Bravo to the bear - catch Paddington at Royston’s Picture Palace this week


Paddington - Credit: Archant

There’s a touch of Paddington mania creeping in at Royston’s Picture Palace this week – despite laying on four screenings of the feelgood family hit, demand for tickets has proved so strong that an additional show has been arranged.

The Paddington programme now includes Friday (7.30pm), Saturday (12.30pm, 3.30pm and 7.30pm) and Sunday (5pm) to make sure as many people as possible have a chance to catch this charmer.

Before the film based on Michael Bond’s stories about a marmalade munching bear coming to live with a London family was released there was a question mark over the project – critics worried that a big budget treatment might overpower the gentle tales, Colin Firth famously backed out of being the voice of the bear because he doubted that he was right for the role – but as soon as it hit the screen it was hailed as a winner.

It not only found favour with critics – it turned out to be one of the biggest British box office hits of 2014 and featured on multiplex programmes for weeks.

It’s easy to see why – with Ben Whishaw installed as the voice of our hero, and sterling support from the likes of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters and Matt Lucas – as well as a cameo for the author himself, now heading towards his 90th birthday and popping up credited as ‘kindly gentleman’ in the cast list – it has something to appeal to all ages, a genuine family film that repays repeated viewing to appreciate the combination of simple storytelling and stunning special effects.

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In a crowded week for new releases, pick of the bunch is probably Ex Machina, a sci-fi tale with psychological depth featuring Domhnall Gleeson as a smart computer programmer and Alicia Vikander as a hot robot, with author Alex (The Beach, 28 Days Later) Garland making his directorial debut.

Mark Wahlberg is in over his head in The Gambler, a slick remake of the 1970s James Caan vehicle, while Johnny Depp takes the lead in Mortdecai, billed as a tongue in cheek tale about a shady art dealer trying to recover a stolen painting. Given Mr Depp’s recent track record, he needs a hit and this doesn’t look like it.

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There’s also Oscar Issac and Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year, a gritty thriller set in 1980s New York. It’s a busy week for Isaac, who made his breakthrough in Inside Llewyn Davis, who also has a key role as a reclusive billionaire in Ex Machina.