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- How To Train Your Dragon 2
- Into The Storm
- Let's Be Cops
- The House Of Magic
- The Inbetweeners 2
- The Nut Job
How To Train Your Dragon 2 4 stars
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.
- 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 2nd September 2014
Into The Storm 3 stars
Veteran storm chaser Pete consults his data and notes that an unprecedented weather system is heading for the town of Silverton, which could unleash a series of devastating meteorological events on the community. As Pete, colleague Allison Stone and fellow storm chasers race to the scene, their cameras recording every heart-stopping event.
- GenreAction, Thriller
- CastMatt Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies, Richard Armitage, Max Deacon.
- DirectorSteven Quale.
- WriterJohn Swetnam.
- Duration89 mins
- Official sitewww.intothestormmovie.com
Eighteen years ago, Dutch director Jan de Bont capitalised on the success of Speed to harness the full fury of Mother Nature in Twister. The special effects-laden action thriller followed rival teams of daredevil storm chasers as they converged on Oklahoma during a spate of devastating tornadoes.
Back in the real world, the intervening years have born witness to increasingly extreme weather systems across the globe - tsunamis, hurricanes, floods - that have devastated communities and highlighted our helplessness against the elements.
It's an ideal time for director Steve Quale to send us back into the eye of the cinematic storm in this adrenaline-fuelled disaster movie. Quale and his army of digital effects wizards unleash a wave of cyclones on an unsuspecting Midwest town and witness the carnage through the lenses of crazed storm chasers and terrified residents, who cannot outrun the swirling winds.
As a visual spectacle, Into The Storm boasts all of the sound and fury you crave and expect, including one vortex bearing down on an airport and throwing around passenger jets as if they were toys. However, in the calm before this digitally-rendered hell, screenwriter John Swetnam doesn't spend enough time fleshing out his multitude of characters to ensure we care deeply that they survive the onslaught.
Storm chaser and documentary filmmaker Pete Moore (Matt Walsh) is poised to lose his funding unless he can drive his armour-plated vehicle Titus inside a tornado. Meteorologist Allison Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies) predicts a weather system will sweep through the town of Silverton and she joins Pete on the road with three camera operators: Lucas (Lee Whittaker), Daryl (Arlen Escarpeta) and new boy Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter).
On the outskirts of town, the storm chasers encounter adrenaline junkies Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep), who give chase, determined to place themselves in harm's way to guarantee more hits on their YouTube channel.
Meanwhile, Silverton high school vice principal Gary Morris (Richard Armitage) prepares for graduation of the senior class. Before the ceremony, he clashes with his two sons, 17-year-old son Donnie (Max Deacon) and younger brother Trey (Nathan Kress), who are grieving the loss of their mother. As the graduation begins, tornado sirens sound...
Into The Storm plays to its strengths, capturing the decimation of large swathes of Silverton from multiple angles in the air and on the ground. The first-person conceit doesn't always work - shaky handheld footage reduces some action sequences to a blur - but it does afford Quale one excellent opportunity to pluck our heartstrings when Donnie and classmate Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam-Carey) record tearful farewells to their parents.
Armitage, Callies and co are largely forgettable. Logic is smashed to smithereens well before Allison traces the predicted path of the storm and gasps dramatically, "It's heading straight for the school!"
Let's Be Cops 2 stars
Ryan O'Malley and best friend Justin Miller misread the dress code for their college reunion party and turn up dressed as police officers. On the way home, the buddies embrace the power afforded by the uniform including an impromptu stop and search of goons working for sadistic Russian mobster Mossi Devic. The following day, Ryan buys a patrol car and persuades Justin to slip back into his fake cop persona to woo his crush and apprehend Devic.
- GenreAction, Comedy, Romance
- CastRob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr, Jake Johnson, Nina Dobrev, James D'Arcy.
- DirectorLuke Greenfield.
- WriterNicholas Thomas, Luke Greenfield.
- Duration104 mins
- Official sitewww.letsbecops.com
If the title of Luke Greenfield's hare-brained buddy movie was a rhetorical question, the unequivocal answer would be: Let's not! Lifeless, limp and relentlessly unfunny, Let's Be Cops is a scattershot comedy about downtrodden pals, who don LAPD uniforms for a party and discover newfound respect because of the badge. Films of this ilk propel characters on a journey of self-discovery laden with mishaps and misadventures, at the end of which, they glean valuable life lessons about self-belief and courage.
The lessons we learn from Greenfield's picture are manifold: an amusing dramatic premise doth not a laughter riot make; it's never a good sign when you yearn to punch the lead characters within five minutes of them appearing on screen; and misfiring punchlines do not suddenly become hilarious if one of the actors delivers them AT THE TOP OF HIS VOICE.
Ryan O'Malley (Jake Johnson) has frittered away 11,000 dollars he earned from a TV commercial for genital herpes. He lacks direction, as does best friend Justin Miller (Damon Wayans Jr), a videogame designer whose idea for an immersive experience as a LAPD officer is shot down in flames by his zombie-obsessed boss (Jonathan Lajoie).
These much maligned misfits misread the dress code for their college reunion party and turn up in costumes, which Justin bought for his videogame presentation. On the way home, the buddies embrace the power afforded by the uniform including an impromptu stop and search of goons working for sadistic Russian mobster Mossi Devic (James D'Arcy).
The following day, Ryan buys a patrol car and persuades Justin to slip back into his fake cop persona to woo his crush: a pretty waitress called Josie (Nina Dobrev), who dreams of swapping lunch orders for a career as a make-up artist.
Unfortunately, Josie is also the object of Devic's demented affections. Real-life officer Segars (Rob Riggle) swallows Ryan and Justin's buffoonish bluff and shares valuable surveillance on Devic. "He is the Devil's nephew!" warns Segars, whose hard-nosed superior, Detective Brolin (Andy Garcia), becomes suspicious of Ryan and Justin and decides to test their mettle.
Women apparently love a man in uniform but it's hard to imagine anyone loving Luke Greenfield's ridiculous comedy of errors, which attempts to hop on the 21 Jump Street bandwagon and misses by a mile. As a double-act, Johnson and Wayans Jr are irritating and it beggars belief that they accomplish their deception when the characters go out of their way to be exposed as charlatans.
Garcia must have been short of a month's rent to accept his thankless supporting role while Dobrev serves up a two-dimensional loved interest, who apparently has a track record for attracting psychos. Action sequences are perfunctory and the script makes ill-advised forays into homophobia, racism and misogyny in search of elusive giggles.
The House Of Magic 3 stars
Ginger tabby cat Thunder is abandoned by his owners at the roadside. He seeks refuge in a ramshackle mansion owned by a retired magician called Lawrence, who performed under the moniker The Illustrious Lorenzo. The old man is subsequently involved in a traffic accident and recuperates in hospital. Lawrence's scheming nephew Daniel hatches a scheme to dispatch his uncle to a retirement home and sell the house for vast profit.
- GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Family, Family
- CastEmily Blunt, Edward Asner, Cinda Adams, George Babbit, Shanelle Gray, Eugene Levy, Grant George, Murray Blue.
- DirectorBen Stassen, Jeremy Degruson.
- WriterBen Stassen, Dominic Paris, James Flynn.
- Duration85 mins
- Official sitewww.nwave.com/films/3d-feature-films/13-films-cat/feature/95-the-house-of-magic-3d
Curiosity almost kills the cat in The House Of Magic. Set largely within the confines of an ageing conjurer's home, Jeremy Degruson and Ben Stassen's undemanding computer-animated fantasy centres on a discarded feline, whose pluck and determination overcome adversity. The film doesn't overstay its welcome at a brisk 85 minutes and boasts flashes of visual brio.
That inventiveness is shoe-horned into lively opening sequences, which cut back and forth between a traditional third-person perspective and the four-legged hero's point of view as he clambers up a tree or cowers beneath oncoming traffic.
There's a quickening of the pulse, especially in 3D, as the camera replicates the tentative scamper of the cat along a branch as the animal prepares to leap the divide to an open window. Sadly, Degruson and Stassen lose the will to push visual boundaries as the story unfolds and the grand finale, involving a snivelling villain and a wrecking ball, is an anti-climax.
Ginger tabby cat Thunder (voiced by Murray Blue) is abandoned by his owners at the roadside. "You must have done something wrong because they chucked you like a cheap burrito," growls a passing dog (Joey Carmen).
The heavens open and Thunder seeks refuge from the downpour in a ramshackle mansion owned by a retired magician called Lawrence, who performed under the moniker The Illustrious Lorenzo.
The magician's two performing animals, Jack the rabbit (George Babbit) and Maggie the mouse (Shanelle Gray), view Thunder as a threat and they attempt to shoo the pussy back into the storm. Once their moggie-loving master catches sight of Thunder, he welcomes the homeless kitty to his new home.
Lawrence is subsequently involved in a traffic accident and recuperates in hospital. The old man's scheming nephew Daniel (Grant George) hatches a scheme to dispatch his uncle to Rhode Island Senior Retirement Home and sell the house for vast profit.
Luckily, Daniel is allergic to cats, and the magician's other animals and fantastical mechanised creations, including doves Carlo (Babbit again) and Carla (Kathleen Browers), sabotage viewings of the house and attack potential buyers. "As long as I'm here, you're all safe," naively purrs Thunder.
With its bright colours and linear narrative, The House Of Magic should engage younger audiences. Parents should be prepared for tears and screams before bedtime though when a snarling Doberman, which is chasing Thunder through undergrowth, appears to burst out of the screen and snaps its hungry jaws.
Older children will have to amuse themselves because the animation lacks the sophistication of Pixar, while the script operates on a single unchallenging level.
Solid vocal performances complement the archetypal characters, with fleeting comic relief from Carmen's pooch, who boldly claims to be "the Marlon Brando of Chihuahuas".
Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)
- Tuesday 2nd September 2014
The Inbetweeners 2 3 stars
Jay heads to Australia for a gap year, where he enhances his status as an incorrigible ladies man. With the promise of more sex than they can handle, Will, Neil and Simon head down under to join their pal and the four misfits abroad attempt to impress the female of the species including Katie, Polly and Lucy. The lads' ham-fisted chat-up lines and amorous overtures often lead to toe-curling humiliation.
- GenreComedy, Drama
- CastSimon Bird, James Buckley, Joe Thomas, Blake Harrison, Emily Berrington.
- DirectorDamon Beesley, Iain Morris.
- WriterDamon Beesley, Iain Morris.
- Duration96 mins
- Official site
Some of the Inbetweeners may have bagged jobs. Some of them may have even found girlfriends, but thankfully The Inbetweeners 2, the comedy series' second foray onto the big screen, shows our fumbling foursome back on reassuringly awkward form. And with three hugely popular E4 series behind them and the most successful British comedy of all time to their name in their first film, there's no need to change the discomforting formula here.
Although almost a year has passed since the lads' holiday to Malia, the four anti-heroes haven't matured in the slightest. Despite getting a place at Bristol University, Will (Simon Bird) is still chronically uncool and is yet to make any real mates on campus; hapless Simon (Joe Cooper) isn't faring much better up in Sheffield where he's lumbered himself with a demanding girlfriend who destroys his hoodies; randy Jay (James Buckley) has moved to Australia but is working in a toilet and sleeping in a tent in his uncle's garden, and dim-witted Neil (Blake Harrison) has somehow landed a job in the bank but is still as gullible as ever.
Fed up with their lives and enticed by Jay's boastful emails about his conquests with Kylie and Dannii Minogue and five-star lifestyle, Will, Simon and Neil decide to surprise him by heading down under for a four-week break.
Predictably, Jay has been fibbing about his 'DJ' job and his bed posts have no more notches in them than before he left Blighty. In fact, it turns out that he actually misses his ex-girlfriend Jane (Lydia Rose Bewley), first seen in The Inbetweeners Movie.
Rather than kip on Jay's bullying uncle's lawn, the gang tag along with Will's prep school classmate, the popular and pretty Katie (Emily Berrington), who he bumps into, and head to the traveller paradise Byron Bay in a car that has a mural of Peter Andre's face on the side of it.
When it looks like Katie is interested in him, Will tries to woo her, giving a toe curling performance on an acoustic guitar and then racing beefed up love rival Ben (Freddie Stroma) in a stomach-churning water park ride complete with high-octane bodily functions.
The 'bants', as Jay and Neil would call them, come thick, fast and foul here and each of the four friends has their own tortuous meltdown, with varying degrees of putridity and penis jokes bandied around.
Gross, puerile and filled with playground gags, The Inbetweeners 2 is everything you'd expect it to be.
The Nut Job 3 stars
Mischievous squirrel Surly lives in idyllic Liberty Park in the sprawling 1950s metropolis of Oakton City with his rat pal Buddy and fellow squirrels Andie and Grayson. Like all animals of his kind, Surly is mad about nuts and he orchestrates a daring heist of one of the city's shops for the tasty snack. Little does Surly know that the new owner of the store, King, is the leader of a gang of robbers who intend to tunnel from the store to the First Oakton Bank located across the street.
- GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
- CastLiam Neeson, Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Brendan Fraser, Maya Rudolph, Stephen Lang.
- DirectorPeter Lepeniotis.
- WriterLorne Cameron.
- CountryCan/S Kore
- Duration86 mins
- Official site
All of the hastily sketched characters in Peter Lepeniotis' 1950s-set computer-animated adventure go nuts at some point during the poorly paced proceedings. A money-grabbing ex-con goes gaga at the sight of rats, a pet pug is driven barking mad by her owner's repeated use of a silver dog whistle, a girl scout whoops with maniacal glee as a runaway food cart careens into oncoming traffic, and an army of woodland critters loosen their tenuous grasp on civility when they stumble upon a horde of cashews, pistachios, macadamias and walnuts. Protagonists of the two-legged and four-legged persuasions in The Nut Job might be bright-eyed and - in the case of the squirrels - bushy-tailed but most of Lepeniotis and co-writer Lorne Cameron's script feels tired. The narrative lacks fluidity, most of the animals don't exist beyond a single personality trait and there's a palpable absence of jeopardy during a centrepiece bank heist. References to a certain foodstuff are sprinkled liberally throughout the dialogue - "We found it: the Lost City of Nutlantis!" - so any parents who wake suddenly from a sneaky power-nap in the dark are soon reminded where they are. Raccoon (voiced by Liam Neeson) and his red bird sidekick Cardinal preside over the animal denizens of Liberty Park in the sprawling metropolis of Oakton City. Winter is fast approaching, so every groundhog, squirrel, mouse and mole gathers supplies to add to the food store in the trunk of the great oak. Everyone except for mischievous squirrel Surly (Will Arnett), who has always ploughed a lone furrow. "I'm independent, which means 'looking out for number one'," Surly reminds fellow squirrels Andie (Katherine Heigl) and Grayson (Brendan Fraser). When a raid on a food cart goes disastrously wrong, Surly is banished to the city by the other animals. The ravenous rodent stumbles upon a store selling nuts and plots a daring heist with trusty rat pal, Buddy (Rob Tinkler). Little does Surly know that the new owner of the store, King (Stephen Lang), is the leader of a gang of robbers, who intend to tunnel from the shop's basement to First Oakton Bank and plunder the vault. The Nut Job orchestrates some pleasing slapstick and visuals are colourful, including a couple of sprightly chases, but Lepeniotis' film doesn't justify a release on the big screen rather than a debut on home formats. Vocal performances raise a smile, but little more, and the squirrelly love triangle involving Surly, Andie and Grayson is clumsily contrived. Neeson uses his trademark growl to lend an air of menace to the dictatorial raccoon, who believes, "animals are controlled by the amount of food they have". Pickings are certainly slim here.