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. →
No. 1 Duke Street is the Richmondiest place you can go for breakfast in the whole of Richmond, because while the food is excellent there’s also a tense, uptight feel to the place that no amount of complimentary cucumber water, wicker chairs and deep, soft sofas can mask. Like Richmond in general, No. 1 Duke Street is a place for people who think they’re pretty cool and liberal and trendy but would lose their shit if the coffee machine at Waitrose was out of order. →
Following Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man, Doctor Strange is the third Marvel film in a row that’s left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. Not nearly as weird as publicity would have us believe, the film papers over a well-worn story template and bland characters with some kaleidoscope effects and not a lot else. →
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…
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…
Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse
Throughout my whole adult life, there have always been X-Men films, so when the 20th Century Fox fanfare…
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…
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,…
- Venus: Poignant and bittersweet and just on the tolerable side of icky. Like Lost in Translation without the overbearing smugness.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: Aimed at a younger audience than the first, with less violence and grit. Still, not complaining about David Warner & Vanilla Ice.
- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: I’m a big fan of this musical, though almost everyone in it is a terrible human being.
- Crimes of Passion: A filthy, lurid, neon-soaked gem from Ken Russell. Kathleen Turner is amazing, and Anthony Perkins is at his sweatiest.
- Cut Bank: An unexpectedly decent Fargo-esque flick starring one of the backup Hemsworths. Some robust casting and a surprising story.
- Phantom of the Paradise: Bonkers ‘70s rock opera adaptation of Faust and The Phantom of the Opera. Dreadfully amazing in all the best ways.
- Lonely Are the Brave: This ‘last of the cowboys’ story somehow manages to be cheerful and morose at the same time. Maybe a bit of a classic.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990): Forgotten how solid this is; funny, great effects work, decent casting, and a dopey 90s soundtrack.
- Our Kind of Traitor: Practically the dictionary definition of a 6/10 film. Determinedly unexceptional in every way.
- Barton Fink: There’s a narrative complexity and visual beauty to this that comes through on repeated viewings. I’ve grown to love the film.
- Only Yesterday: A sweet, gentle, unassuming character drama. Maybe lesser known than Ghibli’s other work but really worth checking out.
- Princess Mononoke: Thought-provokingly weird and exhilaratingly violent.
- Hardcore Henry: If you can tolerate the insufferable Sharlto Copley then there’s a lot of dumb fun to be found here. Inventive and funny.
- The Magnificent Seven (2016): Not brilliant, but not bad either. Predictable action beats but the cast all seemed to be having fun.
- Journey to Italy: A reverse Roman Holiday as a couple go on an Italian holiday together and discover they hate each other. A masterpiece.
- The Long Good Friday: Absolutely perfect. Harold Shand is the quintessential confident man completely out of his depth.
- Shivers: Cronenberg’s first film is cheap but brilliant. Disturbing, comical, grotesque.
- Silverado: A strong cast can’t help this 80s Western feel like a 50s throwback. Nothing specifically bad about it, but it’s been surpassed.
- Meek’s Cutoff: A bleak and haunting minimalist Western that’s just on the edge of oppressive. Pretty much flawless.
- Detention: Actually the best horror sci-fi comedy romance teen-drama 90s homage you’ll ever see.
- Charlie’s Angels: I un-ironically love it. Great villains, great soundtrack, fun fights, solid action, and Tim Curry. What’s not to like?
- Jamaica Inn: Might not be classic Hitchcock but it’s a great restoration and Charles Laughton is at his Laughtoniest. Worth a Sunday watch.
- Hellraiser: Hellworld: An implausibly-decent cast can’t save what’s fundamentally a mediocre teen slasher film with a Pinhead cameo.
- Ghost in the Shell (2017): A dull, perfunctory remake that does nothing and says nothing new.
- Train to Busan: Remarkably solid Korean zombie flick. Claustrophobic, darkly comic, and train staff with a real sense of professionalism.