Onward (2020, dir. Dan Scanlon)

Mismatched teen brothers in a post-magic fantasy land embark on a quest to communicate with their long-dead father. Straightforward relationship comedy/road movie with plenty of fun detail and some great animation, even if there aren’t any real surprises along the way.

Here’s the trailer.

Don’t Let Go (2019, dir. Jacob Aaron Estes)

A detective races to save the life again of his niece, who is contacting him through time from before her recent murder. Odd timeslip procedural (a cousin to Deja Vu) that succeeds if you go with its premise. Excellent performances and committed direction help no end.

Here’s the trailer.

Project Power (2020, dir. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman)

Multiple parties search for the source of a New Orleans street drug, which grants a superpower for five minutes. Flashy and confident if superficial mashup of Limitless and the 70s TV show Gemini Man. Plenty of incidental fun tho, especially in the first two acts.

The Final Wish (2018, dir. Timothy Woodward, Jr)

A bereaved young man finds his luck has changed for the better, but at a cost. Patchy The Monkey’s Paw variant, its magpie script lifting business from all over including, oddly, The Omen. Some of it works, but we’ve seen this done more confidently before. Old hands Lin Shaye and Tony Todd help though.

Otherworld [AKA Harmony] (2018, dir. Corey Pearson)

A young woman has the power to remove fear from others, though at a cost to herself. First of an intended five-film sequence, this works as a modest standalone SF-tinged romance, though struggles to justify its running time in wider story and world-building terms.

Dark Place (2019, dir. Kodie Bedford, Perun Bonser, Rob Braslin, Liam Phillips, Bjorn Stewart)

Five horror shorts concerned with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females, and with the legacies of colonialism. Not a dud among them either, with a range of subgenres and stylistic approaches (from human trafficking to vampirism, and from moody b/w to Raimi-esque splatter comedy). Each stand-alone story is brisk and effective enough to earn its place and more. Recommended.

The Abominable Snowman (1957, dir. Val Guest)

A scientific expedition to the Himalayas becomes a hunt for the fabled Yeti. Marvellous fantasy-horror hybrid, expanded (and simplified somewhat) from Nigel Kneale’s BBC drama The Creature. Lots of ideas played with, great production values, and lovely widescreen – Regalscope AKA Hammerscope – cinematography and staging.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019, dir. Joachim Ronning)

Aurora and Phillip are to be wed; but war between humans and fairy folk is threatened. Plodding sequel that substitutes mythos expansion for story. The chief fresh inspiration plundered here is Avatar, of all things. A decent cast does what it can with the material provided, but this is a franchise-killer.

Maleficent (2014, dir. Robert Stromberg)

A loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty, from the perspective of its antagonist. A brisk dark-ish fantasy that at least tries something a little different from the usual Disney liveactionifications of its animated properties. Hyperreal and CGtastic, though at least it’s pacy, and Jolie seems to be having fun. A sequel followed.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013, dir. Thor Freudenthal)

Percy and friends have to find the Golden Fleece so they can save their home. Cut-price sequel (no returning guest stars) with join-the-dots plotting as before, this time taking elements from the first two Indiana Jones movies as well as the Rick Riordan source books and wider Greek myth. Not very good; Part 3 (The Titan’s Curse) was never made.