BLOOD RED SKY (2021)

Terrorists hijack a plane and unwittingly set off a vampire hiding onboard.

If nothing about that premise makes you immediately say “fuck yeah” then I don’t know what more I can tell you to sell it. It’s ridiculous and it’s fun and it takes itself just seriously enough to stay firmly a horror movie with an emotional core rather than to devolve to a trashy comedy like it easily could have.

Makeup work is great, cast is solid, execution is exactly what it needs to be.

An A-grade B-movie.

Recommended.

THE GREEN KNIGHT (2021)

A cinematic Arthurian heroic poem, complete with knights, woodland creatures, saints, spirits and mythic quests.

Run all of that through the sort of slow-burn style and striking visuals that A24 is known for and you’ve got The Green Knight.

Incredibly well crafted, the sort of tone that the fantasy genre is sorely missing more of.

Dev Patel brings exactly the right blend of gravitas and arrogance, the scenery and production design are gorgeous, the tale weaves and meanders perfectly as fables should.

The sense of world and myth is huge and dense — it chooses contemplation and symbolism over action and succeeds massively in presenting something thoughtful and strange. More akin to Pan’s Labyrinth than The Lord of the Rings.

It’s slow and mostly ambiguous, but if that’s your thing then this comes highly recommended.

BLACK WIDOW (2021)

A great standalone spy film that’s biggest flaw is that it maybe came a few years later than it deserved.

It’s refreshing to have Natasha reframed and to have her backstory finally filled in, and the supporting cast here is one of the best things about it. It’s a made family of strong and capable women, plus a strongman clown, and the dynamic is great.

The action is among the best in the MCU, though arguable the Taskmaster is a little underutilised — fundamentally a Winter Soldier redux but with a more interesting moveset gimmick. Still, there’s room to push the idea closer to the comics going forward.

Does a lot to set up characters and potential for the next generation of Avengers, but smartly keeps focused on having Black Widow be its own film.

A good time, and great to see as a blockbuster up on the big screen.

Recommended.

A QUIET PLACE: PART II (2021)

Solid follow up, keeps the tension high while adding some new variables to the mix.

Not much to say — if you enjoyed the first one you’ll find this a great extension of the story that grows the world just enough to fill in some questions lingering from the original without bloating.

Emily Blunt has less to do than trailers might suggest, but the switch to having the daughter shoulder narrative responsibilty is a good one.

Action’s fun, new wrinkles and characters work well together.

Recommended.

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020)

CONTENT WARNING: Sexual assault.

Billed as a black comedy (and it’s certainly black), it’s the sort of film that seems to be verging spilling into pure revenge fantasy but instead reveals itself to be a story of pain inflicting pain, tangled up in rom-com tropes.

There is no moral lesson. There is no happy ending, or even necessarily a sense of justice delivered. Those getting what they deserve never feels enough even if it is occasionally satisfying. There are very few truly good people in this story.

Often hilarious, consistently uncomfortable, more often bleak. A confident and stylised take on the culture and attitudes that allow sexual assault to go unpunished and frequently unrecognised and unaccounted.

Fantastic performances and overall an excellent film, but more tragedy than comedy and certainly not for everyone.

LUCA (2021)

Possibly the lightest, summeriest Pixar film to date — one that’s thankfully not interested in heavy emotional subject matter but would rather just present a nice, simple story and it delivers a delight.

Two young sea monsters sneak up on land to win a triathalon so they can buy a Vespa. Friendships are formed, hijinx ensue.

The visuals take on a sort of extremely advanced claymation quality, complimented by saturated colours and an expressive animation style.

Charm in spades, it’s a warm and easy film that unfortunately might end up overlooked due to skipping a theatrical release in favour of jumping straight to Disney+.

Don’t sleep on it though, it’s great.

RAYA & THE LAST DRAGON (2021)

Solid family adventure film with the obligatory gorgeous Disney Animated visuals.

At what point do we stop commenting on how pretty each new one is, given that the next one will inevitably somehow manage to surpass it? Nonetheless, design aesthetics are fantastic here, and unique among their animated collection.

It’s a Disney princess film with a SouthEast Asian setting, no love interests and a vaguely post-apocalyptic bent.

Potentially questionable moral for young children about trusting untrustworthy people, but overall it’s pretty great.

Recommended.

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD // Kamera wo tomeru na! (2017)

An instant modern classic.

An indie film crew shoots a low budget, single-take film in a cursed power station and zombies show up.

The camera never cuts! shouts the director.

For anyone with even a passing interest in filmmaking this is an absolute gem, and keeps revealing layer upon layer of itself as the crew dies off and the production threatens to collapse.

A hilarious disaster.

Just make sure you stay all the way through the credits (both times!).

Highly recommended.

Bo Burnham: INSIDE (2021)

When this whole pandemic situation started we knew that there was terrible art out there being made about it. Just some really dreadful, insufferably thoughtless bad takes.

But out there too are some diamonds — pieces of creativity that encapsulate and express the time beautifully.

This is the latter. Calling it merely “pandemic art” does a massive disservice to what Burnham has created here. Infact, INSIDE is really the first definitive piece of work from the shitstorm of the last year-and-change that actually feels like a meaningful embodiment of what life has become, and it all takes place in a single room.

Burnham’s comedy had always been brilliantly self-conscious and this is no different, playing big with creative lighting setups and brilliant minimalistic cinematography.

But it also turns against him over the course of a year working on his Netflix special, alone and steadily succumbing to the isolation. And there is familar darkness there.

It’s relatable. Distressing. The results are honest and sincere and uncomfortable, wrapped in dazzling visuals and straining, ragged-edged wit. Oh, and the songs are great.

The experience of the past fourteen months will leave a lasting mark on human collective psyche and culture and many more attempts will be made to express this capsule of time.

Whatever other stories come, INSIDE will rank absolutely among the best of them. The first real masterpiece of its kind.

Highly recommended.

THE DRY (2020)

Small town murder mystery against the backdrop of Australian drought.

A well constucted thriller with solid performances, great cinematography and a permeating hostile atmosphere overlaying the modern case with a unsolved death in the town 25 years earlier.

The dry, dead isolation of inner coastal Australia is on full display, with dusty wide empty expanses and a penetrating, tinderbox feeling of heat and impending ruin. The town has known hardships, and those that live there are stretched thin.

For them, a second tragedy might be the tipping point that finally destroys the community, and Aaron (Eric Bana) returning to town only serves to open old wounds.

Not more to add that wouldn’t verge on spoilers, so if you know this is your genre fare you can’t go wrong with this one.

Recommended.