Nativity Rocks – a weekly round-up of the latest films

Craig Revel Horwood as Emmanuel Cavendish in new film Nativity Rocks! Picture: PA Photo/Entertainment One.
Craig Revel Horwood as Emmanuel Cavendish in new film Nativity Rocks! Picture: PA Photo/Entertainment One.

Grab the popcorn for the newest releases coming to cinemas near you. 

NATIVITY ROCKS (U)

The fourth instalment of the Nativity series shamelessly tugs heartstrings and manipulates our emotions by addressing the global refugee crisis alongside the usual Yuletide tomfoolery.

Marc Wootton has vacated his signature role as deranged teaching assistant Mr Poppy and been replaced by musical theatre star Simon Lipkin as his long-lost brother Jerry.

Lipkin's formidable singing talent comes to the fore as the bright-eyed students of St Bernadette's Primary School in Coventry compete for the fictional honour of Christmas Town Of The Year by auditioning for a rock opera. The film opens on a sombre note with a Syrian boy called Doru (Brian Bartle) and his father (Ramin Karimloo) arriving on these shores in search of a better life.

The boy is separated from his old man and ends up homeless in Coventry where rosy-cheeked social worker Miss Shelly (Helen George) places him with a foster mother (Meera Syal) and enrols Doru at St Bernadette's under headmistress Mrs Keen (Celia Imrie).

Doru arrives just as Mr Johnson (Daniel Boys) and his class are warming up for auditions under formidable director Emmanuel Cavendish (Craig Revel Horwood), who is an unwelcome face from the past of teaching assistant Jerry Poppy (Lipkin).

Jerry takes Doru under his wing and encourages a friendship between the refugee and a wealthy boy called Barnaby (Rupert Turnbull), whose workaholic parents (Anna Chancellor, Hugh Dennis) are too busy to spend the holidays with their lad.

Of course, Christmas is a time for miracles and hyperactive man-child Jerry resolves to remind everyone about the importance of family during the festive season with help from a kind-hearted farmer called Beatie (Ruth Jones).

Nativity Rocks! doesn't live up to the promise of its title but there are fleeting moments of amusement drizzled in sugary sentiment.

Lipkin fizzes with energy in every frame, even when the film around him is stagnating, while Strictly Come Dancing judge Horwood would be hard pushed to describe his pantomime villain as fab-u-lous.

The climactic stage performance to justify Coventry's claim as Christmas Town Of The Year is sweetly shambolic if overlong, reuniting characters with a generous sprinkling of tears.

Released November 23. 

ROBIN HOOD (12A)

Taron Egerton from the Kingsman franchise leaps into action as the eponymous folk hero in an actionpacked adventure directed by Otto Bathurst.

The Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) strikes fear into the common folk using violence and intimidation, crippling the poorest in society with his taxes.

The one glimmer of hope is a masked rebel, Robin Hood (Egerton), who steals from the rich and redistributes wealth to those that need it the most.

The Sheriff declares war on Robin and his half-brother Will Scarlet (Jamie Dornan), who belong to a group of outcasts known as the Merry Men led by Little John (Jamie Foxx).

Out now. 

ASSASSINATION NATION (18)

Opening with a reverse slowmotion image of a boy riding a tricycle, which conjures memories of horror classic The Shining, Assassination Nation is frenetic cautionary tale about the perils of baring body and soul on social media.

Writer-director Sam Levinson frames his blood-soaked tale of hysteria and mob rule as a 21st-century witch trial - the film's setting is Salem, Massachusetts, to hammer home the analogy.

Levinson's film is a relentless assault on the eyes with split screens, colour filters and hyperviolent exchanges of bullets and blades.

The girls' feminist agenda becomes muddled.

Released November 23.