La Ceremonie (Claude Chabrol – 1995) B+

Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) is the new maid for a family in the French countryside. She is efficient, quiet, a bit aloof and illiterate – a fact that she tries to hide from her employer and is one of the engines of her arc. She meets Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert) who seems the exact opposite. She works at the post office, is spunky, loud, and might have an interesting colorful criminal background. Was Jeanne a bad influence on Sandrine leading up to the movie’s shocking climax? Maybe, but then again Sandrine had an interesting history herself. The two women forge an odd but interesting friendship a fiery friendship like when dry brush meets a match. The performances are excellent and the two leading ladies have a great chemistry.

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The Rover (David Michod – 2014) A-

Set in the Australian outback after some post apocalyptic event. This is a very small story, a very violent story with outstanding performances by Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. We are along for the ride as Eric (Pearce) is pursuing three criminals who stole his old car. He captured the young brother of one of them (that would be Rey played by Pattinson) and is using him to figure out where they will be next. As I mentioned it is a rough unflinchingly violent movie, but it has at it’s core a mystery as well. It also develops the relationship between the homicidal Eric and the simple Rey. Why on earth does Eric care so much about getting his shitty car back, killing anyone who stands in his way and caring for no one not even himself? Why? When we figure out the answer the film really reframes what we have been watching including Eric.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (Jon Watts – 2019) B-

Ah, so Avengers: End Game happened, people died, but life goes on and Peter Parker has to deal with it. He has to deal with grief and a lot of responsibility. For now all he really wants though is to go on a short fun school trip to Europe with his schoolmates and tell MJ that he likes her. He needs a vacation. It’s a good movie that is fun, has a very good villain, a plot relevant to our times, and again the major strength are those characters we like played by excellent actors. It also has two very good post credit sequences that make me look forward to the next installment.

The Dead Don’t Die (Jim Jarmusch – 2019) B+

Jarmusch is definitely a polarizing film maker and this latest installment is not different. If one wants to see a zombie horror movie because they want to see a “scary” horror movie, this is not the right choice. On the other hand if you want a unique take on the zombie genre, a lot of homage to Romero that balances quirky with funny and downright gorry AND you have seen another Jarmusch film before, well, then you might like this. I did.

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski – 2018) A-

Oh, this one is good. Set in a future not too far from hours where aliens monsters will attack and eat you if you make the smallest of noises. I assume they are aliens because the film does not care to tell us and I do not much care. What I do care about are the high terrible stakes for the family we are tagging along with, those stakes are set and made clear for us in the first 15 minutes. With most of the interactions done without words this movie grips us with its intense well-designed sequences, smart believable characters and tremendous performances by all involved especially Emily Blunt. It is not without its flaws and I do not buy some of the story conclusions but it works so well as a tight smart thriller.

Bad Times at the El Royale (Drew Goddard – 2018) B+

There is a type of movie that I really enjoy. A group of strangers stuck, for whatever reason, in a place. Maybe they are there for different reasons or the same reason or it’s a big explosive coincidence. The process of discovery as we learn why each is there, who is good or bad, maybe they are all horrible people, …is usually if done well a lot of fun. This one is done well and is that type of film. Our characters are all in this old hotel on the CA/NV border, so on the border that it has a line cut through it where you can stay in either state when you check in. The plot can be described as a bit slow but it held my attention due to the excellent set designs, confident story telling and really good performances by the likes of Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson and a really fun turn by Chris Hemsworth.