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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

The Nice Guys

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

Miss Bala

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

Sicario

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

Narcos (TV)

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

Nightwatch [original]

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

Infernal Affairs

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

The Drop

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

The Absent One

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

Focus

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

The Voices

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

The Judge

– overwrought, exposition heavy, subplot laden and contrived. Downey Jr is in his fast-talking arrogant default, while Duvall does his part convincingly, although it could have been played just as firmly by any number of ageing actors. The whole film sets out as a tearjerker, and that ambition is all too obvious in the script and editing. The comedy is often misjudged (and largely based on the interjections of a ‘retard’) whilst all of the female roles exist solely as sex objects for Downey Jr. This is the kind of film that with a lesser cast wouldn’t cause a ripple in the film industry, but with these kinds of heavy hitters will probably be getting Oscar nods. Most frustrating.

The Parallax View

– Wonderfully directed, with an almost avant-guarde use of cinematography (given it’s era). It’s not a fast paced conspiracy thriller, but it’s compelling, intriguing, and rewarding overall for viewers who love to think and analyse.

The Code (TV)

– Gripping, if at times frustrating, Aussie conspiracy thriller. Solid acting in difficult roles, but as is so often the case, the show fails to offer any lovable, or even likeable characters, and consequently isn’t as enjoyable to watch as it could, and should, have been.

Mystery Road

– Slow burning Aussie crime drama that stumbles over some clumsy dialogue and wooden acting. The execution might not be perfect, but it still commands a solid level of intrigue. If only it had upped the pace.

Epitafios S01 (TV)

– Audience insulting twists, police incompetence, bad judgements, gratuity and cliches galore mar what could otherwise have been a moderately entertaining, if intellectually challenged, serial killer thriller. Frustration ruins a TV series though, and my God, this show is frustrating viewing! (We’re talking worse than Dexter S07)

Snake Eyes

– Creatively directed by De Palma, but massively overacted and with such blatant and crass exposition it feels hugely dumbed down, particularly as the plot is already so predictable. Still a more or less enjoyable conspiracy flick.

Body Double

– And the award for stupidest, most protracted death scene goes to… 80s thriller that fails in so many ways: an obvious set up, terrible lines of script, bad acting, disposable and ditzy female roles, and totally irrational character behaviour – including a policeman who is told of a murder happening metres away and chooses to arrest the witness. Unfathomable stupidity on every level. How are films like this given the greenlight?

Street Kings

– Decidedly average bent cop conspiracy thriller. Likens itself to Training Day (and is directed by the writer, David Ayer), but operates in a different league entirely. The performances are solid, especially from Whittaker and Reeves, though this remains ultimately dull.

Banshee S01

– Give it a chance. Yes it’s stylised, yes it’s testosterone fuelled and macho, but the story really gels together tightly as the episodes progress, and the characters endear themselves quickly. The writing is smart and witty, even laugh out loud at times, and whilst the female characters are indubitably sexualised, they are also strong willed, intelligent and resilient. It’s an excellent hybrid of procedural and serial, with an overarching narrative that progresses swiftly enough whilst always including a novel element each episode. Highly recommended, and with room still to grow. Antony Starr is a revelation.

Papillon

– a terrific epic of prison life in French Guyana, exploring friendship, hope and survival. Strong performances and a great script bless us with a very emotive and thought provoking film.

Double Jeopardy

– the premise and set up for this crime thriller are so bad, and so badly executed, that the suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy it becomes an immediate issue. The chase is adequate, though the cliches and contrivances stack high. Not worth the time.

The Long Goodbye

– Comparisons to Chinatown aren’t too far off. This crime drama is similarly disappointing. It’s not bad, but given the level of acclaim it has achieved, this viewer certainly expected more. Some fantastic lines of dialogue somewhat make up for the slow and convoluted narrative. Gould is great.

True Detective

– Some of the greatest moments of TV, and some that are utterly pretentious. Hits and misses, but mostly hits. The lead performances are astounding and the cinematography is bang on the money. This is well worth watching, I look forward to season two.

House of Cards S02

– Faster than the first, and better for it. Mistakenly overlooks the conspiracy angle in favour of reshifting the political landscape, but hopefully the third series will pick up where it left off. Very happy to see Jimmi Simpson and Boris McGiver in play.

Takers

– Bizarre. A compelling heist movie up until about the two thirds mark, where it’s as if an entirely different director took over, and starting juggling storylines left right and centre, oblivious to all of the plot strands he was dropping. Immensely frustrating and so disappointing as this could have been, if not great, then very solid and entertaining.

Knight Moves

– Another serial killer thriller centred around a chess genius, this performs better than Uncovered but still feels like a tired cliche. Once the initial chess scene is set, there’s little to distinguish it from the hundreds of other noir thrillers aspiring to be more than bargain basement fluff.

Hannibal (2013) (TV)

– I really tried to like this. Mads Mikkelsen is a terrific actor, but this show is just agonisingly bad. The script is weak at best, shoddy at worst. All of the actors are coasting. Gillian Anderson hasn’t played a different role since… ever, and every episode seems to be an attempt to shock. The colour grades and sfx are stylised to distraction whilst the plot itself fails to flesh out any kind of compelling, plausible thrills or drama, and is consequentially surprisingly boring. The fact that practically everything Will says suggests that Hannibal is the killer, and everything Hannibal says has a murderous subtext, leaves you wondering how an entire team of “FBI behavioural experts and profilers” can be so unfathomably oblivious . This is like starting Dexter in season five; bad and poised to plummet further.

Uncovered

– A film that makes every effort to prove that chess goes hand in hand with crime and intrigue, where the chess pieces are the clues to murder and are taken entirely literally, knight for knight, castle for castle. Unbelievably bad – one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Terrible acting and the script is almost entirely exposition, not to mention there is an utterly bizarre sexual obsession throughout, way beyond the ordinary 90s smut.

The Kings of Summer

– A peculiar, downbeat dramedy following the eccentric lives of three teenage boys who choose to live in the woods. Naturally their nirvana falls apart with the introduction of a girl. An intriguing, worthwhile watch, but nowhere near the laugh out loud experience anticipated off the back of that killer trailer. Make sure you’re amped up on caffeine before you embark on this journey…

Dirty Harry

– Iconic movie with classic lines, a top notch soundtrack and some truly innovative camera work for the era. A powerhouse psychotic performance from Andy Robinson as the killer, and the usual hardnosed Clint with his magnum and trademark sneer. It has significantly dated and it’s a pity that the plot doesn’t quite add up, but it’s definitely one to watch.

The Boston Strangler

– Illuminating biopic about Albert Desalvo, the self-confessed Boston Strangler. Very dated with clumsy direction techniques, but nonetheless worth watching for anyone interested in the psyche of serial killers.

Dredd

– The eponymous Judge dessimates a tower block of drug fuelled gang members in this straight forward action shoot ’em up. Laughably ludicrous but good, mindless fun.

Simon Killer

– Thought provoking and unflinching. Edging in to gratuity with a few scenes though, and despite obvious efforts still felt a little shallow. We are as distant from Simon at the end as we were at the beginning.

The Interview

– An excellently unsettling dialogue driven thriller from down under. Hugo Weaving delivers a very different, but nonetheless brilliant, performance as the victim of a police manhunt. Could have done with a little more resolution.

Identity Thief

– Nauseatingly puerile and astoundingly dull, the humour is thin on the ground at best, although Bateman is as always a pleasure to watch. One or two laugh out loud moments make it just about watchable.

Side Effects

– after a slow first act, a compelling story and dialogue driven thriller emerges. It’s a little too vindictive and gratuitously nasty in tone for my tastes, and the twists take the movie from a clever critique of pharmaceutical ethics to more standardised, familiar territory, but Jude Law and Rooney Mara are excellent and it is original enough to warrant careful viewing.

Criminal Law

– Exudes a sense of smugness despite clearly falling short of its ambition. The acting is hammy at best, and the thrills anticipated. When you think villainous Martin is going to show up – he is, usually in a doorway.

Edison

– an incohesive, ramshackle mess. Timberlake gives a bad, inexperienced performance, more sulky teen than Pulitzer hunter, while Freeman and Spacey are thrown in for star factor alone. Inexplicably shifts from conspiracy thriller to flamethrower shoot’em up in the final ten minutes. Avoid.

The Good Thief

– spices up about half way through and takes a turn for the significantly better, but it’s still a little too patchy for a ‘cool heist’ to sit in the same league as Ocean’s 11.

Killer Joe

– one of those truly, scarringly bizarre, brutal, graphic and mind mangling films. Sick, but morbidly intriguing. Don’t watch with anyone you could be embarassed with…

The Hunt

– Incredible, beautifully shot and and outstandingly well acted drama. It should be compulsory viewing so we are all forced to evaluate how quick we are to judge.