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Now showing at Cineworld Staples Corner Staples Corner Retail Park, Geron Way,Cricklewood,London,London NW2 6LW 0871 200 2000

  • American Ultra
  • Hitman: Agent 47
  • Inside Out
  • Legend
  • Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
  • Minions
  • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
  • Penguins Of Madagascar 3D
  • Phantom
  • Pixels
  • Sinister 2
  • Straight Outta Compton
  • Strange Magic (Autism Friendly Screening)
  • The Book Of Life
  • The Transporter Refuelled
  • The Visit
  • Two By Two
  • We Are Your Friends
  • Welcome Back

American Ultra 3 stars

movie title

CIA agent Victoria Lasseter presides over the Ultra program from her desk in Langley, Virginia, which has planted assassins around the country then conditioned them to live normal lives. When sworn rival Adrian Yates orders the immediate removal of remaining Ultra assets, Lasseter activates the only agent left in the field - stoner Mike Howell - then watches in awe as Mike recalls his training to outwit Yates' henchmen and go on the run with his girlfriend Phoebe.

  • GenreAction, Comedy, Romance
  • CastConnie Britton, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo.
  • DirectorNima Nourizadeh.
  • WriterMax Landis.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration96 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/AmericanUltra?fref=ts
  • Release04/09/2015

Sometimes, weird can be truly wonderful. In the case of American Ultra, a bonkers mash-up of a stoner comedy, spy thriller and misfiring romance, a few flickers of starchy convention wouldn't go amiss. Screenwriter Max Landis conjures explosions of cartoon violence and heightened verbal exchanges that look and sound like they have been adapted verbatim from a graphic novel.

In fact, this outlandish caper about a dormant CIA assassin, who is hidden in plain sight as a dopehead loser, is an original concept and director Nima Nourizadeh embraces the madness with fervour. Visually, there are neat flourishes, including a fist fight under UV lights and a shoot-out in a kitchen that relies on a precisely angled bullet ricochet from an airborne frying pan.

The tone slaloms wildly between heartfelt and hallucinogenic, ultimately proving the film's undoing. Every touching moment between the two leads, portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, is invariably punctuated by a head-on collision between a meat cleaver and a forehead, or some other grisly burst of insanity.

CIA agent Victoria Lasseter (Connie Britton) presides over the top secret Ultra program from her desk in Langley, Virginia. The grand experiment is deemed a failure and remaining assets - government-sanctioned assassins - are declassified, their memories wiped so they can lead normal lives with new identities.

Lasseter's sworn rival, Adrian Yates (Topher Grace), orders the immediate removal of remaining Ultra assets using his reconditioned mental patients from the Tough Guy program. The last Ultra agent in the field is stoner Mike Howell (Eisenberg), who works at a convenience store in West Virginia.

"This guy is a trained killer. He is a security risk," barks Yates, deploying his gun-toting death squad. Mike is blissfully unaware of his blood-spattered past and frets about proposing to his pretty girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart).

Lasseter refuses to stand by and let the CIA slaughter Mike so she re-activates him then watches in awe as the stoner outmanouevres Yates' psychotic henchmen and goes on the run with Phoebe. Aided by his drug dealer (John Leguizamo), Mike learns the full extent of his capabilities and resolves to strike back at the agency.

American Ultra benefits from endearing performances from Eisenberg and Stewart, who ground their drug-addled romance in reality when the rest of the picture is getting deliriously high.

Supporting performances ricochet between Britton's concerned mother hen and Grace's snarky pantomime villain, who seems like too much of a liability to walk the corridors of the CIA.

Action set pieces are staged with tongue wedged in cheek, using a stuffed bear as a silencer for one killing and a spoon as a means to dispatch another rogue operative. Amidst the devastation, which is captured in glorious slow motion, there are fragments of an oddly enjoyable and sweet yarn.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 5th September 2015
Sunday 6th September 2015
Monday 7th September 2015
Tuesday 8th September 2015
Wednesday 9th September 2015
Thursday 10th September 2015

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Hitman: Agent 47 2 stars

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Genetically engineered assassin 47 carries out contracts on high profile targets on behalf of the International Contracts Agency. Known by a barcode tattoo on the back of his neck, 47 is the product of years of research. Unfortunately, a huge corporation fronted by Le Clerq wishes to exploit these abilities for nefarious purposes to create an unstoppable army of obedient trained killers.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Thriller
  • CastZachary Quinto, Ciaran Hinds, Rupert Friend, Thomas Kretschmann, Hannah Ware.
  • DirectorAleksander Bach.
  • WriterSkip Woods, Michael Finch.
  • CountryUS/Ger
  • Duration96 mins
  • Official sitewww.foxmovies.com/movies/hitman-agent-47
  • Release27/08/2015

Based on the hugely successful Hitman videogames, Aleksander Bach's frenetic action thriller hopes to atone for the sins of a drab 2007 film version headlining Timothy Olyphant. Unfortunately, a new lick of paint and some breathlessly choreographed fight sequences can't disguise the same fatal flaw.

Like so many screen adaptations of videogames, Hitman: Agent 47 fails to replicate the adrenaline-pumping visceral thrill of assuming control of an iconic character and nervously guiding them through the digital realm. The agonising sense of responsibility, which draw beads of sweat on a player's brow, are completely lost on an audience sitting comfortably in the dark of an air-conditioned cinema.

Director Bach evidently loves the games and he confidently orchestrates action set pieces, punctuated by slow motion acrobatics and explosions. A prolonged bout of bone-crunching hand-to-hand combat on the tracks of the Berlin underground, and a high speed pursuit around a multi-storey car park, are high points.

Once the bullets have all been discharged, vehicles wrecked and necks snapped, the film offers little in the way of characterisation, plot or emotional nuance. The protagonist is a genetically engineered assassin called Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), who carries out high profile contracts assigned to him by his handler, Diana (Angelababy).

Known by a barcode tattoo on the back of his neck, 47 is the product of years of scientific tinkering, which has imbued him with unrivalled intelligence, speed, stamina and strength... until the next iteration. Diana orders 47 to hunt down and kill Dr Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), mastermind of the Agent program.

A huge corporation called Syndicate International fronted by Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann) is also looking for Litvenko and intends to use his groundbreaking research to create an unstoppable army of obedient trained killers. The only way to flush the scientist out of hiding is by using his daughter Katia (Hannah Ware) as bait.

Unfortunately, she has also vanished off the grid. Agent 47 tracks her down in Berlin where battle ensues between the hit man and her enigmatic protector, John Smith (Zachary Quinto).

The balance of power tips back and forth between 47 and Smith, and Katia must decide who - if anyone - she trusts. "Don't put your faith in me, you'll be disappointed," growls 47.

Hitman: Agent 47 is a tiny improvement on the 2007 film but it's a close call. Friend is suitably lifeless as the gun-toting anti-hero, expertly performing fight choreography including a couple of bruising showdowns with Quinto. Ware is equally bland yet considerably more emotional as the pawn in a game that she unknowingly controls.

Kretschmann doesn't have sufficient screen time to put meat on the bones of his lacklustre villain, who swipes angrily at a touchscreen desk as his masterplan falls apart. Bach's film obligingly follows suit.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 5th September 2015
Sunday 6th September 2015
Monday 7th September 2015
Tuesday 8th September 2015

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Inside Out 5 stars

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From the moment baby Riley opens her eyes, her mood is shaped by five coloured emotions - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust - which bicker behind a large control desk laden with buttons and levers. Joy is the dominant emotion in Headquarters and she safeguards Riley's memories, which are stored as glowing orbs. When Riley turns 11, her parents relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco. Traumatic events such as a first day at a new school nudge Sadness to the fore.

  • GenreAnimation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
  • CastDiane Lane, Amy Poehler, Kyle MacLachlan, Bill Hader, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling.
  • DirectorPete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen.
  • WriterPete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration102 mins
  • Official sitewww.movies.disney.com/inside-out
  • Release24/07/2015

Despite gargantuan advances in medical science, we still don't fully understand the complexities of the human brain: its ability to process vast quantities of information, solve problems and store memories at speeds that put supercomputers to shame.

Pixar Animation Studios, the wizards who conjured the Toy Story trilogy, contemplate the vagaries of neuropsychology with this visually stunning and emotionally rich comedy, which unfolds predominantly inside the head of a little girl.

This high-brow concept doesn't seem like the most accessible subject matter for a family-oriented computer animation. But directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen elegantly tilt their film at the windmills of the mind and deliver a hilarious, heartfelt and ultimately life-affirming adventure that celebrates childhood innocence, family unity and the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity.

Laughter and tears abound, as well as cute visual gags, ensuring parents will be repeatedly dabbing their eyes while children whoop and gurgle with glee at the slapstick and rollicking action sequences.

A mother (voiced by Diane Lane) and father (Kyle MacLachlan) welcome a baby girl called Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) into the world. From the moment she opens her eyes, Riley's mood is shaped by five coloured emotions - golden Joy (Amy Poehler), blue Sadness (Phyllis Smith), purple Fear (Bill Hader), red Anger (Lewis Black) and green Disgust (Mindy Kaling) - which bicker behind a large control desk laden with buttons and levers.

Joy is the dominant emotion in Headquarters and she safeguards Riley's memories, which are stored as glowing orbs, tinged with the colour of the emotion that prevailed at the time. When Riley turns 11, her parents relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco.

Traumatic events such as a first day at a new school nudge Sadness to the fore. Following an altercation, sworn rivals Joy and Sadness are expelled from Headquarters and find themselves stranded in the labyrinth of Riley's long-term memories.

Aided by Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), Joy and Sadness blaze a haphazard trail on the chugging train of thought back to Fear, Anger and Disgust, who have been left in charge of Headquarters, with disastrous consequences.

Inside Out is Pixar's best film since the holy animated trilogy of WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3. Docter's script, co-written by Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, glisters with imagination, wit and invention, delivering guffaws with detours into the heads of Riley's parents as they attempt to deal with her pre-teenage rebellion.

Vocal performances are note perfect, led by Poehler's exuberant portrayal of Joy and Smith's sincere embodiment of Sadness, who tugs heartstrings as the film reaches its exquisite conclusion.

The film is preceded by a short: a musical love story entitled Lava between two volcanoes called Uku and Lele, directed by James Ford Murphy. Joy and Sadness shared blissful control of my mind throughout.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 5th September 2015
Sunday 6th September 2015
Monday 7th September 2015
Tuesday 8th September 2015
Wednesday 9th September 2015
Thursday 10th September 2015

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Legend 3 stars

Reggie Kray and his identical twin Ronnie own a lucrative club in London, where the rich and famous get a thrill from rubbing shoulders with bad boys and criminals. With guidance from business manager Leslie Payne, the club goes from strength to strength. Reggie struggles to contain his brother's sadistic impulses and when he serves time, an emotionally unstable Ronnie seizes control of the business empire and bullies anyone who openly questions his authority.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance, Thriller
  • CastChristopher Eccleston, Tara Fitzgerald, Paul Bettany, Emily Browning, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy.
  • DirectorBrian Helgeland.
  • WriterBrian Helgeland.
  • CountryUK/Fr
  • Duration131 mins
  • Official site
  • Release09/09/2015

Tom Hardy plays the Kray twins in this brutal and blackly humorous portrait of the notorious siblings, who terrorised 1950s and 1960s London, based on the book The Profession Of Violence by John Pearson. Reggie and his identical twin Ronnie own a lucrative club in London, where the rich and famous get a thrill from rubbing shoulders with bad boys and criminals. With guidance from business manager Leslie Payne (David Thewlis), the club goes from strength to strength. On the mean streets of the capital, the Krays continue their brutal war with turf rival Charlie Richardson (Paul Bettany), always remaining one step ahead of Detective Superintendent Leonard Read (Christopher Eccleston), who yearns to put them behind bars. Reggie embarks on a giddy romance with 16-year-old Frances Shea (Emily Browning), sister of his driver Frankie (Colin Morgan), despite vociferous protests from her mother (Tara Fitzgerald). The relationship coincides with Ronnie's turbulent affair with Edward Smith (Taron Egerton). Reggie struggles to contain his brother's sadistic impulses and keep Frances on an even emotional keel. When Reggie serves time, an emotionally unstable Ronnie seizes control of the business empire and bullies anyone who openly questions his authority.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 9th September 2015
Thursday 10th September 2015

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Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials 3 stars

Thomas and the survivors of The Glade search for answers about W.C.K.D. and a mysterious contagion called The Flare from a researcher called Janson. The truth remains elusive, so Thomas and co escape from the research compound and venture into a sun-scorched desert. In this barren wilderness, the teenagers face threats from Mother Nature and hideous creatures fashioned by W.C.K.D.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Family, Science Fiction, Thriller
  • CastDylan O'Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Patricia Clarkson, Kaya Scodelario, Lili Taylor, Aidan Gillen.
  • DirectorWes Ball.
  • WriterT S Nowlin.
  • CountryUS
  • Official sitewww.themazerunnermovie.co.uk
  • Release10/09/2015

In the 2014 survival thriller The Maze Runner, based on the bestselling novel by James Dashner, a group of teenagers pitted their wits against a diabolical labyrinth laden with traps and hideous denizens called Grievers in the vain hope of finding an exit. Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) managed to escape from The Glade and learnt that the maze was a grand experiment created by a corporation called W.C.K.D. under the control of Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson). In the sequel, directed again by Wes Ball, Thomas and the survivors search for answers about W.C.K.D. and a mysterious contagion called The Flare from a researcher called Janson (Aiden Gillen). The truth remains elusive, so Thomas and co escape from the research compound and venture into a sun-scorched desert. In this barren wilderness, the teenagers face threats from Mother Nature and hideous creatures fashioned by W.C.K.D. The third film in the series, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, is set for release in January 2017.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 10th September 2015

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Minions 3 stars

movie title

Since the dawn of time, the Minions have gravitated towards the most despicable master they can find. One Minion named Kevin embarks on an epic quest to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow. Flanked by teenage rebel Stuart and diminutive scaredy-cat Bob, Kevin leaves the Minions' current home in Antarctica bound for 1968 New York City, where he stumbles upon the world's first female super-villain: Scarlet Overkill.

  • GenreAnimation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
  • CastChris Renaud, Sandra Bullock, Pierre Coffin, Steve Coogan, Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, Katy Mixon, Jon Hamm.
  • DirectorPierre Coffin, Kyle Balda.
  • WriterBrian Lynch.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration91 mins
  • Official sitewww.minionnation.co.uk
  • Release26/06/2015

You can have too much of a good thing. In small doses, Despicable Me's goggle-eyed hench-creatures are a deranged delight. As unwittingly heroes of their own big screen adventure, these pint-sized "knights in shining denim" lose some of their loopy lustre, hindered by Brian Lynch's flimsy script, which is disappointingly light on storyline and belly laughs.

A dazzling vocal cast of gifted comic actors is repeatedly short-changed. Very young children, who gurgle with glee at the Minions' bonkers vernacular combining Esperanto and gobbledygook, will adore the slapstick, pratfalls and the tiniest member of the Minions clan, Bob, who clutches a well-loved teddy bear called Tim.

Adults will be considerably harder to win over. The lack of a coherent storyline grates as much as the lazy cultural stereotyping of the British as tea-sipping, corgi-riding folk, who frequent pubs called The Pig's Spleen.

Since the dawn of time, Minions have gravitated towards despicable masters including Tyrannosaurus Rex, Count Dracula and Napoleon. Unfortunately, these masters die prematurely - at the hands of the clumsy, yellow hench-creatures - leaving the Minions in a state of deep depression.

One brave soul named Kevin steps forth to find an evil boss for his bald, jaundiced brethren. Flanked by Stuart and scaredy-cat Bob, Kevin leaves the Minions' ice cave retreat bound for 1968 New York City. Cue a President Richard Nixon billboard proclaiming "Finally: a name you can trust". Could the Minions have stumbled upon their arch-villain?

No. The plucky trio learns about a gathering of criminals in Orlando and hitches a ride to the convention with a bank-robbing family led by Walter Nelson (voiced by Michael Keaton) and wife Madge (Allison Janney).

Their daughter Tina (Katy Mixon) points the Minions in the direction of bouffant super-villain Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock). "If I was a minion, that's who I'd want to work for," she swoons. Thus the trio pledges allegiance to Scarlet and her inventor husband Herb (Jon Hamm), who are plotting to steal the Crown Jewels from Queen Elizabeth II (Jennifer Saunders).

While the soundtrack swings its flares to The Kinks and The Who, Kevin, Stuart and Bob careen around London armed with Herb's nifty gadgets: a robo-suit, lava lamp gun and hypno-hat.

Minions has a sprinkling of giggles and doesn't outstay its welcome but there's an unshakable feeling that Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda's film falls short. The groovy time period should be a velvet goldmine of visual gags but the best the film can muster is a nod to The Beatles and a faked moon landing.

The 3D version doesn't exploit the eye-popping format so parents with tykes in tow should save their money for the inevitable raid on the concessions stand. Animation is colourful and pristine, opting for shiny surfaces and sharp angles that reduce the need for meticulous detail and realism. Despicable? Meh.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 6th September 2015

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Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation 4 stars

movie title

The Impossible Missions Force (IMF) led by agent Ethan Hunt has taken down some of the most deadly criminal networks in the world using guile and state-of-the-art technology. Now the hunters become the hunted. A shadowy band of assassins known as the Syndicate targets IMF for extinction. Hunt reunites with colleagues William Brandt, Benji Dunn and computer hacker Luther Stickell to expose the Syndicate and bring down the organisation using every weapon and turbo-charged vehicle at their disposal.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Thriller
  • CastJeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson.
  • DirectorChristopher McQuarrie.
  • WriterChristopher McQuarrie.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration131 mins
  • Official sitewww.missionimpossible.com
  • Release30/07/2015

Call it testosterone-fuelled recklessness, hubris or feeling the need... the need for speed, Tom Cruise certainly puts on a show in the fifth instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise. He clings to the side of an airplane as it takes flight, slaloms at dizzying speed on a motorcycle and performs death-defying leaps as secret agent Ethan Hunt.

The 53-year-old star performs most of these hair-raising stunts himself, allowing writer-director Christopher McQuarrie to capture every pulse-quickening second in thrilling close-up with minimum digital trickery.

Cruise's commitment to his role puts fellow action stars to shame - unlike the films of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, the script is devoid of wry one-liners to poke fun at his advancing years.

McQuarrie, Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Usual Suspects, bookmarks slam-bang action sequences with intentionally ambiguous exchanges between rival operatives, who acknowledge the futility of their efforts as pawns in the spy game.

Their inevitable deaths will go unnoticed and fresh-faced young agents will step forward, continuing the brutal tug-of-war between political idealism and global terrorism. The film opens with the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) hijacking a shipment of nerve gas from Chechen separatists.

Soon after, CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) succeeds in shutting down IMF for a total disregard for protocol, which led to the destruction of the Kremlin in the previous film. The hunters become the hunted when a shadowy organisation known as the Syndicate, fronted by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), targets IMF for extinction.

Hunt covertly reunites with colleagues William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and computer hacker Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) to bring down The Syndicate using every gadget, disguise and turbo-charged vehicle at their disposal.

The operation brings Hunt into close contact with undercover MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and her slippery handler (Simon McBurney), a sadistic henchman known as the Bone Doctor (Jens Hulten) and the unsuspecting British Prime Minister (Tom Hollander). "This may very well be our last mission," Brandt tells Hunt. "Make it count."

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is slickly bolted together by McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton (Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Turbo-charged scenes of carnage are punctuated by IMF's existential crisis in a world that regards their methods as "outdated".

Cruise somersaults, punches and tumbles through every frame without breaking sweat, while Pegg, who was pigeon-holed as comic relief in the previous instalment, steps up in a pivotal supporting role.

Ferguson's ice maiden doesn't thaw sufficiently under Cruise's smouldering gaze to kindle on-screen chemistry but her femme fatale snaps several limbs and necks in impressive hand-to-hand combat sequences.

Humour is used sparingly to diffuse tension, leaving us hungry for another explosion of IMF antics to the pulsating rhythm of Lalo Schifrin's iconic theme. On this evidence, Mission: Impossible and its gung-ho leading man won't be self-destructing any time soon.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 6th September 2015
Monday 7th September 2015
Tuesday 8th September 2015
Wednesday 9th September 2015
Thursday 10th September 2015

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Penguins Of Madagascar 3D 3 stars

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Skipper leads a crack squad of penguins comprising Kowalski, Rico and Private. A grey wolf called Classified, who works for the elite inter-species task force North Wind, recruits the plucky birds to thwart nefarious octopus Dr Octavius Brine. The penguins collaborate with some of the best agents in North Wind including harp seal demolitions expert Short Fuse, snowy owl intelligence analyst Eva and plucky polar bear Corporal to defeat their tentacled adversary.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family
  • CastChris Miller, Tom McGrath, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Stormare, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Conrad Vernon.
  • DirectorEric Darnell, Simon J Smith.
  • WriterMichael Colton, John Aboud, Brandon Sawyer.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration92 mins
  • Official sitewww.madagascar.dreamworks.com
  • Release05/12/2014

Birds of a feather somersault, karate kick and bicker together in Eric Darnell and Simon J Smith's misfiring computer-animated spin-off from the Madagascar films. Frenetic and fast-paced, Penguins Of Madagascar initially sketches the back story of the four plucky Antarctic critters with a beak for adventure through the lens of a documentary film crew, who are keen to observe the flightless birds in their treacherous natural habitat.

The script soon fast-forwards to the conclusion of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and literally blasts the penguins into an outlandish spy caper replete with a menagerie of animal co-stars that should be a merchandiser's dream this Christmas.

The colour-saturated animation is a feast for the eyes and there are a few neat visual gags such as the penguins' novel approach to navigating a zebra crossing undetected. However, the four lead characters, who are boundlessly charming in small doses as sidekicks, grate slightly as heroes of their own half-baked story.

Hopefully the adorable Minions from the Despicable Me series will dodge a similar fate when they graduate to the limelight in a self-titled feature next summer.

Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath) leads a crack squad comprising Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) on a daring mission to break into Fort Knox in search of treasure: a luminous orange snack called Cheezy Dibbles.

From the offset, goofball Private is identified as the black penguin of the operation. "He's sort of our secretary-slash-mascot," observes Skipper. The hunt for Cheezy Dibbles leads the penguins into the clutches of nefarious octopus Dr Octavius Brine (John Malkovich), who intends to take over the world using his mutation serum.

Thankfully, Skipper and co escape and a subsequent chase with hench-octopi along the canals of Venice leads the penguins into the company of a grey wolf called Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch), who works for an elite inter-species task force known as North Wind.

Fellow agents include harp seal demolitions expert Short Fuse (Ken Jeong), snowy owl intelligence analyst Eva (Annet Mahendru) and plucky polar bear Corporal (Peter Stormare). The unlikely heroes join forces to defeat their tentacled arch-nemesis, but this collaboration will amount to nothing unless Skipper allows Private to discover the hero within.

Penguins Of Madagascar exhibits a similar lack of invention as the films which gave birth to Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. Brine's master plan for global domination bears an uncanny resemblance to events in Despicable Me 2 and the underlying message of tolerance and acceptance has been preached countless times before.

"If we've learnt anything on this delightful adventure, it's that looks don't matter. It's what you do that counts," declares Skipper.

A running joke involving celebrity names in one character's dialogue is a cute flourish but certainly not enough for these penguins to defy evolution and effortlessly take flight.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 6th September 2015

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Phantom 3 stars

A series of devastating attacks has struck fear into the hearts of the Indian people. Agent Daniyal Khan vows to tear down the terrorism network spearheaded by Hariz Saeed, who preaches hatred to his acolytes. The mission is perilous and Daniyal sensibly aligns himself with security agent Nawaz Mistry to ensure the mission's success. However, Hariz's influence spreads far and wide, and he will not allow one righteous man to thwart his campaign of fear.

  • GenreAction, Bollywood, Thriller
  • CastKatrina Kaif, Rajesh Tailang, Saif Ali Khan.
  • DirectorKabir Khan.
  • WriterKausar Munir, Kabir Khan.
  • CountryIndia
  • Duration136 mins
  • Official site
  • Release28/08/2015 (selected cinemas)

Based on the book Mumbai Avengers by Hussain Haidi, Phantom is a Hindi action thriller directed by Kabir Khan set in the aftermath of the November 2008 shootings and bombings in Mumbai. A series of devastating attacks has struck fear into the hearts of the Indian people. The government and security forces appear helpless, unable to bring the perpetrators to justice. Indian agent Daniyal Khan (Saif Ali Khan) vows to tear down the terrorism network spearheaded by Hariz Saeed (Shahnawaz Pradhan), who preaches hatred to his acolytes. The mission is perilous and Daniyal sensibly aligns himself with security agent Nawaz Mistry (Katrina Kaif) to ensure the mission's success. However, Hariz's influence spreads far and wide, and he will not allow one righteous man to thwart his campaign of fear.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 5th September 2015
Sunday 6th September 2015
Monday 7th September 2015
Tuesday 8th September 2015
Wednesday 9th September 2015

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Pixels 2 stars

Out of the blue, alien invaders attack Guam military base with energy that has been coded to swarm like the creatures in the arcade game Galaga. It transpires that a time capsule, sent into space by NASA after the 1982 arcade game world championships, has been intercepted by extra-terrestrials and misinterpreted as a declaration of war. In order to halt the alien advance, mankind must beat the aliens at life-or-death versions of classic games including Centipede and Pacman

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Comedy, Family, Family, Romance, Science Fiction
  • CastMichelle Monaghan, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad.
  • DirectorChris Columbus.
  • WriterTimothy Dowling, Tim Herlihy.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration106 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/PixelsFilm
  • Release12/08/2015

Like many socially awkward children of my generation, I escaped reality by playing fiendishly addictive games on consoles and computers, including an Atari, Vic 20 and Commodore 64. Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede, Pacman, Phoenix, Space Invaders and Track & Field were trusted friends.

Pixels is an action comedy, which harks back to this bygone era before smartphones and immersive 4D, when guiding a circular yellow head around a maze with four coloured ghosts in hot pursuit, was the height of hi-tech entertainment.

Based on a short film of the same title by Patrick Jean, Chris Columbus' big budget romp imagines life-size arcade games on the streets of bustling modern cities. Except here, losing a life could mean the end of planet Earth. Scriptwriters Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling fail to capitalise on this neat and tantalising premise, crafting an inane story of triumph against adversity that treats female characters as pretty baubles.

In 1982, prepubescent pals Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito) and Will Cooper (Jared Riley) attend the arcade game world championships where they befriend conspiracy theory-spouting oddball Ludlow Lamonsoff (Jacob Shinder).

Sam gets through to the final where he loses a showdown on Donkey Kong, against egotistical champion Eddie Plant (Andrew Bambridge). More than 30 years later, Sam (now played by Adam Sandler) installs software for a living, while Will (now played by Kevin James) has become the deeply unpopular President of the United States.

Alien invaders attack Guam military base with energy that has been coded to swarm like the creatures in the arcade game Galaga. It transpires that a time capsule of arcade game footage, sent into space by NASA in 1982, has been intercepted by extra-terrestrials and misinterpreted as a declaration of war.

In order to halt the alien advance, mankind must compete in life-or-death versions of Centipede and Pacman. Sam and Will reunite with Ludlow (now played by Josh Gad) and Eddie (now played by Peter Dinklage) to secure mankind's victory, armed with light cannons fashioned by military weapons specialist Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan). "Let the nerds take over!" she bellows defiantly. Please don't.

Pixels is a nostalgia-drenched bore, hung on the centerpiece recreations of classic games, which result in the destruction of swathes of London and Manhattan. Sandler sucks the dwindling energy out of every frame, unable to muster any enthusiasm for his two-dimensional role.

Monaghan is wasted as the simpering love interest while James goofs and gurns as a highly improbable American leader. Columbus, who directed the first two instalments of the Harry Potter films, fails miserably to conjure the same magic.

He gleefully fills the screen with familiar pixelated characters including Q*bert, Frogger and Mario. Regrettably, it's game over from the opening frames for genuine emotion and narrative sophistication.

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Sinister 2 3 stars

movie title

Courtney Collins moves into a farmhouse with her nine-year-old twin sons, Dylan and Zach. They are unaware of the grim history of the house or the presence of the malevolent spirit. Late one night, Dylan sleepwalks and is marked by Pagan deity Bughuul, who intends to possess the boy's body and then kill the rest of the family, documenting the massacre on Super 8 video. When Courtney discovers the horror taking place under her roof, she vows to protect Zach from harm.

  • GenreHorror, Thriller
  • CastJames Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan.
  • DirectorCiaran Foy.
  • WriterC Robert Cargill, Scott Derrickson.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration97 mins
  • Official site
  • Release21/08/2015

A group of possessed children, a ritual sacrifice, a remote house with a dark cellar, a bogeyman who gets his kicks out of surprise appearances. Boo! This eclectic mix of cliche horror elements fails to blend in Sinister 2, a sequel to Scott Derrickson's 2012 supernatural yarn. The first film shockingly revealed that missing children were murdering their families.

The follow-up relies on jump scares to compensate for a storyline that lacks any new or unexpected insights. The central issue with Sinister 2 is that Bughuul, the demonic creature responsible for the bloodshed, has now lost his air of mystery and thus his punch. He was omnipresent in the tapes, photographs and shadows of the first film.

Once it becomes clear in the sequel that he is only instructing the children, Bughuul is downgraded to a useless token character, who lures but never attacks. It is his squad of possessed, pale-faced moppets who do the killing, the talking and, while they are at it, the feeble scaring.

Unfortunately, observing the deadly process unfold from the perspective of these tormented tykes does not ignite any fear - their manifestation is too polished, fading in and out of thin air too smoothly to cause alarm.

Sinister 2 revolves around ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone), who discovers the latest house in a long sequence of family massacres orchestrated by Bughuul. Intent on ending the blood-letting, So & So is shocked to find runaway mother Courtney Collins (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twins Dylan and Zach (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan) inhabiting the creaky farmhouse.

Courtney's violent husband Clint (Lea Coco) becomes embroiled in the madness, Dylan is subjected to increasingly disturbing nightly visitations and the ex-deputy chooses to stumble through any dark, haunted hallway in his vicinity, armed with a torchlight and an array of frightened expressions. Needless to say, characters hear suspicious noises in the dark and decide to check them out en masse.

Every time Sinister 2 is about to lose more momentum than its rocky storyline can afford, we see old footage of seemingly innocent home videos that suddenly take a deadly turn. These recordings are disturbing and the characters' demises are inventive, but they fail to supply an entire film with spine-tingling chills.

Director Ciaran Foy throws bloody rats, children with scythes and burning crucifixes into the mix in a vain attempt to inject a dose of fear. It's no use.

Sinister 2 relies too heavily on Bughuul's predictable jump scares, accompanied by an unsettling yet repetitive soundtrack. Audiences would need to be wearing earplugs and blindfolds not to guess what's coming.

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Straight Outta Compton 4 stars

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Good friends Dr Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella search for an outlet for their creativity. With gentle persuasion from his buddies, Eazy-E sets up his own label, Ruthless Records, and the group's first release Boyz-n-the-Hood piques the interest of Jerry Heller. He sweet talks Eazy-E into becoming the band's manager. An electrifying live performance leads to a deal with Priority Records but Ice Cube grows increasingly concerned about Eazy-E's close working relationship with Heller and the absence of contracts for the rest of the group.

  • GenreBiography, Drama, Musical
  • CastCorey Hawkins, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Paul Giamatti, Neil Brown Jr, Jason Mitchell, Aldis Hodge.
  • DirectorF Gary Gray.
  • WriterJonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration147 mins
  • Official sitewww.straightouttacomptonthemovie.co.uk
  • Release28/08/2015

Whenever Hollywood immortalises pages from history at 24 frames per second, it's wise to treat each lustrous dramatisation with a pinch of salt. Rigorous factual accuracy is often sacrificed at the altar of artistic licence. In the case of F. Gary Gray's engrossing film, you will need to grab bulging fistfuls of sodium chloride.

Not only are two of the key protagonists of this rags to musical riches biopic listed as executive producers, one of the men - rapper turned actor Ice Cube - is portrayed on screen by his own son. The faint whiff of nepotism is overpowered by heady fumes of whitewash from Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff's script, which neglects to address accusations of misogyny and homophobia levelled at California hip hop collective N.W.A.

Regardless of the rosy tint to director Gray's lens, Straight Outta Compton is a fascinating portrait of youthful exuberance, raw ambition and racial divide that rubs some of that salt into the deep wounds inflicted since the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The film opens in 1986 with pals Dr Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson Jr), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr) searching for an outlet for their creativity.

Tensions are high between police and black youths - random stop and searches are an unwelcome part of neighbourhood life. "I'm the only gangster round here," snarls one officer. With gentle persuasion from his buddies, Eazy-E sets up his own label, Ruthless Records, and the group's first release Boyz-n-the-Hood piques the interest of Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti).

He sweet talks Eazy-E into becoming the band's manager. "What does N.W.A. stand for? No Whites Allowed?" asks Jerry naively. An electrifying live performance leads to a deal with Priority Records founded by Bryan Turner (Tate Ellington).

Ice Cube grows increasingly concerned about Eazy-E's close working relationship with Heller and the absence of contracts for the rest of the group. He eventually leaves and goes solo, sparking a bitter war of rhymes between the former band mates.

Ice Cube aligns himself with Suge Knight (R Marcus Taylor) and together they establish Death Row Records. Meanwhile, Dr Dre also turns his back on Eazy-E and N.W.A. and channels his energy into working as a producer for other acts including Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) and Tupac Shakur (Marcc Rose).

Straight Outta Compton might run to a holler short of two-and-a-half hours but Gray's film has sufficient swagger to hold our attention. Hawkins, Mitchell and Jackson Jr deliver accomplished performances as the sometimes deluded pioneers of a hip hop revolution.

Musical performances pulse with energy including a stand-off with police at a concert that culminates in a riot. This might not be the whole uncomfortable truth, but what we are allowed to see hits the right notes.

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Strange Magic (Autism Friendly Screening) 2 stars

On the eve of her wedding, Princess Marianne discovers her fiance Roland in a clinch with another fairy and correctly surmises he only wants to marry her to ascend the throne. Roland is determined to rule so he ruthlessly exploits a gentle elf called Sunny, who is secretly in love with Marianne's sister Dawn. The jilted groom persuades Sunny to enter the Dark Forest in order to procure a love potion from the Sugar Plum Fairy, who is being held captive by the dastardly Bog King.

  • GenreAnimation/Cartoon, Family, Family, Fantasy, Inclusive, Musical
  • CastKristin Chenoweth, Elijah Kelley, Evan Rachel Wood, Sam Palladio, Alan Cumming.
  • DirectorGary Rydstrom.
  • WriterGary Rydstrom, Irene Mecchi, David Berenbaum.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration99 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/StrangeMagicMovie
  • Release21/08/2015 (selected cinemas)

If musicals be the food of love, then Hollywood has feasted many times at Shakespeare's table. The feuding Montagues and Capulets of Romeo And Juliet kicked up their heels as the Jets and Sharks of West Side Story, The Taming Of The Shrew smooched as Kiss Me, Kate and The Comedy Of Errors was note perfect as The Boys From Syracuse.

In Strange Magic, A Midsummer Night's Dream provides the loose inspiration for a computer-animated standoff between fairies, who can't help falling in love to Elvis Presley, and self-loathing bog creatures, who have been mistreated to Deep Purple.

Gary Rydstrom's heavy-handed romance might take its initial cue from Shakespeare's forest fantasy but it plunders Disney's 1991 version of Beauty And The Beast for the achingly predictable second act. Even preschoolers will roll their eyes when the king of the fairies pointedly remarks, "Never judge something, or someone, by how it, or he, or she looks."

Spookily, that's also true of Rydstrom's picture. The detailed, photorealistic backgrounds conjured by the animators cast a heady spell. Alas, the same cannot be said of a script - based on an idea by George Lucas - that refuses to delve beneath the shiny surface of the two-dimensional characters.

Princess Marianne (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) lives in Fairy Kingdom with her flighty younger sister, Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull). The older fairy - and heir to the throne - is poised to marry hunky soldier Roland (Sam Palladio).

Her reverie is shattered when she discovers Roland in a clinch with another fairy and correctly surmises he only wants to marry her to ascend the throne. "He loves the crown and his hair. Not in that order," Marianne coldly informs her father (Alfred Molina).

Roland is determined to rule so he ruthlessly exploits a gentle elf called Sunny (Elijah Kelley), who is secretly in love with Dawn. The jilted groom persuades Sunny to enter the Dark Forest in order to procure a love potion from the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth), who is being held captive by the dastardly Bog King (Alan Cumming).

The elf gamely agrees in the misguided belief that the potion will allow him to win Dawn's heart. Roland has other ideas.

Strange Magic fails to deliver either part of its beguiling title. The film's otherworldly designs recall the 1982 Jim Henson fantasy The Dark Crystal and recent computer animation Epic, and someone forgot to sprinkle pixie dust over the clunky dialogue.

Cast belt out musical mash-ups from the past six decades a la Glee, including the title track by ELO, to verbalise trite emotions. There's no subtlety to the songbook: the heroine immunises herself against future heartbreak by warbling I'll Never Fall In Love Again. We know she will because even Shakespeare couldn't resist an occasional happy ending.

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The Book Of Life 3 stars

movie title

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.

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The Transporter Refuelled 2 stars

Special Ops mercenary Frank Martin lives in the south of France, where he is paid handsomely to transport classified packages for his customers. Out of the blue, Frank's father visits him on the coast for some long overdue bonding. The mood of reconciliation sours when a femme fatale called Anna sinks her claws into Frank and compels him to take part in a daredevil bank heist with her three beautiful yet deadly sidekicks, Gina, Maria and Qiao. The robbery doesn't unfold as planned.

  • GenreAction, Thriller
  • CastLoan Chabanol, Ed Skrein, Ray Stevenson, Gabriella Wright.
  • DirectorCamille Delamarre.
  • WriterBill Collage, Adam Cooper, Luc Besson.
  • CountryFr/Chi
  • Duration96 mins
  • Official sitewww.thetransporterrefueled.com
  • Release04/09/2015

Clothes might not make the man but Derbyshire-born model-turned-actor Jason Statham has been happily wearing the designer togs of a brooding tough guy since he bossed our attention in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. The Transporter franchise, launched in 2002, confirmed him as a muscular if monosyllabic leading man and snagged recurring roles in The Expendables and Fast & Furious series.

Evidently, three increasingly preposterous films as Special Ops mercenary Frank Martin was enough for Statham, because his trademark scowl is nowhere to be seen in this fourth instalment, directed by Camille Delamarre. Instead, London-born Ed Skrein slips into the lead character's tailored suits on the sun-kissed Cote d'Azur.

In an unwelcome nod to his predecessor, Skrein brings no charisma or emotional depth to the testosterone-fuelled party. He flexes his muscles in high-tempo fight sequences and casually tosses out clunky one-liners cobbled together by scriptwriters Adam Cooper, Bill Collage and Luc Besson.

Unintentional sniggers abound, not least when a prostitute launches into her grim history of human trafficking with the words: "I come from an impoverished village..." Delamarre's picture runs empty on gas fumes from the kinetic opening frames.

Russian kingpin Karasov (Rasha Bukvic) and his goons Yuri (Yuri Kolokolnikov) and Imasov (Lenn Kudrjawizki) sweep into the French Riviera in 1995 and seize control of the local working girls. Fifteen years later, one member of the harem, Anna (Loan Chabanol), decides to wreak revenge by bringing down Karasov's empire.

She joins forces with fellow prostitutes Gina (Gabrielle Wright), Maria (Tatiana Pajkovic) and Qiao (Wenxia Yu) and hires Frank Martin (Skrein) as the getaway driver for her suicidal scheme.

Anna ensures Frank's co-operation by kidnapping his old man (Ray Stevenson), who has been poisoned with a toxin that will kill in 12 hours, unless she administers the antidote. The clock is ticking. Anna's plan - to rob the bank where Karasov has squirrelled away his ill-gotten gains - doesn't unfold entirely as planned.

"When I find out who they are, they are going to wish they were someone else," snarls Karasov to his business associate Maissa (Noemie Lenoir).

The Transporter Refuelled delivers souped-up action sequences including a spectacular car chase along the Monaco waterfront. Stunt coordinator Alain Figlarz looks to Jackie Chan for inspiration, choreographing bone-crunching fisticuffs that rely on background props as makeshift weapons.

Skrein looks suitably moody but lacks the imposing physical presence of his predecessor, while Stevenson has a ball in an underwritten supporting role. Female cast slink seductively in front of Delamarre's leering lens.

Their characters are sketched in laughably broad strokes and are treated as disposable sex objects throughout. The man behind the wheel of The Transporter might have changed, but everything else about this glossy reboot is depressingly familiar.

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The Visit 3 stars

A single mother packs off her two children, Rebecca and scaredy-cat younger brother Tyler, for a week with her estranged parents in the country. The children are initially charmed by Nana and Pop-Pop, who enjoy a simple life. Then late one night, Rebecca and Tyler hear strange sounds and they venture into the darkness to investigate.

  • GenreDocumentary, Horror, Thriller
  • CastKathryn Hahn, Ed Oxenbould, Peter McRobbie, Deanna Dunagan, Olivia DeJonge.
  • DirectorM Night Shyamalan.
  • WriterM Night Shyamalan.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration94 mins
  • Official sitewww.thevisitmovie.co.uk
  • Release11/09/2015

A single mother packs off her two children, Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and scaredy-cat younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), for a week with her estranged parents in the country. The children are initially charmed by Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop-Pop (Peter McRobbie), who enjoy a simple life. Then late one night, Rebecca and Tyler hear strange sounds and they venture into the darkness to investigate.

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Wednesday 9th September 2015

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Two By Two 2 stars

Dave and his inquisitive young son Finny belong to a fluffy land-based species called Nestrians, who are excellent homemakers. They are denied safe passage on Noah's ark and adopt laughable disguises to pose as carnivorous hyena-like Grymps alongside a genuine mother animal called Hazel and her daughter Leah. The roaring flood arrives but Finny and Leah are stranded on dry land with a giant slug called Obesey and his parasitic passenger, Stayput.

  • GenreAdventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy
  • CastAva Connolly, Tara Flynn, Paul Tylak, Patrick FitzSymons, Callum Maloney, Dermot Magennis.
  • DirectorSean McCormack, Toby Genkel.
  • WriterRichie Conroy, Marteinn Thorisson, Mark Hodkinson, Toby Genkel.
  • CountryGer/Bel/Lu
  • Duration87 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/pages/Ooops-Noah-is-gone/222749614584770
  • Release01/05/2015

The biblical story of Noah, neatly encapsulated in six chapters of the book of Genesis, provides a weak catalyst for this derivative computer-animated adventure, which strives to emulate the Ice Age films but falls woefully short of that franchise's visual sophistication and belly laughs. Co-directors Toby Genkel and Sean McCormack chart a pedestrian course through shallow dramatic waters, bringing together cuddly critters in a race against time to escape an apocalyptic downpour.

Vocal performances are lacklustre, like the visuals, and the absence of jeopardy in the closing frames is palpable. Crucially, Two By Two defies its own flimsy set-up without obvious reason, such as inviting a family of three giraffes into the ark, while only allowing one member of other species to apparently board the gargantuan gopher wood vessel.

Noah is mentioned but never seen - instead a sanctimonious, self-serving lion captains the ship aided by a pair of grouchy gorillas. Any wholesome messages about family unity, teamwork and tolerance buried in the ham-fisted script are submerged beneath a thick glaze of syrupy sentiment as the film reaches its underwhelming conclusion.

Dave (voiced by Dermot Magennis) and his inquisitive young son Finny (Callum Maloney) belong to a fluffy land-based species called Nestrians, who are excellent homemakers. "All the animals of the world have been called to a gathering," Dave explains to his incredulous boy. "There's a flood coming. We'll drown if we don't leave."

On cue, storm clouds gather and the heavens open, ushering the two Nestrians on their exhausting trek for survival. They arrive to discover that "all animals are welcome on Noah's ark... as long as you're on Noah's list."

Alas, Dave and Finny are rejected for travel as well as two bat-like predators called Griffins (Aileen Mythen, Magennis again). The resourceful Nestrians adopt laughable disguises to pose as carnivorous hyena-like Grymps alongside a genuine mother animal called Hazel (Lara Flynn) and her daughter Leah (Ava Connolly).

The roaring flood arrives but Finny and Leah are stranded on dry land with a giant slug called Obesey (Paul Tylak) and his parasitic passenger, Stayput (Patrick Fitzsymons). As the youngsters head for higher ground, Dave and Hazel desperately attempt to turn around the ark.

Fittingly, Two By Two is a damp squib. Elements of the vastly superior Finding Nemo are flung into the bland mix, offset by the feeble villainy of The Griffins, whose attempts to eat Finny and Leah are pathetic. The closest the film comes to a joke is one passenger announcement aboard the ark: "Our approximate sailing time is 40 days and 40 nights. We are expecting some choppy seas and light drizzle."

Thankfully Genkel and McCormack's film only lasts 87 minutes, but that still feels like a slog.

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We Are Your Friends 3 stars

movie title

Cole is a 23-year-old aspiring DJ, who lives in the San Fernando Valley with his friends. One night, Cole crosses paths with James Reed, an established DJ, who has steadily risen through the ranks. James takes Cole under his wing and helps his protege to befriend the right people and become a record producer. As Cole hones his craft, he becomes attracted to James' younger girlfriend Sophie and their burgeoning friendship threatens to spark a full-blown affair.

  • GenreDrama, Romance
  • CastWes Bentley, Zac Efron, Jon Bernthal, Emily Ratajkowski, Jonny Weston.
  • DirectorMax Joseph.
  • WriterMax Joseph, Meaghan Oppenheimer.
  • CountryUK/Fr/US
  • Duration98 mins
  • Official sitewww.wayf-movie.com
  • Release27/08/2015

When it rains cinematic love letters to the electronic dance music (EDM) scene, it pours. We Are Your Friends arrives shortly after Eden, Mia Hansen-Love's autobiographical account of shattered dreams set against the backdrop of the 1990s French music scene.

While that film expertly mixed style and substance with a pulsating soundtrack from the era, director Max Roberts' present-day soap opera taps its foot to a more predictable beat in the sun-baked San Fernando Valley.

According to the film's narrator, this unfashionable stretch of Los Angeles County has a thriving pornography industry, airhead blondes and the best sushi in California. It's also a playground for dreamers - wannabe musicians, actors and DJs - who hope to be talent-spotted on the other side of the Hollywood sign and offered their one-way ticket to fame and fortune.

It's a pungent setting for Roberts and co-writer Meaghan Oppenheimer to explore the frailty of a get-rich-quick generation, obsessed with stories of twentysomethings, who invented an app or performed songs on a video sharing website and are now multi-millionaires.

We Are Your Friends has a smattering of grit, including scenes of drug-taking plus a senseless tragedy that is telegraphed in neon lettering, but the sweetness and sentimentality of this bro-mantic fairytale is overpowering. Consequently, Roberts can't resist a feel good coda to reset the film's moral compass.

Zac Efron plays Cole, a 23-year-old DJ who lives in the valley with buddies Mason (Jonny Weston), Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) and Squirrel (Alex Shaffer). One night at a club, Cole meets EDM demi-god James Reed (Wes Bentley), who commands vast fees for his sets.

James takes the twinkly-eyed upstart under his wing and grants Cole 24-hour access to his recording studio. As the newcomer hones his craft, he kindles an attraction with James' younger girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), which threatens to spark a full-blown affair.

We Are Your Friends starts promisingly, bombarding the screen with snazzy visuals and captions as Cole delivers an idiot's guide to the Valley and EDM. A PCP-induced trip in an art gallery catalyses a terrific animated sequence.

After this initial rush of blood to the head, Roberts tempers the directorial brio and reveals the deeply conventional heart beneath the film's shiny exterior. Efron plies his usual boyish good looks and charm as a counterpoint to Bentley's world-weary EDM veteran. "You used to be good. Now you're just a sell-out collecting a cheque," Cole defiantly informs James during one exchange.

Ratajkowski looks ravishing in pouty close-up, but has little to do besides drive a wedge between her two suitors. Big name DJs including Alesso, Posso and Nicky Romero enjoy cameos to lend authenticity to a film that ultimately doesn't have the courage of its convictions.

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Welcome Back 3 stars

Anees Bazmee directs and co-writes this sequel to his 2007 comedy Welcome, which reunites some of the cast of the first film with the notable exceptions of lead man Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif. New additions to the cast include John Abraham and Shruti Haasan in pivotal roles. Actress, model and singer Sara Loren has contributed to the film's soundtrack.

  • GenreAction, Bollywood, Comedy, Romance
  • CastNana Patekar, Anil Kapoor, Shruti Haasan, John Abraham.
  • DirectorAnees Bazmee.
  • WriterAnees Bazmee, Raj Shandaliya, Rajiv Kaul.
  • CountryIndia
  • Official site
  • Release04/09/2015 (selected cinemas)

Anees Bazmee directs and co-writes this sequel to his 2007 comedy Welcome, which reunites some of the cast of the first film with the notable exceptions of lead man Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif. New additions to the cast include John Abraham and Shruti Haasan in pivotal roles. Actress, model and singer Sara Loren has contributed to the film's soundtrack.

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Saturday 5th September 2015
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