Turning Red (2022, dir. Domee Shi)

An adolescent girl finds she carries an ancient curse. Parts are great, but the central idea – a form of lycanthropy as metaphor for puberty – is bungled, and there’s a sense we should focus on the mother, not on protagonist Mei. That said, there’s some fun Backstreet Boys parodies and an ending riffing on Ghostbusters II.

Here’s the trailer.

Goblin (2020, dir. Chris Lee)

A dysfunctional family is menaced in their new suburb by a carnivorous folkloric creature. Perfunctory semi-professional monster flick, stretching what The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents might have done in 25 minutes to bare-bones feature length. For subgenre completists only.

Here’s the trailer.

Where Time Began [AKA Journey to the Centre of the Earth] (1978, dir. Juan Piquer Simon)

A professor and friends seek to trek to the Earth’s core via a volcano. Tatty Spanish-made version of the Jules Verne classic, with a slumming Kenneth More and a few threadbare puppet/man-in-suit monsters. Livens up later when the creatures show up, but this is talky, penny-pinching stuff throughout.

Here’s the trailer.

The Suicide Squad (2021, dir. James Gunn)

Convicted DC supervillains are recruited to undertake a covert mission. Splashy flip splattery slapstick action comedy sequel, developing into a Ghostbusters variant. Some poetic moments help, though the crowded cast needs more time to breathe than can be given here.

Here’s the trailer.

The Princess Bride (1987, dir. Rob Reiner)

A grandfather reads a fairy story of true love to his ill grandson. Excellent distillation of the William Goldman novel, with the right balance of thrills, jokes, well-sketched characters, and a cast that knows exactly the movie they’re in. Lots of fun throughout.

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.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021, dir. Destin Daniel Cretton)

The son of an immortal warlord must face his father. Patchy and nigh-plotless superhero action-adventure origin story, drawing on allsorts. Incidental pleasures aplenty (a poster for Walter Hill’s The Warriors) but this is for fans of the character and Marvel completists only. Still, some fun details are to be found, and there’s one gleeful supporting performance.

Here’s the trailer.

Jungle Cruise (2021, dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)

A scientist-adventurer and an irascible tugboat captain journey up the Amazon in search of a fabled tree. Labourious action-fantasy cribbing from allsorts: The African Queen, Aguirre: Wrath of God, various Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, the Brendan Fraser iteration of The Mummy. Not great, and a disappointment from the usually sure Collet-Serra.

Here’s the trailer.

Black Widow (2021, dir. Cate Shortland)

Natasha Romanoff reunites with her estranged fake family to disrupt a post-Soviet Russian agent programme. Patchy Marvel SF/spy adventure (the first Phase 4 movie) awkwardly balancing dysfunctional familial bickering and action set-pieces. A strong cast helps, as does a relatively low-stakes approach and some attempts at character.

Here’s the trailer.

Freaky (2020, dir. Christopher Landon)

An awkward teenager and a serial killer swap bodies. Superior horror-comedy, maximising the potential of its Freaky Friday-meets-high school slasher conceit, along the lines of Landon’s earlier mashup Happy Death Day. Plenty of fun, a few straightforward though relevant points made, and zippy lead performances help no end.

Here’s the trailer.