Max (2015) / D: Boaz Yakin / 111m
Cast: Josh Wiggins, Thomas Haden Church, Lauren Graham, Luke Kleintank, Robbie Amell, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake, Jay Hernandez, Owen Harn
Rating: 6/10 – after his handler is killed in Afghanistan, Max goes to stay with his handler’s family, and helps expose a plot to supply arms to a Mexican cartel; a feature that ticks every box in the “family movie” canon, Max is enjoyable enough but is also too lightweight to make much of a sustained impact, even though the cast enter wholly into the spirit of things.
They Came to a City (1944) / D: Basil Dearden / 78m
Cast: John Clements, Googie Withers, Raymond Huntley, Renee Gadd, A.E. Matthews, Mabel Terry-Lewis, Ada Reeve, Norman Shelley, Fanny Rowe, Ralph Michael, Brenda Bruce, J.B. Priestley
Rating: 6/10 – nine individuals find themselves in unfamiliar terrain and on the outskirts of a vast city – and have to decide if they’re going to stay there; J.B. Priestley’s play is as close to a socialist tract as you could have got during World War II, and while They Came to a City betrays its stage origins and is relentlessly polemical, it has a stark, overbearing visual style that is actually quite effective.
Crazy About Tiffany’s (2016) / D: Matthew Miele / 86m
With: Jessica Alba, Katie Couric, Amy Fine-Collins, Fran Lebowitz, Baz Luhrmann, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Jennifer Tilly, Andrew & Andrew
Rating: 6/10 – a documentary charting the rise and rise of Tiffany’s, the jewellery store made even more famous by Truman Capote and Audrey Hepburn (who he despised in the role of Holly Golightly); a tremendously indulgent puff-piece for the company, Crazy About Tiffany’s is redeemed by some fascinating anecdotes, and the faint whiff of pretentiousness given off by most of its customers.
Queen of the Desert (2015) / D: Werner Herzog / 128m
Cast: Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis, Robert Pattinson, Jay Abdo, David Calder, Jenny Agutter, Holly Earl, Mark Lewis Jones, Christopher Fulford
Rating: 5/10 – a biopic of the explorer and writer, Gertrude Bell (Kidman), and how she won the trust of numerous Middle Eastern tribes at a time when British colonialism was looked upon with distrust and contempt by those very same tribes; not one of Herzog’s best (or Kidman’s), Queen of the Desert suffers from being treated as history-lite by the script, and never quite being as courageous in its efforts as Miss Bell was in hers (and not to mention a disastrous turn by Pattinson as Lawrence of Arabia).
Zombie Cheerleader Camp (2007) / D: Jon Fabris / 85m
Cast: Jamie Brown, Chris White, Nicole Lewis, Jason Greene, Brandy Blackmon, Daniel Check, Terry Chandeline Nicole Westfall, Micah Shane Ballinger
Rating: 2/10 – when cheerleaders attend a summer training camp, they’re unaware that a squirrel exposed to toxic waste will be the catalyst that turns them and a group of horny males into flesh-eating zombies; all you need to know is that Zombie Cheerleader Camp was made at the extreme low budget end of movie making and features camera work that’s so bad it’s almost a challenge to find a well-framed shot anywhere in the movie (and then there’s the “acting”…)
Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2015) / D: Jim Wynorski / 84m
Cast: Dominique Swain, Traci Lords, Christine Nguyen, Cindy Lucas, Amy Holt, John Callahan, Corey Landis, Skye McDonald, Chris De Christopher
Rating: 3/10 – fracking causes the release of an unspecified number of prehistoric sharks into the Arkansas waterways, and this jeopardises the escape of several women prisoners from a work detail; yes, Sharkansas (actually filmed in Florida) Women’s Prison Massacre is as bad as it sounds, and yes it is as cheesy as you’d expect, but it’s also one of the tamest and most annoying of all the recent shark-related movies we’ve had foisted upon us, and not even the talents of low budget movie maestro Wynorski can rescue this from the bottom of the barrel.
The Whip Hand (1951) / D: William Cameron Menzies / 82m
Cast: Carla Balenda, Elliott Reid, Edgar Barrier, Raymond Burr, Otto Waldis, Michael Steele, Lurene Tuttle, Peter Brocco, Lewis Martin, Frank Darien
Rating: 6/10 – a journalist (Reid) on vacation stumbles across a mystery involving a lake where the fish have all died, and a nearby ghost town where the remaining locals aren’t too friendly, and he finds himself prevented from leaving; a well-paced but forgettable effort from master production designer Menzies, The Whip Hand starts off well but soon ties itself inside out in trying to be a confident thriller, an ambition it fails to achieve thanks to untidy plotting and thin characterisations.