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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014, dir. Shawn Levy)

Larry, his son, and their museum friends go to London to return a magical talisman. Third time out and there are signs of franchise fatigue setting in: the new additions work best (Dan Stevens and a cameoing Hugh Jackman). Series fans won’t be disappointed, though it’s the same film as twice before in essence.

Here’s the trailer.

Roald Dahl’s The Witches [AKA The Witches] (2020, dir. Robert Zemeckis)

An orphan is raised by his grandmother, who warns him about witches who are all-too-real. This second version is less spiky than the 1990 Nic Roeg-directed attempt, but still balances child-centric adventure and a dark sensibility: the Americanisation works well, even if the story’s still a touch contrived.

Here’s the trailer. And here’s another review.

The Monster Squad (1987, dir. Fred Dekker)

A group of monster-obsessed pre-teens have to face off against a gallery of Universal Studios villains. Straightforward and very contrived sub-Spielbergian kid adventure post-ET/The Goonies. Some of it works well, and the creature effects evidence love, but too much is perfunctory tick-box stuff that’s being rushed through.

Here’s the trailer.