Nim’s Island ( PG): A rollicking outdoor adventure in which Jodie Foster plays a shy author searching for one of her adoring young readers ( Abigail Breslin), stranded on a remote island. Shot in Queensland and based on Wendy Orr’s novel, the film has a naive exuberance that will conquer reservations about plot and character. — Evan Williams
Our critics avoid
The Spiderwick Chronicles ( PG): An exceptional cast, including the talented Freddie Highmore, and fine production values give some distinction to this attempt to combine a fantastic subject involving fairies and goblins with a realistic tale of children whose parents have separated. The condensation of five short books works well. — David Stratton
Lars and the Real Girl ( PG): In this strangely touching comedy from USbased Australian director Craig Gillespie, a loner ( Ryan Gosling) falls in love with a life- sized sex doll and wins the hearts of a small community. A brave idea, with some insight and tenderness, but too much repetition, too many laboured jokes and a weak ending. — E. W.
St Trinian’s ( M): Twenty- eight years after the previous St Trinian’s comedy, the naughty schoolgirls originally incarnated by cartoonist Ronald Searle return to the screen in reasonably good form, with plenty of pop- culture jokes and cheerful vulgarity. Rupert Everett camps it up in dual roles as the headmistress and her brother, and Colin Firth is a good straight man. — D. S.
The Secret of the Grain ( La Graine et le Mulet) ( M): French director Abdellatif Kechiche’s film about the lives of a North African Arab family in France is distinguished by Habib Boufares’s deeply affecting performance as a retrenched dock worker seeking a new life in business. This humane, beautiful film is marred by long digressions. — E. W.
Semi- Pro ( M): The fourth of Will Ferrell’s sports films, this one about a struggling basketball team trying to stay in the major league in 1976, is not only the least amusing, it’s not funny at all, unless you find a wrestling bear laughable. The usually reliable Ferrell has come a cropper. — D. S.
Global Haywire ( M): Cartoonist Bruce Petty has written and directed a brave feature- length documentary about economic globalisation and concluded that the world is in trouble. Many bold and important ideas are lost in this laborious combination of animation, live action and interviews, and it’s a big disappointment from the director of the Oscar- winning Leisure ( 1976). — E. W.
How She Move ( M): The plot is as old as the hills but the latest film in the increasingly popular step- dancing genre has energy to spare and an appealing cast of young players. It’s a pity that in this Canadian production the allimportant dance sequences are so sloppily filmed. — D. S.
Exuberant: Abigail Breslin in Nim’s Island