AT THE CINEMA: A weekly round-up of the latest films

The House With A Clock In Its Walls will be released tomorrow.
The House With A Clock In Its Walls will be released tomorrow.

Grab the popcorn for the newest movies coming to cinemas near you. 

The House With A Clock In Its Walls (12A):

Mankind unknowingly teeters on the brink of destruction and a 10-year-old boy holds the key to our salvation in the family-friendly adventure The House With A Clock In Its Walls.

Adapted from John Bellairs' novel, director Eli Roth's fantastical foray into a wondrous world of witches and warlocks is far removed from the glistening gore and entrails of his gruesome horrors Cabin Fever, Hostel and Knock Knock.

Admittedly, there are some scary moments here involving an army of snarling pumpkin heads and a reanimated corpse, which might have very young audiences seeking the soothing protection of a parent.

However, Eric Kripke's script predominantly spooks rather than scares and a modicum of suspense is dissipated with childish humour courtesy of a topiary winged lion that stands guard over a back garden and has a habit of loudly evacuating its leafy bowels. Poop jokes never go out of fashion.

A tattered armchair, which bounds around like an excitable puppy, adds to the cuteness and Jack Black and Cate Blanchett spark a delightful on-screen partnership as two members of a secret magical order, whose relationship is founded on affectionate insults.

Youngster Owen Vaccaro wrings out copious tears on cue and has us rooting for his Harry Potter-esque orphan from the nostalgia-drenched opening frames.

He plays scaredy-cat Lewis Barnavelt, who travels by bus to the sleepy 1950s community of Zebedee in Michigan to live with his estranged uncle Jonathan (Black).

The boy's quixotic relative wears a kimono and lives in a creepy house full of ticking clocks.

It transpires that the building used to belong to a deranged couple called Isaac and Selena Izard (Kyle MacLachlan, Renee Elise Goldsberry), who concealed a Doomsday clock within the walls.

Jonathan, a warlock, and his sharp-tongued neighbour Florence Zimmerman (Blanchett), a kindly witch, hope to locate the demonic timepiece before the end of days.

The battle between good and evil unfolds under the nose of snooping next-door neighbour Mrs Hanchett (Colleen Camp).

The House With A Clock In Its Walls is an entertaining and outlandish yarn, which delights until a freaky final 15 minutes when madness takes hold and Roth flings digital trickery at the screen in the hope something will stick.

Released September 21. 

A Simple Favour (15):

A single mother and food blogger turns amateur sleuth to unravel the mystery of her best friend's disappearance in the sinfully entertaining comedy thriller, A Simple Favour.

Think Gone Girl with killer one-liners and perfectly shaken martinis and you'll be close to the lip-smacking delights of a battle of the sexes in small town suburbia, adapted for the screen by Jessica Sharzer from Darcey Bell's novel.

Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy, blends a fruity cocktail of Hitchcockian whodunnit and gnarly black comedy, garnished with generous twists of spite and betrayal.

Pitch Perfect powerhouse Anna Kendrick captures the tics and tenacity of her socially awkward homebody, whose well-ordered routine is thrown into disarray when the most glamorous woman in town vanishes without trace.

She contrasts sharply with Blake Lively's lost matriarch, who makes her entrance in lustrous slow motion, strutting elegantly beneath an umbrella during a torrential downpour dressed in a pinstripe trouser suit.

A Simple Favour ricochets merrily between dark personal confessions and energetic verbal sparring as Stephanie discovers she didn't know her best buddy at all.

Released September 20. 

Mile 22 (18):

The bromance of director Peter Berg and muscular leading man Mark Wahlberg has been going strong since 2013, when the two men ventured into war-torn Afghanistan for the explosive true story of Lone Survivor.

Mile 22 cranks up the on-screen violence, running gun battles and crunching car chases to an exhausting crescendo, stripping away plot and characterisation to cram as many slam-bang thrills as possible into 94 adrenaline-fuelled minutes.

Pulses undeniably quicken each time Berg orchestrates bruising fisticuffs between a team of elite US operatives and merciless gun-toting enemies, including a deadly game of hide-and-seek in a smoke-filled apartment complex.

Screenwriter Lea Carpenter engineers a few twists in her undernourished narrative but it's easy to predict each double-cross.

When the cacophony of explosions abates, Berg's film evaporates instantly from memory.

Out now. 

The Little Stranger (12A):

Spectres of the past lash out with horrifying consequences in The Little Stranger, an ambiguous thriller of simmering desires set inside a crumbling mansion in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Adapted from Sarah Waters's gothic novel, director Lenny Abrahamson's picture conjures a mood of grim foreboding, enriched by Stephen Rennick's haunting orchestral score that seems to anticipate the whispering breeze and creaking floorboards of a country pile that has seen far better days.

It is an atmospheric and stylish portrait of dysfunctional family relationships and class warfare that builds tension gradually, with occasional jump-out-of-seat scares that may or may not be the result of supernatural phenomena.

Screenwriter Lucinda Coxon retains the ambiguity of Waters's source text, opening the central mystery to multiple interpretations until a finale nudges us sharply in one dizzying direction and we land in a state of shock with a satisfying thud.

Performances from the central quartet - Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling and Will Poulter - are as tightly wound as the plot.

Released September 21.