Madman [AKA Madman: The Legend Lives] (1982, dir. Joe Giannone)

Camp counsellors in upstate New York invoke an urban legend: an axe-wielding maniac who killed his family, and who’ll come for anyone who calls his name. Riffing on the same source material as The Burning and others, Madman is a perfunctory entry in the slasher subgenre, though with a couple of interesting visual moments, and an odd downbeat ending.

Fall Break [AKA The Mutilator] (1984, dir. Buddy Cooper & John Douglass)

Students vacation at a beach house owned by the alcoholic father of one of their number; but Dad’s had a psychotic break. Minor slasher pic with a semi-professional cast, but some excellent make-up effects and an oddly jaunty soundtrack. For genre completists perhaps, but there are some quirky moments of interest.

Abduction (2019, dir. Ernie Barbarash)

Two men work to find missing family members; an interdimensional conspiracy is revealed. Modest Vietnam-set martial arts action with an SF/fantasy twist. No dafter than, say, Doctor Strange, but interesting to see attempted at this budget level. Very competent fight choreography is the selling point here. Ignore the poster; nothing to do with the movie!

Sea Fever (2019, dir. Neasa Hardiman)

A PhD student seconded to a fishing vessel makes an unusual aquatic discovery. While the script can’t quite get to grips with genre storytelling, there’s a lot to enjoy initially, not least with the cast of character actors and excellent use of location and the main fishing vessel environment.

The Arrival (1996, dir. David Twohy)

A disgraced radio astronomer is convinced that alien communications are being received. Quirky SF/horror hybrid with plenty of daft ideas and enough visual interest to keep you watching. No classic, but fun.

Seberg (2019, dir. Benedict Andrews)

Actor Jean Seberg struggles with her personal life, civil rights activism, and the pressures of fearing FBI surveillance. Decent biopic focusing on 1968-1970; a very solid cast and subtle direction help, even if the script doesn’t get us close to the protagonist. Lots to appreciate, not least the production design and performances.

Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018, dir. Rich Moore & Phil Johnston)

Ralph and Vanellope quest online to find a spare part for a games console. Overlong sequel that uses its premise to support an extended (though fun) riff on existing Disney properties. Some sly jokes get through, but this is a product placement-tastic, overstuffed continuation that exposes the limits of its setup and its nominal lead character.

Want another review of this movie? Here y’go.

Wreck-It Ralph (2012, dir. Rich Moore)

A videogame character abandons his console to prove that he has worth. Toy Story/Tron mashup that generally works despite the conceptual awkwardness of its conceit. Plenty of game in-jokes and references, some nice gags, lovely design elements, and a splendid villainous performance from Alan Tudyk, riffing on Ed Wynn. A sequel followed.

Bad Education (2020, dir. Cory Finlay)

A school superintendent and their deputy are revealed, in part by a student investigation, to be embezzling from the school system. Smart black comedy-drama, based on a true story. Underplayed throughout, with fine performances from seasoned hands, and a sense that maybe the right lessons are still to be learned by some.

Hammer (2019, dir. Christian Sparkes)

An estranged father and son are forced to work together when a drug deal goes wrong. Smart, lean all-in-one-day indie thriller with as keen a focus on character and relationships as on the narrative’s spiralling complications. Lots to appreciate and enjoy; recommended. Great to see Will Patton in a leading role too.