Settlers (2021, dir. Wyatt Rockefeller)

An off-world family living on a desert homestead comes under attack from strangers. Episodic SF western drama. Strong technical credits and decent performances help, though story is the issue here: Moon is a clear inspiration. Nevertheless, effective as a calling card.

Here’s the trailer.

Censor (2021, dir. Prano Bailey-Bond)

In 1980s London, a film examiner struggles when a horror movie reawakens a past trauma. Stylish and confident first feature, with an interesting premise and careful use of limited resources. Vaguely Peter Strickland-ish in its approach: a descent into madness rather than story as such: there’s plenty to admire here, nevertheless.

Here’s the trailer.

Jug Face [AKA The Pit] (2013, dir. Chad Crawford Kinkle)

A young woman, finding herself both pregnant and earmarked for sacrifice, tries to escape her backwoods community. Strong and unusual horror movie, anchored by a decent cast, some vivid ideas, and a sense of inevitability. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer.

Proxima (2019, dir. Alice Winocour)

A female astronaut struggles with having to leave her young daughter on Earth. Sombre, understated ISS mission training movie – with interesting access to Star City and Baikonur – focusing on a single relationship. Eva Green is great though, and Matt Dillon does what he can with an underwritten supporting part. A lovely Ryuichi Sakamoto score helps.

Here’s the trailer.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, dir. Wes Anderson)

An aged hotelier recounts his life story. If Keaton and Kubrick ever teamed up to make a deadpan farce prequel to The Shining, then this’d be it. Beautiful to look it, gorgeously designed and presented, with a cast in depth happy to help out. Lots of fun, basically, with Ralph Fiennes on fine form.

Here’s the trailer.

The Midnight Sky (2020, dir. George Clooney)

A dying physicist attempts to get a message to a returning spacecraft. Lop-sided though well-meant SF drama, an adaptation of Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. The story’s wafer-thin, so has to resort to tickbox genre jeopardy done better elsewhere. A shame, as there’s a fine, quiet drama here somewhere.

Here’s the trailer.

Portal [AKA Doors] (2021, dir. Saman Kesh, Jeff Desom, Sugan O’Neal)

Three stories each set during and in the aftermath of the same extra-terrestrial invasion event. A very mixed bag, this: moments of interest compete with awkward linking, a reliance on stock footage to give scale, and a terrible second story. Still, it’s only 80 minutes long in human time.

Here’s the trailer.

Moneyball (2011, dir. Bennett Miller)

A baseball team manager tries an unorthodox approach to player selection. Based on the Michael Lewis non-fiction account, this is a riveting sports drama from perhaps unpromisingly uncinematic – though excellent – source material. A smart script, understated playing, and keen observational direction make this a modern classic. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer.

The Little Things (2021, dir. John Lee Hancock)

A veteran cop and an ambitious detective collaborate to catch a serial killer. Well-made and acted if slightly over-familiar neo-noir with procedural aspects. Its deliberate pace and quiet style may not be for everyone, but Denzel Washington is as good as ever and LA is made to feel unfamiliar: no easy feat.

Here’s the trailer.

Rust Creek (2018, dir. Jen McGowan)

A young woman takes a wrong turn and ends up on the run from a pair of backwoods Kentucky meth dealers. An interesting take on a well-worn premise, spending as much time on character and relationships as on in-peril thriller/horror melodramatics. Lots of promise here from all involved.

Here’s the trailer.