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Now showing at Odeon Blackpool Rigby Road,Blackpool,Lancashire FY1 5EP 0871 224 4007

  • Annabelle
  • Dracula Untold
  • Fury
  • Gone Girl
  • Guardian Live: Russell Brand In Conversation
  • Love, Rosie
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3D
  • The Best Of Me
  • The Equalizer
  • The Judge
  • The Maze Runner

Annabelle 3 stars

John and Mia Gordon survive an attack in their home by two murderous members of a satanic cult. The Gordons move to a new apartment but dark forces follow them in the form of a doll in the baby's nursery and drive poor Mia to the brink of a nervous breakdown. She seeks emotional support from local priest Father Perez and a kind bookshop owner called Evelyn.

  • GenreAdaptation, Horror, Romance, Thriller
  • CastWard Horton, Alfre Woodard, Annabelle Wallis, Tony Amendola.
  • DirectorJohn R Leonetti.
  • WriterGary Dauberman.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration99 mins
  • Official sitewww.annabellemovie.com
  • Release10/10/2014

According to the opening credits of Annabelle, dolls have frequently been used as conduits of evil. Modern filmmakers have certainly had great fun transforming inanimate figures into demonic vessels.

Anthony Hopkins fell under the spell of a possessive ventriloquist's dummy in Richard Attenborough's 1978 thriller Magic and mannequins ran amok the following year in the gruesome horror, Tourist Trap. In the late 1980s, audiences squealed with delight at opening instalments of the Child's Play and Puppet Master series.

More recently on the small screen, Doctor Who and his plucky companions faced malevolent mannequins and creepy life-sized dolls. This prequel to the 2013 supernatural horror The Conjuring fleshes out the blood-soaked history of a garish figurine called Annabelle, which sent chills down the spine in the first film and remains under lock and key in the home of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Director John R Leonetti replays the opening scene of The Conjuring then rewinds 12 months to sun-baked 1967 Santa Monica, California where picture perfect couple John (Ward Horton) and Mia Gordon (Annabelle Wallis) are preparing to welcome their first child into the world.

Late one night, Mia is woken by a disturbance next door and when John checks on neighbours Pete and Sharon Higgins (Brian Howe, Kerry O'Malley), he and Mia are attacked by two murderous cult members.

Police arrive in the nick of time, shooting dead the crazed attackers and spilling the blood of female perpetrator Annabelle Higgins on Mia's favourite limited edition doll. Thankfully, Mia, John and baby daughter Mia survive the hellish ordeal.

"Crazy people do crazy things," explains investigating officer Detective Clarkin (Eric Ladin), who tells the Gordons that the killers were members of a sect called the Disciples of the Ram, who conjure demonic forces with their human sacrifices.

The Gordons move to a new apartment but dark forces follow them and drive poor Mia to the brink of a nervous breakdown. She seeks emotional support from local priest Father Perez (Tony Amendola) and kind bookshop owner Evelyn (Alfre Woodard), who buoy the couple's spirits by speculating, "You don't come out of something like this weaker - you come out stronger."

Annabelle appropriates elements of Rosemary's Baby and The Omen for an increasingly silly tale of demonic possession and maternal sacrifice. Director Leonetti achieves a couple of decent scares but when it comes to burrowing deep beneath our skin, both he and scriptwriter Gary Dauberman fall short.

Visual effects are sparing which is more than can be said of Joseph Bishara's deafening orchestral heavy that turns up the volume to 11. Wallis works through a dizzying array of screams, shrieks and caterwauls as the plot careens out of control around her, and we eventually lose interest.

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Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Thursday 23rd October 2014

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Dracula Untold 3 stars

movie title

Sultan Mehmed II decrees that 1,000 of the kingdom's young men, including the son of Prince Vlad of Transylvania, must join his army. Desperate to protect his boy, Prince Vlad seeks enlightenment in Broken Tooth Mountain, home to the Master Vampire. This creature of the dark forges a deadly pact with Vlad, promising the prince superhuman strength and courage. In exchange, Vlad will be cursed to hanker for human blood.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Romance
  • CastLuke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Charles Dance, Art Parkinson.
  • DirectorGary Shore.
  • WriterMatt Sazama, Burk Sharpless.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration92 mins
  • Official sitewww.draculauntold.co.uk
  • Release03/10/2014

Hoary horror hokum sinks its fangs into 15th-century east European history in a dark and brooding resurrection of the bloodsucking monster from Bram Stoker's 1897 novel. Screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless follow Stoker's lead and draw a direct correlation between the vampire and Vlad II from the Romanian house of Dracula, posthumously named Vlad The Impaler.

Consequently, the notorious warrior, who skewered his victims, is reborn as the eponymous creature of the night replete with an aversion to sunlight and silver.

Dracula Untold doesn't greatly enrich the vampire mythology, which has been embellished for more than 100 years, and the script can't resist the occasional camp nod and wink, like a snivelling servant called Shkelgim (Zach McGowan), who promises to do Dracula's bidding and hisses, "Yesss massster," as he slinks into the shadows.

Humour is drained almost entirely from the film's arteries. Aside from one off-the-cuff quip from Vlad, reacting with surprise to his newly acquired ability to self-heal ("That's useful!"), the script keeps a straight face throughout the carnage.

As a boy, Prince Vlad (Luke Evans) of Transylvania is conscripted into the army of Sultan Mehmed I and earns a fearsome reputation on the battlefield. He returns home and ascends the throne, brokering 10 years of peace and prosperity for his people.

The tranquillity is shattered when power-hungry Sultan Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper) decrees that 1,000 Transylvanian men plus Vlad's spirited son Ingeras (Art Parkinson) must join his army.

Vlad pleads for leniency but the sultan laughs off the request: "What is one son? If you are virile, you will make plenty more!" Unwilling to betray his people, Vlad kisses his wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) farewell and heads to Broken Tooth Mountain, home of the Master Vampire (Charles Dance).

This creature of the dark forges a pact with the prince, promising superhuman strength, stamina and courage to allow Vlad to overcome the Turks. In exchange, the prince will hanker for human blood for three days but if he can resist the urge to drink, the enchantment will wear off and Vlad will be restored to his fallible mortal form.

Shot in a gloomy palette of earthy browns and metallic greys, Dracula Untold cobbles together a new back story for one of literature's great creations. Evans has clearly been working hard in the gym to cope with the physical demands of the role but the script doesn't afford him many emotional scenes.

The central romance with Gadon feels undernourished and Cooper doesn't have sufficient screen time to put meat on the bones of his villain, lessening the impact of a chaotic final showdown amidst swirls of computer-generated bats.

"Sometimes, the world no longer needs a hero, it needs a monster," remarks Vlad. Maybe so, but we're not convinced the world needs this Dracula.

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Thursday 23rd October 2014

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Fury 4 stars

movie title

Norman Ellison is a new recruit, who is assigned the role of driving an M4 Sherman tank called Fury under the command of Sergeant Don Collier. This battle-weary veteran began the war in Africa and moved to Europe, killing numerous Germans along the way in the name of freedom. Aided by the rest of his crew, Boyd Swan, Trini Garcia and Grady Travis, Collier gives Norman an initiation he will never forget.

  • GenreAction, Drama, Historical/Period, War
  • CastLogan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Brad Pitt, Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena.
  • DirectorDavid Ayer.
  • WriterDavid Ayer.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration134 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/OfficialFuryMovie
  • Release22/10/2014

At a critical juncture in David Ayer's wartime thriller, Brad Pitt's grizzled tank commander turns to an inexperienced new recruit and sounds the death knell on morality and diplomacy in a time of conflict. "Ideals are peaceful, history's violent," he growls with an icy glare. Those words resonate throughout Fury, a brutal, mud-spattered tour of duty during the final weeks of the Second World War, as seen through the gun sights of an M4 Sherman tank crew on a collision course with Hitler's troops. The film opens with Pitt's inspirational leader stabbing an unsuspecting German officer in the eye and Ayer repeatedly sates a thirst for close-up gore with expertly choreographed battle sequences and hand-to-hand combat between ground troops. The bloodbath temporarily abates for brotherly banter inside the claustrophobic tank, but the air is always chokingly thick with impending doom. Eight weeks after he enrolls in the US Army as a clerk typist, Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) is assigned the position of assistant driver in a tank christened Fury under the command of Sergeant Don 'Wardaddy' Collier (Brad Pitt). This battle-weary veteran began the war in Africa and moved to Europe, killing numerous Germans along the way in the name of freedom. Aided by the rest of his crew, Boyd Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Trini Garcia (Michael Pena) and Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal), Collier gives Norman an initiation he will never forget on a series of missions led by Captain Waggoner (Jason Isaacs) and Lieutenant Parker (Xavier Samuel). Three other tanks commanded by Sergeant Binkowski (Jim Parrack), Sergeant Davis (Brad William Henke) and Sergeant Peterson (Kevin Vance) flank Fury as US soldiers push on towards Berlin. "It will end soon," Collier assures Norman, "but before it does, a lot more people gotta die." Fury paints a familiar picture of the hell of war, directed with testosterone-fuelled swagger by Ayer, who previously helmed the bombastic police thrillers End Of Day and Sabotage. His script is studded with polished dialogue that doesn't quite ring true, like when Collier berates thuggish Grady, "You're an animal. All you understand is fist and boot". Or when Collier encourages Norman to sow his seeds with a pretty young German (Alicia von Rittberg) by purring, "She's a good clean girl. If you don't take her into that bedroom, I will". Pitt leads the cast with a strong performance as a battle-weary commander, who holds back a tide of anguish and uncertainty until he is alone and can allow the sobs to shake his scarred body. Lerman is equally compelling as a naive whelp, who develops a taste for killing Nazis. Ayer obliges him with an astronomical body count and foreign fields slathered as far as the eye can see in mud, freshly spilt blood and the bodies of the fallen.

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Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Thursday 23rd October 2014

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Gone Girl 4 stars

movie title

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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Thursday 23rd October 2014

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Guardian Live: Russell Brand In Conversation 3 stars

Live broadcast.

  • GenreSpecial
  • CastRussell Brand.
  • Official site

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Thursday 23rd October 2014

Love, Rosie 2 stars

movie title

Rosie Dunne and Alex Stewart have been best friends since they were children: completely at ease in each other's company. They are perfect for each other but afraid to reveal their true feelings. This seemingly unbreakable bond shatters when Alex moves to Boston to attend university, leaving behind Rosie in familiar surroundings in Dublin.

  • GenreComedy, Romance
  • CastJaime Winstone, Tamsin Egerton, Lily Collins, Art Parkinson, Christian Cooke, Sam Claflin.
  • DirectorChristian Ditter.
  • WriterJuliette Towhidi.
  • CountryGer/UK
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/LoveRosieFilmUK
  • Release22/10/2014

The course of true love never did run smooth and it follows an infuriatingly long-winded route in Love, Rosie. Based on Cecelia Ahern's 2004 novel Where Rainbows End, Christian Ditter's exasperating comedy of errors concerns two attractive, intelligent and good-humoured best friends, who waste some of the best years of their lives ignoring how ideally suited they are. Instead, the perfectly aligned protagonists pursue unfulfilling relationships with other people or embrace solitude rather than taking a tiny leap of faith from friendship to something deeper. The film is built on traditional rom-com foundations, flinging obstacles in the path of the best friends to explain why we have to sit through 12 years of their dithering before the inevitable moment of surrender. Juliette Towhidi's script surfs a wave of silliness and falls over in pivotal scenes including an argument, which culminates with the eponymous heroine caterwauling, "Can you stop the psychobabble and can we talk like English people?" On this evidence, no they can't. Rosie Dunne (Lily Collins) and Alex Stewart (Sam Claflin) live across the road from each other and have been best friends since they were five-years-old. On her 18th birthday, a delirious and drunken Rosie shares a smouldering kiss with Alex but forgets about the smooch thanks to a bump to the head. He doesn't forget and jokingly skirts the issue of romance, which Rosie shoots down by quipping, "You will forever by the guy who wiped bogies on my party dress." Their unseemingly unbreakable bond shatters when Alex moves to Boston to attend university, leaving behind Rosie with her parents Dennis (Lorcan Cranitch) and Alice (Ger Ryan) in Dublin. The pals follow divergent paths. Rosie turns to sassy best friend Ruby (Jaime Winstone) to buoy her spirits and an old school crush called Greg (Christian Cooke) with impressive abs provides a passable substitute for her soul mate. Meanwhile, Alex succumbs to the aggressive overtures of supermodel Bethany Williams (Suki Waterhouse) and social climber Sally (Tamsin Egerton). Love, Rosie will test the patience of the most hopeless romantic. Collins and Claflin age over the course of the film from nervous 18-years-olds to jaded thirty-somethings simply by changing their hairstyles. Our incredulity reaches its peak when a resplendent 25-year-old Collins stands next to talented 13-year-old actress Lily Laight and we're asked to believe they are single mother and daughter. Of the supporting cast, only Winstone registers, having a ball as a straight-talking confidante, whose dyed hair is as colourful as her language. If it was possible to develop a 5D cinema experience that allows audiences to physically reach into the big screen and slap characters, we would have battered and bruised the two leads senseless within the opening 15 minutes.

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Thursday 23rd October 2014

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 stars

movie title

Genetically modified turtle brothers Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello grow up in the sewers of New York under the guidance of their mentor: a giant rat called Splinter, who teaches them Ninjitsu. Aided by plucky journalist April O'Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick, the turtles wage war on a shadowy figure called Shredder and his army, known as the Foot Clan, who are spreading fear and terror throughout the Big Apple.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • CastWill Arnett, Megan Fox, William Fichtner, Tohoru Masamune, Whoopi Goldberg.
  • DirectorJonathan Liebesman.
  • WriterAndre Nemec, Josh Appelbaum, Evan Daugherty.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration101 mins
  • Official sitewww.ninjaturtlesmovie.co.uk
  • Release11/10/2014 (Scotland); 17/10/2014 (UK & Ireland)

The adventures of turtle brothers Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael began life in the mid 1980s as an irreverent comic book and rapidly spawned an animated TV series, a trilogy of films and a dizzying array of merchandise. Turtle power has endured to the present day, including a computer-animated series on Nickelodeon.

It's no surprise then that Jonathan Liebesman, director of Wrath Of The Titans, has resurrected the heroes in a half shell for the big screen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an outlandish, action-heavy romp that remains faithful to earlier incarnations, condensing the characters' back-story into a snazzy comic book-style opening sequence.

Die-hard fans will enjoy the heavy whiff of nostalgia, but if Liebesman was hoping to indoctrinate a new generation, he has cowabungled it. His film is incredibly violent, albeit bloodless, reducing two very young boys in my screening to distressed screams.

The lack of spilt blood is preposterous, especially when the turtles face chief villain Shredder, who sports armour festooned with blades. Razor sharp projectiles scythe through the air but miraculously don't nick flesh. Shredder by name but not by nefarious nature.

Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) grow up in the sewers of New York City. They flourish under rat mentor Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who teaches Ninjitsu to his surrogate sons.

During one of the turtles' sorties above ground, Channel 6 news reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) glimpses the crime-fighters, who are preparing for war with hulking terrorist Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his army, the Foot Clan.

Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello fear exposure so they track down April and spirit her to their subterranean lair. "It's our Fortress Of Solitude, our Hogwarts, our Xavier's Academy," whispers Donatello, piling on the pop culture references.

Once April learns of the turtles' noble quest to destroy Shredder, she pledges her allegiance and ropes in wisecracking cameraman, Vern (Will Arnett), and prominent businessman Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who has publicly declared war on the Foot Clan in a televised speech.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles updates the characters for the modern era. Thus Mikey has a penchant for cat videos on the internet and the three scriptwriters shoe-horn verbal references to films and TV shows with abandon: "Maybe she's a Jedi," whispers Mikey after April reveals she knows Splinter's name without an introduction.

The turtles are rendered through motion-capture performances and look rather creepy, but they somersault to perfection in action set pieces including a tumble down a snow-laden mountainside.

Alas, the hefty budget hasn't stretched to remedying basic continuity errors like when Fox's plastic heroine emerges from a downpour with dry, flowing hair. Believe that and you'll lap up this bland turtle soup.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Thursday 23rd October 2014

This film is also showing at:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3D 3 stars

movie title

Genetically modified turtle brothers Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello grow up in the sewers of New York under the guidance of their mentor: a giant rat called Splinter, who teaches them Ninjitsu. Aided by plucky journalist April O'Neil and her cameraman Vern Fenwick, the turtles wage war on a shadowy figure called Shredder and his army, known as the Foot Clan, who are spreading fear and terror throughout the Big Apple.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Romance
  • CastTohoru Masamune, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Arnett, Megan Fox, William Fichtner.
  • DirectorJonathan Liebesman.
  • WriterAndre Nemec, Josh Appelbaum, Evan Daugherty.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration101 mins
  • Official sitewww.ninjaturtlesmovie.co.uk
  • Release11/10/2014 (Scotland); 17/10/2014 (UK & Ireland)

The adventures of turtle brothers Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael began life in the mid 1980s as an irreverent comic book and rapidly spawned an animated TV series, a trilogy of films and a dizzying array of merchandise. Turtle power has endured to the present day, including a computer-animated series on Nickelodeon.

It's no surprise then that Jonathan Liebesman, director of Wrath Of The Titans, has resurrected the heroes in a half shell for the big screen. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an outlandish, action-heavy romp that remains faithful to earlier incarnations, condensing the characters' back-story into a snazzy comic book-style opening sequence.

Die-hard fans will enjoy the heavy whiff of nostalgia, but if Liebesman was hoping to indoctrinate a new generation, he has cowabungled it. His film is incredibly violent, albeit bloodless, reducing two very young boys in my screening to distressed screams.

The lack of spilt blood is preposterous, especially when the turtles face chief villain Shredder, who sports armour festooned with blades. Razor sharp projectiles scythe through the air but miraculously don't nick flesh. Shredder by name but not by nefarious nature.

Leonardo (Pete Ploszek, voiced by Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) grow up in the sewers of New York City. They flourish under rat mentor Splinter (Danny Woodburn, voiced by Tony Shalhoub), who teaches Ninjitsu to his surrogate sons.

During one of the turtles' sorties above ground, Channel 6 news reporter April O'Neil (Megan Fox) glimpses the crime-fighters, who are preparing for war with hulking terrorist Shredder (Tohoru Masamune) and his army, the Foot Clan.

Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello fear exposure so they track down April and spirit her to their subterranean lair. "It's our Fortress Of Solitude, our Hogwarts, our Xavier's Academy," whispers Donatello, piling on the pop culture references.

Once April learns of the turtles' noble quest to destroy Shredder, she pledges her allegiance and ropes in wisecracking cameraman, Vern (Will Arnett), and prominent businessman Eric Sacks (William Fichtner), who has publicly declared war on the Foot Clan in a televised speech.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles updates the characters for the modern era. Thus Mikey has a penchant for cat videos on the internet and the three scriptwriters shoe-horn verbal references to films and TV shows with abandon: "Maybe she's a Jedi," whispers Mikey after April reveals she knows Splinter's name without an introduction.

The turtles are rendered through motion-capture performances and look rather creepy, but they somersault to perfection in action set pieces including a tumble down a snow-laden mountainside.

Alas, the hefty budget hasn't stretched to remedying basic continuity errors like when Fox's plastic heroine emerges from a downpour with dry, flowing hair. Believe that and you'll lap up this bland turtle soup.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Thursday 23rd October 2014

This film is also showing at:

The Best Of Me 2 stars

movie title

At high school, Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier fall head over heels in love but it's a forbidden romance because she is a good girl from a prominent family bound for college and he has the misfortune to be born into a viper's nest of criminals. A tragic accident separates the lovers. Twenty years later, Dawson returns to his hometown to honour a friend's dying wish and he crosses paths with Amanda, who is now married. The spark of attraction still burns bright.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Romance
  • CastMichelle Monaghan, Schuyler Fisk, Luke Bracey, James Marsden, Liana Liberato.
  • DirectorMichael Hoffman.
  • WriterMichael Hoffman, Will Fetters, J Mills Goodloe.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration118 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/TheBestOfMeUK
  • Release15/10/2014

Nicholas Sparks' hopelessly romantic fictions are catnip to Hollywood. Just as fast as the bestselling American novelist can churn out another heart-tugging tale of love lost and found (and lost again), film-makers immortalise the yearning and heartache with as much gloss as they can muster.

In 2012, Zac Efron flexed in a tight-fitting vest opposite Taylor Schilling for The Lucky One. The following year, Josh Duhamel's hunky widower protected Julianne Hough's battered beauty in Safe Haven. Now, James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan stare dreamily into each other's twinkling eyes for this swoonsome yarn about two childhood sweethearts gifted a second chance at happiness when they least expect it.

Sparks has been writing to a predictable, winning formula for years and director Michael Hoffman keeps to the same well-trodden path signposted with regret and guilt as he cuts between timeframes two decades apart.

It's the kind of film in which the handsome and chiselled hero proclaims his undying devotion and the heroine replies, all dewy-eyed and glossy-lipped: "You want me to fall back in love with you? How can I do that if I never stopped?" How indeed...

At high school, Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) and Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato) fall head over heels in love. Alas, it's a forbidden romance because she is a good girl with wealthy parents (Jon Tenney, Caroline Goodall) and aspirations to attend college and he has the misfortune to be born into a viper's nest of criminals ruled by the slippery and abusive Tommy Cole (Sean Bridgers).

A tragic accident separates the teenage lovebirds and they embark on different paths. Twenty years later, Dawson (now played by James Marsden) receives a telephone call from lawyer Morgan Dupree (Clarke Peters) to inform him that his good friend and surrogate father Tuck Hostetler (Gerald McRaney) has died.

Dawson ventures back to his home town to honour Tuck's dying wish and finds that the deceased has sneakily arranged for Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), who is now married, to help scatter the ashes. "We're not here for a reunion, we're here for Tuck," Amanda reminds Dawson.

The spark of attraction between the couple still burns bright and Dawson and Amanda wrestle with their feelings as they honour the memory of a man they both held dear.

The Best Of Me is gooey and emotionally manipulative, building to the inevitable moment when the central characters must decide their fates. Marsden and Monaghan are a good-looking pairing. So too are Bracey and Liberato's younger incarnations although he looks too old to convincingly pass for 18. Someone at the high school should check Dawson's birth certificate.

Screenwriters Will Fetters and J Mills Goodloe regurgitate dialogue from the book with due reverence. Love is a many-splendoured, yet unapologetically cliched, thing.

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Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Thursday 23rd October 2014

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The Equalizer 3 stars

movie title

Robert McCall has turned his back on his past as a covert government operative and has fashioned an unremarkable life in suburbia. At night, McCall works his way through a list of 100 books everyone should read while enjoying a coffee at his local diner, where he befriends a sassy prostitute called Teri. When she ends up in hospital, battered and bruised at the hands of her controlling pimp Slavi, McCall exacts revenge and sparks a war with the Russian Mafia.

  • GenreAction, Drama, Thriller
  • CastMarton Csokas, Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Bill Pullman, David Harbour.
  • DirectorAntoine Fuqua.
  • WriterRichard Wenk.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration132 mins
  • Official sitewww.equalizerthemovie.com
  • Release26/09/2014

Director Antoine Fuqua, who guided Denzel Washington to the Oscar podium in Training Day, reunites with the charismatic actor for this gratuitously violent reimagining of the beloved 1980s TV series.

Nostalgic memories of Edward Woodward's refined approach to justice and crime-fighting on the small screen are blown to smithereens by this brutish, big-screen rendering of The Equalizer. In a dizzying opening fight sequence, Washington impales a corkscrew in one henchman's noggin and repeatedly pummels a couple more as if he was tenderising a large slab of steak.

Each bone-cracking blow, stab and punch is captured in balletic close-up; a queasy dance of death that reaches a hilarious and frenetic crescendo with drills and sledgehammers in a hardware warehouse where the title character works when he's not coolly doling out just desserts.

Screenwriter Richard Wenk, who co-wrote The Expendables 2 with Sylvester Stallone, comes perilously close to the tongue-in-cheek tone of that film when Washington is asked by a work colleague how he hurt his bandaged hand and he drolly responds, "I hit it on something stupid". We presume he means the script, considering the implausibilities of the final act, steeped in mindless and repetitive bloodletting.

Robert McCall (Washington) has turned his back on his past as a covert government operative and has fashioned an unremarkable life in suburbia, where he nurses memories of his dead wife. By day, he earns a decent wage in a Home Mart warehouse and mentors another employee, Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis), through his security guard's exam.

By night, McCall works his way through a list of 100 books everyone should read while enjoying a coffee at his local diner, where he befriends a sassy prostitute called Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz). When she ends up in hospital, battered and bruised at the hands of her controlling Russian pimp Slavi (David Meunier), McCall exacts revenge. Justice seemingly prevails.

Unfortunately, Slavi and his goons are a link in a bigger chain controlled by the Russian Mafia and they dispatch sadistic fixer Teddy (Marton Csokas) to track down McCall. The Equalizer starts off promisingly, exploring the minutiae of McCall's daily life as a man scarred by grief and tormented by his past.

Washington is in his element in these early scenes, capturing the maelstrom of emotions that simmer beneath his character's placid surface. Once the first drop of blood is spilt, director Fuqua seizes every opportunity for wanton carnage, to the point that it seems like nothing short of a nuclear explosion will stop McCall in his tracks.

Csokas' vindictive antagonist has little depth beyond his propensity for cruelty and pain, which is something we experience as the running time drags unnecessarily into a third hour.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Thursday 23rd October 2014

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The Judge 3 stars

movie title

In the midst of a trial, big city lawyer Hank Palmer learns that his mother has passed away. He ventures back to his hometown, which he abandoned 20 years ago, and tentatively rebuilds bridges with his two brothers, Glen and Dale, and father Joseph, who has been the community's venerable judge for 42 years. As Hank prepares to fly back to Chicago, Joseph is arrested for killing a scoundrel who passed through his court.

  • GenreDrama, Romance, Thriller
  • CastRobert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Leighton Meester, Billy Bob Thornton, Dax Shepard.
  • DirectorDavid Dobkin.
  • WriterNick Schenk, Bill Dubuque.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration141 mins
  • Official sitewww.thejudgemovie.com
  • Release17/10/2014

The law is an ass and the people who administer it bigger asses in David Dobkin's courtroom drama about an estranged family reunited under the testing conditions of a murder trial. The Judge takes its sweet time going through the legal motions, grafting on a superfluous romantic subplot to the revelations in the dock.

Thankfully, lead actors Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall sink their teeth into their broadly sketched characters and energise the dysfunctional father-son relationship that provides the film with its conflict and heart-tugging emotion.

Both men relish the verbal sparring, galvanised by screen chemistry that convinces us they are chips from the same unmovable block. The lead role of a smarmy big city lawyer, who proudly proclaims, "Innocent people can't afford me", is a snug fit for Downey Jr.

Like Tony Stark in the Iron Man films, this slick operator has arrogance and wise-cracks to spare, yet, beneath the impeccably tailored suits and designer shades, there beats the fragile heart of a man terrified of losing the people he loves. As the lead prosecutor of the murder trial sagely observes, "You're a bully with a big bag of tricks."

The legal eagle in question is Hank Palmer (Downey Jr), who helps his wealthy clients to escape the State of Illinois' prosecutorial clutches. During one trial, Hank learns that his mother has passed away.

He ventures back to his hometown, which he abandoned 20 years ago, and tentatively rebuilds bridges with his two brothers, Glen (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong), and father Joseph (Robert Duvall), who has been the community's venerable judge for 42 years.

His mood brightens when he learns that old flame Samantha (Vera Farmiga) owns the local bar. As Hank prepares to fly back to Chicago, Joseph is arrested for killing a scoundrel who passed through his court.

Special prosecutor Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton) is drafted in to secure a conviction and Joseph chooses local defender CP Kennedy (Dax Shepard) rather than his son to represent him. "Your honour, I'm going to fight like a badger for you," pledges Kennedy, whose inexperience in front of presiding Judge Warren (Ken Howard) convinces Hank that he needs to take charge of the case.

The Judge plays out the gradual role reversal of parents and children as caregivers in the rarefied surroundings of a wood-panelled courtroom. Downey Jr and Duvall are both excellent and D'Onofrio and Strong offer sterling support as siblings in crisis.

Unfortunately, Farmiga is short-changed as the token love interest, who gives Hank a flimsy reason to stay in town. Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque's script doesn't conceal any narrative aces up its sleeve but does play fair, methodically resolving issues within the Palmer family as the court case reaches a suitably tense resolution.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Thursday 23rd October 2014

The Maze Runner 4 stars

movie title

A teenager called Thomas arrives in a green area called The Glade, which is home to dozens of other boys, whose memories have also been wiped. Gargantuan walls enclose The Glade and every morning, one wall parts to reveal a maze, which 'runners' explore in the vain hope of finding an exit. The runners must return before dusk when the wall closes and the maze reconfigures.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Family, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastDylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, Blake Cooper.
  • DirectorWes Ball.
  • WriterGrant Pierce Myers, Noah Oppenheim, T S Nowlin.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration113 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/MazeRunnerUK?brand_redir=1
  • Release10/10/2014

Based on the bestselling novel by James Dashner, The Maze Runner is a testosterone-fuelled survival thriller cast from the same robust mould as The Hunger Games and Divergent. Like those dystopian nightmares, Wes Ball's film centres on naive characters, teetering on the cusp of adulthood, who are forced to make stark choices between life and death to secure freedom.

Only here, adolescent males are trapped in the moral mire and forced to establish a microcosm of self-governing society a la Lord Of The Flies in which the strongest take charge and the meek keep their heads down.

While The Hunger Games and Divergent expended valuable time establishing character back stories and motivations, this opening salvo of The Maze Runner employs a nifty cheat: amnesia. All of the protagonists are stripped bare of memories including their identity, emerging from the darkness of a lift shaft into an enclosed green space called The Glade as blank slates.

"I can't remember anything," whimpers newbie Thomas (Dylan O'Brien).
"You get your name back in a day or two. It's the one thing they let us keep," explains Alby (Aml Ameen), the de facto leader, who emerged into this strange prison three years ago.

Gargantuan walls enclose The Glade and every morning, one wall parts to reveal a maze which 'runners' like Minho (Ki Hong Lee) map while avoiding hideous denizens called Grievers in the vain hope of finding an exit. The runners must return before dusk when the wall closes and the maze reconfigures.

Having plucked his name from the fog of his mind, Thomas forges friendships with Alby, second-in-command Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and runt of the litter Chuck (Blake Cooper), but falls foul of brutish rival Gally (Will Poulter).

Out of the blue, a girl called Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) emerges from the lift. She woozily claims to know Thomas and paranoia runs rampant...

For the opening hour, The Maze Runner is lean and taut, rattling along at breakneck speed to the beat of composer John Paesano's propulsive score. The threat of bloodshed hangs in the air but it's only when Thomas strays into the labyrinth that the film unveils a surprisingly nasty streak, dispatching the good-looking cast in a shockingly cold, clinical fashion.

Director Ball doesn't succumb to squeamishness or sentimentality: death comes quickly and gruesomely, and the strongest, most noble and endearing characters are prime fodder for the rampaging Grievers. The film earns its 12A certificate without flinching.

O'Brien and Ameen anchor the young ensemble with fine performances, with sterling support from Lee, Brodie-Sangster and Poulter, the latter fleshing out his punishment-fixated bully with aplomb.

Scodelario is noticeably short-changed but presumably, she will play a pivotal role - from beyond the grave or in the flesh - in next year's fleet-footed sequel, The Scorch Trials. Burn, baby burn.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 22nd October 2014
Thursday 23rd October 2014

This film is also showing at:

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