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- Christmas On Mars
- Frozen (Sing-A-Long Version)
- It's A Wonderful Life
- St Vincent
- The Grandmaster
Christmas On Mars 3 stars
Frozen (Sing-A-Long Version) 4 stars
As children, Anna and Elsa love to play together, taking full advantage of Elsa's ability to create ice and snow from her fingertips. An accident late one night convinces the King to wipe Anna's memory so she forgets about her sibling's hidden talents. Many years later, Elsa unwittingly reveals her powers to the locals and is branded a witch. She flees to the snowy mountains to a castle forged in ice. Anna gives chase and encounters a hunky ice trader called Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven.
- GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Romance
- CastKristen Bell, Josh Gad, Ciaran Hinds, Jonathan Groff, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana, Idina Menzel.
- DirectorChris Buck, Jennifer Lee.
- WriterJennifer Lee.
- Duration108 mins
- Official sitemovies.disney.com/frozen/
Loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, Frozen proves that Disney's animated heroines have unquestionably come of age. Long gone are the rose-tinted days when princesses waited patiently for Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet or save them from a grim fate.
Now, the spunky, independent and self-assured young women are just as smart and resourceful as their male counterparts and they don't need the love of a man to affirm their self-worth.
Frozen is a terrific fairy-tale adventure that melds old-fashioned values with state-of-the-art visuals and a rousing musical score with infectious songs by husband-and-wife team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
Every beautifully coloured and crafted frame is crammed with wit and joy, drawing in audiences of all ages to the story of two sisters battling against the elements and their fears to claim their rightful place on the throne.
Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck don't let the pace flag and the 108 minutes pass in a blur of laughter, tears and frost-bitten action sequences that look stunning in 3D with all of the computer-generated snowflakes fluttering before your eyes. You won't need to wrap up warm because the story casts an irresistible warm glow that should thaw even the most cynical and jaded heart.
As children, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) love to play together, taking full advantage of Elsa's ability to create ice and snow from her fingertips. An accident late one night convinces the King (Maurice LaMarche) to wipe Anna's memory so she forgets about her sibling's hidden talents.
At the same time, Elsa retires from public gaze, fearful that she will hurt someone else with her powers. When the King and Queen are subsequently lost at sea, Elsa reluctantly emerges to claim the throne.
Alas, on her coronation day, Elsa's gloves come off and the locals witness her extraordinary abilities and brand her a witch. She flees to the snowy mountains to a castle forged in ice. Meanwhile, Anna gives chase, leaving the kingdom in the hands of her trusted sweetheart, Prince Hans (Santino Fontana).
En route, Anna meets hunky ice trader Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer Sven and a blissfully naive talking snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad).
Frozen is one of the best animated features to canter out of the Disney stable in years. Warm-hearted, uplifting and constantly surprising, it's a timeless fable that will appeal to both boys and girls thanks to uproarious comic relief from Olaf, who is too cute for words.
Bell and Menzel add vim to their plucky heroines, the latter singing the film's stand-out song, Let It Go. As an added treat, Frozen is preceded by a black and white Mickey Mouse short, Get A Horse, that seems to hark from a bygone era but has a wicked sting in the tail.
Interstellar 4 stars
Planet earth is slowly dying. Mankind looks to the stars for a new planet to colonise. When scientists discover a wormhole that should allow a spacecraft to travel beyond the galaxy into the unknown, doting father Cooper bids farewell to his son Tom and daughter Murph to lead an exploratory mission in search of a new home. Accompanied by fellow explorers Brand, Doyle and Romilly, Cooper undertakes the most important mission in human history.
- GenreAction, Adventure, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller
- CastMatthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, John Lithgow, Topher Grace, Casey Affleck, Sir Michael Caine, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn.
- DirectorChristopher Nolan.
- WriterChristopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan.
- Duration164 mins
- Official sitewww.interstellarmovie.com/index-intl.php
Writer-director Christopher Nolan shoots for the stars with a futuristic thriller, co-written with his brother Jonathan, about mankind's search beyond this galaxy for a new home to replace a dying planet earth. Epic in scope and wildly ambitious, Interstellar doesn't quite achieve its bold vision of a love story between a father and daughter set against the vast backdrop of mankind's final roll of the dice to avoid extinction.
However, even when this grand futuristic adventure malfunctions, it's a deeply engrossing meditation on the ties that bind and the endurance of those emotional bonds across space and time.
Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema have captured some of the most breathtaking vistas including our first glimpses of a black hole or wormhole on large-format IMAX film.
These sequences pack a mighty visual punch and powerfully convey how tiny and seemingly insignificant we are on our third rock from the sun. Composer Hans Zimmer, who collaborated with the London-born director on The Dark Knight trilogy, provides another bombastic orchestral score to complement the majestic imagery.
Planet earth is dying: great dust clouds sweep across agricultural plains, ruining crops and making it impossible to breathe comfortably without face masks. "We used to look up and wonder about our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt," laments Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former test pilot, who toils the parched soil with his 15-year-old son Tom (Timothee Chalamet) and 10-year-old daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy).
Cooper answers a call from Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to lead a mission to locate a new planet capable of sustaining human life. "We're not meant to save the world. We're meant to leave it," explains Brand, whose scientist daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) will be part of the four-strong crew along with astrophysicist Romilly (David Gyasi) and pilot Doyle (Wes Bentley).
Leaving his brood in the care of his father-in-law (John Lithgow), Cooper undertakes the most important mission in human history, knowing that failure would mean certain death for the people he loves.
Interstellar retains a tight focus on the characters without sacrificing the adrenaline-pumping thrills that fans expect from director Nolan. Two talking military machines called TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) and CASE are a marvel of mechanical puppeteering and inject much needed humour.
"I have a discretion setting," deadpans TARS in response to a request from Cooper to disclose sensitive information. Oscar winners McConaughey and Hathaway add emotional heft to their embattled astronauts, wringing out tears after Amelia sternly warns Cooper: "You might have to choose between seeing your children again and saving the human race."
A couple of dense, wordy philosophical discussions about gravity and love orbit the moon of unintentional hilarity but thankfully, Nolan avoids the crash and burn in the nick of time.
It's A Wonderful Life 5 stars
Reissue of Frank Capra's masterful Yuletide drama, revolving around suicidal family man George Bailey, who ponders a life without his beloved wife Mary and children. Thankfully he is saved in the nick of time by a guardian angel called Clarence. "You see George, you've really had a wonderful life," says the spirit, "Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"
- GenreChildren's, Classic, Drama, Family, Romance
- CastJames Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore.
- DirectorFrank Capra.
- WriterFrances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra.
- Duration129 mins
- Official site
- Release14/12/2007 (selected cinemas)
Frank Capra's life affirming 1946 fable stars James Stewart as suicidal family man George Bailey, who ponders a life without his beloved wife Mary (Donna Reed) and children, but is thankfully saved by guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers). "You see George, you've really had a wonderful life," says the spirit, "Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?" It's A Wonderful Life is one of the best films ever made and the perfect festive treat. Stewart, as the suicidal father who is dragged back from the brink by an all-knowing, all-seeing angel, has never been better, and the direction and pacing throughout is virtually flawless.
Paddington 4 stars
A young Peruvian bear with a passion for the British heads to London in search of a new home. At Paddington train station, he meets a boy called Jonathan Brown and his parents, who offer the lovable creature, christened Paddington, a temporary haven. At large in a strange city, Paddington wreaks havoc in the Brown household. Then an evil museum taxidermist named Millicent glimpses the wondrous bear and realises that he would make the most perfect addition to her collection.
- GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Family
- CastHugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Nicole Kidman, Imelda Staunton.
- DirectorPaul King.
- WriterPaul King.
- Duration95 mins
- Official sitewww.paddington.com
More than 50 years after he first appeared in print, author Michael Bond's beloved bear Paddington has finally arrived on the big screen in his first star-packed family adventure. Upcoming director Paul King's film lovingly weaves the traditional tenets of the duffel-coat wearing bear's story into a modern narrative.
Like the books, the film starts in deepest, darkest Peru, where a well-mannered three-foot bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) lives with his elderly Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and Uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon). In their youth, Lucy and Pastuzo were visited by a kindly English explorer who left his red hat with his furry friends.
When their home is threatened, Aunt Lucy packs her nephew off to the safety of London to track down the explorer, who has promised that there will always be a home for them in the capital.
Of course, after sailing the oceans in a boat filled with supplies of his treasured marmalade, the bear finds London isn't actually that friendly. In fact it's pretty miserable what with the drizzly weather and glum commuters pushing and shoving their way out of Paddington station and ignoring his pleas for a home.
"Sorry, we haven't got time for this," cries worrywart Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville), while his moody daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris) exclaims she's "embarrassed" to be near the small grisly, who has a 'Please look after this bear' sign around his neck.
Luckily, warm-hearted Mrs Brown (Sally Hawkins) and son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) vow to take the furry chap home for the night. Naming him Paddington after the station where they found him, the Browns introduce their guest to kindly housekeeper Mrs Bird (Julie Walters).
But disaster soon strikes when Paddington tries to freshen up in the bathroom, resulting in a flood, two earwax-stained toothbrushes and a sharp telling off. Determined to find the explorer, Mrs Brown takes Paddington to see her friend Mr Gruber (Jim Broadbent), an antiques dealer who might have clues to his existence.
In doing so, they attract the attention of cranky curtain twitcher Mr Curry (Peter Capaldi) and a slimy associate of villainous taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) who is hell-bent on "stuffing that bear". With Millicent determined to get her mitts on Paddington to display him in the Natural History Museum, the Browns find themselves on a humdinger of a cat and mouse chase to try and keep their furry friend safe.
As comforting and sweet as Paddington's beloved marmalade, King's delightful adaptation has heaps of heart and enough humour and carefully plotted cameos to ensure everyone more than grins and bears his adaptation.
Pride 5 stars
Mark Ashton is the charismatic and outspoken leader of impassioned campaigners, who operate out of the Gay's The Word bookshop in London. Reading news stories about the miner's strike, Mark recognises a cause to champion. "Mining communities are being bullied just like we are," he tells his coterie and they form LGSM - Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners - with the intention of raising funds for a randomly selected Welsh community.
- GenreComedy, Drama, Historical/Period
- CastBill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay, Jessica Gunning, Paddy Considine, Imelda Staunton, Joseph Gilgun.
- DirectorMatthew Warchus.
- WriterStephen Beresford.
- Duration120 mins
- Official sitewww.pridemovie.co.uk
Theatre director Matthew Warchus, who succeeds Kevin Spacey as artistic director of the Old Vic in London next year, will need to de-clutter his awards-laden mantelpiece. His second feature film is a barnstorming culture-clash comedy drama based on the inspirational true story of a group of gays and lesbians, who supported the miners during the 1984 strike and raised thousands of pounds for beleaguered communities, which dared to stand up to the Thatcher government.
This uplifting story of solidarity in the face of adversity and police intimidation is an absolute joy; an unabashed, irresistible crowd-pleaser in the magnificent mould of The Full Monty and Billy Elliot that rouses the audience to bellowing laughter while choking back a deluge of hot, salty tears.
Pride embraces and subverts stereotypes, deftly weaving together stories of personal triumph and anguish as the spectre of Aids casts a long shadow over the gay community.
Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) is the charismatic and outspoken leader of young, impassioned campaigners, who operate out of the Gay's The Word bookshop in London run by Gethin (Andrew Scott). Reading news stories about the miner's strike, Mark recognises a cause to champion.
"Mining communities are being bullied just like we are," he tells his coterie comprising Mike (Joseph Gilgun), Jonathan (Dominic West), Jeff (Freddie Fox), Steph (Faye Marsay) and closeted new boy, Joe (George MacKay). They form LGSM - Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners - and rattle tins for a randomly selected Welsh community.
Mining representative Dai (Paddy Considine) invites Mark and co to the Dulais Valley where committee members Hefina (Imelda Staunton), Cliff (Bill Nighy) and Sian (Jessica Gunning) embrace the fund-raisers with open arms. However, some of the locals are repulsed.
"We're being backed up by perverts," sneers homophobic mother Maureen (Lisa Palfrey), kindling conflict between some of the neighbours and the LGSM.
Pride is a life-affirming ode to tolerance, acceptance and self-belief that defiantly lives up to its title, waving a flag for stellar home-grown filmmaking.
Performances are exemplary, ignoring a few wobbles with the Welsh accents, including a fiery turn from Schnetzer as a fresh-faced trailblazer and sobs aplenty from Mackay as the catering student, who cannot conceal his sexuality forever.
Scriptwriter Stephen Beresford strikes a perfect balance between hilarity and heartbreak, sharing polished one-liners among the ensemble cast including Menna Trussler as a clucky old dear, who labours under the illusion that all lesbians are vegetarians.
Warchus' film builds to a rousing crescendo that delivers a knock-out emotional wallop and opens the floodgates. As Frankie Goes To Hollywood professed during that turbulent summer of 1984: "When two tribes go to war/A point is all you can score." The characters in Pride score their points with unbridled passion and wit.
St Vincent 4 stars
Vincent lives in a ramshackle house in Brooklyn with a pet cat and dreams of the past. He owes a small fortune to bookie Zucko, who is reluctantly threatening to smash Vincent's kneecaps unless fortunes change. Lady Luck smiles on the sexagenarian loner when struggling single mother Maggie and her son Oliver move in next door and Vincent exploits Maggie to become the lad's babysitter.
- GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
- CastNaomi Watts, Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard, Jaeden Lieberher.
- DirectorTheodore Melfi.
- WriterTheodore Melfi.
- Duration102 mins
- Official sitewww.stvincentfilm.com
A modern-day Scrooge is moved by the plight of a young boy in Theodore Melfi's touching and frequently uproarious comedy. There are neither jingling bells nor ghostly visitations in St Vincent - the only spirits are swigged from a bottle - but Dickens' underlying theme of the redemption of the human spirit rings true in this valentine to Bill Murray.
The Oscar-nominated star of Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Lost In Translation is in riotous form in Melfi's delightful film, deploying split-second comic timing to devastating effect as he reveals a beating heart of gold beneath the shambolic appearance of his penny-pinching curmudgeon.
His irascible old coot might gamble, smoke and drink to excess, and seek physical pleasure in the company of a heavily pregnant Russian prostitute, but we fall head over heels for Murray's virtuoso portrayal and it's a love affair that endures the film's occasional lull or sloppy characterisation.
Newcomer Jaeden Lieberher is magnificent as the spirited tyke, whose innocence and unwavering faith provide a beacon of hope for the self-destructive codger to stumble back into the land of the living. Writer-director Melfi wrings us dry of laughter and tears in the process.
Vincent (Murray) lives in a ramshackle house in Brooklyn with a pet cat and dreams of the past. He owes a small fortune to bookie Zucko (Terrence Howard), who is reluctantly threatening to smash Vincent's kneecaps unless fortunes change.
Lady Luck smiles on the sexagenarian loner when struggling single mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Lieberher) move in next door and Vincent exploits Maggie to become the lad's babysitter. "He's sort of cool, in a grouchy sort of way," Oliver assures his mother about his new guardian.
While Maggie works long hours to keep a roof over their head, Vincent introduces Oliver to horse racing, his feisty Russian companion-for-money Daka (Naomi Watts) and an elderly woman with Alzheimer's called Sandy (Donna Mitchell), who he visits at an expensive nursing home.
When Vincent's schoolteacher Brother Geraghty (Chris O'Dowd) asks his impressionable charges to deliver a verbal report on someone they consider a 21st-century saint, Oliver knows exactly who he wants to canonise.
St Vincent is anchored by Murray's award-worthy performance, but supporting cast is equally impressive, often in underwritten roles. McCarthy abandons her usual schtick to embody a mother in crisis and Watts plies a thick cod-eastern European accent as the working girl looking for a break.
O'Dowd scene-steals with aplomb as a holy man with heavenly quips: "I'm a Catholic, which is the best religion because we have the most rules." Aided by a leading man in rude health, writer-director Melfi doesn't slather on the sentimentality too thick as he exposes glimmers of hope for each dysfunctional character and encourages them to walk towards the light comedy.
The Grandmaster 3 stars
A biopic of martial arts grandmaster Ip Man, who famously mentored Bruce Lee. Peace is shattered when Gong Yutian, the martial arts grandmaster of northern China, anoints Ma San as his heir and invites the south to choose an heir in response. The southern masters elect Ip Man as their representative and prepare him for his showdown with the north. Meanwhile, Gong Yutian's daughter Gong Er tries in vain to persuade her father to end the violence and bloodshed.
- GenreAction, Biography, Drama, World
- CastZhang Ziyi, Tony Leung, Song Hye-kyo, Qingxiang Wang.
- DirectorWong Kar-Wai.
- WriterWong Kar-Wai.
- CountryHong Kong/
- Duration108 mins
- Official sitewww.thegrandmasterfilm.com
- Release05/12/2014 (selected cinemas)
Celebrated Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai (In The Mood For Love) becomes the latest filmmaker to document the life and times of martial arts grandmaster Ip Man, who famously mentored Bruce Lee. This film traces the journey of Ip Man (Tony Leung) from his childhood in 1930s Foshan, where he began his training under master Chan Wah-Shun (Yuen Woo-ping), to his marriage to beautiful wife Zhang Yongcheng (Song Hye-kyo). Peace is shattered when Gong Yutian (Wang Qingxiang), the martial arts grandmaster of northern China, anoints Ma San (Zhang Jin) as his heir and invites the south to choose an heir in response. The southern masters elect Ip Man as their representative and prepare him for his showdown with the north. Meanwhile, Gong Yutian's daughter Gong Er (Zhang Ziyi) tries in vain to persuade her father to end the violence and bloodshed.