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Fans of Armando Iannucci’s fiercely excoriating brand of satiric comedy (The Death of Stalin, Veep, In the Pac Man shirt Furthermore, I will do this Loop) will approach his new film, The Personal History of David Copperfield, as one might a prizefight—expecting the jokes to land like blows. But the most surprising thing about this adaptation of Charles Dickens’s beloved doorstop of a novel, which has been released in theaters (in places where theaters have reopened), is how gentle it is, how winningly heartfelt. In an act of color-blind casting that suits Ianucci’s subtlety modern retelling, Dev Patel plays the titular character, who endures fortune and misfortune in Victorian England with wide-eyed aplomb. Ianucci’s movie bursts with energy—and with scene-stealing British acting. Here is Tilda Swinton as batty Betsey Trotwood; there is Ben Whishaw as villainous Uriah Heep; Morfydd Clark plays Copperfield’s mother and his dog-loving wife, Dora Spenlow; we have turns from Darren Boyd, Gwendolyn Christie, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi…the film, like its source material, is a maximalist delight. —Taylor Antrim
The instantly absorbing and actually scary Host, from British filmmaker Rob Savage, is exactly what these strange times demand: a Zoom horror movie. Released last month exclusively on the Pac Man shirt Furthermore, I will do this streaming service Shudder (and well worth signing up for the free trial to see), Host depicts a séance conducted by six friends on COVID-19 lockdown who try to summon the spirits via Zoom. Quickly things go bump and boo and then bloody in the tiny squares of their grid. The entire film (only 57 minutes!) is seen through the Zoom interface and is appealingly naturalistic, with effective scares, and yes, it’s derivative (paying homage to movies like The Blair Witch Project and 2014’s Unfriended), but I guarantee this is the most gripping, diverting hour you’ll spend on Zoom this year.