(PG) Pixels opens in 1982 with 13year-old friends Sam Brenner and Will Cooper hanging out at the local video game arcade. Sam is a whiz and Will encourages him to enter the world championships. With NASA’s assistance, a time capsule containing a video cassette of the competition is launched into space. Director Chris Columbus then moves to the present day: in a clever scene we see the adult Sam and Will talking over beers in a bar, but when the TV news comes on, we realise Will (Kevin James) is now the US president. Everything changes when aliens destroy an air force base: it transpires they received that video cassette and considered it a declaration of war. Pixels, a film with a sense of mischief about it, does more than enough to keep adults and children satisfied.
London Road (MA15+) An excellent screen version of London’s National Theatre musical production based on the 2006 murder of several sex workers in the Suffolk city of Ipswich. Rufus Norris, who handled the stage production, brings the challenging material to the screen with audaciousness and skill, and a superb ensemble cast that includes, in a cameo, Tom Hardy as a taxi driver who has made a study of serial killers.
Oddball (G) The feature debut of television director Stuart McDonald is based on the true story of Alan “Swampy’’ Marsh, a Victorian chook farmer who, with canine assistance, came to the rescue of a penguin colony on an island off Warrnambool. Comedian and actor Shane Jacobson plays Swampy. But the star of the show is the dog Oddball, a maremma, an Italian breed traditionally used to protect livestock from wolves. Oddball isn’t the slickest piece of filmmaking, with lots of obvious studio scenes (although the shots of the Victorian coast are spectacular), but it has a big heart and that counts for a lot.
Prehistoric Aquarium There are two things guaranteed to excite a child: prehistoric creatures and puppets. Brought together in this scientific, educational performance, theatre company Erth presents an engaging look at marine reptiles through history. Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh. Opens today. Tickets: $25. Inquiries: (02) 8571 9099 or online. Until October 4.