THE big film of this week is Les Miserables, which runs at various local cinemas, including the Rex at Wareham and Salisbury Odeon, from today Friday.
Cameron Mackintosh waited a long time for the blockbuster musical version of Victor Hugo's vast novel to come to the screen, and now audiences around the world are thrilling to the music of Boublil and Schonberg again.
The film is unusual in that the actors sang to camera rather than dubbed their tracks on later, and the cinematography is more like a live satellite transmission of an opera, in that there are a large number of closeup faces. Both these techniques expose the performers to intimate scrutiny, and some do better than others under the harsh spotlight.
Anne Hathaway gives an extraordinary performance as the whore Fantine, wrenching I Dreamed a Dream from the "big hit song" status to a song of unendurable pain.
Samatha Barks, third placed in the TV talent show I'd Do Anything, richly repays Sir Cameron's confidence by giving an unforgettable reading of Eponine.
Hugh Jackman looks extraordinary as Valjean, and Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen have the only fun on offer as the dreadful Thenardiers.
Eddie Redmayne's singing is surprisingly good as the student Marius.
I guess they wanted a big star for Javert, and there are those who believe Russell Crow is the man to sing and act the role. I am not one of them.
The overall effect of this massive film is sometimes overwhelming, filled with unforgettable images and set piece scenes that take your breath away.
The new film starting at the Regent Centre tonight, Friday, is The Master, just nominated for three Golden Globes.
Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman star as a dazed naval officer and the man whose yacht he boards as a stowaway in San Francisco Harbour.
This is a potent, powerful and thought provoking drama set as World War II finishes.
Gradually the master of the yacht becomes the master of Phoenix's soul. Hoffman is the leader of a mystical group called The Cause. They firmly believe that everyone has lived many past lives over the millions of years and that their current body is purely a vehicle to the next stage. This is compelling film making with two towering performances.
The Master is on at the Regent from today until Sunday at various times.
The new films at Poole's Lighthouse Cinema this week are The Hunt and Seven Psychopaths, both opening today and running until Thursday.
The Hunt is directed by Thomas Vinterberg and won a Best Actor award from Mads Mikkelsen at Cannes. It is the disturbing tale of a teacher arrested on a patently phony charge of sexual abuse, as an increasingly hysterical local community hounds him.
Seven Pyschopaths, on from today to next Wednesday, stars Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken. Farrell is a hard-drinking screenwriter trying to complete a script (entitled Seven Pyschopaths) who falls in with a Hollywood lowlife (a wonderfully deadpan Walken) who ransoms kidnapped dogs.
They make the big mistake of stealing a precious shih-tzu belonging to Charlie, a very real gangster (Harrelson), and in the mayhem that ensues as they try to avoid Charlie's vengeance, the script somehow writes itself.
Opening today at Wimborne Tivoli is The Hobbit, the first part of a trilogy based on the book that came before Lord of the Rings. Spectacular but over long, it is also showing from Monday to Thursday next week.
The Hobbit is also at Poole Lighthouse Cinema from 18th to 24th January.
The Movie at Athelhampton this Sunday 13th January at 2.30 is last year's big hit, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Bright young film critics are STILL commenting on how extraordinary it is that a film full of old people could possibly succeed, but succeed it did and is still doing. A varied group of English 60-somethings don't fancy living in a country peopled by patronising and ill-informed buffoons, and so head for India for something more stately. It's full of colour and rhythm and excitement, and not everyone can cope with the culture shock.
At Ferndown's Barrington Centre next Tuesday afternoon, Moviola shows Gambit. Art curator Harry (Colin Firth) decides to take revenge on his abusive boss (Alan Rickman) by conning him into buying a fake Monet, but his plan requires the help of eccentric and unpredictable Texas rodeo queen PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz). This wickedly funny take on the 1966 classic also stars Cloris Leachman, Tom Courtenay and Stanley Tucci.
Moviola also shows Gambit at Frogham next Friday 18th January.
Also next Friday, Moviola audiences can see the new Anna Karenina at Brockenhurst Village Hall. The great Russian author Tolstoy is not much read by the under 50s these days, so for anyone who has no preconceived view of the book, the film offers beauty, romance and a stirring story. Don't look for philosophy here, and leave any historic impressions of Vronsky in the foyer before you go in.
This weeks films at the Odeon in Salisbury are Les Miserables, The Hobbit, Life of Pi, Quartet, Gangster Squad, Rise of the Guardians, Parental Guidance and Tinkerbell and the Secret of Wings.
The Senior Screen film, at 11am next Wednesday, is Here Comes The Boom, and the Odeon Kids film at 10.30am on Saturday and Sunday is Dr Seuss: The Lorax.