Thor as a character has worked best on screen when he’s been allowed to be funny; that’s not to say he isn’t good when serious as well, but there’s a balance that needs to be struck to get the best out of him. The original Thor found that balance, contrasting the serious Asgardian family drama with Thor’s fish out of water antics on Earth, and the film became one of my unexpected favourites from the Marvel stable. Thor: The Dark World on the other hand is an uneven, gloomy film that only sparks to life when Loki is around, and while I’ve grown more forgiving of the film after multiple viewings, I still find it a damp and dreary piece. →
I’ve written a few times before about my gaming ability but to recap: I’m terrible-to-average at games generally, and even worse at games that involve playing against real people. Splatoon, first on the Wii U and now on the Switch, is ostensibly a team-based online shooter, which is so many of my least-favourite words it’s amazing I even typed them all together like that. Despite this I’ve found myself sinking hours into Splatoon without complaint, enjoying the game and willingly returning for more. →
I saw Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element on release in 1997, and immediately hated it. Being a cynical, sneering teenager, I had no time for the bright and colourful visuals, the self-consciously wacky characters, the broad, slapstick comedy, the baffling Lee Evans cameo. Eventually though, as the real world grew progressively duller and my hair increasingly greyer, I came to appreciate the film for what it was rather than what it wasn’t, and it’s now a film I check on every few years. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has a lot in common with The Fifth Element, and having trained myself to appreciate the former, I found it easy to appreciate the latter. →
I’ve found the last few years of superhero films to be enough of a slog that I was starting to resent not just them, but myself for continually falling for the positive reviews. Marvel’s films have suffered from increasingly conservative storytelling, DC’s efforts have been visually splashy but in all other aspects terrible, and the X-Men series was effectively ended in my mind with the one-two punch of a bland and overstuffed X-Men: Apocalypse, and Logan, which was excellent but also practically sequel-proof. Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, on the other hand, reminded me why I love the genre as much as I do, and why I keep coming back for more. →
Playing Breath of the Wild taught me something about myself, which is that I’ll happily put off fighting evil until tomorrow if there’s an interesting shrubbery in the distance I can visit today. Breath of the Wild is a game of staggering beauty and hidden depths, but it’s also a procrastinator’s delight. It is, in many ways, my perfect game. →
The joke that opens Guardians of the Galaxy 2, where the Guardians fight a giant monster in the background of the scene, out of focus, while Baby Groot dances obliviously in the foreground, is a joke you’ve seen before, in, say, Hellboy, or Men in Black, or the Q scene in a James Bond film. “Background chaos ignored by foreground character” is a dependable gag, but it only ever needs to last a few seconds. In Guardians of the Galaxy 2, it goes on for as long as the opening credits need it to, which is about five minutes. So, how much you’ll get out of the film may depend on how long you can stomach a joke for. →
Ghost in the Shell, a remake of the 1995 anime of the same name, is so lacking in ambition and style I was left wondering why anybody had bothered. It lacks even the decency to be entertainingly bad, instead turning in a basic shot for shot remake that says nothing new and does nothing new, on any conceivable level, narratively or technically. →
Notes on a train
A recent trip to Oxfordshire let me try out the recently-refurbished ‘GWR’ trains, introduced…
Remembering David Cameron
As a history graduate, I’m interested in how we remember political figures, and how our memories of…
A misanthrope abroad
Back in 2010 I wrote about how hard I found it to go on holiday for a variety of reasons, but the last few…
On the function of dictionaries
Those asking for nature words to be reinstated in a junior dictionary are wasting their time. Dictionaries describe contemporary usage; by the time you want a word to mean something else, it’s probably too late.
January is the most miserable month of the year. It’s dark when you leave for work and it’s dark…
James Mangold’s Logan
Logan, the second Wolverine film directed by James Mangold and featuring the final performance of both Hugh…
Falling in and out of love with La La Land
I want to start this piece (which does contain spoilers), by stating my credentials: despite my rock-hard,…
My 2016 film highlights
My annual film highlights post, in which I highlight 20 films from all I saw during the previous year. Not all…
Following Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man, Doctor Strange is the third Marvel film in a row that’s…
The highs and lows of Gotham
Ostensibly a police procedural set in Gotham City before the appearance of Batman, Gotham is a frustratingly…
Breakfast at No. 1 Duke Street
No. 1 Duke Street is the Richmondiest place you can go for breakfast in the whole of Richmond, because while…
Granger & Co. OttolenghiDaylesford
Generally, I try not to get into queues with people who don’t mind they’re in a queue. A queue is…
Breakfast at The Putney Canteen
A recent move to the south-west of London opened up a rich seam of easily-accessible breakfast venues in…
Breakfast at Berners Tavern
If you’re going to make me book a table in advance for breakfast, you ought to be offering something…
Breakfast at Damson & Co.
Though no part of Soho can really be considered ‘off the beaten path’, stumbling upon Damson…
No Man’s Sky, a game of forward motion
I was always going to appreciate No Man’s Sky. The look of the game is pure ‘70s sci-fi trash, all orange…
What kind of a game is L.A. Noire?
I wrote recently about how infrequently I replay videogames, and how small the selection of games that get…
Blinded by the light
One of the many problems of renting a home in London is that all expenses are generally spared, so although…
Final Fantasy VII and replaying games
I re-watch films frequently, I re-read books occasionally, and I re-play games almost never unless it’s a…
The secret 3DS player
The StreetPass feature on the Nintendo 3DS encourages you to take your handheld out and about with you,…
- Brute Force: A grim, violent crime noir that feels as hard-hitting and hopeless today as it must have done on release. Enjoyably nihilistic.
- Havana: A lavishly-produced romantic drama set during the Cuban revolution. Lacks both romance and drama.
- Presumed Innocent: A ponderous courtroom drama that plods when it needs to spark. Even a cigar-chomping Raul Julia feels muted and bored.
- Logan Lucky: Loved this. Charming, fun characters, witty script and complex storytelling. Sadly though, also features Seth MacFarlane.
- Bad Girls: Average 90s Western, more interesting for how it could have been than how it turned out. Further reading
- These Final Hours: Decent little apocalypse drama. Nothing groundbreaking but a solid script and strong character work from all involved.
- Virtuosity: A daft 90s sci-fi thriller that’s still worth a watch for a young Russell Crowe having the absolute time of his life.
- Pulp Fiction: Aside from a $5 milkshake now sounding normal, this film really hasn’t aged at all. As smart, funny, and gripping as ever.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: Exhilarating and complex early film by Miyazaki that nails the Studio Ghibli template straight off.
- Waking Life: Amazing how much more gripping and interesting cod-philosophical concepts are when they’re presented through rotoscope.
- Personal Shopper: Dreary supernatural thriller that squanders tension in a soporific second act seen almost entirely through text messages. Dull stuff.
- Lady Macbeth: A short, sharp, chilling drama, dark and cold and festering. Incredible stuff.
- Get Out: Wasn’t quite sold on some of the switches between comedy & horror, but generally this is excellent. Horrific, tense, intelligent.
- Psycho 3: A bit of a cheap & tawdry follow up to the unexpectedly decent Psycho 2, but it’s still always enjoyable to watch Anthony Perkins.
- Species: Brilliant & terrible in equal measure. Come for Henstridge & Giger effects; stay for Forest Whitaker’s hilariously useless empath.
- Sphere: Run of the mill sci-fi thriller that’s 40 minutes longer than it needed to be, perhaps to accommodate all of Hoffman’s mumbling.
- Charade: Not sure if this is a Hitchcock homage or parody, but the talents of Hepburn and Grant make this perfectly watchable regardless.
- The Rescuers: I love Don Bluth animation generally, but this is genuinely charming & sweet with some great voice work. Just utterly lovely.
- Psycho 2: An unexpectedly-decent sequel. Anthony Perkins is excellent as always, and there’s a solid thriller here as well.
- The Magus: A baffling, wandering mystery that descends into Prisoner-style surrealism rather than resolve anything. It’s odd, but okay.
- The Road to El Dorado: Light-hearted & frivolous; Kline, Branagh & Perez work so well together it’s a shame this didn’t start a series.
- Paris, Texas: A long, slow, thoughtful character piece that drew me in gradually and had me hooked before I realised.
- Atomic Blonde: Exhilarating and brutal action, a tricksy political plot, Theron at her toughest and McAvoy at his sleaziest. Recommended.
- X-Men 2: 14 years on and it’s still one of the best comic films there’s every been. Great action, great characters. Wouldn’t change a thing.
- Moonlight: A film of exquisite beauty in all aspects, be that performance, script, cinematography, or sound. A perfect film.