F9: The Fast Saga (a.k.a Fast and Furious 9) (2021, Dir. Justin Lin)

Ridiculous extension of the tired franchise. So bereft of new ideas it borrows from its own cannon. The result is 2hrs of absurd plot contrivances, gravity defying stunt stupidity, terrible scripting and horrible acting from everyone. Cena is especially wooden and bloody awful. For die hard F&F fans only.

The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974, dir. Roy Ward Baker [and Chang Cheh])

In 1904 China, a visiting Van Helsing helps combat a Dracula-led vampiric uprising. The last pic of the Hammer cycle innovates through genre mash-up (and a deal with Shaw Brothers). It’s messy, but fun: martial arts showcasing, twists on undead lore, plus some location spectacle all helps.

Here’s the trailer.

Freejack (1992, dir. Geoff Murphy)

A race driver is time-jumped to near-future 2009, where his body has been requisitioned for transplant purposes. Ramshackle chase thriller with SF trappings. Some fun in the casting and in odd moments, but this is nevertheless tatty and derivative: a troubled production, as this was, can leave scar tissue.

Here’s the trailer.

Jolt (2021, dir. Tanya Wexler)

A woman who controls her extreme anger issues via a high-tech electrical device investigates a murder. Poor sub-Crank action-comedy: a decent cast helps (several in one-set cameos), but (some OK) quips, poor action, over-direction, the world’s most guessable villain, and stagey visuals don’t. Feels like a TV pilot: has that Nu Boyana aesthetic.

Here’s the trailer.

Guns Akimbo (2019, dir. Jason Lei Howden)

A loser programmer find himself in a real-world socially-mediated assassination video game. Frenetic but patchy slapstick action-comedy. Little sense of tone, stakes, internal logic or of pacing, so the energy is misplaced and the excellent cast work against the movie, not with it. Gamer meets Shoot Em Up-ish, though much less ultimately than either.

Here’s the trailer.

Nobody (2021, dir. Ilya Naishuller)

A browbeaten family man with a past comes up against Russian mobsters. Okay action comedy with slapstick brutality galore. A fine cast, some invention in the detail, and a couple of neat directorial moments help, though there’s a heavy-handed approach to pop scoring and to the fantasy world of the movie.

Here’s the trailer.

The Tomorrow War (2021, dir. Chris McKay)

A science teacher is recruited to fight a war that won’t happen for thirty years. Overlong, derivative (everything from Saving Private Ryan to The Thing gets pillaged) and at-times clunky SF/horror/war flick. The action is terrific throughout (and worth watching once for that alone), but the movie doesn’t know when to stop.

Here’s the trailer.

The Ice Road (2021, dir. Jonathan Hensleigh)

Trucker brothers transport key equipment over treacherous ice roads to rescue trapped miners. Straightforward thriller with action elements, riffing on Hawksian reality TV and The Wages of Fear. Somewhat perfunctory in plotting and direction, though a decent cast, location shooting, and some character elements add value.

Here’s the trailer.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014, dir. Peter Jackson)

Thorin is driven mad by gold-lust as warring factions converge on Mt Erebor. The concluding part of the prequel trilogy is pretty much for fans only by this stage, though it’s nevertheless an impressively-mounted and extravagant action fantasy.

Here’s the trailer.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013, dir. Peter Jackson)

Bilbo and Thorin’s company reach Mount Erebor via Laketown. The middle instalment of the prequel trilogy is all the better for not having to worry about set-up, though it lacks a story of its own. Still, if well-heeled fantasy spectacle is your thing, then there’s plenty to enjoy here.

Here’s the trailer.