Knives Out
2019
***
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer

On the morning after his 85th birthday party, wealthy novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead with his throat slit. Was it suicide or was he murdered by someone in his family or staff? Rian Johnson has built a career out of creating genre exercises where style often comes before substance. Some of his films have been good (Looper – science fiction), some have been bad (The Brothers Bloom – caper comedy), and some have landed somewhere in the middle (Brick – film noir). This time Johnson takes on a whodunnit. He weaves a twisty, inventive and often funny murder mystery, but at the end I’m not sure if the whole amounts to anything more than a terrific looking diversion. The performances are strong, although Daniel Craig’s comically hammy performance as the eccentric private detective Benoit Blanc sticks out like a sore thumb.


The BFG
2016
***
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader

One night, 10-year-old Sophie is swooped away from a London orphanage to Giant Country by Big Friendly Giant, who spends his days catching, mixing, and delivering dreams. Steven Spielberg’s fantasy movie from Roald Dahl’s 1982 book delivers a visually rich mix of live action performances, motion capture, and digital effects. The characters are charming and the dialogue of the giants offers delightfully butchered English and made-up words. However, there isn’t much of a story, so a 2-hour running time is literally a bit of a stretch. Scripted by Melissa Mathison.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days
2012
**
Director: David Bowers
Cast: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Karan Brar, Peyton List, Steve Zahn, Melissa Roxburgh

Greg hopes to spend the summer holiday playing video games, but his parents have other ideas. So, he pretends to have a job in order to hang around the country club with his best friend Rowley and Holly, his crush from Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Throughout this episodic series, Greg has been an extremely selfish kid, but the consequences of his actions have been funny and humiliating mostly to himself. In the third movie, Greg transforms into a stupid, nasty and unpleasant brat who lies his ways through every situation, but he’s a good kid because he admits to his mistakes when he is found out. This time the comedy vignettes are cringeworthy and predictable. Based on the third and fourth books in Jeff Kinney’s series. Followed by Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Long Haul (2017), which features a new cast.


Aladdin
2019
**
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar, Nina Wadia

Aladdin, a kind-hearted but mischievous kid brought up in the streets of Agrabah, helps a beautiful young woman, unaware that she is Princess Jasmine. Jafar, the grand vizier to the Sultan, forces Aladdin to retrieve a magic lamp which could give him infinite power, but Aladdin summons the Genie himself. In the recent years, Disney has produced several live action remakes of their animated classics, such as The Jungle Book, The Lion King, Dumbo, and Beauty and the Beast. Now it’s time for a totally pointless new version of their 1992 animation. There are minimal updates to the plot and the songs, and so much CGI on screen that this is, in essence, another animation. The original is best remembered for Robin Williams’ hilariously wild voice performance as the Genie. Will Smith takes over that role, and there is very little to laugh about.


BlacKkKlansman
2018
***
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier, Topher Grace, Jasper Pääkkönen, Ryan Eggold, Paul Walter Hauser, Ashlie Atkinson, Corey Hawkins

In the early 1970s, a young black officer joins the Colorado Springs PD and is quickly assigned to undercover work. He establishes contact over the phone with the local Ku Klux Klan, and convinces his white (Jewish) cop colleague to impersonate him. Spike Lee has never shied away from dealing with racial issues, but this darkly comic drama doesn’t quite have the subtlety or quality of Do the Right Thing. His characterisation is broad and the plot relies on too many coincidences, even if it is partly based on true events. The film is often funny, but when the Klan begins to take action and the undercover operation is in jeopardy, I never felt any sense of danger. The performances are great, though. The epilogue reminds us that racism is raising its head once again in Trump’s America. The screenplay by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee won an Academy Award.


Mission: Impossible – Fallout
2018
***
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin

In order to recover three stolen plutonium cores, Ethan Hunt and his team must track down an extremist known as John Lark. However, after a recent botched mission, they are closely monitored by a non-nonsense CIA agent August Walker. The sixth movie in the M:I franchise brings back characters from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, also written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, to create an over-convoluted but utterly predictable series of double-crossings and extended chases. Admittedly, the relentless chase scenes, which probably consume two thirds of the running time, are some of the most gripping and visceral ones I have seen in recent times.


How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
2019
***½
Director: Dean DeBlois
Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Kit Harington, F. Murray Abraham, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Gerard Butler

When a ruthless dragon hunter named Grimmel the Grisly threatens to hunt down and kill Toothless at any cost, Hiccup leads his people and their dragons away from Berk in search of the illusive Hidden World, where they could all be safe. How to Train Your Dragon was a charming animation, followed by a disappointingly mechanical sequel. However, the third movie brings the storyline and the trilogy to a satisfyingly moving close.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
2011
***
Director: David Bowers
Cast: Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Rachael Harris, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn, Peyton List, Karan Brar, Fran Kranz, Grayson Russell, Laine MacNeil

As he enters the 7th grade, Greg Heffley develops an immediate crush on the new girl in school. However, every time he attempts to make a move or just act cool, his older brother Rodrick ruins it all. The follow-up to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the adaptation of the second book in Jeff Kinney’s series puts the supporting characters on the sidelines and concentrates on the fractious relationship between the two Heffley brothers. The movie offers (more of the same) good-natured fun. Followed by Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.


Joker
2019
****
Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy,Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Leigh Gill, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham

In the early 80s, Arthur Fleck, a mentally unstable clown-for-hire who lives with his mother and dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian, finds himself invisible to the world around him. When Arthur’s personal frustrations finally reach a boiling point, the tension that has been brewing in Gotham City explodes into riots. Joker has featured as a villain in several DC comic book movies, but this is the first attempt to tell a credible origin story of the man under the painted face. The film portrays Arthur as a pitiful loser, but often conveniently ignores that he is ultimately an out-of-control homicidal maniac. Todd Phillips, so far best known for his crude and immature Hangover trilogy, takes a massive professional leap by directing and co-writing a gripping and terrific looking grown-up drama. The script was heavily influenced by Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy, and it has nothing comic-booky about it. In the recent times, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and Jared Leto have played Joker on screen. Now Joaquin Phoenix joins this list, and his performance is hypnotic.


Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation
2018
**
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, Mel Brooks

Mavis misinterprets his father’s loneliness as stress, so she books the entire gang on a cruise to Atlantis. However, the sea voyage is all an elaborate set-up concocted by Dracula’s old nemesis Professor Van Helsing and his great-granddaughter. This animation franchise has never achieved greatness, but it has been consistent in its mediocrity. However, the third movie is even more mechanical and derivative than parts 1 and 2. Family has always been at the centre of Hotel Transylvania, but this is now the third time the central plotline revolves around Dracula and Mavis keeping secrets from each other.


Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
2019
**
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams

After Rian Johnson incurred the wrath of the Star Wars fans with his refreshingly subversive The Last Jedi (2017), J.J. Abrams, who directed the entertaining but derivative The Force Awakens (2015), returns to wrap things up with a fast-paced but disappointing spectacle which ignores most of Johnson’s intriguing ideas and makes the third trilogy feel like three unrelated releases set in the same universe. The Resistance receive intel from a spy in the First Order that Emperor Palpatine has returned and built a massive fleet of Star Destroyers on Exegol. Rey, who is now closely bound to Kylo Ren through the Force, joins Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, and the droids to uncover a wayfinder which could lead them to the location of the Sith Lord. Never mind, the plot is of secondary concern to Abrams and Chris Terrio, whose script just seems to make things up as it goes along. Very often the story or character motives don’t make any sense from one scene to the next, and even less so in the context of the trilogy and the Skywalker Saga. Occasionally it feels like some important scene was left on the cutting room floor. The stakes are supposedly high, but there are no big emotional payoffs because the movie doesn’t dare to go through with any of its dramatic turns. If a villain we were sure died decades ago can suddenly resurface, it is clear that character deaths are meaningless in the Star Wars universe, especially if the Force can now be used to resurrect the dead and the old casualties hang around in spirit form anyway.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid
2010
***
Director: Thor Freudenthal
Cast: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Devon Bostick, Chloë Grace Moritz, Karan Brar, Grayson Russell, Laine MacNeil, Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn

Greg Heffley, a scrawny 11-year-old boy, is determined to become one of the more popular kids in middle school, but his first year turns out to be a painful series of abject failures. This comedy is based on Jeff Kinney’s popular children’s books. The characters (or caricatures, rather) are drawn with extremely broad strokes, but they are funny and well-played by the young cast. The plot is quite episodic, but there is a steady 90-minute flow of good gags. Followed by Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.


Jumanji: The Next Level
2019
***
Director: Jake Kasdan
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Danny Glover, Danny DeVito, Rory McCann

A few years after completing the game, Spencer longs back to Jumanji. When he ends up back in the game, his friends go on a rescue mission, but unintentionally take Spencer’s grandfather and his former business partner along for the ride. The sequel to the highly enjoyable Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle delivers more of the same with some new twists. The first half reshuffles the real world characters and game avatars, which is not terribly funny and works only in the context of the previous episode. The movie is at its best in the second half when it sticks to the strengths of the original: the well-drawn characters, humour, and action.


Florence Foster Jenkins
2016
***
Director: Stephen Frears
Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Stanley Townsend, Allan Corduner, Christian McKay

In 1944, Florence Foster Jenkins is a wealthy and respected New York socialite and music connoisseur who cannot sing to save her life. When she wants to perform at Carnegie Hall, her devoted husband is determined to protect her from the truth. This feelgood movie is based on a real person. Her story is trivial and not terribly believable, but it is likeable and entertaining. Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant give excellent performances as a very unusual but loving couple.


The Visit
2015
***
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn, Cella Keenan-Bolger, Benjamin Kanes

15 years ago, Loretta had a falling out with her parents. In the present, her teenage children Becca and Tyler shoot a documentary as the two go visit their grandparents for the first time in their lives. The old folks are welcoming at first, but begin to behave oddly, especially at nights. M. Night Shyamalan’s stripped down small budget horror film jumps on the found footage band wagon. This subgenre can be clever and captivating at best, and totally infuriating at worst. Even if Shyamalan’s script scores low on credibility, this is nevertheless his most watchable movie since Unbreakable.


Enemy
2013
**½
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini, Kedar Brown, Joshua Peace

Adam Bell is a sad-sack history teacher who is in a loveless relationship. One day he discovers Anthony Claire, a failed movie actor with a pregnant wife, who looks and sounds exactly like him. Is the man his twin brother or is he going insane? And what’s with all the spiders? Javier Gullón’s screenplay is based on The Double by José Saramago. Like Blindness, also based on Saramago’s book, this is an intriguing parable but an incredibly frustrating drama. The script is such a tightly constructed psychological puzzle that the people at the centre of it never get a chance to resemble actual human beings. The female characters get the shortest shrift and I must admit I had trouble telling Adam and Anthony apart.


Hotel Transylvania 2
2015
**½
Director: Genndy Tartakovsky
Cast: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, Mel Brooks, Asher Blinkoff

Five odd years later, Dracula is growing increasingly worried when his half-human grandson Dennis still hasn’t developed any vampire traits. The sequel to Hotel Transylvania is a very ordinary animation mostly aimed at children. While it can be likeable and entertaining at times, it is ultimately too derivative and predictable to turn into an enduring classic. Followed by Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation.


The House with a Clock in Its Walls
2018
**½
Director: Eli Roth
Cast: Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sunny Suljic, Kyle MacLachlan, Colleen Camp, Lorenzo Izzo, Vanessa Anne Williams

In 1955, 10-year-old Lewis loses his parents in a car crash. He goes to live with his magically inclined uncle whose spooky house hides something sinister. This likeable but lukewarm fantasy movie is based on the 1973 novel by John Bellairs. It has a nice story with a good cast, but (when Lewis learns to cast complicated spells in a matter of minutes) it fails to produce a proper sense of magic and wonder.


Aquaman
2018
**½
Director: James Wan
Cast: Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Ludi Lin, Temuera Morrison, Randall Park

Arthur Curry is the love child of a lighthouse keeper and the late Queen of Atlantis. While the grown-up Arthur would like to mind his own business, it becomes increasingly difficult when his half-brother Orm plans to unite Atlantis and attack the surface world. Aquaman made a brief and somewhat baffling appearance in Justice League, and now he gets his full length origin story. However, I can’t say that I understand the character or the universe he inhabits any better. Aquaman appears to be Thor of the DC Extended Universe. He is an all-powerful superhero with a sinister half-brother whose home world is a candy-coloured CGI wonderland. The rule of thumb seems to be that name actors can breathe in the water and on dry land, the common people in Atlantis and on the surface can only do one of the two. The movie is long and silly, but intermittently enjoyable, and Jason Momoa is a good fit for the title role. The character is based on a comic book by Paul Norris and Mort Weisinger.


Farmageddon: A Shaun the Sheep Movie
2019
*****
Director: Will Becher, Richard Phelan
Cast: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Amalia Vitale, Kate Harbour, David Holt

A spacecraft lands close to the Mossy Bottom Farm. While the Farmer plans to cash in on the sudden UFO craze, Shaun is determined to help the alien child return home. The second Shaun the Sheep Movie is as irresistiblr as the original. This lovingly created dialogue-free animation is consistently hilarious and deeply moving when it needs to.


Kingsman: The Golden Circle
2017
**½
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Edward Holcroft, Hanna Alström, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Watson

When a sinister drug kingpin kills most of the Kingsman agents, Eggsy and Merlin seek out Statesman, an American branch of the organisation, where they make an unexpected discovery. The follow-up to Kingsman: The Secret Service once again delivers an entertaining but instantly forgettable mix of locker room humour and cartoonish violence. The movie is about 30 minutes too long.


Glass
2019
**
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Cast: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Luke Kirby, M. Night Shyamalan

David Dunn and Kevin Wendell Crumb are about to face off, but are placed in a mental hospital which already holds Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass. A renowned psychiatrist attempts to convince the three men that their special abilities are not real. Although the third part in M. Night Shyamalan’s comic book inspired trilogy brings closure, he should have left the whole story at Unbreakable. This offers a marginal improvement on the middle part Split, but only because there is less of James McAvoy’s grating performance. There is a decent twist towards the end, but ironically that it exactly what we’ve come to expect from Shyamalan.


A Star Is Born
2018
*****
Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott, Anthony Ramos, Rafi Gavron, Greg Grunberg

Jackson Maine, a popular rock musician who drowns out his tinnitus with drugs and alcohol, helps the talented Ally to become an overnight sensation. The two fall in love, but as Ally’s star is on the up, Jackson spirals deeper into self-destructive behaviour. This classic Hollywood story was previously filmed in 1937, 1954, and 1976. Bradley Cooper makes an incredibly assured directorial debut with this excellent 21st century version, which is gritty and utterly believable. Cooper, who co-wrote the script and some of the songs, also gives a career best performance as the dejected hero. Lady Gaga is a revelation in the female lead; she can play the ordinary and the glamorous with equal ease. “Shallow” won an Academy Award winner for best song.


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
2018
****
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber

In the recent times, we have seen Spider-Man launch his own franchise, come back in a pointless reboot, and then join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now the superhero gets a new lease of life as an animated character who somehow shares the same universe (spider-verse) with Venom. Miles Morales is a troubled teenager who is bitten by a radioactive spider. As Miles attempts to harness his newfound powers, he is joined by five other incarnations of Spider-Man from parallel universes. Although Spider-Man fatigue is gradually setting in, this is a funny, imaginative, and entertaining animation. However, the movie’s constant visual and auditory borbardment overwhelmed me at times. An Academy Award winner for best animated feature.


Central Intelligence
2016
**½
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Kevin Hart, Dwayne Johnson, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Danielle Nicolet, Timothy Johnson Smith, Thomas Kretschmann, Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy

In high school, Calvin Joyner was deemed most likely to succeed, while the overweight Robbie Wheirdicht was the favourite target of bullies. 20 years later, Calvin is an unfulfilled accountant and Robbie a beefed up action man. This is a silly and derivative but rather enjoyable buddy comedy. Dwayne Johnson is seriously hamming it up in the early stages, but once he tones it down, he has good chemistry with Kevin Hart.


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Long Haul
2017
***
Director: David Bowers
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Charlie Wright, Chris Coppola, Dylan Walters, Jason Ian Drucker, Joshua Hoover, Mira Silverman, Owen Asztalos, Tom Everett Scott, Wyatt Walters

The fourth movie introduces a new cast, and the story is mostly based on the ninth and tenth books in the series. The Heffley family go on a long road trip to attend Meemaw’s 90th birthday, but Greg hopes to divert their route to a gaming expo in Indianapolis. The mood gets tense right from the start when Greg’s mother confiscates all of the family’s cell phones. This family comedy doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen in dozen other road movies, but it provides 90 minutes of good-natured fun and a few amusing gross-out moments.


The Boss Baby
2017
*
Director: Tom McGrath
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Miles Bakshi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Conrad Vernon, James McGrath, David Soren

Somewhere an assembly line is churning out babies which are either sent to families or to work in management. 7-year-old Tim Templeton gets a bossy baby brother who perhaps should have become a bureaucrat at Baby Corp. Like Storks, this painfully exhausting animation provides its own wacky theory of where babies come from. It is unclear whether it is all just an extended dream sequence fueled by Tim’s fears, but in any case the story doesn’t make any sense to me at any point on any level. For me to appreciate the jokes and references, I must be at least partially onboard. The premise may be original, but clever or funny it isn’t. Based on Marla Frazee’s picture book.


The Shape of Water
2017
***½
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, Nick Searcy, David Hewlett, Nigel Bennett, Stewart Arnott, Martin Roach

Elisa is a mute cleaner who forms a close bond with an amphibious creature held captive in a secret government facility in Baltimore in 1962. After the forgettable Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro returns to form. Like Pan’s Labyrinth, his best work to date, this is a gripping and visually stunning story that mixes fantasy and historical drama. And like that film, it is partly ruined by a ridiculously one-dimensional villain. I must admit that I wasn’t totally won over by the central romance either. However, the performances are great and the film looks spectacular. An Academy Award winner for best picture, director, score, and production design.


Johnny English Strikes Again
2018
**½
Director: David Kerr
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, Emma Thompson, Adam James, Vicki Pepperdine, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Miramnda Hennessy

When somebody hacks into the MI7 computer system and exposes all active field agents. Johnny English must return to action to find the culprit. Following Johnny English and Johnny English Reborn, nothing much has changed. As before, the hero alternates between being incompetent and unstoppable. The script is skeletal, but there a few enjoyable gags in the 90 minutes.


Lady Bird
2017
****½
Director: Great Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith

Greta Gerwig’s full directorial debut is a deeply personal coming of age story about a 17-year-old Sacramento girl who is in her last year of high school. Christine, who would like to be known as Lady Bird, dreams of going to college on the East Coast, but can she pull it off academically and financially? Gerwig’s snappy script doesn’t offer anything terribly original, but she has created believable and wonderfully nuanced characters and found a terrific cast to play them. At the centre of it all are Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, and their moving portrayal of a complicated mother-daughter relationship.


The Meg
2018
**½
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, Winston Chao, Jessica McNamee, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Robert taylor, Sophia Cai, Masi Oka

Five years after he lost part of his crew under mysterious circumstances, rescue diver Jonas Taylor aims to save a submersible crew who are trapped in the deeper reaches of the Mariana Trench with a megalodon, a gigantic shark believed to have gone extinct millions of years ago. This suspenseful and entertaining but utterly stupid action adventure offers a little bit of science and a whole lot of fiction. The end result lands somewhere between Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, and Sharknado. The locations and the cast list announce that this is a Chinese-American co-production. The performances vary between decent and awful, the dialogue is just awful throughout. Based on Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten.


Venom
2018
***
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters

Investigative journalist Eddie Brock loses his job and girlfriend trying to prove that Carlton Drake and his Life Foundation are evil. Six months later he breaks into their research facility, where an alien symbiote takes over his body. Venom featured in Spider-Man 3, and now this Marvel character gets a reboot with the likeable Tom Hardy in the starring role. This origin story takes forever to get going, but the second half transforms it into a nicely weird, darkly funny, and enjoyable superhero action movie. The climactic fight between Venom and Riot is a bit of a CGI mess, though. The post-credits scene from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse left me baffled.


Skyscraper
2018
**½
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, Hannah Quinlivan

After a botched hostage rescue mission left him crippled, Will Sawyer quit the team and set up his own security consultancy firm. While he is in Hong Kong to approve the safety systems of The Pearl, the world’s tallest skyscraper, a group of criminals set the 96th floor on fire, with Will’s family above it. Rawson Marshall Thurber, best know for his comedies, has written and directed an entertaining but extremely derivative action movie in which Die Hard meets Towering Inferno. The script is as formulaic as they come, but the action set pieces are gripping and Dwayne Johnson gives another likeable performance in the lead.


Coherence
2013
****
Director: James Ward Byrkit
Cast: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Lorene Scafaria, Hugo Armstrong, Elizabeth Gracen, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher

Four couples are having a dinner party just when a comet is passing the Earth in close proximity. Their evening takes an odd turn with a series of unusual events. James Ward Byrkit’s directorial debut is a tightly scripted and mindbending drama which was shot on a shoestring budget. This is science fiction about ideas, not about special effects. It all starts like a Woody Allen film, but as the neighbourhood is paralysed by a blackout, Byrkit squeezes wonderful tension from minimal action.


Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann (The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared)
2013
**
Director: Felix Herngren
Cast: Robert Gustafsson, Iwar Wiklander, David Wiberg, Mia Skäringer, Jens Hultén, Bianca Cruzeiro, Alan Ford, Sven Lönn, David Shackleton, Georg Nikoloff, Kerry Shale, Algirdas Paulavicius, Koldo Losada

On his 100th birthday, Allan Karlsson walks away from the retirement home. On his eventful journey, he stumbles on a suitcase full of dirty money and draws a group of misfits around him. He also recounts his earlier life as an explosives expert who had encounters with Franco, Truman, and Stalin, among others. This darkly comic and insanely popular Swedish farce is all over the place. The present day story is built around broad characterisation and a series of preposterous coincidences. The Forrest Gump-flavoured flashbacks feel forced and don’t seem to add anything but length. Even if the film is a disappointment, Robert Gustafsson plays Allan convincingly from age 20 to 100. Based on a 2009 novel by Jonas Jonasson.