Comic-book adventure sequel CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (12: Walt Disney) plays like an old-school political thriller.
Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers (aka star-spangled super-soldier Captain America) and grows into his role with supreme confidence.
When Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is left for dead, another threat to world security emerges. Rogers, who has been in cryogenic storage for 70 years, joins forces with fellow Avenger Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and newcomer to the franchise Anthony Mackie, who plays airborne wingman Falcon.
Following a battle with a mysterious cyborg assassin, Captain America and Black Widow become fugitives and try to bring down a sinister conspiracy.
The resulting action covers the full gamut of spectacular destruction, from highway car chases to heli-carrier sky battles. Yet it’s the characters’ interplay and the deviously well-constructed story that add weight to the film.
> A man on the brink of retirement discovers his pension has been stolen by his company’s crooked new owner in screwball caper THE LOVE PUNCH (12: Entertainment One).
Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson are like a pair of giddy schoolkids as the film tracks the divorced couple’s bumbling efforts to steal a diamond necklace from the fat cat who has squandered the fund.
Their mission takes them to the French Riviera, where they scale cliff-faces, get into car chases and fall in love with each other all over again.
It’s utterly silly and the plot’s a bit clumsy, yet that is also the movie’s charm.
Sheer exuberance more than makes up for its faults and Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie provide sterling support.
> Trying to turn a doorstep-sized novel into a film was several steps too far for fledgling director Akiva Goldsman with WINTER’S TALE (12: Warner).
A romantic fantasy is injected with heavy doses of realism as Colin Farrell plays a petty thief who falls in love with an ailing heiress (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay) he intended to rob in 1916. Untouched by the ageing process, he’s still walking the streets of New York 100 years later.
The supernatural repercussions are part of a much larger story of good and evil in which the lovers are beset by a hammy Russell Crowe as a demon with a broad ‘Oirish’ accent bent on spoiling their happiness.
Gaps in logic and emotional reasoning become gulf-sized towards the grand finale, which involves Jennifer Connelly. The scope of Goldman’s vision is to be admired, but despite the epic sweep, the story ends up feeling comparatively small.
> Solid sci-fi horror THE LAST DAYS ON MARS (15: Universal) sees a group of scientists at the end of a research mission preparing to leave the red planet when one of their number goes missing.
A rescue party led by the captain (Elias Koteas) and a senior engineer (Liev Schreiber) head out to search for their colleague, only to discover more than they bargained for.
The influences of Alien and The Thing are obvious and the cast are OK in stereotypical roles, but the spooks and shocks are telegraphed too far in advance.