Welcome to the NME Weekend Movie Guide, rewarding the hard-working films with A's and letting the naughty ones know, we're not angry with them, we're just disappointed
The Big Release
X-Men: First Class
What's the story? As the US and Russia engage in a wang measuring contest with nuclear weapons, sinister bad guy Sebastian Shaw uses the possibility of the imminent apocalypse to further his goal of mutant supremacy. Another band of mutants, with differing special powers and conflicting philosophies, set out to stop him.
Cast: James McAvoy (Wanted, The Last King of Scotland), Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, Hunger). Director: Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, Layer Cake).
Plus points: The inclusion of actors rather than stars helps lift First Class out of the category of 'shameless cash-in' and into the realms of passion project, with McAvoy and Fassbender standing tall against their actorly counter-parts of McKellen and Stewart. For X-fans it's the chance to see what may have been, with director Vaughn finally being able to have fun with his mutant play-set after leaving at the start of filming X-Men 3.
Let downs: That age old prequel problem of 'we know where we're going' removes tension where it's needed most, as does the rush to get the characters to the point of recognition from the earlier films. Some ropey effects will help it fit in with it's predecessors- looking, as they occasionally do, circa 2000- but the painfully dull score has no such excuse. It's biggest crime, however, is relegating the back-story of Charles and Erik's life-long friendship to the summer and autumn of '62.
Critics said: "First Class feels swift, sleek and remarkably coherent" (Variety) but "this should still be seen as a missed opportunity" (Little White Lies). 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: The last effort to re-vamp the X-Men franchise was Wolverine, a film so poor even Hugh Jackman's mum failed to like it. While First Class is an infinite improvement if it is indeed the birth of a new trilogy you can't help but think they've shot their load a bit prematurely. After all where can this band of merry mutants really go from here except to the start of the first X-Men film?
What's the story? A cross-section of highschoolers, including the bad boy who rides a motorbike, the perfectionist Class President, the geeky kid who everyone ignores and the bi-sexual meth head, get ready for the biggest night of their lives. Except this is a Disney film and there is no bisexual meth head. But there is a guy who rides a motorbike. Rebel!
Cast: Aimee Teegarden (Scream 4, Friday Night Lights) Thomas McDonell (The Forbidden Kingdom). Director: Joe Nussbaum (American Pie Presents The Naked Mile)
Plus points: When a man playing a teenager has female film critics salivating all over Twitter you know a star is born. Thomas McDonell, with his Johnny Depp hair, Johnny Depp face and Johnny Depp body, is that star.
Let downs: As trite and cliché as you'd imagine from a film called Prom made by Disney and directed by the man responsible for American Pie...Presents the Naked Mile.
Critics said: "Less engrossing than a Clearasil commercial and more synthetic than a Rebecca Black video" (Chicago Sun Times), Prom is "without one single original cinematic moment" (Sky). 36% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: Maybe enjoyable for those that like Glee but don't yet have any pubic hair.
What's the story? When her husband leaves on a business trip with an attractive co-worker, Joanna finds justification in meeting an old flame for drinks. Can the married couples fidelity last the weekend?
Cast: Kiera Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean, Pride and Prejudice), Sam Worthington (Avatar, Clash of the Titans). Director: Massy Tadjedin – Feature Debut.
Plus points: It's nice to see heavyweight movie stars forgoing the paycheque to give weight to Indie films that may never see the light of day without their illuminating star wattage.
Let downs: The 'plus point' there can be read sarcastically if you wish. If a script is of a high quality it really shouldn't matter that a 'name' is in the lead, as long as the role is filled by an actor capable of performing their task of emoting what is on the page.
Critics said: "A tedious, lifeless trawl through the secret lives of the rich and beautiful" (Time Out) it "meanders towards a climax that’s impossible to care about" (Total Film). 41% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: That a film with two of the biggest stars of the day can just slip by gives some indication of the final result. What critics feel could have been an okay relationship drama is distracted by too many really, really, ridiculously good-looking people. And how on Earth do you garner sympathy for them?
What's the story? Documentary following legendary Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna who, before his untimely death, injected the world of Motor Racing with controversy and style.
Cast: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell. (Formula 1) Director: Asif Kapadia (The Return, The Warrior).
Plus points: Over 15,000 hours of footage and unprecedented access to family friends and F1 archives, Senna can't contain every aspect of one man's life, but it does as near a job as possible.
Let downs: The phrase 'car crash entertainment' has a suitably macabre feel here but the documentary makers thankfully don't play the film up as million dollar snuff.
Critics said: "Ambitiously constructed, deeply compelling, thrilling" (Empire) Senna is "a satisfyingly rich portrait" (Film4). 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Verdict: Those that go Zzzz Zzzz at the sound of anything that goes Brrrmmm Brrrmmm may feel there's nothing for them here, but this is ultimately a film about a man rather than a car. And a rather exceptional and fascinating man at that.
The Best Film Still Showing
Taxi Driver/Apocalypse Now
As the blockbusters take over the summer and wonderful little indies like Win Win make way for seventeen shows a day of Pirates of the Caribbean, try hunting out some old school wonders currently getting re-releases courtesy of your local arthouse. If you've never seen Travis Bickle driving his cab or Cpt. Willard searching out the Nung now's your chance. If you have, well, it's always nice to visit old friends, no matter how insane they are.
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