The LEGO Ninjago Movie (2017) / D: Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan / 101m
Cast: Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, Abbi Jacobson, Zach Woods, Olivia Munn
Rating: 6/10 – when you’re the despised son (Franco) of an evil warlord (Theroux), there’s only one thing you can do: vow to defeat him with the aid of your ninja friends; after a superhero mash-up and a solo Batman outing, The LEGO Ninjago Movie brings us ninjas, but in the process forgets to provide viewers with much in the way of story, though the visual innovation is still there, as is (mostly) the humour, making this something that is only just more of a hit than a miss.
Braven (2018) / D: Lin Oeding / 94m
Cast: Jason Momoa, Garret Dillahunt, Stephen Lang, Jill Wagner, Zahn McClarnon, Brendan Fletcher, Sala Baker, Teach Grant, Sasha Rossof
Rating: 4/10 – a trip for Joe Braven (Momoa) and his father (Lang) to their family cabin located in the Canadian wilderness sees them fighting for their lives when drug runners come to claim a shipment that has been hidden in the cabin; an unsophisticated action thriller, Braven has an earnestness to it that sees it through some of its more absurdist moments, but its Nineties vibe works against it too often for comfort, and despite the occasional effort, Dillahunt remains an unconvincing villain.
Passport to Destiny (1944) / D: Ray McCarey / 61m
Cast: Elsa Lanchester, Gordon Oliver, Lenore Aubert, Lionel Royce, Fritz Feld, Joseph Vitale, Gavin Muir, Lloyd Corrigan
Rating: 6/10 – in World War II, a cleaning woman, Ella Muggins (Lanchester), who believes herself to be protected from harm thanks to a magical glass eye, determines to travel to Berlin and kill Hitler; a whimsical comic fantasy that somehow manages to have its heroine save a German officer (Oliver) and his girlfriend, Passport to Destiny is an uneven yet enjoyable product of its time, with a terrific central performance by Lanchester, and a winning sense of its own absurdity.
Hellraiser: Judgment (2018) / D: Gary J. Tunnicliffe / 81m
Cast: Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Paul T. Taylor, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, Helena Grace Donald, Heather Langenkamp
Rating: 3/10 – the hunt for a serial killer finds its lead detective (Carney) coming face to face with the Cenobites – still led by Pinhead (Taylor) – but the solution to the case isn’t as obvious as it seems; the tenth movie in the series, Hellraiser: Judgment at least tries to offer something new in terms of the Cenobites’ involvement, but in the end it can’t escape the fact that Pinhead et al are no longer frightening, the franchise’s penchant for sado-masochistic violence has lost any impact it may once have had, and as with every entry since Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), it fails to introduce one single character for the viewer to care about.
The Final Year (2017) / D: Greg Barker / 89m
With: Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, John Kerry, Barack Obama
Rating: 7/10 – a look at the final year of Barack Obama’s second term as President of the United States focuses on his foreign policy team and their diplomatic efforts on the global stage; featuring contributions from some of the key players, The Final Year is an interesting if not fully realised documentary that never asks (or finds an answer for) the fundamental question of why Obama’s administration chose to concentrate so much on foreign policy in its last days, something that keeps all the good work that was achieved somewhat in isolation from the viewer.
And Then Came Lola (2009) / D: Ellen Seidler, Megan Siler / 71m
Cast: Ashleigh Sumner, Jill Bennett, Cathy DeBuono, Jessica Graham, Angelyna Martinez, Candy Tolentino, Linda Ignazi
Rating: 4/10 – in a series of Groundhog Day-style episodes, the undisciplined Lola (Sumner) is required to rush a set of photographs to her interior designer girlfriend, Casey (Bennett), so she can seal the deal at a job interview – but she has varying degrees of success; an LGBTQ+ comedy that stops the action every so often to allow its female cast to make out with each other, And Then Came Lola doesn’t put enough spins on its central conceit, and doesn’t make you care enough if Lola comes through or not.
The Ritual (2017) / D: David Bruckner / 94m
Cast: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton, Paul Reid, Maria Erwolter
Rating: 7/10 – following the tragic death of one of their friends, four men embark on a memorial hiking trip in Sweden, but when one of them is injured, taking a short cut through a forest puts all their lives in jeopardy; a creature feature with a nasty edge to it and above average performances for a horror movie, The Ritual employs mystery as well as terror as it creates a growing sense of dread before it runs out of narrative steam and tries to give its monster a back story that brings the tension up short and leads to a not entirely credible denouement.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) / D: Jake Kasdan / 119m
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Rhys Darby, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner
Rating: 7/10 – four teenagers find themselves transported into a video game called Jumanji, where, transformed into avatars, they are charged with thwarting the dastardly plans of the game’s chief villain (Cannavale); a reboot more than a sequel, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has the benefit of well-drawn, likeable characters, winning performances from Johnson, Hart, Black and Gillan, and confident direction from Kasdan, all things that serve to distract from the uninspired game levels and the predictable nature of its main storyline.
Paddington 2 (2017) / D: Paul King / 103m
Cast: Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Imelda Staunton, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes, Noah Taylor, Joanna Lumley
Rating: 9/10 – the theft of a unique pop-up book sees Paddington (Whishaw) end up in jail while the Brown family do their best to track down the real thief, Phoenix Buchanan (Grant); an absolute joy, Paddington 2 is just so unexpectedly good that even just thinking about it is likely to put a smile on your face, something that’s all too rare these days, and which is thanks to an inspired script by director King and Simon Farnaby, terrific performances from all concerned, and buckets of perfectly judged humour.
Gangster Land (2017) / D: Timothy Woodward Jr / 113m
Original title: In the Absence of Good Men
Cast: Sean Faris, Milo Gibson, Jason Patric, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Peter Facinelli, Mark Rolston, Michael Paré
Rating: 4/10 – the rise of boxer Jack McGurn (Faris) from potential champion to right-hand man to Al Capone (Gibson), and his involvement in Capone’s feud with ‘Bugs’ Moran (Facinelli); a biopic that’s hampered by lacklustre performances and a leaden script, Gangster Land wants to be thought of as classy but budgetary constraints mean otherwise, and Woodward Jr’s direction doesn’t inject many scenes with the necessary energy to maintain the viewer’s interest, something that leaves the movie feeling moribund for long stretches.
Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) / D: Trish Sie / 93m
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, John Lithgow, Ruby Rose, Matt Lanter, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, DJ Khaled
Rating: 4/10 – the Borden Bellas are back for one last reunion before they all go their separate ways, taking part in a European tour and competing for the chance to open for DJ Khaled; a threequel that adds nothing new to the mix (even if you include Lithgow as Wilson’s scoundrel father), and which is as empty-headed as you’d expect, Pitch Perfect 3 isn’t even well thought out enough to justify its existence and trades on old glories in the hope that the audience won’t notice that’s what they are.
Something Real and Good (2013) / D: Luke Rivett / 81m
Cast: Matt Jones, Alex Hannant, Colton Castaneda, Marla Stone
Rating: 4/10 – he (Jones) meets her (Hannant) in an airport lounge, and over the next twenty-four hours, get to know each other, flirt, have fun, and stay in a hotel together due to their flight being cancelled; the slightness of the story – boy meets girl, they talk and talk and talk and talk – is further undermined by the cod-philosophising and trite observations on life and relationships that they come out with, leaving Something Real and Good as a title that’s a little over-optimistic, though if it achieves anything, it’ll be to stop people from striking up random conversations with strangers in airports – and that’s now a good thing.
Ladies First (2017) / D: Uraaz Bahi / 39m
With: Deepika Kumari, Geeta Devi, Shiv Narayan Mahto, Dharmendra Tiwari
Rating: 8/10 – the story of Deepika Kumari, at one time the number one archer in the world, and her efforts to obtain Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016; a sobering documentary that for a while feels like it’s going to be a standard tale of triumph over adversity (here, relating to Indian culture and gender equality), Ladies First offers a much deeper examination of success and failure than might be expected, and shows that in India, as in many other countries, there are precious few opportunities for women to be anything more than wives and mothers.
Heritage Falls (2016) / D: Shea Sizemore / 88m
Cast: David Keith, Coby Ryan McLaughlin, Keean Johnson, Sydney Penny, Nancy Stafford, Devon Ogden
Rating: 4/10 – three generations of males head off for a bonding weekend designed to overcome the divisions that are keeping them distant or apart from each other; a mixed bag of drama and lightweight comedy, Heritage Falls wants to say something sincere and relevant about father-son relationships, but falls way short in its ambitions thanks to a script that can’t provide even one of its protagonists with a convincing argument for their position, a bland visual style, and even blander direction from Sizemore, making this a turgid exercise in emotional dysfunction.
The Long Dark Hall (1951) / D: Anthony Bushell, Reginald Beck / 86m
Cast: Rex Harrison, Lilli Palmer, Denis O’Dea, Reginald Huntley, Anthony Dawson, Brenda de Banzie, Eric Pohlmann
Rating: 7/10 – when an actress is murdered in the room she rents, suspicion falls on her lover, married man Arthur Groome (Harrison), but even though he goes on trial at the Old Bailey, his wife, Mary (Palmer), stands by him; an early UK attempt at film noir, The Long Dark Hall has its fair share of tension, particularly in a scene at the Groome home where Mary is alone with the real killer (Dawson), but Harrison doesn’t seem fully committed (it wasn’t one of his favourite projects), and the screenplay lurches too often into uncomfortable melodrama, though overall this has an air of fatalism that keeps it intriguing for viewers who are used to their crime thrillers being a little more straightforward.
Ready Player One (2018) / D: Steven Spielberg / 140m
Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen
Rating: 7/10 – in 2045, people have become obsessed with a virtual reality game called Oasis where anything can happen, but when its creator (Rylance) reveals there’s a hidden prize within the game, one that will give overall control of the game and its licence to the winner, it’s up to a small group of gamers led by Parzifal (Sheridan) to stop a rival corporation from winning; an elaborate sci-fi fantasy that provides a nostalgia overload for fans of Eighties pop culture in particular, Ready Player One has plenty of visual pizzazz, but soon runs out of steam in the story department, and offers way too much exposition in lieu of a proper script, a situation it tries to overcome by being dazzling if empty-headed, but which in the hands of Steven Spielberg still manages to be very entertaining indeed – if you don’t give it too much thought.
The Temple (2017) / D: Michael Barrett / 78m
Cast: Logan Huffman, Natalia Warner, Brandon Sklenar, Naoto Takenaka, Asahi Uchida
Rating: 4/10 – three American tourists – best friends Chris (Huffman) and Kate (Warner), and Kate’s boyfriend, James (Sklenar) – are travelling in Japan when they hear about an abandoned temple and decide to go there, little knowing what will happen to them once they get there; even with its post-visit framing device designed to add further mystery to events, The Temple is a chore to sit through thanks to its being yet another horror movie where people behave stupidly so that a number of uninspired “shocks” can be trotted out, along with dreary dialogue and the (actually) terrible realisation that movie makers still think that by plundering legends and myths from other countries then their movies will be much more original and scary… and that’s simply not true.
Chokeslam (2016) / D: Robert Cuffley / 102m
Cast: Chris Marquette, Amanda Crew, Michael Eklund, Niall Matter, Gwynyth Walsh, Mick Foley
Rating: 5/10 – a 10-year high school reunion gives deli owner Corey (Marquette) the chance to reconnect with the girl he loved, Sheena (Crew), who is now a famous female wrestler; a lightweight romantic comedy that pokes moderate fun at the world of wrestling, Chokeslam is innocuous where it should be daring, and bland when it should be heartwarming, making it a movie that’s populated almost entirely by stock characters dealing with stock situations and problems, and which, unsurprisingly, provides them with entirely stock solutions.
All the Money in the World (2017) / D: Ridley Scott / 132m
Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Charlie Plummer, Marco Leonardi, Giuseppe Bonifati
Rating: 8/10 – a recreation of the kidnapping in 1973 of John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer), and the subsequent attempts by his mother, Gail (Williams), to persuade his grandfather (Christopher Plummer) to pay the ransom, something the then world’s richest man refuses to do; Scott’s best movie in years, All the Money in the World is a taut, compelling thriller that tells its story with ruthless expediency and features yet another commanding performance from Williams, something that takes the spotlight away from the presence of Christopher Plummer (who’s good but not great), and which serves as a reminder that money isn’t the central concern here, but a mother’s unwavering love for her child.
5 Headed Shark Attack (2017) / D: Nico De Leon / 98m
Cast: Chris Bruno, Nikki Howard, Lindsay Sawyer, Jeffrey Holsman, Chris Costanzo, Amaanda Méndez, Ian Daryk, Jorge Navarro, Lorna Hernandez, Michelle Cortès, Nicholas Nene
Rating: 3/10 – a four-headed shark terrorises the waters off Palomino Island in Puerto Rico before mutating into a five-headed shark, and being hunted by both the island’s police force, and a team of marine biologists from a local aquarium; operating at the bargain bucket end of the movie business, 5 Headed Shark Attack, SyFy’s latest cheaply made farrago, references Sharknado (2013) early on (as if it’s being clever), and then does it’s absolute best to make its audience cringe and wince and wish they’d never started watching in the first place, something the awful screenplay, dialogue, acting, special effects and direction all manage without even trying.