The second part of the long drawn-out film adaptation of JRR Tolkien classic The Hobbit can be a frustrating watch.
Dramatic tension in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG (12: Warner) comes in fits and starts, although director Peter Jackson does succeed in building anticipation for the final chapter.
Martin Freeman soldiers on along a bumpy road as Bilbo Baggins, but is pushed even further into the background, and even vengeful dwarf Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), who dominated the first film, is made to look one-dimensional on this leg of the journey.
As the party continue the quest to reclaim their lost kingdom, there are some extraordinary action scenes, including a sticky situation with giant spiders and Bilbo’s close encounter with the evil dragon Smaug (voiced by Freeman’s Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch).
Meanwhile, Gandalf the wizard (Ian McKellen) investigates the rise of a mysterious dark power.
Evangeline Lilly is a welcome addition as elvish warrior Tauriel, who brings some much-needed heart and urgency to the story, caught between a brooding Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and flirty dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner).
> OLD BOY (18: Universal) is a remake of an internationally acclaimed 2003 Korean thriller and director Spike Lee follows the plot of the original almost to the letter.
Josh Brolin stars as Joe Doucett, an arrogant, alcoholic advertising executive.
Doucett is kidnapped and held in solitary confinement in a hotel-like prison for 20 years, during which time he’s framed for the murder of his ex-wife and his young daughter is taken into care.
When he’s eventually released in an equally mysterious fashion, he sets out to learn the identity of his abductors and uncover their motives.
Lee replicates many of the first film’s bloody, violent set pieces and the oppressive feel of Doucett’s cell, but he never delivers quite the same levels of atmosphere or menace.
While Brolin gives a steely performance as a man confronting his isolation and his conscience, Sharlto Copley, as his adversary, veers a little too close to pantomime villainy.
> Jude Law offers an overeager turn as a hyperactive ex-con in DOM HEMINGWAY (15: Lionsgate), a stylised, waywardly violent comedy about an institutionalised hard-nut hitting the streets after 12 years inside.
The confrontational opening scene is likely to catapult viewers to different sides of the taste divide too.
Law is Dom Hemingway, safecracker, absent father, loyal friend to fellow criminal Dickie (a camp Richard E. Grant) and former accomplice of kingpin Mr Fontaine, whose bacon he saved by keeping schtum. Now Dom wants his reward, so he and Dickie head to Fontaine’s French villa for decadence and payback.
> Three popular girls compete for the friendship of the only gay guy in school to come out, albeit by accident, in GBF (15: Peccadillo). But the makeovers and bitching sessions are wasted on him, while his camp best friend seethes in the closet.
Witty at times, but the joke wears a bit thin, performances vary and it isn’t as slick as the teen movies it draws from, such as Clueless and Mean Girls.