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Now showing at Cineworld Southampton Ocean Village, 4 Ocean Way,Southampton,Hampshire SO14 3TJ 0871 200 2000

  • A Walk Among The Tombstones
  • Billy Elliot - The Musical: Live
  • Boyhood
  • Gone Girl
  • The Boxtrolls
  • The Equalizer
  • What We Did On Our Holiday

A Walk Among The Tombstones 3 stars

When a shootout with robbers ends in tragedy, booze-sodden NYPD cop Matt Scudder hangs up his badge and gets sober with the help of AA then re-invents himself as a private investigator. He is hired by Kenny Kristo to track down the sadistic kidnappers, who demanded a hefty ransom for his wife Carrie, took the money and still killed their terrified captive. In the course of his enquiries, Matt befriends homeless teenager TJ, who wants to learn how to be a detective.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Thriller
  • CastLiam Neeson, David Harbour, Dan Stevens, Adam David Thompson, Boyd Holbrook, Brian 'Astro' Bradley.
  • DirectorScott Frank.
  • WriterScott Frank.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration114 mins
  • Official sitewww.awalkamongthetombstones.net
  • Release19/09/2014

A grizzled private detective meets his match in a pair of sadistic kidnappers in Scott Frank's gritty thriller. Adapted from Lawrence Block's novel of the same name, A Walk Among The Tombstones establishes its grim tone with soft-focus opening credits depicting a blonde woman (Laura Birn) rousing from slumber under the gentle caress of her lover.

As the camera pulls back, we notice a tear trickle down the woman's porcelain cheek and a strip of metallic tape across her mouth, transforming a beatific dream into a nightmare of intolerable cruelty.

Unspeakably bad things continue to happen to good people throughout Frank's film without any guarantee that justice will prevail. Liam Neeson wades through this moral quagmire in typically robust fashion as the private eye, who risks his life for clients in order to atone for one particular sin committed during his inglorious past as an NYPD cop.

The role is more cerebral than the gung-ho avenging angels in the Taken series and Non-Stop, but director Frank duly caters to fans of Neeson's renaissance as a tough-talking action hero with one bruising fight sequence. When a shoot-out on the streets of 1991 New York City ends in senseless tragedy, booze-sodden officer Matt Scudder (Neeson) hangs up his badge and embraces sobriety with the support of Alcoholics Anonymous.

He re-surfaces as an unlicensed private detective, working out of his apartment in Hell's Kitchen. Fellow AA member Peter Kristo (Boyd Holbrook) approaches Matt with an urgent request to help his brother Kenny (Dan Stevens), who has just paid a 400,000 dollar ransom for his wife (Razane Jammal).

The kidnappers took the money then dismembered their hostage. Matt visits Kenny in his plush apartment and the former cop deduces the grief-stricken husband is a drug dealer. Interestingly, the perpetrators knew this from their ransom demand: "You'd pay a million for her if she was product."

Despite initial misgivings, Matt agrees to help Kenny unmask the merciless perpetrators, Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson), who are already scoping their next target. In the course of his enquiries, Matt encounters homeless teenager TJ (Brian 'Astro' Bradley), who needs a father figure to keep him safe on the mean streets of the Big Apple.

A Walk Among The Tombstones is a solid and involving genre piece that lays the groundwork for further adaptations of Block's series of books dedicated to Scudder. Matt's sweetheart Elaine, who is prominent on the page, is missing in action from Frank's film, allowing us to concentrate on the case and the relationship between Matt and TJ that feels like a convenient plot device rather than a fully realised surrogate father-son bond.

Neeson doesn't have to stretch himself in the undemanding and hard-hitting lead role, while Downton Abbey heartthrob Stevens makes little impact amidst the explosions of brutality.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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Billy Elliot - The Musical: Live 5 stars

A live screening from London's West End of the Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation of the acclaimed British film about a spirited 11-year-old boy from County Durham, who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer against the turbulent backdrop of the 1980s miners' strike, with script and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton John. Directed by Stephen Daldry.

  • GenreFamily, Family, Musical, Special
  • DirectorStephen Daldry.
  • WriterLee Hall, Elton John.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration180 mins
  • Official sitewww.billyelliotthemusical.com
  • Release28/09/2014

A live screening from London's West End of the Olivier Award-winning stage adaptation of the acclaimed British film about a spirited 11-year-old boy from County Durham, who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer against the turbulent backdrop of the 1980s miners' strike, with script and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Elton John. Directed by Stephen Daldry.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

Boyhood 3 stars

movie title

Drama about a boy's coming of age, shot over 12 years with the same crew and cast. When we first meet Mason Jr, he's preparing to move house with his mother Olivia and precocious older sister, Samantha. Errant father Mason Sr takes the children ten-pin bowling and dispense pithy words of wisdom. As Mason Jr blossoms into a sullen and awkward teenager, Olivia ricochets from a bad marriage to a drunk professor to a bad marriage to one of her students.

  • GenreDrama, Romance
  • CastPatricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater.
  • DirectorRichard Linklater.
  • WriterRichard Linklater.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration166 mins
  • Official sitewww.boyhoodmovie.tumblr.com
  • Release11/07/2014

In 2002, filmmaker Richard Linklater had a dream. The celebrated Texan director of Dazed And Confused and Before Sunrise, whose mother and father separated when he was seven, wanted to make a drama that realistically captured the bonds between parent and child. He announced his intention to create a close-knit family of cast and crew, who would reunite every year to shoot new scenes that accurately reflected the physical and emotional changes of the young stars.

Seven-year-old Ellar Coltrane was cast in the lead role and Linklater chose his then eight-year-old daughter Lorelei to portray the central character's older sister. The result is a directorial doozy of dazzling ambition and scope that falls short in terms of pacing and compelling narrative arcs.

From a technical perspective, Boyhood is a staggering achievement - a testament to Linklater's determination that could have fallen apart at any point in the past 12 years. From the fragments of each annual get-together, the writer-director has fashioned a naturalistic slideshow of the awkward transition from childhood to adulthood that will doubtless garner an Oscar nomination and a deluge of critical plaudits.

When we first meet Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane), he's preparing to move house with his mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and precocious older sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), who keeps him awake with her rendition of Britney's Oops!... I Did It Again.

Errant father Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) takes the children ten-pin bowling and the boy pleads for the introduction of safeguards to keep his ball out of the gutter. "You don't want bumpers - life doesn't give you bumpers," his old man counsels.

Major pop culture and political events including the publication of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince and Obama's presidential campaign allow us to date each chapter as Mason Jr blossoms into a sullen and awkward teenager.

En route, Olivia ricochets from a bad marriage to a drunk professor (Marco Perella) to a bad marriage to one of her students (Brad Hawkins), with occasional appearances from Mason Sr to dispense pithy words of wisdom.

By the very nature of its creation, Boyhood unfolds in fits and spurts, some more interesting than others. Coltrane starts the film as a cheeky cherub, who is slightly wooden in front of camera, but he grows in confidence and stature.

Arquette has surprisingly scant screen time considering she is primary care giver and the final edit runs close to three hours, while Hawke could almost have walked off the set of Before Midnight, given his character's penchant for rambling introspection.

It's easy to be blinded by the glorious gimmick that initiated Boyhood but if you judge Linklater's film purely on what made it to the screen, it's a fascinating yet flawed experiment.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

Gone Girl 4 stars

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 2nd October 2014

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The Boxtrolls 4 stars

movie title

An orphaned boy named Eggs is raised by gentle subterranean creatures that have been unfairly demonised by the terrified, fromage-fixated residents of Cheesebridge. When pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher and his henchmen begin to exterminate the Boxtrolls, Eggs joins forces with the surviving creatures and a girl called Winnie to protect the beasties from harm.

  • GenreAdaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Fantasy
  • CastToni Collette, Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Jared Harris, Sir Ben Kingsley.
  • DirectorGraham Annable, Anthony Stacchi.
  • WriterIrena Brignull, Adam Pava.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration97 mins
  • Official sitewww.theboxtrolls.co.uk
  • Release12/09/2014

Based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, The Boxtrolls is a rollicking stop-motion animated romp from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman that proves weird can be truly wonderful. With faint echoes of Raymond Briggs' Fungus The Bogeyman, Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi's quirky fantasy imagines a race of subterranean creatures, who root through bins in search of spare parts for their mechanical creations.

Despite a hearty appetite for slimy bugs, these pungent, green-skinned denizens of the underworld are cute rather than scary, possessing relatable human traits such as a passion for music or a quivering fear of the unknown. They spare troll blushes by wearing empty cardboard boxes and the former contents of these mouldering cartons provide each expressive character with a name such as Fish, Knickers, Sweets, Clocks and Fragile (ho ho!).

The meticulous detail of the movable figures and miniature sets is impressive, and co-directors Annable and Stacchi corral a vast team of animators, who produce thrilling chases and quieter moments of ribald humour.

The well-to-do, Victorian-era city of Cheesebridge is visited under the cloak of darkness by the eponymous beasties. One dark night, a Boxtroll called Fish (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) kidnaps the infant son of a local inventor (Simon Pegg) and spirits away the child to the underground lair.

This shocking act plays into the grubby hands of pest exterminator Archibald Snatcher (Sir Ben Kingsley). "Prepare to say bye-bye to your brie, cheerio to your cheddar!" cackles Snatcher, striking fear into the heart of Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris) and the other fromage-fixated noblemen.

They grant Snatcher a place at the cheese-tasting top table if the exterminator and his henchmen - Mr Trout (Nick Frost), Mr Pickles (Richard Ayoade) and Mr Gristle (Tracy Morgan) - kill every last Boxtroll. Unaware that he is human, abducted boy Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) ventures above ground with the Boxtrolls and encounters Lord Portley-Rind's snooty daughter, Winnie (Elle Fanning).

She initially believes the horror stories about Boxtrolls devouring children - "Eat me. I'm sure I'm delicious!" - but once Winnie learns the truth about Eggs' past, she agrees to help vanquish Snatcher and his snivelling cohorts.

The Boxtrolls is a delight for the young and young at heart, hinging on the notion that families come in all shapes and sizes. Irena Brignull and Adam Pava's script is laden with verbal and visual gags, striking a gently mischievous tone throughout like when Winnie spots Eggs tugging at the crotch of his uncomfortable suit and whispers, "Don't snatch them in public. That's why they are called privates!"

Frost, Ayoade and Morgan provide the majority of the comic relief between action-packed set-pieces. Remain seated during the end credits for a hilarious scene of existential angst, which succinctly reminds us how pain-staking and time-consuming the stop-motion animation process is.

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Thursday 2nd 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.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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What We Did On Our Holiday 4 stars

Gordie McLeod is poised to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Scottish Highlands. His self-obsessed son Gavin is hosting the lavish party to impress the neighbours and hopefully secure the captaincy of the local golf club. As the party beckons, Gavin's less successful brother Doug and his wife Abi arrive with their three children in tow. The birthday celebrations are unexpectedly thrown into disarray and a media scrum descends on the family's doorstep.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Romance
  • CastDavid Tennant, Billy Connolly, Rosamund Pike, Amelia Bullmore, Ben Miller, Emilia Jones, Harriet Turnbull, Bobby Smalldridge.
  • DirectorAndy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin.
  • WriterAndy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration95 mins
  • Official site
  • Release26/09/2014

In 2007, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin abandoned the conventions of a tightly scripted sitcom and took a more fluid approach to mining laughs in the breakout hit Outnumbered. While the adult characters' lines were committed to the page, the young actors were allowed to improvise around suggestions from Hamilton and Jenkin, and consequently delivered natural performances, reacting instinctively to set-ups and punchlines.

The writer-directors adopt the same winning recipe for this uproarious feature film debut, an ill-fated family road trip laced with absurdity that touches the heart and tickles the funny bone.

Once again, it's the younger cast who scene-steal with aplomb, explaining why a bout of car sickness is a source of joy ("It's like being a fountain!") and succinctly distilling the anguish and betrayal of parental infidelity into a single throwaway line: "Dad had an affair with a Paralympic athlete with one foot."

That's not to say that Hamilton and Jenkin short-change the rest of the ensemble cast including David Tennant, Rosamund Pike and Glaswegian firebrand Billy Connolly. They snaffle a generous smattering of belly laughs too, like when Connolly's cantankerous grandfather tries to explain Hitler's seizure of land in terms a bairn might understand: "Like Monopoly, but with more screaming."

Gordie McLeod (Connolly) is poised to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Scottish Highlands. His self-obsessed son Gavin (Ben Miller) is hosting the lavish party to impress the neighbours and hopefully secure the captaincy of the local golf club.

Gavin's long-suffering and neurotic wife Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) remains in the background, occasionally exploding with pent-up rage. As the party beckons, Gavin's less successful brother Doug (David Tennant) and his wife Abi (Rosamund Pike) arrive with their three children in tow: 11-year-old Lottie (Emilia Jones), who scribbles repeatedly in her notebook so she can remember which lies she is supposed to tell; six-year-old Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge), who is obsessed with Vikings; and five-year-old Jess (Harriet Turnbull), whose best friends are two rocks christened Eric and Norman.

The birthday celebrations are unexpectedly thrown into disarray and a media scrum descends on the family's doorstep along with an interfering Social Services officer called Agnes (Celia Imrie), who casts doubt on Doug and Abi's ability to nurture their dysfunctional brood.

What We Did On Our Holiday is a rip-roaring riot, laying bare the petty jealousies and deep-rooted fears within a family while dealing with serious issues through the unblinkered eyes of the three children.

Tennant and Miller spark a fiery sibling rivalry with excellent support from Pike and Bullmore, the latter proving that it's the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Hamilton and Jenkin eschew cloying sentimentality in the film's tricky final third, striking a pleasing and ultimately winning balance between musing and amusing.

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Thursday 2nd October 2014

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