Don’t shoot the messenger. But the word on the wire at the Edinburgh Film Festival, where Meg Ryan’s Ithaca is making its UK premiere, doesn’t bode well for the actor’s directorial debut. Set in the titular city post-Pearl Harbour, it’s the story of a teenage boy who delivers telegrams to the townspeople during America’s involvement in the Second World War.

The Trust is billed as a crime thriller-cum-black comedy. Unfortunately,  this first outing from the brotherly directorial pairing of Alex and Benjamin Brewer is neither thrilling nor funny on any level. Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood star as crooked Las Vegas cops turned wannabe robbers in a heist movie which is as stagnantly paced and unengaging as it is narratively rote.

It’s all the more disappointing for a cinemagoer when a film meant to delight in a fellow performance art falls limply flat on its face. Paired with a weakly executed, western-articulated perspective on the constraints of Iranian society, Richard Raymond’s debut feature Desert Dancer is a lifeless, contrived and remarkably unengaging rallying cry for freedom of expression and self-fulfilment in the face of adversity.

Pablo Picasso once said that good artists copy but greatest artists steal. Mojave‘s opening moments see noted filmmaker Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) sit in the squared off aspect ratio of an interview. Comparisons are made to Lord Byron and fame from the age of nineteen is bemoaned. Highly pretentious beginnings capture the entirety of writer-director William Monahan’s sophomore attempt behind the camera in a nutshell.

Standing on a sinking ship, Keanu Reeves watches as his latest big screen endeavour, ill-fated long before its theatrical release, sinks to the ignominious depths of the so-bad-it’s-just-plain-bad. First time writer-director Gee Malik Linton had his name removed from this debut feature after Lionsgate opted to chop and change the whole project, scared as they were of the English/Spanish bilingualism of the script, choosing to lay greater focus on Reeves’ NYC cop, Detective Galban, whose español, by his own admission, “fucking sucks”. Originally titled Daughter of God, the end product is Exposed.

Coming to you from a newly autonomous republic somewhere in the vast plains of the Caucasus is a real oddity. Lost in Karastan – the latest offering from British filmmaker Ben Hopkins – is difficult to pin down. Modelling itself as a satirical black comedy interrogating the nature of creativity, art vs. love, and what constitutes national identity, Hopkins ventures into unknown Eastern European territory and gets completely lost.

All those fans of cinema out there who have long wished for an action adventure epic set in 50 BC starring Jackie Chan, John Cusack and Adrien Brody need wait no longer. Dragon Blade – from Hong Kong writer-director Daniel Lee – is here. And it is inspired by true events. Cut down from over two hours in its original version to a more streamlined 100 minutes for an international release, it is possible that much needed characterisation was slashed from a film where narrative coherence and depth certainly play second fiddle to spectacle. 

Adapted from a book of the same name, Mike Fraser’s docudrama The Honourable Rebel (2015) certainly draws on enough material to make it worthy of a 95 minute biopic. The eventful life and times of the right honourable Elizabeth Montagu – whose family home, Beaulieu Palace House, will be known to many a car enthusiast – should make for enthralling viewing. A highly intelligent, multi-lingual and frequently controversial aristocrat, she engaged in same-sex and heterosexual relationships, and acted as a spy during World War II.