Plenty of better movies have been released this year. But few of them, for my money, have been more delightful surprises than Branagh's Orient Express, a showcase for Christie's fastidious Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot that initially seemed deeply unnecessary at best and tragically misguided at worst.

Last fall's Doctor Strange showed that there were vast, unexplored opportunities in terms of shaking up presentation, with its battle sequences thrilling precisely because they were so unpredictable. This summer's marvelous Spider-Man: Homecoming demonstrated the enormous benefits of going smaller, simpler, and more human. Ragnarok, by contrast, never stops feeling familiar, and even its more out-there flourishes, such as the priceless eccentricity of Jeff Goldbum, don't have long-term impact – they're distractions that momentarily amuse and vanish into the ether.

I probably would've had a better time at A Bad Moms Christmas if it reminded me more of last year's Bad Moms and less of last month's Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween.

“He came back from the dead?!”

“It wouldn't be the first time.”

In two lines of dialogue, that might be all you need to know about Jigsaw, the eighth – and quite possibly least-offensive – entry in the Saw franchise, and the first since 2010's now laughably titled Saw 3D: The Final Chapter.

Summer at the cineplex brings with it blockbuster franchises and potential tentpoles. The holiday season brings broad comedies and Oscar bait. Labor Day weekend brings bupkis. And the third weekend in October? That's when studios traditionally throw everything else at the wall to see if anything sticks, and almost none of it ever does.

Reginald Hudlin's period/courtroom/race drama – the pleasant start to my latest quadruple feature – is actually inspired by a 1941 case in the career of Thurgood Marshall, who, of course, later became the first African-American appointed to the Supreme Court. In other words, it's kind of like an origin story for the hard-living, harder-fighting lawyer, and the movie's great surprise is that it's closer in spirit to an enjoyable comic-book yarn than the prototypical Oscar Bait its subject matter would seem to dictate.

Yes, it's long. Yes, it's slow. Yes, it's so relentlessly downbeat that its only real laugh comes from a man pouring whiskey on the floor for his dog to lick. But I found Blade Runner 2049 overwhelming in the best possible way – a sci-fi dazzler of such intricate plotting, grand themes, visual wonder, and technical and performance-based pleasures that even though I was wiped out by the finale, I felt instantly ready to watch it again. Fun, of course, is always in the eye of the beholder, and while I don't know what it says about my personally beheld eye, Villeneuve's staggering achievement was about as much fun as I've yet had at the movies this year.

The plane crash, cleverly edited to look like one seamless take, is reasonably scary – as is Beau Bridges' rendering of the pilot's fatal stroke – and there are effective jolts and edgy passages involving a hungry cougar, a precipitous tumble, and a totally unexpected bear trap. But from Elba's and Winslet's very first tête-à-têtes, with their forced banter as unconvincing as their blatantly foreshadowed romance, the stakes in The Mountain Between Us feel almost ridiculously low.

Barry Seal, the subject of director Doug Liman's action comedy American Made, was a real-life drug smuggler and DEA informant who weighed roughly 300 pounds and was said to be nicknamed “El Gordo,” which translates as “The Fat Man.” Naturally, because his story is now a Hollywood movie, a typically buff and ageless Tom Cruise portrays Seal – not under the actor's Tropic Thunder prosthetics, but behind aviator glasses and that iconic ear-to-ear grin suggesting Top Gun 2 has landed sooner than expected. Yet the biggest problem with this diverting, fundamentally unsatisfying film isn't that Seal is being played by Cruise. It's that American Made is being played by The Wolf of Wall Street.

Director Matthew Vaughn's action thriller Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens with a high-speed taxicab melee underscored by Prince's “Let's Go Crazy,” and I initially presumed it to be par for the Kingsman course – more hyper-edited, ultra-violent nonsense involving cartoonish CGI and an iconic pop tune. But it turns out that this particular scene, with this particular song, is actually serving as the film's mission statement, because for 140 minutes, Vaughn's follow-up to 2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service is undeniably crazy. Not good, not even half-good, but certifiable nonetheless.