The Hangover downs shots with Deliverance and The Blair Witch Project, and blood flows more readily than the booze, in David Bruckner's horror thriller.

Laced with Nordic mythology and laddish banter, The Ritual is a grim tale of hapless thirtysomething pals, who get horribly lost in a Scandinavian forest and come face-to-face with a malevolent force that drives them to the brink of despair.

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You won't need a map and compass to navigate each twist in Joe Barton's script, adapted from the novel by Adam Nevill, or discern the order in which thinly sketched characters are most likely to meet a grisly demise.

The winding path to carnage is familiar and Bruckner's picture employs gallows humour to acknowledge these horror tropes as well as alleviate tension, like when the pals stumble into a tumbledown shack under the rain-sodden cloak of darkness and discover their temporary refuge is festooned with ancient runes.

"This is clearly the house we get murdered in," quips one of the gang.

"It's not as bad as our uni accommodation," retorts another, hoping to lighten the mood of grim foreboding as lightning flashes through broken windows.

Tragedy stalks early scenes as five drinking buddies - Dom (Sam Troughton), Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Luke (Rafe Spall), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Rob (Paul Reid) - fail to agree on a destination for their next lads' weekend.

They leave the pub and Luke and Rob pop into a late night off-licence to grab more booze.

Unwittingly, they walk into a bungled robbery.

Luke cowers unseen at the end of an aisle while Rob faces the thieves and is hacked to death for refusing to hand over his ring.

Six months later, the remaining quartet heads to northern Sweden to honour Rob's memory by hiking through the barren, picturesque wilderness.

"You know what they have on walking trails in England?" whines Dom. "Pubs."

He subsequently twists an ankle and alpha male Hutch suggests they head back to their lodge by taking a short cut through a dense forest.

Ignoring a signpost that reads This Is A Very Bad Idea, likely lads Hutch, Luke, Phil and an increasingly ill-tempered Dom head southwest through the tightly packed trees.

As night falls and thunder rumbles overhead, tempers fray and the four friends are plagued by nightmarish visions that gnaw away at their sanity.

The Ritual resists the temptation for cheap, jump-out-of-your-seat scares to focus on a sustained build-up of tension.

Bruckner's approach works, tickling our discomfort until the underwritten characters' fears are realised in a climactic bloodbath augmented with digital effects.

Pleasing on-screen rapport between the central quartet, who trade potty-mouthed barbs with relish, papers over some of the more ludicrous and fantastical aspects of the plot.

Realism takes a hike and is never seen again.

RATING: 6/10


There's little chance of audiences confusing Swedish director Tomas Alfredson's The Snowman with the charming animated film that has been a staple of festive TV schedules for more than 30 years.

One is a perfect distillation of childhood wonder torn lovingly from the pages of Raymond Briggs' picture book, the other is a ham-fisted detective yarn with ice rather than blood in its veins, adapted from a gripping novel by Jo Nesbo.

Based on the seventh installment in a best-selling series featuring Norwegian detective Harry Hole, this clumsily constructed Snowman cannot muster a single flurry of tension over the course of two glacial hours that feel closer to three.

It is hard to believe that the gifted filmmaker, who had us biting nails down to the cuticle with the vampire coming-of-age story Let The Right One In and Oscar-nominated Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, could be responsible for this pile of snowballs.

A mild case of frostbite might be favourable to shivering with boredom through Alfredson's anaemic hunt for a diabolical serial killer, who strikes during the first winter snowfall.

Dramatic momentum is frozen solid from the chilly opening frames and Michael Fassbender's lifeless lead performance as a grizzled detective battling alcoholism fails to thaw our sympathy.

Harry (Fassbender) is at the mercy of his addiction - a disease, which has driven away his girlfriend Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage son Oleg (Michael Yates).

It's little wonder Rakel has sought refuge in the arms of a strait-laced and reliable doctor (Jonas Karlsson).

Harry's toxic relationship with the bottle also negatively impacts his ability to function at work and he craves a complex case to temporarily quell his demons.

"I apologise for Oslo's low murder rate," dryly retorts his superior, DCI Gunnar Hagen (Ronan Vibert).

Stumbling into work in a bleary-eyed daze, Harry meets detective Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), a recent transfer from Bergen.

They are called to the home of Birte Becker (Sofia Helin), who has vanished shortly after an argument with her husband (James D'Arcy).

A creepy snowman stands facing the Becker house, and a trawl through police archives exhumes a series of unsolved cases involving mothers, who disappeared or were murdered at the same time of year.

Flashbacks to an earlier investigation involving hard-drinking detective Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer), philanthropist Arve Stop (J K Simmons) and plastic surgeon Idar Vetlesen (David Dencik) begin to join the blood-soaked jots.

However, the diabolical killer is one step ahead of Harry and Katrine.

The Snowman is a poor distillation of Nesbo's page-turner, starved of suspense or any emotional connection to the characters.

Frenetic editing renders one pivotal fight sequence incomprehensible and with each clearly telegraphed twist, Alfredson is incapable of shifting out of first gear.

Unthinkably, he's built an abominable Snowman.

RATING: 4/10


For more than 60 years, LEGO building bricks have unlocked the imaginations of the young and the perpetually young at heart. Fantastical new worlds rise and fall as the brightly coloured blocks are slotted together and pulled apart, reused in seemingly endless combinations.

The spirit of reconstruction runs deep in The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the third computer-animated adventure in the rapidly expanding franchise.

Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan's film lazily bolts together themes from The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie to explore a strained father-son dynamic against a backdrop of martial arts mayhem.

The riotous, barnstorming comedy of the first two films has been heavily diluted and a live-action framing device featuring Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan as the owner of a mystical shop feels like an obvious stylistic conceit.

Polished one-liners are disappointingly thin on the brick-plated ground and vocal performances fail to elevate the material above the parapet of mediocrity.

A linear quest for a mysterious artefact called The Ultimate, Ultimate Weapon provides a flimsy hook for the toy box tomfoolery, and should hold the attention of very young audiences who are already familiar with the lucrative Ninjago brand.

Parents and older fans of the construction sets face a much sterner test to remain engaged for the full 101 minutes.

High school student Lloyd Garmadon (voiced by Dave Franco) lives in the brick city of Ninjago with his mother Koko (Olivia Munn).

Classmates despise Lloyd because his estranged father, Lord Garmadon (Justin Theroux), is an evil despot, who repeatedly attacks the city in elaborate shark-themed contraptions.

Thankfully, Ninjago is protected at all times by the Secret Ninja Force, an elite team trained by Master Wu (Chan), mantra-spouting brother of Lord Garmadon and author of must-read manual Ninjanuity.

City residents are blissfully unaware that the leader of the SNF, the Green Ninja, is Lloyd and the other members of this heroic squad include fellow students Cole (Fred Armisen), Jay (Kumail Nanjiani), Kai (Michael Pena), Nya (Abbi Jacobson) and Zane (Zach Woods).

The SNF repels Lord Garmadon's latest attack by combining the elemental powers of earth, ice, water, fire and lightning.

The black-helmeted archvillain vows revenge.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie is a flying kick too far for the brand and feels like a glossy exercise in corporate self-promotion rather than a fully fledged cinematic feature.

One flashback to Lord Garmadon's courtship of Koko - "It was love at first fight!" - warrants a weak smile but too many punchlines fail to connect.

The pungent air of staleness pervades, exacerbated by a paucity of sly visual gags and pithy pop culture references.

"When I return, I'll have something really wicked in store for you!" guffaws the Lord Garmadon early in the film.

He fails to deliver.

RATING: 5/10



Nice guy Jim (Danny Morgan) is fast approaching his 30th birthday and he has yet to lose his virginity. Utterly hopeless with the opposite sex, Jim turns to his cocksure and handsome best friend, Alex (Michael Socha), for help.

Alex promises to help Jim in his hour of need and he encourages Jim to arrange a double date with sisters Kitty (Kelly Wenham) and Lulu (Georgia Groome).

While Alex plies his charm on Kitty, Jim nervously gets to know Lulu and there is a spark of attraction between the couple that gives the birthday boy hope.

Unbeknownst to the two men, Kitty and Lulu are twisted murderers, who have killed their previous paramours and intend to dole out the same grim fate to Alex and Jim. However, Lulu reciprocates Jim's feelings and questions whether she really wants to hack and slash her date for the night.

Allegiances are tested and when Jim asks Lulu to accompany him home to meet his family for a planned birthday get-together, she must choose between honouring her blood pact with her sister and burgeoning romance.


Director Sally Potter (Orlando) hosts the house party from hell in this black and white satire of contemporary social mores, which unfolds in real time and runs to a crisp 71 minutes.

Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) is thrilled with her promotion to Minister of Health in the Shadow Cabinet and she hosts a celebratory soiree at the plush home she shares with her downtrodden husband, Bill (Timothy Spall).

He seems preoccupied as various waspish and acid-tongued friends arrive, including April (Patricia Clarkson), Gottfried (Bruno Ganz), Jinny (Emily Mortimer), Martha (Cherry Jones) and Tim (Cillian Murphy).

Each guest has an important piece of news to share with the assembled throng. When Bill makes his own unexpected announcement, the powder keg of emotions explodes with devastating consequences.

Good manners go out of the window along with a few burnt canapes and Janet struggles to maintain her cool, calm facade.


Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman co-direct a groundbreaking animated drama about the final days of painter Vincent van Gogh. Loving Vincent is the world's first fully hand-painted feature film. Over 100 artists have applied oil paints to each frame to mimic the distinct style of the subject.

Postman Joseph Roulin (Chris O'Dowd) is deeply disturbed by news that his friend, painter Vincent van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk), has died in the small French country town of Auvers, supposedly from a self-inflicted gun wound.

Roulin has an undelivered letter from Vincent to his younger brother Theo. The postman entreats his wastrel son Armand (Douglas Booth) to travel to Auvers and deliver the missive.

Armand reluctantly agrees and he becomes embroiled in a detective story to unravel what really happened to Vincent on July 27 1890. A visit to paint seller Pere Tanguy (John Sessions) reveals some information but this pales next to the gossip and speculation shared by innkeeper's daughter Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson) and the boatman (Aidan Turner) in Auvers.

Eventually, Armands meets doctor Paul Gachet (Jerome Flynn), who tended to Vincent in his final hours. His version of events doesn't quite match with the testimony of his daughter Marguerite (Saoirse Ronan) or haughty housekeeper Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory).


Co-directed by Neasa Ni Chianain and David Rane, School Life is a heart-warming documentary which witnesses day-to-day life inside the walls of Headfort School in Kells. This progressive Irish boarding school welcomes children aged three to 13 and promotes a diverse curriculum under headmaster Dermot Dix.

The focus of the film is two inspirational teachers, John Leyden and his wife Amanda, who have worked at Headfort for decades and possess an innate understanding of the children.

As they ricochet between lessons on drama, mathematics and Latin alongside leading practice sessions for the student rock band, the Leydens encourage their charges to embrace their differences in the pursuit of greatness.

John and Amanda sensitively address thorny issues in the classroom like same sex marriage, inspiring lively debate between the students.

6 BELOW (12A)

Based on an incredible true story, 6 Below is a survival thriller directed by Scott Waugh, which traces one emotionally scarred man's battle with his demons in the frozen wasteland of the High Sierra back country.

Former professional ice-hockey player Eric LeMarque (Josh Hartnett) is arrested after a traffic accident. He was intoxicated behind the wheel and his life continues to spiral out of control as he wrestles with methamphetamine addiction.

Eric's despairing mother Susan (Mira Sorvino) loses patience with her son and they become estranged. He heads to a cabin close to the mountains where he hopes to replace the buzz of his narcotics with the adrenaline rush of snowboarding.

Eric ignores warnings of an incoming storm to head up the mountain. As he sets off down the slopes for his final run, Eric decides to venture off piste and he becomes hopelessly lost as the weather closes in.

No one knows his location and he cannot get any signal on his mobile phone. Alone in the wilderness, at the mercy of the elements and a pack of ravenous wolves, Eric must face his fears to survive the sub-zero temperatures.