1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Ostensibly a police procedural set in Gotham City before the appearance of Batman, Gotham is a frustratingly difficult series to enjoy or recommend, with a scattershot approach to storytelling that makes trying to keep on top of things pointless, and drifting so far from the source it’s a wonder the showrunners didn’t just make the fully-fledged Batman series they so obviously wanted to. But, credit where credit’s due; there’s a lot here to like despite the flaws.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.”

From the archives

In brief

  1. Rams: Oddball Icelandic drama of two estranged sheep farming brothers. Bleak, darkly comic at times, and touching throughout.
  1. La Belle Noiseuse: A long and dreamy piece concerning an ageing painter and his muse. Strangely relaxing, like if Bob Ross did nudes and ennui.
  1. Donnie Darko: Kinda funny. Kinda sad.
  1. Conversation Piece: A captivating character piece though I was perpetually distracted wondering if Burt Lancaster was wearing a wig.
  1. 2046: One of those films where every still looks like it could be framed. A perfect soundtrack as well.
  1. The Neon Demon: Sour and mean-spirited and just beautifully ludicrous.
  1. Cloud Atlas: The underlying message may be trite but the execution and delivery are flawless. Dizzyingly, mind-bendingly wonderful.
  1. April & the Extraordinary World: Beautiful animation set in an alternate steampunk France. A unique story, great script, and a talking cat.
  1. 52 Pick-Up: One of those perfectly lurid, trashy films you expect to randomly run into on late-night Channel 4. Great stuff.
  1. Hail Caesar!: Smart and funny and features a tap-dancing Channing Tatum. Hard to see how it could be improved.
  1. Christine: Not great. Couldn’t get past the idea of a demonically-possessed car that needs you to get inside/in front of it to be killed.
  1. Assault on Precinct 13: Never get bored of watching this, or humming that perfect soundtrack. A taut and intense piece.
  1. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2: Not a bad sequel. A little unbalanced and unintentionally funny at times, but appealingly surreal throughout.
  1. Gattaca: An elegant, thoughtful, sophisticated piece with a timeless look and style. Could happily watch it on a loop.
  1. Bridge to Terabithia: Forgettable kids stuff with a terrible soundtrack. Not even worthwhile as background noise.
  1. Dracula (1931): Maybe heretical to say, but aside from Lugosi’s amazing stare, this has not aged well. Historically interesting, little more.
  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Very aware of how my nostalgia was being manipulated, but the film is so well done & so well performed, I was ok with it.
  1. Catch Me If You Can: Probably my favourite film that can be watched entirely through the opening credits alone.
  1. Cleopatra: Epic in length and star power but kind of middling in other regards. Never a slog, but hard to lose yourself in it as well.
  1. The Little Prince: A bit unwieldy, with the fairytale told almost as an afterthought within the film. Some charm. Generally fine, I guess.
  1. Twilight’s Last Gleaming: One of those sour ‘70s thrillers that aim to shock with a downbeat ending. Overlong and a little quaint.
  1. Twelve Monkeys: Perfectly defeatist and neatly wrapped. Can’t help but root for the deadly virus these days though.
  1. Hellraiser: Gruesome effects have aged well, but everything else looks like a McCoy-era Doctor Who. Historically interesting, but feels tame now.
  1. The Blues Brothers: It remains, after maybe a hundred viewings so far, a joy from start to finish.
  1. Snow White: A Tale of Terror: A title and cast that promised great things, but in the end, it’s just bland and dull, with a splash of gore.