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Now showing at Chapter Market Road,Canton,Cardiff,South Glamorgan CF5 1QE 029 2030 4400

  • Nightcrawler
  • Serena
  • The Babadook

Nightcrawler 4 stars

movie title

Ghoulish loner Louis Bloom monitors a police scanner, races to crime scenes and captures gruesome footage of critically injured victims on a handheld camera to sell to TV news stations, who are hungry for raw footage of real-life crime. As his business takes off, Louis hires an inexperienced protege called Rick to capture gangland shootings, murder and misfortune in grisly close-up.

  • GenreAction, Drama, Thriller
  • CastRene Russo, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton.
  • DirectorDan Gilroy.
  • WriterDan Gilroy.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration117 mins
  • Official sitewww.nightcrawlerfilm.com
  • Release31/10/2014

Set on the mean streets of modern day Los Angeles, Dan Gilroy's directorial debut is a delicious and twisted media satire starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a ghoulish loner called Louis Bloom, who exploits human misery for personal gain.

It's a tour-de-force and genuinely creepy performance from the handsome Oscar-nominated star of Brokeback Mountain, who has shed a significant amount of weight to portray an emaciated social limpet, who lives by the mantra that good things come to those who work hard.

In the case of Nightcrawler, this 'work' involves monitoring a police scanner, racing to crime scenes and capturing gruesome footage of critically injured victims on a handheld camera to sell to TV news stations, who are hungry for raw footage of real-life crime.

Gilroy's lean script doesn't shy away from the despicable and morally repugnant actions of the bloodthirsty anti-hero, nor does it forget to remind us that we are culpable for devouring this graphic news footage. If only we turned off, or could drive past a motorway accident without glancing at the carnage when we should be concentrating on the road ahead...

Louis is a product of base human desires and, like a vampire, he feeds off them with ghoulish glee. When we first meet Louis, he's struggling to find direction in life, until he pulls over on a highway close to a fatal accident and meets cameraman Joe Loder (Bill Paxton).

"If it bleeds, it leads," cackles Joe, who sells his footage to the highest bidder. Louis purchases a small camera and tries his luck then approaches Nina Romina (Rene Russo), ratings-hungry editor of the graveyard shift at one news station, with amateurish footage of a victim fighting for life.

She pays up and explains that her perfect newscast is "a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut". Taking these words to his blackened heart, Louis hires an inexperienced protege called Rick (Riz Ahmed) to capture gangland shootings, murder and misfortune in grisly close-up. At first, Rick recoils in disgust but inexorably, Louis moulds his employee in his own warped image.

Nightcrawler is a bravura and audacious debut from Gilroy that captures Los Angeles at its most grimy. Every crackle of Louis' police scanner heralds potential doom and the director impresses in a pivotal action sequence, which sees Louis and Rick join a police chase in pursuit of valuable footage, regardless of the risks to pedestrians or other drivers.

Gyllenhaal distorts his screen image as a charming, buff leading man beyond recognition, slithering through each frame like a predator in search of the next kill. Russo is luminous in a meaty supporting role and London-born actor Ahmed captures the right mix of naivete and nervousness as a fellow passenger on this sickening descent into the abyss.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 25th November 2014
Wednesday 26th November 2014
Thursday 27th November 2014

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Serena 3 stars

movie title

During a visit to Boston, timber merchant George Pemberton falls under the spell of Serena Shaw and they marry. The happy couple returns to North Carolina to expand George's empire and immediately clash with Sheriff McDowell, who hopes to buy vast swathes of Pemberton land to create a national park. When the deal falls through, McDowell declares war on the Pembertons.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance
  • CastBradley Cooper, Toby Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Sam Reid, Sean Harris, Rhys Ifans.
  • DirectorSusanne Bier.
  • WriterChristopher Kyle.
  • CountryUS/Fr
  • Duration110 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/SerenaTheMovie
  • Release24/10/2014

Good things come to those who wait. Unfortunately, so too does Serena. Shot in the early summer of 2012, just as the first instalment of The Hunger Games was exploding on the big screen, Susanne Bier's blood-smeared period drama has taken a long time to navigate the choppy waters of post-production.

In the interim, the Danish writer-director has made the frothy romantic comedy All You Need Is Love starring Pierce Brosnan and the thriller A Second Chance. Meanwhile, luminous lead stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have become the toast of Hollywood with their on-screen pairings in the Oscar-winning romance Silver Linings Playbook and swinging crime caper American Hustle.

In Serena, they play love-struck newlyweds, who succumb to jealousy and poisonous desire in the North Carolina mountains at the end of the 1920s. Romance is kindled at breakneck speed - within minutes of glimpsing his expertly coiffed co-star, Cooper is telling her dreamily, "I think we should be married" - and screenwriter Christopher Kyle adopts a similarly hurried approach to characterisation and narrative development in his haphazard adaptation of the book by Ron Rash.

These gaps in plot and logic become increasingly apparent in the film's overwrought second act, relying heavily on Lawrence to hold the film together with her histrionics. She's a cracking actress, but no one could single-handedly keep this runaway train on the tracks.

Timber merchant George Pemberton (Cooper) struggles to keep his business afloat, aided by partner Buchanan (David Dencik) and woodsman Galloway (Rhys Ifans). He has fathered a love child with a local woman called Rachel (Ana Ularu) and during a visit to Boston, George falls under the spell of Serena Shaw (Lawrence), who a friend describes as "beautiful, wounded and mad for trees".

They marry and return to North Carolina to expand George's empire and immediately clash with Sheriff McDowell (Toby Jones), who hopes to buy vast swathes of Pemberton land to create a national park. When the deal falls through, McDowell declares war on the Pembertons.

In order to quench her dark thoughts about Rachel, Serena resolves to fall pregnant to provide her husband with a legitimate heir but Mrs Pemberton is at the mercy of mischievous Mother Nature when it comes to conceiving.

Serena feels like it has been crudely bolted together in the editing room. Bier and cinematographer Morten Soborg capture breathtakingly beautiful vistas of the Czech Republic, which stands in for North Carolina, but style repeatedly trumps substance.

There's a palpable lack of fluidity to the narrative and the heroine's descent into murderous mayhem happens in the blink of an eye. In the absence of a well-structured script, Lawrence and Cooper barely flesh out their undernourished characters while Ifans, Jones and European co-stars struggle to pin down wandering American accents.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 24th November 2014
Tuesday 25th November 2014
Wednesday 26th November 2014
Thursday 27th November 2014

The Babadook 4 stars

movie title

Seven years after the death of her husband, care home worker Amelia is still haunted by memories of her beloved. Her young son Samuel, who is exhibiting the signs of ADHD, shares her sense of loss. The energetic tyke interrupts his mother's sleep patterns with claims of monsters in his room. Amelia attempts to lull the boy back to sleep with a bedtime story. One particular book, a gothic pop-up entitled Mister Babadook, sends a chill through mother and son, and Samuel senses a ghoulish presence.

  • GenreDrama, Horror, Thriller
  • CastEssie Davies, Daniel Henshall, Benjamin Winspear, Noah Wiseman.
  • DirectorJennifer Kent.
  • WriterJennifer Kent.
  • CountryAustralia
  • Duration94 mins
  • Official sitewww.thebabadook.com
  • Release24/10/2014

Children's literature is littered with murder, suffering and diabolical villains. Age-old fairytales feature a wolf devouring a helpless grandmother, ugly sisters hacking off toes and heels to squeeze their feet into a glass slipper, a mermaid enduring the pain of walking on knives and a witch fattening up siblings to roast in her oven.

Roald Dahl unleashed grotesques including Miss Trunchbull, The Twits and the Grand High Witch, while Harry Potter met his match in devilish Lord Voldemort. The Babadook joins this illustrious list.

The titular boogeyman of Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent's debut feature is a menacing figure in a top hat and black cloak, who stalks the pages of a children's pop-up book and slowly manifests in the real world.

A nerve-frayed mother is driven to the brink of infanticide by this hideously gnarled spectre while her hyperactive son faces the insidious threat with a cleverly handmade dart gun and portable catapult. Perfect bedtime reading for those of a nervous disposition.

Seven years after the death of her husband (Benjamin Winspear), care home worker Amelia (Essie Davis) is still haunted by memories of her beloved. She politely rebuffs advances from work colleague Robbie (Daniel Henshall) and weathers pity and sarcasm from her unsympathetic sister, Claire (Hayley McElhinney).

The only person who shares Amelia's sense of loss is her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who is exhibiting the signs of ADHD. The energetic tyke interrupts his mother's sleep patterns with claims of monsters in his room, which turn out to be wild childish fantasies.

Each night, an exhausted Amelia lulls her boy back to sleep with a bedtime story. One particular book, a gothic pop-up entitled Mister Babadook, sends a chill through mother and son, and Samuel senses a ghoulish presence.

"Do you want to die?!" the boy asks his mother, warning her to beware The Babadook. She ignores his pleas and slowly, Amelia's mental state unravels, causing deep concern for elderly next-door neighbour Mrs Roach (Barbara West) and social services.

The Babadook is an impressive debut from Kent, drawing emotional power from the strong performances of Davis and Wiseman, who gel perfectly. The writer-director conjures some genuinely unsettling scenes of domestic disturbance and sensibly keeps the clawed antagonist off screen for the best part of an hour, hinting at unspeakable horrors that lurk in shadowy corners and beneath beds.

Once The Babadook slinks into the light and announces it presence with a death rattle growl, the film loses its power to shock and any feelings of skin-crawling dread are reduced to an itch.

Hardcore horror fans will find it a tad lightweight but for scaredy cats like us, Kent's descent into the darkness is definitely worth a scratch.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 24th November 2014
Tuesday 25th November 2014
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