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- Into The Woods
- Kingsman: The Secret Service
- The Theory Of Everything
Into The Woods 4 stars
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.
- Duration125 mins
- Official sitewww.movies.disney.com/into-the-woods
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.
Kingsman: The Secret Service 3 stars
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.
- Duration129 mins
- Official sitewww.kingsmanmovie.com
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.
Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)
- Thursday 29th January 2015
The Theory Of Everything 4 stars
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.
- Duration123 mins
- Official site
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.
Unbroken 4 stars
A dramatisation of the extraordinary true story of Louis Zamperini, who competed at the 1936 Olympic Games, survived a plane crash in his B-24 bomber during the Second World War then suffered at the hands of the Japanese in a POW camp. Behind enemy lines, sadistic commander Mutsuhiro Watanabe, who is nicknamed The Bird, sets out to break the Olympian's spirit with cruelty and intimidation.
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Drama, War
- CastJai Courtney, Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Luke Treadaway, Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund.
- DirectorAngelina Jolie.
- WriterJoel Coen, Ethan Coen, William Nicholson, Richard LaGravenese.
- Duration137 mins
- Official sitewww.unbrokenfilmintl.com
Angelina Jolie's third feature film behind the camera has the hallmarks of 24-carat Academy Awards bait. Based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken documents the extraordinary true story of Louis Zamperini, who competed at the 1936 Olympic Games, survived a plane crash during the Second World War then suffered at the hands of the Japanese in a POW camp.
Somehow, Zamperini weathered the pain and returned home a national hero. Jolie's admiration for her subject is evident in every gorgeously crafted frame of this life-affirming biopic, which is blessed with Roger Deakins' stunning cinematography and an elegiac score from composer Alexandre Desplat.
Wince-inducing scenes of cruelty warrant the film's 15 certificate but the violence always serves the narrative and is never gratuitous. Taking to heart the words of Louis's brother - "If you can take it, you can make it" - we stare into the heart of darkness with Zamperini, willing him to overcome his horrific ordeal.
As a boy, Louis (Jack O'Connell) drives his parents (Vincenzo Amato, Maddalena Ischiale) to distraction with his fisticuffs. Louis narrowly avoids reform school and his older brother Pete (Alex Russell), a star of the school athletics team, decides to channel his sibling's energy and aggression into running.
These efforts reap rewards and Louis is selected to represent America at the Berlin Olympics. "A minute of pain is worth a lifetime of glory. You remember that," whispers Pete. Louis finishes a creditable eighth after a blistering final lap of 56 seconds.
War breaks out and Louis serves in the US Army Air Force alongside best friend Russell Phillips (Domhnall Gleeson). Their B-24 bomber crashes into Pacific, killing everyone except Louis, Russell and fellow recruit Francis McNamara (Finn Wittrock).
The men drift through shark-infested waters with little food or water until a Japanese crew picks them up. The men are tortured and separated. Louis is sent to a POW camp where sadistic commander Mutsuhiro Watanabe aka The Bird (Miyavi) sets out to break the Olympian's spirit.
Unbroken soars close to greatness, emboldened by tour-de-force performances from O'Connell and pop star Miyavi, who makes his professional acting debut.
The twisted relationship between sworn enemies is intricately sketched by the four scriptwriters, including a scene in which The Bird whips Zamperini with his buckled belt then offers the bloody American some tissue paper for his wounds. "Why do you make me hit you?" wonders the Japanese commander aloud.
Jolie's direction is assured including gruelling scenes at sea. Fifty-two years after his release from the POW camp, a sprightly 80-year-old Zamperini returned to Japan as an honoured guest rather than a captive to run a leg of the Tokyo Olympics torch marathon.
With every step, he inspired friends and one-time foes to forgive and begin the seemingly impossible healing process.