The Capture S02 (TV)

– if season one was flirting at the edges of technological plausibility, this time around the BBC’s deepfake conspiracy thriller goes full blown sci-fi, with just about anything with a lens compromised by spies, facial recognition operating at a magical 100% accuracy – with face masks and without racial bias – and Holliday Grainger growling her way through more MI5, CIA and Big Tech board rooms than there are in Silicon Valley…in London. But farcical as it is, it’s also a good crack, with those early 00s ‘24‘-style cliffhanger endings and enough twists to tie its own shoe laces together. All in all, silly and totally misrepresentative of technology, but quite fun.

Boiling Point

– blistering one take drama in a high end restaurant kitchen at Christmas feels grotesquely realistic, rushing from urgency to panic with the entire ensemble delivering such vulnerable, human performances, you want to reach into the screen and give them each a hug. It is a little overcooked by the final curtain – the stress was certainly peaking without the need for its arguably hyperbolic conclusion – but what an achievement, nonetheless.

A Day

– convoluted Korean sci-fi thriller riffs on the Groundhog Day repetitive loop. It’s intriguing up to a point, but also overly contrived, and the characters’ behaviour and motivations are unconvincing and eventually a little tedious.

Mr Smith Goes To Washington

– it’s films like these that make me ashamed to assume an old black and white picture won’t compare to modern cinema. This is a powerhouse drama whose warmth belies its desaturated finish, simultaneously illustrating venal political operatives and their abuses of power while lauding the foundations of democracy. It’s all told with a generous dose of wit, impassioned oratory, brilliant acting, and even a delicate love story in the mix. A shame there aren’t more recent films like it.

The Black Phone

– polished supernatural crime thriller has a distinctly Stephen King vibe to it. Some of the underlying themes have merit (standing up to bullies), but there’s not enough substance to the story and not enough development of the villain (Ethan Hawke in what is surely one of his easiest roles). The eponymous black phone remains a mystery throughout.

Primary Colors

– Nuanced, timeless and illustrative of why personally despicable people still survive or thrive in politics. Makes me long for more high calibre political dramas.

Bill Bailey Live: Limboland

– Bill Bailey still puts on a great show with some genuinely brilliant moments, even if his cranky old wizard schtick feels as old as he’s beginning to look and his comedic tics seem less subtle now they’ve been exposed to the limelight for so long.

Nope

– Visually sumptuous and immersive when it counts, Peele’s UFO thriller vacillates between downright dull and epic sensory overload. While a narrative thread eventually emerges, it flaps loosely, such that the various subplots seem barely attached to the greater whole, instead an excuse for supernatural scene setting and jump scares. It’s hard to say if the end result works, but at the very least, it includes breathtaking elements: a confused, technically masterful and quite beautiful cinematic work, but not a particularly good film.

Where The Crawdads Sing

– like wading through the marshes, this wet and affected courtroom drama is a slog from start to finish, with vanilla direction and broadly unimpressive performances.

Totems S01 (TV)

– after Le Bureau proved such an accomplished French export, I hoped this might be another. Alas, not so. Totems takes the scientific-office-bod-turned-super-spy trope and runs with it through Soviet era Russia and East Germany, using an unconvincing romance as a crutch. Nothing about it is noteworthy, let alone remarkable, and mostly it’s just bad. After more than four hours, I decided it’d be gambler’s fallacy to carry on.

Vengeance

– Novak’s true crime parody about a NY writer who tries to find podcasting success in Texas by exploiting the death of a girl he once hooked up with is most successful when it’s self-deprecating and scornful of the trendy, elitist media scene he belongs to. Fortunately, that’s most of the film. The final act is a bit of an own goal though, seeking to land some of the ‘profound insights’ he’s derided throughout. A slightly disappointing stumble at the end of an otherwise witty satire.

Escape at Dannemora S01 (TV)

– abandoned this around the halfway mark. It felt refined but unlikeable. There are so many prison dramas, most more thrilling and engaging than this, and despite the performances and meticulous direction, I simply didn’t care enough about any of it to justify the time investment.

The Gray Man (2022)

– there’s a criticism often levelled at action thrillers: that in the absence of a decent story, they compensate with gunfire and explosions. Never has it been more applicable. It’s nearly forgivable in this case though, enjoyable as it is to watch Gosling and Evans gallivanting across the world executing preposterous stunts in protracted, high octane sequences. Exactly how the epic destruction of Prague was ever going to be swept under the rug is unclear, but this isn’t a film that gives two wits about accuracy or smarts, it’s all about the dance, and between the nonsense, it’s got a few decent moves.

Thirteen Lives

– this doesn’t achieve anything The Rescue documentary didn’t already, and viewing this subsequently, knowing exactly what to expect and when, I found it underwhelming. But it’s not bad by any measure, and as a standalone film I’d imagine it does a good job conveying the extraordinary drama of the rescue.

Top Gun: Maverick

– strange to think this is how they used to make them: all soft crossfades and sharp lighting, six packs and flapping flags. It’s silly in all the ways you expect a sequel of this profile to be silly, but beneath the macho willy waving and thrilling stunts, it’s also surprisingly gentle, optimistic, and ultimately feel good. In other words, a classic old school blockbuster. Might have to spin up a VR flight simulator now…

Men

– All the terror and trauma some men inflict on women generation after generation stem from a desire to be loved. Or at least, that seems the thesis explored by Alex Garland in this characteristically weird and shocking horror. It’s about a woman convalescing in a rural cottage after her husband’s suicide who finds herself beset by hostile locals, violent stalkers and home invaders. To say it’s visually disturbing is an understatement. This is some f*cked up brand of crazy. I almost turned it off in the final few minutes. If macabre abstract art is your cup of tea, or you like to be viscerally challenged at the cinema, maybe you’ll stomach this. For everyone normal, it’s not recommended.

Dave (1993)

– a gentle and feel good classic American comedy where the US president suffers a stroke and his chief of staff convinces an everyman lookalike to stand in for him. The chirpy and optimistic newcomer wins over the White House, the country and at least this audience member. Easy going fun.

Bo Burnham: Inside

– Burnham’s surrealist and, at times, all too realist pandemic inspired one man comedy is both funny and tragic, as much of his work is. It’s an insight into the creative process, loneliness, and mental health issues, while also a cutting satire of the superficiality of modern life and the absurd paradox immanent in using mindblowing technologies for trivial banalities. The show loses momentum around the mid-mark and never really recovers, but there’s still a lot to laugh at if you’re feeling strong and not too introspective!

Black Bird S01 (TV)

– engaging and polished crime thriller with some impressive (if weirdly stylised) performances and a suspenseful atmosphere. Disappointingly, the script goes on some strange and unconvincing tangents, with implausible dialogue, irrelevant subplots, and disconnected scenes. The result is compelling but unnecessarily rushed and nowhere near as tight or satisfying as it could have been, or as some comparable shows, like True Detective S03.

Hatching

– I genuinely have nothing positive to say about the experience. Bad acting, a disastrous script and unimpressive visuals. Initially I assumed the stilted weirdness was deliberate, a stylistic choice, but on reflection, it’s just crap.

The Old Man S01 (TV)

– Its drab name belies the best spy thriller since Le Bureau. The Old Man puts the craft in spy craft, with a heavyweight, serious cast, each at the top of their game, and thoughtful direction that commands your attention with subtle hints, careful pacing, and the refreshing use of space: both for the cast to shine and the suspense to marinate. Despite a proclivity for showy, literary monologues, its intelligent scripting weaves what could easily have seemed a farfetched narrative into a convoluted but pleasantly adhesive web, while its tastefully unadorned, gritty aesthetic helps add authenticity. A shame season 1 only lasts an irregular 7 episodes, but gladly, FX have renewed it. This one is highly recommended.

The Terminal List S01 (TV)

– Chris Pratt’s military revenge thriller is very silly and takes itself far too seriously, but it’s also a lot of fun, kinda like early Prison Break vibes. When Pratt’s Navy SEAL one man killing machine is finally let loose as a full blown psychopath on the run from the FBI, it ticks all the boxes for classic binge material: cliff hangers, predictable twists (that you still want to see resolve so your guesses are vindicated), cathartic violence (albeit at least once much too excessive – no-one wants to watch a man gutted and forced to unravel his own intestines)… the tone of the whole thing is very morally questionable, if not morally reprehensible, but if you can reconcile yourself with that, it’s very entertaining. I even think I’d watch a Season 2. You know, if the brain tumour gets resolved.

Sherwood S01 (TV)

– inconsistent crime drama set in a former mining community where old alliances are still causing problems. While this is quite well produced and acted, the story depends on so many far fetched ingredients and manipulative narrative twists that it practically feels unfair to the viewer, and the ending (specifically the killer’s motives) feel like an absolute copout. Top marks for casting though, the younger, flashback versions of the older characters are very convincing.

The Outlaws S02 (TV)

– the buffoonery continues, still with enough laugh out loud moments to make it worth watching, even while just as many jokes fall flat. There’s also an inequality in the character arcs and their associated comedy, so some of the outlaws’ stories feel like tedium that must be endured to guffaw at the real stars of the show – Stephen Merchant and Jessica Gunning. I’m not left clamouring for an encore, but if another season emerged, I’d probably still watch it.

Father Stu

– critics panned this inspirational true story of a boxer turned priest and his endless battle with adversity, but audiences, myself included, appear more receptive to its charms. It is very Hollywoodised, but of the ‘feel good’ variety, where characters are all redeemable and ultimately good people, despite their myriad issues, and where faith and love of one another triumphs. If that sounds saccharine, it is a bit, but it also makes for uplifting viewing. Not to mention, Mark Wahlberg’s performance and physical transformation is seriously impressive.

Benediction

– while the performances in this biographical drama are good and it’s informative about the poet, Siegfried Sassoon, and the impact of PTSD, depression and his homosexuality on his life, the speech is so clipped and the style so stilted that it left me cold. It presents almost theatrically, with protracted scenes of archive war footage and morose expressions on the actors faces while long extracts of poetry are read. I wasn’t unmoved, but I also didn’t much enjoy the experience.

The Dissident

– harrowing true story of the Jamal Khashoggi murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the orders of Mohammed bin Salman. The CGI infographic style of presentation didn’t really do it for me, but the story, CCTV and transcript footage is so jaw-dropping the alternative visuals really aren’t that relevant. Definitely worth watching, if only to remind yourself what individuals in positions of power get away with.

Watcher (2022)

– aims for the suspenseful slow burn and it works up to a point, but it feels like it should have done more with the time allotted. Not bad, just underwhelming.

Assassins (2021)

– tightly gripping true crime documentary shows the extraordinary plight of two oblivious girls caught up in one of the most high profile political assassinations of our time – Kim Jong-Nam. Though staid in style, the story is so captivating it really doesn’t need added panache. Brilliant.

My Octopus Teacher

– a documentary about a man who falls in love with an octopus (his words, not mine), and in the process gains more of an appreciation for the natural world. Somewhat less revelatory than I had anticipated given the acclaim it received, this is, nonetheless, a unique insight into an octopus’ world.

Spiderhead

– if the name conjures intrigue, the conceit proves depressingly straightforward and low intelligence: a villainous, charismatic pharma-CEO uses prisoners to test drugs that co-opt their emotions. What does he do with this super power? Makes them have sex, laugh maniacally and cower from staplers. It’s tonally and stylistically schizophrenic (as many of Netflix’s ‘films by algorithm’ are), with a typically facile depiction of scientific transgression. That it remains compelling is largely thanks to Hemsworth and Teller’s aptly indelicate performances.

The Duke

– while this is certainly a competent and affectionate film, I’m somewhat baffled by its acclaim. It’s described as a heist movie but there’s no heist to speak of: the art theft itself over in the blink of an eye and really just a necessary plot development rather than central to the action. The drama revolves around an ageing couple’s relationship, their coping with impecunity and the loss of their daughter. There’s nothing wrong with it per say, it’s just quite drab and boring, despite the sparkling talents of its cast (Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren and Matthew Goode).

Merchants of Doubt

– documentary about the lobbyists hired by corporate behemoths to cast doubt on scientific consensus somehow manages to elicit extraordinarily candid and revealing interviews from the paid spin doctors themselves, leading to some jaw dropping confessions. It imparts great insight into why, despite the facts, progress addressing major health issues is so slow. Everyone should watch and learn from this, especially students and journalists.

The White Lotus S01 (TV)

– This droll dramedy is like watching a car filled with deplorable passengers crash in slow motion, and being asked to laugh at it. There’s a small kick to be had watching insufferable people suffer, but by and large it’s just tedious, laden with scornful social commentary and judgement, and grotesque in its style. Thankfully it boasts some big hitters who can spin gold from straw: Murray Bartlett is a treasure, playing hotel manager Armand like a genius cross between John Cleese and Jim Cummings, while Connie Briton and Steve Zahn are electric and charismatic in any role and still a joy to watch here.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

– meta silliness is Hollywood’s new toy. Don’t Look Up, The Matrix Resurrections, and now this. Nic Cage as Nic Cage in a 90s style blockbuster action thriller full of references to Nic Cage movies. The irony is that without Cage, its entirely plausible this still gets made, just as a typically bad b-movie. With Nic Cage it’s the same bad movie, only with a self awareness that introduces some light comedy. At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, this doesn’t rehabilitate his image, nor work as a platform for his ‘massive talent’. He comes off as a good sport at best, and a tiresome egomaniac at worst.

Navalny

– ironic that two of the best documentaries of our era each stem from passionate, articulate and inspiring individuals intent on highlighting the overreach (and in this case, murderous intent) of their respective enemy countries: Snowden in Citizenfour, and Alexei Navalny, with his extraordinary investigations into Putin and the Kremlin. That Putin can be so thoroughly exposed as he is in this documentary and remain in power goes to show the formidable death grip he has on Russia and its people. Hopefully this will not be the end of Navalny’s story.

Mortal Kombat (2021)

– terrible acting and a script that exists solely to string together repetitive fighting scenes between macho idiots and monsters. Even allowing for its gaming origins, this is laughably bad.

Black Pond

– told in Will Sharpe’s characteristically bewitching, kaleidoscopic style, this indulgent mockumentary about a dysfunctional family who bury a dog and a stranger in the woods has a lot to commend it, including some genuinely hilarious scenes and moments of profundity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have nearly enough to justify even its short 80 minute runtime, and the flashes of greatness (primarily from Chris Langham and Amanda Hadingue) are distributed unevenly throughout. Simon Amstell’s character in particular feels like a very weak link. All in all: creative, artistic, light and amusing, but ultimately too whimsical to recommend for a mainstream audience.

Ricky Gervais: Supernature

– the contrarian comedian who thrives on sowing discord takes an hour out of your time to cultivate some more. The irony of Gervais is that he rails about woke comedians and comedy activists, and claims he “doesn’t do political”, but really his whole show is witty soap boxing. And to be fair, some of it is witty. Even if you don’t agree with him, he makes his points in amusing ways, just, as always, he’s drawn to the puerile and obscene, and genuine laughs are tempered by genuine cringes, too. He says the future is impossible to predict. I wonder if he’s so eager to incite outrage, melt the snowflakes and quieten the woke that his future is to be remembered as this generation’s Jim Davidson.

Small Engine Repair

– this odd little flick about a trio of macho, irascible friends getting heated in a garage skirts categorisation, with a Venn diagram broadly overlapping comedy, drama and crime thriller. It doesn’t excel as any of them, but still just about works overall, thanks to strong performances and some expertly delivered suspense at the start of the third act.

Election (1999)

– This 1999 high school gem is a precursor in style to Arrested Development, with hilarious and unanimously likeable characters, and a delightfully silly plot which, for all its downturns, remains relentlessly upbeat. At first glance the whole thing seems trivial, but it’s surprisingly nuanced and insightful, a charming little microcosm of life and its caprices. At the end, I found myself thinking, for the first time in a long while, ‘I could watch that again.’

The Square (2008)

– not to be confused with the 2017 absurdist comedy drama of the same name, this dour Australian effort begins compellingly, with all the ingredients for a twisty ride, but in its reliance on tropes (phone battery dying, phone out of earshot, body buried in a building site, to name a few), and determination to make each scenario go from bad to worse, it derails itself, ultimately resulting in quite a bland and unexciting crime thriller.

The Candidate (1972)

– Redford scores again in this prescient (or timeless) and uncomfortably authentic depiction of a newbie political operative losing his way on the path to being elected to the Senate. Understated but brilliantly astute.

A Perfect Enemy

– what begins as an intriguing conceit turns into a tedious waiting game for resolution. When it comes it’s unsatisfying and not a little confusing. Solid performances from central duo though.

Good Neighbours

– Not sure what the deal is with this flurry of absurdist, taboo-oriented, weird shit I’ve been watching recently. After this, The Death of Dick Long, and Fresh, it’s about time for something more vanilla. This is a focused, almost theatrical crime drama detailing the manias and twisted vendettas of residents in a single tower block. Scott Speedman gives a surprisingly great performance, but the pacing is off (it’s a drag), and the conclusion is so abrupt and dark it leaves you yelling at the screen. Definitely NSFW.

Ozark S04: Part 2 (TV)

– the midseason break didn’t do the show any favours. It limps to the finish line despite the escalating insanity of every scene, falling to the same hurdle as so many other great dramas: likeable characters sacrificed on the altar of ‘dramatic intensity’. The humour is practically non-existent by its concluding episode, plot strands are introduced only to be resolved an episode later, and its attempt to go out with a literal bang left this viewer unconvinced. A great shame for the finale of such an epic show, but perhaps it was inevitable it wouldn’t meet its own high bar. Now it’s over, yet another reason to unsub to Netflix (if you didn’t already…)

Slow Horses S01 (TV)

– Apple’s MI5 black comedy spy thriller is an absolute romp. From the opening sequence to the cynical ending, it’s a series of biting exchanges and phenomenal performances, particularly from Gary Oldman (still original and hugely watchable after a ludicrously prolific and diverse career), and relative newcomer Jack Lowden, who I last watched in Calibre (which I also highly recommend). Great to see there’s a series two already lined up and shot. Lowden surely a shoo-in for Bond after this?

A Very Long Engagement

– French language comedic war film from the director of Amélie (and with the same lead actress, Audrey Tautou). It’s an enjoyable yarn and fun to unravel the mystery of her missing lover, but despite its setting, somehow feels a bit frivolous. Worth watching though.

Landscapers (TV)

– unique, visually stunning and creatively directed by Will Sharpe, this theatrical mini-series about two middle-aged Brits accused of murder manages to vacillate between devastating and laugh-aloud hilarious every few minutes, with Olivia Coleman and David Thewlis both smashing it out of the park. It’d be easy to recommend purely on the basis of how distinctive it is, but it’s also nearly perfectly executed. Definitely gets a smiley.

The Batman

– noir, low lit and low key reimagining of the caped crusader might be too ponderous and grimy for its own good. Pattinson’s Batman is a greasy straggle haired emo, a scarred wreck of a man, his aesthetic more misanthropic, washed out rocker than billionaire playboy. His tech is lo-fi and clunky, his boots thicker soled than Trinity’s. But there’s nothing wrong with Pattinson’s performance, nor his chiselled jaw or inevitably gravelly voice. It’s no fault of his that director Matt Reeves wanted sombre and sluggish over suave and swift. Nothing says sleek like jumping off a building, snagging a parachute on a bridge, getting hit by a bus then bouncing along the pavement like a discarded coke can. Every movement, be it a kiss or a car chase, feels unrealistically, achingly slow. The runtime could have been halved if characters just moved and spoke like normal people. But credit where it’s due: when all is said and done (three hours later), it is this stylistic choice, derivative of the noir serial killer detective thrillers of the late 90s, that conjures the thick atmosphere and carries the action. It’s not a great film, but it’s not bad either, and that makes it stand out in the superhero panoply.

Cut Off

– German serial killer thriller is overly graphic and about as silly as the genre gets but is so committed to its mystery and so outlandish, it works quite well as escapism.

All the Old Knives

– the name tells you the kind of film it wants to be, Chris Pine’s weird Pierce Brosnan haircut tells you the kind of film it is. Everything about it is unconvincing, unlikeable and oddly unmoving, particularly the dialogue and love story. Of the heavy weight cast, the only one actually pulling their weight is Jonathan Pryce. It’s a shame because it feels like the core conceit and set up could have been a success in the right hands and the genre is ripe for great storytelling.

The Typist (TV)

– straight-laced German crime drama is the opposite of a whodunit, telling you exactly what’s happening when it’s happening without a shred of mystery. I spent the time hunting for twists and surprises that the show had no intention of delivering. The performances are mostly good, but the overall tone is dreary. At least it’s only five episodes.

The Outfit

– neatly crafted little crime thriller, only a few missteps short of brilliance. With its unity of time and place, it’s more like watching theatre than cinema, but no less engaging for it, and perhaps more so.

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing

– not to be confused with the famed WW2 film that prompted one of the internet’s most famous memes, this documentary reveals the astonishing failures and deliberate cover-up that took place at Boeing causing two fatal crashes and the needless deaths of 346 people. While it doesn’t innovate as a documentary, the story it tells is jaw-dropping, and also heavy going at times (fair warning!)

The Exception

– frustrating World War 2 spy drama begins with a rape then expects you to cheer for the rapist, just one of the many villains it depicts as misguided but well-meaning characters. The romance is just a series of sex scenes; unbelievable, gratuitous and thin, while every character exists to prop up the central trio or nudge the absurd plot along. Thankfully, the spy drama, political intrigue and suspense, particularly towards the end, compensates to some extent and the result is a vexatious but still quite enjoyable few hours.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia S15 (TV)

– the show goes on, as outrageous and outspoken as ever, but with more shouting and obscenity it seems, and this time set in Ireland. There are some moments of comedy gold without a doubt (in episodes 1 and 8 especially), but I have to say it feels a little worn, even cringey, like the jokes are strained and real life events have forced the gang’s caricatures to go even further into farce than comedically apposite. Is it nearing the end? Perhaps it should be.

Extreme Job

– Don’t think I’ve enjoyed a cop comedy this much since I was a kid. Inane from the get go, this is a silly rollercoaster ride, with laugh out loud slapstick, some genuinely sharp wit, and a few slick action set pieces. It’s a little too reliant on the latter towards the end, and could easily have shed some runtime cutting back on that, but highly recommended nonetheless.

Masters of Sex S01 (TV)

– There are moments of greatness in this graphic scientific drama, but they’re few and far between, and fuelled exclusively by virtue of the phenomenally talented cast: Michael Sheen and Alison Janney in particular. The small handful of characters at its core are all too unlikeable, and right off the bat some of them behave in ways that seem irredeemable, stultifying any audience ambition to see them succeed. Nonetheless, the plot maintains just enough momentum, and the script just enough wit to keep the viewer engaged, if not always entertained, and it’s an interesting insight into the prudish history of sexual health and the (early) science of intercourse.

Windfall

– the only thing this has going for it is a beautiful location. It’s 90 minutes of waiting for something to happen with inexhaustibly dull and unpleasant company, and a script that has nothing worthwhile to say either. Hugely disappointing given my love for director Charlie McDowell’s film, The One I Love.

The Death of Dick Long

– a film with this storyline has no place being as brilliantly acted and heartfelt as this one. It’s a Fargo-esque black comedy tinged crime drama with a big old taboo twist and a knack for keeping you wondering. Not for everyone and very weird, but refreshingly different and kind of great in its own way.

The Sparks Brothers

I’d heard Edgar Wright’s doc was a ‘come for Wright, stay for the Sparks’ type deal, but despite my best effort, the subject matter was simply not interesting enough and the music not to my taste. It’s inventively directed, and I’m sure if you’re a fan of the band, this is exactly what you’ll be after. For the rest of us, it’s a music documentary about a semi-obscure band.

No Exit

– quite terrible Identity wannabe, wherein a handful of unsympathetic people get stranded at a visitors centre and none are who they appear. Starts run of the mill and goes downhill.

I Want You Back

– romantic comedy is as lazy and bland as the name suggests, filled with the usual puerile, low-brow back-and-forths, presumably improvised as I can’t believe anyone would script half this stuff. A few belly laughs squeak through though, so it’s not a total washout.

Thunder Road

– watched this after being wowed by Jim Cummings more recent feature, The Beta Test, and, perhaps as a result of high expectations, found this underwhelming. It mostly works as a slow tragi-comedy, but is too heavy on the tragedy and light on the comedy.

Zola

– as explicit as you’d expect a story based on a Twitter thread about strippers turned prostitutes to be, though probably less entertaining. Not sure what it’s trying to do given it doesn’t function as an emotive drama nor any kind of thriller, and it won’t crack a smile. Quite tedious actually.

This Is Going To Hurt S01 (TV)

– a near masterpiece that should be mandatory viewing. Simultaneously hilarious, heartbreaking and a critical insight into the functioning (or not) of our NHS and the people holding it together at the seams, while struggling to hold themselves together. All the performances are stellar, but the real revelation is Ashley McGuire, who steals every scene she’s in. Had me in stitches. The good kind.

Hearts and Bones

– Despite demonstrating restraint and understatement in all the right places, this beautiful, sensitive drama can’t help but be emotionally taxing, even overpowering at times, tackling as it does so many raw themes. It’s a simple, nuanced story; tenderly portraying loss and grief, while ultimately remaining focused on hope and reconciliation.

Jasper Jones

– there’s a simplicity to this gentle, sombre, coming-of-age Australian drama that makes it seem overly patronising for adults, but, like reading a children’s book, still easy to appreciate its qualities, too. Clearly for children, I’d be hesitant about screening it too young: the numerous themes it introduces are very heavy, particularly given their lack of resolution, and likely to prompt some uncomfortable conversations.

Nightmare Alley

– Del Toro’s latest is hugely overrated. It’s super immersive, with atmosphere and intrigue in spades, but the lack of rationale for key story developments is problematic. Despite the (excessive) time we spend with the characters, they feel thin, and ultimately we’re left with too many unanswered questions. The grimy gothic circus setting could have made for an interesting series though.

You Don’t Know Me S01 (TV)

– an interesting premise, a la The Usual Suspects, where a man’s tall tale might get him off the hook in a murder trial, but its delivery is fundamentally flawed. Despite strong performances, every character is unlikeable and uncharismatic, the twist takes too long to develop and doesn’t really work when it comes, and the ending is of the ‘fence-sitting’ ilk (which doesn’t bother me but had my other half shouting ‘NO!’ at the screen). Given the dynamism of the story, the execution is horribly flat. Everything should have happened faster and with more panache. Watchable? Maybe. Only four episodes, but feels like two too many.

The Stronghold aka BAC Nord

– French language crime thriller does a phenomenal job of portraying an explosive dynamic between police and drug gangs in the ghettos of Marseille and includes some electrifying set pieces, but the first and final acts drag, the lack of real resolution is frustrating, and after the plot takes an abrupt change in direction, the concluding emotion is one of disappointment. A near miss at greatness, but still very watchable.

Hierro S01 (TV)

– even as a fan of Spanish-language cinema, I couldn’t bring myself to finish this small minded and uninspired crime thriller, packed full of tired tropes and unimaginatively presented. Avoid.

The Nest (2020)

– Carrie Coon and Jude Law’s happy marriage evaporates following a decision to move to England for ‘an opportunity’ in this scathing critique of materialism and capitalism. It works up to a point, but sadly the point is several beats short of a satisfying or substantial film. Close but no cigar. The performances are there, but the tone is all over the place (straying near supernatural horror), as is the pacing (soporific at times), and while director Sean Durkin seems to thrive on visual metaphor, some clumsy and condescending dialogue undoes all his subtlety. And lets not even start on that endi-

The Responder S01 (TV)

– endlessly simmering bent cop thriller stops just short of boiling point but still cooks up some of the best BBC drama of recent times. Martin Freeman is unrecognisable as copper Chris Carson, (looking like Russell Tovey’s dad), risking his marriage, his career and hard time while trying to stay on the right side of a mental breakdown as well as his new rookie partner (another terrific performance from Adelayo Adedayo). The script crackles with deliciously black humour and the soundtrack keeps your heart rate elevated a notch above comfortable. Excellent and just a few decisions away from masterful – but all the ingredients are still there, so maybe the inevitable sequel will raise the bar further.

Being the Ricardos

– Odd but original Lucille Ball drama is enjoyably Sorkinesque, in both the good ways and the bad: it’s sharp witted with rapid fire, acerbic dialogue, but the comedy never feels particularly funny, and the whole thing feels as staged as the show it depicts.

Ozark S04: Part 1

– the family continue in the same blackly comic macabre vein that has been their hallmark throughout, and thankfully, the script and story have upheld their standard, too. This is one of Netflix’ best.

Bajocero (Below Zero)

– thriller set inside a prisoner transport truck is mostly gripping while it lasts but proves forgettable. Javier Gutiérrez is excellent as ever, but as a whole, this doesn’t hold a candle to the best Spanish language crime thrillers.

Dexter: New Blood (S01)(TV)

– season 9 or season 1 of New Blood? Officially S01, but hard to envisage a S02 after the events of this one. The plot is as silly and impossible as ever, but it’s still a pleasure to see Michael C Hall step back into the familiar shoes of Dexter Morgan, serial killer. Despite annoyances and story inconsistencies that would never have plagued the first few seasons of the show and cement its massive drop in quality, surprisingly, it remains fun to unwind to and to second guess. The ending, then, puts an abrupt and unexpected stop to that and will prove hugely divisive (or straight up hated).

Cry Wolf (S01) (TV)

– underrated Scandinavian domestic violence drama is as bleak as expected with generally strong performances, and maintains an element of intrigue throughout. Its reliance on contrived indiscretions though, sensitive conversations overheard through open doors, behaviour witnessed through windows etc., means the depiction feels a little beyond the bounds of realism, even while the subject matter, sadly, is not.

Don’t Look Up

– well intentioned but irritatingly smug satire (read: Hollywood funded trolling) undersells the prolonged and unprecedented suffering resulting from climate change by reimagining the threat as an instant death. The point it aims to make is important, but rather than seek to persuade, it preaches to the converted in a self-congratulatory fashion, while those yet to be convinced will either feel insulted or not recognise themselves in its story. Message aside, it’s not great as a drama or comedy either: hammy, slapstick, and often distracted by its knowing nods and winks to real life characters and scenes. It’s also way too long.

tick, tick… BOOM!

– though the genre and writing style isn’t my cup of tea, this engaging rock musical biopic showcases the remarkable talent of Andrew Garfield and offers an insight into writer/ composer Jonathan Larson’s creative process. In fact, despite the difference in era, this actually feels like a timely reveal of the anxieties continuing to plague young people, and in particular, artists, actors and musicians.

New Order (Nuevo Orden)

– visceral and brutally graphic Mexican drama presents a violent revolution and the subsequent opportunism and corruption of the military. Though polished and indubitably impactful, this fast paced but horrific depiction is as hard to recommend as it is to stomach.

CODA

– original drama about a deaf family and their hearing daughter offers an extraordinary and heartfelt insight into the experiences of deaf people. Although arguably a bit too cheesy, it presents multiple storylines effectively and the performances across the board are spot on.

Good Kill

– politically on the nose, no doubt, and with dialogue that it’s hard to imagine soldiers using (particularly the unwelcome excess of word plays), but those niggles aside, this is a well executed and heartfelt military drama with a typically strong performance from Ethan Hawke and a (sadly) believable conceit. Probably deserves more attention.

The Matrix Resurrections

– quite tragic really. Basically a meta commentary on how Lana Wachowski was coerced into making an unwanted sequel and the subsequent battles with studio execs over what it should be about. Anyone coming to The Matrix now would do well to watch the original and none of the others. A gimmick and a missed opportunity.

Happiest Season

– while individually this is a standout cast, there’s something about the ensemble as a whole that really doesn’t gel. Whether because of the joke-starved, cliché-ridden script or the unimaginative direction, this doesn’t sit comfortably as either a comedy or a drama. The end result is watchable, occasionally even moving, but it’s definitely not recommended.

Dopesick S01 (TV)

– this is a compelling and illuminating show about the underhand tactics employed by Purdue Pharma to sell Oxycontin and the ruinous detrimental effects their selling of the drug had on communities and families in America. At times it’s harrowing and heartbreaking, but it’s also brilliantly well acted and well produced, with a (mostly) tight script and smart direction. Way above average drama and highly recommended.

The Rescue

– great to hear of this astonishing and repeatedly jaw-dropping journey from the mouths of those who swam it with a singular goal in mind: to rescue 13 people. Given how limited the actual footage is and the lack of access to the kids themselves, the drama is carried entirely by the narrative, the sheer audacity of the divers and the unlikelihood of their success. It’s testament to the incredible story that it’s still such a compelling film.

The Beta Test

– Jim Cummings is absolutely electric in an unexpectedly sharp satire about corporate culture, modern romance and suppressed sexual appetite. This blackly comic psychological thriller is altogether more sinister and rewarding than its erotic premise suggests and Cummings is just wickedly hideous. American Pyscho for new audiences and a new era.

A West Wing Special To Benefit When We All Vote (TV)

– this one off theatrical presentation of West Wing episode, Hartsfield’s Landing, brings truck loads of nostalgia and is an absolute love in for the surviving cast and crew. For fans, this is a heartwarming and slightly heartbreaking return to a series that continues to make waves and sets the bar for intelligent political drama. If you loved the series, you’ll love this.

King Richard

– Will Smith is a man with a plan in this enjoyable sports drama about the Williams sisters’ father Richard, their childhood and their rise to tennis stardom. It doesn’t shake up the genre, but it’s fun entertainment.

Foundation S01 (TV)

– Apple’s attempt to realise Asimov’s world building certainly looks pretty, but after a stately start, Foundation’s knot of stories weaves itself into a bland and unconvincing tapestry, with a cast that seem, other than Lee Pace and Terrance Mann, woefully out of their depth, and nearly universally uncharismatic and unlikeable to boot.

Red Notice

– A case of the Netflix blockbuster formula: big stars, no brains. This is an exercise in character one-upmanship where the goal is to be the most annoying. Absolute trash.

The Outlaws S01 (TV)

– Stephen Merchant’s return to BBC comedy after his stint in the States is by no means perfect, but it has a high gag rate and the general silliness is charming enough that even the low brow jokes, rehashed Office skits and over-egged dramatics are easily overlooked. Good giggly fun with some genuine thigh slappers. Bring on Series 2.

Last Night in Soho

– Edgar Wright’s violent and disconcerting ghost story sees the director experimenting with a dazzling gamut of genres, camera angles, sets and costumes, as well as a constant, and constantly furious onslaught of sound. The result is an undeniably impressive, but frankly terrifying, sensory overload that is about as enjoyable as being sat between the cymbals in the William Tell Overture.

Riot Police (Antidisturbios)

– one of the finest TV shows I’ve seen, and certainly the finest I’ve seen from Spain. Barring one strange misadventure in the middle of the series, this is an epic, edge of the seat tour-de-force: smart writing with visually commanding direction and a killer score. The characters are nuanced, sympathetic and compelling, and without exception, the cast deliver their A game. Amazing that this isn’t one of the most talked about shows out there. Creator Isabel Peña is clearly one to watch.

Monos

– arthouse in the jungle. It might be unique, but this twisted and faintly surreal observation of some child soldiers guarding a US hostage in Colombia is too slow, opaque and gratuitous. The political commentary, while clearly present, is hidden in so many layers of visual and non-visual metaphor that trying to make sense of it is like trying to decipher a bad dream. Maybe up someone’s street, not mine.

The Night House

– Rebecca Hall gives an amazing performance as a widower traumatised by her grief in this artistic and creatively ambitious little horror gem that, despite its supernaturalism, manages to feel grounded and harrowingly realistic. Deeply unsettling and moving in all the right ways.

Capernaum

– following a similar format to Slumdog Millionaire, this is another powerful reminder of the way so many children live in deprived parts of the world. All the performances are strong and authentic, but that of the lead actor, Zain Al Rafeea, carrying the whole film and the weight of the drama upon his shoulders, is frankly remarkable. He’ll make you laugh and cry in nearly equal measure. Brilliant film-making and a brilliant film.

Don’t Listen (Voces)

– Spanish horror rips ideas from so many other films I genuinely thought I was watching a remake and I just couldn’t place the original. Jump scares, blinking lights and radio interference: this is a grab bag of bad horror tropes. If you’ve a high tolerance for the uninspired or are new to horrors, you might like it.

Dune (2021)

– on a second viewing Villeneuve‘s epic sci-fi is somehow more compelling, perhaps without the weight of expectation. It’s a visual marvel. I would have liked more upbeat emotional moments where merited, a bit more dynamism from the cast beyond their fight scenes, and it’s a shame that some sequences draw such clear influence from Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring, but by and large, this is a worthy adaptation of Frank Herbert’s magnum opus.

Crisis

– well intentioned drug drama with a strong cast, shame the story is so unimaginatively communicated. It feels like the bare minimum of film making, with nothing to commend it and a plum boring script.

Midnight Sun S01 (TV)

– a fun, if chaotic, multi-lingual scandi-noir, with some interesting forays into grand themes such as race relations, but crammed with too many unrelated stories and a mystic/ druidic undertone that just feels silly. It’s got a quirky sense of humour though and the performances are all really strong, so while not in the league of The Bridge or The Killing, it’s worthy of the time investment.

Dune (2021)

– while undoubtedly a prodigious spectacle and, on balance, highly recommended, Denis Villeneuve’s stylish introduction to this new epic sci-fi franchise is too sprawling and, despite its runtime, struggles to portray the complexity of the source material. There’s also no getting away from the fact that it feels hugely incomplete, in a way that other trilogies (such as Lord of the Rings, with which it shares more parallels than you might expect) managed to avoid. For the most part, it’s visually awe-inspiring and beautifully desolate, but in places, the costumes veer a little close to Power Rangers, and the characters, both in their appearance and sometimes indecipherable accents, stray into caricature. I’ll be interested to see how it fares on a repeat viewing, as it deserves that at least.

Caliphate S01 (TV)

– A fast paced, phenomenally well acted and convincing depiction of radicalisation that leaves you feeling angry, distraught and excited, but mostly like your nerves have been shredded with a cheese grater. Annoyingly, the narrative is undermined by contrivance and irrational, even farcical behaviour and judgment from some of the characters, but these dubious writing decisions are forgivable when the overall result is so compelling, and it could be argued they provide more opportunity to tell the greater tale. Very scary thriller.

Kate

– Mary Elizabeth Winstead is pretty fantastic kicking ass in style, but it’s hard to get away from the fact that this action thriller is a cliché in every respect, and inferior to other titles in the same assassin’s revenge genre. Plus, how annoying is that kid?

12 Mighty Orphans

– what is remarkable about this otherwise bland period piece is the unrelenting optimism of its hero. He’s a positive, inspiring figure, as if penned by Miles Connolly, and this worthiness makes for a happily uplifting sports drama, albeit a mediocre work of art.

The North Water S01 (TV)

– a powerhouse cast, and Farrell appears to have morphed into an actual powerhouse. The man is an ox in this show. He embodies the role brilliantly, such a weighty presence I worried my screen would come off the wall mount. Jack O’Connell, too, is riveting as his foil: a laudanum addicted surgeon haunted by the ghosts of a grisly past. Indubitably, this period drama isn’t for everyone. It’s grimy, gory and deeply unpleasant at times, with few likeable characters, but the cinematography works magic and the script largely stays a few oar lengths ahead of the viewer. If you can stomach nastiness, this is highly recommended.

Ted Lasso S02 (TV)

– the second series continues in much the same vein as the first left off. The novelty is gone and Lasso’s quirky references feel more strained, more annoying, and less amusing. That, combined with Nate’s ill-advised shift to the dark side resulting in the loss of one of the funniest characters, means the comedy itself is falling by the wayside. Still, I’m fond of the characters now, irritating though they are, and I’ll probably keep watching.

Vigil S01 (TV)

– compelling and engaging TV crime drama sacrifices believability in a frantic effort to excite, and while it’s predictable and quite silly most of the time, it still mostly works as good fun. Would have been even better if they’d dropped the shoehorned family and relationship backstory.

Another Round

– while the cast and director deliver with aplomb, there’s little to excite or enthuse about in this curious drama exploring the allure and societal dependency on alcohol.

Ad Astra

– director James Gray delivers one of the most visually striking and beautiful depictions of space to date, but for a film about humanity, it’s lacking in humour and heart. Every line is a dour monotone, and every scene emotionally flat, despite the surprising range of Brad Pitt’s eyes. Short of greatness, it’s nonetheless worth a watch for scifi fans and fans of spectacular cinematography.

No Time To Die

– Craig’s swan song as Bond is a fitting and fun end to his stint, though the realism of the show continues to be stretched beyond breaking and the writing swings wildly from brilliantly witty to cringingly bad. Overall an enjoyable watch. I hope future Bond’s return to more classical threats from villains who are elaborate thieves or politically motivated terrorists, rather than just well connected and well resourced authors of chaos with a flair for props and set design.

Body Brokers

– an affecting and slickly produced drama illustrating the problems of capitalism in the drug and alcohol rehab industry. Strong performances and sharp narrative. A pleasant (if slightly depressing) surprise.

My Son

– McAvoy blazes in this stressful crime thriller about a man hunting for his missing kid in the stunningly beautiful Scottish countryside. Grim but gripping, with a continual capacity to surprise.

Oxygen

– practically single cast scifi thriller is bare bones, dubiously grounded in science, and although exciting at times with some genuinely surprising twists, perhaps should have been a short.

Tape

– stressful and frequently annoying, this is nonetheless a provocative and evidently timeless exploration of gender power dynamics, jealousy and guilt. It’s much more of a play than a film, with a brilliant cast of three in a single location, relentlessly abrasive dialogue (a la Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and Linklater’s inventive camera angles doing a lot of work. Even so, one can’t help but feel this might have been much more successful in a theatre than on screen and it’s hard to recommend for a general audience.

Stillwater

– Damon delivers as always in this unremarkable but solid drama, and though the plot is clearly Amanda Knox inspired, that’s the bland backdrop: the real story is a second chance and second life for a man who had all but given up.

The Mole: Undercover in North Korea

– an astonishing fly-on-the-wall account of a ten year mission to infiltrate North Korea, so far fetched as to be entirely unbelievable without the visual evidence documented here. Jaw dropping and totally gripping. The only question left is where is the accountability?

Reminiscence

– Hugh Jackman speaks a few octaves deeper than a regular human and does his best deadpan Max Payne impression in this densely expositional dystopian sci-fi that leans so heavily into the neo-noir genre it’s practically a parody, with universally unlikeable characters, unfeasible tech and a wretched script offering lines like, ‘The past is just a series of moments. Each one perfect. Complete. A bead on the necklace of time.’ What a load of tosh.

Cruella

– an upbeat and hugely entertaining punk reinvention of the eponymous childhood villain, though the sinister transition from sweet Estella to psychotic Cruella results in a climax that feels more unsettling and hollow than resoundingly victorious.

Perdida S01 aka Stolen Away (TV)

– Spanish language soap-thriller is fast paced, easy (if frustrating) viewing and good practice for learners; as a show, I can’t recommend it. The plot is insane, the script and acting typically hyperbolic, and the direction completely rote.

Saint Maud

– Creative direction and sumptuous visuals elevate this story of a mentally ill fundamentalist, but its plot and script feels too thin and two dimensional. Definitely worth a watch for theological horror fans.

Hunter Hunter

– Can’t speak to its value as a survivalists field guide, but this is a dark, anxiety stewing, nail biting and utterly engrossing thriller. A massive shame the final ten minutes are quite so unhinged. A better ending would have made this one to wholeheartedly recommend. Instead, it’s one to very cautiously recommend, maybe, and only to horror fans and cinephiles with strong stomachs.

Bosch S07 (TV)

– the final series of the earnest and plodding police drama doesn’t make radical changes. If you liked the first six, this is more of the same. It’s a fitting and tidy conclusion, but not momentous.

The Tomorrow War

– two decades ago this sort of ludicrously stupid alien time travel tomfoolery might have landed on its feet, sitting among Independence Day and other mindlessly bombastic blockbusters. By today’s standards, it’s just vacuous nonsense, so formulaic it could have been scripted by an AI.

Bad Genius

– gripping unorthodox heist style thriller pits student geniuses against the stringent STIC exam rules. It’s too on the nose at times and pushes the boundaries beyond credulity, but it’s still a thoroughly entertaining watch and enjoyably different from ‘Western’ fare.

Mank

– while I remain unconvinced that David Fincher’s feverishly hammy biopic about Herman J. Mankiewicz is better in black and white, it’s definitely an entertaining period piece and love letter to the art of screenwriting. Giant characters with fittingly giant performances.

A Quiet Place (Part 2)

– albeit less remarkable than its predecessor, this is still a high tension and innovative dystopian horror. It depicts the immediate aftermath of the first film: if every couple of days is filled with high drama like this, it’s a miracle any of the characters are alive or sane.

No Sudden Move

– Definitely not setting the world alight, but the dry humour and endless double crossing of this period crime drama made for an enjoyable few hours. The biggest disappointment was the overtly political ending which felt unearned in the context of the rest of the film. But that’s the point I guess…

Those Who Wish Me Dead

– Taylor Sheridan continues to excel. This is like watching a Cormac McCarthy novel interpreted by the Coen Brothers. A smart script, visuals and direction top notch, amazing cast, heartfelt and thick with metaphor. Enjoyed it a lot.

Wrath of Man

– Guy Ritchie’s latest is all brawn, swagger and meaty muscle men. His trademark one-liners and quirky English wit don’t translate at all to American, and the opening act is too slow and broody to charm. That said, Ritchie still delivers a polished, stylish revenge thriller, worth watching even when we’ve seen Statham do it all before and know the ending’s a foregone conclusion.

Time (TV)

– marvellous three part drama with fantastic performances from just about everyone involved and an effectively laconic script. Great to see Sean Bean demonstrate his significant acting talent and survive the series. It’s unusual in that we’re so accustomed to seeing violence in prison dramas that I found myself conditioned to expect it at every turn. In fact, the emotional violence of this series is much more brutal and affecting. Surprising, ultimately upbeat, and highly recommended.

Lupin (Part 2) (TV)

– where part one was seductively tongue in cheek and winsome, part two, I fear, relies too heavily on the charisma of its lead and fails to deliver a decent plot or cunning heists. The twists are too heavily forecast and the personal drama too much of a distraction. Hopefully part 3 will have the prep time to get back on track.

Mare of Easttown S01 (TV)

– a compelling crime drama, without a doubt, but for me personally, too oppressively bleak to actually enjoy. Instead, I admired its polish and the guesswork of the whodunnit, and readily moved on when it was over.

Ted Lasso S01 (TV)

– this caught me totally off-guard with Jason Sudeikis’ real life Ned Flanders feel good charms and Airplane! level gags and slapstick. The first four episodes had me hooked, but I’m sadly not sure it sustained its magic for the full series, and I’m hoping the gag rate will be higher and more consistent in series 2.

I Care A Lot

– For a movie that wants to be taken seriously, this takes far fetched and stupid to a whole new level. As well as a boys versus girls, playground level interpretation of feminism, it serves a stream of contrivances, and endless vile people to hate with not one to root for. It’s like receiving frustration via IV. What’s the time? Taser time. Absolute balls.

The Mosquito Coast S01 (TV)

– far from just a Theroux family vanity project. Both in terms of plot and stylistically, this is a cross between Breaking Bad and Ozark. I’m yet to be convinced it’s on a par with either, but it’s not too far off. Its biggest issue is that for the plot to work, it’s contingent on a single contrivance: that in this family fleeing from the US government at all costs, neither of the teenage children, nor the audience, ever learn why they are being chased. That grows thinner and more implausible with each passing episode. Fortunately, they’re just about exhilarating and smartly scripted enough (barring some grimace-inducing social commentary) to keep the McGuffin rolling, but Season 2 will have a lot of explaining to do.

Sputnik

– Russian sci-fi is technically polished and engaging throughout but struggles with a dead-end story and questionable characters. Still worth watching.

Love and Monsters

– ramshackle monster comedy elicits the occasional guffaw, but generally feels pitched to a young audience. Watchable only thanks to the charms of its lead, Dylan O’Brien.

Run

– Kiera Allen turns in a strong performance in this predictable thriller that delivers some light suspense but not much else.

I See You

– (the one with Helen Hunt and Jon Tenney, not the freaky home video b-movie of the same name and year!) After an unconvincing start, this resolves to be much cleverer than it first appears. It still feels a bit forced, but the plot keeps you guessing and there are more twists (and satisfactory twists at that) than most movies get away with.

Riders of Justice

– Danish revenge comedy aims for black humour but leans too far into tragedy at times. It’s original, well-cast and acted, though its silliness distracts from an insightful depiction of grief.

Line of Duty S06 (TV)

– early Line of Duty may have been brilliant at times, but this series was dire. Bad scripting, a made-for-TV gloss and style of editing that feels dated in this day and age, and laughably unrealistic plot turns including shoot outs with automatic weapons in the middle of the street by teams of ‘bent coppers’ which appear to gain no media coverage nor warrant further investigation. About the only realistic thing in the entire show is the ending, which is unpopular because it’s so uneventful. Plus, every character has become a caricature and half of the lines uttered are catchphrases or clichés. So disappointing.

The Innocent (El Inocente) S01 (TV)

– twisting thriller with a stellar cast starts strong then rapidly goes off the rails, stretching implausibility until it snaps and becomes straight up stupidity. A shame, as it seemed so promising, but shows like these – especially Spanish – never let realism get in the way of melodrama, and the standard suffers.

Promising Young Woman

– simultaneously both enjoyable and uncomfortable, but not enjoyably uncomfortable. Clearly designed to provoke, I imagine post-cinema conversations varied wildly. It’s a shame Carey Mulligan’s Cassie was quite so unhinged and unsympathetic, else the viewer might have found it easier to root for her.

School’s Out Forever

– British black comedy struggles to find the right balance between genuinely smart witted humour and drama, and the resulting dissonance interferes with an otherwise quirky and well played script. Like 28 Days Later meets Shaun of the Dead, but worse than both.

Blue Iguana

– may one day give this another shot, but at the point I gave up on it, it would have taken a miraculous sea-change to redeem it. Puerile, unfunny, and just really goddam boring.

Boss Level

– bloodthirsty tongue in cheek action thriller in the same vein as Deadpool, Crank and Guns Akimbo. A fun blast, for sure, but its attempts to include a father/ son relationship feel misplaced, and it outstays its welcome by a good thirty minutes.

Judas and the Black Messiah

– I wanted to like this much more than I actually did. It’s a powerful story, well acted and polished, but it struggles under its own weight, estranges the viewer rather than entices them. Worthy, but too in awe of its subject matter to deliver an enthralling crime drama.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Moana

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

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.

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.

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.

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.