Films

Each film that I’ve watched (and remembered to note) since May 2010 plus brief descriptive review. All movie titles are linked to their relevant IMDB pages. NB. As of February 2017, all films will be linked to their related TMDb pages, as IMDb abandoned their userbase and closed their message boards. Long live TMDb.

Don’t forget to use CMD+F or Ctrl+F to search the page for key tags eg. thriller/ comedy/ action/ excellent etc.

July 2019

The Wolf’s Call – Wonderfully dramatic French thriller – such a refreshing surprise. Yes, it’s full of absurdly Hollywoodised moments, but they have a kind of hammy charm, and the overall suspense and tension is terrific throughout. Thoroughly enjoyed this one!
The Raid – fighty fighty pow pow. Relentless action, but if nothing else, it’s seriously impressive choreography and stamina.
The Mule – albeit easy viewing, this is an uneventful, tame crime drama, so thin as to be condescending. Time better spent elsewhere.

June 2019

Paddleton – marvellous and masterful drama, powerfully executed with gentle wit and charm. Highly recommended.
I Am Mother – the thin and unconvincing script distracts from an otherwise intriguing dystopian sci-fi. All in all, it’s a messy endeavour and a disappointment.
The Perfection – overtly cruel, unnecessarily graphic and sick. Also twisted in such a neat spiral it’s entirely predictable from start to finish.
The Fundamentals of Caring – Road trip drama with a snarky script, clunky exposition, and ridiculous contrivances. Though well meaning, the relentless Hollywood cheese is so blatantly emotionally manipulative it’s more likely to provoke eye rolls than tears.
The Highwaymen – Polished if formulaic gun slinger following a pair of washed up lawmen on the trail of Bonnie and Clyde. Unimaginative and a bit flabby, but serviceable.
Michael Inside – Bland, bleak and laboured prison drama that adds nothing to the genre. Deadpan to the point it lacks soul and energy and ends up a tough watch.
Captive State – Scrappy and chaotic dystopian scifi thriller. Despite some heavy hitter casting, none of them have the opportunity to really engage the viewer, who is buffeted from one frenetic sequence to another before ever becoming invested in the story, setting or characters. Ambitious and nearly redeemed towards the end, but remains a missed opportunity.
Escape Room – a solid entry into this very specific and peculiar genre of horror movie a la The Cube. The tame script and lame acting are expected tropes at this point, so it’s really the inventiveness of the rooms and the guessing game that wins out. Fun fluff.
Glass – After an engaging start this superhero idiocy rapidly succumbs to tedium. Other than James McAvoys eclectic performance, there’s nothing here even of note. Immensely dull.
Booksmart – yes it’s on this list twice in the space of a month. It’s that good.
Eighth Grade – one of the scariest, most uncomfortable and cringeworthy dramas. I watched it through splayed fingers and felt as anxious as Kayla. So hard hitting it’s like an anti-children advert, because no parent could ever want their child to endure what Kayla does while being impotent to change their situation. Great soundtrack too.
Green Book – rose-tinted but feel-good race drama with thoroughly entertaining performances from both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.
The Square – Endlessly intriguing and hilariously, wonderfully weird. Every time you think it’s reached peak strange, it gets a little stranger still. Unique.
The Wife – brilliant performances but the story feels inevitable and unsurprising, even up to its concluding scenes. Very solid drama overall though.
Booksmart – Contender for best film of 2019, certainly best comedy. It’s a straight up female Superbad, shamelessly so – if you wrote the scenes in chronological order next to each other they’d probably line up perfectly – but it succeeds in all the same ways while raising the IQ and bringing the humour more inline with modern standards. Brilliant soundtrack, brilliant acting, brilliant script. Top marks.

May 2019

Quicksand – if you can weather the first two unremarkable and slow paced episodes of this, it develops into a brilliantly acted and compelling crime drama where for all your suspicions, the truth only really emerges in the final seconds. Surprisingly powerful.
Suspiria – messed up mystery-horror elicits a mixed response. Fleeting moments are absolutely riveting and masterful in their delivery, but mostly its slow burn was painfully drawn out and tedious. It needed to be clearer, more concise and tighter in general. Good music though.
Bosch S05 (TV) – a strong season for fans of grumpy Harry. It’s not cutting edge TV, it’s basic, borderline procedural crime drama, but the characters have a cantankerous charm about them, and the soundtrack and general atmosphere is somehow calming. In the absence of better crime thrillers, this is just dandy.
Even the Rain (Todavía La Lluvia) – Engaging spanish language drama with a cast that is strong enough to warrant the viewing alone. Gabriel Garcia Bernal is always an extraordinary screen presence, and he’s wonderful here.
Line of Duty S05 (TV) – the predictable but compelling BBC crime drama continues, as far fetched as ever, and no less entertaining.

April 2019

Creed – pretty bog standard boxing movie, strong on the hype, short on the boxing. Got me fired up though, which is what you want from this sort of thing.
Under The Silver Lake – comparisons to Inherent Vice are deserved, though I think the snowballing mystery in this is actually far more satisfying. Don’t be fooled by the gently intriguing trailer, this is a conspiracy movie for conspiracy theorists. It’s like watching a cheerful descent into mental illness.
The Children Act – brilliantly well acted but not particularly enjoyable.
Deadfall – this script was not nearly deserving of such a strong cast. The dire writing and absurd plot leaves even actors of this calibre looking like soap stars. Crap.
Destroyer – drab and nasty crime drama
Arrested Development S05 (TV) – not very good at all, and it’s a shame. The comedy’s gag rate is lower and the jokes less successful, historic flashbacks to the childhood of the Bluths don’t work well (as well as being inconsistent with the show), and the narrative has become so convoluted and self-referential as to be confusing. Very disappointing. I think the show is dead.
Veep S07 (TV) – So darn good. A huge return to form after its somewhat lacklustre and sloppy last series. Laugh out loud comedy multiple times an episode. Great.
Russian Doll S01E01 (TV) – following acclaim in the media I gave this a shot. Another misfire.
Dead to Me S01E01 (TV) – not my cup of tea. American glossy trash vibes. The premise is good, the delivery too slapdash.

March 2019

The Front Runner – this sharp and quick witted political thriller provides a contender for career best performance from Hugh Jackman, while JK Simmons, Vera Farmiga, Mamoudou Athie and Molly Ephraim all turn in terrific supporting roles. In fact, I can’t remember a time when the cast as a whole was so thoroughly deserving of acclaim. The direction is spot on, subtle, understated, and leaving judgement to the viewer. This has been criminally underrated by reviewers and critics in general, but I highly recommend it.
The Old Man & The Gun – gentle heist drama with a sympatico Robert Redford giving his swan song performance. Gentle, with a great soundtrack and feel good vibes, this is short and comfy viewing, for fans of the actor, not the genre.
The House That Jack Built – Lars just throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. Nothing it seems. I wanted to like this. Dillon is excellent, but the film is just exhaustingly dull, vacuous and unpleasant for the sake of it. Not worth the time.
Roma – The love for this black and white drama is incomprehensible. Some impressive shots and a smart visual style, but beyond that, there’s really little to it. I think this is a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
White God – there’s something affecting about this unorthodox drama when it eventually reaches its payoff, but the route there is so torturously dour and grisly, it’s hard to make the argument it’s worth it.
Venom – more enjoyable than most superhero flicks, particularly thanks to the twisted humour and Tom Hardy’s performance, but at the end of the day, it’s as predictable and inevitable as every other in the genre.
Triple Frontier – a gripping enough way to spend a few hours, but surprisingly plain. The wasted potential is especially disappointing given its stellar cast.
Border – sometimes knowing nothing about a movie before you go to the cinema leads you to experience unexpected gems. Othertimes it leads you to batshit crazy stuff like this bizarre Swedish fantasy drama about two trolls living in human society. If slow and weird is your bag, try it.
Red Sparrow – serviceable thriller that spends far too much effort trying to be smart and ends up ponderous and predictable instead. Not bad performances though. I quite like Joel Edgerton these days.
Todos Lo Saben (Everybody Knows) – effective but unsatisfying Spanish drama that teases mystery then vexingly abandons it half way through. Worth watching for the excellent performances.
Us – certainly unique, but its attempt to balance horror and comedy means neither work particularly well. Different enough to warrant a viewing, but nothing on Peele’s last film, Get Out.
Homecoming S01 (TV) – although this PTSD drama mystery features good performances and is shot in an original style, it’s too plodding and, on balance, I think I preferred the radio/ podcast series.
The West Wing S07 (TV) – it’s only upon concluding the West Wing story that you realise how truly momentous and significant an achievement it was, and even more strikingly, how much the standard of the last three seasons suffered as a result of Aaron Sorkin departing the political drama. I could easily watch it again, but if and when I do, I’ll stick with the first four series and happily forget the unpleasantness of its concluding chapters.
After Life S01 (TV) – Gervais carries on his losing streak with a now typical dramedy where the comedy comes second to the laboured and on the nose hardship of his characters. If long-suffering fans are still hoping for a glimmer of the genius shown by The Office and Extras, this will disappoint. The XFM shows and podcast series continue to be mined for jokes, and even without his involvement, Karl’s ideas crop up throughout. Gervais seems to believe crass language is comedic in and of itself, resulting in a script that’s as hard to listen to as his protagonist is to like, his tedious, career-long obsession with atheistic bible-bashing goes on unabated, while the intended redeeming moments of poignancy are so devoid of subtlety or art they feel as lifeless as his character’s dead wife. This is a depressing show, both literally because of its content, and also because it suggests any hope for Gervais to return to his glory days is not worth holding on to.
This Time with Alan Partridge S01 (TV) – while not up to the standard set by old school Alan, this is still a very funny satire with some shrewd and incisive comedy. It definitely tries much too hard, but even the unfunny bits manage to entertain.
Fargo S03 (TV) – if the format hasn’t grown tired, I’ve certainly grown tired of it. Unusually, I abandoned this half way through when I realised I had zero interest in either the characters or the story.
Mirage (Durante La Tormenta) – This Spanish time travel thriller is engaging enough and fun to watch unfold, but its production feels low-fi and the story and acting are hammy.

February 2019

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia S13 (TV) – by far their worst season, patchy at best, unfunny and gratuitously gross out at its worst. That said, as always, there are moments that make it worth the viewing, the final scenes of the season finale proving a case in point.
Bodied – this hugely entertaining drama/ comedy about rap battles sends mixed messages, reveling in causing gratuitous offence under the guise of lampooning stereotypes. But while its message might be lost in translation, it still makes for a fun ride.
American Animals – above average crime thriller following four US students who plot an art heist. Slick storytelling and direction with an excellent soundtrack.
U-Turn – Stark, overly stylised small town noir thriller with a snarky script and lots of hammy performances from the all star cast. Despite all of that, it remains quite dull.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? – great performances and a witty script keep this drama from mediocrity, but it’s hardly a conversation starter or an attention grabber, so most likely to be enjoyed by patient viewers.
Private Life – just straight up wonderful. Hilarious, poignant, emotive, there are so many superlatives that would be suitable to describe this midlife comedy. It’s a masterclass.

January 2019

A Perfect Day – more morbid than I recall from my first viewing, but this is still pretty zen on a second take.
Wonder – Saccharine drama that pushes all the right buttons. If you like that feeling of being manipulated, it scores high marks. Not one for me though.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – a droll medley of short stories set in the Wild West, laden with whimsy and black humour. Accusations of pretentiousness would be fair, but curiously, it remains mostly enjoyable, despite its indulgent pace.
The Endless – interesting direction and good performances just about save this baffling time warp sci-fi. As monster movies without monsters go, it’s better than average, but the fun of guessing and speculating runs thin after a few hours, and far from delivering a satisfying conclusion, the ending brings only more questions.
The Meg – exactly what you’d expect from a Jason Statham action thriller about a super shark attacking a research centre (or maybe a bit worse). Brainless, ridiculous, and not particularly entertaining either.
Johnny English Strikes Again – as wonderfully absurd, playful and straight up silly as the last two and just as pleasurable for it. Great fun.
Bad Times at the El Royale – often laboured, often indulgent, but original, unusual, terrifically well done, and so grand in scope (perhaps too grand) it can be forgiven its minor flaws.
The Angel – confusing plot portrayed in a gripping and restrained manner. Worth watching this political thriller, but you might need a quick Wikipedia history lesson afterwards. (I did.)
The ABC Murders (TV) – gratuitous and trashy whodunnit crime thriller with no wit, charm or smarts. The few bits of genuine intrigue remain unsolved at its conclusion, and the murderers motive (and unexplained obsession with Poirot) is farcical to the point of annoyance. Avoid.
Detroit – fiercely powerful and exceptionally difficult viewing. Brutal, sickening, offensive, but brilliantly well done. There is no entertainment here, but if you want to feel angry, if you want to get fired up, if you want to shed tears of fury for past and continuing injustices, this is the drug for the job.
Night Watch – bat shit crazy and wildly original vampire thriller from the Russians. Innovatively directed and compellingly played. Not quite tight enough for excellence, but way better than anyone could reasonably expect from the genre.
Luther (S05)(TV) – as per the plummeting trend, the eye rollingly stupid crime thriller is more gratuitous and more ridiculous than ever. Waste of time.
Vice (2019) – trashy propaganda biopic with some good performances but a pretentious script and even more pretentious style of direction. Like watching someone pat themselves on the back for 2 hours. ‘Fact’.
The Oath – unimpressive but solid enough crime drama a few beats too short of a thriller, and a few scenes too short of an ending. Humdrum.
Extortion – if you can withstand the first 45 minutes of painfully bad scripting and acting to match, then you’ll be rewarded (sort of) with a moderately entertaining final half. Or maybe I’m being generous. This is a really bad thriller by any standards.
The Guilty (Den skyldige) – a whisker short of perfection, but still a masterpiece of acting and direction. The attention to detail, pacing… just the general craftmanship are all top notch. A first rate Danish thriller.
Ant Man and the Wasp – a typical superhero flick; a whole evening of dull and convoluted exposition strung together with CGI set pieces and peppered with bad jokes. So tedious, the first hour feels like three. Dreadful.
The Incredibles 2 – the one eye I watched this with enjoyed it. A fun animation.
Sorry To Bother You – a dramedy with much to say and the good sense to say it with a sense of humour. Brilliantly original, each time it begins to tread a familiar path, it takes a dark turn into the ever more fantastical. Deserves a thesis, not a few lines of review. Watch it.

December 2018

Unsane – Horrible, if intriguing, movie, so damn nasty I couldn’t recommend it. It’s torturous to watch and without any redeeming qualities.
12 Strong – absurd and not particularly cohesive US war thriller. Cheesy propaganda filled with clichés. Ideal for a lazy Sunday when making a movie decision is already too much effort.
Parks and Recreation S02 (TV) – better than the first season, but still massively hit and miss. Some episodes hardly evoke a giggle, others are filled with belly laughs.
Otherlife – indie sci-fi that intrigues and holds some promise but doesn’t ultimately deliver.
Infinity Chamber – an impressive and strong performance from Christopher Soren Kelly, but for all the film’s potential, it just isn’t quite engaging or thrilling enough. Good sci-fis are few and far between though, and this one is worth watching for fans of the genre.
TAU – surprisingly better than expected. It’s kind of like a pilot or concept sci-fi film – and now it’s demonstrated potential for the story and the premise, I’d like to see it made to a higher standard with a bit more depth to it.
Orbiter 9 – albeit low budget, this is a very good, original spanish sci-fi with tight editing and direction and convincing performances. Recommended.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle – Serkis goes full on Lord of the Rings in his direction of this loose Jungle Book adaptation. It’s polished and easy viewing, but the superfluity of CGI is a constant barrier to getting truly lost in the trees. Good family-friendly adventure though.
The Little Drummer Girl (TV) – highly stylised but excellent spy thriller. It’s overindulgent at times, but maintains a high calibre and taut atmosphere throughout.
Mute – deserving of much more praise, this is a low key scifi neo-noir with excellent acting, an extremely weird and whacky setting and premise, and generally solid direction. I enjoyed it a lot despite the somewhat plodding pace.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer – A Wes Anderson style script with delivery so deadpan as to be almost catatonic. It’s a soporific experience, stopped just short of total anaesthesia by dint of a deeply sinister soundtrack and unsettling plot.
A Simple Favour – a bizarre balancing act between drama and comedy with just enough of each to keep you watching with a bemused look on your face, until the credits roll and leave you questioning what happened to your good judgement.
Searching – original thriller, creatively depicted and utterly compelling from start to finish.
Bird Box – disastrous from start to finish. Its success with viewers suggests it tugs the heart strings of a certain audience, but fans of dystopian sci-fi will be disappointed.
The 12th Man – mostly engaging and sometimes suspenseful war drama highlighting the extreme endurance of a soldier isolated behind enemy lines. It’s no doubt an extraordinary feat of survival that saw him return home, but it doesn’t always make for the most enthralling viewing experience.
Castle Rock S01 (TV) – after half the first series, I decided not to stick this out. It left me cold and didn’t seem to have much going for it by way of scripting or story.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia S14 (TV) – the most disappointing series yet. There are a few giggles along the way, but this feels like the team are phoning it in; a lot of reliance on historic episodes and gross out humour that doesn’t feel earned as it has in past seasons.

November 2018

The Commuter – every bit as stupid as you think it will be.
The Lego Batman: The Movie – equal parts funny and irritating. Maybe more fun drunk and with company.
Leave No Trace – sad and slow moving drama with a minimal script and minimal story. It’s like an extended, stretched, short rather than a full feature. Fortunately, an immensely powerful payoff rewards those with the patience to stick it out.
Elite S01 (TV) – glossy teenage trash with the usual spanish melodrama
Better Call Saul S04 (TV) – such amazing and consistently high brow craftsmanship, surely one of the most unique and remarkable TV shows to prove a success. Every frame, scene and line of dialogue is carefully considered and meaningful. Excellent. Bring on Season 5.
The West Wing S06 – after a straight up comedy kick off, it settles into a regular beat that is engaging enough, if still far below the Sorkin standard. When characters and actors are as beloved as these, the script and storylines are practically irrelevant – they’re pretty much family at this point.
The Equalizer 2 – not as good as the first one. More of a generic beat ’em up, shoot ’em up action thriller and much less slickly presented.
Widows – A film about corruption, patriarchy, racism, domestic abuse, prostitution, police shootings, adultery, greed…too many ingredients ultimately undermine this thriller, but it still packs a punch and delivers vastly better entertainment than the usual fare.
Parks and Recreation S01 – a mixed bag. Just entertaining enough to keep me watching, but not funny enough to recommend on the basis of this season.
The Post – forgettable and unexciting Hollywoodised newspaper thriller. Citizen Four much better on every level.

October 2018

Bodyguard S01 (TV) – after a phenomenal start that marked a new bar for British TV, with set pieces that would have been polished even for Hollywood thrillers, the story and action slips into familiar clichéd territory and intensity becomes absurdity. That said, this is still an extremely compelling and smartly delivered BBC drama, ideal for an edge of the seat binge watch.
Deadpool 2 – the gag rate is comfortably high enough that when one or two fall flat the next one is already tickling your funny bone, and the ‘meta’ self-awareness works much better than it should. The action sequences are slick, and overall the only downside is the formulaic, stock superhero-movie plot. I think what I’m trying to say is, damn it, but if this isn’t actually quite a good film.
Free Fire – exhausting sequence of swagger, machismo and mishaps, punctuated by endless chaotic gunfire. If it all ultimately makes sense, I didn’t care enough to notice.
Upgrade – plays out like more of a high concept pitch than a completed film, but enough of it works that I can recommend it. It’s rough around the edges with some blunt scripting that would be laughable in any other style, but can somehow be overlooked packaged like this. Slipped under the radar like a ninja and deserves more attention.
22 July – after the initial depiction of the event itself, which is morbidly compelling despite being more shocking and grotesque than you might even imagine, the extreme tension dissipates into extreme tedium as the usual dramatic beats take over, and a long and unexciting court case gets underway. There’s little here to entertain.
Cold Eyes – a second viewing holds up just as strongly as the first. Great thriller.
The West Wing S03 (TV) – Sorkin’s writing is of such a high standard that it remains a joy to watch even after multiple viewings.
The West Wing S04 (TV) – Not quite on a par with the first three seasons, this series really goes off the rails during its final episodes which are unconvincing at best, and totally un-West Wing.
The West Wing S05 (TV) – this one was the miss. Albeit still an entertaining show, its clear the calibre of writing slipped post Sorkin, and the new team are struggling to find their rhythm.

September 2018

Rendition – despite some excellent performances, this isn’t a thriller that warrants its outstanding cast. Albeit engaging and, for the most part, intriguing, the two storylines it plays with overlap too tenuously and the viewer is left baffled rather than satisfied.
Ozark S02 (TV) – another solid, morbid series of drama, thrills and blood spills. Not quite as polished as its antecedent, nor quite as wholly gripping, but still well above average and highly recommended with outstanding performances across the board.
The Mechanism S01 (TV) – Easily lost in the endless churn of low calibre TV series because it’s not compelling enough to compete with the better thrillers out there about political corruption in its various guises. I wanted to like it, but after several episodes I couldn’t be bothered to keep trying.
Fariña (Cocaine Coast) S01 (TV) – a spanish language narcotics soap opera, a telenovela in every respect but production values. The story is predictable, character behaviours stupid, and every episode follows the exact same formula: risk of arrest being averted by a litany of increasingly absurd coincidences, contrivances, and deus ex machinas. If it wasn’t for the love of the language, it’s unlikely I’d have watched past episode two, and all the warning signs are there in episode one. If you want an amazing thriller about drug trafficking, there are so many to choose from, don’t choose this one.
Disenchantment S01 (TV) – not worth pursuing. Either Matt Groening has lost his touch, or this experiment failed. Mostly unfunny, crass and uninspired.
BlacKKKlansman – Spike Lee’s enjoyable race comedy/ drama, a lot of fun, but far too on the nose at times
Memoir of a Murderer – this crime drama is a mixed bag. It keeps you guessing, but is too poorly paced and drawn out to be exciting or properly compelling. A shame, as the performances are good.
7 Boxes (Siete Cajas) – fresh and exciting spanish language thriller exploring the chaotic events of one night in a Paraguayan market when a boy is asked to transport 7 crates of unknown merchandise across the town. Brilliant, fast paced and often funny, with a great soundtrack and creative camera work.
Who Is America? (TV) – Crass, irreverent, often plain disgusting, yet this satirical political comedy highlighting the gross prejudices, greed and stereotypes within American society illuminates some extremely uncomfortable truths. It’s not consistently funny, and it’s downright unpleasant to watch at times, but its shocking approach cuts straight to the point and hits home often enough that its misses can be overlooked. Careful who you watch it with though…
Avengers: Infinity War – the celebrity clique continues their witty repartee even as the galaxy is dismantled around them. The latest superhero adventure is another 150 futile minutes of baffling, headache inducing CGI. It’s like watching a firework display. That said, if video game cut scenes and Marvel lore are your bag, this one will keep you hooked.
Sunday’s Illness (La Enfermedad de Domingo) – quietly affecting, understated spanish drama. Engrossing, but not remarkable.
Sinister – generic horror. Tedious and stupid.
La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In) – there are so many threads here, each more splendidly fucked up than the last. Great and twisted psychological thriller. Highly recommended if you’ve the stomach for nastiness.

August 2018

Ghost Stories – a unique combination of funny and terrifying, with very clever sound and direction and careful scripting. Enjoyed it a lot. Something different.
Mission: Impossible 6 Fallout – enjoyable in the same way The Transporter was enjoyable, feel good vibes, exhilarating action, a smug confidence that feels infectious etc. But the premise is horrible, the exposition staggeringly dense, and the visuals are strangely tacky. Treat it like any other action film and it’s worth a watch, but don’t expect greatness.
The Warning (El Aviso) – mercifully short and mostly engaging spanish thriller. Everything about it is either bog standard or subpar, and there’s little to really recommend it, but the story is intriguing enough to keep you guessing. The premise is never explained or justified and one can’t help but think a better film could have been made.
Sarah’s Key – plodding drama; unexciting, unintriguing, underwhelming.
Stranger S01 (TV) – An above average whodunnit wrapped in political intrigue and cultural hierarchies and deferences. Our fascinating protagonist isn’t some blundering alcoholic battling with his demons as he solves cases; he is shrewd, capable, relentless, he sees much and says little, he is enigmatic but sympathetic, and his performance is fastidious and crisply delivered. The programme is soap operatic in many ways, excessively long (episodically and as a series), and it does suffer curious quirks and melodrama that are a million miles from realism or even plausibility, but overall these inadequacies don’t undermine its value as fun and extremely engaging television.
Paddington 2 – no doubt hugely enjoyable for kids, this isn’t one for the parents too. Slapstick is annoying and Ben Whishaw’s whiney bear is such a goody two shoes it leaves you hoping one of the parlous situations he finds himself in would finally finish him off.
First Reformed – Slow philosophical drama juggling the twin issues of religion and environment. The points it makes are good ones, and the style is neither too preachy nor too patronising (although it walks close to the line on both counts), but the real issue is simply that it is boring. It is not entertaining, or even compelling, to watch a man struggle with existential questions, and despite strong performances, the story isn’t surprising or intriguing enough to keep the viewer gripped, particularly as it chickens out of its core conceit.
Verónica – fairly average spanish horror movie. Not scary in the least, so it fails on that point, but it’s no less entertaining, and some of the script is very humorous, particularly from Verónica’s younger siblings who do an admirable job treading the line between amusing and annoying.
Bosch S04 (TV) – Great series overall and they handled a difficult plot turn mostly well, although it cast a glum shadow over the remaining episodes. This is a reliably solid detective show in a landscape that suffers from a drought of decent murder mysteries. Hope Bosch S05 gets the go ahead.
Life (2017) – Gripping, entertaining, well cast and acted with innovative direction. Yes it had flaws, but lets not write off the whole film because of some scientific inadequacies and rash decision making. I’m amazed this film flew so far under the radar, it’s really way above average for a modern sci-fi.
Marrowbone – original and well acted ghost story. Too timid to be a horror, too creepy to be a drama. Mostly good but lacks punch.
Tag – Just about passable as fluffy weekend entertainment, but most of the ‘comedy’ is slapstick and infantile in the extreme. The high ratings and positive reviews are misleading.
Alien Covenant – incompetence, irrationality and clichés abound in yet another massive budget flop from Ridley Scott. Agonisingly frustrating to watch, so don’t.
Deadwind S01 (TV) – Based on episode one only, this is a plainly unoriginal and formulaic drama following the tropes established by The Killing, The Bridge and other far superior scandi-crime dramers/ thrillers. Given how competitive this space is, shows really need to do better to stand out.

July 2018

Non-Stop – don’t be misled by the stellar cast, this is exactly as tedious as you would expect a Neeson action thriller to be, even down to the cheesy romances shoehorned in.
Sharp Objects S01 (TV) – Stopped after two episodes of this dreary and loveless drama. Sinfully dull. Exhausting. Waste of time.
Hidden Figures – cheesy and on the nose, but good entertainment and classic feel good vibes. Don’t be put off by the subject matter which sounds really dry.
Who Killed Cock Robin – disappointing film overall, especially given the absurdly high rating it has on TMDb (and elsewhere…) It also doesn’t make a lot of sense at times, in a way that I’m not sure was down to the translation/ culture.
Halt and Catch Fire S04 (TV) – the first half of this season is quite stunning. It’s funny, sweet, intriguing, full of potential. Then there’s a tonal shift, it becomes ponderous, introspective, monologue after monologue, devoid of ideas and inspiration (much like its characters). If the first three seasons were about progress and moving forwards, this season is preoccupied with regression and the past.
Joint Security Area – engrossing drama about the forbidden friendships formed on the 42nd parallel between North and South Korea. Heart warming.
Revolt – ropey low budget sci-fi thriller with Lee Pace. Its basic direction and cinematography leaves a dystopian vision that never quite convinces, while even with great actors delivering the lines, the script is so clunky they still feel stilted. Disappointing.
You Were Never Really Here – like dehydrating in a desert, gnawing your own flesh to taste water, only for it to be poured boiling over your face when it finally comes. Much like this review, one gets the feeling this dreary revenge drama is over-encumbered by metaphor.
First Snow – Slow burning tension escalates throughout this inconspicuous and unsettling psychological noir thriller. Great cast who all turn in effective performances. Suffers some pacing issues, no doubt, but still underrated.
Rampage – one of those action films with minimal story and maximum wanton destruction. The Rock is charming as ever, but even with his charisma, this is shallow and tedious.
El Otro Hermano (The Lost Brother/ The Other Brother) – Grisly Spanish crime drama, protracted but compelling if only to see how the whole nasty, twisted tale unravels. Very effective understated soundtrack.
Plata Quemada (Burnt Money) – disappointing crime drama mainly detailing the troubled love story between the two gay protagonists rather than the robbery. Sort of big budget arthouse, not my bag.
Fauda S01 (TV) – Gripping, if entirely unrealistic thriller. After a strong and furiously fast paced start, the pacing drops off a cliff and padding crops up detailing superfluous soap opera relationship drama. It’s a shame. Furthermore, the ending, when it comes, is so abrupt it feels like no ending at all, with slapdash contrivances that undermine all the efforts of the protagonists (and the audience) to have come so far. The same story in 8 episodes would have been a blinder. Expect I’ll still watch season 2 though.
The Ritual – hugely underrated British horror film using suspense and grotesque idolatry as the root of its terror. The symbolism and metaphors are a little too on the nose at times, and the script can be gratingly vituperative, but overall this is enjoyable, edge of the seat stuff.
American Assassin – two dimensional action thriller with a bare minimum of character, sense or story and a surfeit of gratuitous violence.
Ocean’s 8 – moderately entertaining, but not a patch on the trilogy that came before. Unfortunately it emulates Ocean’s 11 so closely it feels unoriginal and trite, doing no favours for its screaming effort to be a female showcase for a female audience (Doncha know there’s nothing women love more than shopping, glamour and jewellery?! An ‘A’ for effort Hollywood…)
Palmeras en la Nieve (Palm Trees in the Snow) – Absolute balls. Eye-rolling and cringe inducing melodrama. Nauseatingly saccharine, self-indulgent, badly edited and painfully ponderous (with a runtime that’s an exercise in audience tolerance). Among its other crimes, it somehow depicts the Spanish as the victims of their own colonial era in Guinea. Quite the feat.
Calibre – extremely intense and suspenseful thriller with beautiful cinematography, artful pacing to ramp up the tension, and convincing performances from all involved.
Identity – it’s definitely aged since 2003, seeming so over the top now as to border slapstick, but the premise, direction and delivery are all still top notch. A great shame that Cusack hasn’t continued with this standard of work. Great thriller, best watched in your teens!

June 2018

Goon – if you have the mentality of a thirteen year old and can tolerate relentless coarsity, unfunny jokes and eye rolling slapstick, then you’ll fare better with this sports comedy than I did. Awful.
A Bigger Splash – With masterful direction, XX creates a searing sinister atmosphere and palpable suspense. It’s beautiful and sensual and mysterious from the opening frames, so it’s a shame that the climax, when it comes, fizzles rather than explodes, and leaves its audience deflated.
The Silence of the Sky (O Silêncio do Céu) – affecting and unpleasant spanish language drama, too doleful to be enjoyable
The Salesman – Not sure I understand the overwhelming acclaim for this dramatic story of a revenge gone wrong. It’s intriguing and sometimes powerful, but the pacing was inconsistent and the real drama too thin on the ground.
Beast – Slow burning and suspenseful, this indie, low budget emotional thriller is very effective, but feels overwrought and try hard at times.
Anthropoid – Gory and hopeless drama cum thriller about a paltry resistance effort during WW2. Depressing and not particularly compelling.
The Motive (El Autor) – Spanish psychological drama following a man who becomes so obsessive about writing his novel he manipulates his neighbours to engineer increasingly outlandish storylines. Mostly compelling but becomes increasingly absurd and farcical as it wears on. The ending is disappointingly prosaic.
The Tribe (2016) – Unconvincing acting and scripting make this low budget post-apocalyptic survival thriller near unwatchable.
Grupo 7 (Unit 7) – Spanish language police drama about a corrupt police unit who terrorise the locals to make arrests and increasingly antagonise the community with violent results. Polished, but simply not engaging enough to recommend highly. Elite Squad and its sequel delivered the same concept much more convincingly and enjoyably.
The Detectorists S02 (TV) – charming, wonderfully lighthearted, and with numerous laugh out loud moments each episode, this second series is perhaps even better than the first. It’s a fantastic script, and the chemistry between McKenzie Crook and Toby Jones has only matured. An excellent comedy.
Capote – Intended as a character study, this is a slow paced and moderately irritating drama, entirely unnecessary given the masterwork it describes. Read ‘In Cold Blood’ and ignore this.
Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado – Henceforth destined to be called simply ‘Soldado’, this sequel to the cartel thriller matches the suspense of its predecessor beat for beat and imitates its visual style mostly successfully. The ending feels too hastily wrapped up and slightly sloppy, with some niggling unresolved questions, so it doesn’t feel quite as polished or perfectly packaged as the original. Nonetheless, this is one hell of a film, brilliantly acted and scripted. It’s certainly a worthy sequel. Shame about the crap title.
The Snowman – this murder mystery is short on quality in just about every regard. the acting and direction is bland, the script stunted, and it’s so strangely and scrappily edited as to leave you feeling you’ve watched two thirds of a thriller. The ingredients for a much better film are there, but they’re served up uncooked and cold.
Killing Eve S01 (TV) – wonderfully original British crime drama. Unfortunately the climax of the series teeters a little too close to the edge of the rails.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Enjoyed it as I would more or less any JP movie, but with 90% of the action taking place in one manor house (which is as aesthetically pleasing as a nuclear bunker), it felt pretty one dimensional and tonally uninteresting. The jokes were mostly contrived or fell flat, except for a couple of slapstick bits which got a good laugh. I’d recommend it for a sleepy Sunday, but versus my expectations (and the last movie), it was substandard.
Cargo – Surprisingly excellent. It’s received so little acclaim and generated practically zero mainstream hype or discussion that I assumed it was going to be a generic Netflix bargain basement Zombie flick. Instead, it’s a thought provoking and very moving, human story. Basically a drama dressed up in the guise of a horror. The characters were all deep enough to be interesting and albeit quite slow paced, the story was relentlessly engaging. Interesting to see Martin Freeman do a film like this too, his acting chops have come so far since The Office!
The Crossing S01 (TV) – very low quality soap opera sci-fi. A shame as the concept is strong and Steve Zahn is terrific in everything.
A Very English Scandal (TV) – Excellent performances and a witty script. Entertaining TV.
Hereditary – proficient horror movie that doesn’t quite earn its frenzied acclaim.
Arrested Development S05 (TV) – nowhere near as good as the original few seasons, but still good entertainment and fun to watch.
Searching for Sugar Man – unremarkable documentary about a remarkable man.
This Is Where I Leave You – Unengaging and hackneyed dramedy complete with mandatory indie music, adults dabbling with drugs, and puerile gags. Relationships, mistakes, regret, forgiveness, you’ve seen it all before and it’s still not worth the time.

May 2018

Utopia S02 (TV) – enjoyable continuation of the conspiracy thriller, but clutching at straws and contrivances in a way that series 1 didn’t need to. Still great entertainment, I’m just glad it was wrapped before it descended into farce.
Suburbicon – frenetic and overwrought crime drama that plays like a prolonged episode of Fargo. Not bad, but not worth the effort.
Banking on Bitcoin – Interesting but forgettable documentary making the argument for Bitcoin. Mostly subjective content.
Icarus – the best documentary I’ve ever seen and a fascinating expose of Russian doping. Whether it’s a subject that interests you or not, the political ramifications and behind the scenes machinations by Putin’s government are a stunning reminder that conspiracies do exist.
Den of Thieves – the one gripping heist sequence towards the end is very tightly executed, but the rest of this macho thriller is so testosterone fuelled and trite it’s off-putting. Too long as well.
The Florida Project – One of those dramas critics love and most normal people find boring. Observational cinema that seems like human tourism.
Hostiles – Ponderous Western; well shot, well acted, no less drawn out.

April 2018

Coco – animated musical movie, peak Pixar tear jerker but great fun and very upbeat and feel good.
Darkest Hour – Oldman delivers an impressive turn in otherwise pretty dour love letter to Churchill. Cherry picked and rose tinted history never really does it for me and this film overlooks, even candy coats, all of Churchill’s problems bar moderate rudeness, which is easily forgivable in a man haunted by a country at war. Misleading and romanticised.
I, Tonya – Another reinvention of history, this is still a good film, if only for its fantastic performances. The more I read out about Tonya Harding the less sympathy I have for her, but her story is certainly an engaging one to watch unfold onscreen.
Ready Player One – albeit a children’s film through and through (hence extra-condescending exposition), this is a brilliant dystopian sci-fi adventure – a love letter to video game nerds and pop culture nerds alike, filled with a ton of references and Easter Eggs. Thoroughly entertaining.
Berberian Sound Studio – interesting ideas but the Lynchian style and abstract form make this a difficult and unsatisfying watch.
The Disaster Artist – the character of Tommy is so unbearable the film irrevocably suffers, but like a car crash, it’s hard to look away. Just keep wincing and the end will surely come.
Se Quien Eres (I Know Who You Are) S01+S02 (TV) – frequently absurd but captivating nonetheless. The mystery intrigues even through the dodgy script and occasionally terrible acting. (Que?!?!) The ending takes its cues from Return of the King. Interminable.
AP Bio S01 (TV) – ridiculous and puerile comedy, often reliant on ropey slapstick. Somehow still managed to win me over with it’s asinine charm (and Glenn Howerton). Couldn’t recommend it though.
Utopia S01 (TV) – An intriguing and arresting pilot episode is followed by what must surely be one of the finest and most original conspiracy thriller series Britain has produced. There are some occasional lines of cheesy expositional dialogue, and the plot frequently strays into absurdity, but for sheer entertainment and thrilling momentum, this is an instant classic. Neil Maskell in particular is a rivetingly sinister villain.
A Quiet Place – not without its problems, but this is an extremely effective and original suspense thriller – much more exciting than scary. Well worth catching in the cinema (or on a big screen) if possible.
El Cuerpo (The Body) – great thriller, even if it doesn’t hold its secrets quite so well on a repeat viewing.

March 2018

The Nile Hilton Incident – solid enough crime drama, not exactly fun though. Often slow and confusing, with a sense of inevitability that’s never turned on its head.
Jigsaw – thankfully not as gratuitous as the last spate, but it falls victim to the same underlying issue: the beauty of the original Saw was that the twist was so simple it needed no explanation. Every subsequent film has been so convoluted it’s needed a few minutes explainer to justify the final reveal. That’s a failure.
Deliver Us From Evil – engaging and suspenseful thriller that tries to be as dark and brooding as Se7en but hasn’t got the narrative to back it up. Devolves into generic exorcism fare.
A Man Apart – marginally better than average revenge action thriller with something vaguely resembling real acting from Vin Diesel. Easy viewing.
Mozart in the Jungle (S04)(TV) – as always, a wacky pleasure. Great music and comedy, and enough off-kilter zaniness to stay original.
The Death of Stalin – a brilliantly funny premise and promising start becomes a bit tedious by the end reel. Hits and misses, like all of Armando Iannucci’s work.
The Wailing – a bit too long, but this is an engrossing and suspenseful thriller with an ambiguous ending that might throw off some viewers. Strangely comedic too.
Murder on the Orient Express – absurdly blockbusterised. Boring. And that god awful moustache.
Annihilation – Garland hasn’t repeated the splendour of Ex Machina here, but it’s still an intriguing scifi. Too abstract for my tastes, without enough clues to lead me to a satisfactory conclusion. Polished, but I wouldn’t watch it again.
Sneaky Pete (S02)(TV) – this is not high art, it’s indubitably bad on so many levels, but it’s incorrigibly bad, loveably so, and it always leaves me grinning like a dufus.
Roman J Israel Esq. – oddly compelling given its subdued and deflated style, with sensitive performances from all involved, but beyond competency, there’s little to excite or to recommend here.
Game Night – hairbrained comedy thriller. Hardly high art, but this is a mostly enjoyable farce. A good weekend time waster.
Don’t Say A Word – idiotic thriller that starts exciting and rapidly deteriorates.

February 2018

Tik Tok – stupid action thriller complete with cackling madcap villain and cliched set pieces. Very disappointing.
The Thomas Crown Affair – hilariously dated art heist flick starring Brosnan on top suave form. Amazing how times have changed in two decades. Good fun though, shame it sags in the middle.
1922 – slow and fairly boring Stephen King horror. Based on a novella, and it feels like the source material was too thin to flesh into a full film.
The Chaser – horribly violent, bleak and macabre Korean crime thriller, too unpleasant to recommend.
A Hard Day – such an absurd film I initially mistook it for a comedy, this Korean action thriller is undeniably stupid but no less compelling.
Mother – not Aronofsky’s descent into madness of the same name, this Korean drama follows a mother seeking to exonerate her son from a murder charge. Atmospheric and well shot, but it didn’t move or excite me.
New World – brilliantly suspenseful and well constructed Korean crime thriller of the sort that’s all too rare these days. Great film.
Black Panther – race and gender power aside (which admittedly, stands this film head and shoulders above its peers), this is more formulaic superhero guff. I’m calling time on comic blockbusters.
Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle – Good to see Partridge back in action, but this is nowhere near Coogan’s best, just as often tiresome as it is funny. Hopefully the new BBC series will fare better.
The Cloverfield Paradox – a demonstration of how to make a terrible space thriller with a great cast. Criminally wasteful of talent. It’s inconceivable that someone gave this unwatchable mess a green light.
Ingrid Goes West – Stressful, skin-crawling, creepy and unsettling, this is a one of a kind comedy that’s near masterful. Aubrey Plaza is uniquely talented and she delivers a phenomenal performance along with O’Shea Jackson Jr who is instantly winning as her lovable landlord.
About Elly – frantic and suspenseful Iranian drama, gripping and full of mystery and intrigue, but the end, when it eventually comes, is less of a conclusion than an abrupt stop. A shame.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 – This is bleak and brutally violent. The colour palette is drab, and the script minimalist too, but there’s a steely determination in the protagonist and a sense of tremendous injustice against him that really makes you want to follow the story through and see him come out the other side (if only for a moment…!) A really engaging thriller.
Downsizing – quaint but funny. Many feel it missed the mark, and maybe so, but at the very least it hit the target. Light hearted and enjoyable comedy drama.
Montage – A classic, conventional crime thriller. Compelling, with various intriguing twists and turns. If only the ending wasn’t so drawn out it would be even better.
Nerve – superficial social media thriller. Irrational behaviour and stupid lines of dialogue make for frustrating viewing. The soundtrack is the only occasionally worthwhile aspect of the whole experience.
Personal Shopper – A waste of everybody’s time. The interesting premise is clumsily executed in this tediously slow and sombre psychological drama. It’s agonisingly boring, with a large portion taking place via text messaging, complete with enraging repetitive notifications. Infuriating from beginning to end.
The Shape of Water – wonderfully different love story fantasy thriller with a video game aesthetic and comic book wit. Brilliantly cast and directed and engaging from start to finish. Michael Shannon is the new Ed Harris.
All The Money In The World – Engrossing rather than gripping. Its plodding pacing and bleak colour palette makes it tougher viewing than it should be. For a film obsessed with money, Ridley Scott could be a little more conscious of the value of time.

January 2018

The Best Offer – good yarn, well spun, even while the actual plot is utterly preposterous. Solid entertainment.
Wormwood (TV) – Interesting concept proves dull viewing. Too much atmosphere, not enough coherence.
Cold Eyes – Fast paced, wholly gripping Korean heist thriller. Quick witted and adrenaline filled. A great ride.
Lost Highway – a spooky soundtrack provides the majority of the artistry in this maddeningly abstract erotic thriller. Visually interesting but narratively tedious.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – delicately walking the fine line between black comedy and tragedy, this unexpected drama is wickedly funny, touching and profound.
The Captive – for once the critics didn’t batter it unfairly. This is fairly appalling.
It – juvenile horror movie that’s fun to watch in the vein of Stranger Things, but devoid of any serious scares. Clowns are so passé…
Molly’s Game – As fast paced, slick and loquacious as we’ve come to expect from Aaron Sorkin. This is a fun drama, but one can’t help but wonder if there aren’t more interesting stories to be told with Sorkin’s talent.
La Casa De Papel – what starts as a trashy Spanish heist thriller turns borderline unbearable as the plot twists itself into a ludicrous, inconsistent and often nonsensical mess. Then after 13 absurd episodes, the season ends abruptly and unsatisfyingly. Unless season two is a work of utter genius, I cannot recommend this.
The Foreigner – Chan is not such a happy Jackie in this dour and somnolent revenge thriller. One to avoid.
Good Time – gorgeously shot and stirring crime thriller that grips from the brutal opening sequence and doesn’t let up. Gets under your skin.
The Wall – Surprisingly innovative given its limited cast and location. Very well directed and well acted, but still feels an effort at times. Worth watching though.
The Siege of Jadotville – fantastic, suspenseful and stunningly beautiful war film. Unexpected given its modest renown.
Shooter S02 (TV) – Another stunted season due to Ryan Philippe’s freak injury. Probably a saving grace to be frank. Despite a good turn from Josh Stewart (under-appreciated as always but well cast here), this was fraught with cliche, stupidity and wearisome machismo.
Pawn Sacrifice – good performances all round, but even as a chess fan, this isn’t as exciting as I feel it could have been.
Manhunt: Unabomber – terrific TV series with a career best performance from Sam Worthington and perhaps from Paul Bettany too. It’s a shame some of the scenes are a bit on the nose and exposition heavy because it falls just short of perfection. Nonetheless, a fantastic ride.
Godless (S01)(TV) – A truly magnificent Western. Epic, beautiful, profound, with a splendid cast and sharp witted script. Fantastic.
Killing Words (Palabras encadenadas) – average Spanish-language crime thriller
Tattoo – German noir crime thriller, mostly gripping, if a little over the top. The plot is undermined by a plethora of extraordinary coincidences, but for fans of the serial killer genre, this is worth a watch.
Polytechnique – Devastating and shockingly violent recreation of a university campus shooting and its profound impact on those involved. Gut wrenching. Haunting.

December 2017

Gifted – Good story drastically undermined by an unnecessary and tedious romance that reeks of studio interference. A shame, as at its best, the script is clever and the acting is strong.
The Founder – Heavy with injustice and all the better for it, this is the tragic story of Ray Kroc, the man who stole McDonald’s. Strong performances give way to a lot of biopic clichés, but this is better than average.
Wakefield – Original but protracted one man show from Bryan Cranston. For the most part engaging even whilst unequivocally ridiculous.
The Fury of a Patient Man – slow burning revenge thriller, a bit too grim and grisly for entertainment, but quite affecting in its own way.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – a big budget spectacle which pales in comparison to its chronological predecessor. The plot alone is reason enough to face palm. Without the scene stealing performances from Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Adam Driver, there would be no reason at all to watch this.
Before I Wake – cheap fantasy horror about a kid whose nightmares are realised when he sleeps. Not worth watching.
Bright – I just couldn’t care less.

November 2017

Z (1969) – I don’t think masterpiece is too strong a term for this marvellous conspiracy thriller. Way ahead of its time in terms of cinematography and directorial style. Vastly better than I could have imagined after so many years. Utterly convincing.
El Bar – often agonisingly difficult to watch, this spanish black comedy thriller is mostly unfunny, gratuitous, and poorly produced. One to avoid.
Unlocked – Noomi Rapace is excellent as always, and the film has a stellar cast. Unfortunately, the plot, for all its twists and turns, is beyond ludicrous, and Orlando Bloom’s laddish-quipping-sidekick routine is embarrassing. That said, very engaging thriller overall, shame it’s held together with such a feeble thread.
Spartan – disjointed but compelling thriller.
Hearts in Atlantis – charming if slightly soppy drama that hints at mystery and intrigue but never really delivers. A great performance from Anton Yelchin (RIP) although Anthony Hopkins isn’t at his best.
Atomic Blonde – arguably stylish, but otherwise dull, humourless, and full of itself, with a cast of unlikeables.
American Made – self aggrandising and smug tale, hero worshipping Barry Seal and the drug-running, CIA informing lifestyle he led. Easy and generally entertaining viewing though.
The Five (TV) – Thoroughly engaging and enjoyable TV drama exploring the mystery of why a missing and presumed dead boy’s DNA is showing up at murder seasons. Utterly ridiculous and implausible, but compelling.
What Happened To Monday – Madhat and brilliantly conceived. Great performances from Noomi Rapace. Lots to unpick and ridicule, but still good fun.
The Bad Batch – Visually stunning but so slow and underdeveloped as to be tiresome. Avoid unless you want inspiration for whacky aesthetics.
Spider-man: Homecoming – funny and upbeat with the emphasis where it belongs – on the characters rather than the effects.
Stranger Things S02 (TV) – more of the same, ergo it’s awesome, must watch TV. Feel-good, nostalgic, inspiring, and dangerously easy to binge. Bring on the next season.
Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead – bleak crime drama, too heavy for my tastes, and without anyone to root for.
The Sinner S01 (TV) – intriguing, often gratuitous and unnecessarily drawn out crime mystery. Disappointing.
The Silence – heavy and depressing but interesting crime drama. I wanted more from it.
Loft – Like a magic trick, I loved it right up until I discovered how it was done, and then it just seemed so boringly straightforward. Still an excellent and gripping thriller though.
Veneno para las Hadas (Poison for the Fairies) – sinister and atmospheric, but so uneventful as to feel protracted

October 2017

The Skeleton Key – surprisingly enjoyable and gripping mystery thriller with another strong performance from Kate Hudson (Triangle). This isn’t as good as that film, but it’s still a pleasant surprise given the average calibre of horror movies these days.
The Bad Education Movie – the one sidesplittingly hilarious scene is probably available on YouTube, and the rest is borderline unwatchable.
The Limehouse Golem – fairly average period crime thriller. A great cast but still underwhelming.
Blade Runner 2049 – stunningly beautiful, masterfully directed, but suffering the same achilles heel as its predecessor: the story takes itself so seriously, is so poe-faced and, at times, dull. A shame, as the dark dystopian world Villeneuve creates is delightfully immersive.
The Big Sick – surprisingly funny and upbeat rom com.
Quarry (S01)(TV) – one of the most original and affecting shows I’ve seen on TV in a good while. Travesty they cancelled it, but at least it’ll last as a tightly contained masterpiece. Watch it.
Wonder Woman – massively overrated superhero tedium. Hollywood continues spewing out the same old same, finding a new face to prop it up and a new marketing ploy to sell it. How this is acclaimed I cannot fathom.
Narcos (S03)(TV) – great show, a little slow on the uptake, but once the first few episodes are out of the way it’s gripping and suspenseful to the end. In some ways, it’s more entertaining than the first two episodes, and some of the cast members are just fantastic; hat tip Andrea Londo and Matias Varela.
Wind River – beautiful cinematography, good acting, great soundtrack. All in all, a solid, slow burning crime drama.
Mindhunter (S01)(TV) – watchable, and occasionally fun, but nowhere near as sinister or macabre as it would like to be, and perhaps ought to be, given its premise. There’s much better TV out there.
Gerald’s Game – nasty sex game gone awry turns into a nightmare about child abuse. If that’s your bag, it’s good.
Gold – solid and engaging drama whose main fault seems to be glamorising and espousing an industry that has blood on its hands. The true story is even stranger than the fiction, worth reading about.
Bomb Scared (Fe de Etarras) – Gentle political and social satire that is vastly better than its disappointing IMDb rating would suggest. Funny and feel good.
May God Forgive Us (Que Dios Nos Perdone) – often disturbingly graphic, but this is a strong and well structured crime drama
Inherent Vice – drawn out, rambling and mostly nonsensical. Waste of time. Disappointing from such a powerhouse director and cast.

September 2017

Shepherds and Butchers – plodding and unnecessarily drawn out courtroom drama, targeting too many moral sins with a broad brush, laying it on thick, and ending up with a clumsy overall picture. Nonetheless, easily watchable and still somewhat moving.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – indeed.
War for the Planet of the Apes – hugely disappointing final act to the ape apocalypse.
Shooter S01 (TV) – Fast paced action thriller, as plausible as Prison Break but similarly enjoyable.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard – ludicrous and slapstick action thriller that unexpectedly entertains. Perfect for a sunday afternoon.
Logan Lucky – well plotted yankee doodle thriller with Soderburgh’s trademark style and slick cinematic design.
Live by Night – carefully crafted if overly prolonged gangster drama, beautifully filmed and somehow quite affecting
Magnus – pretty bog standard documentary, carried by the majesty of the genius at its core rather than any cinematic flair
It Comes At Night – interesting but plodding survival horror
Raw – arresting and brutally visceral cannibal horror. Gripping.
Mother! – a spectacularly menacing and then outright batshit crazy visual assault. Recommended if only for the masterful film-making, this is an unpleasant allegory with the subtlety and nuance of a battering ram. (Key clue: Mother! is Mother Nature).

August 2017

L’Affaire SK1 – Harrowing and compelling as this story is, and I did (mostly) enjoy the film, I was really disappointed that there wasn’t more to it. I expected a twist, or a revelation, or some kind of climax. Whilst real life doesn’t always come with neat red herrings and gut punch reveals, that is what the best crime thrillers deliver. I wonder if this might have been a better “based on a true story” rather than a direct biographical retelling.
House of Cards (S05)(TV) – disappeared so far up itself I’m left watching solely to see the house collapse, the cards tumble down, and Frank Underwood take a bullet to the face (or the just equivalent)
Boy Missing – Perhaps the worst Spanish language film I’ve seen. Chaotic, badly scripted, acted, directed; a total waste of time. Baffled that Jose Coronado put his name to it.
Man Up – Simon Pegg proves he really has sold out. Insipid romcom. And I quote: “you’re just an emotional jigsaw at the moment, but you’ll piece yourself back together again”. Nauseating.
Remember – Christopher Plummer turns in a fantastic performance in a heartfelt and moving crime drama.
The Handmaiden – Strikingly artful and brilliantly directed but not a particularly enjoyable film
The Invisible Guest (Contratiempo) – even on the second viewing in three months, this is a fantastic thriller, and the painstaking care in laying out the breadcrumbs to the twist doesn’t go unnoticed a second time. Great stuff.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – An enjoyably stupid romp through English legend complete with Guy Ritchie’s trademark cockney schtick.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. – moderately enjoyable sci fi, but I still fail to see the rationale for the hysteria surrounding this franchise.
Mar de Plastico S01E01 (TV) – spanish attempt at scandinoir falls flat with glossy casting, a tactless script and infuriatingly stupid plot oversights (generously not called ‘holes’)
Taken 3 – somehow marginally more entertaining than Taken 2, but equally ridiculous.

July 2017

Battle Royale – unclear about the tremendous hype for this one. A bit of a tedious slog to watch kids kill themselves and each other on an island. The premise is never satisfactorily explained and the bizarre conclusion offers no actual conclusion. Weird.
Black Snow (Nieve Negra) – slow burning drama with a (not entirely unpredictable) twist. Ricardo Darin is phenomenal as always, but the film feels very overencumbered and weighted into the final act. It’s an interesting premise that falls short in its execution. Worth watching anyway.
Veep S06 (TV) – The comedy has definitely declined since its early seasons, but there are still enough laugh out loud moments to warrant the viewing time.
Los Ultimos Dias (The Last Days) – Mostly solid sci fi love story plagued by truly terrible CGI, some really weird direction and peculiar costume choices. Fortunately, the latter criticisms don’t detract much from enjoyment of the movie.
Okja – absurd black comedy pitting the animal liberation front against evil capitalists genetically modifying superpigs. It sounds nuts, it is nuts, and it flits between hilarious and cringeworthy from scene to scene. Hard to seriously recommend, but there’s probably something in here worth watching.
Banshee S04 (TV) – at long last the town of Banshee gets its final act. The drawn out and self indulgent conclusion in the last episode is preceded by a mostly entertaining, if staggeringly gratuitous main story. Worth watching if you’ve come this far if only for the closure.
Una Pura Formalita (A Pure Formality) – strangely intense given its limited cinematic scope and singular location, but not my cup of tea. Very dated.
Mindhorn – I really enjoyed this again on a repeat viewing, although it definitely does sag in the middle, and the supporting cast aren’t up to Barratt’s comedic calibre.
Bloodline S03 (TV) – albeit engaging throughout, this season really underdelivered and went off the rails. An episode where John spends time hallucinating multiple realities really jumps the proverbial shark, but even before then, it had become increasingly unhinged and ungrounded. Meg was abandoned within the story, written out, and Mama Raeburn has her depravity dialled to 11. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the show overall, but I’m very glad it’s ended. Its conclusion felt long overdue.
Moana – funny and heartfelt animated drama combining didactic messages of feminism and environmentalism. Worth watching despite the horrifically cheesy music.
Ozark S01 (TV) – best original show in years, a masterclass – Bateman and Linney are fantastic, but the writing is where it flies, the dance between tragedy and hilarity is graceful and gripping. Excellent, must watch show.
Dunkirk – innovative and powerful war film. Hardly something to get excited about though. Nolan’s worst in my view – at least in terms of enjoyment.

June 2017

A Perfect Man (Un Homme Ideal) – sinister suspense thriller. No masterpiece, but it’s a pleasure to be drawn into the web of lies.
To Steal From A Thief (Cien Años de Perdon) – hugely disappointing, chaotic and superficial heist thriller. Engaging, but utterly devoid of substance.
Counter Investigation (Contre Enquete) – short, not exactly sweet. The sinister ending is a pleasant surprise, but it’s not the easiest film to watch.
Smoke and Mirrors (El Hombre de las mil caras) – plodding thriller that makes an effort to present with style but can’t escape its tedious plot
Final Destination – amazed this has been so well received. Perhaps it simply hasn’t stood the test of time, but there’s barely even echoes of a quality film in this supernatural thriller.
To Die For – incomprehensible how highly regarded this dark comedy is. The main cast all deliver, but the story is unexciting and the direction and music are annoying.
John Wick: Chapter 2 – after a profoundly tedious opening act, the action hots up and it delivers exactly what you’d expect: highly choreographed, laughably ludicrous fight sequences and good manners. Hits the spot if mindless violence is what you’re after.
Public Enemy S01 (Ennemi Public) (TV) – disappointing crime thriller, particularly given the rave reviews ahead of its release. Not even close to the benchmarks set by The Bridge and The Killing.
Better Call Saul S03 – terrific series of an increasingly terrific show. It’s a shame the season finale was lacklustre relative to some of the other episodes and didn’t leave me hyped for the next season, but I savour every minute this is on air. Great performances, great script, simply great TV.
Arrested Development S03 – Steve Holt!
A Perfect Man (Un Homme Ideal) – sinister suspense thriller. No masterpiece, but it’s a pleasure to be drawn into the web of lies.
Welcome to the Sticks! – enjoyable French comedy which relies too heavily on nuanced language gags for an easy translation to English, but just about gets by on the artful slapstick
The Invisible Guest (Contratiempo) – Utterly absorbing and gripping thriller that keeps you guessing even when you’re confident you’ve preempted its delicious finale. Rare to find such a high calibre thriller these days and this one has been criminally overlooked.
K-PAX – slow and gentle drama exploring the relationship between a psychiatrist and his patient, who claims to be from another planet. Mostly intriguing, but its pace drags behind comfortable.
Baby Driver – high octane stunt heist extravaganza to an excellent soundtrack with the atomically precise direction of Edgar Wright. What’s not to like?

May 2017

Kalinka – average drama detailing a mans pursuit for justice following his daughters death. Compelling, but not particularly remarkable.
Line of Duty S04 – ludicrous but thoroughly engrossing and engaging to the bitter end. And it is a bitter end. I hope they pull S05 back from the edge of the abyss.
Kong: Skull Island – a spectacle at the very least. Drawing strongly on Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now influence, this is a fast paced action thriller that ought to entertain even the most passive of audiences.
Mindhorn – hilariously zany, wonderfully British. Top notch comedy with gags that ripen and become more succulent with fond memory.
Arrival – surprisingly better on a repeat viewing. Excellent sci-fi film.
Al final del tunel (At the end of the tunnel) – captivating thriller, a little hectic and disordered in the wrong places, but mostly great entertainment
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies – a character assassination, a hatchet job, whatever you call it, the press did a number on Jefferies, and this is a solid retelling of the prejudiced and malicious destruction of his reputation
Before the Flood – basic but accessible documentary about climate change
Ghost in the Shell – visually impressive and just about adequately engaging scifi but the generic storyline and weak script disappoints
Logan – refreshingly different for the franchise and for the superhero movie genre, but still overrated
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – just as enjoyable and uplifting on the rewatch.
The Path S01 – this obsession with cults and the supernatural is a bit tiresome. Not bad, but didn’t wet my whistle. Won’t be watching season 2.
Embrace of the Serpent – intriguing but undeniably slow B&W drama. Sadly I wanted to like it more than I did, but perhaps it’s one to revisit when I’m blessed with more patience!

April 2017

Lights Out – fairly bog standard horror fare, occasionally creative, more often banal.
Elle – as brilliantly funny as it is controversial, this is a powerful social commentary, as well as an exploration of sexuality, control, and the human condition. Unfortunately, it sometimes savours the gratuitous a little more than it needs to, and it could lose some audience as a result.
Fargo S02 – far inferior to the opening season, but this was still entertaining for the most part.
Get Out – brilliantly sinister and multivalent thriller impelled by strong performances, creative visuals and dark social commentary. Very timely.
Lakeview Terrace – well acted but unconvincing and occasionally boring thriller.
Broadchurch S03 – far better than the second season, and its mistakes easier to forgive. It follows the same tropes and gives itself to tedious moralising at times, but this was a good fun whodunnit.
The Lost City of Z – more thought provoking and carefully paced drama than I’d anticipated, but it sustained my interest and enjoyment throughout.

March 2017

Life on the Road – one of the most painful cinematic experiences of my life. Scant moments of genuine comedy are overshadowed by constant, agonising cringes. The sea of blank faces that meets every remark David Brent makes, and the astounding lack of humanity demonstrated by everyone who meets him undermines the cheesy upbeat ending, which, when it finally comes, is undeserved and at odds with the overall narrative. A great pity that the film loosely echoes Gervais own story.
Hacksaw Ridge – war film that has its moments but more often than not resorts to all guns blazing, chaos of war scenes with gore and fire aplenty. It could have been abbreviated hugely without losing any impact.
Halt and Catch Fire (S03)(TV) – Whilst still mostly excellent, this season indubitably suffered from excluding, to a large extent, its most interesting character: Joe McMillan. Whilst he’s still present, his storyline plays second fiddle to the emotional difficulties in the relationship triangle between Donna, Gordon and Cameron.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – slow but solid drama, inaccurately billed as a thriller. It draws some questionable conclusions about the nature of fundamentalism, enemies and loyalty, but it kind of works anyway.
Assassin’s Creed – as a moderate fan of the games, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find this moderately enjoyable. It ticks most of the boxes for fun, even where it fails on story and overloads on style above substance.
The Prestige – so much more impressive on a second viewing, perhaps in part with maturity and in part from a greater and more complete understanding of the trick. A fantastic film to be sure.
Underworld: Blood Wars – a fitting continuation for the series. Albeit critically panned, it’s an enjoyable return to the Underworld vampire lycan saga and a solid 85 minutes of light entertainment.
Deepwater Horizon – surprisingly gripping and somehow endearing thriller about the titular oil disaster.
Miss Sloane – slick but cold political thriller. Very engaging, but the eponymous missy is just a bit too unlikeable. Worth watching though.
Doctor Strange – bizarre superhero flop. Cumberbatch isn’t bad per say, but we’re way past peak superhero and the tropes aren’t getting any easier to tolerate.
Fences – like so many dramas, a concentrated burst of all of the lows with none of the highs to balance the lives it purports to present. Viola Davis turns a staggeringly strong, powerhouse performance, but beyond an effective and affecting acting class, there’s little here to enjoy.
American Fable – effective if low budget suspenseful drama. Unfortunately many of the performances are substandard and after a strong start, the plot meanders and fizzles.
Lion – emotive but overly long (and self-indulgent) drama with solid performances, especially from the child actors. Fairly familiar tear jerk territory.
Who Am I – fun, fast paced and exciting hacker thriller. Contrived and implausible but easily forgiven for its entertainment value.

February 2017

War on Everyone – wishes it was a Guy Ritchie thriller with kooky lines and convoluted story, but it’s flat, unfunny, very boring and almost unwatchable. A great shame given the cast.
13th – fascinating and troubling Netflix documentary about the state of race relations in America and how it’s exacerbated by the justice and penal system.
We Are Legion – quite an enjoyable documentary about the hacktavist organisation Anonymous, from their beginnings as internet trolls on 4chan and other message boards to the headline grabbing hacking collective
The Honourable Woman (TV) – well intentioned but tediously self-aware and imperious. There are a few good characters, but none are likeable, and the plot is infuriatingly drawn out. After the powerhouse of The Shadow Line, this is a huge disappointment.
Manchester by the Sea – affecting drama detailing tragedy within tragedy and the ways family manage grief. Heart felt and well acted, albeit a unique set of circumstances.
Stereo – engaging German thriller with a fantastic soundtrack and strong performances. The plot could have been tighter, but this is well worth watching.
Nobel (TV) – Terrific performances, tight and well executed sequences and a really compelling script in this near perfect little Norwegian thriller. I loved it.
Allied – disappointing war film, less thriller, more romantic drama. Not bad, but too glossy for the genre, and not especially engaging.
Jackie – unsurprisingly humourless but excessively dreary biopic of FLOTUS Jackie Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination. Tedious.
He Never Died – flat, nonsensical and unfunny noir comedy. Highlights the danger of having an unlikeable main character.
The Moorside (TV) – uncomfortable two part drama recounting the missing of Shannon Matthews in 2008. Questionable whether this should have been made at all. Easy to watch, but not exactly thrilling TV.
The Principal (TV) – riddled with problems, and some of the scripting is clumsy at best, but it has a positive, optimistic outlook and wins over as a really sincere and genuinely heartwarming series
Patriot’s Day – a blow by blow, hour by hour retelling of the Boston Bombings. I’m not informed enough to be able to judge its accuracy, but it doesn’t feel gratuitous in any way. It’s focused on the community reaction, the strength of people there in the wake of the attack, and the police officers and security officials who worked to find the guys afterwards. There are definitely moments when they go off on one banging the drum for America and freedom, and the flavour of patriotism is a bit intense, but under the circumstances, it’s kind of forgivable, and it doesn’t detract much as a viewer. Bit long, and feels a bit too soon to be making it, but overall pretty solid.

January 2017

Hoosiers (Best Shot) – I’m always impressed when a sports film draws me in, when I’ve no interest in its subject matter. This is dated, but Hackman is great as ever and the underdog drive is as strong as any modern flick.
Suburra – interesting, well made, but disappointingly unexciting and longwinded political gangster thriller
La La Land – hyped beyond all reasonable expectation, this is nonetheless an impressive piece of cinema, likely to trump even the most cynical of viewers (of which I was one). That said, it’s not without its issues: the dreams vs love moral is troubling at best, and it’s manipulative in its narrative, leaving you valuing a year long whirlwind romance over a long term stable marriage.
Sneaky Pete S01 (TV) – Enjoyable and imaginative TV show of the ‘easy viewing’ variety; a lot of fun, compelling cliff hangers, solid casting and an engaging story. The flaw is that in order to carry it all off, it relies on some serious suspension of disbelief, more than a little cliche, and too much instructive soundtrack and exposition. Sadly, the setup for the second season was extremely ham-fisted and rushed.
Split – gripping psychological thriller with a delicious villain in the shape of James McAvoy. It’s a shame we don’t see all 23 identities, and there’s definitely room for improvement, but this is fun.
The Magnificent Seven – the 2016 version. Good old solid Western, well cast and well executed. It’s not going to blow any minds but you could do a lot worse than this.
The Accountant – enjoyable thriller, unfortunately framed around an insubstantial (and irrelevant) love interest. But that’s easily overlooked and the film works quite well in any case.
Snowden – Not as life changing as Citizen Four, but that’s to be expected. In some ways this is a more important biopic drama as it has the potential to be viewed by many more people, and for that reason, it needs to be exciting and accessible. This is, for the most part. It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse. Watch it, then read and understand more.
Killswitch – interesting documentary, not exactly original in the lines it covers, but very worthwhile. Good to hear such experts speak on the subject of privacy, surveillance and copyright.
Rogue One – the best Star Wars movie to date, originals included. Everything is on point from the cinematography through to the scripting, and it’s so well cast. The only duff note is the cgi reincarnation of Peter Cushing who died in 1994. But Ben Mendelsohn is just made to be a villain – the guy is so ridiculously menacing, and Mads Mikkelson is emotionally powerful even as a hologram. Plus on a smaller note, it was great to see Daniel Mays put in a short appearance – he deserves international recognition and better opportunities. All of that aside though, it was just a genuinely excellent sci-fi film, which I can’t really say about any of the others.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe – extremely sinister and menacing throughout as all good horrors should be. Quite impressive with such a minimal cast. A bit heavy on the jump scares and some very cheesy moments.
The Limey – mostly engaging but unsatisfactory revenge thriller, with less thrills, and more cockney platitudes. Stylishly, if jarringly, edited.
Star Trek: Beyond – lighthearted but tedious sci-fi sequel.
A Perfect Day – brilliantly acted and sensitively portrayed drama about aid workers in the Balkans. Very funny at times. I loved it.
Passengers – sci fi romance that fails on the science and the fiction, but somehow remains enjoyable, perhaps partly thanks to Chris Pratt being a loveable baffoon. J Law is always solid casting too. The lasting question as the credits roll, though: where the hell did Andy Garcia come from?
The Duel – poorly paced but worthwhile Western with echoes of Heart of Darkness. Surprisingly arresting turns from both Woody Harrelson and Liam Hemsworth.
The Connection – impressive French drug v police drama, like several series of The Wire compressed into two hours. Zampa rivals some of the greatest movie villains.
Silence – arduous, exhausting slog. Perhaps Scorsese is atoning for the grand decadence and joyous corruption of the Wolf of Wall Street with this nearly insufferable drama. Not devoid of cinematic beauty but hard to credit with much else.
The Last Panthers S01 (TV) – a strong, high concept pilot episode disintegrates into a dull, muddled mess of a crime drama.
Spectral – after a promising, intelligent and smartly scripted start, this sci-fi crumbles into far fetched stupidity and unexciting action. A shame, because James Badge Dale delivers beyond the call of duty as the lead.
Sherlock S04 (TV) – a far fetched and self-conscious but mostly enjoyable crime series, with a finale that hugely disappoints. It seems the creators gave up on actual cases in favour of pseudo psychological thrills and set pieces, and the show suffers hugely as a consequence.
American Honey – engaging, artistic road trip drama, with excellent performances but a desultory plot that sadly fizzles out long before the end. Plus, the soundtrack is too on the nose. Definitely worth watching though.

December 2016

The Puffy Chair – slow but strangely bewitching love story drama. Quite charming in its simplicity but a little too uneventful for viewing in 2016.
The Strangers – very unpleasant and successfully unsettling home invasion horror film. Can’t way it’s enjoyable, but it fulfils its brief.
The Missing S02 (TV) – vastly superior to its first season, this crime thriller drama is very engaging TV. It suffers from some clumsy exposition and occasional offtone acting, but largely this is an excellent ride.
Finding Dory – boring, annoying and undeserving sequel to the wonderful Finding Nemo
Westworld S01 (TV) – all at once fantastic, beautiful, gratuitous and scary, this should be a one season wonder, but I fear it’ll be tarnished with subsequent series that can’t possibly live up to the near perfection of these ten episodes. Watch it if only for it’s magnificent conclusion.
Seven Years (7 Años) – unexpectedly engaging single room, minimal cast drama. Sparks fly and intrigue grips even past the end.
The League S01 (TV) – occasionally hilarious, but just as often tediously puerile. It could serve as good entertainment if you’ve got the time to kill. Sadly, I don’t.
Sully – Tom Hanks saves the flight, but perhaps not the lacklustre film, despite a consistently strong performance throughout. How many times can you show a plane landing on a river?
The OA S01 (TV) – Weird sci-fi drama with an unlikeable cast, if just about intriguing enough to command attention. Mostly well produced, its a shame about the plot.
Mozart in the Jungle S03 (TV) – Terrific show as always, but I’m a teeny bit concerned this series was less well plotted than the first two and I hope this isn’t the first scree on a slippery slope. I still thoroughly enjoyed the season though, it’s a joy to watch a show with so much love and so much optimism. If only life could be so consistently upbeat.

November 2016

Nocturnal Animals – interesting and smartly directed drama, succumbs to style over substance in places, and too cold overall. Superb performances though.
Goliath (TV) – strong criminal drama with a frustratingly abrupt and unearned conclusion. Billy Bob Thornton is terrific, and the plot is intriguing and nuanced, but the rushed delivery in eight episodes was totally insufficient and ultimately disappointing.
Swiss Army Man – taking weird to a whole new baffling level. How this dead guy drama was ever greenlit for production I’ll never understand. A flatulent film in every respect.
Arrival – unique sci-fi drama that’s difficult to describe. Not what I was expecting, and perhaps slightly underwelming given the hype, but it certainly set me thinking and deserves a second viewing.
A Conspiracy of Faith – solid enough thriller, and probably the best of the trilogy, but still falls far short of the ‘greats’ of the genre
Victoria – engaging thriller requires too much suspension of disbelief for plausibility, but is nonetheless fun to watch unfold
Hell or High Water – terrific heist drama with stellar performances from both Ben Foster and Chris Pine. A slow burn, but excellent
The Infiltrator – good undercover drug bust thriller with some irritating directorial choices and cliches that impair the overall effect
Solace – after a promising start, the twist disappoints, and the cat and mouse chase grinds to a tedious, uneventful stop
Snitch – probably the closest the big man has come to actually having to act, and bizarre to see him in a vulnerable role, but sadly the film is built upon a plot of sand, and the whole thing is too stupid to enjoy
The One I Love – fantastically inventive and surprising sci-fi drama with great performances and a hugely intriguing story. Great film.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – long with distractingly bad CGI. Eddie Redmayne is typically autistic and blinky, and the rest of the cast are caricatures. Quite the disappointment all things considered. Watch it for more of that inventive world though.
Safety Not Guaranteed – a perfect ten. Beautifully constructed and wonderfully imagined romantic comedy drama with scripting that frequently made me laugh out loud. Grew on me from the opening scenes right through to its powerfully affecting conclusion. Terrific.
Captain Fantastic – engrossing, thought-provoking drama, raising important questions about lifestyle, philosophy and the world we choose to live. Terrific performances, especially from upcomer George McKay.

October 2016

Bridget Jones’s Baby – not my genre but admittedly very British and very funny. Better than I remember the first two.
Mr Robot S02 (TV) – Those people suggesting this season has “nose-dived” in terms of quality, I suspect were just hangers on from the beginning. If anything, by the end of Season 2, I am far more invested in all of the characters and the overarching plot. The series is surreal. Undeniably so. But that’s pretty brave for the creators, and it’s so unusual and unlike anything else we’ve seen on TV, it’s worthy of praise for originality alone. I can’t wait for Season 3 – this season ended with much more suspense than Season 1. I hope they can maintain the standards and ignore the naysayers.
Rob the Mob – vacuous duo rob vacuous goons in vacuous film. Not bad, but as unremarkable as a bus shelter.
Amanda Knox – gripping documentary but thin on detail. Could have done with a season to thoroughly explore the case and the people.
The Night Of – poor courtroom drama and scripting, and irrational, ill-formed character actions, slowly bled the promise of the excellent pilot until we’re left with a glorified, prolonged episode of Law & Order. It’s an enjoyable watch, but after a very strong start, it didn’t come close to its potential. A great shame.
Free State of Jones – strong performances but overly long and devoid of thrills or real entertainment.
Suicide Squad – nonsensical plot with not enough malice in the team of criminal sociopaths, and not enough spectacle to be fun. Indestructable omnipotent villains with synthetic voices are sooooo tedious.
Miracle (TV) – Derren Brown’s latest live show is far from his strongest. The illusions are few and underwhelming in contrast to his earlier shows and TV performances.
Sicario – Again. And it just gets better. What a beautifully filmed and artfully constructed masterpiece this is. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Sliding Doors – great soundtrack, unconvincing plot, occasional flashes of genuinely bright comedy. Not the time bending, universe warping sci-fi romcom I had been expecting.
Imperium – well meaning but bad film, triviliasing immensely nuanced subjects and skipping all sense of character for hasty plot advancement
Blood Father – really bad. Like, terrible. Mercifully short.
Pour Elle (For Her) – The original “Next Three Days”. Solid enough performances and a polished delivery given its date. Tidy French thriller if nothing remarkable.
Don’t Breathe – Effective as a taut horror cum thriller, and inventively directed, but laden with problems, making for occasionally frustrating viewing.
Mechanic: Resurrection – technically awful, but you know what it’s like, the Stath, doing his thing, tearing it up, delivering bad lines with such profundity… it’s a joy to criticise.
The Jungle Book – surprisingly excellent – a well crafted CG world and characters who stayed (mostly) true to the original. A shame it pulled a few punches, and reached a questionable conclusion about man in the animal kingdom!
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – one of the worst films I’ve had the displeasure of enduring.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople – such an enjoyable drama comedy; heart warming, beautifully shot, introspective, with great, humourous performances from the small cast. A joy.

September 2016

Captain America: Civil War – in the top tier of this rash of Superhero movies, but that doesn’t say much. That said, Marvel at least delivers fairly consistent entertainment with a sense of humour, which is more than can be said for DC.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – every time I think Superhero movies can’t get any worse, Hollywood squeezes out another turd. Miserable, long and confused; by now somebody has surely identified Zac Snyder as a child in adult’s clothing. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an abomination, just disgustingly self-indulgent ham acting. Not all villains can be Ledger’s Joker, but man alive, someone out there must be able to do better than this? Maybe we need a decade or two pause to reflect upon what makes Superhero movies worth watching.
Popstar: Never Stop Stopping – legitimately funny parody of modern pop. It loses its way in the middle, and the jokes aren’t quite consistent enough, but most of the time it raises a solid smile if not a belly laugh.
Creep – I started intrigued, amused and definitely ‘creeped’ and then it dragged for a good 30 minutes. The finale was tidy and smartly executed but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re really into off the wall indie horrors.
Musarañas (Shrew’s Nest) – unpleasant spanish horror, more menacing than gratuitous. Good film, if you like the unlikeable.
À bout portant (Point Blank) – brilliantly fast paced thriller. Very french, very enjoyable.
The Neon Demon – ought to be a series of crisply framed slides on the vast white-washed wall of a modern art gallery. This is less a movie, and more a series of stylish, if grotesque, exhibits; interesting perhaps, but a far cry from entertainment.
Bastille Day – this is a classic genre thriller, the plot makes little sense, the circumstances are contrived and 99% of the cast is male. Of the other 1%, one is used as a topless distraction, another is shot, and the third’s a prop for the bad guys. That said, it’s quite good and silly fun and demonstrates why Idris Elba definitely shouldn’t be Bond.
Deep Web – amazing, insightful and inspiring documentary about Ross Ulbricht and the Silk Road, and more broadly, the war on drugs
Requiem for the American Dream – interesting and important points delivered in a dry and long winded sermon.
In the Heart of the Sea – a good, old-fashioned, classic adventure story. A few pacing issues, but not bad at all
Narcos S02 (TV) – mush less enjoyable than the first season, perhaps in part because of its inevitable conclusion and endlessly smug narration. Thinly veiled American propaganda.
Green Room – gritty grim teen gorefest, slightly more interesting than average for the genre.
The Girl With All The Gifts – excellent British sci-fi that falls before the final hurdle, disrupting and destructing an otherwise original and fascinating zombie film. Suffers from the same pitfalls as many of its ilk, not least the inability to call a zombie a zombie.
ARQ – happily surprising and unique time travel sci-fi thriller. So much better than reviews or its reputation would imply. Highly recommended.
Hush – tedious horror slasher complete with irrational behaviour, typical horror tropes and bad acting.

August 2016

Eye in the Sky – tedious and vainglorious propaganda flick.
X-men: Apocalypse – far and away the weakest film in the whole franchise. Boring. Glum. Beyond irritating scripting and delivery. Bad vocal effects, a bad story, unconvincing CGI, agonisingly long, inconsistent rules, scrappy editing. Just all in all infuriatingly terrible. Even the actors seem like they’re embarrassed to be starring in a glorified episode of Power Rangers. Except that that was clearly for kids, whereas this takes itself so dreadfully, sombrely seriously. I think it’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, and certainly the worst super villain.
The Finest Hours – thin but engaging seafaring thriller, little better than average but not bad.
Hail, Caesar! – Excellent, if slightly overcooked Hollywood satire, littered with Christian allegory and political subtext. Very enjoyable.
The Wave (Bolgen) – highly entertaining if utterly predictable drama thriller. Much better SFX than comparable Hollywood films, and beautifully shot.
Bloodline S02 – are increasingly unraveling
Money Monster – effortlessly engaging if fairly whack thriller, wouldn’t recommend it, but you could do a lot worse than watching it on a slow Sunday
Wild Card – a paper thin plot acts as a hook for a number of fairly well executed fight scenes, but the thriller ends almost as soon as it began, with no development, no questions answered, and no satisfaction whatsoever.
Stranger Things S01 (TV) – wonderful, fun, lighthearted and affectionate, this supernatural drama series is everything accessible TV ought to be.
War Dogs – mismarketed as a comedy, this is an engaging, solid drama hamstrung by presentation issues. The narration is often tedious and condescending, and the cheap chapter markers interrupt the film’s flow. Jonah Hill is quite fantastic though. He gets better and better.
Exit Through The Gift Shop – weird, but strangely gripping documentary about street artist Mr Brainwash, considered by some to be an elaborate prank by Banksy
Crimson Peak – intriguing and suitably sinister gothic horror, but the plot makes little sense and the execution only serves to compound that. Style over substance.
Mr Robot S02 (TV) – Those people suggesting this season has “nose-dived” in terms of quality, I suspect were just hangers on from the beginning. If anything, by the end of S02, I am far more invested in all of the characters and the overarching plot. The series is surreal. Undeniably so. But that’s pretty brave of the creators, and it’s so unusual and unlike anything else we’ve seen on television, it’s worthy of praise for originality alone. I can’t wait for S03 – this season ended with much more suspense than the first. I hope they can maintain the standards and ignore the naysayers.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – tedious and unfunny dramedy (as you might expect given the casting)
The Survivalist – slow to the point of boredom, this is otherwise quite an interesting, contemplative dystopian drama

July 2016

The Rack Pack – interesting and often fun depiction of snooker as Barry Hearn transitions it from smoky mens club to mainstream, commercial, household sport. Some great, standout performances from relative unknowns.
Now You See Me 2 – inane and strikingly stupid, and yet incomprehensibly, school-boy-gigglingly enjoyable
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – tonally chaotic, and often borderline offensive, there’s nonetheless something about the crass delivery which makes this unlikely romantic comedy very engrossing. One or two minor characters are so startlingly well crafted, they almost negate the awfulness of the sickly leads.
Warcraft: The Beginning – albeit watchable, and even, at times, entertaining, this sci-fi fantasy is quite astoundingly bad. Impaired by its poor, computer-game visuals and erratic editing. Too much of the film must surely have been edited out, leaving a husk that feels like a tech demo from the early naughties. If this is to continue, I hope the VFX changes hands.
Central Intelligence – a Return of the King style ending and unfunny cameo substantially detracts from what is, for the most part, a stupid, light hearted and irritatingly enjoyable buddy comedy.
Cartel Land – horribly graphic documentary exposing, again, the savagery of the war on drugs, from the perspective of the vigilante groups battling the cartels.
Terminator Genisys – tedious smash em up, with no sense of peril for any of the protagonists until its inevitable, drawn out conclusion. Quite the expensive flop.
Jason Bourne – disappointing after the terrific original trilogy. I can’t see this being included in everyone’s mind as a core part of the Bourne saga, it’ll most likely be a simple addendum, disregarded by history.

June 2016

The Invitation – a dialogue propelled slow burn, but continually intriguing and mysterious. Fun for fans of the psychological horror/ thriller genre.
The Bourne Ultimatum – doesn’t get old. Simply a top notch action thriller.
Babylon (TV) – sort of wannabe The Thick of It for cops. Fast paced with an engaging story, but none of the characters are likeable, and the comedy is often too nasty to raise a smile.
Criminal Activities – coarse, unlikeable, oddly self-aggrandising… just generally a bit crap (not to mention the plot is as wonky as John Travolta’s hair piece)
The Nice Guys – wickedly funny detective crime caper. Chemistry between Gosling and Crowe is surprisingly feisty and the script is laden with black humour and unexpected slapstick. Just a great, fun film.

May 2016

Line of Duty S03 (TV) – after a less than exhilarating four or five episodes, the finale packs a punch unlike any other British thriller and offers a payoff that more than justifies the insidious pacing. Performances and scripting are tight, and the direction, at times, is artful. Indubitably one of the best shows on TV. Bring on series four.
Special Forces – A weak set up develops into a surprisingly slick and exciting military action thriller.
The Falcon and the Snowman – brilliant Soviet spy drama, with two excellent lead actors turning in star worthy performances. Good fun.
El Desconocido (Retribution) – undeniably compelling and fairly exciting, but whether it’s the limited, confined space or the unlikeable cast, something doesn’t quite square. Worth watching though.
The Walk – the cinematography certainly inspires vertigo and awe, but the film itself feels so lighthearted as to be cheap.
Our Kind of Traitor – quite riveting old school thriller. Wonderfully sinister and suspenseful despite being lumbered with occasional tropes and a sense of inevitability.
The Witch – no jump scares, no slasher gore or creaky clichés, just very effective, authentic horror of the kind Rosemary’s Baby perfected. Terrific.
Evidence of Blood – slow and traditionally formulaic crime drama mystery. Slightly tedious, but faintly intriguing nonetheless.
Marcella S01 (TV) – a waste of everybody’s time, unaided by the intensely unlikeable hipster crime solving team at its heart. Dreary, convoluted and beyond improbable. Don’t bother.

April 2016

Black Mass – strong acting and cinematography unfortunately don’t compensate for soul, and Black Mass was too dry and dour to be really enjoyable. Worth watching, but don’t expect a thrill ride.
Daddy’s Home – this Ferrell Wahlberg comedy has some moments of true hilarity, but suffers from a premise that is stretched far too thin, and the inexplicable need to dilute its genuine comedy with puerile slapstick and toilet humour. Definitely enjoyable, but be prepared to wince a lot.
The Night Manager S01 (TV) – wonderfully suspenseful, gripping and hyperbolic le Carré thriller. Perfect as entertainment, even while riddled with flaws and clichés.
Forsaken – terrific Western, a contemporary love letter to the classics. The story is strong and traditional, and the acting is frankly breathtaking. To see the Sutherlands side by side for the first time in nearly twenty years is emotive in itself.
Midnight Special – Po-faced, sulky and soulless movie, borderline tedious. Great music though. To quote an IMDb comment: “Nichols forgot to give his movie a pulse. How can a story about intense paternal love, faith, and transcendence feel this lifeless?”
Jane Got A Gun – The least enjoyable of the recent rash of Westerns, but watchable
Steve Jobs – Good performances but this is disappointingly dry and uninspiring. Expected more from Sorkin. Fassbender’s Jobs is like a grumpy Bradley Whitford, the fast talking swagger and ego of Josh Leiman with none of the charismatic charm.
The Hill – shouty black and white prison drama with a strong and understated performance by Sean Connery. The military formula grates.
Blackhat – dull, thin, and horribly sheened portrayal of espionage hacking. Unbearable.
Miss Bala – slightly gratuitous spanish language cartel thriller. Oddly sparsely scripted, with the titular character cowering from bullets in lingerie for most of the film. Not recommended.
Dope – cool, feel good vibes are the 90s beating heart of this teen coming of age flick. There are a couple of missteps, and some odd scripting, but overall this is a lot of fun, and curiously nostalgic.
American Crime Story S01 (TV) – gripping and well confected courtroom thriller.
Hyena – macho, gruesomely violent British thriller. Not especially thrilling, uncomfortably coarse, and most egregious of all: utterly unrewarding and unsatisfying. Don’t waste your time.
10 Cloverfield Lane – deeply sinister and edgy sci-fi thriller with horror elements. Very effective, albeit almost comically ridiculous!
Happy Valley S02 – the gritty British cop drama maintains its extraordinarily high standard for a second season. Just brilliant.
Better Call Saul S02 – Frustratingly slow to develop, but nonetheless enjoyable and meticulously crafted. Not enough progress to warrant a full season, and the conclusion is so abrupt it’s unbefitting a finale.
Open Grave – creepy, slightly stilted thriller. B-movie production, but a worthwhile concept and script. Unusual and dark enough to appeal to fans of the psychological horror genre.
Special Correspondents – glib comedy of the kind Gervais has become accustomed to producing: few laughs, a lot of groans, a saccharine romance. Even Gervais fans might struggle with this one (or perhaps especially Gervais fans, for whom his steady deterioration is particularly painful).

March 2016

The Gift – deliciously dark and effective thriller
The Salvation – very conventional Western, albeit featuring a medley of languages. Classic tale of revenge told fairly solidly, if unremarkably
Enemy – fascinating and deeply unnerving drama, grounded enough to remain compelling, and abstract enough to provoke intrigue and curiosity. Quite unexpectedly brilliant.
Wakolda – suspenseful and interesting drama in part Germana and part Spanish. Slightly underwhelming but a good watch nonetheless.
Trapped – beyond underwhelming. Such a disappointment. Devoid of any tension, excitement, charisma or soul.
Broken Arrow – Hilariously old skool 90s action blow-em-up, complete with hammy dialogue and hammier acting. Great fun!
House of Cards S04 – compelling as always, although as it reached its conclusion it was definitely spreading thin. I think they need to wrap it up now.
Beasts of No Nation – well made but gratuitous and soulless. After a strong set up, this lacks the sensitivity and humanity of similar dramas.
Jonathan Creek (S02/3) – delightful, even on a repeat viewing.
Never Let Me Go – dreary and tiresome sci-fi drama despite the interesting concept
Cop Car – the wonderfully simple and yet bizarre journey of two boys who find an abandoned cop car. Perhaps not the most pleasing resolution, but top marks for originality.
High-Rise – Dystopian/ Utopian drama. Stylistically brilliant, and extremely competent film-making/ scoring etc. But it needed a sense of cohesion that wasn’t there, or at least it needed to hint a little more at the method in the madness. The whole film was itself basically one big orgy: self-indulgent, chaotic, gratuitous, exciting, and ultimately an anti-climax.
Bone Tomahawk – brilliant and unexpected Western. Wonderfully cast, Richard Jenkins in particular is a gem, and skilfully depicted; this is a simple tale, told very well.
Daredevil (S02) – Less satisfying than the first season, and even more goofy, but Cox continues to shine and the show remains enjoyable.
The End of the Tour – an uneventful but quietly affecting and thought-provoking biopic of the author, David Foster Wallace.
Circle – interesting pseudo-philosophical thriller raising some interesting questions about morality and sacrifice. Underrated.
Mystery Men – idiotic and unfunny.
Before I Go To Sleep – bleak, slow moving amnesiac drama. Tediously lachrymose and eye-rollingly serious.

February 2016

Sicario – For the second time. This firmly occupies a spot in my top ten films of all time list. Astounding, heart pounding, breath-taking from start to finish.
Deadpool – Certainly novel, I’ll give it that. Comedically it misses as often as it hits though, and it’s gratuitously redband to a distracting extent. That said, it’s very entertaining and a refreshingly self-aware ‘meta’ take on the superhero action genre.
Cria Cuervos/ Raising Ravens – Disarmingly open and earnest cinema. Tasteful and slow moving drama with a beautiful soundtrack.
Flag Wars – interesting, if not exactly gripping, documentary
Triple 9 – gritty and gripping heist movie, delivered with a lot of style, but lacking in smarts. Very Antoine Fuqua in style.

January 2016

99 Homes – Excellent, gripping drama that leaves you frustrated at its hasty conclusion
Ghosts of the Civil Dead – graphic and unflinching look at a prison in the 70s and its slow and inevitable descent into hell. Most unpleasant. Brilliant theme music from Nick Cave though.
Making a Murderer (TV) – Gripping court room true crime documentary. Builds steam to around episode 8, but the final few are superfluous.
Bandits – Hugely enjoyable and feel good heist love triangle comedy. Billy Bob Thornton is a joy and the whole film is a lot of fun.
The Big Short – stylish, and at times over-stylised, retelling cum explainer of the 2008 financial crash. Brilliant acting and entertaining in presentation, but a bit smug.
The Revenant – long and overly ponderous but nonetheless striking and powerful. The bear scene is already deservedly famous.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – still funny after all these years. The title sequence alone is one of the best ever made I think.
Room – impressive, original drama with remarkable performances, a deserved Oscar contender.
The Hateful Eight – self indulgent direction from Tarantino aside (it could have been a good 45 minutes shorter), this is still an enjoyable and suspenseful thriller.
The Hot Rock – Light hearted heist thriller.
Jessica Jones (S01)(TV) – dreary, unlikeable and interminable Marvel comic adaptation. Spectacularly failed to deliver after the high standard set by Daredevil S01.
El Niño – Disappointing drugs running thriller, especially following the brilliant Cell 211. Not Luis Tosar’s finest hour.
Spotlight – Decent journalism thriller about the exposure of the catholic priest pedophile scandal.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst – Not as compulsive as Making a Murderer, but somehow more believable, and consequently more disturbing.

December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – albeit a rehash of earlier film plots and a tribute to some of the (very) old characters, this is still a moderately enjoyable entry into the sci-fi franchise. Very much a ‘kids film’, the world and the action is unconvincing but innocuous, vacuous fun. Nowhere near deserving of the hype.
The Bridge S03 (TV) – thoroughly entertaining, as always, but riddled with irritating decision-making, poor judgement and irrational behaviour. The show has definitely dropped in quality since its inaugural season, but with the absence of competitors in the genre, it remains a must
watch for whodunit fans.
The Intern – Sickly, unfunny dramedy. Forgettable, pointless, badly scripted. A waste of time and money. Kind of embarrassing for the cast.
And Then There Were None (TV) – deliciously intriguing Agatha Christie whodunit. Consensus on the killer was formed pretty early, but some red herrings put you off the scent before confirming your early suspicions. A lot of fun! I wish good whodunits were back in vogue…
Thunderheart – Enjoyable sioux murder conspiracy whodunit. Yup, its a pretty specific genre… I liked it.
Bridge of Spies – Fun and engaging soviet spy thriller. Unfortunately encumbered by Spielberg’s revolting obsession with pure, unadulterated cheese of the kind that only he can deliver. Also a pretty thin propaganda piece. All that aside, it’s still a great watch!
The Odessa File – Intriguing journalist conspiracy thriller. Not as exciting as we have come to expect, but some of the set pieces are beautifully suspenseful: doubly so given its age.
Halt and Catch Fire (S02)(TV) – As TV goes, I honestly don’t think it gets much better than this. The character of Joe MacMillan is just unrivalled in complexity and depth. Lee Pace is beyond magnetic in the role, he’s electric, and the writers recognise that and use it beautifully. The storylines are broad, sweeping and powerful, skipping triviality in favour of weighty topics that shaped the computing world and the world we live today. The casting is spot on, the acting stupendous. I only hope that AMC top brass realise that this is shaping into one of the best TV series to have graced our screens. Watch it; laugh, weep and fist pump. This is one of a kind.
The Man From High Castle (TV) – Unfortunately, despite a wonderful concept and vivid realisation of Dick’s parallel universe, this fails on several levels, from clumsy, even bad, scripting to poor, glossy casting choices. Thankfully the story is strong, and some of the actors really command attention (Rufus Sewell, I’m looking at you). Could have been much better though.
Wargames – One of those films that has somehow miraculously slipped under my radar until now. Ludicrous, but given the era, it’s a pretty good thrill ride and a lot of fun.

November 2015

Injustice – surprisingly strong turn from Chris Evans, very good acting. Hard to like the film overall though. It tries too hard and has a pretty flat aesthetic throughout. I found it an unrewarding experience.
I Saw The Devil – Shockingly violent but entirely riveting and consuming revenge thriller
Common – Moralistic and preachy, but still a captivating story.
The Lobster – An extraordinarily peculiar romantic drama in a most unconventional sci-fi universe. I was reminded of HG Wells ‘Valley of the Blind’.
Man from Reno – not especially riveting and slow paced ‘thriller’
Mississippi Grind – Very interesting but frustratingly unsatisfying. I’m on the fence about this one. I left the cinema deeply introspective and curious about the story, but that same intrigue leaves you agonised at the lack of resolution.
What doesn’t kill you – An average watch. Nothing to get excited about and very forgettable in every regard.
Ant-man – Paul Rudd’s incessant charm offensive managed to win over my skepticism. It’s another fun superhero flick. Lighthearted and feel good.
The Moaning of Life (S02) (TV) – Karl is incorrigibly loveable. He has grown greatly over the course of his career, and his ignorance is no longer the comedy. In its place, you have his natural and offbeat wry observations. I can’t get enough.
The Program – Terrific acting from Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd and all the cast. It’s an eye-opening tale even in hindsight. How Armstrong got away with it for so long and so flagrantly is unfathomable.
Jack Strong – compelling and enjoyable US propaganda spy thriller
Brokedown Palace – truly awful ‘foreigner’ film of two teenagers trapped in a Thailand prison for drug smuggling
The Internet’s Own Boy – Inspiring biopic of Aaron Schwartz. A must watch for purveyors of digital rights, open source and internet freedoms.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 2 – a fitting finale to the franchise, and to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Fans won’t be disappointed.
The Silence of the Lambs – as wonderfully sinister as ever, even with age.

October 2015

The Martian – Excellent high concept space odyssey. More drama than thriller so doesn’t really compete on the same page as Gravity, despite the similarities on paper. Solid.
Brooklyn Nine Nine – highly entertaining, if unabashedly puerile police precinct sit-com. It’s no Sunny in Philly, but it’s a great show to destress to! Short episodes make for easy viewing too.
A Brilliant Young Mind – Touching and amusingly off-beat coming of age dramedy about an autistic maths whizz and his multiple sclerosis suffering teacher. Innocuous.
Sicario – Striking and artistically directed drug cartel thriller. Fantastic, nail biting, edge of the seat stuff from start to finish. I would see it again in an instant.
San Andreas – a nauseating script and shiny plastic cast leave little room for any enjoyment of this apocalyptic quake thriller beyond mockery. What an enormous waste of time and money.
Skyfall – Equally enjoyable on a second viewing, but somehow much more ridiculous!
Kajaki – Extraordinary, gripping and harrowing insight into a few hours in Afghanistan. Horrifying true story.
What We Do In The Shadows – Fun and ridiculous, but not ridiculously fun. It’s a little try hard at times, but there are some great moments. You could do worse than watching it, but there are much better mockumentaries out there.
Spectre – Mixed emotions on this. Undeniably a spectacle and a feast, but even for Bond’s universe, there are simply too many questionmarks over the plot. Some ill judged and sickeningly cheesy scenes really undermine the overall stylised aesthetic as well. Whilst the set pieces and Bond tropes are all on point, the plot as a whole is very weak and uncomfortably contrived.

September 2015

Inside Out – Surprisingly dark pixar animation. Tackling depression and puberty in illustrated form is hardly a barrel of laughs, and likely to go way over the heads of the childhood audience. For adults, however, this is an oddly powerful watch.
Kidnapping Freddy Heineken – Disappointingly unexciting and unthrilling. Hopkins brings his usual enjoyable frenetic hyperbole to the role of Heineken, but the story arc seems ill-conceived and slapdash in its ultimate conclusion.
Narcos (TV) – Fast paced (perhaps too fast paced), drug cartel crime thriller charting Pablo Escobar rise and fall from power in Colombia. Sharp acting and excellent direction, it’s a minor pity that the script frequently borders on US propaganda. Terrific TV though.
Veep (TV) (S01-S04) – My favourite political comedy with a fantastic cast and incisive script. Every episode has moments of comedy gold and whilst the humour is occasionally malicious (particularly re: workplace bullying), it usually redeems itself within the same episode.
The Thick of It – Riveting and darkly hilarious comedy depicting the internal workings of the UK Ministry of Social Affairs. Brilliant, if occasionally a little too nasty.
Everest – A pleasant surprise. This biopic explores the horrors of Everest when a storm catches a climbing tour unawares. Harrowing and oddly downbeat in its ending, this is a splendid and visually overpowering piece of drama. Highly recommended to see it in the cinema or on a large screen.

August 2015

Bus 174  – Limited source material leaves a documentary looting scraps for profundity, and it doesn’t really work to grip the viewer. Quite interesting nonetheless, but Padhila should stick with thrillers.
Lock Up – fairly average prison drama with Stallone at the helm. I probably wouldn’t advise bothering with it.
Upstream Color – a waste of time. A turbid, incoherent piece of pretentious cinema. Not even particularly aesthetic.
The Affair – beneath the sophisticated patina lies a schizophrenic, prurient, glorified soap opera that leads the viewer on with the pretense of deep intrigue and the promise of a whodunit, whilst stubbornly refusing to impart anything other than (often) tedious drama. Snippets of excellent dialogue help alleviate the drab repetition of each episode, but beyond the impressive performances and occasionally smart scripting is little to actually enjoy. Disappointing.
Birdman – Although over cooked with self-indulgent monologues, this is nonetheless a fascinating and original theatrical dramedy, wickedly directed and boldly acted. The black humour might be a bit dry for some, but when it works, it soars.
The Gunman – Tedious, predictable and miscast action thriller. Penn ‘in shape’ looks out of sorts and none of the characters are sympathetic. Not painful, but not worth your time either.
The Man from Nowhere – A fantastic crime cum revenge action thriller that grips tight early on and keeps you breathless until its spectacular conclusion. A new favourite in this genre.
Infernal Affairs – It’s not often I declare a remake superior to the original, but in many ways I prefer The Departed to this crime thriller. The direction and acting are all top notch, but a couple of story twists were nicely refined for the US version. That said, this happily skips alot of the sappy Hollywood romance and tones down the caricature.
Nightwatch [original] – It turns out the US remake was essentially a shot for shot rework of this original danish serial killer thriller which enormously undermined the impact of this for me. Clearly a solid film though, and pleasantly unpleasantly twisted.
Inside Man – Never ceases to amuse and excite. Owen is indubitably a smooth criminal. One of the last decades best crime thrillers.
Mozart in the Jungle – A terrific, virtuosic performance from Gabriel Garcia Bernal underpins this intelligent, hugely loveable and immensely witty comedy. The music, the scripting, the off-beat humour (often laugh out loud) – everything is timed and tuned to perfection. If I had a criticism, which honestly, I don’t really, it would be that Bernal presents such a powerful and charismatic character that he steals the show every episode, but how I loved to watch him do it! You would be a fool to miss this.
Spy – A couple of genuinely funny moments fail to save this feminist spy farce. As modern hollywood comedies go, it’s sadly the usual fare: a whole heap of puerile slapstick, invective and caricature. Still waiting for the next great American comedy after Superbad (and The Other Guys).
Ted 2 – Brilliantly irreverent and unflinching comedy that doesn’t pull any punches but unfortunately misses as often as it hits. After a classic heavyweight first act, it sags in the middle and deflates towards the end. Overall though, this is highly entertaining with great chemistry and some very smart scripting (in amongst the horrible!)
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – A rip roaring and highly entertaining continuation of the Hollywood blockbuster franchise.
The Man from UNCLE – A tad too deadpan and dry for its own good, this is a witty and stylish, if uncharismatic, thriller. The set pieces are fantastic, but leave the conjunctive scenes sapped of energy.
Slow West – As the title unambiguously suggests, this is a slow western. Tongue in cheek performances and pleasant cinematography give it a certain charm and whimsy that just about triumphs over its slumbrous pacing.

July 2015

Halt and Catch Fire S01 (TV) – found myself a new favourite among TV series. Exceedingly strong performances from the whole cast, a gripping, dynamic plot, and script and direction that will have you laughing aloud before hunkering at the edge of your seat. Terrific show.
The Treatment – Watchable and fairly exciting nordic thriller. Promises more than it delivers and the conclusion is a disappointment.
Breach – Surprisingly compelling depiction of the downfall of soviet spy, Robert Hanssen.
The Booth at the End (TV) – an intriguing premise that starves the audience of answers in a way that repels rather than invites. The minimalist format and production smacks slightly of a collegiate project too.
Get Hard – one or two scenes of genuine comedy dilute the general lowbrow puerile silliness. Arguably homophobic, sexist and racist, embarrassingly, I nonetheless rather enjoyed it!
The Great Debaters – Interesting drama if you like your emotion running high and your characters scripted to a tee. Not my bag, but it’s delivered with aplomb.
The Bourne Identity – One of the finest action thrillers to grace the screen, and thankfully just the first of a stunning franchise.
The Fifth Estate – Lacklustre biopic released too soon to be objective and accurate. Unfolds like a broadsheet newspaper – with too much fuss and not enough excitement.
It Follows – Preposterous and overrated horror. Novel (albeit very slow) direction and a mildly interesting concept just about maintains intrigue, but it’s too heavy and soul searching to conjure the ‘au frisson’ most might expect from a horror.
Letters from Iwo Jima – Eastwood’s epic, gritty and moving war story from the Japanese perspective. Too long and inferior to its American perspective counterpart. Good though.
Five Minutes Of Heaven – Interesting if overly heavy emo drama with Neeson and Nesbitt. Not the most enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Simply one of the greatest films ever made. Beautiful photography, hilarious, charming banter from our two charismatic leads and a soundtrack that takes the heart a-dance. Irreplaceable and incomparable. Watch it. Then again and again.
Man on Fire – Still a cracking revenge action thriller from the late great Tony Scott. Holds replay value. Denzel is cool as a cucumber.
Fast and Furious 7 – Exhausting nonstop action and ripe cheesy scripting leaves the 7th film in the dust of the far superior 5th and 6th franchise outings. However, the technical inclusion of the late Paul Walker throughout the movie, post humously, is seriously impressive, and their tribute to him is heartfelt and worth recognising.
Mr Robot (TV) – Like early Dexter with 1s and 0s. A twisted and anguished protagonist with an alternative perspective on life. This is a hacker series deservedly praised by laymen and computer nerds alike. A little overly tortured at times, dragging the pace, but overall this is a compelling and novel contemporary thriller, hopefully to inspire a new generation of anarchist hackers.
True Story – Bland, incongruous drama that aims for sinister and comes off simply quaint. A shame.

June 2015

The Machine – Another AI scifi flick, a little too dry as it focuses on trying to be a clever thriller, but certainly a worthwhile watch for any scifi fan.
Hot Girls Wanted – Surprisingly interesting, non-judgemental and levelheaded exploration of the amateur/ semi-pro porn industry. Quite tragic really.
El Chapulín Colorado (TV) – old school slapstick silliness in spanish.
Hector and the Search for Happiness – aside from the fact Hector’s search for happiness is unashamedly unnecessary, implausible and fickle, this is an oddly satisfying comedic adventure. Nowhere near the marvellous Secret Life of Walter Mitty though.
Colosio: El Asesinato – Fantastic spanish language crime thriller exploring theories surrounding the assassination of Colosio, the Mexican presidential candidate in 1994.
A Single Shot – Another outback drama with a terrific cast and wonderful acting cursed by a substandard story. Worth watching for Rockwell and the beautiful scenery, this is disappointingly lacking, I’m just not quite sure what…
Housebound – Weird Oz black comedy horror that compels because it’s simply so bizarre. A bit niche for the average horror viewer though.
Jurassic World – If you ignore the agonising voice of Basil Exposition and overlook the McGuffin brothers, this is almost exactly what you’d expect, but a lot more fun. Wisecracks, iconic shot frames, and lots of awesome dinosaurs. I had a blast.
Fargo (TV) – Wry humour and master villains, this is a gripping crime drama with a lot to enjoy, but somehow it resolves to nobody’s satisfaction.
Zen (TV) – A playful, whimsical foray into crime for Rufus Sewell. Good fun.
Better Living Through Chemistry – Questionable anti-rom-com about a pharmacists chaotic midlife crisis. Occasionally funny, mostly stupid, watchable for Rockwell.

May 2015

The Keeper of Lost Causes – Enjoyable crime thriller. What it lacks in finesse and style, it makes up for with heart. I’m sure follow ups will be more assured.
The Absent One – Better than its predecessor. Another nordic crime thriller. A little more explicit and violent this one, the plot doesn’t unravel as suspensefully as it could, but it’s a tightly spun yarn.
Kingsman: The Secret Service – Tedious, almost cringeworthy action comedy from the team that brought us Kick-Ass. The action is fun, but the script and story are mildly offensive at worst and just plain stupid at best.
Banshee (S03)(TV) – By this stage it’s pretty much more of the same. The novelty has worn off and the flashbacks are getting old. It remains a watchable show, but I’d definitely start looking for something new.
Wayward Pines (TV) – Try hard surrealist crime thriller in the vein of Twin Peaks (it even sounds similar). Dillon is very watchable but the show is tediously try-hard.
Rosewater – Moderately interesting and well acted drama about an Iranian journalist imprisoned for his coverage of government military repression. Not unique among this type of film, and many others have done it better.
Spooks – if a feature length episode of the hit TV show appeals in principal, then it will almost definitely appeal in practice, with the usual cast favourites racing against the terrorism clock. It’s slick and fast paced and pretty much exactly what you’d expect.
El Gran Hotel (S01) (TV) – gossipy, trashy, farcical – there is little to redeem this spanish period drama bar its language. If I wasn’t making an effort to learn spanish, I wouldn’t touch this with a barge pole.
Stonehearst Asylum – a feisty, wonderfully hammy gothic thriller based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe. The all star cast delivers in spades – this is a lot of fun. Highly recommended.
Jupiter Ascending – Dull, overacted and nonsensical sci-fi with such garish SFX, it feels like a billion dollar B movie. Soulless.
Joe Dirt – presumably aimed pre-pubescents and the retarded, this puerile and low brow yankee doodle is unfunny bargain basket rubbish.
A Most Violent Year – paradoxically passive, this is a gripping, if not entirely convincing gangster tale. Oscar Isaac continues to impress, but the end result remains underwhelming.
Everybody Has A Plan (Todos tenemos un plan) – Intriguing, if slow, crime drama. Very dark and exploring interesting themes, this is poignant and somehow delicate, and yet disappointingly fails to really impress.
The Drop – Pay close attention and this unexpected crime drama will pay dividends. Powerfully understated, with excellent performances to a man. Refreshingly original.
Mad Max: Fury Road – An orgastic and maniacal apocalyptic symphony. Revel in the roar of engines, the screech and crunch of metal upon metal, and the sheer depravity of Miller’s explosive bicolour vision. If none of that sounds fun – give this a very wide berth!
The Homesman – Dry, flat Western drama from Tommy Lee Jones that lacks even the slightest appeal. I’d rather sit on a horse waiting to hang.
Daredevil (TV) – Extraordinarily violent and gruesome at times, it’s nonetheless a pretty tongue in cheek, light-hearted and entertaining Netflix super hero series. Certainly more compelling than I had expected.
Tomorrowland – Deceptively mismarketed kiddie adventure flick. One of the worst films I have ever endured. Just sickeningly bad in every way. Avoid like the plague.
Relatos Salvajes – Wonderfully twisted mosaic of six short stories interweaving black humour with social commentary and gleeful depravity. Beautiful soundtrack, top notch film.
In Order Of Disappearance – Tarantino-esque black humour permeates this nordic revenge drama. Enjoyable, but hardly special.
The Browning Version – Arresting school drama about a longstanding teacher who is forced to resign his position. Very human, with terrific acting.

April 2015

Black Sea – idiotic deep sea thriller that suffers flaws galore and enough accents to educate a language school. Proof that a good cast needn’t mean a good film.
Focus – Vacuous heist/ con artist thriller that plays the usual cards and tricks with a hyper modern and unrealistic twist. Nowhere near as fun as it should and could have been, with all the ‘focus’ evidently misplaced on gloss instead of substance.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete – A refreshing and unexpected poverty survival drama; sweet, surprisingly uplifting and oddly charming. I liked it.
Cleaner – A mildly entertaining, if faintly ludicrous, thriller with Samuel L in one of his more likeable roles. One for when you’re really bored.
Nothing But the Truth – forgettable and dry whistleblower thriller. It’s not especially bad, but it’s so unmemorable and bland as to be pointless viewing.
The Book of Eli – never fails to entertain although sadly the product placement has become more evident as one brand in particular has gained traction in the past few years. Otherwise a terrific film.
The Gambler – albeit nowhere near as bad as I had prepared myself to endure, even for a fan of Marky Mark Wahlberg this was a bit of a slog. Unlikely and unlikeable characters fill a mostly uninteresting plot. That said, it’s delivered with conviction. Ultimately pretty average.
Love – Pretentious nonsense, and an exercise in audience tolerance. One of the most boring films I have had the mispleasure of watching. Stick with The Signal instead – a much better effort by the same director.
Predestination – Slower viewing the second time around, but equally satisfying and a continuing source of time travel discussion. Love this film.
Spiral S01 (TV) – Gritty and compelling French police serial. A solid series.
Avengers: Age of Ultron – The medley of action men (and women) tear it up again with the usual quips and techno gizmos. If you’re not bored of superheroes, there’s probably something here for you. Personally the genre is almost dead to me.
The Voices – Utterly inane, wacky, off the wall serial killer comedy that baffles more than it entertains, although it’s worth watching to the end simply for the final credit sequence. Ryan Reynolds is a dream.

March 2015

Big Hero 6 – So so animation, entertaining but forgettable
Night at the Museum 3: The Secret Tomb – dull franchise comedy that elicits considerably more groans than laughs
Paddington – Moderately amusing if immensely overrated middleclass comedy about the eponymous bear.
The Expatriate – exhaustingly bad, cliché laden thriller. Tiresome.
La Isla Minima (Marshland) – superb spanish thriller, dark and layered. Similar to True Detective in style and tone.
House of Cards S03 (TV) – Plodding third series of the Netflix phenomenon. A couple of heavy twists, but by and large this is too toned down and lumbering.
Nowhere Man S01 (TV) – Moderately compelling if farfetched and frustratingly dated thriller. Time is better spent elsewhere.
Switchback – Dated and decidedly average serial killer thriller.
Gorky Park – Inert thriller. Ponderous to the point of boredom. Disappointing.

February 2015

10 Things I Hate About You – Winning teen rom-com with career launching performances. A lot of fun if you like that kind of thing, still moderate fun when you don’t especially!
Ex Machina – Phenomenal, mind-blowing sci-fi. Simultaneously made me want to give up on life and feel a surge of irrepressible excitement for what we’re a part of. Operates on so many levels. Well acted, beautifully composited. Watch it.
Broken – Laboured council estate tragedy drama. Overwrought, heavy and heavy handed. Watchable but hardly recommended.
Kon-Tiki – Biopic drama charting the Kon-Tiki voyage. The film Life of Pi wishes it had been. Uplifting, suspenseful, funny. Blessed with a touch of the Sublime. A pity it’s quite so cheesy.
The Overnighters – Extraordinary and curious documentary of a reverend and his quest to offer a home to the homeless. Oddly compelling.
John Wick – Stylistic action nonsense. Keanu’s deadpan dry monotones punctuated with fighting of all forms.
Whiplash – Overrated drum drama exploring obsession and musicianship. A wannabe Black Swan. Interesting but unfulfilling.
Penguins of Madagascar – Surreal, farcical penguin comedy caper that is almost trippy in its off-kilter style. More obscure than funny.
Citizenfour – Eye opening, astonishing documentary coursing a series of interviews with hero of our time, Edward Snowden. Essential viewing.

January 2015

The Grand Seduction – Uplifting and oft-times hilarious rural drama with yet another standout performance from Brendan Gleeson. Riddled with clichés and contrivances, but nonetheless enjoyable for it.
Transformers 4: Age of Extinction – absurdly over-budgeted and overwrought blockbuster. Nauseating in acting, script and direction. Watches like an unedited YouTube CGI showreel. Even a fondness for Marky Mark won’t save this.
The Art of the Steal – comically stale heist comedy that retreads the usual steps and tries to sell itself as swish. A dull cliché.
Intouchables – affectionate and heartfelt tale of unlikely friendship. Gentle, light-hearted and encouraging.
Odd Thomas – ludicrous female costumes and perhaps Willem Dafoe’s easiest role are really the only two overt flaws in an otherwise hugely original, entertaining and lighthearted sci-fi horror. A breath of fresh air. Anton Yelchin is great.
The Edge of Tomorrow – almost as enjoyable on the rerun as on a first viewing. Great to see Cruise back in lead.
The Theory of Everything – Impassioned, powerful performances across the board deliver a fantastic drama. It’s a little on the lachrymose, and can’t help but be evangelical in it’s message of hope, but that can be forgiven.
Boyhood – Surprisingly light-hearted and laid back journey through youth. Mostly excellent performances, especially from Hawke and Redmayne, and a few laugh out loud moments help ease the pacing.
Kill the Messenger – strong, insightful drama, a little heavy handed with the exposition at times and perhaps not quite as exciting as it could have been. Fantastic casting.
The Impossible – Whiter than white drama about a middle class family and their upset holiday plans. Quite sickening given the 100s of thousands of natives that lost their lives. Horribly misjudged, and on top of that, quite bad.
American Sniper – unashamed propaganda for the US, this is nonetheless a gripping a war drama and occasional thriller. Sickeningly pro-war, pro-violence and borderline racist, if you can suspend your liberal fury for the runtime, you will probably be entertained.
’71 – Once the ball starts rolling, this IRA thriller rattles along at a breakneck pace. Excellent suspense, well shot and strong acting. The conclusion disappoints, but largely for wanting more.
I, Origins – Evolves into an interesting and moderately affecting film, albeit starting slowly and labouring the science vs religion debate.
Foxcatcher – Odd, off-beat biopic that demonstrates top talent in a decidedly peculiar tone. Curious, moderately compelling despite very slow pacing, but hardly the drama that the hype suggested it would be.
Unthinkable – Mistakenly watched for a second time, and worse this time around. Unpleasant cheerleading for torture.

December 2014

Predestination – Mindbending sci-fi time travel noire that falls in to place exactly as it should. Immensely satisfying, thought provoking and compelling. Ethan Hawke is a blast and Sarah Snook is remarkable in what should be her kingmaking role. This is the film that Looper wasn’t.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 – Surprisingly profound animation that offers more for an adult than it’s predecessor, but might be a little too dark and emotive for younger children.
Maleficent – Clearly not designed for adults, this was unwatchable. Terrible acting, terrible scripting and awful, awful graphics.
Mr Nobody – Impressive casting, acting and vision, and the technical execution is surely skilful, but even as a piece of philosophical entertainment it fails. Pacing is horrible and the story convoluted.
Hercules – Moderately amusing and entertaining rubbish. A last resort.
Fury – laden with more testosterone than trans-supplements, this is a war film for the Call of Duty generation; action packed and utterly gripping.
Horns – oddly compelling if woefully try-hard wannabe cult horror.
Music and Lyrics – insipid with dreadful music and nary a single amusing line. Only the opening music video is actually worth watching.
Exodus – A pleasure to see a top cast at the top of their game. A pity that the story is so bat-shit crazy, a fact you can only truly appreciate with thanks to Ridley’s undeniably solid film making. Some baffling choices, but overall extremely impressive.
Nightcrawler – Strikingly original quirky thriller sprinkled with very black humour. Gyllenhaal turns in perhaps his finest performance. Hopefully award recognition could see more in this vein in the future.
Salamander (TV) – Unfortunately, after a relatively promising start, the show breaks down in to a tiresome and poorly paced mess of contrivances and clumsy exposition, even to the point of WWII flashbacks. This is a huge disappointment. Given the hefty time investment it demands, I don’t recommend it.
Frank – Oddball indie comedy cum biopic. Very funny at times, but precariously pretentious.
Horrible Bosses 2 – Silly and puerile comedy to match its predecessor. Pine is surprisingly funny and the trio have a fluid chemistry that endears the film despite some duff moments of improv and school boy quips. Light fun.
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies – Sadly the weakest of the trilogy, plagued by some awful script and off pacing. For fans of Jackson’s Middle Earth though, it will always be rewarding viewing and I would watch it again in an instant.
The Rover – Painfully boring with a script that comprises almost entirely of repeated lines. So dependent on a macguffin it’s almost a parody. Don’t bother.
Into The Abyss – disappointingly generic death row documentary, with often seemingly irrelevant and invasive questioning from Herzog. There are vastly superior documentaries. Not ideal Christmas day viewing!
Tucker and Dale versus Evil – Very silly if entertaining horror spoof with some excellent lines hidden amidst the usual cheap slapstick and teenage farce.
The Devil’s Backbone – entirely in Spanish on this viewing, consequently it was a lot less impactful: my spanish leaves a lot to be desired!
The West Wing S02 – inspiring and absorbing as usual, with an extremely compelling main story arc. Sorkin at his best.

November 2014

The Maze Runner – Continues the trend of the surreal adultification of kids. Horribly scripted, badly acted, and filled with a cast in their mid to late twenties trying to be 15. The maze itself is dull, impossibly and bizarrely proportioned given its purpose and occupants, and the hastily explained premise feels superficial at best and utterly pathetic at worst. Agonising that this is what studios throw their weight and money behind these days and more agonising that it will probably be a (financially) successful franchise.
Trash – Danny Boyle-esque drama cum thriller in which a trio of Brazilian lads (literally) unearth the key to political upheaval. Aided by strong direction and solid acting, this rattles along at a terrific pace and is a lot of fun.
Enter Nowhere – Curiously desperate attempt to weave an intricate time travel thriller that falls flat, with bad acting, a bad script, and a predictable premise.
Metro Manila – Melancholy, depressing drama cum thriller, following a man struggling to make a living as a security guard amid the dangers of Manila.
Interstellar – Terrific, if emotionally overwrought space age sci-fi from Chris Nolan. An ambitious and exciting spectacle.
Cleanskin – First rate thriller exploring home grown terrorism in the UK. Not perfect, but deserving of so much more attention that it received.
The Scapegoat – Touching and well constructed period drama with a great central performance from Matthew Rhys, highly recommended.
The Babadook – Morbid and depressing if refreshingly original take on the usual horror guff: possession, children and creepy houses. Did I say original?
The Judge – overwrought, exposition heavy, subplot laden and contrived. Downey Jr is in his fast-talking arrogant default, while Duvall does his part convincingly, although it could have been played just as firmly by any number of ageing actors. The whole film sets out as a tearjerker, and that ambition is all too obvious in the script and editing. The comedy is often misjudged (and largely based on the interjections of a ‘retard’) whilst all of the female roles exist solely as sex objects for Downey Jr. This is the kind of film that with a lesser cast wouldn’t cause a ripple in the film industry, but with these kinds of heavy hitters will probably be getting Oscar nods. Most frustrating.
Detectorists (TV) – Innocuous, lighthearted and relaxing comedy from Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones. It’s a relief and pleasure to watch something so gentle.
A Walk Among The Tombstones – Bog standard crime thriller with Neeson in his usual washed up oldtimer role. Not worth the time.
The West Wing S01 (TV) – Such an enormous pleasure to rewatch this. Still one of the finest, wittiest, sharpest scripted TV shows I have ever seen. Every minute is fun and every episode exhilarating.
Happy Valley (TV) – Phenomenally well acted and compelling British TV, a thriller of the calibre that rarely graces our screens. A netflix exclusive allegedly, although it has BBC all over it and oddly shows only on the US Netflix. Don’t miss this, the best British cop series since The Shadow Line.
Escobar: Paradise Lost – With an exploitative use of the Escobar name, this superficial and horribly preachy drug thriller endeavours to weave a love story with a drug trafficking backdrop. It avoids any sincere exploration of Escobar’s legacy and instead offers skin deep, trashy American propaganda that could have been (and essentially was) entirely fictionalised. Just terrible.
The Parallax View – Wonderfully directed, with an almost avant-guarde use of cinematography (given it’s era). It’s not a fast paced conspiracy thriller, but it’s compelling, intriguing, and rewarding overall for viewers who love to think and analyse.
The November Man – Brosnan back in comfortable shoes as government operative Peter (Bond by another name). Hackneyed and unoriginal, if moderately entertaining for at least the first two acts before crashing out with a nose dive.
The Guest – Surreal thriller that has the script and acting of a drawn out episode of Kyle XY, along with the teen angst and 12A flirting with alcohol and drugs. Allegedly deliberately styled to achieve cult status, for this viewer, that ‘style’ simply translates to “bad”. Time better spent elsewhere.
Secret State (TV) – Solid political drama series with strong performances all round and a hypercritical script depicting the cosy relationship and interworkings between British banks, businesses and government. Very worth watching, but not quite landmark TV.
Camp X-ray – Kristen Stewart demonstrates she has acting chops in this solid prison drama. A bit laboured, with one or two missteps, but on the whole, this is quite affecting.
The Third Man – necessary viewing, but hardly the most exhilarating. The sewer chase is pretty iconic, and the visuals generally are sharp and striking. Other than that, this viewer was left unmoved.
The Hustler – Paul Newman is commanding and charismatic even as the smug Fast Eddy. It does require a little patience for a modern audience.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – The usual overwrought, cheesy teen blockbuster that is now to be expected from the franchise. If you’re accustomed to the style and story, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be another enjoyable chapter.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – Much too protracted and irritatingly puerile at times, this is otherwise an irresistibly entertaining spoof biopic parodying the same tired old formula of music life stories. Fun for the most part.

October 2014

ExistenZ – Mindbending and utterly bizarre sci fi exploring the ramifications of virtual reality. A lot of parallels with Inception.
The Thirteenth Floor – interesting and philosophical sci fi noire thriller. More Max Payne than Max Payne ever was, and as multilayered as Existenz, if not Inception. Good fun and intriguing concept, albeit perhaps a tad on the nose!
The Man From Earth – A thinking man’s film. History, philosophy and religion all undergo scrutiny following the revelation that a long term friend is 14000 years old. Purely talking, and all in one location, this won’t set your nerves on edge or your heart apounding, but time and place dependent, will leave you with a healthy discussion on your hands.
God’s Pocket – Not a bad drama, but utterly devoid of anything to get excited about. It’s dreary, slow, and not especially witty, even though it tries hard with its smattering of black humour.
+1 – Certainly mindbending, if stupid, adolescent sci fi pitching a clash of drunk and scantily clad party goers against their dopplegangers. The weakest of this niche time travel sub-genre: too over-sexed and underage for an intelligent audience.
Gone Girl – Fincher’s latest thriller is as slick as we’ve come to expect from the director, but leaves a distinctly sour aftertaste. Affleck is great and Pike isn’t bad (if a little too affected), but a trash book adapted well is still a trash film. Everything is horribly contrived and suburban, and consequently it never feels real enough to genuinely thrill. That said, as always, Fincher manages to conjure a few spectacular moments of cinema. Worth watching.
You’re Next – Wonderfully nasty whilst simultaneously tongue in cheek horror home invasion flick. Undeniably sadistic and typically superficial for the genre, after a shouty start this is done very well.
Lucy – Riddled with more holes than one of Lucy’s victims, this Besson action sci fi is nonetheless a lot of fun. Take it with a pinch of salt.
Borgman – Thought provoking and intriguing surrealist drama, with a kind of insidious and sadistic nastiness that really takes a hold as the film develops. Utterly gripping despite a slow pace; quite remarkable and very different.
Grand Piano – a ludicrous, phone booth like thriller premise that is as implausible as it is plain stupid. ie. very.
The Calling – terrible, drab and unenjoyable serial killer ‘thriller’ that suffers from issues left, right and centre. Avoid.
The Signal – quite original and very compelling sci fi thriller. Highly recommended for sci fi fans, probably not what you’re expecting.
Night Moves – very slow though always engaging, introspective drama/thriller exploring paranoia, extreme convictions, and the possible consequences of upholding and enacting those convictions.
The Equalizer – slick and highly entertaining action thriller from Antoine Fuqua, strongly influenced by Tony Scott style and delivered with aplomb. Denzel is a pleasure to watch. Leave expectations of subtetly and humanity at the door and this will be an absolute treat.
The Code (TV) – Gripping, if at times frustrating, Aussie conspiracy thriller. Solid acting in difficult roles, but as is so often the case, the show fails to offer any lovable, or even likeable characters, and consequently isn’t as enjoyable to watch as it could, and should, have been.
Memory Lane – Amateur indie-thriller that screams student from the opening shots. That would be fine if it was watchable. This isn’t. Ignore the IMDb rating, this one is not remotely worth your time.
El Traspatio (Backyard) – Graphic and unflinching look at brutality against women in Juarez and the corruption of the judicial system in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Horrifying drama, difficult to watch, hard to recommend.
The Contender – If only this US political drama had a scintilla more pace. The plot, scripting, casting and acting are all top notch. It’s so close to perfection, and yet it lacks a little punch that post-Sorkin’s The West Wing and Fincher’s House of Cards, is almost a prerequisite of political depictions. Fantastic though, watch it.

September 2014

Live Flesh (Carne Tremula) – Well crafted Spanish drama from Almodovar. Excellent acting and solid plot. Filled with the usual Almodovar tropes and on the nose political statements though.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Just about entertaining on a second viewing with some lines that still hit home. Wearing thin though. Not sure I could hack it again.
El Lobo – Gripping and interesting espionage thriller based on real events at the height of ETAs activity in the 70s.
Mystery Road – Slow burning Aussie crime drama that stumbles over some clumsy dialogue and wooden acting. The execution might not be perfect, but it still commands a solid level of intrigue. If only it had upped the pace.
Cold In July – A well shot, acted and tought crime drama, it’s a shame it descends in to such chaos. Still worth a watch though.
No Rest For The Wicked (No habrá paz para los malvados) – outstanding and offensively underrated spanish crime thriller. Powerhouse acting and superb direction. Deserves further viewing.
A Most Wanted Man – not since Rubicon was aired on TV has the spy genre been so perfectly depicted on screen. An apt tour de force for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s swansong, devestating though that is, and a hugely successful suspenseful thriller. Just terrific.
El Metodo (The Method) – An unsatisfying and slightly provocative, if well conceived mystery. Thought provoking and frustrating in turns.
Coherence – Excellent concept and imaginative indie execution for this (somewhat) original sci-fi psuedo-quantum time thriller. Highly recommended.
The Assets (TV) – An exposition heavy script, transparent story and superfluity of US propaganda mars a show that had promise on paper. Not all that surprising it was cancelled.
The Leftovers (TV) – Lifeless, po-faced and painfully grave, this speculative dystopian TV drama isn’t short on intrigue, but stubbornly refuses to offer answers or resolution, resulting in an inexplicable world of shock factor scenes, irrational behaviour, and detached angst. I really wanted to like it, but there is very little to like, let alone praise.
La Habitacion del Niño – the first half of this spanish B-movie is one of the most hilarious black comedies I have seen, whilst the second reverts to genre stereotypes and predictable twists. It’s a lot of fun though, and to some degree an original haunted house thriller.
Carancho – one of the most boring Spanish films I have watched. Dreary and uneventful drama, not worth the time.

August 2014

Fermat’s Room – Engrossing and enjoyable spanish thriller that takes one too many twists and finds itself stranded, but remains a fun ride.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Nowhere near the film the hype implies, this has still got a lot of entertainment value with off-the-wall comedy hurled in with the usual action sci-fi.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Very detailed and solid follow up to The Rise (although the naming order is embarrassingly senseless). It’s doubtless good, but sadly much darker than its predecessor, delivering a less enjoyable experience. Despite shortcomings, it remains a must-watch sci fi.
El Habitante Incierto (The Uninvited Guest) – Hitchcockian spanish language thriller, full of intrigue, novelty and witty black humour. Utterly bizarre and all the better for it.
Blackthorn – Dry, slow burning neo-Western drama that is surprisingly affecting, particularly as it isn’t especially gripping. Sam Shepherd is good, and predominantly speaks Spanish throughout.
Joe – Terrific, moving and powerful drama with easily the best performance Nic Cage has pulled out in the last decade. The soundtrack is brilliant and the acting throughout, top notch. Ty Sheridan impresses as usual.
La Cara Oculta – Disappointing Spanish thriller that is engrossing but ultimately unrewarding.
El Cuerpo – Excellent, brilliantly directed and shot macabre thriller with a twist that will genuinely surprise, albeit largely due to its implausibility. Unmissable spanish language.
Mientras Duermes – One of the nastiest, most insidious, and repulsive Spanish films I have ever had the displeasure of watching. A solid pic, well directed, well acted and utterly horrible.
Dom Hemingway – A couple of great one liners are hidden amidst the quips in this wannabe Sexy Beast london thriller. A good bit of forgettable fun.
Thesis on a Homicide – Taught and engrossing thriller that keeps you guessing but ultimately fails to answer any of your questions. That can work, but here it disappoints.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The usual schtick from the marvel crew. Moralising interspersed with explosions and fisticuffs. Quite good fun if you don’t mind dumbing down.
The Walking Dead S04 (TV) – mindnumbingly, agonisingly boring with one of the worst season (anti)climaxes to ever precede another season. Bad acting, bad script, worn out ideas. What a shrivelled and dessicated show this has become.
Cronica de una Fuga (Buenos Aires, 1977) – Intense and serious, perhaps too dry. Lacks the poetry and artistry of similar films, though remains a harrowing fly-on-the-wall spanish language drama.
The Departed – An excellent, compelling thriller that grips to the end, even on multiple viewings.

July 2014

Rushlights – Forgettable and mildly annoying B movie thriller, whose only saving grace is Aidan Quinn, unfortunately still unable to redeem this. A tangle of twists is simply a knot, even when you see them coming.
Bad Words – Bateman proves he should stick to the Bluths with this misjudged and tasteless comedy. Generally nasty, with a script of abuse thinly guised as humour. Even acting legend, Philip Baker Hall, looks tired and unhappy.
Sabotage – Slick action and some terrific set pieces are strung together with innovative camerawork, but what a crushing shame that the storyline (and at times, the acting) are indefensible in their inanity.
Epitafios S01 (TV) – Audience insulting twists, police incompetence, bad judgements, gratuity and cliches galore mar what could otherwise have been a moderately entertaining, if intellectually challenged, serial killer thriller. Frustration ruins a TV series though, and my God, this show is frustrating viewing! (We’re talking worse than Dexter S07)
Ender’s Game – Continuing the trend of the adultification of children, this is sufficiently intriguing as a high budget sci-fi, even whilst it fails spectacularly as worthwhile cinema. The script is poor and riddled with tropes, the casting generally unconvincing, and the abrupt, heavyhanded direction, amateur. For all its length, the final edit is a hacked up carcass of what could have been a much tighter, more refined film. Sadly, this measly spark is all that remains of the promise of fireworks.
Frozen – Overrated, but the usual lighthearted Disney fluff; true love, magic, moderately amusing semi-autistic sidekick, the works…
The Expendables 3 – As expected: a nonsensical, incoherent mess of explosions, gunfire and macho babble filled with action dinosaurs that should have died in the line of duty a long time ago. Unimaginably boring and horribly scripted.
Transcendence – Technology is the new mumbo jumbo that steps up to fill the vacated shoes of magic in this relatively engrossing sci fi. All of the performances are adequate, albeit too flat, besides Bettany, a massively underrated actor who turns in a good show and raises the bar. The pacing is off and the premise flounders throughout, although these flaws would be easily overlooked if it wasn’t such a tasteless and unlikeable concoction.
The Monuments Men – Well meaning but disappointing and tonally ambiguous wartime art caper that provides little, if any, actual entertainment.
RoboCop – Inane but entertaining sci fi blockbuster, if a little too po-faced and dour.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Remains an excellent sci-fi thriller even on a second viewing. The CGI is truly worthy of marvel, the apes so human it is difficult to feel anything other than compassion. Not flawless, but a brilliant remake nonetheless.
Under Fire – Dramatic tale of war journalists during the Nicaraguan uprising in the late 70s and the difficulty of remaining impartial. Gripping and well acted.
Cool Hand Luke – Fantastic prison drama with great performances, in particular from Newman.
Gods and Monsters – Frasier and McKellen find an impressive rapport in this solid biopic drama detailing the salacious private life of James Whale.
Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb – Hilarious and brilliantly composed comedy highlighting the perils of nuclear armaments and the fallibility of those in charge of them. Terrific performances all round, especially from Peter Sellers, and a brief but intensely seductive turn from Tracy Reed.
2001: A Space Odyssey – Understandably a classic space sci fi. Striking imagery and an ambitious, epic, aeon-spanning story. Not easily watchable though – it’s very long and slumbrous, even boring, with extended silences and often little onscreen action. Remarkable what Kubrick achieved for the time though.
22 Jump Street – A worthy sequel to the first comedy. Funny, puerile and stupid in turns, it falls apart in it’s third act in much the same way as its predecessor did. Guaranteed to have you laughing out loud on numerous occasions though, it’s definitely worth the time.
Oculus – Intriguing but ultimately disappointing horror. Good ingredients and concept, with an unsound and irrational execution, in particular the finale.
Only Lovers Left Alive – Painfully slow and pseudo-intellectual vampire drama. As depressing to watch as Hiddleston’s character is portrayed. Little here to seize interest.
Pompeii – Ridiculuous and laughably hammy, this gladiatorial blockbuster still ticks all the right boxes for good entertainment, despite insipid performances from all but Sutherland, who is having such a blast being evil that he’s a total caricature, and consequently great fun!
Innocent Voices – Harrowing, unflinching and deeply affecting tale of an eleven year old boy during the El Salvadorian civil war, in the year prior to his forced conscription in to the army. Should be rated much higher than a certificate 12.

June 2014

24: Live Another Day – As farcical, implausible and two dimensional as every other series of 24, this is a highly enjoyable, almost nostalgic return to the franchise. Ignore the thick American propaganda and stupid plot holes and you’ll have a blast.
Friday Night Lights (S01-S03) – Surprising, brilliantly well-scripted American football drama following the trials and tribulations of Coach Taylor, his family and his squad, as they adjust to living within the football obsessed, fictional community of Dillon, Texas. Although over time the series falls prey to soap opera cliches and short sighted plot turns, it is often impactful, even profoundly didactic. Frustratingly, characters become increasingly two-dimensional, and storylines are reused time and again over the course of the show. The performances of Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are definitely worthy of plaudits though, and the first season of the show is a must watch. Take or leave the remaining seasons.
Three Days To Kill – Totally misjudged comedic thriller with a bizarre array of performances and incongruous casting. Horribly contrived and tonally schizophrenic but just about bearable.
Elite Squad – Equally gripping on a second viewing. A great, cutting thriller. Make sure you watch the sequel for more context and balance.
Bad Neighbours – Pretty much what you would expect from a Rogen comedy. One or two genuine laughs in a sea of self-congratulating, puerile improv. No doubt much funnier to produce than to watch, but that’s little consolation to the disappointed viewer. (And yes, Efron spends most of his scenes topless – why waste a perfectly good body?)
Southland (S01)(TV) – Gritty, realistic police show. Strong characters and good acting but perhaps the characters are all a little too unlikeable.
Snake Eyes – Creatively directed by De Palma, but massively overacted and with such blatant and crass exposition it feels hugely dumbed down, particularly as the plot is already so predictable. Still a more or less enjoyable conspiracy flick.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – Upbeat, clever and fast paced addition to the X-Men franchise. Vastly better than the last two iterations.
Edge of Tomorrow – Hugely entertaining and funny action/ borderline action-comedy. Tom Cruise excels and glows in a way that he hasn’t for years, and Emily Blunt is a strong support. A lot of fun to be had with the premise, and they have it all. Highly recommended.
The Americans (S01)(TV) – Basic and with a fair number of tropes, this spy thriller still grips, even if at times it’s a little too much American propaganda. Very much focused on the spies rather than their motives.
The Two Faces of January – Lacklustre, unexciting thriller with adequate to good performances all round, but unlikeable characters that demonstrate typically irrational behaviour. Not worth it.
Wall Street – Too abstruse for me, and Wall Street dramas are a far cry from my favourite genre. Long and dull. Clearly of interest to a certain audience though.
The Black Dahlia – Disjointed, dreary and consequently tiresome. A painfully boring noir ‘thriller’.
Dangerous Liaisons – ludicrous period drama with the plot of a soap opera. Malkovich is supremely pernicious as always, the quintessence of villainy, but it’s all too far fetched, too contrived and much too on the nose.
Short Term 12 – Solid and affectionate drama handles tricky subject of maladjusted kids. Powerful.
Blue Ruin – intriguing and engrossing revenge thriller, if a little too slow. Pretty average for the genre, but certainly not bad.
The Host – Terrible and hugely overrated sci-fi comedy. Horror elements are entirely undermined by slapstick comedy and goofy acting. Misleadingly high rated on IMDb, this is so bad it’s difficult to watch.
The Replacements – Silly sports comedy with a formulaic plot and inane gags. Classic feel good vibe though and great as a pick-me-up. Also worth it for the Gene Hackman completionists!
Body Double – And the award for stupidest, most protracted death scene goes to… 80s thriller that fails in so many ways: an obvious set up, terrible lines of script, bad acting, disposable and ditzy female roles, and totally irrational character behaviour – including a policeman who is told of a murder happening metres away and chooses to arrest the witness. Unfathomable stupidity on every level. How are films like this given the greenlight?
The Sitter – Puerile, largely unfunny Jonah Hill comedy. One or two lines stand out as immediately quotable, but overall this is laboured, messy and childish.
Road House – Gripping and slick 80s Swayze action thriller. Brilliant fun even by todays standards and immediately quoteable to boot!
A Million Ways To Die In The West – Moderately entertaining western comedy that relies too heavily on puerile gross-outs and not enough on strong wit, but the funny lines, when they come, are more or less worth suffering through the rest of it. Maybe.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – Fast paced and immensely enjoyable spy thriller that falls prey to the usual Hollywoodisms. It won’t stand up to scrutiny, but don’t let realism stand in the way of having a blast! Surprisingly happy to recommend this one.

May 2014

Death in Paradise (TV) – moderately amusing British murder mystery comedy. Silly, very lighthearted, and consequently entirely forgivably hammy!
Gravity – Just astonishingly beautiful. My grievances with the plot didn’t lessen on a second viewing, but the narrative is essentially by the by when you are presented with a feature length set piece that is perhaps the cleanest, best produced and most intensely wondrous vision of space ever to grace the screen.
Snowpiercer – A wacky, highly original and exhilirating film, with bizarre but brilliant performances, in particular from Tilda Swinton. Terrific.
Life of Pi – Although the special effects in some scenes are astoundingly good looking, as a whole, the film is too slow moving and frustratingly PG, and acheives none of the profundity of the book.
Godzilla – Painstakingly po-faced and self-assured remake. Gareth Edwards doing the monster thing in his usual peekaboo style. Not terrible, just massively overhyped and underwhelming.
Street Kings – Decidedly average bent cop conspiracy thriller. Likens itself to Training Day (and is directed by the writer, David Ayer), but operates in a different league entirely. The performances are solid, especially from Whittaker and Reeves, though this remains ultimately dull.
Banshee S02 – Not quite up to the first season, and many of the show tropes are becoming a little worn, particularly the seemingly obligatory drawn out sex scenes and flashbacks every episode, but it’s still fast paced and exciting enough.
After Earth – Far from as terrible as early reviews suggested (it is evidently very popular as a critic to give M Night Shymalan a hard time); this is not a good film – just too serious, and frankly, too unexciting – but it’s an engrossing enough sci-fi and I can think of worse ways to spend a few hours.
Breathe In – Firmly and shamelessly ploughs the inevitable furrow for a family drama of its ilk, but does so with sensitivity and powerful, if understated performances. Who would have thought Felicity Jones is 30 years old…
Runner Runner – Watchable if unexciting gambling thriller. Bad acting and dodgy pacing hampers, what at times, is a sharp script. Gets worse with hindsight.
Don Jon – surprisingly endearing and amusing film about porn addiction with strong performances from all.
Nightwatch – solid and atmospheric thriller with a stellar cast; happily unexpected.
National Security – a classic buddy cop action comedy, moderately entertaining and amusing with all the usual hammy tropes. Ridiculous but light hearted fun.
The French Connection II – not a patch on the original, though I found it a solid sequel nonetheless. The heroine sequence is particularly unpleasant.
Cypher – Surprising and engrossing sci-fi noir thriller, if hampered by a slightly b-movie feel (perhaps due to dated sfx).

April 2014

Jonathan Creek S05 – Typically wry and amusing humour from Alan Davies and team. The mysteries themselves are very tenuous at best (bring back the murders!), but the script is as enjoyable as ever.
Line of Duty S01 – A brilliant, understated cop drama series from the BBC. Not as good as the Shadow Line, but operating in similarly slick territory. Unfortunately, the end is unsatisfying. Typical beeb.
Philomena – Top quality drama with Steve Coogan, to my recollection, in his finest dramatic role. Dame Judi Dench is just marvellous as always. Not a genre I’m fond of, but a very solid movie.
The Bag Man – Bizarre, badly made noire, that clearly spent its entire budget on the two leads. The final 30 minutes really drag and some of the sound work is appalling.
Line of Duty S02 – Another fast paced, edgy cop thriller from the BBC that excites right up until the final episode, where true to form, the BBC massively disappoint, yet again.
Tangled – Amusing, feel good animated comedy which would be vastly improved without the nauseating musical numbers. Entertaining slapstick though.
The Double – Innovative and striking film-making with an excellent cast of British comedy heroes, this comedy noire is too black, too unfunny, and too grating.
Calvary – excellent, profoundly affecting drama. At once comic and crushingly sad, it raises all the right issues and asks all the unanswerable questions. Terrific.
The Lost Boys – Bizarrely engrossing although undeniably bad. Perhaps it has just dated, but my God, how it has dated! 80s vampire cult noire, laden with screams and cross dissolves.
47 Ronin – Not great, but I enjoyed it. It’s too long, the CGI is horribly subpar, and both the script and editing are weak. Beyond that though, it ticks most of the boxes for entertainment value, just don’t expect too much.
Rectify S01 – Refreshingly original premise for a TV drama, but the pacing is off, and as a result, the story progression feels unnecessarily laboured. I will watch Season 2, though I keenly hope that story developments are a little more rapid and enticing. Strong performances all round though, and the novel programming should be commended.
Banshee S01 – Give it a chance. Yes it’s stylised, yes it’s testosterone fuelled and macho, but the story really gels together tightly as the episodes progress, and the characters endear themselves quickly. The writing is smart and witty, even laugh out loud at times, and whilst the female characters are indubitably sexualised, they are also strong willed, intelligent and resilient. It’s an excellent hybrid of procedural and serial, with an overarching narrative that progresses swiftly enough whilst always including a novel element each episode. Highly recommended, and with room still to grow. Antony Starr is a revelation.
Silicon Valley S01E01 – Unimpressive. Whilst the story picked up by the end of the episode and there was the vague compulsion to continue, the jokes were predominantly lame and it didn’t seem to bring anything new to the “nerd” genre.
Amazing Spider Man 2 – CGI heavy superhero sequel that doesn’t come close to its predecessor. Spidey is still full of entertaining quips but the plot is garbled and as usual, too many (two dimensional) villains spoil the broth. Garfield and Stone carry it.
Event Horizon – Films like this demonstrate how far CGI has come. It’s watchable for sci-fi fans, but not recommended.
Wonderland – Albeit nothing revelatory, this is a solid drug based crime thriller told in flashbacks.
Rising Sun – Convoluted but nonetheless intriguing detective drama. A bit too long.
Noah – Devoid of any redeeming features. A badly misjudged, badly executed drama epic and without a doubt Aronofsky’s worst movie to date – even surpassing The Fountain. Angeringly terrible.
The Vanishing – An insidious and sinister thriller with convincing performances by the whole cast. Albeit based on the novel by Tim Krabbe, this is very Stephen King in style; innocent characters come face to face with villainy and the seemingly ordinary people who perpetrate it. Better than average if still unremarkable.
The Edge – A good enough wilderness survival drama with adequate performances, though it’s not the most compelling premise (with most of the dramatic tension arising from the persistent threat of a bear attack) and consequently feels more sluggish that it needs to. Perhaps more interesting would have been further development in the conclusion of the story: what happens next?
Orphan Black S01 – Infuriating and cliched dialogue and glossy set design undermine multiple strong performances from Tatiana Maslany. It’s a pity the whole show is so shallow, as the clone storyline isn’t novel by a long shot either so it really has very little going for it. This is bad TV, of the type that will get multiple series and entertain families across the globe because it’s “light hearted, fun” and requires dick all thought. Depressing.
The Firm – A little formulaic, but a solid conspiracy thriller, if much, much too long.
The Company You Keep – The usual ‘journalist uncovers conspiracy’ style thriller, but Redford’s gentle direction and acting endears itself. Leans a tad heavily on the drama for the runtime.
A Man Escaped – An old french prison escape drama. Black and white and clearly extremely dated, but nonetheless gripping.
The General’s Daughter – entertaining if ropey late 90s military thriller with an enjoyable performance from Travolta who tends to be overlooked these days.
Papillon – a terrific epic of prison life in French Guyana, exploring friendship, hope and survival. Strong performances and a great script bless us with a very emotive and thought provoking film.
Locke – innovative and aesthetic cinematography disguise an otherwise drab drama, despite Tom Hardy’s best attempts.

March 2014

Primal Fear – Equally satisfying on a third viewing. What a terrific performance from Ed Norton and a gripping screenplay throughout. Excellent stuff.
Dogma – Damon and Affleck are entertaining as the two angels, and one sequence particularly stands out (the first meet with Serendipity), but on the whole, this is puerile and ridiculous, a film that would be laughed off screen if it weren’t for the prestige of the cast associated with it.
30 Minutes or Less – Puerile, irritating and crass comedy, with thankfully enough genuinely funny jokes to make one viewing bearable. Definitely not recommended though.
Starred Up – Terrific, powerful performances from the entire cast, in particular Ben Mendohlsen who is just fantastic. Standard, tense, exciting prison drama fare.
The Act of Killing – Exceedingly impactful, unique and compelling documentary about the genocide in Indonesia, in which killers reenact their war crimes. Horrifying and unsettling, but somehow very human (perhaps for this precise reason).
Double Jeopardy – the premise and set up for this crime thriller are so bad, and so badly executed, that the suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy it becomes an immediate issue. The chase is adequate, though the cliches and contrivances stack high. Not worth the time.
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson’s particular blend of whimsy creates another entertaining and amusingly absurd tale. One of his strongest to date and filled with Andersonisms.
Secret Window – Somehow both menacing and fun, the first two thirds of this mystery thriller are wonderfully compelling. Unfortunately, as so often happens, the final act is a huge disappointment, with a hokey ‘twist’ and poor resolution. Depp is strong throughout.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – An exercise in audience tolerance. This is absolutely unbearable. Unwatchable. What were they thinking? A sequel that should never have existed. Firmly taking the comedy out of ‘comedy’. Even the plethora of cameos fell flat.
Thor: The Dark World – Bad, CGI heavy sequel to the original superhero epic, full of tropes, predictable twists and horribly clumsy script. Thankfully, between them, Hiddleston and Hemsworth have just about enough charisma that it is bearable, if not recommended.
Polisse – Albeit primarily a drama, this treads the very fine line between comedy and tragedy with aplomb. In turns heartbreaking, unsettling, jawdropping and hilarious with an ending that feels like a punch in the stomach.
Brave – Grating scottish accents aside, this is still surprisingly boring and lacklustre for an animated children’s tale. Not at all what we’ve come to expect.
House of Cards S02 – Faster than the first, and better for it. Mistakenly overlooks the conspiracy angle in favour of reshifting the political landscape, but hopefully the third series will pick up where it left off. Very happy to see Jimmi Simpson and Boris McGiver in play.
Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day – An unimpressive follow up to the first, for the most part trying too hard to be stylish and winding up camp. The odd sequence makes it worth watching, but only just.
Elite Squad (Tropa de Elite) – Visceral, violent powerhouse thriller with a great plot and strong performances.
Compliance – Obscene and angering. If you know the story, you don’t need to watch the film. It follows the circumstances of the real life hoax almost exactly and makes you feel morbid and complicit. Unfathomable that anyone could behave so stupidly as all of those involved evidently did.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within – Every bit as brilliantly gripping as it’s forebear, even more so. One of the finest thrillers I can remember.
The Guardian – For all its cheese and swagger, this is an enjoyable and engrossing drama about the US Coast Guard. Costner and Kutcher work well together.
Family Weekend – Dreadful on every level. Matthew Modine alone is just about watchable. The film, however, is not.
Out of the Furnace – Not a bad film, just not particularly notable either. The script relies on too many tropes and permits too many contrivances, whilst the delivery lacks panache. Bale gives it his all as always.
All Is Lost – Difficult to criticise but hard to like. Surpringly engrossing, if not gripping. Silent and bleak with some wonderful imagery in amongst the bad green screen. The abrupt ending and lack of conclusion is vexing.
Under the Skin – A remarkable, albeit slightly too abstract, visual spectacle with a terrific score by Mica Levi (Micachu). Profound, unsettling, and creepy in the best possible way, it unfortunately falls short of perfection with some pacing issues around the third act.
Memories of Murder – Solid Korean murder mystery tackling various difficult themes. Not the thriller that the hype suggests, but very good nonetheless.
The Long Goodbye – Comparisons to Chinatown aren’t too far off. This crime drama is similarly disappointing. It’s not bad, but given the level of acclaim it has achieved, this viewer certainly expected more. Some fantastic lines of dialogue somewhat make up for the slow and convoluted narrative. Gould is great.
True Detective – Some of the greatest moments of TV, and some that are utterly pretentious. Hits and misses, but mostly hits. The lead performances are astounding and the cinematography is bang on the money. This is well worth watching, I look forward to season two.

February 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis – Beautifully shot and an excellent, enjoyable soundtrack, but the film is nonetheless exceedingly dull.
Homefront – Statham doing his thing, this time dispatching meth cookers.
Her – An uneventful, peculiar and totally implausible pseudo-philosophical speculation on love and humanity. Engrossing in it’s novelty, but bland.
The Last Stand – This film has no redeemable qualities, or indeed qualities at all. Not just one of the worst action films I have ever seen, but one of the worst films full stop. A horrible combination of long and terrible.
The Counsellor – Sadly, whilst there’s a good movie hidden in there somewhere (at least, all the ingredients are there), it is disguised by horribly self-indulgent philosophising, gratuitous prurience, wooden dialogue, and a plot that is more convoluted than a knotted ball of string. Very disappointing.
Before Sunrise – A sweet, romantic, if overly contrived drama fuelled by lengthy dialogue and the charm and optimism of young lovers.
Appaloosa – A little slow at times, otherwise a solid character driven Western with some excellent dialogue and tasteful cinematography.
Casino – Engrossing despite its length, and for the most part brilliantly scripted. The final act disappoints as characters make irrational decisions and contrivances begin popping up, but overall this is hugely enjoyable.
The Great Gatsby – Very strong performances negate some of Luhrman’s garish and plain bad directorial decisions (modern club music??! What?!), but the film somehow survives more or less intact (perhaps due to the “enduring” novel and DiCaprio). Better than expected.
The Truth About Emanuel – Original, albeit very peculiar, almost surreal drama about a girl understanding motherhood and love. Tries too hard and is no doubt horribly contrived, but nonetheless possesses a certain intangible quality.
The Great Buck Howard – Lacklustre but ultimately feel good drama. Malkovich carries it.
Murder in the First – Graphic and gritty tale of Henry Young, held in solitary confinement in alcatraz for over three years. Marred by formulaic pacing and courtroom tropes.
The Lego Movie – A bizarre, faintly surreal and slapstick animated farce that has a few sidesplitters, in-jokes galore and plenty of pop-culture references. It isn’t as consistently funny as it tries to be, though succeeds in entertaining for the most part.

January 2014

Liberal Arts – A compelling and amusing film that ties itself in knots tackling potentially difficult issues and frustratingly draws all the wrong conclusions under the guise of wisdom. A great supporting turn from Zac Efron.
La Grande Bellazza – Even for all its fans and plaudits, this is indubitably pretentious and full of itself. Interesting, occasionally insightful and no doubt beautifully shot, but frankly, I found it whiffed of Californication for Italiophiliac pensioners.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – My second viewing. Equally enjoyable if not more so than the first. Such a terrific accomplishment.
Homeland (S03) – A shocking season of TV, and sadly, brutally uncompromising. I won’t be watching S04; for me this is a conlusion to Homeland, a series which was always Brody’s story. Lewis and Danes are both terrific, though the plot plays fast and loose with chronology.
Red Lights – A three phase film: first exciting and intriguing, then a bit farfetched but entertaining, and finally agonisingly farcical and stupid. Dodgy editing as if they shot an epic and cut it down by a few hours, ruthlessly scattering key story elements along the way.
Boy Wonder – Very novel take on vigilantism. Excellent acting, strong characters and a solid script really transform what could have been bargain basement fodder in to an engrossing, clever and moving thriller.
Tie Dur – Very disappointing, pseudo sci-fi time travel flick. Intriguing for the first thirty minutes and then rapidly descends in to chaos. Nowhere near as clever or as philosophical as it tries to be.
American Hustle – O’Russell is clearly in love with his cast, the camera barely exits close-up. Not as sleek or clever as I was expecting, though enjoyable for the most part.
12 Years A Slave – Bleak, unflinching and harrowing drama charting the life of a black slave stolen from his family. The remarkably stellar cast turn amazing performances, but ultimately this is unlikely to inform any further than any decent school education already should have, and it’s just about as enjoyable as a history lesson too. No doubt an oscar contender, but look elsewhere for cinematic escapism.
The Sopranos (S01) – Hailed as classic TV, and perhaps the best that has aired. In the face of modern masterpieces (a la Breaking Bad/ Boardwalk Empire), I can’t agree with such gushing acclaim, but it’s certainly a good series, albeit a little too formulaic in structure.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Hugely original, amusing and poignant in all the right places, perhaps Stiller’s finest yet.
Riddick – A two star sci fi action if ever there was one but it’ll keep fans of Riddick immersed, just about.
Lone Survivor – Essentially one long gun battle, this is nonetheless a compelling and well directed war movie. Jingoism aside, this is better than average.
Last Vegas – one of the most contrived and cheesy films I’ve ever seen, but still enjoyable for the most part. Definitely not a must watch but you could do worse.
Dallas Buyers Club – Incredible tour de force from director Jean-Marc Vallée and absolute powerhouse performances from both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Superb drama offering real emotional complexity whilst educating those who may be ignorant of such a tragic time.
A Hijacking – Depressingly anticlimactic and overall not as thrilling as was marketed. A long film with flat pacing. Disappointingly, the strong acting doesn’t make it much more palatable.
Original Sin – Terrible, insipid, badly acted and badly directed mess. One of those films that will make you angry for wasting your time.
The Wolf of Wall Street – An absolute masterpiece. Incredible all round. One of the finest films I have ever seen. A chaotic, debauched celebration of hedonism and greed and a cutting statement about capitalism.
Rush – Very compelling and engrossing, even for an F1 sports drama, but with such an unlikeable, despicable lead and dull (whilst admirable) support, it leaves you with no-one to really root for. Definitely above average and worth watching though.
Pain and Gain – Hilariously stupid, in the vein of so bad that it’s occasionally genius. For the most part this shallow comedy fails entirely, but there are one or two sidesplitting turns along the way that are perhaps worth the wait.
Behind the Candelabra – Interesting biopic drama detailing Liberace’s personal life, specifically his gay relationship with Scott Thorson.

December 2013

The Woman In Black – Much weaker on a second viewing, though the setting remains wonderfully unsettling
The Conjuring – A second viewing took away some of the scares but this remains James Wan’s masterpiece, even after Saw cut such a high bar.
True Confessions – DeNiro and Duvall offer up equally strong performances as brothers at odds in this thoughtful, familial crime drama. Not electric, but impressive nonetheless.
A Bronx Tale – Incredible all round, fiery performances and an extremely heartfelt story. Unmissable.
Bobby Fischer Against The World – Interesting and detailed documentary about the chess legend
The Hobbit: An Unfinished Journey – Enjoyed this much more with a relaxed second viewing. No Lord of the Rings, but spectacular and entirely engrossing nonetheless. What a wonderful Middle Earth Peter Jackson has realised.
Bloody Sunday – Harrowing, unflinching, almost nausea-inducing biopic of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. Amazing film.
This Film Is Not Yet Rated – Illuminating albeit not especially compelling documentary delving in to the secretive heart of the MPAA and their proscriptive rating system.
Disconnect – A tightly confected drama weaving three tragedies together and exploring the fragility of relationships in the online age. Good if a little on the nose.
The Frozen Ground – Moderately wearisome attempt at a thriller. Cage and Cusack carry it. The script is too revealing to be satisfying, devoid of the intrigue and suspense that’s vital for an effective thriller and without a twist or a solid finishing blow it’s simply too forgettable. The most emotive scenes of the whole film are the factual closing titles.
Local Hero – I didn’t give this as much attention as it perhaps deserved, but it struck me as a light-hearted, feel good comedy drama with an appreciation for natural beauty and community friendships. The characters are kind of loveable in their absurdity, and it’s an effective tourist ad for Scotland but I’m not entirely sure why it was quite so well received by audiences.
Threads – Harrowing, stark, mindblowing eye opener exploring the consequences of a nuclear war using Sheffield as a case study.
Mammoth – Sincere and touching dramatical portrait of long distance family relationships. Existential, without clear didacticism. Lack of uplifting resolution might alienate some viewers.
Parkland – Tedious, with solemnity that 50 years on feels misplaced and overly reverent. Brings nothing new to the table. Not worth the time.
Robot and Frank – Albeit slow and plodding, this is an enjoyable, amusing tale of friendship between man and robot. It’s skin deep but better for it.
Le Cercle Rouge – Long, stylish heist thriller. Very dated and sedate by modern standards, but intriguing and nonetheless riveting. The plot isn’t immediately clear and leaves a lot to speculation.
Barbarians at the Gate – Great performances from the stellar cast, illustrating the RJR Nabisco takeover in the US. Unfortunately, as a next-gen layman, I found it esoteric and couldn’t find much to keep my interest.
A Fish Called Wanda – A total farce, literally. Funny and plain ludicrous in equal measure, this is a frivolous ‘heist-gone-wrong’ romp.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Tremendous sequel. Fast paced, utterly engrossing, funny and artistically crafted. Jackson scarcely puts a foot wrong in his latest adventure in Middle Earth. Wonderful.
The Seventh Seal – Thought provoking, poetic and chillingly existential but for all of that it struggles to be anything more than dour, brooding and slow paced.
Rififi – Infuriatingly typical. Interesting enough (just about) right up until the third act where everything falls apart and Hollywood’s sense of morality kicks in, resulting in totally irrational behaviour and face palm coincidence. Given the era, perhaps it can be forgiven, but for people to still herald this as a standalone masterpiece, I think is very dubious.
Oz the Great and Powerful – Psychadelic tripe. This is what camp looks like on a mega-budget.
The Croods – Cheerful, amusing and innovative animation that will definitely appeal to adults too. Some terrific lines you’ll be quoting for some time afterwards.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Surprisingly vastly superior to the first. Ignore the Hollywood gloss and absurd lighting and this is a gripping, unexpected treat.
Takers – Bizarre. A compelling heist movie up until about the two thirds mark, where it’s as if an entirely different director took over, and starting juggling storylines left right and centre, oblivious to all of the plot strands he was dropping. Immensely frustrating and so disappointing as this could have been, if not great, then very solid and entertaining.
The Lazarus Project – The late Paul Walker in something a little different. Intriguing, if not exacly fast paced. It feels like it’s trying a bit hard, but nonetheless kept me mystified even through the last few minutes. A pity the same story wasn’t executed with a little more finesse all round.

November 2013

Boardwalk Empire S04 (TV) – Whilst maintaining a standard well above average, this series is the first to really drop the ball. The key storylines are dull comparative to previous seasons and the most compelling and intriguing characters are all overlooked: Arnold Rothstein, Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, even Eli. It’s as if the writers tried to tackle too many storylines and only succeeded in finishing one or two – the boring ones. Hopefully S05 will pick up the pace.
Safe (2012) – Exactly what you expect from a Statham action thriller. Heavy on the action, light on the thrills, a ton of one liners and several hospitals worth of broken limbs. If you’re a fan of the Stath, there’s no reason this should disappoint.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Both hilarious and thrilling, absurd and absurdly underrated. Mel Gibson excels unlike I’ve seen him in over a decade. The script is high concept with its tongue firmly in cheek and the editing is surprisingly sharp. The only question, why was this condemned straight to DVD?
Middle Men – Not a bad film by any means, and competently crafted, but the cocktail of opulence and licentiousness fails to evoke any kind of emotional investment, ultimately resulting in a sexy but vapid and dull experience.
Elementary S02 (TV) – more or less as titled. Highly entertaining for the most part but too often formulaic and reliant on the usual procedural pseudo-science of cable TV. Johnny Lee Miller is a gem though, wonderfully eccentric.
Below – Fast paced, entirely gripping and wonderfully sinister. This has flown low under the radar but deserves much more attention. It’s not without flaws, just well above average.
2 Guns – A business exercise, nothing more. Marky Mark and Denzel are watchable as ever, but there is nothing special to remark upon here. Formulaic, uninspired, drab. The usual male Hollywood box of tricks with a token beauty for eyecandy and the obligatory titty shot.
Red 2 – Not half as enjoyable as the first, putting far too much emphasis on the ditzy Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker) and her boring relationship with Bruce Willis. It is still entertaining, but the novelty and sense of inappropriate fun has gone.
Searching for Bobby Fischer – an excellent, touching and well acted drama charting the development of a chess prodigy from anonymity to acclaim.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – as beautiful and poignant the second time as the first, if not more so. Staggeringly powerful cinema.
Computer Chess – indubitably unique, though perplexing and (perhaps inevitably) slumbrous. Sparks didn’t fly for me, despite an unmistakable undercurrent of dry, idiosyncratic humour.
Uncovered – A film that makes every effort to prove that chess goes hand in hand with crime and intrigue, where the chess pieces are the clues to murder and are taken entirely literally, knight for knight, castle for castle. Unbelievably bad – one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Terrible acting and the script is almost entirely exposition, not to mention there is an utterly bizarre sexual obsession throughout, way beyond the ordinary 90s smut.
Knight Moves – Another serial killer thriller centred around a chess genius, this performs better than Uncovered but still feels like a tired cliche. Once the initial chess scene is set, there’s little to distinguish it from the hundreds of other noir thrillers aspiring to be more than bargain basement fluff.
Fresh – a drugs runner and prodigy chess player applies chess tactics to find an edge in the real world. An enthralling movie and the inclusion of chess is certainly more than perfunctory.
The Luzhin Defence – Drab and uninventive adaptation of Nabakov’s The Defence.
Chess Fever – Probably the earliest made film I’ve seen. Silent, black and white, amusing enough to raise a smirk, but never enough to giggle. Interesting for chess fans and film students, probably not for anyone else.
The Book of Daniel (TV) – Another promising series cut off before it had time to fully flourish. Hugely enjoyable, warm, light hearted and often laugh out loud funny.
The Way Way Back – Touching adolescent drama featuring the usual charismatic display from Sam Rockwell. Would have worked better as a series than a standalone film, and despite the water park setting, the themes feel pretty worn. Still a worthwhile film though.
The Postman – An epic, uplifting story. It’s a travesty it has been so underrated and received such little exposure. Too cheesy but otherwise a compelling and heartfelt film.
The State Within (TV) – After a slow start, this conspiracy thriller soon picks up pace and fires on all cyclinders, keeping you utterly gripped. Brilliant BBC Drama.
Escape Plan – Flawed on a lot of levels (not least with some dodgy CGI), but nonetheless slick and thrilling. The script is almost surreal in it’s absurdity, but action fans will love it. Hugely enjoyable.
Captain Phillips – Tremendous. An absolutely absorbing and edge of the seat thriller. It’s rare that they make them like this these days. Greengrass and Hanks have excelled themselves.
Kick Ass 2 – the first one was original and quirky, this is just kind of stupid. The whole farcical superhero thing already feels old and Hit Girl’s role is so feeble for the most part that there’s barely any slick action, just teen angst from whiny adolescents and contradicting moral messages.
Prisoners – dreary, macabre, long, tiresome and utterly nonsensical. Quite frustrating in fact! Good acting is the only plus.
GI Joe: Retaliation – Mindless entertainment. Everything you’d expect from a blockbuster with this cast. Government conspiracy and explosions. Good fun!
Paranorman – Too mature for children, not mature enough for adults. Sadly, despite a novel concept and imaginative ideas, this misses the mark almost entirely.
The Selfish Giant – A beautifully crafted drama, editing and shot composition bang on the money. Unfortunately, the story itself feels contrived and lacking, a deliberate tear jerker that fails to impact.
Blue Jasmine – For all the hype, besides a cast of great performers, this was fairly dull Woody Allen. Very contrived, too bleak to be funny, too funny to be hard hitting. Didn’t work for me.
Man of Steel – Absolutely insipid. Boring, nonsensical and aggravatingly cavalier with the superhero icon. Such a disappointment.
Escape from Alcatraz – Still gripping and exciting decades on.
Tombstone – Excellent western with a career peaking performance from Val Kilmer. The sheer stupidity of the Wild West is often an irritation, but it’s a hugely watchable film.
The Ghost and the Darkness – Good performances but by the end, I had had it with those motherfuckin Lions on those motherfuckin plains…
Justice/ Seeking Justice – Very average. Just about entertaining but deserves the bargain basket.
The Shooting Party – Insightful period drama surrounding a bourgeois country estate set against the backdrop of impending war. All star cast deliver fine performances. More allegorical and subtly illuminating than eventful.
Hannibal (2013) (TV) – I really tried to like this. Mads Mikkelsen is a terrific actor, but this show is just agonisingly bad. The script is weak at best, shoddy at worst. All of the actors are coasting. Gillian Anderson hasn’t played a different role since… ever, and every episode seems to be an attempt to shock. The colour grades and sfx are stylised to distraction whilst the plot itself fails to flesh out any kind of compelling, plausible thrills or drama, and is consequentially surprisingly boring. The fact that practically everything Will says suggests that Hannibal is the killer, and everything Hannibal says has a murderous subtext, leaves you wondering how an entire team of “FBI behavioural experts and profilers” can be so unfathomably oblivious . This is like starting Dexter in season five; bad and poised to plummet further.
The Escape Artist (TV) – Better than average BBC fare, and Tennant is fantastic. The plot is inadequately constructed and the resolution and conclusion feel unsatisfying. Why does the BBC repeatedly fail where American networks don’t?
Gravity – A cinematic spectacle unlike any other, the skill and artistry of direction and sound design inspires wonder. Unfortunately, the lacklustre script is very generic Hollywood fare and doesn’t offer a plot or dialogue to do the rest justice, dragging the film just shy of perfection. Unmissable though.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – Excellent, criminally unsung buddy heist drama. Perhaps Jeff Bridges best role, and the most laid back I’ve seen Clint too. Cinematography, dialogue and soundtrack are spot on.
Elysium – Disappointing second outing from Neil Blomkampp. Neither the plot nor the dystopian futuristic settings withstand much scrutiny, as is painfully obvious on a single viewing.

October 2013

Carnage – Well orchestrated but better suited to theatre than film. Very much in the vein of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, attempts at humour are subdued by the overall hostility. The underlying premise and behaviour of the individuals isn’t especially plausible and therefore sits uncomfortably contrived.
About Time – Typically Richard Curtis: saccherine, idealistic, optimistic, and frustratingly upper middle class, but nonetheless an entertaining and often immensely funny rom com.
Dexter (TV) (Series 7) – Insipid, interminable. The worst season by a substantial margin, saying something given that the show has been plummeting in quality since season four, a great pity after such an excellent and promising opening back in season one.
Magnolia – An absolutely transformative piece; perfectly crafted, magnificently acted and potentially life changing. Paul Thomas Anderson is marked with unique, masterful skill – the Dostoevsky of film.
Requiem for a Dream – horrifying, savagely raw and unflinching exploration of the impacts of addiction. Albeit pessimistic and depressing, this is a masterfully spun web of stories; a powerful dose of some ugly bad shit. If you weren’t afraid of drugs, you will be now.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – tedious drug anecdotes, slurred words and trippy visuals. Just really boring. No idea how it’s such a cult hit. Maybe you have to be baked to watch it.
Rushmore – Classic Wes Anderson. Schwartzman in his eccentric, intellectual loony type role with the usual suspects filling out the cast. Not as funny as the Darjeeling or the Royal Tenenbaums (or even Bottle Rocket), but there is nothing not to like in this whimsical, easy going film.
False Trail (Jagarna 2) – Initially a suspenseful, well shot and thoroughly arresting nordic thriller, but an abrupt loss of intrigue following the second act results in a disappointing finale, complete with frustrating contrivances and cliches. Worth a watch for The Killing fans, but unfortunately not what it could have been. (Also laden with heavy, almost clumsy parallels to the first Jagarna film, such that it feels a knock off).
The Hunters (Jagarna 1) – As with it’s sequel, a promising start and an accidental killing descends in to reckless, wanton and uncharacteristically pernicious acts by the killers, leaving an extremely frustrating and deeply implausible second and third act. Infuriating to watch despite the quality of production and cinematography.
We Are The Millers – Not quite the relentless stream of jokes I was hoping for, but one or two hilarious moments make it worth the journey. Just don’t expect comedy gold.
The Internship – Indubitably one epic advert for Google, but once it picks up the pace it’s as loveable as we’ve come to expect from Vaughn and Wilson (and their incessant cheery banter). That duo have the charisma of Gandalf and they turn tricks well too. Watch it with the knowledge it’s a farce and you can’t help but be entertained!
I Give It A Year – An anti-rom-com in terms of genre and an anti-comedy in terms of…comedy.
Filth – Like watching a brain scan of a schizophrenic interpreted as film. Gratuitous and visually jarring. Nowhere near as sexy and darkly comic as advertised. McAvoy is undoubtedly phenomenal though, he gives a powerhouse performance.
Cache (Hidden) – precisely and very deliberately crafted psychological drama. Will keep you guessing beyond the ending. Unflinching, unafraid and very thought provoking. My first Haneke and I’m deeply impressed.
Arbitrage – hugely watchable albeit not especially thrilling thriller. Nothing special here, but it’s a solid enough flick for a Sunday afternoon and you could certainly do a lot worse.
Ondskan (Evil) – Amazing and gripping story of one boys rebellion against the draconian disciplinary measures of his school and the pernicious, evil men who perpetuate and execute them.
King of Devil’s Island – Captivating, powerful and well composed prison drama.
All Good Things – There might be a good film to be had from this story but this isn’t it. Dull, devoid of sufficient intrigue as a result of badly judged pacing. At best it just about kindled my interest in the real life mystery surrounding Robert Durst (depicted in the film as David Marks).
Instinct – Nothing new here. Predictable and frustratingly simplistic. It’s not a bad film, but fills a lot of cliches and is pretty much carried by Hopkins.
Holy Motors – Surrealist cinema isn’t for me I suppose. This couldn’t end soon enough. Bizarre.
Another Year – As bleak as you’d expect from Mike Leigh. I’m the wrong target audience I imagine, but I found it dreary, slow and uncompelling. Maybe this is pensioners only?
Real Steel – Jackman’s charisma pulls it through the face palming cheese. The story arc is badly paced so it ends abruptly, but it’s steely enough feel-good blockbuster entertainment.
Firefly (TV) – An original sci fi, amusingly scripted and directed with warm characters. A little too procedural for my tastes, but definitely a good watch.
The Verdict – Riveting crime drama. Terrific performance from Newman.
The Assignment – Hugely underrated spy thriller featuring a spectacular performance from the largely overlooked Aidan Quinn. Tense, exhiliarating and extremely well executed, especially given it’s relative age. Maybe one of the best thrillers you’ve never heard of.
Veronica Guerin – Compelling and harrowing tale of the journalist exposing the drug underworld in Ireland. Blanchett gives an excellent performance reminding us why she’s one of the best in the biz.
Adaptation – This kind of surrealist, existential drama isn’t really my bag. Cage gives a dynamic show but overall I found it pretentious at best and soporific at worst.

September 2013

The Killer – Brilliant. Fairly ludicrous, but played out with such conviction and sincerity that it works. An exciting, novel, action thriller.
Monsters University – As cheesy and didactic as we’ve come to expect from Pixar. Not as good as the original, but still fun.
Top of the Lake (TV) – Despite the hype, even with top (if not novel) performances, this falls short of an entertaining series. Mildly curious at best, mind numblingly boring at worst, the acting and cinematography cannot save a fundamentally uninteresting drama.
The Fear (TV) – Another excellent role from Peter Mullan. Implausible and inadequate in comparison to US equivalents, but nonetheless better than average British viewing with an original premise at its core.
The Iceman – A solid period biopic detailing the life of a contract killer. For all its executions and mob bosses, it remains a morbid family drama at heart.
The Boston Strangler – Illuminating biopic about Albert Desalvo, the self-confessed Boston Strangler. Very dated with clumsy direction techniques, but nonetheless worth watching for anyone interested in the psyche of serial killers.
The Birdcage – Gloriously (or painfully) camp. Often intensely irritating, mostly hilarious. Brilliantly comedic turns from Williams, Lane and Hackman leave us with a side-splitting, nail-biting, feel-good climax to remember! The final act definitely compensates for an iffy first.
Europa Report – Original, slow-burning but thrilling sci fi featuring great performances all round. Highly recommended.
Kinsey – Educational but honestly a little boring – a surprise given its subject matter.
Dirty Harry – Iconic movie with classic lines, a top notch soundtrack and some truly innovative camera work for the era. A powerhouse psychotic performance from Andy Robinson as the killer, and the usual hardnosed Clint with his magnum and trademark sneer. It has significantly dated and it’s a pity that the plot doesn’t quite add up, but it’s definitely one to watch.
This Is The End – A terrible, terrible piece of vanity cinema. Puerile and deplorably crass, but worst of all, unforgiveably unfunny, with no hint of genuine wit or comedy. This is why actors should take direction, not choose the direction. 100% lacking in every respect. Simply shit.
Mud – an almost disturbingly mature performance from Ty Sheridan propels this tremendous, dynamic and thought provoking drama. McConaughy delivers perhaps his finest role. A very human, almost existential tale of growing up, love and friendship.
The Kings of Summer – A peculiar, downbeat dramedy following the eccentric lives of three teenage boys who choose to live in the woods. Naturally their nirvana falls apart with the introduction of a girl. An intriguing, worthwhile watch, but nowhere near the laugh out loud experience anticipated off the back of that killer trailer. Make sure you’re amped up on caffeine before you embark on this journey…
Avengers Assemble – The usual mish mash of sardonic wit and adrenaline fuelled action. Takes a little while to get going but the second half is especially enjoyable. Better than other recent efforts in this genre (Thor, Captain America – I’m looking at you…)
Cargo – Original, French, space set sci-fi that explores an interesting subject but pulls its punches. Definitely worth watching for sci-fi fans though.
Hanna – Original but peculiar viewing. Sandwiched between a thrilling beginning and a (cheesy) straight forward ending, is Hanna’s random (and forced) relationship with an eccentric British family that are like caricatures from a bad ITV sitcom. This is undeniably stylish, but just too ridiculous and plot hole ridden to stand up as an excellent thriller. Not to mention, Wright appears to be obsessed with tunnels and Chemical Brothers. Literally every action scene takes place in a tunnel. Quite bizarre.
World War Z – Thoroughly enjoyed this although it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Straight up, fast paced Zombie thriller.
Rear Window – Honestly very disappointing. The potential didactic subtext surrounding Miss Lonely Heart and any number of exciting twists are overlooked in favour of a simple, uninventive and frankly ‘too obvious’ ending. Given the hype surrounding this classic, I was expecting significantly more.
Now You See Me – I heard so much shit about this movie that I wasn’t expecting much at all. I was practically blown away. Really enjoyed it, a total thrill ride. It was like Ocean’s 11 with Magicians. Really hope there’s a sequel. The critics need to step back and think – is this movie actually a) intelligent and b) enjoyable to the public as a whole. The IMDb rating says yes to the latter, and I’m inclined to believe the former too. More please.
Man on the Moon – inspirational biopic of showbiz legend Andy Kaufman, with Carrey as the main man. Brilliant and largely accurate with an open minded ending…

August 2013

The World’s End – a good end to the Cornetto trilogy. It’s no Shaun, but it’s a strong finale. Self referential and laden with pop culture references for the hawk eyed to spot.
Arrested Development S04 (TV) – an ambitious return to the classic TV comedy sees plenty more laughs and ludicrous story arcs. Perhaps not on a par with the first three seasons but definitely a must watch all the same.
The Returned S01 (TV) – original premise (albeit based on the 2004 film with the same name), mystery and intrigue keep you hooked even when the script and acting fall apart. Fingers crossed the writers know where they’re going with it. It has some dangerous similarities with Lost.
The Wolverine – the worst of all the X-men films. Boring, poorly scripted and a far cry from the core motifs and principles of the primary trilogy.
Only God Forgives – consider this an abstract audio visual exhibition and it might just work. Otherwise it is soulless, gratuitous, and extraordinarily boring. A tremendous waste of acting talent.
Alpha Papa – Highly entertaining but inconsistently funny and therefore a slight disappointment. Nonetheless, some definite laugh out loud moments and general Partridge bufoonery throughout.
The Kids Are Alright – Albeit a moderately novel premise, ultimately this is just another off-beat drama of the dysfunctional family variety. Not hugely compelling but easy viewing. Ruffalo carries it working some David Duchovny charm.
Byzantium – In an attempt to do something original with the whole vampire ‘thing’, Neil Jordan opts for ‘drama’ over thrills and spills but in doing so draws the viewer, inexorably, to boredom.
The Heat – Infantile and way off the mark, The Heat was about as funny as a school shooting. The alleged comedy relies on Melissa McCarthy’s coarse language and Sandra Bullock’s manly figure.
Evil Dead [2013] – If you revel in gore, savage brutality and all the usual slasher tropes, then this might well be up your street. It got the stamp of approval from Bruce Campbell, but his tongue in cheek is a far cry from this fairly average ‘cabin in the woods’ fare.
Titanic – Interminable. How much is a gun to shoot myself with?
The Parent Trap – Cheesy but ludicrously and embarrassingly feel-good. Lindsay Lohans only good film?
Pacific Rim – Massive robots fight massive alien monsters. Exactly how you imagine it. Stupid and heavy handed. Nuff said.
Hummingbird [Redemption] – Oximoronically, this is both a more interesting and varied role for Statham, and simultaneously a more boring film. A healthy dose of fisticuffs is included, but there’s a drama unfolding that is considerably more emotive than we have come to expect of the Stath-meister.
Duck Soup – Classic Marx Brothers. Slapstick and one liners. Short and sweet.
The Conjuring – Fantastic, eerie, suspenseful mystery thriller. The best example of cinematic horror since The Exorcist. A real triumph.

July 2013

Chaos – Ludicrous action and dire acting unite for a subpar Statham flick.
Murder In Greenwich – Forgettable whodunit. Decidedly average.
Tears of the Sun – Willis dons his camouflage garb in this surprisingly restrained and sympathetic military rescue film. A thrilling war movie.
Phil Spector – Excellent character piece by Al Pacino. Very compelling biopic.
Safe Haven – Fairly standard Nicholas Sparks fare. Lots of tears and sickeningly fauning, unlikely male characters.
Fast and Furious 6 – a step back from film five, but nonetheless filled with all the tropes you’d expect from a fast and furious movie. Good fun, absolutely vacuous.
Warm Bodies – quirky, off-beat zombie comedy. Definitely no Shaun of the Dead. If you’re really bored on a Sunday though…
Catfish – Probably quite illuminating at the time of its release, dull and predictable now.
Bandits – Moderately entertaining. Not as good as you might expect from the cast.

June 2013

Goya’s Ghosts – Although frustratingly contrived, this is a controversial (and therefore exciting) tale set during the end of the Spanish inquisition, recounting the lives of an artist and two of his subjects as one epoch ends and another begins. Direction and performances are tight, but one can’t help but feel the script deliberately errs on the side of provocative and suffers for it.
Before Night Falls (Antes que Anochezca) – told episodically, this biographical drama isn’t easy viewing. It is slow and long and feels longer still. That said, it is well made and well acted. If you like poetic cinema, Javier Bardem and the melody of spanish, then this might hold something for you.
The Prey (La Proie) – rattling along at a breakneck speed keeps this French thriller gripping, but it inevitably stumbles over horrible contrivances and cliches in order to keep momentum, not to mention more cheese than a Croque Monsieur. It’s a pity because it’s otherwise engrossing.
Elf – Infuriatingly amusing for all its schlocky puerile slapstick, with two or three genuinely hilarious moments. Without Ferrell and Caan though, the exact same material would be intolerable. A cheap, feel good Christmas flick.
Gangster Squad – Hammy and awful. Given the amazing quality of on screen gangster presence in recent years (think Boardwalk Empire), this is especially bad.
Lincoln – Almost insufferably long but an impressive acting turn for Day Lewis…as per usual. All things considered, too dull to bother with.
A Good Day To Die Hard (Die Hard 5) – One can only hope this will be the last in the franchise. Shoot it dead already.
Sanctum – Gripping caving/ diving thriller. Better than average.
Stake Land – Fantastic take on the vampire genre that is an absolute stand out during the recent vamp revival. Brilliant acting, pacing and story. I felt it could have afforded a fractionally more upbeat ending.
Red Eye – Frustratingly bad plane crash of a film. Cillian Murphy’s worst?
The Unsaid – Weird and unconvincing story juggling the occult and the supernatural with a straight up detective case. Disappointing.

May 2013

Soylent Green – An interesting premise delivered without much aplomb. The conclusion definitely had room for development.
Roger Dodger – Roger is such a smug, unlikeable character from the off that it’s difficult even to tolerate him, let alone enjoy the frustratingly bland and vacuous sex quest he embarks upon with his nephew. Irksome camera and lighting techniques further detract from the unconvinving proceedings.
Iron Man 3 – as always highly entertaining and enthralling, but there were three things I couldn’t reconcile – panic Attacks; regenerating, fire breathing mutants (!!! WTF !!!) and the boss battle which ends TDKR style (the killing blow going to someone other than Iron Man). Worth watching for Ben Kingsley alone though.
Scarecrow – A difficult, unexpected viewing. An unlikely friendship emerges between two roadside travelers that evolves in to deep companionship. Uneven pacing makes watching this more effort than it ought to be, but the resulting climax is both poignant and thought-provoking. Terrific performances and a philosophical script.
Star Trek: In To Darkness – Brilliantly entertaining. A strong sequel.
Dredd – The eponymous Judge dessimates a tower block of drug fuelled gang members in this straight forward action shoot ’em up. Laughably ludicrous but good, mindless fun.
Another Earth – thought provoking and touching, but a little too slow and uneventful to wholeheartedly recommend. Strong performances from both Mapother and Marling, especially considering the difficult nature of their parallel grief.
Full Metal Jacket – One of the all time great war films. The duality of man, the futility of war, the base human drives and emotions that inexplicably keep us all fighting, and killing, to stay alive. At times a little self-indulgent, this is nonetheless powerful and melancholic viewing.
Parker – Albeit framed around a plot that is as dependent on coincidence as Obama is on latinos, this is a slick and hugely compelling thriller. Extend your disbelief and go with the flow and Statham will be winning you (and the girl) all over again.
George Washington – a slow, meandering tale detailing the lead up and aftermath of a tragic incident between young children. Simple, empathetic and delicately told, but too deadpan and abstract to be entirely compelling.
Zoolander – Undeniably of the “it’s so bad it’s good” variety, this is a must watch for fans of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Puerile, slapstick but shamelessly feel-good, it’s worth it for the inane one liners and soundtrack alone, just don’t expect anything of any intellect!
MASH – Altman tries to derive some ultra black humour from a medical division in the Korean war, but for the most part it falls a little too black and vindictive to actually invite any laughs. The splapstick is more akin to bullying than comedy, and the audio especially sounds dated to the modern viewer. Oft hailed as a classic, I found it more arduous than amusing.
Pi – exactly my kind of film; an intriguing, mysterious, original, stylish and creatively directed psychological thriller. Top acting and a great script. All the evidence you need that money doesn’t make a film (this was produced on $60k). Only criticism, a little too pseudo-mathematical, I’m not convinced it all adds up…
Shotgun Stories – albeit anticlimactic and a little unconvincing, this is nonetheless a beautifully told story of familial hostility, with strong performances and picturesque cinematography. Ultimately the whole piece feels frustratingly cyclical and inconclusive, but that is likely the whole point.

April 2013

Wreck it Ralph – An excellent, if too overtly didactic, animated adventure for kids and retro gaming nerds alike.
Boardwalk Empire S03 (TV) – superb. Perhaps the best season yet. A few stray story lines, but what an unforgettable climax.
Spring Breakers – Comparisons could be (and have been) drawn with GTA, although GTA has infinitely more humour, style, script and (dare I say it) direction, than Spring Breakers, which pans out like an extended advert for a bad holiday resort or worse, an un-narrated episode of Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents. One of the most disagreeable film experiences I have had in…um…possibly ever.
The Place Beyond the Pines – far too broad in it’s endeavours. I could get behind one story presented in this way, maybe even two, but a third and I’m beginning to look at my watch. I think I enjoyed it, mostly.
Viridiana – Fast moving but utterly bizarre surrealist story of a nun and her gradual understanding of the futility and flaws of the human condition. Superb direction and edgy script.
Los Lunes al Sol (Mondays in the Sun) – beautiful, funny, moving. Everything a good film should be. The script and direction show great humanity. Terrific performances from all, especially Bardem. A favourite.
Simon Killer – Thought provoking and unflinching. Edging in to gratuity with a few scenes though, and despite obvious efforts still felt a little shallow. We are as distant from Simon at the end as we were at the beginning.
When Harry Met Sally – As much as I wanted to dislike this, it really is irresistibly loveable, which is something, considering that’s pretty much the synopsis of the movie too. A brilliant script makes up for some ups and downs. Top caricature performances and a top rom com.
Princesas – An excellent, sympatico look at the lives of two prostitutes. Fantastic acting and a really touching premise.
Los Santos Inocentes – A harrowing recollection of the lives of an impoverished family in Spain in the 1960s as they toil as underlings on a bourgeois country estate. Tragically historically accurate.
Te Doy Mis Ojos (Take My Eyes) – It’s a tribute to the potency of this film that it was so horribly uncomfortable to watch. I couldn’t shake the sense of dread for the inevitable conclusion the whole way through. Well made but very unpleasant.
Welcome to the Punch – A glossy, overstylised and under realised attempt at a slick conspiract thriller. Some shots are striking, but it feels like it was edited together as an exercise. Oddly off kilter, especially given the cast.
Broken City – Straight up, fast moving thriller with Marky Mark doing his action thing. Smarter than most, but unfortunately a little conceited as a result, the impact is lessened by some perfunctory story lines and irritatingly lazy contrivances. Nonetheless, a good yarn at its core.
Oblivion – considerably more enjoyable than you might expect. Act one offers an excellent sci fi premise, it’s a pity acts two and three fall in to the realm of cliche and moralistic Hollywood stereotype. Nonetheless a highly entertaining watch.
Broadchurch (TV) – excellent whodunit in the style of The Killing with phenomenal performances all round. The conclusion is faintly predictable a few episodes too soon and one or two strands are left unresolved, but all things considered, this is a well above average mystery drama that comes highly recommended.

March 2013

Stoker – overly stylized but technically brilliant psycho-sexual thriller featuring an excellent performance from Matthew Goode. Fails to impact in the same way as Black Swan, but is no doubt well worth watching for any fan of the genre. Some scenes are superb and intensely erotic.
Mama – a forgettable, largely disappointing suspense horror with tropes and cliches galore. That being said, it’s probably better than average for the genre.
Side Effects – after a slow first act, a compelling story and dialogue driven thriller emerges. It’s a little too vindictive and gratuitously nasty in tone for my tastes, and the twists take the movie from a clever critique of pharmaceutical ethics to more standardised, familiar territory, but Jude Law and Rooney Mara are excellent and it is original enough to warrant careful viewing.
Identity Thief – Nauseatingly puerile and astoundingly dull, the humour is thin on the ground at best, although Bateman is as always a pleasure to watch. One or two laugh out loud moments make it just about watchable.
Prometheus – Beautiful visuals and VFX don’t elevate Prometheus beyond an attractive, if fairly lifeless sci-fi actioner. Despite its technical eloquence, the film suffers a bland, meandering Hollywood-fare script and lacks resolution.
Network – A highly original and cutting edge classic, but 37 years on it can’t help but suffer. A great concept that loses momentum too soon and concludes with a disappointingly farcical crash.
Red Corner – A compelling if utterly farfetched courtroom thriller. I’m ill quipped to determine how accurate a portrayal it is, but it seems oft too loudly a propoganda machine condemning the eponymous Red state of China, with the innocent persecuted American playing David vs the Goliath of China’s judicial system.
Los Cronocrimenes (Timecrimes) – A superbly compelling, if thoroughly flawed, time travel suspense thriller. Highly recommended.
The Interview – An excellently unsettling dialogue driven thriller from down under. Hugo Weaving delivers a very different, but nonetheless brilliant, performance as the victim of a police manhunt. Could have done with a little more resolution.
El Aura (The Aura) – Intriguing spanish thriller. Compelling albeit peculiarly paced and with a few loose ends left trailing. Thoughtful cinema, but perhaps trying to tackle one too many strands for its own good. Recommended, but not highly.
Lucia y el sexo (Sex and Lucia) – moments of artistry go some way to redeem what is otherwise a meandering, occasionally gratuitous mess of a film. This desnuda approach to filmmaking has perhaps scarred Spanish cinema somewhat.
El Dia de la Bestia (The Day of the Beast) – So whacky, ridiculous and off the wall that it’s (probably) worth tagging along for the ride, this blaspheming, B-movie action comedy mash up follows a priest as he adventures to prevent the birth of the anti-christ.
Contracorriente (Undertow) – a well acted if overly sentimental portrayal of a married man coming to terms with his homosexuality in the midst of a small rural fishing village.
Creep – a terrible, plot-hole ridden wannabe horror that fails to achieve even the basic principles of the genre, despite heaping on the tropes and stereotypes.
Tesis – Compelling and extremely mysterious, the intrigue is somewhat belittled by poor character choices throughout which detract from the plausibility and therefore the impact of the story.
Trance – A clunky, spiralling mess that tried so hard to be clever and failed. Enjoyable but frustrating.
Los Sin Nombre (The Nameless) – Indubitably mysterious and excellent creation of suspense but the final act destroys the qualities of the first two to leave the film faring little better than average.

February 2013

Ali G, Ai – surprisingly funny, even after all this time. Much better than his later ventures.
Shadow Dancer – a solid, if unremarkable, slow burning spy drama with an unexpected conclusion.
The Spanish Prisoner – A classic Mamet heist flick – totally underwhelming, devoid of any thrills or skillful twists. Watchable, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Manhattan – Unconventional, funny, intriguing. Kind of genre breaking. Quintessential Woody Allen if you’re after an insight in to the man. I prefer Midnight in Paris though.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer – a very dark film, considerably better than the lacklustre title implies. Ominous, unsettling, but less resolved than I might have liked. Still highly recommended.
Annie Hall – After a great set up it sags towards the end. Includes some golden one liners though and is classic Woody Allen.
Me, Myself and Irene – probably the worst film I can remember seeing. Just awful. Typical Farrely Brothers.
Margin Call – Most frustrating. Some excellent performances, especially from Bettany, are undermined by a bad script that fails on multiple levels. The story is obscured by platitudes, sloppy metaphors, cliches and exposition.
Flowers of War – an unflinching and often cruel war drama. Bale plays to perfection as always, but the sloppy editing and trite script ultimately disappoints somewhat.
Lawless – A solid prohibition piece that lacks the panache to elevate it from the rest and falls to a few unfortunate cliches. Performances are average, but it’s nonetheless an interesting, biographical ride if you’re fond of the genre.
No – An excellent, mild and uncontroversial historical drama about the ad campaign that overthrew Pinochet in Chile. Great acting and a subtle, dry script make for compelling viewing.
The Woodsman – given its controversial topic and potential for daring filmmaking, albeit interspersed with the occasional standout scene, this generally pulls it’s punches. There are a few better films on the subject.
The Castle – Very reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s dry wit and oddball humour, this is a light hearted, bitter sweet, feel good comedy. Quaint but enjoyable.
In The Heat Of The Night – Sidney Poitier utters his immortal line “They call me Mr. Tibbs!” A top notch murder mystery set in racist Mississipi. A great film, but a step below Mississipi Burning for my tastes.
Criminal Law – Exudes a sense of smugness despite clearly falling short of its ambition. The acting is hammy at best, and the thrills anticipated. When you think villainous Martin is going to show up – he is, usually in a doorway.
Devil in a Blue Dress – There’s nothing specifically wrong with this, it’s just flatly unexciting. I really struggled to become anything other than superficially invested in the story.
The Memory of a Killer – as a portrayal of an assassin, this is one of the best I’ve seen. As a film, it’s above average, but unable to rival the likes of Leon. Watch it nonetheless, you won’t be disappointed.
Patriot Games – well directed, but unfortunately much dated and fairly unthrilling by todays standards.
Cop Land – an excellent mob thriller with stand out performances from De Niro and Ray Liotta.
Manhattan Murder Mystery – lots of the usual Woody Allen rambling and hyper incredulity, but not as humorous as Annie Hall or Manhattan.
Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? – a tremendous, powerful film, and one I hope never to watch again. Intensely miserable, wretched and emotionally harrowing. Spectacular acting and script unlike any I’ve seen.
Lockout – possibly the worst sci-fi film I’ve ever seen. More plot holes than words in the script. Simply awful awful film making. Even the action sequences and special effects are dire. Who thought throwing millions of dollars at this terrible excuse for a script was a good idea? Next time pay me and I’ll shit you a better script.
Brothers Bloom – thoroughly enjoyable, if overly convoluted conman flick. It doesn’t always make sense, and you get the feeling it’s trying a little too hard, but it’s feel good and charismatic.
Brick – everything about this annoyed me, from the whiny smug kid voices to the convoluted ‘2 kool 4 skool’ direction, to Gordon Levitt’s deadpan glutton for punishment. The whole thing dripped self importance and wannabe indie-cool. Nauseating.
Silver Linings Playbook – perhaps not fully deserving of the phenomenal hype it has received, but definitely a well above average rom-com. Funny and charming.
Edison – an incohesive, ramshackle mess. Timberlake gives a bad, inexperienced performance, more sulky teen than Pulitzer hunter, while Freeman and Spacey are thrown in for star factor alone. Inexplicably shifts from conspiracy thriller to flamethrower shoot’em up in the final ten minutes. Avoid.
A Dangerous Method – either the film failed to do justice to the story or the story was simply not compelling enough to warrant the film. Good if unremarkable performances, although Knightley was always going to be a weak link.
The Painted Veil – a surprisingly effective and accomplished drama surrounding a doctor and his wife in the midst of a cholera outbreak. Marred by too much contrivance, this is nonetheless a beautiful piece of cinema.
The Irony Lady – Streep’s performance is excellent, and the focus is firmly on Thatcher’s character and personal life rather than her politics, which I think can only be a good thing. Not bad as biopics go.
Punch-Drunk Love – A peculiar, oddball romantic drama. Not especially recommended, although it’s something completely different from the norm if that’s what you’re after. PT Anderson’s worst.
War Horse – a pretty spectacular feat of film making by Spielberg in all fairness. Not my thing, but if you don’t mind twee and you’ve a penchant for war time drama (and horses) then this will no doubt tick all the boxes.

January 2013

The Hunting Party – Peculiarly flippant given its serious subject matter, and not especially watchable.
The Brave One – Very disappointing and decisively unthrilling.
Flight – After a riveting and excellent start, the film takes a dive of its own. I don’t think alcohol abuse is the cause.
Ghost – Thick with cheese and ham and very predictable but nonetheless worth a watch if you don’t mind 90s bad VFX.
70th Annual Golden Globes – repetitive viewing with the odd bit of humour here and there.
The Hour S02 – excellent. Lived up to the first season, an utterly thrilling finale.
Cloud Atlas – Intriguing. Excellently well executed and sure to leave you introspective. Pick the right moment to watch this one.
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Beautiful, intriguing, affecting, and overwhelmingly moving, the best film I’ve seen in a very long while.
Premium Rush – fast paced and fun, but an undeniably cheap thrill ride.
Les Miserables – interminable and almost unwatchable, but nonetheless an achievement if you go in for that sort of thing – Hollywood musicals. I don’t.
Zero Dark Thirty – albeit cleverly constructed and well executed, there’s something anti climactic and ungratifying about the inevitable conclusion, not to mention morally ambivalent.
The Collection – More or less what you’d expect from the sequel. A nonsensical gorefest, not as sinister or clever as the first. Someone should give Josh Stewart a decent script to work.
Django Unchained – Highly entertaining despite the runtime. Witty and well acted. Two minor irks: the laughable cameo, and Samuel L. Definitely one to watch again.
Ordinary Decent Criminal – throughly enjoyable if not especially high brow. An underrated feel-good heist movie.
A Film With Me In It – A little slow out of the gate but then it picks up a fine pace and is hilarious to boot. A cracking black comedy that probably isn’t even on your radar.

December 2012

Killer Joe – one of those truly, scarringly bizarre, brutal, graphic and mind mangling films. Sick, but morbidly intriguing. Don’t watch with anyone you could be embarassed with…
Narc – good performances and a good script let down by dodgy directing. An excellent story and worthwhile film though.
The Hunt – Incredible, beautifully shot and and outstandingly well acted drama. It should be compulsory viewing so we are all forced to evaluate how quick we are to judge.
Sightseers – Highlighting beautiful English countryside and talented performances, this is a quirky, original black comedy, but it’s droll rather than funny. I wouldn’t watch it again.
Surveillance – I can’t begin to describe how unsatisfying this film is in every respect. The twist is foreseeable and there is no payoff or climax. Aggravatingly disappointing.
The Good Thief – spices up about half way through and takes a turn for the significantly better, but it’s still a little too patchy for a ‘cool heist’ to sit in the same league as Ocean’s 11.
Seven Psychopaths – A clever, absurd, surrealist comedy with great performances from the all-star cast. Highly reccommended.
House of Games – An adequate con movie, but if you’ve seen them before then this won’t bring anything new to the table.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – another fantastical adventure from Jackson. This is no Lord of the Rings, but it’s still a terrific, warm and well told tale.
Warrior – Terrific, utterly compelling movie. Definitely more of a blokes film though I think, lost of testosterone and machismo.
Pitch Perfect – A bizarre abomination of a movie. I can’t fathom how it came to be made.
Gattaca – interesting if inaccurate speculation about a world where genetic enhancement is possible. Compelling but cheesy as hell.
Jack Reacher – This bizarre and contrived film might raise a smile, but it can’t decide whether it wants to be a comedy, an action movie, or a thriller. Essentially a vanity project for Cruise, and it really shows.
After Porn Ends – Boring documentary about the lives of porn stars after they finish porn: spoiler – most of them are real estate agents…

November 2012

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs – There’s a hint of genius in this hilarious animated adventure, and a ton of material for adults too.
Frantic – Just so boring. No wonder the remake had to go out on such a limb to create something exciting.
Brotherhood (TV) – Slow burning, but top quality television. Performances all around are outstanding, right down to the minor roles.
Argo – Very well paced and structured with a few laughs for good measure. A compelling drama from Affleck.
Headhunters – excellent scandinavian thriller with twists and excitement aplenty.
Biutiful – intensely saddening, thought provoking and sympatico tale of a terminally ill father. Superbly acted and a wonderfully original glitch soundtrack.
The Master – intriguing and wonderfully directed and produced, but ultimately quite disappointing. I’ve pondered long on this film and can’t bring myself to like it.
Lantana – an excellent premise and acting, but the pacing is off, encumbering this otherwise interesting drama
Kill List – a modern day retelling of Macbeth. Intriguing, dark, mysterious but infuriating. A make or break ending. Break for me…
Jar City – a classic, dark scandinavian crime drama. Solid but underwhelming
End of Watch – you think you’ve seen shaky cam? think again. Bad bad bad. Macho, patriotic, glorifying the police, but mainly just totally boring.
Shooter – an excellent if not remarkable conspiracy thriller with solid performances all round, don’t be fooled by the cover photo and shoot’em up name
Thick as Thieves – flat heist flick with very little to brag about. Banderas agonisingly smarmy and Freeman is usual self. A walk in the park for these two and it shows.
Spider – Mismarketed in my view. It’s a snail paced exploration of mental illness more or less from a first person perspective. Not my bag really, but an interesting watch.
Thief – Old school Michael Mann, synths and all. Classic noir thriller, very worth a watch but I won’t pretend it hasn’t dated.
Red Hill – outstanding neo-western destined to be a cult hit. Extraordinarily well shot and offering excellent performances from a relatively unfamiliar cast.

October 2012

Fragile – awful ‘suspense’ horror, a waste of everybody’s time.
Machine Gun Preacher – interesting but ludicrously composed biopic. Quite shoddy.
Killing Them Softly – even better the second time round.
Bound – Engaging, clever, and genuinely thrilling. A very rare gem.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – brilliant film making, writing and directing. A pleasure to watch even after all these years.
The Hour (TV) – British television of a rarely excellent calibre. No Shadow Line, but nonetheless an intelligent and well conceived spy drama.
The Horseman – Hopeless, vacuous and gruesome. A thin, improbable storyline as an excuse for extreme and brutal violence.
Moonrise Kingdom – Classically slow paced Wes Anderson, very poignant and drily amusing.
The Perks of being a Wallflower – one of those quirky, teen angst ridden, coming of age dramas. Everything you would expect. Take it or leave it.
21 Jump Street – A strong, hilarious start quickly falls back in to standard hollywood comedy schtick.
The Grey – boring, frustratingly paced and badly scripted
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – the fast paced threequel falls far from the quality of the original but will still raise a smile
Taken 2 – awful. An embarrassing sequel.
Tenderness – Implausible, extremely dull and a bizarrely weak acting vehicle for Russell Crowe.
Indecent Proposal – A weak premise and a weak movie.
Bang Bang You’re Dead – brutally intense and visceral, Ben Foster wows in this drama about school bullying. Mindblowing.
Death to Smoochy – surprisingly surreal hybrid of childrens and adults entertainment. Not unwatchable, but pretty last resort.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind – very slow and very long, but the climax is almost worth it. Watch it because it’s a classic, if not because it’s particularly overwhelming.
Ruby Sparks – A worthwhile romantic drama, misleadingly labeled as a comedy.
Chinese Coffee – Existential musings through conversation with Al Pacino. Reminscient of Hamsun Knut’s Hunger.
Matando Cabos – surreal, stylish and hilarious black comedy about an accidental kidnapping
Y Tu Mama Tambien – easier to watch than my first viewing, but still not entirely interesting
Bringing Out The Dead – In the same vein as Taxi Driver, Scorsese continues his withering expose of the dark and pitiful state of city streets. Epileptic viewing.
Skyfall – 007 is back, complete with superb class and smug British arrogance. Perfect Bond. The best yet.
Deceiver – deeply intriguing first two acts are somewhat undermined by an unrewarding and underwhelming finale
City Hall – Not half as gripping and compelling as it no doubt wanted to be, but nonetheless a solid enough political drama
Cabin In The Woods – Excellent comedy horror. Original and creative with superb special effects and sharp wit.

September 2012

The Hunter – better than average, slowburning drama. Finds it’s footing too late.
Tyrannosaur – A brutally unflinching depiction of domestic violence, terrifying for it’s realism and superb acting
Total Recall – unremarkable but nonetheless entertaining
The Hunger Games – nothing particularly redeeming about this sadly, glossy hollywood tripe
Chronicle – Much deeper and grittier than the average superpower flick, definitely worth a watch.
Shame – intriguing, morbidly compelling, ultimately not particularly rewarding
Killing Them Softly – absolute excellence. Dominik paves the way. Compelling performances all round.
Californication season 5 (TV) – enjoyable as always. Sex and comedy pretty much sums it up.
Case Histories (TV) – fairly bland but great performances, especially from Jason Isaacs
Looper – Disappointing. Despite the hype there is no hint of genius here, but it is a thoroughly engaging thriller.
Perfect Sense – intriguing and compelling but slightly lacklustre. Worth watching nonetheless.

August 2012

The Amazing Spiderman – Considerably better than the previous trilogy. Spectacular fun.
The Raven – Disappointingly trivial. Manages to fall short of thrilling, scaring or exciting at all.
The Bourne Legacy – A worthy fourth title stylistically and in terms of execution, although the plot itself is very thin comparable to the initial three.
Glory – passes the time but easily forgettable.
Paul – comparable to the British duos’ usual, a disappointing affair, comparable to Hollywood comedy – genius
My Name Is Nobody – Farcical Western comedy, definitely grabs some laughs, but is it worth the runtime…
The Bourne Ultimatum – A tremendous climax to a heart-pounding trilogy. This is the definition of thriller.
Batman Begins – Nolan reignites the Batman flame, and how it flares…phenomenal
The Dark Knight – 10/10 for the genre. Need I say more?
The Dark Knight Rises – tremendously disappointing. A fun film, but considerably less remarkable than Nolan’s previous outings.
The Shadow Line (TV) – remarkable for British TV. Episode two features one of the best chase sequences I’ve ever seen.
The Bridge (TV) – compelling and enjoyable but reaches a frustrating resolution.
Derek (TV) – Poignant and beautifully witty. A reminder that there is much more to Gervais than the press credits him with.
La Cabina – an unsettling short to be sure, but I feel it hasn’t aged particularly well.
Sea of Love – terrific screenwriting, a lot of black humour and legitimate thrills. Another twist wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Un Homme Qui Dort (The Man Who Sleeps) – fascinating, but undeniably hard to watch.
Chinatown – much overrated I’m afraid to say. Worth watching, but don’t expect too much.
The Last Boy Scout – a light hearted, unpretentious action romp Hollywood style.
Wrecked – no idea how they dragged the plot out so long. Uncompelling.
Secret Honor – Fictional confessions from Nixon. Fantastically acted and highly entertaining.
Duel – given it’s basic premise I found it surprisingly compelling.
Revenge (TV) – one of the worst shows I’ve bothered to watch to it’s end. Learn from my mistake.
Inside Men (TV) – Stylish and compelling, but it reaches a shamefully unsatisfying conclusion.
Escape From New York – simply God awful. I’m definitely not a fan of Carpenter.
Hard Eight/ Sydney – Fantastic debut feature from PT Anderson. Excellent dry black humour.
Picnic At Hanging Rock – immensely unsatisfying if beautifully shot
3 Women – just utterly bizarre. Atmospheric and brooding but without a rewarding climax

May 2012

Lake of Fire – You think you know where you stand on abortion? Try this for size. Deeply moving and nauseating in equal part.
Hierro – Haunting and unsettling, but just doesn’t quite cut the grade for usual Spanish horrors
M:I4 Ghost Protocol – So much better than the last two the franchise can be forgiven. Like a shot of adrenaline. The stunts are a true joy to behold.
True Crime – a misogynistic, badly written and thus frustratingly inadequate foray in to the death row genre

April 2012

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia – witty and beautifully shot but painfully slow. Ultimately anti-climactic and unrewarding
Narrow Margin – hugely enjoyable, if somewhat dated, thriller with a typically entertaining performance from Hackman
Cowboys and Aliens – not your average Western! I liked it, but it’s high on the Hollywood gloss
Get Low – a beautiful, poignant film. Duvall plays a blinder.
Pusher – clearly the first of a trilogy, a slow opener but increasingly gripping. Open ended for the sequel.
Pusher 2 – not at all where I expected the follow up to start, but another compelling, tragic tale nonetheless.
Class Action – clever legal thriller, horrible soundtrack but well executed story. Above average (perhaps thanks to Hackman?)
Happy Feet Two – a sore disappointment after the original
The Adventures of Tintin – perhaps expectations were too high, enjoyable but underwhelming
Extreme Measures – Hugh Grant in a rare serious role. Excellent mystery and suspense, and a solid script. Highly recommended.
The Package – subpar assassination conspiracy thriller, nonetheless worth a watch if you’re in the mood
Pusher 3 -gritty and brutal. Nothing more or less than the previous two.
Night Moves – an intriguing, if overly drawn out mystery. A little dated
Basic – Convoluted and cocky, far too clever for it’s own good and smug to boot.
Cabin in the Woods – an excellent, original take on the teenage horror genre. Fantastic effects and brilliantly paced.

March 2012

Kalifornia – terrific performances all round. brilliantly original.
Safe House – better than average, if still a little lacklustre
Falling Down – inexplicably praised, a bizarre and unattractive story
Mississippi Burning – phenomenal, impassioned and emotionally charged. Hackman is surely one of the best actors alive today
Natural Born Killers – as incoherent and overhyped as an acid trip
A Perfect World – a slow moving but endearing road trip movie
Rampart – a bleak subject tackled without any pinache. ultimately dull.
Rogue – well executed until it’s final act, a worthwhile killer croc movie
Hugo – not particularly compelling, a surprise given it’s acclaim
The Cinderella Man – excellent. superb acting and an uplifting film
Kiss The Girls – implausible but nonetheless intriguing murder mystery
Underworld: Awakening – the usual gore and action twixt Lycans and Vamps
J. Edgar – well acted and entirely boring
Misery – typically sinister Stephen King
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (US) – a blow by blow english language remake, uninspired and too long
Mad Max 2 – not as good as I remembered it…nostalgic value though

February 2012

Cop Out – a great opening sequence crammed full of film references; the rest is dull
Arthur Christmas – more lighthearted animated fun, nothing special though
The Devils Double – Cooper is excellent, but as a biopic this is no Mesrine
Martha Marcy Mae Marlene – a compelling subject matter and premise but ultimately unfulfilling, not to mention a little pretentious
Youth without Youth – unintelligible and therefore largely forgettable. A nice performance by Roth though
Man on a Ledge – surprisingly adrenaline-fuelled and compelling, albeit backed up by a very weak script. Worth blu ray. Probably.
The Double Hour – Great premise well executed right up until the grossly unsatisfying final act
Blow Out – aside from it’s frustrating and abrupt ending, this classic 80s noir entertains
The Straight Story – charming, not a word usually associated with Lynch perhaps. This one sails on the strength of Farnsworth’s terrific performance.
Dead Man Walking – Overwhelmingly powerful, emotionally devestating. Triumphant performances all round. So much admiration for Tim Robbins after this.
The Company Men – A tastefully presented film, given it’s subject matter. Subtle but fairly strong. A lot of talent on display.
Take Shelter – Portentous music and an oppressive atmosphere doesn’t quite make up for the paralysingly slow pace. Still a worthwhile watch though.
The Woman In Black – a rare horror gem. Impressive, haunting photography and editing makes up for an uninspired script and unfortunate casting of the lead. Radcliffe is surprisingly great, but simply doesn’t carry the years.
Tower Heist – Smacks of The Parole Officer and Knights of Prosperity, except both were done better. One for if you’re really bored.
The Way Back – could have been so much better, very messy editing or directing…
In Time – excellent concept, entertainingly portrayed albeit riddled with plot holes http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1637688/
Troll Hunter – surprisingly well handled balance of wit and thrills
Incendies – contrived, unexciting, unlikely and sick
Courage Under Fire – bog standard Denzel war flick
The Descendants – Clooney is great, the film is solid enough but underwhelming
We Need To Talk About Kevin – morbidly interesting, but not enjoyable
Bourne Supremacy – more top notch, slick action

January 2012

Solaris – painfully dull, most unlike Soderbergh, Clooney’s good though
Moneyball – no knowledge of baseball necessary. Excellent film from Sorkin as always
Mission: Impossible 4 Ghost Protocol – a thoroughly enjoyable action romp with a smattering of laughs too
Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows – practically a spoof but highly entertaining
Executive Action – almost documentary-like conspiracy thriller using a considerable amount of original footage surrounding JFK assassination
Killer Elite – awful script but the direction shows a lot of promise from newcomer McKendry
Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 – phenomenally acted, thrilling and gripping film. One of the best I’ve seen. Cassel is a gem.

December 2011

Jennifer Eight – pretty bog standard thriller, very noir
Winter’s Bone – great cinematography, but not exactly riveting
The American – beautifully shot, very engaging story, a favourite
Rescue Dawn – phenomenal and powerful story, emotionally ravaging
Bronson – bold and brutal, deserving of your time
The Exam – mystery thriller will keep you guessing
The Other Guys – hilarious, a series of ludicrous sketches strung together with a plot, almost as good as Superbad
Animal Kingdom – hard hitting drama, pretty gritty
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One – the beginning of the end, nothing special but a light-hearted romp
Splice – bizarre sci-fi horror in the vein of HG Wells
Red – extremely entertaining action comedy with a cast of hollywood heroes
Due Date – you’ll laugh, but it’s highly unoriginal and pretty lowbrow
The Lives of Others – an intensely moving drama about the Stasi
The Fish Child – uncomfortable viewing
Get Him To The Greek – one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Avoid.
The Social Network – another gripping screenplay from Aaron Sorkin
Wild Target – lighthearted and unfortunately largely humourless attempt at British action comedy
The Disappearance of Alice Creed – slow burning and surprisingly unpredicatable
The Killer Inside Me – a shockingly brutal film, extreme violence against women
Frozen – an unlikely horror that works extremely well
The Collector – terrific acting by Patrick Stewart, a horror in the style of The Cube
Out of Sight – one of Soderbergh’s sloppier wannabe-slick thrillers
The Mighty Boosh: Future Sailors – very funny, but not a patch on their original standup
Knight and Day – watch the trailer and you’ve seen it all, soul destroyingly tedious
The Town – a nail biting, taught and suspenseful thriller from Affleck. Excellent.
Jeremiah Johnson – Redford’s tale of adventures in the wilderness
Cherry Tree Lane – very dark, unpleasant and difficult to watch home invasion horror, too slow to be fun
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – the original, great film making if a bit overrated…
Saw 3D – another pointless gorefest with an implausible twist and over-egged climax
Monsters – brilliantly effective alien sci fi, unlikely and unnecessary romance plot
The Expendables – Stallone’s all out adrenaline pumping action jizzle
The A Team – if you can stand Bradley Cooper this is watchable
The Karate Kid – a tame Hollywood remake lacking the charm of the original
The Fugitive – excellent thriller with fantastic editing and direction
What Lies Beneath – a bit whack, some nice suspense though
Mulholland Drive – never understood the acclaim for this movie
Easy A – pretty bog standard teen comedy propelled Emma Stone to the limelight
How To Train Your Dragon – fun animated adventure with some great visuals
Unstoppable – almost a return to form for Tony Scott
Cyrus – bizarrely emotive offbeat comedy, highly recommended
Dog Pound – raw drama set in a youth detention centre, beautiful soundtrack. Butcher is one to watch
The Last Exorcism – original take on the highly overused exorcism genre
Black Swan – mesmerising, horrifying, disturbing but beautiful
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – Wasted effort…
The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Better than Caspian.
Tron Legacy – astounding visual effects but not much else
Man Bites Dog – pioneering a spinoff genre and redefining black comedy. Gold.
The Believer  – unsettling but gripping. Gosling is a perfect anti-hero.
Serpico – a decent classic. Watch it.
Carlito’s Way – Al Pacino’s best I think. A masterclass in filmmaking.
1408 – Stephen King horror with Cusack at his most depraved
Step Brothers – slapstick, puerile; totally unfunny.
Inception – Nolan proves huge blockbuster thrillers can be intelligent (even mindboggling)
The Experiment – not a scratch on the German original, don’t bother
Assault on Precinct 13 (the original) – boring and ultimately pointless with a terrible script
Hard Candy – even if you can stand Ellen Page this is an unnecessary effort
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold – inexplicably acclaimed classic, left me nonplussed
The Fountain – An exceptional score by Clint Mansell. Pretentious and boring film.
The Winning Season – Charming and endearing comedy with Sam Rockwell demonstrating skills
[Rec] – spanish horror, fairly standard but some pleasant au frisson
Buried – claustrophobic and ultimately frustrating thriller, nicely acted
88 Minutes – riddled with plot holes but a good yarn
Conviction – worth it for Rockwell if nothing else
Case 39 – uninspiring unoriginal horror of the freaky kid variety
Untraceable – contrived serial killer thriller with a totally implausible plot
The Green Hornet – fresh take on the superhero/ sidekick genre, very stylish
Little Fockers – the third in the trilogy, still breaks a few laughs
The Next Three Days – Fast paced and entertaining, far from exceptional though
The Secret in their Eyes – groundbreaking spanish thriller with superb direction and acting
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind – not a favourite but a sound sort-of-faux-biopic
The Dead Girl – well constructed but forgettable drama surrounding the story of a dead girl
The Fighter – the bickering family environ makes for a headache inducing watch despite spectacular acting and gripping drama
127 Hours – an exercise in audience patience, stylised but dull
Joshua – another freaky kid horror, more entertaining than usual
The Basketball Diaries – harrowing and tragic drama with phenomenal acting all round
The Mechanic – above average stylish thriller but a typical Statham venture
After.Life – surreal and weird mystery thriller, intriguing but not my thing
Triangle – highly original, cleverly constructed and mindbending horror/ thriller which will have you trawling the forums
Rabbit Hole – depressing and dull drama exploring parents post trauma
In The Electric Mist – bland wannabe thriller lacking any excitement
Avatar – exotic and groundbreaking visuals to the plot of Pocahontas. Lovely.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – touching but dated drama with solid performances all round
Hereafter – Eastwood misses again and an odd choice for Damon
Fair Game – interesting but distinctly unthrilling
High Fidelity – fun with Cusack and Jack Black, not exactly comedy gold though
Batman Begins – the first in Nolan’s record breaking trilogy
In The Line Of Fire – in my top five thrillers. Malkovich and Eastwood at the top of their game. See it.
The Veteran – An unusual drama. Kebbell should do more like this (not shooting up estates)
The Dark Knight – the one and only: Joker vs the Bat.
Despicable Me – lighthearted animated flick. Nothing special but ticks the boxes
The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro) – tragic and heartbreaking true story about euthanasia
Keane – Damien Lewis displays his remarkable talent again in this gritty tearjerker
Chico & Rita – psychedelic animations brought to life by excellent latin jazz
Fast Five – another trashy action blockbuster but the best in the series so far
Swimming Pool – haunting erotic mystery. Slow paced indie vibe.
Hanna – an unconventional tale of an assassin
Cell 211 – jumped straight in to my top films, the story of an inmate with a difference
Broken Embraces – loved by many but not my cup of tea, no doubt well done though
Sucker Punch – an erotic fantasy featuring school girls fighting dragons. Sexy but not much else.
Stone – disappointing from Ed Norton and DeNiro
The Human Stain – pretty flat and dull to be honest
Blitz – watch it for Aidan Gillen as the cop killer
Thor – superheroes just kept coming in 2011. Unremarkable but entertaining
Source Code – From Duncan Jones of Moon success, crazy shiz on a train. Definitely worth watching
The Lincoln Lawyer – an enjoyable watch but totally forgettable
Drive Angry – sexy and action filled but unsatisfying on every other level
Wrong Turn – infuriatingly stupid characters result in a frustrating and cliched horror
The King’s Speech – unsurprisingly very British and deserving of the plaudits it has received
The Ring – massively overrated, average horror flick, watch the original instead
Shutter – very jumpy horror packed with everything you’d expect from the genre
From Paris With Love – enjoyable action does what it says on the tin
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – mildly entertaining if you have the time and inclination for more of the same
X-Men: First Class – a brilliant prequel which falls down on a few inconsistencies and inapt references to the trilogy
The Hangover: Part 2 – even less funny than the first, why did I bother?
The Girl Who Played With Fire – less gripping than the first
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – my favourite of the trilogy but no less epic
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – Now it’s over, the whole lot needs a remake, lets start now!
Your Highness – worthless trash, quite frankly a terrible, witless film
Bad Teacher – almost as bad as Your Highness except Diaz can still pull off sexy
Priest – this caught me by surprise. A terrific piece of futuristic, dystopian action.
Pandorum – another unexpected treat. I’m still hoping for a sequel. Great sci-fi
Limitless – Bradley Cooper is already painfully smug and here he has an IQ off the charts. Nauseating.
Poltergeist – Probably pretty convincing once upon a time but agonisingly dated
A River Runs Through It – a wonderful film in every sense. Enchanting and emotional. It’ll leave a mark.
Super 8 – inspirational for amateur film makers but kind of average as an action adventure
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – further fantastic effects from the WETA team, now someone hire them for a solid script
Green Zone – fast paced desert action with Damon pulling his Bourne moves. Excellent.
Submarine – Lala indie brit flick. Pretty pretentious to be honest
Wag the Dog – classic Hoffman and DeNiro, hilarious
Bottle Rocket – Anderson at his most offbeat and droll. Genius screenwriting
Tamara Drewe – painfully long and unfunny rom-com without even a stunning lead
The Accidental Spy – Jackie Chan will make you smile, everything else will make you yawn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – well cast and well acted, a top quality remake
Dead Mans Shoes – in your face and hard hitting
Meek’s Cutoff – very well filmed but boring and uneventful western
Boogie Nights – very funny and enlightening perspective of one boys trip through the porn industry
Barton Fink – more Coen brothers, the usual troubled and apocalyptic themes
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night – low budget but surprisingly slick vampire flick
Drive – slow burning, but a top class thriller from the first shot
La Femme Nikita – the definition of femme fatale; a french hit girl with an attitude
Bridesmaids – puerile rubbish, compared to the Hangover because they’re both witless crap
Red State – not a fan of Kevin Smith but this is an interesting take on religious extremism
The Tree of Life – no doubt pretentious, but still exploring deep themes with beautiful cinematography
Hesher – Joseph Gordon Levitt is a nihilist and unlikely role model for a troubled boy, worth a watch
The Guard – intelligent black comedy with terrific acting from Brendan Gleeson
Green Lantern – overly green and shiny superhero action flick, pretty lame
Johnny English Reborn – more giggles and slapstick from Rowan Atkinson
Horrible Bosses – funny but very puerile comedy with a great cast
Control – fascinating insight in to the lives of Ian Curtis and Joy Division
Unthinkable – american rightwing pro torture propaganda, practically 24 the movie with none of the charm
Captain America: The First Avenger – more Hollywood superhero action fare, not one of the best
Trust – very scary but excellent portrayal of online sexual predators and their affect on families, heartbreaking
Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen jumps through Parisian eras with Owen Wilson in tow, great
Win Win – touching and appealing film of wayward youth turned family saviour
Insidious – almost blow for blow remake of Poltergeist with many of the same problems
Contagion – boring, almost documentary style approach to the damage of a global epidemic virus, no Outbreak
Ghost Dog: Way of the Warrior – slow but well concocted samurai hitman movie
Grosse Point Blank – Cusack has a lot of fun as the killer with a conscience in this black comedy
The Whistleblower – harsh and realistic portrayal of sex trafficking, a true story
Blood Simple – the Coen’s first feature, and the quintessence of their directorial style
Blood Work – classic Eastwood, but not in the same league as In The Line Of Fire
Suspect Zero – a lacklustre serial killer thriller that bleeds out when it incorporates voodoo magic
The Lookout – interesting, with good performances, but not exactly edge of seat
Mindhunters – shambolic and smug whodunnit in the style of Identity
Last Man Standing – excellent western gunslinger with Bruce Willis
The Siege – terrorism thriller in the heart of the US complete with bells and whistles
Butterfly on a Wheel – an above average concept frustratingly full of plot holes and inadequacies
Sexy Beast – original and very blackly comic heist movie
Beginners – though highly acclaimed, this didn’t capture my interest at all
The Change Up – base and explicit humour at it’s best, still grotty though
Certified Copy  – a boring piece of pseudo-intellectual foreign film
Melancholia – dull dull dull
The Ides of March – fast talking, smooth and sexy with great performances all round
Dark City – bizarre and oppressive but intriguing sci-fi
Black Death – an exciting gory medieval period piece with sword fighting and black magic galore
Repo Men – an interesting concept executed badly with an especially insubstantial twist
Dylan Moran – Yeah Yeah – classic Moran.
Stephen Merchant – Hello Ladies – funny, but much lower brow than expected. Not the witty anecdotes of the podcasts and XFM material.
Peter Kay – The Tour That Didn’t Tour – the comic strikes again. Hilarious and pretty much 100% original material.
Der Unhold [The Ogre] – a poignant but beautiful wartime tale from an unusual perspective. Highly recommended.
Funny Games US – twisted, depraved, slow burning horror that will make your skin crawl
The Debt – (just about) above average period thriller
Fatal Attraction – an oldie, but a fantastic thriller nonetheless. A masterclass in suspense
Girl, Interrupted – much better than anticipated; a dramatic, tragic psychodrama

September 2010

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a British classic, hilarious and compelling.
Salt – frustratingly weak plot complemented by ludicrous action
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – great, but not as good as expected

August 2010

Toy Story 3 – fantastic, phenomenally well made
Inception – another brilliantly exciting mind twister from Nolan
Ocean’s 12 – highly entertaining as always
Ocean’s 13 – and the same again….
S1m0ne – farfetched but great concept
Monster – extreme, sickening, well made
Shelter – potential but doesn’t deliver
Unbreakable – bizarre, slow but enjoyable
Pet Sematary – sickly terrifying, a Stephen King classic
Out of Time – cheesy and tame, cliche ridden thriller
Unleashed – cheesy feel good action
The Quick and the Dead – above average western with great performances all round
The Hunt for Red October – Connery in another nail-biting thriller
Paycheck – cringeworthy but entertaining, stock Affleck
Training Day – grows in to a great movie
Suicide Kings – Walken is great in this unlikely winner
Confidence – high brow cast for a decidedly average con flick
Greenberg – unusually bitter sweet for Stiller
Doubt – Two pros at the top of their game sparring; gripping!
Bunny and the Bull – disappointing effort from the Boosh crew
Clear and Present Danger – somewhat drawn out but decent enough
Invictus – surprisingly entertaining, Freeman solid as ever
Mesrine: Killer Instinct – gripping and compelling performances
The Hudsucker Proxy – original, if a little too eccentric
The Secret Life of Bees – Tragic and heartwarming
The Princess Bride – hilarious, ridiculous and nonsensical

July 2010

Noise – peculiar but interesting
The Crazies – nothing special, predictable
Shrek Forever After – disappointing, another rehash
Awakenings – heartbreaking, beautiful
Bubba Ho-tep – refreshingly bizarre
Memento – fantastic head f*ck
Book of Eli – even better the second time
Frailty – uninspiring horror
Vantage Point – entertaining if gimmicky
Stir of Echoes – very effective, haunting and creepy
A Single Man – overhyped and pretentious
8mm – worth one watch. probably.
Endgame – a slow informative doc
Daybreakers – at last a decent vamp film
Alice in Wonderland – disappointingly dull
Fish Tank – hard hitting and brilliant

June 2010

The Bounty Hunter – Absolute bollocks.
Spider Man 3 – A disappointment but still entertaining.
The Escapist – Riveting. Very impressive.
The Road – emotionally charged
Four Lions – hilarious but thought-provoking
Malice – terrific old school Sorkin
Changeling – Jolie surprises
Hot Tube Time Machine – Utter bollocks. Obscene and unfunny.
The Maiden Heist – family fun, but not much of it
Brooklyn’s Finest – well acted but gratuitous and dull
Harry Brown – pretty shoddy. don’t bother.
Happy Gilmore – classic Adam Sandler.
Green Zone – bloody entertaining actually.
Malice – Aaron Sorkin on top form as usual, Baldwin is great
Mean Creek – disturbing, brutal, moving
Gran Torino – Clint growls too much, dull
The Relic – better than the same would be today
I Love You Philip Morris – both Carey and McGregor are on top form
Superbad – phenomenal, and even better in Blu
Charlie Wilson’s War – another Aaron Sorkin, a delight
Derailed – predictable but very enjoyable

May 2010

Iron Man 2 – Exciting and Funny
Leaves of Grass – A Bit Dull
Reign Over Me – Moving But Slow
Legends of the Fall – Long and Average
Swimming with Sharks – Unexpectedly Funny
Avatar – Visually stunning is all
Robin Hood – Fresh and Upbeat
Shutter Island – Overhyped but still good
The Conversation – Hackman is terrific
Days of Heaven – Beautiful
The Witness – Enjoyable but not so thrilling
The Royal Tenenbaums – Utterly hilarious, Wes’ best.
The Book of Eli – Surprisingly effective action
Vampire aka Demon Under Glass – laughable B-movie