Spencer (2021)

Neon

Spencer opens with a long, static shot of a deserted kitchen, dimly lit by the barely awake sunshine of a misty early morning, eerie with silence. Typically bustling with life, filled with busy people working hard to prepare meals on time, the place is ominously empty. While inspecting this clinical landscape of studiously kept surfaces and perfectly arranged kitchenware, our gaze locks onto a sign hanging overhead. Using the familiar graphic template of the “Keep calm and carry on” slogan – itself a motivational poster from the times of The Blitz now reduced to a cliché souvenir one is expected to bring home from a trip to London as a royal keepsake – the sign reads “Keep the noise to a minimum. They can hear you”.  

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House of Gucci (2021)

Universal Pictures

It would seem it wasn’t that long ago when I sat in the cinema to watch The Last Duel and emerged positively amazed at the fact a man well into his eighties could direct a movie this aggressive, poignant and provocative, all in the guise of a familiar medieval epic. You shall also be informed that in a recent podcast I was a part of (available over at CLAPPER’s Patreon channel that I strongly suggest you subscribe to) I may have confidently suggested that Ridley Scott just doesn’t miss at all and the worst he can do is mediocre. Boy, was I wrong! 

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The Card Counter (2021)

Focus Features

Over the course of his long and illustrious career, though peppered with at least a handful of controversial works, Paul Schrader has continually revisited – be it as a director or only in screenwriting capacities – the theme of a tormented man on a mission. From Blue Collar to Hardcore and even recently to First Reformed, and even his collaborations with Martin Scorsese (Taxi DriverThe Last Temptation of Christ and Raging Bull) many of his movies fit together thematically. 

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The Wes Craven Retrospective: Invitation to Hell (1984)

1984 was quite a busy year for Wes Craven who managed to release three films at that time: A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes 2 and Invitation to Hell, the latter of which was a made-for-TV project he did not have a hand in writing. Similarly to how I felt about his 1978 outing Summer of Fear, a movie-of-the-week thriller with Linda Blair, I was immediately asking the very fundamental question of why Wes Craven – busy as he was – would ever decide to re-enter the world of television.

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Last Night in Soho (2021)

Film4

Over the course of his entire career, Edgar Wright has been interested in exploring ideas surrounding nostalgia, clinging onto the past and dealing with changing life circumstances, all hidden within hyper-stylized genre experiments functioning as nostalgic love letters to movies Wright grew up watching. Admittedly, this idea of wrapping nostalgia around nostalgia is what gave Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz and – quite frankly – nearly all of his movies their particular charm and convinced the audiences not only to let themselves be taken onto these wild adventures, but also perhaps tickled their own nostalgic glands. After all, we all know someone who failed to grow up, maybe we can’t part ways with our favourite pub, or maybe we all know what it’s like to come back to our hometown after many years to see how the place changed and how we no longer fit in there despite our memories telling us we should be able to. 

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The French Dispatch (2021)

Searchlight Pictures

Ever since Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson’s films have been progressively and iteratively becoming fully ensconced in layers of his characteristic idiosyncratic style. Perhaps a case could be made that he’s been on this trajectory ever since he picked up a camera and that it was too difficult to fish it out from his early movies, such as Bottle Rocket or Rushmore, because this trajectory was never linear. It was exponential. As time went on and Anderson grew more confident behind the camera, his movies have slowly but surely transcended into a universe of their own, a universe of uber-quirky comedy underpinned by a visual aesthetic attempting to blur the line between live-action filmmaking and stop-motion animation, of which Anderson is also particularly fond (see Fantastic Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs).  

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Dune (2021)

WB

Ever since its publication in 1965, Frank Herbert’s Dune has remained an elusive and treacherous challenge for filmmakers to adapt. Many have tried and failed and those who succeeded have seen their vision diluted and pared down. The seemingly insurmountable narrative and thematic density of Frank Herbert’s prose was enough to bring Hollywood to its knees and turn Dune into one of the Holy Grails of literary works infamously unwilling to bend to the will of the film industry – together with The Lord of the Rings and Ulysses  until now. Well, sort of.  

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The Last Duel (2021)

20th Century Studios

Ridley Scott is eighty-three years old. In fact, he will soon turn eighty-four. At this age, many filmmakers – at least those who remain active and haven’t thrown in the towel to spend the twilight of their lives sipping wine in Bali or writing memoirs – tend to slow down a bit, maybe direct their artistic interests towards more meditative output, like Clint Eastwood’s Cry Macho for example. Alternatively, like Francis Ford Coppola who is actively trying to burn his private fortune to make Megalopolis, or Charlie Chaplin who came out of retirement in 1967 to direct A Countess of Hong Kong, they might also want to stage their one last hurrah and realize that one passion project that somehow had eluded them for decades.  

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Halloween Kills (2021)

Universal Pictures

When the David Gordon Green-directed refurbishment of the tattered Halloween franchise hit the screens in 2018, it looked as though the baton had been passed into the hands of people who knew how to update it for the modern viewer while staying loyal to its roots and paying due homage to its father, John Carpenter. I suppose the film’s strongest asset was its decision to effectively distance itself from the haphazardly engineered lore imposed upon this series by multiple sequels, most of which were at best – politely put – uninspired and in some cases downright atrocious. This way, the movie was allowed the luxury of simplicity because it didn’t have to spin multiple plates and pay off the ludicrous decision to make Laurie Strode Michael Myers’ sister (which was introduced in the 1981 sequel) while tipping the hat to various other elements of franchise mythos. The 2018 Halloween was lean and mean. It was brutal, scary, effective and straightforward. Sadly, the newly released sequel Halloween Kills is everything but.  

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