A typical vanity-free turn by Denzel Washington elevates FLIGHT (15: Paramount) from predictable melodrama to something a bit classier.
His character, Whip Whitaker, the latest in cinema’s long line of charismatic ‘functioning alcoholics’, seems to be able to mix a life of booze and drugs with a spotless career as an airline pilot.
The film opens with him taking cocaine before piloting a flight from Orlando to Atlanta in bad weather. The plane suffers mechanical problems during a fierce storm, but Whip successfully lands it, saving the lives of nearly everyone on board.
Initially hailed as a hero, it later emerges he was drunk at the time, raising questions about whether he may have contributed to the disaster rather than averting it.
The in-flight emergency is terrifyingly staged by director Robert Zemeckis as Whip walks away from one set of wreckage into another, while an investigation by the authorities and a dangerous romance with a recovering heroin addict (Kelly Reilly) reveal a man in long-term denial.
But John Goodman, as the pilot’s jolly drugs dealer, takes the movie into uneasy comedic territory and Melissa Leo is criminally underused as a safety investigator.
> If ever a film was bound for guilty pleasure status it’s retro action flick BULLET TO THE HEAD (15: Entertainment One), in which Sylvester Stallone teams up with veteran director Walter Hill.
Harking back to Hill’s 1980s heyday of hit buddy-cop movies like 48Hrs and Red Heat, it sees Sly’s tattooed hitman reluctantly teaming up with a straight-arrow cop (Sung Kang) to face a mutual foe (Jason Momoa).
There’s decent chemistry between the leads, but stealing every scene is Momoa’s sadistic killer, whose blend of brain and brawn turns him into a terrific boo-hiss baddie.
Although the revenge plot is familiar, some pithy one-liners and bone-crunching fights more than compensate.
> A variant on themes from Toy Story, animated adventure WRECK-IT RALPH (PG: Walt Disney) is a mixed bag of frantic action, humour and satire pitched squarely at the juvenile. Tired of playing the same role for 30 years in arcade game Fix-it Felix Jr, the villain of the piece (voiced by John C. Reilly) abandons his destructive day job and decides to become a hero.
But he inadvertently causes havoc as he travels through other games in search of a meaning to his pixellated existence. Video game legends such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man add to the chaotic fun as Wreck-It Ralph goes game-hopping. It’s all rather exhausting and this nostalgic tribute to retro games flags on the home stretch, but it’s a colourfully cute romp.
> Will-they-won’t-they divorce story I GIVE IT A YEAR (15: Studio Canal) has everything you want in a rom-com – sex appeal, warmth and genuine laughs. The only downside is an occasional lapse into lame sleaze, although that doesn’t last long and it does provide some edgy moments.
Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall play a hopelessly mismatched couple who, as their first anniversary approaches, wonder if they are right for each other, especially when faced with more appealing alternative partners. The supporting cast of Stephen Merchant (best man), Anna Faris, Simon Baker, Jason Flemyng and Minnie Driver couldn’t be better.