This Christmas, Bumblebee and Mary Poppins will be doing battle at the box office - and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Aquaman also have skin in the game.
Bumblebee **** (in cinemas December 26)
Now this could be the surprise of the year. Yes, Bumblebee is a Transformers movie, but you won't need to bring your migraine tablets along when you go to see it.
Forget the usual carmageddon and blitzed cityscapes; set in 1987, Bumblebee shifts into a lower gear to tell a charming origins story which centres on a lonely girl who befriends a B-127 Autobot stranded on earth as two particularly evil Decepticons hunt him down.
Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight (above) plays it for laughs, while screenwriter Christina Hodson has the luxury of affectionately sending up the DayGlo Eighties through our young hero's goth sensibilities and some smart one-liners, including one about the coming of the Internet. Read our full review here.
Mary Poppins Returns *** (In cinemas now)
A full 54 years after the celebrated original, magical nanny Mary Poppins makes her return with Emily Blunt in the lead role, supported by a starry cast of acting veterans, all of whom seem to be having a lot of fun.
Colin Firth is a seemingly gentlemanly and trustworthy banker named Wilkins, Julie Walters does her clucking housemaid thing again, David Warner is good value as Admiral Boom, and Meryl Streep literally has a turn as Mary's eccentric, East European Aunt Topsy.
Mary Poppins Returns is a decidedly old fashioned affair - even the animated sequences are hand drawn - and the songs, by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, are similarly cut from the same melodic cloth as the first movie, although not quite as memorable. Read our full review here.
Ranging from resolutely po-faced to downright silly and everything in between, Aquaman's first standalone outing is an outrageous, gaudy, dizzyingly over-the-top superhero epic which takes no prisoners.
Over the course of the (horribly bloated) 143-minute duration it runs the gamut from action, horror, adventure caper and even rom-com. Tonally uneven doesn't even come close to describing it.
And yet... Propelled in large part by Jason Momoa's tirelessly charismatic performance as the half-human, half-Atlantean superhero, the film is definitely watchable. Read our full review here.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ****
These days, searching for new themes and stories in endless superhero movie franchises is a job for some kind of caped crusader itself.
Overkill and saturation point reached several times over, even the most dedicated Marvel fans must be feeling jaded (Spider-Man: Homecoming was only released last year, Venom only a few months ago), so kudos to The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller for their latest creation - a Spider-Man movie that does something different, sends up the whole sprawling world of super heroism, and delivers a feel-good message movie all at the same time.
And unlike so many superhero movies, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse looks and feels like the viewer is actually stepping into a moving comic book. It embraces the variation on a theme with style and wit. Read our full review here.
Free Solo ***1/2
Conquering El Capitan - 3,200 feet of sheer rock in Yosemite National Park in the US - is the ultimate quest for free climber Alex Honnold, as documented in this captivating National Geographic film. If Honnold succeeds, he will have managed what is arguably the greatest feat in rock climbing history.
Alex is obsessed with so-called 'free climbing' - climbing without ropes or safety harness - a particularly dangerous sport which has cost the lives of quite a few climbers. Some of the names of those who have died are recorded in this absorbing new film, which you should not attend if you suffer from severe vertigo. Or maybe yes, in fact - go and face your fear.
The odds are that the somewhat opaque subject of the film will lose his life if he keeps devising gruelling challenges for himself, such as scaling El Capitan. It is dominated by a long and useful crack in its face within which to grapple and claim tiny holds with hands and feet. Read our full review here.