See How They Run
2022
***½
Director: Tom George
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, Reece Shearsmith, Harris Dickinson, David Oyelowo, Charlie Cooper, Shirley Henderson

While the 1953 London stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap plays to packed houses, an abrasive Hollywood director, who is planning an unfaithful film version, ends up murdered backstage. Tom George’s feature debut is a disposable but entertaining comedic murder mystery, which doesn’t overstay its welcome. Mark Chappell’s cleverly constructed screenplay mixes the events of the stage play, the hypothetical screenplay, and the onscreen murder case. Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan give very likeable performances as the Inspector and Constable on the case.


Die Blumen von gestern (The Bloom of Yesterday)
2016

Director: Chris Kraus
Cast: Lars Eidinger, Adèle Haenel, Jan Josef Liefers, Hannah Herzsprung, Sigrid Marquardt, Bibiane Zeller, Rolf Hoppe, Eva Löbau

Toto is a tightly wound Holocaust historian, whose own grandfather was a famed Nazi. Just when Toto is about to reach his breaking point due to work and marriage stress, he must look after a new intern, an opinionated French Jewish woman named Zazie. This chaotic German comedy deals with the Holocaust and collective guilt, but it looks like director/writer Chris Kraus made it all up as he went along. The film is certainly unpredictable, but I have no idea what the genre or tone is going to be in the next scene or what the supposed narrative glue is that holds it all together. As if that’s not enough, the characters are absolutely infuriating. Toto is a volatile hothead whose guilt runs so deep that he can’t get it up and Zazie is a classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl who goes from a sweet girl to a suicidal wreck overnight. The serendipitous epilogue is the final straw.


Last Night in Soho
2021

Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Rita Tushingham, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg, Synnøve Karlsen, Pauline McLynn

Ellie, who is frequently visited by her mother’s ghost, moves to London to study fashion, but the big city is not a welcoming place. One night, she is mysteriously transported to the Swinging Sixties into the life of aspiring singer Sandy. Midnight in Paris meets The Sixth Sense in Edgar Wright’s ambitious psychological horror movie, which is a ghost story, a murder mystery, a coming-of-age tale, a wish fulfilment fantasy, a depiction of sexism in the 1960s, and a portrayal of potential mental breakdown. It goes without saying that the resulting movie is all over the place and, once Ellie begins to experience her visions, one of the most infuriating and tedious watches I can remember. Thomasin McKenzie is annoyingly timid and aloof as Ellie (does that make it a good or a bad performance?) and Anya Taylor-Joy has very little to do as Sandy. On the plus side, the interaction between the two leading ladies is beautifully visualised and the soundtrack is filled with some nice tunes.


The Lost City
2022
***
Director: Adam Nee, Aaron Nee
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Brad Pitt, Héctor Aníbal, Thomas Forbes-Johnson, Oscar Nunez

When a smart but reclusive romance-adventure novelist is kidnapped by a nasty treasure-hunting millionaire, her book’s slow-witted cover model goes out to rescue her. This entertaining adventure comedy by the Nee brothers was heavily influenced by Romancing the Stone, the beloved 1984 classic about another lonely novelist who finds romance while trudging through the jungle with a man who couldn’t be more different than she is. The movie is funny, and it sometimes fulfils and other times subverts expectations, although there are certainly no surprises in the will-they-won’t-they stakes. Brad Pitt and Daniel Radcliffe appear in amusing supporting roles.


Avatar: The Way of Water
2022
***
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Brendan Cowell, Jemaine Clement, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss

The sky people return to colonise Pandora and capture Jake Sully, the leader of the rebellion. To protect his family and the Omaticaya clan, Jake, Neytiri, and their four children flee their home and seek refuge with the Metkayina reef people. After Avatar became the highest grossing film of all time in 2010, James Cameron announced plans for four sequels. It took 13 years to release the first one. The film’s visuals are once again immaculate. The motion capture technology is amazing and there isn’t one shot above or under water that looks fake. However, it is astounding that it took five people to outline and three people to script a story, which just retreads the original film and pretty much resets at the end, again. The bad guys who died in the original return as human/Na’vi hybrids, and somehow two of the dead characters have left offspring. Instead of the rain forest, this time we spend the second act exploring the beauty of the underwater world and hunting for amrita, a rare and expensive anti-aging agent, which has taken the role of unobtanium. The gripping final hour, with callbacks to Titanic, is a great reminder that Cameron is still one of the finest action directors in the business.


Judas and the Black Messiah
2021
**½
Director: Shaka King
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Martin Sheen, Algee Smith, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Lil Rel Howery

In the late 1960s, FBI coerces petty criminal Bill O’Neal to infiltrate the Black Panther Party chapter of Chicago and get close to its chairman Fred Hampton. Like the recent Selma and The Trial of the Chicago 7, this fact-based drama sheds light on another shameful and racist episode in American civil rights history. Shaka King’s film is interesting, if not exactly captivating, but it is let down by a muddled script and weak character work. The focus is on the two-faced O’Neil, who seems inadequately conflicted about his role. Hampton, on the other hand, talks about a revolution, but what exactly does he and the organisation he represents do apart from wearing berets and posing with guns? As for the other characters, I can barely remember their names. Although he is too old to play Hampton, Daniel Kaluuya is nevertheless a charismatic presence in his Oscar winning performance. Fight for You by H.E.R. also earned an Academy Award for best original song.


Amsterdam
2022
***
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy, Zoe Saldaña, Mike Myers, Michael Shannon, Timothy Olyphant, Andrea Riseborough, Taylor Swift, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alessandro Nivola, Rami Malek, Robert De Niro

A doctor, a lawyer, and a nurse, who became good friends in World War 1, reunite 15 years later in New York City, where they attempt to figure out the conspiracy behind the murder of a retired general. David O. Russell’s films are sometimes difficult to slot into a pre-defined category. This sympathetic but long and uneven period piece is a mix of slapstick comedy, war drama, and political thriller. This haphazard approach means that the end result is fresh, unpredictable, and tonally all over the place. The screenplay is partly inspired by a real-life conspiracy in 1933. The cast is amazing, and Christian Bale gives an unusually goofy and relaxed performance as Dr. Burt Berendsen.


Klaus
2019
***
Director: Sergio Pablos
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, J. K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, Neda Margrethe Labba, Sergio Pablos, Norm Macdonald, Joan Cusack

Jesper is a spoilt rich kid who must set up a postal service on a remote island of Smeerensburg, or risk losing his inheritance. The west of the island is divided between two feuding clans, and a lonely woodsman resides in the eastern parts. After a bumpy and somewhat boring start (Jesper is exhausting but not funny), this 2D animation gets its act together and ends up telling a moving but surprisingly materialistic origin story of the American version of Santa Claus and Christmas. The film’s slogan is “A true act of goodwill always sparks another“, but maybe it should actually be “When kids get stuff, everyone is happy“.


Till Death
2020
*
Director: S.K. Dale
Cast: Megan Fox, Eoin Macken, Callan Mulvey, Jack Roth, Aml Ameen

On their wedding anniversary, Mark and Emma drive to a secluded lake house, where Mark handcuffs himself to his estranged wife, and shoot himself in the head. Gerald’s Game, which was based on a Stephen King novel, had a somewhat similar premise, but it cannot be mentioned in the same breath with this contrived thriller, which gets stupider by the minute. The overelaborate revenge plot is ridiculous, the characters are dumber than a bag of hammers, and the winter setting doesn’t look real for one second. Oh, and Megan Fox cannot act.


Concussion
2015
**½
Director: Peter Landesman
Cast: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Albert Brooks

When a Nigerian-born forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu concludes that a number of former football players died as a result of repeated head trauma during their playing careers, the news does not go down well with the National Football League. Peter Landesman’s fact-based drama is based on Game Brain, a 2009 GQ article by Jeanne Marie Laskas. The topic is compelling and eye-opening, but the resulting film is long and laborious. The side plot tells us how Dr. Omalu met his wife, but the couple seem to spend all their time talking about the case.


Neighbors
2014
*
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Carla Gallo, Jerrod Carmichael, Craig Roberts, Lisa Kudrow

Mac, Kelly, and their baby girl Stella live in a quiet neighbourhood, but one day Delta Psi Beta, a fraternity known for excessive partying, moves next door. This is a fruitful premise, but this painfully unfunny and predictable comedy doesn’t come up with anything inventive, just the usual drink, drug and sex-related gags. It’s superficially about growing up, but Mac and Kelly would rather just party along if it wasn’t for the kid. Zac Efron may be a man of many talents, but comedy is not one of them. Followed by Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016).


Straight Outta Compton
2015
****
Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, Marlon Yates Jr., R. Marcos Taylor, Lakeith Stanfield, Alexandra Shipp, Corey Reynolds, Tate Ellington

In the late 1980s, a handful of young and angry black men in Compton California form N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitudes), a controversial and influential rap group. This supremely entertaining biographical drama focuses on Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube and their respective relationships with the group’s manager Jerry Heller. The film offers a terrific mix of drama and comedy, and it paints a believable portrait of the lack of options a young black man has when he grows up in a tough neighbourhood, much like Boyz N’ the Hood, which incidentally starred Ice Cube. In addition, the story covers the highs and lows of show business: the excitement of creative work and live performances, the adoration by fans, and the inevitable aftermath of living a life of excess. The young cast is very imprressive.


The Stranger
2022
***
Director: Thomas M. Wright
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Jada Alberts, Cormac Wright, Steve Mouzakis, Matthew Sunderland, Fletcher Humphrys, Alan Dukes, Ewen Leslie, Gary Waddell

Henry Teague meets a man on the bus who may have work for him in a shady criminal organisation. In reality, the man is an undercover police officer and Teague is the main suspect in a kidnapping and killing of a 13-year-old boy. Thomas M. Wright’s moody crime drama was inspired by The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer by Kate Kyriacou, which chronicles a 2003 murder case in Australia. The film is atmospheric but slow-paced, and the good but extremely understated performances by Joel Edgerton and Sean Harris do not help.


Driven
2018
***
Director: Nick Hamm
Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Lee Pace, Judy Greer, Isabel Arraiza, Michael Cudlitz, Erin Moriarty, Iddo Goldberg, Tara Summers, Justin Bartha, Corey Stoll

In the early 1980s, Jim Hoffman, a drug smuggling pilot, is forced to become an informant for the FBI. His new next door neighbour turns out to be John DeLorean, who is running out of legal funding for his ambitious car project. This enjoyable but forgettable fact-based caper comedy depicts the peculiar circumstances which brought these real-life characters together for a brief moment, which is now just a footnote in history. Jason Sudeikis and Lee Pace give strong but contrasting performances.


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
2022
***½
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Martin Freeman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Angela Bassett

Following the death of T’Challa, Wakanda is under pressure to share their resources. When the CIA attempts to find vibranium deposits in the ocean, they incur the wrath of Talokan, an underwater kingdom ruled by Namor. Black Panther was not the most memorable MCU release, but it became a major milestone for black culture. After Chadwick Boseman’s untimely death, the sequel must take the story forward without its hero, as T’Challa’s baby sister Shuri takes the centre stage. The good news is that this is a perfectly entertaining (but needlessly long) superhero movie and a moving tribute to Boseman.


Metsäjätti (Forest Giant)
2020
**½
Director: Ville Jankeri
Cast: Jussi Vatanen, Hannes Suominen, Sara Soulié, Anu Sinisalo, Tommi Korpela, Iikka Forss, Anna-Riikka Rajanen, Tomi Alatalo, Kuura Rossi

To secure a promotion at the forest company, Pasi is sent to his home town to improve the productivity at the local plywood mill, which could affect the employment of his childhood friends. This sympathetic Finnish drama paints a cynical but very believable picture of the modern corporate world, where no profit is high enough. However, the film abandons realism somewhere along the way and the Hollywood ending feels compelled to solve all personal and professional conflicts. Based on Miika Nousiainen’s 2011 novel.


Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
2022
***½
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista

A tech billionaire hosts a murder mystery game on his private island in Greece for a group of friends and business associates. Master detective Benoit Blanc is neither, but he also received an invitation. Knives Out was a disposable but entertaining Agatha Christie pastiche, which was loved by critics and audience. The first of the planned sequels is another enjoyable and delightfully funny murder mystery, which offers plenty of twists and a lovely cast.


Booksmart
2019
***
Director: Olivia Wilde
Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis, Mason Gooding, Diana Silvers, Victoria Ruesga

Molly and Amy are best friends and studious high school seniors. The day before graduation, they realise that they should have stressed less and partied more. Olivia Wilde’s feature debut is a likeable but frustratingly predictable high school comedy, which features two strong central performances. There is a long history of raunchy comedies about boys behaving badly. So, are the high school girls somehow different? Not really, Molly and Amy just want to take some drugs, watch porn, and have sex. Ultimately this is not much more than a female version of Superbad.


Everything Everywhere All at Once
2022
****½
Director: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis

Just as her family’s laundromat business, her marriage, and her relationship with her daughter are in tatters, Chinese American immigrant Evelyn Wang learns that each of her life choices creates a parallel universe. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s second feature is a brilliantly inventive mixture of wacky comedy, kick-ass action, mindbending science fiction, and moving family drama. The relentless pace, genre hopping, movie references, and visual fireworks can get exhausting at times, but the complicated multiverse is ultimately just a tool for Evelyn to discover the best version of herself. Michelle Yeoh is excellent in the lead.


The Good Nurse
2022
****
Director: Tobias Lindholm
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kim Dickens, Noah Emmerich, Malik Yoba, Maria Dizzia

Amy is a single mother with a heart condition who works as an ICU nurse at a New Jersey hospital. When one of her patients unexpectedly dies, the detectives on the case set their sights on her new colleague, Charles. This harrowing real-life story is based on The Good Nurse: A True Story of Medicine, Madness, and Murder by Charles Graeber. The screenplay by Krysty Wilson-Cairns distills this scenario into a compelling no-nonsense thriller, which manages to avoid the usual genre tropes. Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne both give stellar performances.


The Northman
2022
***
Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Ethan Hawke, Björk, Willem Dafoe

I will avenge you, Father. I will save you, Mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir.” These are the often repeated words of Prince Amleth, who witnesses his bastard uncle Fjölnir kill his father and abduct his mother. The Witch and The Lighthouse were highly original and unusual period films. In his third feature, Robert Eggers turns Norse mythology into a Viking action epic. The resulting film is entertaining, well-acted, visually stunning, but a bit silly, to be honest.


Nacho Libre
2006
*
Director: Jared Hess
Cast: Jack Black, Troy Gentile, Ana de la Reguera, Héctor Jiménez, Silver King, Carla Jimenez, Richard Montoya, Enrique Muñoz, Peter Stormare

Ignacio is a mild-mannered cook in a Mexican monastery, who dreams of becoming a luchador (freestyle wrestler) in order to feed the orphans and impress the beautiful Sister Encarnación. Despite being unwatchable, Jared Hess’ feature debut Napoleon Dynamite (2004) became a sleeper hit. His follow-up didn’t make me laugh once, but at least I was able to finish it. This comedy offers the same kind of whimsical humour, which only triggered cringe and second-hand embarrassment. Jack Black is not the only one to give a terrible performance.


Ambulance
2022
***
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eiza González, Garret Dillahunt, Keir O’Donnell, Jackson White, Olivia Stambouliah, Moses Ingram, Colin Woodell, Cedric Sanders, A Martinez

Will is forced to ask money from his adoptive criminal brother Danny, who instead enlists him in a bank robbery. When the heist goes horribly wrong, the brothers end up carjacking an ambulance as their getaway vehicle. This remake of a 2005 Danish original is stupid and ridiculous, but probably the most entertaining directorial work in Michael Bay’s career. The movie offers non-stop action, but as usual, it’s at least 30 minutes too long. Bay’s restless and exhausting visual style certainly doesn’t make it feel any shorter. To call the camerawork hyperkinetic is a gross understatement. Jake Gyllenhaal’s shouty performance seems to pay homage to Nicolas Cage in his heyday.


Don’t Worry Darling
2022
**½
Director: Olivia Wilde
Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Chris Pine, Sydney Chandler, Nick Kroll, Asif Ali, Kate Berlant, Timothy Simmons

Alice and her husband Jack live in the idyllic desert suburb of Victory in what appears to be the 1950s. While Jack goes out every day to his mysterious job, Alice tends to their home but gradually begins to suspect that everything is not as it seems. A seemingly perfect American suburb hiding dark secrets is a familiar theme from various films, such as Blue Velvet, Revolutionary Road, The Truman Show, and American Beauty. It is clear from the start that this stylish feminist thriller has a twist up its sleeve, but when the reveal comes, everything falls apart and the end titles roll before anything is explained properly. Nevertheless, Florence Pugh gives another terrific performance, which is in stark contrast to Harry Styles, who clearly is not an actor. The scene in which Styles dances for five minutes on stage is baffling and pointless.


Black Adam
2022

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Aldis Hodge, Noah Centineo, Sarah Shahi, Marwan Kenzari, Quintessa Swindell, Pierce Brosnan, Bodhi Sabongui

As the good guys and the bad guys attempt to locate the Crown of Sabbac, an object of great power, in the modern day Kahndaq, they reawaken Teth-Adam, a former slave with the powers of Shazam!. The US government sends out Justice Society to deal with the situation. The 11th release in the DC Extended Universe is not able to revive this consistently underwhelming superhero franchise. Zack Snyder is no longer in charge, but this looks and feels like many of the previous movies in the series. The runtime is almost entirely dedicated to noisy, weightless, and stakeless CGI destruction. The script, if there is one, is inept and the characters are barely sketched. The main villain is forgettable and the Justice Society features four superheroes with impressive powers but zero personality. In fact, Hawkman, Atom Smasher, Cyclone, and Doctor Fate are just second rate versions of the well-established Marvel characters Falcon, Ant-Man, Storm, and Doctor Strange, respectively. Dwayne Johnson, usually such a charismatic screen presence, is a dull shadow of himself in this one.


Violent Night
2022
***
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Cast: David Harbour, John Leguizamo, Alex Hassell, Alexis Louder, Edi Patterson, Cam Gigandet, Leah Brady, Beverly D’Angelo

While three generations of the wealthy Lighthouse family gather for Christmas, a gang of criminals take them hostage in order to break into the mansion’s vault. The only person who can save the family is the drunken and disillusioned Santa Clause. This seasonal action comedy throws together a clever and extremely violent mix of Die Hard, Home Alone, and Bad Santa, and it delivers decent entertainment, but the script is crying out for some snappy one-liners and a more memorable villain. The movie aspires to be subversive, but the ultimate message is that we should all believe in the spirit of Christmas.


Death on the Nile
2022
**½
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Kenneth Branagh, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, Letitia Wright

In 1937, Hercule Poirot joins a luxurious cruise down the Nile with a group of duplicitous people who have gathered to celebrate the wedding of a wealthy heiress. Like the title suggests, one of the passengers is murdered. Kenneth Branagh’s second Agatha Christie adaptation offers marginal improvement on Murder on the Orient Express. This is a good-looking but extremely mechanical murder mystery, which explains me the twists and turns rather than make me feel like I’m immersed in the story. As it’s 2022, the script predictably adds racial and sexual diversity to the characters, even if it doesn’t fit in the historical context. As if the film is not long enough, Branagh kicks off with a 10-minute origin story for Poirot’s moustache.


Minari
2020
***½
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton

In the early 1980s, a Korean immigrant couple and their two children move to Arkansas to farm a piece of land. The economic hardship and various health issues in the family begin to take their toll on the parents and their marriage. Lee Isaac Chung’s semiautobiographical drama is subtle, charming, and refreshingly free of clichés, even if it doesn’t add up to anything earth-shattering. Youn Yuh-jung, who plays the grandmother, won an Academy Award for her warm performance.


Fresh
2022
**½
Director: Mimi Cave
Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jonica T. Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon, Andrea Bang, Dayo Okeniyi, Brett Dier

Noa is a young woman who is frustrated with the dating scene. One day she meets Mr. Seemingly Right in a grocery store, but he is not the man he appears to be. Structurally Mimi Cave’s directorial debut is bold like Takeshi Miike’s Audition. It starts as a cute and sweet romantic comedy, but after a 30-minute cold open, it turns into something completely different. Apart from the cleverly constructed script (by Lauryn Kahn), good performances, and tasty twist, this turns out to be a formulaic and predictable thriller.


Cruella
2021
***½
Director: Graig Gillespie
Cast: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mark Strong, Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, Ziggy Gardner, Joseph MacDonald

In the early 1970s, orphaned Estella is a swindler who dreams of working in fashion. She eventually catches her break and is hired by the Baroness, a famous designer who may have been behind Estella’s mother death. Cruella de Vil, the famously nasty villain of 101 Dalmatians, gets her origin story, and it’s not at all what I expected. This is a very long but entertaining and wonderfully designed movie, although it doesn’t really explain how this resourceful and likeable young woman becomes a woman wants to turns dogs into a coat. There are two strong performances: Emma Stone is commanding as Estella/Cruella and Emma Thompson is hilarious as the cocky Baroness. The lavish costumes earned an Academy Award.


Moonfall
2022
**
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Peña, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Donald Sutherland

10 years after their Space Shuttle mission went mysteriously wrong, two former astronauts team up with an amateur scientist when the Moon leaves its orbit and heads towards Earth. While they are saving the planet, their family members cannot decide if they should run for their lives or stop and view the spectacle. Roland Emmerich has become known for his disaster and science fiction spectacles, which are often dumb and sometimes entertaining, and now he attempts to combine these two genres into one movie. The story starts with scenes of destruction, which are reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. The second half, on the other hand, is closer to Stargate and Independence Day. On the whole, this is a weird, occasionally confusing, and frequently stupid mishmash, which doesn’t really work. That explains why the movie was such a massive box office flop.


Ghostbusters: Afterlife
2021
***½
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, Paul Rudd, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver

After one of the legendary Ghostbusters dies alone, his estranged daughter and her two kids inherit his farm in Oklahoma, and learn the reason why the (grand)father left New York City and became a hermit. After two popular but mediocre classics, Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989), and a forgettable female reboot, my expectations were not high for another ghostbusting movie, but, lo and behold, this is a funny and entertaining science fiction comedy with nicely drawn characters. However, there is no escaping that if you have seen any of the previous three, the script does not offer any surprises. The 1980s cast appeared in different roles in the 2016 movie, but now they get to bring back their original characters.


Spencer
2021
**½
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Timothy Spall, Jack Farthing, Sean Harris, Sally Hawkins, Freddie Spry, Jack Nielen, Stella Gonet, Richard Sammel

While the British royal family gather together to spend Christmas in 1991, the mentally fragile Princess Diana attempts to deal with her life in the public eye and the imminent collapse of her marriage. Pablo Larraín’s Jackie was an unconventional but dull portrait of Jackie Onassis, and I could use the same words to describe this psychological drama about the Princess of Wales. This is not a traditional biopic (neither was Diana), but a compelling portrayal of a woman having a nervous breakdown, but I’m not sure why that woman needs to be Diana. Nevertheless, Kristen Stewart gives a very fine lead performance. Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack is fitting but annoying as hell.


Benedetta
2021
***½
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphné Patakia, Lambert Wilson, Olivier Rabourdin, Louise Chevillotte, Hervé Pierre, Clotilde Courau

In 17th-century Italy, nun Benedetta begins to experience mystical and physically devastating visions of Jesus. At the same time, she is sexually attracted to Bartolomea, a young and abused peasant woman who takes refuge in the convent. Paul Verhoeven is no stranger to courting controversy, so a story about a lesbian nun sounds like right up his alley. However, his fact-based story turns out to be an intriguing historical drama and compelling character portrait, which doesn’t take a stand on whether Benedetta is a true mystic or just a con artist. Based on Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown.


Only the Brave
2017
****
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, Andie MacDowell, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Alex Russell, Dylan Kenin, Scott Foxx, Ryan Busch

Eric Marsh is superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite crew of wildland firefighters. Eric and his troubled young recruit Brendan are not the only members of the crew who struggle to balance their dangerous and all-encompassing work with their family lives. Joseph Kosinski blends real life events, good old-fashioned storytelling, great character work, strong performances, and seamless special effects into a gripping and moving 2-hour drama. Based on the GQ article No Exit by Sean Flynn.