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.

The Grinch [AKA Dr Seuss’ The Grinch] (2018, dir. Scott Mosier & Yarrow Cheney)

A Christmas-hating misanthrope decides to steal the holiday from the nearby town of Whoville. While the Dr Seuss story stretches too thin to really make a movie, this is nevertheless a fun, clever attempt with great animation and fine voice work from lead Cumberbatch.

Here’s the trailer.

The Christmas Chronicles, Part 2 [AKA The Christmas Chronicles 2] (2020, dir. Chris Columbus)

Two years on, and an unhappy Kate Pierce is kidnapped by a cast-out elf aiming to get revenge on Santa. Sprawling grab-bag sequel, mashing up Milton, Gremlins and a hundred other properties. Messy and uncoordinated, though Kurt Russell is having fun, plus he gets another Blues Brothers-ish singalong set piece.

Here’s the trailer.

Dolittle (2020, dir. Stephen Gaghan)

A reclusive naturalist and doctor voyages to find a fabled fruit so he can save the life of the young Queen Victoria. Genuinely terrible revisioning of the Hugh Lofting talks-to-animals character: a movie assembled from multiple reshoots and dubbing sessions. Michael Sheen is fun as the villain, but that’s about it.

Here’s the trailer.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s Xussia’s review.