Drama

October 2020

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.

Enola Holmes

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

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.

The Looming Tower (TV)

– a brilliant cast and cinematic direction elevates this above the mainstream. Thoroughly gripping, even though you know what happens next…

Official Secrets

– hammy and Hollywoodised with an exposition heavy script but still quite enjoyable.

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.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

– heartbreaking and optimistic in turns, this drama is powerful and well acted, but feels like it replays the same beats a few too many times.

August 2020

The Art of Racing in the Rain

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

Driven

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

Phantom Thread

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

Irresistible

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

July 2020

The Rental

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

The Valhalla Murders S01 (TV)

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

The Assistant

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

Waco (TV)

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

Bad Education

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

The Whistlers

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

Secondhand Lions

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

Ride Like A Girl

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

Fighting with my Family

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

A White, White Day

– monosyllabic Icelandic drama is a slow, sombre and stress inducing contemplation on grief. Artful and affecting, but it drags.

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.

June 2020

Togo

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

Just Mercy

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

Killing Eve S03 (TV)

– an underwhelming and unsatisfying third series with a feeble plot, tiresome new characters, and mostly try-hard humour. Nothing worth sticking around for.

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.

May 2020

The Way Back

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

The Trial (Il Processo) (TV)

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

Adrift

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

La Odisea de los Giles (aka Heroic Losers)

– gentle and understated comedy epitomises everything I love about Latin American movies. Charismatic characters, sensitive and thoughtful direction, and of course, the beautiful language.

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.

April 2020

After The Wedding (Efter Brylluppet) (2006)

– harrowing Danish tragedy hits hard on pretty much every level. Maybe not ideal to watch post-bereavement. The direction is a little preoccupied with eyes for my liking, but it’s generally well shot and phenomenally well acted (by everyone, particularly Rolf Lassgård). An extremely affecting drama preoccupied with the theme of family.

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).

Onward

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

Marshall

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

Little Women

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

March 2020

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.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

– Surreal, emotionally provocative biopic gets under the skin and stays there. Best watched alone and undistracted. It’s uncomfortable, for myriad reasons, but all the more powerful for it. Reminded me of the book, ‘Mr. Blue’, by Myles Connolly, but it’s actually based upon this article.

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.

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.

Escape from Pretoria

– Radcliffe starring prison thriller isn’t short on suspense once it gets going, even contrived as it is, but that’s about it. Easy viewing, nothing to get excited about.

Bombshell

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

The Stranger (TV)

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

A Private War

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

February 2020

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.

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.

Pain and Glory (Dolor y Gloria)

– Mournful Spanish-language drama is a beautiful if overly ponderous reflection on life and love and the sickness of nostalgia.

January 2020

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.

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.

Aniara

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

The Morning Show S01 (TV)

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

Uncut Gems

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

The Current War

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

Stan & Ollie

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

Steel Country (A Dark Place)

– Andrew Scott is engaging as a complicated simpleton in this basic crime drama, but overall it seems amateurish with some strange scripting choices and jarring audio flashbacks.

December 2019

Ford v Ferrari (Le Mans ’66)

– fairly thrilling racing film with a lot of unnecessary sentiment padding its excessive runtime. Entertaining, no doubt, but could have been better.

Jojo Rabbit

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

The Peanut Butter Falcon

– saccherine road trip dramedy about a Down’s syndrome man pursuing his dream of being a wrestler. Heartfelt, charming, but too cheesy and with too much exposition.

The Two Popes

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

The Lion King (2019)

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

Dead Man

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

Time Share (Tiempo Compartido)

– bizarre, surrealist drama sees a family forced to share a villa at a holiday resort. Something sinister is afoot, but it’s never exactly clear what. Confounding in all the wrong ways.

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.

November 2019

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.

The Art of Self-Defense

– this dry, stilted and stubbornly unfunny karate-centred black comedy is weird enough to be oddly compelling, but fails to land a punch.

Late Night

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

Free Solo

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

October 2019

Stalker (1979)

– long and slow allegorical drama dressed up as sci-fi demands serious patience but is effective as a profound, dystopian contemplation on religion, science and philosophy.

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.

Aladdin

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

The Favourite

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

Joker

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

The Nightingale

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

Unbelievable S01 (TV)

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

September 2019

Isle of Dogs

– Like watching tumbleweed float along a barren dirt road, it’s bland and not particularly compelling, but there’s a certain breezy, beautiful charm to it.

Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan

– compelling if unremarkable Australian war film.

Return to Sender (aka Convicted)

– fairly engaging but its plodding pace would have benefited from more detective work and less wishy-washy romance. For a vaguely similar story, far more compellingly spun, watch True Detective S03.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

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

Mary Poppins Returns

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

August 2019

Green Frontier (Frontera Verde) (S01) (TV)

– Afraid to say I gave up on this after a few episodes. Beautiful scenery, but the pace is paralysingly slow, the script and premise both vague and unconvincing, and the lead actress is nearly devoid of emotion. Life is too short.

When They See Us (TV)

– Though polished, this is thoroughly miserable from start to finish. Whether accurate or not, it doesn’t make for enjoyable viewing.

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.

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.

On My Skin (Sulla Mia Pelle)

– Brilliantly well produced and acted, but there’s an unrelenting inevitability to this Italian crime drama that makes it very tough viewing, like watching a prolonged torture scene. An excellent film if you can stomach it.

The Little Stranger

– Unhappily devoid of excitement or emotion, this underwhelming and torturously slow haunted house mystery tries to get under the skin but gets on the nerves.

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.

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.

Shoplifters

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

The Red Sea Diving Resort

– given the subject matter, its depiction as a sort of Ocean’s 11 style pithy-witted spy thriller is tonally jarring, but it’s more than serviceable, and better than one might expect from Netflix.

Anima

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

July 2019

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…

True Detective S03 (TV)

– A satisfying mystery that intrigues and excites thanks to carefully calculated performances from a cast at the top of their game, and a sharp and quick witted script.

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!

The Mule

– albeit easy viewing, this is an uneventful, tame crime drama, so thin as to be condescending. Time better spent elsewhere.

June 2019

Paddleton

– marvellous and masterful drama, powerfully executed with gentle wit and charm. Highly recommended.

Green Book

– rose-tinted but feel-good race drama with thoroughly entertaining performances from both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali.

Michael Inside

– Bland, bleak and laboured prison drama that adds nothing to the genre. Deadpan to the point it lacks soul and energy and ends up a tough watch.

Eighth Grade

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

The Fundamentals of Caring

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

The Square

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

The Highwaymen

– Polished if formulaic gun slinger following a pair of washed up lawmen on the trail of Bonnie and Clyde. Unimaginative and a bit flabby, but serviceable.

The Wife

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

May 2019

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.

Line of Duty S05 (TV)

– the predictable but compelling BBC crime drama continues, as far fetched as ever, and no less entertaining.

Even the Rain (Todavía La Lluvia)

– Engaging spanish language drama with a cast that is strong enough to warrant the viewing alone. Gabriel Garcia Bernal is always an extraordinary screen presence, and he’s wonderful here.

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.

April 2019

The Children Act

– brilliantly well acted but not particularly enjoyable.

Destroyer

– drab and nasty crime drama

Creed

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

March 2019

The West Wing S07 (TV)

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

White God

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

After Life S01 (TV)

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

Todos Lo Saben (Everybody Knows)

– effective but unsatisfying Spanish drama that teases mystery then vexingly abandons it half way through. Worth watching for the excellent performances.

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.

Roma

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

Border

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

Homecoming S01 (TV)

– although this PTSD drama mystery features good performances and is shot in an original style, it’s too plodding and, on balance, I think I preferred the radio/ podcast series.

February 2019

Private Life

– just straight up wonderful. Hilarious, poignant, emotive, there are so many superlatives that would be suitable to describe this midlife comedy. It’s a masterclass.

Bodied

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

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

– great performances and a witty script keep this drama from mediocrity, but it’s hardly a conversation starter or an attention grabber, so most likely to be enjoyed by patient viewers.

January 2019

Wonder

– Saccharine drama that pushes all the right buttons. If you like that feeling of being manipulated, it scores high marks. Not one for me though.

The Oath

– unimpressive but solid enough crime drama a few beats too short of a thriller, and a few scenes too short of an ending. Humdrum.

Detroit

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

The Angel

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

Sorry To Bother You

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

A Perfect Day

– more morbid than I recall from my first viewing, but this is still pretty zen on a second take.

Vice (2019)

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

Bad Times at the El Royale

– often laboured, often indulgent, but original, unusual, terrifically well done, and so grand in scope (perhaps too grand) it can be forgiven its minor flaws.

December 2018

A Simple Favour

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

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.

November 2018

Elite S01 (TV)

– glossy teenage trash with the usual spanish melodrama

Leave No Trace

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

October 2018

Bodyguard S01 (TV)

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

22 July

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

September 2018

Ozark S02 (TV)

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

Sunday’s Illness (La Enfermedad de Domingo)

– quietly affecting, understated spanish drama. Engrossing, but not remarkable.

BlacKKKlansman

– Spike Lee’s enjoyable race comedy/ drama, a lot of fun, but far too on the nose at times

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.

Memoir of a Murderer

– this crime drama is a mixed bag. It keeps you guessing, but is too poorly paced and drawn out to be exciting or properly compelling. A shame, as the performances are good.

August 2018

Marrowbone

– original and well acted ghost story. Too timid to be a horror, too creepy to be a drama. Mostly good but lacks punch.

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.

Sarah’s Key

– plodding drama; unexciting, unintriguing, underwhelming.

First Reformed

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

July 2018

Joint Security Area

– engrossing drama about the forbidden friendships formed on the 42nd parallel between North and South Korea. Heart warming.

Plata Quemada (Burnt Money)

– disappointing crime drama mainly detailing the troubled love story between the two gay protagonists rather than the robbery. Sort of big budget arthouse, not my bag.

You Were Never Really Here

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

El Otro Hermano (The Lost Brother/ The Other Brother)

– Grisly Spanish crime drama, protracted but compelling if only to see how the whole nasty, twisted tale unravels. Very effective understated soundtrack.

Halt and Catch Fire S04 (TV)

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

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.

Sharp Objects S01 (TV)

– Stopped after two episodes of this dreary and loveless drama. Sinfully dull. Exhausting. Waste of time.

Palmeras en la Nieve (Palm Trees in the Snow)

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

June 2018

The Silence of the Sky (O Silêncio do Céu)

– affecting and unpleasant spanish language drama, too doleful to be enjoyable

Grupo 7 (Unit 7)

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

This Is Where I Leave You

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

The Crossing S01 (TV)

– very low quality soap opera sci-fi. A shame as the concept is strong and Steve Zahn is terrific in everything.

Goon

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

The Salesman

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

Cargo

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

The Motive (El Autor)

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

Anthropoid

– Gory and hopeless drama cum thriller about a paltry resistance effort during WW2. Depressing and not particularly compelling.

Capote

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

Killing Eve S01 (TV)

– wonderfully original British crime drama. Unfortunately the climax of the series teeters a little too close to the edge of the rails.

Beast

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

May 2018

Suburbicon

– frenetic and overwrought crime drama that plays like a prolonged episode of Fargo. Not bad, but not worth the effort.

The Florida Project

– One of those dramas critics love and most normal people find boring. Observational cinema that seems like human tourism.

April 2018

I, Tonya

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

Darkest Hour

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

The Disaster Artist

– the character of Tommy is so unbearable the film irrevocably suffers, but like a car crash, it’s hard to look away. Just keep wincing and the end will surely come.

March 2018

The Nile Hilton Incident

– solid enough crime drama, not exactly fun though. Often slow and confusing, with a sense of inevitability that’s never turned on its head.

Roman J Israel Esq.

– oddly compelling given its subdued and deflated style, with sensitive performances from all involved, but beyond competency, there’s little to excite or to recommend here.

February 2018

Personal Shopper

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

Mother

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

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.

Downsizing

– quaint but funny. Many feel it missed the mark, and maybe so, but at the very least it hit the target. Light hearted and enjoyable comedy drama.

January 2018

The Best Offer

– good yarn, well spun, even while the actual plot is utterly preposterous. Solid entertainment.

Pawn Sacrifice

– good performances all round, but even as a chess fan, this isn’t as exciting as I feel it could have been.

Molly’s Game

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

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

– delicately walking the fine line between black comedy and tragedy, this unexpected drama is wickedly funny, touching and profound.

December 2017

Gifted

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

The Founder

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

The Fury of a Patient Man

– slow burning revenge thriller, a bit too grim and grisly for entertainment, but quite affecting in its own way.

Wakefield

– Original but protracted one man show from Bryan Cranston. For the most part engaging even whilst unequivocally ridiculous.

November 2017

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.

Hearts in Atlantis

– charming if slightly soppy drama that hints at mystery and intrigue but never really delivers. A great performance from Anton Yelchin (RIP) although Anthony Hopkins isn’t at his best.

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead

– bleak crime drama, too heavy for my tastes, and without anyone to root for.

The Silence

– heavy and depressing but interesting crime drama. I wanted more from it.

October 2017

Wind River

– beautiful cinematography, good acting, great soundtrack. All in all, a solid, slow burning crime drama.

May God Forgive Us (Que Dios Nos Perdone)

– often disturbingly graphic, but this is a strong and well structured crime drama

The Limehouse Golem

– fairly average period crime thriller. A great cast but still underwhelming.

Inherent Vice

– drawn out, rambling and mostly nonsensical. Waste of time. Disappointing from such a powerhouse director and cast.

Quarry (S01)(TV)

– one of the most original and affecting shows I’ve seen on TV in a good while. Travesty they cancelled it, but at least it’ll last as a tightly contained masterpiece. Watch it.

Gold

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

September 2017

Shepherds and Butchers

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

Mother!

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

Live by Night

– carefully crafted if overly prolonged gangster drama, beautifully filmed and somehow quite affecting

August 2017

Remember

– Christopher Plummer turns in a fantastic performance in a heartfelt and moving crime drama.

Man Up

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

The Handmaiden

– Strikingly artful and brilliantly directed but not a particularly enjoyable film

July 2017

Moana

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

Ozark S01 (TV)

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

Una Pura Formalita (A Pure Formality)

– strangely intense given its limited cinematic scope and singular location, but not my cup of tea. Very dated.

Black Snow (Nieve Negra)

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

June 2017

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.

May 2017

The Path S01

– this obsession with cults and the supernatural is a bit tiresome. Not bad, but didn’t wet my whistle. Won’t be watching season 2.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

– just as enjoyable and uplifting on the rewatch.

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies

– a character assassination, a hatchet job, whatever you call it, the press did a number on Jefferies, and this is a solid retelling of the prejudiced and malicious destruction of his reputation

Embrace of the Serpent

– intriguing but undeniably slow B&W drama. Sadly I wanted to like it more than I did, but perhaps it’s one to revisit when I’m blessed with more patience!

Kalinka

– average drama detailing a mans pursuit for justice following his daughters death. Compelling, but not particularly remarkable.

April 2017

The Lost City of Z

– more thought provoking and carefully paced drama than I’d anticipated, but it sustained my interest and enjoyment throughout.

March 2017

Lion

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

American Fable

– effective if low budget suspenseful drama. Unfortunately many of the performances are substandard and after a strong start, the plot meanders and fizzles.

Halt and Catch Fire (S03)(TV)

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

Fences

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

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

– slow but solid drama, inaccurately billed as a thriller. It draws some questionable conclusions about the nature of fundamentalism, enemies and loyalty, but it kind of works anyway.

February 2017

Manchester by the Sea

– affecting drama detailing tragedy within tragedy and the ways family manage grief. Heart felt and well acted, albeit a unique set of circumstances.

Allied

– disappointing war film, less thriller, more romantic drama. Not bad, but too glossy for the genre, and not especially engaging.

Jackie

– unsurprisingly humourless but excessively dreary biopic of FLOTUS Jackie Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of JFK’s assassination. Tedious.

The Moorside (TV)

– uncomfortable two part drama recounting the missing of Shannon Matthews in 2008. Questionable whether this should have been made at all. Easy to watch, but not exactly thrilling TV.

January 2017

The Last Panthers S01 (TV)

– a strong, high concept pilot episode disintegrates into a dull, muddled mess of a crime drama.

The Connection

– impressive French drug v police drama, like several series of The Wire compressed into two hours. Zampa rivals some of the greatest movie villains.

American Honey

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

A Perfect Day

– brilliantly acted and sensitively portrayed drama about aid workers in the Balkans. Very funny at times. I loved it.

Hoosiers (Best Shot)

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

Snowden

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

Silence

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

December 2016

The Missing S02 (TV)

– vastly superior to its first season, this crime thriller drama is very engaging TV. It suffers from some clumsy exposition and occasional offtone acting, but largely this is an excellent ride.

Seven Years (7 Años)

– unexpectedly engaging single room, minimal cast drama. Sparks fly and intrigue grips even past the end.

The OA S01 (TV)

– Weird sci-fi drama with an unlikeable cast, if just about intriguing enough to command attention. Mostly well produced, its a shame about the plot.

The Puffy Chair

– slow but strangely bewitching love story drama. Quite charming in its simplicity but a little too uneventful for viewing in 2016.

November 2016

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.

Captain Fantastic

– engrossing, thought-provoking drama, raising important questions about lifestyle, philosophy and the world we choose to live. Terrific performances, especially from upcomer George McKay.

Safety Not Guaranteed

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

The One I Love

– fantastically inventive and surprising sci-fi drama with great performances and a hugely intriguing story. Great film.

Hell or High Water

– terrific heist drama with stellar performances from both Ben Foster and Chris Pine. A slow burn, but excellent

Nocturnal Animals

– interesting and smartly directed drama, succumbs to style over substance in places, and too cold overall. Superb performances though.

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.

Swiss Army Man

– taking weird to a whole new baffling level. How this dead guy drama was ever greenlit for production I’ll never understand. A flatulent film in every respect.

October 2016

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.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

– such an enjoyable drama comedy; heart warming, beautifully shot, introspective, with great, humourous performances from the small cast. A joy.

September 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

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

August 2016

The Survivalist

– slow to the point of boredom, this is otherwise quite an interesting, contemplative dystopian drama

War Dogs

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

The Wave (Bolgen)

– highly entertaining if utterly predictable drama thriller. Much better SFX than comparable Hollywood films, and beautifully shot.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

– tedious and unfunny dramedy (as you might expect given the casting)

Stranger Things S01 (TV)

– wonderful, fun, lighthearted and affectionate, this supernatural drama series is everything accessible TV ought to be.

July 2016

The Rack Pack

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

Jason Bourne

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

May 2016

The Falcon and the Snowman

– brilliant Soviet spy drama, with two excellent lead actors turning in star worthy performances. Good fun.

April 2016

Happy Valley S02

– the gritty British cop drama maintains its extraordinarily high standard for a second season. Just brilliant.

Special Correspondents

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

Forsaken

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

The Hill

– shouty black and white prison drama with a strong and understated performance by Sean Connery. The military formula grates.

March 2016

Wakolda

– suspenseful and interesting drama in part Germana and part Spanish. Slightly underwhelming but a good watch nonetheless.

High-Rise

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

Enemy

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

Never Let Me Go

– dreary and tiresome sci-fi drama despite the interesting concept

The End of the Tour

– an uneventful but quietly affecting and thought-provoking biopic of the author, David Foster Wallace.

Before I Go To Sleep

– bleak, slow moving amnesiac drama. Tediously lachrymose and eye-rollingly serious.

February 2016

Cria Cuervos/ Raising Ravens

– Disarmingly open and earnest cinema. Tasteful and slow moving drama with a beautiful soundtrack.

January 2016

99 Homes

– Excellent, gripping drama that leaves you frustrated at its hasty conclusion

Room

– impressive, original drama with remarkable performances, a deserved Oscar contender.

December 2015

The Intern

– Sickly, unfunny dramedy. Forgettable, pointless, badly scripted. A waste of time and money. Kind of embarrassing for the cast.

November 2015

The Lobster

– An extraordinarily peculiar romantic drama in a most unconventional sci-fi universe. I was reminded of HG Wells ‘Valley of the Blind’.

The Internet’s Own Boy

– Inspiring biopic of Aaron Schwartz. A must watch for purveyors of digital rights, open source and internet freedoms.

October 2015

A Brilliant Young Mind

– Touching and amusingly off-beat coming of age dramedy about an autistic maths whizz and his multiple sclerosis suffering teacher. Innocuous.

The Martian

– Excellent high concept space odyssey. More drama than thriller so doesn’t really compete on the same page as Gravity, despite the similarities on paper. Solid.

September 2015

Everest

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

August 2015

The Affair

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

Lock Up

– fairly average prison drama with Stallone at the helm. I probably wouldn’t advise bothering with it.

Birdman

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

July 2015

The Fifth Estate

– Lacklustre biopic released too soon to be objective and accurate. Unfolds like a broadsheet newspaper – with too much fuss and not enough excitement.

True Story

– Bland, incongruous drama that aims for sinister and comes off simply quaint. A shame.

Letters from Iwo Jima

– Eastwood’s epic, gritty and moving war story from the Japanese perspective. Too long and inferior to its American perspective counterpart. Good though.

The Great Debaters

– Interesting drama if you like your emotion running high and your characters scripted to a tee. Not my bag, but it’s delivered with aplomb.

Five Minutes Of Heaven

– Interesting if overly heavy emo drama with Neeson and Nesbitt. Not the most enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

Fast and Furious 7

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

June 2015

A Single Shot

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

Fargo (TV)

– Wry humour and master villains, this is a gripping crime drama with a lot to enjoy, but somehow it resolves to nobody’s satisfaction.

Hot Girls Wanted

– Surprisingly interesting, non-judgemental and levelheaded exploration of the amateur/ semi-pro porn industry. Quite tragic really.

May 2015

El Gran Hotel (S01) (TV)

– gossipy, trashy, farcical – there is little to redeem this spanish period drama bar its language. If I wasn’t making an effort to learn spanish, I wouldn’t touch this with a barge pole.

The Homesman

– Dry, flat Western drama from Tommy Lee Jones that lacks even the slightest appeal. I’d rather sit on a horse waiting to hang.

In Order Of Disappearance

– Tarantino-esque black humour permeates this nordic revenge drama. Enjoyable, but hardly special.

Everybody Has A Plan (Todos tenemos un plan)

– Intriguing, if slow, crime drama. Very dark and exploring interesting themes, this is poignant and somehow delicate, and yet disappointingly fails to really impress.

The Drop

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

The Browning Version

– Arresting school drama about a longstanding teacher who is forced to resign his position. Very human, with terrific acting.

Rosewater

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

April 2015

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

– A refreshing and unexpected poverty survival drama; sweet, surprisingly uplifting and oddly charming. I liked it.

February 2015

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.

Broken

– Laboured council estate tragedy drama. Overwrought, heavy and heavy handed. Watchable but hardly recommended.

Whiplash

– Overrated drum drama exploring obsession and musicianship. A wannabe Black Swan. Interesting but unfulfilling.

January 2015

The Theory of Everything

– Impassioned, powerful performances across the board deliver a fantastic drama. It’s a little on the lachrymose, and can’t help but be evangelical in it’s message of hope, but that can be forgiven.

Kill the Messenger

– strong, insightful drama, a little heavy handed with the exposition at times and perhaps not quite as exciting as it could have been. Fantastic casting.

Intouchables

– affectionate and heartfelt tale of unlikely friendship. Gentle, light-hearted and encouraging.

The Grand Seduction

– Uplifting and oft-times hilarious rural drama with yet another standout performance from Brendan Gleeson. Riddled with clichés and contrivances, but nonetheless enjoyable for it.

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.

I, Origins

– Evolves into an interesting and moderately affecting film, albeit starting slowly and labouring the science vs religion debate.

Foxcatcher

– Odd, off-beat biopic that demonstrates top talent in a decidedly peculiar tone. Curious, moderately compelling despite very slow pacing, but hardly the drama that the hype suggested it would be.

The Impossible

– Whiter than white drama about a middle class family and their upset holiday plans. Quite sickening given the 100s of thousands of natives that lost their lives. Horribly misjudged, and on top of that, quite bad.

December 2014

Frank

– Oddball indie comedy cum biopic. Very funny at times, but precariously pretentious.

How To Train Your Dragon 2

– Surprisingly profound animation that offers more for an adult than it’s predecessor, but might be a little too dark and emotive for younger children.

November 2014

The Scapegoat

– Touching and well constructed period drama with a great central performance from Matthew Rhys, highly recommended.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

– Much too protracted and irritatingly puerile at times, this is otherwise an irresistibly entertaining spoof biopic parodying the same tired old formula of music life stories. Fun for the most part.

Camp X-ray

– Kristen Stewart demonstrates she has acting chops in this solid prison drama. A bit laboured, with one or two missteps, but on the whole, this is quite affecting.

The Babadook

– Morbid and depressing if refreshingly original take on the usual horror guff: possession, children and creepy houses. Did I say original?

Secret State (TV)

– Solid political drama series with strong performances all round and a hypercritical script depicting the cosy relationship and interworkings between British banks, businesses and government. Very worth watching, but not quite landmark TV.

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.

Metro Manila

– Melancholy, depressing drama cum thriller, following a man struggling to make a living as a security guard amid the dangers of Manila.

October 2014

Night Moves

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

The Man From Earth

– A thinking man’s film. History, philosophy and religion all undergo scrutiny following the revelation that a long term friend is 14000 years old. Purely talking, and all in one location, this won’t set your nerves on edge or your heart apounding, but time and place dependent, will leave you with a healthy discussion on your hands.

God’s Pocket

– Not a bad drama, but utterly devoid of anything to get excited about. It’s dreary, slow, and not especially witty, even though it tries hard with its smattering of black humour.

The Contender

– If only this US political drama had a scintilla more pace. The plot, scripting, casting and acting are all top notch. It’s so close to perfection, and yet it lacks a little punch that post-Sorkin’s The West Wing and Fincher’s House of Cards, is almost a prerequisite of political depictions. Fantastic though, watch it.

Borgman

– Thought provoking and intriguing surrealist drama, with a kind of insidious and sadistic nastiness that really takes a hold as the film develops. Utterly gripping despite a slow pace; quite remarkable and very different.

El Traspatio (Backyard)

– Graphic and unflinching look at brutality against women in Juarez and the corruption of the judicial system in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Horrifying drama, difficult to watch, hard to recommend.

September 2014

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.

Cold In July

– A well shot, acted and tought crime drama, it’s a shame it descends in to such chaos. Still worth a watch though.

Live Flesh (Carne Tremula)

– Well crafted Spanish drama from Almodovar. Excellent acting and solid plot. Filled with the usual Almodovar tropes and on the nose political statements though.

Carancho

– one of the most boring Spanish films I have watched. Dreary and uneventful drama, not worth the time.

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.

August 2014

Cronica de una Fuga (Buenos Aires, 1977)

– Intense and serious, perhaps too dry. Lacks the poetry and artistry of similar films, though remains a harrowing fly-on-the-wall spanish language drama.

Joe

– Terrific, moving and powerful drama with easily the best performance Nic Cage has pulled out in the last decade. The soundtrack is brilliant and the acting throughout, top notch. Ty Sheridan impresses as usual.

Blackthorn

– Dry, slow burning neo-Western drama that is surprisingly affecting, particularly as it isn’t especially gripping. Sam Shepherd is good, and predominantly speaks Spanish throughout.

July 2014

Cool Hand Luke

– Fantastic prison drama with great performances, in particular from Newman.

Under Fire

– Dramatic tale of war journalists during the Nicaraguan uprising in the late 70s and the difficulty of remaining impartial. Gripping and well acted.

Gods and Monsters

– Frasier and McKellen find an impressive rapport in this solid biopic drama detailing the salacious private life of James Whale.

Only Lovers Left Alive

– Painfully slow and pseudo-intellectual vampire drama. As depressing to watch as Hiddleston’s character is portrayed. Little here to seize interest.

Innocent Voices

– Harrowing, unflinching and deeply affecting tale of an eleven year old boy during the El Salvadorian civil war, in the year prior to his forced conscription in to the army. Should be rated much higher than a certificate 12.

June 2014

Dangerous Liaisons

– ludicrous period drama with the plot of a soap opera. Malkovich is supremely pernicious as always, the quintessence of villainy, but it’s all too far fetched, too contrived and much too on the nose.

Friday Night Lights (S01-S03)

– Surprising, brilliantly well-scripted American football drama following the trials and tribulations of Coach Taylor, his family and his squad, as they adjust to living within the football obsessed, fictional community of Dillon, Texas. Although over time the series falls prey to soap opera cliches and short sighted plot turns, it is often impactful, even profoundly didactic. Frustratingly, characters become increasingly two-dimensional, and storylines are reused time and again over the course of the show. The performances of Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are definitely worthy of plaudits though, and the first season of the show is a must watch. Take or leave the remaining seasons.

Short Term 12

– Solid and affectionate drama handles tricky subject of maladjusted kids. Powerful.

The Replacements

– Silly sports comedy with a formulaic plot and inane gags. Classic feel good vibe though and great as a pick-me-up. Also worth it for the Gene Hackman completionists!

May 2014

Life of Pi

– Although the special effects in some scenes are astoundingly good looking, as a whole, the film is too slow moving and frustratingly PG, and acheives none of the profundity of the book.

Breathe In

– Firmly and shamelessly ploughs the inevitable furrow for a family drama of its ilk, but does so with sensitivity and powerful, if understated performances. Who would have thought Felicity Jones is 30 years old…

April 2014

Philomena

– Top quality drama with Steve Coogan, to my recollection, in his finest dramatic role. Dame Judi Dench is just marvellous as always. Not a genre I’m fond of, but a very solid movie.

Rising Sun

– Convoluted but nonetheless intriguing detective drama. A bit too long.

Calvary

– excellent, profoundly affecting drama. At once comic and crushingly sad, it raises all the right issues and asks all the unanswerable questions. Terrific.

Line of Duty S01

– A brilliant, understated cop drama series from the BBC. Not as good as the Shadow Line, but operating in similarly slick territory. Unfortunately, the end is unsatisfying. Typical beeb.

Locke

– innovative and aesthetic cinematography disguise an otherwise drab drama, despite Tom Hardy’s best attempts.

The Company You Keep

– The usual ‘journalist uncovers conspiracy’ style thriller, but Redford’s gentle direction and acting endears itself. Leans a tad heavily on the drama for the runtime.

Noah

– Devoid of any redeeming features. A badly misjudged, badly executed drama epic and without a doubt Aronofsky’s worst movie to date – even surpassing The Fountain. Angeringly terrible.

Orphan Black S01

– Infuriating and cliched dialogue and glossy set design undermine multiple strong performances from Tatiana Maslany. It’s a pity the whole show is so shallow, as the clone storyline isn’t novel by a long shot either so it really has very little going for it. This is bad TV, of the type that will get multiple series and entertain families across the globe because it’s “light hearted, fun” and requires dick all thought. Depressing.

A Man Escaped

– An old french prison escape drama. Black and white and clearly extremely dated, but nonetheless gripping.

Rectify S01

– Refreshingly original premise for a TV drama, but the pacing is off, and as a result, the story progression feels unnecessarily laboured. I will watch Season 2, though I keenly hope that story developments are a little more rapid and enticing. Strong performances all round though, and the novel programming should be commended.

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?

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.

March 2014

The Guardian

– For all its cheese and swagger, this is an enjoyable and engrossing drama about the US Coast Guard. Costner and Kutcher work well together.

Compliance

– Obscene and angering. If you know the story, you don’t need to watch the film. It follows the circumstances of the real life hoax almost exactly and makes you feel morbid and complicit. Unfathomable that anyone could behave so stupidly as all of those involved evidently did.

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.

Polisse

– Albeit primarily a drama, this treads the very fine line between comedy and tragedy with aplomb. In turns heartbreaking, unsettling, jawdropping and hilarious with an ending that feels like a punch in the stomach.

Starred Up

– Terrific, powerful performances from the entire cast, in particular Ben Mendohlsen who is just fantastic. Standard, tense, exciting prison drama fare.

February 2014

The Truth About Emanuel

– Original, albeit very peculiar, almost surreal drama about a girl understanding motherhood and love. Tries too hard and is no doubt horribly contrived, but nonetheless possesses a certain intangible quality.

Before Sunrise

– A sweet, romantic, if overly contrived drama fuelled by lengthy dialogue and the charm and optimism of young lovers.

The Great Buck Howard

– Lacklustre but ultimately feel good drama. Malkovich carries it.

January 2014

Behind the Candelabra

– Interesting biopic drama detailing Liberace’s personal life, specifically his gay relationship with Scott Thorson.

12 Years A Slave

– Bleak, unflinching and harrowing drama charting the life of a black slave stolen from his family. The remarkably stellar cast turn amazing performances, but ultimately this is unlikely to inform any further than any decent school education already should have, and it’s just about as enjoyable as a history lesson too. No doubt an oscar contender, but look elsewhere for cinematic escapism.

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.

Dallas Buyers Club

– Incredible tour de force from director Jean-Marc Vallée and absolute powerhouse performances from both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Superb drama offering real emotional complexity whilst educating those who may be ignorant of such a tragic time.

Rush

– Very compelling and engrossing, even for an F1 sports drama, but with such an unlikeable, despicable lead and dull (whilst admirable) support, it leaves you with no-one to really root for. Definitely above average and worth watching though.

December 2013

A Bronx Tale

– Incredible all round, fiery performances and an extremely heartfelt story. Unmissable.

Bloody Sunday

– Harrowing, unflinching, almost nausea-inducing biopic of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry. Amazing film.

Local Hero

– I didn’t give this as much attention as it perhaps deserved, but it struck me as a light-hearted, feel good comedy drama with an appreciation for natural beauty and community friendships. The characters are kind of loveable in their absurdity, and it’s an effective tourist ad for Scotland but I’m not entirely sure why it was quite so well received by audiences.

True Confessions

– DeNiro and Duvall offer up equally strong performances as brothers at odds in this thoughtful, familial crime drama. Not electric, but impressive nonetheless.

Disconnect

– A tightly confected drama weaving three tragedies together and exploring the fragility of relationships in the online age. Good if a little on the nose.

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.

November 2013

The Selfish Giant

– A beautifully crafted drama, editing and shot composition bang on the money. Unfortunately, the story itself feels contrived and lacking, a deliberate tear jerker that fails to impact.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

– Excellent, criminally unsung buddy heist drama. Perhaps Jeff Bridges best role, and the most laid back I’ve seen Clint too. Cinematography, dialogue and soundtrack are spot on.

Searching for Bobby Fischer

– an excellent, touching and well acted drama charting the development of a chess prodigy from anonymity to acclaim.

Middle Men

– Not a bad film by any means, and competently crafted, but the cocktail of opulence and licentiousness fails to evoke any kind of emotional investment, ultimately resulting in a sexy but vapid and dull experience.

The Way Way Back

– Touching adolescent drama featuring the usual charismatic display from Sam Rockwell. Would have worked better as a series than a standalone film, and despite the water park setting, the themes feel pretty worn. Still a worthwhile film though.

The Shooting Party

– Insightful period drama surrounding a bourgeois country estate set against the backdrop of impending war. All star cast deliver fine performances. More allegorical and subtly illuminating than eventful.

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.

The State Within (TV)

– After a slow start, this conspiracy thriller soon picks up pace and fires on all cyclinders, keeping you utterly gripped. Brilliant BBC Drama.

The Postman

– An epic, uplifting story. It’s a travesty it has been so underrated and received such little exposure. Too cheesy but otherwise a compelling and heartfelt film.

October 2013

King of Devil’s Island

– Captivating, powerful and well composed prison drama.

The Verdict

– Riveting crime drama. Terrific performance from Newman.

Adaptation

– This kind of surrealist, existential drama isn’t really my bag. Cage gives a dynamic show but overall I found it pretentious at best and soporific at worst.

Requiem for a Dream

– horrifying, savagely raw and unflinching exploration of the impacts of addiction. Albeit pessimistic and depressing, this is a masterfully spun web of stories; a powerful dose of some ugly bad shit. If you weren’t afraid of drugs, you will be now.

Cache (Hidden)

– precisely and very deliberately crafted psychological drama. Will keep you guessing beyond the ending. Unflinching, unafraid and very thought provoking. My first Haneke and I’m deeply impressed.

September 2013

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…

Mud

– an almost disturbingly mature performance from Ty Sheridan propels this tremendous, dynamic and thought provoking drama. McConaughy delivers perhaps his finest role. A very human, almost existential tale of growing up, love and friendship.

Top of the Lake

(TV) – Despite the hype, even with top (if not novel) performances, this falls short of an entertaining series. Mildly curious at best, mind numblingly boring at worst, the acting and cinematography cannot save a fundamentally uninteresting drama.

The Iceman

– A solid period biopic detailing the life of a contract killer. For all its executions and mob bosses, it remains a morbid family drama at heart.

Man on the Moon

– inspirational biopic of showbiz legend Andy Kaufman, with Carrey as the main man. Brilliant and largely accurate with an open minded ending…

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.

August 2013

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.

Hummingbird [Redemption]

– Oximoronically, this is both a more interesting and varied role for Statham, and simultaneously a more boring film. A healthy dose of fisticuffs is included, but there’s a drama unfolding that is considerably more emotive than we have come to expect of the Stath-meister.

The Kids Are Alright

– Albeit a moderately novel premise, ultimately this is just another off-beat drama of the dysfunctional family variety. Not hugely compelling but easy viewing. Ruffalo carries it working some David Duchovny charm.

July 2013

Phil Spector

– Excellent character piece by Al Pacino. Very compelling biopic.

June 2013

Before Night Falls (Antes que Anochezca)

– told episodically, this biographical drama isn’t easy viewing. It is slow and long and feels longer still. That said, it is well made and well acted. If you like poetic cinema, Javier Bardem and the melody of spanish, then this might hold something for you.

May 2013

George Washington

– a slow, meandering tale detailing the lead up and aftermath of a tragic incident between young children. Simple, empathetic and delicately told, but too deadpan and abstract to be entirely compelling.

April 2013

Broadchurch (TV)

– excellent whodunit in the style of The Killing with phenomenal performances all round. The conclusion is faintly predictable a few episodes too soon and one or two strands are left unresolved, but all things considered, this is a well above average mystery drama that comes highly recommended.

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.

Viridiana

– Fast moving but utterly bizarre surrealist story of a nun and her gradual understanding of the futility and flaws of the human condition. Superb direction and edgy script.

Los Lunes al Sol (Mondays in the Sun)

– beautiful, funny, moving. Everything a good film should be. The script and direction show great humanity. Terrific performances from all, especially Bardem. A favourite.

February 2013

War Horse

– a pretty spectacular feat of film making by Spielberg in all fairness. Not my thing, but if you don’t mind twee and you’ve a penchant for war time drama (and horses) then this will no doubt tick all the boxes.

Flowers of War

– an unflinching and often cruel war drama. Bale plays to perfection as always, but the sloppy editing and trite script ultimately disappoints somewhat.

Punch-Drunk Love

– A peculiar, oddball romantic drama. Not especially recommended, although it’s something completely different from the norm if that’s what you’re after. PT Anderson’s worst.

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

– a tremendous, powerful film, and one I hope never to watch again. Intensely miserable, wretched and emotionally harrowing. Spectacular acting and script unlike any I’ve seen.

No

– An excellent, mild and uncontroversial historical drama about the ad campaign that overthrew Pinochet in Chile. Great acting and a subtle, dry script make for compelling viewing.

The Painted Veil

– a surprisingly effective and accomplished drama surrounding a doctor and his wife in the midst of a cholera outbreak. Marred by too much contrivance, this is nonetheless a beautiful piece of cinema.

Shadow Dancer

– a solid, if unremarkable, slow burning spy drama with an unexpected conclusion.

January 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

– Beautiful, intriguing, affecting, and overwhelmingly moving, the best film I’ve seen in a very long while.

December 2012

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.

November 2012

Jar City

– a classic, dark scandinavian crime drama. Solid but underwhelming

Lantana

– an excellent premise and acting, but the pacing is off, encumbering this otherwise interesting drama

Argo

– Very well paced and structured with a few laughs for good measure. A compelling drama from Affleck.

October 2012

Machine Gun Preacher

– interesting but ludicrously composed biopic. Quite shoddy.

City Hall

– Not half as gripping and compelling as it no doubt wanted to be, but nonetheless a solid enough political drama

Bang Bang You’re Dead

– brutally intense and visceral, Ben Foster wows in this drama about school bullying. Mindblowing.

Ruby Sparks

– A worthwhile romantic drama, misleadingly labeled as a comedy.

The Hour (TV)

– British television of a rarely excellent calibre. No Shadow Line, but nonetheless an intelligent and well conceived spy drama.

September 2012

The Hunter

– better than average, slowburning drama. Finds it’s footing too late.

May 2012

Lake of Fire

– You think you know where you stand on abortion? Try this for size. Deeply moving and nauseating in equal part.

April 2012

Pusher 2

– not at all where I expected the follow up to start, but another compelling, tragic tale nonetheless.

March 2012

A Perfect World

– a slow moving but endearing road trip movie

February 2012

The Devils Double

– Cooper is excellent, but as a biopic this is no Mesrine

December 2011

The Lives of Others

– an intensely moving drama about the Stasi

The Debt

– (just about) above average period thriller

Dog Pound

– raw drama set in a youth detention centre, beautiful soundtrack. Butcher is one to watch

Rabbit Hole

– depressing and dull drama exploring parents post trauma

The Veteran

– An unusual drama. Kebbell should do more like this (not shooting up estates)

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

– touching but dated drama with solid performances all round

Animal Kingdom

– hard hitting drama, pretty gritty

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

– not a favourite but a sound sort-of-faux-biopic

A River Runs Through It

– a wonderful film in every sense. Enchanting and emotional. It’ll leave a mark.

Black Death

– an exciting gory medieval period piece with sword fighting and black magic galore

Cyrus

– bizarrely emotive offbeat comedy, highly recommended

The Basketball Diaries

– harrowing and tragic drama with phenomenal acting all round

The Dead Girl

– well constructed but forgettable drama surrounding the story of a dead girl

The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro)

– tragic and heartbreaking true story about euthanasia

The Fighter

– the bickering family environ makes for a headache inducing watch despite spectacular acting and gripping drama

Girl, Interrupted

– much better than anticipated; a dramatic, tragic psychodrama

August 2010

The Secret Life of Bees

– Tragic and heartwarming

June 2010

Mean Creek

– disturbing, brutal, moving

May 2010

Reign Over Me

– Moving But Slow