They said NOAH (12: Paramount) would be a biblical disaster of epic proportions, but they were wrong.
The Old Testament favourite was sensationalised to make it more profitable and it quickly made three times as much at the box office as the film’s $130million budget.
It’s certainly an impressive spectacle, with Russell Crowe powerfully charismatic throughout in the title role.
But his performance is in marked contrast to the hammy supporting turns by the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone, which feel like they belong to a film extravaganza from a bygone era.
In this blockbuster makeover of the story, Noah is the man chosen by God (here called the Creator) to carry out a momentous rescue mission before apocalyptic floods consume the Earth.
As well as facing the task of shepherding animals into a gigantic ark before the heavens open, Noah is tormented by several big questions, not least why he should be the one chosen as saviour.
And his mission is complicated by his adopted daughter Ila (Emma Watson) and the villainous Tubal-cain (Winstone), who plans on storming the vessel to escape the Creator’s vengeance.
Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky paints a bold story on a broad canvas, although the grandeur of the special effects is interspersed with bouts of navel-gazing.
> Lacklustre black comedy A LONG WAY DOWN (15: Lionsgate) is based on the Nick Hornby novel and centres on four suicidal Londoners.
Although it boasts a classy line-up, the film is overplayed, contrived and unfunny.
The quartet in question are Pierce Brosnan, who’s cast as a disgraced TV presenter; Imogen Poots, an unstable politician’s daughter; Toni Collette, an exhausted mum caring for her disabled son; and Aaron Paul, a failed musician.
One New Year’s Eve they all decide to jump from the same tower block, yet implausibly strapped for space, they decide to hold off taking the plunge until after Valentine’s Day.
Meanwhile, they bond and the movie delves into their back stories.
It’s such a pointless exercise that you may find yourself wishing this depressing bunch had put an end to things six weeks earlier.
> ABOUT LAST NIGHT (15: Sony) is a remake of the 1986 Rob Lowe/Demi Moore film.
Comedy and drama are neatly blended in the tale of two LA couples – one noisy and extrovert, the other quieter and more inward-looking.
We follow them from their first meeting in a bar and through the ups and downs of their stormy relationships.
Directed by Steve Pink and starring Kevin Hart, the plot is sometimes corny, but the dialogue is as smart as the original and the ensemble performances are heartfelt.
> The laughs are of the darkest hue in razor-sharp morality tale CHEAP THRILLS (15: Koch Media), which asks: “What would you do if a stranger offered you piles of cash to do anything on a dare?”
A debt-ridden family man and an old high school buddy are tempted to take up seemingly frivolous bets offered by a thrill-seeking couple they meet in a bar.
As the evening proceeds, the line between need and greed blurs as the wagers become dirtier and more painful.