Cell (2016) / D: Tod Williams / 98m
Cast: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, Clark Sarullo, Ethan Andrew Casto, Owen Teague, Stacy Keach, Joshua Mikel
Rating: 4/10 – a mysterious cell phone signal turns people into crazed, zombie-like creatures, but one man (Cusack) is determined to find his son while society disintegrates around him; a Stephen King adaptation (and co-scripted by him), Cell is another reminder that his work rarely translates well to the screen, and this is no exception, being dramatically incoherent, a waste of its talented cast, and lumbered with an ending that makes absolutely no sense at all.
A Perfect Man (2015) / D: Yann Gozlan / 104m
Original title: Un homme idéal
Cast: Pierre Niney, Ana Girardot, André Marcon, Valéria Cavalli, Thibault Vinçon, Marc Barbé, Sacha Mijovic
Rating: 7/10 – aspiring author Mathieu Vasseur (Niney) isn’t getting anywhere until he finds an unpublished novel and claims it as his own, a move that leads to fame, fortune, blackmail, and ultimately, murder; a clever, twisty thriller that benefits from a splendidly nervous, anxious performance from Niney, A Perfect Man may have many familiar elements, but it’s a movie with a great deal of style, and it holds the attention in such a way that there are times when you won’t realise you’re holding your breath.
Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary (1953) / D: Maurice Elvey / 80m
Cast: David Tomlinson, Diana Dors, Bonar Colleano, Sidney James, Diana Decker, Audrey Freeman, MacDonald Parke
Rating: 5/10 – returning to the UK with his new bride (Decker), US soldier Laurie Vining (Colleano) is horrified to learn that he may still be married to his first wife, glamour girl Candy (Dors), a situation that leads to his desperately trying to avoid his new bride – or anyone else – from finding out; a bedroom farce based on a successful stage play, Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary has dated somewhat, but for fans of the cast and this type of Fifties UK comedy, there’s much to enjoy, from the frantic mugging of Colleano and Tomlinson, Elvey’s efficient direction, and a surprisingly nuanced performance from Dors.
Eliminators (2016) / D: James Nunn / 94m
Cast: Scott Adkins, Wade Barrett, Daniel Caltagirone, James Cosmo, Ty Glaser, Olivia Mace, Lily Ann Stubbs
Rating: 3/10 – when a home invasion means his Witness Protection identity is compromised, ex-Federal Agent Martin Parker (Adkins) finds himself the target of a hitman (Barrett) and forced to go on the run; a WWE Films production shot on location in and around London, Eliminators is a bog-standard actioner that stretches credulity, invites disbelief, and warrants avoidance as it does its best to cram in as many dull action scenes as it can in ninety minutes, and serves as yet another reminder that being a WWE superstar doesn’t mean you can act.
Giant from the Unknown (1958) / D: Richard E. Cunha / 77m
aka The Diablo Giant; Giant from Devil’s Crag; Giant from Diablo Point
Cast: Edward Kemmer, Sally Fraser, Bob Steele, Morris Ankrum, Buddy Baer, Jolene Brand, Gary Crutcher, Billy Dix
Rating: 4/10 – animal mutilations and murder plague a small town – and that’s before a giant Spanish conquistador is released from suspended animation by a lightning bolt, and threatens both the town’s inhabitants and the research team trying to ascertain if the legend about him is true; not the best example of a Fifties “creature feature”, Giant from the Unknown takes so long to get going that it’s nearly over before it’s begun, features a raft of irritating performances, and is so flatly directed by Cunha that once the Giant is awakened, you can’t help but pray that he’s the first victim.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) / D: James Bobin / 113m
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Rhys Ifans, Matt Lucas, Lindsay Duncan, Leo Bill, Ed Speelers, Geraldine James, Andrew Scott, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Barbara Windsor, Timothy Spall, Matt Vogel, Paul Whitehouse
Rating: 5/10 – Alice (Wasikowska) returns to Wonderland to save the Mad Hatter (Depp) from suicidal depression(!) and the attentions of Time (Cohen) and the Red Queen (Carter) who are working in tandem and holding the Hatter’s family hostage for no convincing reason you can think of; another sequel no one asked for (and nowhere near as successful as its predecessor), Alice Through the Looking Glass is ravishing to look at, boasts some fine visual effects, and a great performance by Cohen, but everything else is a mess: bloated, derivative, witless, and with yet another wasteful performance from Depp (who clearly can’t be bothered).
Hard Target 2 (2016) / D: Roel Reiné / 104m
Cast: Scott Adkins, Robert Knepper, Rhona Mitra, Temuera Morrison, Ann Truong, Adam Saunders, Jamie Timony, Peter Hardy
Rating: 4/10 – ex-MMA fighter Wes Baylor (Adkins) finds himself in Myanmar with one simple objective: reach the Thai border while he’s pursued by a motley group of “hunters” who are out to kill him; a movie that definitely comes under the heading of “another sequel no one asked for”, Hard Target 2 is betrayed by its low budget origins, a script that lurches from one unmemorable action scene to another, and Knepper’s one-note portrayal of the villain.
Nine Lives (2016) / D: Barry Sonnenfeld / 87m
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Walken, Robbie Amell, Malina Weissman, Cheryl Hines, Mark Consuelos, Talitha Bateman
Rating: 3/10 – businessman Tom Brand (Spacey) has no time for his wife (Garner) and daughter (Weissman), so what better way for him to learn the value of family (and some humility in the process) than by stranding his mind in the body of a cat?; the kind of inane, superficial comedy that Hollywood churns out with mindless regularity, Nine Lives gives Garfield 2 (2006) a run for its money in the stupid stakes, and hammers another nail into the coffin of Barry Sonnenfeld’s once-glorious career.
Flight to Mars (1951) / D: Lesley Selander / 72m
Cast: Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz, Virginia Huston, John Litel, Morris Ankrum, Richard Gaines, Lucille Barkley, Robert Barrat
Rating: 5/10 – the first manned flight to Mars gets there safely only to learn that the planet is inhabited, and by a human-like race that may or may not have an ulterior motive for helping them return to Earth; early-Fifties sci-fi hokum that throws in a tepid romance and some very, very short skirts for the female cast, Flight to Mars retains an odd charm – perhaps because of its naïve approach – that helps alleviate some of the more daffy moments the script insists on doling out.
Mercy (2014) / D: Peter Cornwell / 79m
Cast: Frances O’Connor, Shirley Knight, Chandler Riggs, Joel Courtney, Mark Duplass, Dylan McDermott, Amanda Walsh, Hana Hayes, Pepper Binkley
Rating: 4/10 – after a spell in a nursing home, Grandma Mercy (Knight) comes home to be looked after by her family – daughter Rebecca (O’Connor) and grandsons George (Riggs) and Buddy (Courtney) – but soon exhibits strange behaviour, behaviour that includes warning George that a supernatural force is coming to get him; adapted from the short story Gramma by Stephen King (yes, him again), Mercy aims for creepy and menacing, yet succeeds instead in being confused and uninspired, and with laboured direction and performances, a situation that devotees of King adaptations will appreciate, having been there many times before.