‘C’-Man (1949) / D: Joseph Lerner / 77m
Cast: Dean Jagger, John Carradine, Lottie Elwen, Rene Paul, Harry Landers, Walter Vaughn, Adelaide Klein, Edith Atwater
Rating: 5/10 – a US Customs agent (Jagger) finds himself looking for the killer of his best friend (and fellow Customs agent), and the person responsible for the theft of a rare jewel – could they be the same man?; an odd noir crime thriller that betrays its low budget production values, ‘C’-Man is short on character but long on action, and is fitfully entertaining, though the performances vary wildly and the script contains some very po-faced dialogue, making it a movie you can’t really take your eyes from – and not in a good way.
When We First Met (2018) / D: Ari Sandel / 97m
Cast: Adam Devine, Alexandra Daddario, Shelley Hennig, Andrew Bachelor, Robbie Amell
Rating: 3/10 – Noah (Devine) falls for Avery (Daddario) and winds up in the friend zone, but thanks to a magic photo booth, he gets the chance to go back and change their relationship into a romantic one; a dire romantic comedy that struggles to be both romantic and funny, When We First Met can’t even make anything meaningful out of its time travel scenario, and is let down by a banal script and below-par performances.
The Phantom (1931) / D: Alan James / 62m
Cast: Guinn Williams. Allene Ray, Niles Welch, Tom O’Brien, Sheldon Lewis, Wilfred Lucas, Violet Knights, William Gould, Bobby Dunn, William Jackie
Rating: 3/10 – a reporter (Williams) tries to track down the titular criminal mastermind when he targets the father of his girlfriend (Ray), but finds it’s not as simple a prospect as he’d thought; an early talkie that shows a lack of imagination and purpose, The Phantom struggles from the outset to be anything but a disappointment, what with its unconvincing mix of comedy and drama, its old dark house scenario, and a clutch of amateur performances that drain the very life out of it at every turn.
Black Panther (2018) / D: Ryan Coogler / 134m
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis, Florence Kasumba, John Kani
Rating: 7/10 – the king of outwardly poor but inwardly technologically advanced Wakanda, T’Challa (Boseman), faces a coup from an unexpected source (Jordan), while trying to work out whether or not his country’s scientific advances should be shared with the wider world; though Black Panther does feature a predominantly black cast, and speaks to black issues, this is still a Marvel movie at the end of the day and one that adheres to the template Marvel have created for their releases, making this an admittedly funny and exciting thrill ride, but one that’s also another formulaic entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Atomic Blonde (2017) / D: David Leitch / 115m
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, James Faulkner, Roland Møller, Sofia Boutella, Bill Skarsgård, Sam Hargrave, Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson, Til Schweiger
Rating: 6/10 – in the days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, a spy (Theron) must find a list of double agents that are being smuggled into the West, a task complicated by the involvement of the Americans, the Russians and a number of other interested parties; an attempt to provide audiences with a female John Wick, Atomic Blonde does have tremendous fight scenes, and a great central performance by Theron, but it’s let down by a muddled script, an even more muddled sense of the period it’s set in, and by trying to be fun when a straighter approach would have worked better.
Beauty and the Beast (2017) / D: Bill Condon / 129m
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Nathan Mack, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Rating: 5/10 – the classic fairy tale, and previously a classic animated movie, is given the live action treatment by Disney; if the latest installment of a certain space opera hadn’t been released in 2017, Beauty and the Beast would have been the number one movie at the international box office, but though the House of Mouse might point to this as a measure of quality, the reality is that Watson was miscast, the songs lack the emotional heft they had in the animated version, and the whole thing has a perfunctory air that no amount of superficial gloss and shine can overcome.
The Case of the Black Parrot (1941) / D: Noel M. Smith / 61m
Cast: William Lundigan, Maris Wrixon, Eddie Foy Jr, Paul Cavanagh, Luli Deste, Charles Waldron, Joseph Crehan, Emory Parnell, Phyllis Barry, Cyril Thornton
Rating: 6/10 – a newspaper reporter (Lundigan) gets involved in a case involving a master forger (the Black Parrot), an antique cabinet, and a couple of mysterious deaths; an enjoyable piece of hokum, The Case of the Black Parrot gets by on a great deal of understated charm, a whodunnit plot that doesn’t overplay its hand, and by having its cast treat the whole absurd undertaking with a sincerity that is an achievement all by itself.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017) / D: Kenneth Branagh / 114m
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Lucy Boynton, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Derek Jacobi, Marwan Kenzari, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sergei Polunin, Daisy Ridley
Rating: 5/10 – the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) is faced with a complex mystery: which one of a dozen passengers killed an infamous kidnapper, and more importantly, why?; yet another version of the Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express strands its capable cast thanks to both an avalanche and a tepid script, leaving its director/star to orchestrate matters less effectively than expected, particularly when unravelling the mystery means having the suspects seated together in a way that clumsily replicates the Last Supper.
The Boss Baby (2017) / D: Tom McGrath / 97m
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Tobey Maguire, Miles Bakshi, James McGrath, Conrad Vernon, ViviAnn Yee, Eric Bell Jr, David Soren
Rating: 6/10 – when seven year old Tim (Bakshi) finds he has a new baby brother, Theodore (Baldwin) – and one dressed in a business suit at that – he also finds that Theodore is there to stop babies from being usurped in people’s affections by puppies; a brightly animated kids’ movie that takes several predictable swipes at corporate America, The Boss Baby wants to be heartwarming and caustic at the same time, but can’t quite manage both (it settles for heartwarming), and though Baldwin may seem like the perfect choice for the title character, he’s the weakest link in a voice cast that otherwise sells the performances with a great deal of enthusiasm.
Game Night (2018) / D: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein / 100m
Cast: Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Billy Magnussen, Sharon Horgan, Lamorne Morris, Kylie Bunbury, Jesse Plemons, Danny Huston, Michael C. Hall
Rating: 5/10 – when a group of friends led by Max (Bateman) and Annie (McAdams) are invited to a game night at the home of Max’s brother, Brooks (Chandler), the evening descends into murder and mayhem, and sees the group trying to get to the bottom of a real-life mystery; like an Eighties high concept comedy released thirty years too late, Game Night has a great cast but little direction and waaaay too much exposition clogging up its run time, all of which makes a couple of very funny, very inspired visual gags the only reward for the viewer who sticks with this to the end.