I was always going to appreciate No Man’s Sky. The look of the game is pure ‘70s sci-fi trash, all orange clouds and acid rain, the hardware chunky and brightly coloured with just a bit of smudge around the edges. The soundtrack as well matches perfectly, all pop and synth and twang. That’s just the surface, though: to fully appreciate the game, I first had to understand what sort of game it is. →
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. →
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…
Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four
I didn’t hate Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, though it offers up so many reasons to do so. In its…
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…
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…
- Cherry 2000: Bit like a Mad Max film if the goal was a sexbot instead of water or oil. Ludicrous story, but earnestly presented at least.
- Eureka: A promising scenery-chewing drama with Gene Hackman and Rutger Hauer that sadly descends into dull courtroom drama halfway through.
- King Solomon’s Mines/Lost City of Gold: Dire Indiana Jones knock-offs. Racist, sexist, embarrassing for all involved. Couldn’t stop watching.
- Killer Dames: Double-bill of ‘70s Italian schlock. Ticked all the boxes: bad dubbing, excessive nudity, blood the colour of orange paint.
- Rabid: One of Cronenberg’s great, disgusting early works. Faintly nauseating in the best way.
- Star Trek: Insurrection: Not bad enough to hate, but something to be said for watching it when too ill to think. Pleasantly unchallenging.
- Porco Rosso: My favourite Ghibli, this time watched with the French language track. Jean Reno as Rosso is as perfect as you might expect.
- Intermezzo: Beautiful ‘30s film in which a man leaves his wife and children for Ingrid Bergman, because of course he does. Why wouldn’t he?
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Quite possibly the best worst film I’ve ever seen. Objectively awful, yet totally absorbing.
- Attack on Titan Part 1: A faithful adaptation of the anime: tedious, dull characters, stilted dialogue, but with a smidgen of decent action.
- Jaws: Every time I watch Jaws I think “I won’t jump at the head in the boat” and every goddamn time, I jump. The film is basically magic.
- Romeo + Juliet: Fantastic adaptation that I’ve seen dozens of times. Great soundtrack as well, as explored here.
- Sexy Beast: All about Ben Kingsley and his terrifying physical performance. Even saying ‘no’ is dreadful.
- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: One of those classic ‘50s westerns that now feel turgid and stagey to me. Is it good? Bad? No idea.
- Malena: An entire WW2-era Sicilian town loses its mind when Monica Bellucci moves in. Seemed plausible.
- LFO: Solid bit of Scandinavian sci-fi about a man who can control others with sound. Dryly funny, creepy, weird. Worth checking out.
- 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.