Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Michael Adamthwaite, Amiah Miller, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Max Lloyd-Jones, Devyn Dalton. Director: Matt Reeves.

MONKEY business becomes deadly serious in the third chapter of the rebooted sci-fi franchise.

Matt Reeves, who directed the thrilling 2014 instalment Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, retains his position at the helm of this cataclysmic showdown between the last remnants of mankind and genetically enhanced primates, who have collectively weathered the storm of Simian Flu.

So much of the picture relies on the latest motion-capture visual effects to translate performances of a gifted human cast into richly textured animal protectors and warriors.

The results are jaw-dropping.

Time and again, Reeves shoots pivotal scenes in close-up so we can see tears well in the creatures' eyes, or anguish ripple across their brows, as they face the stark possibility of extermination.

It's a glittering showcase for Andy Serkis' tour de force portrayal of the leader of the ape uprising, begging tantalising questions about where performance ends and state-of-the-art trickery begins.

Everyone has blood on their hands and Reeves' contemplative script, co-written by Mark Bomback, corrupts characters on both sides of the conflict in the name of survival.

The only winners, when the computer enhanced dust settles after almost two-and-a-half hours, are audiences who have been on this rollercoaster since 2011 when the ALZ-113 virus ravaged the globe.

Twelve years have passed since that outbreak and Caesar (Serkis), his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) and their two sons Blue Eyes (Max Lloyd-Jones) and Cornelius (Devyn Dalton) are living in exile in the woods with the rest of the apes.

The outcasts include wise Bornean orangutan Maurice (Karin Konoval), chimpanzee Rocket (Terry Notary) and brave Western lowland gorilla Luca (Michael Adamthwaite).

Under the cover of darkness, Colonel McCullough (Woody Harrelson) and his sharp-shooting soldiers stage an assault on the ape stronghold and kill most of Caesar's family.

The grief-stricken leader orders the survivors to flee in search of a new home while he exacts revenge on the Colonel.

Maurice, Rocket and Luca defy Caesar's orders and join him on the long and arduous trek to locate the military in their mountainside stronghold.

En route, they encounter an outcast chimpanzee called Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who escaped from his zoo enclosure, and an orphaned girl (Amiah Miller), who has been rendered mute by the virus.

Maurice becomes a surrogate parent to the child as Caesar continues his quest for retribution.

"They must pay," he growls.

War For The Planet Of The Apes is a fitting conclusion to several key storylines, which are underscored by composer Michael Giacchino's magnificent orchestral score.

Serkis and Harrelson face off in a series of increasingly brutal set pieces that hammer home the senseless loss of life on both sides of the ideological divide.

Reeves harnesses impressive technical might without obscuring the raw emotions that course beneath each digitally enhanced frame. 7.5/10

CARS 3 (U, 109 mins)

Featuring the voices of: Owen Wilson, Cristela Alonzo, Armie Hammer, Larry The Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, Chris Cooper, Nathan Fillion, Lea DeLaria, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Margo Martindale, Paul Newman. Director: Brian Fee.

SUCCESS and failure are two sides of the same shiny coin.

To truly appreciate the exhilaration of winning, you also have to experience crushing disappointment and then muster the strength of character to try again, even if it ends in more pain.

As one turbo-charged character in director Brian Fee's well-oiled road movie proclaims: "You can use anything negative as fuel to push through to the positive".

The computer animation wizards at Disney Pixar have been blazing a trail to the positive since their wildly imaginative debut, Toy Story.

This second sequel to the 2006 coming-of-age comedy Cars is unlikely to tarnish the studio's golden lustre, continuing the misadventures of anthropomorphised vehicles, who orbit championship racing car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson).

Themes of self-sacrifice and perseverance are pumped into the film's fuel tank, and are reflected in writer-director Dave Mullins' heartbreaking computer-animated short film, Lou, which precedes the main feature.

Three scriptwriters jumpstart what appears to be a conventional comeback story but take us on a surprisingly different emotional journey that leaves the boot unlocked for further instalments of the franchise.

Cars 3 begins in familiar territory with Lightning screeching to victory in the Piston Cup until cocksure rookie Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) steals his thunder.

"I can't believe I got to race Lightning McQueen in his farewell season!" arrogantly whoops Storm.

A high-speed collision wrecks Lightning's chances of retaining his crown and he retires to Radiator Springs in the company of tow truck Mater (Larry The Cable Guy) and his sweetheart Sally (Bonnie Hunt).

Fond memories of mentor Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) compel Lightning to hit the comeback trail and he heads to the Rust-eze Racing Center owned by Sterling (Nathan Fillion), "the mud flap king of the eastern seaboard".

Sterling assigns trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) to improve Lightning's speed and stamina.

"I call you my senior project," affectionately jokes Cruz.

With a pivotal race in Florida looming on the horizon, Lightning and Cruz forego last minute tweaks to track down Doc's revered mentor, Smokey (Chris Cooper).

En route, they take part in a mud-spattered demolition derby against school bus Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria) and learn priceless secrets from veteran cars River Scott (Isiah Whitlock Jr) and Louise "Barnstormer" Nash (Margo Martindale).

Cars 3 is the most poignant film in the series, striking a pleasing balance between heartfelt sentiment, belly laughs and dazzling artistry.

The quality of the animation is flawless, including pristine reflected surfaces in high-speed races and some cute visual gags.

Admittedly, director Fee and his team don't reinvent the steering wheel but they do manage to tinge even the most colour-saturated scenes with aching sadness and a wistful yearning for the simple pleasures of the past. 6/10

THE BEGUILED (15, 94 mins)

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, Oona Laurence, Emma Howard, Addison Riecke. Director: Sofia Coppola.

VIRGINAL beauty is sin deep in Oscar-winning writer-director Sofia Coppola's fable of female empowerment, based on the novel by Thomas P Cullinan.

Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, The Beguiled lovingly reupholsters a shabby and oft overlooked Gothic melodrama starring Clint Eastwood with stunning cinematography courtesy of Phillipe Le Sourd and impeccable production design.

The focus of Coppola's version is an isolated household of women and girls, who unwittingly invite a wolf in military clothing into their hen house, and must take control of their destiny, using force if necessary.

The subsequent battle of wits and womanly wiles unfolds through the eyes of these steely female protagonists, who may not have the imposing physicality to overpower the snarling predator in their midst, but they do have cunning and strength in numbers.

While the turbulent period is evoked with aplomb, some elements of Coppola's haunting vision falter.

Nicole Kidman's melodious Southern accent waxes and wanes in scenes with co-star Colin Farrell, who retains his thick Irish accent.

Tension between the characters could also be heightened in the calm before the inevitable emotional storm, although that would fray the fabric of sisterly solidarity, which the script is desperate to preserve until the artfully composed closing frames.

Eleven-year-old Amy (Oona Laurence) goes foraging for mushrooms in the woods in war-torn Virginia and stumbles upon an injured Union soldier, Corporal John McBurney (Farrell).

She helps him to stagger to the nearby girls' school where teacher Miss Martha Farnsworth (Kidman) oversees the education of the remaining charges with the help of Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst).

Reluctantly, Martha allows John to stay and tends to his wounds.

"There's enough metal in here to shoe a horse," she observes, removing gun pellets from the soldier's bloodied leg.

Students Alicia (Elle Fanning), Emily (Emma Howard), Jane (Angourie Rice) and Marie (Addison Riecke) are fascinated with the handsome new arrival, who they agree must be handed over to the Confederates when they next pass by the school.

"You are not a guest here. You are a most unwelcome visitor and we do not propose to entertain you," Martha sternly reminds the corporal.

However, with each passing day, John charms his wary, affection-starved hosts, gradually pitting them against each other in a competition for his affections.

The Beguiled largely delivers on the intoxicating promise of the title, casting a heady spell as the females of the species unite in adversity.

Kidman tightly coils her teacher's fury, savouring the script's gallows humour when Martha prepares to amputate the corporal's leg and orders her girls to "bring me the anatomy book!"

Coppola's camera lingers hungrily on Farrell's naked muscular torso, portraying him as an object of desire by flickering candlelight.

The tables have indeed been turned. 6/10