Fresh Meat: Series 3

April 21, 2014 No Comments

The first two series of Fresh Meat combined sharp writing with likeable performances to craft a brilliantly observed depiction of the student experience. Happily, this third series — which sees the gang entering their second year at university — is largely more of the same. At times, the show is slightly more exaggerated than it needs to be (see Vod getting married or JP trying to kill Kingsley), but the dialogue is littered with inspired lines and the character-based humour is consistently amusing. Jack Whitehall continues to dominate as deluded […]

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The Sopranos: Season 3

April 20, 2014 No Comments

The third season of David Chase’s seminal mob saga isn’t as tightly-plotted as the first or second, but all the creative qualities that we’ve come to expect are present and correct. As always, Chase and his team deliver impressive scripts while juggling multiple storylines (the FBI put the Sopranos under surveillance, Christopher becomes a made man, Meadow goes to college) and the acting remains exceptional throughout. In addition, a few new characters are added into the mix, including Annabella Sciorra as an attractive yet unstable car saleswoman who catches Tony’s […]

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Locke (2014)

April 8, 2014 2 Comments

Reviewed as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2014: Aside from a minute or two at the very start, the entire duration of Locke takes place within the confines of a moving car. There are no crashes or chases. No flashbacks or cutaway sequences. Just one man making a series of phone calls – many of which are about building logistics and concrete – as he drives along the motorway at night. But thanks to a mesmerising performance from Tom Hardy (the only actor to appear on screen) and an […]

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Don Jon (2013)

March 27, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets to grips with porn addiction in his first film behind the camera, delivering a confident and consistently well observed comedy-drama that offers plenty of insight into modern relationships. He also casts himself in the title role, playing a promiscuous, gym-pumped Jersey boy whose life revolves around one-night stands and an unhealthy amount of internet pornography. “The Don”, as his friends refer to him, curbs his womanising ways after meeting a feisty bombshell named Barbara Sugarman (Johansson). The problem, however, is that […]

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Sons Of Anarchy: Season 6

March 14, 2014 No Comments

Revolving around Jax’s ongoing efforts to legitimise the club, the penultimate season of Kurt Sutter’s Shakespearean biker drama is another consistently enjoyable ride. On reflection, it isn’t quite as strong as the previous two seasons, and some of the storylines feel like they’ve wandered in from a violent soap opera (witness Tara’s fake pregnancy). But there are plenty of intense moments and a few shocking developments along the way, as Jax’s attempts to get SAMCRO out of the gun-running business leave him with more blood on his hands then ever […]

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1: Life On The Limit (2013)

March 14, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Charting the history of Formula One racing, Paul Crowder’s roaring documentary provides a comprehensive overview of the sport and its sobering, tragedy-littered evolution. Spanning several decades, the film chronicles how fatalities and horrific accidents used to be regular occurrences due to a widespread lack of proper safety measures. It was a time, according to former world champion Jackie Stewart, when “motor racing was really dangerous, and sex was safe”. Michael Fassbender’s narration is subdued to a fault, but Crowder has assembled a wealth of […]

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Starlet (2012)

March 7, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Set in California’s San Fernando Valley, this modest indie drama offers a warm and quietly affecting tale of cross-generational friendship. In her first leading role, Dree Hemingway (daughter of Mariel, great-granddaughter of Ernest) stars as Jane, a twenty-something ‘actress’ who purchases several second-hand items from an elderly widow named Sadie (Besedka Johnson). When it turns out that one of these items has $10,000 hidden inside, a combination of curiosity and guilt leads Jane to work her way into Sadie’s life and an unlikely friendship […]

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Birth (2004)

March 2, 2014 No Comments

Nicole Kidman delivers one of the best performances of her career in this unusual drama from writer-director Jonathan Glazer, playing a wealthy widow who is convinced by a ten-year-old-boy (Cameron Bright) that he is a reincarnation of her dead husband. The film is likely to split opinion (some simply won’t be able to buy into the premise), and the general lack of answers ensures that it veers between intriguing and frustrating. But while parts of the story don’t make sense, Birth has a hypnotic quality that draws you in, complemented […]

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Sexy Beast (2000)

March 2, 2014 No Comments

More than just another British gangster flick, Sexy Beast is elevated by the stylish direction of debut filmmaker Jonathan Glazer and a terrific central performance from Ray Winstone. That said, the film is undoubtedly dominated by Ben Kingsley’s ferocious supporting turn as skinhead sociopath Don Logan, who arrives in the Costa Del Crime to tempt Winstone’s former safe-cracker out of retirement for one last job. Barking out spiteful insults and oozing aggression from every pore, Logan is such a hateful, curse-happy force of nature that it’s hard to believe he’s […]

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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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Calvary (2014)

March 1, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2014: Part pitch-black comedy, part provocative study of Ireland’s disillusionment with the Catholic Church, Calvary combines amusing dialogue with a series of thought-provoking questions about faith and religion in the modern world. As John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to The Guard, it contains a few of the same ingredients (Brendan Gleeson, caustic humour, a sleepy Irish backdrop) but the end product is far more serious and philosophical by comparison. Gleeson stars as Father James Lavelle, a patient priest who is threatened during confession […]

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The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

February 23, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2014:  The Grand Budapest Hotel is arguably Wes Anderson’s most Wes Anderson-y feature to date, and as such your level of enjoyment will depend on how you feel about the quirky filmmaker and his extremely idiosyncratic style. Over-flowing with whimsy, the film is stuffed to the gills with Anderson’s increasingly familiar trademarks (offbeat humour, distinctive outfits, bright colours, mannered acting) and populated by eccentric characters who are mostly played by his usual collaborators. Stylistically, the writer-director employs the symmetrical framing and side-on […]

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Thor: The Dark World (2013)

February 21, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Considering that the first Thor served as a surprisingly well-judged introduction to the character, it’s fairly disappointing that this second solo outing isn’t able to take things to the next level. Though stunning to look at, the film is overblown and let down by a cluttered, ill-conceived story (revolving around another magical MacGuffin), resulting in an underwhelming experience that never quite comes together in a satisfying manner. Set two years after the original, The Dark World pits Thor (Chris Hemsworth) against Malekith the Accursed […]

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Machete Kills (2013)

February 21, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Developed from a fake trailer that featured in Grindhouse, the first Machete was a deliberately schlocky throwback to the trashy, low-budget exploitation flicks of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Though enjoyable to a point, it soon ran out of steam and the joke wore thin long before the end, as there simply wasn’t enough inspiration to sustain the concept and stretch it out for a couple of hours. This sequel, by comparison, is both sillier and wider in terms of scope, yet it can’t help […]

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Machete (2010)

February 16, 2014 No Comments

Developed from a ‘fake’ trailer that featured in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ill-fated Grindhouse double-bill, Machete is a deliberately schlocky throwback to the trashy, low-budget exploitation flicks of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Craggy-faced character actor Danny Trejo stars as the eponymous killer, who is forced to go on the run after being framed for the attempted murder of a corrupt politician (Robert De Niro). From here, Trejo’s blade-wielding badass carves his way through a succession of opponents, with Rodriguez and co-director Ethan Maniquis crafting a tongue-in-cheek experience that is […]

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Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

February 7, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed as part of the Online Film Critics Society Awards 2013: Following impressive turns in the likes of Killer Joe, Magic Mike and Mud, Matthew McConaughey cements his position as a ‘serious’ actor with an exceptional lead performance in Dallas Buyers Club. Based on a true story, the film stars McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a homophobic, hard-living Texas cowboy who is diagnosed with HIV and told he only has 30 days left to live. Refusing to accept this diagnosis, Ron sources experimental drugs that he uses to treat himself and […]

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The Fifth Estate (2013)

February 2, 2014 No Comments

Dramatising one of the most controversial stories in modern history, The Fifth Estate charts the rise and fall of infamous ‘hacktivist’ Julian Assange. Playing out as a globe-trotting conspiracy thriller, it follows the development and growth of Assange’s news-leaking website WikiLeaks, which achieved worldwide notoriety as an online publisher of classified documents and sensitive information. The film is often guilty of spelling things out and over-simplifying matters, but it’s genuinely absorbing in places and nowhere near as disastrous as many critics have suggested. In terms of how Assange is portrayed, […]

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

January 24, 2014 1 Comment

More of a familiar spy romp than a cerebral espionage thriller, Kenneth Branagh’s long-gestating reboot is disappointingly generic and unremarkable. Functioning as an origin story, the film finds a young, fresh-faced Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) being recruited by a veteran CIA agent (Kevin Costner) after an injury puts paid to his fledgling military career. Employed as a deep-cover analyst on Wall Street, Jack discovers evidence that a powerful Russian businessman (Branagh, pulling double duty) is planning to crash the U.S. economy. There are shades of both Casino Royale and the […]

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The Sopranos: Season 2

January 19, 2014 No Comments

Fusing exceptional performances with cinematic direction and sharp, unpredictable writing, the second season of David Chase’s seminal mob series contains all the same tasty ingredients as the first. Some viewers argue that it isn’t up to the same towering standard (this writer included), and there are a few episodes that feel like filler-ish diversions (the crew’s trip to Italy, Christopher’s attempts at becoming a Hollywood screenwriter). But even though it’s slower and less satisfying, this sophomore year is driven by powerhouse performances and a couple of the show’s most memorable […]

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Breaking Bad: Season 5 – Part 2

January 17, 2014 1 Comment

Over the course of five compelling seasons, Breaking Bad has earned a justifiable reputation as one of the best TV shows of the modern era. Happily, Vince Gilligan and his writers deliver a worthy conclusion that doesn’t disappoint, paying off five years’ worth of build-up with a final batch of episodes that are as gripping and rewarding as we’ve come to expect. Picking up where the previous cliffhanger left off, the second half of season five deals with the fallout from Hank’s toilet-based revelation that his brother-in-law is actually Heisenberg, […]

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The Call (2013)

January 16, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: For the first 45 minutes or so, The Call functions as a reasonably taut abduction thriller. Though familiar and predictable, this section generates a surprising amount of tension and suspense, with underrated filmmaker Brad Anderson (The Machinist) finding inventive ways to stretch out the stripped-down premise for nearly an hour. Halle Berry stars as poodle-permed 911 responder Jordan Turner, an emergency-line operator who is haunted by a call from six months ago where a young girl was kidnapped and murdered. Jordan gets a chance […]

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12 Years A Slave (2014)

January 15, 2014 26 Comments

Reviewed as part of the Online Film Critics Society Awards 2013: 12 Years A Slave is based on a true story that is both genuinely remarkable and utterly horrifying. The year is 1841 and the slave in question is Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free-born black man of reasonable social standing who is abducted and sold into a hellish life of slavery. Over the course of – yup, you guessed it – twelve years, Solomon experiences all manner of cruelty and suffering as he’s traded from one plantation owner to […]

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Hello Ladies: Season 1

January 14, 2014 No Comments

Stephen Merchant is best known for his creative collaborations with Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras, Life’s Too Short), but he’s also a very talented writer and comedian in his own right. Deciding to branch out, the lanky funnyman flies solo for the first time with this eight-part HBO sitcom, drawing on the same ill-fated dating experiences that he explored in his hit stand-up show of the same name. He also plays the lead role as geeky Brit Stuart Pritchard, a Los Angeles-based web designer who frequently (read: always) strikes out with […]

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Delivery Man (2014)

January 14, 2014 No Comments

Delivery Man is familiar territory for both director Ken Scott and star Vince Vaughn. For Scott, it’s an American remake of his reasonably well-received French-language film Starbuck. For Vaughn, it finds him playing yet another affable man-child in the form of delivery truck driver David Wozniak, a debt-riddled forty-something who discovers that sperm he donated many years ago resulted in the birth of 533 children. At its best, the film is mildly diverting and agreeably warm-hearted, while you have to admire a fertility ‘comedy’ in this day and age that […]

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You’re Next (2013)

January 10, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Far more derivative than early reports suggested, this twisty home-invasion thriller is packed with violence and bloodshed but lacking in ideas and originality. Though horror fans might take some enjoyment from all the grisly deaths and creative kills (food blender, anyone?), the relentless slaughter soon grows repetitive and it’s not long before a sense of gore fatigue sets in. Call it ‘goredom’, if you will. The setting is a remote holiday home in the country, where members of a wealthy family and their respective partners […]

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Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

January 6, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: The first Insidious was a largely well-crafted haunted house chiller, boasting a number of effective jump-scares and an impressively sustained sense of creeping dread. With Chapter 2, the same creative team (director James Wan, writer Leigh Whannell) attempt to expand the mythology, but the results are overly-complicated as we cross-cut between two alternate realities and a couple of different time periods. Picking up almost exactly where the original left off, the convoluted narrative finds family man Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson) under the possession of […]

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Last Vegas (2014)

January 5, 2014 No Comments

The set-up for Last Vegas finds four ageing friends (Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline) having a bachelor party in Sin City, and as such you’d be forgiven for anticipating a geriatric cash-in on The Hangover. The reality, however, is surprisingly funny and enjoyable, resulting in a likeable crowd-pleaser that touches on what it means to grow old and the importance of lifelong friendship. Admittedly, the story is formulaic to the point that you often know where each plot thread is going. But while the cast aren’t […]

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Insidious (2011)

January 3, 2014 No Comments

From the creative duo behind the original Saw (filmmaker James Wan, screenwriter Leigh Whannell), Insidious centres on a married couple (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne) who discover an evil presence in their home. Serious in tone, the film is at its best during the first two thirds, playing out as a relatively realistic suburban chill-fest that proves genuinely suspenseful and effectively unsettling. Undoubtedly, it’s all rather familiar (creaking sounds, face-at-window shocks, things going bump in the night), but the jump-scares are consistently successful and Wan sustains a creeping sense of dread […]

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Enough Said (2013)

December 31, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed as part of the Online Film Critics Society Awards 2013: Enough Said is a romantic comedy for grown-ups, and in this respect it’s something of a refreshing rarity. Witty and light-hearted yet thoughtful and genuinely touching, it manages to remain authentic despite hinging on the sort of plot contrivance that you might expect to see in a TV sit-com. Small-screen favourite Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as massage therapist Eva, a divorced single parent who discovers that the new man in her life (James Gandolfini) used to be married to one […]

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Homeland: Season 3

December 28, 2013 No Comments

Following an uneven second season that didn’t live up to the high standards of the first, Homeland’s third year gets off to a rather shaky start with a handful of uninspired instalments. The good news, though, is that it kicks into high gear about six or seven episodes in, eventually bearing fruit as the writers focus on Saul’s efforts to convert a senior Iranian intelligence officer (Shaun Toub) into a CIA asset. Admittedly, there are one or two questionable developments along the way (a certain key twist springs to mind), […]

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Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004)

December 24, 2013 2 Comments

Whether you hold Anchorman as the funniest comedy of the modern era or the most overrated, there’s little doubt that it has taken on a life of its own since being released back in 2004. Set in the 1970s, it revolves around Will Ferrell’s brilliantly named news anchor Ron Burgundy, an ignorant, self-confident blowhard who feels threatened when an ambitious female reporter (Christina Applegate) joins the news team. As is par for the course with Ferrell’s work, a significant amount of the gags are a product of improvisation and extended […]

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Hummingbird (2013)

December 23, 2013 No Comments

Demonstrating more ambition than your average Jason Statham beat-’em-up, this moody revenge thriller combines a few social issues with the kind of brutal ass-kickery we’ve come to expect from the likeable action star. A slight departure without being a complete change of pace, it casts him as boozy war veteran Joey Smith, a former special forces soldier who’s now living rough on the neon-lit streets of London. After being attacked, Joey happens across a swanky apartment that’s currently unoccupied, providing him with a place to stay while he searches for […]

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Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (2014)

December 20, 2013 No Comments

When it comes to historical biopics, an argument could be made that the best approach is to focus on a specific period in the subject’s life. This film, by contrast, tackles the entire life and times of civil rights activist Nelson Mandela, from his early days as a lawyer and revolutionary to his 27-year imprisonment and eventual appointment as President of South Africa. What it adds up to, ultimately, is a competent overview of the legend as opposed to a definitive account of the man. On one hand, director Justin […]

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Pain & Gain (2013)

December 20, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Having directed the likes of Armageddon, Pearl Harbour and Transformers, Michael Bay is known for making simplistic blockbusters that typically revolve around explosive heroism and huge-scale action. With Pain & Gain, however, the bombastic filmmaker has attempted to do something different, and the result is easily his funniest and most interesting work to date. Based on an unbelievable true story, it follows three cash-strapped bodybuilders (Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie, Dwayne Johnson) as they attempt to kidnap and extort a wealthy Miami businessman (Tony Shalhoub). […]

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The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)

December 14, 2013 No Comments

Noticeably more urgent and agreeable than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the second chapter in Peter Jackson’s prequel trilogy is a definite improvement over the first. With the exhausting set-up out of the way, it hits the ground running and picks up the pace from the word go, moving with a greater sense of purpose and forward momentum throughout. As always, the set design is impeccable and the world-building remains second to none, while the addition of a few fresh locations (such as the water-based settlement of Lake-Town) breathes new […]

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Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

December 8, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed as part of the Online Film Critics Society Awards 2013: Inside Llewyn Davis is slightly less quirky and offbeat than your average Coen brothers film, and as such it might well be their most accessible feature to date. Set in 1961, it centres on singer-songwriter Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), an aspiring folk musician who’s constantly broke and struggling to make a living out of his talent. The film is impeccably directed and littered with the kind of eccentric characters we’ve come to expect from the Coens, but it also […]

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Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

December 8, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Finding a way to celebrate superheroes while poking fun at many of the accompanying clichés, the first Kick-Ass movie successfully managed to have its cape and eat it. By comparison, Kick-Ass 2 is tonally unsure and disappointingly flat, lacking the stylish edge and flashes of inspiration that made the original so thoroughly enjoyable. Taking place three years later, it finds Dave Lizewski’s Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) teaming up with Mindy McCready’s Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). When Mindy decides to try being a ‘normal’ teenage […]

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The Class Of ’92 (2013)

December 6, 2013 No Comments

Like many of the best documentaries, The Class Of ’92 details a story that would be deemed unbelievable if it formed the plot of a fictional Hollywood film. Spanning from 1992 to 1999, it charts the rise of six young footballers (David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes) who graduated through the Manchester United youth programme at the same time. Combining archive footage with talking head interviews, the film documents how this group blossomed into the most successful team in United’s history, culminating in the […]

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The Railway Man (2014)

December 5, 2013 2 Comments

Based on a remarkable true story, this sombre World War II drama examines the crippling burden of post-traumatic stress disorder. Colin Firth stars as self-proclaimed railway enthusiast Eric Lomax, a bookish veteran who remains haunted by the harrowing torture he suffered many years ago in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Set in two different time periods, the film is split between the past (1942) and the ‘present’ (well, the early ‘80s), employing lengthy flashback sequences to detail what happened to young Eric (Jeremy Irvine) during the war. Adapted from […]

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Day Of The Flowers (2013)

December 5, 2013 No Comments

Combining light family drama with splashes of cross-cultural romance, Day Of The Flowers finds two Scottish sisters (Eva Birthistle, Charity Wakefield) travelling to Cuba in order to scatter their father’s ashes. After said ashes are confiscated by the Cuban police, the chalk-and-cheese siblings find themselves caught up in various misadventures and a few romantic entanglements, resulting in a modest charmer that is likeable and mildly diverting in places. In others, however, the film is guilty of generic storytelling and jarring plot developments (such as a late reappearance from a local […]

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Sports Night: Season 1

November 29, 2013 No Comments

With The West Wing, Aaron Sorkin created one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Before that, however, the celebrated writer found his footing on the small-screen with Sports Night, a little-seen comedy drama that was sadly cancelled after two seasons due to low ratings. Though not nearly as polished as Sorkin’s best work, the show was fresh and ahead of its time in some respects, serving as a lightweight introduction to his snappy, rapid-fire dialogue while proving far more intelligent than your average ‘sitcom’. Looking back, it demonstrates many of the […]

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The Newsroom: Season 2

November 23, 2013 No Comments

Finding its feet thanks to a compelling ongoing storyline, the second season of Aaron Sorkin’s politically-charged HBO drama is an improvement over the first. Presented largely in flashback, the nine-episode run is framed with present-day sequences that find the ACN news team taking part in a series of legal depositions. Looking back, each member of staff details how they researched and aired an investigative report on a US military operation (codenamed Genoa) that eventually proved to be false. Admittedly, the sophomore season takes a couple of instalments to warm up, […]

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Dexter: Season 8

November 22, 2013 1 Comment

One of the main problems with the final season of Dexter is that it rarely feels like a final season. Spending far too much time on storylines and developments that aren’t really important, it offers a largely underwhelming finish to a series that should have ended about three or four years ago. The set-up is promising, mind you, as we’re introduced to Doctor Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), a respected psychiatrist who is revealed to be responsible for the code that has informed Dexter’s life as a vigilante serial killer. Unfortunately, […]

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Escape Plan (2013)

November 21, 2013 1 Comment

Over the last few years, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger have returned to the kind of old-school action movies that they helped define during the eighties and nineties. So far, their efforts have been met with mixed success, resulting in a handful of serviceable throwback actioners that scraped by on goodwill and tongue-in-cheek nostalgia. As the latest in their ongoing efforts, Escape Plan is by no means a classic, and as such it will likely hold little interest for viewers who couldn’t care less about the prospect of Sly and Arnie joining […]

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Captain Phillips (2013)

November 19, 2013 No Comments

As a tense dramatisation of a true story, Captain Phillips is familiar territory for British filmmaker Paul Greengrass. To general audiences, of course, he’s best known as the man behind the second and third Bourne movies. But as a director, Greengrass specialises in recreating traumatic happenings from recent history, having impressed with the likes of Bloody Sunday (which reconstructed the infamous shootings in Northern Ireland) and United 93 (which re-enacted the horrific tragedy of 9/11). A close cousin of sorts, this nautical thriller opts for the same documentary-like approach to […]

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Stuck In Love (2013)

November 18, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Elevated by warm performances and a relatively involving story, this middlebrow indie drama gets pass marks in spite of its generic trappings and lapses into sentimentality. Chief among said performances is a reliably engaging turn from Greg Kinnear as semi-famous author Bill Borgens, a mopey divorcee who’s still pining for his estranged wife (Jennifer Connelly) two years after she left him for a younger man. As a result, their nineteen-year-old daughter (Lily Collins) has sworn off relationships in favour of one-night stands, cynically denying the […]

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The Internship (2013)

November 6, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: It’s been eight years since Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson teamed up in Wedding Crashers, and in that time their familiar comic shtick has grown somewhat outdated. As such, it could be argued that The Internship is a case of art imitating life, with the Frat Pack veterans playing a couple of old-school salesmen whose glory days are well and truly behind them. Losing their jobs, the affable duo attempt to score full-time employment with Google, enrolling in a competitive summer internship that pits […]

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Stand Up Guys (2013)

October 25, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Once upon a time, any film starring both Al Pacino and Christopher Walken would have been considered essentially viewing. Sadly, this isn’t the case with Stand Up Guys, a half-hearted comedy-drama that sees two weary former legends playing two weary former criminals. Boasting a fairly promising set-up, it follows career crook Val (Pacino) and his partner in crime Doc (Walken) as they celebrate the former’s release from prison. Hitting the town, the pair catch up and reminisce about old times, eventually having to confront the […]

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Gravity (2013)

October 24, 2013 7 Comments

In many ways, Gravity is a truly incredible motion picture. Marking the overdue return of visionary Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron (whose last picture, Children Of Men, remains criminally underrated), it’s a stunning technical achievement that works best as an immersive sensory experience. The sort of film that demands to be seen on an offensively huge IMAX screen, it combines nerve-jangling sound design with special effects that are so real it’s as if Cuaron actually shot the whole thing in space. Which, to be clear, he didn’t. Showcasing several long takes […]

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After Earth (2013)

October 10, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: If any filmmaker needs a win right now, it’s M. Night Shyamalan. Since bursting onto the scene with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, the Indian-American director has seen his career swerve spectacularly off course thanks to a series of critically-trashed flops. Sadly, however, After Earth isn’t the film to turn his losing streak around, even if it isn’t quite the all-out disaster some would have you believe. Conceived from a “story idea” by Will Smith (who must share some of the blame), Shyamalan’s post-apocalyptic […]

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Deadfall (2013)

October 4, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section: Using snowy landscapes as a backdrop for crime and bloodshed, Deadfall invites basic comparisons with the likes of Fargo and A Simple Plan. Not quite in the same league, this snow-globe thriller from Oscar-winning director Stefan Ruzowitzky is much more of a mixed bag, providing us with a wintry neo-noir that’s passable and diverting yet uneven and under-cooked. Set on the blizzard-swept outskirts of the Canadian border, the twisty plot sees siblings Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) forced on the run after their post-heist […]

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Bachelorette (2013)

October 1, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: Considering that Bachelorette is a female-centric wedding comedy, comparisons with Bridesmaids are perhaps inevitable. Crucially, though, this girl-powered wed-com is far more acerbic and brutally honest – imagine Mean Girls: The Wedding – and it’s all the better for it. Adapted from playwright-turned-director Leslye Headland’s own stage play, the story centres on the upcoming marriage of plus-sized bride-to-be Becky (Rebel Wilson, playing it straight for a change). Following a disastrous bachelorette party, three of Becky’s old pals (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher) get […]

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Rush (2013)

September 30, 2013 No Comments

Easily Ron Howard’s best film in years, Rush is a thrilling example of populist cinema at its best. Reuniting Howard with acclaimed screenwriter Peter Morgan, the result is a close cousin of sorts to their previous collaboration, Frost/Nixon, in that the drama centres on a fierce battle between two real-life figures during the ‘70s. That said, it’s also comparable to Morgan’s underrated Brian Clough biopic, The Damned United, as a fascinating study of obsessive rivalry and how it can drive you – quite literally – to be the best you […]

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Prisoners (2013)

September 29, 2013 No Comments

As a dark and gloomy thriller that sees Jake Gyllenhaal become obsessed with capturing a mysterious bogeyman, Prisoners is noticeably reminiscent of David Fincher’s Zodiac. Boasting a similarly lengthy running time, it’s also sombre, moody and relentlessly serious, not to mention the fact that Gyllenhaal’s quest once again leads him to a number of investigative dead-ends. Truthfully, this grim procedural isn’t in the same class as Fincher’s, and it could be argued that the last hour isn’t as well-plotted or credible as the first ninety minutes (yes, Prisoners is two and a […]

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Runner Runner (2013)

September 28, 2013 1 Comment

Reviewed for Metro’s home entertainment section:  Runner Runner is the sort of film you’ve probably seen before. Following a very familiar template, it’s the story of an ambitious up-and-comer who gets in way too deep after chasing wealth and success. Though perfectly watchable as a disposable thriller, it echoes a number of comparable movies (21, Boiler Room, The Devil’s Advocate, Wall Street) and hits every recognisable plot beat long the way. The up-and-comer in question is Princeton grad student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake), a maths whiz who loses all his savings […]

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Mister John (2013)

September 26, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Empire Online as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: While many critics were disappointed that this year’s Surprise Movie wasn’t Nicholas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, anyone in the market for an immersive, Eastern-set drama concerning brotherly death need only look as far as Mister John, which is one of the festival’s best films thus far. An existential study of grief and identity, Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s minimalistic second feature revolves around the haunted figure of Gerry Devine (Aidan Gillen), who travels to Singapore after finding out […]

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Sunshine On Leith (2013)

September 26, 2013 No Comments

Providing a joyous antidote to the grim social realism that Scottish cinema has become associated with, Sunshine On Leith is a charming, big-hearted crowd-pleaser. Adapted from Stephen Greenhorn’s hit stage play, it’s energetic and likeable yet crucially real and authentic, providing actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher with a triumphant follow-up to his terrific directorial debut, Wild Bill. On paper, of course, the notion of a “Proclaimers musical” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but prospective viewers should note that this isn’t a movie about the spec-tastic twins from Auchtermuchty. Far from the cringey […]

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Filth (2013)

September 26, 2013 No Comments

Apart from the phenomenal, era-defining success of Trainspotting back in the mid 90s, the task of translating Irvine Welsh’s writing to the big screen is one that has proved problematic thus far. It’s good news, then, that Filth is far more successful than both The Acid House and Ecstasy, with relative newcomer Jon S. Baird adapting Welsh’s third novel into a darkly funny tale of depravation and self-destruction. Set in Edinburgh’s seedy underbelly, the story is faithfully interpreted and built around the author’s recurring themes (hedonism, disaffection, oppression, recreational drug […]

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Network (1976)

September 16, 2013 No Comments

As relevant today as it was back in 1976, Network is arguably the best film ever made about the television industry. Searing, informed and scarily prophetic, the plot revolves around veteran news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch), an increasingly unstable broadcaster who launches into an impassioned rant on live TV after learning he’s about to lose his job. When ratings spike, however, the profit-hungry executives renew Beale’s contract and encourage him to continue his angry, sermon-like preachings as part of a re-branded show. Brilliantly written, the film belongs as much […]

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Riddick (2013)

September 15, 2013 No Comments

Back in the year 2000, writer-director David Twohy found himself with a sleeper hit in the form of Pitch Black, a lean, mean, low-budget sci-fi thriller that introduced us to Vin Diesel’s rumble-voiced badass for the first time. In 2004, however, The Chronicles Of Riddick unsuccessfully attempted to widen the character’s mythology, resulting in a big, bloated, PG-13 space opera of such disappointment that plans for a proposed trilogy were put on hold. It’s good news, then, that Riddick recaptures the stripped-back edge of the first film, opting for an R-rated, back-to-basics survivalist […]

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Red Heat (1988)

September 12, 2013 No Comments

A serviceable yet largely uninspired actioner from the late eighties, Red Heat is a minor entry on the resumes of both Arnold Schwarzenegger and filmmaker Walter Hill. Returning to the mismatched buddy-cop genre he helped popularise with 48 Hours, Hill pairs a relentless Moscow cop (Schwarzenegger) with a wisecracking Chicago detective (James Belushi), as the former tracks a deadly Georgian cocaine dealer (Ed O’Ross) all the way to America. As you’d expect from Hill, the action sequences occasionally demonstrate some real muscle, but the one-liners are unmemorable and the chemistry […]

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Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

September 12, 2013 No Comments

One of the silliest entries in John Carpenter’s beloved back-catalogue, Big Trouble In Little China sees a long-haul truck driver (Kurt Russell) doing battle with an immortal ancient sorcerer. Every bit as daft as that sounds, Carpenter essentially tosses all seriousness out the window as he pays tribute to the Hong Kong sword-and-sorcery genre. A bizarre mash-up of eighties heroics, chop-socky and Chinese mysticism, the result is a martial arts action-comedy with ropey acting and dated effects. Still, it occasionally looks and feels like classic Carpenter, while Kurt Russell is […]

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Before Sunset (2004)

September 11, 2013 No Comments

Nine years after their brief encounter in Before Sunrise, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are reunited in Paris when she attends a book signing for the novel he wrote about their night together. Stepping out for a stroll before his impending flight home, the result is a smart and similarly bittersweet two-hander, unfolding in real time as they meander through the streets of Paris in a series of long, unbroken takes. Once again, writer-director Richard Linklater creates an impressive sense of lived-in naturalism, while Hawke and Delpy (who […]

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The Chronicles Of Riddick (2004)

September 11, 2013 No Comments

Big, bloated and surprisingly uninspired, The Chronicles Of Riddick exists at the opposite end of the spectrum to Pitch Black. Where that film was lean and hard-edged, this follow-up is a completely different kettle of Furyan, with returning writer-director David Twohy opting for a big-budget, heavy-handed space opera that seeks to expand the character’s mythology. Following Riddick as he takes on a warmongering empire known as the Necromongers, Twohy’s expansive vision is ambitious but all too flawed, resulting in a disappointing misstep that gets more wrong that it does right. That […]

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21 & Over (2013)

September 6, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: Essentially The Hangover with college students, this inebriated fratboy comedy charts a wild night of boozy debauchery for three former best friends. Looking to party, estranged buddies Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin) coerce their old pal Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) – who’s always referred to by his full name – into having a beer or two in celebration of his 21st birthday. The problem, however, is that Jeff Chang – see – has got to be up early in the morning for […]

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8MM (1999)

September 2, 2013 No Comments

Set in the seedy, leather-clad underworld of hardcore pornography, Joel Schumacher’s 8mm is an intoxicating thriller that sees Nicolas Cage delve into the darker side of human behaviour. In one of his more restrained performances, Cage stars as surveillance man Tom Welles, a private investigator who’s hired by a wealthy widow to verify whether the snuff film she found among her dead husband’s belongings is genuine or fake. Strangely compelling, the film works best as an old-fashioned private eye movie, with Welles carrying out mundane investigative work as he becomes increasingly […]

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What Doesn’t Kill You (2013)

September 1, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: Based on the experiences of character-actor-turned-director Brian Goodman, What Doesn’t Kill You follows the rise and fall of two small-time criminals (Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke) as they struggle to earn a living in the tough neighbourhoods of South Boston. Undoubtedly, the film won’t win any prizes for originality, as its story is definitely one we’ve seen before. But while familiar and not without clichés, this autobiographical, under-the-radar crime drama is elevated by two hugely engaging performances from Ruffalo and Hawke. Charting their life and […]

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We’re The Millers (2013)

August 31, 2013 No Comments

At the risk of making We’re The Millers sound like an above average comedy – which isn’t the case – it’s actually funnier and more enjoyable than you’re probably expecting. In his first lead, former Saturday Night Live writer Jason Sudeikis steps up as slacker Dave Clark, a small-time pot dealer who recruits three neighbours (Jennifer Aniston, Will Poulter, Emma Roberts) to pose as his family in order to smuggle drugs across the border. Padded with episodic plot detours that vary in success, this predictable road-trip comedy is amusing but […]

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The Way, Way Back (2013)

August 29, 2013 No Comments

As a family-trip dramedy that features Steve Carell and Toni Collette, The Way, Way Back has inevitably drawn comparisons with indie darling Little Miss Sunshine. In actual fact, however, it’s far more reminiscent of fellow coming-of-age yarn Adventureland, given that both use theme park settings to tell similar stories over the course of a nostalgic summer season. Though not quite as enjoyable, this Sundance-flavoured charmer proves likeable enough in its own right, thanks in large part to Sam Rockwell’s film-pinching turn as the laid-back park boss who takes Duncan under his wing. […]

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The Driver (1978)

August 29, 2013 No Comments

The sort of moody urban crime thriller that takes place almost entirely at night, The Driver concerns a laconic, highly-skilled getaway driver (Ryan O’Neal) and the dodgy, not-so-laconic detective (Bruce Dern) who’s obsessed with catching him. Clocking in at a lean 90 minutes, Walter Hill’s second feature is so pared-down and minimalistic that the characters don’t even have names, with each one defined simply by their function or occupation in the film’s closing credits (The Driver, The Detective, and so on). Though this might sound pretentious and potentially shallow, the […]

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Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

August 23, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: The first of this year’s two high-profile White House-set actioners, Olympus Has Fallen takes us inside the corridors of power as the President (Aaron Eckhart) is held hostage by Korean extremists. With his former bodyguard (Gerard Butler) positioned as the only man who can save the day, the film sets up a promisingly old-school game of cat-and-mouse, pitching itself firmly – and rather optimistically – as ‘Die Hard In The Oval Office’. In reality, though, Antoine Fuqua’s presidential shoot ‘em up is less Die Hard […]

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Chinatown (1974)

August 22, 2013 2 Comments

Arguably the best private eye movie ever made, Chinatown is a sepia-tinted throwback to the shadowy, hard-boiled detective flicks of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Boasting many of the key staples that typify film noir (the gumshoe hero, the femme fatale, fedora hats, Venetian blinds), it exists as both a gradually unfolding corruption thriller and a definitive example of neo noir at its finest. That said, it’s also a landmark noir experience in its own right – despite being shot in colour and released twenty years after the accepted era of […]

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Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

August 19, 2013 2 Comments

One of the most deservedly popular British comedies of the last few decades, Shaun Of The Dead is a genuine slice of fried gold. Fresh from the success of cult Brit-com Spaced, writer-director Edgar Wright and writer-star Simon Pegg gave birth to the rom-zom-com as we know it, effectively combining shades of romantic comedy with an apocalyptic zombie crisis in suburban London. Like the aforementioned show, much of the comedy is milked from the playful use of repetition, meaning there’s a tonne of callback humour, repeated dialogue (“You’ve got red […]

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The Hard Way (1991)

August 19, 2013 No Comments

A criminally under-seen action-comedy from the early nineties, John Badham’s The Hard Way is a hugely enjoyable example of the buddy-cop genre at its best. Boasting some fantastic character dialogue, the film has fun with cop movie clichés and the filmmaking industry in general, while also functioning as a decent urban thriller in its own right. The real reason to watch, though, is the endlessly watchable interplay between James Woods’ highly-strung detective and Michael J. Fox’s enthusiastic method actor. As Moss, Woods is essentially playing the stereotypical James Woods character (IE, an intense, curse-happy tough-guy), […]

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The X-Files: Season 3

August 17, 2013 No Comments

As is standard protocol with The X-Files, season three contains an eclectic mix of standalone, monster-of-the-week adventures and serialised, over-arching mythology episodes. Bearing in mind that most fans have a preference, it’s worth noting that this season is held as a favourite among those who prefer the former, given that it boasts two of the most popular self-contained instalments in the show’s nine-year run (the widely-acclaimed Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, and the unusually humourous Jose Chung’s From Outer Space). For those who gravitate towards the latter (which includes this writer), it also […]

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Apocalypse Now (1979)

August 17, 2013 No Comments

Arguably the definitive Vietnam War movie, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 classic captures the madness and horror of warfare in a way that few other films have been able to. Opening to the psychedelic sounds of The Doors, it’s a hallucinatory epic that combines stunningly authentic spectacle with a haunting existential journey, as Martin Sheen’s covert assassin attempts to eliminate a rogue Colonel (Marlon Brando) in the Cambodian jungle. Famously, it was also one of the most troubled productions in Hollywood history, what with typhoons destroying some of Coppola’s sets, and the Philippine air force recalling […]

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Breaking Bad: Season 5 – Part 1

August 16, 2013 No Comments

How do you ensure that you’re repeatedly referred to as the best show on television? Simple, you just keep being the best show on television. As exceptional now as it’s ever been (I.E., very), Breaking Bad continues to deliver intense drama and rewarding highs that other shows just can’t match, with the first half of its fifth and final season taking Walter White into darker territory – if you can believe that – than ever before. Though many fans stopped sympathising with Walt after a certain plant-based revelation at the […]

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This Is Martin Bonner (2013)

August 14, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Empire Online as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: Arriving on a wave of well-deserved festival praise, This Is Martin Bonner is a beautifully understated character study about people of certain age trying to start over. The second feature from independent filmmaker Chad Hartigan, it revolves around an Australian divorcee (Paul Eenhoorn) who’s recently moved to Nevada for a new job. Tasked with helping convicts adapt to life on the outside, fifty-something Martin comes into contact with freshly-released sad-sack Travis Holloway (Richmond Arquette), and the two […]

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The Deep (2013)

August 14, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Empire Online as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: Dramatising an extraordinary true story, Baltasar Kormákur recreates the events that saw an unassuming fisherman (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) miraculously survive in the North Atlantic Ocean for six hours after his trawler went down. Kormákur, of course, is best known to mainstream audiences as the director of recent Mark Wahlberg crime drama Contraband, which was actually a remake of his own thriller, Reykjavik Rotterdam. Making a welcome return to his Icelandic roots, the prolific filmmaker brings an impressively […]

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What Maisie Knew (2013)

August 14, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Empire Online as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: Another delicate family drama worth seeing is What Maisie Knew, Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s worthy update of Henry James’ 1897 classic novel. Set in contemporary New York, it centres on quiet six-year-old Maisie (Onata Aprile), who’s neglected somewhat after the separation of her fading rock star mum, Susanna (Julianne Moore), and her always-away-on-business father, Beale (Steve Coogan). While this might sound like the recipe for a syrupy melodrama, it’s actually a touching and beautifully acted depiction […]

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2 Guns (2013)

August 14, 2013 2 Comments

Far more enjoyable than its rubbish title suggests, 2 Guns is a surprisingly funny action-comedy that finds Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur on lighter form than usual. Playing out as a buddy-cop caper, the plot sees two undercover agents (Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg) posing as criminals in order to bring down a wealthy drug lord (Edward James Olmos, amusingly referred to as “a Mexican Albert Einstein”). The twist, though, is that neither one of them is aware that the other isn’t really a criminal. Since much of the humour is front […]

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Elysium (2013)

August 14, 2013 3 Comments

With District 9, South African writer-director Neill Blomkamp announced himself as a promising talent to watch out for. With Elysium, his eagerly-awaited follow-up, he returns with roughly three times the budget and significantly more star power (Matt Damon! Jodie Foster! That guy from the start of The Dark Knight!), yet the end product is largely more of the same. A similarly dystopian sci-fi actioner, Blomkamp’s second feature is littered with many of the same ingredients (mecha suits, futuristic hardware, callous bureaucrats) and once again hard-wired with social commentary on the rich-poor divide. It […]

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About Time (2013)

August 9, 2013 No Comments

While the time-travel premise might suggest otherwise, About Time is very much a Richard Curtis film. A sweary, heartfelt British rom-com, it’s essentially Notting Hill with a Groundhog Day-flavoured twist, populated by the sort of supporting character archetypes we’ve come to expect from the King Of Saccharine. There’s the socially awkward sidekick, the doddery old bugger who forgets people’s names, the alternatively-styled sister figure (who’s actually the sister here), and so on. Gleeson might not be Hugh Grant, but as a perpetually polite, self-deprecating Englishman who attempts to woo an American girl […]

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The Gatekeepers (2013)

August 9, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: If stopping a known terrorist meant the death of one or two potential innocents, would you give the order? It’s questions like this that lie at the heart of Dror Moreh’s The Gatekeepers, a sobering, Oscar-nominated documentary that provides fascinating insight into Israel’s clandestine intelligence agency. For the first time ever, the six surviving former heads of said agency – known as Shin Bet – discuss their experiences. What’s extraordinary about this isn’t just that these guys have agreed to speak on camera – […]

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Kick-Ass (2010)

August 8, 2013 No Comments

Why hasn’t anyone ever tried to fight crime for real before? Adapted from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s hip comic book series, Kick-Ass uses this brilliant premise to entertaining effect, crafting a knowing and remarkably violent action-comedy that both mocks and celebrates the superhero genre simultaneously. Responsible for the page-to-screen translation, filmmaker Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman blend a Peter Parker-type hero with slashing violence, geeky teen wit and ‘real’ world superheroism to controversial effect. Imagine, if you will, Spider-Man by way of Kill Bill, Superbad and Watchmen. It […]

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Before Sunrise (1995)

August 7, 2013 No Comments

Essentially ninety minutes of walking and talking, Before Sunrise follows two strangers (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy) who meet on a train and decide to spend the day together in Vienna. As is typically the case with real conversations, the chat is punctuated by both periodic lulls and flashes of genuine insight, by quietly perceptive observations and pseudo-intellectual debates. Light on plot and ideas, it’s a talky, leisurely-paced two-hander, meaning that there’s little on the agenda besides chatting and romance (and, of course, chatting about romance). Cynical viewers might have trouble connecting with […]

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They Live (1988)

August 4, 2013 No Comments

Arguably John Carpenter’s most underrated film, They Live combines kick-ass action with clever allegory and eerie sci-fi paranoia to hugely enjoyable effect. Built around a satirical B-movie premise, the plot sees a nameless drifter (Roddy Piper) stumble upon an alien conspiracy that involves controlling the population with subliminal messaging. Undoubtedly, the most memorable sequences are those where Piper views the world as it really is, donning a pair of special sunglasses that reveal the hidden messages (“Obey”, “Consume” etc.) and the true, skull-like faces of the in-disguise aliens. Though this sounds ridiculous on […]

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A Bronx Tale (1993)

August 4, 2013 No Comments

Considering that Robert De Niro has starred in some of the most memorable mob movies of all time (The Godfather: Part II, The Untouchables, Goodfellas), it’s understandable that his directorial debut revolves around gangsters. Importantly, though, A Bronx Tale isn’t really about gangsters. Instead, it’s a touching character drama about fathers and sons, centring on an impressionable kid (Francis Capra as a boy, Lillo Brancato as a young man) who’s torn between his working-class father (De Niro) and a charismatic local mobster (Chazz Palminteri). Unsurprisingly, a few sequences feel like they’ve been borrowed from one of Martin Scorsese’s […]

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Passion (2012)

August 3, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: Combining eroticism, suspense, mystery, voyeurism and murder, the uninspiringly-titled Passion seemed like a perfect fit for once-great filmmaker Brian De Palma. And, to a certain degree, it is. For while not quite the return to form we might have hoped for, this Euro-flavoured noir thriller offers a watchable enough cocktail of sordid betrayal, corporate backstabbing and kinky face masks. A remake of Alain Corneau’s last film, Love Crime, the twisty plot also follows a mousey business executive (Noomi Rapace) who decides to exact revenge on […]

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Cop Land (1997)

August 3, 2013 3 Comments

While Sylvester Stallone will always be remembered for portraying Rocky Balboa and John Rambo, it’s Cop Land that showcases what is arguably his best performance. Playing against type, the marble-mouthed action star proves genuinely impressive as sad-sack Freddy Heflin, the half-deaf Sheriff who oversees a small town in New Jersey where a community of corrupt coppers call the shots. Accurately described by writer-director James Mangold as an urban Western, the film itself is a hugely underrated corruption thriller that deserves – nay, demands – some serious revaluation. A largely talky affair, it’s punctuated […]

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Only God Forgives (2013)

August 2, 2013 2 Comments

Despite marking the eagerly-anticipated reunion of Ryan Gosling and Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, Only God Forgives doesn’t provide a similar experience to Drive. An abstract mood piece, this languid revenge thriller is far more surreal and dream-like, taking the pared-down approach that worked so well in their spellbinding neo-noir and turning the experimental dial up several notches. Similarly light on dialogue, Refn once again punctuates long – key word – spells of silence with bursts of the old ultra violence. Here, though, the retro cool is replaced with a […]

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Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

July 31, 2013 No Comments

Following more than a decade of speculation about the possibility of an Alan Partridge movie, the Norfolk-based King Of Chat has finally ambled his way onto the big-screen. Given that he’s been putting the chat among the pigeons for over twenty years now, the prospect of Alan letting battle commence in cinemas was met with both feverish expectation and understandable apprehension. As such, it’s a pleasure to report that Alpha Papa is a largely successful – if not quite triumphant – multiplex translation that delivers the sort of film Partridge fans were […]

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Down Terrace (2009)

July 28, 2013 No Comments

A British gangster movie that isn’t really a British gangster movie, Down Terrace shares more in common with the domestic realism of Mike Leigh and Shane Meadows than it does the geezery mob antics of Guy Ritchie and his alumni. Part low-key crime yarn, part dysfunctional family drama, it centres on a father-son duo of small-time criminals (played by Bob Hill and his son Robin) who discover an informant in their midst. Despite what such a plot suggests, however, the film largely consists of mundane conversations in a drab suburban house. Notable as […]

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Mad Men: Season 6

July 27, 2013 No Comments

The sixth season of Mad Men isn’t quite what you’d call a vintage year, but it still delivers the usual stylish blend of impeccable writing, brilliant performances and meticulous attention to detail that we’ve come to expect. After the first couple of episodes aired, showrunner Matthew Weiner was accussed of merely repeating ideas the show has explored before, with Don (John Hamm) partaking in yet another extra-marital affair while other characters found themselves coming full circle in various situations. But as the season wore on, it suddenly became clear that such repetition was […]

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The World’s End (2013)

July 25, 2013 2 Comments

For the creative trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, The World’s End is a largely successful third instalment in their so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. Having tackled zombies with Shaun Of The Dead and action with Hot Fuzz, Wright and co-writer Pegg venture down the science fiction route in order to tell a relatable story about friendship and the dangers of nostalgia. Though it doesn’t quite hit the same comedic heights as either, this apocalyptic pub-crawl is arguably the most emotionally engaging of the three. Happily, it’s […]

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The Lone Ranger (2013)

July 24, 2013 1 Comment

The good news about The Lone Ranger, Disney’s big-budget adaptation of the enduring American icon, is that it isn’t the merit-less disaster many were expecting. The bad news, though, is that it’s still a largely predictable, by-the-numbers blockbuster that staggers messily between slapstick pratfalls, solemn flashbacks and huge CGI set pieces like a drunken cowboy after a day at the rum saloon. Reuniting filmmaker Gore Verbinski with quirky muse Johnny Depp, the disappointing news is that their latest collaboration shares more in common with the Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels […]

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The Sopranos: Season 1

July 24, 2013 No Comments

Having shaped modern television as we know it, The Sopranos is widely regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Looking back, the first season is arguably one of the best, fusing violence and offbeat humour with well-observed family drama to compelling effect. Set in New Jersey, the show centres on Italian-American gangster Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a mid-level mob boss who decides to start seeing a psychiatrist (Goodfellas’ Lorraine Bracco) after he collapses due to a panic attack. The product of David Chase’s uncompromising vision, this […]

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Breathe In (2013)

July 23, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Empire Online as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: The 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival kicked-off in ivory-tinkling fashion on Wednesday with Breathe In, Drake Doremus’ low-key family drama about former musician Keith (Guy Pearce) who isn’t fulfilled by family life. Still yearning for the career that was cut short when he and his wife (Amy Ryan) had their daughter (newcomer Mackenzie Davis) 17 years ago, Keith scratches his creative itch by subbing as a cellist for the New York orchestra, hoping to join them full-time when […]

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Pacific Rim (2013)

July 11, 2013 No Comments

As a prospect, Pacific Rim was worth getting excited about. Reason being, it promised more than just a movie about big robots fighting against big monsters – it promised a movie about colossal robots fighting against colossal monsters as imagined by visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. It’s somewhat disappointing, then, that the final product demonstrates so little of his distinctive style or personality, resulting in a love letter to Japanese monster flicks that is visually impressive but short on inspiration. Okay, so the central concept is relatively original, in that it’s not based […]

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Elementary: Season 1

July 7, 2013 4 Comments

When news filtered through about a new Sherlock Holmes adaptation that was to be set in present-day New York, you didn’t have to be a highly-functioning detective to foresee one or two potential problems. Most obviously, there was the popularity of the BBC’s similarly-modernised Sherlock, which almost guaranteed a large number of unfavourable comparisons from passionate fans of that show. On top of that, the fact that there were already two existing versions of the super-sleuth on the go – the aforementioned BBC reimagining and Guy Ritchie’s bombastic big-screen iteration – meant that a third might run the […]

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The Bling Ring (2013)

July 5, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Empire Online as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: Lighter and more accessible than the likes of Lost In Translation, Coppola’s fifth feature is perceptive, funny and deceptively knowing, combining her usual recurring themes (privilege, celebrity culture, adolescent isolation, young girls trying to find their place in the world) to enjoyably entertaining effect. Though sold in some quarters as Emma Watson’s star vehicle, the film is actually best described as an ensemble piece, with her spoiled, club-hopping princess only part of the titular, fame-obsessed gang who […]

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Monsters University (2013)

July 4, 2013 1 Comment

Reviewed for Empire Online as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: Even though Pixar’s recent output has caused many to question their previously-unquestionable dominance over the animated domain (Cars 2, anyone?), Monsters University remained one of the biggest pulls at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. OK, so the finale of Monsters, Inc. didn’t so much close the door on its child-scaring concept as haul it through a shredder. But this belated return to the world of Monstropolis sidesteps such narrative niggles by functioning as a prequel, focusing […]

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Stories We Tell (2013)

July 4, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Empire Online as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013: Warm, personal and unexpectedly candid, Sarah Polley’s follow-up to Take This Waltz is an autobiographical documentary that delves into her recent family history and lays bare some potentially painful Polley truths. Starting out as a profile-come-love-letter to her late mother, Diane (who died prior to Polley’s teenage years), it then morphs into a surprisingly frank portrait of her parents’ marriage (and accompanying sexytime), before veering off on a Partridge-like tangent to air some dirty family laundry. Like recent narrative […]

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Last Resort: Season 1

July 4, 2013 No Comments

Boasting a premise that mashes Crimson Tide with Lost, Shawn Ryan’s ambitious military thriller sees a submarine crew seek refuge on an isolated island after refusing to fire their nuclear payload as directed. It’s a heck of a setup, for sure, but one that never quite lives up to the steely promise of its claustrophobic, Martin Campbell-directed pilot. That said, it’s worth watching for Andre Braugher’s captivating turn as the sub’s righteous commander, while Scott Speedman is unexpectedly excellent as his loyal right-hand man. In truth, few of the supporting characters are […]

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Like Crazy (2013)

June 18, 2013 No Comments

Encapsulating the hardships of love and long-distance relationships, this low-key indie-romance charts the transatlantic struggles of a British exchange student (Felicity Jones) and an American furniture designer (Anton Yelchin) who are kept apart by bothersome visa difficulties. Employing intimate hand-held camerawork and largely improvised dialogue, Drake Doremus’ 2011 Sundance winner is truthful, authentic and impressively naturalistic, benefiting hugely from two outstanding central performances that ring true with every beat. An argument could be made that, due to the improvisational approach, it’s like watching ninety minutes of awkward small talk. But […]

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Bates Motel: Season 1

June 16, 2013 2 Comments

In some ways, the fact that Bates Motel is a prequel to Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s celebrated 1960 classic, is as much a distraction as it is a selling point. Moving the story forward to the modern day is one thing (Norman Bates has an iPhone!), but there’s also the niggling question of how these events will eventually dovetail into the established happenings of Hitchcock’s movie. As such, you’re constantly left wondering why A&E didn’t just commission an original series and therefore avoid such weighty baggage. Happily, though, the first season isn’t the lazy Hitchcock cash-in […]

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Behind The Candelabra (2013)

June 11, 2013 2 Comments

Most of the time, productions that are made for television simply aren’t good enough to be released as feature films. With Behind The Candelabra, however, this absolutely isn’t the case, as Steven Soderbergh’s bling-filled biopic only went down the small-screen route after it was deemed “too gay” for a theatrical release in America. Indeed, it could be argued that Soderbergh’s final film is also one of his finest, providing further proof that the prolific director will be sorely missed when he decides to call it a day. Fun and entertaining yet […]

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Chasing Ice (2012)

June 7, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: Fascinating, persuasive and more than a little worrying, Jeff Orlowski’s climate change documentary provides irrefutable proof that global warming should be taken seriously. Regularly jaw-dropping, it follows National Geographic photographer James Balog and his tenacious efforts to collect said proof, which involves placing state-of-the-art cameras in various frozen wastelands to document how rapidly the landscapes are disappearing. Stunning to look at yet worrying to think about, the results are as transcendent as they are sobering. On one hand, it’s humbling to watch as a glacier […]

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Arrow: Season 1

June 3, 2013 2 Comments

As a small-screen reboot of a popular DC hero, Arrow was always going to draw comparisons with Smallville. Despite a few superficial similarities, however – not least the fact that the Emerald Archer also featured in the latter - this stab at the Detective Comics universe is pleasingly cut from a different cloth, even if it is guilty of one or two of the same bad habits. More of a crime thriller than a superhero drama, there’s no magic or super-powers on display here, while this Oliver Queen is closer to Jason Bourne […]

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The Following: Season 1

May 25, 2013 No Comments

A pulpy hybrid of Scream and 24, Kevin Williamson’s gothic crime thriller combines the stabby violence of the former with the fast-paced thrills and casual implausibility of the latter. Kevin Bacon stars as Ryan Hardy, a washed-up former FBI agent who is called upon when infamous serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy) escapes from prison. Though Carroll is swiftly re-incarcerated, it turns out that he has amassed a cult of fanatical followers who are primed and ready to do his bidding. The Following is surprisingly gruesome for a mainstream network […]

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Doctor Who: Series 7

May 22, 2013 No Comments

Dominated by its over-arching storyline, series six of Doctor Who was more arc-driven and serialised than ever before. Dividing opinion, the ongoing mystery was embraced by viewers who’d like the show to be less episodic, but the knotty plotting also resulted in complaints that Who had become too complicated for children. As such, the brief for series seven, sadly, was to go back in the opposite direction, with showrunner Steven Moffat asking his writers to concentrate on standalone “mini blockbusters” each week instead. No two-parters, no series-long plot which ties everything together, […]

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The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2013)

May 18, 2013 No Comments

Unlike the vast majority of films concerned with terrorism, The Reluctant Fundamentalist boldly asks us to adopt a Muslim protagonist who may or may not be an actual terrorist. Far from the white CIA officers we’re usually saddled with, our protagonist here is Pakistani lecturer Changez (Riz Ahmed), a man whose views on America are changed irrevocably during the xenophobic aftermath of 9/11. Keeping us guessing right until the end, the ambiguity surrounding Changez is what drives the film. Has he turned? Or are his accusers mistaken? On one hand, he seems far too […]

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Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

May 17, 2013 No Comments

After four Fast & Furious movies that were as inconsistent and changeable as their titles, Fast Five re-ignited the franchise by A) throwing The Rock into the mix, and B) veering away from the shackles of underground racing. The good news, then, is that Fast & Furious 6 picks up where that film left off, playing like a direct continuation as another Rock-fuelled ensemble heist actioner. The disappointing news, however, is that it’s not quite on par, as regular helmer Justin Lin (who also delivered instalments three to five) is unable to reach […]

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The Great Gatsby (2013)

May 16, 2013 4 Comments

While The Great Gatsby is the sort of book you were probably forced to read at school, it’s also a timeless masterpiece that is held by many as the great American novel. As such, Hollywood has been trying – and failing – to make the definitive big-screen version ever since it was first published back in 1925. There have been many attempts (including, most notably, Jack Clayton’s solid yet dreary effort with Bob Redford in 1974), but as yet no defining Gatsby film. As the man charged with changing this, […]

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Billy Liar (1963)

May 11, 2013 No Comments

Despite being held as one of the seminal kitchen sink dramas of the British New Wave, Billy Liar isn’t nearly as depressing as some of its contemporaries. The story of a young fibber (Tom Courtenay) who escapes his dull life by indulging in fantasy scenarios, it punctuates the gritty social realism that you’re probably expecting with surreal, big-scale dream sequences. Imagine, if you will, a Ken Loach drama where the working class protagonist daydreams about being a powerful dictator in his very own Carry On movie. While dated in some respects, John […]

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Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

May 11, 2013 4 Comments

Back in 2009, one of J.J. Abrams’ prime directives was to make Star Trek cool. Setting his phasers to fun, Abrams’ sleek reboot was a largely triumphant success, rescuing Gene Roddenberry’s classic property from the pop culture scrap-heap in a way that was fresh and new yet respectful to the material. Though overrated in some quarters, it managed to please the hardcore Trekkers – which is no mean feat – while also proving accessible to newcomers and non-fans. Looking to up the ante, his eagerly-awaited follow-up is so relentless that it […]

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House Of Cards: Season 1

May 8, 2013 No Comments

Perhaps unavoidably, most of the pre-release hubbub surrounding House Of Cards centred on its unusual method of distribution. Released exclusively online, it became the first major series to forgo the time-old approach of a single televised episode per week, with steaming service Netflix dropping the entire first season – yes, the entire first season – all at the same time. Once the 13 episodes had landed, however, the conversation soon shifted to what really mattered – the fact that it was bloody great. Smart, riveting and brimming with HBO-like quality, […]

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Arrested Development: Season 3

May 8, 2013 No Comments

Midway through Arrested Development’s second season, the absurdity quotient was turned up by a frozen banana or two. On one hand, this yielded some inspired, Bluth-powered lunacy, but on the other it also resulted in the show’s first real missteps. Largely more of the same, season three continues down this path like Gob whizzing past on his trusty segway, combining the usual assortment of knowing in-jokes and brilliant foreshadowing with some undoubtedly weaker material (most notably, the British stuff). But even at its weakest, Arrested Development is still smarter and […]

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Dead Man Down (2013)

April 28, 2013 2 Comments

In prospect, Dead Man Down was worth getting excited about. After all, it marks the English-language debut of Niels Arden Oplev, the Danish filmmaker who achieved international acclaim with his original version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The reality, though, is surprisingly disappointing, as Oplev’s revenge drama feels like two different films struggling against one another. Uneven and tonally inconsistent, the brooding European thriller that you might be expecting continually morphs into a clunky actioner, while the explosive finale plays like an out-of-place note from a studio suit […]

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Evil Dead II (1987)

April 28, 2013 No Comments

Reviewed for Metro’s Home Entertainment section: Balancing eerie terror with Three Stooges-style slapstick to demented effect, Evil Dead II is often named as one of the greatest horror-comedies of all time. A deranged incantation of effective jump-scares, inventive camerawork and inspired sight gags (our hero holds down his severed hand with a copy of ‘A Farewell To Arms’), it sees filmmaker Sam Raimi at his purest. As a follow-up to The Evil Dead, it’s part loose sequel, part bigger-budget remake. To explain, the general premise remains the same (small group fights […]

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Chimpanzee (2013)

April 27, 2013 No Comments

Aimed largely at younger audiences, Chimpanzee is more light-hearted and playful than it is educational or scientific. But while you can feel Disney’s guiding hand on the dramatic arc every step of the way – central youngling loses its parent, the villainous chimp is named Scar – this jungle book is punctuated by heartwarming moments (adoption!) and some stunning treetop photography. Set in the lush rainforest territory of  the Ivory Coast, the star of the show is three-year-old chimp Oscar, a little swinger whose ‘family’ is engaged in an ongoing […]

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

April 23, 2013 85 Comments

In theory, the decision to take Iron Man back to basics was just what the genius billionaire playboy philanthropist ordered. In execution, however, it’s only partially successful, as the end result is just as outlandish and over-the-top as it is stripped-back. Admittedly, Tony is separated from his full Iron Man gear for the most of the running time, and as such it’s refreshing to see him relying on his wits and knack for invention instead. But while Iron Man 3 is smart and plausible in some respects (such as Tony having PTSD […]

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Hannibal: Aperitif

April 19, 2013 No Comments

I reviewed the pilot episode of Hannibal for Empire Online. You can read the full article over there: Quid pro quo, dear Clarice. What was your reaction – be honest now – when it was first announced that a Hannibal Lecter prequel TV show was in the works? A dismissive sigh? An audible groan? A dismissively audible sigh-groan? An angry forum rant about how the character should be left alone? All of the above? All of the above whilst guzzling a nice Chianti? Continue reading…

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The Walking Dead: Season 3

April 13, 2013 No Comments

During its first two seasons, The Walking Dead proved frustratingly inconsistent. Though capable of gripping zombie drama, the show was often guilty of repeating itself and treading water, slowly growing stagnant as the writers were forced to stretch their material as a result of problematic budget cuts. As such, it’s something of a pleasant surprise that season three is such a significant improvement. Having clearly taken stock, new showrunner Glen Mazzara and his team enforce a number of crucial changes that are both very welcome and long overdue. Finally moving away from Hershel’s sleepy farm, […]

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Arrested Development: Season 2

April 12, 2013 No Comments

While the second season of Mitch Hurwitz’s knowing sit-com isn’t as outstanding as the first, it still delivers a self-aware cocktail of running jokes, clever lines and terrific gag foreshadowing. Indeed, the way that seemingly random happenings dovetail into important plot points is consistently impressive. See, for example, how Buster gets his hand chopped off by a loose seal after dating Lucille II (get it?), in addition to the hand-related comments he’d made in previous episodes. While most comedies build jokes through an episode, Arrested Development also builds them through […]

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The Evil Dead (1981)

March 29, 2013 No Comments

Made by a group of wannabe filmmakers with no formal training and even less money, The Evil Dead is a seminal cult classic that remains notable as the feature debut of director Sam Raimi. A far cry from his block-busting Spider-Man trilogy, it’s a low-budget, ultra-violent gore-fest that sees five friends facing off against an evil spirit in the woods. Along the way, one character is raped by a tree (yes, you read that correctly), while another ends up chewing off their own hand. It’s that sort of movie. It’s that sort of […]

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Oz The Great And Powerful (2013)

March 9, 2013 4 Comments

At the time of writing, Alice In Wonderland is currently 13th on the list of all-time highest grossing films. As utterly baffling as this is (Alice In Wonderland? 13th? Seriously?), it perhaps explains why Disney wanted to mess around with a prequel to The Wizard Of Oz, one of the most beloved films in cinema history. Okay, so legal rights meant that certain elements from the original couldn’t be re-used (including, quite incredibly, the Wicked Witch’s exact shade of green), but we’re still very much in prequel territory. Sadly though, […]

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Sons Of Anarchy: Season 5

March 7, 2013 No Comments

With everything up for grabs in the season four finale, creator Kurt Sutter was faced with a choice: take a risk by shaking up the existing status quo, or watch Sons Of Anarchy grow stale by pressing the reset button. Happily, he opted for the former option, refreshing the long-standing setup by having Jax finally take control of the club from a weakened Clay. As a result, the fifth season is as strong as the show’s ever been, boasting a number of new character dynamics – Jax as the new Clay, Clay as […]

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The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)

March 5, 2013 No Comments

Featuring Ryan Gosling as a brooding stunt-driver of few words, The Place Beyond The Pines was quickly – and inevitably – pegged as ‘Drive on a bike’. Despite a few other similarities, however, Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to Blue Valentine (which also starred The Gos) is very much its own beast, playing out as an ambitious, multi-generational tale of fathers and sons. Opening with a remarkable tracking shot that follows Gosling into a death-defying stunt, the first 45 minutes function as an absorbing small-town heist thriller, punctuating riveting family drama with a few exhilarating robbery sequences. […]

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Byzantium (2013)

March 2, 2013 No Comments

More than just another vampire movie, Byzantium marks the return of filmmaker Neil Jordan to the genre (sub-genre?) nearly twenty years after Interview With The Vampire. Importantly, though, despite a few thematic similarities (the curse of immortality, a vampire’s need for confession), this blood-soaked odyssey offers a far less traditional take on vampirism. Providing a welcome antidote to the emo-flavoured romance of Twilight, Jordan creates a credible world that’s only slightly removed from our own. Admittedly, the film isn’t without operatic moments (see Clara taking a sexy shower in a waterfall of crimson-red blood), but on […]

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Much Ado About Nothing (2013)

February 28, 2013 25 Comments

During post-production of The Avengers, Joss Whedon was contractually obliged to take a holiday. Instead of taking an actual vacation, the writer-director decided to recharge his batteries by making a small film with some acting friends, opting for a black and white adaptation of a Shakespeare play using the original text. Filmed in Whedon’s own home in under 12 days, the result is both refreshingly admirable and inevitably rather throwaway. Undoubtedly, it’s great to see such an established talent attempting a low-budget passion project, but the end product is still […]

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Game Of Thrones: Season 2

January 31, 2013 No Comments

The first season of HBO’s epic fantasy drama was well received by both critics and audiences alike — and with good reason. This second season demonstrates a slight increase in fantasy elements, but on the whole it’s largely more of the same, combining strong performances with cinematic production values and some of the best writing that television has to offer. As before, it will probably take a handful of episodes to get to grips with all the various characters, storylines and locations. But the measured drama is routinely spiced up […]

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Monsters, Inc. (2001)

January 24, 2013 1 Comment

Skewing younger than the majority of Pixar’s output, Monsters, Inc. offers less in the way of adult material than the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo or Up. While kids will be entertained by the colourful creatures and their slapstick antics, grown-up viewers might find themselves longing for the edgy humour and thought-provoking layers that can be found in the animation studio’s best pictures. There’s plenty of charm and warmth, of course, and the basic premise is imaginative enough. Set in a parallel world to our own, the story introduces […]

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Flix Capacitor Gets Clothing

January 18, 2013 No Comments

Above is a picture of the T-shirt I received from the nice folks at T-Shirt Printing Org, so I thought I’d give them a shout out. Now I’m not sure how qualified I am to discuss the intricacies of T-shirt design, but I’m very happy with this snazzy number which boasts my site’s logo (with permission) in fine resolution. So at the risk of sounding like one of those infomercials, anyone looking for a customised T-shirt should check them out…

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Gangster Squad (2013)

January 9, 2013 No Comments

Given the amount of thinly-veiled similarities between them, it’s fair to say that Gangster Squad is clearly intended as The Untouchables for a new generation. For starters, there’s the determined, incorruptible group leader. For seconds, there’s the notorious crime boss played by an Academy Award winner. For thirds, there’s the fact that it’s all loosely ‘based on real events’. And after that, there’s the ragtag team assembled to operate outside the law, which includes a Hispanic marksman, a past-his-best veteran, and a token brain. Unfortunately, though, despite such obvious – and presumably intentional – parallels, Ruben Fleischer’s pulpy […]

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Sons Of Anarchy: Season 4

December 30, 2012 No Comments

A gratifying return to form, season four gets Sons Of Anarchy back on track after losing its way during a disappointing third year. Wisely returning the focus to Jax and Clay’s leadership struggles, the season is driven by the former’s desire to leave the club and the latter’s attempts to keep his secrets hidden, while SAMCRO gets into bed with a Mexican drug cartel (fronted by Danny Trejo – a perfect fit for this universe). Pushing the story forward, showrunner Kurt Sutter delivers a few memorable shocks as key characters die and […]

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End Of Year Podcast

December 29, 2012 No Comments

The final podcast of the year sees us look at the top five films, top five actors, top five actresses, top five guilty pleasures, top five directors, top five supporting actors and top five worst films. You can listen to it here.

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The Top Films Of 2012

December 22, 2012 No Comments

2012 was a pretty good year in film. This year, I managed to see 317 films (all of which I reviewed), in addition to 53 boxsets (all of which I also reviewed), other freelance commitments, attempting to have a life (something some film folk forget about) and, unfortunately, a day job.  As always, it’s important to note that these are MY favourite films of the year. The ten that I enjoyed most. The top three are rated, but after that they’re in no particular order. 1) The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher […]

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Homeland: Season 2

December 22, 2012 No Comments

As compelling as Homeland undoubtedly was during its first season, some of us were concerned that the show wouldn’t be the same once Brody’s loyalty was revealed. Proving to be the case, this eagerly-anticipated second season isn’t as fundamentally interesting without the same core mystery at its heart, compounded by the fact that it’s also not nearly as consistent in terms of intelligence or overall quality. That said, the opening five episodes are strong and feel like a welcome continuation of season one, while the writers offer enough in the way […]

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 33

December 18, 2012 No Comments

On this week’s podcast we discuss The Hobbit, look forward to next week’s Best Of The Year awards (known as “The Guysies”) and discuss the top five movies we’re looking forward to in 2013. You can listen to it here.  

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The Hunter (2012)

December 10, 2012 No Comments

A minimalistic, low-key forest thriller with an existential edge, The Hunter is more interested in quietly observing Willem Dafoe set traps than it is with generic action. Adapted from Julia Leigh’s novel by TV man Daniel Nettheim, Dafoe plays a hunter (obviously) who’s been tasked by a shady biotech company with tracking down the last Tasmanian tiger. Part character piece, part family drama and part survivalist thriller, it’s most successful when Dafoe is patiently stalking through the woodland, as his craggy presence and the moody cinematography are enough to hold our […]

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 32

December 10, 2012 No Comments

This week we slated reviewed Seven Psychopaths, looked at the trailer for one of Tom Cruise’s upcoming films, Oblivion, and debated our top seven film psychopaths. You can listen to it here:

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Girls: Season 1

December 7, 2012 No Comments

Girls revolves around four female friends in New York, and as such comparisons with Sex And The City are somewhat inevitable. This show, however, is far less glamorous and much closer to reality, providing a sharp and well-observed portrait of female friendship and the messy nature of life as a twenty-something. In truth, the characters are a little unlikeable for their own good, and it’s often hard to feel sorry for privileged youngsters complaining about their privileged problems. But creator-come-star Lena Dunham is clearly very talented, managing to write (or […]

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Boardwalk Empire: Season 3

December 6, 2012 No Comments

At the end of Boardwalk Empire’s much-improved second season, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson was told that he couldn’t be “half a gangster”. Appropriately, it’s this idea that informs and drives season three as a whole, with the Machiavellian bootlegger deciding to fully embrace the criminal side of his dual persona. Illustrated by a few terrific scenes (see him clinically offing a cheeky kid who the writers dangle as a Jimmy replacement), Nucky’s move away from the political limelight anchors the usual multitude of plot threads and character arcs. Not all of […]

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 30

November 27, 2012 No Comments

This week on the podcast we review Silver Linings Playbook and End Of Watch, rant about Breaking Dawn – Part 2 and discuss our top five movie dads. You can listen to it here:

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 28

November 12, 2012 No Comments

This week we reviewed Ben Affleck’s Argo, had a look at the new trailer for World War Z, discussed some news regarding Star Wars Episode VII, talked about the revelation that Sean Connery was possibly to appear in Skyfall and – wait for this – debated our top five movie beards. You can listen here.

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 27

November 5, 2012 No Comments

This week we review Rust And Bone, discuss the huge news that there will be a Star Wars Episode VII, analyse casting for the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man and debate out top five fish (or thereabouts) on film. You can listen to it here.

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 26

October 29, 2012 No Comments

On the podcast this week we review Skyfall, muse on Daniel Craig’s tenure in the tuxedo and try to nail down the top five Bond films of all time. You can listen to it here.

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 25

October 15, 2012 No Comments

This week on the podcast myself, Ryan and Clarky review the excellent Ruby Sparks, muse on the possibility of a sequel to Prometheus and Blade Runner, as well as looking at our Top Five directorial partnerships. You can listen to it here.

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Arrow: Pilot

October 15, 2012 No Comments

I just reviewed the pilot of Arrow for Empire Magazine online, so follow the link below to read it: As anyone who persevered with (read: suffered through) Smallville’s final years will attest, one of the highlights of its disappointing later seasons was The Green Arrow and his promotion to recurring regular status. As such, it’s hardly a major surprise that The CW have chosen to use DC Comic’s Emerald Archer to fill the small-screen-superhero void left by Tom Welling’s Teen Of Steel. Continue reading…

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Homeland: The Smile

October 10, 2012 No Comments

I reviewed the season two opener of Homeland for Empire Magazine Online, so you can check it out there. While I caught the Homeland bug last year like many of you, I had a reservation. Not one about the first season itself, which offered compelling, moreish and unpredictable (yet credible) drama, but about the show’s longevity. Built around a riveting is-he-isn’t-he concept, the series was initially driven by the ambiguity surrounding a rescued soldier who might be a turned-by-the-baddies sleeper agent. And while most people would just sit back and enjoy this […]

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 24

October 9, 2012 No Comments

More podcasting tonight, as me and Those Movie guys review Taken 2 (my written review is here), The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (my written review is here) and more. We also discussed the first trailer for Die Hard 5 and the prospect of Guillermo del Toro’s Incredible Hulk TV show, as well as musing on our Top Five Worst Carbon Copy Sequels. Listen to it here.

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Elementary: Pilot

September 28, 2012 No Comments

I reviewed the pilot of Elementary, the new Americanised version of Sherlock Holmes, over at Empire Magazine online, so pop on over there to read it. If, like me, you can’t get enough of the BBC’s addictive-as-heroin Sherlock (seriously third season, hurry up), then you probably aren’t holding out much hope for CBS’s American remake. Putting aside the brilliance of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ version for a moment, there’s also the little matter of Guy Ritchie’s big-screen interpretation, meaning that Elementary faced the potential problem of Arthur Conan Doyle fatigue. Take into account […]

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Dallas: Changing Of The Guard

September 23, 2012 No Comments

I reviewed the first episode of the new Dallas over at Empire Online, so scoot on over there to read it: As much a surprise to you as it was to me, I recently found myself ridiculously excited about the return of Dallas to our screens – perhaps not to the same extent as John Barrowman, but excited nonetheless. I know that as a ‘serious’ film and television journalist I should be focusing my attention on more highbrow upcoming fare. But while I’m eagerly awaiting the likes of Rian Johnson’s […]

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 23

September 17, 2012 No Comments

More podcasting this week, as me and the boys from Those Movie Guys discuss the excellent Looper ahead of its release (my written review is here), as well as musing on The Sweeney (my written review is here), Premium Rush, (my written review is here), To Rome With Love (my written review is here), Paranorman and others. We also touch on some movie news and debate our Top Five Time Travel movies. You can listen to the show here.

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Looper (2012)

September 14, 2012 2 Comments

Even before Looper was released, there was a general feeling that it was going to be great – and not just because we asked our future selves. The complex, mind-bending brainchild of writer-director Rian Johnson, it boasts a head-scratchingly twisty time-travel premise that is both thematically reminiscent of a few genre classics (most notably, Twelve Monkeys and The Terminator) and refreshingly, admirably original in its own right. While lesser filmmakers might have wasted said premise as an excuse for soulless CGI block-busting, Johnson uses it to explore a variety of […]

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The Newsroom: Season 1

September 12, 2012 No Comments

Where do you stand on Aaron Sorkin? Do you hold him as one of best writers in the business? Or as a speechifying scribe who keeps repeating himself? The answer, rather crucially, will inform your response to The Newsroom, since it’s very much a typical Sorkin experience. Returning to television after penning a few excellent features (most notably, The Social Network and Moneyball), his new HBO drama is everything you’d expect from the celebrated screenwriter. Set in another high-pressure workplace, it’s intelligent, informed and unashamedly idealistic, while the characters are smart-yet-clumsy […]

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 21

September 3, 2012 No Comments

More podcasting action with Ryan Gilbert on the excellent Those Movie Guys show. This week, me and Ryan review Total Recall (my written review is here), discuss the recently-leaked cut scenes from Avengers Assemble, chat about some movie news and try to remember our favourite films about memory loss. You can listen to it all here.

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 20

August 21, 2012 No Comments

I was back on the excellent film podcast show, Those Movie Guys, last week. On it, myself, Ryan Gilbert and Stuart Clark reviewed The Bourne Legacy (my written review is here), discussed The Avengers 2 and mused on possible casting for The Expendables 3. Also, we debated on our Top Five Movie Spies of all time. You can listen here.

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Podcast: Season 2, Episode 19

August 9, 2012 No Comments

I recently appeared on the excellent film podcast show Those Movie Guys, with Forth FM’s Ryan Gilbert. On it, we reviewed Ted (my written review is here), looked at the new Skyfall trailer, discussed The Hobbit being made into a trilogy and did a Top Five Animated / Animatronic Characters In Live-Action Movies. You can listen to it here.

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The X-Files: Season 2

August 2, 2012 No Comments

An on-par continuation of season one, the second season of The X-Files once again flits between superior mythology episodes – concerned with the ongoing conspiracy arc – and frustratingly disposable self-contained investigations. Book-ended by a riveting opener (Little Green Men) and an equally gripping cliffhanger finale (Anasazi), it boasts some of the series’ best instalments in terms of the alien cover-up, making the various monster-of-the-week cases all the more frustrating by comparison. Happily, though, both Mitch Pileggi’s Assistant Director Skinner and William B. Davis’ Smoking Man are given expanded roles, while the new recurring characters […]

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The X-Files: Season 1

July 6, 2012 No Comments

For anyone who knows a thing or two about television, there’s little doubt that The X-Files is one of the most influential shows of all time. That being true, the quality of episodes was always frustratingly inconsistent, as becomes quickly apparent during the terrific yet ultimately uneven first season. While one episode will prove gripping as Mulder and Scully investigate the ongoing government cover-up (known as the “myth-arc”), the next will veer off into some self-contained monster-of-the-week filler. Occasionally, these do provide us with the odd gem, such as Squeeze (which features Doug Hutchison’s timeless […]

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House: Series Finale: Everybody Dies

May 25, 2012 No Comments

I’ve just reviewed the last ever episode of House over at Empire Magazine, so pop over there if you want to know what the Flix Capacitor verdict is… Whilst my love for House is such that I’ve wittered on about it right here on this very blog before (hell, it even sneaks a mention in my Twitter bio), a steady decline in quality over the last few years meant that I approached the final episode with mixed feelings as well as a large box of tissues. On one hand, you could argue […]

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Homeland: Season 1

May 11, 2012 No Comments

Considering that Homeland was developed by writers best known for their work on 24, you’d have been forgiven for expecting a similar experience. But while both shows share some of the same DNA – given that they revolve around spies, terrorists, torture and double agents – Showtime’s twisty conspiracy thriller is a far more intelligent and sophisticated affair. Based on Israeli series Prisoners Of War, it’s a superior terrorist drama – the thinking man’s 24, if you will – combining nuanced character work with tense, unpredictable spy thrills to highly addictive effect. For all […]

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Boardwalk Empire: Season 2

April 11, 2012 No Comments

Created by celebrated Sopranos writer Terence Winter and overseen by filmmaking legend Martin Scorsese (who also helmed the pilot), Boardwalk Empire arrived with the sort of impressive pedigree that spoke for itself. Despite all the talent involved, however, the first season of HBO’s lavish crime drama was easier to admire than it was to enjoy, while the relentlessly deliberate approach often proved too slow and meandering for its own good. It’s great news, then, that Winter and his writing staff have clearly taken stock, as season two is a noticeable […]

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Game Of Thrones: Season Two 2 Premiere: The North Remembers

April 3, 2012 1 Comment

I covered the Game Of Thrones season two opener for Empire Magazine, so march on over there for the full piece. Whether you read about it in Empire, overheard whispers at King’s Landing or received word via raven, you probably already know that the eagerly-awaited second season of Game Of Thrones has marched back onto our screens. Having quickly proven itself as an ambitious, densely-plotted classic-in-the-making, the first season of HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s popular fantasy series earned a solid fanbase and bags of critical acclaim, meaning that many […]

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Mad Men: Season 5 Premiere: A Little Kiss

April 3, 2012 No Comments

Over at Empire Magazine I reviewed the Mad Men season five opener. So head on over there to read the full article… Accompanied by a widespread, everywhere-you-look publicity blitz, the long-overdue fifth season of AMC’s Mad Men finally sauntered back onto our screens after an agonising 18-month absence. But like Don himself, who often arrives at client meetings late before rescuing them with a seductively-persuasive pitch, it was worth the wait. Despite rumours of budget disputes (which allegedly affected fellow AMC tentpole The Walking Dead) and contract negotiations with creator […]

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The Walking Dead: Season 2 Finale: Beside The Dying Fire

March 29, 2012 No Comments

I reviewed the season two finale of The Walking Dead for Empire Magazine. So to read the article, amble on over there: Like the show as a whole, the second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead has split opinion. But whether you hold the series as a compelling zombie drama or a dragging talk-fest, there’s little doubt that the finale delivered a gripping example of how good it can be with the best instalment since the cinematic, Frank Darabont-directed feature-length pilot. As Hershel’s amusingly-isolated farm was finally overran by hordes […]

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Breaking Bad: Season 4

March 27, 2012 2 Comments

More of a steady climb than previous seasons, the opening episodes of season four are unhurried even by Breaking Bad’s measured standards. To begin with, there’s frustratingly little of Giancarlo Esposito’s Gus Fring, as he and Walter attempt to outmanoeuvre each other from afar, while Vince Gilligan and his writers take their time shifting all the new pieces into place. But eventually it all builds into a momentous final run of episodes, with Gilligan and co unleashing a truly riveting second half that is packed with unpredictable developments and tension-soaked […]

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Luck: Pilot

February 25, 2012 No Comments

I recently reviewed the pilot of HBO’s new horse-racing drama Luck for Empire Magazine. So gallop over there to read it: While television was once seen as cinema’s lesser cousin, the idiot box is now able to attract some major talent. Take Boardwalk Empire for example. The pilot was benevolently overseen by Martin Scorsese (who stayed on as executive producer); the impressive ensemble remains headed up by veteran character actor Steve Buscemi, and the whole shebang is orchestrated by one of the Sopranos’ key writers, one Terence Winter. Arriving with […]

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Breaking Bad: Season 3

February 24, 2012 No Comments

Delving deeper into the shadowy crime thriller side of things than ever before, season three of Breaking Bad is arguably the darkest and best yet. As always, it’s a slow-burn affair that often includes quieter, introspective episodes (such as Rian Johnson’s bottle episode, set entirely inside the super lab), but the payoffs and game-changing moments that result are always worth it. For example, the finale boasts a brilliantly-orchestrated sequence where Jonathan Banks’ fixer (happily getting an expanded role) skillfully dispatches of four Mexican gunmen, while the season’s high point comes […]

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Breaking Bad: Season 2

February 23, 2012 No Comments

Picking up where the truncated first season left off, season two is another brilliantly unpredictable mix of compelling character drama, genuinely shocking moments (ATM machine, anyone?) and gripping, slow-burn crime thrills. As well as expanding the world creator Vince Gilligan introduced us to last time, the core of the season – symbolised by the discovery of rot – is the moral decay of Walter’s soul. Though he started out as a good man trying to provide for his family, here he takes definitive steps towards becoming a feared drug lord, (giving […]

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Boardwalk Empire: Season 1

February 3, 2012 2 Comments

Quickly positioning itself as the latest must-see cable series from choice network HBO, Boardwalk Empire arrived with the kind of remarkable pedigree that speaks for itself. Created by celebrated Sopranos writer Terence Winter and overseen by filmmaking legend Martin Scorsese (who also directed the pilot), the result is a lavish and predictably intelligent gangster ensemble, boasting the impeccable craftsmanship you’d expect from such seasoned talents. Crucially, though, even patient viewers are liable to find it a little hard-going and uneventful at times, as the relentlessly deliberate approach often proves too […]

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The Top Ten Films Of 2011

February 1, 2012 No Comments

Okay, so it’s February and the vast majority of these lists came online in December, but there were still one or two movies I wanted to check out first before deciding on my ten. To be honest, there’s still a few I haven’t seen and (obviously) I didn’t catch every film released in 2011, as I’m just one man and (sadly) this isn’t my job. I managed to watch 152 films in 2011, but whilst that might not sound like a lot to some cinema geeks, I reviewed each and […]

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Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall

January 18, 2012 No Comments

For those who fancy reading my thoughts on the final instalment of season two of Sherlock, head over to Empire’s blog: It returned to our screens a mere three weeks ago, but that’s it for season two of the Beeb’s utterly-brilliant Sherlock. Mirroring the superlative first season, the second began with a dizzying, Moffat-written opener, dipped slightly in the middle with a self-contained mystery and finished with a tantalising, event-packed finale which will have us formulating theories in our mental palaces until next year. Although for all the high-functioning sociopaths reading […]

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Sherlock: The Hounds Of Baskerville

January 12, 2012 2 Comments

Earlier in the week I reviewed the second episode of Sherlock‘s second season for Empire magazine. Hop over there to feast your filmic eyes. So last week I thoroughly enjoyed the marvellous season two opener of Sherlock, which welcomed the Beeb’s modern day story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth back to our screens with assurance. Like the first season’s opening instalment, it was penned by co-creator Steven Moffat and offered a frequently-breathless plate-spinning act of knotty plotting, dazzling dialogue and Watson-impressing deductions. Admittedly, there were one or two niggles (as […]

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Sherlock: A Scandal In Bohemia

January 1, 2012 No Comments

Over at Empire Magazine, I took a look at the first episode of Sherlock‘s second season. Even though Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes sequel A Game Of Shadows has been receiving positive-enough word of mouth, for many of us the real return of literature’s most iconic sleuth was always going to be the second season of Sherlock. Co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it was an intelligent, playful and brilliantly-written take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s short stories which seamlessly transplanted the high-functioning consulting detective from the Victorian era to the […]

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RoboCop (1987)

October 17, 2011 No Comments

Part man. Part machine. All ’80s classic. Fusing extreme violence with muscular action and a surprisingly sharp layer of biting social satire, Paul Verhoeven’s first American studio movie is a subversive, hard-edged sci-fi masterpiece. Set in a dystopian, near-future version of Detroit, it centres on police officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a recently-transferred cop who is brutally murdered by a ruthless gang of scuzzy street criminals. Chosen for an experimental programme, Murphy is essentially ‘reborn’ as a cybernetic super-cop, proving highly effective in the city’s war on crime before memories […]

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The Smallville Finale Reviewed

October 13, 2011 No Comments

Smallville finished ages ago in the States (and if you, ahem, download), but the final season is coming to a close on British TV so thought I’d link to a review I wrote about the long-awaited finale. As mentioned in the piece itself, it contains major spoilers - so if you’ve not seen it yet then probably best to wait till after watching to have a read. If you have though, then for the full article you’ll need to fly up, up and away to Empire Magazine online… So here we are, […]

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What’s The Best Show On TV Just Now?

October 12, 2011 1 Comment

Over at Empire Magazine online, I’ve penned a piece debating what the best show currently in production is. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time, so decided to put pen (thought) to paper (Microsoft Word). Admittedly, the picture above is a bit of a spoiler, but it’s worth a read anyway. Well, in my humble opinion… Last year, we bid farewell to the mysterious hatch-filled island of Lost. Year before that, we waved goodbye to the good ship Battlestar Galactica (so say we all) for the last time. And, in […]

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Breaking Bad: Season 1

October 7, 2011 No Comments

Part compelling character drama, part measured crime thriller, the truncated first season of Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad is a potent cocktail of unpredictable writing, dark humour and fantastic acting. Despite the fact that each episode opens with an intriguing teaser (skinhead Walt striding away from an explosion, anyone?), it’s important to note that the show is very much a slow-burn experience, consistently ratcheting the tension to unbearable levels before unleashing breathtaking payoffs that are always worth it. As Walter progressively breaks bad, it’s also hugely satisfying to watch as he awakens from […]

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

August 6, 2011 No Comments

One of the best things about Captain America: The First Avenger is that it’s more of an old-fashioned World War II adventure than it is a typical superhero blockbuster. In similar fashion to The Rocketeer (which was also directed by Joe Johnston), it’s a nostalgic period piece that combines retro futurism with swashbuckling heroism and Nazi villainy to winning effect. While the second half slides into more familiar territory, the first hour or so – which focuses on the character’s origins – is surprisingly engaging and impressively well-handled. In general, […]

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Thor (2011)

May 19, 2011 2 Comments

Of all the Avengers, Thor is arguably the trickiest to translate from page to screen. He is, after all, a flying God from another dimension who controls lightning with an enchanted hammer. Thankfully, though, this block-busting adaptation delivers a funny and well-judged introduction to the character that gets much right. First and foremost, filmmaker Kenneth Branagh achieves a satisfying balance between having fun and taking the material seriously, splitting the action between the mythic realm of Asgard and a small, out-of-the-way desert town in New Mexico. To be clear, Thor […]

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The West Wing: Season 1

April 21, 2011 No Comments

Aaron Sorkin’s commanding political drama is widely held as one of the greatest TV shows of all time — and it’s not difficult to see why. Looking back, the 22-episode first season offers a hugely enjoyable example of the show at its very best, as we’re taken inside the White House and introduced to the senior staff members of the benevolent Bartlet Administration. The West Wing is unashamedly idealistic and it may be too ‘preachy’ for some viewers, but it’s also extremely witty and unusually intelligent. What sets the show […]

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