• Housebound

    Housebound

    ★★★★

    Housebound takes its time ramping up to full-blown horror, particularly while the narrative establishes the tedium of being an unrepentant asshole under house arrest. But ramp it does. The film follows Kylie after she’s sentenced to live at her mom's creaky backwoods home in the wake of an ATM burglary gone disastrously awry. Mom and daughter rarely get along, things go bump in the night, and that’s all I’ll say—to describe what follows would risk spoiling the joy of watching…

  • 3:10 to Yuma

    3:10 to Yuma

    ★★★★½

    A mellow slow burn of a Western that strikes gold at the crossroads of masculinity and capitalism. The film's held together by an unlikely pairing: Ben Wade is an outlaw whose fundamental humanity is at odds with his line of work, while Dan Evans is a sensible cattle rancher whose poverty is consuming him from within. They two men enter the same orbit after a heist gone wrong leads to Ben's capture, and Dan, desperate for any income, signs up…

  • Prey

    Prey

    ★★

    Almost immediately sets up a perfect little dynamic between prey—five not especially admirable dudes on a hike through a sprawling forest in Germany—and predator—a mysterious woman with a rifle—only to spend most of the runtime turning up its nose at any opportunity to stage something beguiling or weird. I'll concede that the earthy realist aesthetic generates some really pretty footage of mossy rocks and leaves, but this insistence on staying grounded completely undermines everything else. The central dynamic never shifts.…

  • The Mummy

    The Mummy

    ★★★½

    My partner was craving some nostalgia on her birthday and I suggested The Mummy, which I'd insisted on watching every other week when I was young. A part of me was worried that the narrative's colonial setting would suck out some fun and distract my historian brain, especially since I have nothing but positive memories of the thing. I'm fine with outgrowing movies in theory, but in practice it can hurt. And so it gives me great pleasure to report…

  • Intrusion

    Intrusion

    ★½

    A couple of mannequins autopilot their way through a painfully obvious subversion of the home invasion thriller. Adam Salky has a few neat formal tricks up his sleeve—the camera floating through the initial invasion, the tilting frame signalling the floor dropping out from under our protagonist—but there's no pleasure in how the film's twists and turns are staged. It feels embarrassed to be a genre film, even if it's not offering anything beyond plot. At least spice things up with…

  • Miss Americana

    Miss Americana

    ★★★

    A profile of fame and fortune as an obstacle to growth. Came in with no strong feelings one way or the other—I couldn't have named a Taylor Swift song until now—but Miss Americana remains fascinating in spite of my ignorance. Broadly, its got three things on its agenda: a) unpack Swift's career with an eye towards her vulnerability and experiences, b) justify her recent outspokenness on politics, and c) explain why it took so long.

    The movie's at its most effective…

  • The Exorcist

    The Exorcist

    ★★★★★

    Impossibly good. Even divorced from its iconic status among horror films, The Exorcist just works. I've seen it close to a half-dozen times and am still finding myself perched at the edge of my seat. There's not a single unnecessary or inauthentic beat, from Linda Blair's gradual, traumatic transformation to the underlying explorations of mental illness, faith, and guilt. There's also a curious openness—rare among horror films—to how the story unfolds, with several pivotal moments occurring between the cuts from…

  • Kwaidan

    Kwaidan

    ★★★★★

    Very rarely do I see the uncanny represented on film as well as in Kwaidan. An aging samurai finds his inexplicably still-young wife living in the scorched ruins of their old home. A lumberjack is forced to carry the secret of what happened to him and his mentor one winter night. A blind musician steps into another realm to soothe the spirits of a long-dead samurai clan. A lord's retainer finds another man's reflection staring back from inside a cup…

  • Thunder Road

    Thunder Road

    ★★★★

    An all-timer among stories about a life imploding. A few threads go nowhere without doing much for our protagonist—not sure why Jim's so obsessed with all the "slickers" out there, for instance—but the majority of the runtime is laser focused on the central failing of his life. I've rarely seen something so observant about the way somebody might spiral from humiliation to humiliation, each misstep compounding the next. What we end up with is a deeply felt comedy (bordering on…

  • Take Me

    Take Me

    ★★★½

    A weirdo who runs an experiential kidnapping service finds himself way in over his head with a new client. So begins a nimble little story about transformation and power. Pat Healy's direction is quirky without coming across as obnoxious, and his performance is wonderful. He starts out more wig than man, and the artifice of his life and hair is thrown further and further into disorder as his latest gig unfolds. The blurry edges around the film's characters, and especially…

  • Zone 414

    Zone 414

    ★★★

    More substance than you might expect from a low-budget riff on Blade Runner, though admittedly not by much. Zone 414 casts Guy Pearce as a down-and-out everyman tasked with searching for a tech millionaire's wayward daughter. Hired only because he has no qualms about killing androids, he soon developes a tentative friendship with a robotic sex worker who, not surprisingly, has just a few questions about her purpose. The movie's slow-moving and somewhat ponderous—the existential themes are beyond tired—but credit…

  • Lulli

    Lulli

    ★½

    The Netflix Project, somehow alive and well in 2022. Pairing the same filmmaker and star from last year's YA social media comedy Airplane Mode, Lulli is decidedly not for somebody in my age group. This time around, our hero is a self-obsessed med student who gains the ability to read the thoughts of anybody she touches—that is, anybody except her boyfriend, who was in the same accident and developed amnesia instead. Lulli's inability to read his thoughts directly teaches her…