All the best films on release in cinemas this week .
12 YEARS A SLAVE (15 cert, 134 min)
Dir: Steve McQueen; Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Adepero Oduye, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson
Soon after its world premiere last year, 12 Years a Slave was widely described as the best film that has yet been made about American slavery. That’s a big claim and an accurate one.
GRAVITY (12A cert, 91 min)
Dir: Alfonso Cuarón; Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Gravity, the new Alfonso Cuarón picture, is a heart-achingly tender film about the miracle of motherhood, and the billion-to-one odds against any of us being here, astronauts or not. It’s also a totally absorbing, often overpowering spectacle. This is one of the films of the year.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (12A cert, 146 min)
Dir: Justin Chadwick; Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Jamie Bartlett, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Terry Pheto, Deon Lotz
With the magnificent Elba to anchor it, the film gradually achieves a sort of grandeur, in the manner of the hero it depicts.
THE SQUARE (15 cert, 95 min)
Dir: Jehane Noujaim
This fascinating, bristling, Oscar-tipped documentary is the latest from Jehane Noujaim. She tells the story of Egypt’s recent revolutionary struggle, starting from the moment in 2011 when dissenters took to the streets and succeeded in ousting the US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, after 18 days of open revolt.
AMERICAN HUSTLE (15 cert, 138 min)
Dir: David O. Russell; Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
American Hustle, the luxuriantly entertaining new David O Russell picture, is equal parts bunco game, magic trick, honey trap and fashion show.
KISS THE WATER (PG cert, 79 min)
Dir: Eric Steel
This tiny, gemlike documentary, from the American filmmaker Eric Steel, explores Megan Boyd’s mythic status among anglers who used her flys, including the Prince of Wales, who became a lifelong friend.
ALL IS LOST (12A cert, 106 min)
Dir: JC Chandor; Starring: Robert Redford
Robert Redford’s predicament is as old as man and the sea. Some 1,700 miles from the Sumatra Straits, he wakes up alone on his 39-foot yacht to find that the hull has been perforated by a stray shipping container.
CINEMA PARADISO (PG cert, 120 min)
Dir: Giuseppe Tornatore; Starring: Philippe Noiret, Jacques Perrin, Marco Leonardi, Salvatore Cascio
In the quarter-century since it was first released, this rhapsodic elegy to the thrall of filmgoing has become a cliché in everyone’s head. Then you rewatch Cinema Paradiso, and it wins you back.
PHILOMENA (12A, 94 min)
Dir: Stephen Frears; Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark
Frears’s film, comfortably his best since The Queen, is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an Irish woman in her 70s of strong Catholic faith, who went in search of the son she was forced to give up for adoption 50 years earlier.
THE MISSING PICTURE (12A cert, 95 min)
Dir: Rithy Panh
Much of Rithy Panh’s highly personal memoir is told using the device of clay figurines. Like all the best documentaries, this one grabs you immediately and compels you to look at the subject in an entirely new light.
THE RAILWAY MAN (15 cert, 116 min)
Dir: Jonathan Teplitzy; Starring: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, Stellan Skarsgård
In The Railway Man, Colin Firth is beautifully cast as the late memoirist and former British Army officer, who related his experiences as a PoW in his book of the same name.
THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (PG cert, 114 min)
Dir: Ben Stiller; Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, Patton Oswalt, Kathryn Hahn
So much of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is meant as inspirational – the purposeful, slow-motion shots of people running, the resonant rock music, the mountain vistas – that it might leave you feeling inspired into submission.
ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (15 cert, 119 min)
Dir: Adam McKay; Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Christina Applegate, David Koechner, Fred Willard, Kirsten Wiig, James Marsden
The legend of Ron Burgundy certainly loses something in the retelling. But there’s enough here to justify a second visit.
KILL YOUR DARLINGS (15 cert, 104 min)
Dir: John Krokidas; Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, Elizabeth Olsen, Kyra Sedgwick, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Cullum
Daniel Radcliffe, in his second post-Potter persona, plays the poet Allen Ginsberg in this drama about the early days of the Beat Generation.
SAVING MR BANKS (PG cert, 125 min)
Dir: John Lee Hancock; Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak, Rachel Griffiths
Disney has produced a film about the tortuous making of Mary Poppins, one of the great pictures in that studio’s canon. It presents Walt Disney’s struggle with PL Travers, who wrote the original books, as a kind of Norman Conquest of sweetness and charm — a flooding of songs, jelly-beans and thick Californian sunlight into the life of a brilliant but unhappy writer.
AGE OF UPRISING: THE LEGEND OF MICHAEL KOHLHAAS (15 cert, 122 min)
Dir: Arnaud des Pallières; Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Mélusine Mayance, Delphine Chuillot, David Kross, Bruno Ganz, Denis Lavant, Swann Arlaud
Arnaud des Pallières’ film is based on a folk tale from 16th-century Germany, handed down via a 19th-century novella by Heinrich von Kleist.
LAST VEGAS (12A cert, 105 min)
Dir: Jon Turteltaub; Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen, Jerry Ferrara
If you imagined a fourth Hangover instalment about 35 years hence, it might look a lot like Jon Turteltaub’s geriatric comedy, complete with a fatigued disinclination to raise hell in anything like the old ways.
DELIVERY MAN (12A cert, 104 min)
Dir: Ken Scott; Starring: Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Simon Delaney, Britt Robertson
Delivery Man centres on a keen former sperm donor whose past, in the shape of around 150 of his biological offspring, suddenly catches up with him.
47 RONIN (12A cert, 119 min)
Dir: Carl Rinsch; Starring: Keanu Reeves, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Kou Shibasaki, Hiroyuki Sanada, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jin Akanishi, Rick Genest
First-time director Carl Rinsch was removed by Universal following re-shoots of this film about a group of wandering samurai last year. The film’s troubled production certainly tells in its lumpy structure. Read The Telegraph’s 47 Ronin review.
BIG BAD WOLVES (18 cert, 110 min)
Dir: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado; Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Tzahi Grad, Doval’e Glickman, Rotem Keinan
The Israeli revenge thriller Big Bad Wolves arrives on these shores with a full-throated endorsement from Quentin Tarantino, who called it the best picture of the year. It resoundingly isn’t.
THE COUNSELLOR (18 cert, 117 min)
Dir: Ridley Scott; Starring: Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Penélope Cruz, Rosie Perez, Bruno Ganz
The Counsellor, a caper movie about a million-dollar drug deal gone wrong, is neither an outright disaster nor misunderstood masterpiece: it’s just a very bad idea for a film, proficiently executed. Read The Telegraph’s The Counsellor review.
THE FAMILY (15 cert, 111 min)
Dir: Luc Besson; Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron
De Niro is playing Giovanni Manzoni, a New York City mob snitch with a $20 million contract on his head, who has been relocated with his wife and children to the north of France under a witness protection scheme. The first problem with this comedy drama is that it isn’t funny. The second is that Besson’s script has a self-sabotaging premise.
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (12A, 161 min)
Dir: Peter Jackson; Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry
One year after the Unexpected Journey began, here is the Unexpected Detour. The second leg of Peter Jackson’s three-part adaptation of The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, is mostly stalling for time: two or three truly great sequences tangled up in long beards and longer pit-stops.
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS 3D (PG cert, 87 min)
Dirs: Barry Cook, Neil Nightingale; Starring: Charlie Rowe, Karl Urban, Angourie Rice, John Leguizamo
While the film’s effects are irreproachably state of the art, and its straightforward tale of survival will keep most youngsters happy, the balance between cuteness, 3D spectacle and education value feels blanded out to the point where it’s not especially memorable.
PARKLAND (15 cert, 93 min)
Dir: Peter Landesman; Starring: Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, James Badge Dale, Colin Hanks, Marcia Gay Harden, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weave
Parkland is an ensemble historical drama set in the immediate aftermath of the John F. Kennedy assassination, and has been cannily timed for release on the 50th anniversary of the former US President’s death. Unfortunately Parkland emerges as the most ridiculous serious film of the year.