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.

Klaus (2019, dir. Sergio Pablos)

The wastrel son of a postmaster is given a challenging remote office to run as a final opportunity. Oddball but charming Santa Claus origin variant story, with some fine gags and great animation and design throughout. A welcome spin on the lets-save-Christmas storyline.

Here’s the trailer.

The Witches (2020, Dir. Robert Zemeckis)

New likeable version of Roald Dahl’s story. A change of setting and Anne Hathaway heading up a cast having a lot of fun. Some great moments, occasional poor VFX, but otherwise fun family territory. I prefer the 1990 version but this is still worth a watch!

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.

Cars (2006, dir. John Lasseter [and Joe Ranft])

An arrogant Nascar racer is stranded in a small town off Route 66 where he/it learns some life lessons. Conceptually-weird riff on Doc Hollywood (the vehicular universe makes little sense) though with some good gags, voice performances, and design elements. Two direct sequels followed.

Here’s the trailer.

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.