• The Power of the Dog

    The Power of the Dog

    ★★★★½

    Jane Campion’s latest film is an adaptation of The Power of the Dog, the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage. It’s a masterclass in storytelling, establishing character first, then situation and (right at the end, almost in retrospect) the story that ties it all together. Like The Piano, it’s driven by doubles, resonances and connections more than regular character development, divided into chapters that only increase the hermetic intensity of its world, which is restrained, but never quite minimal, inchoate, but…

  • The Card Counter

    The Card Counter

    ★★★★

    Over the last couple of years, Paul Schrader has gradually been returning to some of the concerns of his classic period, but with a later and darker inflection. The Card Counter is the latest film in his journey, and a continuation of his “night worker” series of films. In this case, the night worker is William Tillich, played by Oscar Isaac, a gambler and card counter who lives by night, wandering from casino to casino, and never staying in one…

  • No Time to Die

    No Time to Die

    ★★★½

    No Time to Die is the last Bond film in the Daniel Craig era, and it’s a decisive conclusion. Rather than retire Bond, or allow him to sail off into the sunset, director Cary Joji Fukunaga, and his team of writers, kill off Craig’s Bond completely. From a distance, that might seem an excessive gesture, but it’s a symbolic death as much as anything else – a prescience that the franchise simply cannot continue in its current form. From start…

  • The Many Saints of Newark

    The Many Saints of Newark

    ★★★½

    The Many Saints of Newark is David Chase’s prequel to The Sopranos – and it’s a curious offering, full of so many scenes that hit the mark that I couldn’t help wishing it had been even more consistent. There was no way Chase could ever live up to the figurative void that concluded the series – the cut to black at the end of “Made in America” – so his prequel is inevitably a more modest affair, even if it…

  • Miss Congeniality

    Miss Congeniality

    ★★★½

    From the way Hollywood presented it in the 90s, you’d think there was nothing more pathetic in the world than a single woman ordering takeout. Luckily, we had Sandra Bullock to take on that role, parody it from the inside, and turn it into a source of camp delight by the time the decade was over. Whereas her character in While You Were Sleeping was marked by a chronic addiction to Chinese delivery, she took this persona to new heights…

  • The Last Seduction

    The Last Seduction

    ★★★★½

    By the mid-1990s, the femme fatale trope was on the verge of vanishing into a new era of corporate femininity. If, as James Naremore argued, the femme fatale had emerged in response to anxieties about women entering the workforce, then the corporate woman was an exhaustion of the trope as it was once deployed by Hollywood noir. The Last Seduction plays with that possibility by envisaging the last femme fatale, the final girl of noir misogyny, as she migrates from…

  • Titane

    Titane

    ★★★★

    Titane is such an unusual, mercurial and eccentric film that it’s hard to describe in a single summative statement – or in terms of a single unifying concept. While it doesn’t bear much resemblance to most films I’ve seen, I suppose you could describe it as a fusion of John Carpenter’s Christine with David Cronenberg’s Crash, but inflected through a more modern trans sensibility – specifically what it means to be a (pregnant) trans man. For that reason, it’s perhaps…

  • Blade

    Blade

    ★★★★½

    Blade now feels like one of the great underrated films of the late 90s – buried beneath other franchises that happened to become bigger, and all too often relegated to a mere precursor to Guillermo del Toro’s (supposedly) more auteurist sequel. Yet Stephen Norrington’s original film is an utterly visionary, singular, one-of-a-kind exercise – a stylistic feast that’s every bit as restless and brimming with ideas as, say, The Matrix, which draws heavily on its world and aesthetic. It’s amazing…

  • Bergman Island

    Bergman Island

    ★★★

    Mia Hansen-Løve’s latest film is one of her gentlest and most mercurial yet – and may well be one of her most cryptically autobiographical as well. It revolves around a couple, Chris Sanders and Tony Sanders, played by Vicky Krieps and Tim Roth, who spend a few weeks on Fårö, the island where Ingmar Bergman lived and worked. Tony is a famous director, and has been invited to Fårö to conduct a residency, while Chris is trying to complete a…

  • Bound

    Bound

    ★★★★½

    Bound, Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s debut film, is a work of stunning vision – a blueprint for their shared career and for the worlds of The Matrix in particular. The plot revolves around a single apartment block, where Corky (Gina Gershon) is renovating a unit next door to Violet (Jennifer Tilly), who lives with her Mafia boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano). As soon as they lay eyes on each other, Corky and Violet have chemistry, so it’s only a matter of…

  • Halloween Kills

    Halloween Kills

    ★★★

    David Gordon Green’s reboot of Halloween was the most classicist since Halloween H20, resuming the story of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers as if the instatiable franchise had never happened – as if we were simply watching the third film in a tight trilogy. By contrast, Halloween Kills is one of the weirdest films in the franchise, which is really saying something, and completely eviscerates the carefully constructed atmospherics of Green’s previous effort. In large part, that’s a result of…

  • Heavenly Creatures

    Heavenly Creatures

    ★★★★½

    Heavenly Creatures is Peter Jackson’s most ambitious film, stylistically speaking, poised between the gonzo experiments of his earlier splatter features and the more streamlined visions of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit franchises. It’s also his only film based on historical events – the Parker-Hulme murder case. This took place in 1954, in Christchurch, and revolved around two schoolgirls, Pauline Parker, played here by Melanie Lynskey, and Juliet Hulme, played by Kate Winslet. Pauline and Juliet developed an intense…