There's plenty to catch up on if you haven't been to the cinema these past two weeks.
Jojo Rabbit ***1/2
Adapted from Christine Leunens' best-selling 2004 book Caging Skies, director Taika Waititi's self-described 'anti-hate satire' bounces along with bold ambition.
Set in the fictional German city of Falkenheim towards the end of WWII, Waititi's (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) daring mockery is an examination of the absurdity of war as seen through the eyes of a child, and a biting exploration of how hate spreads.
The controversial comedy rests on the shoulders of lonely German boy Jojo (newbie Roman Griffin Davis), a Hitler Youth member whose ideology is challenged when he finds out that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home. As he starts to question the beliefs of his buffoonish imaginary best friend, Adolf Hitler, Jojo comes face-to-face with the true horror of racism and war. Read our full review here.
Amanda has that pressing, anticipatory feel of a Michael Haneke movie, an air of slightly smug urban contentment about to be shattered.
David (Vincent Lacoste) is a young, energetic Parisian in his twenties who looks after the letting of flats. He meets tenants at train stations and escorts them to their abodes. He also prunes trees as a municipal park worker.
In the course of one of the lettings, he falls for Lena (Stacy Martin), a young piano teacher who has arrived from Bordeaux. He suggests that she might like to teach piano to Amanda (Isaure Multrier), the seven-year-old daughter of his sister Sandrine (Ophélia Kolb) who is a single mother. David collects Amanda from school and the bond between brother and sister is particularly close. Read our full review here.
Little Women ***1/2
A modern and refreshing take on a much-adapted classic.
Writer and director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) brings her own take on the beloved story of four sisters growing up in America in the 1800s to the big screen, and while the plot and characters are familiar, a balance is struck between the nostalgic and the new.
Saoirse Ronan takes the lead as Jo, a forward thinking writer more concerned with following her dreams and charting her own path than securing an advantageous marriage, and turns in yet another brilliant performance. But it is Florence Pugh's portrayal of Jo's younger sister Amy that steals the show. Read our full review here.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ***1/2
At this stage, Star Wars is the movie franchise that ate itself. However, this final part of the rebooted trilogy does rediscover a sense of adventure and maybe even a sense of wonder.
JJ Abrams is back on board as director for this final chapter and there is a sense of righting the ship after The Last Jedi, a good film which nevertheless appalled the faithful by having the cheek to try something different.
Abrams' job here is to close a narrative arc that was in danger of becoming far too convoluted and weighted down by its own self-importance. He mostly pulls it off with panache in a two-and-a-half hour movie bursting with spectacle, rip-roaring action scenes and maybe even a few tears. Read our full review here.
Cats 1/2 a *
When the Cats trailer debuted last July, ashen-faced viewers were left traumatised at the first glimpse of what the likes of Taylor Swift, Idris Elba and many, many other very famous people (some of whom should know better) looked like dressed up and CGI-ed up as cat-human hybrids.
Director Tom Hooper - who previously directed the Oscar-winning Les Misérables - bowed to the mob and ordered a redesign and a rethink but it has not been enough. Cats does not land on its feet.
As with Lloyd Webber's 1981 stage musical, which was based on TS Eliot's 1939 collection of whimsical poems, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, Hooper's movie concerns a motley crew of London street cats known as the Jellicles. All are competing in a song and dance contest at the annual Jellicle Ball to win a chance to escape the back alleys of London's theatreland and travel to the refuge of the Heaviside Layer. Read our full review here.
Long Day's Journey into Night **1/2
Dense and layered, inscrutable and withholding of its essence, Long Day's Journey into Night (not to be confused with the Eugene O'Neill play of the same name) creates ever-increasing mystery.
The year is 2000 in Chinese filmmaker Gan Bi's second feature and Luo Hongwu (Jue Huang) is back in his home town of Kaili, in the southeastern Chinese province of Guizhou. He is seeking the woman he loved 20 years ago and will travel into the realm of dream to find her in this obsessive, Tarkovsky-like exercise.
Long Day's Journey into Night is a risky film to launch anywhere, being slow in its exposition and resistant to easy interpretation. Read our full review here.
Playing with Fire **
Feeling the effects of cabin fever with too much chaos caused by the youngest members of the brood? Well, you're in the same predicament as John Cena in this family caper so. And that's not all you have in common - you both deserve better than Playing with Fire.
Nickelodeon's latest casts the massive multi-hyphenate as a wilderness firefighter who's as uptight as he is brave. Having rescued three tearaways - teenager to tots - from a log cabin blaze, he finds they take great joy in ringing all of his alarm bells when the fire station becomes their home away from home. A man determined to climb the career ladder is now having it kicked from under him - but would that really be such a bad thing?
Cena's comedy chops are worthy of someone who dished out plenty of them in the WWE, and he has no problem with sending himself up onscreen. But after a promising start, Playing with Fire loses its way, with the story getting stuck in schmaltz and the life lessons checklist as rigidly enforced as any health and safety directive from helicopter parents. Read our full review here.