PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH
AS a self-confessed cat woman, I can think of no better hero to lead a film than fearless feline Puss.
The delightfully daring kitty (Antonio Banderas), who first appeared in 2004's outstanding Shrek 2 , had his own spin-off film over a decade ago.
Now, the sequel sees the caped crusader living his best — and last — life.
Having pushed the boundaries of adventure for years, Puss discovers he is on his ninth life, having died eight times already.
His previous departures are explained in a hilarious montage that is a great reminder of the chaotic cat's character.
Resolved to stay alive, he decides to keep a low profile, so finds a comfortable little cat sanctuary in the middle of nowhere.
There he can grow a beard, eat disgusting dry cat food and avoid the bounty hunter wolf who is keen to get his dead body and claim a reward.
But he soon learns of a magical wishing star that could restore all of his lost lives.
And along with new friend Perrito (Harvey Guillen) — a dog who is dressed as a cat to enjoy the luxury of the sanctuary — and his old friend Kitty Softpaws ( Salma Hayek ), they go on a mission to try to find it.
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The journey is a dangerous one, with entry into the black forest, and the trio are soon up against gangster family Goldilocks ( Florence Pugh ) and the Three Bears ( Ray Winstone , Olivia Colman and Samson Kayo) who are also on a bid for the wishing star.
There's also super villain Jack Horner ( John Mulaney ) who will stop at nothing to get his pie-covered thumbs on it.
The effects in this super-kitty movie are a spectacle, with some parent-friendly nods to Quentin Tarantino 's Kill Bill films.
There are some incredibly daring action sequences, and Horner and the bounty hunter wolf are both dreadful enough to keep you fearing for our furry friend's life.
On a deeper level, it also highlights the shared fear of death — and losing loved ones — that unites all of us.
Banderas brings all the usual joy and energy to the character he made his own, and uses just the right amount of humour in the role, too.
It's not as purrfect as Shrek 2, but it is still pretty paw-some.
KNOCK AT THE CABIN
DIRECTOR M Night Shyamalan is back on his psychological horror flex with this adaptation of novel The Cabin At The End Of The World.
Loving couple Andrew and Eric are vacationing with their adoptive daughter Wen at a secluded cabin when four armed strangers (led by Dave Bautista 's Leonard) turn up.
Tight pacing from the get-go maintains a nervy edge as these four individuals demand the family make a harrowing choice: Kill one of their family to prevent the apocalypse or let the world burn.
The slow-releasing story-line, with succinct flashback scenes, gives a gripping sense of who this family are and what hardships they have faced.
Paired with moving performances that capture a huge range of emotions, this is one of the rare Shyamalan films not to require a plot twist to succeed.
Just sharp, empathetic direction, acting and writing, which reminds you that he is a filmmaker who loves to play with good and bad, hero and villain and happiness and suffering to get audiences asking philosophical questions of themselves too.
- HANNA FLINT
THE opening scene of this Darren Aronofsky film shows a super-morbidly- obese man surrounded by debris in his dingy room, watching pornography that gives him a heart attack.
Even for the most open-minded viewer, it's a pretty grotesque sight.
So it makes Brendan Fraser 's performance all the more remarkable that you not only don't dislike him, you actually end up adoring him.
Fraser plays Charlie, a man living as a hermit, who pushes his eating addiction to extreme levels.
He's a teacher of English, but only does this via Zoom, where he pretends his camera has broken so his students can never see him.
As Charlie is almost immobile, all of this drama is set in his small house where the blinds are mostly shut.
The only other characters are those who visit, including his friend Liz (Hong Chau) who is a nurse but also his enabler, his spiky estranged daughter, Ellie ( Sadie Sink ), ex-wife Mary (Samantha Morton) and missionary Thomas (Ty Simpkins).
But it's Fraser who is the outright star of this masterful film, giving such a powerful performance that it will leave even the hardest heart broken.
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