All this week's cinema releases reviewed

John Carter, Bel Ami and The Raven battle for this week's box office

John Carter - 2.5/5

In short:
Former military man John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is tired of fighting, and sets out to join the gold rush in the wilds of the newly-formed USA. But a shock encounter in a dusty cave sees him transported to the even dustier world of Barsoom, or as we know it, Mars. There he encounters the giant, four-armed natives who are keen to rope him in as one of their warriors. He's not enamoured with the idea, but when he comes across Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) he is sucked into an even bigger conflict. Now he must decide how committed he is to his newfound pacifism and, indeed, to his former homeworld of Earth.

[Related feature: John Carter: The film that took 81 years to make]
[Related blog: Five minute clip of John Carter]

What we think:
Fun but forgettable sci-fi fare, John Carter (of Mars) has plenty to like - but is so long and formulaic that you'll struggle to remember what it was about when the credits roll.

The word out there:

The Guardian: The fantasy-romance adventures of a civil war veteran transported to planet Barsoom made for a giant, suffocating doughy feast of boredom.
TotalFilm: A handsome new sci-fi adventure that feels rather familiar. Enjoyable enough while it lasts, ‘John Carter’ is big on ambition and disappointingly short on action.
TimeOut: ‘John Carter’ could be ‘Dune’ for the 21st century – or it could be the next ‘Avatar’. Only time will tell.
WhatCulture: I don’t intend this as faint praise at all, but I think ‘John Carter’ will work really well for the young boys who no doubt form its intended audience.

Release date: 9th March
Runtime: 132 mins
Rating: 12A



The Raven – 3/5


In short:
The cause of Edgar Allan Poe's mysterious death has been subject of much debate, but here writers Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare concoct their own views of what might have happened. Starting with a troubled love affair between the hot-headed scribe and well-to-do local Emily (Alice Eve), we see Poe (Cusack) sucked into a devastating world of his own making. One that will make this affair even more troubled. A villain has been committing a series of murders closely based on Poe's own tales, and Detective Emmett Fields (Luke Evans) is convinced Poe is the only man who can find him and bring him to justice.

What we think:

A thriller with a twist, 'The Raven' doesn't quite live up to Edgar Allan Poe's legacy but it does provide some gripping gothic entertainment.

The word out there:
Empire: Besides being an author, Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most vicious, merciless critics of his age. He would not have let this get past him without skewering its shortcomings with a barbed quill.
TotalFilm: The result, alas, is as implausible as the stars’ gleaming choppers. Who knew they had such great dentistry in 1840s Baltimore?
TimeOut: It’s impossible to shake the feeling that ‘The Raven’ has been badly knocked about in post-production, resulting in a film that, despite a strong visual sense, has simply no grasp on its characters or its plot.
On The Box: ‘The Raven’ feels like a hodgepodge of other gothic-tinged movies (notably ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘From Hell’) but fails to stand on its own Nevermore indeed.
 
Release date: 9th March
Runtime: 111 mins
Rating: 15




Bel Ami – 3/5

In short:
Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) is a down-on-his-luck army veteran living an aimless life in 1890s Paris. A chance encounter with a man he served with in Algeria leads to a dinner at the home of the Forestiers, where beautiful socialite Mrs Forestier (Uma Thurman) advises Georges that the best way to climb the social ladder is not through the men of the city, but their wives. Soon Georges is enjoying romances with Clotide (Christina Ricci) and Madame Rousset (Kristin Scott Thomas), and his career as a newspaper columnist takes off. As Georges becomes consumed by jealousy and greed, he sets his sights on a younger target. But will that be enough to satisfy his desires?

What we think:

Social-climbing, villainous backstabbing and a rapacious Robert Pattinson combine in this slow but well-crafted study of a desperate man in desperate times.  

The word out there:

Empire: Even with a strong cast to gild its endless chambers and salons, there's barely a spark of soul to fuel its story. Pattinson is no Malkovich either.
TimeOut: As a whirlwind of bonking and banquets, ‘Bel Ami’ is diverting and sometimes amusing, and Pattinson is adequate in the lead...
Film4: A brooding tale of sex and scheming that is brought to life by its cast. More playful than you might expect, it's still a deliciously dark period piece that stays true to the tone of the novel.
SkyMovies: ‘Bel Ami’ won't deter many Twi-hards, but any more behaviour like this and Team Edward will be calling for a new manager.

Release date: 9th March
Runtime: 102 mins
Rating: 15



Trishna – 4/5


In short:

On a trip to India, Jay (Riz Ahmed), the British son of a wealthy hotel owner, comes across beautiful peasant girl Trishna (Freida Pinto). Initially failing to win her affections, fate plays into his hands when her father is injured in a car accident. To save her family from poverty he offers her work at the hotel in Rajasthan, and Trishna gladly accepts. Jay's obsession grows, and Trishna seems to warm to him. But in a murky few days, the line between love, physical attraction and gratitude blur, and the two become stuck in an emotional spiral that will change both of their lives drastically.

What we think:

Michael Winterbottom again explores twisted romance in his cleverly updated and translocated take on 'Tess Of The D'Urbervilles', which makes the most of the extremes of Indian society.

The word out there:

Empire: The ever-versatile Winterbottom's loose and limber adaptation doesn't entirely mesh with Hardy's more formal narrative, leaving this feeling disjointed and underpowered.
SkyMovies: Transferring Victorian's England's inhumanely rigid class pecking order to the equally inflexible inequalities of the Indian caste system works a treat.
TimeOut: The film sails along on a gorgeous score by Shigeru Umebayashi and Bollywood composer Amit Trivedi.
Film4: Winterbottom's film is problematic, yet fascinating, and actually fits rather well into its contemporary setting.

Release date: 9th March
Runtime: 116 mins
Rating: 15



Cleanskin – 4/5


In short:

Following a botched attempt to save one of his clients, Secret Service agent Ewan (Sean Bean) loses a case full of Semtex - and it appears that a radical extremist is about to use the stolen explosives against the general populace. Soon, a deadly blast realises the worst fears of Ewan's superiors (Charlotte Rampling and Edward Fox) and the threat of more violence is on the cards. Ewan teams up with a rookie (Tom Burke) to take down the suspected mastermind. The only problem is that the man in question, Ash (Abhin Galeya) is a “cleanskin”: a terrorist previously unknown to the authorities.

What we think:

A smart and energetic British action thriller, 'Cleanskin' is unashamedly different to the typical fare that the UK film industry churns out - and is all the better for it.

The word out there:

Empire: A brutal, unsparing thriller, if a little on the long side. Director Hajaig's should be applauded for striving to show a balanced view of the radicalisation process and the campaign against terrorism.
Sky Movies: At times, it's almost as funny as ‘Four Lions’. The trouble is, it's not meant to be comedy.
The Guardian: Mediocre action and unpleasant violence are all this leaden counter-terrorism thriller has to offer.
ViewLondon: Whilst not entirely successful, ‘Cleanskin’ is still something of a guilty pleasure, thanks to thrilling action sequences and strong performances from Sean Bean and Abhin Galeya.

Release date: 9th March
Runtime: 108 mins
Rating: 15