Freaky (2020, dir. Christopher Landon)

An awkward teenager and a serial killer swap bodies. Superior horror-comedy, maximising the potential of its Freaky Friday-meets-high school slasher conceit, along the lines of Landon’s earlier mashup Happy Death Day. Plenty of fun, a few straightforward though relevant points made, and zippy lead performances help no end.

Here’s the trailer.

Free Guy (2021, dir. Shawn Levy)

A man living an idealistic life finds out that he’s a non-playing character in a video game. Generally sprightly action comedy that mashes up The Truman Show and They Live to pleasing if disposable effect. No huge surprises, though there’s a few neat gags and further evidence supplied that Taika Waititi is many things but not an actor.

Here’s the trailer.

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021, dir. Sion Sono)

A captured bank robber is forced to retrieve a kidnapped woman for a gang boss. A post-apocalyptic samurai/western hybrid, using a Mad Max/Escape from New York structure for all kinds of digressions. It doesn’t all work (the script is the culprit here), but it looks great in a neon Terry Gilliam kinda way, and everyone seems to be having fun.

Here’s the trailer.

The Paper Tigers (2020, dir. Tran Quoc Bao)

Three middle-aged former martial arts students reunite to investigate the killing of their mentor. Straightforward but charming low-budget comedy with action elements: clearly a labour of love, there’s plenty to appreciate here, so the prospect of more from this writer-director is an appealing one.

Here’s the trailer.

Under the Silver Lake (2018, dir. David Robert Mitchell)

An LA slacker investigates a neighbour’s disappearance: he soon spirals into a web of conspiracy. In the overlap of the Hitchcock / Pynchon / Paul Thomas Anderson Venn diagram, this 2011-set shaggy dog neo-noir is more a vibe than a movie: there’s indulgent pleasures along the way, but don’t expect a cohesive story.

Here’s the trailer.

Gunpowder Milkshake (2021, dir. Navot Papushado)

A hitwoman becomes embroiled in an escalating series of double-crosses when a job goes awry. Stylised John Wick-ish action comedy squandering an excellent cast on a cliched script, and on a baffling series of distancing techniques rendering the flick good-looking (and sounding) but empty, flat and uninvolving.

Here’s the trailer.

The Parapod: A Very British Ghost Hunt [AKA The Parapod Movie] (2020, dir. Ian Boldsworth)

Two podcasting comedians – a skeptic and a believer – investigate the existence or otherwise of ghosts. This fine documentary spin-off from the Parapod podcast balances comedy, exploration of the value of evidence and the power of belief while probing tensions in male relationships, largely through testing the limits of the wind-up. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer.

Carry On Cabby (1963, dir. Gerald Thomas)

A battle of the sexes ensues when an all-female taxi competitor takes on a complacent all-male company. Dated in premise and some attitudes, this is nevertheless a superior series entry, and about the best of the first – workplace – cycle of Carry Ons. There’s remarkable economy of film-making on display, the joke-per-minute ratio is high, and there’s plenty of fine physical acting.

Here’s the trailer.

Cruella (2021, dir. Craig Gillespie)

An orphan seeks revenge on the fashion maven who killed her mother. Confident, stylish, though thin and overlong prequel to 101 Dalmatians. Basically a supervillain origin story (Cruella is Tim Burton-era Batman, plus Joker and Catwoman here) though borrowing from all-sorts, including The Terminator. MVP is Paul Walter Hauser, though everyone is in on the joke.

Here’s the trailer.

In Search of Darkness, Part II (2020, dir. David Weiner)

A continuation of the documentary exploration of 1980s-made (mostly) US horror. Much more (4.5 hours) of the same, though with some deeper cuts this time around. Depth is sacrificed for breadth, and the pattern of trailer clip plus talking head per movie gets repetitive, but there’s affection on display for the genre throughout.

Here’s the trailer.