The Power of the Dog (2021)

The Power of the Dog is a 2021 Western psychological drama film written and directed by Jane Campion and is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee. 

In Montana in 1925, wealthy rancher brothers Phil and George Burbank meet widow and owner of an inn Rose Gordon during a cattle drive. The kind George is taken quickly by Rose, while the turbulent Phil, influenced by his mentor Bronco Henry, makes fun of Rose’s son Peter for his lisp effete ways. 

George and Rose get married and she moves into the Burbank ranch house and is able to use George’s money to send Peter to college to study medicine and surgery. Phil takes a instant hatred towards Rose, believing she married George for his money. George arranges a dinner party with his parents and the gorvernor. He intends to introduce his guests to Rose, so they can meet her and hear her play the new piano, of which she says she can barely play. During the party, Rose is shaken by Phil’s earlier mocking of her skills, is unable to play more than a few notes. She begins heavily drinking alcohol, something she was against doing before. 

By the time Peter has come to stay at the house for summer break, Rose has turned into an alchoholic. Phil and his men tease Peter and resorts to staying in his room. He he brings home a rabbit he has caught, making his mother excited, but she later finds that Peter has killed and dissected it. Alone in the woods, Phil masturbates with Bronco Henry’s scarf. Peter enters woods and finds magazines with Bronco Henry’s name on them with pictures of nude men. He watches Phil bathing in a pond with the handkerchief around his neck. Phil sees him and runs him off. 

Phil begins to show respect to Peter, offering to teach him how to braid a lasso from rawhide and teach him how to ride a horse. Peter goes with him. Peter goes on his own one day and finds a dead cow, from which he cuts off pieces of it’s hide. While working on fencing, Phil hurts his hand moving the wood. Peter tells him about finding his alcoholic father, who hung himself and cutting down the body and Phil scoffs. 

Rose’s drinking worsens when she sees how much time her son is spending with Phil. After learning about Phil’s rule of burning the hides he doesn’t need anymore, Rose goes against him and gives the hides to local Native Americans who thank her with a pair of gloves. She then faints from too much alcohol in her systemand George helps her, throwing away a bottle of Bourbon that he had found in the bed. 

Phil is angry about not having any of the hides he needs to finish Peter’s lasso and he tries to throw is anger towards Rose but is stopped by George. Peter calms Phil down by offering him the hide he had gotten from the dead cow, but Peter fails to tell him that animal was already dead when he found it. Phil is touched and informs him that their relationship will be even better now. 

This is not your typical western, being that it takes place in the 20th century, so you do see cars and electricty, instead of covered wagons and oil lamps. The film is a bit too slow throughout and doesn’t go into enough detail about Rose’s first husband and Peter’s father, other thank he was abusive, an alcoholic and hanged himself. Also, not enough scenes of George and Rose together. But the movie is filled with powerful emotion. 

Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Phil Burbank oustandingly, making you really believe his a cowboy and rancher and not just a great English actor. Jesse Plemons is also great as his brother George Burbank, although his character could’ve been on the film more. Kirsten Dunst is fantastic as Rose Gordon and Kodi Smit-McPhee also does a fine job as her son Peter Gordon. 

This film is filled with themes such as grief, love, hatred, jealousy, sexuality and greed as well as wealth and alcoholism. It is a bit slow for much of the movie, so it can be a bit boring, but the acting is superb and the music is exquisite, the setting is absolutely beautiful throughout. But at a runtime of two hours and six minutes, I was hoping for something at least half way exciting to hold my attention better. 

Overall, this is one of the better films of last year. It’s not a perfect motion picture, but it’s not quite terrible. It is very well done , aside from being really slow, but it’s not as good as other westerns, but does deserve applaus for acting, costumes, soundtrack and setting. The story and film itself is lacking as far as entertainment, so I found myself wanting more and was disappointed since this got such rave reviews and awards. It left me wishing for more. If you’ve never seen a Western film before, don’t start with this one, try a classic like Hang ‘Em High first. Overall, a fairly well done movie. 18+ 3.5/5 

Last Night in Soho (2021)

Last Night in Soho is a 2021 British psychological horror film directed by Edgar Wright and starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Diana Rigg and Terrence Stamp. It is the final film appearances of Rigg and Margaret Nolan, who both died in 2020.

The film follows Eloise “Ellie” Turner, who loves the music and fashion of the Swinging Sixties and dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Her mother, who was also a designer, killed herself when Ellie was a child. Ellie occasionally sees her mother’s ghost in mirrors.

Ellie moves from her rural house in Redruth, Cornwall, to London, to study at the London College of Fashion, where she has trouble fitting in with the other students, especially her stuck up roommate Jocasta. Only John, another student, is sympathetic towards her. Unhappy in the dorms of the school, Ellie moves into a bedsit in Goodge Place owned by the elderly Ms. Collins.

That night, Ellie has a vivid dream where she is carried back in time to the 1960s. At the Cafe de Paris, she sees a brave young blonde woman, Sandie, ask about becoming a singer at the club. Sandie begins a relationship with charming teddy boy manager, Jack. The next morning, Ellie designs a dress inspired by Sandie and discovers a love bite on her neck.

Ellie has another dream in which Sandie auditions at a Soho nightclub, arranged by Jack. before returning to the same bedsit that Ellie has rented. Inspired by these dreams, Ellie dyes her hair blonde, changes her clothing style and gets a job at a pub. She is approached by a grey haired man, who recognizes her resemblance to Sandie is not living the life she had wanted and Jack begins to pimp Sandie to his male business partners. Ellie begins an investigation after discovering in a dream that murders have taken place in the bedsit and soon discovers that the owner of the place she is renting from has a dark past and that she may or may not be the real Sandie.

This film is equal parts intense, twisted, bizarre and disturbing. The combination of putting present day London and 1960s London together is ingeniously done, combining the fashion and music of today’s Britain to the fashion and music and to what it was in 60s, along with the two stories clashing together as one and at times separately. The soundtrack is great combining both sixties and 2000s hits, the fashion is fantastic, everything Sandie and Jack (others from the 60s) wear is beautiful and spot on with the time period, making the film both gorgeous and thrilling at the same time.

Thomasin McKenzie does a good, not great job in the film as Ellie Turner, but was not the best fit for the role. Anya Taylor-Joy is outstanding job as Sandie , Matt Smith is equally outstanding as Jack. Terrance Stamp is good as Lindsey, the grey haired older man who stalks Ellie at the pub, I just wish he had had more lines in the movie.

The film seems to jump into the wickedness almost too quickly, not really building up much beforehand. You do learn how Sandie meets Jack, but you learn too fast, so that part is bit rushed, making it seem like she becomes nightclub star and he becomes her boyfriend and pimp overnight, which is impossible. The story is almost all intensity and too much of it takes place in the 60s world and not in the present day. Also, the film towards the end, stretches the horror factor too far, making the landlady into the overdone insane character, which at first you think is Ellie.

If the director would’ve spent equal time in both eras, stopped the overdoing of the weird towards the end and cast a better actress for Ellie, the film would have been fantastic. It is still entertaining, but I don’t see it winning any best picture awards or Palme d’Or at Cannes. But both Taylor-Joy and Smith deserve awards for their performances. 18+ 3.5/5