The worries have flared up again about the health of Hollywood. Indiana Jones, Elemental and The Flash all underperformed at the box office. Indiana's $130m worldwide take doesn't seem too dire but it could mean the very expensive film won't even make its money back. Time for another rescue by Tom Cruise and then Barbie and Oppenheimer.

Meanwhile, it's a perfect time then to consider the smaller films that arrived this week, some of them very good; some not so much. And, to check out one of the best Canadian films in some time, Riceboy Sleeps. It just started streaming on Crave. Its theme, immigration, also figures in two of these new ones:

The Lesson: 4 stars

Joy Ride: 3

Sound of Freedom: 3 ½

So Much Tenderness: 2

The Out-Laws: 2

THE LESSON: If you're in the mood for an intelligent, literary-flavored film from England with an excellent script and strong acting come right in. It's completely unlike the usual films that come along in the summer and is most satisfying. A distinguished novelist (Richard E. Grant) hires a tutor to get his son prepared for the entrance exam at a top university. Julie Delpy plays his wife, Stephen McMillan his son, and you'll recognize Daryl McCormack as the tutor. He played opposite Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande.

Courtesy of Photon Films

Here he plays a character who's a bit devious. He reveres the author and without telling him is writing a thesis on his work. That's nothing compared to the writer's slippery presence though. He makes grand pronouncements about the craft. Real writers have to do it. They don't have a choice. And this: “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” That he says more than once and it'll prove prescient as the tensions in the household and a dark history are gradually revealed. Director Alice Troughton, with British TV experience, lets them arise smoothly, even elegantly, while navigating twists and mood changes. This film is a delightful surprise with some sharp undertones. (In theaters) 4 out of 5

JOY RIDE: If you can take the many, many sex jokes, the all-around raunch in the incidents that careen by, the particular body part to carry drugs, another one revealed to carry a tattoo and that all-too common standby, a vomiting scene, you're in for a very funny summer comedy with at least two benefits. This is a celebration of friendship and another advance in the representation of Asian women in the movies. Hey, they need not be submissive. Or even classy like in Crazy Rich Asians, which was co-written by Adele Lim, who makes her directing debut here. She has them claim the right to be crude too. And still stay friends.

Courtesy of Lionsgate Films

Four are on a trip to China. Audrey (Ashley Park) is on business. Her long-time friend Lolo (Sherry Cola) is along to help with the translation. They had grown up as the only Asian children in a small Washington State town. Lolo brings her cousin (Sabrina Wu) and they all meet up with Kat (Stephanie Hsu), an old college friend who is now a popular movie star in Beijing. There's a strong mix of types in that group. Corporate, artistic, eccentric, outsider, leader, and so on. We get to know them each and watch them disagree and join back again alonside the sex jokes and encounters and the exploring of their culture. Audrey is also trying to find her birth mother. The whole trip is sprinkled with wry comments about how Asians are perceived and are expected to behave. That's it's main strength. It was filmed back in 2021 in and around Vancouver. Not surprising that. It's the hometown of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg two of the producers and enablers. (In theaters) 3 out of 5

SOUND OF FREEDOM: Hollywood doesn't often touch the subject of child sex trafficking. It's just too awful. This independent film takes it on right full, holding off on showing the worst aspects but getting across anger and outrage. It does that by playing it like a thriller based on a real person and his personal campaign. Tim Ballard was a US government agent who saw and heard enough evidence about children being sold into slavery that he quit his job and became an independent rescuer. He founded an organization (probably to raise money) but is seen here working mostly alone. He's played by Jim Caviezel, who you might remember played Jesus in The Passion of Christ. Mira Sorvino plays his wife and Bill Camp is a like-minded guy he meets on a mission down in Columbia.

Courtesy of Angel Films

The film opens with two children invited to an audition for acting jobs. When their father arrives to take them home, there's nobody there. The room is empty. That sets the chilling tone. Ballard joins the search; does find the boy but not his sister. The rest of the film is played like a movie adventure. Ballard travels down into a rebel-held area, pretending he has plans to build a hotel for pedophiles but really looking for the young girl. It's an interesting way of dramatizing a horrible situation. Questions have been raised (see Wikipedia) and Disney shelved the film when it bought the company five years ago. But it's back as an independent and says there are more human beings (many of them children) enslaved today than at any other time in history. It doesn't preach, just states, although Caviezel gets very direct in an added message at the end with an urgent call for action. (Select theaters, some Landmark, a few Cineplex) 3 ½ out of 5

SO MUCH TENDERNESS: A valid attempt to portray the immigrant experience goes off the rails here. Lina Rodriguez, who wrote and directed it, has set out to show the feeling of being in between, no longer where you came from, and not part of where you've come too. Unfortunately what she feels doesn't come across to the rest of us. It's too internal and oh so slow. The film keeps us waiting for a long stretch at the start. There's even a long scene of a character just waiting. Repeatedly shots are held way too long.

Courtesy of Mongrel Media

There's a story alright, the kind we're used to in immigrant films, but it's not developed. A woman (Noëlle Schönwald) from Columbia, where she was an environmental lawyer and her husband was murdered, is now living in Toronto with her daughter. The opening shows her being smuggled into Canada and promises a tense scenario. It doesn't become that, even though some time later she sees and follows a man who she knew back home and may know about the murder. She tries to report him to immigration but that doesn't go anywhere. The film prefers to concentrate on her rumination, the self-doubt she feels and the life she's trying to establish with her daughter (Natalia Aranguren). Both actors are good; it's the situation they're in that fails to communicate to us. (In theaters) 2 out of 5

THE OUT-LAWS: Now this is more like it for a summer movie: dumb, contrived, energetic, sort of funny. A time waster. What Pierce Brosnan is doing in it, I don't know. It does give a chance for a James Bond joke. But that's totally incidental. The story is about a young couple preparing to get married. He (Adam Devine) is a bank manager (at his age?). Nina Dobrev plays his fiance and Brosnan and Ellen Barkin are her parents who've come to town for the event.

Courtesy of Netflix

Surprise: the bank gets robbed. Even after the manager explained in detail how secure it is. How did the security codes get out? And who did the robbery? The visiting future in-laws are suspected? Are they the famous "ghost bandits" as an FBI agent who comes to investigate tags them? And who is that woman who is pushing for more robberies to amass $5 million? There's some fun here, a lot of sex jokes (hey, it's an Adam Sandler production) and an armored car hi-jack that leads into a big police car chase and an extended crash into a cemetary. "Have you no dignity?" somebody asks. No, it's a summer movie. (Netflix) 2 out of 5