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Big screen fare

Mulan

Mulan is a bland feminist fable that dispels some gender stereotypes but fails to do much more. Worse, it’s a marketing tool for the Chinese Communist Party.”

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel is more a reminder of Marvel’s early work (think the first Captain America or Thor) than its more recent output (Black Panther or Infinity War).”

Soni

“[It] takes restraint to depict ingrained societal pressures and injustices without being preachy or didactic, and [debutante director] Ivan Ayr has that in spades.”

Bumblebee

“Both Charlie and Bee have faced loss and are broken in different ways, and the film uses that human-machine connection to craft a well-meaning tale of compassion and friendship.”

Aquaman

“[Simply] too over-stuffed and over-long, […]the unique visual style of its underwater universe [is] overshadowed by the excesses around it, leaving behind a film that’s as muddled as our oceans today.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“[Into the Spider-Verse] takes a wacky comic storyline with an outlandish concept, and transfers it onto the screen in a fascinating and fresh manner.”

Ralph Breaks the Internet

“[The] Wreck-It Ralph sequel is clever and self-aware enough to not just mine the decades of nostalgia for a dozen laughs but turn that shameless self-promotion of Disney’s several intellectual properties into a storytelling tool.”

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

“There’s little sense of what The Crimes of Grindelwald is about, and in trying to serve an ensemble while keeping an eye on the big picture, [J.K.] Rowling fails in crafting a narrative that is engaging, meaningful, or even just enjoyable.”

First Man

“[Damien] Chazelle isn’t ever carried away by the magnitude of Armstrong & Co.’s achievements and hence, his film stays away from treating them as legends originating from a mythology.”

Venom

Venom is neither here nor there, and its failure to be self-aware makes it feel like a movie from a different superhero era at times.”

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

“[It] has where it counts, offering thrilling action set-pieces throughout. With nearly all running into double-digit minutes, the attention to level of detail and the commitment to top what came before is astounding.”

Ant-Man and the Wasp

“Recurring gags power much of the humour in Ant-Man and the Wasp. The advantage of such call-back moments is that it rewards the audience for remembering little details and makes them feel smart because they know what’s about to happen.”

Incredibles 2

“That the film manages to convey [so much] while being a rollicking memorable ride — action sequences with Elastigirl are awe-inspiring, while Jack-Jack steals every scene he’s present in — is what makes it great.”

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

“[Its] themes are dealt with in as perfunctory a manner as J.A. Bayona’s Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back reference, as the film is happy to oblige and hand audiences what they’ve come for.”

Deadpool 2

“There are a few things all that meta-referencing can’t solve, but when it’s such fun for the most part — minus a rough second act — it’s hard not to be swept away.”

Avengers: Infinity War

“[Since it] is the beginning of the end for the current generation of Marvel superheroes, it can do away with some and still have plenty to go around. That helps generate stakes and makes Infinity War different from any other Marvel film.”

Annihilation

“[Annihilation] turns a story about coping with the loss of a loved one into a look at our self-destructive nature, and how that manifests itself.”

Black Panther

“[Ryan] Coogler knows fully too well the reach of something like Black Panther, and he uses the Marvel canvas to paint a bigger — but more importantly, a powerful — picture.”

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi embeds [Rian] Johnson’s view of the Star Wars saga into literal dialogue, smartly speaking to the millions of fans through a mighty-expensive studio vehicle for which nostalgia has always been the cornerstone.”

Spider-Man: Homecoming

“The film is about Spider-Man facing what it means to be a hero, and what that entails. But instead of saying it as a fancy dialogue, it shows how great power brings great responsibility.”

Logan

“[As] he rides into the sunset, it’ll be a struggle for anyone who lived through this period to imagine someone else in the role. Logan’s excellence in being the perfect send-off for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine will make it harder still.”

War for the Planet of the Apes

“That the story ultimately transcends our hero – the trilogy has always made it easy to root for the apes – is more than fitting. [The film] builds on a central tenet – ‘apes together strong’ – and sends out resonating values that we can all learn something from.”

Coco

“The world of Coco is beautifully conceptualised and brought to life in a gorgeous, eye-popping fashion, with special mention for the aforementioned alebrije, which have their basis in Mexican folk art and have been rendered as multi-coloured fantastical creatures.”

Justice League

“It’s incapable of pushing the superhero genre like Logan did earlier this year, and it’s got too many cooks in the kitchen to produce something singular. All that ultimately results in a film that’s trying to make everyone happy by giving them what they enjoy, but lacks the required level of quality in nearly every department.”

Thor: Ragnarok

“The punchlines and one-liners keep rolling off the assembly line across Ragnarok, and most of the humour feels natural, with only bits and parts coming across a bit forced in their attempt to liven up the proceedings. […] Ragnarok’s excellence also stems from how it’s able to provide small, meaningful moments for its ensemble.”

Blade Runner 2049

“From its opening moments, Blade Runner 2049 is more interested in creating an experience than telling a story by the numbers. It’s why the director Denis Villeneuve and the film, in turn, bide their time, to slow you down and immerse in the dreary, eerie, and dystopian world of futuristic Los Angeles.”

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

“That Luc Besson managed to put together this undertaking on his own is a testament of his passion for the project, but its core failure of the relationship between Valerian and Laureline – and the lacklustre chemistry of DeHaan and Delevingne – is disappointing. For a world that brings together the four corners of the universe, it’s a shame that we’re being told the same empty tale that we’ve seen a thousand times.”

Wonder Woman

“For a character that’s been around for eight decades, it’s a shame it took so long for a big screen solo debut, but its arrival is more than welcome to serve as a wonderful reminder of why we need more diversity amongst our heroes, both on and off screen. Wonder Woman is far from a perfect film, but it’s brave and smart enough to be granted a well-deserved sequel.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

“[James] Gunn manages to pack an emotional punch in the end, delivering a character send-off that’s bound to bring most viewers to the verge of tears. But though the celestial action is grounded in relatable values, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2‘s central message – that family comes in all shapes and sizes – struggles to shine through, amid the cacophony.”

Ghost in the Shell

“If you want to call your film Ghost in the Shell, but are happy to leave the existential matter behind, it creates a product without much of a soul. That’s not something the Major would ever stand for.”

The Lego Batman Movie

“A lot of its blend of humour is directed at the Caped Crusader himself, and in its attempt to be eternally self-aware and skewer everything in its sight, The Lego Batman Movie doesn’t spare anything – with Batman even narrating over the studio logos before the first frame comes into view.”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

“In Rogue One, [Gareth] Edwards has made the most realistic of Star Wars than any before – and with that, also the most mature and grown-up one. This is not the fun-filled romp for the younger audiences that last year’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens was. Instead, Rogue One is the Star Wars prequel George Lucas should have made, and one that fans of the original trilogy rightly deserve.”

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

“As the audience, we have developed no connection whatsoever with the characters that we are about to see, yet the film is trying evoke memories of a deep past that earned its affection over the course of a decade. But this is Hollywood, a world where franchise is the new buzzword, and nothing is sacred.”

Doctor Strange

“In the first five minutes of Doctor Strange, director Scott Derrickson gives us the wildest and strangest look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet, rivalling every moment seen in any of the previous 13 instalments. Even for an ever expanding franchise that regularly sees immeasurable power, demigods from different realms and individuals warping reality, the scene is far out there.”

Suicide Squad

“More often than not, Suicide Squad plays out completely opposite to that old adage: strength in numbers. The film fares better when it lets individual characters take over the narrative, but cowardice and a general lack of time investment make sure that no one can get in more than a single line in what is a continuous repartee.”

Jason Bourne

“The memory lapse feels tired as a plot mechanic in Damon’s fourth outing as the character, and should the franchise choose to continue, it must give Bourne something new to take on – there are a lot of wrongs in the world that aren’t in his head – or pivot cleverly away from a Bourne-centric era (we’re looking at you, The Bourne Legacy). Perhaps Vikander’s Lee could be convinced to go rogue?”

Star Trek Beyond

“[In] much the same way as J.J. Abrams did with the new Star Wars, Justin Lin’s Star Trek too rides on nostalgia and exuberance to deliver a true to its roots outing in Star Trek’s 50th year. May it live long and prosper.”