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Now showing at Curzon Knutsford Civic Centre, Toft Road,Knutsford,Cheshire WA16 0PE 01565 633005

  • Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • Royal Opera Live: Andrea Chenier
  • Testament Of Youth
  • The Theory Of Everything

Kingsman: The Secret Service 3 stars

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Gary Unwin, who is known to his friends as Eggsy, is on the downward spiral to drugs and crime. He is dismissed as a hopeless cause by everyone except agent Harry Hart, who believes Eggsy would make an excellent crime-fighting operative. So Hart takes Eggsy under his wing and enrols the young man in a gruelling training programme against more eloquent and refined peers.

  • GenreAction, Adventure, Comedy
  • CastColin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Mark Strong, Jack Davenport, Samuel L Jackson, Tom Prior, Mark Hamill.
  • DirectorMatthew Vaughn.
  • WriterMatthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman.
  • CountryUS/UK
  • Duration129 mins
  • Official sitewww.kingsmanmovie.com
  • Release29/01/2015

Directed at full pelt by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an outrageous James Bond-esque caper with an unpleasant and sadistic streak. This hare-brained tale about a secret organisation of impeccably tailored British agents dedicated to world peace lampoons the conventions of the spy genre with an arched eyebrow. "Nowadays, they're all a little serious for my taste," opines Colin Firth's lead operative about modern-day spy films, one of several self-referential winks in Vaughn and Jane Goldman's script. "Give me a far-fetched plot any day," he quips, and that's just what Kingsman delivers in spades. Unfortunately, the film also serves up a blitzkrieg of gratuitous on-screen barbarity. The violence doesn't support the plot, the plot is constructed to support as much wanton carnage as Vaughn can cram into each frame. This stomach-churning slaughter reaches a nauseating crescendo in a Southern church where Firth's good guy squares off against a congregation of brain-washed bigots, racists and homophobes, who apparently deserve to die in lurid close-up while Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird strums on the soundtrack. The film was cut by UK censors to secure a 15 certificate but I wouldn't want my nephews, if they were 15 or 16, anywhere near Vaughn's giddy bloodbath. Gary Unwin (Taron Egerton), who is known to friends as Eggsy, is on a downward spiral despite an impressive IQ. He is powerless to stop his mother Michelle (Samantha Womack) suffering abuse from her boyfriend (Geoff Bell), and a spot of joy-riding leads to a brief stay in a police cell. Eggsy is dismissed as a hopeless cause by everyone except dapper secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth), who believes the young man has untapped potential as a crime-fighter. So Hart enrols Eggsy in a gruelling training programme against sneering posh lads Charlie (Edward Holcroft), Barnaby (Matthew William Jones) and Hugo (Tom Prior), and friendlier rivals Grace (Sophie Cookson) and Roxy (Alisha Heng). The recruits test their strength and guile in a series of challenges devised by gadget geek Merlin (Mark Strong). Against the odds, Eggsy shines brighter than some of the supposed creme de la creme and when technological wizard Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) and his blade runner henchwoman Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) threaten mankind with a radical solution to climate change, Eggsy puts his training to good use alongside his stiff upper-lipped mentor. Kingsman: The Secret Service leaves an exceedingly nasty taste in the mouth that is difficult to shake, garnished with crude sexism in the closing frames. Firth is a debonair action hero, contrasting sharply with Egerton's bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Jackson has fun with his lisping megalomaniac, who gags at the sight of blood. If we did the same watching Vaughn's undeniably stylish film, we'd all need urgent medical assistance inside the first 20 minutes.

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Thursday 29th January 2015

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Royal Opera Live: Andrea Chenier 3 stars

David McVicar directs Umberto Giordano's passionate drama of liberty and love during the French Revolution, based loosely on the life of the eponymous French poet. Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role opposite Eva-Maria Westbroek as the Countess' daughter Maddalena de Coigny and Zeljko Lucic as servant Carlo Gerard under the baton of conductor Antonio Pappano, broadcast live from the Royal Opera House in London.

  • GenreDrama, Musical, Romance, Special
  • CastZeljko Lucic, Jonas Kaufmann, Denyce Graves, Eva-Maria Westbroek.
  • DirectorDavid McVicar.
  • WriterUmberto Giordano.
  • CountryUK
  • Official sitewww.roh.org.uk/cinemas
  • Release29/01/2015 (selected cinemas)

David McVicar directs Umberto Giordano's passionate drama of liberty and love during the French Revolution, based loosely on the life of the eponymous French poet. Jonas Kaufmann sings the title role opposite Eva-Maria Westbroek as the Countess' daughter Maddalena de Coigny and Zeljko Lucic as servant Carlo Gerard under the baton of conductor Antonio Pappano, broadcast live from the Royal Opera House in London.

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Thursday 29th January 2015

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Testament Of Youth 3 stars

movie title

Vera Brittain heads to Oxford University to study under waspish Miss Lorimer while her brother Edward and his good friends Roland and Victor enlist to serve their country. Against the advice of her parents, Vera decides to postpone her higher education to volunteer as a nurse and treat soldiers like her brother, who have been physically and emotionally scarred by their experiences on the front.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Historical/Period, Romance, War
  • CastHayley Atwell, Kit Harington, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson, Dominic West, Taron Egerton, Colin Morgan.
  • DirectorJames Kent.
  • WriterJuliette Towhidi.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration130 mins
  • Official site
  • Release16/01/2015

Published in 1933, Testament Of Youth was the first instalment of memoirs by feminist writer and pacifist Vera Mary Brittain covering the years 1900-1925. In those pages, Brittain relived her harrowing personal experiences of the First World War in the wider context of the shifting political landscape, and gave a voice to other women, who had watched loved ones head off to fight and never return.

In 1979, the BBC produced a six-part mini-series based on the book, casting a fresh-faced Cheryl Campbell as the fiercely independent heroine. It's fitting that BBC Films should be one of the creative forces behind this handsomely mounted big screen adaptation.

Testament Of Youth is almost the right film in the right place at the right time, coinciding with centenary commemorations of the First World War, which included last year's spectacular installation of 888,246 ceramic poppies at the Tower Of London.

James Kent's film is suitably respectful and sombre, and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander is a revelation in her first leading role in an English-language production, capturing the spirit, defiance and brittleness of a young woman who holds firm to her convictions at a time when women were preferably seen but not heard.

Spirited and resourceful Vera (Vikander) is poised to head to Oxford University to study under waspish Miss Lorimer (Miranda Richardson). Her brother Edward (Taron Egerton) and his pals Roland (Kit Harington) and Victor (Colin Morgan) intend to enlist but Vera's parents (Dominic West, Emily Watson) are resistant.

"I know a little more about war than you young lady and it's never short and it's never fast," Mr Brittain tells his daughter sternly when Vera argues her sibling's case. They eventually relent and Vera heads to the dreaming spires of Oxford.

Romance blossoms between Vera and Roland, and Aunt Belle (Joanna Scanlan) acts as a chaperon for the young couple on their dates to ensure their conduct doesn't overstep the bounds of public decency. Against the advice of her parents, Vera postpones her higher education to volunteer as a nurse and treat soldiers, who have been physically and emotionally scarred by their experiences.

Friendships and family ties are strained as Vera and her loved ones search for glimmers of hope amid the devastation.

Testament Of Youth is a visually arresting portrait of those tumultuous years of blood-stained European history and director Kent demonstrates moments of brio. However, for all its physical splendour and Max Richter's elegiac orchestral score, the film doesn't stir the heart, even with Vikander wringing herself emotionally dry as Vera's dearest friends become casualties of the conflict.

At 130 minutes, the ambitious running time sags noticeably in the middle act, but thankfully regains momentum and composure as Vera's cosy existence is steadily reduced to rubble.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 28th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

The Theory Of Everything 4 stars

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Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking falls head over heels in love with English literature student Jane Wilde at 1960s Cambridge University. Their fledgling romance is tested by his diagnosis with motor neurone disease. Stephen's parents Frank and Isobel try to warn Jane off their son, fearful of emotional devastation that will be wrought if he dies within the two years predicted by doctors. However, she defies everyone, determined to love Stephen for as long as they are together.

  • GenreAdaptation, Biography, Drama, Romance
  • CastEddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis.
  • DirectorJames Marsh.
  • WriterAnthony McCarten.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration123 mins
  • Official site
  • Release01/01/2015

In Scottish novelist JM Barrie's most beloved work, Peter Pan famously contemplates his mortality on Marooner's Rock and observes, "To die will be an awfully big adventure". For more than half a century since he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has - happily - pushed aside his awfully big adventure and astounded the medical community.

Defying the short life expectancy associated with the rare condition, he has married twice, raised a family and altered our narrow perception of the universe including the publication of his worldwide bestseller, A Brief History Of Time.

As Hawking remarked at a press conference in 2006, "However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope." Those inspirational words are repeated verbatim in The Theory Of Everything.

Based on the memoir Travelling To Infinity by Jane Wilde Hawking, James Marsh's deeply moving drama charts the romance of Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) and first wife Jane (Felicity Jones) from fleeting glances at a party at mid-1960s Cambridge University through their subsequent battle against MND.

Stephen's parents Frank (Simon McBurney) and Isobel (Abigail Cruttenden) initially warn Jane off their son, fearful of the emotional devastation that will be wrought if he dies within the two years predicted by doctors. "It's not going to be a fight, Jane. It's going to be a very heavy defeat, for all of us," laments Frank.

Love must find a way and Jane defies everyone, even a pessimistic Stephen, to stand beside her soul mate. "I want us to be together, for as long as we've got," she tells him. "If that's not very long then - well, that's just how it is."

Her resolve inspires Stephen to continue his search for "one single elegant equation to explain everything". Aided by choirmaster Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox) and carer Elaine Mason (Maxine Peake), Jane raises the couple's three children and holds their marriage together.

The Theory Of Everything is anchored by two of the year's best performances. Redmayne is simply astounding, affecting a mesmerising physical transformation that surely warrants an Oscar. He brilliantly conveys every raw emotion or flash of impish humour with his eyes or the twitch of a facial muscle.

Jones is equally compelling as his soul mate, who sacrifices everything in the name of love. The scene in which she finally acknowledges hard-fought defeat to save the relationship and tearfully tells Stephen, "I have loved you... I did my best," is heartbreaking.

Director Marsh uses simple visual motifs to illuminate the complex cosmology, such as a swirl of cream in a cup of coffee to represent a spiral galaxy in Stephen's mind. With its delicate balance of tear-stained drama, deeply felt romance and comedy, The Theory Of Everything hits upon a winning formula.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Wednesday 28th January 2015
Thursday 29th January 2015

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