January is the month to make the cinema a home away from home and sure enough, you could spend the whole weekend there with Hostiles, Brad's Status and All the Money in the World opening, and Molly's Game, The Greatest Showman and The Last Jedi also on screens.
Having done his bit to safeguard the Western with 2007's 3:10 to Yuma, Christian Bale is back in the saddle again for Hostiles, an elegiac examination of one world becoming another, a cross-country odyssey of the soul and a white-knuckle story of the evil that men do.
How there hasn't been more made of this film is a mystery, because it's as powerful and memorable as anything on screens right now. It's also, arguably, the most affecting work Bale has ever done in a role specifically written for him by his Out of the Furnace director Scott Cooper. You know it from the moment he puts those eyes on you. Read our full review here.
Brad's Status ****1/2
Ben Stiller inhabits the role of a hard-pressed, somewhat neurotic dad with brilliant fidelity in the engrossing Brad's Status.
Director Michael White peers behind the American dream, with its garish stage props of competitiveness and greed. Witty and perceptive, file it under 'light-hearted existentialism'. Read our full review here.
All the Money in the World ****
Having completed filming with Kevin Spacey as billionaire J Paul Getty, Ridley Scott reshot Spacey's All the Money in the World scenes in a matter of days with Christopher Plummer taking over a part for which he had originally been the first choice. Scott's bold move will go down in Hollywood lore. As for Plummer's performance, well, that's one for the books, too.
Based on the true story of the abduction in Italy of Getty's teenage grandson John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer - no relation) in 1973, All the Money in the World follows his mother Gail's (Michelle Williams) battle to get him back, and the refusal by "the richest man in the history of the world" to give the kidnappers any of his money. Between immovable object and irresistible force comes Fletcher Chace (Mark Wahlberg), Getty's security expert, tasked with solving the situation "as quickly and inexpensively as possible". Twists, threats and trauma follow, and all the while, the clock keeps ticking. Read our full review here.
Molly's Game ***1/2
Writer Aaron Sorkin's (The Social Network, The West Wing) directorial debut delivers more flushes than flops, but the mind-boggling true story was always going to draw the right cards.
Molly's Game tells the real-life story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), an almost Olympic skier, who at the age of 26, brokered a highly exclusive underground poker game for the rich and famous. But after almost a decade of hosting the illegal games and earning a staggering €3 million a year just in tips alone, Molly's 'Poker Princess' bubble was burst by the FBI. Read our full review here.
The Greatest Showman ****
Hugh Jackman's PT Barnum biopic is pure entertainment and just the film we need right now in this crazy world. Let's put it this way: it makes Mamma Mia! look like Full Metal Jacket.
Sure, it will annoy chin-rubbers looking for something meatier. But it's a musical, not some gritty crime drama or daring exposé. The Sound of Music was about a real-life family, yet it sugar-coated reality, simplified the story, and got on with being a great musical. The same principle applies to The Greatest Showman. Read our full review here.
Pitch Perfect 3 ***1/2
The gleefully infectious Pitch Perfect 3 combines everything that was great about the previous two instalments - peppy, polished a cappella numbers, witty one-liners and feelgood vibes - with a crime sub-plot and a healthy dose of ludicrousness. Somehow, all the elements harmonise to perfection.
Rebel Wilson is on buoyant form and her pithy gags are as fresh as ever. The always-watchable Anna Kendrick is delightfully deadpan and Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins do some scene-stealing as the comically inept documentary filmmakers following singing group the Bellas around. You might even have a tear in your eye for the belter of a finale. Read our full review here.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle ***
Fans of the original 1995 Jumanji starring the great Robin Williams are likely to approach this update with trepidation but should emerge from the cinema pleasantly surprised.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a BIG movie in many senses. Big cast, big action set-pieces, big production, but at the heart of it all is a big heart (awww), which elevates it above most franchise reboots that limp onto the big screen. Read our full review here.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi ****
Writer-director Rian Johnson - the first go-it-alone scribe since George Lucas - has set the controls for suspense and shocks with his Last Jedi, a movie that is at times too much of a good thing, but which still delivers that oh-so-precious cargo of moments for the memory bank.
Picking up directly after The Force Awakens, with the Rebels looking down the barrel of annihilation and young hero Rey (Daisy Ridley) and old soul Luke (Mark Hamill) still locked in their Skellig Michael staring contest, The Last Jedi goes big on identity, confusion and loss as Johnson puts characters through the existential wringer like no Star Wars director before him. Read our full review here.