Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (2016) – The opening half hour of director Zack Snyder’s restored cut comprises sequences in three different genres: a disaster movie evoking the dust and confusion of 9/11, a war film set in the African desert, and a horror film complete with women held captive in a basement dungeon – which begs the question of what this movie intends to be. The answer is a salute to Christopher Nolan – specifically The Dark Knight – with its dark palette, its deliberate pace in setting up its various players, and its preoccupation with whether Batman has the right to be Batman. Up until the two hour mark it’s pretty absorbing on those terms, but the last hour is a total miscalculation, from the anticlimactic, vaguely homoerotic tussle between the two heroes (Batman carries Superman over the threshold and flings him on a bed of rubble) to the way Snyder jettisons two hours of careful storytelling in favour of a monster that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie to the completely unnecessary (and temporary) death of a major character so the movie can end on a note of bogus gravity (not one funeral, but two). Very disappointing. **

The BFG (2016) – Steven Spielberg’s special grasp on childhood was never universal, but rooted in the American suburbs. When he tries – as in Hook – to adapt English stories, he produces a twee sense of unreality. This is not as bad as that misfire, but neither is it good. Indebted visually to the Harry Potter franchise (a nocturnal world of warm lights and deep shadows), it sands off the rough edges of the Roald Dahl original (the giants are more comic bumblers than monsters) even as it skimps on the magic (we see the BFG at work only once). The use of motion capture for Mark Rylance’s BFG seems gratuitous: the giant’s kindly face is human – that of an ideal grandfather – and the digital manipulation adds little in expressiveness. Ruby Barnhill is a good, idiosyncratic child actor: her Sophie is officious, as if in training to take over her orphanage, and almost without physical fear. The best sequence builds to a fart joke involving the Queen. **

Creed (2015) – Director Ryan Coogler makes excellent use of long takes: the first shot begins in the corridor of a juvenile prison and then moves to the canteen, where a fight is taking place. It’s a strategy that Coogler uses again and again, usually from the perspective of Adonis (Michael B. Jordan), who doesn’t feel at home anywhere – who enters every space feeling like a stranger. It’s a terrific passport into this world, climaxing with the first big fight, a beautifully choreographed single shot with the camera moving like a third fighter. It gives the human interactions too an appealing, low-key rhythm. Creed is as savvy a reboot of a beloved classic as The Force Awakens; like that movie, much of the impact here comes from the way it pairs a new protagonist with his aged predecessor, hitting familiar beats while ceding centre stage to a black actor. These movies are expanding the definition of pop heroism (much as Stallone did in the 70s), changing how it looks and its point of view. ***

99 Homes (2014) – This story of how a man, evicted from his home by a predatory real estate agent, learns to take advantage of people in the same situation has its weaknesses: from the opening of the film, which contrasts one such eviction with Andrew Garfield’s honest work as a builder, it’s schematic – a bit pat. The protagonist’s family exists mainly to bear frightened witness to his moral slide, leaving the film basically a two-hander, and Garfield’s eventual crisis of conscience feels a bit arbitrary. Writer-director Ramin Bahrani gets at our emotional investment in the places where we live, however: the evictions are true violations. The film’s main originality is in Michael Shannon’s performance as the devil agent: with his e-cigarette, he’s contained, his emotions pulled inside so as not to expend any more energy than necessary. His evictions are not marked by any special cruelty; neither does he seem to derive much pleasure from the fruits of his work, the mistresses and mansions. Shannon dries out the villainy, turns it into an almost impersonal (market) force. ***