Alexis Wajsbrot, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Barbara Hale, Bill Douglas, Black mirror, Boys' school, Bryce Dallas Howard, Comedy, Damien Macé, David Lowery, Disney, Don't Hang Up, Drama, Edwin L. Marin, Fantasy, Friend Request, Gambling, Garrett Clayton, Gregg Sulkin, Horror, Insomnia, Internet, Joanna David, Lady Luck, Lawrence Huntington, Life on the Road, Literary adaptation, Marius Goring, Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill, Oakes Fegley, Pete's Dragon, Prank calls, Remake, Reviews, Ricky Gervais, Robert Young, Romance, Saxon Logan, Simon Verhoeven, Sleepwalker
Life on the Road (2016) / D: Ricky Gervais / 96m
aka David Brent: Life on the Road
Cast: Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith, Tom Basden, Jo Hartley, Tom Bennett, Mandeep Dhillon, Andrew Brooke, Andy Burrows, Steve Clarke, Michael Clarke, Stuart Wilkinson
Rating: 5/10 – post-Wernham Hogg, David Brent (Gervais) is now a salesman with dreams of becoming famous by putting together a band, Foregone Conclusion, and going on tour; the gulf between Life on the Road and The Office (2001-03) can be gauged within the first ten minutes as Gervais treats his most enduring (and sympathetic) character with a complete disregard for Brent’s development, and by being unnecessarily cruel to everyone else, making this a chore to sit through, and only slightly more enjoyable than Special Correspondents (2016).
Pete’s Dragon (2016) / D: David Lowery / 103m
Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Robert Redford, Isiah Whitlock Jr
Rating: 7/10 – following a car crash that kills his parents and leaves him lost in the woods, a young boy called Pete is “adopted” and cared for by Elliot, who just happens to be a dragon, a situation that continues until civilisation comes calling in the form of a logging operation; a good-natured remake of the 1977, Pete’s Dragon original offers good performances all round, beautiful New Zealand backdrops, a lovable dragon, and keeps it all light and airy, all of which compensates for a script that wavers too often in its attempts to put Elliot in any real danger from Urban and his men.
Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (1948) / D: Lawrence Huntington / 92m
Cast: Marius Goring, David Farrar, Greta Gynt, Raymond Huntley, Edward Chapman, Mary Jerrold, Ralph Truman
Rating: 8/10 – when a new teacher at an all-boys’ school, Mr Traill (Farrar), proves more popular with the pupils, and the school nurse (Gynt), than the older Mr Perrin (Goring), personal and professional jealousies lead to an unexpected tragedy; an adaptation of the novel by Hugh Walpole, Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill expertly creates a hothouse environment for its title characters, but never comes down fully on the side of either, making this a surprisingly jaundiced view of male rivalry, and a movie that features an exemplary performance from Goring.
Don’t Hang Up (2016) / D: Alexis Wajsbrot, Damien Macé / 83m
Cast: Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne, Jack Brett Anderson, Parker Sawyers, Sienna Guillory
Rating: 5/10 – two phone pranksters, Sam (Sulkin) and Brady (Clayton), find themselves on the receiving end of a psycho(?) who’s willing to play their own game against them, with increasingly disturbing and violent results; basically the first ten minutes of Scream (1996) stretched to breaking point, Don’t Hang Up will soon have you rooting for the psycho as Sam and Brady behave as stupidly as you might expect, even to the point of continually picking up the phone, or answering their mobiles, just so the story can advance a bit further.
Lady Luck (1946) / D: Edwin L. Marin / 97m
Cast: Robert Young, Barbara Hale, Frank Morgan, James Gleason, Don Rice, Harry Davenport, Lloyd Corrigan
Rating: 7/10 – Mary (Hale), who’s staunchly anti-gambling marries Scott (Young), who does his best to reform, but a trip to Las Vegas – on their honeymoon, no less – soon puts their marriage in jeopardy; a lightweight romantic comedy featuring smooth performances and a pleasing sense of its own absurdity, Lady Luck is carefree, populist piece of entertainment that hits a few dramatic potholes along the way to its final scene, but is nevertheless an enjoyable way to spend ninety-seven minutes.
Friend Request (2016) / D: Simon Verhoeven / 92m
Cast: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Sean Marquette, Liesl Ahlers, Shashawnee Hall, Nicholas Pauling
Rating: 4/10 – the suicide of one of her classmates leads Laura to regret unfriending her on social media, a decision that has dire consequences for her and her friends, as her classmate’s ghost seeks revenge from beyond the grave; in amongst the horror motifs and distressed editing techniques that are now a depressing norm of the genre, Friend Request does have some pertinent things to say about popularity and the perils of social media, but it’s done in such a ham-fisted, unconvincing way that all that effort goes to waste very quickly.
Sleepwalker (1984) / D: Saxon Logan / 50m
Cast: Joanna David, Bill Douglas, Nickolas Grace, Heather Page, Fulton Mackay, Michael Medwin, Raymond Huntley
Rating: 7/10 – two couples at an isolated farmhouse share an evening deriding each other’s class and social values, unaware that the sleepwalking tendencies of one of them will lead to blood being spilt; part curdled Abigail’s Party and part baroque thriller, Sleepwalker has much to say about middle class angst, the antagonism inherent in middle class relationships of the time, and sets it all against the backdrop of a social evening from hell.