For a generation of film fans weaned on 1970s exploitation and irony, MACHETE KILLS (15: Lionsgate) comes across like a James Bond adventure.
Among the jumble of bloody action, extreme violence and stale 007 shenanigans, there are surprising turns by many of the cast.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, this sequel to Machete is slicker, but less pacey.
US President Charlie Sheen (credited under his birth name Carlos Estevez) enlists Machete (stone-faced Danny Trejo) to catch a crazed Mexican revolutionary aiming a nuclear bomb at Washington.
But the threat is part of an even bigger plan masterminded by a megalomaniac weapons dealer (Mel Gibson).
Memorable performances come from bullet-firing, bikini-clad Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard as a double-agent beauty queen and Cuba Gooding Jr as a hitman who also takes on the appearance of Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas.
Cheesy trailers for Machete Kills Again...In Space will add to the appeal for B-movie geeks.
> Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins have been Oscar-nominated for BLUE JASMINE (12: Warner), Woody Allen’s strongest drama in years.
In an updated homage to A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanchett gives a powerful central performance as penniless New York socialite Jasmine, who is forced to live with her estranged sister Ginger (Hawkins) in a low-rent area of San Francisco.
Jasmine’s vodka-and-tranquilliser-fuelled delusions flash back to her life of married privilege with a financial expert (Alec Baldwin) before dealing with her current life of struggle.
As she strives for one more chance at happiness with a preppy diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard), Allen, at his most observant, manages to derive laughs from depression, death and denial.
> Animated comedy CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLs 2 (U: Sony) is a charmingly surreal sequel about the nerdy inventor who designed a water-into-food machine.
Flint Lockwood joins Live Corp, the company of Steve jobs-type guru Chester V, to create “for the betterment of mankind”. But he discovers that the machine he thought he had destroyed is still causing chaos, turning his home town into a jungle populated by food monsters.
This movie may be warmed-up leftovers, but the endless sight gags, daft puns and strange ‘foodimals’ – shrimpanzees, flamangos, tacodiles and cheespiders – provide another tasty spectacle.
> Engrossing drama THE FIFTH ESTATE (15: Entertainment One) is the story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his mission to expose the secrets of governments and the corporate world.
Receiving confidential information, through a secure online platform, Assange rails against authority and tries to stay one step ahead of his pursuers while living in constant fear for his life.
Cumberbatch gives a towering, compelling performance in a film that references other real-life screen dramas like All The President’s Men and The Social Network, finding intrigue and tension in incidents that dominated world headlines.