BATMAN: DEATH IN THE FAMILY

Cert 15 Stars 3

The latest of the Warner Bros. animated superhero adventures brings one of Batman’s most notorious stories to dynamic life as the replacement Robin the Boy Wonder, an orphan called Jason Todd, is kidnapped by arch villain The Joker.

The comic book series on which it’s based used a telephone readers’ vote to decide whether Todd lived or died, and in it’s honour this has various alternate versions of the story to entertain.

Also includes four short stories featuring Sgt. Rock, Adam Strange and more. Fun but not for the little ones.

ENOLA HOLMES

Cert PG Stars 4

A wonderfully fresh take on Baker Street’s famous detective, this is a captivating and hugely entertaining period mystery-adventure which offers adventure, action, romance, some light detecting, a huge amount of charm, and is anchored by a dazzling turn by one of Britain’s best young actresses.

Millie Bobby Brown’s talent and charisma is familiar to the multitude of fans of Netflix series Stranger Things, but even they will be surprised by her outrageously spirited, confident and appealing screen presence here, as she owns the film with irrepressible brio as the wonderfully bright, funny and ass-kicking wayward sixteen year old younger sister of revered detective, Sherlock Holmes.

Addressing the camera with a conspiratorial manner which would make Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge blush for it’s complicity, she’s trying to solve the mystery of her missing mother, played in flashback by a winning Helena Bonham Carter.

Needing a pair of stuffed shirts to play her pompous and over-privileged posh older brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, the producers plumbed for Henry Cavil and Sam Claflin, Brit actors who aren’t asked to step out of their comfort zone. An absolute treat.

SECRET SOCIETY OF SECOND BORN ROYALS

Cert PG Stars 3

Get the new academic year off to a royal start by sending the kids to school for superheroes with this modern day sci-fi fantasy action caper which in typical Disney style of enjoyable breezy polished fun.

Disney Channel star Peyton Elizabeth Lee, bright lively presence as Sam, a princess second in line to the throne of a fictional European kingdom who’s astonished to find she has superpowers and belongs to a secret society dedicated to keeping the world safe.

Pop songs and street protests mix with gadgets, guns, family secrets and sibling rivalry when Greg Bryk’s baddie causes chaos at a coronation

DEEP BLUE SEA 3

Cert 15 Stars 3

This silly and gory fun sci-fi horror sequels is more in the same vein of throwaway nonsensical fun, and though the story and dialogue are ridiculous, the locations are stunning, underwater photography is pretty, and it admirably never gets dragged down by a sense of seriousness.

The wonderfully earnest Tania Raymonde stars as the leader of an international team of buff young scientists on a small Indian ocean island who become terrorised by a gang of genetically enhanced super-sharks.

‘I find this really hard to believe’ says one potential victim. But I reckon that’s overthinking the preposterous premise.

THE SNOW QUEEN: MIRRORLANDS

Cert U Stars 3

Magic, mechanical mayhem, warring kingdoms and a battle between wizardry and science all feature in this upbeat and swashbuckling animated fairytale, an exciting and fun fable based on traditional European fairy tales and updated with the gloss of steampunk design and some superhero-style fisticuffs.

Gerda is the kind hearted, impetuous and brave young daughter of wizards who lives in a warm and sunny medieval kingdom, but she’s frustrated by a lack of power of her own.

Her land is ruled by a cruel king who favours science over magic and by exploiting their greed and gullibility of his subjects, begins to banish all magicians – including Gerda’s parents – to the Mirrorlands, the dreaded realm of the feared Snow Queen.

And so Gerda with her brother Kay, and friend Alfida, Gerda goes in pursuit of a magic key to free her loved ones and along the way discovers her own hidden powers.

The Snow Queen herself is a nicely acerbic monarch who although limited by a magic spell to her icy realm, is able to appear to Gerda as a ghostly spirit.

Yes it all feels a lot like a riff on Disney’s Frozen but on a creative level more akin to the animated capers of The Nut Job, or Tad The Explorer films.

There’s some jarringly out of place references to Alcatraz and suchlike and occasional use of modern slang but your little kids won’t care, they’ll be carried along by the epic sweep of the adventure on a journey of honey hued vistas. featuring lava lakes, giant rock monsters, and sky pirates.

However there’s a surprisingly intricate styling to the charming cityscapes, which feature robot-like street sweepers and trolley trams, and it’s full of slapstick silliness with mischievous and cute critters.

So it will entertain its target audience of your little ones, and without any songs to pad out the running time, it makes it’s a brisk enjoyable affair for the grown-ups.

100% WOLF

Cert 3 Stars 3

Werewolves and dogs are at each other’s throats as a pair of pooches go on the run in this boisterous family animated fable from Australia, a coming-of-age spin on The Lion King, bundled up with pop songs, slapstick, supernatural spells and spy gadgets.

On his 14th birthday Freddy expects to follow in his late father’s paw prints and become a fully fanged werewolf, but as his nefarious uncle is plotting to make himself the leader of the pack Freddy finds himself transformed into a poodle instead, and he has until the next moonrise to recover the lost magical Moonstone.

It’s in the possession of a deluded ice cream man in his Bond villain-style high-tech lair, and to retrieve it Freddy teams up with a stray dog named Batty who offers some streetwise advice and the hint of romance.

Alexs Stadermann previously directed 2014’s kiddie caper Maya the Bee Movie and knows his target audience, so he keeps it fast-paced, funny, with decent production values and most important of all maintains a steady stream of pee jokes to amuse kids of all ages.

FLASH GORDON

Cert 12A Stars 5

Gordon’s alive, remastered and re-released for the 40th anniversary of his 1980 out-of-this-world swashbuckling comic book sci-fi action adventure classic.

Sam J. Jones is charmingly wooden as the unwitting hero Flash, who with Melody Anderson’s Dale Arden has only 14 hours to save the Earth from Max von Sydow’s tyrannical intergalactic warlord Ming the Merciless.

With future 007 Timothy Dalton as the dashing Prince Barin, Brian Blessed as the larger-than-life Prince Vultan, and accompanied by an iconic soundtrack by rock legends Queen, it’s a cosmic trip which must be seen on the big screen.

ARTHUR & MERLIN: KNIGHTS OF CAMELOT

Cert 15 Stars 3

There’s a strong northern accent to this admirably earthy take on Arthurian legend, as it’s written and directed by Yorkshireman Giles Alderson, and stars the solid presence of Geordie actor Richard Short as a battle hardened Arthur.

Freeing England by defeating the Romans has taken a toll on Arthur, who’s living in France as a drunk and bearded brawler and must overcome his personal demons in order to unite his unruly Knights of the Round Table to save England again, this time from his illegitimate adult son Mordred, a sneering and arrogant Joel Phillimore.

Stella Stocker’s solemn and steely Queen Guinevere is captive in Camelot. and though we see less than we’d imagine of Richard Brake as Arthur’s mercurial spiritual guru, the wizard Merlin, we’re not shortchanged of Lancelot or Percival, and the Lady in the Lake, and the Sword in the Stone of course appear.

Filmed only in natural light and making good use of locations, this is very much the Game of Thrones version of Arthur, as supernatural elements combine with a dour muddy realism to create a meaty experience.

VALHALLA: LEGEND OF THOR

Cert 12 Stars 3

Knee deep in folklore and medieval mud, this dark fantasy adventure from Denmark puts meat and blood on the bones of Scandinavian myths and is a coming-of-age tale of a young girl caught up in the.

Cecilia Loffredo and Saxo Molthke-Leth play the are brave yet endearingly flawed medieval mortal children Roskva and Tjalfe, who as punishment for a misdeed are required to serve as slaves to Thor, god of thunder, and accompany him on his quest to capture the dreaded giant wolf Fenrir.

This Thor is far removed from Marvel’s hugely popular superhero version, with Roland Moller being a proud, lusty and quarrelsome presence, while Dulfi Al-Jabouri is wryly enigmatic as his vain half-brother god of mischief, Loki.

An animated introduction sketches out the key mythology and warns of impending Ragnarok, the destruction of the world, while the
steady pace is augmented by a storming soundtrack.

Valhalla is based on a comic book and the focus on characters, plotting and power games feels a bit like watching Game of Thrones for kids.

ARTEMIS FOWL

Cert 12 Stars 3

Disney’s latest big budget sci-fi fantasy adventure is a glossy yet muddled adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s 2001 novel, which makes up with some fun action, great design and impressive special effects what it lacks in strong characters or interesting narrative.

Emerald-clad elves and leprechauns add an Irish flavour to this hodgepodge of Harry Potter and junior James Bond, with most of the action taking place in or around a stunning Irish clifftop residence, and the plot concerns the possession of a magic weapon of mass destruction, attempted genocide and missing fathers.

Kenneth Branagh is no slouch to this sort of romp, having previously directed Disney’s live action Cinderella and Marvel’s first Thor movie, and due to the huge amount of voice-over telling us information the brisk running hasn’t time to show us, I suspect Branagh shot a richer, longer and more coherent version than the one we’re presented with.

With eight books in the series this was clearly intended as a franchise starter, but I doubt we’ll see a sequel.