Dead Man Down (15, 118 mins)

Director: Niels Arden Oplev

2 stars


New York underworld boss Alphonse (Terrence Howard) is being sent warnings and pieces of a puzzle, and thinks a rival is out to get him when his henchmen start getting picked off. Working for him is Victor (Colin Farrell), a trusted right hand man who saves Alphonse's life during a shoot-out.

But when Victor strikes up an uneasy friendship with his neighbour Beatrice (Noomi Rapace, who brings her Girl with the Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev with her from Scandinavia for his first English language film), this heavy-handed thriller begins to develop in ways you may not have expected.

She knows something about him, and isn't afraid to use this information to get what she wants, while Victor is mixed up deeper in the mafia goings-on than might at first be apparent. They need each other, and their relationship develops slowly if not always satisfactorily.

Dead Man Down is rather over-egged and excitable in these early stages, with an awful lot going on, much of it incomprehensible on the gangster side in terms of loyalty and the bigger picture. After that clunky start it puts some interesting pieces into play and there's enough that's fresh to hold attention when it comes to Victor and Beatrice, with Farrell and Rapace sharing an intriguing dynamic.

But it soon starts to outstay its welcome, becoming increasingly gloomy and overblown, with a script that's a bit too up front with its explanations yet holds back crucial information at the same time. With so much to cover it never really gets a satisfying rhythm going, and with everything closing in it slows to a crawl, opting to dawdle when the noose should be tightening.

It opens up into a tale of revenge and redemption, but remains shallow, somewhat fancying itself as a crime epic, offering shades of many far better movies. So though it would dearly love to be The Usual Suspects, it is in fact a Jason Statham movie with delusions of grandeur.

That's never more evident than during an all-action finale that doesn't make a lick of sense, and is the point when you realise Dead Man Down has gone from brooding to very silly indeed.

See it if you liked: Killing Them Softly, Pride and Glory, New Jack City

All Stars (U, 106 mins)

Director: Ben Gregor

3 stars


In a plot lifted from every episode of The Muppet Show, the local youth centre is going to close down, prompting London youngsters Ethan (Theo Stevenson) and Jaden (Akai Osei-Mansfield) to hit on the idea of a talent show to raise the money to keep it open. Looking horrific on paper, this family comedy is nothing like as endlessly painful as Streetdance and its ilk, and thanks to flashes of humour and the likability of the kids, it's actually quite winning in places. A couple of imaginative fantasy performance sequences stand out and young Osei-Mansfield is a hugely gifted dancer, while Ashley Jensen and Hugh Dennis lead a parade of British TV faces as the adults. It can still occasionally be a chore if you're not the target audience, but All Stars is generally pleasant enough to stay just the right side of tolerable.

See it if you liked: Streetdance, Horrid Henry, Nativity

21 & Over (15, 93 mins)

Director: Scott Moore, Jon Lucas

2 stars


Taking the template (and the writers) of The Hangover and applying it to college students, this raucous campus comedy scores zero points for wit or originality, but almost gets a pass for not being mean-spirited about it. Adhering unflinchingly to formula and fallbacks, it's a night of booze-fuelled mishaps, injuries and gross-out gags as a pair of old friends arrive at their buddy's university to take him out for his 21st birthday which, wouldn't you know, is right before his big medical school interview. All the boxes are ticked along the way to self-awareness and a wee bit of growing up and laughs are thin on the ground, while there's plenty to dislike or find mildly troublesome about the movie's sexual politics. But the three leads aren't a bad bunch really, which means it's not entirely hateful or chuckle-free enough to dismiss out of hand.

See it if you liked: Project X, The Hangover, Spring Breakers

Chimpanzee (U, 78 mins)

Directors: Mark Linfield, Alastair Fothergill

2 stars


In the misty African rainforest, chimpanzee Oscar is born, and this mushy Disney wildlife doc tells his adventures as a children's story, covering his play, hunt for food and rivalry with a nearby pack, which becomes the focus and is often horribly manufactured for dramatic effect. Cosy bedtime story narration by Tim Allen tries desperately to imbue the chimp family and jungle itself with human characteristics and emotions, backed up by whimsical music and dramatically overstated accounts of everyday life. It's certainly stunningly filmed and cute, if occasionally traumatic, for tots, but wildlife telly has nothing to worry about.

See it if you liked: African Cats, March of the Penguins, The Crimson Wing

We Are Northern Lights (12A, 99 mins)

Director: Nick Higgins

4 stars


Members of the public were asked to film their concept of life in Scotland, and pointed their cameras into most every corner of society and culture. The result is this brilliantly edited collage of very short films, one that's infinitely more rewarding than the idea suggests, and also surprisingly cinematic for something filmed on phones and amateur equipment. In moments that are daft and deep, funny and touching, these homegrown movie-makers have distilled the very essence of Scotland and bottled it, and the unmissable results are very special indeed.

I'm So Excited (15, 90 mins)

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

3 stars


The latest confection from Spanish ace Pedro Almodóvar takes place almost entirely on a flight from Spain to Mexico, throwing up a demented melting pot of ingredients with crazy passengers in first class, economy all sedated and the stewards getting more and more drunk. Faulty landing gear means they're forced to circle indefinitely, and with secrets revealed and inhibitions chucked out the window, it becomes a riot of colour and camp. It's disposable fluff, frothy and silly and frequently raucously entertaining, but with no lasting nutritional value. A disclaimer at the start claims it's a fiction and fantasy, not reality, though it could also be a satire of Spain's financial scandals, and Spanish society in general. Whether it is that or just a big silly sketch or Spain's answer to Airplane, Almodóvar is certainly having some fun.

See it if you liked: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Airplane