Kid-friendly space adventure GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (12: Walt Disney), based on the Marvel comic, has a retro feel that grown-ups should lap up, too.
Chris Pratt has no particular superpower as Peter Quill, except to brilliantly wisecrack his way out of sticky situations after pilfering a mystical orb coveted by power-hungry aliens Ronan (Lee Pace) and Nebula (Karen Gillan).
Nebula’s adoptive sister (Zoe Saldana) is a green-skinned warrior determined to stop Ronan getting the orb and achieving galactic domination.
She also serves as a comic foil to the other, less principled, Guardians.
There’s plenty of action in this bright and breezy affair in which a tough-talking raccoon (delightfully voiced by Bradley Cooper) threatens to steal the show.
He’s the sort of fast-talking sidekick you’d expect to find in a Disney animation, as is walking tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel).
But Pratt remains the lynchpin, straddling the line between bold and brazen in a fun, exciting and psychedelic vision of the galaxy.
> A colony of super-intelligent apes thrives following a global virus outbreak that wipes out much of the human race in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (12: Twentieth Century Fox).
In this sequel to 2011’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, director Matt Reeves clearly decided that to tell the next chapter in the story, he needed to go bigger.
Superintelligent chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis) is now the leader of a large ape colony after the Simian Flu epidemic and is teaching his companions to live in peace. But then the pesky humans turn up to spoil things.
Caesar is torn between his desire to protect his ape family and compassion towards the beleaguered humans, while human-hating right-hand-ape Koba is determined to show him the error of mixing with mankind.
The script and ape characterisation are superb and the acting, coupled with the magic of the visual effects, means there’s no sense that what you’re seeing is constructed on a computer. The apes seem 100% real.
It’s just a pity that the human characters are underdeveloped, with Gary Oldman, as the trigger-happy human leader, woefully underused.
> Superior junior sci-fi yarn EARTH TO ECHO (PG: Entertainment One) is influenced by earlier ‘kids help an alien’ adventures like ET, Super 8, The Goonies and a dozen others.
It borrows wholesale from those films, but still makes fun viewing for young audiences.
On the eve of eviction from their suburban homes, three boys find their mobile phones picking up mysterious interference.
The messages lead them into the desert where they discover an otherworldly thingamajig that’s literally the key to a hidden spaceship.
But there is a sinister group of grown-ups after the alien gizmo, too.
The special effects are decent, the pacing is fast and frantic, and it all makes use of the fashionable ‘found footage’ approach.