MIDNIGHT IN PARIS Comedy. Starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Corey Stoll, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody. Directed by Woody Allen. Cert 12A
Woody Allen's tour of European cities alights in the City of Light and, having been accused of being overly touristy in his depictions of London and Barcelona, he's obviously decided to get that out of the way in the opening sequence, which features well-known Paris landmarks as the evocative clarinet piece I Remember When plays over the soundtrack.
It's a neat way for Allen to set out his stall as this delightful movie's two central themes are Paris itself and nostalgic longing.
Owen Wilson gets the Woody Allen role (not to mention the funniest lines he's had in years) as Gil, a successful American screenwriter on holiday with his shallow fiancee (Rachel McAdams) and being eaten by his failure to write his novel, a dream he feels he could have achieved amid the sophistication of the Jazz Age.
One drunken night he's wandering around Montmartre at the chimes of midnight when a vintage car pulls up, offers him a lift and, hey presto, soon he's in a nightclub drinking with the Fitzgeralds while Cole Porter plays the piano and Ernest Hemingway wanders around looking to start a scrap.
This becomes a nightly routine for Gil, as he bumps into the likes of Picasso, Salvador Dali (a marvellous Adrien Brody), publisher Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) and falls for an alluring dress designer (Marion Cotillard) who has been a muse to several poets and painters.
It's a fanciful but fun idea that allows Allen to write his wittiest script in more than a decade and Wilson the opportunity to display his considerable charm.
There are great performances, too , from Corey Stoll as the belligerent Hemingway and Michael Sheen as a modern-day bore who has the hots for Gil's fiancee.
Overall the movie is thoroughly entertaining. Now let's see how Woody gets on when he arrives in Rome. HHHHI
DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK Horror. Starring Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson. Directed by Troy Nixey. Cert 12A
When a horror movie comes with such a title, you can be damned sure that you should be very afraid of the dark and that's certainly the case with executive producer Guillermo Del Toro's reboot of a 1973 TV movie.
An architect (Guy Pearce), his troubled young daughter (Bailee Madison) and his interior designer/girlfriend (Katie Holmes) move to a strange old house which he intends to renovate but which harbours a dark secret beneath the floorboards.
It's essentially an old-fashioned haunted-house movie but one with a considerable sense of style as the daughter is the first to suspect something sinister and she's the target for dark forces. Still, for Katie Holmes this must have all seemed pretty normal compared to her usual home life. HHHII
JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN Comedy/Action. Starring Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Dominic West, Rosamund Pike. Directed by Oliver Parker. Cert PG
Johnny English Repackaged might be a more fitting title for Oliver Parker's sequel to the 2003 comedy, which poked gentle fun at the debonair image of British spies.
Aside from the casting of rising star Daniel Kaluuya as Johnny's sidekick and a prominent role for a voice-controlled Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe V16, Johnny English Reborn could have been shot directly after the original film and left to gather dust on a shelf marked Straight To DVD.
Following a disastrous mission in Mozambique, section chief Pamela Thornton (Gillian Anderson) woos English back to help thwart an assassination attempt on the Chinese premier. She pairs him up with rookie agent Tucker (Kaluuya), who lives in south London with his mother and finesses his gun skills by playing on his Xbox.
Johnny joins forces with fellow operative Simon Ambrose (Dominic West) and sexy behavioural psychologist Kate Sumner (Rosamund Pike) to unmask a traitor at the very heart of British Intelligence.
Johnny English is an old-fashioned, gently effervescent spy caper that amuses but rarely delights. After this second assignment, his licence to thrill has been revoked. HIIII >Damon Smith
ALSO OPENING THIS WEEK . . .
The Lion King gets a fresh run in cinemas in 3D. But it's still a marvellous movie.