Best of 2016: Film



2//I, Daniel Blake


3//The Witch


4//The Wailing


5//Green Room


6//Hunt for the Wilderpeople


7//Under the Shadow


8//The Lobster






11//Hell or High Water


12//Captain America: Civil War


13//A Monster Calls


14//Hail, Caesar!


15//10 Cloverfield Lane



The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies // Review

“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?”

And so we come to the end at last, having been goaded into handing over silly money once again by Richard Armitage pleading “One last time!!” with sad, hopeless eyes. Where to start with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies? Rather than Peter Jackson saying farewell to Middle Earth (for now) with a triumphant celebration of all things Tolkien, we’ve been left with the most feeble of whimpers. Worse than whimpering, mockery. The Battle of The Five Armies is so bad it’s almost a parody of action films, filled with hilariously implausible stunts, jaw-droppingly clunky dialogue, and so many ‘GOTCHA!’ moments that you have wonder whether it was intentional. Alongside this you can throw in utterly pointless sub-plots, murky, sweat-drenched visuals, a travesty of CGI and some extremely confused editing. I could rant for days about all the ways this most recent Hobbit experience trips over itself; and I will. Continue reading


Big, Dumb And Beautiful // Pacific Rim Review

Pacific Rim is a horribly flawed film. It’s big, noisy and stupid, features only the thinnest of characterisation and has almost no emotional or intellectual substance. You could pick holes in it for days – why does everyone alternate between Japanese and English on a whim, why are they just building a wall to stop giant hell monsters who destroy cities, how can the combined research teams of every major nation not know how to preserve dead kaiju but Ron Perlman does, why are we meant to give a crap about the walking brick of a protagonist, etc – but, once you shed your initial cynicism and let it touch your inner child(ew), you realise that actually it’s just too goddamn awesome to care. Continue reading


Boldly Going Where We’ve Already Gone Before // Star Trek Into Darkness Review

Has there ever been a series as indebted to its past as JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot? It’s just an endless cycle of winks, nudges and nods. The fact that it’s such a feature of Abrams work doesn’t instil me with the greatest faith in his upcoming reboot of that other fallen giant of sci-fi. Fortunately he has a solid body of work to counter that claim, and Star Trek Into Darkness is yet another score for the well-oiled Abrams machine. This is a machine that’s made to thrill rather than enlighten, and, though Into Darkness is largely unoriginal and not massively impressive in any way, it once again gets the job done with another fun romp through the infinite vastness of space – though, that said, most of it happens inside a ship interior or in the distant locales of ‘London’ and ‘San Francisco’. Continue reading


I Hate Baz Luhrmann // The Great Gatsby Review

The Great Gatsby is the Great American Novel and perhaps the most widely loved and respected book of the twentieth century. Adapting a classic like that requires care, bravery and, most of all, respect. So that makes Baz Luhrmann, the man who turned Romeo and Juliet into a laughably overblown episode of Jersey Shore, the perfect man for the job. Wait, no, I meant that makes him literally the worst person for the job. When adapting Nick Carraway’s timeless tale of lost love, wait, what? Nick Carraway, the protagonist of the book, wrote the book? From inside a sanatorium? Oh goddamnit Baz, you’ve done it again. Continue reading


Endless Ambition, Endless Potential, Endless Plot // The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond The Pines, which reunites Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance with Ryan Gosling, is a weird film, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. It looks nice, features an endlessly compelling performance by Gosling, and involves motorbikes. I’m not sure how that combination can possibly produce a bad film, especially when it’s Gosling doing the badass biking, but, somehow, it has. Continue reading



Everyone knows music is one of the foundations of horror – it’s essentially the cue for tone, jumps and all manner of heebie-jeebies; it’s what enables those quiet moments of suspense to exist, those moments where nothing much is actually happening but the music tells you those buttocks should remain clamped firmly shut; it’s the unseen horror in films. Films like The Shining are classic exercises in horror sound design. They’re almost farcically over the top, at once chaotic and endlessly atmospheric, and they are just drowning in strings. Ever since Psycho, strings have been the go-to instrument for horror, along with Omen inspired demonic chants from a bunch of choirboy castrati, and it seems like the ‘development’ of horror scores has simply been to add more strings pitched at even more ridiculous extremes of high and low.

I’m not looking at that kind of horror score today though. I’m looking at a film that went so off-center it ended up right back at horror genius. Continue reading