Now that the technology exists to make fantasy films look almost as good as they do in your mind's eye when you're reading the novels they're based on, it's appropriate that someone should rectify the shabby treatment JM Barrie's characters have received in the cinema in the past decade or so.
Disney's cartoon sequel, Return to Neverland, was a waste of the little effort that went into it, and the Peter-Pan-as-a-grown-up farrago, Hook, was one of the worst films made by Steven Spielberg, or anyone else. It's about time for Peter Pan (PG), a live-action extravaganza from PJ Hogan, director of Muriel's Wedding and My Best Friend's Wedding.
What's immediately apparent is how much respect Hogan has for Barrie's book. The film begins with a surprisingly long sequence set in a warmly lit, splendidly costumed Edwardian London, and from then on the dialogue is peppered with quotes from its source. (True, Peter is played by an American, Jeremy Sumpter, but Spielberg put the Lost Boys on skateboards in Hook, so you can't complain). It's also apparent, though, how happily Hogan's reverence for the past is complemented by cutting-edge digital effects. The sequence in which Peter catches his errant shadow could never have been done as beautifully in previous years, and it promises that we're in for an all-time classic children's film.
However, once Peter, Wendy and her brothers fly away from an only-slightly stylised London to a pointedly synthetic, storybook Neverland, the magic wears off. There is nothing fatally wrong with the film, and some things about it are wonderful, but the action just isn't spellbinding enough to stop us being distracted by other, smaller niggles. The dialogue is often hard to make out, Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is the only one of the children to make an impression, and Ludivine Sagnier, Swimming Pool's blonde bombshell, hams up Tinker Bell as irritatingly as any street-corner mime artist. Young children may be frightened, too, by the fiendish mermaids, modelled on Waterhouse's painting Hylas and the Nymphs, and by a Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs) who isn't a moustache-twirling panto clown but a rancorous murderer who regularly shoots his own men. Peter Pan had me thinking happy thoughts, but it didn't quite take flight.
Out of Time (12A) stars Denzel Washingon as the top cop in a sleepy Miami seaside resort. It's the sort of balmy backwater where the police uniform is shorts and a T-shirt, and where the most heinous crime is bass-fishing without a licence, so Washington has enough free time to entangle himself in a compromising relationship with a married woman. Then the barbecued bodies of the woman and her husband are found in the smoking ruins of their home, and Washington knows that if his affair comes to light, he'll be the prime suspect. And it just so happens that the homicide detective assigned to the case is his own ex-wife, Eva Mendez.
The film takes almost half of its running time to get to the part of the story that we've just reached, but once it's there it comes up with set piece after craftily composed set piece of Washington doctoring phone records and hiding evidence always just half a step ahead of his fellow police officers. Unlike Insomnia, which it resembles in some respects, Out of Time is never particularly tense or believable, but it works well as a B-movie tribute to Hitchcock's innocent-man-in-a-jam films. It's a fun game, even if it spends too long explaining the rules.
Triggermen (15) is a crime caper starring Neil Morrissey and Adrian Dunbar as two small-time crooks from London who are put up in a luxury Chicago hotel by a gangster who has mistaken them for hitmen. Director John Bradshaw seems to be hoping that if he throws in enough freeze frames and swishing camera moves, he'll fool us that we're watching a Guy Ritchie film. Sadly, this miserable bag of hackneyed twists and obnoxious characters proves how unfounded that hope is. Morrissey fans would be better off watching a 90-minute block of his Homebase adverts.