We welcome your comments as well as your suggestions for other films which are worthwhile, entertaining and reasonably family-friendly.
Directed by Feng Xiaogang
Starring Zhang Jingchu, Chen Daoming, Lu Yi, Xu Fan, Zhang Guoqiang, Li Chen
Mandarin, with English subtitles
A Chinese blockbuster about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake which killed an estimated quarter of a million people. By Western standards, it is a melodramatic tear-jerker, but its message of family values is appealing.
Directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani
Starring Fouad Habash, Ibrahim Frege, Scandar Copti, Shahir Kabaha, Eran Naim Arabic and Hebrew, with English sub-titles.
Gripping modern-day crime drama weaving together several plot lines linking Jews and Arabs in poor districts in the Israeli city of Jaffa. Most of the actors are non-professionals and the film has a rough-hewn documentary feel.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Directed by Michael Apted
Starring Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Will Poulter, Ben Barnes, Liam Neeson, Simon Pegg
This is a film which most critics liked or hated even before they watched it. But kids will love the adventure and fun of the Pevensie children when they are summoned back to Narnia to rescue seven lost lords and to save Narnia from a corrupting evil that resides on a dark island.
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud
Starring Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher
A heart-warming animated film about how the world’s greatest villain discovers how to love. Gru plans to steal the moon with an arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles. But then he meets three orphaned girls selling cookies who steal his heart away…
Five Minutes of Heaven
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
Starring Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca
In 1975 a 17-year-old Ulster paramilitary murders a 19-year-old Irish Catholic in a reprisal killing. He is caught and goes to jail for 12 years. The media tries to organise a sentimental meeting between the killer and his victim’s younger brother, but the hatred is still too great… A powerful film by the director of Downfall about reconciliation with outstanding acting.
Directed by Aaron Schneider
Starring Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Scott Cooper
A Southern recluse calls on the village undertaker and asks him to prepare his funeral celebration – before he has cashed in his chips. A collection of hillbilly eccentrics with wonderful actors (especially Robert Duvall) in a film about reconcilation and contrition.
How to Train Your Dragon
Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
Starring Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, Craig Ferguson
Dreamworks does it again. A young Viking teenager wants to be a dragon slayer, but when he finally captures one, he doesn’t have the heart to kill it. Breathtaking visuals, heart-warming themes, a good story line and memorable characters make this a film for all ages.
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine
British director Christopher Nolan likes films which tread the line between illusion and reality. This cerebral sci fi blockbuster is a certain Oscar contender. Leonard DiCaprio stars as thief who extracts valuable commercial information from the unconscious mind of his targets while they are asleep and dreaming. This was a real brain-teaser, but still very popular.
The King’s Speech
Directed by Tom Hooper
Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
This period piece about royals in well-starched shirts has been an unlikely hit. After the death of George V and the abdication of Edward VIII to marry a divorcee, the stammering Bertie unexpectedly becomes George VI. On the verge of World War II, England needs an eloquent king so an unconventional, down-to-earth Australian speech therapist is called in. A charming film about friendship.
Toy Story 3
Directed by Lee Unkrich
Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Whoopi Goldberg
The third instalment of the adventures of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and their sidekicks is a magical experience. Nearly everyone has acclaimed it as a heart-warming evocation of childhood that makes you want to drag your teddy bear out of the attic and give it a big hug. This time Andy is about to go to college and the toys feel worthless…
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper
The 1969 film of True Grit confirmed John Wayne as a Hollywood icon. The Coen brothers, known for their dark, quirky films about violence and doom, have revisited the story, making it more realistic and more philosophical. For those who don’t know the story, a 14-year-old girl teams up with a cantankerous old US Marshal and a Texas Ranger to track down her father’s killers. Non-stop action and crisp dialogue.
Directed by Tony Scott
Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Ethan Suplee, Jessy Schram
Another based-on-a-true-story film with unstoppable suspense about a runaway train filled with hazardous chemicals. Only two heroes are left to brake the cars before they derail and spill their toxic load into suburban streets. This doesn’t require a lot of neurons but if you are looking for an action film, this is it.
Directed by Debra Granik
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt, Dale Dickey, Shelley Waggener
A 17-year-old Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-deal father while trying to keep her family intact. A harrowing film about American rural poverty and the strength of family ties. Despite its unpromising setting, the critics have hailed this as one of the year’s great films.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.