IN AT THE DEEP END: Rob Brydon (centre, front) heads the cast of comedy Swimming With Men

Swimming With Men (2/5)

THIS clunky British comedy was inspired by Men Who Swim, a 2010 documentary about an amateur all-male synchronised swimming team from Sweden.

To widen its appeal, the writers have applied the formula that made films such as The Full Monty, Calendar Girls and Kinky Boots such massive hits.

So this is about British underdogs turning their life around by taking up an unlikely vocation.

Rob Brydon plays Eric Scott, a needy, self-obsessed London accountant who has felt neglected ever since his wife Heather (Jane Horrocks) was elected to the local council.

The poor lamb can’t handle her success and when he sees her drinking a glass of wine with a new colleague (Nathaniel Parker) he is instantly convinced she is having an affair.

To the bemusement of his long-suffering teenage son Billy (Spike White) he flounces out of the house and moves into a hotel.

Their hard work pays off in the routines which are well-staged and endearingly clumsy, an effect that would have been impossible to achieve with professional doubles.

Andy Lea

He tries to clear his head at his local swimming pool where he sees a group of men (played by Thomas Turgoose, Jim Carter, Daniel Mays, Adeel Akhtar and Rupert Graves) trying to float around in a snowflake formation.

When maths whizz Eric interrupts their lame banter to point out that they need another member to act as an “apex”, the men invite him to join their club.

This is not just because of his clever calculations but because they see Bob as a kindred spirit.

It turns out the club is more about group therapy than the swimming since each member has a personal problem which they need to escape.

But the stakes are raised when a Swedish synchronised swimmer invites them to compete at the unofficial world championship in Milan.

First they need someone to take charge of the training montage.

Luckily their local pool attendant Susan (Charlotte Riley) used to be a competitive synchronised swimmer for Britain.

And as soon as we learn that the team’s best-looking member Luke (Graves) is recovering from a messy divorce, we know she will also be tasked with love interest duties.

Director Oliver Parker’s best decision was to recruit the Swedish team who featured in the Men Who Swim documentary to give the cast a crash course in synchronised swimming.

Their hard work pays off in the routines which are well-staged and endearingly clumsy, an effect that would have been impossible to achieve with professional doubles.

Masculinity in crisis was also one of themes of The Full Monty but the steelworkers were stripping for their livelihood after losing their jobs.

Brydon’s Eric is not sacrificing his dignity for his family but because he chose to walk out on his wife and child for the flimsiest of reasons.

The ending is also disappointingly wet.

A more likeable hero might have made us a bit more forgiving.

Whitney (4/5)

THIS is the second documentary about the life and death of Whitney Houston released this year.

It was made with the cooperation of Houston’s family so you might expect it to contain more interviews but to ask fewer difficult questions than Nick Broomfield’s Whitney: Can I Be Me.

Weirdly you’d only be half right.

Director Kevin Macdonald does sit down with the family members who shunned Broomfield’s film.

But he doesn’t give anyone an easy ride.

Husband Bobby Brown is clearly rattled when Macdonald asks about Houston’s drug addiction and he refuses to answer the question.

That’s his prerogative but the Scottish director refuses to let that put him off.

Her mother Cissy, we learn, broke Houston’s heart and challenged her faith by having an affair with a local minister.

Deceased father John comes across as a crook, brothers Michael and Gary are accused of exploiting her fame and we hear claims that Dee Dee Warwick, Cissy’s niece, sexually abused her.

But Macdonald doesn’t let the singer’s demons completely overshadow her talent.

A highlight is a behind-the-scenes look at her rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at the 1991 Super Bowl.

We hear how Houston refused to listen to her producer’s unusual arrangement before she stood in front of the orchestra.

Then in front of a live TV audience she improvised a bravura performance that turned a stolid anthem into a powerful hymn about liberation.

Mary Shelley (2/5)

Haifaa al-Mansour must have overcome sizeable obstacles to become Saudia Arabia’s first female film-maker.

And the Wadjda director seems to have found a kindred spirit in Frankenstein writer Mary Shelley.

Her turgid biopic follows the events leading to up the publishing of the novel in 1817 and focuses on how difficult it was for Mary (Elle Fanning) to realise her literary ambitions.

To the gentlemen of Regency England the very idea that a young woman could have dreamt up such a macabre tale was abhorrent.

Finally she finds a publisher who agrees to publish the novel anonymously as long as her famous poet husband Percy (Daniel Booth) provides a preface, her publisher knowing that readers will assume he wrote the novel too.

The film also details her struggles with her husband determination and youthful innocence but it’s hard to imagine her writing such a ground-breaking novel.

She endures plenty of awful experiences but we never get a sense of her inner life.

Terminal (1/5)

YOU can’t help but admire Margot Robbie for taking a chance on first-time director Vaughn Stein by agreeing to produce and star in his futuristic “neo-noir”.

But for the sake of her production company LuckyChap Entertainment, the talented Australian will have to be more discerning with future projects.

The setting is a neon-lit dystopian city that has clearly been created on a soundstage.

And the garish colours and fake sets make the film feel more like a cheap ’80s sitcom than hyper-stylised sci-fi.

Robbie does her best to make sense of Bonnie, a waitress and mastermind of a needlessly convoluted crime plot involving two bickering hitmen (Dexter Fletcher and Max Irons), a suicidal teacher (Simon Pegg) and a doddery janitor (Mike Myers).

But her frequent costume changes, the fragmented timelines, the poor dialogue, the naff sets and the preposterous twists work against her.

Flying The Nest (3/5)

A Pixar-style movie is injected with Scandinavian grit in this Icelandic animation.

The hero is a baby plover, Iceland’s national bird, called Ploey (voiced by Jamie Oram) who is separated from his flock after his dad is eaten by a falcon called Shadow (Richard Cotton).

When the rest of the plovers fly south for winter, the poor chap is left facing an uncertain few months on the fjords.

Plovers don’t have thick enough feathers to cope with the Icelandic winter.

Even worse, Ploey is so traumatised by his dad’s death that he has lost the nerve to fly.

And with predators gathering he will have to rely on his wits to survive.

The animation is pretty and the story is well paced.

But despite a light smattering of comedy it feels a lot grimmer than the usual Pixar fare.

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