A decade after Shallow Grave, Danny Boyle had made another film in which a duffel bag stuffed to the seams with banknotes falls into someone's lap, although this one has less in the way of dismemberment and insanity. In fact, it's a family film - albeit one that will be enjoyed more by adults than their offspring - about two brothers who have just moved to a new estate in the north-east with their widowed dad (James Nesbitt). The younger of the two (Alex Etel) finds not quite millions, but £229,520 beside a railway track. He assumes that the cash is a gift from God - "Who else has that kind of money?" he reasons - and believes he should use it to help the poor. His 10-year-old big brother (Lewis McGibbon) prefers to bribe his way to popularity at school. But two further complications are looming. The boys are unwittingly guilty of receiving stolen property, and the man who did the stealing wants it back. And there are just days to go before Britain's switch to the Euro turns the lot into waste paper.
Millions has a splendid screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce, who packs it with comedy and heartfelt musings without ever losing sight of the plot: this is one of the only Danny Boyle films that knows where it's heading. On the other hand, if it weren't for Boyle's firecracker visual inventiveness, Millions would just be a superior children's film. As it is, his relish for surrealism and special effects make it a unique delight, and certainly the director's best film since Trainspotting.
The makers of Strings must have been peeved to realise that their film was the second one this year to comment on American foreign policy using a cast of marionettes - especially as their film isn't half as much fun as Team America: World Police.
It's a Danish fairy tale about a prince who treks off to exterminate the kingdom's ancient enemies, but who learns - spot the allegory - that foreigners aren't so bad, after all, and it's his courtiers he should be worrying about. Given its rudimentary story, and given that its actors are made of wood, it's hardly prudent of Strings to take itself so seriously.
It's a pompous, ponderous film, laden down by unfulfilled ambitions to be Shakespearean and Tolkienesque. The attempts at fantasy names - Ghrak, Agra, Erito, Xath - sound as if someone leant their elbow on the computer keyboard.
Mondays in the Sun (15)
This is the film you'd have got if the men in The Full Monty hadn't taken up stripping. The characters, like Robert Carlyle and co, are a crowd of redundant ex-dockers, and if they spend Mondays in the sun, they spend every other day in a bar. One is upset about his wife's breadwinner status; another applies for office jobs intended for men half his age; and one of them, played by Javier Bardem, smoulders with all-purpose resentment. But despite Bardem's bullish charisma, and several scenes of bittersweet poetry, Mondays in the Sun can't avoid the trap that's set for any film about people with nowhere to go. It doesn't go anywhere.
House of Wax (15)
For half its running time, House of Wax is less frightening than the queue outside Madam Tussaud's. A remake in name only of the Vincent Price movie from 1953, it starts identically to almost every other Hollywood horror film of recent years: ie, a group of good-looking, bad-acting twentysomethings (it says something that Paris Hilton isn't the worst offender) go camping in the back of beyond. The writers waste far too long doling out irrelevant potted histories - one of the kids is pregnant, one's going to college - and an hour later we're still waiting for an accommodating serial killer to come along and skewer one of these brats. However, when they do eventually visit a two-horse town's abandoned waxwork museum, House of Wax takes a turn for the macabre, and it gets more and more weird and gruesome until we reach a fabulously excessive, Grand Guignol climax that beats anything in the Vincent Price film. A perfect illustration of why DVD players have fast-forward buttons.
It's All Gone Pete Tong (15)
If there were a Bafta for the most unflattering close-up, Paul Kaye would win it for the shot of him here looking red and sweaty, flecked with spit, and cultivating a stalactite of snot.
He plays Frankie Wilde, a slack-jawed superstar DJ who is the king of Ibiza until his ears, and every other orifice, take too much punishment, and he starts to lose his hearing and his mind. Kaye, as ever, plunges into the role like an eager puppy, but he isn't repaid by a self-indulgent film that staggers from mock-documentary to tragic drama to music-biz satire, forgetting to develop any characters or storylines along the way. When you think of how much could be done with the notion of a deaf DJ, it's criminal how little is done by It' s All Gone Pete Tong.Reuse content