(with pictures)

(Notes to editors: Please note the language in par 5 of the synopsis of Mid90s. The body swap comedy Little screens to critics on the evening of Tuesday April 9. A full review will be transmitted by 1500 GMT on Wednesday April 10. Print and online reviews for the action-packed fantasy Hellboy are embargoed until 0600 GMT on Thursday April 11. A full review will be transmitted once the embargo lifts. Synopses for both films are transmitted below)

[STANDFIRST] Damon Smith reviews the latest releases. This week: Stranger Things star David Harbour gets in touch with his inner demon in the fantasy reboot HELLBOY... Jessie Buckley plays a Scottish cleaning woman who dreams of country music stardom in the life-affirming drama WILD ROSE... an imaginative girl discovers the outlandish theme park from her bedtime stories is real in the computer-animated fantasy WONDER PARK... and Regina Hall reverts to childhood in the body-swap comedy LITTLE.


WILD ROSE (15, 100 mins) Drama/Musical. Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives. Director: Tom Harper.

Released: April 12 (UK & Ireland)

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman but it's harder to be a woman who sacrifices her long-cherished dreams of fame for her children in director Tom Harper's uplifting drama of creative strife and self-empowerment.

Blessed with a stellar lead performance from Irish actress Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose resets the rags-to-riches of A Star Is Born to the mean streets of Glasgow with a toe-tapping country music twang.

For the opening hour, screenwriter Nicole Taylor seems to be following the frequently plucked chord structures of the genre, composing obstacles that the spirited heroine must overcome if she is to deliver a barn-storming performance on the stage of The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

A charming cameo from BBC radio DJ "Whispering" Bob Harris, who encourages Buckley's aspiring songbird with kind words ("You've got something to say"), enforces our hopes of a triumphant and melodious final act.

In its final verses, Taylor's script confidently subverts expectations and propels the lead character in an unexpected direction without feeling convoluted or contrived.

Genuine emotion reverberates in every frame, most obviously whenever Buckley stands at a microphone and rips out her protagonist's heart like every great country diva.

Her star was born last year in the disturbing psychological thriller Beast but it rockets into the firmament here under Harper's sensitive direction.

She plays Rose-Lynn Harlan, who was still a child when she gave birth to her second bairn.

Now she has been released from prison with a security tag affixed to her ankle to ensure she observes night-time curfew, Rose-Lynn must tighten her feeble grasp of her maternal responsibilities or lose the respect of her eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son forever.

Rose-Lynn's purse-lipped mother Marion (Julie Walters) fears her daughter will abandon the children again to pursue impossible dreams of becoming a country music singer in Nashville.

"You better mind your tag doesn't go off when you're going through [airport] security," despairs Marion.

Unperturbed, Rose-Lynn earns money as a cleaning lady for businesswoman Susannah (Sophie Okonedo).

The well-to-do homeowner is dazzled by Rose-Lynn's talent and suggests they crowd-fund the journey to America including a headline set at Susannah's impending 50th birthday party.

Sporting the tattoo "Three chords and the truth," which Rose-Lynn believes is the essence of country music, the flighty jailbird vows to prove her doubters wrong including Susannah's deeply sceptical husband Sam (Jamie Sives).

Wild Rose blooms with a few pleasing narrative thorns, anchored by Buckley's raw power and sterling support from Walters and Okonedo as two very different but equally relatable embodiments of nurturing motherhood.

Harper gives characters space and time to find their voices and his life-affirming film hits the high notes without straining to be heard.



WONDER PARK (PG, 85 mins) Animation/Drama/Action/Comedy/Romance. Featuring the voices of Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, Norbert Leo Butz, Tom Baker, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Joe Sugg, Caspar Lee, Oev Michael Urbas. Directors: Robert Iscove, David Feiss, Clare Kilner.

Released: April 8 (UK & Ireland)

An imaginative girl discovers the theme park from her bedtime stories is real in a computer-animated fantasy co-directed by Robert Iscove, David Feiss and Clare Kilner.

Wonder Park conjures an intriguing premise as the emotionally brittle heroine tries to make sense of knotty philosophical questions posed by scriptwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.

"Oooh an existential crisis. I knew this day was missing something," deadpans a lovestruck porcupine, delivering one crisp aside that will fly over the heads of the target audience.

Unfortunately, Iscove, Feiss and Kilner's rollicking escapade doesn't have the courage of its clumsily articulated convictions, undermining central messages of courage and perseverance with a manipulative final flourish that feels like a big dramatic cheat.

Former Timelord Tom Baker and social media darlings Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee perform robust vocal duties for the UK version of the film, trading verbal quips in the guise of anthropomorphised critters with Hollywood stars Mila Kunis, Jennifer Garner and Matthew Broderick.

From an early age, June Bailey (voiced by Brianna Denski) has spun tall tales with her mother (Garner) about a magical theme park run by her menagerie of stuffed animals.

Peanut the chimpanzee (Norbert Leo Butz) creates rides in Wonderland, Steve the porcupine (John Oliver) oversees safety and Boomer the blue bear (Baker) welcomes guests, when he's not abruptly falling asleep as a result of "late onset hibernation disorder".

Greta the wild boar (Kunis) keeps spirits afloat as beaver mechanics Gus (Sugg) and Cooper (Lee) remedy malfunctions on the attractions.

Fantastical tales of Wonderland inspire June to create daredevil rides in her backyard with the help of smitten best friend Bunky (Oev Michael Urbas).

When Mrs Bailey falls ill and seeks hospital treatment, June abandons happy thoughts of Wonderland and seeks solace in the arms of her distraught father (Broderick).

Soon after, the girl returns home early from a school trip to mathematics camp and stumbles upon the vine-covered ruins of the real Wonderland.

The place of June's dreams exists but it has fallen into dangerous disrepair as a result of her all-consuming sadness.

The plucky girl joins forces with Peanut, Boomer and co to restore the park before an army of Chimpanzombies can tear apart the fixtures and fittings and fling them into a swirling vortex called the Darkness.

As a visual spectacle, Wonder Park proffers fast-paced sequences including a runaway rollercoaster ride that should whiten young knuckles in 3D.

Punchlines are hit and miss, erring more towards the latter, but the running time is trim and June and her four-legged pals don't outstay their welcome.

Above and beyond the colour-saturated eye candy, the film is disappointingly short of awe and wonder.


Also released...

HELLBOY (15, 121 mins)

Released: April 11 (UK & Ireland)

In 2004, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro launched the Hellboy franchise with his visually stunning but dramatically uneven fantasy based on Mike Mignola's acclaimed Dark Horse Comics series.

A disappointing sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, followed four years later but it has taken more than a decade for this reboot to reach the big screen, replacing Ron Perlman with Stranger Things star David Harbour in the title role.

Hellboy (Harbour) is a wise-cracking operative for the Bureau For Paranormal Research And Development (BPRD), which maintains an uneasy peace between humans and otherworldly creatures.

He works under the command of adopted father Professor Butterholm (Ian McShane), who keeps a tight control of a team comprising Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim).

The BPRD swings into action when an ancient sorceress, The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), rises from the underworld to destroy mankind.

LITTLE (12A, 109 mins)

Released: April 12 (UK & Ireland)

A high-flying career woman is compelled to rediscover her humanity when she is magically transformed into her younger self in a body swap comedy from the producer of Girls Trip and Night School.

Directed by Tina Gordon, Little centres on selfish technology company doyenne Jordan Sanders (Regina Hall), who mistreats staff especially her long-suffering personal assistant, April (Issa Rae).

Workers run for cover whenever Jordan struts into the office but the bullying entrepreneur meets her match in a sassy young girl, who tries to bring down Jordan in size with the fateful words: "I wish you were my age."

The next morning, Jordan stares into the mirror, into the eyes of her 13-year-old self (Marsai Martin).

Somehow, she has been transformed into the awkward teenager from her past.

Assistant April is dumbfounded but when Child Protective Services arrive unannounced, Jordan faces the prospect of having to enrol in school.

"I will cover for you if you agree to promote me to Creative Executive," beams April.

Unable to turn down her assistant's request, Jordan relives the nightmare of high school, where she develops a crush on hunky teacher Mr Marshall (Justin Hartley).

The businesswoman will have to act like a child again if she is to emerge unscathed from the classroom.

MID90S (15, 85 mins)

Released: April 12 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Two-time Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill makes an impressive and assured directorial debut with a self-penned coming of age story set in Los Angeles during a sun-baked summer in the mid-1990s.

Original music composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross jams on the soundtrack with Nirvana, Pixies and a barrage of rap and hip hop courtesy of Beastie Boys, Eminem, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, The Notorious B.I.G. and Wu-Tang Clan among others.

Thirteen-year-old weakling Stevie (Sunny Suljic) is bullied mercilessly by his older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges), whose violent outbursts cannot be controlled by their single mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston).

Consequently, Stevie keeps to himself and silently yearns to be part of a gang.

He gets his wish when he walks into a skateboard shop on Motor Avenue and is taken under the wing of Ray (Na-kel Smith) and his posse comprising Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt), Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) and Ruben (Gio Galicia).

As the youngest member of the group, Stevie gets a whistle-stop education in disruption, drug experimentation and underage sex.

Dabney struggles to control her youngest boy's wayward behaviour and the downward spiral leads Stevie down a potentially tragic path.

YULI (15, 111 mins)

Released: April 12 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Spanish filmmaker Iciar Vollain and screenwriter husband Paul Laverty chart the rise of Cuban ballet superstar Carlos Acosta in a biographical drama framed by dance sequences performed by the charismatic subject.

In the early 1980s, the young Carlos (Edilson Manuel Olbera Nunez) - who is nicknamed Yuli - explores his love of dance by performing with kids in the neighbourhood.

This passion for gyrating to Michael Jackson grates on Carlos' macho father, a truck driver called Pedro (Santiago Alfonso), who decides to test his son's resolve.

He forces the lad to audition for the National Ballet School.

Carlos is initially reluctant to engage with ballet because he believes that everyone will assume he is gay if he wears tights.

However, one of the school's tutors, Chery (Laura De La Uz), coaxes Carlos out of his shell and nurtures his raw, undeniable talent.

RSC LIVE: AS YOU LIKE IT (Certificate TBC, 176 mins)

Released: April 17 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Kimberley Sykes directs a colourful and energetic production of Shakespeare's sunny romantic comedy, broadcast live from the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Duke Frederick (Antony Byrne) banishes niece Rosalind (Lucy Phelps) from court like her father, Duke Senior (Byrne again).

Frederick's spirited daughter Celia (Sophie Khan Levy) cannot bear to be parted from her "coz" and defies her father by leaving as well, accompanied by the jester Touchstone (Sandy Grierson).

The trio seek refuge in nearby Forest of Arden where Duke Senior lives in exile with his supporters.

The girls decide that travelling as women in the forest could be dangerous so they disguise themselves as men.

Rosalind become Ganymede and Celia becomes Aliena.

Romantic mix-ups and mayhem ensue as the friends and their alter-egos inspire love in the hearts of men including lovelorn Orlando (David Ajao).


Released: April 18 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

You can always look on the bright side of life as Monty Python's immaculately conceived and controversial comedy celebrates its 40th anniversary by returning to selected cinemas for one day only.

Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) is born at the same time as Jesus Christ (Kenneth Colley) and becomes a reluctant saviour for the masses.

"He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy!" protests Brian's mother (Terry Jones) as crowds gather outside her home.

People hang on Brian's hesitant words and he seeks comfort in the arms of a rebellious young woman called Judith (Sue Jones-Davies).

As news of Brian's so-called miracles spread, Pontius Pilate (Michael Palin) takes decisive action to quell the uprising and reassert his authority.

At screenings on April 18, audiences will receive a commemorative goodie bag containing a special edition poster, stickers, song lyrics and other treats, while stocks last.


Dame Judi Dench plays a woman with a dark past in the thriller RED JOAN... two dirty cops (Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn) seek fortune rather than redemption in the slow-burning thriller DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE... and a middle-aged piano teacher (Isabelle Huppert) forges a twisted friendship with a diner waitress (Chloe Grace Moretz) in the disturbing psychological thriller GRETA.


1. Shazam!

2. Dumbo

3. Captain Marvel

4. Pet Sematary

5. Peppa Pig: Festival Of Fun

6. Us

7. Missing Link

8. Fisherman's Friends

9. The Sisters Brothers

10. What Men Want

(Chart courtesy of Cineworld)