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Director: Charlie Kaufman Starring: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis Running Time: 134 minutes


 

Charlie Kaufman has never been one to shy away from unconventional projects. While his directorial debut came with Synecdoche New York in 2008, Kaufman made his bones in screenplay, penning Being John Malkovich in 1999, while perhaps being best remembered for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind five years later. Throughout this eclectic filmography has been a strong theme of existential uncertainty and metaphysical pondering. There’s also been a fair share of Kaufman’s work being referential to pop culture, sometimes satirical, sometimes more serious. Among these rather confounding patterns however stands a more clear characterisation of Kaufman. That is, his understanding and appreciation of storytelling stems from his impressive communicative abilities in the written form. To those most familiar with his career, he will likely be seen as someone who is best equipped to deliver if he grounds his film in an expertly crafted script. No doubt, this talent is one that Kaufman appears well versed in. Here however, on the back of films like Synecdoche New York that were famously difficult for audiences to penetrate, his task as a more deeply involved film maker requires a more balanced and nuanced skill-set.

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Director: Rian Johnson Starring: Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer Running Time: 130 minutes

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“The game is afoot” renowned mystery-solver Benoit Blanc knowingly crows during one of Knives Out‘s twisty turns, and it seems clear from the outset what game director Rian Johnson is playing here. However mixed (and wearingly unending) the reception may have been for Johnson’s last movie, the man clearly has strong support from Hollywood higher-ups, enough to fund a big “one for him” movie, a “dig out an old idea you’ve always wanted to do and hire everyone you’ve always wanted to work with” movie. And so we get Johnson’s loving homage to the murder mystery genre, a story he’s been kicking around since just after Brick, packed to the seams with rising talents, esteemed character actors and Hollywood royalty. And it’s a bloody delight. The opportunity to self-indulge to this extent is not a luxury every filmmaker is afforded, for what it’s worth though, Johnson uses the platform to delve into some unexpected areas worth examining. If you’re going to do something silly, you might as well do it smartly, which Knives Out accomplished on a number of levels.

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Director: Ari Aster Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Ellora Torchia, Archie Madekwe Runtime: 147 minutes

Watching Midsommar feels like watching someone boil a frog. And no matter how much pretty lighting and composition you use in the process, you can’t help thinking “Why are we boiling this frog?”

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Director: DJ Caruso Starring: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, Sam Jackson Running Time: 107 minutes


You would be forgiven for looking at a title like xXx: Return Of Xander Cage, a straight sequel to a film released fifteen years ago, and wondering why the mysterious Xander Cage is returning now. Or better yet, where has he been for the best part of two decades? The short answer is dead. The long answer involves Ice Cube and a 2005 sequel/reboot hybrid that may or may not be canon depending on how much of a diehard fan you are (does xXx have diehard fans? Let’s assume it does).

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