The Dig (2021, dir. Simon Stone)

1939. With England on the cusp of war, an excavator is hired for a private archaeological dig. Good-looking and well-acted though slight reimagining of the Sutton Hoo site discovery, hampered by a busy script that doesn’t care to fillet the source novel to make a film-shaped story.

Here’s the trailer.

Death Zone: Cleaning Everest [AKA Everest Death Zone) (2018, dir. Marina Martins)

A team of Nepalese clear Everest of detritus left by climbers, while also retrieving bodies. Slightly clumsy, but well-meaning and with a strong central message, this Patrick Stewart-narrated documentary makes clear environmental points as well as commenting on wasteful adventure tourism.

Here’s the trailer.

Friedkin Uncut (2020, dir. Francesco Zippel)

A documentary on film director William Friedkin, centred on interviews with its subject. Very pleasant overview of Friedkin’s work and perspective on filmmaking, supported by focuses on his 1970s output in particular. No huge surprises, and little criticism, but a decent watch nevertheless.

Here’s the trailer.

The Senator [AKA Chappaquiddick] (2017, dir. John Curran)

Edward Kennedy’s presidential ambitions are destroyed because of his involvement in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Sober political drama focusing on ambition, hubris, legacy, and arrogance. Decent performances and production values help, though there’s awkwardness in the focus on the politician over the deceased.

Here’s the trailer.

Behind The Candelabra (2013, dir. Steven Soderbergh)

The last decade of Vegas performer Liberace’s life, from the perspective of his lover Scott Thorsen. A well-played and effective biopic, made with Soderbergh’s customary deftness, getting beyond the camp and rhinestones to explore the frailties of two people drawn to each other out of lack.

Dark Waters (2019, dir. Todd Haynes)

A lawyer investigates an environmental conspiracy linked to chemical company Dupont. Based on a true story, this sober drama is deliberate and effective. Oddly, the weak link is producer/star Ruffalo, who’s simply 20 years too old to be playing the lead, despite his sterling efforts. A sturdy cast of character actors helps things along.

Seberg (2019, dir. Benedict Andrews)

Actor Jean Seberg struggles with her personal life, civil rights activism, and the pressures of fearing FBI surveillance. Decent biopic focusing on 1968-1970; a very solid cast and subtle direction help, even if the script doesn’t get us close to the protagonist. Lots to appreciate, not least the production design and performances.

Bad Education (2020, dir. Cory Finlay)

A school superintendent and their deputy are revealed, in part by a student investigation, to be embezzling from the school system. Smart black comedy-drama, based on a true story. Underplayed throughout, with fine performances from seasoned hands, and a sense that maybe the right lessons are still to be learned by some.

Wrinkles the Clown (2019, dir. Michael Beach Nichols)

The story of an online sensation: a clown you can pay to scare your children. Solid documentary (which flirts with the extent to which it might be fictional, an art project, or something else) that explores memes, contemporary media folk devils, coulrophobia, parenting, “behavioural services”, and more.

True History of the Kelly Gang (2019, dir. Justin Kurzel)

The life of an Australian outlaw, as narrated to his child. An excellent adaptation of the Peter Carey novel, with vivid performances and a distinctive visual approach. The best movie version of the Ned Kelly story to date, and a strong arty outback Western in its own right. Recommended.