Doug Whelan casts his eye over what is on offer in the cinema this week..
Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Ben Whishaw (voice)
It has become the rule of thumb for children's films coming out of the US these days to have a little something in there for the grown-ups; a naughty gag that will go over the cherubs' heads or a veiled reference to some current affair or another. Most of their British counterparts tend to have missed that point - Pudsey: The Movie from earlier this year, as a case in point, was devoid of any sort of redeeming features of the above ilk.
There was a bit of a furore this past fortnight when the BBFC saw fit to award Paddington a PG certificate, leading to hand-wringing worry about what "they" have done to the beloved bear. But it was a bit of a storm in a teacup; there are thrills and squeals aplenty for the kids in the audience and enough - just about - cerebral references and other neat little elements to keep the adults interested too.
Those familiar with Michael Bond's long-running and much-loved series of children's books will know the back story here. In darkest Peru, we learn through an entertaining Pathé Newsreel-style prologue, an intrepid explorer encounters a rare breed of walking, talking bears. Along with the young cub that will eventually be known to all as Paddington, we meet his Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuzo, to whom the explorer introduces the best that British culture has to offer - polite conversation and delicious marmalade sandwiches - before leaving with them an open invite to visit him in London some day.
Years later, when Pastuzo dies suddenly, Aunt Lucy decides Paddington needs to take the explorer up on his offer and go find a new family to live with in London. It's here that the slightly more grown-up themes in the film come in to play - a line is drawn between Paddington's arrival in London and the evacuation of children from the city to the country during World War II. When he arrives, Paddington (so named for the station in which he arrives) is taken in by the Brown family, headed by Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville (stern) and Sally Hawkins (bohemian), who agree to help the bear find his old friend and settle down. It's not long, however, before an evil taxidermist played by Nicole Kidman (no, really) has her Cruella De Vill-esque eyes on Paddington and a madcap chase ensues. The likes of Michael Gambon, Matt Lucas, Peter Capaldi and Julie Walters also pop up in supporting roles, and they're all having a hoot. It's garishly lit, but with that lighting comes colourful sets and London looks fantastic. The bears do too - during moments of sadness and pathos you find yourself looking in to Paddington's eyes and seeing his expression and, for a moment, feeling sorry for that CGI bear.
Horrible Bosses 2
Jason Bateman, Chris Pine, Jennifer Aniston
The plot of Horrible Bosses and its new sequel owes something of a debt to the 1980s comedy 9 to 5, which starred Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin. The movie ackowledges that debt with some amusing references by Jamie Foxx, one of the big-name stars who play second fiddle to Jasons Bateman and Sudeikis, and Charlie Day, who reprise their roles as three buddies who fight back when The Man takes advantage of them once again with the expected disastrous results.
This time in their sights is big-business bastard Christoph Waltz and his slimeball son Chris Pine, and it's not murder but kidnap the gang have in mind. Trouble is, Pine's character is one step ahead of them and plots to kidnap himself, frame them for murder and make off with his father's money.
The trio's squabbling is fun for the most part, but Jennifer Aniston steals the show again as a foul-mouthed, sex-mad dentist. I wonder, would a spin-off comedy with her character in the lead role work? Hollywood, you can have that one for free.
FOUR OF THE BEST
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt.I
Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland
J-Law leads a long-planned rebellion against Sutherland's oppressive government in this threequel. It takes itself awfully seriously, but sets up the grand finale with tension and drama aplenty.
What We Do in the Shadows
Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Completely bonkers and utterly hilarious mockumentary following the exploits of a group of vampires who share a flat in Wellington, NZ.
The Imitation Game
Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley
Cumberbatch carries this WWII story - part thriller, part tragedy - with his trademark presence and charisma.
Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini
Hardy rescues a dog and get dragged in to a life of crime in this dense thriller from author Denis Lehane.