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Rocky with robots

REAL STEEL Sci-fi/action. Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goya, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie, Hope Davis. Directed by Shawn Levy. Cert 12A

Those of you who suffered the noisy nonsense that was Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon during the summer may wish for a gap of two or three years before forking out to see a movie which involves robots knocking several shades of shiny steel out of each other, but this offers more than the bombastic Bayhem of that bloated blockbuster.

Real Steel is a curious combination of sci-fi and a sports movie, a hybrid which only previously worked in Rollerball -- Norman Jewison's 1975 original not the appalling John McTiernan remake.

The setting is the near-future, where the public's thirst for thrills has meant boxing now involves two-ton robots going at it in the ring rather than humans, which must have left the Klitschko brothers in something of a quandary.

Here we meet Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a former fighter now reduced to taking battered 'bots around the carnie/underground circuit.

Charlie's devil-may-care lifestyle is upset when he learns that his ex-wife has died and her sister (Hope Davis) wants full custody of their 11-year-old son Max (Dakota Goya). Ever eager to make money, Charlie agrees to sign away Max for a fee, but agrees to spend the summer with him.

Along the way Max salvages a broken-down sparring robot, Atom, which he insists they programme/train for a shot at the title.

From 15 minutes in you can see that Real Steel is essentially Rocky with robots infused with large dollops of The Champ, as Charlie and Max develop a father/son bond as their plucky underbot eventually gets to show his stuff in the big league.

Despite its utter predictability it's a decent enough movie, with most of its strength coming from a believable interplay between Jackman and Goya. The Aussie actor's rugged charm and charisma shines through while his young counterpart manages to stay just the right side of the line marked 'cute but annoying kid'. The fight sequences are pretty impressive too, drawing you in in a way that the confusing carnage of a Transformers film never could and ensuring that while Real Steel may creak at times there's a heart beating somewhere beneath that gleaming gladiatorial metal.

HHHII

FOOTLOOSE Musical drama. Starring Kenny Wormold, Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid, Miles Teller. Directed by Craig Brewer. Cert 12A

No doubt concocted by some satanic coven of marketing people (who are all cloven-hooved demons to begin with) who bandied about the phrase 'brand recognition' like an infernal invocation, this remake of a prime slice of '80s cheese comes courtesy of MTV Films and is as utterly bland as it is pointless.

The Georgia town of Bomont suffers a tragedy when five teenagers are killed in a car crash coming home from a dance, whereupon local preacher, the Rev Moore (Dennis Quaid) persuades the town council to outlaw dancing and the playing of loud music. A couple of years later a cool kid from Boston, Ren McCormack (dancer-turned-actor, but not by much, Kenny Wormold), arrives in town, starts to shake things up and catches the eye of the preacher's daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough).

Predictable, ludicrously right-on (middle-class white kids work weekend jobs in cotton mills?) and weirdly dated (high school pupils go line-dancing?) Footloose might have been passably anonymous but for the fact that the chemistry between Wormold and Hough is non-existent. The only time anything resembling a twinkle comes into his eye being when he tries to teach his best friend Willard (Miles Teller) some floor-busting moves. A complete waste of time. HHIII