The Mauritanian

– apart from its awkward title, this is an awkward film. Though the message is clear and, to some extent, lands, the way it depicts the brutality of gitmo feels gratuitous, particularly as the cast are all a bit too Hollywood-gloss to achieve the grittiness it seems to be aspiring to, and the script, too, feels like it was hammered out to a studio formula. In short, despite its “true story” claims, it feels inauthentic.

Le Bureau S05 (TV)

– disappointingly, the series never fully recovered after it’s 4th season dip in quality, but at least this is an improvement, and it’s still gripping and above average entertainment. It’s a shame this series adopted a strangely hallucinatory style of editing and direction, and felt a little too self-indulgent with its multiple dream sequences and graphic sex scenes. The final two episodes in particular felt decidedly out of character and tonally off. Nonetheless, absolutely worth watching for fans of the show and still highly enjoyable.

The Inmate (El Recluso) S01 (TV)

– enjoyably awful Spanish language prison thriller with a crazy and implausible plot, a terrible script, and editing that feels like whole chunks of the show were left on the cutting room floor. That said, the cast put in admirably hammy performances – with Flavio Medina as Peniche and David Chocarro as Santito both particularly riveting. They deserve much better roles. All in all, not worth it unless you’re a fan of this kind of shambolic telenovela melodrama. Shamefully, perhaps, I am.

Bliss

– entirely missold drama, pitched as sci-fi, but actually about mental illness, addiction and homelessness. Perhaps because I had no idea what I was in for, the gut punch this delivered was a little more potent that it ought to have been, but I still think there’s more depth to this than the glossy marketing and top tier goofy cast imply. Didn’t enjoy it, but it was genuinely interesting. I think. Maybe…

Le Bureau S04 (TV)

– The first season of the show that feels dangerously close to ‘average’. Malotru is still out of control, buffeted around by circumstances, the loss of a key figure is seriously detrimental to the dynamic, and for some reason, the writers decided they’d lean into the tried and tested magic of hacking and AI for a bounty of deus ex machinas and other plot contrivances. It’s still an enjoyable ride, but this season fell far short of its predecessors, including with its uncertain and slapdash conclusion.

Le Bureau S03 (TV)

– the French spy thriller’s standard stays high, mostly, and the multitude of stories engaging – if a little familiar, despite a plot development that has the potential to derail the whole series.

Le Bureau S02 (TV)

– Malotru is back and so is the staggeringly high standard of screenwriting and acting. So compelling and fast paced, it feels like it ran straight into series three. Your love hate relationship with Marina Loisseau starts here…

Le Bureau S01 (TV)

– high stakes, nuanced and blisteringly tense French spy drama takes an episode to get going and then never lets up. With top notch performances and intelligent scripting, this is that rare gem: a truly great spy thriller.

The Spy (TV)

– Sacha Baron Cohen gives an impressively straight performance as Israeli spy Eli Cohen. The series is uneven, cheesy and rushed at times, but it’s mostly gripping and easy entertainment.

The White Tiger

– Netflix finally surprises with this wicked little cracker, an acerbic excoriation of wealth inequality and Western hypocrisy in a similar vein to Parasite. The pacing sags slightly in the middle and the ending is weird, but nonetheless, this is a great start to 2021 cinema. What a phenomenal performance from Adarsh Gourav.

Synchronic

– intriguing sci-fi thriller hugely undermined by a dreary mid-life crisis subplot and less than precise ‘time travel’ logic. Worth it for genre fans though.

The Little Things

– clearly aspired to be better than its end result and I applaud that ambition, but the script isn’t up to scratch and the direction and editing are also subpar. Disappointed this didn’t itch the crime thriller scratch, but nice to see Denzel in anything really….

Our Friend

– beautifully acted grief porn of the stricken sort that leaves you feeling sick. If you like that vibe, it’s a masterpiece I recommend. If you don’t, it’s a masterpiece I don’t recommend.

News of the World

– solid Western with Hanks on typically good form, albeit remarkable only in that there are so few these days. Surprisingly for Greengrass, despite two or three thrilling set pieces, this is predominantly a drama.

Jungle

– Daniel Radcliffe’s comedic accent doesn’t do this survival thriller any favours, but neither does the weird direction, odd editing and generally hammy style. Watchable, but feels like it could and should have been much better.

Soul

– Pixar’s jazzy latest is a saccharine reminder to love life. It’s got some laugh out loud funnies, but mostly it follows the usual beats for an animated fable.

Greenland (2020)

– even allowing that this is an apocalyptic action thriller starring Gerard Butler, it still manages to disappoint. Dire script, poor visuals, and an ill conceived, threadbare plot. Not since War of the Worlds have so many explosions led to such an anticlimax.

Mr Mercedes S01 (TV)

– ten episodes is far too long, and though both leads can hold their audience (extremely disconcertingly in Harry Treadaway’s case), the direction and scripting leaves a lot to be desired, with contrivances and implausible behaviour happening all over the shop. It’s also extremely gratuitous and graphic and generally pretty damn unpleasant to watch. On balance, with the range of high quality TV available now, I’d give this a miss.

A Star Is Born

– slightly ashamed to admit that despite being an obvious vanity project from Gaga and Cooper, this was an engaging and mostly enjoyable watch, though all dramas about a death spiral into alcoholism seem to follow the same inevitable trajectory.

Possessor Uncut

– Gawd almighty! This is a scarring and difficult watch; it ought to carry a warning or something. Most disorienting and savagely twisted thing I’ve seen since Eraserhead, except with stylishly stark colours, modern technology and today’s desensitisation to extreme violence, this is so much more harrowing. I genuinely think it’s a health hazard…

Manhunt: Deadly Games S02 (TV)

– not a patch on the original Unabomber series. The scripting is farcical at times, and it’s dismaying that most of the story and characters are completely fabricated. Honestly though, for fans of high stakes crime thrillers, this is still an engaging and easy-viewing romp.

The Queen’s Gambit S01 (TV)

– for chess fans and simply TV drama fans alike, this is a treat. Great casting, direction, and pacing. It’s cheesy and cliché at times, and Beth’s battle with addiction has an inevitability that is always tedious to watch unfold, but overall this is winning and deserving of its widespread acclaim.

Let Him Go

– fire and brimstone in Gladstone in this slow and dreary neo-Western starring an achingly weary and world-weary Kevin Costner. It’s all too much effort and mostly nonsensical anyway. As if this year wasn’t hard enough.

Roadkill S01 (TV)

– Hugh Laurie demonstrates why he’s consistently chosen as a leading man, but I’m not sure this series is really anything more than a juicy political soap opera. Light, easy viewing, and for both these reasons, also quite boring.

Una Noche

– Contrasted with the full gamut of spanish-language cinema, this Havana based drama is certainly not knocking any crowns off, but it’s still a raw and characterful tale. The first two thirds are quite excellent and engaging, but the final third unfortunately falls a little short, if only because of its soaring ambition. Worth watching, though.

Les Misérables (2019)

– not to be confused with the classic of the same name (or any of its incarnations), this is a gritty, high intensity police thriller that plays out like a French remix of City of God and Training Day. At once tender and brutally, shockingly savage, it’s a pièce de résistance and a must watch.

A Patch of Fog

– well-titled, sinister stalking thriller is a bit too focused on its two leads, and compelling as their performances are, it needed diluting with a subplot or a few more characters. Overall, this punches above its weight.

Hamilton

– though no substitute for the live theatrical version, this screen rendition is still a joy to behold: inspiring, exciting and completely engaging. All history should be taught this way.

Cardinal S01 (TV)

– quite gruesome but enjoyably straightforward cop show, short episodes and a short season. This is no True Detective, but it’s ideal for filling the gap between bigger and better TV shows.

DNA S01 (TV)

– as expected from one of the writers of (the original) The Killing, this is an above average scandi crime thriller with twists aplenty and a delightful capacity to surprise. Though imperfect, it’s an enjoyably puzzling mystery for anyone with an appetite for the genre.

Hustlers

– J Lo plumbs the depths of sleaze in this tiresome and drawn out drama about strippers drugging then robbing punters. A feminist rallying cry it’s not.

The Trial of the Chicago 7

– a fantastic and fantastically timely piece of cinema. Sorkin’s script is characteristically sharp and pacy, and the cast are at the top of their game. Rarely do I feel so animated by a film, but this is certainly stirring. A must watch.

The Outpost

– really didn’t expect much going into this, but despite the glossy poster boys clearly chosen for their chiselled jaws rather than their acting chops, this was extremely compelling and quite emotionally affecting as well.

Enola Holmes

– Sherlock Holmes’ feisty younger sister gets the spotlight in this sententious feminist mystery pitched squarely at the next generation. Probably more of a hit with kids, but as an adult, its pompous didacticism is irritating and inauthentic.

Alone

– fair to say this is an above average kidnapping thriller, and the vexing reliance on contrivances to make it all work is offset by its patient direction and performances. Shame it’s so damn nasty, but that’s the genre I suppose.

Bad Samaritan

– the bad title sets the tone for this ludicrously stupid but improbably engaging serial killer thriller featuring the magnetic Robert Sheehan. I haven’t shouted at the TV so much in ages. Quite cathartic actually…

Queen and Slim

– this slow paced crime drama is acrimonious with confused messaging and a tonal dissonance that never sits right. Feels like a well financed student film, despite the stellar leading duo.

Patriot S01 (TV)

– Ozark-vibes comedy finds humour in the blackest of places. It fluctuates between highly entertaining and hugely depressing, and its slow pace might be off-putting to some, but it’s pleasingly original.

Tenet

– both leads are phenomenal in this fast paced, slickly shot headscratcher that’s as confusing as it is engaging and either too clever or too tangled for its own good. Not as enjoyable as Nolan’s last few films (excluding The Dark Knight Rises which is a bad anomaly).

Beforeigners S01 (TV)

– light-hearted sci-fi scandi crime series playfully ridicules modern and historic societal attitudes while erring on just the right side of spoof. Definitely not high art, and definitely unfinished after one series, but there’s enough fun and mystery here that I’m happy to recommend.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

– a movie narrated by a dog (even one voiced by Kevin Costner) definitely risks illegitimacy, but somehow, this love letter to decency, dogs and racing cars makes it work. This star-studded drama is conventionally heart tugging and tear welling, and occasionally, unconventionally profound.

Driven

– Lee Pace is such an underrated actor and this semi-sorta-biography-ish of John DeLorean’s fall from grace deserves a viewing, even though it’s undeniably flimsy and lightweight. File under flippant but fun.

Phantom Thread

– there are many recent films about obsession, but this arguably maps most closely onto real life. PT Anderson delivers a meticulous and measured weave of love and hate, that if it wasn’t so endlessly acrimonious as to be unpleasant to watch, would be masterful. One to admire, not to enjoy.

Little Joe

– a semi-interesting premise is kneaded over and over but remains as shapeless as it did at the start. Plants gas-lighting their growers? It’s like The Happening 2.0. Weirdly amateurish at times, too.

Avenue 5 S01 (TV)

– Despite wincing often, the black humour in the pilot made me laugh enough to watch further, but subsequent episodes were uncomfortably unfunny. Every caricature is taken to its intolerably tiresome extreme; shouty, annoying and puerile. Hard to believe this is from the same great mind as Veep and The Thick of It.

Irresistible

– disappointing, honestly. Poorly named, sententious and nowhere near funny enough to call itself a comedy. Also condescending to just about everyone, especially rural America.

Greyhound

– Hanks’ U-boat thriller is gripping and exciting, even while not particularly interesting, but it’s unremarkable when compared to the genre as a whole. Much better war films in recent years.

Palm Springs

– accepting that it’s ridiculous, unoriginal, and often too crass, this is still a whole lot of fun and silliness, which is entirely what you expect from an Andy Samberg movie. High art? No. Entertaining? Definitely.

The Rental

– Dave Franco’s cautionary tale of a risky fling gone awry disappoints with last act slasher. Fairly predictable and conventional, but good enough for discerning horror fans to get a (slight) kick out of.

The Valhalla Murders S01 (TV)

– fairly standard scandi-noir, some duff writing, stupid coincidences and a lot of personal relationship drama that dilutes the intrigue and distracts from the plot, but it’s watchable enough if murder mysteries are your cup of tea.

The Assistant

– mercifully short, because it’s every bit as dry and bleak as the ‘shit job, toxic work culture’ synopsis suggests. Competent, but not for me.

Waco (TV)

– Koresh gets a (somewhat) sympathetic depiction in this immediately compelling dramatisation of the Waco catastrophe. The filmmakers caveat their portrayal to some extent, and it remains unclear how factual it is, but this is a pretty hard hitting indictment of the ATF and FBI’s approach to the standoff. Gripping from the off, and definitely recommended.

Bad Education

– slightly protracted but excellent comedic drama with two stunning lead performances: Allison Janney is genuinely the best in the business and Hugh Jackman is nearly unrecognisable (within reason).

The Whistlers

– Romanian Spanglish crime drama is convoluted in the extreme, with allegiance switching and betrayals galore. It’s sumptuous to look at and keeps you guessing, but the conclusion doesn’t tie things as neatly as hoped, and the tone is too deadpan to be fun.

Secondhand Lions

– charming and cheerful children’s tale in the same vein, if not the same league, as Big Fish (which given their shared release year, explains why it might have gone overlooked). Fun but very basic.

Ride Like A Girl

– Thoroughly enjoyed this badly named Aussie sports drama. It charts the usual beats, but it’s novel to see a familiar formula applied to horse racing, and the cast unanimously give great performances.

Fighting with my Family

– Hammy British comedy biopic about WWF wrestler Saraya Knight is fun but not funny. Fortunately, central duo Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden elevate it a notch above mediocre, but I expected better from Stephen Merchant.

Bosch S06 (TV)

– unusually, a show that gets better with time. It’s reassuringly steady and unambitious; not shock and awe, just the enjoyably slow piecing together of disparate cases and clues.

Barry S01 (TV)

– I wanted to like this much more than I actually did. While clearly a Bill Hader vanity project, he’s easily good enough to carry it, and in a silly way the plot just about works. The tone is all over the shop though, sometimes slapstick goofball (and unfunny) comedy, sometimes sharply witty, and sometimes quite devastating drama. If it were consistently smarter and funnier, it might work, but as it stands, it falls short.

Togo

– for a film about a dog, this is a surprisingly heart warming sermon on love and determination, with gentle, affecting performances from Dafoe and Nicholson.

Just Mercy

– as dramatic and bleak as the subject matter dictates, complete with protracted execution sequence. Doesn’t do anything new with the formula, but sadly these films are still very necessary.

Waves (2019)

– hesitant to award the Smiley not because it’s undeserving, but because it’s like having boiling hot water splashed on your face for two hours. It’s emotionally scolding, furious and furiously intense, with a soundtrack that’s as dominant as the powerhouse performances it lifts. I felt damaged after watching it, but somehow a little bit stronger too.

Defending Jacob S01 (TV)

– by and large, this is an engaging and addictive drama but its innumerable flaws (dated gender stereotypes, predictable twists, endless contrivances, to list a few) lead to an underwhelming and disappointing conclusion.

Joker

– on a second viewing this still holds up as an intense cinematic experience, though as a result of the current political situation and rioting in the USA, it feels a little less comfortable as entertainment.

The Way Back

– if there’s only one compelling reason to watch this, it’s Ben Affleck’s masterful performance. Affleck’s career has had such an impressive arc, with his recent roles showing serious talent and selective nous. The plot itself is quite disappointing, adhering to nearly every sports movie trope, but it’s less about the sport and more about the man and his battle with alcoholism. Worth a watch for the acting, if not the story.

The Trial (Il Processo) (TV)

– Italian crime thriller reaches for high stakes but descends into melodrama instead. The story is an absurd, rambling, meandering mess, beleaguered by endless contrivances. There’s nearly nothing here to like.

Devs S01 (TV)

– for an emotive premise, the Devs cast seems to have been carefully selected and briefed to be devoid of emotion. It results in dry and deadpan delivery that’s a real turn off, and in some cases downright infuriating (see preachy, expressionless Alison Pill as Katie who seems to be trying her hardest to stop viewers wanting to engage at all). As a fan of sci-fi, I’ve come to expect some pseudo-science-philosophy-waffle, it’s often required exposition, but here, presumably in an attempt to be profound, the explanatory science and logic is told in a condescending, imperious fashion, and the line between confident, self-assured plot, and smugly complacent “we know something you don’t know”-ism is crossed time and again. It’s a shame and especially frustrating as predeterminism is not even a particularly challenging concept. There’s so much going on here, and some of it is brilliant (like the soundtrack, set design and Nick Offerman’s simmering performance), but unfortunately, it ties itself in knots trying to one-up the viewer, and ends up collapsing inwards. If this was a first draft, the potential would be so exciting, but as a finished product, it falls very far short.

Adrift

– more dull romantic drama than survival thriller, this features strong performances from the central duo (it’s basically a two man cast), but the script is terrible, really insipid, and the romance is on the nose.

Midway

– typical Roland Emmerich action thriller (Independence Day, 2012): talking torsos surveying destruction as it unfolds on a green screen and flag waving as they stare down the barrel of inevitable defeat to ultimately triumph against the odds. If glorifying war wasn’t enough, it also features some of the thinnest female characters ever committed to screen. Yeah, it’s a Sunday movie, and absolutely undeserving of its current IMDb/ TMDb ratings.

Extraction

– it’s open warfare in the streets as Hemsworth trades hammer for Glock, struts his Jason Bourne, rips some limbs, kicks some ass and racks up an easy three figure body count. Where are the press? Where is… pretty much everyone other than the goons getting nailed? Nobody knows. This is some old school action silliness right here. Slick but utterly absurd. Good fun though, and with a name like Extraction, did anybody expect any different?

Yellowstone S01 (TV)

– A promising start then it all falls apart. That’s the plot, as well as a review. This Montana set Western follows unsympathetic, even despicable characters, through an endless stream of farfetched and usually violent contrivances. The scenery is beautiful, the premise is strong, the execution is near terrible. Show creator Taylor Sheridan is a serious talent, a pity he’s only credited with story for the first two episodes (by far the best).

Underwater

– this sci-fi is a really underrated little cracker. It looks great, has a credible script and taps into all the fears you’d expect being 7 miles underwater. I think it’s fair to suspend disbelief when it comes to the guys wandering around down there, even if it is against the science of it. (Incidentally, on that front, there’s a phenomenal piece in The Atlantic on this very subject, it’s fascinating!) Anyway, I went in with no expectations (other than that it’s a Eubank film and in general, I’m a fan), and thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me of Pandorum, but under the sea instead of in space.

Bad Boys For Life

– To contrast with the Smiley of Approval, maybe I should introduce a sad face for truly disappointing films. Given my fondly nostalgic memories of its progenitors, this pitiful, unfunny excuse for an action comedy would certainly deserve one. A generous viewer might argue the buddy cop duo themselves at least retain a degree of charisma, but even that’s a stretch. A great shame.

One Cut of the Dead

– I started watching this on the basis of none other than Edgar Wright’s recommendation, and after 20 minutes I was honestly wondering if he was doing a student a favour or something, it was so bad. But this epitomises why I always try to watch a movie to its end. In a heartbeat, it went from one of the worst B-movie attempts at a horror movie looking like a school project, to an actual masterpiece of meta-comedy-horror, and a wonderful show-not-tell of the film-making process, complete with jabs at egos, method actors and the big shot suits demanding the impossible. I can’t think of anything else that illustrates the passion and love behind cinema so well as the second half of this film. I was grinning like a goon. Stick it out.

Onward

– an inept boy struggles to get over the loss of his dad while learning to appreciate his brother in the emotional plot underpinning this animated magic adventure. Whether it works for you is likely to correlate directly with your own family relationships. It’s certainly less adult-friendly than some other Pixar creations, generally eschewing wit and pop culture references in favour of slapstick comedy as it ploughs a familiar feel good groove, reiterating the beloved Hollywood values of family, standing on your own two feet, and facing your fears.

Better Call Saul S05 (TV)

– when brilliant writing meets convincing acting and memorable cinematography is cut with creative direction, you end up with a show as consistently compelling as Better Call Saul. Jimmy has come a long way since we were first introduced to his origin story, but Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould pace his development just right, with barely a foot wrong. Unfortunately, the wrong foot in this season falls in the final episode, which is a real clanger given the deliberate realism of the series so far. This might well be the best show currently on TV though, and over 50 episodes, the occasional misstep can be forgiven.

Ozark S03 (TV)

– though the black witted crime drama remains a cut above most of its competition, this season dips in the middle, returns to retread some old ground, and has a sense of inevitability about it that is dangerously close to tedious. That said, it ends with a bang, the comedy remains laugh out loud at times, and the main cast are as terrific as ever. It’s a shame the writers lean into ’emotional conflict’ so heavily they could be following notes from a university lecture on creative writing. It grates.

Tiger King S01 (TV)

– batshit crazy biopic cum true-crime documentary about the deadly rivalries between private zoo owners in the USA. Definitely unique and worth watching for the extraordinarily eccentric characters and the eye opening lives they lead. The chronology is chaotic though and the whole series too drawn out. It also feels a little manipulative, as these shows so often do, withholding key information or revealing it in drips to frame audience opinion and maximise shock factor.

Marshall

– the eponymous Thurgood Marshall and Jewish lawyer Sam Friedman face bigotry, discrimination and an uphill battle for justice while defending a black man on trial for rape. Plain sailing legal drama, neat and unambitious, but enjoyable enough.

Little Women

– solid piece of cinema. If period drama is your genre, you’ll love this. Really strong performances throughout (particularly from Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh), a smart script with some cutting one liners, and an emotive story.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

– a masterpiece of creativity and a reminder of why superhero movies ever became popular in the first place. This is a self-referential, hilariously witty and inspiring animated genre mash-up that leaves every other superhero movie looking tired and tropid. A pleasure from start to finish.

The Invisible Man

– So many shout at the TV moments in this horror/ thriller, everything from the premise to the predictable script (where nobody communicates clearly about anything and every twist is preannounced), to the crazy ‘science’ of the invisibility suit, which apparently works perfectly even when wet, covered with paint, smashed to pieces with plates, frying pans, a pen etc. etc. It’s also nasty, in the same vein as Mientras Duermes (Sleep Tight), which is just a horrible trait for a film to have. Quite terrible. Everything other than Elizabeth Moss’ performance.

Rememory

– surrounded by unconvincing performances, static direction and dodgy editing, Peter Dinklage (aka Tyrion Lannister) turns sleuth and rummages through memories to solve a murder. It’s a disappointingly weak manifestation of a sci-fi premise which, though unoriginal, has stacks of potential.

The Platform (El Hoyo)

– gruesome spanish-language horror begs for dissection and analysis as it portrays a hierarchical class system in a barren, despairing prison called The Hole. Excessively violent and graphic, and cursed with a frustrating ending, but still thought provoking.

A Confession (TV)

– Martin Freeman is well cast in this tense and punchy drama detailing the fall from grace of Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher, who caught a serial killer then spent years fighting for his career as well as pursuing justice for the victims’ families. No comment on the facts of the case, but as a TV show, this is polished and absorbing, if a little heavy on the drama and liberal with the exposition. It’s definitely worth a watch.

The Capture S01 (TV)

– if every character wasn’t so annoying, and the plot wasn’t so ludicrous, this very-BBC-TV cop thriller could have been good. As it stands, it’s certainly bingeable, and paced fast enough you might overlook its endless irrationality. I’m afraid I couldn’t.

Dark Waters (2019)

– A horror movie title for a drama detailing a litany of corporate horrors. Though a handful of moments are so Hollywoodised as to stretch credulity, the bulk of this David versus Goliath saga is compelling, jaw-dropping and powerfully affecting. A perfect example of the power of film to educate as well as entertain.

The Outsider S01 (TV)

– after an intriguing and promising start, this Stephen King mystery abandons the mystery, introduces a human-possessing demon and an expositional clairvoyant, then sinks the viewer into their very own hell: boredom. Hugely disappointing, an absolute waste of time.

Richard Jewell

– Clint Eastwood’s attack on government and the media is badly timed and hamfisted in places, but it’s (mostly) engaging and boasts consistently excellent performances from Hauser, Bates and Rockwell.

Guns Akimbo

– Had an absolute blast watching this. Did not expect that. In a similar vein to Zombieland, everything about it is stupid, starting with the premise, through to the tattooed, gleefully whining villain, and including the immature humour. Yet somehow, if you don’t think too hard about it, or think about it at all really, it absolutely works as an overall package, and is massively, embarrassingly, entertaining; a riot.

21 Bridges

– suspenseful cop thriller with tight direction and strong performances, particularly from leads Stephan James and Chadwick Boseman. A shame they opted for so many shoot ’em ups rather than a smarter script, but what it does, it does well.

Bombshell

– smart dialogue, terrific acting and generally a pleasant surprise. What a cast. Could have done without the expositional breaking of the fourth wall, but at least it’s curtailed in comparison to The Big Short and Vice (neither of which impressed as much as this).

The Stranger (TV)

– very ‘made for TV’ binge mystery starts intriguing but farfetched and gets progressively more and more inane. None of it adds up, none of it is remotely plausible outside of the realms of TV land, and it’s stupid even by those low standards. Save yourself the eyerolls and vexation: avoid.

A Private War

– Dialogue is thin, even condescending in places, the depiction of PTSD is a standard, unsubtle Hollywoodisation, and some of the direction is plain weird, like a sequence where Colvin has sex with a stranger while her voiceover describes dismembered bodies. All in all it’s an unimaginative, unflattering and strenuous biopic of war correspondent Marie Colvin.

Doctor Sleep

– enthralling and compelling horror nods to The Shining but is very much its own tale. Though weakest when retreading old ground, it does so softly, without desecrating it. A shame it’s so long and the slow start doesn’t help the runtime, but stick it out.

Earthlings (2005)

– Joaquin Phoenix narrates this sadistic abattoir of a documentary, which throws nauseatingly graphic, savage butchery at you while his Eeyore tones describe it. Too repulsive to actually watch most of the time, I didn’t finish it, and I still feel traumatised. Though no less shocking, in most instances the footage used lacks a source or date, which undermines its integrity somewhat.

Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet (S01) (TV)

– it got off to a cracking start, a lot of laugh aloud moments and great quirky characters. By mid-season though, the smart gag rate was dropping, replaced with hysterics, shouting, and unironic stereotyping. McElhenney is fantastic as Ian Grimm, and the show works best when his heady mix of inspiration and egotism is at its peak. Unfortunately, that’s not often enough. It dragged its way over the season finish line all out of ideas.

Bacurau

– bold and indisputably extraordinary, this sinister, Brazilian dystopian drama is tirelessly intriguing but never clear. Though its metaphors are plain and the thin story captivating, without more grounded explanation, it feels incomplete. An interesting experience though.

Freaks (2019)

– a pretty derivative addition to the ‘superkid’ dystopian sci-fi genre, very obviously ripping on Stranger Things and X-men. More than half way through it musters some excitement, but still ends with too many questions to ignore.

Motherless Brooklyn

– a long, moody film noir a la Chinatown; atmospheric, mostly well acted, and simply directed (in contrast to its convoluted plot). It’s a shame that albeit engaging and definitely worth watching, it falls a little short of its potential. Love the jazz soundtrack.

Watchmen S01 (TV)

– Not quite a masterpiece but certainly a masterful piece of TV storytelling. Racism, identity, time travel, religion and transgression are just some of the themes considered, all under the guise of a slickly produced and extremely stylish action thriller. Nice work.

Giri/ Haji (TV)

– international detective story boasts a cast at the top of their game, a hugely witty script and more excitement by episode three than most series have reached by their finale. Unfortunately, it struggles to sustain its focus, becomes diverted by petty relationship dramas and ill thought out plot strands and so misses the bullseye. That said, fantastic TV show, highly recommended. Great soundtrack too.

Servant S01 (TV)

– the clues to this convoluted, slow-burning, skin-crawling mystery emerge through a combination of supernatural horror and black humour. It’s a claustrophobic drama, brilliantly acted, wonderfully intriguing and often very funny, but it’s also inconsistent, juggling a plethora of ideas and themes that are too meandering (almost random), and left underdeveloped and ultimately a bit thin (echoes of Lost). Perhaps an expanded cast and range of locations will help flesh it out in season two.

1917

– The problem with this style of cinema is that it’s massively distracting. It invites more time spent wondering about the production methods, hidden cuts, and how the environment is mapped out than engaging with the characters and story. Without the self-imposed constraints of the single take impression it could have been a better film, and still included long takes where appropriate. Instead, it belongs in the same category as Gravity: an incredible feat of film-making at the cost of storytelling. But like Gravity, is an unmissable spectacle and deserving of accolade.

The Lighthouse

– There’s a tongue-in-cheek humour behind the theatrical overacting and folkloric hijinx, but it didn’t tickle me enough to make the black and white viewing experience any easier, nor the abstract, art-house visual and mumbled poetry any more engrossing. Both actors give memorable performances as flatulent, Gormenghastly characters trapped in an increasingly manic, maritime-gothic nightmare, but their accents are at times indecipherable and the hideously grotesque and sordid scenes, though perhaps appropriately deranged, are nonetheless too depraved for my tastes.

The Witcher S01 (TV)

– another disappointing video game adaptation, this one hoping to capture the Game of Thrones audience with a moody atmosphere, the requisite conspiratorial plotting and plenty of gore. Though a huge fan of the games, I found this dull and confusing.

Black ’47

– named after the most devastating year of The Great Famine in Ireland, this revenge drama is as dour as the title suggests. The production and score is solid, but the plot’s unremarkable and overall it’s too flat to recommend.

The Gentlemen

– it is a relief to see such a proficient return to form from Guy Ritchie who delivers an innovative, irreverently funny and fast paced helter-skelter ride featuring his by now trademark one-liner quips, slickly stylised direction, and an hilariously addled narration by Hugh Grant’s oleaginous private investigator. Everyone is at the top of their ham game, and this is an absolute riot.

Aniara

– a bleak prophesy of our colonial space future, and an equally bleak metaphor for our fleeting time here on Earth. Impressive in its way, but distinctly vapid and a massive downer.

The Morning Show S01 (TV)

– Billy Crudup carries this hyperbolic #metoo movement drama as sociopathic and anarchic network news president, Cory Ellison, perhaps the only character among the whole stellar lineup who’s actually entertaining or likeable. There are moments of clever scripting – some even laugh out loud, but mostly it’s not half as clever as it would like to be or thinks it is, brimming with overacting, contrived set pieces, and a condescending didacticism that seeps through cheesy montage after heartfelt speech after hysterical breakdown as the show goes to increasingly far-fetched and eye-rolling lengths to inject some excitement and jeopardy into morning news. It’s certainly bingeable, that much is true, but whether it deserves to be binged is another matter. It feels like a desperate effort to capitalise on real world events, yet despite its grounding in the truth, manages to be utterly unconvincing.

Uncut Gems

– without doubt a brilliantly concocted and immersive feat of film-making, but it’s so relentlessly high stress, angst-ridden and chaotic it’s hard to enjoy. Adam Sandler utterly embodies the role though, his finest performance.

Captain Marvel

– flash flash bang bang, lots of orange, lots of blue, lots of little green men. It’s a bog standard Marvel film with a bit less humour than usual. Take it or leave it.

Zombieland 2: Double Tap

– lacks the pinache and originality of its predecessor and the plot is weak at best, but there are still enough laughs to be had, and the feel good vibe and self referential comedy make for a lighthearted fun few hours.

The Current War

– bad tempered, unlikeable characters go back and forth and over and over in the ego impelled rivalry between Westinghouse, Edison and Tesla. It’s dry and not particularly entertaining, but competent.

Stan & Ollie

– they’re good performances from the central duo as Laurel and Hardy, but it’s too focused on their waning years and brittle friendship, so the balance is all off and it’s mostly maudlin and unfunny.

Jojo Rabbit

– uniquely original war film with a twist is a work of genius from Taika Waititi. It has so much charm, outlandishly daring laugh-out-loud humour, and a top tier cast. Particularly impressive turns from young child stars, Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie – definitely ones to watch.

El Reino (The Realm)

– a politician scapegoated in a financial scandal frantically tries to prove the corruption runs deeper. Excellent performances and a fast paced, compelling script, but the plot is occasionally confusing, and the ending is an outrageous disservice to viewers. Almost brilliant, but falls short.

The Two Popes

– delightfully warm reflection on the transition from Pope Benedict to Pope Francis, featuring immense performances from both Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins, and a witty script.

Counterpart S01 (TV)

– JK Simmons’ doppleganger sci-fi definitely suffers from an overly ponderous pace and dour tone, but if you’ve the patience for it, there’s a smart spy thriller at its core, with a pleasantly convoluted and twisting plot, fantastic acting and an evocative musical score.

The Lion King (2019)

– not so much a reimagining as a realistic, shot for shot remastering of the original, with a few added modernising updates. It remains a two dimensional but heart-warming tale with memorable characters and moments of laugh out loud comedy.

The Signal (2008)

– the medium is the message in this tonally confused, disorientating and unhinged horror about mass-media induced psychosis. Arguably more valid than ever in the current climate, it’s intense and genuinely unsettling in parts, with appropriately rough edges and a grittiness reminiscent of 28 Days Later, but overall it’s too gruesome, muddled and messy to wholly recommend.

The Dead Don’t Die

– sardonic zombie movie parody plods through all the genre tropes in its efforts to lambast consumerism, but is so dry its unfunny and so glib it’s dull. Far inferior to Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland.

Dead Man

– meandering, peculiar and pretentious arthouse Western has a dream-like quality despite its black and white aesthetic. If there’s gold in the dirt, I didn’t see it.

The Irishman (I Heard You Paint Houses)

– Scorsese rewinds the clock with Pacino, Pesci and De Niro back in their well-worn mobster shoes and retreading old ground with new technology. It’s a polished and accomplished epic, but despite modern techniques, somehow feels anachronistic, as if rediscovered and remastered from a bygone era of cinema. The 3.5 hour runtime may be offputting to potential viewers, but for those who can spare the time and patience, it’s a rewarding, if slightly underwhelming experience; a feat of film-making and a feat to watch.

Ready or Not

– engaging enough absurdist slaughter, but any social commentary underpinning this silly black comedy disintegrates at its conclusion leaving the whole bloody goreathon rather pointless.

The Report

– insightful and cerebral drama about crimes by the CIA against detainees post 9/11. Top performances and intelligent scripting, but the volume and density of information makes it hard work at times.

Dublin Murders S01 (TV)

– a mixed bag of mystery and intrigue whose brilliant cast and sometimes sharp script is tempered by bad subplots and ludicrous allusions to the supernatural. An enjoyably compelling experience overall, but proves ultimately disappointing.

IT: Chapter 2

– clowns simply aren’t scary, a fact this horror tacitly admits by mostly using a gamut of unconvincing sfx to depict various Lovecraftian horrors instead of the actual antagonist. Some misplaced comedy further undermines any fear factor, while protracted flashbacks make an already tedious film nearly unbearable. Awful, avoid.

Good Boys

– the odd line slips through that’s so surprising it’s hilarious, but mostly this isn’t funny enough to distract from the dissonance of seeing the Superbad formula played out by children, without much diluting the crass content.

Late Night

– it’s punctuated by earnest speeches throughout and inevitably burdened by a preachy premise, but its comedy just about survives and, overall, it’s an uplifting experience.

Free Solo

– documentary about climber Alex Honnold scaling El Capitan in Yosemite without ropes is nail-biting, edge of the seat, stress-saturated brilliance. The vistas, the personalities, his philosophy and, of course, the feat itself are all profoundly affecting, and together make for an introspective and inspiring piece of cinema.

Crawl

– gator thriller is an easy 80 minutes, with some genuine tension at the expense of all plausibility and logic (upstairs or across the infested flood?)

The Great Hack

– documentary raising the alarm on data manipulation and election rigging is certainly timely (if anything, belated – Twitter just banned political advertising). It deserves viewing, particularly by big data skeptics and critics of Carole Cadwalladr, but in its efforts to be mainstream and accessible, it barely scratches the surface of these major issues, with a narrow focus on a small cast of characters.

Animal Kingdom S04 (TV)

– perhaps the most bingeable of the show’s seasons despite a jarring and tedious historical plotline about Smurf. The writing is smarter and wittier than the last series (admittedly a very low bar to beat), and the plot moves at a fast pace through major, character-changing events. If you were on the fence about carrying on after S03 (and I wouldn’t blame you), this is worth resuming. If not, I wouldn’t bother starting Animal Kingdom at all.

Yesterday

– Richard Curtis’ cheesy love letter to The Beatles (and dig at Oasis) is exactly what you’d expect from the premise. It’s formulaic, the end is beyond cringeworthy, and the most successful bits of comedy (particularly the characters of Rocky and Gavin) feel heavily derivative of Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais, but overall it’s a fairly entertaining romcom.

Animal Kingdom S03 (TV)

– there’s nothing more criminal in this series than the way it has turned a menacing, high stakes crime drama into a chaotic, madcap and asinine catalogue of errors; as if the writers decided as long as they included the stock ingredients of drug-taking, sex and random acts of violence, they could avoid actually having to drum up a compelling storyline or any innovative new heists. This is terrible writing with nearly nothing to redeem it. As a fan of series 1, I can only hope they seriously upped the game for season 4. I’m not holding my breath.

Narcos: Mexico S01 (TV)

– engrossing as this sometimes is, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before (and in this show no less). The Narcos formula begins to feel tired; thin on ideas and excitement, with twists and turns bordering on predictable, and plot strands that run to nowhere. It doesn’t help that the characters this season aren’t charismatic and the ending, when it comes, concludes nothing.

Fractured

– not to be confused with the excellent Fracture (2007), this is an operose psychological thriller which, between the name, its title sequence, and the opening shot, reveals its hand before it ever gets going and continues to patronise throughout. Tiresome.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

– very much a sequel to offer closure on Jesse Pinkman’s story. It plays more as an extended episode of the show than a standalone film, with some slightly laboured exposition to help fill the gaps. It’s an unnecessary but no less welcome return to Breaking Bad, and although it doesn’t bring anything new, Gilligan’s trademark camerawork and strong performances make for another engaging and competent production.

Long Shot

– your typical Seth Rogen comedy: smug, puerile, self-righteous and generally not as funny as it thinks it is. His groggy, drug-addled shtick is tedious within minutes, the woke moralising on the nose, and their teenage style romance unconvincing.

Aladdin

– adults are clearly not the target audience for this cringeworthy musical adaptation of the classic from Guy Ritchie, but kids will enjoy it, and thankfully, Will Smith offers some light relief as the hammy genie who goes above and beyond.

Cheap Thrills

– whether its ambition is to highlight the depravity of greed at all costs or not, this dog eat dog thriller is sick and repellent, depicting a viciously sadistic sequence of events it would be indecent to recommend. Grim indeed.

These Final Hours

 – low budget, fringe end of days thriller suggests there’s little more to humanity than venal hedonism and selfishness. It’s an unflattering and pretty unoriginal vision, and even for a short film takes too much effort to engage with.

Radius

– Cool conceit and initial set up is let down by plotting that seems contrived to keep costs low, resulting in an underwhelming, slow thriller that never realises its latent potential.

The Favourite

– whilst certainly a novel regal portrait, Olivia Coleman’s childishly petulant Queen is tiresome to watch, and the crass, stilted dialogue of her courts, presumably aiming for humour, is jarring and at times perilously close to repulsive. A nasty period piece. Not for me.

Joker

– where Heath Ledger’s Joker exploded on screen in a dazzling spectacle and jolt of adrenaline, Joaquin Phoenix’ character deteriorates like rot, until sympathetically unhinged becomes fully detached and he sucks chaos towards him like a black hole. It’s a masterful performance. Kudos, too, to Scott Silver and Todd Phillips, who have dared to introduce shades of grey to a genre dominated by black and white, added enough social commentary to stir up the zeitgeist, and still crafted an utterly compelling origin story for one of the most loathed and adored villains in the superhero catalogue. It’s only appropriate to award the smiley…

Time Lapse

– refreshingly original and thought provoking take on the time travel genre, where time and its nature is the centrepiece rather than a cheap plot device. Things escalate a little too fast, but overall this is fairly excellent, and has flown remarkably low under the radar. Deserves more attention.

The Nightingale

– Excessively long and hate-filled Australian gothic Western whose endless bloody viciousness is primed to enrage audiences, not least because so many opportunities for dissent are passed over by the frustratingly pathetic Nightingale, who fails to fight for herself or anyone else throughout, and apparently prefers a sneering lullaby to a vengeful bullet. Hugely irritating.

Unbelievable S01 (TV)

– Though clearly a series on a mission, the impressive acting and well paced cat and mouse story allows for some didactic freedom without the script becoming too preachy. It takes a few episodes to really kick into gear, and the extensive exposition is tiresome, but once it has you, it’s extremely compelling viewing and a very refreshing addition to the crime genre.

The Boys S01 (TV)

– wildly original as well as just plain wild, this is a superhero misadventure with more dark twists and psycho kinks than a comicon in a bondage dungeon. The script is often too try-hard, whether in attempts at shock or humour, and the characters and Machiavellian scheming sometimes just too obvious, but as a cocktail, it’s hard not to swallow the lot with a giddy smile and extend the glass for more. Cross Deadpool with Banshee and you’re somewhere close – Antony Starr sure can pick ’em.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

– immensely underwhelming given the cast and director. Ehrenreich’s Han Solo is unlikeable, pompous, and apparently astonishingly lucky. With endlessly annoying smug bluster, he squares off against and double crosses two dimensional villains while joining some story dots for all the fans who aren’t bored yet.

Creep 2

– Mark Duplass’ blackly humorous and curiously sympathetic serial killer has certainly carved himself a niche in the genre, but this iteration works more as a depraved character study than a horror.

Shaft (2019)

– three generations of Shaft buck the man and take on the crooks of Harlem in this silly, tongue-in-cheek action remake. Its humour stems from irreverantly playing with questionable notions of masculinity, casual misogyny and millennial bashing, and though it tries to do it with enough swagger that nobody cares, it still feels a few decades too late. Not offensive, just a bit pathetic.

Animal Kingdom S02 (TV)

– the crazed family of thieves continue to trample each other and everyone nearby in their attempts to earn a quick buck, get high or get laid. While there are some major plot developments this series and it remains easy viewing, the show feels less even-handed and considered than its prequel, with a reckless, scattergun approach that is messy and unconvincing.

Polar

– some will hate its overt comic book stylings and video game sensibilities – the shamelessly titillating nudity, caricatured villains and vividly graphic violence – but for fans of the genre this is a slickly produced and exhilarating ride.

Summer of 84

– Really wanted to like this despite the brazen and hamfisted rip-off of the Stranger Things aesthetic, but it’s protracted, humourless and unoriginal, with unsympathetic characters and drab direction.

Hunter Killer

– An hour or so in, this flag-waving, chest-thumping, oohrah-ing submarine thriller proves better than expected, though the usual formulaic ingredients of rallying speeches, classified intel and trigger-happy Russian villains don’t feel any fresher.

Animal Kingdom S01 (TV)

– there are plenty of problems with this show, but none register for long before they’re superceded by a nailbiting thrill or a move that leaves you squirming. Though it wallows in gratuity – the whole cocktail of sex, drugs and violence – and the whole conceit stretches plausibility, it goes to plenty of dark places that a lesser show might not, and though the dialogue can seem trite at times, the cast (nearly) uniformly deliver even the weaker lines with an unhinged edge that keeps you gripped and their deranged characters intact. Echoes of Bloodline (2015) but far less restrained.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

– Skilled film-making as always from Tarantino, and played with wit and vigour from the all star cast. It doesn’t feel as well-plotted and balanced as some of his other films, more like an extended montage of different genres, but it’s good fun, for sure, and an interestingly self-aware depiction of Hollywood personalities and culture.

Mary Poppins Returns

– the banal becomes a little less banal as the titular childhood icon revisits the Banks family, bringing her imagination-championing philosophy to life with playful and psychedelic dance and song. It looks made for the stage, and feels strangely limited in scope, but Emily Blunt excels as always and it’s hard to imagine children will be disappointed.

47 Meters Down

– typical shark attack thriller with a few jump scares, a bit of suspense, lots of tiresome panic, and an utterly pointless first act. Quite a smart surprise at the end though. If you’re in the mood…

Kidnap

– If there was ever such a genre as straight-to-DVD, bargain basket thriller, this is the epitomy. An extended and exhaustingly uninspired car chase from start to finish.

Ned Kelly (2003)

– rose-tinted reimagining of the life and times of the eponymous Irish/Australian scoundrel. Youthfully exuberant performances from its all star cast don’t disguise the uninspired direction and dated style. Tame.

Dragged Across Concrete

– deliberately dry and burdensome style could be off-putting to some viewers, but those with patience will be rewarded with a slickly directed, well shot and wrly amusing heist thriller of the sort that are few and far between these days.

Midsommar

– An uncomfortably visceral, spectacularly well-orchestrated horror, which pushes boundaries both in terms of its inventive visuals and its unsettling audio. Be warned though, it is savagely gory, contains copious drug use, and features about as much twisted and explicit nudity as you’re likely to find outside of the internet. Strap in for a wild ride.

Mindhunter (S02)(TV)

– As per the first series, though on paper the premise suggests an intense and suspenseful crime thriller, in practice, the ingredients feel undercooked, lukewarm, not even raw. The inherently interesting subject matter proves compelling enough to keep watching, but never excites.

Parasite

– this unique Korean masterpiece is first and foremost an hilarious black comedy, but more than that, it’s also a searing critique of class and capitalism, stacked full of metaphors and insightful dialogue, that feels simultaneously both horrifyingly prescient and reflective. Genius.

Velvet Buzzsaw

– The snipey, cut-throat world of art is depicted through maladies, melodrama and macabre murders as galleries, buyers, museums and their staff fawn over the newly discovered works of a dead artist. Campy good fun despite despicable characters and an hysterical plot.

The Son (El Hijo)

– This film had so much potential. The premise is delightfully deranged, albeit not fleshed out enough, and the cast are strong, but it fails in its plodding execution, and unwillingness to assert any definitive plot details. Its implications and suggestions, whilst initially intriguing, grow irksome, and the open ending feels lazy rather than suspenseful. It’s a shame, because it hints at a much more successful thriller.

The Wandering Earth

– albeit commendably audatious in scope and premise, this futuristic space sci-fi is weighed down by exposition and video games graphics. A reminder that mass appeal doesn’t necessarily correlate with quality.

Piercing

– atonal film noir plays with expectations without ever meeting or bettering them. Despite an interesting, clinical style with some imaginative direction and a dreamy soundtrack, it sets its sights on sinister black comedy but winds up bafflingly humourless instead.

Chernobyl (TV)

– brilliantly crafted historical drama depicts the harrowing tragedy informatively and ungratuitously whilst remaining utterly engaging. A rare feat that more than deserves the acclaim and audience recognition it has received.

Avengers: Endgame

– some jokes, some tedium, some indulgent moping, and enough dodgy CGI to remake the Star Wars prequels results in a (just about) tolerable three hours, and thankfully, finally, maybe, a conclusion to the Avengers. Can we have the actors back now?

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

– nobody watches John Wick for the hackneyed dialogue and messy rash of allegiances and fealties masquerading as plot. They watch for the unstoppable, relentless action, and there’s not a franchise that does this particular brand of highly choreographed violence better. It’s artistry, really.

Stockholm

– crime caper that goes as awry as the faux bank heist it portrays. Without exception the characters are annoying and unlikeable, the direction is uninspired, and while incompetence can be amusing, it is more often infuriating, as it is here. Hugely disappointing.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

– Both Zac Efron and Lily Collins turn in brilliant performances in this risky biopic of serial killer Ted Bundy. In its execution though, the executioner is allowed too much sympathy. Albeit almost certainly the point, his repeated denials are credited with enough plausibility throughout as to be nearly convincing despite the widely known truth and ultimate outcome of his case. It leaves you wondering if the same cast and crew could have delivered a less troubling and thus more satisfying film.

The Good Neighbour

– though on the surface the conceit has some echoes of Disturbia (2007), this is a much more compelling and convincing film, with a plausible set up, backstory and conclusion. The puerile teenage interludes are tedious, but the overall execution is suspensful and engrossing. A pleasant surprise.

The Shallows

– Despite an almost unbearably insipid and on the nose family drama subplot, the bulk and set up of this thriller is mostly well choreographed and very suspenseful at times. Hardly award-winning but sufficiently entertaining to recommend.

Shoplifters

– an original story told with wonderfully earnest performances and understated direction, but this heartfelt crime drama lacks the pace to really hook the viewer, relying on the intrigue of its premise and the promise of something more to keep them invested. It’s ultimately a little disappointing.

The Matrix

– Wow. How a film can continue to conjure such immediate wonder, excitement and hope after 20 years defies explanation. An absolute thrill ride, every bit as fresh as when I first viewed it all those years ago. A once in a generation, maybe even once in a lifetime masterpiece.

Anima

– PT Anderson directed musical short with Thom Yorke is fairly captivating, but given it’s only 15 minutes long, it ought really to be utterly captivating. The first track especially is excellent, the remainder less so. For fans of Thom’s music and modern dance though, this is definitely worth watching.

Stranger Things S03 (TV)

– a sillier season than its predecessors, with some annoyances like Hopper’s incessant rage and shouting, and Will’s neck-scratching demotion to near irrelevance, but overall, fans of the franchise will still be entertained, and it promises another fun follow-up.

In The Fade

– slow paced but extremely intense crime drama documenting the misery and despair of a mother after she loses her husband and only son to a terrorist attack. So bleak it’s hard to recommend as entertainment.

The People vs. O.J. Simpson

– solid if unexciting show, worth watching, particularly as an educational historical piece highlighting the significance of the case as well as the simmering race issues at the time. Not the most fun I’ve ever had though…

Apostle

– Aspires to metaphor and social commentary, but fails fantastically, morphing from intriguing, period, pagan-horror into heretical, manic gorefest in a gruesome heartbeat. Bloody awful and very bloody. Avoid.

Killing Eve S02 (TV)

– Sadly far inferior to its predecessor, this time it forgoes the cat and mouse excitement for a focus on relationships, resulting in the kind of banal drama found in any other run of the mill TV show. There are enough key ingredients to entertain, but it’s disappointing.

The Wolf’s Call

– Wonderfully dramatic French thriller – such a refreshing surprise. Yes, it’s full of absurdly Hollywoodised moments, but they have a kind of hammy charm, and the overall suspense and tension is terrific throughout. Thoroughly enjoyed this one!

Captive State

– Scrappy and chaotic dystopian scifi thriller. Despite some heavy hitter casting, none of them have the opportunity to really engage the viewer, who is buffeted from one frenetic sequence to another before ever becoming invested in the story, setting or characters. Ambitious and nearly redeemed towards the end, but remains a missed opportunity.

Booksmart

– Contender for best film of 2019, certainly best comedy. It’s a straight up female Superbad, shamelessly so – if you wrote the scenes in chronological order next to each other they’d probably line up perfectly – but it succeeds in all the same ways while raising the IQ and bringing the humour more inline with modern standards. Brilliant soundtrack, brilliant acting, brilliant script. Top marks.

Glass

– After an engaging start this superhero idiocy rapidly succumbs to tedium. Other than James McAvoys eclectic performance, there’s nothing here even of note. Immensely dull.

Escape Room

– a solid entry into this very specific and peculiar genre of horror movie a la The Cube. The tame script and lame acting are expected tropes at this point, so it’s really the inventiveness of the rooms and the guessing game that wins out. Fun fluff.

Eighth Grade

– one of the scariest, most uncomfortable and cringeworthy dramas. I watched it through splayed fingers and felt as anxious as Kayla. So hard hitting it’s like an anti-children advert, because no parent could ever want their child to endure what Kayla does while being impotent to change their situation. Great soundtrack too.

The Fundamentals of Caring

– Road trip drama with a snarky script, clunky exposition, and ridiculous contrivances. Though well meaning, the relentless Hollywood cheese is so blatantly emotionally manipulative it’s more likely to provoke eye rolls than tears.

The Square

– Endlessly intriguing and hilariously, wonderfully weird. Every time you think it’s reached peak strange, it gets a little stranger still. Unique.

The Wife

– brilliant performances but the story feels inevitable and unsurprising, even up to its concluding scenes. Very solid drama overall though.

Suspiria

– messed up mystery-horror elicits a mixed response. Fleeting moments are absolutely riveting and masterful in their delivery, but mostly its slow burn was painfully drawn out and tedious. It needed to be clearer, more concise and tighter in general. Good music though.

Bosch S05 (TV)

– a strong season for fans of grumpy Harry. It’s not cutting edge TV, it’s basic, borderline procedural crime drama, but the characters have a cantankerous charm about them, and the soundtrack and general atmosphere is somehow calming. In the absence of better crime thrillers, this is just dandy.

Quicksand

– if you can weather the first two unremarkable and slow paced episodes of this, it develops into a brilliantly acted and compelling crime drama where for all your suspicions, the truth only really emerges in the final seconds. Surprisingly powerful.

Under The Silver Lake

– comparisons to Inherent Vice are deserved, though I think the snowballing mystery in this is actually far more satisfying. Don’t be fooled by the gently intriguing trailer, this is a conspiracy movie for conspiracy theorists. It’s like watching a cheerful descent into mental illness.

Creed

– pretty bog standard boxing movie, strong on the hype, short on the boxing. Got me fired up though, which is what you want from this sort of thing.

Arrested Development S05 (TV)

– not very good at all, and it’s a shame. The comedy’s gag rate is lower and the jokes less successful, historic flashbacks to the childhood of the Bluths don’t work well (as well as being inconsistent with the show), and the narrative has become so convoluted and self-referential as to be confusing. Very disappointing. I think the show is dead.

Deadfall

– this script was not nearly deserving of such a strong cast. The dire writing and absurd plot leaves even actors of this calibre looking like soap stars. Crap.

The West Wing S07 (TV)

– it’s only upon concluding the West Wing story that you realise how truly momentous and significant an achievement it was, and even more strikingly, how much the standard of the last three seasons suffered as a result of Aaron Sorkin departing the political drama. I could easily watch it again, but if and when I do, I’ll stick with the first four series and happily forget the unpleasantness of its concluding chapters.

The House That Jack Built

– Lars just throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. Nothing it seems. I wanted to like this. Dillon is excellent, but the film is just exhaustingly dull, vacuous and unpleasant for the sake of it. Not worth the time.

After Life S01 (TV)

– Gervais carries on his losing streak with a now typical dramedy where the comedy comes second to the laboured and on the nose hardship of his characters. If long-suffering fans are still hoping for a glimmer of the genius shown by The Office and Extras, this will disappoint. The XFM shows and podcast series continue to be mined for jokes, and even without his involvement, Karl’s ideas crop up throughout. Gervais seems to believe crass language is comedic in and of itself, resulting in a script that’s as hard to listen to as his protagonist is to like, his tedious, career-long obsession with atheistic bible-bashing goes on unabated, while the intended redeeming moments of poignancy are so devoid of subtlety or art they feel as lifeless as his character’s dead wife. This is a depressing show, both literally because of its content, and also because it suggests any hope for Gervais to return to his glory days is not worth holding on to.

White God

– there’s something affecting about this unorthodox drama when it eventually reaches its payoff, but the route there is so torturously dour and grisly, it’s hard to make the argument it’s worth it.

Fargo S03 (TV)

– if the format hasn’t grown tired, I’ve certainly grown tired of it. Unusually, I abandoned this half way through when I realised I had zero interest in either the characters or the story.

The Old Man & The Gun

– gentle heist drama with a sympatico Robert Redford giving his swan song performance. Gentle, with a great soundtrack and feel good vibes, this is short and comfy viewing, for fans of the actor, not the genre.

Us

– certainly unique, but its attempt to balance horror and comedy means neither work particularly well. Different enough to warrant a viewing, but nothing on Peele’s last film, Get Out.

Venom

– more enjoyable than most superhero flicks, particularly thanks to the twisted humour and Tom Hardy’s performance, but at the end of the day, it’s as predictable and inevitable as every other in the genre.

The Front Runner

– this sharp and quick witted political thriller provides a contender for career best performance from Hugh Jackman, while JK Simmons, Vera Farmiga, Mamoudou Athie and Molly Ephraim all turn in terrific supporting roles. In fact, I can’t remember a time when the cast as a whole was so thoroughly deserving of acclaim. The direction is spot on, subtle, understated, and leaving judgement to the viewer. This has been criminally underrated by reviewers and critics in general, but I highly recommend it.

Roma

– The love for this black and white drama is incomprehensible. Some impressive shots and a smart visual style, but beyond that, there’s really little to it. I think this is a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Red Sparrow

– serviceable thriller that spends far too much effort trying to be smart and ends up ponderous and predictable instead. Not bad performances though. I quite like Joel Edgerton these days.

Border

– sometimes knowing nothing about a movie before you go to the cinema leads you to experience unexpected gems. Othertimes it leads you to batshit crazy stuff like this bizarre Swedish fantasy drama about two trolls living in human society. If slow and weird is your bag, try it.

Bodied

– this hugely entertaining drama/ comedy about rap battles sends mixed messages, reveling in causing gratuitous offence under the guise of lampooning stereotypes. But while its message might be lost in translation, it still makes for a fun ride.

U-Turn

– Stark, overly stylised small town noir thriller with a snarky script and lots of hammy performances from the all star cast. Despite all of that, it remains quite dull.

Detroit

– fiercely powerful and exceptionally difficult viewing. Brutal, sickening, offensive, but brilliantly well done. There is no entertainment here, but if you want to feel angry, if you want to get fired up, if you want to shed tears of fury for past and continuing injustices, this is the drug for the job.

The Angel

– confusing plot portrayed in a gripping and restrained manner. Worth watching this political thriller, but you might need a quick Wikipedia history lesson afterwards. (I did.)

Sorry To Bother You

– a dramedy with much to say and the good sense to say it with a sense of humour. Brilliantly original, each time it begins to tread a familiar path, it takes a dark turn into the ever more fantastical. Deserves a thesis, not a few lines of review. Watch it.

The Endless

– interesting direction and good performances just about save this baffling time warp sci-fi. As monster movies without monsters go, it’s better than average, but the fun of guessing and speculating runs thin after a few hours, and far from delivering a satisfying conclusion, the ending brings only more questions.

Night Watch

– bat shit crazy and wildly original vampire thriller from the Russians. Innovatively directed and compellingly played. Not quite tight enough for excellence, but way better than anyone could reasonably expect from the genre.

Vice (2019)

– trashy propaganda biopic with some good performances but a pretentious script and even more pretentious style of direction. Like watching someone pat themselves on the back for 2 hours. ‘Fact’.

The ABC Murders (TV)

– gratuitous and trashy whodunnit crime thriller with no wit, charm or smarts. The few bits of genuine intrigue remain unsolved at its conclusion, and the murderers motive (and unexplained obsession with Poirot) is farcical to the point of annoyance. Avoid.

The Meg

– exactly what you’d expect from a Jason Statham action thriller about a super shark attacking a research centre (or maybe a bit worse). Brainless, ridiculous, and not particularly entertaining either.

Extortion

– if you can withstand the first 45 minutes of painfully bad scripting and acting to match, then you’ll be rewarded (sort of) with a moderately entertaining final half. Or maybe I’m being generous. This is a really bad thriller by any standards.

A Simple Favour

– a bizarre balancing act between drama and comedy with just enough of each to keep you watching with a bemused look on your face, until the credits roll and leave you questioning what happened to your good judgement.

Mute

– deserving of much more praise, this is a low key scifi neo-noir with excellent acting, an extremely weird and whacky setting and premise, and generally solid direction. I enjoyed it a lot despite the somewhat plodding pace.

TAU

– surprisingly better than expected. It’s kind of like a pilot or concept sci-fi film – and now it’s demonstrated potential for the story and the premise, I’d like to see it made to a higher standard with a bit more depth to it.

Bird Box

– disastrous from start to finish. Its success with viewers suggests it tugs the heart strings of a certain audience, but fans of dystopian sci-fi will be disappointed.

Infinity Chamber

– an impressive and strong performance from Christopher Soren Kelly, but for all the film’s potential, it just isn’t quite engaging or thrilling enough. Good sci-fis are few and far between though, and this one is worth watching for fans of the genre.

12 Strong

– absurd and not particularly cohesive US war thriller. Cheesy propaganda filled with clichés. Ideal for a lazy Sunday when making a movie decision is already too much effort.

The 12th Man

– mostly engaging and sometimes suspenseful war drama highlighting the extreme endurance of a soldier isolated behind enemy lines. It’s no doubt an extraordinary feat of survival that saw him return home, but it doesn’t always make for the most enthralling viewing experience.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

– Serkis goes full on Lord of the Rings in his direction of this loose Jungle Book adaptation. It’s polished and easy viewing, but the superfluity of CGI is a constant barrier to getting truly lost in the trees. Good family-friendly adventure though.

Leave No Trace

– sad and slow moving drama with a minimal script and minimal story. It’s like an extended, stretched, short rather than a full feature. Fortunately, an immensely powerful payoff rewards those with the patience to stick it out.

Better Call Saul S04 (TV)

– such amazing and consistently high brow craftsmanship, surely one of the most unique and remarkable TV shows to prove a success. Every frame, scene and line of dialogue is carefully considered and meaningful. Excellent. Bring on Season 5.

Widows

– A film about corruption, patriarchy, racism, domestic abuse, prostitution, police shootings, adultery, greed…too many ingredients ultimately undermine this thriller, but it still packs a punch and delivers vastly better entertainment than the usual fare.

The West Wing S06

– after a straight up comedy kick off, it settles into a regular beat that is engaging enough, if still far below the Sorkin standard. When characters and actors are as beloved as these, the script and storylines are practically irrelevant – they’re pretty much family at this point.

Free Fire

– exhausting sequence of swagger, machismo and mishaps, punctuated by endless chaotic gunfire. If it all ultimately makes sense, I didn’t care enough to notice.

Deadpool 2

– the gag rate is comfortably high enough that when one or two fall flat the next one is already tickling your funny bone, and the ‘meta’ self-awareness works much better than it should. The action sequences are slick, and overall the only downside is the formulaic, stock superhero-movie plot. I think what I’m trying to say is, damn it, but if this isn’t actually quite a good film.

Upgrade

– plays out like more of a high concept pitch than a completed film, but enough of it works that I can recommend it. It’s rough around the edges with some blunt scripting that would be laughable in any other style, but can somehow be overlooked packaged like this. Slipped under the radar like a ninja and deserves more attention.

Bodyguard S01 (TV)

– after a phenomenal start that marked a new bar for British TV, with set pieces that would have been polished even for Hollywood thrillers, the story and action slips into familiar clichéd territory and intensity becomes absurdity. That said, this is still an extremely compelling and smartly delivered BBC drama, ideal for an edge of the seat binge watch.

22 July

 – after the initial depiction of the event itself, which is morbidly compelling despite being more shocking and grotesque than you might even imagine, the extreme tension dissipates into extreme tedium as the usual dramatic beats take over, and a long and unexciting court case gets underway. There’s little here to entertain.

Avengers: Infinity War

– the celebrity clique continues their witty repartee even as the galaxy is dismantled around them. The latest superhero adventure is another 150 futile minutes of baffling, headache inducing CGI. It’s like watching a firework display. That said, if video game cut scenes and Marvel lore are your bag, this one will keep you hooked.

The Mechanism S01 (TV)

– Easily lost in the endless churn of low calibre TV series because it’s not compelling enough to compete with the better thrillers out there about political corruption in its various guises. I wanted to like it, but after several episodes I couldn’t be bothered to keep trying.

Ozark S02 (TV)

– another solid, morbid series of drama, thrills and blood spills. Not quite as polished as its antecedent, nor quite as wholly gripping, but still well above average and highly recommended with outstanding performances across the board.

Who Is America? (TV)

– Crass, irreverent, often plain disgusting, yet this satirical political comedy highlighting the gross prejudices, greed and stereotypes within American society illuminates some extremely uncomfortable truths. It’s not consistently funny, and it’s downright unpleasant to watch at times, but its shocking approach cuts straight to the point and hits home often enough that its misses can be overlooked. Careful who you watch it with though…

Fariña (Cocaine Coast) S01 (TV)

– a spanish language narcotics soap opera, a telenovela in every respect but production values. The story is predictable, character behaviours stupid, and every episode follows the exact same formula: risk of arrest being averted by a litany of increasingly absurd coincidences, contrivances, and deus ex machinas. If it wasn’t for the love of the language, it’s unlikely I’d have watched past episode two, and all the warning signs are there in episode one. If you want an amazing thriller about drug trafficking, there are so many to choose from, don’t choose this one.

7 Boxes (Siete Cajas)

– fresh and exciting spanish language thriller exploring the chaotic events of one night in a Paraguayan market when a boy is asked to transport 7 crates of unknown merchandise across the town. Brilliant, fast paced and often funny, with a great soundtrack and creative camera work.

Rendition

– despite some excellent performances, this isn’t a thriller that warrants its outstanding cast. Albeit engaging and, for the most part, intriguing, the two storylines it plays with overlap too tenuously and the viewer is left baffled rather than satisfied.

Verónica

– fairly average spanish horror movie. Not scary in the least, so it fails on that point, but it’s no less entertaining, and some of the script is very humorous, particularly from Verónica’s younger siblings who do an admirable job treading the line between amusing and annoying.

Stranger S01 (TV)

– An above average whodunnit wrapped in political intrigue and cultural hierarchies and deferences. Our fascinating protagonist isn’t some blundering alcoholic battling with his demons as he solves cases; he is shrewd, capable, relentless, he sees much and says little, he is enigmatic but sympathetic, and his performance is fastidious and crisply delivered. The programme is soap operatic in many ways, excessively long (episodically and as a series), and it does suffer curious quirks and melodrama that are a million miles from realism or even plausibility, but overall these inadequacies don’t undermine its value as fun and extremely engaging television.

Life (2017)

– Gripping, entertaining, well cast and acted with innovative direction. Yes it had flaws, but lets not write off the whole film because of some scientific inadequacies and rash decision making. I’m amazed this film flew so far under the radar, it’s really way above average for a modern sci-fi.

Paddington 2

– no doubt hugely enjoyable for kids, this isn’t one for the parents too. Slapstick is annoying and Ben Whishaw’s whiney bear is such a goody two shoes it leaves you hoping one of the parlous situations he finds himself in would finally finish him off.

Deadwind S01 (TV)

– Based on episode one only, this is a plainly unoriginal and formulaic drama following the tropes established by The Killing, The Bridge and other far superior scandi-crime dramers/ thrillers. Given how competitive this space is, shows really need to do better to stand out.

Tag

– Just about passable as fluffy weekend entertainment, but most of the ‘comedy’ is slapstick and infantile in the extreme. The high ratings and positive reviews are misleading.

Mission: Impossible 6 Fallout

– enjoyable in the same way The Transporter was enjoyable, feel good vibes, exhilarating action, a smug confidence that feels infectious etc. But the premise is horrible, the exposition staggeringly dense, and the visuals are strangely tacky. Treat it like any other action film and it’s worth a watch, but don’t expect greatness.

Bosch S04 (TV)

– Great series overall and they handled a difficult plot turn mostly well, although it cast a glum shadow over the remaining episodes. This is a reliably solid detective show in a landscape that suffers from a drought of decent murder mysteries. Hope Bosch S05 gets the go ahead.

First Reformed

– Slow philosophical drama juggling the twin issues of religion and environment. The points it makes are good ones, and the style is neither too preachy nor too patronising (although it walks close to the line on both counts), but the real issue is simply that it is boring. It is not entertaining, or even compelling, to watch a man struggle with existential questions, and despite strong performances, the story isn’t surprising or intriguing enough to keep the viewer gripped, particularly as it chickens out of its core conceit.

The Warning (El Aviso)

– mercifully short and mostly engaging spanish thriller. Everything about it is either bog standard or subpar, and there’s little to really recommend it, but the story is intriguing enough to keep you guessing. The premise is never explained or justified and one can’t help but think a better film could have been made.

Revolt

– ropey low budget sci-fi thriller with Lee Pace. Its basic direction and cinematography leaves a dystopian vision that never quite convinces, while even with great actors delivering the lines, the script is so clunky they still feel stilted. Disappointing.

Calibre

– extremely intense and suspenseful thriller with beautiful cinematography, artful pacing to ramp up the tension, and convincing performances from all involved.

Non-Stop

– don’t be misled by the stellar cast, this is exactly as tedious as you would expect a Neeson action thriller to be, even down to the cheesy romances shoehorned in.

You Were Never Really Here

– like dehydrating in a desert, gnawing your own flesh to taste water, only for it to be poured boiling over your face when it finally comes. Much like this review, one gets the feeling this dreary revenge drama is over-encumbered by metaphor.

Rampage

– one of those action films with minimal story and maximum wanton destruction. The Rock is charming as ever, but even with his charisma, this is shallow and tedious.

First Snow

– Slow burning tension escalates throughout this inconspicuous and unsettling psychological noir thriller. Great cast who all turn in effective performances. Suffers some pacing issues, no doubt, but still underrated.

Halt and Catch Fire S04 (TV)

– the first half of this season is quite stunning. It’s funny, sweet, intriguing, full of potential. Then there’s a tonal shift, it becomes ponderous, introspective, monologue after monologue, devoid of ideas and inspiration (much like its characters). If the first three seasons were about progress and moving forwards, this season is preoccupied with regression and the past.

Ocean’s 8

– moderately entertaining, but not a patch on the trilogy that came before. Unfortunately it emulates Ocean’s 11 so closely it feels unoriginal and trite, doing no favours for its screaming effort to be a female showcase for a female audience (Doncha know there’s nothing women love more than shopping, glamour and jewellery?! An ‘A’ for effort Hollywood…)

Identity

– it’s definitely aged since 2003, seeming so over the top now as to border slapstick, but the premise, direction and delivery are all still top notch. A great shame that Cusack hasn’t continued with this standard of work. Great thriller, best watched in your teens!

The Ritual

– hugely underrated British horror film using suspense and grotesque idolatry as the root of its terror. The symbolism and metaphors are a little too on the nose at times, and the script can be gratingly vituperative, but overall this is enjoyable, edge of the seat stuff.

Fauda S01 (TV)

– Gripping, if entirely unrealistic thriller. After a strong and furiously fast paced start, the pacing drops off a cliff and padding crops up detailing superfluous soap opera relationship drama. It’s a shame. Furthermore, the ending, when it comes, is so abrupt it feels like no ending at all, with slapdash contrivances that undermine all the efforts of the protagonists (and the audience) to have come so far. The same story in 8 episodes would have been a blinder. Expect I’ll still watch season 2 though.

Who Killed Cock Robin

– disappointing film overall, especially given the absurdly high rating it has on TMDb (and elsewhere…) It also doesn’t make a lot of sense at times, in a way that I’m not sure was down to the translation/ culture.

Palmeras en la Nieve (Palm Trees in the Snow)

– Absolute balls. Eye-rolling and cringe inducing melodrama. Nauseatingly saccharine, self-indulgent, badly edited and painfully ponderous (with a runtime that’s an exercise in audience tolerance). Among its other crimes, it somehow depicts the Spanish as the victims of their own colonial era in Guinea. Quite the feat.

The Snowman

– this murder mystery is short on quality in just about every regard. the acting and direction is bland, the script stunted, and it’s so strangely and scrappily edited as to leave you feeling you’ve watched two thirds of a thriller. The ingredients for a much better film are there, but they’re served up uncooked and cold.

A Bigger Splash

– With masterful direction, XX creates a searing sinister atmosphere and palpable suspense. It’s beautiful and sensual and mysterious from the opening frames, so it’s a shame that the climax, when it comes, fizzles rather than explodes, and leaves its audience deflated.

This Is Where I Leave You

– Unengaging and hackneyed dramedy complete with mandatory indie music, adults dabbling with drugs, and puerile gags. Relationships, mistakes, regret, forgiveness, you’ve seen it all before and it’s still not worth the time.

Grupo 7 (Unit 7)

– Spanish language police drama about a corrupt police unit who terrorise the locals to make arrests and increasingly antagonise the community with violent results. Polished, but simply not engaging enough to recommend highly. Elite Squad and its sequel delivered the same concept much more convincingly and enjoyably.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

– Enjoyed it as I would more or less any JP movie, but with 90% of the action taking place in one manor house (which is as aesthetically pleasing as a nuclear bunker), it felt pretty one dimensional and tonally uninteresting. The jokes were mostly contrived or fell flat, except for a couple of slapstick bits which got a good laugh. I’d recommend it for a sleepy Sunday, but versus my expectations (and the last movie), it was substandard.

The Detectorists S02 (TV)

– charming, wonderfully lighthearted, and with numerous laugh out loud moments each episode, this second series is perhaps even better than the first. It’s a fantastic script, and the chemistry between McKenzie Crook and Toby Jones has only matured. An excellent comedy.

Cargo

– Surprisingly excellent. It’s received so little acclaim and generated practically zero mainstream hype or discussion that I assumed it was going to be a generic Netflix bargain basement Zombie flick. Instead, it’s a thought provoking and very moving, human story. Basically a drama dressed up in the guise of a horror. The characters were all deep enough to be interesting and albeit quite slow paced, the story was relentlessly engaging. Interesting to see Martin Freeman do a film like this too, his acting chops have come so far since The Office!

The Salesman

– Not sure I understand the overwhelming acclaim for this dramatic story of a revenge gone wrong. It’s intriguing and sometimes powerful, but the pacing was inconsistent and the real drama too thin on the ground.

Goon

– if you have the mentality of a thirteen year old and can tolerate relentless coarsity, unfunny jokes and eye rolling slapstick, then you’ll fare better with this sports comedy than I did. Awful.

The Motive (El Autor)

– Spanish psychological drama following a man who becomes so obsessive about writing his novel he manipulates his neighbours to engineer increasingly outlandish storylines. Mostly compelling but becomes increasingly absurd and farcical as it wears on. The ending is disappointingly prosaic.

Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado

– Henceforth destined to be called simply ‘Soldado’, this sequel to the cartel thriller matches the suspense of its predecessor beat for beat and imitates its visual style mostly successfully. The ending feels too hastily wrapped up and slightly sloppy, with some niggling unresolved questions, so it doesn’t feel quite as polished or perfectly packaged as the original. Nonetheless, this is one hell of a film, brilliantly acted and scripted. It’s certainly a worthy sequel. Shame about the crap title.

Capote

– Intended as a character study, this is a slow paced and moderately irritating drama, entirely unnecessary given the masterwork it describes. Read ‘In Cold Blood’ and ignore this.

Beast

– Slow burning and suspenseful, this indie, low budget emotional thriller is very effective, but feels overwrought and try hard at times.

Icarus

– the best documentary I’ve ever seen and a fascinating expose of Russian doping. Whether it’s a subject that interests you or not, the political ramifications and behind the scenes machinations by Putin’s government are a stunning reminder that conspiracies do exist.

Utopia S02 (TV)

– enjoyable continuation of the conspiracy thriller, but clutching at straws and contrivances in a way that series 1 didn’t need to. Still great entertainment, I’m just glad it was wrapped before it descended into farce.

Den of Thieves

– the one gripping heist sequence towards the end is very tightly executed, but the rest of this macho thriller is so testosterone fuelled and trite it’s off-putting. Too long as well.

Utopia S01 (TV)

– An intriguing and arresting pilot episode is followed by what must surely be one of the finest and most original conspiracy thriller series Britain has produced. There are some occasional lines of cheesy expositional dialogue, and the plot frequently strays into absurdity, but for sheer entertainment and thrilling momentum, this is an instant classic. Neil Maskell in particular is a rivetingly sinister villain.

I, Tonya

– Another reinvention of history, this is still a good film, if only for its fantastic performances. The more I read out about Tonya Harding the less sympathy I have for her, but her story is certainly an engaging one to watch unfold onscreen.

Ready Player One

– albeit a children’s film through and through (hence extra-condescending exposition), this is a brilliant dystopian sci-fi adventure – a love letter to video game nerds and pop culture nerds alike, filled with a ton of references and Easter Eggs. Thoroughly entertaining.

Darkest Hour

– Oldman delivers an impressive turn in otherwise pretty dour love letter to Churchill. Cherry picked and rose tinted history never really does it for me and this film overlooks, even candy coats, all of Churchill’s problems bar moderate rudeness, which is easily forgivable in a man haunted by a country at war. Misleading and romanticised.

AP Bio S01 (TV)

– ridiculous and puerile comedy, often reliant on ropey slapstick. Somehow still managed to win me over with it’s asinine charm (and Glenn Howerton). Couldn’t recommend it though.

A Quiet Place

– not without its problems, but this is an extremely effective and original suspense thriller – much more exciting than scary. Well worth catching in the cinema (or on a big screen) if possible.

Annihilation

– Garland hasn’t repeated the splendour of Ex Machina here, but it’s still an intriguing scifi. Too abstract for my tastes, without enough clues to lead me to a satisfactory conclusion. Polished, but I wouldn’t watch it again.

Jigsaw

– thankfully not as gratuitous as the last spate, but it falls victim to the same underlying issue: the beauty of the original Saw was that the twist was so simple it needed no explanation. Every subsequent film has been so convoluted it’s needed a few minutes explainer to justify the final reveal. That’s a failure.

Montage

– A classic, conventional crime thriller. Compelling, with various intriguing twists and turns. If only the ending wasn’t so drawn out it would be even better.

Personal Shopper

– A waste of everybody’s time. The interesting premise is clumsily executed in this tediously slow and sombre psychological drama. It’s agonisingly boring, with a large portion taking place via text messaging, complete with enraging repetitive notifications. Infuriating from beginning to end.

Black Panther

– race and gender power aside (which admittedly, stands this film head and shoulders above its peers), this is more formulaic superhero guff. I’m calling time on comic blockbusters.

Mother

– not Aronofsky’s descent into madness of the same name, this Korean drama follows a mother seeking to exonerate her son from a murder charge. Atmospheric and well shot, but it didn’t move or excite me.

Brawl in Cell Block 99

– This is bleak and brutally violent. The colour palette is drab, and the script minimalist too, but there’s a steely determination in the protagonist and a sense of tremendous injustice against him that really makes you want to follow the story through and see him come out the other side (if only for a moment…!) A really engaging thriller.

The Shape of Water

– wonderfully different love story fantasy thriller with a video game aesthetic and comic book wit. Brilliantly cast and directed and engaging from start to finish. Michael Shannon is the new Ed Harris.

About Elly

– frantic and suspenseful Iranian drama, gripping and full of mystery and intrigue, but the end, when it eventually comes, is less of a conclusion than an abrupt stop. A shame.

Ingrid Goes West

– Stressful, skin-crawling, creepy and unsettling, this is a one of a kind comedy that’s near masterful. Aubrey Plaza is uniquely talented and she delivers a phenomenal performance along with O’Shea Jackson Jr who is instantly winning as her lovable landlord.

Nerve

– superficial social media thriller. Irrational behaviour and stupid lines of dialogue make for frustrating viewing. The soundtrack is the only occasionally worthwhile aspect of the whole experience.

It

– juvenile horror movie that’s fun to watch in the vein of Stranger Things, but devoid of any serious scares. Clowns are so passé…

Manhunt: Unabomber

– terrific TV series with a career best performance from Sam Worthington and perhaps from Paul Bettany too. It’s a shame some of the scenes are a bit on the nose and exposition heavy because it falls just short of perfection. Nonetheless, a fantastic ride.

Molly’s Game

– As fast paced, slick and loquacious as we’ve come to expect from Aaron Sorkin. This is a fun drama, but one can’t help but wonder if there aren’t more interesting stories to be told with Sorkin’s talent.

Tattoo

– German noir crime thriller, mostly gripping, if a little over the top. The plot is undermined by a plethora of extraordinary coincidences, but for fans of the serial killer genre, this is worth a watch.

La Casa De Papel

– what starts as a trashy Spanish heist thriller turns borderline unbearable as the plot twists itself into a ludicrous, inconsistent and often nonsensical mess. Then after 13 absurd episodes, the season ends abruptly and unsatisfyingly. Unless season two is a work of utter genius, I cannot recommend this.

Shooter S02 (TV)

– Another stunted season due to Ryan Philippe’s freak injury. Probably a saving grace to be frank. Despite a good turn from Josh Stewart (under-appreciated as always but well cast here), this was fraught with cliche, stupidity and wearisome machismo.

The Wall

– Surprisingly innovative given its limited cast and location. Very well directed and well acted, but still feels an effort at times. Worth watching though.

Gifted

– Good story drastically undermined by an unnecessary and tedious romance that reeks of studio interference. A shame, as at its best, the script is clever and the acting is strong.

The Founder

– Heavy with injustice and all the better for it, this is the tragic story of Ray Kroc, the man who stole McDonald’s. Strong performances give way to a lot of biopic clichés, but this is better than average.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

– a big budget spectacle which pales in comparison to its chronological predecessor. The plot alone is reason enough to face palm. Without the scene stealing performances from Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Adam Driver, there would be no reason at all to watch this.

The Five (TV)

– Thoroughly engaging and enjoyable TV drama exploring the mystery of why a missing and presumed dead boy’s DNA is showing up at murder seasons. Utterly ridiculous and implausible, but compelling.

Unlocked

– Noomi Rapace is excellent as always, and the film has a stellar cast. Unfortunately, the plot, for all its twists and turns, is beyond ludicrous, and Orlando Bloom’s laddish-quipping-sidekick routine is embarrassing. That said, very engaging thriller overall, shame it’s held together with such a feeble thread.

Z (1969)

– I don’t think masterpiece is too strong a term for this marvellous conspiracy thriller. Way ahead of its time in terms of cinematography and directorial style. Vastly better than I could have imagined after so many years. Utterly convincing.

Loft

– Like a magic trick, I loved it right up until I discovered how it was done, and then it just seemed so boringly straightforward. Still an excellent and gripping thriller though.

Blade Runner 2049

– stunningly beautiful, masterfully directed, but suffering the same achilles heel as its predecessor: the story takes itself so seriously, is so poe-faced and, at times, dull. A shame, as the dark dystopian world Villeneuve creates is delightfully immersive.

The Skeleton Key

– surprisingly enjoyable and gripping mystery thriller with another strong performance from Kate Hudson (Triangle). This isn’t as good as that film, but it’s still a pleasant surprise given the average calibre of horror movies these days.

Narcos (S03)(TV)

– great show, a little slow on the uptake, but once the first few episodes are out of the way it’s gripping and suspenseful to the end. In some ways, it’s more entertaining than the first two episodes, and some of the cast members are just fantastic; hat tip Andrea Londo and Matias Varela.

Gold

– solid and engaging drama whose main fault seems to be glamorising and espousing an industry that has blood on its hands. The true story is even stranger than the fiction, worth reading about.

Wonder Woman

– massively overrated superhero tedium. Hollywood continues spewing out the same old same, finding a new face to prop it up and a new marketing ploy to sell it. How this is acclaimed I cannot fathom.

Shepherds and Butchers

– plodding and unnecessarily drawn out courtroom drama, targeting too many moral sins with a broad brush, laying it on thick, and ending up with a clumsy overall picture. Nonetheless, easily watchable and still somewhat moving.

Mother!

– a spectacularly menacing and then outright batshit crazy visual assault. Recommended if only for the masterful film-making, this is an unpleasant allegory with the subtlety and nuance of a battering ram. (Key clue: Mother! is Mother Nature).

Man Up

– Simon Pegg proves he really has sold out. Insipid romcom. And I quote: “you’re just an emotional jigsaw at the moment, but you’ll piece yourself back together again”. Nauseating.

L’Affaire SK1

– Harrowing and compelling as this story is, and I did (mostly) enjoy the film, I was really disappointed that there wasn’t more to it. I expected a twist, or a revelation, or some kind of climax. Whilst real life doesn’t always come with neat red herrings and gut punch reveals, that is what the best crime thrillers deliver. I wonder if this might have been a better “based on a true story” rather than a direct biographical retelling.

Boy Missing

– Perhaps the worst Spanish language film I’ve seen. Chaotic, badly scripted, acted, directed; a total waste of time. Baffled that Jose Coronado put his name to it.

Mindhorn

– I really enjoyed this again on a repeat viewing, although it definitely does sag in the middle, and the supporting cast aren’t up to Barratt’s comedic calibre.

Moana

– funny and heartfelt animated drama combining didactic messages of feminism and environmentalism. Worth watching despite the horrifically cheesy music.

Banshee S04 (TV)

– at long last the town of Banshee gets its final act. The drawn out and self indulgent conclusion in the last episode is preceded by a mostly entertaining, if staggeringly gratuitous main story. Worth watching if you’ve come this far if only for the closure.

Ozark S01 (TV)

– best original show in years, a masterclass – Bateman and Linney are fantastic, but the writing is where it flies, the dance between tragedy and hilarity is graceful and gripping. Excellent, must watch show.

Black Snow (Nieve Negra)

– slow burning drama with a (not entirely unpredictable) twist. Ricardo Darin is phenomenal as always, but the film feels very overencumbered and weighted into the final act. It’s an interesting premise that falls short in its execution. Worth watching anyway.

Dunkirk

– innovative and powerful war film. Hardly something to get excited about though. Nolan’s worst in my view – at least in terms of enjoyment.

Okja

– absurd black comedy pitting the animal liberation front against evil capitalists genetically modifying superpigs. It sounds nuts, it is nuts, and it flits between hilarious and cringeworthy from scene to scene. Hard to seriously recommend, but there’s probably something in here worth watching.

Bloodline S03 (TV)

– albeit engaging throughout, this season really underdelivered and went off the rails. An episode where John spends time hallucinating multiple realities really jumps the proverbial shark, but even before then, it had become increasingly unhinged and ungrounded. Meg was abandoned within the story, written out, and Mama Raeburn has her depravity dialled to 11. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the show overall, but I’m very glad it’s ended. Its conclusion felt long overdue.

Battle Royale

– unclear about the tremendous hype for this one. A bit of a tedious slog to watch kids kill themselves and each other on an island. The premise is never satisfactorily explained and the bizarre conclusion offers no actual conclusion. Weird.

To Die For

– incomprehensible how highly regarded this dark comedy is. The main cast all deliver, but the story is unexciting and the direction and music are annoying.

K-PAX

– slow and gentle drama exploring the relationship between a psychiatrist and his patient, who claims to be from another planet. Mostly intriguing, but its pace drags behind comfortable.

Better Call Saul S03

– terrific series of an increasingly terrific show. It’s a shame the season finale was lacklustre relative to some of the other episodes and didn’t leave me hyped for the next season, but I savour every minute this is on air. Great performances, great script, simply great TV.

John Wick: Chapter 2

– after a profoundly tedious opening act, the action hots up and it delivers exactly what you’d expect: highly choreographed, laughably ludicrous fight sequences and good manners. Hits the spot if mindless violence is what you’re after.

Kong: Skull Island

– a spectacle at the very least. Drawing strongly on Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now influence, this is a fast paced action thriller that ought to entertain even the most passive of audiences.

Broadchurch S03

– far better than the second season, and its mistakes easier to forgive. It follows the same tropes and gives itself to tedious moralising at times, but this was a good fun whodunnit.

Elle

– as brilliantly funny as it is controversial, this is a powerful social commentary, as well as an exploration of sexuality, control, and the human condition. Unfortunately, it sometimes savours the gratuitous a little more than it needs to, and it could lose some audience as a result.

Lion

– emotive but overly long (and self-indulgent) drama with solid performances, especially from the child actors. Fairly familiar tear jerk territory.

Life on the Road

– one of the most painful cinematic experiences of my life. Scant moments of genuine comedy are overshadowed by constant, agonising cringes. The sea of blank faces that meets every remark David Brent makes, and the astounding lack of humanity demonstrated by everyone who meets him undermines the cheesy upbeat ending, which, when it finally comes, is undeserved and at odds with the overall narrative. A great pity that the film loosely echoes Gervais own story.

Hacksaw Ridge

– war film that has its moments but more often than not resorts to all guns blazing, chaos of war scenes with gore and fire aplenty. It could have been abbreviated hugely without losing any impact.

Halt and Catch Fire (S03)(TV)

– Whilst still mostly excellent, this season indubitably suffered from excluding, to a large extent, its most interesting character: Joe McMillan. Whilst he’s still present, his storyline plays second fiddle to the emotional difficulties in the relationship triangle between Donna, Gordon and Cameron.

Fences

– like so many dramas, a concentrated burst of all of the lows with none of the highs to balance the lives it purports to present. Viola Davis turns a staggeringly strong, powerhouse performance, but beyond an effective and affecting acting class, there’s little here to enjoy.

The Prestige

– so much more impressive on a second viewing, perhaps in part with maturity and in part from a greater and more complete understanding of the trick. A fantastic film to be sure.

Assassin’s Creed

– as a moderate fan of the games, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find this moderately enjoyable. It ticks most of the boxes for fun, even where it fails on story and overloads on style above substance.

Patriot’s Day

– a blow by blow, hour by hour retelling of the Boston Bombings. I’m not informed enough to be able to judge its accuracy, but it doesn’t feel gratuitous in any way. It’s focused on the community reaction, the strength of people there in the wake of the attack, and the police officers and security officials who worked to find the guys afterwards. There are definitely moments when they go off on one banging the drum for America and freedom, and the flavour of patriotism is a bit intense, but under the circumstances, it’s kind of forgivable, and it doesn’t detract much as a viewer. Bit long, and feels a bit too soon to be making it, but overall pretty solid.

We Are Legion

– quite an enjoyable documentary about the hacktavist organisation Anonymous, from their beginnings as internet trolls on 4chan and other message boards to the headline grabbing hacking collective

13th

– fascinating and troubling Netflix documentary about the state of race relations in America and how it’s exacerbated by the justice and penal system.

The Honourable Woman (TV)

– well intentioned but tediously self-aware and imperious. There are a few good characters, but none are likeable, and the plot is infuriatingly drawn out. After the powerhouse of The Shadow Line, this is a huge disappointment.

Sherlock S04 (TV)

– a far fetched and self-conscious but mostly enjoyable crime series, with a finale that hugely disappoints. It seems the creators gave up on actual cases in favour of pseudo psychological thrills and set pieces, and the show suffers hugely as a consequence.

Killswitch

– interesting documentary, not exactly original in the lines it covers, but very worthwhile. Good to hear such experts speak on the subject of privacy, surveillance and copyright.

Rogue One

– the best Star Wars movie to date, originals included. Everything is on point from the cinematography through to the scripting, and it’s so well cast. The only duff note is the cgi reincarnation of Peter Cushing who died in 1994. But Ben Mendelsohn is just made to be a villain – the guy is so ridiculously menacing, and Mads Mikkelson is emotionally powerful even as a hologram. Plus on a smaller note, it was great to see Daniel Mays put in a short appearance – he deserves international recognition and better opportunities. All of that aside though, it was just a genuinely excellent sci-fi film, which I can’t really say about any of the others.

American Honey

– engaging, artistic road trip drama, with excellent performances but a desultory plot that sadly fizzles out long before the end. Plus, the soundtrack is too on the nose. Definitely worth watching though.

Spectral

– after a promising, intelligent and smartly scripted start, this sci-fi crumbles into far fetched stupidity and unexciting action. A shame, because James Badge Dale delivers beyond the call of duty as the lead.

Hoosiers (Best Shot)

– I’m always impressed when a sports film draws me in, when I’ve no interest in its subject matter. This is dated, but Hackman is great as ever and the underdog drive is as strong as any modern flick.

Snowden

– Not as life changing as Citizen Four, but that’s to be expected. In some ways this is a more important biopic drama as it has the potential to be viewed by many more people, and for that reason, it needs to be exciting and accessible. This is, for the most part. It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse. Watch it, then read and understand more.

La La Land

– hyped beyond all reasonable expectation, this is nonetheless an impressive piece of cinema, likely to trump even the most cynical of viewers (of which I was one). That said, it’s not without its issues: the dreams vs love moral is troubling at best, and it’s manipulative in its narrative, leaving you valuing a year long whirlwind romance over a long term stable marriage.

Passengers

– sci fi romance that fails on the science and the fiction, but somehow remains enjoyable, perhaps partly thanks to Chris Pratt being a loveable baffoon. J Law is always solid casting too. The lasting question as the credits roll, though: where the hell did Andy Garcia come from?

Split

– gripping psychological thriller with a delicious villain in the shape of James McAvoy. It’s a shame we don’t see all 23 identities, and there’s definitely room for improvement, but this is fun.

Silence

– arduous, exhausting slog. Perhaps Scorsese is atoning for the grand decadence and joyous corruption of the Wolf of Wall Street with this nearly insufferable drama. Not devoid of cinematic beauty but hard to credit with much else.

Sneaky Pete S01 (TV)

– Enjoyable and imaginative TV show of the ‘easy viewing’ variety; a lot of fun, compelling cliff hangers, solid casting and an engaging story. The flaw is that in order to carry it all off, it relies on some serious suspension of disbelief, more than a little cliche, and too much instructive soundtrack and exposition. Sadly, the setup for the second season was extremely ham-fisted and rushed.

Sully

– Tom Hanks saves the flight, but perhaps not the lacklustre film, despite a consistently strong performance throughout. How many times can you show a plane landing on a river?

Westworld S01 (TV)

– all at once fantastic, beautiful, gratuitous and scary, this should be a one season wonder, but I fear it’ll be tarnished with subsequent series that can’t possibly live up to the near perfection of these ten episodes. Watch it if only for it’s magnificent conclusion.

Mozart in the Jungle S03 (TV)

– Terrific show as always, but I’m a teeny bit concerned this series was less well plotted than the first two and I hope this isn’t the first scree on a slippery slope. I still thoroughly enjoyed the season though, it’s a joy to watch a show with so much love and so much optimism. If only life could be so consistently upbeat.

Goliath (TV)

– strong criminal drama with a frustratingly abrupt and unearned conclusion. Billy Bob Thornton is terrific, and the plot is intriguing and nuanced, but the rushed delivery in eight episodes was totally insufficient and ultimately disappointing.

Safety Not Guaranteed

– a perfect ten. Beautifully constructed and wonderfully imagined romantic comedy drama with scripting that frequently made me laugh out loud. Grew on me from the opening scenes right through to its powerfully affecting conclusion. Terrific.

Snitch

– probably the closest the big man has come to actually having to act, and bizarre to see him in a vulnerable role, but sadly the film is built upon a plot of sand, and the whole thing is too stupid to enjoy

Arrival

– unique sci-fi drama that’s difficult to describe. Not what I was expecting, and perhaps slightly underwelming given the hype, but it certainly set me thinking and deserves a second viewing.

The Jungle Book

– surprisingly excellent – a well crafted CG world and characters who stayed (mostly) true to the original. A shame it pulled a few punches, and reached a questionable conclusion about man in the animal kingdom!

Mr Robot S02 (TV)

– Those people suggesting this season has “nose-dived” in terms of quality, I suspect were just hangers on from the beginning. If anything, by the end of Season 2, I am far more invested in all of the characters and the overarching plot. The series is surreal. Undeniably so. But that’s pretty brave for the creators, and it’s so unusual and unlike anything else we’ve seen on TV, it’s worthy of praise for originality alone. I can’t wait for Season 3 – this season ended with much more suspense than Season 1. I hope they can maintain the standards and ignore the naysayers.

The Night Of

– poor courtroom drama and scripting, and irrational, ill-formed character actions, slowly bled the promise of the excellent pilot until we’re left with a glorified, prolonged episode of Law & Order. It’s an enjoyable watch, but after a very strong start, it didn’t come close to its potential. A great shame.

Suicide Squad

– nonsensical plot with not enough malice in the team of criminal sociopaths, and not enough spectacle to be fun. Indestructable omnipotent villains with synthetic voices are sooooo tedious.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

– every time I think Superhero movies can’t get any worse, Hollywood squeezes out another turd. Miserable, long and confused; by now somebody has surely identified Zac Snyder as a child in adult’s clothing. Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is an abomination, just disgustingly self-indulgent ham acting. Not all villains can be Ledger’s Joker, but man alive, someone out there must be able to do better than this? Maybe we need a decade or two pause to reflect upon what makes Superhero movies worth watching.

The Neon Demon

– ought to be a series of crisply framed slides on the vast white-washed wall of a modern art gallery. This is less a movie, and more a series of stylish, if grotesque, exhibits; interesting perhaps, but a far cry from entertainment.

The Girl With All The Gifts

– excellent British sci-fi that falls before the final hurdle, disrupting and destructing an otherwise original and fascinating zombie film. Suffers from the same pitfalls as many of its ilk, not least the inability to call a zombie a zombie.

Creep

– I started intrigued, amused and definitely ‘creeped’ and then it dragged for a good 30 minutes. The finale was tidy and smartly executed but I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re really into off the wall indie horrors.

Bastille Day

– this is a classic genre thriller, the plot makes little sense, the circumstances are contrived and 99% of the cast is male. Of the other 1%, one is used as a topless distraction, another is shot, and the third’s a prop for the bad guys. That said, it’s quite good and silly fun and demonstrates why Idris Elba definitely shouldn’t be Bond.

War Dogs

– mismarketed as a comedy, this is an engaging, solid drama hamstrung by presentation issues. The narration is often tedious and condescending, and the cheap chapter markers interrupt the film’s flow. Jonah Hill is quite fantastic though. He gets better and better.

X-men: Apocalypse

– far and away the weakest film in the whole franchise. Boring. Glum. Beyond irritating scripting and delivery. Bad vocal effects, a bad story, unconvincing CGI, agonisingly long, inconsistent rules, scrappy editing. Just all in all infuriatingly terrible. Even the actors seem like they’re embarrassed to be starring in a glorified episode of Power Rangers. Except that that was clearly for kids, whereas this takes itself so dreadfully, sombrely seriously. I think it’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, and certainly the worst super villain.

Wild Card

– a paper thin plot acts as a hook for a number of fairly well executed fight scenes, but the thriller ends almost as soon as it began, with no development, no questions answered, and no satisfaction whatsoever.

Mr Robot S02 (TV)

– Those people suggesting this season has “nose-dived” in terms of quality, I suspect were just hangers on from the beginning. If anything, by the end of S02, I am far more invested in all of the characters and the overarching plot. The series is surreal. Undeniably so. But that’s pretty brave of the creators, and it’s so unusual and unlike anything else we’ve seen on television, it’s worthy of praise for originality alone. I can’t wait for S03 – this season ended with much more suspense than the first. I hope they can maintain the standards and ignore the naysayers.

Warcraft: The Beginning

– albeit watchable, and even, at times, entertaining, this sci-fi fantasy is quite astoundingly bad. Impaired by its poor, computer-game visuals and erratic editing. Too much of the film must surely have been edited out, leaving a husk that feels like a tech demo from the early naughties. If this is to continue, I hope the VFX changes hands.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

– tonally chaotic, and often borderline offensive, there’s nonetheless something about the crass delivery which makes this unlikely romantic comedy very engrossing. One or two minor characters are so startlingly well crafted, they almost negate the awfulness of the sickly leads.

The Rack Pack

– interesting and often fun depiction of snooker as Barry Hearn transitions it from smoky mens club to mainstream, commercial, household sport. Some great, standout performances from relative unknowns.

Jason Bourne

– disappointing after the terrific original trilogy. I can’t see this being included in everyone’s mind as a core part of the Bourne saga, it’ll most likely be a simple addendum, disregarded by history.

The Nice Guys

– wickedly funny detective crime caper. Chemistry between Gosling and Crowe is surprisingly feisty and the script is laden with black humour and unexpected slapstick. Just a great, fun film.

Babylon (TV)

– sort of wannabe The Thick of It for cops. Fast paced with an engaging story, but none of the characters are likeable, and the comedy is often too nasty to raise a smile.

The Witch

– no jump scares, no slasher gore or creaky clichés, just very effective, authentic horror of the kind Rosemary’s Baby perfected. Terrific.

Line of Duty S03 (TV)

– after a less than exhilarating four or five episodes, the finale packs a punch unlike any other British thriller and offers a payoff that more than justifies the insidious pacing. Performances and scripting are tight, and the direction, at times, is artful. Indubitably one of the best shows on TV. Bring on series four.

Midnight Special

– Po-faced, sulky and soulless movie, borderline tedious. Great music though. To quote an IMDb comment: “Nichols forgot to give his movie a pulse. How can a story about intense paternal love, faith, and transcendence feel this lifeless?”

Black Mass

– strong acting and cinematography unfortunately don’t compensate for soul, and Black Mass was too dry and dour to be really enjoyable. Worth watching, but don’t expect a thrill ride.

Miss Bala

– slightly gratuitous spanish language cartel thriller. Oddly sparsely scripted, with the titular character cowering from bullets in lingerie for most of the film. Not recommended.

Special Correspondents

– glib comedy of the kind Gervais has become accustomed to producing: few laughs, a lot of groans, a saccharine romance. Even Gervais fans might struggle with this one (or perhaps especially Gervais fans, for whom his steady deterioration is particularly painful).

Steve Jobs

– Good performances but this is disappointingly dry and uninspiring. Expected more from Sorkin. Fassbender’s Jobs is like a grumpy Bradley Whitford, the fast talking swagger and ego of Josh Leiman with none of the charismatic charm.

Hyena

– macho, gruesomely violent British thriller. Not especially thrilling, uncomfortably coarse, and most egregious of all: utterly unrewarding and unsatisfying. Don’t waste your time.

Forsaken

– terrific Western, a contemporary love letter to the classics. The story is strong and traditional, and the acting is frankly breathtaking. To see the Sutherlands side by side for the first time in nearly twenty years is emotive in itself.

Dope

– cool, feel good vibes are the 90s beating heart of this teen coming of age flick. There are a couple of missteps, and some odd scripting, but overall this is a lot of fun, and curiously nostalgic.

Open Grave

– creepy, slightly stilted thriller. B-movie production, but a worthwhile concept and script. Unusual and dark enough to appeal to fans of the psychological horror genre.

Daddy’s Home

– this Ferrell Wahlberg comedy has some moments of true hilarity, but suffers from a premise that is stretched far too thin, and the inexplicable need to dilute its genuine comedy with puerile slapstick and toilet humour. Definitely enjoyable, but be prepared to wince a lot.

Cop Car

– the wonderfully simple and yet bizarre journey of two boys who find an abandoned cop car. Perhaps not the most pleasing resolution, but top marks for originality.

High-Rise

– Dystopian/ Utopian drama. Stylistically brilliant, and extremely competent film-making/ scoring etc. But it needed a sense of cohesion that wasn’t there, or at least it needed to hint a little more at the method in the madness. The whole film was itself basically one big orgy: self-indulgent, chaotic, gratuitous, exciting, and ultimately an anti-climax.

Enemy

– fascinating and deeply unnerving drama, grounded enough to remain compelling, and abstract enough to provoke intrigue and curiosity. Quite unexpectedly brilliant.

Deadpool

– Certainly novel, I’ll give it that. Comedically it misses as often as it hits though, and it’s gratuitously redband to a distracting extent. That said, it’s very entertaining and a refreshingly self-aware ‘meta’ take on the superhero action genre.

Sicario

– For the second time. This firmly occupies a spot in my top ten films of all time list. Astounding, heart pounding, breath-taking from start to finish.

The Bridge S03 (TV)

– thoroughly entertaining, as always, but riddled with irritating decision-making, poor judgement and irrational behaviour. The show has definitely dropped in quality since its inaugural season, but with the absence of competitors in the genre, it remains a must

Halt and Catch Fire (S02)(TV)

– As TV goes, I honestly don’t think it gets much better than this. The character of Joe MacMillan is just unrivalled in complexity and depth. Lee Pace is beyond magnetic in the role, he’s electric, and the writers recognise that and use it beautifully. The storylines are broad, sweeping and powerful, skipping triviality in favour of weighty topics that shaped the computing world and the world we live today. The casting is spot on, the acting stupendous. I only hope that AMC top brass realise that this is shaping into one of the best TV series to have graced our screens. Watch it; laugh, weep and fist pump. This is one of a kind.

Wargames

– One of those films that has somehow miraculously slipped under my radar until now. Ludicrous, but given the era, it’s a pretty good thrill ride and a lot of fun.

Bridge of Spies

– Fun and engaging soviet spy thriller. Unfortunately encumbered by Spielberg’s revolting obsession with pure, unadulterated cheese of the kind that only he can deliver. Also a pretty thin propaganda piece. All that aside, it’s still a great watch!

The Man From High Castle (TV)

– Unfortunately, despite a wonderful concept and vivid realisation of Dick’s parallel universe, this fails on several levels, from clumsy, even bad, scripting to poor, glossy casting choices. Thankfully the story is strong, and some of the actors really command attention (Rufus Sewell, I’m looking at you). Could have been much better though.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

– albeit a rehash of earlier film plots and a tribute to some of the (very) old characters, this is still a moderately enjoyable entry into the sci-fi franchise. Very much a ‘kids film’, the world and the action is unconvincing but innocuous, vacuous fun. Nowhere near deserving of the hype.

Injustice

– surprisingly strong turn from Chris Evans, very good acting. Hard to like the film overall though. It tries too hard and has a pretty flat aesthetic throughout. I found it an unrewarding experience.

Mississippi Grind

– Very interesting but frustratingly unsatisfying. I’m on the fence about this one. I left the cinema deeply introspective and curious about the story, but that same intrigue leaves you agonised at the lack of resolution.

The Program

– Terrific acting from Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd and all the cast. It’s an eye-opening tale even in hindsight. How Armstrong got away with it for so long and so flagrantly is unfathomable.

Spectre

– Mixed emotions on this. Undeniably a spectacle and a feast, but even for Bond’s universe, there are simply too many questionmarks over the plot. Some ill judged and sickeningly cheesy scenes really undermine the overall stylised aesthetic as well. Whilst the set pieces and Bond tropes are all on point, the plot as a whole is very weak and uncomfortably contrived.

Sicario

– Striking and artistically directed drug cartel thriller. Fantastic, nail biting, edge of the seat stuff from start to finish. I would see it again in an instant.

San Andreas

– a nauseating script and shiny plastic cast leave little room for any enjoyment of this apocalyptic quake thriller beyond mockery. What an enormous waste of time and money.

Everest

– A pleasant surprise. This biopic explores the horrors of Everest when a storm catches a climbing tour unawares. Harrowing and oddly downbeat in its ending, this is a splendid and visually overpowering piece of drama. Highly recommended to see it in the cinema or on a large screen.

Narcos (TV)

– Fast paced (perhaps too fast paced), drug cartel crime thriller charting Pablo Escobar rise and fall from power in Colombia. Sharp acting and excellent direction, it’s a minor pity that the script frequently borders on US propaganda. Terrific TV though.

Inside Out

– Surprisingly dark pixar animation. Tackling depression and puberty in illustrated form is hardly a barrel of laughs, and likely to go way over the heads of the childhood audience. For adults, however, this is an oddly powerful watch.

Veep (TV) (S01-S04)

– My favourite political comedy with a fantastic cast and incisive script. Every episode has moments of comedy gold and whilst the humour is occasionally malicious (particularly re: workplace bullying), it usually redeems itself within the same episode.

The Affair

– beneath the sophisticated patina lies a schizophrenic, prurient, glorified soap opera that leads the viewer on with the pretense of deep intrigue and the promise of a whodunit, whilst stubbornly refusing to impart anything other than (often) tedious drama. Snippets of excellent dialogue help alleviate the drab repetition of each episode, but beyond the impressive performances and occasionally smart scripting is little to actually enjoy. Disappointing.

Spy

– A couple of genuinely funny moments fail to save this feminist spy farce. As modern hollywood comedies go, it’s sadly the usual fare: a whole heap of puerile slapstick, invective and caricature. Still waiting for the next great American comedy after Superbad (and The Other Guys).

Ted 2

– Brilliantly irreverent and unflinching comedy that doesn’t pull any punches but unfortunately misses as often as it hits. After a classic heavyweight first act, it sags in the middle and deflates towards the end. Overall though, this is highly entertaining with great chemistry and some very smart scripting (in amongst the horrible!)

Mozart in the Jungle

– A terrific, virtuosic performance from Gabriel Garcia Bernal underpins this intelligent, hugely loveable and immensely witty comedy. The music, the scripting, the off-beat humour (often laugh out loud) – everything is timed and tuned to perfection. If I had a criticism, which honestly, I don’t really, it would be that Bernal presents such a powerful and charismatic character that he steals the show every episode, but how I loved to watch him do it! You would be a fool to miss this.

Nightwatch [original]

– It turns out the US remake was essentially a shot for shot rework of this original danish serial killer thriller which enormously undermined the impact of this for me. Clearly a solid film though, and pleasantly unpleasantly twisted.

Birdman

– Although over cooked with self-indulgent monologues, this is nonetheless a fascinating and original theatrical dramedy, wickedly directed and boldly acted. The black humour might be a bit dry for some, but when it works, it soars.

Slow West

– As the title unambiguously suggests, this is a slow western. Tongue in cheek performances and pleasant cinematography give it a certain charm and whimsy that just about triumphs over its slumbrous pacing.

The Gunman

– Tedious, predictable and miscast action thriller. Penn ‘in shape’ looks out of sorts and none of the characters are sympathetic. Not painful, but not worth your time either.

Infernal Affairs

– It’s not often I declare a remake superior to the original, but in many ways I prefer The Departed to this crime thriller. The direction and acting are all top notch, but a couple of story twists were nicely refined for the US version. That said, this happily skips alot of the sappy Hollywood romance and tones down the caricature.

Mr Robot (TV)

– Like early Dexter with 1s and 0s. A twisted and anguished protagonist with an alternative perspective on life. This is a hacker series deservedly praised by laymen and computer nerds alike. A little overly tortured at times, dragging the pace, but overall this is a compelling and novel contemporary thriller, hopefully to inspire a new generation of anarchist hackers.

It Follows

– Preposterous and overrated horror. Novel (albeit very slow) direction and a mildly interesting concept just about maintains intrigue, but it’s too heavy and soul searching to conjure the ‘au frisson’ most might expect from a horror.

Get Hard

– one or two scenes of genuine comedy dilute the general lowbrow puerile silliness. Arguably homophobic, sexist and racist, embarrassingly, I nonetheless rather enjoyed it!

Fast and Furious 7

– Exhausting nonstop action and ripe cheesy scripting leaves the 7th film in the dust of the far superior 5th and 6th franchise outings. However, the technical inclusion of the late Paul Walker throughout the movie, post humously, is seriously impressive, and their tribute to him is heartfelt and worth recognising.

Halt and Catch Fire S01 (TV)

– found myself a new favourite among TV series. Exceedingly strong performances from the whole cast, a gripping, dynamic plot, and script and direction that will have you laughing aloud before hunkering at the edge of your seat. Terrific show.

A Single Shot

– Another outback drama with a terrific cast and wonderful acting cursed by a substandard story. Worth watching for Rockwell and the beautiful scenery, this is disappointingly lacking, I’m just not quite sure what…

Jurassic World

– If you ignore the agonising voice of Basil Exposition and overlook the McGuffin brothers, this is almost exactly what you’d expect, but a lot more fun. Wisecracks, iconic shot frames, and lots of awesome dinosaurs. I had a blast.

Banshee (S03)(TV)

– By this stage it’s pretty much more of the same. The novelty has worn off and the flashbacks are getting old. It remains a watchable show, but I’d definitely start looking for something new.

Daredevil (TV)

– Extraordinarily violent and gruesome at times, it’s nonetheless a pretty tongue in cheek, light-hearted and entertaining Netflix super hero series. Certainly more compelling than I had expected.

The Drop

– Pay close attention and this unexpected crime drama will pay dividends. Powerfully understated, with excellent performances to a man. Refreshingly original.

Spooks

– if a feature length episode of the hit TV show appeals in principal, then it will almost definitely appeal in practice, with the usual cast favourites racing against the terrorism clock. It’s slick and fast paced and pretty much exactly what you’d expect.

Rosewater

– Moderately interesting and well acted drama about an Iranian journalist imprisoned for his coverage of government military repression. Not unique among this type of film, and many others have done it better.

Mad Max: Fury Road

– An orgastic and maniacal apocalyptic symphony. Revel in the roar of engines, the screech and crunch of metal upon metal, and the sheer depravity of Miller’s explosive bicolour vision. If none of that sounds fun – give this a very wide berth!

The Absent One

– Better than its predecessor. Another nordic crime thriller. A little more explicit and violent this one, the plot doesn’t unravel as suspensefully as it could, but it’s a tightly spun yarn.

The Book of Eli

– never fails to entertain although sadly the product placement has become more evident as one brand in particular has gained traction in the past few years. Otherwise a terrific film.

The Voices

– Utterly inane, wacky, off the wall serial killer comedy that baffles more than it entertains, although it’s worth watching to the end simply for the final credit sequence. Ryan Reynolds is a dream.

Focus

– Vacuous heist/ con artist thriller that plays the usual cards and tricks with a hyper modern and unrealistic twist. Nowhere near as fun as it should and could have been, with all the ‘focus’ evidently misplaced on gloss instead of substance.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

– The medley of action men (and women) tear it up again with the usual quips and techno gizmos. If you’re not bored of superheroes, there’s probably something here for you. Personally the genre is almost dead to me.

The Gambler

– albeit nowhere near as bad as I had prepared myself to endure, even for a fan of Marky Mark Wahlberg this was a bit of a slog. Unlikely and unlikeable characters fill a mostly uninteresting plot. That said, it’s delivered with conviction. Ultimately pretty average.

Cleaner

– A mildly entertaining, if faintly ludicrous, thriller with Samuel L in one of his more likeable roles. One for when you’re really bored.

Black Sea

– idiotic deep sea thriller that suffers flaws galore and enough accents to educate a language school. Proof that a good cast needn’t mean a good film.

Love

– Pretentious nonsense, and an exercise in audience tolerance. One of the most boring films I have had the mispleasure of watching. Stick with The Signal instead – a much better effort by the same director.

Kon-Tiki

– Biopic drama charting the Kon-Tiki voyage. The film Life of Pi wishes it had been. Uplifting, suspenseful, funny. Blessed with a touch of the Sublime. A pity it’s quite so cheesy.

Ex Machina

– Phenomenal, mind-blowing sci-fi. Simultaneously made me want to give up on life and feel a surge of irrepressible excitement for what we’re a part of. Operates on so many levels. Well acted, beautifully composited. Watch it.