WRECK-IT RALPH (PG, 108 mins) Animation/Family/Comedy/Action.

Featuring the voices of John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Jack McBrayer, Ed O'Neill, Edie McClurg, Dennis Haysbert, Joe Lo Truglio. Director: Rich Moore.

Video games based on films allow audiences to put themselves in the thick of the action from their favourite Hollywood blockbusters and animated features.

It's a marriage made in merchandising heaven.

So it's somewhat surprising that films based on video games malfunction so badly.

Cinematic versions of Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros were disastrous and only the long-running Resident Evil series seems to have sustained appeal with fan boys and girls.

Rich Moore's feel-great computer animation is a glorious exception to the rule, using a fictitious coin-operated arcade game as a backdrop to one pixellated character's uplifting journey of self-discovery.

Blessed with a smart script and energetic vocal performances, Wreck-It Ralph is 108 minutes of pure, unadulterated joy.

Candy-coloured visuals burst with colour and detail, and the 3D version makes excellent use of the eye-popping format in stomach-churning action sequences that careen up and down undulating race tracks at dizzying speed.

Wreck-It Ralph (voiced John C Reilly) is the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix Jr, which has stood the test of time in an arcade.

However, after years of destruction, Ralph yearns to be the hero for once.

Felix (Jack McBrayer) and the other residents of Ralph's computerised world are unsympathetic and shun him.

So with a heavy heart, Ralph breaks protocol to seek adventure in a futuristic first-person shooting game called Hero's Duty, serving under the command of ballsy space trooper Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch).

But Ralph escapes the game and unwittingly transports an alien Cy-Bug from Hero's Duty into the neighbouring Sugar Rush racing game.

While the creature lays eggs and prepares to overrun the realm of King Candy (Alan Tudyk) and his subjects, Ralph befriends diminutive misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who is ostracised by the other racers because she has a glitch in her coding which causes her to flicker.

Ralph makes a shocking discovery about Vanellope's past and he realises that to cure her, he must help the sassy tyke beat her rivals to the chequered flag in her modified go-kart.

Wreck-It Ralph is a smashing treat.

Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee's script balances uproarious laugh with tears without shamelessly manipulating our emotions.

Kids will squeal with glee at the turbo-charged action sequences; grown men, meanwhile, will shed silent tears into their popcorn.

Before the main feature, we're treated to John Kahrs's stunning black-and-white short, Paperman, which has been deservedly nominated for an Oscar later this month.

Blending hand-drawn and computer animation, this perfectly formed gem chronicles a Brief Encounter-style love affair in 1940s New York using a paper aeroplane as the simple yet ingenious dramatic device to bring two passing strangers together.

In seven unforgettable minutes, Kahrs takes us on a rollercoaster of emotion that leaves us unabashedly grinning from ear to ear.



WARM BODIES (12A, 108 mins)

Comedy/Horror/Romance/Action. Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, Rob Corddry, John Malkovich, Dave Franco. Director: Jonathan Levine.

Love is blind.

In Jonathan Levine's post-apocalyptic romantic comedy based on the blackly humorous book by Isaac Marion, it's certainly a little cross-eyed as a feisty teenager sparks an unexpected attraction to a zombie.

Warm Bodies is a refreshing twist on Romeo And Juliet, enhanced with solid digital effects to unleash an army of ravenous skeletons known as "bonies" in action sequences that punctuate the burgeoning affections of these unlikely star-crossed lovers.

The film opens in the aftermath of the terrible epidemic, which has reduced most of the population to shuffling corpses incapable of speech or feeling.

Survivors of the disaster are crammed inside a high-walled metropolis patrolled by General Grigio (John Malkovich) and his gun-toting troops.

The general's feisty teenager daughter, Julie (Teresa Palmer), ventures into the dead zone with her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco) and best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton), where they come under attack from zombie buddies R (Nicholas Hoult) and M (Rob Corddry).

R kills Perry and devours the boyfriend's brain, which transfers memories of Julie.

Something stirs within the zombie and he rebels against his carnivorous nature to protect the terrified girlfriend from the marauding hordes.

Holed up in R's hideaway aboard an abandoned airplane, Julie slowly comes to trust her unlikely protector.

"There are a lot of ways to get to know a person," concedes R in droll voiceover. "Eating a person's boyfriend's brains is one of the less orthodox ones."

Romance catalyses a remarkable physical transformation in R, suggesting there might be a cure to the plague.

Warm Bodies is surprisingly sweet, anchored by an endearing performance from Hoult as the shuffling predator, who hankers for the glory days of vinyl and his favourite 1980s power ballad, Missing You by John Waite.

The actor's ashen face gradually registers emotion as R's feelings for Julie jump-start his cold heart, causing blood to pulse through previously lifeless veins.

Screen chemistry with Palmer is believable, and the central romance is nuzzled by warm and colourful turns from Tipton, Corddry and Malkovich in slightly underwritten supporting roles.

Levine casts a nostalgic, rosy glow over the post-apocalyptic gloom, earning a 12A certificate despite occasional explosions of flesh-ripping violence.

His screenplay elicits big laughs, such as when R ironically recalls life before infection and muses, "It must have been so much better before, when people could communicate and express their feelings" as the screen fills with images of airport passengers welded to mobile devices, tablets and handheld video game consoles.

The message is clear: the zombification of modern society started a long time ago.

Thanks to Levine's charming film, there is still a glimmer of hope for lovers and dreamers to escape the drudge.

The art of romance is undead.



HITCHCOCK (12A, 98 mins)

Drama/Romance. Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, James D'Arcy, Ralph Macchio, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Wincott, Kurtwood Smith. Director: Sacha Gervasi

In a career spanning more than 50 years, London-born film-maker Alfred Hitchcock redefined the cinematic landscape with his diabolical and twisted thrillers.

Audiences screamed and cowered on cue, and Hollywood courted his enviable talents behind the camera.

Yet for all that success and public adulation, he never won an Academy Award as Best Director and had to put his personal fortune on the line to commit arguably his crowning achievement to celluloid.

Director Sacha Gervasi pays tribute to the iconic film-maker in this compelling biopic based on the book Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho by Stephen Rebello.

Adapted for the screen by John J McLaughlin, Hitchcock focuses on the fractious relationship between the film-maker (Anthony Hopkins) and his screenwriter wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during the turbulent period when the couple risked everything to self-finance "a nice, clean, nasty little piece of work" called Psycho.

Studios bosses balk at distributing the film and the universally feared Motion Picture Production Code voices its concerns about the infamous shower scene.

"The Code will absolutely not permit you to show a knife penetrating a woman's flesh," warns administrator Geoffrey Shurlock (Kurtwood Smith).

So Hitchcock strikes a deal to shoot the film's love scene to Shurlock's exact specifications in exchange for keeping the shower scene intact.

Alma remains a rock of support through the turmoil, and she offers valuable advice about killing off the heroine halfway through the film.

"I think it's a huge mistake," she opines. "You shouldn't wait until halfway through... Kill her off after 30 minutes!"

When principal photography eventually begins, Hitchcock nurtures an obsession with his blonde leading lady, Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson).

This devotion to Leigh comes at the expense of his relationship with fellow actress Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), who was once the apple of his twinkling eye.

In response, Alma entertains flattering overtures from fellow writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), which fans the flames of her husband's jealousy.

Pressures on and off the set take their toll and Hitchcock is haunted by the spirit of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) - the notorious serial killer who was the inspiration for Norman Bates.

He falls ill and Alma is forced to step in behind the cameras, galvanising the cast and crew as studio bosses circle the project like vultures.

Hitchcock is a handsomely crafted portrait of tortured genius, distinguished by scintillating performances.

Mirren oozes determination and steely resolve as a trailblazer in an industry dominated by men, while Hopkins disappears beneath Oscar-nominated prosthetics.

His mannerisms perfectly capture the awkwardness and insecurities of a visionary who struggled with his weight.

Hopkins delivers the lip-smacking one-liners with obvious relish.

"My murders are always models of taste and discretion!" grins Hitchcock at one point.

Gervasi's picture is almost as delicious and elegant.



I GIVE IT A YEAR (15, 97 mins) Comedy/Romance

Rafe Spall, Rose Byrne, Stephen Merchant, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Colman, Jane Asher. Director: Dan Mazer

Parting is such bittersweet sorrow in Dan Mazer's London-set anti-romcom.

I Give It A Year deviates from a well-trodden narrative path by quickly declaring its intention to split up the central married couple in order to pair them off with more suitable soulmates.

The gamble that we'll whoop and cheer all the way to the divorce courts doesn't quite pay off because Mazer tempers heartbreak with sentimentality, contriving a final flourish slathered in so much syrupy emotion, you can feel the teeth rotting in your head as the end credits roll.

There's no period of emotional devastation for characters to come to terms with their inevitable separation and loss, no self-reflection or crippling guilt - just a seamless transition from a doomed relationship to eternal bliss.

The film begins with the wedding of Nat (Rose Byrne) and Josh (Rafe Spall), who have enjoyed a whirlwind romance and are looking forward to getting to know each better other as husband and wife.

A toe-curling speech from best man Danny (Stephen Merchant) is the first bad omen and nine months later we find the couple in a counselling session with a sardonic therapist (Olivia Colman) plagued by her own relationship issues.

A depressed Josh seeks refuge in the company of kooky old flame Chloe (Anna Faris), who has been abroad for years and clearly still adores him.

Meanwhile, corporate high flier Nat is wooed by charming American businessman Guy (Simon Baker).

While clearly tempted, she doesn't want to hurt Josh.

"You're a Ferrari and he's a Volvo," she tells Guy. "Right now, I need to be behind the wheel of a Volvo. I need reliability."

Sooner rather than later, we know that she will succumb to a test drive of a racier model.

I Give It A Year has moments of genuine hilarity and the cast wrings every last titter from Mazer's potty-mouthed and bawdy script.

The writer-director orchestrates some hilarious interludes courtesy of the supporting characters, such as Danny's best man's speech that lurches from political incorrectness to crudity, and an unfortunate set of holiday snaps.

Scene-stealing supporting performances include Merchant as a hapless ladies' man and Minnie Driver as Nat's acid-tongued sister, Naomi, whose love-hate relationship with her spouse (Jason Flemyng) errs towards enmity.

"I'd ruin Bieber," grins Naomi, lustfully imagining a liaison with the teenage pop sensation.

Spall and Byrne are likeable and the film makes a compelling case for Nat and Josh to find happiness in the arms of Guy and Chloe instead.

However, when cinematic hearts can be broken and then seemingly mended in the blink of an eye, it's difficult to muster empathy for the characters or place any value in new and supposed healthier relationships.