While We’re Young (2015)

While We're Young Reviewed

It's A Wonderful Midlife

Black Mirror: Series 1

Black Mirror: Series 1

The Twilight Zone for the iPhone Generation

Still Life (2015)

Still Life Reviewed

Multiple Funerals and No Weddings

Wild (2015)

Wild Reviewed

A Hike To Remember

Kon-Tiki (2014)

Kon-Tiki Reviewed

All Is Not Lost

White Bird In A Blizzard (2015)

February 27, 2015 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: A chilly suburban mystery lies at the centre of this dreamy, sexually charged teen drama from indie filmmaker Gregg Araki. Opening in the late eighties, it tells the story of Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley), an attractive, hormonal teenager who is gradually coming to terms with her burgeoning sexuality. One day, Kat’s life is suddenly changed forever, as she returns home to discover that her mother (played by the reliably watchable Eva Green) has disappeared without a trace. From here, the story builds to a conclusion that, […]

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While We’re Young (2015)

February 24, 2015 No Comments

Reviewed for Empire as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2015: Do you ever spend time with people who are noticeably younger than you? If so, are any of them partial to the kind of tightly fitting jeans that resemble denim-coloured leggings? Being honest, does their company tend to make you feel relatively old or depressingly uncool? For those who answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, there’s a good chance that you’ll find plenty to enjoy in While We’re Young, a funny, perceptive, well-observed comedy-drama that pokes fun at […]

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Black Mirror: Series 1

February 6, 2015 No Comments

Reviewed for The Guardian: In the first episode of Black Mirror, the Prime Minister is faced with a rather unusual dilemma. After learning that the royal Princess has been kidnapped, he discovers that she will executed unless he agrees — wait for it — to have sex with a pig on live TV at 4pm. Initially, online polls and social media indicate that the nation does not expect the PM to comply. But when new developments give rise to public mood shifts, his trusted advisors urge him to reconsider. On […]

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Still Life (2015)

February 3, 2015 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This melancholic, low-key British drama opens with a series of diverse funerals. At each one, the only person in attendance is John May (Eddie Marsan), a lonely council worker who organises the burial service whenever someone in his borough dies alone. Doing much more than the job requires him to, John is unusually meticulous and thorough, acting as a detective of sorts as he tracks down any friends or relatives who might wish to pay their respects to the deceased. After being made redundant, he persuades […]

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Wild (2015)

January 12, 2015 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: Back in 1995, a troubled young woman named Cheryl Strayed decided to hike 1100 miles in order to find herself. Along the way, she encountered a variety of challenges, setbacks and obstacles, many of which are recreated by filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee in this episodic wilderness drama. Punctuated by a series of flashback sequences, the film finds Strayed (played by Reese Witherspoon) reflecting on her death of her beloved mother (Laura Dern), as well as the years of self-destructive behaviour that followed. On the plus side, Vallee […]

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Kon-Tiki (2014)

December 10, 2014 No Comments

Back in 1947, six men sailed across the Pacific Ocean on a primitive raft. Led by a Norwegian explorer named Thor Heyerdahl, they travelled from Peru to Polynesia without the aid of modern technology, aiming to prove a scientific theory by recreating a legendary journey that occurred 1500 years ago. In Kon-Tiki, this perilous voyage is streamlined into a relatively formulaic dramatisation. We are presented with some striking shots of the ocean, but there is very little sense of drama, tension or excitement, while the crewmates are so poorly defined […]

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Electricity (2014)

December 9, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: Epilepsy and fractured family ties are two of the main concerns in this naturalistic British drama. The person dealing with both is Lily (Agyness Deyn), a young woman who suffers from the kind of debilitating seizures that make it difficult to lead a normal life. In spite of this, however, she travels to London after the sudden death of her mother, deciding to track down her long-lost brother (Christian Cooke) to ensure he gets his share of the inheritance. Along the way, filmmaker Bryn Higgins does […]

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The Face Of Love (2014)

December 5, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: What would you do if you came across someone who looked exactly like your dead spouse? In The Face Of Love, this dilemma presents itself to Nikki (Annette Bening), a middle-aged widow who is taken aback when she sees an exact double of her late husband, Garrett (Ed Harris). Feeling alive for the first time in years, she tracks down the doppelganger — a divorced art teacher named Tom (also Harris) — and approaches him. Before long, the two of them have entered into an intoxicating yet […]

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The Imitation Game (2014)

December 3, 2014 No Comments

The story of Alan Turing is a remarkable one. During World War II, he built an innovative machine that allowed the British government to break the supposedly unbreakable Enigma code, which Nazi Germany had been using to encrypt their major communications. The Allies went on to achieve victory, of course, and Turing’s work was hailed by Winston Churchill as the single biggest contribution to their triumph. In The Imitation Game, this story is streamlined into a crowd-pleasing thriller. The end result is undoubtedly formulaic, with many scenes playing out in […]

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Mea Culpa (2014)

December 1, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: Fans of fast-paced action movies will find much to enjoy in this bruising thriller from promising French filmmaker Fred Cavaye. It centres on the haunted figure of Simon (Vincent Lindon), a taciturn former cop whose ten-year-old son (Max Baissette) is targeted by a gang of murderous criminals. Deciding that attack is the best form of defence, Simon teams up with his loyal ex-partner (Gilles Lellouche) and sets about taking the fight to them. The story that follows is filled with a number of muscular shootouts and […]

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Get On Up (2014)

November 20, 2014 No Comments

One of the main problems with Get On Up is the way that it jumps around in time. Chronicling the life of influential musician James Brown — aka The Godfather Of Soul — Tate Taylor’s biopic hops between various time periods in such a haphazard fashion that it ends up feeling disjointed. Brown’s longstanding relationship with his right-hand man, Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis), acts as a narrative through-line of sorts, but the constant back-and-forth plays havoc with the film’s momentum. The good news, though, is that Chadwick Boseman is outstanding in the […]

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The Drop (2014)

November 19, 2014 No Comments

The Drop is both a simmering crime drama and a sombre, low-key story about damaged people trying to repair their lives. Set in the working-class neighbourhoods of Brooklyn, it revolves around local bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy), a good-natured loner who works in a place that occasionally serves as a drop point for the mob’s dirty money. The establishment in question is ran by his cousin, a former tough guy named Marv (James Gandolfini), but it is owned by a crew of ruthless Chechen gangsters who took control several years ago. One […]

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Life Itself (2014)

November 14, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This engaging documentary chronicles the life and times of celebrated film critic Roger Ebert, who sadly passed away in 2013. Accompanied by passages from his own memoir, it traces a path from Ebert’s days as a fledgling journalist to the tragic battle with cancer that robbed him of his lower jaw. Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) makes great use of archive video clips and talking-head interviews, as well as candid footage of Ebert during the last few months of his life. James doesn’t shy away from […]

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Frontera (2014)

November 14, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: The wrong man is accused of murder in this understated immigration drama. The man in question is Miguel (Michael Pena), a Mexican immigrant who crosses the border with the hope of finding a better life for his family. Shortly after crossing, however, he befriends a kindly woman (Amy Madigan) just moments before she is involved in a fatal accident. The local authorities believe that Miguel is responsible, but the woman’s husband (Ed Harris) — a retired Sheriff — isn’t so sure. At this point, it’s worth […]

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Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?! (2014)

November 9, 2014 No Comments

The third instalment in Debbie Isitt’s Christmas-themed series is the kind of substandard offering that gives kids’ movies a bad name. Indeed, everything about it feels amateurish and half-hearted, from the tiresome musical numbers to the casually preposterous plot. Taking us back to St. Bernadette’s primary school, the story centres on new arrival Mr. Shepherd (Martin Clunes), a straight-laced teacher who — wait for it — loses his memory after being kicked in the head by a donkey. Some might argue that Nativity 3 is aimed at young children, but […]

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Set Fire To The Stars (2014)

November 7, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This semi-biographical drama chronicles a week in the life of revered poet Dylan Thomas (Celyn Jones), following him as he embarks on a turbulent tour of performed readings in the United States during the early 1950s. Organising the tour is John Malcolm Brinnin (Elijah Wood), a buttoned-up academic who spends most of his time attempting to keep Thomas — a hero of his — out of trouble. Despite his best efforts, however, the duo are soon kicked out of their swanky hotel, and John decides that the best course […]

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The Skeleton Twins (2014)

November 7, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: While the presence of comedic actors Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader suggests a light-hearted gag-fest, The Skeleton Twins is best described as a bittersweet dramedy. There are plenty of laughs throughout, but the tone is melancholic and the film goes to some dark places, as estranged siblings Maggie (Wiig) and Milo (Hader) are reunited after the latter’s failed suicide attempt. Though Maggie seems to have her life together, it soon becomes clear that she’s just as messed up as Milo is. From here, the story follows a fairly predictable […]

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The Best Man Holiday (2013)

November 1, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This belated sequel revolves around Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs), an author who is persuaded to write a biography of NFL star Lance Sullivan (Morris Chestnut). Harper and Lance used to be best friends, but following a serious betrayal — which is recapped during the opening titles — they’ve barely spoken in years. Struggling financially and with a baby on the way, Harper accepts an invitation to an extended Christmas get-together at Lance’s mansion, which several friends will be attending. The drama is generally effective, although each […]

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Night Train To Lisbon (2014)

November 1, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: An ageing academic embarks on a journey of self-discovery in this old-fashioned European thriller. Adapted from Pascal Mercier’s best-selling novel, it invites us into the life of Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), a lonely Swiss teacher who travels to Lisbon after preventing a young woman from committing suicide. Once there, he becomes captivated by a book she left behind and attempts to track down the author, a Portuguese doctor named Amadeu de Prado (Jack Huston). From here, the film switches between past and present, detailing how Amadeu […]

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A Little Chaos (2014)

October 21, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: A Little Chaos is a British costume drama about two landscape architects who fall in love. Thankfully, it isn’t as stilted or dreary as this description might suggest, as Alan Rickman ensures that his second film in the director’s chair — following The Winter Guest (1997) — is moderately charming and enjoyable. The story takes place in 17th-century Paris, where King Louis XIV (played by Rickman himself) is looking to develop the gardens of Versailles. Given the importance and scale of the job, his chief designer, […]

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Wish I Was Here (2014)

October 21, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny: How do you know when it’s time to stop chasing your dreams? In Zach Braff’s second film behind the camera, this dilemma is starting to weigh heavily on Aidan Bloom (Braff), an out-of-work actor who relies on his wife (Kate Hudson) to pay the bills. After learning that his father (Mandy Patinkin) is dying of cancer, Aidan begins to seriously re-evaluate his life, while financial problems force him to home-school the kids (Joey King, Pierce Gagnon) for the rest of the semester. The biggest problem with […]

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Palo Alto (2014)

October 18, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This dreamy tale of wasted youth provides a familiar yet authentic portrait of the teenage experience. It also marks the directorial debut of Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford, niece of Sofia), not to mention the fact that a few members of the cast are related to experienced actors of note. Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric, niece of Julia) stars as April, an introverted virgin who is caught between her feelings for a sensitive stoner named Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val) and an inappropriate relationship […]

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Northern Soul (2014)

October 13, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny: Back in the 60s and 70s, a generation of music fans fell in love with an underground dance movement known as northern soul. Flourishing in the north of England, it was embraced by disenfranchised youths who sought out venues — such as Wigan Casino — where they could spend all night dancing to obscure tracks that had been imported from America. In Northern Soul, we’re invited into this world via John (newcomer Elliot James Langridge), a reclusive Lancashire schoolboy who, when we first meet him, hasn’t […]

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The Maze Runner (2014)

October 13, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny: The Maze Runner boasts an intriguing, Twilight Zone-style premise. In the opening sequence, a young man (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up in a moving freight lift with no idea of who he is or how he got there. Once it reaches the top, he finds himself in a grassy clearing which lies at the heart of an impossibly giant maze. Greeted by a gathering of young men who’ve been trapped there for three years, he discovers that the only way out is to find a safe path through the maze… From […]

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The Calling (2014)

October 10, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: A series of religiously motivated murders drive the plot in this chilly Canadian crime thriller. The setting is a small, wintry town in Ontario, where world-weary detective Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) discovers that a local woman has been gruesomely murdered. After more victims are found, Hazel and a recently transferred officer (Topher Grace) notice a pattern, leading them to a committed serial killer with rather unusual motives. The subsequent investigation contains a few twists and some grisly moments, but it doesn’t manage to provide any genuine […]

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Still The Enemy Within (2014)

October 1, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This impassioned documentary chronicles the infamous miners’ strike that took place in Britain between 1984 and 1985. Buoyed by two successful strikes in the early ’70s, the National Union of Mineworkers — the most powerful union in the UK at that point — took action when it was announced that various pits were to be closed across the UK. Approximately 160,000 coal miners went on strike (not to mention all the family members and supporters who joined them), resulting in an ongoing conflict (read: war) with Margaret Thatcher’s […]

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Life After Beth (2014)

September 29, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny: Life After Beth is a romantic zombie comedy drama. Or, as anyone fond of cinematic abbreviations might say, a rom-zom-com-dram. Dane DeHaan plays Zach, a grief-stricken teenager who is struggling to cope with the recent death of his beloved girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza). Not long after the funeral, however, Beth turns up at her parents’ house as if nothing has happened, and it soon becomes clear that something isn’t quite right. Beth’s zombification is a gradual process, which is an interesting change to the norm, and […]

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Ghost In The Shell (1995)

September 29, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny: It’s no exaggeration to say that Ghost In The Shell is one of the most influential sci-fi films of the last two decades. Set in a futuristic cyberpunk world, Mamoru Oshii’s anime classic has inspired numerous live-action pictures over the years — including, most notably, The Matrix. Adapted from Masamune Shirow’s manga series, it follows an elite public security agency as they attempt to track down an elusive hacker known as the Puppet Master. In truth, the film is occasionally guilty of clumsy exposition, and the […]

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300: Rise Of An Empire (2014)

September 25, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny: Part prequel, part sidequel (parallelquel?) and part sequel, this belated follow-up to 300 takes place before, during and after the events of Zack Snyder’s 2007 epic. It details how previous antagonist Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) became a towering God-King, but the focus is an ongoing sea battle between the Athenian fleet and the Persian navy. Leading the former is Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), a war hero who attempts to hold off Xerxes’ vast armada in the hope that the forces of Greece will unite behind him. What follows […]

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Night Moves (2014)

September 12, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2014: Night Moves is perhaps best described as a low-key arthouse thriller. It contains very little dialogue and no conventional action whatsoever, existing at the opposite end of the spectrum from the kind of pacey, shootout-filled offerings that the word “thriller” typically brings to mind. The story takes place in Oregon, where three environmental activists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard) conspire to blow up a hydro-electric dam. The first half of the film details the preparation involved, as well as the […]

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Starred Up (2014)

September 8, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2014: At the centre of this brutal prison drama is a star-making performance from young British actor Jack O’Connell. The film has numerous qualities and strengths, but it’s O’Connell’s electrifying, fearless, attention-grabbing display that really stands out and makes the difference. The former Skins regular plays Eric Love, a violent young offender who — through a twist of fate — is transferred to the same adult institution as his estranged father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn). After Eric starts to cause problems for both […]

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Bad Neighbours (2014)

September 5, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny:  What do you do if the neighbours won’t keep the noise down? New parents Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) are faced with this problem in Nicholas Stoller’s latest comedy, as their quiet suburban life is upset when a party-loving fraternity moves in next door. Though both households reach an agreement, relations soon deteriorate and the Radners find themselves waging war with frat president Teddy (Zac Efron) and his booze-chugging brotherhood. The main problem with the various pranks that follow is that they generate […]

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Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)

August 27, 2014 No Comments

With Sin City, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez took Frank Miller’s pulpy graphic novel and essentially replicated it on the big screen. The result was visually stunning, as Rodriguez employed high-definition cameras and green-screen technology to reproduce the monochrome panels of Miller’s comic. At the same time, however, the constant violence grew repetitive after a while — as did the endless hard-boiled narration — and the film itself made for a relatively one-note experience. Arriving nine years later, this belated sequel takes us back to the rain-lashed streets of Basin City, offering […]

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World War Z (2013)

August 3, 2014 No Comments

World War Z endured one of the most notoriously troubled productions in recent memory. The budget spiralled out of control, the release date was pushed back six months, the script required additional rewrites, and the entire third act had to be reworked via extensive reshoots. But while many critics predicted a disaster of epic proportions, the finished film is far better than expected. Focusing on a single character, the story bears very little resemblance to Max Brooks’ source novel (which is told from multiple perspectives), but the film works well in […]

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The Nut Job (2014)

July 30, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: A promising set-up and a decent voice cast aren’t enough to elevate this child-friendly animated caper. Expanded from a ten-minute short, the film revolves around Surly the Squirrel (Will Arnett), a self-serving rogue who is banished from the park by his fellow animals after accidentally destroying their food reserves. Heading into the city, Surly stumbles upon a nut shop that has enough food to help him and the entire community survive the impending winter. Young audiences will be entertained by the slapstick and frantic set pieces that […]

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Begin Again (2014)

July 10, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: Two damaged souls attempt to heal themselves through music in this uplifting, above-average crowdpleaser. The first is Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a washed-up record producer whose glory days are a distant memory. The second is Gretta (Keira Knightley), a British singer-songwriter who is heartbroken after splitting up with her boyfriend-cum-recording partner (real-life musician Adam Levine). The characters talk about the virtue of artistic integrity, and they’re quick to condemn the manufactured studio approach, but the film itself is just as commercial as it is authentic. Still, some […]

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The Anomaly (2014)

July 4, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This admirably ambitious sci-fi thriller from British writer-director-actor Noel Clarke combines elements of Total Recall, The Bourne Identity and The Matrix. It takes place in the near future, where an ex-soldier named Ryan (Clarke) keeps waking up in different situations with absolutely no memory of what has happened during the intervening periods. Eventually, Ryan discovers that someone else is taking control of his mind and body during these intervals, and that he only has 9 minutes and 47 seconds each time he awakens as himself to take […]

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Hellion (2014)

June 24, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014: Hellion is a low-key family drama that explores grief and responsibility. Former Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul features as Hollis, a boozy single parent who’s been absent — both emotionally and physically — since the death of his wife. The film’s title, however, refers to Hollis’s son Jacob (Josh Wiggins), an angry 13-year-old whose delinquent behaviour has left him one incident away from juvenile detention. As a result of the former’s absence and the latter’s behaviour, Child […]

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Jonathan Glazer Interview

June 13, 2014 No Comments

I interviewed director Jonathan Glazer for Grolsch Film Works about his new film, Under The Skin. The full article can be found here. Under The Skin heralds the long-awaited return of British director Jonathan Glazer, the helmer behind stylised gangster flick Sexy Beast (2000) and underrated reincarnation drama Birth (2004). He’s also responsible for some of the most iconic and memorable ads of the late 90s and early 00s (remember those Guinness commercials with the surfing horses?), not to mention his music videos for Radiohead, Blur and Massive Attack.  Following a nine-year hiatus, Glazer’s third […]

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Mark Kermode Interview

June 13, 2014 No Comments

I interviewed film critic Mark Kermode for The List about his new book, Hatchet Job. The full article can be found here. As the nation’s most recognisable movie reviewer, Mark Kermode is a pretty busy guy. Recently named as The Observer’s chief film critic, he balances writing with his duties as one half of Radio 5 Live’s flagship review show, simultaneously contributing content to Sight & Sound, The Culture Show, Newsnight Review and the BBC. Not to mention, of course, the fact that he spends an unhealthy (read: enviable) amount of time in darkened screening rooms. […]

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Dexter Fletcher Interview

June 13, 2014 No Comments

I interviewed actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher for The Skinny about his new film, Sunshine On Leith. The full article can be found here. Over the last few decades, Scottish cinema has enjoyed something of a renaissance. Spearheaded by the celebrated films by the likes of Danny Boyle, Peter Mullan, Lynne Ramsay, Paul Laverty and Ken Loach, this resurgence has undoubtedly become characterised by a focus on the grimmer side of Scottish life; 90% of the time these films are accompanied by the adjective ‘gritty.’ Either functioning as gritty gangster dramas or working-class […]

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Joss Whedon Interview

June 13, 2014 No Comments

I was part of a round-table interview with writer-director Joss Whedon as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2013. The full article is over at Eye For Film. Okay, so you’re Joss Whedon. You’ve just finished The Avengers, a huge, star-filled CGI blockbuster that triumphed with fans while smashing box offices like Bruce Banner having a temper tantrum, but what now? How do you follow that up? What do you do for an encore? Well, as it turns out, the answer is to do something completely different. And by completely […]

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

May 16, 2014 No Comments

One of the first things to note about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is that it is significantly lighter in tone than the first instalment. While The Amazing Spider-Man was relatively grounded — aside from the presence of a giant lizard creature, that is — this primary coloured sequel is bright and cartoon-like by comparison. There are dark moments here and there (including a brave if predictable third act development), but on the whole it plays like a live-action version of a graphic novel. Unfortunately, though, the film is too cartoony […]

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Mood Indigo (2014)

March 1, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Grolsch Film Works as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2014: There are few filmmakers working today who can match Michel Gondry in the imagination department. His best film to date remains Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, which serves as a dazzling example of the oddball auteur’s ability to marry inventive visual trickery with an emotionally resonant story. Mood Indigo, by contrast, has far too much of the former and not nearly enough of the latter, as both the characters and the story are completely overwhelmed by […]

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Suits: Season 1

January 19, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for The Guardian: Set in the shark-infested world of corporate law, Suits is populated by smart, well-dressed professionals who exchange witty remarks in glassy office buildings that look out over the New York skyline. It’s a slick legal drama — with emphasis on the word “slick” — although very few scenes take place in the courtroom. Instead, the lawyers spend their time trying to out-manoeuvre each other as if they were playing legislative poker. The show revolves around Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), a genius-level college dropout who is wasting his […]

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