Romance
  • CastFairuza Balk.
  • DirectorCharlie Lyne.
  • WriterCharlie Lyne.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration89 mins
  • Official sitewww.beyondclueless.co.uk
  • Release23/01/2015 (selected cinemas)

American teen dramas and comedies are a rite of passage for many British audiences and Charlie Lyne's affectionate documentary surveys the genre by drawing together clips from more than 250 films from the late 1990s to the early noughties. Narrated by Fairuza Balk, Lyne's film shines a spotlight on the good, the bad and the ugly of the genre, from Amy Heckerling's glorious 1995 romp Clueless, which puts a sassy spin on Jane Austen's Emma, to 10 Things I Hate About You, She's All That, bad taste comedy Eurotrip and Balk's own supernatural thriller The Craft, set to a suitably upbeat soundtrack.

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Tuesday 27th January 2015

Bolshoi Ballet Live: Swan Lake 3 stars

Vincent Bataillon's staging of the haunting ballet choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich, set to Tchaikovsky's lyrical score, is broadcast live from Moscow. Prince Siegfried escapes his birthday celebrations and stumbles upon a magical lake where he meets beautiful Princess Odette, who must spend each day as a swan until true love breaks the curse.

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Sunday 25th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 25th January 2015
Monday 26th January 2015
Tuesday 27th January 2015
Wednesday 28th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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NT Live Encore: Treasure Island 3 stars

Jim, the inn-keeper's granddaughter, opens the door to a terrifying stranger on a dark, stormy night and begins a dangerous voyage in Bryony Lavery's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic story of murder, money and mutiny. This recording of a live performance at the National Theatre in London is directed by Polly Findlay and is suitable for over 10s.

  • GenreAdventure, Family, Family, Special
  • CastPatsy Ferran, Arthur Darvill.
  • DirectorPolly Findlay.
  • WriterRobert Louis Stevenson, Bryony Lavery.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration180 mins
  • Official sitentlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk

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Monday 26th January 2015

Royal Opera Live: 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, broadcast live from the Royal Opera House in London.

  • GenreDrama, Musical, Romance, Special
  • CastZeljko Lucic, Jonas Kaufmann, Denyce Graves, Eva-Maria Westbroek.
  • DirectorDavid McVicar.
  • WriterUmberto Giordano.
  • CountryUK
  • Official sitewww.roh.org.uk/cinemas
  • Release29/01/2015 (selected 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, broadcast live from the Royal Opera House in London.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 25th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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Testament Of Youth 3 stars

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Vera Brittain heads to Oxford University to study under waspish Miss Lorimer while her brother Edward and his good friends Roland and Victor enlist to serve their country. Against the advice of her parents, Vera decides to postpone her higher education to volunteer as a nurse and treat soldiers like her brother, who have been physically and emotionally scarred by their experiences on the front.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance, War
  • CastHayley Atwell, Kit Harington, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson, Dominic West, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan.
  • DirectorJames Kent.
  • WriterJuliette Towhidi.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration130 mins
  • Official site
  • Release16/01/2015

Published in 1933, Testament Of Youth was the first instalment of memoirs by feminist writer and pacifist Vera Mary Brittain covering the years 1900-1925. In those pages, Brittain relived her harrowing personal experiences of the First World War in the wider context of the shifting political landscape, and gave a voice to other women, who had watched loved ones head off to fight and never return.

In 1979, the BBC produced a six-part mini-series based on the book, casting a fresh-faced Cheryl Campbell as the fiercely independent heroine. It's fitting that BBC Films should be one of the creative forces behind this handsomely mounted big screen adaptation.

Testament Of Youth is almost the right film in the right place at the right time, coinciding with centenary commemorations of the First World War, which included last year's spectacular installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies at the Tower Of London.

James Kent's film is suitably respectful and sombre, and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is a revelation in her first leading role in an English-language production, capturing the spirit, defiance and brittleness of a young woman who holds firm to her convictions at a time when women were preferably seen but not heard.

Spirited and resourceful Vera (Vikander) is poised to head to Oxford University to study under waspish Miss Lorimer (Miranda Richardson). Her brother Edward (Taron Egerton) and his pals Roland (Kit Harington) and Victor (Colin Morgan) intend to enlist but Vera's parents (Dominic West, Emily Watson) are resistant.

"I know a little more about war than you young lady and it's never short and it's never fast," Mr Brittain tells his daughter sternly when Vera argues her sibling's case. They eventually relent and Vera heads to the dreaming spires of Oxford.

Romance blossoms between Vera and Roland, and Aunt Belle (Joanna Scanlan) acts as a chaperon for the young couple on their dates to ensure their conduct doesn't overstep the bounds of public decency. Against the advice of her parents, Vera postpones her higher education to volunteer as a nurse and treat soldiers, who have been physically and emotionally scarred by their experiences.

Friendships and family ties are strained as Vera and her loved ones search for glimmers of hope amid the devastation.

Testament Of Youth is a visually arresting portrait of those tumultuous years of blood-stained European history and director Kent demonstrates moments of brio. However, for all its physical splendour and Max Richter's elegiac orchestral score, the film doesn't stir the heart, even with Vikander wringing herself emotionally dry as Vera's dearest friends become casualties of the conflict.

At 130 minutes, the ambitious running time sags noticeably in the middle act, but thankfully regains momentum and composure as Vera's cosy existence is steadily reduced to rubble.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 25th January 2015
Monday 26th January 2015
Tuesday 27th January 2015
Wednesday 28th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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The Boxtrolls 4 stars

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An orphaned boy named Eggs is raised by gentle subterranean creatures that have been unfairly demonised by the terrified, fromage-fixated residents of Cheesebridge. When pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher and his henchmen begin to exterminate the Boxtrolls, Eggs joins forces with the surviving creatures and a girl called Winnie to protect the beasties from harm.

  • GenreAdaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Fantasy
  • CastToni Collette, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jared Harris, Sir Ben Kingsley.
  • DirectorGraham Annable, Anthony Stacchi.
  • WriterIrena Brignull, Adam Pava.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration97 mins
  • Official sitewww.theboxtrolls.co.uk
  • Release12/09/2014

Based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls is a rollicking stop-motion animated romp from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman that proves weird can be truly wonderful. With faint echoes of Raymond Briggs' Fungus The Bogeyman, Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi's quirky fantasy imagines a race of subterranean creatures, who root through bins in search of spare parts for their mechanical creations.

Despite a hearty appetite for slimy bugs, these pungent, green-skinned denizens of the underworld are cute rather than scary, possessing relatable human traits such as a passion for music or a quivering fear of the unknown. They spare troll blushes by wearing empty cardboard boxes and the former contents of these mouldering cartons provide each expressive character with a name such as Fish, Knickers, Sweets, Clocks and Fragile (ho ho!).

The meticulous detail of the movable figures and miniature sets is impressive, and co-directors Annable and Stacchi corral a vast team of animators, who produce thrilling chases and quieter moments of ribald humour.

The well-to-do, Victorian-era city of Cheesebridge is visited under the cloak of darkness by the eponymous beasties. One dark night, a Boxtroll called Fish (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) kidnaps the infant son of a local inventor (Simon Pegg) and spirits away the child to the underground lair.

This shocking act plays into the grubby hands of pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Sir Ben Kingsley). "Prepare to say bye-bye to your brie, cheerio to your cheddar!" cackles Snatcher, striking fear into the heart of Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) and the other fromage-fixated noblemen.

They grant Snatcher a place at the cheese-tasting top table if the exterminator and his henchmen - Mr Trout (Nick Frost), Mr Pickles (Richard Ayoade) and Mr Gristle (Tracy Morgan) - kill every last Boxtroll. Unaware that he is human, abducted boy Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) ventures above ground with the Boxtrolls and encounters Lord Portley-Rind's snooty daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning).

She initially believes the horror stories about Boxtrolls devouring children - "Eat me. I'm sure I'm delicious!" - but once Winnie learns the truth about Eggs' past, she agrees to help vanquish Snatcher and his snivelling cohorts.

The Boxtrolls is a delight for the young and young at heart, hinging on the notion that families come in all shapes and sizes. Irena Brignull and Adam Pava's script is laden with verbal and visual gags, striking a gently mischievous tone throughout like when Winnie spots Eggs tugging at the crotch of his uncomfortable suit and whispers, "Don't snatch them in public. That's why they are called privates!"

Frost, Ayoade and Morgan provide the majority of the comic relief between action-packed set-pieces. Remain seated during the end credits for a hilarious scene of existential angst, which succinctly reminds us how pain-staking and time-consuming the stop-motion animation process is.

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Thursday 29th January 2015

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas 3 stars

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Eight-year-old Bruno arrives home from school one day to discover that his Nazi officer father has been promoted and the entire family must move to a new home. While his mother and sister Gretel embrace the fresh start, Bruno is desperately lonely and he secretly defies his parents to explore the surrounding area, stumbling upon what appears to be a farm and a young boy in striped pyjamas called Shmuel. Separated by a fence and barbed wire, the two boys become friends, until Bruno learns the truth: that Shmuel is a Jew and the farm is actually a concentration camp under the control of his father.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, War
  • CastAsa Butterfield, Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend, Sheila Hancock, Richard Johnson, Jim Norton, David Heyman.
  • DirectorMark Herman.
  • WriterMark Herman.
  • CountryUK/US
  • Duration94 mins
  • Official sitewww.boyinthestripedpajamas.com
  • Release12/09/2008

Suffer the little children. Based on the best-selling novel by John Boyne, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas relives the horrors of World War II from the perspective of an eight-year-old German tyke, who is blissfully unaware of the vital role played by his Nazi officer father in the unfolding tragedy. The subject matter is incredibly bleak and the final act of Mark Herman's well crafted film sets in motion a chain of events that must, inevitably, culminate in tragedy.

Yet for the myriad horrors and our tearful response, Herman's script glimpses moments of beauty and hope through the eyes of its young, idealistic hero, who will become a footnote in one of the darkest chapters in European history.

Bruno (Asa Butterfield) arrives home from school one day to discover that his commandant father (David Thewlis) has been promoted and the entire family must relocate far from away from the city and their friends. While his mother (Vera Farmiga) and older sister Gretel (Amber Beattie) embrace the fresh start, Bruno is desperately sad and lonely in the new house.

Hungry for adventure, Bruno sneaks into the woods and stumbles upon what appears to be a farm and a young boy in striped pyjamas called Shmuel (Jack Scanlon). Separated by a barbed wire fence, the two boys become friends, until Bruno learns the truth: that Shmuel is a Jew and the farm is actually a concentration camp under the control of his father.

At first, Bruno shuns Shmuel, even telling a fib which leads to a severe beating for the young inmate at the hands of the venomous Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend). However, Bruno cannot hide from his true feelings for Shmuel and he begs forgiveness, offering to help the Jewish boy locate his missing father.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas refracts the unimaginable suffering and tragedy of the Holocaust through the prism of one family's experiences. Herman tries to distance his characters from obvious Nazi cliches by having the Germans speak in clipped English, which is a little distracting at first. However, the device ultimately brings us closer - whether we like it or not - to the family.

Thewlis and Farmiga embody opposing voices in the conflict and Friend is suitably repugnant as the Teutonic officer who sees Bruno's mother sniffing the smoke-filled air and smirks, "They smell even worse when they burn, don't they?" Unfortunately, Kotler is sidelined when a skeleton tumbles out of the family closet during a family meal. Butterfield and Scanlon both delivering remarkably natural and unaffected performances as the friends who should be sworn enemies.

Their scenes together at the wire fence, playing draughts or concocting hare-brained schemes, are sensitively handled by Herman, who lulls us into a false sense of security before a finale that doesn't quite deliver a knockout emotional blow.

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Wednesday 28th January 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.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 25th January 2015
Monday 26th January 2015
Tuesday 27th January 2015
Wednesday 28th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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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 25th January 2015
Monday 26th January 2015
Tuesday 27th January 2015
Wednesday 28th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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Wild 4 stars

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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 25th January 2015
Monday 26th January 2015
Tuesday 27th January 2015
Wednesday 28th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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