For your viewing pleasure

Hugh Jackman.
Keanu Reeves.

Fun popcorn movies - the type that are made to just entertain - typically rake in big bucks at the box office, never mind their typical lack of artistic merit.

Still, some such as the Pirates Of The Caribbean films manage to strike that fine balance, winning over both the public as well as the critics.

The first Pirates movie, The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003), is certified fresh with a 79 per cent rating on reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with critics calling it "rip-roaring fun" and "legitimately bold".

The Straits Times looks at some other popcorn movies that were equally enjoyable - and those that were not.

The Good

LOGAN (2017)

Directed by: James Mangold Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

Synopsis: Superhero Wolverine (Jackman) is old and weary, but he finds new meaning in life when he meets his alleged daughter Laura (Keen).

Why it's good: Like superhero movie Deadpool (2016), Logan, centred on X-Men's Wolverine, got things right by choosing to go R-rated. That means the action scenes were bloody and violent enough - befitting the comic-book character the story is based on, unlike the watered-down stuff seen in previous Wolverine movies.

The darker tone and strong writing, which depicted Wolverine in his vulnerable older state, also elevated the film from frothy blockbuster to solid drama.

Production budget: US$97 million (S$135 million)

Worldwide box-office gross: US$607 million


Directed by: Brian De Palma Stars: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Jean Reno, Emmanuelle Beart

Synopsis: Covert operations agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) becomes the prime murder suspect when his entire team is killed during an assignment. As a fugitive, he recruits the help of other ex-agents to retrieve a file that will help prove his innocence.

Why it's good: The first in what is now a major spy-action movie franchise hooked audiences from start to finish.

There were so many twists that it kept viewers guessing all the way. And who could forget the iconic and thrilling sequence when Hunt tried to do the impossible by retrieving a file while suspended on wires from the ceiling?

Since then, the films in the series have been a hit or a miss, but most of the action sequences still prove entertaining.

The fifth movie, Rogue Nation (2015), had Cruise hanging off an actual moving airplane.

Production budget: US$80 million

Worldwide box-office gross: US$457 million


Directed by: Steven Spielberg Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill, Laura Dern

Synopsis: A theme park called Jurassic Park features genetically engineered dinosaurs. It is all fun and games until some of the dinosaurs break out of their enclosures and go after the park visitors.

Why it's good: This was family entertainment at its finest - scary enough for kids, but still thrilling for parents.

The film was considered a spectacle of both special effects and practical effects for the time it was released. The majestic dinosaurs, created using computer-generated imagery and animatronics, looked completely believable.

The recent reboot in the franchise, Jurassic World (2015), was marred by loopholes and cheesy one-liners, but it was nonetheless packed with action and featured some inventive new theme-park rides. It also found a worthy new lead in actor Chris Pratt.

It will be exciting to see what comes next in Jurassic World 2 next year.

Production budget: US$63 million

Worldwide box-office gross: US$1.02 billion

The Bad


Directed by: Zack Snyder Stars: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot

Synopsis: Batman (Affleck) believes that Superman (Cavill) has gotten too big for his boots and that he needs to be kept in check.

Why it's bad: Two of the most famous superheroes battling it out makes for a great premise as each has his own camp of supporters rooting for him. Unfortunately, other than one proper fist fight, nothing much else happens for the pair in the rest of the film. Many felt that this was a missed opportunity to really stir controversy and answer the question of which superhero is more powerful.

Production budget: US$250 million

Worldwide box-office gross: US$873 million


Directed by: Michael Bay Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox

Synopsis: An ancient Decepticon known as The Fallen has landed on earth and threatens to destroy the planet. College student Sam (LaBeouf) works with his girlfriend Mikaela (Fox) and his Autobot friends to try to stop The Fallen.

Why it's bad: Bay's Transformers movies have always divided audiences. Some appreciate the fantastic robotic machines, others cannot stand the perpetual shouting and explosions. But the second film in the series, in particular, was almost universally panned for its convoluted plot. Even Bay himself admitted in a 2011 interview with Empire magazine that his sequel was "crap".

Production budget: US$200 million

Worldwide box-office gross: US$836 million


Directed by: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss

Synopsis: Neo (Reeves), mankind's only hope, attempts to escape from his trapped state to save humanity from the evil and controlling robot machines.

Why it's bad: The Matrix (1999) blew viewers' minds with its visual effects and clever ideas about artificial intelligence, while The Matrix: Reloaded (2003) was considered a worthy sequel. This third film, however, fell flat. Many critics said it was draggy and lacked the smarts of its predecessors, calling it an anti-climactic end to the trilogy.

Production budget: US$150 million

Worldwide box-office gross: US$427 million

Yip Wai Yee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'For your viewing pleasure'. Print Edition | Subscribe