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DIRECTOR: Anthony & Joe Russo
STARRING: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson

SYNOPSIS: Steve Rogers/Captain America struggles to adjust to life in the modern world but when Nick Fury is overpowered by a mysterious assassin, he and Natasha Romanoff team up to stop an anti-terrorist organistation from trying to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D.

Marvel’s incredible run of form with films just keeps on rolling with the focus returning to classic superhero Captain America.

The shield-welding protagonist faces severe danger in a new world a long way from his old one in this bigger and brasser follow-up to 2011′s The First Avenger.

With Iron Man and Thor having to overcome new enemies in their own sequels, Cap is caught up in a darker scenario involving his own organisation which brings about various problems for him and his friends at S.H.I.E.L.D.

That and the vast amount of brutal action is what makes The Winter Soldier excel as a sequel as we find ourselves drawn into the murky world of greed and corruption in moments that echo the classic 1970s thrillers like The Parallax View and The Conversation.

That is why the casting of Robert Redford works well as the veteran actor produces a dark turn as the scheming S.H.I.E.L.D president Alexander Pierce. Given his lack of mainstream roles in recent years, it’s remarkable to see Redford continue to convey charm despite the dastardliness of his character.

As was the case with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the physical action is choreographed exquisitely  as Steve and Natasha rely on hand-to-hand combat rather than their own superhuman powers to overcome various foes.

The crash-bang-wallop effects also remain in tact for some of the more CGI-laden moments which include a sensational car chase scene involving Fury being pursued by villainous police officers. This is only dwarfed by the climatic showdown which involves our heroes having to take down three heli-carriers to save the human race (again!).

But the film also does well to lend a tongue-in-cheek aspect to its serious tone as it incorporates some humourous references to modern day culture and other Marvel outings.

Chris Evans shines again as the heroic Captain and continues to generate an assured approach to his character whilst bouncing off his co-stars.

Fellow returnee Scarlett Johansson is utilised a lot more in this Marvel outing as she enjoys winding Steve up but also brings more physical presence to the table with her kick-ass scenes.

Anthony Mackie is also a welcoming addition as newcomer Sam Wilson, a war veteran who shares a superhero alter-ego of his own while it’s also refreshing to see Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders reprise their S.H.I.E.L.D roles.

The one stumbling block does come from the return of Hayley Atwell who dons old age makeup to portray the elder Peggy Carter. Though her brief scene with Evans is sweet enough, it lacks the emotional impact that made their romance so valuable in the original.

VERDICT: The post-Avengers films continue to thrive in Marvel’s latest spinoff sequel as America’s first superhero makes a daring and spectacular return to the big-screen.

1920 – 2014

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“The audience and I are friends. They allowed me to grow up with them. I’ve let them down several times. They’ve let me down several times. But we’re all family.”

Mickey Rooney, the veteran Hollywood star who spent 80 years of his life starring in more than 200 films, has died at the age of 93.

His death was confirmed last night after he succumbed to natural causes following a long battle with illness.

He began his lengthy career in 1937 when he took on the role of Andy Hardy in A Family Affair. He would go on to portray the character in thirteen more films with the final one being Andy Hardy Comes Home (1958).

Just two years after his breakthrough role, the Academy Awards recognised Rooney twice for his rising talent with both a Best Actor nomination for the rom-com Babes in Arms (1939) and a Special Juvenile Oscar (which he would share with fellow young star Deanna Durbin).

That same year, he also starred in the title role of young hero Huckleberry Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

He would go on to receive three more nominations in his renowned career with the first one being his role as teenager Homer Macaulay in coming-of-age drama The Human Comedy (1943).

The other two were both Supporting Actors nods for war drama The Bold and the Brave (1956) and the other being veteran horse trainer Henry Dailey in The Black Stallion (1979). He would go on to reprise his role as Dailey in the television spinoff series The New Adventures of the Black Stallion (1990-1993).

Almost fifty years after winning his juvenile Oscar, Rooney was eventually awarded the Honorary accolade in 1983.

He also became well known for appearances in National Velvet (1948), Baby Face Nelson (1957), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) and his controversial portrayal of Asian landlord Mr. Yunioshi in the cinematic classic Breakfast at Tiffanys (1961).

Rooney was also popular amongst young audiences with appearances in Pete’s Dragon (1977), Night at the Museum (2006) and a brief musical cameo in The Muppets (2011). He also lent his voice to several animated films with the most memorable being his role as canine dog Copper in the Disney flick The Fox and the Hound (1981).

Remarkably, he married eight times throughout his prestige life although he did file for bankruptcy in 1962, after using up his $12 million wealth.

 He is survived by his eighth wife Jan and nine children.

After making his big-screen debut in last year’s box-office hit Alpha Papa, Alan Partridge is looking set for another cinematic outing in the not-too distant future (A-HA!).

Played masterfully by Steve Coogan (The Look of Love, Philomena), the hapless radio DJ will also be returning for a couple of new television specials which will once again be shown on Sky Atlantic.

Film producer Henry Normal, who co-founded Coogan’s production company Baby Cow, confirmed the news to The Guardian yesterday.

“We are planning a sequel to Alpha Papa, yes, that will be great. We are also looking at doing more Mid Morning Matters and another Sky special, a little bit like Coast with Alan Partridge, except I don’t think he goes out of Norfolk. I think it’s things of interest in Norfolk, that’s the general theme.”

He then went on to add further details about the TV specials:

“We start writing now. I think we make it at the end of summer.”

The iconic character made his screen debut in the early 90s with Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge before featuring in two popular BBC series of I’m Alan Partridge (1996-2002).

The show later moved to Sky Atlantic with Partridge appearing in mini-episodes of Mid Morning Matters and Welcome to the Places of My Life before eventually making the transition to the big-screen in 2013.

It’s time to say it again fellow AP fans….back of the net!

The Empire Magazine readers have spoken.

Last night saw the 2014 Jameson Empire Awards reveal their winners as voted for by the public.

Having been so dominant throughout awards season, the sci-fi spectacle Gravity picked up two key awards for Best Film and yet another Best Director accolade for Alfonso Cuaron.

Also clinching two wins was the second Hobbit film, The Desolation of Smaug which secured Best Sci-fi/Fantasy film and a surprise Best Male Newcomer win for Aiden Turner (ahead of the likes of Barkhad Abdi and Will Poulter).

Turner’s win wasn’t the only shock of the evening as James McAvoy picked up Best Actor ahead of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Leonardo Di-Caprio for his gritty turn in Filth. Another unexpected triumph was for Sally Hawkins as she won Best Supporting Actress for Blue Jasmine ahead of Oscar rivals Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o.

Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks) and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave were the other acting winners which made scant consolation for their disappointments during the recent season.

Others films to land awards were The World’s End (Best British Film), Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (Best Comedy), The Conjuring (Best Horror) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Best Thriller) while Margot Robbie nabbed the Best Female Newcomer gong for her scrumptious turn in The Wolf of Wall Street.

There were also honours for Simon Pegg, Hugh Jackman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise and Paul Greengrass as they were recognised for their successful achievements in the film industry.

The full list of winners are below:

BEST MALE NEWCOMER (presented by Tresor Paris)
Aidan Turner – The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

BEST FEMALE NEWCOMER
Margot Robbie – The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST HORROR
The Conjuring

BEST COMEDY (presented by Magic 105.4)
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

BEST THRILLER
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

BEST SCI-FI/FANTASY (presented by MediCinema)
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine

BEST BRITISH FILM
The World’s End

BEST ACTRESS
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr Banks

BEST ACTOR
James McAvoy – Filth

BEST DIRECTOR (presented by Air New Zealand)
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

BEST FILM (presented by Sky Movies)
Gravity

It’s starting to become a trend seeing British sitcoms be immortalised onto the big-screen these days. Sometimes it works (The Thick of It, The Inbetweeners) and sometimes it doesn’t (Dad’s Army, Steptoe and Son).

But one popular comedy that will hope to succeed is Brendan O’Carroll’s witty and coarse series Mrs Brown’s Boys which is now getting the fecking cinematic treatment.

Fans of the hit BBC show will be pleased to be informed that its trailer has now premiered online.

The film’s plot will see old lady Agnes Brown (O’Carroll) battle to keep her Moore Street market stall open when a dangerous developer vows to have it closed down.

The show’s director Ben Killer is helming the film while various series regulars are also making an appearance.

Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie will be released in cinemas on June 27th.

“Well, once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.”

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CREATOR: Nic Pizzolato
STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts,
Tory Kittles, Alexandra Daddario

SYNOPSIS: Set over the course of 17 years, the story focuses on mismatched homicide detectives Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Harrelson) as they attempt to track down a Louisiana serial-killer. However their differing personalities threaten to collide as the investigation goes on.

While us Brits are halfway through with HBO’s gritty crime-series True Detective, American audiences are still reflecting on everything that happened after it reached its much-hyped conclusion last week.

Throughout this dark and compelling series, creator Nic Pizzolato and director Cary Fukunaga have kept people hooked on the events building up to the final reveal with many trying to work out how it was all going to end.

But looking back on the previous seven episodes, the show has managed to receive universal acclaim from critics for its intriguing narrative and even managed to land near-perfect ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

The season opener ‘The Long Bright Dark’ is able to incorporate the haunting elements that were expected for this kind of programme with its grim opening scene of our two detectives judging the scene of the crime.

This is made more fascinating by the clever use of an interview-to-camera structure for the modern-day scenes of Rust Cohle and Martin Hart being quizzed by other detectives.

This kind of technique enables us to understand the problems that these two troubled men have gone through during their long partnership.

Although some elements of True Detective rely on familiar traits of other crime shows like anti-hero cops and flawed investigations, you come to realise after a couple of outings that it delves deep into a murky world inhabited by human ‘monsters’.

Throughout each episode, we see the case unfold through various angles as the show jumps between different timelines in order to pinpoint the events leading up the present era.

The revelations and twists are placed carefully and never lose focus from the plot especially when it all came down to the bold finale.

Many different theories were predicted by audiences about who the killer was which ranged from relatives of the detectives to corrupt officials.

In the final episode ‘Form and Void’, it all unfolded in a simple manner that still kept us on the edge of our seats as we watched our leading men confront their target in a pulsating showdown at one of the worst places imaginable.

Pizzalato always said that it was never about who the killer was, but more about the actual detectives themselves and their quest to find redemption through each other.

That is why the creator’s castings of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson prove to be a unique masterstroke with both actors producing some of the best work of their respective careers.

Revelling from his recent Oscar-winning success with Dallas Buyers Club, McConaughey is simply masterful as the tortured Rust Cohle.

While he may come across as a bit eccentric, his in-depth monologues and random observations about the human race captivate the audience and keep us hooked on him throughout.

In contrast, Harrelson’s conflicted portrayal of Martin Hart is more subtle but he still engages us with his insecure attitude even though we root for him and Rust to solve the case.

While it may be a two-man show, other cast members get a chance to shine with Michelle Monaghan showing her emotional capability as Hart’s wife while Boardwalk Empire duo Shea Whigham and the terrifying Glenn Flesher deliver in their brief roles.

A final aspect that deserves recognition is the excellent visual style that stays consistent throughout the series.

Oscar-winner T-Bone Burnett creates a haunting musical score that is enhanced further by the majestic use of The Handsome Family’s ‘Far From Any Road’ in the stunning opening credits.

Also worthy of credit is cinematographer Adam Arkapaw as he not only captures the noirish setting of Louisiana to perfection but also produces exceptional work when shooting some of the more gripping scenes.

The best example of this comes in the fourth episode ‘Who Goes There’ which ends with a breathtaking six-minute tracking shot that involves Rust attempting to wrestle a hostage out of an intense shootout in a ghetto neighbourhood.

Moments like these show why people are more glued to television these days!

But while True Detective is worthy of its excellent reviews, it still remains flawed by occasional lapses in its slow-paced plot and certain stereotypical characters.

It is a show that requires a lot of attention from viewers particularly when it comes to the talkier scenes that can potentially lead to boredom for those who aren’t as invested.

This is why the finale itself is likely to cause frustration for those who stick with it as the actual twist isn’t what some of us would expect especially after all the speculation made beforehand.

While other hit shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos worked well with their endings, there are bound to be a few people who won’t appreciate the conclusion for this one.

The focus on both leading men also means that other key characters are reduced to one-note roles.

Michael Potts and Tory Kittles both fail to grab our attention as the two modern day cops investigating Cohle and Hart with neither being given any background other than to interrogate the two men.

Aside from the more complex Maggie (Hart’s wife), the other female characters are mostly depicted as demeaning individuals such as strippers and prostitutes.

Even the lovely Alexandra Daddario is reduced to a thankless role as Hart’s sexy mistress and ends up being a home-wrecker in the process before disappearing within a couple of episodes.

VERDICT: While the conclusion will be hit and miss to some, True Detective is a fascinating watch strengthened further by career-best performances from McConaughey and Harrelson. Series 2 has a hard act to follow!

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Back in 2001, the hit football comedy Mike Bassett: England Manager made a coincidental prediction that England would be competing at the World Cup in Brazil.

Thirteen years on, the vision has come true as the real national team prepare to take on some of the best countries in the world at the prestigious tournament this summer.

It has now led to big news today that the film’s production team are set to reunite for a long-awaited sequel entitled Mike Bassett: Interim Manager which will be begin shooting later this year.

The follow-up will see original actor Ricky Tomlinson (The Royle Family) reprise his popular role as the hapless football coach as he finds himself being brought back into the national team setup in order to assist German coach Jorgen Mannstein.

Original director Steve Barron (Coneheads, The Adventures of Pinocchio) is set to return for the new film alongside screenwriters Rob Sprackling and John R Smith. He gave his thoughts about the news in a statement:

“Bassett was the last England manager to take the national team to Brazil. We reached the semis then, who knows what we could achieve this time?

“As the years have gone by, Bassett seems to have dug deeper into football folklore. There is hardly a manager in the game that hasn’t been compared to him. Usually at a low point. Sometimes a very low point.”

Footballer/actor Andy Ansah (Dream Team, Goal) is the only previous cast member confirmed to return though it is not known whether other original stars like Amanda Redman (Karine Bassett) or Bradley Walsh (Dave Dodds) will follow suit.

Tomlinson and Redman did reprise their roles for the short-lived 2005 television series Mike Bassett: Manager which ran for six episodes on ITV. That particularly outing saw Bassett take charge of Wirral County though like his England stint, he would endure many lows in charge.

There is no official date for the film sequel’s release though it likely to be sometime in 2015.

In the meantime, feast your eyes upon this renowned clip from the original classic which features one of cinema’s greatest speeches!