THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH (2021)

A truly definitive rendition of a classic.

Stripped back and draped in stark, Expressionist production design, Joel Coen’s adaptation is a loving marriage of stage and cinema—playing off the strengths of both mediums to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Visually stunning, with A-grade performances. A total masterclass of simple, direct adaptation: it’s a highly classical take, so your mileage will vary depending on your appreciation for traditional Shakespeare.

If that’s at all your jam, this comes highly recommended.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY (2022)

Gorgeously shot, wonderfully acted, ultimately a fairly standard thriller.

Maybe I was waiting on a supernatural turn that never came and am judging it based on my expectaions, but I was left a little cold, mostly appreciating its craftsmanship and aesthetics from a distance without feeling any real investment in the story or characters.

It’s certainly very well executed, though, and worth checking out.

SCREAM (2022)

Terrible, but in a mostly fun way.

Chock full of blunt exposition, awful logic and bad character choices… but that’s kinda what it’s going for?

It wants you to be yelling at the screen, wants you to be engaging with its trashiness—it’s explicitly stated in the opening sequence that this ain’t “elevated horror”, this is schlock.

Still, for all its pseudo-meta commentary, its not especially clever, nor does it really bring anything new to the franchise other than waving its hands around and pointing out things it knows about itself.

Probably best for a drunk watch with low expectations and heckling.

THE BATMAN (2022)

This might be the best cinematic incarnation of Batman ever. More Noir crime thriller in the vein of se7en or Zodiac than your standard action blockbuster fare.

That’s likely to turn some people off it, but when that Batmobile roars to life like a godsdamned demon or The Bat walks down a black hallway lit by only the gunshots of the goons he’s taking on, it’s hard not to pick up what it’s putting down.

Pattinson’s Bat is brooding and serious, but he also recognizes he is supposed to help people. He’s also a brilliant detective — something often overlooked in favour of grander spectacle. The Batman takes place almost exclusively at night, over the span of about a week on the trail of a serial killer loose in Gotham City. It’s long and it’s slow and it’s deliberate.

The city itself feels like a strange hybrid of not quite New York, not quite Chicago, all gothic architecture and constant, miserable rain.

The Batsuit, Batmobile and all his detective gadgets all have a handmade, reappropriated feel that really adds to the grounded tone.

Soundtrack is great. Performances are all excellent. Cinematography is understated, but frequently impressive.

Could probably have been trimmed down a bit, since the final act feels a bit superfluous after a big string of satisfying resolutions, and there’s an unnecessary cameo right by the end that feels like a studio note.

Still, this feels like an absolute step in the right direction. Doesn’t quite have the big punch of the Nolan films, but I actually kind of prefer this style. Very, very promising for sequels.

Highly recommended.

TURNING RED (2022)

It’s great!

An absolute celebration of women, mothers, sisters and friendship — all wrapped in kinetic, vibrant style.

The animation is fun, the story’s emotionally resonant, the soundtrack is a brilliantly pastiche of early 00’s boy bands by Finneas/Billie Eilish.

Bursting with personality, passion, and charm. Well worth your time.

Pixar have been killing it lately. Highly recommended.

THE FRENCH DISPATCH (2021)

Classic Wes Anderson, in the sense that it’s unlike his other films while still being quintessentially a Wes Anderson film.

More a series of loosely connected stories hung on a bookend framing device than a singular narrative. Each section is portrayed with Anderson’s distinctive flair, immaculate set design, quirky characters and deadpan delivery.

The cast is perhaps the most stacked of any of his (which is really saying something), and each of the vignettes comes packaged in black and white with only occasional shots of vibrant colour for impact. Likely as close as he’ll come to doing a full feature in black and white, his shot composition is nonetheless striking even drained of colour.

The set design and staging execution is fantastic, especially in the repeated motif of tracking shots that move from scene to scene, with actors holding pose as though in a still life painting.

Offbeat and weird. If you like Wes Anderson, you won’t be disappointed. If you can’t stand his style or the way he shapes performances, this isn’t likely to change your mind.

Still, very much recommended.

PEACEMAKER // s01 (2021)

James Gunn has an inimitable talent for elevating rejects and burnouts into some of the most compelling, complex characters in modern pulp fiction.

Even indicental characters get more development than half the leads of modern blockbusters, in a mix of deep pathos and hilarious irreverence.

Peacemaker is no different — an anti-hero at his heart, John Cena brings a gravitas to this sad asshole that makes him much more fun than your standard comic fare.

Ultra-violent, frequently disturbing, and leaning into Gunn’s penchant for visceral body horror spliced with dark humour, it’s a wild ride and a tonne of fun.

If you liked the recent (and also excellent) The Suicide Squad, you’ll like this.

Recommended.

THE WHITE LOTUS (2021)

Social satire at luxury resort in Hawaii, where we know that by the end of the week one of the cast will be dead.

You’ve got bratty rich, workaholic rich, insecure rich, newly married rich, naive rich… and all the staff stuck keeping their vacations as pleasant as possible.

Naturally, that goes off the rails.

There’s enough red herrings and misdirects to keep you on your toes working out who the cadaver will be right til the very end, and the cast all put in solidly charismatic and likeable performances.

Gorgeously shot, regularly hilarious and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Oh, and the soundtrack is great.

Recommended.

ANTLERS (2021)

Solid creature feature with some excellent practical effects and a unique, intriguing premise, based on this great short story:

A few moments of weird and convenient movie logic keep it back from greatness, but it’s otherwise very well executed and the creature design is awesome.

Well worth a watch if monster movies are your jam.

THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT (2021)

It’s fine?

Weirdly drops its title character entirely in the back half to become The Mandalorian s2.5, and then pulls back to the main plotline in the finale.

Star Wars is kind of its own worst enemy — the best parts of it are the things that aren’t really connected to the original trilogy, yet it constantly finds itself afraid to stand on its own without somehow tying back into the same handful of characters.

TBoBF unfortunately succumbs to these bad instincts, going for recogniseable and familiar places, tropes and characters instead of really doing something all its own.

It’s a mixed bag of great and terrible design choices, excellent VFX and horribly shot/staged action.

Finishes up not really doing much more than setting up the next Mando season, which is itself straying away from the self-contained vignette style that made it so appealing.

Maybe Obi Wan will be better, but I don’t have high hopes.

Watch it or don’t.