• The Last Duel

    The Last Duel

    ★★★★

    The opening address to knights, squires "and all other manner of people" gives the game away; this isn't really about sex, it's about class - and by extension power, a subject Ridley Scott understands. (Even his woke posturings are really power plays: belittling the art of the actor by simply removing Kevin Spacey from All the Money in the World - another film about power - belittling the art of the writer by getting three of them here incl. a…

  • Mia Misses Her Revenge

    Mia Misses Her Revenge

    ★★★½

    Hot young girls play the Fuck Marry Kill game with Cristi Puiu, Cristian Mungiu and Corneliu Porumboiu (Porumboiu gets killed, of course) - a detail that's a bit too inside-baseball (see also: a director noting that he's cast "the only Romanian actor without a pot belly"), then again Mia's revenge on her (unseen) boyfriend is consciously cinema-inflected, giving the film a clear meta aspect: her plan is to film herself having sex, viewing the arm's-length detachment as a weapon when…

  • Halloween Kills

    Halloween Kills

    ★★

    He's here, he's there, "he's in the back seat of our car", he's everywhere. Sure, there's a couple of red herrings and false alarms, but it's hard to contrive much tension (or nuance) when you're dealing with the boogeyman, viz. a dramatic void: "There's nothing inside that man but pure evil". This franchise should've gone the Final Destination/Saw route of mechanical set-pieces done with outrageous style years ago - and the title kind of nods to that, but even as…

  • Atarrabi & Mikelats

    Atarrabi & Mikelats

    ★★★½

    If only this beguiling movie (my third Eugene Green, and by far the best) had also taken care of some basic stuff, like paying attention to both halves of its Castor-and-Pollux-ish title. The two dance numbers that break up the action - Atarrabi at a village bash lit by paper lanterns, Mikelats hanging out in Hell with his devil buddies - really work in drawing a contrast between Good and Evil, the most obvious takeaway being that the village dance…

  • Das Purpurmeer

    Das Purpurmeer

    Surprisingly little sense of terror (read the synopsis), then again that might've made it exploitative - and Alzakout's calm, poignant narration functions as a kind of representation, just like her filming this disaster is a kind of revenge on Western media who've been filming the collapse of her country/region: "Fuck you all! Stop filming!" she yells (in v.o.) at the helicopter that's come to shoot the floating refugees, and earlier sardonically notes that the missiles killing people in Syria look…

  • Home Front

    Home Front

    ★★★

    An honest effort by Belvaux, who seems to have segued into films about French politics (the far-right in This Is Our Land; the legacy of the war in Algeria here), but the structure is fatally flawed, the second hour at odds with the opening act. The first 40 minutes deal in what may be the director's greatest strength, both in ensemble films like Rapt and two-handers like Not My Type - not what a character thinks but what characters think…

  • No Time to Die

    No Time to Die

    ★★★½

    "The weaponized smallpox I was using this morning... Have you seen it?" Guess now we know why it might've seemed a little tactless to release this at the height of a pandemic - though in fact all the world-ending stuff (not actually smallpox, relax, no spoilers here) seems a little tired, one ball too many for the film to be juggling; Rami Malek's whole character weighs it down, it might've been better to ditch the lugubrious speeches and treat him…

  • Nasir

    Nasir

    ★★★★

    The quest for a halfway respectable list for 2020 gets a boost with this fine neo-realist miniature, working in the old Umberto D style of observational detail building to a flurry of drama - though it's also visually beautiful, adding to its theme of the transcendent side-by-side with the everyday. "In the eye of the cosmos, I am but a speck," says Nasir, his life defined by mundane tasks, getting water, sweeping the shop. (It's the kind of film where…

  • Me and Me

    Me and Me

    ★★★

    Could've done a spoiler-laden review trying to fit the pieces together - but the truth is I can't make sense of this movie, so I'd just be giving stuff away for no reason. Feels like it deliberately shifts from its (splendid) high-concept premise to a more opaque, more frustrating strategy of actually trying to evoke the slippery - and painful - experience of losing one's identity, going for a more poignant endgame, though if so it's almost ruined by the…

  • Notturno

    Notturno

    ★★★½

    A subject (Syria, the Middle East, the betrayal of the Arab Spring in general) that's too big, Rosi knows it's too big - so he offers an oblique take, not necessarily scaled-down (like in El Sicario, Room 164, where one bad man in a small room represented Mexico's collapse into anarchy) but indirect, turning the subject this way and that. Sometimes we look at it head-on (the traumatised Yazidi kids), other times it's there in the background - like the…

  • All Hands on Deck

    All Hands on Deck

    ★★★★½

    "How can people joke around and have babies, with what's in store?" asks a mopey Extinction Rebellion type, consumed by the thought that his kids (if any) will "see the apocalypse" - and maybe it's the state of the world that makes this so cherishable, an affirmation that joking around and having babies (or at least looking for a mate) is still a worthwhile pursuit, despite everything. Brac is still in summery Treasure Island mode, a celebration of play -…

  • Eyimofe (This Is My Desire)

    Eyimofe (This Is My Desire)

    ★★★

    Worth it for the rich, warm colours, design details and views of Lagos (also the cultural quirks, unusual greetings - "How now?" - and pidgin English); MVP is probably Belarus-born cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan, who also did Beginning, though that does suggest a certain exotic, ethnic-tourist view of Nigeria. Poverty porn and victim cinema are other obvious pitfalls, so kudos to the plot for de-emphasizing those: 'Folks have dreams, life has other plans' is about the size of it, trying for…