Category Archives: New Releases

Cinema Review: Tár (2022)

Cinema Review: Tár (2022)

Written and directed by Todd Field

Produced by: Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Noémie Merlant, Nina Hoss, Sophie Kauer, Julian Glover, Allan Corduner, Mark Strong etc.

Cinematography Florian Hoffmeister

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



Tar (definition): a dark, thick flammable liquid distilled from wood or coal, consisting of a mixture of hydrocarbons, resins, alcohols, and other compounds. It is used in road-making and for coating and preserving timber.

Todd Field’s classical film masterpiece, Tár (2022), was hailed by critics when released late last year in the U.S.A and made many top ten film of the year lists. I saw it in the first week of 2023 and while I don’t always concur with the gushing hyperbole of professional film critics, I have to say if I see a better cinema release all year I will be amazed. Let’s hope I do.

Tár (2022) is a film which works on many genre and narrative layers. It is a psychological drama, an absorbing character study, a backstage musical, a complex morality play, with suggestions of hallucinatory horror during the final act of the film. It is a triumph of filmic brilliance expertly delivered by Todd Field. It is incredible to think this is only the third film he has directed. Certainly a case of high quality over quantity. But Field confirms himself an auteur, exerting absolute control over the material. Such is his, and the production team’s, meticulous research, writing, planning, design and execution that if I hadn’t seen the credits, I would have said the maestro Stanley Kubrick had made this film.



Tár (2022) opens with haunting singing over the imaginatively presented credits that slowly fill a black screen. Field demonstrates control from the start before we are introduced to Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett). Now, I thought the film may have been a story about a female conductor attempting to break into a traditionally male dominated world. However, Lydia Tár is at the top of her game as a conductor and composer, heralded for her genius interpretations of the music of Mahler and own oeuvre. Plus, having won numerous awards for her cinema, theatre and television compositions. Lydia Tár is soaring and about to release a book Tár on Tár and conduct a live recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony for the Berlin Philharmonic. So, where’s the drama? What could go wrong?

Field structures the linear narrative around Tár’s day-to-day working and family life and the process of rehearsing Mahler’s Fifth. Methodically we are then introduced to actions from Tár’s recent past which threaten to haunt her. As a character who is so revered and in control of her world, Tár’s talent and confidence is magnetic and admirable. However, having no doubt been a force of nature to make it this competitive world, her arrogance and lack of awareness of a changing culture threatens to cancel her prodigiously built dominion. I won’t say anymore but Todd Field brilliantly explores resonating themes of the zeitgeist with razor-sharp intelligence. There are no easy answers either.

I could not take my eyes or mind off the screen during Tár (2022). It is cerebrally, aesthetically and psychologically all-encompassing. The stark cinematography, exhilarating classically-driven soundtrack, imposing Berlin architecture and claustrophobic feel of the Philharmonic offices and rehearsal spaces collude to create further emotional tension. Further, the film not only works impressively as absorbing drama, but also as interpretive ambiguity with subtle and mysterious suspense. Lastly, if Cate Blanchett does not win a best acting Oscar for her performance in Tár (2022) I will be stunned. Never less than metronomically astounding, Blanchett has taken Field’s precise writing and breathed physical, mental and spiritual vivacity into a challenging personality. Thus, take many-a-bow maestros, Blanchett and Field. Encore! Encore! Encore!

Mark: 10 out of 11


CINEMA REVIEW: BONES AND ALL (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: BONES AND ALL (2022)

Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Screenplay by David Kajganich

Based on Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Produced by: Luca Guadagnino, Theresa Park, Marco Morabito, David Kajganich, Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Lorenzo Mieli, Gabriele Moratti, Peter Spears, Timothée Chalamet

Cast: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon Green, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz, Mark Rylance, etc.

Cinematography: Arseni Khachaturan

*** CONTAINS STORY SPOILERS ***



After reviewing The Menu (2022) last time out, here’s another film where food and eating and death are at the very marrow of the narrative. I must confess though it’s very difficult to discuss the excellent hybrid genre film, Bones and All (2022) without giving away the main ingredient within this film. So, I give prior warning that I’m going to have to reveal it in the review. I will state therefore if this film had been called, Fine Young Cannibals, I would not have been surprised in the least. Because the theme of people eating human meat is at the heart of the story.

Bones and All (2022) is not a B-movie zombie film with bloody images of flesh-eating monsters devouring people. Yes, there are some gory scenes to satisfy horror fans, however, this arthouse adaptation of Camille DeAngelis’ 2016 novel, is more subtle and sympathetic to the young protagonists with a yearning for mortal flesh. Here murder and cannibalism occur, but it is represented as a curse for both Maren (Taylor Russell) and Lee (Timothee Chalamet), who struggle with their consumptive urges. Moreover, the feeding on flesh is highly symbolic, representing a sensual and almost religious experience for the couple. As they travel across various States, they grow as characters and people. They also explore their own love and share other people’s bodies, romance bleeding through in the process.



Bones and All (2022) is set in the 1980s. It begins with teenager Maren living with her father (Andre Holland) in Virginia. After hitting eighteen years of age, and causing a particularly nasty event at a friend’s sleepover, she is abandoned by him. Left with a cassette tape explaining her family history, Maren sets out to find her mother, meeting Lee along the way. The two are immediately drawn to each other and while driving set about sating their desire for fresh meat. This causes conflict between the couple as it is clear they are not comfortable with the nasty business of killing. Unlike the pursuing serial-killer-trophy-collecting antagonist, Sully (Mark Rylance). He is a venal force of nature, taking animalistic glee during the sacrifice of his victims.

Bones and All (2022) is directed with glacial majesty by Luca Guadagnino. He expertly blends and cooks the genres of horror, period drama, rites-of-passage, romance and road movie with a well balanced approach to tone. Extracting attractive performances from Chalamet and Russell, their onscreen chemistry is potent and touching. Acting legend Mark Rylance steals the show though as the slithery Sully. Overall, I felt the film could have been cut for pace slightly and the Romeo and Juliet-with-a-twist ending was too tragic for me. I think, despite their cannibalistic needs, Maren and Lee deserved a future together. But ultimately it’s all a matter of taste.

Mark: 8 out of 11


NETFLIX FILM REVIEW: BLONDE (2022)

NETFLIX FILM REVIEW: BLONDE (2022)

Directed and written by: Andrew Dominik

Based on: Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

Produced by: Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Tracey Landon, Scott Robertson

Main cast: Ana de Armas, Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale, Xavier Samuel, Julianne Nicholson, Evan Williams, Toby Huss, David Warshofsky, Caspar Phillipson, etc.

Cinematography: Chayse Irvin

*** CONTAINS HISTORICAL SPOILERS ***



Aside from expertly directing episodes of the Netflix drama, Mindhunter and the documentary One More Time with Feeling (2016), filmmaker Andrew Dominik’s directorial output has been sparse of late. Indeed, he hasn’t released a feature film since quirky gangster drama, Killing Them Softly (2012). I imagine this is due to many reasons including: slow-gestating methodology, several unrealized projects failing to see a greenlight, and the dreaded COVID-19. It’s a shame as I believe he is one of the most compelling filmmakers around at present. Chopper (2000) remains one of my favourite cult stories about a charismatic, larger-than-life criminal anti-hero. Similarly, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) is one of the best films I have seen from the last twenty years.  It was pretty much a box-office flop but everything about it screamed greatness to me: stunning cinematography; brilliant cast; and resonating themes regarding celebrity and legend in the Wild West.

After Chopper Read and Jesse James, once again Dominik explores the iconic life of a real person in Blonde (2022). You may have heard of her, Norma Jean Mortenson/Baker, or as she was more famously known: Marilyn Monroe. Using Joyce Carol Oates’ book as a springboard, plus no doubt many other written, visual and media sources available, Dominik has crafted a stylish and singular vision of the peroxide icon’s life and career. In no doubt should a viewer believe this to be a “true” story in the documentary-drama style, but rather an impressionistic, poetic and compelling imagining of Marilyn’s short, yet tumultuous, existence on this planet.

For me, Marilyn Monroe was one of the most stunning movie stars who ever existed. She lit up the screen and was a mightily under-rated actor also. In her heyday she was the biggest star in the world. Her role as Sugar in Some Like it Hot (1959), is one of the most gorgeously funny, beautiful and vulnerable performances ever committed to celluloid. Enter Ana De Armas as Marilyn in Blonde (2022). De Armas is a revelation on-screen in terms of her looks, movement, body language and the nuanced depth she brings to the screen siren. It’s a brave role too as the script demands much of her. Throughout many exquisitely filmed and edited scenes lies the ugly degradation of Marilyn’s body and soul. De Armas gives her all in these vignettes of domestic abuse, sexual assault, rape, abortions, overdoses, miscarriages, mental breakdowns and further sexual gaslighting at the hands of people she believed were friends.



So, why should you want to watch Blonde (2022), you may ask yourself. Well, De Armas’s performance alone is worth enduring much of the emotionally draining misery. Moreover, Dominik again proves himself to be a director of the highest quality. He’s a maverick and iconoclast who has an impressive and intelligent cinematic eye. The opening sequence where Norma, as a young child, is driven by her unwell mother through Los Angeles forest fires is a frightening and imperious interpretation of mental health, full of fear, heat, and portentous symbolism. Such fire and trauma foreshadows the distress and torment that is to come to young Norma throughout her life. A schizophrenic Mother also echoes the schism of persona that impacts Norma the individual, and Marilyn the movie star. The division of personalities is a theme which the screenplay sensitively explores, despite being buried in the more lurid and shocking events of Marilyn’s sad life.

Overall, Blonde (2022) is a startling and shocking rendition of Marilyn Monroe. Of course, hers was an existence full of drama, intensity, darkness and tragedy. But you have to think there was some light in there, some happiness, humour and joy. On some fleeting occasions during Blonde (2022), Dominik presents this, but ultimately this is a beautifully filmed yet ugly-hearted cinematic tragedy. On the surface the film genre is biopic, but it really is a horror film, as Marilyn’s exploitation by the men in her life is laid bare on the screen. I’ve read some critics describe the film as exploitational, however, this is a film ABOUT exploitation. Marilyn was exploited by agents, photographers, directors, producers, the press, the Hollywood system, the audience, her doctors, her lovers, her husbands and a President of the United States.

Dominik is perhaps suggesting Monroe did not kill herself, but was disintegrated by those who should have loved and cared for her. The ultimate tragedy is that Norma/Marilyn could not find the love and mental strength inside herself to survive those who perpetually sought to profit from this beautiful shining star. If the events realised in Blonde (2022) are to be believed, what person could?

Mark: 8 out of 11


CINEMA REVIEW: TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: TRIANGLE OF SADNESS (2022)

Directed by Ruben Östlund

Written by: Ruben Östlund

Produced by: Erik Hemmendorff, Philippe Bober

Main cast: Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Burić, Henrik Dorsin, Vicki Berlin, Woody Harrelson etc.

Cinematography: Fredrik Wenzel

Edited by: Ruben Östlund, Mikel Cee Karlsson

Music by: Mikkel Maltha, Leslie Ming

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



Ruben Ostlund is fast becoming one of those go to directors who can be relied upon to deliver cinema of the highest quality. His latest film, Triangle of Sadness (2022) is his finest to date. Having said that, his Force Majeure (2014) was one of those excellent films I hated.  Technically, it was beautifully shot, performed, and directed, however, I just found the characters too irritating. Personally despising ski holidays probably didn’t help either. I actually wished the characters had been killed in the avalanche to save on all the middle-class matrimonial moaning.

Ostlund’s next film The Square (2017) was bravura arthouse storytelling containing wonderful digs at the nature of modern art and how rich people will buy any old crap if it is put in a gallery. While a tad overlong, it was wonderfully funny with hilarious mocking of the bourgeoisie, art and the rise of social media. With Triangle of Sadness (2022), Ostlund has moved up the social strata and focussed his satirical eye on the uber-wealthy, combining socialist dialectic with gross-out comedy, as Das Kapital meets Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983).



The film opens with Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean), a model and Social Media influencer, as a couple whose relationship is fraught with problems. Through Yaya’s connections she secures them free passage on one of the most luxurious yachting holidays on the ocean. While they aren’t short of money, they have nothing compared to the wealthy millionaires and business types on the boat. As Carl and Yaya act as our conduits in the story, Ostlund uses them to explore the petty first world problems which impact many romances. The staff are also introduced as key players in the “Upstairs, Downstairs” character dynamic, notably Woody Harrelson’s drunken socialist Captain Thomas Smith, and Vicki Berlin’s staff supervisor, Paula. Lastly, the money is represented essentially by lonely tech millionaire, Jarmo (Henrik Dorsin), obnoxious Russian, Dimitry (Zlatko Burić) and stroke victim, Therese (Iris Berben) and her husband.

Throwing these disparate, and latterly desperate personalities, into the trapped spaces of a superyacht is great writing by Ostlund. What unfolds in the second act of the film is an extended set-piece of riotous fun. As the yacht becomes battered by the stormy sea and weather, the guests all become violently ill to devasting impact. While it may not be to everyone’s taste, I was laughing for twenty odd minutes straight at this sickening skewering of these privileged people. At the same time the drunken Dimitry and Captain Smith argue relentlessly about the differences and merits of capitalist and Marxist ideologies. It’s easily one of the funniest and impressively directed sequences of this cinematic year.

But Ostlund isn’t finished yet. These characters have not suffered enough for him, and the final section of Triangle of Sadness (2022) drenches the story in another hilarious and satirical direction. I won’t spoil the events which unfold, but Carl and Yaya’s relationship issues come to the fore as a darkly comedic peril strikes the yacht and passengers. Here Ostlund strikes a further blow against capitalism, exploring the nature of survival of the fittest and true values of human currency in a savage indictment against the obscenely rich. Overall, while the characters may not be the most likeable, that is never Ostlund’s aim. Ostlund’s desire is to critique capitalist hegemony through both high and low brow humour. He succeeds, making Triangle of Sadness (2022) one of the most thought-provoking and exhilarating cinema experiences of the year.

Mark: 9.5 out of 11



CINEMA REVIEW: THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN (2022)

Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh

Produced by: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin & Martin McDonagh

Main Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, etc.

Cinematography: Ben Davis

Edited by: Mikkel E. G. Nielsen

Music by: Carter Burwell

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is Martin McDonagh’s latest cinematic masterpiece. Not only is it one of the best films of the year he has, as with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), constructed one of the most formidable screenplays of many a year. As a playwright McDonagh has won many awards for his works. His debut film, In Bruges (2008), was a deceptively simple story of two hitmen on the run which, with rich thematic power, became a darkly hilarious existential cult classic. His follow-up Seven Psychopaths (2012), a heady mix of criminals versus writers in a meta-fictional Hollywood-based narrative was brilliantly written and acted, if slightly lacking thematic clarity. Like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is a highly emotional human drama which contains intelligent allegory, incredible characterization, and cracking dialogue.

Set in 1923 on an island off of Southern Ireland called aptly Inisherin, the film opens by focussing on genial everyman farmer, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) and his daily routine. After tending to his animals, he usually calls for his friend, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) to go to the island pub, the J.J. Devine or Jonjo’s. In England there is an idiom called, “sending someone to Coventry.” This means to ignore or ostracize an individual or individuals. So, basically Colm chooses to do this to his long-standing friend, Pádraic. This shunning completely bemuses Pádraic and despite Colm’s pleading for Pádraic to respect his wishes, he continually seeks an answer to his former friend’s decision.



After this intriguing premise is established, what follows is a tremendously original, darkly funny and emotionally penetrating succession of scenes. The exchanges between the two characters begins as bickering but then descends into some seriously disturbing acts of recrimination. Attempting to make them see sense are various eccentric characters on the island who provide many witty and absurd exchanges that McDonagh specialises in. Further, Pádraic’s sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) is almost the one voice of reason as the feud escalates. As she tries to diffuse the conflict, even Barry Keoghan’s young idiot, Dominic Kearney, the initial comic relief in the film, attempts to make these two men see sense.

Visually, The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), is incredibly rich. The territory displays gorgeously photographed shots of the rocks, the sea, the stone roads and the lush green countryside. But while there is a sense of expanse and freedom initially, the feeling of isolation pervades. As the story continues the characters feel more and more segregated by the sea and their own or other’s decisions. None more so than Farrell’s Pádraic. A simple man who just wants to do his work and get drunk with his friend, he finds he is sequestered by Colm’s desire to self-isolate and concentrate on his music. Here, Farrell and Gleeson give tremendous character work. Farrell especially has rarely been better as Pádraic’s attitude turns initially from shock to bitterness over the journey of the narrative.



A film director’s job is for me about making key creative choices. Martin McDonagh makes brilliant choices while working from his own exceptional script. I loved everything about The Banshees of Inisherin (2022). The look, the performances, the pacing, the locations and Carter Burwell’s phenomenal score are absolutely first class. I haven’t even mentioned Barry Keoghan’s memorable supporting turn. He surely is one of the most naturally gifted actors of his generation. Not to forget other striking characters in the ensemble such as the creepy, Mrs McCormick (Sheila Flitton), an old harridan who acts as a portent for death on the island.

Martin McDonagh expertly combines a superb ear for dialogue, a psychologically absorbing analysis of the human condition with elements from Waiting For Godot and Channel Four situation comedy, Father Ted. Above all else, The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is a darkly, spectacular cinematic experience which works on many levels. On one level it is about the isolation of island life and its inhabitants. On another it’s about the death of a friendship. While on yet another level it is about the analogous absurdity of civil war and how conflict can start for the merest of reasons. While the best cinema is certainly about showing and not telling, McDonagh proves again that dialogue-driven films can produce cinematic theatre, comedy and tragedy of the highest order.

Mark: 10 out of 11


CINEMA REVIEW: SMILE (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: SMILE (2022)

Directed and written by Parker Finn

Based on Laura Hasn’t Slept by Parker Finn

Produced by: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner, Robert Salerno, Gabby Olivera

Cast: Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Kyle Gallner, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, Rob Morgan, etc.

Cinematography: Charlie Sarroff



If you search YouTube by typing ‘short horror film’ you will find hundreds of really good and often scary, surprisingly enough, short horror films. A great majority of them will have a lengthy suspenseful set-up, before ending on a startling jump scare. The model itself is arguably overdone, however, it is an excellent set-up-punchline structure for new filmmakers to learn film techniques and scare the viewers. Many such short videos go viral and, in the case of Laura Hasn’t Slept by Parker Finn, get picked up for feature development. Hence, we have Parker Finn’s film debut, Smile (2022).

Smile (2022) opens with a suggestion of childhood trauma for lead protagonist, psychiatrist Doctor Rose Cotter when a child. The action then moves to the present day and brings us Rose’s confrontation with the disturbed patient, Laura. What follows is an expertly crafted and incredibly disturbing sequence, which plunges Rose into major threat from a nefarious force. Parker Finn then slowly builds Rose’s psychological breakdown as she experiences hallucinations, frights and memory loss as her partner, family and friends find her behaviour to be disturbing to say the least. A particularly grisly scene at a child’s birthday party was especially deadly and memorable.



As the film continues, I could not help but be reminded of both The Ring (1998/2002) and It Follows (2014) in terms of the story beats. Rose, while being pursued by some unknown demon, faces a race against time to avoid death. Both the aforementioned films are far superior as they have more plot and characterisation to propel the running time. Indeed, one of the major issues with Smile (2022) is that 115 minutes are too long for the character arc Rose Cotter is given. By the time her character revelation is complete it has taken an eternity to get there. Moreover, I was suffering jump-scare fatigue by the end, thus rendering the scarily horrific monster reveal to feel fearfully redundant.

Yet, Smile (2022) has an impactful thematic spine. While It Follows (2014) dealt with the threat of sexual disease within the subtext, Parker Finn’s debut powerfully delves into the impact of grief, guilt and mental health. Having said that, the narrative could have dug more into Rose’s past to really reveal the trauma she suffered as a child. Personally, I think a longer set-up of her character while growing up would have increased the drama. But Parker Finn gets an excellent performance from Sosie Bacon throughout, even if her perpetual appearance on screen as the harassed and troubled victim eventually promotes further fatigue. A scene-stealing exchange between Bacon and the electric Rob Morgan suggests his character should be lead in the inevitable horror sequel.

Mark: 7 out of 11


CINEMA REVIEW: DON’T WORRY DARLING (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW – DON’T WORRY DARLING (2022)

Directed by: Olivia Wilde

Screenplay by: Katie Silberman – Story by Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke and Katie Silberman

Produced by: Olivia Wilde, Katie Silberman, Miri Yoon, Roy Lee

Main Cast: Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll, Chris Pine etc.

Cinematography Matthew Libatique

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



Part arthouse character study, part science fiction social satire and eventually a rushed concertinaed thriller, the Olivia Wilde directed, Don’t Worry Darling (2022) is a visual feast, anchored by Florence Pugh’s devastatingly brilliant performance. However, the ambition of the themes remains hamstrung by pacing and structure which fails to serve the story to its full potential.

Set within a utopian 1950’s sun blanched town called Victory, Wilde and her writers throw us straight into the hedonistic lives of a set of youthful and dynamic couples, drinking, partying and sexing. They work and play hard. Well, the husbands work as the dutiful women stay at home cleaning and churning out kids. So far-so-Stepford Wives! At the heart of Don’t Worry Darling (2022) is Pugh as the loyal but inquisitive, Alice. Her husband, Jack (Harry Styles) is ambitious, seeking the approval of big boss, the hubristic Frank (Chris Pine). When Alice begins to experience Kafkaesque dreams of feeling trapped by her daily life, she slowly realises all is not quite perfect in paradise.


No one does anguish and anxiety on screen like Florence Pugh. As Alice falls deeper down the rabbit hole of despair, Pugh produces true cinematic power once again. Olivia Wilde also brings a compelling image system to fully visualise Alice’s hellish descent. In comparison, the male characters are far less developed and the exchanges between Pugh and Styles, especially in the final act, are really lacking in dramatic punch. Styles himself I felt was miscast, but he does have an engaging screen presence. It’s just I didn’t feel enough threat from him.

Structurally, Don’t Worry Darling (2022) is also flawed. The major reveal comes way too late to assuage the pacing issues. While the narrative contains some striking visual set-pieces there are too many parties, barbecues and social events getting in the way of the potential thrills that could have occurred if Alice had discovered her plight much earlier. Overall, there is too much set-up and not enough punch. The longer you wait to reveal the twist, the bigger the revelation needs to be. The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone have done this style of story with more emotional impact and better economy. Pugh and Wilde though prove once again they are major talents and thematically speaking it’s good that men get another kick in. Men are fast becoming the go-to villains of this century and long may it continue.

Mark: 6.5 out of 11


CINEMA REVIEW: NOPE (2022)

CINEMA REVIEW: NOPE (2022)

Directed by Jordan Peele

Written by Jordan Peele

Produced by: Jordan Peele and Ian Cooper


Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Wrenn Schmidt, Barbie Ferreira, Keith David, etc.

Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema

*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***



Following on from the Oscar winning, Get Out (2017), and the should-have-won-an-Oscar-for-Best-Actress-in-Lupita-Nyong’o, Us (2019), Jordan Peele is back with the enigmatically titled, and equally ambiguous sci-fi-Western-horror film, NOPE (2022). Taking on writing and directing duties again, Peele has delivered a majestic looking cinematic feast, brimming with incredibly memorable images involving horses, chimpanzees, cinema, waving inflatables, surveillance cameras, carnival shows, and something very large that comes from beyond the clouds.

So, what’s Nope (2022) actually about? Well, put simply it’s all about cowboys and girls overcoming a monster. But it is much more than that. Because, narratively speaking it is difficult to sum up in a few sentences. Peele builds his most complex film to date by delivering a series of visually powerful set-pieces throughout. He also challenges the audience with an intelligent visual system which thematically links television, cinema, cameras, Hollywood, animals and a spectacular eye in the sky. Like Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) and Martin Scorsese’s religious epics, Nope (2022), is what I consider to be a big-budget, arthouse blockbuster.



The film, which is divided into chapters, establishes brother, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and sister, Emerald (Keke Palmer), trying valiantly to keep the family ranch from going under. Once thriving under their father’s management, the ranch would supply horses to the Hollywood conveyor belt of A-list and B-movie Westerns. With such work now in short supply, OJ is forced to sell horses to local theme park owner, Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), however, he vows to get them back when business improves. But a bigger threat is soon looming over the ranch.

Kaluuya’s performance as OJ is laconic, invoking pure Robert Mitchum. Did I like and root for OJ? Sort of. Keke Palmer as Emerald brought the energy to the screen, but I never felt the two characters really gelled with the themes successfully. Peele’s intellectual leaps, while thought-provoking, barriered an emotional connection within Nope (2022). Likewise, Yuen’s Jupe is given a tremendously imaginative and powerful backstory which brings us into his character, but ultimately fails to pay off dramatically. In fact, these scenes felt like they were from a different film altogether. Indeed, Peele uses the sci-fi monster genre to hang his view of the world on, not always to maximum impact.

While the characterisations and themes arguably fail to gel within the screenplay, it is visually where Nope (2022) really soars. Hoyte van Hoytema should sweep he board come awards time. Further, Peele creates an optical banquet by juxtaposing the majestic vistas of the Californian landscape with modern camera and surveillance equipment, plus those colourful inflatable dummies. Then there’s the thing that is “Not Of Planet Earth”. What is it and what does it represent? Who is watching and controlling and feeding on us? Peele’s challenging concepts are to be applauded within the genre blockbuster, but I just wanted to be scared and care a bit more. On additional viewings, Nope (2022), may be considered a masterpiece, but at the moment it could be one of those great films which I kind of didn’t like. As discussed previously here.

Mark: 8 out of 11


[Book Review] Psychology For Screenwriters: Building Conflict In Your Script (2nd Edition) – William Indick

Psychology For Screenwriters: Building Conflict In Your Script (2nd Edition) by William Indick

Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.  Ingmar Bergman



William Indick’s excellent book takes us from the dream like world of the cinema to the pages of great psychoanalytical theorists, combining Freud with screenwriting in a most intelligent and approachable way. But his is not a how-to manual for writers, instead an immersive experience mixing theoretical, practical, and thoughtful processes in regard to writing your next film.

If psychology and screenwriting are two sides of the same coin then this book is most definitely for screenwriters and filmmakers with an interest in psychoanalytic theory that enables them to explore archetypes, plot development, structure, and character building from the inside out. Moreover, the author provides an excellent framework with which to weave psychoanalytic theories into one’s writing. But not in a cookie-cutter style. This book is smarter than that.

While many of the theories are complex, the author writes with clarity and expertise. The useful bullet-pointed summaries at the end of each chapter crystallize the concepts with aplomb. Further, the various chapters also delivers ideas from a whole host of great minds of psychoanalytic and structuralist theory such as Carl Jung, Erik Erikson, and Joseph Campbell. There were also theorists I was not too familiar with such as Alfred Adler, Rollo May, and Maureen Murdock. By utilising his expansive knowledge and examples from many classic Hollywood films the author places you into the heart of the character’s mind and motivations.

What I found most fascinating was the book provides an invaluable framework to build your characters with. I certainly could see myself applying various ideas from Freud and Jung within my writing. Indeed, I was certainly drawn to Rollo May’s theories about existential anxiety driving and increasing the complexity of my characters. One could argue though, the author overuses references to Hollywood cinema. I would really have found it intriguing how certain psychoanalytical theories may relate to cinema from, e.g.  Japan, Spain, and France. Furthermore, psychological analysis of a particular director’s work such as Ingmar Bergman could also have proved so interesting.

In conclusion, to many an experienced writer the screenwriting theories, terms and structures covered are instantly recognisable, yet William Indick freshens up the study field with psychoanalytical language, breathing life into the saturated library of scriptwriting releases. Finally, each chapter succinctly bullet-points how a writer may utilise the theories within their work as the book concludes with three brilliant essays relating said theories to the Western, Fantasy and Sci-fi genres. One could even say this book is a dream to work with.


Psychology For Screenwriters: Building Conflict In Your Script (2nd Edition) is available here.

Publication date is January 2023 from https://mwp.com/

Michael Wiese Productions (MWP) was launched in San Francisco in 1976 primarily to produce films. Today, the company is known worldwide having published some 200 books. Some of the bestsellers have been translated into 18 languages, are used in over 700 film courses, in the Hollywood studios and by emerging filmmakers.

NETFLIX FILM REVIEWS: DAYSHIFT (2022), THE GRAY MAN (2022) & SPIDERHEAD (2022)

NETFLIX FILM REVIEWS: DAYSHIFT (2022), THE GRAY MAN (2022) & SPIDERHEAD (2022)

Along with fashion, football, and Formula One, the cinema is one of many capitalistic and cyclical industries which spends and makes money that seems to self-perpetuate its own existence. My lord though there are many more. But isn’t it a bit obscene that so much money is spent on movies while so many people struggle in the world?

Maybe I’m just old. Jaded. Drifting away from the dream factory where such large amounts of cash should be spent on film folly. People are starving, energy bills are rising and there are so many sick across the world, can we not divert some of that money to them? Some people may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. Plus, I’m a hypocrite. Using film and alcohol to divert my mind from the world’s problems.

What has prompted this sober reflection? Netflix! Now, I have no idea about business and money and algorithms and subscription revenue. What I have read is that $370 million dollars have allegedly been spent on these three blockbuster films. Could the cash have been spent on more interesting and entertaining product? I mean, why not give $15 million to a whole host of up-and-coming filmmakers to produce thirty lower-budgeted films? Why not concentrate on script, characterisation and strive to explore more original concepts. Surely, the law of averages dictate that there would be a number of gems produced?

Blumhouse Productions and A24 both seem, from the outside, to have industry models which produce successful genre and arthouse films. One may not rate all of their releases, however, these studios appear to avoid burning huge sums of money on their cinematic offerings. Netflix, continue to invest in tentpole monsters which are NEVER released on a cinema screen and are of questionable quality. What of these films? Here are three short reviews of new Netflix releases I have watched recently. With the usual marks out of eleven.



DAYSHIFT (2022)

Directed by J. J. Perry

Screenplay by: Tyler Tice, Shay Hatten

Main cast: Jamie Foxx, Dave Franco, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Meagan Good, Karla Souza, Steve Howey, Scott Adkins, Snoop Dogg etc.

I’d say this is a cheap, photo-copied and terrible rip-off of Blade (1998) drizzled with John Wick (2014) style fight-scenes, but Dayshift (2022) isn’t bloody cheap. It’s a gigantic waste of money and the viewer’s time. Jamie Foxx, portrays a pool cleaner moonlighting as a vampire hunter, pitted against a den of uber-vampires threatening to take over Los Angeles.

An insult to my intelligence, the script plunders Men in Black (1997) and the execrable R.I.P.D (2013), with the villain’s plan making no sense at all. Dave Franco adds some humour as the unlikely buddy/partner, but this one of those films where the stuntmen get most credit for some amazing fight and vehicle work. It’s a shame the story, plot and characters are so anaemic.

Mark: 5.5 out of 11



THE GRAY MAN (2022)

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Screenplay by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Main cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton etc.

The apparent reports that $200 million dollars were spent on this film make The Gray Man (2022) a crime against humanity. This is such a bad film. Nikita (1990) is the template as Ryan Gosling’s lifer is offered the chance to become an assassin for a secret US government agency. Flash forward a number of years and Gosling, who doesn’t look any older, gets screwed on a mission and psychotic Chris Evans has to take him down. Cue expertly choreographed death, explosions, shouting, shoot-outs, and zero emotional connection.

I like all the talent involved in this. Gosling, Evans and Ana de Armas are genuine stars. But were they trapped on a brainless rollercoaster that wouldn’t stop? Did it even have a script? And if it did who thought it was worth spending money on. The camera swoops around the globe like a maniac hoovering up the budget. Everyone takes a grand payday as the bullets fly and fire fills up the screen. I was with Gosling’s anti-heroic blank until they introduced the girl moppet and I deflated. Everyone involved is better that the $200 million spent.

Mark: 5 out of 11



SPIDERHEAD (2022)

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Screenplay by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Based on:
“Escape From Spiderhead” by George Saunders

Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, Jurnee Smollett etc.

This is actually a brilliant film concept absolutely ruined by the miscasting of Chris Hemsworth and a director obsessed with filling the dark themes with inane humour and incongruous 1980’s music. Maybe these elements were all in George Saunders original short story from The New Yorker, but I doubt it. It’s a butchered adaptation from my instinct. By the way, Chris Hemsworth is a brilliant film star, but he cannot act.

So, imagine a Black Mirror episode done really badly with Miles Teller’s criminal being given certain freedoms within a prison as long as he tests drugs and adheres to the rules of the medical experimentation. The plot beats are impactful and Teller’s character arc is very moving. as he tries to escape his past wrongdoings and guilt, but Kosinski and Hemsworth piss over the potential with awful creative decisions that grate and drain all emotion away. It’s a character drama trapped in an insulting action comedy, which must be called out.

Netflix. Stop wasting money.

Mark: 6 out of 11