The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is riding high in the US box office charts (way higher than its nearest competitor, Rise of the Guardians) this week and it’s unlikely that will change, though there are at least two releases this weekend that have been causing a stir. Tom Cruise stars in Jack Reacher – the adaptation of the Lee Child novel and This Is 40, the new comedy from Judd Apatow; a sequel to the popular comedy Knocked Up.

Some fans of Lee Child’s novels questioned the decision to cast Tom Cruise in the title role of Jack Reacher. He was, after all, originally on board as a producer only but after reading the script, it seems, he decided he’d like to have a go at starring in the movie too. It looks as though the gamble has just about paid off, as long as you enter the movie theatre with the understanding that what you are about to see is very much A Tom Cruise Movie, with Tom Cruise in standard Tom Cruise “cool and calculating” mode, as described by Betsy Sharkey of Los Angeles Times.

So far, the reviews are just about erring on the side of positive, with an aggregate of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. Let’s face it, Tom Cruise’s rep has hardly had an easy ride this year and this is hardly challenging new ground for the Mission Impossible star, who has frequented many a steely action thriller of late. However, many reviewers have surmised that really, it’s Cruise that makes this movie. “This is Cruise’s show. And he nails it,” says Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. One for the Cruise fans, then. Wherever you are.

Watch the trailer for Jack Reacher

This is 40 is Judd Apatow’s update of the Knocked Up story. Starring Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Megan Fox and Melissa McCarthy, the turning-40 comedy seems to be treading middle ground, where Knocked Up was a flyaway success. Mary Pois, writing for TIME magazine, found that the laughs dried up towards the end, saying “As the movie goes on, the laughs are fewer and farther between, and for the last 30 minutes, not only did I not laugh, I wanted it to end so I could get back to my own boring but less precious life.”

On the other hand, Toddy McCarthy of Hollywood Reporter was enthused by the presence of a dose of Apatow humor in the festive theatre schedule, writing “Even with all its ups and downs, there are more than enough bawdy laughs and truthful emotional moments to put this over as a mainstream audience pleaser during a holiday season short on good comedies.” This is 40, then – it might not change your life but it should provide a few decent laughs.

Watch the trailer for This is 40

Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts star in The Impossible, a disaster movie from director J.A. Bayona, about the catastrophic tsunami that hit Thailand on Boxing Day in 2004. McGregor and Watts play a couple separated by the tidal wave and it’s their performances that save this movie, rendering it as a “searing film of human tragedy” (Roger Ebert) where it could easily have failed to deliver its story in a sensitive and believable fashion. Justin Chang of Variety describes The Impossible as “the most harrowing disaster movie of many a moon.” The movie gets a limited release this weekend – catch it if you can… and if you’ve steeled yourself for an emotional ride.

Watch the trailer for This Is 40

On the Road also gets a limited US release this week. The Jack Kerouac adaptation has not exactly been met with the kind of fanfare you would expect for a movie which boasts Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Sam Riley, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen amongst the cast list. In some ways, it seems that a smooth and successful release into their world was marred slightly by Stewart’s personal life, which became headline news some months ago. Add to that a slew of disaffected reviewers and that fanfare just got even more muted. You’d expect a certain degree of carefree hedonism from a movie based of beat-writer Kerouac’s best known book but instead, the movie feels too restricted, too polite. There is enough in the way of strong performances from the cast here to make On The Road enjoyable, though it may not quite do justice to its source material. 

Read a review of On the Road