I, Daniel Blake (2016, dir. Ken Loach)

A middle-aged scaffolder falls foul of the UK benefits system. Clear-eyed if slightly dogmatic black comedy-drama which effectively details various struggles in the context of an unwieldy civil service, public sector cuts, the grey economy, and inflexible officialdom. Touches of Kafka counterpoint Loach’s social realist directorial approach.

Into The Ashes (2019, dir. Aaron Harvey)

A former criminal’s past life catches up with him, when old associates track him down and kill his wife. Effective low-key and slow-burn thriller with a solid cast of character actors making the most of the material. A good sense of blue-collar life, and of the inevitable consequences of revenge.

Primal (2019, dir. Nicholas Powell)

A washed-up game hunter transports a white jaguar on a cargo ship also carrying an assassin to the US for trial. Contrived but fun – though perhaps surprisingly modest – high concept Die Hard-meets-Red Dragon-meets-Con Air-ish DTV thriller with a great slumming cast, some decent CG work, and a couple of OK plot wrinkles.

Top Hat (1935, dir. David Sandrich)

An identity mix-up complicates the lives of a dancer and a couturier’s muse, both visiting London. Charming and witty musical comedy with elements of screwball farce and a keen sense of knowing camp, with several dance sequences that have become iconic. A Depression-era fantasy, still effective as escapist nonsense of the highest order.

Shazam! (2019, dir. David Sandberg)

A foster-child is granted superpowers which come with an adult hero persona; but a nemesis figure emerges. OK, but overlong and tonally-awkward superhero origin movie. Hampered by its Big-with-cape conceit and story uncertainty, it tries a bit of everything. Fun in the moment, tho, and some nice gags.

Polaroid (2019, dir. Lars Klevberg)

A teenager comes into possession of a vintage Polaroid camera; its images provoke a series of supernatural killings. Low-key though good-looking teen horror flick, borrowing from the Final Destination and Ring franchises, among many others. Nothing new apart from the calling-card approach by Klevberg (extending a 2015 short film of his), who then helmed the Child’s Play reboot.

Haunt (2019, dir. Scott Beck & Bryan Woods)

Six students visit a pop-up Halloween haunted house attraction. Straightforward series-of-traps body count flick, riffing on Saw sequels, escape room popularity, and a bunch of other influences. Some agreeably nasty ideas, and a cast of relative unknowns (to me, anyway) that help make matters unpredictable.