The movie industry is moaning again. The Memorial Day weekend was all but a disaster. A 26-year low, according to the final numbers. So, what now? Can Will Smith or Dakota Fanning save the movies with their new films? The problem is clearly deeper than just a few titles. People have to appreciate anew how much better it is to see a big movie on a big screen. We've got a summer of sequels coming up to draw them in.

Meanwhile, note a couple of small gems out there now, among these:

Bad Boys Ride or Die: 3 stars

The Watchers: 2 ½

Banel & Adama: 4

Robot Dreams: 4

Longing: 2

BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE: The Fall Guy and Furiosa didn't do it so the Bad Boys are now tasked to save the movie season and they work really hard at it. This film is overwought as a crime thriller, urban crash'em up and buddy-cop comedy. You'll have to pass up some logical lapses and live with a very complex plotline though and Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are in good form as the bantering Miami cops in this fourth film in the series. Smith's Oscars slap controversy has happened since the last one and surprisingly gets a visual reference near the end of this one. That's as normal with the zippy comedy in these films.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The story seems created on order though. Smith and Lawrence (as Mike and Marcus) are offended when their late captain and friend--he died last film--is accused of having colluded with the drug cartels. He (Joe Pantoliano) left a video tape predicting the cartels would be after him though it's not clear why they would continue after he died. Something about a mole within the Miami police department apparently. Mike and Marcus set out to clear his name by finding the perpetrators. They have to break rules to do it (pretty common for them) become the target theselves of a police and media chase, and of the cartels, who put a bounty on their heads. Lots of room for action there. And comedy, as Marcus recovering from a heart attack (he's a junk food enthusiast) is told by his captain in a dream that it's not his time yet. He comes out of it feeling invincible.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

It's a summer popcorn diversion, delivered with speedy energy by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, the Belgian directors who work under the name Adil & Bilali. (In theaters) 3 out of 5

THE WATCHERS: M. Night's daughter Ishana Night Shyamalan makes an auspicious big-screen debut (after directing an episode of a TV series her father produced) but there are problems. Over-adherence to the source, a novel by A.M. Shine, for one. Apparently it's a real page turner that builds dread and fear tremendously. The film has not a great deal of either and gets bogged down with explaining and then going on and on to reveal a surprise. It's less of a jolt than the twists in her dad's films, more of an explanation, and it feels superfluous. It probably worked better in the novel.

Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures

Dakota Fanning plays a pet store clerk in Ireland who has to deliver a parrot to a buyer. She takes a tiny forest road, gets lost, starts walking to who knows where when her car breaks down and comes across a stark building. She's welcomed inside by an elderly woman (Olwen Fouéré) and two younger people (Georgina Campbell and Oliver Finnegan) and told rules that must be followed. Never open the door after dark, don't stand in the dark and don't stand with your back to the mirror. That's because at night creatures outside are watching. Nobody can escape.

Promising start that but it gets more and more complex. There's a basement room where a “Professor” used to work studying these creatures and dozens of video files in which he logged his progress. They may be mythical creatures, fairies maybe, that humanity banished and are studying us to become like us and return. That's only the start of it. There's much more to come. There's good atmosphere, not much to scare you but lots of talk to keep you trying to make sense of it all. (In theaters) 2 ½ out of 5

BANEL & ADAMA: This is a mesmerizing film. It may seem remote to us taking place as it does in the African country of Senegal but there are universal themes here, beautiful cinematography and terrific acting by non-professionals. They're people from there and their performances are authentic. And finally, there's the novelty of learning about people and a culture new to most of us.

It's a fable set in a small village with strict traditions. Banel and Adama were married as custom required after her first husband, his brother, died. They love each other but they provoke the village, and in fact “destiny”, with their streak of independence. He refuses to become the vilage chief, although he's in the bloodline. That would break the bloodline. She wants to herd cattle like the men not stay home with the women. “I can't breathe in this house. I can't live like them,” she protests . She's told that it's her duty to give her husband children, an idea she rejects. She's even told how to sit properly, like a woman not a man.

Courtesy of Kino Lorber

Together they want to leave the village and are digging out a house that's been covered with sand for decades. People feel it is cursed. That and all the couple's other breaks with the village norms, they say, have brought on a drought. Cattle are dying, some have to be killed just to save them from dying of thirst. Superstition, guilt and blame, suspicion and jealousy are in play in this strong film written and directed by Ramata-Toulaye Sy. She's Paris-born but knows Senegal where her parents came from. Take a look. (In theaters: Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, so far) 4 out of 5

ROBOT DREAMS: It's so nice to discover a modern animated feature that's not frantic and overloaded with ironic gags like many are these days. This one is sweet, heartfelt and moving. It's on the subject of friendship, an unlikely one, but real just the same.

Dog lives alone in New York City and responds to a TV ad that offers a robot to be his friend. The Amica 2000 is delivered; he has to assemble it and it comes alive with a smile. They go walking in the village together, watch an octopus play drums in Central Park, eat hot dogs and get their photo taken.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

They take a bus to Playland (Coney Island, maybe) jump in the water and sunbathe. After that, Robot can't get up. Dog can't drag him and has to leave him there. Overnight, he thinks. Next day the park is closed for the season, security guards shoo him away and he spends all winter wondering what's happened to his friend. Vandals cut off one of his legs, for one thing. He has to be rebuilt using vacuum cleaner parts and a boombox for another. The film by the Spanish director Pablo Berger, based on a graphic novel by Sara Varon, is perfect for children and, with a deeper-than-usual view of humanity than most animated films give us, fine for adults too. It was a contender at the Oscars this year. (In theaters: Toronto since last week, Vancouver and Montreal now) 4 out of 5

LONGING: Who thought it would be a good idea for Israeli filmmaker Savi Gabizon to remake his award-winning drama here in Canada? Maybe something got lost or misconstrued in that transition because the result is bizarre and not pleasant. Laughable, though. That's despite the strong cast headed up by Richard Gere and Diane Kruger. Both act their roles sincerely, seemingly unaware of the story shambles around them.

Courtesy of Mongrel Media

He's Daniel, a New York businessman who's ex-girlfriend (Suzanne Clément) brings him two bits of news. When they last saw each other, before she went to Canada almost 20 years ago, she was pregnant but didn't tell him. She had a son and he has just died in a car accident. Daniel agrees to come to the funeral and like most dads in stories like this visits around to find out what his son was like. There are shocks. The youth died with several pounds of marijuana in his car. The drug dealers who he sold for want their money back and are threatening his best friend to get it. His girlfriend has a more disturbing story: that he was obsessed with a teacher (Kruger), stalked her and spray painted a huge smutty poem on a school wall about her.

Could things get worse? Yes. At the cemetery Daniel meets another grieving dad whose beautiful daughter would have made a perfect wife for the deceased young man. So, following a Chinese practice, they hold a wedding ceremony for them. Lots of people come. As remote as it seems to both Canadian and Israeli cultures it does bring in ideas of family tradition and continuity. As his ex told Daniel “He kind of takes after you.” Not enough to save the film though. (Toronto and Vancouver theaters) 2 out of 5