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

  • Boyhood
  • Camille Claudel 1915
  • Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
  • Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes 3D
  • Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy
  • Guardians Of The Galaxy 3D
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2
  • Joe
  • NT Live Encore Screening: Skylight
  • Swallows And Amazons
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Boyhood 3 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Wednesday 30th July 2014
Thursday 31st July 2014

Camille Claudel 1915 3 stars

movie title

In 1915, sculptor Camille Claudel has been consigned to a church-run mental hospital by her brother Paul. It is two decades since Camille's relationship ended with Auguste Rodin but she is still convinced that he hatched a diabolical plot to kill her. Her suffocating paranoia convinces Paul, a Christian poet, to consign his sister to the madhouse. During one of Paul's visits to the hospital, Camille attempts to use argument and reason to secure her release.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, World
  • CastEmmanuel Kauffman, Jean-Luc Vincent, Juliette Binoche, Robert Leroy.
  • DirectorBruno Dumont.
  • WriterBruno Dumont.
  • CountryFr
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official site
  • Release20/06/2014 (selected cinemas)

Juliette Binoche delivers a compelling performance as a woman on the verge of emotional meltdown in Bruno Dumont's challenging feature. Based on letters between sculptor Camille Claudel and her younger brother Paul, the film unfolds over three days in 1915 when Camille (Binoche) has been consigned to a church-run mental hospital by Paul (Jean-Luc Vincent). It is two decades since Camille's relationship ended with Auguste Rodin but she is still convinced that he hatched a diabolical plot to kill her. Her suffocating paranoia convinces Paul, a Christian poet, to consign his sister to the madhouse. During one of Paul's visits to the hospital, Camille attempts to use argument and reason to secure her release. The battle of wits and words with Paul tests their resolves.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes 4 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Wednesday 30th July 2014
Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes 3D 4 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Wednesday 30th July 2014
Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe stars

  • GenreFilm
  • CastKathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, Mary-Louise Parker.
  • DirectorJon Avnet.
  • CountryUS
  • Official site

Jon Avnet directs Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates in a celluloid translation of Fanny Flagg's novel, set both in the past and present around the Whistle Stop Cafe, Alabama.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Wednesday 30th July 2014

Guardians Of The Galaxy 3 stars

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

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

The Marvel Comics big screen universe continues to expand at a frightening pace in this big budget fantasy directed by James Gunn. Abducted from his parents as a child and raised by thieves, gung-ho American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is content to gallivant around the far reaches of space, entertaining as many otherworldly lovelies as his stamina will allow. He steals an orb, which is sought by Ronan (Lee Pace) and his army of Sakaarans, and evades capture by aligning himself with a motley crew of rebels comprising green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel) and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), whose entire family was slaughtered by Ronan. When Peter subsequently learns that the orb is an ancient artefact, which arch-villain Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) needs to wreak havoc upon the universe, he must rally the troops to repel assaults from Ronan and his underlings including fearsome intergalactic hunter Korath (Djimon Hounsou), and prevent the orb from falling into the wrong hands.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

Guardians Of The Galaxy 3D 3 stars

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

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

The Marvel Comics big screen universe continues to expand at a frightening pace in this big budget fantasy directed by James Gunn. Abducted from his parents as a child and raised by thieves, gung-ho American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is content to gallivant around the far reaches of space, entertaining as many otherworldly lovelies as his stamina will allow. He steals an orb, which is sought by Ronan (Lee Pace) and his army of Sakaarans, and evades capture by aligning himself with a motley crew of rebels comprising green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel) and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), whose entire family was slaughtered by Ronan. When Peter subsequently learns that the orb is an ancient artefact, which arch-villain Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) needs to wreak havoc upon the universe, he must rally the troops to repel assaults from Ronan and his underlings including fearsome intergalactic hunter Korath (Djimon Hounsou), and prevent the orb from falling into the wrong hands.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

How To Train Your Dragon 2 4 stars

movie title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Wednesday 30th July 2014
Thursday 31st July 2014

This film is also showing at:

Joe 3 stars

movie title

Ex-con Joe toils long hours in the backwoods of Texas as foreman of a team of labourers, who poison sickly trees so they can be felled and replaced with healthy specimens. One day in the woods, 15-year-old Gary approaches Joe looking for work. He is hired and Joe takes the youngster under his wing, becoming a surrogate father to the hard-working teenager.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Indie
  • CastTye Sheridan, Gary Poulter, Nicolas Cage.
  • DirectorDavid Gordon Green.
  • WriterGary Hawkins.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration117 mins
  • Official sitewww.joefilm.net
  • Release25/07/2014 (selected cinemas)

Nicolas Cage delivers a compelling performance as a brute with a heart of gold in David Gordon Green's touching tale of friendship. Based on a 1990 novel by Larry Brown, Joe centres on the titular ex-con (Cage), who toils long hours in the backwoods of Texas as foreman of a team of labourers, who poison sickly trees so they can be felled and replaced with healthy specimens. Local police hound Joe, hoping to goad him into an explosion of violence that will land him back in prison. One day in the woods, 15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) approaches Joe looking for work. He is hired and Joe takes the youngster under his wing, becoming a surrogate father to the hard-working teenager. It transpires that Gary's real father, Wade (Gary Poulter), is a booze-sodden bully, who lashes out at his family. When Gary starts to earn money, Wade beats up his son and steals his money, and Joe struggles to withhold the urge to teach the abusive old man a lesson in good manners.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Wednesday 30th July 2014
Thursday 31st July 2014

NT Live Encore Screening: Skylight 3 stars

  • GenreDrama, Special
  • CastCarey Mulligan, Bill Nighy.
  • DirectorStephen Daldry.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration180 mins
  • Official site

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Thursday 31st July 2014

Swallows And Amazons stars

  • GenreChildren, Children's
  • CastVirginia McKenna, Ronald Fraser.
  • DirectorClaude Whatham.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration92 mins
  • Official site

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 31st July 2014

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3 stars

movie title

Wise wizard Gandalf The Grey recruits Bilbo Baggins to join a 13-strong company of dwarves who intend to reclaim their lost gold from the dragon Smaug in his mountain lair. Excitedly, Bilbo accompanies dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield and his troops - on a perilous mission. En route, the brave souls encounter allies including Galadriel and Elrond as well as the wretched Gollum.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
  • CastBilly Connolly, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner.
  • DirectorPeter Jackson.
  • WriterFran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson.
  • CountryUS/NZ
  • Duration169 mins
  • Official sitewww.thehobbit.com
  • Release13/12/2012

There is a moment early in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey when Gandalf The Grey (Sir Ian McKellen) turns to diminutive hero Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and counsels: "All good stories deserve embellishment." Director Peter Jackson and co-writers Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Guillermo del Toro have taken the wise wizard's words to heart and embellished JRR Tolkien's novel to the point of creative obesity.

Visually stunning flashbacks, which fail to advance the plot, are roughly hewn into a sprawling narrative that doesn't kick into second gear for a good 45 minutes. The decision to shoot the film in 3D at the higher rate of 48 frames per second compared to the usual 24 frames will divide audiences.

Everything looks cleaner and crisper - you can see the stitching on Gandalf's hat and prosthetics in minute detail - but this might be too much heightened reality for a sweeping fantasy that romanticises the bonds of trust between gung-ho brothers.

In the first deviation from the text, Jackson opens his picture at Bag End with the elderly Bilbo (Ian Holm) penning a book to his cousin Frodo (Elijah Wood). We rewind 60 years to meet Bilbo (Freeman) in the Shire as he encounters Gandalf (McKellen) and a 13-strong company of dwarves, who intend to reclaim their lost gold from the dragon Smaug in his mountain lair.

After a sleepless night, Bilbo agrees to accompany dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his troops on their perilous mission. "Axe or sword - what is your weapon of choice?" Thorin asks Bilbo. "Well, I do have some skills with conkers," meekly replies the hobbit.

En route, the brave souls encounter elvish allies including Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), as well as wretched Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the corpulent Goblin King (Barry Humphries). The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which should perhaps be subtitled The Return Of The Fellowship Of A King, reunites Jackson with cast and crew of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy including cinematographer Andrew Leslie and composer Howard Shore.

The writer-director employs the same visual lexicon: sweeping aerial shots of characters traipsing over New Zealand landscapes, close-ups of ethereal figures in deep contemplation. Nerve-racking scenes with Gollum are undoubtedly the highlight of this opening salvo.

An hour of substance is bloated to 166 minutes of digital trickery and breathless action sequences including a protracted chase through the subterranean lair of the goblins. One plot strand, involving a Necromancer gaining power in his stronghold at Dol Guldur, dangles tantalisingly in the background and will presumably be stitched into the narrative in the second film.

While some of the dwarves, notably Balin (Ken Stott) and Bofur (James Nesbitt), are gifted scenes to illustrate their personalities, most of Thorin's motley crew are indistinguishable aside from their rhyming names.

Freeman brings a touch of humour to his pint-sized weakling, who learns that, "True courage is knowing not when to take a life but when to spare one." McKellen and co ease back into familiar supporting roles and Armitage swaggers as the vengeful son, who allows rage to cloud his judgement at a vital juncture.

When Bilbo subsequently remarks, "I do believe the worst is behind us," we know he must be joking, else the next two chapters, The Desolation Of Smaug and There And Back Again, released in 2013 and 2014 respectively will be exceedingly dull affairs.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 29th July 2014
Wednesday 30th July 2014
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