Damon Smith reviews the latest releases including wartime comedy drama Their Finest, 1950s-set romantic comedy Rules Don't Apply, the thriller Unforgettable and 80 employees discover they must fight for survival in their office building in the blood-thirsty horror The Belko Experiment.
It's tally ho and chocks away to a tumultuous period when upper lips were jolly stiff and women on the home front actively served the bomb-ravaged nation.
Based on Lissa Evans' novel Their Finest Hour And A Half, Lone Scherfig's wartime comedy drafts frothy drama and heart-tugging romance into active service, assisted by a starry and largely British cast.
Inveterate scene-stealer Bill Nighy delivers another masterclass in deadpan delivery and arched eyebrows as a one-time screen idol, whose glory days are far behind him.
Gemma Arterton is a delightful foil, banging a drum for gender equality in the face of chauvinist condescension, with sterling support from the likes of Richard E Grant, Helen McCrory, Eddie Marsan and Jeremy Irons.
The script, penned by Gaby Chiappe, maintains a brisk pace and a light tone despite the grim historical backdrop, celebrating the power of cinema to dispel the gloom during the Second World War.
"Films: real life with the boring bits cut out," pithily professes one crew member.
Their Finest largely observes these sage words and only permits reality to bite in closing frames when the devastation of the Blitz takes its toll on the key figures.
When her painter husband Ellis (Jack Huston) fails to sell his canvasses, Catrin Cole (Arterton) takes a paid position as a secretary at the British Ministry of Information, which produces propaganda to buoy the nation's spirits.
Roger Swain (Grant) heads up the film division and he entreats scriptwriters Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and Raymond Parfitt (Paul Ritter) to unearth a true story of wartime heroism that embodies "authenticity with optimism" and can be immortalised on celluloid.
The real-life rescue of wounded British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk by twin sisters using their father's boat is just the ticket.
Catrin is asked to pen the female characters' dialogue - dismissively referred to as "the slop" - and she toils alongside Tom and Raymond to give voice to the sisters.
Before production commences, a pompous cabinet minister (Irons) insists the script should include an American character in order to persuade the United States to join the Allied assault.
Thus, handsome airman Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy), who is more wooden than the studio sets, is cast alongside ageing theatrical ham Ambrose Hilliard (Nighy) on a shoot that sparks forbidden romance and mutual respect between Catrin and Tom.
Their Finest is a sweet and charming confection with a full conscription of reliable cliches to keep the cinematic fires burning.
Arterton and Claflin kindle a spiky on-screen romance, conflicted about their feelings for each other until a supporting character observes, "When life is so precious, it seems an awful shame to waste it."
Period detail is solid throughout and director Scherfig makes light work of the two-hour running time.
An exceedingly fine affair.
Rules Don't Apply
The madness that ensued at the culmination of the 89th Academy Awards, when Warren Beatty was handed the wrong envelope, is nothing compared to the haphazard plotting and direction of his first feature behind the camera since Bulworth in 1998.
Set during the late 1950s and 1960s, when the sun was setting on a Golden Age of Hollywood, Rules Don't Apply is a wildly uneven portrait of philanthropist Howard Hughes, awkwardly positioned within a faltering romantic comedy that tests the deeply pious characters' faiths and our patience.
Hughes gained notoriety for his reclusive lifestyle and Beatty's script bottles some of that madness with scenes of the businessman demanding that his staff ship 350 gallons of his favourite banana nut ice cream to a hotel in Las Vegas, or personally overseeing the grooming of his body doubles.
His script repeatedly sidesteps historical fact for the sake of spinning a good yarn and this laissez faire approach to historical rigour is made clear in an opening quote from the film's misunderstood subject: "Never check an interesting fact."
The tone of the picture lurches violently from conflict to farce via heightened melodrama, with disorienting cuts between locations that stymie dramatic momentum.
Baptist beauty queen Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) arrives in Hollywood accompanied by her mother Lucy (Annette Bening) as the latest signing of RKO film studios run by the elusive Howard Hughes (Beatty).
The Mabreys' private chauffeur, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), is instantly smitten with Marla, but fellow driver Levar Mathis (Matthew Broderick) reiterates strict rules against fraternising with the talent: "Any driver who tries any hanky panky with a contract actress is gone!"
Frank struggles to contain his desire while sweetly innocent Marla makes a firm impression on her employer.
"You make an old guy feel courageous, Marla," Howard gushes.
As the philanthropist's mental state deteriorates and he fires long-time friend Noah Dietrich (Martin Sheen) as CEO of his father's company, Frank is ushered into Hughes' inner circle and entrusted with day-to-day responsibilities.
The pressure of catering to the filmmaker's whims and resisting Marla's bountiful charms eventually tips Frank over the edge.
"Maybe your wealth isn't always the best thing for your health!" he rages at Howard.
The basic rules of filmmaking evidently don't apply to writer-director Beatty's vision because structure, characterisation and tension are largely absent.
Collins and Ehrenreich struggle to convince as star-crossed lovers, clinging to a haphazard script that works against them, while Beatty embraces his character's OCD with fervour.
In the same way that Hughes, as imagined here, is incapable of silence and contemplation for too long, Rules Don't Apply doesn't pause for breath between its bamboozling vignettes.
If exhaustion doesn't grip audiences, boredom will.
The Belko Experiment
Staff cuts and corporate headhunting are embraced with bloodthirsty and literal glee in The Belko Experiment.
Set predominantly within an office building in Bogota, Colombia, Greg McLean's lurid horror doesn't skimp on the splatter as craniums explode in stomach-churning close-up to an amusingly kitsch soundtrack including Latin versions of I Will Survive and California Dreamin'.
Those tongue-in-cheek, retro music cues are just what you would expect from screenwriter James Gunn, creative dynamo behind the riotous comic book romp Guardians Of The Galaxy and its forthcoming sequel.
The relentless carnage and nihilism are not, including one balletic sequence of barbarism orchestrated to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1.
Buried deep within all of the brain matter and glistening entrails is a half-baked satire about dog-eat-dog workplace culture, but like most of the protagonists, McLean's picture hankers for an orgy of dismemberment rather than an intelligent conversation about corporate greed.
The light in the darkness is John Gallagher Jr's endearing performance as an egalitarian middle manager, who advocates open discussion not warfare.
His sweetness cuts through the acridity of McLean's unquenchable desire to shoot and disembowel anything with a pulse.
Staff arrive at the gates of Belko Industries - motto: "Business without boundaries" - to find new gun-toting security guards checking IDs.
Colombians are sent home while American employees are ushered into the office.
Late morning, an intercom crackles to life and a menacing voice (Gregg Henry) demands the sacrifice of two of the 80 people in the building within 30 minutes.
Chief operating officer Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn) soothes frayed nerves, convinced someone is playing a sick joke, but it's no laughing matter when metal shutters encase the building to prevent escape.
Thirty minutes later, four people perish as a grisly penalty for disobeying orders.
The mysterious voice demands a further efficiency drive - 30 innocent lives within two hours - and lights the fuse on an emotional powder keg of paranoia and mistrust.
Systems manager Mike Milch (Gallagher Jr) urges solidarity, flanked by lone security guard Evan (James Earl) and head of maintenance Bud Melks (Michael Rooker).
However, senior staff defer to brutal survivalist instincts.
"We have to be bold here, this isn't the time for timidity," COO Barry urges fellow executives Wendell Dukes (John C McGinley) and Terry Winters (Owain Yeoman), his personal assistant Leandra (Adria Arjona) and head of human resources Vince Agostino (Brent Sexton).
The Belko Experiment revels in the torture and suffering of a poorly served cast.
Gunn knows how to stage an orgiastic bloodbath, but it's hard to raise emotional investment in the thinly sketched characters apart from Mike.
Repetitive rapid-fire death sequences become tiresome, and a ham-fisted coda, which attempts to justify the carnage as a social experiment in human behaviour unfettered by social norms, merely tees up a sequel.
Hell hath no fury like an ex-wife scorned in Denise Di Novi's psychological thriller, written by Christina Hodson and David Leslie Johnson. Julia Banks (Rosario Dawson) has managed to escape her troubled past and has stopped looking over her shoulder for her violent old flame, Michael Vargas (Simon Kassianides). He has no idea of her new identity and location. Julia thinks she has found the perfect man in divorced father David Connover (Geoff Stults), who has a beautiful young daughter called Lily (Isabella Rice). His ex-wife Tessa (Katherine Heigl) is still heavily involved in raising their daughter and Julia feels nervous about stepping into a home that used to be run by another woman. Her discomfort intensifies when it becomes clear that Tessa still loves her ex-husband and is fiercely jealous of any challengers to David's affections. Tessa's obsession spirals out of control and she sets about creating friction between Julia and David in the belief that he will eventually come to his senses and take her back.