Best of the box office


(121 minutes) PG

In 1973, with second-wave feminism at its height, the former tennis great Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) challenged reigning woman's champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) to an exhibition match, determined to show that even at his advanced age he could put King in her place. Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) is in his comfort zone here and the film is at least as concerned with the present as the past. JW
General release


(76 minutes) PG

Environmental documentaries such as Blue set out to rub our faces in the damage done to the natural world. Directed by the Australian scientist Karina Holden, Blue concentrates on the ocean, with filming mainly in Australia and south east Asia. Voiceover narration is supplied by conservationists and concerned citizens; though the script is credited solely to Holden. Blue is probably not going to be remembered as any kind of art. All the same, it's a powerful experience. JW
Selected release


(88 minutes) MA

US expatriate workers at Belko corporation in Columbia are propelled into an adult version of The Hunger Games: a certain number of employees must be killed or still more will die. The implied view of human nature is as bleak as you'd expect from Australian director Greg McLean and screenwriter-producer James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). Like most satires, this one is open to various interpretations: a spoof of sitcoms and reality TV; a commentary on US economic imperialism; or an allegory of the existential trap that is life on Earth. On all these levels, it's realised with satisfying precision. Just don't look for hope. JW
Selected release


(89 minutes) G

David Soren's computer-animated adaptation of Dav Pilkey's children's books avoids the pitfalls with enough success to amuse all ages. George and Harold (voiced respectively by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) are best friends and budding comic-book artists. The film is presented as one of their fantasies, pushing cartoonish exaggeration as far as it will go. JW
General release


(91 minutes) G

The Emoji Movie is an allegory that can be read on multiple levels from the political to the religious, a rare attempt by Hollywood to come to grips with the online world. Voiced by T.J. Miller, our hero Gene (for Generic) is the "Meh" emoji, meant to respond to situations with cynical indifference. Threatened with deletion, he goes on a quest for a hacker to debug him. JW
General release


(90 minutes) M

Turns out watching paint dry can be fun. In 1964, in Paris, the American writer James Lord sat for a portrait by Alberto Giacometti, the Swiss-Italian artist who was by then world famous, and two years away from his death. Lord wrote a book about the experience of sitting for Giacometti and we can enter Final Portrait through his narration. Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) is stooped, his wiry grey hair a bit like one of his own scribbly portraits. The lines in his face make him seem ancient and sad. Do we penetrate Giacometti's greatness? Maybe. Almost. We learn a lot about his process and frustrations, his perfectionism, ambition and egotism; we understand his need for chaos and obliteration, both of himself and the work. Director Stanley Tucci takes us through what is knowable and doesn't pretend to offer more. But that's honest, and the film is rich with humanity, humour and a deep sense of why art is important. PB
General release


(101 minutes) MA 15+

Connie (Robert Pattinson) is a desperado who rescues his mentally handicapped brother Nick (Benny Safdie) from some kind of hospital. Nick is slow-witted but not uncommunicative. Next they're robbing a bank in Brooklyn or Queens, with masks that make them look black. When the teller doesn't give them enough cash, Connie insists she get more. She goes into a back room while they wait. During the getaway, the bag of cash explodes and they are covered in red paint. Pattinson is fine in the role. It's the role itself that seems a brick short. Even so, there is plenty to keep us watching. The action, directed by the Safdie brothers, never lets up, the tension is good, and there's an odd current of comedy running through it - albeit of a dark hue. PB
Selected release

(135 minutes) MA

Stephen King's blend of Americana and morbidity is back in favour and IT, based on portions of King's enormous 1986 horror novel, comes close to capturing the essence of what this author is all about. Here, the horror arises from the sewers beneath the the outwardly tranquil town of Derry, Maine, home to a being who assumes the mask of a clown named Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). JW
General release

(101 minutes) PG

The Lego Ninjago Movie is designed without apology to promote a particular line of Asian-influenced Lego sets. Ninjago itself is a fantastical island city, protected by a group of six young ninja trainees under the guidance of the wise Master Wu. Of the group's members, young Lloyd (Dave Franco) has more than the usual quotient of teen angst. JW
General release

(111 minutes) M

A flimsy romance posing as a survival story, Hany Abu-Assad's The Mountain between Us stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba as Alex and Ben, strangers who meet at an Idaho airport en route to Denver. She's a photojournalist racing to her own wedding; he's a surgeon needed for an urgent operation. With commercial flights grounded by a storm, they book a charter plane. But it crashes, killing the pilot (Beau Bridges) and leaving them stranded in the snowy Rockies with a golden retriever. That it works to any degree is down to Elba, a rarity in his ability to embody straightforward masculinity. Abu-Assad shows little interest in any kind of realism. The special effects are sometimes poor, especially in a scene involving a computer-animated cougar. JW
General release

(PG) 120 minutes

Chinese director Zhang Yang (Shower) follows a dozen or so Tibetan villagers on a 1930-kilometre pilgrimage through the Himalayas to Lhasa, as is Buddhist tradition. Every few steps the pilgrims must drop onto their stomachs and touch their foreheads to the earth. Not quite fiction, not quite documentary, the journey we see is real, and the non-professional cast members are playing versions of themselves. This is a blandly soothing film with little substance. How far you're able to sustain interest over two full hours will depend on your enthusiasm for mountain scenery and for watching people kowtow. JW
Selected release

This story Best of the box office first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.