In a year of summer films that have struggled to elicit much more of a reaction than “ok, and?” from me — the deeply-flawed Warcraft has so far been my pick of the blockbusters — Ghostbusters at least feels like it was made by people who cared about it. The end result can be a little uneven, but it gets by with fun characters, a great script, and a liberal application of the 1984 soundtrack to kick my withered nostalgia gland happily into life. →
How much you'll get out of Warcraft: The Beginning may depend on how much you're willing to engage with the fantasy genre itself; the film is serious-faced high-fantasy and isn't ashamed of it. This is fine. Where the film wobbles is in being a prequel rather than simply the first in a series, a film that explains how the war between humans and orcs came about without that war ever having presented on film. Unashamedly presenting fantasy film tropes is one thing; assuming an existing audience investment in videogame source material is another. →
Throughout my whole adult life, there have always been X-Men films, so when the 20th Century Fox fanfare segues into the X-Men fanfare as it does every time, I can't deny I get a little thrill from it. There's something of the elder statesman about the X-Men franchise, now in its sixteenth year without any serious rebooting or recasting; in the same time frame, we've seen three Peter Parkers, two Clark Kents, two Bruce Waynes and two sets of the Fantastic Four family. Even the Great Marvel Cinematic Universe has only been going for eight years. →
My feelings on Tom Holland's Spider-Man and Paul Rudd's Ant-Man in Captain America: Civil War reflect my feelings on the film as a whole: fun, but disposable. I enjoyed watching, but I can't imagine wanting, or needing, to watch the film again. →
I've had to accept that The Walking Dead isn't going to tell the story I want it to tell. Whether it's for budgetary reasons, or for a self-imposed need to stick closely to the events of the comics, or just a failure of imagination on the part of the show runners, I have no idea. The Walking Dead is going to tell the story of Rick and a few others finding what seems like a sanctuary, attempting to settle there, and then losing it to a hostile outside force, forcing a retreat into the woods. The details vary — sometimes the hostile outside force is a large herd of the undead, sometimes it's David Morrissey — but the basic story beats tend to be the same. →
I didn't hate Josh Trank's Fantastic Four, though it offers up so many reasons to do so. In its final form it's certainly a flawed work, awkwardly-constructed with a self-conscious script, shoddy plotting, a small cast and a sparsely-populated world that combines to give the film the feeling of an Amazon Original Series pilot instead of a blockbuster comic book movie. While I can't recommend watching it, I'm still interested in how a large part of its failure comes from ignoring the last 15 years of comic book cinema. →
A recent trip to Oxfordshire let me try out the recently-refurbished 'GWR' trains, introduced after First Great Western rebranded to their historical title of Great Western Railways, a rebrand so exhaustive they've designed their new trains for 19th century body shapes. →
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…
Around the start of last year I was performing my annual “Stroking of the books” ritual, where I…
I didn’t see Star Wars: The Force Awakens because on the day I planned to see it, it was raining. There…
Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth
When a character in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth introduced herself as Paloma Faith I knew the name, but I…
My 2015 film highlights
As usual at this time of year, I’ve picked 20 highlights from all the films I saw during 2015, this time…
Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Ostensibly set in the same Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil but actually sharing very little in terms of…
No experience necessary
It was recently announced that Seth Grahame-Smith, a middling screenwriter with only a smidgen of TV directing…
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…
Breakfast at Kopapa
I had every intention of writing about breakfast at the Tapa Room, a Marylebone restaurant with an unusual…
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,…
Animal Crossing and aspirational living
One of the key features in the latest Animal Crossing is the Happy Home Showcase, in which the houses…
- The Man Who Wasn’t There: Great-looking Coen brothers noir with equally great performances. Story feels a little undercooked, but it gets by.
- The Spanish Prisoner: So-so drama showing how easily someone can be tricked into betrayal, especially if they’re the stupidest man alive.
- The Fifth Element: So ‘90s and European I can’t help but love it all the more, given recent events. Even Ruby Rhod seems more tolerable.
- Leon: Wonderful for so many reasons — cast, script, cinematography, soundtrack — but also just for Gary Oldman's "EVERYONE!" rendition.
- Moulin Rouge: Watched for maybe the thousandth time, because I can can can.
- Bang Gang: Vacuous teenage drama.
- Nice Guys: A little looser and flabbier than some of Shane Black’s other films, but still brilliant. Great sight gags, fun performances.
- Family Plot: Hitchcock’s last film, a fun comedy thriller in which wild-eyed Bruce Dern gives a great wild-eyed Bruce Dern performance.
- Bridge of Spies: Fine, I guess, but lacking in the sort of depth, complexity and tension you might get from, say, a John Le Carre adaptation.
- Tangerines: Perfect little story about overcoming prejudice and moving past differences. Strongly performed, genuinely moving.
- Rope: An important lesson on the importance of not panicking when you think you’ve been caught out.
- Vertigo: A lurid story of obsession, manipulation and fear that seemed somehow appropriate right now.
- Cinderella (2015): Live-action adaptation of the fairy tale that never amounts to anything more than a polished, pretty banality.
- Torn Curtain: A solid enough Hitchcock thriller but felt a little by-the-numbers at times, like his heart just wasn’t in it.
- Tale of Tales: Excellent fairy tale anthology; grim and dark with amazing visuals. Riveting stuff.
- One False Move: Pretty good ‘90s neo-noir that’s worth watching for Billy Bob Thornton’s awful ponytail mullet alone.
- Grandma: Lily Tomlin as a misanthropic poet trying to help her granddaughter get an abortion is basically my spirit animal. Great piece.
- Fantastic Voyage: Like watching a lava lamp for 90 minutes without the benefit of being stoned.
- Transformers: The Movie: Like listening to an album of shitty ‘80s music that happens to have a robot cartoon running in the background.
- Milano Calibro 9: Absurdly violent and trashy Italian crime thriller. I don’t think a single spoken line matched the lip movements.
- Mystery Road: A by-the-numbers Australian cop thriller. Watching it was a bit like how I imagine it feels to read a Lee Child novel.
- Kiss of the Spider Woman: Perfect character piece, has made me seek out more of Raul Julia’s work. Turns out he’s not just Gomez & M. Bison!
- Love & Friendship: Fantastic Jane Austen adaptation that I can’t recommend highly enough. Kate Beckinsale incredible. Tom Bennett hysterical.
- Warcraft: The Beginning: Against all the odds, I enjoyed it. It’s flawed, but there's some good stuff here and there.
- It Happened One Night: 1934 romcom that’s served as a template for all other romcoms ever. Brilliant, and kind of quaint.