You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This

Thursday, 24 December 2015


"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...."

After the prequels more or less managed to strip the gloss off the franchise1, it seems apt that the opening lines of Star Wars: The Force Awakens refer to a sort of redemption.2 This long-awaited, almost mythical follow-up to the Holy Trilogy3 has the added advantage/burden of returning to the three characters we actually care about; namely Luke4, Han, and Leia. It’s smart, therefore, that writer-director/godfather J.J. Abrams5 front-loads the film with the new cast, about whom we will quickly have to feel the same way — and luckily we do.6

On the hero front, we have Finn (John Boyega, Attack the Block) as a conflicted former stormtrooper7, steely yet vulnerable scavenger Rey (newcomer Daisy Ridley)8, and ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis)9. As villains, The Force Awakens serves up prissy demagogue General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson, Ex Machina)10, the chrome-suited Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie, Game of Thrones)11, and, the best of the bunch, Sith Lord Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, While We're Young)— like Darth Vader with added temper tantrums.12


Even at 135-minutes long, The Force Awakens barely lets up: within twenty minutes of getting the show on the road, it’s already served up a a brutal massacre, a daring escape, a crash landing. Bringing state-of-the-art CGI to classic space adventure scenarios13, it gives us a world that feels at once new and familiar — and unlike George Lucas’ later tampering with Episodes IV-VI, it crucially feels busy rather than cluttered14. As with the best of the franchise it also boils down to what is essentially a mythic family-driven saga… in space!15

Striking a balance between breakneck action16 and moments of serenity17, The Force Awakens gets a lot right before even getting to the original cast. Harrison Ford’s Han is that bit more cantankerous18, his relationship with Leia has an element of sadness to it19, but when John Williams’ magnificent score rises up and rouses the soul all of a sudden its 1983 again20. The film isn’t without originality21, but it feels largely like a riff on what’s come before.22 This is encapsulated in the figure of new droid BB-8 — equal parts R2-D2, Sphero, and Wall-E.23

True, the film skips over more than one important plot beat24 and the second act could be accused of going through the motions25, but as a chance to see a somewhat more grizzled Corellian smuggler banter exasperatedly with a remarkably well-aged Wookie, The Force Awakens is mana from Bespin. Even if the plot is somewhat by-the-numbers26, the film gets the characters exactly right. No politics (for better or worse)27, just pure adventure cinema.28 It’s everything you might hope for, and profoundly satisfying for it, even if there’s nothing truly groundbreaking.29

SUMMARY: Star Wars: The Force Awakens recaptures much of the old magic30, but leaves it to future installments to take the risks. On third viewing31, it gets an 8 out of 10.


1 As with The Two Jakes and The Godfather: Part III, Episodes I-III don’t necessarily taint their successors, but the universe is indefinably ever so slightly worse for their existence.
2 It’s always nice to see Max Von Sydow (The Seventh Seal, The Exorcist) in work and his presence here is less distracting than that of Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Kate Fleetwood (Lady Macbeth to Patrick Stewart’s Macbeth) as one-line extras at Starkiller Base.
3 Whether or not you’re a bonafide fan, it’s hard to argue against Star Wars and Indiana Jones as perhaps the definitive action-adventure series. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, therefore, stands as testament to what can happen when your long-awaited, almost mythical follow-up goes wrong.
4 Though Luke is almost entirely absent from proceedings. Star Wars: Episode VII could equally have been subtitled “The Search for Luke”. When he does finally arrives, though, it’s a doozy.
5 Abrams’ involvement would seem to be akin to that of Joss Whedon’s figurehead role in the MCU. Call Disney unimaginative but they know a good recipe when they see it.
6 It’s to The Force Awakens’ benefit that they don’t simply fall into the archetypes established by their predecessors — hero, rogue, process — but are more like combinations. Boyega’s Finn, for instance, may be a heroic everyman but he’s also got a dark past. It’s a neat twist.
7 This is the closest that the franchise has come to anything resembling racial diversity (Oscar Isaac is Hispanic). Hopefully Finn won’t turn out to be the long-lost son of Lando Calrissian.
8 There’s a recurring theme here of lost family — Rey’s have inexplicably abandoned her on Jakku. Fingers crossed it doesn’t turn out to be Luke and, based on those cheekbones, possibly his mother’s decoy. The Star Wars universe is quite small enough without everyone being related.
9 A secondary character, he’s the closest thing The Force Awakens has to a new Han, albeit with a touch less attitude, a shade more intensity, and open commitment to a cause.
10 A Grand Moff Tarkin who’s upgraded to jackboots rather than carpet slippers.
11 Phasma has already been called the new Boba Fett. Like Fett, she has some cool armour and, like Fett, she doesn’t actually do very much here. Still, there’s always Episode VIII.
12 Driver is magnificent in the role, bringing a compelling undercurrent of anger and shame to a role that could, in other hands, have come across as a self-pitying emo with daddy issues. The film’s not entirely po-faced in its treatment of him either: when he breaks out his lightsaber and proceeds to make Julienne torture chair, two approaching stormtroopers casually do an about-turn. Driver is so convincing that when he and Oscar Isaac shared the screen I almost forgot about this (
13 The film is essentially a gloss on A New Hope, right down to the accelerated tracking shot through a Mos Eisley-style tavern and a climactic trench run; a fact wryly acknowledged in Han’s line about blowing up what is essentially the Death Star turned up to 11 (“There's always a way to do that.”)
14 This is immersive detail as an element of storytelling as opposed to a sign of insecurity or an excuse for another line of toys.
15 Space… space… space…
16 A sequence where Finn, Rey, Han, Chewie, and two expendable gangs of smugglers are set upon by a trio of toothy, tentacled beasties is entirely surplus to the needs of the plot, but also highly inventive fun that recall the series roots in space adventure serials like Flash Gordon.
17 The little look that Han gives Rey upon her seeing an alien world for perhaps the first time — “I didn't think there was this much green in the whole galaxy” — is lovely.
18 As presumably is Ford himself. It looks like he really cares here, though; that his reprising the beloved role after thirty years was more than a matter of a rumoured $20-something million pay-check.
19 Carrie Fisher is also missing her coke nail from Return of the Jedi.
20 Seriously, has any piece of music better summed up a relationship than "Han and the Princess"?
21 The moment where Kylo Ren stops a blaster bolt and leaves it quivering in midair is very “Whoa”. The giant, cleave-headed Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is more of a “What?” moment. Here’s hoping that, away from the projector, he’s secretly the size of Jiminy Cricket.
22 The film’s opening shot of a Star Destroyer eclipsing a luminous planet is entirely in the vein of A New Hope, but when it’s this luscious and loving it’s hard to grouse.
23 With R2-D2 almost entirely sidelined for proceedings, there’s no way that Anthony Daniels wasn’t kicking the blue-and-white can between takes. “Fuck you, Kenny Baker. I’m an actor!”
24 Four planets are destroyed here by Starkiller Base’s sometime scientifically inexplicable beam-splitter, including the Republic capital, and their passing barely merits a mention. “It’s as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were largely ignored.”
25 Rey’s flashbacks upon discovering Luke’s old lightsaber also feel a bit like a plot dump in a film otherwise devoid of exposition.
26 Or at least archetypal. Joseph Campbell, eat your heart out.
27 The exact distinction between the Resistance and the Republic, and their relationship to the First Order, is unclear, but at least we don’t get mired in any Trade Federation bollocks.
28 And cinema-literate adventure at that. The pull focus on three TIE fighters coming out of the sun is cribbed straight from Apocalypse Now. The Force Awakens rewards geekery on multiple levels.
29 Even — SPOILER, SPOILER, SPOILER, SPOILER, SPOILER, SPOILER, SPOILER — the tragic death of Han Solo at the hands of his own son, Kylo Ren, recalls both A New Hope (the death of a mentor figure*) and The Empire Strikes Back (only its the son who sends the father tumbling down an air shaft). Doesn’t make it any less affecting, though.
When Han calls out “Ben”, apparently Kylo’s real name, I muttered to myself, “No, you’re Ben (Kenobi).
30 The final battle between Ren and Rey on the wintry woodland surface of the Starkiller planet is haunting, even if it seems unlikely that a total novice like Rey could overcome a trained Sith. Something something chosen one, perhaps?

31 Addendum: Watching the film for a third time the foreshadowing seemed all the clearer. The vision Ren picks out of Rey's mind of an island in a sea of blue is obviously where she finds Luke at the film's epilogue. Having previously been totally against the idea, I'm now sorta okay if Rey turns out to be Luke's kid - after all, she has to come from somewhere, right? Her serenity also contrasts wonderfully with Ren's anger Anger may be a shortcut to power, but it's that much more volatile and harder to control. Also, a 12A, two-and-a-bit hour nostalgia trip is not a fit place to drag an disinterested five year old, random man, even if you are trying to force a bonding experience. My sympathy is all the more limited when you keep rattling your (presumably enormous) keys at random intervals. Still, the fact your kid decided to quietly have a moan at you in the buildup to Ren killing Han was vaguely hilarious. When he then has the freaking audacity to ask why Chewbacca is upset, though, that, that is when you really lose me.

Thursday, 29 October 2015


I’m a bit torn on this one. The last Bond film, Skyfall, was my inaugural review on this site, so a big part of me wants to do a real in-depth analysis on this. The other part of me remembers that brevity is the soul of wit and is also tired. I’ll compromise: the review itself will be pretty brief — 300-ish words — but there’s an essay in the footnotes if you want to read on.

The evocatively titled Spectre, 24th installment of the Bond franchise, is a film steeped in continuity but light on originality.

While capitalizing on the back-story laid down for Daniel Craig’s super-spy in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall,1 it finds the time, over the course of 138 minutes2 to riff on nearly every previous episode from the series’ 53 year history.3 Road to Perdition’s Sam Mendes is back on directing duties and returning screenwriters John Logan/Neal Wade & Robert Purvis are joined by Jez Butterworth.4 From the opening shot of Spectre's Day of the Dead pre-credit sequence, though, it’s clear that Roger Deakins is no longer on cinematography duties. Interstellar’s Hoyte van Hoytema's work here is impressively layered and textured, primarily with dust, but there’s a lack of the vibrant compositions that made Skyfall so impressive.5

Despite his very public reservations about the role,6 Craig has lost none of his wry, chiseled gravitas7 – even if he’s beginning to show his age,8 just barely. Spectre gives us Bond at his most vulnerable and exposed – Sam Smith’s controversially quavery theme song, "Writing’s on the Wall", really works in this contextl.9 On the home front, Ralph Fiennes’ M10 is facing down a new threat to the service11 in the form of Andrew Scott’s smug, slimy C,12 who wants to scrap the 00 program in favor of a mysterious new surveillance system.13 Abroad,14 Bond finds himself in pursuit15 of a figure from his distant past,16 with a bit of help from Q17 and Moneypenny.18 

Spectre is full of figures from Bond’s past, the dead19 and the soon-to-die,20 plus two Bond girls – Monica Bellucci21 and Lea Seydoux22 – and the first attempt at a classic henchman we’ve had since Die Another Day.23 Amidst all these elements, though, what should be the center-piece – Bond’s traumatic connection to lead villain Franz Oberhauser24 (a reliably urbane Christoph Waltz) – kind of gets lost in the mix.25 Having mined all it can from its protagonist’s troubled personal life, and arguably hit dramatic bedrock,26 Spectre provides a thrilling but deeply flawed conclusion in what seems likely to Craig’s final appearance as Bond.27 With some occasionally perfunctory action28 and a hint of weary absurdity,29 the franchise is in need of a break.30

Give it five years or so and, with perhaps less focus on arcs and more on the traditional standalone missions,31 Chris Nolan in the director’s chair and Tom Hardy in the tux,32 there might just be life in the sexagenarian secret agent yet. 

Spectre gets a 6 out of 10 


1 Craig’s Bond is the first, of course, to have any real continuity in his films. The closest the series came before this was in recurring characters, like Jaws or Valentin Zukovsky.
2 Spectre is the longest Bond film at about three minutes longer than Casino Royale. Subjectively, though, that might as well be an eternity.
3 Wingless plane bursts through a snow-covered building full of logs? Check, The Living Daylights (sort of). Oblivious Italian driver ends up on the receiving end of the DB10’s front bumper? Check, every Roger Moore film, more or less. Boat pursuit along the Thames? Check, The World Is Not Enough. Even the villain’s control center seems to be an exact replica of Drax's base in Moonraker, and the car he sends to pick the hero up seems like a definite Goldfinger callback.
4 Butterworth is a fantastic writer — his play Jerusalem features one of the all-time great characters for the stage, Rooster Byron (unforgettably played by Mark Rylance). Given Butterworth’s burgeoning reputation as a script fixer, his work on Spectre doesn’t bode well.
5 Bond’s listening in on that conversation via sniper rifle from a rooftop definitely recalls Skyfall (sans that lovely blue neon jellyfish). It’s also nice to see Bond in a proper disguise for once — even if that “proper disguise” is a masked skeleton at a Day of the Dead celebration.
6 Spectre is Craig’s first acting role in three years and given the amazing pressures attached — the time commitment, staying in shape — it seems increasingly likely he won’t be coming back.
7 Daniel Craig is still perfect in the role (see: the minute double take after the building blows up as if to say, “Did I…? Oh, okay.”).
8 Unlike Moore, though, who managed an as-yet unbeaten seven films before getting booted from the franchise at age 57, Craig seems ready to leave in the fullness of time. At least Lazenby had that going for him, too.
9 Vis-a-vis a naked Daniel Craig being touched by flaming women — he’s been burned, dammit! —while surrounded by ghosts of the past: Silva leering; Vesper drowning; Le Chiffre doing whatever. Seriously, Mads Mikkelsen is an incredibly talented actor, but has anyone thought at all about Le Chiffre since the end of Casino Royale?
10 Ralph Fiennes’ M is in a word: “starchy”. He is good, though. “At least now we know what C stands for: careless”. Let’s just say, no one is thinking that.
11 Well, the same threat as in the previous film. That whole “spies are irrelevant” bit is beginning to ring true, though. Even Bourne is looking a touch outdated.
12 Andrew Scott (C) is pretty reliable at playing smug and slimy. His character went to school with the Home Secretary, don’t you know? It’s sorta satisfying when he goes the way of Sherlock.
13 This whole surveillance network, “Nine Eyes”, bit feels topical. I wonder if it’ll play into the plot in some meaningful way — no, wait. It doesn’t.
14 There’s a lot of globe-hopping even by Bond’s cosmopolitan standards: from a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico to a car chase through the windy backstreets of Rome to a clinic in the Swiss Alps (a la On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, though Bond’s aversion to health drinks seems more Never Say Never Again), a base in the deserts of Morocco, and the ruins of MI6. It’s amazing Bond can bear to be around so much snow given what happened to his mother and father, and surrogate father, and half-brother…
15 Oh, look, Bond’s gone (semi-)rogue, again. I think MI5 would panic if he didn’t.
16 This cutting between Bond’s face and the back of Christoph Waltz’s head certainly seems to imply some sort of connection between them. Hmm, I wonder if he might the other boy from that burned photo… I hope not. That would be an incredible fucking coincidence. Still, Waltz looks great seated in the shadow, whispering over that microphone. Very Max Von Sydow, right down to that Nehru suit he dons later in the film. And that white Persian cat. Wait… KHAN!!!
17 Q seems specially impish here, showing off the DB10 to Bond and *only* giving him a watch. And that whole “hands on hips” bit is very Desmond Llewellyn. He even gets in some field work.
18 And Moneypenny’s making house calls now. Don’t sleep with him, Moneypenny! If you sleep with him the franchise dies!
19 Aw, it’s nice to see Judi Dench again, if only on a computer screen and only for two seconds.
20 Poor, beleaguered Mr. White, hiding out in that crumbling manse. That “kite dancing in a hurricane” line sounds good, but what does it actually mean?
21 And so continues Bond’s long, uncomfortable history of semi-non-consensual sex, which only isn’t rape because he’s James Bond. There’s a line in London Boulevard about Monica Bellucci that’s looking particularly prescient about now. It’s an especial shame in light of the otherwise vaguely progressive fact that Bellucci is the oldest Bond girl, four years older than Craig even.
22 Unlike Lea Seydoux, who is seventeen years younger. But, ooh, is she actually going to properly reject Bond? Could she be a platonic Bond girl? That would be genuinely interesting. I mean, imagine it, Bond gets to show a bit of emotional maturity, character development even, while redeeming himself for failing to save Vesper, which has always been a chip on his shoulder. She even gets to deliver barbs at him aboard a train; all very Eva Green. No, wait, they’re going at it. Shit.
23 And Dave Bautista promises to be the first classic henchman we’ve had in a while. That neat little smile. That eye business was very Game of Thrones, too, albeit done on a 12A certificate. Shame he’s so underused. That train fight was very Red Grant/Teehee/Jaws, and Bond really got the hell beaten out of him for once
24 So apparently Blofeld is Bond’s half-brother. Yep, that’s a thing. I wonder if they’ll ever seriously address it in a way that will make up for the sheer level of serendipity involved. It’s as if Return of the Jedi had tried to pretend Darth Vader being Luke’s father was no biggie. The film underplays it, preferring to get down to “Pleasencetries”, but it might have been more convincing if developed just a bit.
25 He may be the first villain ever to threaten a hero with face blindness, though. “Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?” “No, Mr. Bond. I expect to give you prosopagnosia.” Given the complete lack of payoff to Oberhauser’s promises about the effects of his drilling into Bond’s head, you can probably cue a slew of conspiracy theories that Bond never made it out of the chair and the whole third act was all a hallucination — you can imagine a sort of Brazil-like post-credit scene with Bond humming the theme distractedly to himself: "Dum de de dum dum", "I think we've lost him, Madeleine...". In which case our never seeing Craig’s Bond again would make a certain morbid sense.
26 There’s a definite sense that this is it, everyone pack up and go home — we’re done. It’s the closest Bond’s ever got to riding off into the sunset. Q’s final line, “I thought you’d gone”, is a lovely grace-note.
27 As indifferent as this film is overall, it feels so conclusive it would almost be a shame for Craig to do another — especially if he really hates playing the role as much as it seems.
28 That square in Mexico, packed with thousands of panicking festival-goers, the helicopter brawl overhead threatening to spill out into open air: Slash Film were write when in a recent podcast on the new Mission: Impossible they said the Bond film’s occasionally suffered from putting their best set-piece out front. Also, the film definitely squanders the eponymous organization that Sony fought to hard to reclaim the rights to. Spectre is essentially just Quantum re-branded, a generic if threatening criminal UN. Still, that wasn’t all that came with the package…
29 Bond interrogating a rat is a cute moment of self-awareness about the absurdity of all this. The fact the rat’s hole leads him to a secret room is ludicrously Scooby Doo.
30 Sony might not even have the rights for much longer: they’ve held onto them since the new Casino Royale, but their deal with MGM expires this year.
31 Even if, yes, they can be a bit hit and miss.
32 At 43, Idris Elba is sadly too old to really be taking on the commitment and, much as I love a fellow ginger, Damian Lewis is even older. Hardy is gruff and buff, but he can definitely pull off suave — plus he and Nolan already worked together on Inception. Failing that, maybe we'll finally get the Tarantino version we've all kinda sorta been waiting for.

Sunday, 18 October 2015


With Crimson Peak beloved horror director Guillermo Del Toro sets about creating another period ghost story, one that takes its cues more from classic Gothic melodrama.1

The film follows Edith (Mia Wasikowska), the bookish only child2 of self-made New York industrialist Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver).3 When  Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a Baronet, arrives from England, Edith is quick to write him off, sight unseen, as a Bourgeois parasite. When the two do meet, however, she finds herself charmed by the dashing, Byronic figure and things quickly go the way of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.4

Their fairy-tale romance, however, is impinged upon by a sudden and brutal tragedy5, and Edith solemnly returns with Thomas to his ancestral home, the foreboding Allerdale Hall. A vast, decaying pile with battered turrets stretching towards the skies and red clay oozing up from the earth below, a definite fixer-upper to which the Sharpes — Thomas and his pale, suspicious sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) — seem preternaturally attached.6

While Thomas struggles to devise and build the machinery that will allow him to mine the clay and restore family’s squandered fortune, and Lucille drifts around the hall in high-collared black dresses like some tea-obsessed Big Bad Wolf, Edith finds herself the focus of a terrifying red-boned apparition.7 Edith, it seems, is sensitive to certain forces in a way that the close-knit Sharpes are not,8 and she soon finds herself investigating the secrets of so-called Crimson Peak9.

With its baroque furnishings and dingy William Morris wallpaper10, the house, like its inhabitants, is all about the silken interplay between light and shadow.11 All the familiar touches are there — the portrait of the stern, long-deceased matriarch, the atmospheric iris wipes, and the moans and groans of ancient fireplaces —but the film’s sumptuous squalor transcends these genre trappings with a twisty-turny finale with just a touch of Kubrick .12 

Offering a tale of phantasmagoric thrills and chills, Crimson Peak shows that, in an exploration of love and madness, style can sometimes become substance.

Crimson Peak gets a 7 out of 10

His previous work of course including The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, both of which are set in and around the Spanish Civil War.
2 As an aspiring writer, she claims to prefer Mary Shelley to Jane Austen, though Hiddleston is definitely more in the Mr. Rochester mold.
3 Beaver has a history of playing benign, if surly, prospectors (see: Deadwood).
4 Not least in that Lucille, as the black-clad keeper of the keys, bears a striking resemblance to the
sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers.
5 A particularly gory tragedy involving a shattered skull and lacerated scalp, lovingly rendered by some of the same team behind Del Toro’s The Strain.
6 The central turret over the main lobby is caved in, allowing in a steady stream of leaves or snow, depending on the season and/or required mood.
7 An apparition apparently portrayed by none other than long-time Del Toro collaborator Douglas Jones (The Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, Abe Sapien in Hellboy).
8 According to a theory laid out by Conan Doyle enthusiast Doctor McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) through the now debunked medium of spirit photography.
9 The means of their conveyance — via prerecorded wax cylinder — are somewhat convenient, but
a necessary evil of storytelling.
10 Edith’s costumes grow increasingly pale and diaphanous as she herself communes with the dead. Her Goldilocks hair reinforces her as a symbol of purity.
11 Her bedroom has these strange inverted cupolas on the ceiling, as in the ’99 remake of The Haunting, though in this case the architecture leaves the menacing up to the spooks.
12 Fernando Velazquez’s score, meanwhile, is most effective when at its most minimal, like a single off-key piano note reverberating through dark hallways.


I've just finished a write-up of the London Film Festival with my friend Rob Daniel of Electric Shadows, but Blogger, the site on which this is hosted, is being resolutely uncooperative about formatting. As such, I'll have to make do with posting a link.


Apologies for not posting more often of late. I've been covering the London Film Festival for The Metropolist and it's subsumed more or less my every waking hour.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of all 26 films I was able to see over the course of the Festival.


11 Minutes

Black Mass 


Don't Grow Up

Green Room 

High Rise 

James White

The Lady in the Van
Listen To Me Marlon
The Lobster
Love & Peace 


The Quay Brothers in 35MM  

Ryūzō and His Seven Henchmen

Son of Saul
Steve Jobs



The Wave (2015)

Yakuza Apocalypse

Thursday, 24 September 2015


Somewhere between the Wild West and Iraq lies Juarez, Mexico. A brightly coloured urban sprawl with a population of just over 1.3 million, in 2008 its murder rate was the highest in the world: 130 per 100,000. According to Sicario, the latest film from director Denis Villeneuve, it’s a city where mutilated corpses hang from overpasses, a warning from the cartels. It’s in this environment that FBI agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) finds herself, part of a taskforce of murky jurisdiction, a soldier in the war on drugs – emphasis on “war”. Drugs, in fact, barely enter into it.

Along with her partner Reggie (fellow Brit, Daniel Kaluuya1), Kate finds herself seconded to a unit under the control of the smirking, sandal-wearing Matt Garver (Josh Brolin). He’s assisted by Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), a former prosecutor with a haunted look about him.2 Together they’re out to bring down a mysterious drug lord, Fausto Alarcon, whose death Alejandro claims will inoculate the region against future violence. Kate’s boss (a put-upon Victor Garber) assures her of the operation’s legality, but its clear there’s a hidden agenda at play.

A sort of single-strand Traffic, Taylor Sheridan’s script focuses on Kate’s experiences in the field, from a tense prisoner transport through a gridlocked border crossing – Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan featuring as a geeky, moustachioed special agent3 – to a Zero Dark Thirty-esque4 night-time raid filtered through the green and white lenses of night and heat vision.5 There are periodic check-ins, however, with family man Silvio (Maximiliano Hernandez) – the assault rifle propped up against a chest of drawers augurs trouble. This is a world where danger can come from any direction.

The type of film that Michael Mann might once have directed, Sicario combines moral and legal murkiness with Roger Deakins’ searingly bright cinematography.6 Blunt’s steely, mistrustful protagonist7 is perfectly complimented by Alejandro’s quiet certainty in their cause. Set in a world where bearded Delta Force veterans rub shoulders with US Marshalls dressed for the rodeo, and corpses are walled up as far north as Phoenix8, Sicario uses the narrow lens of an action thriller to pose the question of where you, in the quest for order, you draw the (border)line.

SUMMARY: Sicario is a smoothly directed, sun-bleached action thriller. Less lurid than The Counsellor, less poetic than No Country for Old Men, its ambiguity is compelling even if never quite coheres into greatness.

Sicario gets an 8.0 out of 10

1 Best known as a TV comic actor, Kaluuya’s humorous balefulness is a perfect fit for the oft-side-lined Reggie.
2 With that sense of weary reluctance, Del Toro can turn a trip to the watercooler into an existential journey. As with Brolin – whose performance has shades of Det. Bigfoot in Inherent Vice – this is very much his metier.
3 Able to switch to a sort of petulant intensity in an instant, Donovan’s casting as a psycho mama’s boy gangster in the upcoming series 2 of Fargo would seem to be inspired.
4 Sicario also has a darkly casual relationship with torture, with Alejandro breaking out a brutal-looking wet willy-type move on a would-be assassin.
5 The film’s use of night vision bring back memories of Clarice Starling venturing into the killer’s lair in Silence of the Lambs, only with Kate’s complicity as arguably a more pressing factor than any of the unseen tunnel-dwellers.
6 The contrast between the crystal lighting and black uniforms provides an almost film noir feel to several scenes.  
7 She’s a refreshingly well-shaded character, even given a healthy dose of sexuality in the form of a hook-up with a hunky Jon Bernthal, though their encounter doesn’t go quite as planned.
8 Their blood-smeared faces, visible through plastic bags, recall Hannibal (the top-tier TV series as opposed to the subpar film).

Saturday, 12 September 2015


Woody Allen has got it made. Despite the allegations against him that have come to light in recent years1, he gets to jet off once a year to wherever takes his fancy and shoot a film there with, it seems, any actor who takes his fancy.2 While his previous travelogues have taken us to the likes of Rome, Paris, Barcelona, and, most recently, the French Riviera3, his latest, Irrational Man, sees the now 89-year-old director staying a little closer to home.

The film follows philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix), who arrives to teach at the fictional Braylin College in New England4. A well-regarded burn-out, brooding and articulate, he apparently holds a certain appeal for the opposite sex.5 Among the woman throwing themselves at him is desirous college student Jill (Emma Stone)6, who sees Abe’s suffering as an antidote to her preppy, well-meaning boyfriend Roy (Jamie Blackley). Abe is subsumed in his own existential crisis7; that is until a chance conversation overheard at a diner gives him a new lease on life.

Darker than 2014’s Magic in the Moonlight — and markedly less charming8 Irrational Man feels like a more romantic gloss on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. Unlike in Crimes and Misdemeanors, though, or even Cassandra’s Dream, Allen doesn’t invest in the moral ramifications of Abe’s  revelatory decision — it just sort of happens, almost conveniently10. Phoenix tries his best to imbue Abe with some likability but his usual wry deadpan seems glib here9 and the usually effervescent Stone is, if anything, even less sympathetic, saddled with the role of a wheedling remorseless cheat.

An exercise in free thinking right up its Hays Code-sanctioned climax, Irrational Man bubbles along engagingly with Russian Roulette and visits to the funfair11, but this is the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, all upbeat jazz soundtrack and reassuringly recognisable title font. Even by the standards of Allen's later output this is slight stuff and lacks his usual likability to buoy it up. Sophisticated comfort food, sure12, but what’s rationality got to do with it?

1 I bring this up only to say that I don't have a stance to take.
2 Allen’s tended to mix it up of late. Few of his old regulars, like Fred Melamed and Dianne Wiest, seem to make appearances anymore.
3 2008 to 2014 could be charitably described as Allen’s European period.
4 All this red brick and polished wood does lack a certain sunlit je ne se quoi.
5 Even compared to other Woody Allen surrogates Abe is something of a lothario, despite his impotency and alcoholism.
6 Since Little Britain is there any everyday surname less desirable than Pollard?
7 The obligatory mentioning of Kierkegaard and Kant makes sense in context but still feels like name dropping when you consider the lack of developed thought.
8 Colin Firth and Emma Stone had great chemistry, even if the age gap was a tad off-putting.
9 It’s understandable Abe might be a bit of a narcissist, what with all the interest from the opposite sex, but he’s self-obsessed almost to the point of sociopathy.
10 Parker Posey’s desperately-seeking Rita could be a great character if only the film had any real interest in her besides as a tool of Abe’s desires.
11 A possible shout out to Strangers on a Train, perhaps.
12 The film’s more artisanal popcorn than pizza, but scarcely filling for it.

Friday, 11 September 2015


There has never been, and will likely never be, another film like Roar. It’s a piece of cinema almost as astonishing on the screen as in the behind-the scenes-detail. Shot on location in Africa, it tells the story of Hank (Noel Marshall), a beardy weird-y conservationist with an open-door policy with regards to wildlife, who just so happens to be away from the lodge when his family turn up; his family who don’t seem to have been apprised of the lion situation. 

For there are lions, and not just lions – panthers, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars – roughly 110 of them in all, and an elephant perhaps best described as a bit of a prima donna.1 One of the key conflicts in fiction is, of course, man versus nature, but you’ve never seen it like this.2 A large portion of the plot involves Madeleine (Marshall’s wife and Hitchcock blonde, Tippi Hedren3), Melanie (Hedren’s daughter, Melanie Griffith), Jerry (Marshall’s son Jerry), and John (Marshall’s son John) being chased around the Swiss Family Robinson-style lodge by big game cats, taking cover beneath upturned furniture – or else furniture that is soon upturned – and being repeatedly thrown from the roof of the lodge into the reservoir that surrounds it.4 You’ve heard of nature documentary but this is nature drama: even as they’re hiding out in barrels, one full of water,5 or making an escape in a boat, you fully expect the actors to be mauled at any moment – and some of them are! 

Roar’s publicity sensationally declares that while no lions were harmed in the making of the film over 70 members of cast and crew were. Tippi Hedren fractured her leg when she was thrown by the elephant and Director of Photography Jan de Bont, who went on to direct Speed, required 220 stitches when a lion tore his scalp off. This sense of peril adds to the mounting hysteria and with it the film’s comedy. When the pride decides to mark the family’s arrival by dragging a freshly killed zebra into the lobby, Madeleine fitfully declares, “Look what the cat dragged in”.6 The whole production plays like a work of comic melodrama, as if The Towering Inferno had really been shot inside a burning skyscraper or The Poseidon Adventure aboard a genuinely sinking ship. 

Roar is nothing if not authentic: the main lions, including the heroic Robbie and villainous bloody-mawed Togar,7 are credited as performers and an opening inter-title informs us that their behaviour largely dictated the plot.8 They even have distinct personalities, like the mopey Gary who refuses to leave the lodge to “go and play”. They’re both playful, capricious,9 and deadly, commanding both love and respect. Hank/Noel is the only one that shows no fear in the face – and claws – of them;10 the fact of which his friend and companion Mativo (Kyalo Mativo) reacts with good-natured disbelief. Roar’s conservationist message, which is hammered home in the final reel11, almost feels like over-egging the (lion) pudding: the film is a testament to these amazing creatures and the commitment of the cast and crew on a shoot that would make even Francis Ford Coppola blanch. 

Roar spent eleven turbulent years in production, cost $17 million to make, saw dozens of people savaged by marauding lions, and ultimately bombed at the box office.12 Was it worth all the bloodshed? Probably not. Am I glad it exists? Hell yes. With scenes that play like the world’s greatest ever cat video13 and Robert Hawk’s cheesily earnest soundtrack14, the film is guaranteed to leave you glowing. As they say, home is where the pride is.

1 He crumples the escaping family’s boat like a tin can. And he’s not the only one to wreak havoc on watercraft.
2 Think Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man documentary if it had been shot as a drama.
3 There’s even a throwaway reference to the film that made/destroyed Hedren’s name and here she is disregarding W.C. Field’s famous edict again (the one about never working with children or animals).
4 There’s certainly  no perception that the cast are in any way “acting”. It’s also probably safe to assume that any injuries we see sustained were real.
5 In a wonderful shot we see the lions’ tongues lapping at the surface from below.
6 It’s like they’re the free-spirited, liberal family who’ve just moved to a new neighbourhood only to find themselves menaced by a street gang. And the street gang are lions.
7 Togar, the film’s Scar, was apparently later taken in by Hedren. She now lives at the Shambala Preserve in Acton, California, which she founded, and has basically devoted her life to the preservation of lions. What a lady.
8 What with the time jumps and that bike that vanishes from a car boot it definitely looks like the continuity guy was lying down on the job. Then again I wouldn’t want to be the guy to ask for another take.
9 The lions also display great comic timing, idly tugging the boat back to shore as the family try desperately to row away.
10 His interventions between the snarling, clawing males is out-and-out suicidal.  
11 There’s a ludicrously evil French hunter and his accomplice who – thanks to Liam Fleming for this comparison – looks a lot like Mr. Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever.
12 Which is inexplicable to me. Did they not see the publicity?!
13 The pile-on that occurs whenever Hank opens the front door is both adorable and ???.
14 The track that plays us out is called "Here We Are in Eden".

Tuesday, 8 September 2015


Jesse Eisenberg, ladies and gentlemen. He wowed us as the coolly exploitative Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and seems likely to do the same as a more intense, somewhat less omnivorous Lex Luthor in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.1 For now, though, there’s American Ultra, the second film from Project X’s Nima Nourizadehstarring Eisenberg as – you may have guessed it – a neurotic schlub. But there’s more to this indie action comedy than just Adventureland with guns.

Eisenberg plays Mike Howell, a long-haired, perennially plaid-clothed stoner who lives with his supportive girlfriend Phoebe (fellow Adventureland alum Kristen Stewart) in Liman, small-town Pennsylvania. He works in a convenience store, is working on a comic book2, and suffers panic attacks whenever he tries to leave town. Despite his plan to propose to Phoebe, his life seems to be going nowhere. Then CIA project manager Victoria Lasser (Spin City's Connie Britton) arrives in Liman and with one simple phrase3 everything changes. Well, not *exactly* everything.

Even when unwitting sleeper agent Mike is taking on the coterie of psychopaths whom the smug, preppy Yates (Topher Grace) has sent to kill him, brutalizing them with fist, feet, and the occasional item of cutlery4, he seems perplexed at his new-found skill-set, caught between his long-suppressed government trainingand 420-24/7 lifestyle. Reminding us just how likeable he can be playing an out-of-his-depth sad-sack6, Eisenberg captures the gory/goofy heart and humour of Mike’s predicament7, as does Stewart as the exasperated but loving Phoebe (“If the guy in the cell doesn’t see the gun don’t point at it and say ‘Gun’”!)8

Bullets tear through the cinder-block walls and plate-glass of ugly, urbanised rurality9, meeting flesh in extravagant gouts of blood – one police station shootout makes massacre in The Terminator seem sedate. Ingeniously scripted by Chronicles’ Max Landis, and with John Leguizamo as Mike’s flamboyant, paranoid dealer10, Tony Hale in support as a typically eager-to-please subordinate11, and Walton Goggins as the aptly named Laugher12, it feels like almost everyone could be a reject from some ill-conceived MK Ultra spinoff.

Marco Zavos’ narcotic, electronic-dance score, featuring the likes of The Chemical Brothers, perfectly suits the film’s grungy, indie vibe, as does Michael Bonvillain’s stark yet beautiful cinematography13, and full credit to Nourizadeh himself who, with a quirky eye for detail14, keeps the whole thing moving deliriously forwards. With a budget of only $28 million, American Ultra certainly seems like good value, bringing a more offbeat (if not quite art-house) sensibility to violent action15, while hopefully making a case for the more experimental mid-budget release that's been so wanting in recent years.16

Time will tell if the risk has paid off in the box office, but American Ultra goes to prove that as long as you have a concept and the right tools you don’t need hundreds of millions - or giant exploding robots - to get your audience hooked.

American Ultra gets a 7.5 out of 10

1 Say what you want about Gene Hackman’s toupee-wearing huckster and Kevin Spacey’s archly terrifying sadist, they sure did love the taste of scenery.
2 Which I’d totally read, btw, if you’re planning on releasing it, guys.
3 Well, not quite so simple.
4 Jason Bourne and Alan Rickman can eat their hearts out.
5 Mike’s confused to realise he suddenly knows a lot about tanks.
6 See, most recently: The Double.
7 After brutally eliminating two guys in a parking lot, he pads his feet up and down like a toddler, begging Phoebe to come and help before he starts pissing himself.
8 Stewart’s slightly glazed look is perfect for the seemingly good-natured stoner chick.
9 Twin Peaks this ain’t.
10 Who drives around a psychedelic green-streaked van and has a penchant for dropping acid in strip clubs at half past eight in the morning.
11 See Veep.
12 Think a psychotic version of Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber with an extra streak of sad, puppy-like incomprehension.
13 Can you name another film that makes use of black light?
14 Eisenberg opens the film beaten, bruised, and shackled to a chair; looking more Heath Ledger’s Joker than Lex Luthor. The main body takes place in flashback, pieced together from an unlikely series of crime scene photos: a bloody spoon, a shredded teddy bear.
15 The store-bound finale is essentially a more inventive, less vengeful version of the climax from The Equaliser.
16 The likes of which I can’t recall since Looper back in 2012 (which also cost around $30 million).

Saturday, 5 September 2015


On the cinematic scale from Michael Bay to Christopher Nolan, M. Night Shyamalan falls somewhere in the middle. Equal parts auteur and hack, his output ranges from the sublime — The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable — to the ridiculous — The Happening, The Last Airbender. His latest film, The Visit, is a bit of both.

The premise is a classic horror set-up: two kids, tightly wound amateur filmmaker Rebecca (Olivia De Jonge) and free-spirited aspiring rapper Tyler (Ed Oxenbould)1, decide to visit their estranged grandparents in order to give their mum, Paula (Kathryn Hahn), a break with her new boyfriend. Staying at their isolated farmhouse in the woods, Rebecca and Tyler play hide and seek in the crawl space2, eat cookies, and try to put together a documentary — hence The Visit’s “found footage” angle. Nan (Tony winner Deana Dunham) and Pop Pop (ubiquitous character actor Peter McRobbie) seem like a nice enough pair of fogeys. Sure, she skitters around at night, vomiting and scratching at doors, and he’s keeping something in the woodshed, but that’s just old people stuff, right?

Despite all the aforementioned creepiness, you may just wish it was as simple as that. Shyamalan has spoken of It Follows and The Babadook as his favorite horrors of recent years3, largely due to their limitations, but this just doesn’t tally with his giddy, more associative type of film-making — there are *lots* of ideas on display here, but they don’t cohere satisfyingly4. The cast are uniformly great, especially Dunham’s wall-staring, creepy-crawly geriatric, but they struggle to bring more than just the requisite scares after Shyamalan’s obligatory twist comes into play — what he might call a “revelation of character”5. The rest just feels like running out the clock (even if it does involve a truly creepy bedroom sequence and an ill-advised bit of grossness with a diaper).

Ultimately, The Visit takes a different path than what you might hope, discarding the rich and relatable vein of old geriatric horror6 for something a bit more by-the-numbers. It’s been well over a decade since Shyamalan has given us anything resembling a classic, and while The Visit by no means changes that it certainly makes for a pleasant surprise.

The Visit gets a 5.5 out of 10

1 Tyler also the sort of kid who substitutes singers' names for swear words. Trust me, it’s not quite as excruciating as it sounds.
2 Nana joins in in one of the film’s highlights, a scene that veers brilliantly from horror to comedy.
3 Or rather did speak, in a Q&A just after the screening.
4 For instance, beyond the ever-present snacks and enormous oven, The Visit never makes use of its fairy-tale vibe.
5 As opposed to, to quote Shyamalan himself, “the t word”. A rose by any other name, etc., etc.
6 And the potential for pathos. Isn’t that one thing most people are afraid of: growing old?

Saturday, 29 August 2015


What’s the worst night’s sleep you’ve ever had? However bad it may have been The Nightmare delves into something worse: the nighttime torment of eight sufferers of sleep paralysis — a condition equally notable for bizarre and terrifying visions. From visitations by shadowy figures — more literally, figures made of shadow — to out-of-body experiences, Rodney Ascher’s documentary relies on firsthand testimony as opposed to scientific evidence: they all seem to the agree that the medical community seems singularly unable to offer remedy for the condition. The film commits to genuinely creepy recreations, taking its cues from classic ‘80s horror — in particular, Phantasm comes to mind1 — augmented by Jonathan Snipes’ suitably unsettling score.2 The use of inter titles lends a certain somber tone to an otherwise free-form exploration. Talk of seeing into parallel universes could evoke cynicism — one sufferer’s experiences are distinctly Roswell — but the shared mythology that builds up around them is certainly absorbing. One of these visitors is shown passing backstage between the bedroom sets, perhaps pulling a sinister double shift. Ascher displays similarly playful sensibilities to Room 237, his cult examination of Kubrick’s The Shining. An anecdote that suggests sleep paralysis may be communicable is alarming3, but these glimpses at the “other side” — and the strange gravitas of many of its victims — may have you perversely curious to experience it for yourself.4


The Nightmare gets a 7 out of 10

Acknowledging here that this was released in 1979.
2 Scenarios throughout the genre, most recently in Insidious, suggest directors may themselves be familiar with the condition.
3 It seems to be the psychic equivalent of the STDemon from It Follows.
4 EDIT: Heading to bed now and I've already changed my mind. Nope, nope, nope. Do Not Want.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


The second blockbuster based on a ‘60s spy series to hit this summer, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. provides a stylish jaunt back to the Cold War. 

Following a red-tinted title sequence that provides a potted history of recent U.S-Russia relations, we find ourselves in 1963. Suave CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) extracts scrappy car mechanic Gabby Teller (Alicia Vikander) from behind the Iron Curtain, only narrowly escaping from the KGB’s Ilya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer), a Soviet Superman with a volatile temper. After this antagonistic first encounter – Solo takes a shot at Kuryakin; Kuryakin tears the bumper off Solo’s car – the two find themselves forced into an uneasy alliance. 

There are fascists to be thwarted, like jewellery-bedecked ice queen Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) and her scrap-booking torturer,  facilities to be infiltrated1, and nuclear secrets to be recovered. Solo and Kuryakin’s, AKA Cowboy and (Red) Peril's, strained relationship is consistently amusing – the former enjoys an impromptu picnic dinner, listening to Italian jazz, while the latter is being chased down and shot at – and Hammer and Vikander’s rough-and-tumble chemistry keeps things interesting during the film's middle stretches.2 

Despite Lionel Wigram’s and director Guy Ritchie’s droll script, liberally sprinkled with double entendres, there’s nothing hugely memorable about the action on display: a stop-start car chase through East Berlin, a panoramic dune buggy pursuit – it’s nothing that Mission: Impossible  hasn’t already offered up.3 Cavill charms, Hammer broods, and Hugh Grant pops in for an amiably sardonic turn as future boss Waverly.4  Ritchie brings his usual bag of hyperkinetic tricks – cross-cutting and split-screens abound – with a few nice Spaghetti Western touches.5

"How’s that for entertainment?” Cavill asks coolly during the Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s too-neat denouement. Not bad, Mr. Solo – solid, but hardly likely to shake up Bond.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. gets 3*6

1 Which incorporates a variation on the old “The Russian’s used a pencil” anecdote.
2 Her bedroom dance in  sunglasses and striped pyjamas to Cry To Me is wonderfully kitsch. Thanks to Charlotte Ambrose for confirming the song title.
3 Vikander’s role definitely feels like a throwback given Rebecca Ferguson’s ass kicking.
4 His greying hair and age spots also bespeak an endearing lack of vanity on this occasion.
5 Like the rattlesnake rattle al a Ennio Morricone that warns us when Kuryakin’s about to go ape
6 This is a film that doesn’t even require my perhaps somewhat over-elaborate x out of 10.

Saturday, 8 August 2015


Thanks to Aileen Flanagan for joining me to see this one. She had a lot of cool things to say, some of which have made my way into this review.

If Bryan Singer’s X-Men uses being a mutant as a metaphor for being gay then Josh Trank’s gritty Fantastic Four reboot would seem analogous to being a hormonal teen.

Its central quarter is certainly a moody bunch: dweeby genius Reed Richards (Miles Teller), whose parents don’t understand him; Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), a would-be hard-case from a bad home1; Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan)2, who has daddy issues with Professor Franklin (the usually captivating Reg E. Cathey); and Sue Storm (Kate Mara), who’s good at pattern recognition and likes music3. Oh, and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), who’s also a genius and a leather-jacketed bad boy to boot. Not that any of these character traits lead anywhere.

There’s a lot of time spent in the lab to not much effect; a couple of shots at humor, most of which you’ll have seen in the trailer4; and an ill-advised journey to another dimension5. We’re halfway into the film before the subject of “powers” even arises and then it’s less about taking flight and more The Fly-style body horror. Reed becomes a human Stretch Armstrong (complete with freaky muscle definition); Ben finds himself claustrophobically trapped in a pile of rocks6; Sue starts fading in and out like she's got bad reception; and then there's Johnny, the Human Tire Fire. It’s all delivered so stoically and self-seriously it verges on deadpan, even skipping over the team coming to terms with their powers (the best part of Trank’s previous venture into the superhero genre, Chronicle).7

Fantastic Four treats these abilities, which are on the face of it ludicrous, as serious conditions to be grappled with8. The first half of the film feels like it’s building for something that never comes, then speeds towards an unearned climax involving Doom who — complete lack of motivation aside — wants to destroy the world9 and resembles a man who’s had an accident with a microwave, some tinfoil, and a pack of green LEDs.10 Usually a one-star rating feels punitive (“Hey, look at this piece of sh*t”), but here it’s cautionary, even a little sad.11

The script has a of interesting thoughts in it — like the idea that we make celebrities of astronauts but not the people who builds their ships — but somehow the joy and adventure has all been leeched away. Instead of bright blue spandex the film offers us black containment suits and haptic gloves. Even the fan service feels like work. Matthew Jensen’s cinematography brings polish to the grey-hued colour palette but the film’s score, by the renowned composers Marco Beltrani and Phillip Glass, is Hans Zimmer lite. There’s an air of compromise to the whole thing, which might make you wonder if there’s a better version of this film out there in the ether.12

Fantastic Four is the sort of teenager that eats his greens, does his homework, then forgets to go out and play, and what sort of fun is that?

Fantastic Four AKA Fant4stic13 gets a 3.5 out of 10

1 Ben gets his iconic catchphrase, “It’s clobberin’ time!”, from his abusive older brother. Seriously. “Grimm” is about right.
2 Johnny’s black and a mechanical engineer so the film introduces him drag racing, of course.
3 Any music. After the incident Mara gets to wear an awful wig, though, which is something, I guess.
4 Like Reed’s inability to return a fist bump or Johnny’s ill-timed use of a chair pedal.
5 Like going into space only cheaper, one presumes.
6 Twist: he is the rocks. Jamie Bell’s voice, meanwhile, is so digitally altered in order to make it sound gravelly that it might as well not be him.
7 The closest we get is Reed crawling through an air duct a la Eugene Victor Tooms in The X-Files before an inexplicable "One Year Later" time jump.
8 Or else exploited by the presumably evil military industrial complex in the form of a gum-smacking Tim Blake Nelson.
9 Nu-Doom's preferred method of eliminating obstacles is blowing up heads. Because.
10 And where the f*ck did he get that cape?
11 Hence all the footnotes.
12 Like Trank himself has recently suggested. Teller’s wooden expositing in the final confrontation would certainly seem to be indicative of reshoots.
13 Yep, that’s apparently a thing.

Friday, 7 August 2015


Here's an alphabetic list of all my articles that are currently available at at The Metropolist ( There are... a few.

In any case, it gives a pretty good overview of my opinion on the last couple of years of film with the occasional retrospective or TV bit thrown in for good measure.













Wolf Hall pilot


Spirited Away (retrospective)

There are a few noticeable absences, like Birdman, which were covered by someone else. Also, the TV selections, you may have noticed, are a bit arbitrary. 

I've done the occasional revision of star ratings along the way (as far as conscience permits), but it's all pretty representative of my original opinions.