A Little Chaos (2014)

A Little Chaos Reviewed

The King's Landscape Architect And I

Wish I Was Here (2014)

Wish I Was Here Reviewed

Garden State: The Married Years

Palo Alto (2014)

Palo Alto Reviewed

Very Dazed And Equally Confused

Northern Soul (2014)

Northern Soul Reviewed

Saturday Night Soul Fever

The Maze Runner (2014)

The Maze Runner Reviewed

Lost meets Labyrinth

Gone Girl (2014)

Gone Girl Reviewed

The Curious Case Of Amy Dunne

A Little Chaos (2014)

October 21, 2014 No Comments

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

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Wish I Was Here (2014)

October 21, 2014 No Comments

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

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Palo Alto (2014)

October 18, 2014 No Comments

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

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Northern Soul (2014)

October 13, 2014 No Comments

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

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The Maze Runner (2014)

October 13, 2014 No Comments

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

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Gone Girl (2014)

October 11, 2014 No Comments

Is Nick Dunne responsible for the disappearance of his wife? This question will keep many viewers guessing throughout Gone Girl, David Fincher’s gripping, twisted, mystery-driven adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel. It begins on the day that Nick (Ben Affleck) and his spouse, Amy (Rosamund Pike), are supposed to be celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary, with the former returning home to find that the latter is missing. There are signs of a struggle, but evidence soon positions Nick as the prime suspect. As the investigation unfolds, Fincher punctuates the film […]

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The Calling (2014)

October 10, 2014 No Comments

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

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Withnail And I (1987)

October 1, 2014 No Comments

Bruce Robinson’s semi-autobiographical black comedy didn’t have much success when it was first released in 1987. Since then, however, it has become one of the most beloved British films of all time. Admittedly, there’s very little plot to speak of — two unemployed actors (Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann) head to the countryside for a boozy weekend — and the humour won’t be to everyone’s taste. But Robinson’s dialogue is incredibly quotable [insert your favourite line here] and the performances are impeccable. Grant is note-perfect as the perennially intoxicated Withnail, […]

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Still The Enemy Within (2014)

October 1, 2014 No Comments

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

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Tony Benn: Will And Testament (2014)

October 1, 2014 No Comments

It’s fair to say that Tony Benn was one of the most respected British politicians of the modern era. Many disagreed with his politics, of course, but in general the late MP was admired for his honesty and integrity. With Will And Testament, director Skip Kite offers an effective overview of Benn’s life, alternating between archive footage and interviews with the pipe-smoking icon himself. Regrettably, though, we don’t hear from any of his allies, opponents or admirers, which feels like a missed opportunity. Still, the former cabinet minister provides some nice moments […]

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Life After Beth (2014)

September 29, 2014 No Comments

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

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Ghost In The Shell (1995)

September 29, 2014 No Comments

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

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300: Rise Of An Empire (2014)

September 25, 2014 No Comments

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

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Night Moves (2014)

September 12, 2014 No Comments

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

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Starred Up (2014)

September 8, 2014 No Comments

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

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Bad Neighbours (2014)

September 5, 2014 No Comments

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

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Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)

August 27, 2014 No Comments

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

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Sin City (2005)

August 26, 2014 No Comments

Sin City isn’t so much an adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel as it is a slavish recreation. In fact, as far as comic book movies go, it’s as close to a panel-by-panel reconstruction as you’re likely to find, with director Robert Rodriguez lifting most of the dialogue and imagery directly from the pages of Miller’s comic. As a result, Rodriguez’s big-screen version contains all the same ingredients as the source material, combining stylised monochrome visuals with lashings of brutal violence and an abundance of hard-boiled narration. Based on three of Miller’s stories, […]

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Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

August 24, 2014 No Comments

Good Morning, Vietnam is a solid war movie in its own right, but above all it remains notable as the perfect showcase for Robin Williams and his peerless comic talent. The beloved funnyman stars as Adrian Cronauer, a wisecracking DJ who is sent to Saigon during the Vietnam War. The role allows Williams to unleash a range of characters, impersonations and fast-talking riffs, but what’s most impressive is that the majority of his on-air dialogue is ad-libbed, with director Barry Levinson stitching together the best material from different takes. Not […]

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Million Dollar Arm (2014)

August 24, 2014 No Comments

Like most of the sports movies that Disney has produced over the years, Million Dollar Arm is based on a remarkable true story. Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm stars as J.B. Bernstein, an American sports agent who is struggling to keep his agency from going under. Determined to turn things around, he launches a talent-scouting competition in India, hoping to find a couple of amateur cricket players who can be converted into professional baseball pitchers. After discovering two relatively promising prospects (Life of Pi‘s Suraj Sharma and Slumdog Millionaire‘s Madhur Mittal), […]

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The West Wing: Season 2

August 22, 2014 No Comments

Combining peerless dialogue with an incredibly likeable ensemble cast, the second season of Aaron Sorkin’s commanding political drama offers the same winning formula as the first. Moira Kelly’s argumentative media consultant isn’t seen again, and her absence isn’t mentioned or explained (according to Sorkin, the character wasn’t working), but apart from that it’s largely more of the same. While there are one or two welcome additions (including Oliver Platt as a no-nonsense legal advisor), the existing characters remain so enjoyable and well performed that fresh faces aren’t really necessary. Season […]

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A Dangerous Game (2014)

August 20, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for The Skinny: In Anthony Baxter’s 2011 documentary You’ve Been Trumped, the residents of Aberdeenshire opposed Donald Trump and his attempts to transform a stretch of coastline into a luxury golf course. With this follow-up, Baxter revisits the same residents — many of whom are still coping with the fallout — while examining the damaging impact of similar high-price golf resorts in various other countries. The filmmaker interviews a few frustrated activists and a handful of dismissive politicians along the way, but the highlight is a face-to-face showdown with […]

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Blood Ties (2014)

August 14, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This ‘70s-set crime thriller is a tale of two brothers on opposite sides of the law. Set in Brooklyn, it hinges on the fateful return of Chris (Clive Owen), a career criminal who is released from prison after serving a nine-year stretch. Attempting to go straight, Chris moves in with his younger brother Frank (Billy Crudup), a law-abiding cop, but before long he returns to his old ways. There are no prizes for guessing how Chris’s story plays out from here, but Owen possesses enough presence […]

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Good Will Hunting (1997)

August 13, 2014 No Comments

Good Will Hunting was Gus Van Sant’s first foray into mainstream filmmaking, and it remains his most successful and satisfying work to date. Far less sentimental that you might expect, the film is smart, witty and surprisingly affecting, benefiting from an Oscar-winning screenplay (co-written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) and a handful of strong performances. Damon shines in his breakthrough role as Will, the troubled young man with a rare gift for mathematics, convincing as both a self-taught genius and as a violence-prone orphan with trust issues. The supporting […]

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Welcome To New York (2014)

August 8, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: Gérard Depardieu is simultaneously compelling and repulsive in this slow-burning orgy of sex, money and power from veteran American filmmaker Abel Ferrara. Depardieu plays Devereaux, a fictionalised version of disgraced finance mogul Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Devereaux lives a life of hedonistic excess and considers himself to be untouchable, but his world is turned upside down when he is arrested for sexual assault on a business trip to New York. For the first half an hour or so, the film offers little more than a series of extended […]

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World War Z (2013)

August 3, 2014 No Comments

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

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Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

August 2, 2014 2 Comments

Guardians Of The Galaxy is a cosmic space adventure that features a talking raccoon and a humanoid tree. Littered with weird names and a ton of largely unexplained sci-fi jargon, it is Marvel Studio’s strangest and most fantastical venture so far. At the centre of the story is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), an outlaw scavenger who was abducted from Earth as a child. After stealing a mysterious orb, Quill is tossed into an intergalactic space prison, where he teams up with a green-skinned assassin (Zoe Saldana), a mountainous convict (Dave […]

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The Nut Job (2014)

July 30, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: A promising set-up and a decent voice cast aren’t enough to elevate this child-friendly animated caper. Expanded from a ten-minute short, the film revolves around Surly the Squirrel (Will Arnett), a self-serving rogue who is banished from the park by his fellow animals after accidentally destroying their food reserves. Young audiences will be entertained by the slapstick and frantic set pieces that follow, but adult viewers won’t find the depth or sophistication that we now expect from animated features. In fairness, there are a few amusing […]

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RoboCop (2014)

July 26, 2014 No Comments

The original RoboCop is a stone-cold classic, and as a result this contemporary remake can’t help but suffer by comparison. At the same time, however, the problem isn’t just the considerable shadow of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 masterpiece, as the film also comes up short when judged on its own individual merits. It follows the same basic story as Verhoeven’s version, with police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) being transformed into a formidable cyborg cop after sustaining critical injuries. But while director José Padilha is clearly — and wisely — trying to […]

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

July 16, 2014 No Comments

The Planet Of The Apes franchise was successfully resurrected three years ago by Rupert Wyatt’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, a smart and enjoyable summer tentpole that played out as a prison break thriller with chimpanzees. By contrast, this eagerly awaited follow-up is something of a different beast, as incoming director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) marshals a post-apocalyptic war story that is noticeably darker in tone and much larger in scale. There’s far more action and spectacle than before (witness the sight of an ape blasting two machine […]

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Begin Again (2014)

July 10, 2014 No Comments

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

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The Anomaly (2014)

July 4, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This admirably ambitious sci-fi thriller from British writer-director-actor Noel Clarke combines elements of Total Recall, The Bourne Identity and The Matrix. The fight scenes that punctuate the story are familiar and somewhat repetitive, but they’re effectively staged and – unlike the vast majority of contemporary action flicks – you can actually tell who is punching whom. In general, though, the film’s promising premise is let down by ropey acting, inexplicable plot developments and clunky, exposition-heavy dialogue. Continue reading…

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The Walking Dead: Season 4

June 28, 2014 No Comments

It is generally agreed that the third season of AMC’s post-apocalyptic zombie serial was a significant improvement over the first and second. That being the case, it’s good news that incoming showrunner Scott M. Gimple has delivered more of the same in season four, which finds the survivors facing the return of The Governor (David Morrissey) while dealing with the outbreak of a deadly virus. The first half of the season hits us with the loss of two major characters, and their respective absences are felt as the 16-episode run […]

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Dead Poets Society (1989)

June 28, 2014 No Comments

Peter Weir’s coming-of-age drama is often cited as one of the most inspirational films of the eighties — and not without good reason. Set in an elite private school that discourages individuality, it follows a group of students who are inspired by an unorthodox English teacher (Robin Williams) to think for themselves and march to the beat of their own drum. Admittedly, the first hour or so is a touch stuffy in places, and certain aspects of the story aren’t entirely convincing. But Weir draws a handful of sensitive performances […]

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Hellion (2014)

June 24, 2014 No Comments

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

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The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

June 23, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: Adapted from John Green’s beloved young adult novel, this bittersweet tear-jerker alternates between mawkish melodrama and heartfelt sincerity. Shailene Woodley is utterly disarming as Hazel, a precocious teenager who is living a restricted lifestyle due to thyroid cancer. Reluctantly attending a local support group, Hazel is approached by an optimistic charmer named Gus (Ansel Elgort), who is in remission after losing one of his legs to bone cancer. Quickly falling for each other, the star-crossed teens strike up a romantic relationship that is destined to end […]

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A Perfect Plan (2014)

June 13, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed for Radio Times: This contrived but occasionally diverting French romantic comedy stars Diane Kruger as Isabelle, an unadventurous dentist who’s about to marry her long-term boyfriend. The story that follows is entirely predictable, but the real problem is that none of the plot points are remotely convincing. Kruger is impressively game in her first comedic role – despite being saddled with unnecessary pratfalls – and Dany Boon provides dorky charm as the dictaphone-wielding love interest, but their rapport isn’t able to overcome the film’s narrative shortcomings. Continue reading…

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Jonathan Glazer Interview

June 13, 2014 No Comments

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

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Mark Kermode Interview

June 13, 2014 No Comments

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

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Dexter Fletcher Interview

June 13, 2014 No Comments

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

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Joss Whedon Interview

June 13, 2014 No Comments

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

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22 Jump Street (2014)

June 13, 2014 No Comments

It’s fair to say 21 Jump Street was far better than most of us expected. On paper, the idea of rebooting a largely forgotten ‘80s TV series wasn’t exactly appealing. But the end result offered a pleasant surprise: a funny and surprisingly self-aware buddy comedy that also worked as an enjoyable teen movie. 22 Jump Street is sillier and less relatable by comparison, but it basically recycles the same plot as last time — and that’s the joke. Poking fun at the nature of Hollywood sequels, returning directors Phil Lord […]

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The Dirties (2014)

June 6, 2014 No Comments

Endorsed by filmmaker Kevin Smith, this low-budget drama offers a provocative examination of bullying and the psychological effects that it can have on the victims. The story centres on Matt (played by first-time writer-director Matt Johnson) and Owen (Owen Williams), two movie-loving dorks who are making a student film that imagines them gunning down the bullies at their school. Patience is required during the first half — which sees Matt and Owen larking about while filming their amateur project — but The Dirties eventually develops into a genuinely interesting piece […]

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If… (1968)

June 5, 2014 No Comments

Hailed by many critics as an anti-establishment classic, Lindsay Anderson’s subversive Brit flick provides a provocative portrait of youthful rebellion. The story takes place in a strict English boarding school, where disaffected pupil Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell, in his first screen role) is growing tired of the authoritarian regime. The first half plays out like a mundane slice of British social realism, but the second is littered with surreal sequences and bizarre moments. At one stage, for example, a priest casually pops out of a large, morgue-like drawer in the […]

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The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)

June 2, 2014 No Comments

Reviewed as part of the Online Film Critics Society Awards 2013: The Wolf Of Wall Street is a cocaine-fuelled orgy of sex, drugs, swearing and hedonism. It’s also Martin Scorsese’s funniest and most purely enjoyable feature in years. The legendary filmmaker is now in his early ‘70s, but he directs the picture with a sense of amped-up energy that completely and utterly belies his age. Based on a true story, the film chronicles the life and crimes of ambitious stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), who rises to become a multi-millionaire […]

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Grace Of Monaco (2014)

May 30, 2014 No Comments

Grace Of Monaco was met with a wide array of negative reviews when it debuted at Cannes — and it’s not difficult to see why. Simplistic and heavy-handed, this glamorous biopic of former actress Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) is riddled with clumsy dialogue (“real love is obligation”, offers Frank Langella’s kindly priest) and unintentionally funny moments. As a fictional account of real events, the story certainly has plenty of potential, with Grace caught between a return to Hollywood and her political duties as the wife of Monaco’s Prince Rainier III […]

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

May 16, 2014 No Comments

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

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Game Of Thrones: Season 3

May 10, 2014 No Comments

The third season of HBO’s epic fantasy drama is arguably the strongest to date. The fantasy boundaries are pushed even further than before, but the show never feels remotely silly and the quality remains sky-high in every single department. This time, highlights include Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) securing an army for herself, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, still ace) getting hammered at his own wedding, and pretty much every scene involving Charles Dance. The cast is full of strong performances, but Dance is outstanding as the Machiavellian overlord who can turn any discussion […]

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The Canyons (2014)

May 10, 2014 No Comments

Following an infamously troubled shoot, The Canyons was met with a barrage of scathing reviews — and it’s not difficult to see why. At the same time, however, it remains a genuinely curious proposition (no, seriously) due to the unusual nature of its production and the eclectic assortment of talent involved. Financed through crowd-funding platform Kickstarter, the film rests on the shoulders of troubled actress Lindsay Lohan (!) and veteran porn star James Deen (!!). In addition, it is directed by critic-cum-scriptwriter-cum-director Paul Schrader (still best known for writing Taxi […]

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Frank (2014)

May 5, 2014 No Comments

It’s fair to say that Frank is a rather strange film. It centres on Jon (the ubiquitous Domhnall Gleeson), an aspiring musician who gets more than he bargained for after being asked to join an unpronounceable avant-garde band. The band is headed — quite literally — by Frank (Michael Fassbender), an enigmatic frontman who wears an oversized fibreglass head at all times. The head will prove familiar to viewers who remember cult figure Frank Sidebottom, but for the purposes of clarity it’s important to note that Fassbender is playing an […]

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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 a number 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 […]

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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 […]

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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 also genuinely absorbing in places and nowhere near as disastrous as many critics have suggested. In terms of how Assange is […]

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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 the next. […]

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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 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 members […]

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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 […]

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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 for this reason 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 […]

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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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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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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 screenwriter 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 his best work, the show was fresh and ahead of its time in some respects, serving as a lightweight introduction to Sorkin’s snappy, rapid-fire dialogue while proving far more intelligent than your average ‘sitcom’. Looking back, it demonstrates many […]

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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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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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Bates Motel: Season 1

June 16, 2013 2 Comments

Reviewed for The Guardian: On paper, Bates Motel doesn’t sound too promising. Billed as a “contemporary prequel” to Psycho, it elects to tell the origin story of Norman Bates in the modern day. Thankfully, the series works far better than this curious setup suggests. It explores the events that lead to Norman— retro spoiler alert — dressing up as his mother and stabbing motel guests, but at the same time the story is unafraid to go in its own direction. The ten-episode first season opens with a tragic family ‘accident’. Deciding to start […]

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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. Following the death of King Robert Baratheon, season two charts the ongoing efforts of several different claimants who believe that the Iron Throne is rightfully theirs for the taking. Character-wise, we’re introduced […]

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Suits: Season 1

January 19, 2013 No Comments

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

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The Newsroom: Season 1

September 12, 2012 No Comments

Reviewed for The Guardian: The first thing to say about The Newsroom is that it is unashamedly idealistic. Created by Aaron Sorkin — who gave us The West Wing — the show is populated by passionate journalists who value truth and facts over ratings and advertising concerns. As is often the case with Sorkin, the action unfolds in a high-pressure environment where a team of smart workaholics frequently burst into impassioned speeches. At the centre of the show is Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), a grumpy news anchor who is popular due to […]

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21 Jump Street (2012)

July 8, 2012 No Comments

The main thing you need to know about 21 Jump Street — which is adapted from a largely forgotten TV series from the late ‘80s — is that it’s far better than expected. Of course, considering the questionable track record of films based on retro shows (such as Bewitched, The Dukes Of Hazzard, The A-Team, and so on), general expectations were pretty low to begin with. But the film is consistently funny and surprisingly self-aware, resulting in one of the best mainstream comedies in recent years. It has the same […]

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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 newly 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 […]

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Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011)

September 4, 2011 No Comments

It’s fair to say that many of us were sceptical when Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was first announced. After all, the previous attempt to resuscitate the beloved franchise — Tim Burton’s 2001 re-imagining — was largely disappointing, while the original series went downhill rapidly after the classic first instalment. It’s great news, then, that this awkwardly titled reboot is far better than expected, with British filmmaker Rupert Wyatt delivering a smart and soulful summer blockbuster that should please both fans of the series and newcomers alike. As […]

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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 WWII adventure than a typical comic book blockbuster. Director Joe Johnston is the man who gave us The Rocketeer, and his take on Marvel’s star-spangled superhero is similar in many ways, blending retro futurism with Nazi villainy and swashbuckling heroism to satisfying effect. Admittedly, the second half isn’t as strong as the first — which details how Steve becomes Captain America — but the film is impressively well handled throughout. Indeed, what’s […]

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X-Men: First Class (2011)

June 16, 2011 No Comments

The bad news about X-Men: First Class is that it doesn’t quite live up to its title. The good news, however, is that incoming director Matthew Vaughn — with the help of writing partner Jane Goldman — gets enough right to put the series back on track after the consecutive disappointments of X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Directing with style and confidence, Vaughn brings a sense of freshness to the tired franchise while having lots of fun with the retro period setting. Taking place in the early […]

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Thor (2011)

May 19, 2011 2 Comments

Looking at each member of the Avengers on an individual basis, Thor is perhaps the trickiest one to get right on the big screen. He is, after all, a flying God who controls lightning with an enchanted, unliftable hammer. It’s to Kenneth Branagh’s credit, then, that this block-busting adaptation works as well as it does, with the British filmmaker offering an impressively well judged introduction to the character. Indeed, he strikes a satisfying balance between having fun and taking the material seriously, splitting the action between the mythic realm of […]

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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 apart, […]

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