My appreciation of the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films comes from a single scene in Silver Surfer, where Mr. Fantastic has begrudgingly gone to his own bachelor party, and we cut to him being a big nerd, surrounded by attractive twentysomething women and talking about something scientific. “…it expanded exponentially into what became the universe we know,” he explains. “Wow, you're really smart!” replies one of the women. “Thanks, Candy. That means a lot to me.” →
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. →
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…
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…
- Ace in the Hole: Fiercely cynical noir, back from when actors didn’t so much act as simply bulge their eyes & sweat.
- Watership Down: A film all children should watch, to teach them valuable lessons such as “how to choke a rabbit” and “do rabbits float?”
- Bone Tomahawk: Superb minimalist Western, darkly funny, also gruesome & horrific. Some self-consciousness about its own racism comes through.
- Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: A bad Jane Austen pastiche, a bad horror film and a bad comedy. Really quite a comprehensive failure.
- Triple 9: Tediously masculine.
- Jurassic Park: A thrilling, terrifying warning from Spielberg and Crichton to avoid single points of failure in your IT staffing solution.
- Out of the Past: Outstanding 40s noir in which Robert Mitchum plays a man cursed to never remove his trench coat.
- Jason Bourne: A promising first draft of a film. Hopefully they can improve the plot, screenplay and character motivations before release.
- To Live and Die in LA: Solid, trashy eighties noir with William Dafoe when he looked like a rubbery CGI interpretation of his younger self.
- One Million Years B.C.: So utterly ridiculous on so many levels it’s practically adorable.
- The Lost Boys: Actually perfect.
- Welcome to Me: Dark comic piece from Kristen Wiig about a woman with borderline personality disorder winning the lottery. Funny but painful.
- Red Desert: Bleak and oppressive Antonioni piece that’s probably a great choice if you’re in the mood for something bleak and oppressive.
- High-Rise: All style and no substance. Could have said so much about the problems of modern living, instead said nothing at all.
- Ghostbusters (2016): I haven’t wanted to be a Ghostbuster this much since the early 90s.
- The Birds: Obviously brilliant, but also worth noting for one of my favourite Big Train sketches.
- Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key: The amazing title by far the best thing, but it’s still a solid bit of Italian schlock.
- 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.