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Now showing at ArtHouse Crouch End 159A,Tottenham Lane,London N8 9BT 020 8245 3099

  • '71
  • Gone Girl
  • Ida
  • Jimi: All Is By My Side
  • Northern Soul
  • NT Live Encore Screening: Frankenstein
  • ParaNorman
  • Pride
  • Rastamouse
  • Royal Opera Live: I Due Foscari
  • Serena
  • The Book Of Life
  • Virunga + Q&A
  • Withnail & I

'71 4 stars

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Gary Hook finishes his training with other squaddies and is immediately dispatched to 1971 Belfast to facilitate a fragile peace in the city. On his first day on the streets, Gary becomes embroiled in a riot and he is separated from the other British soldiers. Chased down alleyways by an army gang of militia who want him dead, Gary is trapped in an alien environment far from the safety of his barracks, unable to distinguish between allies and foes.

  • GenreAction, Drama, Thriller, War
  • CastSam Reid, Jack O'Connell, Sean Harris, Sam Hazeldine.
  • DirectorYann Demange.
  • WriterGregory Burke.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration99 mins
  • Official site
  • Release10/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

A teenage soldier becomes separated from his platoon in the cauldron of violence of 1971 Belfast in Yann Demange's nail-biting survival thriller. Punctuated by kinetic action sequences that relentlessly tighten the knot of tension in our stomachs, '71 is a dazzling debut from the TV director, who made the acclaimed Channel 4 series Top Boy.

Demange puts leading man Jack O'Connell through the physical wringer as he explores the sectarian divide through the eyes of a wet-behind-the-ears recruit, who is marked for death by the provisional IRA and supposed allies.

Juddering handheld camerawork during chase sequences and a nerve-racking game of hide and seek keep us uncomfortably close to the carnage, and only a few hours after the stricken soldier has foolishly assured his kid brother that this first tour of duty will be a breeze: "I'm not leaving the country so you've got nothing to worry about." Home is where the heartbreak is.

Squaddie Gary Hook (O'Connell) completes his gruelling training and is immediately dispatched to the Northern Irish capital to facilitate the fragile peace. Under the command of platoon leader Lieutenant Armitage (Sam Reid), Gary and fellow recruits head to the Catholic west.

At first, hostility amounts to little more than potty-mouthed children throwing water bombs full of urine. However, a house-to-house search spirals out of control and during the subsequent riot, Gary and pal Thommo (Jack Lowden) are left behind.

A small gang of provisional IRA comprising ruthless leader Quinn (Killian Scott), sidekick Haggerty (Martin McCann) and newbie Sean (Barry Keoghan) shoot Thommo at close range but Gary escapes, sprinting down alleyways with the gun-toting assailants in pursuit. Thankfully, Gary finds sanctuary and as night falls, he traces a path back to the barracks under cover of darkness.

A boy called Billy (Corey McKinley) offers assistance but when the tyke's makeshift plan goes horribly wrong, Gary turns to Brigid (Charlie Murphy) and her father, Eamon (Richard Dormer), a former army medic, who has had his fill of the uniform. "You're just a piece of meat to them," Eamon warns Gary.

'71 masterfully sustains tension without getting bogged down in the thorny politics of the era. Nerves are shredded to tatters in the opening half hour and screenwriter Gregory Burke wrings every drop of suspense from his neat set-up.

A detour to a loyalist pub is orchestrated and edited with brio. O'Connell follows up his bruising portrayal of a young offender in Starred Up with another emotionally charged performance, holding his character's fears at bay until that particular dam bursts and sobs rack his aching body.

Lines between allies and adversaries are repeatedly blurred, stacking the odds heavily against Gary as he ducks for cover, and we hunker down with him, brows beaded with sweat and knuckles white with fear.

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Sunday 26th October 2014

Gone Girl 4 stars

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On her fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne vanishes without trace. Her husband Nick works with the police to front a high-profile media campaign to secure the safe return of his "amazing Amy". In the glare of the spotlight, fractures appear in the Dunnes' marriage and police and public both question Nick's innocence. With Amy's creepy ex-boyfriend Desi Collings as another suspect, Detectives Rhonda Boney and Jim Gilpin search for answers.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastNeil Patrick Harris, Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Boyd Holbrook, Scoot McNairy, Missi Pyle, Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens.
  • DirectorDavid Fincher.
  • WriterGillian Flynn.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration149 mins
  • Official sitewww.gonegirlmovie.cok
  • Release02/10/2014

Ignorance is bliss when it comes to Gone Girl. If, like me, you haven't read Gillian Flynn's 2012 psychological thriller and you know nothing of the serpentine twists that propelled the novel to the top of the bestsellers list then jealously guard your cluelessness.

There's an undeniable delight watching Flynn wrong-foot us with this spiky satire on media manipulation and the glossy facade of celebrity marriages. When the central characters promise to love, honour and obey, till death do them part, one of them takes that vow very seriously.

Admittedly, you have to dig deep beneath the surface of David Fincher's polished film to find the jet black humour but it's there, walking hand-in-hand with sadism and torture that propel the narrative towards its unconventional denouement.

The film version of Gone Girl is distinguished by a career-best performance from Rosamund Pike as the pretty wife, who vanishes without trace on her fifth wedding anniversary and is presumed dead at the hands of her handsome husband (Ben Affleck).

Pike has to plumb the depths of human emotion in a demanding and complex role, by turns brittle and steely, terrified and driven. She's almost certain to earn her first Oscar nomination.

In stark contrast, Affleck is solid but little more as the spouse who pleads his ignorance but hides secrets from the people he adores. As battles of the sexes go, it's a resolutely one-sided skirmish.

On the morning of his anniversary, Nick Dunne (Affleck) calls detectives Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) to his home. There are signs of a struggle and his wife Amy (Pike) is missing.

Nick's sister Margo (Carrie Coon), who has never liked Amy, assures her sibling that everything will be fine. "Whoever took her's bound to bring her back," she quips cattily.

Nick and Amy's distraught parents (David Clennon, Lisa Beth) front a high-profile media campaign to secure the safe return of "amazing Amy". In the glare of the spotlight, fractures appear in the Dunnes' marriage and police and public question Nick's innocence.

Gone Girl holds our attention for the majority of the bloated 149-minute running time, with a couple of lulls and a disjointed final act. Pike's mesmerising theatrics light up the screen and there is strong support from Neil Patrick Harris as Amy's creepy old flame.

Fincher's direction is lean, complemented by snappy editing and a discordant score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who won the Oscar for their music to The Social Network.

Once you regain your balance from Flynn pulling the rug from under your feet, this is a slick yet slightly underwhelming whodunit that doesn't quite scale the dizzy heights of shock and suspense previously achieved by Jagged Edge, The Usual Suspects or indeed, Fincher's 2005 film, Se7en.

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Saturday 25th October 2014
Sunday 26th October 2014
Tuesday 28th October 2014
Wednesday 29th October 2014

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Ida 3 stars

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Eighteen-year-old orphan Anna has been raised in a convent in 1960s Poland and she has devoted her life to the Lord under the watchful gaze of the Mother Superior. As Anna prepares to become a nun, Mother Superior insists that the young woman reconnect with her past by visiting her sole living relative. So Anna abandons the safety of the convent and travels to meet her aunt Wanda, who discloses that Anna's real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation.

  • GenreDrama, Romance, World
  • CastJoanna Kulig, Agata Trzebuchowska, Halina Skoczynska.
  • DirectorPawel Pawlikowski.
  • WriterPawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz.
  • CountryPol/Den
  • Duration82 mins
  • Official sitewww.ida-movie.com
  • Release26/09/2014 (selected cinemas)

Polish-born British director Pawel Pawlikowski, who won a BAFTA for My Summer Of Love, films in his homeland for the first time in this emotional 1960s-set drama. Eighteen-year-old orphan Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) has been raised in a convent and she has devoted her life to the Lord under the watchful gaze of the Mother Superior (Halina Skoczynska). As Anna prepares to become a nun, Mother Superior insists that the young woman reconnect with her past by visiting her sole living relative. So Anna abandons the safety of the convent and travels to meet her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a cynical Communist Party insider, who discloses that Anna's real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. This revelation devastates Anna and she embarks on a heart-wrenching journey back to her family's house in the countryside to unlock the secrets of her tragic past.

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Saturday 25th October 2014
Wednesday 29th October 2014

Jimi: All Is By My Side 3 stars

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Keith Richards' girlfriend, Linda Keith, discovers Jimi Hendrix playing backup guitar at the Cheetah Club in New York. She immediately spots his raw talent and introduces Hendrix to Chas Chandler, who becomes his manager. As a band forms around Hendrix, including bass player Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, the frontman begins a turbulent relationship with Kathy Etchingham that jeopardises his ascent before it has truly begun.

  • GenreBiography, Drama, Musical
  • CastAndre Benjamin, Imogen Poots, Hayley Atwell, Ruth Negga, Burn Gorman.
  • DirectorJohn Ridley.
  • WriterJohn Ridley.
  • CountryUK/Ire/US
  • Duration118 mins
  • Official site
  • Release24/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

Unable to secure the musical rights from Jimi Hendrix's estate for this biopic, writer-director John Ridley, who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for 12 Years A Slave, focuses on the 12-month period from 1966 to 1967 before the showman cemented his place in the musical firmament. The film begins with Keith Richards' girlfriend, Linda Keith (Imogen Poots), discovering Hendrix (Andre Benjamin) playing backup guitar at the Cheetah Club in New York. She immediately spots his raw talent and introduces Hendrix to Chas Chandler (Andrew Buckley), who becomes his manager. As a band forms around Hendrix, including bass player Noel Redding (Oliver Bennett) and drummer Mitch Mitchell (Tom Dunlea), the frontman begins a turbulent relationship with Kathy Etchingham (Hayley Atwell) that jeopardises his ascent before it has truly begun.

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Saturday 25th October 2014
Sunday 26th October 2014
Monday 27th October 2014
Tuesday 28th October 2014
Wednesday 29th October 2014
Thursday 30th October 2014

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Northern Soul 3 stars

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John Clark is a loner in his northern community, one step out of time with the other young people, until he meets Matt, who introduces John to the electrifying sounds and moves of Northern Soul. The young men are swept up by this cultural movement and cannot resist the pull of the drugs and booze that are rife in the dancehalls. Friendships are tested to breaking point but the music plays on.

  • GenreDrama, Indie, Musical
  • CastAntonia Thomas, Christian McKay, Steve Coogan, Lisa Stansfield, John Thomson.
  • DirectorElaine Constantine.
  • WriterElaine Constantine.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration101 mins
  • Official sitewww.northernsoulthefilm.com
  • Release17/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

Director Elaine Constantine steps back to the 1970s for this drama about two friends who encounter a burgeoning youth culture that changes a generation and influences numerous songwriters, producers, DJs and designers. John Clark (Elliot James Langridge) is a loner in his northern community, one step out of time with the other young people and his parents (Christian McKay, Lisa Stansfield), until he meets Matt (Josh Whitehouse), who introduces John to the electrifying sounds and moves of Northern Soul. The young men are swept up by this cultural movement and cannot resist the pull of the drugs and booze that are rife in the dancehalls. Friendships are tested to breaking point but the music plays on.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 25th October 2014
Tuesday 28th October 2014

NT Live Encore Screening: Frankenstein 3 stars

Two specially filmed performances of Danny Boyle's staging of Mary Shelley in a new adaptation by Nick Dear. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his hideous creation, whose fates become entwined with devastating consequences. The cruelty of man gradually corrupts the creature and he wreaks revenge on Frankenstein and his bride-to-be, Agatha.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Horror, Romance, Special
  • CastBenedict Cumberbatch, Lizzie Winkler, Ella Smith, Jonny Lee Miller, Naomie Harris.
  • DirectorDanny Boyle.
  • WriterMary Shelley, Nick Dear.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration161 mins
  • Official sitentlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk

Two specially filmed performances of Danny Boyle's staging of Mary Shelley in a new adaptation by Nick Dear. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternate the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his hideous creation, whose fates become entwined with devastating consequences. Unleashed into the world, the monster forges an unlikely friendship with a blind, old man who teaches the outcast to speak. However, the cruelty of man gradually corrupts the monster and he wreaks revenge on Frankenstein and his bride-to-be, Agatha (Lizzie Winkler).

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Thursday 30th October 2014

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ParaNorman 4 stars

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Since he was very young, Norman has been blessed with the ability to see dead people. A surprise visit from deranged uncle Prenderghast casts a dark cloud over Norman's hometown of Blithe Hollow. "The witch's curse is real and you're the only one who can stop it!" Prenderghast instructs the boy. Sure enough, the seven people who sent witch Aggie to her doom back in 1712 rise from the grave to wreak havoc on the townsfolk.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Horror
  • CastAnna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Casey Affleck, Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Goodman, Bernard Hill, Tempestt Bledsoe, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Tucker Albrizzi, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jodelle Ferland.
  • DirectorSam Fell, Chris Butler.
  • WriterChris Butler.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration92 mins
  • Official sitewww.paranorman.com
  • Release14/09/2012

You wait decades for an intelligent, visual stunning and hilarious stop-motion animation about a little boy battling the undead and, lo and behold, two come along at the same time. Tim Burton unveils his black and white childhood fable Frankenweenie, which has been selected as the opening night gala of the 56th BFI London Film Festival.

Then here, directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell spoil us with this beautifully crafted tale of a young misfit, who is blessed with the ability to see ghosts in his sleepy New England town of Blithe Hollow, where witches were once burned for their supposed crimes. ParaNorman opens with a tongue-in-cheek homage to George A Romero and his bloodthirsty peers, who have littered the big screen with the marauding undead.

"What's happening?" Grandma (voiced by Elaine Stritch) asks Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as he stares at a zombie tucking into the brains of a hapless female victim on the TV screen.
"He's eating her head," replies the boy nonchalantly.

"He's going to ruin his dinner," notes the old dear, one of the earthbound spirits that appear to Norman but remain invisible to the lad's parents Perry (Jeff Garlin) and Sandra (Leslie Mann), and his bitchy sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick).

A surprise visit from deranged uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) casts a dark cloud over Blithe Hollow. "The witch's curse is real and you're the only one who can stop it!" Prenderghast instructs Norman, who discovers that his supernatural abilities have been passed down from his dotty relative.

Sure enough, the seven people who sent witch Aggie (Jodelle Ferland) to her doom back in 1712 rise from the grave, led by the menacing Judge (Bernard Hill). Sheriff Hooper (Tempestt Bledsoe) struggles to maintain calm as locals grab their shotguns and pitchforks to repel the zombie attack. Meanwhile, Norman joins forces with classmate Neil (Tucker Albrizzi), his buff older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck), school bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Courtney to break the witch's curse once and for all.

ParaNorman is aimed at family audiences but parents and teenagers will undoubtedly laugh loudest during Butler and Fell's colourful romp, which pokes fun at the conventions of the horror genre, including one very funny interlude with a vending machine that mocks the zombies' painfully slow shuffle.

Smit-McPhee tugs heartstrings as the loner who would give anything to lose his ability to communicate with the dead, telling his father, "I didn't ask to be born this way," Visuals burst with vibrant colour and the attention to detail is remarkable, even in frenetic action scenes when dozens of characters litter the screen.

Young children might be slightly unnerved by severed limbs that scuttle around of their own accord but violence is cartoonish and scares are gentle. Treats outnumber tricks in this ghoulishly grand adventure.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 25th October 2014
Sunday 26th October 2014
Wednesday 29th October 2014

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Pride 5 stars

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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.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration120 mins
  • Official sitewww.pridemovie.co.uk
  • Release12/09/2014

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.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 26th October 2014

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Rastamouse 3 stars

Animation.

  • GenreAnimation/Cartoon, Children's
  • Official site

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Tuesday 28th October 2014

Royal Opera Live: I Due Foscari 3 stars

Thaddeus Strassberger directs Verdi's searing early tragedy at the Royal Opera House in London under the baton of conductor Antonio Pappano. Placido Domingo sings the title role of the despairing father, who is torn between love for his family and duty to a corrupt city.

  • GenreMusical, Special
  • CastFrancesco Meli, Maria Agresta, Placido Domingo.
  • DirectorThaddeus Strassberger.
  • WriterVerdi.
  • CountryUK
  • Official sitewww.roh.org.uk/cinemas
  • Release27/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

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Monday 27th October 2014

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Serena 3 stars

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)

Saturday 25th October 2014
Sunday 26th October 2014
Monday 27th October 2014
Tuesday 28th October 2014
Wednesday 29th October 2014
Thursday 30th October 2014

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The Book Of Life 3 stars

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In the town of San Angel on the Day Of The Dead, underworld gods La Muerte and Xibalba bet on the outcome of a love triangle involving friends Manolo, Joaquin and Maria. La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, believes that sensitive Manolo will get the girl while Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, selects courageous Joaquin as his champion and secretly boosts the young man's chances with an enchanted medal of protection.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Romance
  • CastRon Perlman, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Kate del Castillo, Diego Luna, Ice Cube.
  • DirectorJorge R Gutierrez.
  • WriterJorge R Gutierrez, Douglas Langdale.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official sitewww.bookoflifemovie.co.uk
  • Release24/10/2014

In Mexican culture, Dia de los Muertos or Day Of The Dead is an important annual gathering for families and friends to honour the memory of loved ones who are no longer with them. The three-day celebration, which begins on October 31, traditionally involves adorning graves and specially constructed altars with sugar skulls, flowers and other gifts with special significance to the departed.

This fiesta of remembrance provides a vibrant and poignant backdrop to Jorge R Gutierrez's fantastical computer-animated fable about three friends, who discover there is love after death.

The Book Of Life razzle dazzles our eyes, especially in 3D, cramming as much retina-searing colour and detail as possible into each frame. Co-writer Douglas Lansdale adds plentiful humour to offset the film's air of tragedy including a chorus of singing nuns and a waspish grandmother, voiced by Grey DeLisle, who scene-steals with every purse-lipped outburst.

Museum tour guide Mary Beth (voiced by Christina Applegate) leads a group of unruly schoolchildren through an exhibition about Mexican folklore. She leads the whippersnappers to a chamber that houses the fabled Book Of Life and recounts one particular story, which unfolds in the town of San Angel on the Day Of The Dead.

Rival gods La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba (Ron Perlman) agree a wager on the resolution of a love triangle involving two boys, Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum), who are both in love with their friend Maria (Zoe Saldana).

La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered, believes that sensitive Manolo will get the girl and realise his musical ambitions rather than take up the mantle of his matador father (Hector Elizondo). "Music is not a profession fit for a Sanchez bullfighter!" rages the old man.

Meanwhile, Xibalba (Ron Perlman), ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, selects courageous Joaquin as his champion and secretly boosts the young man's chances with an enchanted medal of protection.

When the time finally comes for Maria to choose between her suitors, conniving Xibalba attempts to influence her decision to ensure he wins the bet.

The Book Of Life inhabits a macabre universe that Tim Burton has made his own but director Gutierrez and his team of animators opt for a more jaunty, upbeat tone enhanced by a bouncy soundtrack replete with cover versions of Elvis Presley, Radiohead and Rod Stewart. "What is it with Mexicans and death?" asks a goth kid on the museum tour, somewhat tongue in cheek.

Luna and Tatum deliver lively vocal performances and Saldana essays a spunky heroine, who epitomises girl power, flanked by a cute porcine sidekick. Action sequences are orchestrated at a brisk pace, punctuated by soaring serenades.

Gutierrez's film strikes a pleasing balance between giggles and soul-searching, tackling tricky themes of mortality, self-sacrifice and the afterlife without giving young audiences nightmares.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 25th October 2014
Sunday 26th October 2014
Monday 27th October 2014
Tuesday 28th October 2014
Wednesday 29th October 2014
Thursday 30th October 2014

This film is also showing at:

Virunga + Q&A 3 stars

Documentary.

  • GenreDocumentary, Indie, War
  • DirectorOrlando von Einsiedel.
  • WriterOrlando von Einsiedel.
  • CountryUK/Congo
  • Duration90 mins
  • Official site

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 27th October 2014

Withnail & I 5 stars

Seminal 1987 comedy about the eponymous failed actors, whose life of squalor is slowly wearing them down. When the lascivious Uncle Monty offers the friends the use of his countryside retreat, they readily accept but are unprepared for the attentions of the crazy locals or of Monty himself.

  • GenreClassic, Comedy, Drama, Gay
  • CastRichard E Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths.
  • DirectorBruce Robinson.
  • WriterBruce Robinson.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official site
  • Release07/09/2007 (selected cinemas); 03/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

Richard E Grant and Paul McGann headline a most welcome reissue of Bruce Robinson's seminal 1987 comedy, playing the eponymous failed actors, whose life of squalor and self-loathing is slowly wearing them down. When the lascivious Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths) offers the friends the use of his countryside retreat, they readily accept but the friends are unprepared for the attentions of crazy locals and Monty himself, who has an anecdote and a bon mot for every occasion: "I can never touch meat until it's cooked. As a youth I used to weep in butcher's shops."

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 25th October 2014
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