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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

The Endless

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

Night Watch

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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 Girl With All The Gifts

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

X-men: Apocalypse

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

Warcraft: The Beginning

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

High-Rise

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

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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

Ex Machina

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

Odd Thomas

– ludicrous female costumes and perhaps Willem Dafoe’s easiest role are really the only two overt flaws in an otherwise hugely original, entertaining and lighthearted sci-fi horror. A breath of fresh air. Anton Yelchin is great.

Predestination

– Mindbending sci-fi time travel noire that falls in to place exactly as it should. Immensely satisfying, thought provoking and compelling. Ethan Hawke is a blast and Sarah Snook is remarkable in what should be her kingmaking role. This is the film that Looper wasn’t.

Nightcrawler

– Strikingly original quirky thriller sprinkled with very black humour. Gyllenhaal turns in perhaps his finest performance. Hopefully award recognition could see more in this vein in the future.

+1

– Certainly mindbending, if stupid, adolescent sci fi pitching a clash of drunk and scantily clad party goers against their dopplegangers. The weakest of this niche time travel sub-genre: too over-sexed and underage for an intelligent audience.

The Thirteenth Floor

– interesting and philosophical sci fi noire thriller. More Max Payne than Max Payne ever was, and as multilayered as Existenz, if not Inception. Good fun and intriguing concept, albeit perhaps a tad on the nose!

Lucy

– Riddled with more holes than one of Lucy’s victims, this Besson action sci fi is nonetheless a lot of fun. Take it with a pinch of salt.

The Leftovers (TV)

– Lifeless, po-faced and painfully grave, this speculative dystopian TV drama isn’t short on intrigue, but stubbornly refuses to offer answers or resolution, resulting in an inexplicable world of shock factor scenes, irrational behaviour, and detached angst. I really wanted to like it, but there is very little to like, let alone praise.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

– Very detailed and solid follow up to The Rise (although the naming order is embarrassingly senseless). It’s doubtless good, but sadly much darker than its predecessor, delivering a less enjoyable experience. Despite shortcomings, it remains a must-watch sci fi.

Ender’s Game

– Continuing the trend of the adultification of children, this is sufficiently intriguing as a high budget sci-fi, even whilst it fails spectacularly as worthwhile cinema. The script is poor and riddled with tropes, the casting generally unconvincing, and the abrupt, heavyhanded direction, amateur. For all its length, the final edit is a hacked up carcass of what could have been a much tighter, more refined film. Sadly, this measly spark is all that remains of the promise of fireworks.

2001: A Space Odyssey

– Understandably a classic space sci fi. Striking imagery and an ambitious, epic, aeon-spanning story. Not easily watchable though – it’s very long and slumbrous, even boring, with extended silences and often little onscreen action. Remarkable what Kubrick achieved for the time though.

Transcendence

– Technology is the new mumbo jumbo that steps up to fill the vacated shoes of magic in this relatively engrossing sci fi. All of the performances are adequate, albeit too flat, besides Bettany, a massively underrated actor who turns in a good show and raises the bar. The pacing is off and the premise flounders throughout, although these flaws would be easily overlooked if it wasn’t such a tasteless and unlikeable concoction.

The Host

– Terrible and hugely overrated sci-fi comedy. Horror elements are entirely undermined by slapstick comedy and goofy acting. Misleadingly high rated on IMDb, this is so bad it’s difficult to watch.

After Earth

– Far from as terrible as early reviews suggested (it is evidently very popular as a critic to give M Night Shymalan a hard time); this is not a good film – just too serious, and frankly, too unexciting – but it’s an engrossing enough sci-fi and I can think of worse ways to spend a few hours.

Gravity

– Just astonishingly beautiful. My grievances with the plot didn’t lessen on a second viewing, but the narrative is essentially by the by when you are presented with a feature length set piece that is perhaps the cleanest, best produced and most intensely wondrous vision of space ever to grace the screen.

Godzilla

– Painstakingly po-faced and self-assured remake. Gareth Edwards doing the monster thing in his usual peekaboo style. Not terrible, just massively overhyped and underwhelming.

The Lost Boys

– Bizarrely engrossing although undeniably bad. Perhaps it has just dated, but my God, how it has dated! 80s vampire cult noire, laden with screams and cross dissolves.

Tie Dur

– Very disappointing, pseudo sci-fi time travel flick. Intriguing for the first thirty minutes and then rapidly descends in to chaos. Nowhere near as clever or as philosophical as it tries to be.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

– Both hilarious and thrilling, absurd and absurdly underrated. Mel Gibson excels unlike I’ve seen him in over a decade. The script is high concept with its tongue firmly in cheek and the editing is surprisingly sharp. The only question, why was this condemned straight to DVD?

Elysium

– Disappointing second outing from Neil Blomkampp. Neither the plot nor the dystopian futuristic settings withstand much scrutiny, as is painfully obvious on a single viewing.

Byzantium

– In an attempt to do something original with the whole vampire ‘thing’, Neil Jordan opts for ‘drama’ over thrills and spills but in doing so draws the viewer, inexorably, to boredom.

Stake Land

– Fantastic take on the vampire genre that is an absolute stand out during the recent vamp revival. Brilliant acting, pacing and story. I felt it could have afforded a fractionally more upbeat ending.

Oblivion

– considerably more enjoyable than you might expect. Act one offers an excellent sci fi premise, it’s a pity acts two and three fall in to the realm of cliche and moralistic Hollywood stereotype. Nonetheless a highly entertaining watch.

Prometheus

– Beautiful visuals and VFX don’t elevate Prometheus beyond an attractive, if fairly lifeless sci-fi actioner. Despite its technical eloquence, the film suffers a bland, meandering Hollywood-fare script and lacks resolution.

Lockout

– possibly the worst sci-fi film I’ve ever seen. More plot holes than words in the script. Simply awful awful film making. Even the action sequences and special effects are dire. Who thought throwing millions of dollars at this terrible excuse for a script was a good idea? Next time pay me and I’ll shit you a better script.