Movie reviews: The Lego Ninjago Movie, The Ritual, The Party, It's Not Yet Dark
The Lego Ninjago Movie (G, 101mins) ★★
The Ritual (16, 94mins) ★★
The Party (15A, 71mins) ★★★★
It’s Not Yet Dark (PG, 81mins) ★★★★
To clarify for the culturally deficient among you, Ninjago is a martial arts themed line of Lego toys that has spawned a TV series, and now this film. In the TV show Lego Ninjago, rowdy students mastered the dark arts of 'spinjitsu' in order to do battle with the evil Lord Garmadon. It's charming stuff, amusing and age appropriate, but that kind of recipe isn't half fancy enough for the Lego movie franchise, which favours frenetic pacing and a positive avalanche of one-liners.
That tactic becomes irksome even if the jokes are mostly good, but there are more misses than hits in The Ninjago Movie.
Lloyd Garmadon, the villain's estranged son, has grown up an outcast in the teeming city of Ninjago thanks to his notorious father. Short on friends, ignored at school, he leads a secret double life as the Green Ninja, part of a brotherhood of warriors who defend the city from Garmadon's attacks. And when Garmadon finally manages to overwhelm Ninjago's defences, the scene is set for a confrontation with his son.
Their relationship forms the dramatic core of this busy but aimless animation, which has a fine voice cast (Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Jackie Chan) and is not without its funny moments. But readers, it has no soul.
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In The Ritual, a British horror film, a bunch of halfwits put themselves in harm's way for no good reason, then have the audacity to look surprised when it all goes horribly wrong. Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch (Robert James Collier), Dom (Sam Troughton) and Phil (Arsher Ali) have been friends since university, and have embarked on a hike across northern Sweden in memory of their late friend, Robert.
He was stabbed in a convenience store while Luke hid and failed to intervene. This event hovers like a bird of ill-omen over the friends as they trudge gloomily across the bleak Scandinavian tundra. They soon get lost after taking a shortcut through the forest and as night falls, the boys do their best to ignore worrying signs of supernatural activity - hanging livestock, wicker men, you know the sort of thing. The Ritual is actually pretty passable to begin with: the atmosphere builds nicely, and the air is thick with bitterness and recrimination. But the more we discover about the threat that faces them, the more risible this derivative horror yarn becomes.
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Bitchy, witty, concise almost to a fault, Sally Potter's comic drama The Party is a modest delight. Ageing power couple Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Bill (Timothy Spall) are celebrating: she's just been made Minister for Health and has invited some friends around to toast her success.
When Janet's best friend Jenny (Patricia Clarkson) and her insufferably condescending new age boyfriend Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) turn up, they're followed by expectant lesbian couple Martha (Cherry Jones) and Jinny (Emily Mortimer). All Guardian readers no doubt, but Tom (Cillian Murphy) may not be: he's a coked up city boy who has a nasty secret. But then again, so does everyone else.
Shot in black and white and full of pithy moments, Potter's film purrs like a Rolls Royce engine and ends with a wonderful joke.
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And finally, a word about It's Not Yet Dark, Frankie Fenton's moving documentary about film-maker and author Simon Fitzmaurice. Simon was at the Sundance Festival with a short film in 2008 when he began to lose the feeling in his foot: it was the first sign of Motor Neuron Disease, a truly horrifying condition that would eventually leave him paralysed and unable to speak.
He could have given up, and most would have, but instead Simon rallied by writing a memoir and making a feature film. Narrated by Colin Farrell, It's Not Yet Dark tells his and his wife Ruth's remarkable story as well as it could be told.