Action, Biopic, Chanel Cresswell, Comedy, Dean Devlin, Dean Israelite, Drama, Dutchboy, Edward H. Griffith, Fantasy, Gavin Boyter, Geostorm, Gerard Butler, International Space Station, Jack Lee, James Dunn, Jillian Bell, Jim Sturgess, Joan Collins, Joan Crawford, Josh Helman, Leslie Arliss, Louis J. Gasnier, Lucia Aniello, Michael Baumgarten, Miss Tulip Stays the Night, Murder, My Name Is Lenny, Mystery, No More Ladies, Power Rangers, Reviews, Robert Montgomery, Romance, Ron Scalpello, Rough Night, Scarlett Johansson, Sci-fi, Sparks and Embers, Sunset Murder Case, The Guest House, The Living Ghost, Turn the Key Softly, Weather satellites, William Beaudine, Yvonne Mitchell
Miss Tulip Stays the Night (1955) / D: Leslie Arliss / 68m
aka Dead by Morning
Cast: Diana Dors, Patrick Holt, Jack Hulbert, Cicely Courtneidge, A.E. Matthews, Joss Ambler
Rating: 6/10 – a crime writer (Holt) and his wife (Dors) discover that a weekend break in the country is no guarantee that murder won’t come calling to disturb them, and so it proves when the garrulous Miss Tulip (Courtneidge) is found dead in the cottage; an amiable if too leisurely paced murder mystery, Miss Tulip Stays the Night relies on hoodwinking the viewer from the start and keeping a vital piece of information all to itself until the end, but as a vehicle for Dors it isn’t quite as successful as may have been hoped originally, as the actress is too often sidelined in favour of having Holt attempting to solve the mystery before the police do.
Power Rangers (2017) / D: Dean Israelite / 124m
Cast: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Becky G, Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, David Denman
Rating: 4/10 – five teens discover the remains of a space ship buried in a hillside, and also find that they have been chosen to defend the Earth from an evil alien called Rita Repulsa (Banks), something that means wearing colourful outfits and playing with super powers; as if the likes of the Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchises hadn’t already shown that there is a dwindling audience for this kind of thing, Power Rangers goes ahead and makes the same narrative mistakes as its confederates, and only makes a decent fist of things when it’s focusing on the inter-relationships of the teens, and not the frankly ridiculous storyline that needed four writers to work on it.
Sunset Murder Case (1938) / D: Louis J. Gasnier / 60m
aka High Explosive
Cast: Sally Rand, Esther Muir, Vince Barnett, Paul Sutton, Lona Andre, Mary Brodel, George Douglas, Reed Hadley, Kathryn Kane, Dennis Moore, Henry King
Rating: 4/10 – when her policeman father is murdered, a showgirl, Kathy O’Connor (Rand), decides to pose as a fan dancer at a nightclub in an effort to find out who killed him; Rand’s presence is the only interesting thing about this deadly dull drama that stops too often for musical interludes, and which seems to run longer than it actually does, making Sunset Murder Case a disappointing exercise that lacks for thrills and any kind of appeal that might make it look or sound better.
The Guest House (2012) / D: Michael Baumgarten / 82m
Cast: Ruth Reynolds, Madeline Merritt, Tom McCafferty, Jake Parker, Jennifer Barlow
Rating: 3/10 – wild child Rachel (Reynolds), stuck at home for the weekend after splitting up with her boyfriend, gets to know her father’s new employee, Amy (Merritt), when she comes to stay in the guest house…and not just as a friend; a low budget insult to any lesbians who happen to watch this farrago, The Guest House is ludicrous in the way it depicts lesbian lovemaking, and ludicrous in the way that writer/director Baumgarten could have ever thought that his script was even halfway adequate enough to make this worth watching – and that’s without the two terrible performances at the movie’s centre.
Sparks and Embers (2015) / D: Gavin Boyter / 88m
Cast: Kris Marshall, Annelise Hesme, Waleed Akhtar, Valda Aviks, Sean Baker, Len Trusty
Rating: 4/10 – five years after they met while stuck in a lift, Tom (Marshall) and Eloise (Hesme), meet up again just as she’s on the verge of leaving London to go off and marry another man, making this Tom’s last chance to win her back after their relationship has ended; a movie that wants so much to say something profound about love (but doesn’t know how to), Sparks and Embers wastes its two co-stars’ time, and the audience’s, on a story that lacks any kind of spark, and which sees the couple wandering along London’s South Bank, aimlessly back and forth, and oddly, at different times of the year, which is no mean feat when Tom has just forty-five minutes to persuade Eloise not to leave.
My Name Is Lenny (2017) / D: Ron Scalpello / 91m
Cast: Josh Helman, Michael Bisping, Chanel Cresswell, Charley Palmer Rothwell, Nick Moran, John Hurt, Rita Tushingham, Frankie Oatway, George Russo, Martin Askew, Jennifer Brooke
Rating: 4/10 – the story of British bare knuckle boxer Lenny McLean (Helman) as he tries to deal with the demons that still haunt him from his childhood, while also trying to keep his marriage from falling apart, and defeat main rival Roy Shaw (Bisping) – and all at the same time; a raucous, cheaply made biopic that has a good sense of the period it’s set in, My Name Is Lenny is undermined by Helman’s decision (supported no doubt by director Scalpello) to portray McLean as a constantly gurning nutjob with all the self-awareness of, well, someone who’s taken too many punches to the head, and a number of violent scenes that are there to make the movie more interesting (though only briefly) than it actually is.
The Living Ghost (1942) / D: William Beaudine / 61m
aka Lend Me Your Ear; A Walking Nightmare
Cast: James Dunn, Joan Woodbury, Paul McVey, Vera Gordon, Norman Willis, J. Farrell MacDonald, Minerva Urecal, George Eldredge, Jan Wiley, Edna Johnson
Rating: 5/10 – when a wealthy businessman disappears only to return in a semi-comatose state that no one can explain, ex-detective Nick Trayne (Dunn) is persuaded to investigate; eerie goings-on coupled with a lot of broad comedy makes The Living Ghost more entertaining than it has any right to be, particularly as the script flits from one ill-thought out idea to another, and the more than competent Dunn is left to carry the picture on his own, a situation that isn’t any good for him or the audience.
Turn the Key Softly (1953) / D: Jack Lee / 78m
Cast: Yvonne Mitchell, Terence Morgan, Joan Collins, Kathleen Harrison, Thora Hird, Dorothy Alison, Glyn Houston
Rating: 7/10 – three women – lovelorn Monica (Mitchell), selfish Stella (Collins), and good-natured Granny Quilliam (Harrison) – are released from prison on the same day, but though all three have plans to stay on the right side of the law, temptations put them all in jeopardy of landing right back where they started; a nimbly executed drama that poses some unexpected questions about the likelihood of prison being a place of reform, Turn the Key Softly benefits from the performances of Mitchell, Collins and Harrison, and by an assured use of London as a backdrop to the action.
No More Ladies (1935) / D: Edward H. Griffith / 80m
Cast: Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery, Charles Ruggles, Franchot Tone, Edna May Oliver, Gail Patrick, Reginald Denny, Vivienne Osborne, Joan Fontaine, Arthur Treacher
Rating: 5/10 – lovesick Marcia (Crawford) finally lands the man of her dreams, committed Lothario Sherry (Montgomery), only to find that being married hasn’t dampened his ardour for the company of other women; though the script is by Donald Ogden Stewart and Horace Jackson, neither man can make this turgid tale of jealousy and vengeful scheming as credible as it needs to be, and despite the best efforts of Crawford and Montgomery, it fails to impress, leaving only Ruggles and Oliver to elevate the material, and then merely by being present and on fine form.
Rough Night (2017) / D: Lucia Aniello / 101m
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer, Kate McKinnon, Paul W. Downs, Ryan Cooper, Ty Burrell, Demi Moore
Rating: 6/10 – when five friends get together for a bachelorette party, they don’t plan on the male stripper they’ve hired ending up dead, or how difficult it will be to dispose of the body without anyone finding out; an uneasy mix of sweet-natured girl power and the kind of gross-out material that always makes for an equally uneasy combination, Rough Night features a great cast as the five friends (McKinnon is on good form as usual), but often leaves them stranded while the next set up is… set up, making this a comedy that relies on too much exposition to be truly effective, and which is only occasionally funny – though when it is, it is funny.
Geostorm (2017) / D: Dean Devlin / 109m
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Amr Waked, Adepero Oduye, Robert Sheehan, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Richard Schiff
Rating: 5/10 – when a satellite system (called Dutchboy) that controls the Earth’s weather starts to malfunction, causing all sorts of catastrophes, it’s up to warring brothers Jake (Butler) and Max Lawson (Sturgess) to save the day, and to uncover the person behind it all – which might just be the US President (Garcia); despite having a ton of sincerity poured all over it, Geostorm is still as silly and as earnestly po-faced as you’d expect, with Butler in full-on macho mode, Sturgess doing perpetual anguish, Cornish wondering if her career will survive this, and all in support of a number of disaster porn episodes that, frankly, have lost the ability to impress thanks to all the other disaster porn movies that have come before it (some of which writer/director Devlin will be all too familiar with).