Abby Kohn, Action, Amanda Seyfried, Amy Schumer, Ari Aster, Backlash (1956), Christopher McQuarrie, Comedy, Donna Reed, Drama, Dwayne Johnson, Edward Lexy, Fred Ellis, Gabriel Byrne, Henry Cavill, Hereditary, Horror, I Feel Pretty, John Sturges, Lily James, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Marc Silverstein, Mary Clare, Michelle Williams, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, Mrs. Pym of Scotland Yard, Murder, Musical, Mystery, Neve Campbell, Ol Parker, Rawson Marshall Thurber, Richard Widmark, Romance, Skyscraper, Thriller, Tom Cruise, Toni Collette, Western
Hereditary (2018) / D: Ari Aster / 127m
Cast: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd
Rating: 7/10 – following the death of her mother, miniaturist artist Annie (Collette) and her family begin to experience strange phenomena that hint at supernatural forces at work around them, and which appear to be malevolent in their intentions; this year’s critics’ favourite in the horror genre, Hereditary does boast a superb performance from Collette, and creates a fervid atmosphere in its first half that is genuinely unnerving, but this is a movie where the sum of its parts isn’t equal to a satisfying whole, and what should have been a tense, psychological thriller becomes a grandstanding Rosemary’s Baby for the new millennium, an outcome that robs it of much of its impact.
Mrs. Pym of Scotland Yard (1940) / D: Fred Ellis / 64m
Cast: Mary Clare, Edward Lexy, Nigel Patrick, Janet Johnson, Anthony Ireland, Irene Handl, Vernon Kelso
Rating: 7/10 – the predicted deaths of two members of a Psychic Society leads Scotland Yard to assign their lone female detective, Mrs. Pym (Clare), to the case in an effort to track down the victims’ killer; a boisterous little crime caper with a delightful performance by Clare (in her only starring role), Mrs. Pym of Scotland Yard retains a freshness nearly eighty years on that some movies can’t manage after eighty days, a feat that can be attributed to Ellis’s sprightly direction, a handful of engaging secondary performances, and a script – based on stories by Nigel Morland and adapted by Ellis and Peggy Barwell – that knows when to be amusing and when to be dramatic, and when to be delightfully daft (which, thankfully, is often).
Backlash (1956) / D: John Sturges / 84m
Cast: Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, John McIntire, Barton MacLane, Harry Morgan, Robert J. Wilke
Rating: 7/10 – while searching for his father’s killer, Jim Slater (Widmark) crosses paths with a woman (Reed) who may be connected to his father’s death, and who may be able to provide him with information that will lead him to the man responsible, an outcome that, when it happens, isn’t as straightforward as he’s been led to believe; a tough, muscular Western with psychological and film noir elements, Backlash is also a taut, uncompromising revenge tale that doesn’t pull its punches and which takes a sudden narrative turn halfway through that puts a whole different spin on Slater’s journey, something that Widmark handles with his usual aplomb, and Sturges – who would go on to helm Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) and The Magnificent Seven (1960) – handles the twists and turns with confidence and no small amount of directorial flair.
Skyscraper (2018) / D: Rawson Marshall Thurber / 102m
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Hannah Quinlivan
Rating: 4/10 – the world’s tallest building, The Pearl, is ready to open but needs a final sign-off from security analyst Will Sawyer (Johnson), but when terrorists set the building on fire, Sawyer has a greater problem: that of rescuing his family who are trapped above the fire line; there was a time when a movie like Skyscraper would have been a must-see at the cinema, but this Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno mash-up (scripted by Thurber) is a soulless, empty spectacle that can’t even put Sawyer’s family in any appreciable peril, wastes its talented cast by having them play one-dimensional stereotypes, and which uses Sawyer’s disability as a narrative parlour trick whenever the plot needs it.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) / D: Ol Parker / 114m
Cast: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård, Colin Firth, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Andy Garcia, Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Celia Imrie, Cher, Meryl Streep
Rating: 7/10 – with the reopening of her late mother’s hotel just days away, Sophie Sheridan (Seyfried) is worried that everything won’t go according to plan, while the story of how a young Donna Sheridan (James) came to own the hotel in the first place, plays out simultaneously; if you liked the first movie then you’ll definitely like Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, another love letter to the music of ABBA, and a movie that has no simpler ambition than to charm its audience at every turn and provide fans with as good a time as before, something it achieves thanks to generous dollops of good-natured humour, a talented cast giving their all, and an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach that works wonders on what is very familiar material indeed.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) / D: Christopher McQuarrie / 147m
Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, Michelle Monaghan, Wes Bentley
Rating: 9/10 – a mission in Berlin to retrieve three plutonium cores leads Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his IMF team into a high stakes race-against-time chase across the continents as they try to avert a terrorist attack orchestrated by the followers of arch-nemesis Solomon Lane (Harris); number six in the franchise, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the best entry yet, with hugely impressive action scenes, the strongest plot so far, and a surprisingly emotional core drawn from the interactions of the characters that puts this head and shoulders above every other action movie you’ll see this year – and who would have bet on that?
I Feel Pretty (2018) / D: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein / 111m
Cast: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Tom Hopper, Rory Scovel, Adrian Martinez, Emily Ratajkowski, Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps, Lauren Hutton, Naomi Campbell
Rating: 5/10 – when an insecure woman, Renee Bennett (Schumer), who works at an international cosmetics company suffers a blow to the head, she wakes seeing herself as beautiful and capable of achieving anything – but in reality she looks exactly the same; what should be an immensely likeable shout out to the power of self-belief, I Feel Pretty is hampered by the bludgeoning approach of the script (by directors Kohn and Silverstein), and the incredible ease with which Renee powers her way up the corporate ladder, aspects that are at least more palatable than the way in which the men are treated as accessories, something that, if the roles were reversed, would likely cause an outcry.