Talking strictly in terms of quantity this is a massive weekend at the cinema. There's over half a dozen new releases to choose from with everything from action to rom-com to cult to kiddie hitting the big screen.
But talking in terms of quality how does this deluge of movies measure up? Here's the TimeOut team's verdict on all of the new releases.
Crazy Rich Asians
An effervescent breath of fresh cinematic air, this ridiculously entertaining film succeeds as an instant cultural touchstone and a reaffirmation of the joy of romantic comedies.
As the first contemporary film with an all-Asian cast released by a major American studio since 1993's The Joy Luck Club, it would be easy to perceive Crazy Rich Asians solely through the prism of its representation goals. But they remembered to make the film awesome as well, and that awesomeness is only enhanced by the idea that large sections of the audience are seeing themselves reflected in a mainstream movie for the first time.
Adapted from Kevin Kwan's 2013 novel, the plot follows NYU economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), the only child of a Chinese immigrant mother. Rachel's been dating the dashing Nick Young (Henry Golding) for a year but doesn't realise he's the scion of one of Singapore's wealthiest families.
When she joins him on a trip to his home country for a wedding, Rachel encounters his wider circle of friends and family, some of whom, especially his mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), view her as a gold-digging American interloper.
Ably filling a rom-com-shaped hole that has emerged of late in Hollywood, this Cinderella story doesn't reinvent the form by any stretch but gains a huge amount from the heretofore unexplored cultural avenues it pursues.
Wu and Golding are charm personified, and there's much fun to be found in the supporting cast of colourful characters.
If I had a complaint, it might but that some sections feel a little bit too much like a Singapore tourism video, but that's a small crime for a film that is otherwise guaranteed to have you grinning from ear to ear.
- Review by Dominic Corry
Cast: Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding
Director: Jon M. Chu
Running time: 120 minutes
Rating: PG (Coarse language)
Verdict: Impossible to resist.
Mega Time Squad
You don't need a time travelling device to realise that Mega Time Squad is destined to become a future cult classic.
This lo-fi local movie is a sci-fi, comedy crime caper that sees John, a dim but likeable small-time crook, come into possession of a mystical bracelet that allows him to travel through time. Realising the awesome power the bracelet affords him, John hatches a hare-brained scheme to rob his patronising crime boss, hightail it out of Thames with bags of cash and start a new life in the big smoke of Paeroa.
I'm not sure why John didn't just go back in time with the winning Lotto numbers but I guess that wouldn't be much of a movie... Instead, he repeatedly time travels backward until there's a gang of John's all working in tandem to pull off the heist.
Writer/director Tim van Dammen has perfectly captured the spirit and vibe of the 80s retro classics he was so obviously inspired by, right down to its great synth soundtrack. For a no-budget film, Mega Time Squad certainly looks a million dollars. The effects here convince, especially as the screen starts filling up with the squad of Johns.
The script is foul-mouthed and very funny, revelling in its distinctly Kiwi rhythm and dialogue. There's a dry wit to the gags, frequently bordering on absurdism, that makes it feel like the weirdo pop-culture obsessed cousin of Taika Waititi and Flight of the Conchords.
But what makes the movie so enjoyable, especially for us locals, is how recognisably Kiwi the movie is. From its Thames location to characters eating pies to John constantly declaring things to be "mean, bro", Mega Time Squad is a movie that simply could not have been made anywhere else.
It doesn't take itself too seriously and really is a lot of fun. Find the time to see it now or you'll be left looking for your own mystical bracelet.
- Review by Karl Puschmann
Cast: Jonny Brugh, Anton Tennet, Hetty Gaskell-Hahn
Director: Tim van Dammen
Running Time: 79 minutes
Rating: R13 (Violence and offensive language)
Verdict: This Kiwi crime caper is mean as.
For their fourth collaboration in five years, director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg veer slightly away from the "patriotic true-story" sub-genre of Lone Survivor (2013), Deepwater Horizon (2016) and Patriot's Day (2016) to deliver this fictional patriotic action thriller, which asserts real-world relevance by casually throwing out terms like "collusion" and "election-hacking".
Often frustratingly soft-spoken elsewhere, Wahlberg offers up his liveliest performance in ages as James Silva, the manic, jabberjaw leader of an ultra-secretive, ultra-effective paramilitary unit that gets its orders from the CIA. In an unnamed Southeast Asian country, Silva and his team must transport an asylum-seeking informant the titular distance to a waiting plane in order to gain critical intelligence. Many, many bad guys will try to stop them.
The informant is played by Indonesian actor/martial artist Iko Uwais, star of action cult hit The Raid. Although he's "the package" in this particular set-up, the film gives Uwais plenty of reasons to deploy his particular set of skills, which remain as stunningly cinematic as ever.
Indeed, more so than I anticipated, Mile 22 is an impressively bad-ass, hard-edged action movie, effective enough to justify its brazenly fascistic world view.
It opens with an intensely palpable house assault sequence, briefly pauses for Wahlberg to yammer on like he's never yammered-on before (it's actually quite funny), before heading into the main gauntlet run, an epic set-piece that takes up the final third of the movie and evokes everything from the legendary Heat shoot-out to the martial arts savagery of John Wick.
The strong supporting cast does good work, in particular The Walking Dead's Lauren Cohan, who makes a strong case for her own movie stardom here.
- Review by Dominic Corry
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan
Director: Peter Berg
Running time: 94 minutes
Rating: R16 (Graphic violence and offensive language)
Verdict: No-nonsense fascistic fun.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Calls to ban gay conversion therapy are growing in New Zealand, making The Miseducation of Cameron Post's debut at the festival all the more timely. But as a film that takes a watchful approach, opting to dance around its central issue rather than unpack it, its impact is hindered when that political context is considered.
Chloe Grace Moretz is Cameron Post, a teen sent to "God's Promise" conversion therapy after she's caught kissing a girl. Moretz's performance is strong; for much of the film, her quiet ambivalence to the sinister teachings of Dr Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) hints at more internal battles. But Cameron's stony demeanour eventually distances her from the audience; we never truly understand who she is, and queer viewers hungry for the kind of emotional arc found in other coming-of-age dramas will leave disappointed.
Mostly, Cameron Post lands as a hangout film with little conflict, as Cameron becomes fast friends with Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck). This is where director Desiree Akhavan succeeds; watching the friends fall into their beautifully rendered comraderie against their repressive superiors makes for charming viewing. Lane and Goodluck offer strong supporting turns, though neither character is fleshed out enough to do them justice. Even Adam's explanation of being two-spirit, a Native American understanding of sexuality, is far too brief, and it squanders an opportunity to give voice to an underrepresented identity.
When Cameron asks late in the film, "How is programming people to hate themselves not emotional abuse?" It's one of the first signs she's gaining agency over her sexuality. It's a subtle taste of triumph that would work in another film, but here, it can't surpass the many other unresolved threads; even the heart-breaking act of violence that prompts Cameron's question is brushed over.
Akhavan's effortless knack for naturalistic humour and her less-is-more approach certainly makes for a warmly entertaining experience – but as the film embraces a sudden sense of liberation towards its end, it feels, in a narrative sense, undeserved.
- Review by George Fenwick
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rating: M (sex scenes, offensive language & drug use)
Verdict: A far-too-passive look at a painfully real topic
On Chesil Beach
Films such as Atonement and The Child in Time are proof Ian McEwan's novels provide good material for movies. However, film-makers are fast running out of McEwan options, with many saying the books left are too tricky to adapt - with this thought to be one of them.
On Chesil Beach has been adapted by McEwan himself, from his novella of the same name, and marks the feature film directing debut of National Theatre director Dominic Cooke. It's a tasteful, largely restrained and handsomely shot period film, about a young and innocent couple from differing backgrounds whose relationship unravels on their wedding night.
An excellent performance by Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Ladybird) as Florence anchors this exploration of sex and intimacy in the early 1960s. A budding violinist from an upper-class family, Florence meets and falls in love with Edward (Billy Howle), a clumsy country lad who's always got a history book in his back pocket.
The story begins in a Dorset hotel on the first night of their honeymoon and then flicks back in time to witness their courtship. As sweet as this is; it's the additional flashbacks to significant moments in each of their lives which provides complexity and layers to the characters, especially Florence.
Howle (Dunkirk) does a solid job with a tricky and potentially unsympathetic role. While the chemistry between Ronin and Howle isn't as convincing as you'd like, Howle's outrage at a startling confession by his new wife, and then regret at his actions, provides the long-awaited emotional kick at the end.
It seems only fair to warn you that On Chesil Beach isn't the cheeriest of romances, and if you have read the book then the screen version isn't quite as lyrical. Rather, it's a contemplative slow burner that lingers with you for days.
- Review by Francesca Rudkin
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Emily Watson
Director: Dominic Cooke
Running Time: 109 minutes
Rating: M (Nudity & sex scenes)
Verdict: A nicely crafted, moving, downbeat drama
Luis and the Aliens
As far as family-friendly alien films go this is no E.T. or even Monsters vs Aliens, but if you're after harmless, colourful, goofy fun to entertain littlies, Luis and the Aliens will do the trick.
It doesn't have the finesse of a Pixar or DreamWorks animation, but the slightly retro approach and colourful palette are accessible to kids and, most importantly, there's nothing nightmare inducing.
For parents, the story will feel familiar – it's a collection of family film cues you've seen before. Luis is a lonely young boy whose mother has died and is neglected by his "crazy scientist" father, who spends his days asleep on the couch and his nights searching for aliens in the sky. It's not long before child services are knocking on the door.
It's about this moment, when a young boy needs some help, that a trio of rather hapless aliens land in search of a massage mat they've seen on a home shopping network. Yes - it is silly and random so best just to go with it...
The aliens are designed to provide plenty of slapstick fun as they work out what a vacuum cleaner does, how to drive a car and what happens when you drink dishwashing liquid. There are a few funny inconsistencies as well – such as the fact they speak English but can't say the word "earth".
There's not a lot to keep adults amused, although there is something sweet about Luis. Perhaps his sense of independence and ability to deal with what life throws at him makes him a protagonist to get behind. Or maybe the alien's crazy human traits (gluttony, nervousness, consumerism) makes him look a great kid by comparison.
Don't expect to be blown away, but there's just enough here to keep young viewers happy.
- Review by Francesca Rudkin
Cast: Callum Maloney, Paul Tylak
Directors: Sean McCormack, Wolfgang Lauenstein, Christoph Lauenstein
Running Time: 86 minutes
Rating: PG (Violence and scary scenes)
Verdict: Colourful, crazy fun for the littlies.
"The aura surrounding the Spitfire is more a post-war phenomenon than a war-time thing. It was just an instrument of war then," says one of the few remaining RAF Spitfire pilots still alive. As this documentary makes crystal clear, the iconic World War II fighter, which has since been idolised and romanticised, was a design of practicality made to do a job.
The film traverses the Spitfire's history but rather than roll out a bland history of sequential events, documentarians David Fairhead and Ant Palmer have mixed up the Spitfire's tale with a plethora of anecdotal stories from the people who made, delivered, and flew the craft.
A lively marriage of archival and modern-day footage spurs proceedings as it covers the aeroplane's crucial use in the Battle of Britain. Sparsely narrated by the very recognisable voice of Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), his resonant timbre and clipped British accent provide the kind of regal gravitas to match the iconic plane's Rolls-Royce Merlin engines that growl throughout.
It's the kind of documentary that doesn't require an interest in the subject to make it worth your while. Certainly, the intoxicating imagery is both sad and thrilling, but it's the fascinating personal accounts that resonate most.
Worthy of note is its examination into the role that women played; whose skills were not only employed in the manufacture and design of the aircraft, but also their piloting prowess in delivering the 22,000 Spitfires to the airfields.
It's an elegant documentary, although the emotive musical score is perhaps a little too fawning, it does soften the film's British stiff upper lip.
Appropriately, Spitfire doesn't side-step the awful loss, finishing on a personal note that pays homage to those who lost their lives. As one ex-pilot implores "In all conscience, this world needs a change from all this hostility and warfare. The world needs a change."
Indeed it does.
- Review by Toby Woollaston
Cast: Charles Dance
Directors: David Fairhead and Ant Palmer
Running time: 99 mins
Rating: Not yet rated.
Verdict: A fascinating look at the iconic plane that dominated the skies.