It’s no great surprise to me that I haven’t written a post for a month on this blog. I have been busy doing all the things I normally write about, but also a bunch of other stuff in the time I’d normally dedicate to writing posts. Of late, this has consisted of playing Horizon Forbidden West like my life depended on it. Every minute not playing the game seems like a minute wasted at the moment. So apologies for the absence and also for the brevity of this post, but the post-apocalyptic world inside my PS5 ain’t going save itself. And rest assured there will be a post about the game coming soon (like you were worried).

Emma. (2020) is first in this list as it was the most enjoyable to watch. I have not seen a movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel before and neither have I read the book, so I went into this only really expecting a rather idiosyncratic character in the form of Emma who is played brilliantly by Anya Taylor-Joy (Queen’s Gambit, Peaky Blinders) based on what I have picked up about the literary character over time by cultural osmosis. I guess the full stop is a nod to it’s use now in mobile messaging to emphasize the finality of an opinion, something Emma has no problem expressing in the story.

The performances are top notch throughout and I guess that’s partly because the dialogue and the story are so well written. Johnny Flynn and Mia Goth are great co-stars and all actors seem to shine in this comedy of manners. Emma lives vicariously through her manipulation of those about her, fitting them perfectly into her idea of matchmaking. However her machinations rather unravel when she finds herself falling for Mr Knightley (Flynn). Also noteworthy is the attention to detail in the wardrobe department – the period costumes (and there are many) are immaculately created.

The King’s Man (2021) is a prequel to the two other action movies of similar names based on a graphic novel. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this one is perhaps the best of the three, because I found the first one almost unwatchable in its misplaced humour and glorification of violence, and the second slightly better but still too over the top to be believable. There’s still some essence of that in this film, but it does feel at least a little more realistic and I enjoyed the historical setting and use of actual historic world events entertaining.

Ralph Fiennes is excellent in the every so smartly dressed titular role and Gemma Arterton and Djimon Hounsou as his secret agent buddies. Rhys Ifans is barely recognisable in a first act stealing performance as the Mad Monk Grigori Rasputin drugger of the Russian queen, and it was also nice to see a small part for Aaron Taylor-Johnson (The Wall) who I expect might pop up again if there is a sequel to this prequel, and why the hell not? It was a blast – with some great stunt work and special effects and a rather less comedic approach to the action, although there’s still some laughs along the way. It reminded me a lot (in a good way) of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films with that mix of modern effects and historical drama.

The Power of the Dog (2021) is one of those ponderous westerns that seems to attract award-nominations like a magnet. There’s nothing particularly wrong about the film but if you are tempted to watch it then treat it like a family period drama rather than a ‘Western’ and you’ll be just fine. This isn’t ‘pistols at dawn’ or “the injuns are coming!” material, but rather the story of the dysfunctional relationship between two brothers Phil and George played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons, George’s new wife Rose (Plemons ‘Fargo pal Kirsten Dunst) and her rather effeminate son (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

It’s easy and rather reductive to say that this is rather more Brokeback than it is Jango. While the action tends to centre around the complex character of Phil, I would have rather seen more of what was going on between the newlyweds and Rose’s descent into alcoholism. Cucumber Patch is excellent in the lead role, but you do have to wonder why a rather more rugged-looking American wasn’t cast, which could’ve made the juxtaposition between the characters interior feelings and exterior façade rather more dramatic. Also Cumberbatch and Lemons, I mean Plemons, couldn’t really be more dissimilar in their appearance as supposed brothers. Anyway, what do I know? I’m sure the awards will flood in.

The Missing (2003) is rather more the type of thing you expect from a Western. Magdelena (Cate Blanchett) teams up with her estranged father Samuel (Tommy Lee Jones), who was a bad excuse for a father and went kind of native, to find her kidnapped daughter and rescue her from the clutches of some naughty Native Americans.

There’s plenty of shooting, horse riding and general Native American mumbo jumbo to keep genre fans happy and also an early appearance from a young Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) as the kidnapped daughter, who actually doesn’t get much screen time, but obviously got a taste for all things cowboy as a result.

Greed (2019) is a rather low-key British-feeling comedy about a dirty rich man and his family organising a birthday celebration for him on a Greek island. It is is obviously a very thinly veiled satire of the greedy asset-stripping wankers who, buoyed up by unscrupulous bankers, buy up failing chains of stores run them into the ground and then sell off the prime real estate for loadsamoney, without any thought to the staff who work in those shops.

For a fan of British comedy there were many familiar faces who I’d label ‘Steve Coogan’s mates’ and a not bad CG lion in the mix. Now I’ve mentioned the lion and the fact that it is unhappily caged in a mock amphitheatre for most of the film while the millionaire’s staff are busy shooing refugees off their beach, you can probably guess the rest, and you’d be right. It’s not exactly laugh out loud funny, but as a comedy-drama I suppose it has it’s place in the world and it was nice to see a bit of Greece in the process. Oh I do miss Greece…

I also watched Dune (2021) again. And I will admit, I enjoyed it a lot more second time around. Perhaps because it looked and sounded great on my home system and perhaps because I didn’t watch a James Bond film the day before. Here’s my previous post about it: Dune 2021.