Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021, dir. Jason Reitman)

A struggling family inherits a remote farmhouse formerly belonging to a Ghostbuster. A film of bits, some of them entertaining and fresh. Essentially a straight sequel to the 1984 film, it starts well as an 80s-style Amblin kid-centric comedy-drama, then reprises the original, then trips over fanservice.

Here’s the trailer. another perspective.

Ghostbusters Afterlife (2021, Dir. Jason Reitman)

The estranged family of Egon Spengler return to his home town and uncover a ghostly plan to destroy the world. While fun, this is too reliant on spoon feeding nostalgia and ticking fan check boxes. A good cast keeps you interested, but the film struggles with pacing and coherence at times.

Ghostbusters Afterlife (2021, Dir. Jason Reitman)

Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021, dir. Sarah Smith & Jean-Philippe Vine, with Octavio E. Rodriguez)

A socially-awkward boy gets a robot companion, except it’s malfunctioning. Generally straightforward (there’s some interesting darker edges and jokes) CG animation E.T. variant, that’s well-made if not really distinctive enough to set it apart from the likes of Big Hero 6 or The Mitchells Vs The Machines.

Here’s the trailer.

Encanto (2021, dir. Jared Bush & Byron Howard, with Charise Castro Smith)

A Columbian family fractures when their magical powers weaken. Great-looking but derivative animation with too much tickbox Disney stuff, saddled with dull songs. Moments amuse, and the small scale gives focus, but there’s nothing here that Moana or Coco didn’t do ten times better.

Here’s the trailer.

The Amazing Mr Blunden (2021, dir. Mark Gatiss)

A family is invited to become caretakers of a haunted country house. Solid and entertaining second version of the story, balancing the 1972 original and Antonia Barber’s source novel The Ghosts. No surprises, perhaps, but Gatiss’s control of the material and his affection for it is well in evidence throughout.

Here’s the trailer

A Boy Called Christmas (2021, dir. Gil Kenan)

A woodcutter’s son journeys to find hope to save his father and his kingdom. Very straightforward festive origin fantasy shamelessly lifted structure-wise from The Princess Bride. A decent cast helps no end: the flick relies on professional support for its scant charm.

Here’s the trailer.

The Book of Henry (2017, dir. Colin Trevorrow)

A child genius suspects that his neighbour and classmate is being abused. Odd drama that tries for poignant and quirky but ends up too often as mawkish and clumsy. Some points for the attempt and for some minor design elements, but this is a misbegotten film.

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 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.

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021, dir. Don Hall & Carlos López Estrada, with Paul Briggs and John Ripa)

A warrior princess embarks on a quest to unite five fractured kingdoms and repel their collective threat. A very straightforward fantasy drawing on South East Asian design and story influences. Some pleasures in the incidentals, but this is secondhand tick-box monomyth stuff throughout.

Here’s the trailer.