Animated movie The Grinch, sublime crime-drama Widows, Peter Jackson's WWI documentary They Shall Not Grow OId and Irish director Rebecca Daly's Good Favour are all in cinemas this weekend.
The Grinch ***
The Grinch returns in a stunningly animated, whimsical outing that is ideal Christmas viewing for a young audience.
The Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) lives on the outskirts of Whoville, a place inhabited by Christmas-loving, festive-spirited Whos who go all out in terms of decorations, gifts and carol singing.
The animation is extraordinary and the vibrant world of the film is simply marvellous. While it's all about the Grinch, and Cumberbatch's voice shines yet again, the real star of the show is his sidekick, Max. The little dog brings many of the laughs and is so expressive and endearing, he's sure to become an audience-favourite. Read our full review here.
Well, that's film of the year sorted.
Adapted by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, Widows is based on a 1980s UK TV crime-drama of the same name, written by Lynda La Plante, best known for the classic British TV series Prime Suspect.
The basic premise is as straightforward as they come: a group of criminals are wiped out when a robbery goes wrong, leaving four of their disparate (and desperate) widows to pick up the pieces and go for the major robbery that the gang leader had planned. Read our full review here.
They Shall Not Grow Old *****
Anyone who has major reservations about the whole hackneyed, maybe even disrespectful, concept of film colourisation may be forced into a radical rethink while watching Peter Jackson's masterful documentary about World War One.
The director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy has sorted through hours and hours of archive footage of the Great War and, along with a team of colourists and editors, has delivered what may be the definitive film document of what life was really like in the trenches for millions of men between 1914 and 1918.
As a technical feat They Shall Not Grow Old bears comparison with Jackson's LOTRs films, but it is the human story that will stay with you. Read our full review here.
Good Favour ****
Good Favour is a narratively experimental film which follows the strange events that occur following the arrival into a Central European religious community of a young man bearing the signs of trauma.
There are shades in Irish director Rebecca Daly's film of Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1968 tour de force, Teorema, wherein a mysterious figure known as 'The Visitor' and played by Terence Stamp, inveigles his way into a bourgeois Italian family and effects all manner of domestic disruption.
You will certainly leave the cinema musing and reflecting about what you have just seen. Read our full review here.
If your idea of the perfect weekend is a suitcase full of Commando comics and a seemingly endless supply of Maltesers, then action-horror Overlord should deliver the same pulpy, pile-on-the-pounds high in under two hours. And just like the Commandoes and Maltesers, it's very moreish.
Hitting that B-movie trifecta of savagery, set-pieces and snarkiness, Overlord overcomes a bit of hokey CGI at the start and a flatpack French village, and turns into a life-affirming, lock-and-load treat.
There's no post-credits sequence, either - proper old school. Read our full review here.
Fourteen-year-old Joe watches his parents' marriage teeter nervously in the town of Great Falls, Montana where the family are blow-ins and wild fires are blowing hot.
We see the whole scenario essentially through Joe's eyes in this compelling film, which is directed at a sensible pace by actor Paul Dano in his directorial debut. Read our full review here.
From the carnage of the battlefield, the drudgery of dark satanic mills, to the pomp of parliament, Mike Leigh sets the scene for a showdown between the peasantry and the uncaring ruling classes in the run-up to the infamous massacre at a pro-democracy rally on Manchester's St Peter's Fields in 1819.
It's Leigh's most epic movie and he does a superb job of contrasting the scope and scale of the times with the day-to-day struggle of ordinary people.
However, the veteran director takes far too long to get to the guts and, indeed, gore of his movie. Read our full review here.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms ***
Loosely based on a short story by ETA Hoffman, with extracts from Tchaikovsky's music in the soundtrack and a ballet sequence to boot, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a colourful and fast-moving fantasy.
It's Christmas Eve and we meet Clara (Mackenzie Foy), the young heroine of the piece, in the company of her two siblings. Father decorates the tree and he does his best to animate his brood. It's not so easy. Mother is not present: she died and passed on to another realm, leaving this bustling pre-Christmas Victorian London scene behind her.
However, she has left a jewelled oval-shaped case with an accompanying note from her mother to the effect that she will find all she needs within. Cue a risky journey through various realms in search of the key for our young heroine. Read our full review here.
Juliet, Naked **
Chris O'Dowd plays Duncan, an obsessive fan of the music of Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) - an obscure, cultish American musician who cut some kind of dash some 20 years previously.
Duncan's wife Annie (Rose Byrne) begins a flirtatious online relationship with Tucker, while Duncan begins to hang out with a new female colleague at the college where he works. The fun, such as it is, begins when Tucker decides to come to England to hook up with Annie.
Juliet, Naked tries hard, but the movie flounders between the streams of lame comedy and the springs of affection. Read our full review here.