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Latest Reviews

Meg 2: The Trench
2023

Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Jason Statham, Wu Jing, Sophia Cai, Page Kennedy, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Skyler Samuels, Cliff Curtis, Melissanthi Mahut, Whoopie Van Raam, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Felix Mayr

Six years have passed, and rescue diver Jonas Taylor has become an all-around action man and a single dad to an adopted daughter. All hell breaks loose again when Megs and other creatures escape the Trench while the thermocline is temporarily ruptured. The Meg offered consistent silliness and occasional goofy fun, but the sequel doesn't come up with anything new. The movie spends half of the runtime in the Trench, where the team discover a secret underwater mining facility. Down there, Ben Wheatley, better known for low-key indie films such as Kill List, directs some ridiculous and almost incomprehensible action set pieces. On the surface, things are a bit more coherent, but also hopelessly stupid and predictable. Like last time, it all ends in a carnage at a tourist resort.

Boiling Point
2021
****
Director: Philip Barantini
Cast: Stephen Graham, Vinette Robinson, Alice Feetham, Hannah Walters, Malachi Kirby, Taz Skylar, Lauryn Ajufo, Daniel Larkai, Lourdes Faberes, Jason Flemyng, Ray Panthaki

The head chef of a high-end London restaurant must battle personal and professional demons, while he and his staff attempt to get through a stressful night when everything comes to a boil. Philip Barantini's relentless drama was shot in one continuous take. Its story doesn't add up to much more than 90 minutes in a pressure cooker, but the one take technique guarantees that the film is consistently gripping and entertaining. Stephen Graham and the rest of the cast are excellent. Followed by a TV mini series in 2023.

Ingrid Goes West
2017
***½
Director: Matt Spicer
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Billy Magnussen, Wyatt Russell, Pom Klementieff, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Meredith Hagner

Ingrid Thorburn is an unstable young woman who moves to Los Angeles to befriend a popular social media influencer and immerse herself in the woman's glamorous but vacuous lifestyle. Matt Spicer's enjoyable darkly comic drama is like a cross between Single White Female and The Talented Mr. Ripley, but set in the age of social media. As Ingrid's obsession spirals out of control, the film explores identity, authenticity, and the consequences of obsessive behavior. Aubrey Plaza is terrific in a more dramatic and demanding role.

Old Henry
2021
***½
Director: Potsy Ponciroli
Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Scott Haze, Gavin Lewis, Trace Adkins, Stephen Dorff, Richard Speight Jr., Max Arciniega, Brad Carter

In 1906, a widower and his teenage son run a pig farm in a remote corner of Oklahoma Territory. One day, they take in a wounded stranger with a saddlebag full of cash, who is tailed by a group of dodgy lawmen. Potsy Ponciroli's short and moody but rather conventional Western provides a fictional end to a historical character. The story is set in a small world where the men all seem to know each other by name or face, and the only teenager on screen is reliably annoying. The climactic shootout is brutal but a bit dumb.

American Fiction
2023
****
Director: Cord Jefferson
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Raymond Anthony Thomas, Adam Brody, Keith David, Okieriete Onaodowan

Thelonious "Monk" Ellison is a struggling black novelist. As a joke, he writes a trashy novel that he believes white people want to read, and it becomes an unexpected critical and commercial hit. Cord Jefferson's directorial debut is a smart, funny, and poignant satirical comedy that mocks the stereotypical depiction of the black experience. The satire is on the back burner in the second half, which concentrates more on Monk's family issues. Jeffrey Wright is terrific, and so is the rest of the cast. Jefferson's Academy Award winning script was adapted from Percival Everett's 2001 novel Erasure.

Poor Things
2023
****
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, Jerrod Carmichael, Hanna Schygulla, Suzy Bemba, Jerrod Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter, Vicki Pepperdine, Margaret Qualley

In Victorian London, an eccentric scientist Godwin Baxter resurrects a young woman using the brain of her unborn child. The childlike Bella embarks on a journey of self-discovery and learns the pleasures and horrors of being a woman. Yorgos Lanthimos' dark comedy is funny, sexually explicit, and definitely unique. Bella Baxter is a wonderful creation and Emma Stone deservedly won an Academy Award for her courageous and multi-layered lead performance. Bella's story does lose its grip a bit in the second act during the extended trip across Europe, but the film has a very satisfying conclusion. Robbie Ryan's camerawork (shallow focus, fisheye lens, and pinhole cameras) and the fantastical Oscar winning production design, costume design, makeup and hairstyling carry an air of artificiality that occasionally feels alienating. Tony McNamara scripted from Alasdair Gray's 1992 novel.

Drive-Away Dolls
2024
**½
Director: Ethan Coen
Cast: Margaret Qualley, Geraldine Viswanathan, Beanie Feldstein, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Bill Camp, Matt Damon, Joey Slotnick, C. J. Wilson, Annie Gonzalez, Josh Flitter, Miley Cyrus

Two lesbian friends pick up a drive-away car and plan a road trip from Philadelphia to Florida, with a series of stops at standout lesbian bars along the way, but they are unaware of the unexpected cargo in the boot of the car. Ethan Coen's first solo feature is a goofy road movie, which plays like a bad cover version of a Coen brothers movie. The story bares a resemblance to Fargo and No Country for Old Men, but tonally it is closer to the likes of Burn After Reading and Raising Arizona. This comedy is delightfully short, breezy, and raunchy, but I don't think I laughed once at the wacky and stupid buffoonery on screen. Some of the performances (namely, Margaret Qualley and Pedro Pascal) are awful. Coen scripted with his wife Tricia Cooke. It's all set in 1999, probably because mobile phones would render the entire plot pointless.

Certain Women
2016
***½
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cast: Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone, James Le Gros, Jared Harris, René Auberjonois, John Getz, Sara Rodier, Ashlie Atkinson, James Jordan

Kelly Reichardt's slice-of-life drama depicts the lives of four different women in Montana. These include a lawyer who is dealing with a difficult client, a woman who is building a new home with her undermining husband, and a lonely ranch hand who is becoming infatuated with a young lawyer who is teaching a night class. This quiet and understated film is based on Maile Meloy's short stories Native Sandstone, Travis, B., and Tome. The third story is the pick of the bunch and it features a lovely breakthrough performance from Lily Gladstone. However, I failed to wrap my head around the midsection about a pile of sandstone.

Julieta
2016
***½
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, Rossy de Palma, Susi Sánchez, Pilar Castro, Joaquín Notario

Julieta is about to move away from Madrid, when she receives news about her estranged daughter Antia. Through a series of flashbacks and present-day encounters, we learn Julieta's story, as she deals with guilt and grief, and attempts to reconcile with her past. Pedro Almodóvar's captivating melodrama was adapted from three short stories, Chance, Silence, and Soon, by Alice Munro. Although the film is not based on Almodóvar's original material, it bears all the hallmarks of the director's work (flashback structure, strong female characters, and vivid colour palette). The performances are great.

Dune: Part Two
2024
*****
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Dave Bautista, Christopher Walken, Léa Seydoux, Souheila Yacoub, Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem

While he plots vengeance on the people who destroyed his family, Paul Atreides learns the way of the Fremen, many of whom believe he is the prophesied messiah who will lead them to freedom and salvation. Dune: Part One was a stunning science fiction epic that managed to do justice to its difficult source material. Part Two covers the second half of the first book in Frank Herbert's Dune Chronicles. It has fewer characters to introduce and less worldbuilding to get through, which is all for the better. If the first film was an incredible cinematic spectacle, now Denis Villeneuve turns the knobs to 11. Everything looks and sounds immaculate. The performances are excellent and Paul (also known as Usul, Muad'Dib, Lisan al-Gaib, and Kwisatz Haderach) remains an incredibly complex and intriguing protagonist. Whether he is good or evil, and what his true motivations and aspirations are, remain to be seen in possible future sequels.

La sociedad de la nieve (Society of the Snow)
2023
****½
Director: J.A. Bayona
Cast: Enzo Vogrincic, Matías Recalt, Agustín Pardella, Tomas Wolf, Diego Vegezzi, Esteban Kukuriczka, Francisco Romero, Rafael Federman, Felipe González Otaño, Agustín Della Corte, Valentino Alonso

Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, carrying a rugby team from Uruguay along with their friends and family, crashed in the Andes mountains in October 1972. With extreme weather and declining food supplies, the survivors were forced to resort to drastic measures, which included cannibalism. Their harrowing survival story was previously filmed in Frank Marshall's well-made but clunky Alive (1993). J.A. Bayona's version has more or less the same exact story structure, but the Spanish language makes everything more authentic and Bayona's directorial skills turn the events into a supremely gripping and realistic drama. The cast, who are mostly unknown actors from Uruguay and Argentina, are great. Based on Pablo Vierci's 2009 book.

Unbroken
2014
***
Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast: Jack O'Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund, Finn Wittrock, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway, Spencer Lofranco, Travis Jeffery, Jordan Patrick Smith, John Magaro

Before WW2, Louis Zamperini was a promising athlete who ran in the Berlin Olympics. A few years into the war, he was a bombardier who survived a plane crash at sea, only to be sent to a POW camp in Japan. This inspirational true story about perseverance and determination is based on Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, and it took four screenwriters (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson ) to adapt it to the screen. Angelina Jolie's harrowing drama is beautifully staged and well-acted, but overlong and somewhat monotonous. It becomes clear that Zamperini endured a tremendous amount of physical pain and suffering, but we never get inside his head to understand what he was thinking or how he managed to survived his ordeal. The film is divided into three distinctive sections, which could be described as Chariots of Fire, Life of Pi, and The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Maps to the Stars
2014
***½
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Evan Bird, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Kiara Glasco, Jonathan Watton

A mysterious burn-scarred young woman secures a job as a PA to a fading actress, who is desperate to star in remake of a film which made her late mother famous. At the same time, a 13-year-old star of a hit movie is struggling with the sequel, his addiction, and his controlling parents. David Cronenberg's creepy satirical drama takes a scathing look at the dark underbelly of Hollywood. The screenplay by Bruce Wagner, who has turned this topic into a career, deals with the desires, obsessions, and insecurities of the inbred Hollywood elite, and it reveals the ugly truth behind the glamorous facade. There really isn't a single likeable character on screen, but this is a funny and deliciously nasty film with some first class performances (Moore, Wasikowska and Bird).

360
2011
*
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Cast: Lucia Siposová, Gabriela Marcinkova, Johannes Krisch, Jude Law, Moritz Bleibtreu, Jamel Debbouze, Dinara Drukarova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, Rachel Weisz, Juliano Cazarré, Maria Flor, Ben Foster, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Anthony Hopkins, Mark Ivanir

Multi-narrative films can provide brilliantly complex and creative storytelling or deliver disjointed and fragmented narratives that fail to hold my attention. For every Magnolia and Crash, you may get something like Babel and Love Actually. This tapestry of interconnected lives deals with love, infidelity, and chance encounters, and its events unfold in Vienna, Paris, London, Berlin, and Colorado. Although there is plenty of talent behind and in front of the camera, this rancid and incredibly boring collection doesn't include a single character or story strand that is worth my while. I learned nothing about these people through their accidental encounters, especially as many of their stories seem to end after the first act. Peter Morgan's dismal script is loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler's 1897 play Reigen.

BlackBerry
2023
***
Director: Matt Johnson
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Matt Johnson, Rich Sommer, Michael Ironside, Martin Donovan, Michelle Giroux, SungWon Cho, Mark Critch, Saul Rubinek, Cary Elwes

In 1996, nerdy Research in Motion owners Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin pitch their groundbreaking new cell phone that can send emails. The product doesn't take off until the ruthless new CEO Jim Balsillie takes over the business side. Following Air, Dumb Money, and Tetris, this is at least the fourth film released in 2023 that chronicles a real-life business endeavour from the recent past. This modest Canadian comedy covers the creation of the BlackBerry mobile phone, which was the hottest item for a brief moment until it crashed and burned when iPhone reshaped the industry. The story is interesting and intermittently funny, but the pacing is either too fast or too slow. The three main characters have no personality outside their professional roles, and perhaps that is why I struggled to care about any of them. The screenplay by Matthew Miller and Matt Johnson, who also directs and co-stars, is loosely based on Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff.

Oma maa (Land of Hope)
2018
***
Director: Markku Pölönen
Cast: Oona Airola, Konsta Laakso, Helmi Linnosmaa, Antti Virmavirta, Marjaana Maijala, Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Arto Heikkilä, Marja Packalén, Mika Nuojua, Henri Tuominen, Sanna-Kaisa Palo, Olli Riipinen, Elina Saarela

At the end of World War 2, Anni falls in love with Veikko, a wounded veteran, and decides to leave her cushy life behind. The newlywed couple plan to clear a farm in a remote forest plot in Eastern Finland, but is love enough to carry them through the hardship? After a 9-year hiatus, Markku Pölönen returns to what he is best known for. This is another charming and well-acted romantic drama drenched in nostalgia. Although the script by Pölönen and Antti Heikkinen is quite predictable, their story is a moving tribute to love, perseverance, and hard labour.

Maestro
2023
***
Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bradley Cooper, Matt Bomer, Vincenzo Amato, Greg Hildreth, Michael Urie, Brian Klugman, Nick Blaemire, Mallory Portnoy, Sarah Silverman, Yasen Peyankov, Zachary Booth, Miriam Shor

Biographical dramas often struggle to deliver a satisfying balance between their subjects' personal and professional lives. This biopic of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), the American composer and conductor best known for composing West Side Story, concentrates on Bernstein's marriage to Felicia Montealegre, which was strained throughout the years by his many indiscretions with men and women. After two hours, I've learned that Bernstein is a joyful and playful person, but not much else. I still don't know why he is such an important figure in music, or what he's like as a father, as a friend, as a husband, or as a philanderer. The story ultimately revolves around sex, but it all takes place off screen. Despite the flaws in the script, Bradley Cooper's second film behind the camera is an impressively directed and visually stunning drama, which is anchored by two commanding and heavily made-up performances.

Anatomie d'une chute (Anatomy of a Fall)
2023
****½
Director: Justine Triet
Cast: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado-Graner, Antoine Reinartz, Samuel Theis, Jehnny Beth, Saadia Bentaieb, Camille Rutherford, Anne Rotger, Sophie Fillières

When a man in Grenoble falls to his death under mysterious circumstances, his German wife is tried for murder and the couple's blind 11-year-old son is recruited as a witness. On the surface, Justine Triet's wonderfully ambiguous film is a conventional court drama. However, scratch the surface and you will find a brutal dissection of a multicultural marriage, with its joys, hopes, disappointments, resentments, and compromises. The brilliant Academy Award winning script by Triet and Arthur Harari illustrates that anyone will look like a monster when you expose all of their intimate and painful details without context. The performances are excellent throughout, but Sandra Hüller, Milo Machado-Graner, and Messi the dog are the standouts.

Master Gardener
2022
***
Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Quintessa Swindell, Esai Morales, Eduardo Losan, Victoria Hill, Amy Le, Erika Ashley, Jared Bankens, Matt Mercurio, Rick Cosnett

Narvel Roth is a methodical gardener who has a shady past in a neo-Nazi group. His employer and occasional lover asks him take her orphaned mixed-race grandniece on as an apprentice. Paul Schrader's quiet and meditative drama forms an unofficial trilogy with First Reformed and The Card Counter, and in terms of quality, it lands somewhere between the two. This is an interesting and well-acted film (Sigourney Weaver gives a deliciously nasty performance as the rich widow), but Schrader treads very familiar ground, until his story and characters stop making any sense in the last third.

Detachment
2011
***½
Director: Tony Kaye
Cast: Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, William Petersen, Bryan Cranston, Tim Blake Nelson, Betty Kaye, Sami Gayle, Lucy Liu, Blythe Danner, James Caan

Henry Barthes is a high school substitute teacher who doesn't want to tie himself down to anything permanent in order to keep his personal demons at bay and to shield himself from the toxicity of the public-school system. This grim and dreary drama from Carl Lund's first time script takes a scathing look at the broken American education system, where the students are out of control and unmotivated, the teachers are prison guards rather than educators, and the parents don't care what's going on as long as their kid stays out of trouble. Tony Kaye, who destroyed his Hollywood career by disowning American History X (1998), is not familiar with the concept of subtlety. His film is gripping and believable but also overdramatic and utterly depressing. There isn't a single character who is remotely happy. Nevertheless, the cast is impressive and Adrien Brody gives a solid lead performance.

Aftersun
2022
****
Director: Charlotte Wells
Cast: Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio, Celia Rowlson-Hall, Sally Messham, Brooklyn Toulson, Spike Fearn, Harry Perdios, Ruby Thompson, Ethan James Smith, Kayleigh Coleman

Sophie reflects on a holiday trip to a Turkish resort, which she took with her father when she was 11 years old in the late 1990s. Through her grown-up eyes, the camcorder footage and her memories take on a new meaning. Charlotte Wells' directorial debut is a subtle but assured coming-of-age drama with strong autobiographical elements. Her film is a relatively plotless character study which only begins to come together in the final 30 minutes, but its conclusion didn't make a particularly strong emotional impact on me. Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio give very natural and believable performances.

Lightyear
2022
***½
Director: Angus MacLane
Cast: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Alisha Hawthorne, Angus MacLane, Bill Hader

A Star Command exploration vessel is stuck on planet T'Kani Prime until a stable hyperspace fuel can be found. Buzz Lightyear, who blames himself for the deadlock, discovers that each of his 4-minute test flights causes a 4-year time dilation. The opening caption states that the Buzz Lightyear toy Andy got for his birthday in Toy Story (1995) was based on his favourite movie, which is this. Pixar's wonderful franchise about toys that come alive when the kids are not around had one sequel too many. This spin-off animation, which is not particularly funny, doesn't really have anything to do with the franchise, except that it provides an origin story for a fictional Space Ranger who inspired the toy. This is a perfectly entertaining and visually stunning space adventure, but why was it made and for who?

Best Sellers
2021
**
Director: Lina Roessler
Cast: Michael Caine, Aubrey Plaza, Scott Speedman, Ellen Wong, Veronica Ferres, Cary Elwes

Lucy Stanbridge, the heir to a struggling publishing house, discovers that Harris Shaw, the celebrated but reclusive writer who hasn’t published anything in four decades, owes her a book and a book tour. However, the alcoholic and mean-spirited Shaw doesn't like being told what to do. Lisa Roessler's feature debut is a cringey and unfunny comedy in the first half, and a sentimental character drama in its second half. The poster seems to be from a different film altogether. Anthony Grieco's screenplay is unrealistic and mind-numbingly predictable, and while Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza try their best, their characters are poorly written. Shaw has been an obnoxious asshole for 40 years because he loved his wife so much, and the cough in the opening scene spells out that he will die at some point. Lucy, on the other hand, is supposedly a smart young woman, but she doesn't know one thing about marketing a book, running a business, or making a sensible decision.

Operation Mincemeat
2021
***
Director: John Madden
Cast: Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn, Jason Isaacs, Mark Gatiss, Hattie Morahan, Mark Bonnar, Paul Ritter, Alex Jennings

In preparation for the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily, British intelligence devises a daring plan to deceive the Nazis. They plant false documents on a corpse washed ashore, and hope that the enemy believes the invasion is taking place somewhere else. John Madden's likeable real-life WW2 drama delivers modest entertainment with a nice cast. The story is dry and workmanlike, and its only surprise is an unexpected handjob. Apart from the love triangle, Michelle Ashford's script is based on Ben Macintyre's book. The same events were previously depicted in The Man Who Never Was (1956).

West Side Story
2021
***½
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, Rachel Zegler, Brian d'Arcy James, Corey Stoll, Josh Andrés Rivera, iris menas, Ana Isabelle, Andréa Burns

While two rivalling gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, compete for control on the Upper West Side, Tony and Maria fall in love across gang lines. As their forbidden romance unfolds, deep-rooted prejudice and intolerance lead to tragic consequences. This is the second film adaptation of the 1957 stage musical, which was inspired by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The film is beautifully shot by Janusz Kaminski, wonderfully directed by Steven Spielberg, and the songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim remain iconic. However, although it's set in 1957, the 24-hour love story is laughable rather than touching. The 1961 film was a massive hit which won 10 Academy Awards. Spielberg's version flopped at the box office and the only Oscar went to Ariana DeBose for her strong performance.

The Greatest Night in Pop
2024
****
Director: Bao Nguyen
Cast:

This entertaining documentary chronicles the creation of We Are the World, the best-selling charity single for African famine relief. Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson wrote the song and on January 28, 1985, some of the biggest pop stars in America came together to record the vocals. The cameras were on throughout the recording session, and there are present day interviews with some of the artists and technicians involved. Bao Nguyen's film is at it best when it illustrates the massive logistical and psychological undertaking required to get more than 40 top artists to abandon their egos and spend a night together in the studio. At its worst, it features millionaires patting themselves on the back and not giving enough credit to Bob Geldof, who had already done the same in the UK with Do They Know It's Christmas?

Decision to Leave
2022
***½
Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Tang Wei, Park Hae-il, Lee Jung-hyun, Go Kyung-pyo, Park Yong-woo, Kim Shin-young, Jung Yi-seo, Jung Young-Sook, Yoo Seung-mok, Park Jeong-min

A married detective investigates a death of a man who fell from a mountaintop, and begins to fall in love with the man’s enigmatic widow, who may have killed her husband. Park Chan-wook's mystery about duty and desire is visually striking and inventively directed, and it features two strong performances. However, the film is long and not always credible. I also wasn't adequately swept away by the central romance to appreciate the ending.


Jennifer's Body
2009
***
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, J. K. Simmons, Amy Sedaris, Adam Brody, Kyle Gallner, Cynthia Stevenson, Chris Pratt, Carrie Genzel, Juan Riedinger

Needy and Jennifer have been inseparable since childhood, although they are like chalk and cheese. When Jennifer becomes possessed and starts feeding on the flesh of her male classmates, Needy must try and stop her best friend. Diablo Cody broke to the scene with her verbally rich screenplay for Juno, but her follow-up is a bit of a mess. This horror comedy features plenty of quotable lines, but it is smug and not nearly as clever and subversive as it thinks it is. The horror elements are formulaic and the friendship between Needy and Jennifer never feels genuine. Upon its release, the film was a critical and commercial flop, but it has gained a cult following in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

The Outfit
2022
**½
Director: Graham Moore
Cast: Mark Rylance, Zoey Deutch, Johnny Flynn, Dylan O'Brien, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Simon Russell Beale, Alan Mehdizadeh

In 1956, an English cutter runs a tailor shop in a Chicago neighbourhood controlled by an Irish mob. Things come to a head one night when one of the gangsters takes refuge in the shop with a gunshot wound to his stomach. Graham Moore, whose screenplay for The Imitation Game won an Academy Award, makes his directorial debut with this very modest two-room drama. In fact, his film is so monotonously stagy and dialogue-driven that it wouldn't make any difference if I watched it with my eyes closed. The script includes twists and turns, but not much credibility. The performances range from good (Rylance and Deutch) to bad (Flynn and O'Brien).

The Mauritanian
2021
***½
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Cast: Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Levi, Saamer Usmani, Corey Johnson, Denis Menochet, David Fynn, Walter van Dyk

In 2002, a Mauritanian man named Mohamedou Ould Slahi was arrested and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay detention camp without charges. In 2005, American defense attorney Nancy Hollander agrees to defend him, but she is dismayed that all the evidence against her client is classified. Kevin Macdonald's real-life drama, which is based on Slahi's 2015 memoir Guantanamo Diary, shows the human cost of the U.S. government's unrelenting pursuit of justice after 9/11. The film is gripping but very matter-of-fact. Tahar Rahim gives a commanding performance.

The Dressmaker
2015
**
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Cast: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook, Olivia Sprague, Sacha Horler, Caroline Goodall, James Mackay, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Bourne

In 1951, Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage returns to her hometown of Dungatar, whose inhabitants blame her for a death that occurred 25 ago. Tilly is determined to unravel the secrets of her past, while she uses her dressmaking skills to manipulate the women of the community. Australia has produced some memorably eccentric comedies, such as Muriel's Wedding (1994) and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), but this is not one of them. Jocelyn Moorhouse's film is a tonal mess. It jumps from slapstick to high drama, from revenge to unconvincing romance, and from tragic events to comical deaths. It obviously features a crossdressing policeman and some gorgeous outfits. Moorhouse and her husband P.J. Hogan scripted from Rosalie Ham's 2000 novel, which deals with hypocrisy, malice, prejudice, and small-town small-mindedness.

Beginners
2010
***
Director: Mike Mills
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Višnjić, Kai Lennox, Mary Page Keller, China Shavers, Reynaldo Pacheco, Jennifer Hasty

While Oliver attempts to overcome grief and embark on a new relationship, he looks back at his father's final years after he came out as gay at the age of 75. Mike Mills' autobiographical drama comedy is likeable and well-acted but too quaint and quirky to fully embrace. Whether it's Oliver and Anna's meet cute at a party, his illustrations about the history of sadness, or the dog whose thoughts are subtitled, I was never able to forget that I was watching a film. Christopher Plummer, who plays the late father, won an Academy Award for his warm and subtle performance.

Zombieland: Double Tap
2019
**½
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Rosario Dawson, Zoey Deutch, Luke Wilson, Avan Jogia, Thomas Middleditch

While the relationships between Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita, and Little Rock are becoming strained, the group run into other survivors and must face a new and more powerful mutant zombie. Zombieland was a disposable zombie comedy. The sequel arrives 10 years later, but it really has no reason to exist. The shtick between the old characters is getting old (Woody Harrelson really hams it up) and the new ones include a boringly one-dimensional blond bimbo, a stereotypically useless hippie, and doppelgängers for Columbus and Tallahassee.

The Zone of Interest
2023
****½
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Cast: Christian Friedel, Sandra Hüller, Ralph Herforth, Daniel Holzberg, Sascha Maaz, Freya Kreutzkam, Imogen Kogge, Johann Karthaus, Lilli Falk, Nele Ahrensmeier, Luis Noah Witte, Kalman Wilson, Stephanie Petrowitz

The commandant of Auschwitz Rudolf Höss, his wife, and five children live happy and oblivious lives in their idyllic home, which shares a wall with the concentration camp, where thousands of Jews are gassed and burned daily. Can cinema ever capture the immense scale and unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust? Some terrific films have attempted it, namely Son of Saul and Schindler's List, but Jonathan Glazer's harrowing drama never goes inside the camp. The scale of the human suffering and systemic cruelty is conveyed through Johnnie Burn's haunting Oscar winning sound design. This well-acted film is an unrelenting portrait of the banality of evil, a term coined by Hannah Arendt to explain that acts of great evil can be committed by ordinary individuals, not monsters, when they follow orders without critically assessing the moral implications of their actions. Glazer scripted from Martin Amis' 2014 novel. Academy Award winner for best international feature film.

Blue Jean
2022
***½
Director: Georgia Oakley
Cast: Rosy McEwen, Kerrie Hayes, Lucy Halliday, Lydia Page, Stacy Abalogun, Amy Booth-Steele, Aoife Kennan, Scott Turnbull, Farrah Cave, Lainey Shaw, Izzy Neish, Becky Lindsay

In 1983, Margaret Thatcher's government introduced Section 28, which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality. In the late 1980s, Jean, a closeted PE teacher at a Tyneside school in Newcastle, feels compelled to live a lie. Georgia Oakley's directorial debut sheds light on a dark period in British history. I might be tempted to ask why we must dwell on the depressing past when the present is thankfully much brighter. Nevertheless, Oakley's film tells a moving personal story and captures a grim slice of history. Rosy McEwen gives a very fine lead performance.