Apocalypse is the name of the vile villain, played with physical and mental menace by Oscar Issac ( Inside Llewyn Davis). It is worth noting the Australian presence in this Marvel Comics blockbuster. Kodi Smit-McPhee is terrific, glorious Rose Byrne returns and — in 10 minutes or so that are alone worth the price of admission — Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine goes berserk. This film has an M-rating but the violence is superhero-movie style rather than horror-story gory and there’s also a lot of humour. The weaknesses are the shallowness of the conflict, the one-dimensional nature of the villains and the sheer cast of characters. But overall it’s an enjoyable movie about mutants in all their mystery.
Highly Strung (M) Scott Hicks’s film about the Australian String Quartet and the recent crisis it went through is well observed if a bit diffuse. The most interesting character is Adelaide arts patron Ulrike Klein, whose dedication to Australia’s musical culture occupies a significant part of the film.
Angry Birds (PG) I laughed more during Angry Birds than I have at any movie for a while. This film is based on the globally successful Finnish smartphone game that won fans young and old. It’s the first-time feature of directors Clay Katis and Fergal Reilly, both long-time studio animators. And that experience shows: the animation is excellent, down to the detail of the birds’ feathers. The game basically involved firing birds from a slingshot to demolish buildings occupied by pigs. That certainly comes into play in the high-stakes climax, but the directors and screenwriter Jon Vitti have created an interesting story first. The actors behind the birds are Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride and, in an awesome bit of casting, a gruffly silent Sean Penn. There are also a few cinematic spoofs for older viewers, such as a brief riff on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, but I laughed more at the juvenile jokes.
Xanadu the Musical Sometimes all you want is a hit of sugar, an overload of something that couldn’t be called good for you but provides an instant rush of energy. Xanadu promises that. The slender storyline has one of the nine muses, Clio, coming to Earth to inspire frustrated artist Sonny Malone. Clio disguises herself as Kira, an Australian (a pleasing touch; Olivia Newton-