DEATH ON THE NILE (2022)

It’s fine.

Sure, the CGI is distracting, the cast is a mix of flat and overused or charismatic and underused, and the mystery is eminently guessable from the first few scenes, but…

…well, there is no “but”. Much as I like Branagh, his Poirot is at his best in the opening flashback before being largely set aside until it comes time to start throwing around accusations in the final act.

Honestly, I worked out the guilty before the murder had even taken place, and was only briefly diverted from my confidence by thinking maybe there was a meta-twist that I wasn’t considering. Solving the mystery early isn’t in itself problematic—it’s arguably the point of a mystery thriller—but unfortunately there isn’t any real sort of tension or curiosity drawn out.

Passable light entertainment, but there are far, far better whodunnits out there.

X (2022)

Every once in a while a film comes along that works as a perfect distillation of a bygone era, and X is just that.

Lean, economical horror executed in perfect reverence of 70’s exploitation horror movies, while putting its own spin on audience expectations and overworn tropes on sex in horror.

Camerawork, production design, SFX and performances are all exceptional — exactly hitting the tone and style of a forgotten slasher flick, but with all the benefit of decades of hindsight.

Gory, titillating, hilarious and fun. If you’re a genre fan then you won’t want to miss it.

Highly recommended.

MEN (2022)

Unsettling A24 folk-horror, with fantastic production value and a third act that will split audiences entirely in half with how little it decides to explain itself.

Thematically, it’s very plainly about the abuses that men visit upon women and how they trap them, but it’s how it refracts this idea into vague abstractions and the supernatural that make it symbolic, creepy and grotesque.

There’s a good deal of confronting imagery, a bunch of body horror, plus depictions of stalking, gaslighting and psychological/emotional abuse that will turn a lot of people off immediately.

It’s confusing and oblique, while also being very direct and almost literal. An extremely subjective movie that I enjoyed a lot, and will spend a while trying to entangle exactly what the fuck happened.

HEAVY SPOILERS BELOW

Continue reading “MEN (2022)”

SEVERANCE // s01

Brilliant.

Four people work in an existentially unsettling office, following a procedure that severs their mind into two separate personas: one that exists within work and one that only exists outside of it.

A paranoid thriller that absolutely nails impersonal, hyper-polished corporate aesthetics and culture. The person who made this has clearly worked some awful office jobs—the satirical element feels horrifyingly true even at its most absurd and strange.

It’s nightmarishly calculated in concept, sleek and precise in execution. Surprisingly stacked emotional stakes, fantastic production design and cinematography.

AppleTV is really coming out ahead as the streaming service with incredibly high caliber projects, and this is one of the most intriguing, darkly hilarious shows in years.

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.

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 SILENT SEA (2022)

There’s been a boon of films lately that feel like they would have been better served as a limited series. The Silent Sea is the opposite.

A pretty serviceable sci-fi B movie that is unfortunately stretched too thin over an eight episode runtime. Doesn’t have enough material to stop the back half from retreading the same beats without adding any clever new twists or stakes.

Once its premise is established it doesn’t have anything more to show besides a pretty standard, drawn out story you’ve seen half a hundred times.

Well produced, just not that compelling. Decent, not great.

YELLOWJACKETS // s01

Brilliant.

Kicking off with one of the strongest pilots in recent memory, Yellowjackets splits a narrative between a girls’ soccer team whose plane goes down in the mountains during the 90s, and the lives of the survivors in the present day.

It’s ominous, foreboding, and gives you enough information upfront to know that things are going to get bad, before expertly dancing back and forth between the time periods.

The soundtrack is fantastic, the production value is top-notch, the editing is masterful.

The performances too deserve special mention — the cast are excellent, but Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci are bringing career-best character work to their roles.

There’s a tonne more intrigue left, with plenty of clever misdirects and setups. Some of the gore is not for the faint of heart.

An absolutely stellar first season, here’s hoping it can maintain.

Highly recommended.