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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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?)

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

12 Strong

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

The 12th Man

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

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Beast

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Bastille Day

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

Wild Card

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

Mr Robot S02 (TV)

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

Line of Duty S03 (TV)

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

Black Mass

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

Miss Bala

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

Hyena

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

Open Grave

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

Wargames

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

Bridge of Spies

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

Sicario

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

San Andreas

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

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.

Spy

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

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.

The Gunman

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

Infernal Affairs

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

Mr Robot (TV)

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

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.

Black Sea

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

Cleaner

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

Kon-Tiki

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

American Sniper

– unashamed propaganda for the US, this is nonetheless a gripping a war drama and occasional thriller. Sickeningly pro-war, pro-violence and borderline racist, if you can suspend your liberal fury for the runtime, you will probably be entertained.

’71

– Once the ball starts rolling, this IRA thriller rattles along at a breakneck pace. Excellent suspense, well shot and strong acting. The conclusion disappoints, but largely for wanting more.

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.

Happy Valley (TV)

– Phenomenally well acted and compelling British TV, a thriller of the calibre that rarely graces our screens. A netflix exclusive allegedly, although it has BBC all over it and oddly shows only on the US Netflix. Don’t miss this, the best British cop series since The Shadow Line.

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.

Trash

– Danny Boyle-esque drama cum thriller in which a trio of Brazilian lads (literally) unearth the key to political upheaval. Aided by strong direction and solid acting, this rattles along at a terrific pace and is a lot of fun.

Escobar: Paradise Lost

– With an exploitative use of the Escobar name, this superficial and horribly preachy drug thriller endeavours to weave a love story with a drug trafficking backdrop. It avoids any sincere exploration of Escobar’s legacy and instead offers skin deep, trashy American propaganda that could have been (and essentially was) entirely fictionalised. Just terrible.

The Guest

– Surreal thriller that has the script and acting of a drawn out episode of Kyle XY, along with the teen angst and 12A flirting with alcohol and drugs. Allegedly deliberately styled to achieve cult status, for this viewer, that ‘style’ simply translates to “bad”. Time better spent elsewhere.

Night Moves

– very slow though always engaging, introspective drama/thriller exploring paranoia, extreme convictions, and the possible consequences of upholding and enacting those convictions.

Gone Girl

– Fincher’s latest thriller is as slick as we’ve come to expect from the director, but leaves a distinctly sour aftertaste. Affleck is great and Pike isn’t bad (if a little too affected), but a trash book adapted well is still a trash film. Everything is horribly contrived and suburban, and consequently it never feels real enough to genuinely thrill. That said, as always, Fincher manages to conjure a few spectacular moments of cinema. Worth watching.

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.

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!

Memory Lane

– Amateur indie-thriller that screams student from the opening shots. That would be fine if it was watchable. This isn’t. Ignore the IMDb rating, this one is not remotely worth your time.

The Equalizer

– slick and highly entertaining action thriller from Antoine Fuqua, strongly influenced by Tony Scott style and delivered with aplomb. Denzel is a pleasure to watch. Leave expectations of subtetly and humanity at the door and this will be an absolute treat.

La Habitacion del Niño

– the first half of this spanish B-movie is one of the most hilarious black comedies I have seen, whilst the second reverts to genre stereotypes and predictable twists. It’s a lot of fun though, and to some degree an original haunted house thriller.

A Most Wanted Man

– not since Rubicon was aired on TV has the spy genre been so perfectly depicted on screen. An apt tour de force for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s swansong, devestating though that is, and a hugely successful suspenseful thriller. Just terrific.

El Cuerpo

– Excellent, brilliantly directed and shot macabre thriller with a twist that will genuinely surprise, albeit largely due to its implausibility. Unmissable spanish language.

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)

Rushlights

– Forgettable and mildly annoying B movie thriller, whose only saving grace is Aidan Quinn, unfortunately still unable to redeem this. A tangle of twists is simply a knot, even when you see them coming.

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.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

– Fast paced and immensely enjoyable spy thriller that falls prey to the usual Hollywoodisms. It won’t stand up to scrutiny, but don’t let realism stand in the way of having a blast! Surprisingly happy to recommend this one.

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.

The Vanishing

– An insidious and sinister thriller with convincing performances by the whole cast. Albeit based on the novel by Tim Krabbe, this is very Stephen King in style; innocent characters come face to face with villainy and the seemingly ordinary people who perpetrate it. Better than average if still unremarkable.

The Edge

– A good enough wilderness survival drama with adequate performances, though it’s not the most compelling premise (with most of the dramatic tension arising from the persistent threat of a bear attack) and consequently feels more sluggish that it needs to. Perhaps more interesting would have been further development in the conclusion of the story: what happens next?

Secret Window

– Somehow both menacing and fun, the first two thirds of this mystery thriller are wonderfully compelling. Unfortunately, as so often happens, the final act is a huge disappointment, with a hokey ‘twist’ and poor resolution. Depp is strong throughout.

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.

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.

Boy Wonder

– Very novel take on vigilantism. Excellent acting, strong characters and a solid script really transform what could have been bargain basement fodder in to an engrossing, clever and moving thriller.

The Frozen Ground

– Moderately wearisome attempt at a thriller. Cage and Cusack carry it. The script is too revealing to be satisfying, devoid of the intrigue and suspense that’s vital for an effective thriller and without a twist or a solid finishing blow it’s simply too forgettable. The most emotive scenes of the whole film are the factual closing titles.

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.

Safe (2012)

– Exactly what you expect from a Statham action thriller. Heavy on the action, light on the thrills, a ton of one liners and several hospitals worth of broken limbs. If you’re a fan of the Stath, there’s no reason this should disappoint.

Arbitrage

– hugely watchable albeit not especially thrilling thriller. Nothing special here, but it’s a solid enough flick for a Sunday afternoon and you could certainly do a lot worse.

False Trail (Jagarna 2)

– Initially a suspenseful, well shot and thoroughly arresting nordic thriller, but an abrupt loss of intrigue following the second act results in a disappointing finale, complete with frustrating contrivances and cliches. Worth a watch for The Killing fans, but unfortunately not what it could have been. (Also laden with heavy, almost clumsy parallels to the first Jagarna film, such that it feels a knock off).

The Assignment

– Hugely underrated spy thriller featuring a spectacular performance from the largely overlooked Aidan Quinn. Tense, exhiliarating and extremely well executed, especially given it’s relative age. Maybe one of the best thrillers you’ve never heard of.

Now You See Me

– I heard so much shit about this movie that I wasn’t expecting much at all. I was practically blown away. Really enjoyed it, a total thrill ride. It was like Ocean’s 11 with Magicians. Really hope there’s a sequel. The critics need to step back and think – is this movie actually a) intelligent and b) enjoyable to the public as a whole. The IMDb rating says yes to the latter, and I’m inclined to believe the former too. More please.

Hanna

– Original but peculiar viewing. Sandwiched between a thrilling beginning and a (cheesy) straight forward ending, is Hanna’s random (and forced) relationship with an eccentric British family that are like caricatures from a bad ITV sitcom. This is undeniably stylish, but just too ridiculous and plot hole ridden to stand up as an excellent thriller. Not to mention, Wright appears to be obsessed with tunnels and Chemical Brothers. Literally every action scene takes place in a tunnel. Quite bizarre.

The Prey (La Proie)

– rattling along at a breakneck speed keeps this French thriller gripping, but it inevitably stumbles over horrible contrivances and cliches in order to keep momentum, not to mention more cheese than a Croque Monsieur. It’s a pity because it’s otherwise engrossing.

Parker

– Albeit framed around a plot that is as dependent on coincidence as Obama is on latinos, this is a slick and hugely compelling thriller. Extend your disbelief and go with the flow and Statham will be winning you (and the girl) all over again.

Pi

– exactly my kind of film; an intriguing, mysterious, original, stylish and creatively directed psychological thriller. Top acting and a great script. All the evidence you need that money doesn’t make a film (this was produced on $60k). Only criticism, a little too pseudo-mathematical, I’m not convinced it all adds up…

Welcome to the Punch

– A glossy, overstylised and under realised attempt at a slick conspiract thriller. Some shots are striking, but it feels like it was edited together as an exercise. Oddly off kilter, especially given the cast.

Broken City

– Straight up, fast moving thriller with Marky Mark doing his action thing. Smarter than most, but unfortunately a little conceited as a result, the impact is lessened by some perfunctory story lines and irritatingly lazy contrivances. Nonetheless, a good yarn at its core.

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.

Mama

– a forgettable, largely disappointing suspense horror with tropes and cliches galore. That being said, it’s probably better than average for the genre.

Red Corner

– A compelling if utterly farfetched courtroom thriller. I’m ill quipped to determine how accurate a portrayal it is, but it seems oft too loudly a propoganda machine condemning the eponymous Red state of China, with the innocent persecuted American playing David vs the Goliath of China’s judicial system.

Stoker

– overly stylized but technically brilliant psycho-sexual thriller featuring an excellent performance from Matthew Goode. Fails to impact in the same way as Black Swan, but is no doubt well worth watching for any fan of the genre. Some scenes are superb and intensely erotic.

El Aura (The Aura)

– Intriguing spanish thriller. Compelling albeit peculiarly paced and with a few loose ends left trailing. Thoughtful cinema, but perhaps trying to tackle one too many strands for its own good. Recommended, but not highly.

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.

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.

Jack Reacher

– This bizarre and contrived film might raise a smile, but it can’t decide whether it wants to be a comedy, an action movie, or a thriller. Essentially a vanity project for Cruise, and it really shows.