the wolverine (12) not since the days of Alvin Stardust has a career owed so much to a set of sideburns. Hugh Jackman first got hirsute as the Marvel Comics superhero in the 2000 blockbuster X- Men, not long after an Olivier Award nomination for best actor in a National Theatre staging of Oklahoma!
Once Jackman had impressed comics fans with his physical prowess and deadpan delivery, his singing cowboy days were behind him. He went on to don Wolverine's claws four more times, including the disappointing standalone feature X-Men Origins: Wolverine and an uncredited cameo in 2011 prequel X-Men: First Class.
For this latest instalment, which has lost any mention of X-Men from the title, director James Mangold draws inspiration from a 1982 comic book storyline set in Japan to strip back the testosterone- fuelled action in favour of soul-searching and romance. There are still spectacular set-pieces, including fisticuffs on top of a speeding bullet train, but screenwriters Mark Bomback, Scott Frank and Christopher McQuarrie aren't noticeably in a rush to deliver the next adrenaline-pumping thrill.
The film opens with a flashback to 1945 Nagasaki, where Logan (Jackman) is held prisoner by the Japanese. As the atomic bomb detonates, Logan protects one kindly officer, Shingen Yashida, from the radiation blast, his mutant powers allowing him to recover almost instantly from the fireball.
Many years later, Logan is living alone in the woods, haunted by the death of fellow super-powered mutant Jean Grey (Famke Janssen).
A swordswoman called Yukio (Rila Fukushima) tracks him down and asks him to accompany her to Japan for a reunion with the now elderly Shingen.
Reluctantly, our hero agrees and is shocked to find Shingen (Horiyuki Sanada) on his deathbed. As Shingen dies, mobsters attempt to kidnap his granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who is poised to take over the family dynasty. Logan rescues Mariko in the nick of time and she develops deep feelings for him.
This isn't going to end well - everyone you love dies, whispers Jean from beyond the grave, in one of the waking dreams that haunt Logan.
The Wolverine is a welcome change of style and pace for the franchise.
Jackman - a former teacher in Rutland, trivia fans - excels in the quieter moments.
There are flashes of humour but, for the most part, the storyline is downbeat - and the plot twists conceal few surprises.
nativity 2: danger in the manger! (u) as sweet and frothy as a mug of hot chocolate, Nativity 2 is writer-director Debbie Isitt's sequel to her entertaining 2009 Cov-com. Danger In The Manger! is cast in the same wonky, semiimprovised mould as its predecessor.
There are sporadic laughs courtesy of Marc Wootton as a reckless man-child and his exuberant young co-stars, who were plucked from open auditions in Coventry. But plausibility is left by the wayside when a class trip through the rolling hills of Wales descends into farce and contrivance.
The plot: St Bernadette's Primary School is in dire straits and headmistress Mrs Bevans (Pam Ferris) is at the end of her tether. When supply teacher Donald (David Tennant) arrives to take charge of the excitable tykes, one disastrous lesson with hyperactive classroom assistant Mr Poppy (Wootton) is enough to convince him he has made a terrible mistake.
If you can work with him until Christmas, I'll make you headmaster in January, Mrs Bevans promises.
So Donald digs in, helping Mr Poppy to audition the children for a national choir competition.
The pipe-dream of performing becomes reality and Mr Peterson finds himself on the road to Wales with Mr Poppy and most of the class in an amphibious tour bus.
For all the festive cheer, Isitt's return to St Bernadette's lacks pizzazz. If the film was supposed to be a Christmas cracker, someone has forgotten to insert the snap.
stuck in love (15) bookended by two very different Thanksgiving celebrations, Stuck In Love is a smartly-scripted, semiautobiographical, um, dramedy about the aftermath of divorce on a wealthy family. Or at least, that is first-time writer-director Josh Boone's intention.
Erica Borgens (Jennifer Connelly) leaves her novelist husband, Bill (Greg Kinnear), for a younger man (Rusty Joiner), creating a rift between the mother and daughter, Sam (Lily Collins), who refuses any contact.
Hopelessly romantic 16-year-old son Rusty (Nat Wolff) is more forgiving and joins his father in setting a place for Erica at the Thanksgiving table, in the hope she might return one year.
Winter turns to spring and, three years after the acrimonious break-up, Bill still pines for Erica. He spies on his ex-wife and her beau, obsessing over their relationship.
Stuck In Love is blessed with an excellent cast, who wear their hearts on their sleeves to deliver Boone's words with honesty. But while Boone has an acute ear for snappy dialogue and sketches his characters with affection, he is reluctant to put the family members through the emotional wringer.
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