Films Of 2022



  1. Tár
    BBBBB (Todd Field, USA) A world-famous orchestral conductor has the sum of her edgiest parts catch up with her formidable career when a conflict of her past resurfaces to devastating effect. Field’s cool colours and calm but effectively punctuated soundtrack are the deceptive mask for the sense of dread humming throughout the core of his masterpiece, boldly condemning the relish with which we cancel those more successful than us but designing a three-dimensional protagonist who isn’t a pure victim either, caught in the grey area between her perfectionist ego and her passionate drive for perfection.  Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture; Best Actress (Cate Blanchett); Best Director (Todd Field); Best Original Screenplay; Best Cinematography; Best Film Editing.  Venice: Best Actress (Cate Blanchett). TIFF: 2022. Trailer

  2. All The Beauty And The Bloodshed
    BBBBB (Laura Poitras, USA)  Photographer Nan Goldin’s near-fatal experience with OxyContin addiction prompts her to take action against the Sackler family for their participation in the devastating opioid epidemic, which also prompts a look into her own fascinating career and personal family tragedy.  There’s a mesmerizing tapestry of elements here that fit together with incredible precision, a member of the art world taking on a group of people whose influential prestige lies in large part with their influence and patronage of that world, and Poitras makes every narrative, past and present, equally fascinating and inspiring.   Oscar Nomination: Best Documentary Feature. Venice: Golden Lion. TIFF: 2022. Trailer

  3. Fire of Love
    BBBBB  (Sara Dosa, USA/Canada)  Katia and Maurice Krafft fell in love, got married and spent their lives pursuing the shared passion that brought them together, volcanoes, filming their experiences to fund their projects before losing their lives in an eruption at Mount Unzen, Japan in 1991.  Dosa expertly weaves together breathtaking footage, all of it archival, and delicately insightful narration (read by Miranda July) to tell a fascinating story of scientific exploration whose wonders and mysteries are matched only by the power of a love story.  Oscar Nomination: Best Documentary Feature.  Trailer

  4. Emily The Criminal
    BBBBB  (John Patton Ford, USA)  Drowning in student debt and barely surviving as an independently contracted food service employee, a Los Angeles woman gets involved with a credit card fraud scheme that goes well enough for her to expand her operation despite its being a dangerous and illegal way to make money.  A scintillating performance by Aubrey Plaza draws you into the plight of an irresistible character who throws herself down a moral rabbit hole merely to survive a modern-day America that has set her up to fail.  Trailer

  5. Decision To Leave
    Heojil kyolshim
    BBBB.5  (Park Chan-wook, South Korea)  A Busan detective clears up the suspicious circumstances of a man who died in a rock climbing accident, but further discoveries are complicated by his emotional entanglement with the deceased’s  even more mysterious Chinese wife.  There are sharp twists in a darkly amoral world and even a femme fatale in this modern noir, but the devastating revelations are all of an intimate, almost sensual nature, captured by remarkably beautiful cinematography and delicately passionate performances.  Cannes: Best Director (Park Chan-wook). TIFF: 2022. Trailer

  6. Close
    BBBB.5 (Lukas Dhont, Belgium/Netherlands/France)  An intense friendship between two adolescent boys is fractured when speculation about their closeness threatens one’s burgeoning masculine self-image, which leaves the other feeling isolated and rejected.  The action plays out in short bursts of energy that capture the ephemeral joys of childhood, overlaid with an elegant and tender sympathy that is underplayed in the film’s most moving moments, with newcomer Eden Dambrine giving a remarkably charismatic performance in the lead role.  Oscar Nomination: Best International Feature Film. Cannes: Grand Prize. Trailer

  7. Living
    BBBB.5  (Oliver Hermanus, United Kingdom/Japan/Sweden)  A placid, unmotivated civil servant learns that he has only six months left to live, inspired to steal a few joyful moments with strangers and friends before realizing an opportunity to create a more lasting legacy.  Screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro brilliantly adapts Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru to post-war London and Hermanus renders it beautifully in the hues and traditions of the British cinema of the era, with Bill Nighy’s masterful performance delivering remarkable strength and subtlety in the lead role.  Oscar Nominations: Best Actor (Bill Nighy); Best Adapted Screenplay. TIFF: 2022. Trailer

  8. All Quiet On the Western Front
    Im Westen nichts Neues
    BBBB.5 (Edward Berger, Germany/USA/United Kingdom)  A teenager eagerly signs up to fight for Germany in the Great War, his romantic dreams of adventure quickly replaced by unfathomable slaughter in the fathomless mud.  Improved film technology and relaxed censorship means that Berger is able to bring the brutality of the battlefield to life in ways that were not possible for Lewis Milestone or Daniel Mann, an advantage that he brilliantly uses to emphasize Erich Maria Remarque’s message about the illogical immorality of war rather than obscure it.  Oscars: Best Cinematography; Best Production Design; Best Original Score; Best International Feature Film; Nominations:  Best Picture; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Makeup and Hairstyling; Best Visual Effects; Best Sound.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer

  9. One Fine Morning
    Un beau matin
    BBBB (Mia Hansen-Løve, France/United Kingdom/Germany)  A widowed translator living under the burden of her father’s debilitating illness finds comfort in a passionate affair with a married scientist.  Life’s pleasures and challenges come to a deeply sympathetic protagonist in Hansen-Løve’s not atypically perfect blend of intellectual density and emotional sensitivity, the magic of sex and the sorrow of loss all affect our heroine despite the fact that she brings her best self to all the relationships in her life.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer

  10. Triangle Of Sadness
    BBBB (Ruben Östlund, Sweden/France/United Kingdom/Germany/Turkey/Greece) Two professional models go on a luxury cruise that results in a handful of survivors flipping around ideas of power on a desert island. Thematically, Östlund isn’t presenting us with anything that hasn’t been explored in cinema before, but social morality isn’t just a lie in his imagination, it’s a very funny joke, and the humour with which he displays his mastery with presenting uncanny discomfort is performed by a letter-perfect cast and scenes of imminent disaster that always feel simultaneously controlled and spontaneous.  Oscar Nominations: Best Picture; Best Director (Ruben Ostlund); Best Original Screenplay.  Cannes: Palme D’Or. TIFF: 2022. Trailer


    Bill Nighy, Living
    Honour Roll: Ricardo Darin, Argentina 1985; Colin Farrell, The Banshees Of Inisherin; Hae il Park, Decision To Leave; Paul Mescal, Aftersun/God’s Country
    Cate Blanchett, Tár
    Honour Roll: Aubrey Plaza, Emily The Criminal; Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie; Emma Thompson, Good Luck To You, Leo Grande; Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once
    Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All At Once
    Honour Roll: Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin; Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway; Marc Maron, To Leslie; Eddie Redmayne, The Good Nurse
    Dolly De Leon, Triangle Of Sadness
    Honour Roll: Hong Chau, The Whale; Kerry Condon, The Banshees Of Inisherin; Samantha Morton, She Said; Aimee Lou Wood, Living
    Todd Field, Tár
    Honour Roll: Lukas Dhont, Close; Joanna Hogg, The Eternal Daughter; Ruben Östlund, Triangle Of Sadness; Park Chan-wook, Decision To Leave




BBBB (Charlotte Wells, United Kingdom/USA)  An eleven year-old girl and her father spend a lazy vacation at a Turkish resort, but as the days pass and the lethargy of paradise extends into moments of unexpressed tension, we come to understand these images as the memories of an adult woman coming to terms with a complicated man.  Wells’ feature directorial debut is notable for its incredible restraint, gracefully allowing the younger protagonist her innocent childhood ignorance while treating her father, played by an effortlessly mercurial Paul Mescal, with tender sympathy as he feigns happiness when his kid is awake and struggles to process his sorrows when she is not.  Oscar Nomination: Best Actor (Paul Mescal).  TIFF: 2021.  Trailer

Argentina, 1985
BBBB  (Santiago Mitre, Argentina/United Kingdom/USA)  The country’s military dictatorship is finally over and the architects of brutal repression, torture and murder stand trial in civil court for their crimes; a notable prosecutor is tasked with proving their guilt with only the help of a team of underqualified young idealists, while the rest of the country wrestles with its willingness to face a dark and troubled past. Mitre doesn’t rewrite the book on Argentina’s films dealing with the Dirty War, it suffers a bit in its attempt to be expansive enough to include so momentous a trial while paying due diligence to its many human details, but he manages something that feels both swift and satisfying, sometimes veering into emotional manipulation but never veering off track.  Oscar Nominations: Best International Feature Film.  Venice: In Competition. Trailer

Avatar: The Way Of Water
BBB  (James Cameron, USA)  A cloned avatar version of Quaritch has returned to Pandora to renew human colonization efforts and crush the Na’vi resistance, forcing Jake Sully and his family to leave their forest dwelling and go live in a kingdom of sea people.  The technological upgrade resulting from the thirteen year gap between films makes for dazzling images that prove Cameron’s continued ability to put the money on screen, but the ecological Give Peace A Chance messaging is more or less the same as it was last time, and the weighty running time means that an overly familiar experience vacillates mostly between pretentious and cheesy.  Oscar Best Visual Effects; Nominations: Best Picture; Best Production Design; Best Sound.    Trailer

BBB  (Damien Chazelle, USA)  Two strangers meet at a wild 1920s Hollywood party and immediately stumble into careers in the movies, she as a Clara Bow-esque starlet and he as a producer, but changes in the business soon threaten their meteoric rise to the top.  Chazelle effectively charts the artform’s becoming a major industry and losing its soul through a number of impressive sequences, but the inability to determine whether or not his anachronisms are intentional undercuts a film that ultimately hovers somewhere between intelligent Baz Luhrmann and soulless Paul Thomas Anderson.  Oscar Nominations:  Best Production Design; Best Costume Design; Best Original Score.  Trailer

The Banshees of Inisherin
BBBB (Martin McDonagh, Ireland/United Kingdom/USA) A farmer in a peaceful village in the early 1920s is distraught when his best friend no longer wants to be mates, willing to go to extreme, gruesome lengths to prove his determination to make a clean break. Colin Farrell steals hearts with one of his best performances yet, reacting with such heartbreaking vulnerability to the emotional assaults being made on him and subtly losing his tenderness with each blow, until he too agrees with the rest of the cynical world’s notion that life can only be lived properly by those who expect nothing good from it (and it’s the adorable miniature donkey who will suffer most for this).  Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture; Best Actor (Colin Farrell); Best Supporting Actor (Brendan Gleeson); Best Supporting Actor (Barry Keoghan); Best Supporting Actress (Kerry Condon); Best Director (Martin McDonagh); Best Original Screenplay; Best Film Editing; Best Original Score.  Venice: Best Actor (Farrell), Best Screenplay. TIFF: 2022. Trailer

Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Bardo, falsa crónica de unas cuantas verdades
BBB  (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mexico)  A venerated Los Angeles documentarian visits his Mexican homeland for the first time in decades, reflecting on his personal tragedies and wider political views through a series of surreal experiences. Iñárritu makes his own return home with his first fully Mexican-set film since Amores Perros, a reconfiguration of Fellini’s 8 1/2 (with touches of Jodorowsky and Raoul Ruiz) whose painfully unsubtle symbolism dampens its intellectual power but whose boundless visual inventiveness is compelling throughout.  Oscar Nomination: Best Cinematography. Venice: In Competition. Trailer

The Batman
BBBB  (Matt Reeves, USA) The Caped Crusader is pulled into a classic whodunit when the murder of a mayoral candidate leads down a rabbit hole of political secrets and shady dealings, threatening to undermine a recent drug bust that promised bright things for the city’s future.  The greatest gift of this exciting film is its openly embracing the conventions of film noir, a logical choice given that the world of Batman has always had the vibe of classic detective fiction (and a natural one for a film made by Warner Bros., who are responsible for some of the most iconic noirs in film history), but where it fails is indulging in a three-hour running time that is not the least bit justified.  Oscar Nominations:  Best Makeup and Hairstyling; Best Visual Effects; Best Sound. Trailer

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
BBB.5  (Ryan Coogler, USA)  With T’Challa taken by a mysterious illness and Wakanda vulnerable to the greed of global empires wanting vibranium for their own purposes, Queen Ramonda and Princess Shuri look to bolster their country’s security against invasion before a terrifying new superpower emerges from the sea and threatens all life on the surface.  While possessing the same sneakily conservative plot as the first one (suffering centuries of oppression? No need to be a dick about it!) this one goes further than its predecessor with a richer array of characters, narrative threads and imaginative sequences, resplendent with beautiful images and bolstered by a female-dominated cast of actors giving superb performances.  Oscar:  Best Costume Design; Nominations:  Best Supporting Actress (Angela Bassett); Best Makeup and Hairstyling; Best Visual Effects; Best Original Score.  Trailer

BB.5 (Andrew Dominik, USA)  An impressionistic portrait of the decade of Marilyn Monroe’s fame, underestimated as a sexpot in her professional life and used and abused by her men in private.  Dominik (and the book by Joyce Carole Oates upon which this is based) are more interested in exploring a myth of female stardom than making an accurate biography of what is still Hollywood’s most famous and most recognized star, but even with that in mind, it’s hard not to be turned off by a version of Marilyn who wants nothing, has no ambition for anything and is incapable of making choices, her victimization exploited to the point of being tastelessly fetishized.  Oscar Nomination: Best Actress (Ana de Armas). Venice: In Competition. Trailer

BBB  (Lila Neugebauer, USA)  A woman traumatized by an explosion in Afghanistan returns home to New Orleans, hoping to be redeployed after recovering from her injuries, and befriends an auto mechanic with his own personal past tragedy closer to home.  The content does not explore anything groundbreaking but the execution is graceful, with Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry turning in exceptional work in the leads, while Linda Emond and Russell Harvey provide magnificent support.  Oscar Nomination: Best Supporting Actor (Brian Tyree Henry).  TIFF: 2022.  Trailer

BB.5  (Baz Luhrmann, Australia/USA) Tom “The Colonel” Parker narrates the phenomenal legend of Elvis Presley through his own perspective, from the musician’s discovery to his tragic death at the age of 42. Having it told from the Colonel’s point of view hardly comes near an Amadeus for the modern era thanks to the fact that we never get to know Elvis as anything other than a two-dimensional tragic figure, he’s simply a victim and never a fully fleshed human being who makes unfortunate choices while in an unfortunate circumstance.  Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture; Best Actor (Austin Butler); Best Makeup and Hairstyling; Best Cinematography; Best Production Design; Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing; Best Sound. Trailer

Empire of Light
BBB (Sam Mendes, UK/USA)  A movie theatre manager who struggles with her emotional well-being befriends an aspiring architect who is dealing with Thatcher-era racism in early eighties Margate.  This intimate, overlong film deals with its themes of racism, mental health, art and inspiration in graceful though superficial ways, at times embarrassing in its broad, comforting strokes but always compelling to look at thanks to Roger Deakins’ evocative cinematography.  Oscar Nomination: Best Cinematography.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer

BBB.5 (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland/Italy) A sweet and innocent donkey experiences a circus, working in stables, a donkey farm and an aristocratic villa in this picaresque modern Au Hasard Balthasar. It’s a sensually vibrant experience that sometimes threatens to overpower its practical content with too much aesthetic splendor, but at its heart is a simple tale of a loveable creature who is too gentle and undemanding for a world that is primarily concerned with consumption.  Oscar Nomination: Best Foreign Language Film. Cannes: Jury Prize. TIFF: 2022. Trailer

Everything Everywhere All At Once
BBB.5  (Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, USA) The owner of a laundromat is on the verge of divorce from her husband and estrangement from her daugher is close to losing her business to a relentless tax when she learns that she is one of many versions of herself in a multiverse that needs her as its saviour.   A well-intentioned allegory meant to help us all lighten the mental weight of living in a world whose worrisome problems keep multiplying is treated to a wondrous concept that looks for every possible opportunity to expand on its every single detail, and as a result is far too conceptually heavy and takes up too much time explaining its rules and regulations, saved only by Yeoh’s underplaying her own multiverse of complex emotions.  Oscars:  Best Picture; Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh); Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan); Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis); Best Director (Dan Kwan; Daniel Scheinert); Best Original Screenplay; Best Film Editing; Nominations:  Best Supporting Actress (Stephanie Hsu); Best Costume Design; Best Original Score; Best Original Song (“This Is A Life”).  Trailer

The Fabelmans
BB.5  (Steven Spielberg, USA)  An aspiring filmmaker grows up Jewish in the hostility of America’s conformist post-war economic boom, his artistic awakening coinciding with the increasing fragility of his family life with scientific genius father and free-spirited but emotionally conflicted pianist mother.  Spielberg fictionalizes his own coming of age with excessive affection, constantly editorializing from his present perspective and washing out the personalities of the people he loves and misses, overdoing his twee adoration of his young, naive self along the way.  Oscar Nominations:  Best Picture; Best Actress (Michelle Williams); Best Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsch); Best Director (Steven Spielberg); Best Original Screenplay; Best Production Design; Best Original Score. TIFF: 2022. Trailer

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
BBB.5 (Rian Johnson, USA)  Detective Benoit Blanc is invited to the island of an eccentric billionaire for a murder mystery weekend, but after his skills ruin the fun upon arrival, he begins to suspect that one of the guests has dark plans for their host; only then do the narrative layers begin to move in a totally different direction.  An improvement on the original in many ways, this film is just as much of an excuse for Johnson to delve into social justice issues in the most simplistic and unsubtle ways, but at least he remembered to put mystery into the murder mystery this time.  Oscar Nomination:  Best Adapted Screenplay. TIFF: 2022. Trailer

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
BBB  (Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, France/Mexico/USA)  A grief-stricken carpenter makes a wooden puppet that is brought to life and set out upon the world to learn values and morals while, around him in Fascist Italy, both are very much under attack.  The classic Carlo Collodi tale is trotted out surprisingly soon after Matteo Garrone and Disney’s unwatchable live-action versions, this time using stop-motion animation and a politically charged backdrop to thicken up the lessons being taught (Geppetto has to explain the importance of listening to grown-ups when they don’t seem to be doing anything right), a dark and inventive version marred only by its slightly overdone desperation to be different than the others.  Oscar: Best Animated Feature.  Trailer

Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris
BBBB  (Anthony Fabian, Hungary/United Kingdom/Canada/France/USA/Belgium) A post-war charwoman decides to follows a series of signs and omens to Paris, where she uses her life savings to buy a dress from Christian Dior. The attempt to whittle a bigger plot (based on the first of Paul Gallico’s novels about Mrs. ‘arris, previously adapted as a television movie with Angela Lansbury in 1992) into a smaller film narrative that can’t fully contain it doesn’t always work, but the rewards are many by the time you reach the film’s fairy tale ending, and somehow this delightfully unself-conscious woman, far away from our time and living an experience that doesn’t really exist anymore, becomes someone personal and cherishable for any of us who ever felt invisible and dreamed of finally being seen. Oscar Nomination:  Best Costume Design. Trailer

BBBB  (Daniel Roher, USA)  After campaigning with the Russia of the Future party against Vladimir Putin in the 2018 presidential election and making a permanent enemy of a man he openly decried as corrupt, Alexei Novolny came close to dying of poisoning before being exiled to Germany, where he headed an investigation into his own assassination attempt and made the daring plan to return home despite remaining a vulnerable target.  Roher creates a fascinating political thriller out of a combination of his own material, ample newsreel archives and social media footage, though his choice to handle Navalny’s showman personality with a delicate remove will likely not change the hearts of anyone not already convinced by him as a promising bulwark of progress.  Oscar: Best Documentary Feature. Trailer

The Quiet Girl
An Cailín Ciúin
BBBB (Colm Bairéad, Ireland)  A neglected child in an unhappy house overrun with too many siblings in early eighties Ireland is sent to stay with relatives on their farm, blossoming under their care and bringing joy to a childless couple who have been living under the weight of their own sorrow for far too long.  Elegiac in its methods and brief in its narrative, this is a visually splendid tribute to the human need for kindness and its power to transform people’s lives.  Oscar Nomination: Best International Feature Film. Trailer

Rise Roar Revolt
BBB.5 (S.S. Rajamouli, India)  A guardian of the Gond tribe goes to Delhi to rescue a little girl who was taken as a captive servant by the British governor’s wife, but is thwarted in his quest by a member of the Indian Imperial Police who will step on his own people to get ahead of the colonial officers with whom he serves.  Set in the days of the Raj but freely enjoying an anachronistic vibe, this exuberant action musical plays fast and loose with the biographies of two real-life venerated figures in India’s history (who in real life never, to proven knowledge, ever met) but does so in a sincere vein of celebration, and if you can have patience with its excesses you’ll have a great time.  Oscar: Best Original Song (“Naatu Naatu”). Trailer

To Leslie
BBB  (Michael Morris, USA)  Six years after winning the lottery, an alcoholic Texas woman is broke, homeless and finds all her bridges burned until a kindly motel owner offers her the chance at redemption, and she has the choice to either take it or stick to her self-destructive patterns.  Another entry in the Women Smoking Without Makeup genre, this film is, like all those of its ilk, a collection of scenes engineered to give the lead actress an award-worthy role as a holy mess who eventually reveals her inner worthy soul, and while this one won’t make you forget you ever saw Sherrybaby or Julia, you won’t regret letting Andrea Riseborough prove herself worthy of the opportunity.  Oscar Nomination: Best Actress (Andrea Riseborough).  Trailer

Top Gun: Maverick
BBBB  (Joseph Kosinski, USA) “Maverick” Pete Mitchell is sent back to the Top Gun Academy in San Diego to help with an exceptionally dangerous mission that only his expertise in badassery can pull off successfully: an unnamed enemy country (whose location and populace is never seen, in an effort to make sure no film market on the planet will be inspired to boycott) is storing a dangerous payload of uranium and it needs to be destroyed For All Mankind, but it’s stored at the base of a mountain valley that cannot be easily accessed without bomber pilots exposing themselves to certain fatality.   There is the concern that this will be little more than just a retread of everything that made the original movie popular, but it delivers on all counts and is a magnificent use of both its technology, which has vastly improved in the time between chapters, and its movie star charisma, the likes of which has become far too tragically rare since Cruise deservedly became the phenomenon that he still is today.  Oscar:  Best Sound; Nominations:  Best Picture; Best Adapted Screenplay; Best Visual Effects; Best Film Editing; Best Original Song (“Hold My Hand”).  Trailer

Turning Red
BBBB  (Domee Shi, USA/Canada)   A pre-teen’s fraying need for her strict mother’s approval reaches a crisis point when strong emotional states have her spontaneously turning into a giant red panda, which she discovers is actually tied to her family’s history.  Bright, colourful and deliciously funny, this fresh animated film also ties its character’s transformation to the equally vulnerable but more corporeal realities of puberty in ways that are always inventive and often quite touching.  Oscar Nomination: Best Animated Feature. Trailer

The Whale
BBB.5 (Darren Aronofsky, USA)  A reclusive, morbidly obese English professor uses excessive eating as a way to punish himself for sorrows of the past, surrounded by a handful of emotionally explosive characters who provoke reflection and confession as he reaches his final days.  Aronofsky fully embraces the theatrical qualities of the material and is as unsubtle with them as Samuel D. Hunter’s script (based on his play) is with its themes, emotional weight is ACTUAL weight and Melville intertextuality is easily unpacked, but if you’re willing to accept this level of indulgence, the performances will carry you through to the almost operatic ending.  Oscars: Best Actor (Brendan Fraser); Best Makeup and Hairstyling; Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Hong Chau).   Venice: In Competition. TIFF: 2022.  Trailer

Women Talking
BB.5 (Sarah Polley, USA)  A group of Mennonite women who have been repeatedly drugged and raped by the men in their isolated, religious community set themselves the challenge of deciding if they want to stay and fight back or leave the only homes they’ve ever known and never return.  Polley’s adaptation of Miriam Toewe’s novel gives none of the characters any sense of culture or history, they’re illiterate, believe in the devil and think foggy glasses are a sign of impending death yet at the same time have a suspiciously articulate sense of self-awareness when expressing their feelings to each other, the lack of on-screen conflict feels more like conceptual philosophy than provocative drama.  Oscar Best Adapted Screenplay; Nominations: Best Picture. TIFF: 2022. Trailer




Armageddon Time
BB.5 (James Gray, USA/Brazil) A Jewish boy coming of age in New York in the dawn of Reagan’s America exasperates his parents and teachers with his uncontainable personality, then as his life changes grows apart from a less fortunate schoolmate. Gray dips into his own memories of childhood for what means to be a moody, understated kunstlerroman, but the situations that he treats thoughtfully he doesn’t treat insightfully, resulting in Squid and the Whale without the poignancy and Crimes And Misdemeanors without the wisdom. Cannes: In Competition. Trailer

BBB.5  (Kore-eda Hirokazu, South Korea)  A man who owns a laundromat makes money arranging illegal adoptions on the side, but an attempt to sell a baby abandoned at an orphanage is complicated by the presence of its emotionally detached mother and her connection to the kid’s underworld figure father.  The complications of family relationships that make up the bulk of Kore-eda’s filmography are once again treated with grace and sensitivity, but it’s missing the deep affection we tend to feel for his characters.  Cannes: Best Actor (Song Kang-Ho). TIFF: 2022. Trailer

Crimes Of The Future
BB (David Cronenberg, Canada/Greece/United Kingdom)  Rapid human evolution is causing spontaneous growth of new organs in a man’s body, which he opts to have surgically removed for enraptured audiences as a new form of performance art.  Cronenberg circles back on familiar concerns of the past in his usual grisly but, this time, frustrating and opaque manner, the images are striking whether beautiful or grotesque but too much time is spent trying to decipher the rules and jargon of his dark and disturbing world.  Cannes: In Competition. Trailer

Holy Spider
BBB  (Ali Abbasi, Denmark/Germany/France/Sweden/Jordan/Italy)  A Tehran journalist comes to the holy city of Masshad to investigate a serial killer who is slaughtering the city’s sex workers, but finds that she must do her own police work in a society who sees the murderer as a defender of the faith.  Abbasi overindulges in graphic sex and violence as a way to make sure the message about sick societies producing sick minds isn’t lost, rather undercutting the excellent performers with his on-the-nose dramatization of horrifying true life events.  Cannes: Best Actress (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi). TIFF: 2022. Trailer

Stars At Noon
B.5 (Claire Denis, France/Panama/USA)  A precariously credible journalist turns tricks to get by in Nicaragua while desperately trying to find a way out, then isolates herself from her few sympathetic contacts when she begins an erotically charged affair with a mysterious British oil executive.  Obscure plotting is usually the strength of Denis’ meditative cinema, but the sexy romance at the centre of this story would be so much more potent if the surrounding characters and situations weren’t all such vague political thriller stereotypes.  Cannes: Grand Prize. Trailer




Bones And All
BB (Luca Guadagnino, Italy/USA)  A teenager with a lifelong appetite for cannibalism crosses America in search of her mother, along the way meeting others of her kind and falling in love with a fellow “eater” who helps her accept her place in society’s margins.  The plot literalizes the human folly of thinking we can transform our inherited pain into passion through gory images, but the repetitive tone of melancholic bliss gets boring very quickly and Guadagnino’s filming the midwest with all the naturalism of Fritz Lang makes it feel much more pretentious than truly romantic.  Venice: Best Director (Luca Guadagnino). Trailer

The Eternal Daughter
BBBB (Joanna Hogg, USA/United Kingdom)  A filmmaker brings her mother to a rural luxury hotel that has connections with their family’s past, its ominous atmosphere rich with ghostly memories bringing the unresolved tensions of their relationship into focus.  Hogg once again mines her personal life for material and comes up with a thematically familiar but powerfully photographed rumination on grief, memory and their ability to be simultaneously creepy and comforting.  Venice: In Competition. TIFF: 2022. Trailer

White Noise
BBB  (Noah Baumbach, USA/United Kingdom)  Apocalyptic anxieties and the fear of death manifest themselves as a surreal train disaster and increase the distance between a husband and wife in early eighties Ohio.  Baumbach has a wonderful time expressing Don DeLillo’s novel through the crane shots and bright musical scores of Spielberg’s early adventures, fashioning a number of marvelous sequences but, as we move towards the finale, the script reveals a hollow intellectual centre and the final third drags.  Venice: In Competition. Trailer




BBB.5  (Carla Simón, Spain/Italy)  A family of Catalonian peach farmers are being pushed off land they’ve worked for generations by a greedy landlord, prompting violent conflicts between adult siblings that has ramifications for their children’s emotional well-being.  The drama isn’t taut and sometimes it feels like we’re killing time between incidents, but the world that Simón creates, populated by a number of non-professional actors who all have an easy candour on screen, is detailed and convincing.  Berlin: Golden Bear. Trailer

Both Sides Of The Blade
Avec amour et acharnement
BB (Claire Denis, France)  A radio show host tells her ex-con boyfriend that she’s fine with him going into business with her ex-lover, but her behaviour when the man from her past is around suggests that she is still passionately vulnerable to their connection.  Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon and Gregoire Colin give excellent performances in Denis’ exploration of erotic obsession, but the shambles of a screenplay never justifies the characters’ perpetually hysterical and unreasonable behaviour.  Berlin: Best Director (Claire Denis). Trailer




BBB (Nicholas Stoller, USA) A museum curator struggles to find love in the Big Apple, frustrated by a new relationship with a handsome wealth manager that is constantly being undone by their struggles with their inner homophobia. While this film makes almost as many wrong steps as it makes right ones, there’s no denying that its position as a mainstream Hollywood film with this subject matter and cast is significant, but there’s also no forgiving the fact that it is a comedy that is just not that funny.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer

BBB (Marie Kreutzer, Austria/Luxembourg/Germany/France)  Austrian Empress Elisabeth is admired and revered but, in the year she turns 40, finds her mental and physical health crumbling as she comes to realize that, while her comfortable life is governed by responsibilities, her position gives her no actual power.  A delicate, fine-tuned performance by Vicky Krieps is the best reason to watch this sumptuously beautiful film that duly respects the effect that constant scrutiny can have on one’s sanity, but beyond a vague sense of feminist potency it’s hard to understand the reason for the intentional anachronisms and loose treatment of historical facts.   TIFF: 2022. Trailer

The Good Nurse
BBBB  (Tobias Lindholm, USA)  A nurse suffering physical and financial struggles aids the police in catching a colleague who is slipping lethal doses of medication to patients in their ICU, his guilt obscured by a hospital administration sweeping the evidence under the rug.  Based on the true case of serial killer Charles Cullen, this film sees Lindholm repeat the successful formula of his 2012 drama A Hijacking, in which the toll of evil human activity is just as devastating as the evils of corporate greed, resulting in a moody, intense and satisfying thriller.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer

The Lost King
BBB (Stephen Frears, United Kingdom)  Disenchanted with her job in marketing, Philippa Langley attends a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III and becomes interested in researching the true biography of the title character, a king whose legacy has been shaped by Tudor propaganda for centuries, eventually pushing for the excavation of a parking lot in Leicester that turns out to contain his remains.  This next entry in a long of line of Frears’ efficient, gorgeously filmed Feisty Lady movies pushes a bit too hard on the emotional intuition aspect of the character, particularly considering Sally Hawkins’ overly affected performance, as the character’s imagined relationship with Richard (played beautifully by Harry Lloyd) is  a charming enough supernatural element, and the mansplaining snobbery that trained archaeologists treat Langley with until she turns out to be right about everything is far more interesting than her supposed visionary guesswork.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer

The Menu
BBB (Mark Mylod, USA) A high-end restaurant located on an isolated island hosts a collection of exclusive guests, and what begins as a very special multi-course meal soon turns out to have a very dark purpose. Ralph Fiennes performs his hosting duties with diabolical glee as he drops his fellow cast members into a concept worthy of Shirley Jackson, but his secrets are revealed too early and what started out as stylish fun becomes overburdened by a heavy concept with very few memorable surprises. TIFF: 2022. Trailer

My Policeman
BBB  (Michael Grandage, United Kingdom/USA)  A retired woman brings an ailing friend to stay with her and her husband, flashing back to the beginnings of her marriage when she discovered that the two men were having a passionate love affair that resulted in years of painful, unresolved wounds.  The acting is refined and the relationship at the heart of the story elicits a great deal of sympathy, but there’s a lack of intense feeling in both the erotic fun of the past and the trauma of the present that makes it feel so much less important than it should.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer

The Woman King
BBB (Gina Prince-Bythewood, USA)  In early nineteenth-century Africa, a rebellious teenager in the kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin) is trained as one of the king’s elite female warriors to fight against an oppressive enemy tribe who is participating in the European slave trade.  Good direction and a terrific cast help move things along, but neither effort can overcome an unconvincing sense of time and place, and the subpar script combines the plots of a Steven Seagal action film and a Bette Davis melodrama with far too little flair.    TIFF: 2022. Trailer

The Wonder
BBB.5  (Sebastián Lelio, Ireland/United Kingdom/USA)  After serving in the Crimean War, an English nurse is sent to a small, post-Potato Famine Irish village to investigate a young girl who has stayed alive for months without eating, suspicious that something being celebrated as a miracle by the superstitious locals is actually something far more terrestrial and sinister.  Lelio’s masterful atmosphere and Florence Pugh’s rock-solid performance make for intoxicating viewing, though it’s a shame that the enticing plot doesn’t result in something more effective by the time we reach the finale.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer







(Angus MacLane, USA) The Buzz Lightyear action figure that Andy played with in Toy Story was the merchandise tie-in for this film about a space ranger who strands his entire crew on a hostile foreign planet and lets life pass him by as he obsesses over fixing an error that only he holds himself accountable for. The storyline is more than a bit too dark and heavy for kids, the toys that Andy played with seemed like they were from Destination Moon and not First Man, but one exciting nick of time escape follows another in this endlessly creative, perpetually surprising film. Trailer




Confess, Fletch
(Greg Mottola, USA)  While investigating the kidnapping of his Italian girlfriend’s aristocratic father and the theft of his priceless paintings, an insouciant former investigative journalist is framed for murder and must add solving that case to his workload.  Jon Hamm has no end of fun resurrecting the franchise previously headed up by Chevy Chase in the eighties and shares that pleasure with the audience, his affable himbo vibe blending smoothly with Greg Mottola’s direction, which holds its irreverent tone while remaining steady with the twists of the narrative.  Trailer

Dead Ringer
(Dave Dyment, Canada) Toronto companion to Los Angeles Plays Itself, in which director Dave Dyment combs through footage of the many times that the Canadian city has performed as another location and rarely as itself. Some rearrangement of topics could clean things up a bit in the third act, there’s a point at which the explorations of landmarks feels a tad repetitive, and Dyment doesn’t fully justify giving more attention to Casa Loma than he does the rest of the piece, but the footage is meticulously researched and the overall feeling is a sense of pleasurable enrichment.

(Gerard Johnstone, USA/New Zealand)  A robotics designer working for a toy company invents a four foot-tall android companion for her recently orphaned niece, but things go awry when the device overdoes its absorption of human knowledge  and takes its role as protector and confidant to a murderous extreme.  Mixing elements of After Yang with Demon Seed, this riotously funny horror movie offers the age-old warnings of technology going too far while serving up a perceptive treatise on what happens to human insecurities when they are not bound by social conventions.  Trailer

The Northman
(Robert Eggers, USA) After a Nordic king is slain and his wife taken by his treacherous brother, the prince of the realm grows up vowing vengeance for both, but after being raised by Vikings and finally finding his way to his father’s killer, he finds things are different than he assumed.  Based on the same legend that inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this is an exciting, bloody and wholly engaging work of violence and vengeance enriched by vibrant cultural detail and intelligent but smartly restrained investigations into the dark recesses of the human soul, in which morality is relative whether we want to believe it or not.   Trailer

Rogue Agent
(Declan Lawn, Adam Patterson, United Kingdom/Germany/USA) A high-powered London solicitor falls in love with a handsome car salesman but, in getting to know him, discovers that he’s a spy for the British government rooting out IRA spies…or is he? What it doesn’t have in factual detail this film more than makes up for in captivating entertainment, stylishly photographed, sharply directed and often quite terrifying, with very sexy chemistry between Gemma Arterton and James Norton, who cons the audience just as easily as he does the people in the film. Trailer

Spoiler Alert
(Michael Showalter, USA)  An insecure television journalist and a handsome photographer fall in love and survive the pitfalls of a new relationship, later the devastation of passion waning, before a tragedy comes out of nowhere to put everything into perspective.  The humorous dialogue and sexy chemistry between the leads contributes to an indulgently sentimental but never manipulative romance, by its conclusion inducing rivers of tears while showing us that love may be our only true human superpower.  Trailer

Thor: Love And Thunder
(Taika Waititi, Australia/USA) Fourth Thor adventure has the Norse god save the world from a bitter religious zealot who is out to kill all the gods of the universe. The kitschy retro eighties style that seeks to bring in the aesthetics of WWF entertainment and He-Man cartoons is offset nicely by the darker, more menacing moments involving the genuinely scary villain, a ton of fun to watch thanks mainly to a mercifully uncomplicated plot and a perfect balancing of its elements.  Trailer




(Baltasar Kormákur, USA/Iceland)  A recently widowed doctor takes his daughters on vacation to their mother’s South African birthplace, only to find themselves stranded in the bush when their car breaks down on a day trip and there’s nothing between them and a very hungry lion.  A small experience that takes place over a short period of time and doesn’t have the expansive adventure of films like Jurassic Park or The Ghost and the Darkness, this film features a palpable sense of place and excellent visual effects that heighten a series of terrifying sequences.  Trailer

Bullet Train
(David Leitch, Japan/USA) The titular vehicle sets off from Tokyo and becomes the setting for an action-packed And Then There Were None scenario, in which a plucky secret agent hired to retrieve a mysterious briefcase steps into a violent mess of conflicting goals. Shot in a vibrant, almost artificial look that is somewhere between Tokyo Drifter, anime and a young child’s video game, this enjoyable bloodfest is enlivened by a rich assortment of actors bringing as much glamour as they do charisma to their performances, though it loses some of its panache in its overextended final third. Trailer

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
(Sam Raimi, USA) Stephen Strange teams up with a teen multiverse traveler to escape a monster who wishes to take her powers from her, and learns that the villain is an old colleague who is trying to create an alternate reality to heal the wounds of the past.  Things move along swiftly and none of the sequences designed to show off the tech department’s magnificent computer skills overstay their welcome, it’s a fun diversion that is boosted by a high calibre cast (the best of them Elizabeth Olsen, who really deserves far better roles than just as a Marvel princess), but the gender binary breaks its characters down to rational, responsible men and emotionally overwhelmed and unsure women in ways that even David Mamet would find simplistic and offputting. Trailer

God’s Country
(Julian Higgins, USA)  A former New Orleans police officer teaching at a university in the snowy mountains of Montana struggles with her internal rage when subtly aggressive behaviour by two locals wanting to hunt on her property turns into a full-on war of wills between them.  Higgins employs not a whit of subtlety in his Big Country Big Themes modernization of Straw Dogs, but the spare visual style is entrancing and Thandiwe Newton is letter-perfect in calibrating the main character’s subtle emotional turns, leading up to the wonderful release of the finale.  Trailer

God’s Creatures
(Saela Davis, Anna Rose Holmer, Ireland/United Kingdom/USA)  A woman’s joy at the return of her son from years of exile is ruined when she can no longer blind herself to the trouble he brings with him, which opens her eyes to the macho brutality bubbling under the peaceful surface of life in her peaceful Irish fishing village.  Emily Watson is mesmerizing in the lead role of this deeply felt story, whose layers unfold at a deliciously confident, careful pace, marred by a few errors in dramatic choices but maintaining a thoughtful examination of the deep cultural roots of of toxic masculinity, and how much stronger a hold they take in a world being threatened with extinction.  Trailer

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande
(Sophie Hyde, United Kingdom/USA) A widowed schoolteacher hires a sex worker to experience her first ever orgasm, and in the process of multiple sessions develops a relationship that threatens to cross the line of professional propriety. Screenwriter Katy Brand’s idea of sex work is on par with Pretty Woman, but the dialogue is intelligent and Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack do superb work in the leads. Trailer

(Steven Soderbergh, USA) An agoraphobic tech support operator for an Alexa-like app called Kimi discovers the sound of a distressed woman hidden on a track she is processing, bringing danger to herself when she decides to investigate its origins.   A few too many plot turns are contrived conveniences in David Koepp’s slick screenplay, it happens often with his work that the clockwork precision of pieces that fit together too neatly chokes the spontaneity out of the experience, but Soderbergh’s zesty visuals, which include some gorgeous electronic devices heightened by neon-pipe lighting, and the genuine feeling of amped-up paranoia that the film gives into in its final act, make it a juicy, if not eternally memorable, good time.  Trailer

See How They Run
(Tom George, USA) A murder during a performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap brings a grizzled Inspector and an overly excited Constable on to the case of a killer in London’s 1950s theatre scene. Light as a feather and perhaps a bit undernourished in the narrative department, this is a thorough charmer that, while not actually an Agatha Christie adaptation, sticks to the sacred tenets of whodunits while sending them up, and as a result is the most faithful interpretation of the famed author in many a year. Trailer

She Said
(Maria Schrader, USA)  New York Times journalists Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor struggle to convince victims of sexual harassment and assault to go on the record about their experiences with former Miramax co-founder and film mogul Harvey Weinstein, gearing up to publish the article that would spark a movement.  Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan struggle with clunky dialogue and Schrader fails to go beyond the already well known bullet points of the story, it would be interesting to examine Weinstein more as the symptom of a greedy system rather than its cause, but no one fails to do justice to Kantor and Twohey’s book and the film is absorbing.  Trailer

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent
(Tom Gormican, USA) Playing a fictional version of himself, Nicolas Cage is on the decline and isn’t handling it well, but a lucrative gig falls into his lap when a mysterious tycoon invites him to party with him in Mallorca, which turns out to be a dangerous situation involving an internationally reviled arms dealer.  It lacks the philosophical element that made JCVD a much better film in a similar vein, and it has to be said that the title is truly terrible, but there’s great pleasure in watching this film’s subject effortlessly navigate the pace of a cheeky but never smug plot. Trailer




About Joan
A Propos de Joan
(Laurent Larivière, France/Germany/Ireland)  A newly retired publisher reflects on her past and the relationships that have brought her to her current estrangement from her son.  Isabelle Huppert gives an entrancing performance in the lead role, but the plot meanders until a twist in the third act finally reveals the story’s focus on themes of grief and regret.  Trailer

As They Made Us
(Mayim Bialik, USA) A divorced journalist struggles to raise her kids as a single mom while dealing with her increasingly difficult parents and the dark family past that has kept her brother at a distance. Dianna Agron is a little too careful and precise in her performance, but even at its clunkiest, it’s a film with a lot of wisdom and grace, and anyone who feels a connection to the situations presented will find themselves moved by it. Trailer

(Zach Cregger, USA) Two strangers accidentally book the same Airbnb property in a rough Detroit neighbourhood, having no idea that deep beneath its foundation is a dark and dangerous secret that hearkens back to horrors of the past. The slow and steady buildup is successful at engaging us in the plight of interesting and sympathetic characters, but the film tantalizes us with the possibilities of secrets that don’t end up being much more interesting than an X-Files episode. Trailer

Death On The Nile
(Kenneth Branagh, United Kingdom/USA) Hercule Poirot is invited to join aboard a wedding party aboard a luxury yacht on the Egyptian river, their idyll interrupted by the jealous ex-lover of the groom that ends in murder.   Branagh once again makes the mistake of thinking that the characters and their situations require deep psychological and emotional investigation, which is actually just an excuse to concentrate on his own performance, while the mathematical precision of Christie’s assemblage of clues and coincidences takes an unjustified back seat. Trailer

Downton Abbey: A New Era
(Simon Curtis, United Kingdom/USA) Lady Mary allows a film crew to shoot a talkie at Downton, while the rest of her family travel to the south of France to investigate the origins of an inheritance that Lady Violet has received from an old lover.  It’s a shame that Julian Fellowes could barely come up with more for his plotting than a reworking of elements of Gosford Park (Smith more or less repeats her own lines about the ignoble profession of filmmaking) with a liberal amount of stealing from Singin’ In The Rain, but this cash-cow sequel won’t turn off anyone who is heavily invested in the experience, another two-plus hours of tablecloth porn that is at least kept from ever being tacky or boring by the remarkably talented cast filling every single role. Trailer

(Anthony Hayes, Australia) Two men driving across a post-apocalyptic desert towards a career opportunity break down and discover a deposit of gold in the ground that, should they take it with them, could provide them endless riches, but one of them needs to remain in this harsh environment to protect their discovery while the other goes in search of equipment to extract and haul it.   Expertly photographed and often terrifying in its gruesomeness, this film is marred by a rather uncomplicated treatment of a painfully uncomplicated premise; without any irony to its treatise on obsessive ambition (they want to get rich in a world where there’s nothing left to buy, get it?) it’s easy to see the big twist at the end coming and, given that it takes place in a world that seems to have ended, it’s hard to really understand why we would be all that invested in seeing handsome hero Zac Efron through this ordeal in the first place. Trailer

Jurassic World: Dominion
(Colin Trevorrow, USA/Malta) In the time since the events of Fallen Kingdom, the prehistoric creatures have spread out over the earth and are causing no end of havoc, swarms of ridiculously large locusts are moving their way across the globe and food activist Ellie Sattler happens to notice that they’re not devouring the plants grown from seeds sold by a biotech company run by sniveling mad scientist and Barbasol can collector Dr. Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott). By the third act, the film becomes another in a long line of reboots that spend their entire time recreating moments from the past simply for the sake of dimwitted nostalgia that no audience needs, as if I’ve spent thirty years with no other desire but to see Ellie reboot the park again or watch someone hold a flare in front of a dinosaur’s eyeball. Trailer

The Lost City
(Aaron Nee, Adam Nee, USA) The widow of an archaeologist who writes romance novels is kidnapped by a nutty billionaire who wants her help to find a rare and precious treasure, her only hope the efforts of the handsome but intellectually undernourished model who appears on the covers of her books.   It’s a shame that, as with many films of its time, so much of the green-screen photography looks artificial, the texture of being stranded in real places that made a film like Zemeckis’ classic Romancing The Stone so potent isn’t achieved here. Trailer

A Love Song
(Max Walker-Silverman, USA)  A woman waits alone at a campsite for a childhood flame to show up, her first attempt at reconnecting with an outside world that she walked away from after a tragedy in her past.  Dale Dickey takes advantage of a rare lead role and the location is breathtaking, but this miniature Nomadland is minimalism without any emotional complexity, and formalism without enigma.  Trailer

A Man Called Otto
(Marc Forster, USA/Sweden)  A perpetually irritated old man’s icy exterior begins to defrost when a kindly Mexican family moves in across the street, inspiring him to reckon with the painful memories of his past and right the wrongs of relationships gone awry.  Tom Hanks gives a rich performance in the lead role of this remake of Hannes Holm’s A Man Called Ove, and he’s matched by a delightful Mariana Treviño as the newcomer who unlocks his secrets, but Forster pushes far too hard on sentimental cliches (including an overdone score by Thomas Newman) and the flashback sequences, which are the most poignant and moving parts of the original film, are ruined by Truman Hanks’ amateurish and uncomfortable performance.  Trailer

(Alex Garland, United Kingdom) A traumatized woman rents a country cottage for a relaxing break and finds herself surrounded by suspicious characters that she believes are looking to do her harm. The Biblical imagery combined with Wicker Man-style folklore promises something radical and cool, and certainly the more tense sequences deliver twinges of a terrifying nightmare, but in the end what we have is little more than Midsommar was written by Charlie Kaufman, with some good-natured fun being poked at male fragility. Trailer

(Jordan Peele, USA/Canada/Japan) A family of movie horse trainers discover an otherworldly presence in the skies above their ranch that turns out to have a sinister relationship with the people down below. The visual effects veer between the spectacular (the alien object) and the somewhat undercooked (the chimp), but the elements that do work are all fascinating and fiery, particularly the unsettling combination of Spielbergian wonder with near-Human Centipede-level grotesquerie (of which I wish there was so much more). Trailer

The Outfit
(Graham Moore, USA) A bespoke tailor whose classy, elegant shop occupies an incongruous space on an otherwise rough Chicago street reveals a secret past when a gang war erupts in his backroom and endangers both him and his devoted assistant.  The plotting is so obsessively clever in Moore’s nifty puzzle that it rather overshoots the mark of perfection, things fit together so neatly that each time the plot twists it feels too convenient, as if it was engineered solely because the writers didn’t know how to get out of a tight spot. Trailer

The Pale Blue Eye
(Scott Cooper, USA)  A veteran detective is tasked with catching a killer who cut out the heart of a West Point cadet, enlisting the help of a young Edgar Allan Poe on the trail of the killer, but the body count rises as their search continues.  Allusions to Poe’s literary oeuvre are merely decorative additions to what is a pretty familiar detective story, but it looks good and the twists are satisfying.  Trailer

(Dan Trachtenberg, USA)  The vicious killer from another planet lands in the Northern Plains in the early 1700s and lays waste to a Comanche village, prompting one spirited young woman to make it her sole purpose to take him down.  This latest entry in the Predator franchise begun by John McTiernan in 1986 is the most pared down of any since the original, featuring some very gory violence and exciting action sequences, but the lack of interesting characters or personal complications fails to raise the emotional pulse.  Trailer

Three Thousand Years of Longing
(George Miller, Australia/USA) A narratologist attending a conference in Istanbul buys a bottle that turns out to contain a genie who needs her help to be freed. Enlivened by terrific visual effects and two very strong actors in the lead roles, this one falls into an unfocused and confused romance about electromagnetic signals in its final third. Trailer




The 355
(Simon Kinberg, USA/China) A CIA operative is sent to Paris and teams up with an international assortment of rival operatives to recover a doomsday device that is being sold on the black market.  One could handle the easily predictable script (it’s a movie rule as old as the hills, if the person doesn’t die on screen, they’re going to come back at the end) and the cringey Sisterhood dialogue (of which there is far too much, it’s all on the nose, and really embarrassing) if there was the slightest self-awareness in all of the performances, but Lupita Nyong’o is the only one who seems to get the escapist joke of this type of movie. Trailer

(Michael Bay, USA/Japan) Two brothers escape a botched bank robbery in an ambulance that they have taken hostage, going on a car chase across the city of Los Angeles with a paramedic and a cop in critical condition in the vehicle with them.  Glamorous cinematography and a game cast are a plus, but Bay’s insistence on high-stakes tension and rapid-fire editing in every scene eventually grows exhausting as the film reaches its overdue final act.  Trailer

Black Adam
(Jaume Collet-Serra, USA/Canada/New Zealand/Hungary) An ancient god is resurrected in a fictitious modern-day middle eastern country and brings an added layer of mayhem to a place already overrun with conflicting invaders. While it’s admirable that a superhero movie comes along once in a while that isn’t about a doomsday device, it’s a shame that a film with such beautiful production design and daringly dark themes has such an unimaginative script and some of the worst acting that the genre has ever seen (Noah Centineo in particular). Trailer

Fire Island
(Andrew Ahn, USA) A group of friends spend the summer in romantic entanglements in this modernized adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice. Writer-star Joel Kim Booster has a high mountain to climb in making something worthy of previous Austen adaptations, and while his not coming up with another Clueless is easily forgiven, a movie with this many funny people (in three cases famous comedians) should be a hell of a lot funnier than the soft, easy watch we have here. Trailer

Jerry And Marge Go Large
(David Frankel, USA) A retired factory manager puts his genius-level command of numbers to use playing the lottery and winning consistently, bringing his whole town into a moneymaking corporation that helps revive a place devastated by economic recession until an ambitious Harvard student threatens their smooth ride. The mild conflicts of the plot and heavy fictionalization of traces of a true story make this breezy comedy little more than a Hallmark movie with a name cast, but Bryan Cranston never overplays his hand and Annette Bening’s infectious laugh at least make it painless. Trailer

Marry Me
(Kat Coiro, Japan/USA) A world-famous singer is abandoned at the altar during her combination wedding and concert and decides to marry a stranger in the audience instead.  It’s a valiant attempt to rescue the romantic comedy formula from the obscurity into which it has fallen, but the problem here is that the formula is formulaic and the couple don’t entirely make sense, both Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson as the plucky schoolteacher with whom she falls in love are appealing and admirable in their own way, but the Opposites Attract vibe we’re supposed to get from their unlikely pairing never quite ignites. Trailer

Paradise Highway
(Anna Gutto, Germany/USA) A long-haul trucker offers to help her brother out with a drug deal and ends up saving a young girl from being trafficked. Juliette Binoche isn’t always convincing in the lead, and the story’s issues take precedence over the storytelling, it’s a humorless sermon preaching to the converted and is weighed down by excessive earnestness. Trailer

(Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, USA) A number of dead bodies begin to pile up in the town of Woodsboro and a group of friends believe that someone out there is copycatting the original Stab.   A fun concept is watered down by a cast of young actors in cookie-cutter roles that, perhaps intentionally, call attention to themselves as stock character types but are not lifted beyond them by any particularly good performances, while the simplistic direction is clearly trying to serve champagne on a beer budget. Trailer

Shotgun Wedding
(Jason Moore, USA)  A couple’s destination wedding at a posh resort in the Philippines is interrupted by pirates, who take the entire party hostage and demand that the bride’s wealthy father hand over his millions.  Jennifer Lopez gets another opportunity to show off her magnificent, glamorous command, and the script has more than its fair share of funny moments, but she and Josh Duhamel have only a faint trace of chemistry and the film rarely manages to give off any sense of spontaneous energy.  Trailer

Strange World
(Don Hall, USA)  A farmer who cultivates a strange, powerful crop that gives his entire community electricity must travel with his family and a spaceship’s crew on a voyage to the centre of the earth when this resource is threatened with extinction.  An imaginative concept that marries climate change concerns with the traditions of ancient cultures and plot strands from Fantastic Voyage results in a weird and somewhat tiresome combination, its bright and bubbly animation unable to hold audience interest in light of the incredibly dull characters.  Trailer

(Iris K. Shim, USA) A woman raising her daughter on a remote country farm is informed that her mother has died back in Korea, and is suddenly haunted by visions and ghostly noises coming from her departed matriarch, reminded of the horrible abuse she suffered as a child and which she is now inflicting upon her own daughter.  This theme is teased as a concept, but ultimately the film does nothing to explore it, guaranteeing our ability to forget the experience by making it very clear that what we’re dealing with is a supernatural presence and not the Turn Of The Screw-ish gray area between superstitious madness and actual poltergeist interference. Trailer

(Ruben Fleischer, USA/Spain) A bartender who grew up an orphan is pulled into the world of international relic hunting when a stranger shows up and claims to be his late brother’s former colleague and is searching for Ferdinand Magellan’s lost gold.  There’s absolutely nothing you won’t see coming, there are no twists that shock or surprise, the humour is hammy, the dialogue trite and neither of the lead performances seem all that motivated, but for all these drawbacks the film is a good-natured good time, particularly blessed with good action sequences and, unlike many green-screened adventures being made around the same time, a convincing sense of place. Trailer




Hocus Pocus 2
(Anne Fletcher, USA)  Thirty years after they were resurrected to wreak silly havoc on the town of Salem, Massachusetts, the witchy Sanderson sisters are back to take the blood of the town’s mayor, who is the descendant of a reverend who once tried to separate them.  It’s as much a theme park ride in cinematic form as the first one was, and anyone who loved it then will still love it now, but the genuinely sincere female bonding theme is stretched out over far too long a running time and the acting is mostly terrible.  Trailer

(Ti West, USA/Canada/New Zealand)   Prequel to the events of West’s X, in which we see the early life of one of that film’s minor characters, living on a farm and jumping quite easily from slaughtering animals in the barn to killing people who stand in her way.  This one makes more of an effort than the previous film, though it’s still baffling how little West wants to travel any narrative distance from beginning to end, creating a character who simply accomplishes her gruesome with no attempt at growth or revelation.  TIFF: 2022. Trailer

Ticket to Paradise
(Ol Parker, USA/United Kingdom) A divorced couple put aside their differences and head to Bali when their newly college-graduated daughter tells them that she is marrying a seaweed farmer she met on vacation. Julia Roberts and George Clooney bring a lot of charisma and glamour to the kind of rom-com manipulation that the screen has gone too long without, but the script’s take on Code-era comedies of remarriage is woefully uninventive and puts far too few obstacles in their way.  Trailer




(David O. Russell, USA/Japan)  A dubiously qualified doctor, an astute lawyer and an exuberant nurse who become friends during the Great War are asked to investigate the murder of a prominent businessman and end up stumbling onto a conspiracy to usurp the President of the United States.  Russell creatively puts fictional characters into his vaguely approximated telling of the Business Plot of 1933 but overdoes his obsession with eccentric personalities and quirky situations, while wholly underwhelming us with a drawn out plot that obsesses over unimportant details.  Trailer

(B.J. Novak, USA) A nationally famous New York City podcaster is summoned to the funeral of a Texan girl that he barely remembers sleeping with but whose family believes him to have been her committed partner. It becomes clear very quickly that star-writer-director Novak began with a moral lesson and filled the story in later, particularly the lecturing tone the film takes in telling us about the lack of communication between the right and the left, and the lack of self-reflection in both camps that leads to the disasters that befall these people.  Trailer




Mack & Rita
(Katie Aselton, USA/Luxembourg)  A young writer who cannot connect with her generation and longs to have what she believes is the comfortable, sedentary life of a senior citizen gets her wish when a past-life regression therapy session ends with her turning into a seventy year-old.  Body-swap films work best when the stakes are correctly in place, but here we have a character who doesn’t actually switch with anyone and isn’t in danger of losing anything on the road to enlightenment, she’s merely inconvenienced and, given how humorless the operation is, we as an audience are even more so.  Trailer

My Fake Boyfriend
(Rose Troche, Canada) A stunt performer’s best friend creates a virtual boyfriend to make his current partner jealous and creates more trouble than he means to in the process. The relationships lack a great deal of context, few of the actors playing gay men can convince you that they’re not sympathetic straight guys happy to stretch their image for a good part in a movie, and the production design looks like run down sets that are overlit to compensate for the fact that they seem haphazardly assembled. Trailer

(Ti West, USA/Canada) A low-level porn producer takes a tiny cast and crew out to the middle of nowhere to shoot a film that he believes will jumpstart his career, but the place they have chose to make this future classic is on the property of an aged farmer and his wife who give off some creepy vibrations that the young people choose to ignore.   Gory and graphic is one of this horror film’s assets, but its greatest offense is the lack of mystery or backstory to the characters, and whatever comment being made about the hypocrisy of a society that pretends to be puritan while being obsessed with sex is not clever enough to qualify as a theme. Trailer


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