Film & TV

  1. Survive The Walking Dead

    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 β€” sometimes the hostile outside force is a large herd of the undead, sometimes it's David Morrissey β€” but the basic story beats tend to be the same. β†’

  2. 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 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. β†’

  3. Sight unseen

    I didn't see Star Wars: The Force Awakens because on the day I planned to see it, it was raining. There was no way I was going to get from my flat to the cinema without ending up with wet jeans which meant I'd have to sit in a full cinema in wet jeans watching a film that, I realised in a moment of epiphany, I had no interest in. I'd booked a ticket in advance like everybody else, swept up in the hype, not because I particularly cared about Star Wars as a franchise, but because of the sense that there would be conversations about the film and I'd want to be involved in them. β†’

  4. Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth

    When a character in Paolo Sorrentino's Youth introduced herself as Paloma Faith I knew the name, but I had no idea if this really was Paloma Faith, or an actress playing the part of Paloma Faith. The former scenario baffled me because there's no particular reason for Paloma Faith to be in the film playing herself, and the latter because there's no good reason for an actress to be playing the part of Paloma Faith in a film where Paloma Faith's presence has no bearing beyond a brief name-drop that's lost on the rest of the cast. β†’

  5. 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 from a pool of 227 candidates. The only rule I follow is that I saw the film during 2015, though this year there's only a bit of an overlap with 2014 so that probably isn't all that important. β†’

  6. Marvel’s Jessica Jones

    Ostensibly set in the same Hell's Kitchen as Daredevil but actually sharing very little in terms of tone, location or character, Jessica Jones comes with a solid noir atmosphere and is free of comic book hijinks, with its gritty tone, violence, sex, and themes of rape, abortion and survivor guilt. Despite this, the show avoids bleakness for bleakness's sake, and is one of Marvel's stronger productions thanks to a great cast and an originality that comes from focusing on women, and the experiences of women. β†’

  7. No experience necessary

    It was recently announced that Seth Grahame-Smith, a middling screenwriter with only a smidgen of TV directing experience had been hired to direct The Flash for Warner Brothers. Melissa Silverstein for Indiewire lamented that Grahame-Smith was "a man with ZERO film directing experience and he is being offered the keys to the kingdom". While Silverstein argues that studios are taking a hiring approach that may as well be "any male director, even with no experience, is preferable to any woman director", I'm not sold on the idea that these summer tentpole releases are prestigious 'keys to the kingdom'. I don't think it's that the studio thinks any male director is better than any female director, it's that they don't really want any director at all. β†’

  8. The Voices

    There's something about Ryan Reynolds that's always rubbed me up the wrong way. Maybe it's his high profile that's so out of proportion to his middling career, maybe it's his weak smile and perpetually blank face, all unfinished smoothness like some 2001-era CGI, or maybe it's just that I'm jealous that Scarlett Johansson chose him over me back in 2008. Whatever it is, he bugs me, even more so than other actors of his ilk β€” the Bradley Coopers and Sam Worthingtons, these lumpen sausage-meat actors continually foisted upon us as The Next Big Thing because Hollywood can't imagine a world in which a thirtysomething white man with beady eyes set into a face like raw cookie dough can't lead a movie to a huge profit. All that said, Ryan Reynolds playing an unhinged serial killer is something I can apparently get on board with. β†’

  9. Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea

    Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon had already proved themselves with the beautiful, well-received debut The Secret of Kells, a film I fell soundly in love with back in 2010. In 2014 I listed Moon Man in my annual roundup of film highlights. Song of the Sea, a story of a boy and his sister questing their way home through Irish mythology, continues their winning streak. β†’

  10. Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man

    Ant-Man is a fun, serviceable but ultimately forgettable film, forever at risk of collapsing from too much thought on its wobbly narrative. Case in point: towards the end, Michael Douglas's Hank Pym catches his daughter, Evangeline Lily as Hope, kissing Paul Rudd's Scott Lang. "When did this start?" asks Pym. Good question, I thought, because there'd been no setup, no sexual tension, no romantic back-and-forth. The kiss is a moment apparently in the script because someone thought they should be kissing at that point. It doesn't make a lick of sense and has no consequences anyway. Such is Peyton Reed's Ant-Man. β†’

  11. Ruining Mad Max: Fury Road

    I walked out of Mad Max: Fury Road after barely an hour, which, judging by the uniformly-positive reaction everywhere to the film, puts me squarely in the role of Nancy Bellicec at the end of Body Snatchers. It'd be unfair to critique the film when I didn't see all of it so I'm not going to, but I did think a lot about why I reacted so poorly towards it, when it's objectively one of the best-realised films this year and a great example of its form. β†’

  12. Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron

    One of the biggest fan complaints about Man of Steel was that there was something very un-Superman-like about Superman, levelling Metropolis during his fight with General Zod but doing nothing to ensure the safety of the people; director Zack Synder estimated the death toll at 5,000, but somewhere around 129,000 seems more likely. Synder's claim that all those deaths are narratively necessary so that Superman can feel, like, really heavy with sadness is spurious; having Superman save people AND defeat Zod at the same time would have given him the moral high ground, but, whatever, this isn't the time or place. β†’

  13. Marvel’s Daredevil

    I've found it interesting that where Marvel has overwhelmed DC in the film world, the reverse has been true when it comes to TV. Where Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D struggled to be any better than tolerable and Agent Carter struggles to get distribution because oh my GOD she's a LADY, DC's been striding ahead with the remarkably solid Arrow and its sunnier, more fun spin-off The Flash, both of which have introduced a slew of DC heroes and villains ready for yet more spin-offs and team-ups. β†’

  14. Review of Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman

    Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman is a film never sure what it wants to be, a tonally-mismatched piece that never commits to the horror of its initial situation, mixing scenes of rape and violence with ill-judged 'odd couple' moments of comedy and light slapstick. β†’

  15. The videogame mechanics of Patema Inverted

    The conceit behind Patema Inverted, a 2013 anime by Yasuhiro Yoshiura, is that at some point in the past, scientists inadvertently reversed the direction of Earth's gravity, causing mass destruction and many deaths, with the survivors splintering into two societies, one above ground and one below, each subjected to an opposing gravitational force: those above appear to be pulled down into the planet, and those underground appear to be pulled upwards, toward the sky. β†’

  16. My 2014 film highlights

    My annual film highlights post, in which I highlight 20 films from all that I saw during 2014. This time I've selected from 232, and as usual the only limitation is that I saw the film last year; no restrictions on release date. The films listed aren't necessarily what I'd call the best, but I think they're all noteworthy for various reasons. I think this might be more of a downbeat list than previous years. Such was 2014. β†’

  17. Review of Alejandro IΓ±Γ‘rritu’s Birdman

    In 2008, Jean-Claude Van Damme appeared as an unflattering version of himself in JCVD, a washed-up film star unable to find work who returns to Belgium and finds that a misunderstanding during a post-office heist helps revitalise his career. It's a pretty good film, and there's a lot of similarity between it and Birdman, which sees Michael Keaton playing an equally-unflattering version of himself as a washed-up former comic book film star trying to put on a Serious Play in a bid for relevance. β†’

  18. Tim Burton’s Big Eyes

    Big Eyes, the story of mid-century artist Margaret Keane who took her husband to court to prove that her popular portraits of big-eyed children were by her, and not him, is more interesting as a new direction for Tim Burton than it is as a film in its own right. β†’

  19. Review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

    I quite liked the first Hobbit, though it was worryingly over-stuffed with Christopher Lee cameos and whatnot. The second film on the other hand was all stuffing and no meat, a relentless parade of middling events and characters apparently only there to pay off in the third film. In retrospect, so few of those moments and characters actually do pay off that it makes me dislike the middle film all the more. β†’

  20. My annual Christmas film marathon

    For a long time I always tried to spend Christmas with people, because society says that’s what you do at Christmas and if you’re not doing this then you must be a sad, lonely bachelor eating beans on toast for Christmas lunch and wishing your life was a bit less depressing than the Eastenders Christmas Special. β†’

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