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. →
Logan, the second Wolverine film directed by James Mangold and featuring the final performance of both Hugh Jackman as Logan and Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, is a great film, without caveat or qualification, a grim, near-future Western that’s firmly grounded despite the metal claws and psychic mindquakes. What the film also is is a very definite finish; I don’t see where else the current form of the X-Men film series can go now; Logan isn’t simply a great film, but a series-ending one as well. →
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…
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…
In defence of Fantastic Four
My appreciation of the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films comes from a single scene in Silver Surfer, where…
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,…
- Certain Women: Charming and unassuming piece that drifts lazily in and out of the lives of a handful of Montana women. Poignant & enthralling.
- Two-Minute Warning: 70s Sniper film with a long, tension-free build-up only marginally redeemed by some amazing climactic crowd panic scenes.
- The Black Hole: A hopeless mix of tones and styles but also some fantastic visuals, some dark story twists, and a seriously surreal ending.
- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Dane DeHaan is miscast, but otherwise I liked this.
- Last Action Hero: Sags a bit here and there & not all of the jokes land, but the film still has fun with its idea and the action holds up well.
- Murder Party: Jeremy Saulnier’s (Blue Ruin, Green Room) no-budget debut is a fun bit of schlock. Taut, violent and funny.
- The Lost City of Z: A leaden Charlie Hunnam means we never see the fevered obsession a film like this needs. Everyone else did ok though.
- Doctor Mordrid: A decent off-brand Dr Strange adaptation. Jeffrey Combs is always watchable; genre regular Brian Thompson gives good villain.
- The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: A perfectly funny and touching road movie that I never wanted to end.
- Kong: Skull Island: Everything I wanted from a Kong film: thrilling set-pieces, weird characters, lurid cinematography and a great score.
- Ender’s Game: Gruellingly dull, like an episode of The Outer Limits stretched out to two hours. Never really earns its bleak ending.
- Body Double: ‘80s Brian De Palma thriller takes a long time to get going but once it does it’s enjoyably ludicrous.
- Futureworld: A largely unnecessary sequel only loosely related to Westworld, but it’s still perfectly watchable in that 70s bleak sci-fi way.
- The Brady Bunch Movie: As watchable now for 90s nostalgia as 70s nostalgia. Cute, stupid fun, and Gary Cole and Shelley Long are hilarious.
- Diva: French ‘80s thriller that makes a good companion piece to Luc Besson’s more hectic Subway. Gently surreal, punctuated with excitement.
- Saboteur: One of Hitchcock’s earlier films feels like a prototype for much of his later work. It’s excellent, but can feel a little familiar.
- The Quiet American: A solidly-respectable Graham Greene adaptation with sterling work from both Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser.
- The Lego Batman Movie: A fun first hour but the film massively outstays its welcome. Left me feeling exhausted and a little bored by the end.
- Logan Noir: Black & white release is spectacular, well-worth seeking it. The film itself is excellent.
- Hidden Figures: A solidly feel-good piece but feels a little movie-of-the-week at times. An important story that should be seen regardless.
- Jackie: Oppressive, claustrophobic and haunting. Natalie Portman had me transfixed and the score by Mica Levi is just incredible.
- The Fall: A film of amazing location photography, but the heart is in the touching performances from Lee Pace and his 10 year old co-star.
- La Piscine: A strong entry in my favourite genre of films about rich, beautiful people whose inherent unhappiness becomes their undoing.
- Near Dark: Fantastically-grotty vampire flick, all dust and blood. Features one of the most Bill Paxtoniest performances from Bill Paxton.
- Frauds: A dark and surreal Australian comedy from that weird, brief period when Phil Collins was a film star. Surprisingly good!