How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – a weekly round-up of the latest films
Grab the popcorn for these new releases.
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG)
Directed at a brisk pace by Dean DeBlois, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World soars in the slipstream of earlier films, which tenderly sketched the friendship between a Viking boy called Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and a Night Fury dragon christened Toothless.
That unshakeable bond between man and beast is tested to breaking point in DeBlois's script, which recycles themes of selflessness and devotion to their natural conclusion without sacrificing the tenderness, raw emotion or uproarious humour which have become the series' trademarks.
Admittedly, there are scorch marks of deja vu on a plot that pits Hiccup and his Viking brethren against a sadistic villain who has hunted Night Furies – the alphas of the dragon world – to the brink of extinction.
The writer-director doesn't tamper with the winning formula of the two previous chapters and underscores existing alliances with rousing support from returning composer John Powell, who sounds the battle cry for sobs from traumatised parents as cherished characters make glorious self-sacrifices for the people and creatures they adore.
One year after the Viking funeral of his father Stoick The Vast (voiced by Gerard Butler), Hiccup (Baruchel) leads his tribe in daring night-time raids to rescue caged dragons.
He is accompanied by sweetheart Astrid (America Ferrera), mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) and buddies Snoutlout (Jonah Hill), Tuffnut (Justin Rupple), Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
The humans lead these liberated beasts back to their cliffside village of Berk.
Soon after, Hiccup locks horns with notorious dragon hunter Grimmel (F Murray Abraham), who issues a chilling ultimatum: surrender every fire-breathing beast in Berk or perish.
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World oscillates between parallel romances – Hiccup and Astrid, Toothless and a Light Fury – to emphasise the importance of partnerships in building a brighter future.
Energetic vocal performances complement the colourful and detailed visuals where beasts large and small flourish in safety from the prying, predatory eyes of humanity.
If this is the final time Hiccup and co take flight, it is a sweetly satisfying and soaring swansong.
Released February 1.
Green Book (12A)
Inspired by a real-life friendship, Green Book is a life-affirming comedy drama which follows the tyre prints of Driving Miss Daisy to spark mutual appreciation between a chauffeur and his back-seat employer.
In the case of Peter Farrelly's charming picture, the lead characters – an Italian-American bouncer and a black pianist – stand on opposite sides of a racial divide at a time when American motels and restaurants could segregate or exclude clientele based on the colour of their skin.
Farrelly's picture pens its own love letter to the endurance of the embattled human spirit that we savour with tears of contentment in our eyes.
Vice nervously prowls the corridors of power in Washington DC to satirise another true story of malicious meddling and unabashed self-interest.
For the opening hour, Vice is a briskly paced and engrossing portrait of ambition, electrified by an Oscar-worthy performance from Christian Bale.
The Haverfordwest-born actor completes his startling transformation with more than 100 pieces of prosthetic make-up to replicate the jowls, jaw line and distinctive nose of his subject, who served as vice president to George W Bush between 2001 and 2009.
Once Cheney achieves his goals, McKay's film leaches dramatic tension.