The Batman
2022
**½
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell

It’s only 10 years since Christian Bale wrapped up the Dark Knight trilogy and 5 years since Ben Affleck last played the Caped Crusader in Justice League. Both Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck are rumoured to play the character in the upcoming DC Extended Universe releases. And let’s not forget that young Bruce Wayne also featured in Joker. Now Robert Pattinson puts on the batsuit for yet another Batman franchise, which is not connected to anything listed above. This stylish and assured but insanely long comic book movie fails to answer why the world needs another version of Batman? Once again, Bruce Wayne attempts to come to terms with the assassination of his parents, while a mysterious criminal known as the Riddler is eliminating the corrupt officials of rain-drenched Gotham City. Matt Reeves’ epic is even darker than Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, at least visually; I can remember just one scene shot in daylight.


The Counselor
2013

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez, Natalie Dormer

An unnamed lawyer hopes to score big by taking part in a drug deal, although everyone tells him that the Mexican cartel shows no mercy should things go wrong. And things go wrong. Cormac McCarthy’s novels have been turned into films, which range from awful (All the Pretty Horses) to brilliant (The Road). Ridley Scott’s adaptation of McCarthy’s first original screenplay lands firmly in the first category. It tells an unoriginal story about uninteresting characters, who cite pretentious and over-dramatic dialogue through some bizarre scenes which seem to exist only to signpost upcoming events.


You Dont’k Know Jack
2010
***½
Director: Barry Levinson
Cast: Al Pacino, Danny Huston, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman, Brenda Vaccaro, James Urbaniak, Eric Lange, Richard E. Council, Cotter Smith

Dr. Jack Kevorkian (1928-2011) was an advocate for euthanasia, who earned the nickname Dr. Death. In the 1990s, he ended up in legal trouble after carrying out numerous assisted suicides on terminally ill patients. This compelling but obviously one-sided autobiographical drama is based on Between the Dying and the Dead by Neal Nicol and Harry Wylie. The story concentrates on a few years in Kevorkian’s life, and the film is all the better for it. Al Pacino gives a wonderful and unusually understated performance.


Battle of the Sexes
2017
***
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Eric Christian Olsen, Elisabeth Shue

In the early 1970s, Billie Jean King fights to win respect and fair pay for female tennis players. A gambling-addicted former pro Bobby Riggs playfully challenges her to an exhibition match to prove that even an out-of-shape 55-year-old man can beat the best female player in the world. The tongue of Bobby Riggs, as played by Steve Carell, is firmly in the cheek, so it feels odd that this easily digestible but formulaic biopic attempts to turn a silly show business moment into a great triumph for feminism. As for Billie Jean’s personal life, Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay takes great liberties with the time frame and views the gay rights of the 1970s through 21st century eyes.


Arctic
2018
***½
Director: Joe Penna
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir, Tintrinai Thikhasuk

A man has crashed his plane somewhere in the Arctic. Just when he’s about to reach the end of his tether, he must also take care of an injured and unconscious rescue helicopter pilot. Joe Penna’s directorial debut is a gripping and believable survival story. Mads Mikkelsen is put through a grinder in a physically challenging role. The brutally hostile environment is the second protagonist.


Cry Macho
2021

Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Dwight Yoakam, Eduardo Minett, Natalia Traven, Fernanda Urrejola, Horacio Garcia Rojas

A retired rodeo star Mike Milo agrees to travel to Mexico City to bring back his ex-boss’ son Rafo from the boy’s unstable mother. Who better for this treacherous 2,000+ km round trip than a frail old man? N. Richard Nash’s story started life as a screenplay in the 1970s, which he then reworked into a novel, and now it ends up on the screen. I’m tempted to ask what the was fuss about. This is an utterly unremarkable and drama-free story with ridiculous characters. Mike is the great white saviour who can kick bandito ass, comfort lonely Mexican ladies, heal animals, break horses, and fix cars. In The Mule, Clint managed to have not one but two threesomes, and here at the age of 91, he continues to be irresistible to women not even half his age. My guess is that this role was written for a much younger actor. Rafo, on the other hand, is a friendly and empathetic 13-year-old, despite being neglected by both of his parents. The story is set in 1980, probably so we don’t need to think about mobile phones or border-crossing documents.


The French Dispatch
2021

Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Christoph Waltz, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston

The final issue of The French Dispatch, a fictional magazine in the vein of The New Yorker, features three stories set in a French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. The Concrete Masterpiece is about a brilliant artist who is in prison for murder, Revisions to a Manifesto is about unusual student protests, and The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner is about a chef/police officer who solves a kidnapping. I have gradually fallen out of love with Wes Anderson. While his early works like Rushmore (1998) offered a nice story, well-drawn characters, and inventive visuals, his recent films like The Grand Budapest Hotel offer infuriating and beautiful-looking nothingness, where a famous actor with a twirly moustache and funny name passes as a character. It feels like Anderson squeezed a 400-page screenplay into 108 minutes for this collection of uninteresting vignettes. The visual overkill and non-stop narration certainly kept me busy, but there wasn’t one moment when I felt invested in these people. The incredible cast fetures just about every white actor you can think of, and Jeffrey Wright.


News of the World
2020
***
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon, Mare Winningham, Elizabeth Marvel, Fred Hechinger, Bill Camp

Following the Civil War, Captain Kidd, who ekes out a living reading newspaper stories to the people of Texas, agrees to bring a young white girl, who was kidnapped by Kiowa, to her aunt and uncle. This adaptation of a 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles delivers a combination of Western and odd-couple road movie. The story is not terribly original and its approach to some of the themes (racism and fake news) feels a bit too contemporary. However, this is a perfectly entertaining 2-hour drama. Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel have some nice interplay.


Elle
2016
****
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, Virginie Efira, Judith Magre, Christian Berkel, Jonas Bloquet, Alice Isaaz, Vimala Pons, Arthur Mazet, Raphaël Lenglet, Lucas Prisor

Michèle Leblanc is a divorcée, a ruthless CEO of a gaming company, and the daughter of a famed mass murderer. One day, she is raped and assaulted in her Paris apartment, but her reaction to the ordeal is not what you would expect. Paul Verhoeven’s grown-up drama is a breath of fresh air. From the first scene onwards, it is unclear where the unsettling story is heading. The characters are all wonderfully drawn and portrayed, but Isabelle Huppert as Michèle stands out with her wonderfully layered performance. David Birke scripted from Philippe Djian’s novel Oh….


The Banker
2020
***
Director: George Nolfi
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Nicholas Hoult, Nia Long, Jessie T. Usher, Samuel L. Jackson, Taylor Black, Michael Harney, Colm Meaney, Paul Ben-Victor, Scott Daniel Johnson

To circumvent racism in 1950s America, two black businessmen hire a white man to act as the front of their company. They discover that buying real estate in Los Angeles is a walk in the park compared to buying a small bank in Texas. This fact-based drama provides an interesting and little known slice of Black American history. The story of Bernard Garrett and Joe Morris is predictably shocking and surprisingly funny, but also somewhat formulaic and not always terribly exciting. Anthony Mackie (in an unusual leading role), Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult give commanding performances.


The King’s Man
2021
***
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou, Charles Dance

As the Great War is about to break out, Duke of Oxford, who runs a secret network of spies, attempts to protect his only son, but he is up against a mysterious Scottish nemesis who manipulates the events of the war in order to undermine Britain. The prequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service and Kingsman: The Golden Circle mixes fact and fiction to tell an origin story of the Kingsman organisation. This enjoyable but disposable movie is a bit more grown-up and a bit less action-packed that the first two releases. Tom Hollander gives an amusing triple performance as King George, Kaiser Wilhelm, and Tsar Nicholas.


Molly’s Game
2017
**½
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp

For his directorial debut, Aaron Sorkin has adapted the memoirs of Molly Bloom, who transformed herself from an Olympic-level skier to an organiser of high-stakes underground poker games. Sorkin’s long and formulaic drama provides passable entertainment, but he fails to convince me why I should feel sorry for a young woman chasing quick riches, when she inevitably receives her comeuppance.


The Laundromat
2019
**½
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, Robert Patrick, David Schwimmer, Rosalind Chao, Sharon Stone, James Cromwell,

This dark comedy tells three separate personal stories that centre around the actions of Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that provided dubious offshore financial services until the company was exposed by the Panama Papers. After the likes of Ocean’s Eleven, Out of Sight, and Logan Lucky, Steven Soderbergh doesn’t really need to leave his comfort zone for this caper story. The movie is entertainingly informative, but the three story strands do not have equal pull. Just when I got invested in one set of characters, I was introduced to another set of characters. Scott Z. Burns scripted from Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Jake Bernstein.


The Last Duel
2021
***½
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck, Harriet Walter, Alex Lawther, Serena Kennedy, Marton Csokas, Željko Ivanek

When his wife Marguerite accuses Jacques Le Gris of rape, French knight Jean de Carrouges is compelled to challenge his old friend to a duel to the death. However, if he loses the fight, Marguerite will be burned at the stake for perjury. This fact-based historical drama is set in 14th century France. The screenplay by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon is based on Eric Jager’s book The Last Duel: A True Story of Trial by Combat in Medieval France, and it tells the same story from three different perspectives, like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon. With this structure, the film is inevitably long, but the story remains captivating throughout, thanks to Ridley Scott’s safe pair of hands. The central performances are strong.


The Mule
2018
**½
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, Andy García

Earl Stone has spent his life working at the expense of his family. When Internet destroys his flower business, this 80-something becomes a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. Calling a story about a old man who has nothing to lose a drama is a stretch, but this is a likeable but forgettable (road) movie. The 88-year-old Clint Eastwood is the star here. Everyone seems to like the chatty and affable Earl, no matter how grumpy, insufferable or racist he is. Earl is a believable hero, but many of the supporting characters are poorly or barely written. Based on The New York Times article The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule by Sam Dolnick.


Zimna wojna (Cold War)
2018
**
Director: Paweł Pawlikowski
Cast: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Cédric Kahn, Jeanne Balibar

After WW2 in Poland, music director Wiktor meets a young singer named Zula. For the next 15 years, we follow their turbulent relationship in Berlin, Yugoslavia, Paris, and back in Poland. Pawel Pawlikowski’s bafflingly overpraised black and white drama was inspired by the lives of his parents. This is apparently a love story, but the cramped 4:3 aspect ratio, jumpy narrative, sketchy writing, and deadpan performances left me completely uninvested in the characters and their motivations. There are some nice musical numbers.


Swan Song
2021
***
Director: Benjamin Cleary
Cast: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Awkwafina, Glenn Close, Adam Beach

Sometime in the future, the terminally ill Cameron Turner agrees to secure his family’s future by having himself cloned without their knowledge, but can he really go through with the procedure? Mahershala Ali gives another strong (dual) performance in this melancholic, atmospheric and beautifully designed scifi character drama. Although the premise is intriguing, in practice this is an episode of Black Mirror stretched over two hours.


Dark Waters
2019
***
Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, Bill Pullman, William Jackson Harper, Louisa Krause

After a number of mysterious animal deaths, corporate defense attorney Robert Bilott is compelled to change sides and take on chemical giant Du Pont for poisoning the local waters in Parkersburg, West Virginia. This enjoyable but unspectacular drama about a real-life lawsuit against an industrial chemical polluter follows in the footsteps of A Civil Action and Erin Brockovich. Although the film doesn’t offer many surprises, it spends delightfully little time in the court room. The script by Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan is based on the 2016 New York Times Magazine article The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare by Nathaniel Rich.


Extraction
2020
**
Director: Sam Hargrave
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Priyanshu Painyuli, Golshifteh Farahani, Pankaj Tripathi, David Harbour

Tyler Rake is a disillusioned mercenary who takes a job in Bangladesh to extract the kidnapped son of an Indian crime boss. The mission seems straightforward at first, but Rake eventually discovers that he’s up against the entire city of Dhaka. John Wick meets Man on Fire in this relentless action flick about an ex-military man who has a chance to redeem himself by killing 183 people (official Netflix figure) just to keep one kid safe. In his directorial debut, former stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave stages some exciting and adrenaline-fuelled set pieces on the cramped and over-crowded streets of Dhaka, but the movie goes on too long in this monotonous fashion. Hell, even the end titles are more than 12 minutes long. Based on the graphic novel Ciudad by Ande Parks.


The Killing of a Sacred Deer
2017
**
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Sunny Suljic, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Camp

A successful surgeon, who is happily married with two children, has become something of a father figure to a teenager ever since the boy’s father died on the operating table. However, the boy’s true intentions are far more sinister. Yorgos Lanthimos follows up The Lobster with another unusual mind-bender. Although the creepy story and Kubrickian camera work create a consistently unsettling atmosphere, the script (inspired by Iphigenia in Aulis by Euripide) is too conceptual, anachronistic, and preoccupied with symbolism to work as a drama about living and breathing human beings. I couldn’t believe anything the characters said or did.


Nightmare Alley
2021
**½
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn

In the late 1930s, a mysterious drifter joins a carnival, where he learns the tricks of mentalism. His new set of skills make him successful, but also arrogant and foolhardy. Guillermo del Toro’s intriguing neo-noir drama brings the world of a traveling carnival to life in glorious detail. Everything is beautifully staged, framed, and shot, as you can expect. The drifter’s rise and fall has wonderful symmetry but also frustrating inevitability. This is all well, but the film is slow-paced and seemingly endless. Bradley Cooper gives a commanding performance in the lead, but Cate Blanchett is disappointingly mannered as the femme fatale. Based on William Lindsay Gresham’s novel, which was previously filmed in 1947.


On the Rocks
2020
**
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans,Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate, Liyanna Muscat, Alexandra Reimer, Anna Reimer, Barbara Bain, Juliana Canfield, Alva Chinn

While Dean pursues a business career, Laura is at home with their two young children. When she begins to suspect that Dean is unfaithful, Laura’s womanising father is more than happy to feed her doubts and fears. Sofia Coppola reunites with Bill Murray in a story about an older man and a younger woman who form a bond during a night on the town, but Lost in Translation this is not. I’m not sure what this is. It’s set in New York City and follows in the footsteps of Woody Allen, but doesn’t have enough humour, drama, or poignant moments to leave a lasting memory. The trip to Mexico is the moment the film totally lost me.


Koirat eivät käytä housuja (Dogs Don’t Wear Pants)
2019
**
Director: J-P Valkeapää
Cast: Pekka Strang, Krista Kosonen, Ilona Huhta, Jani Volanen, Oona Airola, Iiris Anttila, Ester Geislerová

Seven years after his wife’s drowning, a traumatised surgeon is still not over his grief. While his daughter is in a tattoo parlour, he makes a transformative visit to a BDSM dungeon. This extremely dark comedy has an intriguing premise, but the optimism is short-lived. The story dives into a world of pain and suffering, and never leaves it. In the process, the characters turn from three-dimensional human beings into walking and barely talking metaphors.


King Richard
2021
***
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal, Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew, Danielle Lawson

Before they were born, Richard Williams drew up a step-by-step plan how his two biological daughters, Venus and Serena, would complete their education and train hard to become top professional tennis players. This long autobiographical story is engaging but, knowing what happened later, rather low on drama. Williams makes for a compelling lead character, but it is rather frustrating to watch a determined, controlling, and overbearing man being proved to be right. In any case, Will Smith is very good in his Academy Award winning lead performance.


The Eyes of Tammy Faye
2021
**½
Director: Michael Showalter
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Andrew Garfield, Cherry Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mark Wystrach, Sam Jaeger, Louis Cancelmi, Gabriel Olds

Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye LaValley meet at a Bible College, drop out, and get married. They preach across the country, but get their big break on the Christian Broadcasting Network. This conventional and somewhat superficial biopic depicts the professional rise and fall of the Bakker empire, but if tends to forget the people behind the heavy, Oscar-winning hair and makeup. In the conservative world of televangelism, Tammy Faye was an unusually open-minded individual, so it is understandable that she gets off lightly in this story. Jessica Chastain’s Academy Award-winning performance is big, showy, but finely nuanced. Abe Sylvia’s script is based on a 2000 documentary.


The Hitman’s Bodyguard
2017
**½
Director: Patrick Hughes
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Élodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Kirsty Mitchell, Richard E. Grant

A discredited bodyguard must transport a renowned hitman from the UK to the International Criminal Court in The Hague so he can testify against the brutal dictator of Belarus. This disposable action comedy combines the buddy comedy of Midnight Run with the hands-on Euro action of The Bourne Identity. However, the movie is too long and its script doesn’t deliver enough jokes to compensate for all the violence. The action scenes are well directed and edited, though. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are both on auto pilot, and Gary Oldman’s ridiculously evil Eastern European villain feels like a throwback to the 1980s. Followed by Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021).


I Onde Dager (The Trip)
2021
****½
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Aksel Hennie, Atle Antonsen, Christian Rubeck, André Eriksen, Nils Ole Oftebro, Stig Frode Henriksen

Lars and Lisa are a couple who both have their own separate plan to kill the other during a stay at their cottage. However, the events take an unexpected turn when they are surprised by three intruders. Tommy Wirkola’s pitch black comedy is a breath of fresh air. It starts as a darkly comic and intimate story, but then begins to add twists on twists and builds towards a hilarious and absolutely gruesome finale. The performances are great.


Brooklyn
2015
***
Director: John Crowley
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Jessica Paré, Bríd Brennan, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan

In the early 1950s, a young Irish woman Eilis Lacey leaves her mother and sister behind and emigrates to Brooklyn, New York. Just when she is over her homesickness and begins to find her feet, she is forced to return home, where things are not as they were. This romantic coming-of-age story is likeable and well-acted, but its dramatic stakes are extremely low on both continents. Immigration stories traditionally depict hardship, but Eilis deals purely with first world problems. Visually, John Crowley’s film looks like a cheap TV production. Nick Hornby scripted from Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel.


El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
2019
***
Director: Vince Gilligan
Cast: Aaron Paul, Jesse Plemons, Scott MacArthur, Scott Shepherd, Charles Baker, Matt Jones, Robert Forster

This entertaining but thoroughly unnecessary spin-off movie serves as an epilogue to Breaking Bad, and it continues right where the series ended. Jesse Pinkman, on the run from the law, attempts to get his hands on some money, buy a fake passport, and leave the country, but he keeps running into obstacles. Jesse’s redemption story offers familiar humour, violence, and pacing, so much so that it feels like an extended episode of TV rather than a film.


Greyhound
2021
**
Director: Aaron Schneider
Cast: Tom Hanks, Stephen Graham, Rob Morgan, Elisabeth Shue, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Karl Glusman, Tom Brittney

In his first wartime mission, Commander Ernest Krause must escort a convoy of Allied ships to safety in Liverpool, but a wolf pack of German U-boats is not making the crossing easy. This short but monotonous World War II drama was adapted from C.S. Forester’s 1955 novel The Good Shepherd by its star Tom Hanks. It delivers an action-packed sea adventure where the nameless and personality-free crew members shout orders at each other for about 80 minutes.


Mother!
2017
*
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig

On the surface, Darren Aronofsky’s ambitious drama tells a story of a self-obsessed poet whose wife spends the days restoring their country house. One day, their tranquil lives are ruined by a mysterious couple who would like to stay over. If these events and characters do not fully make sense, it’s because the whole thing turns out to be a religious allegory, which features God, Mother Earth, Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and hundreds of worshippers. While the subtext may add up, as a viewing experience this is unpleasant and infuriating, like a horrible dream that refuses to end. Amidst all this madness, Jennifer Lawrence gives a decent central performance.


Spider-Man: No Way Home
2021
***½
Director: Jon Watts
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Benedict Wong, Tony Revolori, Marisa Tomei, Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire

Following Spider-Man: Far from Home, nothing is the same now that Peter Parker is outed as Spider-Man. When the reveal begins to affect the lives of his friends, Peter asks help from Dr. Strange, but his rushed and botched amnesia spell opens the door to the multi-verse. The multi-verse brings back heroes and villains from the earlier releases in the franchise. That includes Tobey Maguire’s original trilogy (Spider-Man, 2, and 3) and Andrew Garfield’s reboot (The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel). While this trip down the memory lane checks every box in a fanboy’s wish list, it also signals a lack of fresh ideas. Apart from introducing multi-verse and turning Dr. Strange into an idiot, it adds very little new to the MCU in the big picture, and it makes absolutely no sense to someone who is watching this on its own.


Munich: The Edge of War
2021
**½
Director: Christian Schwochow
Cast: Jeremy Irons, George MacKay, Jannis Niewöhner, Sandra Hüller, Liv Lisa Fries, August Diehl, Jessica Brown Findlay, Anjli Mohindra, Ulrich Matthes

Hugh and his German friend Paul studied together at Oxford. In 1938, when the continent is at the brink of war, Hugh works as prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s secretary and Paul works at the Foreign Office in Berlin, and they both get embroiled in a plan to disclose Hitler’s real plans for Europe. This pre-war drama tells a fictional story against a real-life background, but the end result is never as captivating as it should be. Ben Power’s screenplay is based on a novel by Robert Harris, and it spends an awful lot of time on the difficulty of handing over a confidential document, which turns out be nothing but a MacGuffin. Christian Schwochow’s restless camera is a needless distraction.


Okja
2017
***½
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Ahn Seo-hyun, Byun Hee-bong, Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Yoon Je-moon, Shirley Henderson, Daniel Henshall, Devon Bostick, Choi Woo-shik, Giancarlo Esposito, Jake Gyllenhaal

Ten years ago, Mirando Corporation gave a batch of super pigs to farmers across the world, and now the largest specimen is about to be crowned winner in New York. Mija, a young South Korean girl, has developed a close bond to her super pig, Okja, and refuses to give her up. Bong Joon-ho’s impressive fantasy film is firmly rooted in reality. It starts as a light-hearted adventure about a girl and her best friends, but ends as a brutally frank drama that deals with GMO food, industrial meat production, and animal rights. Okja is beautifully and believably created with digital effects, but some of the human performances are distractingly awful, particularly Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal.


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
2018
**½
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: Tyne Daly, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Heck, Grainger Hines, Zoe Kazan, Harry Melling, Liam Neeson, Tim Blake Nelson, Jonjo O’Neill, Chelcie Ross, Saul Rubinek, Tom Waits

Eight years after True Grit, the Coen brothers return to the Wild West with this long and uneven collection of vignettes. The common denominator between the six stories seems to be that life on the American frontier was deadly and unpredictable. The first two parts, about a cocky gunslinger and an unlucky outlaw, are short, light, and funny. The next three feature a ruthless impresario, a lonely prospector, and an insecure woman in a wagon train, and they are all initially captivating but ultimately overstretched shaggy dog stories. The concluding episode is the least cinematic one. Five people travel in a stagecoach in a short piece, which doesn’t seem to a have a beginning, middle, or end. On the plus side, the performances are excellent and, as always, the Coens write terrific dialogue. Four of the stories are original and two of them are based on All Gold Canyon by Jack London and The Girl Who Got Rattled by Stewart Edward White.