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If you’ve had enough of the summer heat and need something to do while crawling into whatever dark and cool space you can find at home, here are some suggestions! There’s a healthy mix of genres and works across the last few decades here, from crime thrillers to grief-tinged clubbing to animated fantasy.
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Morvern Callar - Netflix
The films of Lynne Ramsay have long been astonishing for their sensory qualities, in how the director translates the prose of the works she is adapting into evocative imagery. Morvern Callar is perhaps one of the greatest examples, Ramsay’s camera committed to intense study of its almost inscrutable main character Morvern (an incredible Samantha Morton) as she stumbles and parties through grief following the suicide of her boyfriend on Christmas Day.
The soundtrack, full of tracks from a bygone alternative electronic scene, feels both hypnotic and intense and elegiac in its own way. Ramsay’s combination of sound and image searches for cracks in the stony facade of a protagonist completely numb from mourning – which should sound distancing, but turns out as some of the most honest and powerful filmmaking of its decade.
Also on Netflix: Army of the Dead
Zodiac - BBC iPlayer
David Fincher’s tale of self-destructive obsession stands among the greats; recalling Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder in its conjuring of the killer as an almost elemental evil against which standard procedure makes no impact. It’s a dramatisation of the investigation of the “Zodiac Killer”, a serial killer in the San Francisco Bay Area who taunted police with his cryptic letters obscured by ciphers.
The case becomes an obsession for reporters Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr), and detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and as their lives and careers are built and destroyed by the endless pursuit of the murderer. Fincher’s film is dark, deliberately paced and features a an excellent cast of actors at the top of their game – many of whom, like Ruffalo and Downey Jr, have since been eaten by the Marvel Studios machine.
Also on iPlayer: Missing Link
Ronin - Prime Video
A taught and muscular action film from the mighty John Frankenheimer, the Robert DeNiro and Jean Reno-starring Ronin feels like a minor 90s classic – exciting, melancholic and immaculately put together. It’s a real showcase of the artistry of the action movie, and held together by excellent and economical scripting from David Mamet and nuanced performance from DeNiro.
Also on Prime: Mother!, Justice League
Raya and the Last Dragon - Disney+
Finally on the main service (rather than premium pay-to-view), Raya and the Last Dragon doesn’t so much break the Disney mould as it does readapt it via Southeast Asian myth, landscapes and culture. The story is told from the perspective of Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), seeking to fix a world broken when a dragon gem housed within her family’s castle was shattered, unleashing a scourge of faceless and shapeless demons named the Druun that turn the majority of the planet’s denizens to stone.
In the present, Raya discovers the eponymous last dragon Sisu (Awkwafina), and they work together to heal a continent now frayed by factionalism and nationalist self-interest. Narratively the story can feel a little uninspired, as the stakes can feel a little vaguely imagined.
Watch: Raya and the Last Dragon trailer
The main shortcoming however, is that even with a vast range of influences, it all feels flat, made shapeless so to fit into a Disney-friendly world. There’s a brief break from the studio’s house style in the film’s distinctive and colourful depictions of other nations and its engagement with a different land - but it doesn’t feel like enough.
Also on Disney+: Air Force One, The Full Monty