Smokescreen (1964) / D: Jim O’Connolly / 70m
Cast: Peter Vaughan, John Carson, Yvonne Romain, Gerald Flood, Glynn Edwards, John Glyn-Jones, Penny Morrell, Barbara Hicks, Sam Kydd, Deryck Guyler
Rating: 7/10 – bowler-hatted insurance fraud investigator Roper (Vaughan) is called in to investigate when a heavily insured businessman’s car bursts into flames before going over a cliff – but was he in it?; a neat, unprepossessing British thriller, Smokescreen features an enjoyable performance from Vaughan, some stunning location photography, and a script that allows for plenty of ironic humour in amongst the drama.
Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day (2014) / D: Miguel Arteta / 81m
Cast: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey, Sidney Fullmer, Bella Thorne, Megan Mullally
Rating: 7/10 – when overlooked youngest child Alexander (Oxenbould) has the worst day ever, he wishes that his family could experience just a little of what he has to deal with – but when they do, things quickly escalate beyond anything that Alexander has ever faced; Judith Viorst’s novel gets a fun-filled adaptation that is amusing, clever, and visually inventive, but which lacks bite, and has surprisingly few characters to root for (that is, none).
She Wants Me (2012) / D: Rob Margolies / 85m
Cast: Josh Gad, Kristen Ruhlin, Johnny Messner, Aaron Yoo, Hilary Duff, Melonie Diaz, Wayne Knight, Charlie Sheen
Rating: 6/10 – an ambitious though neurotic writer (Gad) working on his first screenplay faces a dilemma when the role written for his girlfriend (Ruhlin) grabs the attention of an A-list actress (Duff); a romantic comedy with few ambitions that struggles to make good comedy out of anxious indecision, She Wants Me is innocuous stuff that passes by in amiable fashion without ever really involving its audience.
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown (2015) / D: Stephen Reynolds / 90m
Cast: Dean Ambrose, Roger R. Cross, Daniel Cudmore, Lochlyn Munro, Ty Olsson, Sarah Smyth, Rebecca Marshall, Kirby Morrow
Rating: 3/10 – an honest cop (Ambrose) finds himself trapped in a station house and hunted by several of his corrupt colleagues when he comes into possession of evidence that will see them put away for the rest of their lives; another depressing WWE Films action movie, 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown dispenses with the set up of the first two movies, and does its best to be yet another Die Hard rip-off, albeit one stifled by inept plotting, terrible dialogue and a performance by Ambrose that never gets started.
Perfect Sisters (2014) / D: Stanley M. Brooks / 100m
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Georgie Henley, Mira Sorvino, James Russo, Rusty Schwimmer, Zoë Belkin, Jeffrey Ballard, Zak Santiago
Rating: 5/10 – two sisters (Breslin, Henley), fed up with the antics of their alcoholic mother (Sorvino) and her poor choice in boyfriends, decide the only way of improving their lives is to kill her; if it wasn’t based on a true story, Perfect Sisters would be dismissed as absurd nonsense with no basis in reality, but as it is it’s an uneven, tonally awkward movie that features average performances from its leads, but which does seem completely committed to drawing the viewer’s attention to Breslin’s cleavage at every opportunity.
Ferrell Takes the Field (2015) / D: Brian McGinn / 49m
With: Will Ferrell
Rating: 5/10 – in support of a friend’s cancer charity, Will Ferrell takes to the baseball field to play all nine positions for ten major league teams at five separate pre-season games, and all in one day; if the charity had been the Reassure Will Ferrell He’s Still Funny Charity, then this would have made more sense because Ferrell Takes the Field is a mercifully brief documentary that sees the comedian attempt to appear relevant in an arena where he has no real talent, and where, when he gets it wrong, he’s quite rightly booed by fans, leaving viewers to wonder why on earth this idea was commissioned in the first place.
Axe to Grind (2015) / D: Matt Zettell / 81m
Cast: Debbie Rochon, Guy Torry, Matthew James Gulbranson, Paula Labaredas, Michelle Tomlinson, Dani Thompson, Adrian Quihuis, Tony von Halle
Rating: 2/10 – when the producer of her latest film tells aging actress Debbie Wilkins (Rochon) that her role has gone to another, younger actress, it sets her on a killing spree that sees her despatch the cast and crew, and anyone else who gets in her way; low-budget horror always runs the risk of being offensively stupid, and Axe to Grind is no exception, as it treats its audience with disdain while failing to appear as clever and entertaining as it thinks it is.
The Toughest Gun in Tombstone (1958) / D: Earl Bellamy / 72m
Cast: George Montgomery, Jim Davis, Beverly Tyler, Gerald Milton, Don Beddoe, Scotty Morrow, Harry Lauter
Rating: 6/10 – with outlaws running most of the nascent state of Arizona, the Governor assigns Matt Sloane (Montgomery) and a team of undercover officers to apprehend the gang involved with cattle rustling and silver thefts; a modest Western that tells its simple story plainly and with few frills, The Toughest Gun in Tombstone is acceptable fare that doesn’t exert itself too much, but is enjoyable nonetheless.
Absolution (2015) / D: Keoni Waxman / 91m
aka The Mercenary: Absolution
Cast: Steven Seagal, Byron Mann, Adina Stetcu, Vinnie Jones, Howard Dell, Josh Barnett, Maria Bata, Dominte Cosmin
Rating: 4/10 – mercenary John Alexander (Seagal) and his colleague Chi (Mann) find themselves battling both a criminal syndicate and their own corrupt boss when a contract killing proves to have larger ramifications; another mumbling, stand-in heavy performance from Seagal detracts from what is – for him – a better outing than of late, and thanks to Mann’s athleticism and Jones’ snarling villain, any scenes where Seagal doesn’t take part are actually halfway enjoyable.
Vacuity (2012) / D: Michael Matzur / 14m
Cast: Michael Steppe
Rating: 6/10 – an astronaut, Alan Brahm (Steppe), stranded in an airlock while the space station he’s on begins to fall apart has a choice: either save his crew by jettisoning the airlock (but dooming himself), or save himself and get back to Earth (and dooming the crew) – which choice will he take?; as moral dilemmas go, the one facing Alan Brahm in Vacuity is, on the face of it, fairly cut and dried, but thanks to Matzur’s script and Steppe’s performance you’re never quite sure how things will play out, or even if either choice will be taken away from him, making this short movie a model of concisely focused drama.