OUR take on the latest movie releases


IT'S definitely not safe to go back into the water in director Jon Turteltaub's supersized horror thriller, which wedges tongue firmly in cheek to imagine the carnage wrought by a 75ft-long megalodon shark on an underwater research complex.

Dr Zhang (Winston Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) oversee an international facility named Mana One, where scientists conduct experiments in previously uncharted depths of the ocean.

During one of these missions, a craft piloted by Celeste (Jessica McNamee), Toshi (Masi Oka) and Wall (Olafur Darri Olafsson) loses contact with Mana One after a heavy collision.

With time of the essence, Dr Zhang and his associate James Mackreides (Cliff Curtis) head to Thailand to persuade underwater rescue expert Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) to lend his expertise to bringing the stricken craft back to the facility.

Jonas obliges and he discovers that a voracious megalodon is on the loose, threatening the safety of everyone working in Mana One and up above, on the surface.


ADAPTED from the first instalment of a trilogy of young adult novels penned by Alexandra Bracken, The Darkest Minds conjures dystopian nightmares that will be achingly familiar to fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent series.

The live action debut of Kung Fu Panda director Jennifer Yuh Nelson is set in a bleak, futuristic America where the adult population has turned against child survivors of a deadly epidemic.

One brave girl emerges from the melee to follow her destiny as figurehead of a rebellion, inspiring others to rise up against brutal regimes, which exterminate what they do not understand.

Nelson's film is blessed with a moving central performance from Amandla Stenberg, who captures the vulnerability of an adolescent heroine, who experiences growing pangs under duress including the first stirrings of hormone-addled desire for a boy.

The closing image of the girl, raising her hand in defiance, is strikingly similar to Jennifer Lawrence's courageous Katniss Everdeen, and Chad Hodge's script for The Darkest Minds neatly plots three points of a love triangle to mirror the tug of war between Katniss, Peeta and Gale.

Nelson confidently executes all of the elements including some slickly choreographed action sequences, but every glossy frame is doused liberally with eau de deja vu.

A pathogen with the unwieldy name Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration (IAAN) delivers a fatal blow to 98% of the children's population.

Survivors are blessed with potentially deadly powers.

US President Gray (Bradley Whitford), whose son Clancy (Patrick Gibson) is among the afflicted, orders children to be forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to rehabilitation camps where they are colour-coded based on their newfound abilities.

Green, Blue and Yellow are permitted to live under armed guard, while Orange and Red are eliminated via lethal injection.

Sixteen-year-old Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg) is an Orange but has lived under the radar as Green in Thurmond rehabilitation camp, where Dr Cate Connor (Mandy Moore) takes a keen interest in the youngster.

The medic risks her life to smuggle Ruby out of the facility to join the fight against the government as part of the Children's League.

A shocking vision wrenches Ruby away from Cate and the teenager aligns herself with three young fugitives - a Blue called Liam (Harris Dickinson), a Green called Chubs (Skylan Brooks) and a Yellow called Zu (Miya Cech) - who are searching for the fabled safe haven of East River.

The Darkest Minds is anchored by the luminous Stenberg, who catalyses simmering on-screen chemistry with Dickinson's strapping hunk.

Gwendoline Christie is squandered as a tenacious bounty hunter called Lady Jane, whose campaign of terror ends with disappointing ease in this opening chapter.

Hodge's screenplay sparks a potential sequel but it's hard to imagine that flame burning bright without the kindling wood of originality.


BRAVERY on two and four legs during the First World War wags the tail of director Richard Lanni's charming if lightweight computer-animated history lesson.

Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero pays tribute to the most decorated dog in US history, who served his country for 18 months, predominantly alongside one master for 17 battles and four military campaigns.

This remarkable tale of camaraderie during bitter and bloody conflict made headlines across America and Lanni's picture concludes with photographs of the real-life Stubby and his proud handler, Robert Conroy.

Patriotic pride courses through the veins of a script co-written by Mike Stokey, which narrates the flourishing bond between man and beast in the words of Conroy's sister Margaret (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter), who received letters from her younger sibling during his time behind enemy lines.

"This is the true story of a special friendship my brother made while training for the war," she coos in the opening voiceover.

The narrative is simplistic in order to appeal to children and parents, both of whom will struggle to resists the wide-eye charms of the titular terrier.

More than once, a tear welled in my eye as Stubby demonstrated his unerring, selfless devotion to his human master.

During a military parade in 1917 New Haven, Connecticut, wet-behind-the-ears US Army recruit Robert Conroy (Logan Lerman) tosses food to a stray dog on the street.

The mangy mutt follows Conroy - a member of the newly formed "Yankee" Division - to a nearby training ground where the animal charms fellow enlistees Olsen (Jordan Beck) and Schroeder (Jim Pharr).

Sergeant Casburn (Jason Ezzell) allows the dog, christened Stubby because of its tail, to stay as the regiment's mascot and Conroy trains his four-legged companion to salute.

The men ship out to France aboard USS Minnesota with Stubby in tow and commanding officer Colonel Ty (Pharr again) gives his blessing to the creature's tour of duty.

"Make sure he gets some dog tags," growls the military man.

Consequently, Stubby joins Conroy, Olsen and Schroeder as they join the French lines in Chemins des Dames, where they are taken under the wing of Gaston Baptiste (Gerard Depardieu) from the 3rd regiment.

As the fight against the Germans intensifies, Conroy and co march to Seicheprey where a flu epidemic sweeps through the trenches and the dog's presence buoys spirits in the men's darkest hours.

Sgt Stubby: An Unlikely Hero warms the cockles of cynical hearts with gentle humour and warming sentiment.

The title character follows in the paw prints of Lassie by warnings allied soldiers about an impending mustard gas attack and locating fallen soldiers in no man's land.

Vocal performances are muted but hit the requisite emotional notes to complement Patrick Doyle's rousing orchestral score.


A BELATED sequel to the 2014 horror thriller Unfriended retains the stylistic conceit of depicting events on the central characters' laptop screens.

Thus, video streams and conversations unfold in overlapping browser windows.

Stephen Susco writes and directs the follow-up, which centres on Matias O'Brien (Colin Woodell), who has appropriated a discarded laptop belonging to a woman named Norah.

The machine experiences technical glitches and Matias seeks help from his coterie of online pals comprising AJ (Connor Del Rio), Damon (Andrew Leeds), Lexx (Savira Windyani), Nari (Betty Gabriel) and Serena (Rebecca Rittenhouse).

At the same time, he attempts to heal a rift with his deaf girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras), who is frustrated by a lack of communication.

In the process of cleaning the laptop's faltering hard drive, Matias talks to a mysterious user named Charon68 on a message board.

AJ, Damon and co are party to Matias's actions via screen sharing.

They witness Charon68 (Douglas Tait) vow to kill Amaya unless the laptop is returned to him immediately.

When Charon68 demonstrates that he is willing to carry out his threat, Matias and his friends become embroiled in an online race against time to defeat a madman, who stalks his victims on the dark web.


A GROUP of Los Angelenos are brought together by a mutual love for four-legged friends in a modern-day comedy drama directed by Ken Marino.

Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev) worries that throwing a birthday party for her dog might be a step too far but good friends assure her that it is perfectly natural to shower affection on your pet.

Meanwhile, Tara (Vanessa Hudgens) and boyfriend Garrett (Jon Bass) fall in love with a chihuahua named Gertrude, and Grace (Eva Longoria) and her husband Kurt (Rob Cordrry) question whether man's best friend is the glue holding their dysfunctional clan together.

Elsewhere in the city, Tyler (Finn Wolfhard) pledges to reunite elderly neighbour Walter (Ron Cephas Jones) with his missing pooch Mabel, and singleton Dax (Adam Pally) begs and pleads with his slobbering mutt for a few moments of peace.


AWARD-WINNING German filmmaker Wim Wenders is granted unprecedented access to the Vatican and Pope Francis for this documentary portrait of the first Jesuit pope and his influence on the Catholic Church.

Punctuated by lengthy face-to-face conversations between the director and his subject, Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word chronicles how Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, succeeded Pope Benedict XVI and marked a change in direction for the office by openly discussing the refugee crisis and global poverty.


IN a bleak near future, global governments take decisive, radical action to cleanse the Earth of poverty and violence.

Most of humanity is wiped out but a few people survive the devastation, leading to the formation of warring factions, which patrol the deserted streets.

These gangs include the Cherries, who are dedicated to protecting women in the post-apocalyptic wilderness, and the Gamblers, who get their kicks by playing Russian roulette with their terrified victims.

Mark (Tyler Hoechlin) and Nina (Kate Bosworth) are among the survivors in Minneapolis and they quietly communicate with Nina's parents in rural Milwaukee using CB radio.

Unexpectedly, the lines of communication are severed and Nina fears that something terrible may have happened to her mother and father.

Mark reluctantly agrees to accompany his wife on a perilous 200-mile road trip that will bring them into close contact with marauding gangs.

En route, the couple encounters emotionally scarred allies such as doting father Nathan Wood (Lance Reddick).


ONE good man is dispatched into a viper's nest of betrayal in a high stakes espionage thriller penned by Tony Gilroy, Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Michael Clayton and The Bourne Identity.

Ten years after he was involved in a devastating terrorist incident, former US diplomat Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) has found a new calling as a mediator in Boston.

He is unexpectedly drawn back into the fold by CIA Agent Donald Gaines (Dean Norris) to oversee the exchange of a kidnapped American operative and a terrorist leader in 1982 Beirut.

Unable to refuse the brief, Mason travels to Lebanon, where he meets cultural attache Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike), who will help him navigate the corridors of power in a politically volatile territory plagued by violence.

As Mason carries out his duties, he exposes complex agendas and a toxic relationship between America, Israel and Palestine.