Soapdish (1991, dir. Michael Hoffman)

Machinations behind the scenes of a daytime soap opera. One key moment aside (a plot twist that doesn’t hold nowadays), this is a sprightly camp farce with everyone in on the joke and strength in depth in the cast and playing. Something of a time capsule, but there’s plenty of fun here to be had nevertheless.

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.

Rams (2020, dir. Jeremy Sims)

Long-feuding sheep-farming brothers are impacted by a virus threatening their rare breed flocks. Very pleasurable comedy-drama – a remake of the 2015 Icelandic film of the same name – which transposes its story well, and which does pretty much what you’d expect, but with confident ease. Recommended.

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.

Carry On Abroad (1972, dir. Gerald Thomas)

Assorted Brits book onto a package break to the resort of Elsbels. Single entendre-tastic and somewhat shopworn series entry, focused – like others of its time – on holidaying to set up character arcs, innuendo and basic gags. Almost a subversion of the disaster genre: Peter Butterworth is on fine form here.

Here’s the trailer.

Luca (2021, dir. Enrico Casarosa)

An Italian mer-boy swims away from his boring undersea life to the 1950s surface, where he meets an exciting new friend. Sunny but slight animated adventure revisiting ideas done much better by Pixar elsewhere. Still, it looks great, there’s a lovely Sacha Baron Cohen voice cameo, and there’s openness to a gay reading of the central relationship, which is an interesting element.

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.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012, dir. Peter Jackson)

A home-loving halfling is recruited for a perilous quest. Beefed-up partial adaptation of the Tolkien children’s novel so that it acts as the first part of a Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy. The quieter parts work best, though this is an acceptable if somewhat bloated action fantasy in its own right.

Here’s the trailer.