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

  • Effie Gray
  • Frozen (Sing-A-Long Version)
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Royal Ballet Live Encore Screening: Alice's Adventures In Wonderland
  • The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol

Effie Gray 3 stars

movie title

Victorian art critic John Ruskin takes wide-eyed innocent Euphemia Gray as his teenage bride. A formal visit to Ruskin's parents opens Effie's eyes to the solitude and loneliness that she will have to bear for the rest of her married life. Ruskin spirits Effie up to Scotland with Everett Millais, who has been commissioned to paint a portrait of the eminent critic. A spark of attraction between Millais and Effie threatens to spark a full-blown affair but lowly wives do not divorce wealthy husbands.

  • GenreDrama, Historical/Period, Romance
  • CastEmma Thompson, Russell Tovey, Julie Walters, Claudia Cardinale, Greg Wise, Dakota Fanning, Robbie Coltrane, Tom Sturridge, James Fox, David Suchet.
  • DirectorRichard Laxton.
  • WriterEmma Thompson.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration108 mins
  • Official sitewww.effiegraymovie.com
  • Release10/10/2014 (selected cinemas)

Oscar-winning actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson returns to the stifled emotions and rigorous social etiquette of 19th-century English society for her script based on the real-life marital woes of Victorian art critic John Ruskin and his teenage bride, Euphemia Gray.

A love triangle comprising the unhappily married couple and charming artist John Everett Millais only really comes to the fore in the film's overwrought final act. Before then, Thompson builds our sympathy for the eponymous heroine as she weathers a barrage of callousness from her husband and his spiky parents.

Dialogue is well crafted - "If imperfection is your ideal, you must think me very beautiful," simpers Effie - but for all its prosaic wonder, Richard Laxton's film lacks the emotional sucker punch that seems to be coming from the dreamy opening frames.

Indeed, the closing scenes in which Effie ponders risking her reputation and social standing to follow her heart should have our tears flowing with a fury. But the saltwater deluge never comes.

Ruskin (Greg Wise) falls under the spell of 19-year-old Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning) and they marry. "What shall we do?" Effie politely asks her new husband, "What do married people do?" "I have as little idea as you, dearest," he replies. A formal visit to Ruskin's parents (David Suchet, Julie Walters) opens Effie's eyes to the solitude and loneliness that she will have to bear for the rest of her married life.

Ruskin immerses himself in his work while Mrs Ruskin, in particular, makes evident her disdain for her boy's choice of bride by constantly undermining Effie and forcing her gravely ill daughter-in-law to attend a soiree with Sir Charles Eastlake (James Fox) and Lady Eastlake (Emma Thompson) when she should be tucked up in bed.

The Ruskins travel to Venice where John once again abandons Effie to her own devices in the company of Rafael (Riccardo Scamarcio), who clearly has amorous designs on the worldly unwise wife.

Back on home soil, Ruskin spirits Effie up to Scotland with Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge), who has been commissioned to paint a portrait of the eminent critic. A spark of attraction between Millais and Effie threatens to spark a full-blown affair but lowly wives do not divorce wealthy husbands and Effie must continue to suffer in silence.

Effie Gray has the right ingredients for a swoonsome, bosom-heaving period romance but something doesn't quite gel in Laxton's picture. Fanning is a touching heroine, mustering courage in her hour of need with encouragement from Thompson in an eye-catching supporting role as the catalyst for female empowerment.

Wise has little to do besides the occasional sneer. Walters, Suchet make their mark in limited screen time, adding daubs of colour to the film's palette.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 22nd December 2014

Frozen (Sing-A-Long Version) 4 stars

As children, Anna and Elsa love to play together, taking full advantage of Elsa's ability to create ice and snow from her fingertips. An accident late one night convinces the King to wipe Anna's memory so she forgets about her sibling's hidden talents. Many years later, Elsa unwittingly reveals her powers to the locals and is branded a witch. She flees to the snowy mountains to a castle forged in ice. Anna gives chase and encounters a hunky ice trader called Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Animation/Cartoon, Comedy, Family, Family, Romance
  • CastKristen Bell, Josh Gad, Ciaran Hinds, Jonathan Groff, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana, Idina Menzel.
  • DirectorChris Buck, Jennifer Lee.
  • WriterJennifer Lee.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration108 mins
  • Official sitemovies.disney.com/frozen/
  • Release07/02/2014

Loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, Frozen proves that Disney's animated heroines have unquestionably come of age. Long gone are the rose-tinted days when princesses waited patiently for Prince Charming to sweep them off their feet or save them from a grim fate.

Now, the spunky, independent and self-assured young women are just as smart and resourceful as their male counterparts and they don't need the love of a man to affirm their self-worth.

Frozen is a terrific fairy-tale adventure that melds old-fashioned values with state-of-the-art visuals and a rousing musical score with infectious songs by husband-and-wife team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

Every beautifully coloured and crafted frame is crammed with wit and joy, drawing in audiences of all ages to the story of two sisters battling against the elements and their fears to claim their rightful place on the throne.

Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck don't let the pace flag and the 108 minutes pass in a blur of laughter, tears and frost-bitten action sequences that look stunning in 3D with all of the computer-generated snowflakes fluttering before your eyes. You won't need to wrap up warm because the story casts an irresistible warm glow that should thaw even the most cynical and jaded heart.

As children, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) love to play together, taking full advantage of Elsa's ability to create ice and snow from her fingertips. An accident late one night convinces the King (Maurice LaMarche) to wipe Anna's memory so she forgets about her sibling's hidden talents.

At the same time, Elsa retires from public gaze, fearful that she will hurt someone else with her powers. When the King and Queen are subsequently lost at sea, Elsa reluctantly emerges to claim the throne.

Alas, on her coronation day, Elsa's gloves come off and the locals witness her extraordinary abilities and brand her a witch. She flees to the snowy mountains to a castle forged in ice. Meanwhile, Anna gives chase, leaving the kingdom in the hands of her trusted sweetheart, Prince Hans (Santino Fontana).

En route, Anna meets hunky ice trader Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal reindeer Sven and a blissfully naive talking snowman called Olaf (Josh Gad).

Frozen is one of the best animated features to canter out of the Disney stable in years. Warm-hearted, uplifting and constantly surprising, it's a timeless fable that will appeal to both boys and girls thanks to uproarious comic relief from Olaf, who is too cute for words.

Bell and Menzel add vim to their plucky heroines, the latter singing the film's stand-out song, Let It Go. As an added treat, Frozen is preceded by a black and white Mickey Mouse short, Get A Horse, that seems to hark from a bygone era but has a wicked sting in the tail.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Monday 22nd December 2014
Tuesday 23rd December 2014
Wednesday 24th December 2014

It's A Wonderful Life 5 stars

Reissue of Frank Capra's masterful Yuletide drama, revolving around suicidal family man George Bailey, who ponders a life without his beloved wife Mary and children. Thankfully he is saved in the nick of time by a guardian angel called Clarence. "You see George, you've really had a wonderful life," says the spirit, "Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"

  • GenreChildren's, Classic, Drama, Family, Romance
  • CastJames Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore.
  • DirectorFrank Capra.
  • WriterFrances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration129 mins
  • Official site
  • Release14/12/2007 (selected cinemas)

Frank Capra's life affirming 1946 fable stars James Stewart as suicidal family man George Bailey, who ponders a life without his beloved wife Mary (Donna Reed) and children, but is thankfully saved by guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers). "You see George, you've really had a wonderful life," says the spirit, "Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?" It's A Wonderful Life is one of the best films ever made and the perfect festive treat. Stewart, as the suicidal father who is dragged back from the brink by an all-knowing, all-seeing angel, has never been better, and the direction and pacing throughout is virtually flawless.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 20th December 2014
Wednesday 24th December 2014

Royal Ballet Live Encore Screening: Alice's Adventures In Wonderland 3 stars

Christopher Wheeldon's magical ballet takes a tumble down the rabbit hole with inquisitive Alice and other characters from Lewis Carroll's imagination. Christopher Wheeldon conducts Lauren Cuthbertson as the eponymous heroine opposite Federico Bonelli in dual roles as Jack and The Knave Of Hearts at the Royal Opera House in London.

  • GenreAdaptation, Drama, Special
  • CastLauren Cuthbertson, Federico Bonelli.
  • DirectorChristopher Wheeldon.
  • CountryUK
  • Official sitewww.roh.org.uk/cinemas

Christopher Wheeldon's magical ballet takes a tumble down the rabbit hole with inquisitive Alice and other characters from Lewis Carroll's imagination. Christopher Wheeldon conducts Lauren Cuthbertson as the eponymous heroine opposite Federico Bonelli in dual roles as Jack and The Knave Of Hearts at the Royal Opera House in London.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Sunday 21st December 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies 3 stars

movie title

The company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield fails to slay the dragon Smaug in his Lonely Mountain lair. The majestic creature takes to the skies and Bilbo Baggins watches in horror as Smaug prepares to incinerate Lake-town and its residents. Bard the Bowman possesses the last remaining black arrow and is the only thing standing between the dragon and total annihilation. Elsewhere, Gandalf is imprisoned at Dol Guldor by the Necromancer, who unleashes legions of orcs upon the Lonely Mountain.

  • GenreAction, Adaptation, Adventure, Fantasy
  • CastSir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Hugo Weaving, Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • DirectorPeter Jackson.
  • WriterFran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson.
  • CountryNZ/US
  • Duration144 mins
  • Official sitewww.thehobbitblog.com
  • Release12/12/2014

Almost 13 years to the day since director Peter Jackson first transported us to Middle Earth, the Oscar-winning New Zealand filmmaker completes his tour of duty of JRR Tolkien's novels. It has been a long and sometimes gruelling slog since The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King. Giddy expectation has crashed and burned, with only a few smouldering embers for ardent fans to stoke in the hope that Jackson might redeem himself with this concluding chapter of The Hobbit trilogy.

Alas, The Battle Of Five Armies bids farewell to the hobbits, dwarfs and elves with a whimper rather than a bang. The script occasionally deviates from Tolkien's source text, contriving one superfluous and protracted interlude with elvish allies Elrond (Hugo Weaving) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and wizard Saruman (Christopher Lee) to provide a flimsy bridge between the two series.

Jackson's mastery of action sequences is beyond doubt - the two set pieces, which bookend this film, are executed with flair, precision and a miasma of impressive digital effects.

However, all that technical sound and fury without comparable emotional heft makes for increasingly wearisome viewing. We should be thankful this concluding jaunt is the shortest of the six: a mere 144 minutes.

The company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) including Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) watches in horror as the mighty dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) incinerates Laketown. As the flames rise, Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) prepares to launch the last remaining black arrow at the beast.

His children seek cover with elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and badly injured dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner). Nearby, the Master of Laketown (Stephen Fry) and snivelling henchman Alfrid (Ryan Gage) make their escape in a barge laden with gold.

At Dol Guldur, Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) escapes from the clutches of the Necromancer (Cumberbatch again) and beats a hasty path to the mountains, where various tribes will converge. "You must summon our friends, bird and beast - the battle for the mountain is about to begin!" bellows the wise wizard.

As the fate of Middle Earth hangs in the balance, Thorin sacrifices everything in his selfish pursuit of the mythical Arkenstone.

The Hobbit: The Battle Of Five Armies follows a similar template to earlier pictures, resolving plot strands including the forbidden romance of Tauriel and Kili as the blood flows in brutal fight sequences. Comical interludes with Alfrid seem to jar with the darker tone that pervades this chapter, including the inevitable loss of at least one hero in the melee.

Freeman's performance provides a flimsy emotional fulcrum while co-stars battle with their characters' demons or hordes of bloodthirsty orcs. As the end credits roll, accompanied by an original song from Billy Boyd who played Pippin in The Lord Of The Rings saga, we feel a sense of relief rather than sadness.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Friday 19th December 2014
Saturday 20th December 2014
Sunday 21st December 2014
Monday 22nd December 2014
Tuesday 23rd December 2014
Wednesday 24th December 2014

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The Muppet Christmas Carol 3 stars

Kermit The Frog and co put their comedic spin on Dickens's festive fable in which miserly money lender Ebenezer Scrooge learns a valuable lesson about seasonal joy from the Ghost Of Christmas Past, the Ghost Of Christmas Present and the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come.

  • GenreAdaptation, Comedy, Family, Family, Fantasy, Musical
  • CastMichael Caine, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire.
  • DirectorBrian Henson.
  • WriterJerry Juhl, Charles Dickens.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration90 mins
  • Official site
  • Release18/12/1992

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Saturday 20th December 2014
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