AT THE CINEMA: Thursday July 31 to Thursday August 7
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (12A)
Abducted from his parents as a child and raised by thieves led by blue-skinned tyrant Yondu (Michael Rooker), Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a thief for hire, who steals a mystical orb sought by sadistic warlord Ronan (Lee Pace) and his army of Sakaarans. Peter evades Ronan’s clutches and eventually aligns himself with a motley crew of mercenaries comprising green-skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), his tree-like sidekick Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) and vengeance-seeking warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), whose entire family was slaughtered by Ronan. When Peter learns the orb is an ancient artefact with the power to destroy the universe, he must put selfish desires to one side to repel Ronan and his underlings including fearsome intergalactic hunter Korath (Djimon Hounsou).
Rating: Four stars
THE NUT JOB (U)
Raccoon (voiced by Liam Neeson) and his red bird sidekick Cardinal preside over the animal denizens of Liberty Park in the sprawling metropolis of Oakton City. Winter is fast approaching, so every groundhog, squirrel, mouse and mole gathers supplies to add to the food store in the trunk of the great oak. Everyone except for mischievous squirrel Surly (Will Arnett), who has always ploughed a lone furrow. “I’m independent, which means ‘looking out for number one’,” Surly reminds fellow squirrels Andie (Katherine Heigl) and Grayson (Brendan Fraser). When a raid on a food cart goes disastrously wrong, Surly is banished to the city by the other animals. The ravenous rodent stumbles upon a store selling nuts and plots a daring heist with trusty rat pal, Buddy (Rob Tinkler). Little does Surly know that the new owner of the store, King (Stephen Lang), is the leader of a gang of robbers, who intend to tunnel from the shop’s basement to First Oakton Bank and plunder the vault.
Rating: Two stars
Based on the comic book series Hercules: The Thracian Wars by Steve Moore, Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) has completed his 12 labours, which included slaying a hydra and defeating the mighty Nemean Lion, and now this muscle-bound man of myth roams the land as a mercenary for hire. His band of travelling companions includes soothsayer Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), warrior Autolycus (Rufus Sewell) and mute orphan Tydeus (Aksel Hennie). Lord Cotys (John Hurt), the ailing King of Thrace, promises Hercules and his company their weight in gold if they can train his farm hands to become an army and bring to an end a bitter civil war with rebel leader, Rhesus. The king’s daughter, Eugenia, is wary of Hercules, so too is Cotys’ loyal general Sitacles, but he cannot fail to be impressed as the king’s weakling subjects are transformed into a well-drilled fighting machine. When the truth about Hercules’ tragic past is revealed, Johnson’s wail of anguish in close-up epitomises the film’s heavy-handed approach to matters of the heart: more volume, less palpable emotion.
Rating: Two stars
MRS BROWN’S BOYS D’MOVIE (15)
Agnes Brown (Brendan O’Carroll) proudly runs a fruit and vegetable stall in Moore Street Market, which has been passed down through the family for generations. The foul-mouthed harridan hopes her daughter Cathy (Jennifer Gibney) will take up the mantle but a dastardly developer, PR Irwin (Dermot Crowley), intervenes with plans to bulldoze the site. “They won’t take me without a fight, whoever they are,” Agnes tells Fat Annie (June Rodgers). Unfortunately, Agnes has a 3.8 million Euro tax bill to settle stretching back to her grandmother’s time. Aided by Cathy, her sons Mark (Pat Shields), Rory (Rory Cowan) and Dermot (Paddy Houlihan), and next-door neighbour Winnie (Eilish O’Carroll), Agnes resolves to take on the Irish establishment and give it a good spanking. Dermot’s best friend Buster Brady (Danny O’Carroll), bumbling lawyer Tom Crews (Simon Delaney) and a well-to-do barrister called Maydo Archer (Robert Bathurst), who is prone to stress-related Tourette syndrome, pledge their support to Agnes’s seemingly hopeless cause.
Rating: Two stars
JERSEY BOYS (15)
Pitched halfway between a traditional musical and a gritty portrait of the bonds of brotherhood in New York City of the era, Clint Eastwood’s impeccably crafted period piece entertains but never truly delights. Sixteen-year-old Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) lives with his parents (Kathrine Narducci, Lou Volpe), who urge him to stay out of trouble. Best friend Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) leads him astray and Frankie almost ends up in prison but escapes incarceration by virtue of his age. With encouragement from local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), who becomes Frankie’s fairy godfather (with the emphasis on godfather), the teenager pursues his musical ambitions by changing his surname to Valli and joining Tommy’s band. They recruit singer-songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) alongside bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and The Four Seasons are born. Talented lyricist Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) ushers the boys onto the stairway to stardom but Tommy’s mounting debts create friction and threaten to tear the band apart.
Rating: Three stars
EARTH TO ECHO (PG)
In fragmented footage, we meet Tuck (Brian “Astro” Bradley) and his best friends Alex (Teo Halm) and Reginald aka Munch (Reese Hartwig) after they learn that a highway construction project is going to tear apart their community of Clark County, Nevada. The lads will have to relocate to different parts of the country, signalling the end of their balmy childhood. On their last night together, the boys follow strange signals on their mobile phones into the desert. They uncover a friendly robot, who has become stranded on Earth, and the boys pledge to help their otherworldly friend locate the missing parts of his spaceship so he can return home. Plucky classmate Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) joins the trio as they evade shady government officials led by Dr Lawrence Masden (Jason Gray-Stanford), who are also hunting Echo. Earth To Echo is a state-of-the-art ode to ET and its imitators that ups the technical ante for a generation that prefers to swipe at tablets and smart phones rather than go outside and play.
Rating: Three stars
POSTMAN PAT: THE MOVIE (U)
Postman Pat (voiced by Stephen Mangan) is at the heart of village life in the cosy community of Greendale, where he lives in Forge Cottage with his wife Sara (Susan Duerden) and football-mad son Julian (Sandra Teles). Sara has always dreamt of going to Italy so when Pat discovers a trip for two is the top prize in the TV reality show You’re The One hosted by Simon Cowbell (Robin Atkin Downes), he prepares to belt out a ballad. “Think of it as singing in the shower,” Julian tells his father soothingly, “but in front of lots of people... and with your clothes on.” Against the odds, Pat’s audition charms the usually stony-faced Cowbell. Within days, Pat has become a nationwide celebrity and he gets caught up in the media hoopla, which takes him far away from his loved ones and his job at the Special Delivery Service (SDS). In Pat’s absence, SDS efficiency expert Edwin Carbunkle (Peter Woodward) plots to replace all of the human staff with robot doppelgangers. Meanwhile, the grand final of You’re The One beckons and Pat prepares to compete against teenage singer Josh (Rupert Grint) and his pushy father (David Tennant).
Rating: Two stars
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (12A)
Ten winters have passed since simian flu ravaged the globe. In the absence of law and order, basic resources such as water, food and electricity are dangerously depleted. One-time military man Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), who lost his entire family to the virus, leads survivors of the ALZ-113 virus in San Francisco. He despatches a team led by family man Malcolm (Jason Clarke) to access the O’Shaughnessy Dam, which provides the city with electricity. In the forest that envelops the dam, the scouting party encounters apes led by Caesar (Andy Serkis), including his ambitious second-in-command Koba (Toby Kebbell), impetuous son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) and Bornean orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval). Malcolm’s trigger-happy compatriot Carver (Kirk Acevedo) shoots one of the apes and the humans are banished to their stronghold. Once Dreyfus learns about the neighbouring ape community, he asks Malcolm and co to refrain from telling the other survivors. Malcolm realises that he must earn Caesar’s trust to gain access to the dam so he prepares to return to the forest with wife Ellie (Keri Russell) and teenage son Alexander (Kodi Smith-McPhee).
Rating: Five stars
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (PG)
Five years have passed since Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) befriended Toothless and the inhabitants of the village of Berk now live in harmony with the dragons. Hiccup’s father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) continues to preside over the people. He hopes Hiccup will accept his destiny as the next tribal chief but the boy prefers to soar through the clouds astride his trusty Night Fury. During a regular sortie with Toothless, Hiccup stumbles upon a lost world of rescued dragons and a valiant rider named Valka (Cate Blanchett), who turns out to be a long-lost face from the past, his mother. A tearful family reunion with Stoick is cut short by diabolical dragon hunter Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), who storms this lost world and takes control of the majestic fire-breathing creatures using a gargantuan Alpha dragon. World domination beckons and all that stands in Drago’s way are Hiccup, Toothless and the boy’s plucky friends Astrid (America Ferrara), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and the twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (TJ Miller).
Rating: Four stars
TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (12A)
Some five years after the Battle Of Chicago, which provided the climax to Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, the alliance between humans and robots lies in tatters and an elite CIA unit named Cemetery Wind, under the control of Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer), hunts Transformers without mercy. On a family ranch, struggling inventor Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) discovers that a rusty truck he has just purchased is battle-scarred Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen). Agents from Cemetery Wind descend on the homestead and Optimus protects Cade, his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), her secret boyfriend Shane (Jack Reynor) and Cade’s mechanic sidekick Lucas (TJ Miller) in the ensuing gun fight. The humans join forces with Optimus to reunite the Autobots - Bumblebee, Crosshairs (John DiMaggio), Drift (Ken Watanabe) and Hound (John Goodman) - and the rebellion plots a swift response to inventor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), who has created his own Transformer army led by the mighty Galvatron (Frank Welker).
Rating: Two stars
JIMMY’S HALL, 12A
Directed by Ken Loach
Written by Paul Laverty
Play by Donal O’Kelly
Starring Barry Ward, Simone Kirby, Andrew Scott, Jim Norton
Charismatic firebrand Jimmy fights for freedom of expression in Ireland. He’s built a new dance hall at a rural crossroads in Ireland and wants it to become a centre where young people can learn and argue about politics, to dance and have fun.
But this is 1921, and the Catholic Church does not take kindly to those it sees as threatening its power. From his pulpit, Father Sheridan denounces Gralton as evil and an atheist. He tells his congregation that they must choose between Christ or Jimmy’s hall. Based on the extraordinary real life of socialist activist Jimmy Gralton.
Contains strong language, moderate violence.
RATING: Three stars