Another week, another savior for the movie industry. This time it's Black Adam, comic book figure and long-time passion project for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Can George Clooney and Julia Roberts compete with their Ticket to Paradise? And can a medical mystery or a sci-fi mystery compete? They're part of a very varied list this week that also includes a visit with Buffy Sainte-Marie and a provocative look at how movies in general show women to us. Here's the list:

Ticket to Paradise: 3 stars

Black Adam: 2 ½

The Good Nurse: 4

The Peripheral: 3 ½

Buffy Sainte-Marie Carry It On: 4

Brainwashed Sex-Camera-Power: 3½

TICKET TO PARADISE: Two popular movie stars on a tropical vacation. How much more escapist and fun could that be? A lot more unfortunately. George Clooney and Julia Roberts are back in a romantic comedy after many years away from the genre but the result is mild, close to bland, certainly predictable all the way. Trace the lineage to see why.The director, Ol Parker, helmed one of the Mamma Mia films and wrote both of the Exotic Marigold Hotel films. This is similar but with a lot less zip.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Clooney and Roberts play a divorced couple who are manouvered to spend time with each other again (you know, assigned adjacent seats on an air liner, given close-by hotel rooms, that sort of thing). Their grown daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) took a trip to Bali before going to law school, met a local guy, a seaweed farmer (Maxime Bouttier) and is going to marry him. So, the parents come to attend the wedding but also sabotage it. There are many scenes of culture clash, they being unable to understand the language spoken there, mis-interpriting the status of a cultural site and so on. Meanwhile, they natter and bicker, get off some funny lines but too few of them. They have chemistry; could probably do a Tracy and Hepburn-like act but that would require better writing and more jokes. The film is undemanding and merely pleasant. (in theaters) 3 out of 5

BLACK ADAM: You like action? You get lots of it here. It's almost non-stop. It keeps coming at you big and loud, designed for the giant IMAX screen. And a story to tie all this together? Well that's a problem. It's a chore to follow and make sense of. Maybe comic-book fans who know this character won't have much trouble with it, but the rest of us do. Not Dawyne (The Rock) Johnson apparently. He read the comics and has been fighting for years to get this film made. A true passion project. He and director Jaume Collet-Serra should have put more effort into making sure it communicates to all.

As far as I see it, there was a kingdom called Khandaq thousands of years ago in what looks like the Middle East where a tyrant controlled the people and made them work in the mines to dig up a rare mineral. A boy rebelled, was punished and imprisoned in a cave. In our time an archeologist frees him. He's fully grown now, and played by The Rock, and with god-like powers (he can shoot sparks, fly and do all sorts of things), becomes a crime fighter.

Courtesy of Warner Brothers

He doesn't have any scruples about using violence, though, and that puts him in conflict with other do-gooders in The Justice Society of America which includes Hawkman, Atom Smasher, Cyclone and Doctor Fate who is played by Pierce Brosnan. The debate about the ethics of violence is welcome but brief. The action takes over and is likely to keep coming. An extra scene in the end credits seems to be pointing that way. (In many theaters) 2 ½ out of 5

THE GOOD NURSE: Here's a psychological thriller that tells a true story and at the same time takes a few swipes at the U.S. medical system. And does it with excellent acting, notably from Eddie Redmayne. He plays a male nurse, a new hire at a hospital in Pennsylvania where Jessica Chastain welcomes his help. She's overworked, is a single mother and is slowed down by a heart condition. She can't afford to take time off to have an operation because she is still waiting for her health insurance to start up. The new nurse, friendly and helpful, is a godsend. For a while.

Courtesy of Netflix

A couple of patients in the ICU die unexpectedly. The hospital administrators think nothing of it but Jessica's character does. She suspect Charlie, the new nurse, but is forbidden to talk to two police detectives who come asking questions. She also gets no co-operation from previous hospitals Charlie worked at. They don't investigate suspicions so as not to endanger their profits. The film builds a thick aura of anticipation as that story develops. Redmayne keeps us guessing, has a brilliant flash of acting when the police question him (also an unecessary outburst) and a very moving last scene with Chastain. Tobias Lindholm, the director, is from Denmark making his English debut. Splendidly. (In theaters in 10 cities including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Edmonton and Calgary, and on Netflix soon) 4 out of 5

THE PERIPHERAL: William Gibson, Vancouver resident and very popular science fiction writer, is underrepresented in the movies. There's one film and some scripts for TV series on his resume. This will boost his presence immensely. It's a six part series that will draw you in like a mystery and keep you involved with ideas and perceptions of the future. I've only previewed four episodes so far but here's what I've learned.

Courtesy of Prime Video

Chloë Grace Moretz plays a young woman in the American south (where Gibson is originally from) who experiments with Virtual Reality. Her brother (Jack Reynor) lets her put on an experimental head-set he's just received and she is transported in her mind to London 70 years in the future. She reports that it wasn't virtual. It felt real. Suddenly there's a bounty on her, her brother and maybe even her ailing mother. Why, we don't know. Episode three gives part of an answer. I'm waiting for more. Meanwhile the brother's buddies are ex-military types who sit around a bonfire and talk. He offers one a job. In that future London, something called "the Jackpot" has killed off most of the people and two other environmental disasters have happened. "Our past. Your future," somebody says. There's much more: peripherals are mind transfers. Cars appear and disappear. There are parallel times existing concurrently. A woman in the future and a businessman now are involved somehow. I can't wait to get the rest, in this well acted, nicely staged and very intriguing series. (Prime Video) 3 ½ out of 5

BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE: CARRY IT ON: You'll learn a lot more than you've known about the Canadian-born singer, activist and Indigeous artist in this lively and enlightening documentary. And you'll feel her commitment to whatever project she takes up, controversial or not. As she puts it: “The world is either wrong or not there yet.”

Courtesy of White Pine Pictures

Her song Universal Soldier, probably her best-known, blames “you and me” for allowing wars to happen. Her song Codeine is about doctors overprescribing opiates. Until It's Time for You To Go is an early feminist anthem. She talks about them all in this film, as do fans like Joni Mitchell, Robbie Robertson, Taj Mahal and Alanis Obomsawin. You'll hear accolades like “intensity”, “passion” and “understood life.” And you'll get stories you've never heard before: her experiences in the recording industry, the day one of Elvis Presley's men called and how she upset Hollywood. Also, tragically, that she was molested as a child. She's optomistic and smiling though, and the film directed by Madison Thomas (part-Indigenous from Winnipeg) has a rousing ending that fits perfectly. (Now streaming on CRAVE) 4 out of 5

BRAINWASHED: SEX-CAMERA-POWER: Here's a provative documentary that movie fans should see and will probably be debating long after. It elucidates the “male gaze” in films. That not a surprise; the movies love to show us beautiful women but Nina Menkes goes byond the obvious signs to the subtle techniques most fans don't even know but may be influenced by. How women are framed on screen by the cameraman (almost all are men) and how they're lit. Men get what she calls 3-D lighting; women get white light.

Courtesy of Kino Lorber

She wrote a lecture for her film-school course about this; published it in a trade magazine and when that went viral made this film. There's clearly interest in what she says, and shows with over 120 film clips. You'll see how women's bodies (clothed or not) are lovingly photographed. A shot seen in many movies has the camera slowly pan along a reclining body. Others show women from the angle of a man in the same frame. There are many examples, though about a few I disagree with what she makes of them. And her assertion that these visual techniques create a culture of rape and employment discrimination goes at least a bit too far. I wish she showed more of what woman directors have done. Is it a gender difference or just the visual language of film? Worth pondering. (In theaters: Vancouver now, Toronto next Friday) 3½ out of 5