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. →
I want to start this piece (which does contain spoilers), by stating my credentials: despite my rock-hard, toffee-glazed exterior, I like musicals. Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, The Little Shop of Horrors, Moulin Rouge, Chicago, The Young Girls of Rochefort, The Nightmare Before Christmas and every goddamn Muppet film except for the one I haven’t seen because it stars Ricky Gervais. I think most TV shows would benefit at least one musical episode, like Buffy’s Once More With Feeling, or the whole of Doctor Horrible, or the musical episode of Lexx, or the karaoke bit in Sense8, or the entirety of the ruthlessly inventive My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, or Mayhem of the Music Meister! from Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I like musicals so much I sometimes regret I wasn’t born homosexual, but, we all have to play the hand we’re dealt, and my hand is, tragically, straight. →
My annual film highlights post, in which I highlight 20 films from all I saw during the previous year. Not all are without their flaws, but I'm very fond of all of them, flaws and all. →
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…
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…
Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters
In a year of summer films that have struggled to elicit much more of a reaction than “ok, and?” from me…
Duncan Jones’ Warcraft: The Beginning
How much you’ll get out of Warcraft: The Beginning may depend on how much you’re willing to engage…
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,…
- The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers: Slow-burning, unsettling, completely baffling. Worth a look!
- The Red Turtle: A perfectly-drawn, expertly-told fairy tale that somehow left me unmoved & a little bored. Not sure which of us is to blame.
- Rear Window (1998): About as good as a TV remake of Rear Window (1954) ever could be, but post-accident Christopher Reeve keeps it interesting.
- Memento: Endlessly watchable and gripping even when you know how the story unfolds. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.
- Vampires: It’s good, but James Woods and Daniel Baldwin are such unsympathetic leads I was rooting for the vampires for the whole film.
- The Fabulous Baker Boys: Bit of a hum-drum, soppy story, but with warm, genuine performances from Jeff & Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer.
- Southland Tales: Something of an acquired taste, but one I’m very thankful to have acquired. Silly and surreal throughout.
- Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Serviceable Saturday morning fare but not exactly Disney at its best. Fine, but forgettable.
- Phantasm: Veered wildly between slapstick comedy and genuinely unsettling horror. Angus Scrimm an astonishing screen presence.
- The Underneath: Underrated Soderbergh noir with a solid Peter Gallagher performance and a sliced-up narrative that keeps things interesting.
- Highlander: The only good thing to have come out of the Highlander franchise. Trashy and lurid and ridiculous and fun.
- Atlantic City: A career-best performance by Burt Lancaster, but everyone here does great work. Darkly comic, occasionally moving.
- Fat City: A film of unassuming despair, of characters trapped in their own lives. Hopper-esque cinematography adds to the quiet bleakness.
- Warcraft: The Beginning: It’s flawed, but it’s better than you’ve heard and worth a look.
- Fright Night (1985): Much to love; gory effects, Chris Sarandon’s seductive vampire, & Roddy McDowall’s constantly baffled & horrified expressions.
- Subway: Peculiar early work from Luc Besson with a bleached-blonde Christopher Lambert and an amazing soundtrack. Energetic, weird stuff.
- Total Recall (1990): Endlessly-rewarding, and a particular treat if you like seeing Schwarzenegger repeatedly kicked in the groin.
- Wonder Woman: Fantastic. Reminded me why I love superhero films.
- Topaz: A languorously-paced Hitchcock thriller, takes a while getting anywhere but when it does, it’s often worth the wait.
- Kiss of the Spider Woman: An impeccably scripted character drama with both Raul Julia and William Hurt putting in flawless performances.
- Frantz: An agreeably-twisty post-war drama, both beautifully shot and performed.
- Tequila Sunrise: A sluggish and forgettable crime thriller that sparks briefly and occasionally into life when Raul Julia turns up.
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: Generally mediocre from start to finish, but it picks up a few comforting nostalgia points along the way.
- Key Largo: Nihilistic, downbeat, a dour film of perpetual bleakness. Recommended!
- Roman Holiday: The most perfect, sweetest film there’s ever been about a bunch of constant liars who will never find happiness together.