Ambulance (2022)

Universal Pictures

If you were taken into a screening blindfolded and asked to definitively say – in the absence of opening credits – who directed the movie based solely on what it looked like, how many minutes would it take you to identify a Michael Bay movie? One? Two? Under a minute? Fair enough, the jig would be up the minute you saw a car transform, but I think a statistical audience member who doesn’t skip his blockbusters would likely identify a Bay-directed effort rather quickly just by putting together the confluence of hard and fast cuts, the golden hour sheen, canted angles, orbiting shots and era-appropriate pop/rap music blaring through the speakers.  

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X (2022)

A24

Ti West and Rob Zombie are two sides of the same coin. Although superficially their movies do not look alike at all, their connected at the hip because both filmmakers through their work express similar emotions; only differently. And X might be the definitive lynchpin between them.  

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Belfast (2021)

There’s more than one Belfast. There’s Belfast you know from history classes or from accruing knowledge about the world in your own capacity. There’s Belfast you find on postcards – “Venice of the North” as Belfast City Council would like you to see it as – brimming with nightlife, greenery and tourist attractions. There’s Belfast you can visit where you will find out that the glitz of tourism exists side-by-side with the vestiges of its troubled and bloody history. There’s Belfast you can move into where you will find truly amazing people full of warmth and candour and who are putting their best foot forward to work through an intergenerational PTSD.  

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Nightmare Alley (2021)

Searchlight Pictures

What is the point of a remake? Even more fundamentally, what is the reason for retelling any story? Well, at the most basic level, the idea of recounting the same stories is probably the most ancient way of record-keeping that predates the invention of writing, so it’s hard to criticize the general concept of reaching back into the vast expanses of pre-existing stories and giving them a do-over.

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Don’t Look Up (2021)

Netflix

I think it goes without saying that Adam McKay’s movies are about as subtle as a fart in a bathtub and despite their seemingly wide-reaching appeal, their purpose may not be that obvious. Even though he has made a departure from making out-and-out comedies like The Other Guys or Anchorman and moved towards making socially and politically aware satires like The Big Short and Vice, it is my belief that viewers by and large did not attune themselves to what he is currently doing, which is why his movies are weirdly polarizing. And his latest outing, Don’t Look Up, is no different in this regard. 

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The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

WB

Wow, déjà vu. 

Have you ever wondered why certain songs by certain bands do not lend themselves well to being performed by other bands as covers? Granted, many songs – in fact, probably most of them – do lend themselves to such treatment. You will always hear perennial classics of pop music recreated by young musicians, rearranged and reharmonized by pros, or translated into other genres, which is all great. I do enjoy the novelty of hearing George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” reimagined by post-grungers of Seether just as much as I always had a soft spot for Metallica’s version of “Whiskey in the Jar” or Marilyn Manson’s rendition of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams”.  

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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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