Saturday, 22 April 2017



The biggest mystery about this isn't why they called it Unforgettable, which is a gift of a title to snarky reviewers. Ignoring the fact that it's a fairly generic title that doesn't have much to do with the onscreen action (at least the 1996 Ray Liotta film was sort of about memory), it's like calling a film Impressive or Marvellous: unless your film is undeniably impressive or marvellous then you're giving your detractors an open goal. Rather, the question I left Milton Keynes Cineworld with was: what is that doing in cinemas instead of its natural homes on Netflix or the bargain DVD rack in Sainsbury's? Sure, it's got a generic title, because it's a generic movie. That doesn't mean it's a bad movie, but it's surprising just how not surprising it is.

This feels like a film that, if it were ever in cinemas, would have screened back in the early 1990s along with Deceived and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, although it's got very strong hints of the earlier Fatal Attraction. Former City whizz David (Geoff Stults) has given up the money life to settle down in California and open a brewery with new girlfriend Julia (Rosario Dawson) and his daughter. But his impossibly perfect ex Tessa (Katherine Heigl) isn't going to let him or the child go that easily, using Julia's traumatic past secrets to wreck the new relationship....

It's pleasingly female-led, with Heigl (probably best known for romantic comedies) giving good maniac, and there's some satisfyingly face-punching violence towards the end once she stops being creepy and sinister and degenerates into full-on screaming crazy. There's a nod to blaming it all on Tessa's own upbringing (Cheryl Ladd is the overcontrolling grandmother) but as the film goes on her actions are less those of a natural mother than a regular thriller villain, as she becomes more unhinged to the point where her plans have completely disintegrated. But there are no twists, no surprises, no unexpected moments, no final reveal that something else entirely was going on throughout, nothing. This scene, then this scene, then this scene. Watchable as a Friday night New On Netflix random selection ("because you liked Domestic Disturbance"), but weirdly unremarkable as a national cinema release.




There are two movies going on here: one a forbidden romance set against the backdrop (or back-projection screen) of Old Hollywood, the other a starry biopic of the later years (mostly 1959, bookended with scenes in 1964) of increasingly irrational billionaire recluse Howard Hughes. Either one would be interesting by itself, but the trouble is that they're oddly bolted together, with the conventional boy-meets-girl fluff taking ever more of a back seat to the antics of a cranky old goat surrounded by his closest employees getting steadily more frustrated by his ever more erratic behaviour by the day.

In truth Rules Don't Apply is more of a love triangle between driver Frank (Alden Ehrenreich in his second Old Hollywood movie after Hail, Caesar!), fresh-off-the-bus aspiring contract player Marla Mabery (Lily Collins) and legendary industrialist and RKO studio boss Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty, also director, producer and screenwriter). Frank and Marla's relationship is forbidden not just by their own strict religious upbringing (and Marla's even stricter mother played by Annette Bening who really isn't in it enough) but by their employment contracts with Hughes, who's never even met them. Marla's pushy and insistent, though, finally getting her meeting and screen test, and more.... Meanwhile, Frank has to decide: does he want to make it on his own or stay within the Hughes empire at the cost of his dreams? Does he really want Marla or his seventh-grade sweetheart (Taissa Farmiga)?

In the second half of the movie, Hughes takes over, embodying Dennis Hopper's bad guy line from Speed that "poor people are crazy, I'm eccentric!". He won't meet the financiers whose loans his business needs, he holes up in hotel rooms and refuses to come out, he demands a truck full of one particular ice cream then demands a different flavour, he fires his minions for doing their jobs, he turns off the aircraft engines mid-flight. The trouble is that it's stated that "everyone's got a crush on Hughes" but aside from his billions there's no apparent reason why this version of HH would be so apparently attractive. Still, an array of familiar names and faces show up, some for only a scene and a couple of lines: Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Alex Baldwin, Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino, Martin Sheen, Steve Coogan.

In the manner of Woody Allen (who could have easily done the period Hollywood romance stuff, but a lot funnier and sharper), Rules Don't Apply doesn't have a score of its own, instead using pop songs from the likes of Bobby Darin and Rosemary Clooney and, several times, Gustav Mahler's wonderfully miserable Adagietto, most famously used in Visconti's Death In Venice but probably tracked in here because the female lead's name is Marla (Marla, Mahler, geddit?). It's a bit of a mess, too long at 127 minutes and it seems curiously old-fashioned, but the period detail with the cars, decor and fashions makes up for the lack of easy afternoon's entertainment that was promised by the poster and the first third or so of the movie. Even though it's half an hour longer, I much preferred The Carpetbaggers.


Friday, 14 April 2017



What's it all about, eh? Life? Really, what does it mean, what's it all for? What's the point of it? What's the point of anything? What is love? What can we be? Who are we underneath? Why? Indeed, why not? Answers to the great insoluble posers (and indeed poseurs) of our time to Terrence Malick, who here invites us to ponder at great and unnecessary length on such eternal headscratchers as love, sex, success, money, God, family, happiness, marriage, regret and Antonio Banderas. What's it all about? Don't ask me, I only watched it.

Knight Of Cups isn't much in the way of plot, narrative or incident, being mainly concerned with top screenwriter Christian Bale musing on these great philosophical abstractions that have plagued mankind since before the war at least. We never see him type a single word, but he must be fantastically successful because he's got a terrific Los Angeles apartment (with an ocean view!), and by the look of it his deadlines are incredibly distant because he spends all his time wandering along the beach, going to parties, wandering about in the desert and blathering nonsensically to a succession of impossibly glamorous women who blather as much as he does. Banderas turns up at a party, prattles about raspberries and strawberries, and doesn't show up in the rest of the film. Imogen Poots turns up, prattles for a bit and then disappears. Cate Blanchett (as his ex) turns up, prattles for a bit and then disappears. Teresa Palmer turns up, prattles for a bit and then disappears. Brian Dennehy (as his Dad) turns up, prattles, disappears, comes back, prattles a bit more, and then disappears. Natalie Portman turns up, prattles....

This all goes on for two hours: two hours in which nothing happens except a bunch of shallow, empty people try and make sense of where their lives have gone wrong. And even when things do actually happen - a mugging, an earthquake - they're immediately dropped and never mentioned again. Normally this would be utterly intolerable, but the film's sole saving grace is that it is magnificently, magnificently photographed. Los Angeles at night, the beach, the desert, strip clubs, Las Vegas, apartments, all the beautiful people: everything looks utterly wonderful. It's the people who make it such a chore to wade through: cut them all out, put some mellow ambient tones on the soundtrack and you've got a lovely relaxing screensaver. As it is, it's industrial strength piffle and not worth the TWO HOURS it takes to stodge through to its conclusion.


Monday, 10 April 2017



This is shaping up to be one of those movies that's more notable for the Outrage! and Fury! generated by its casting decisions than for its actual merits as a film. Should an actress as demonstrably white as Scarlett Johansson be cast in a role that was originally Asian, specifically Japanese, in the original comicbook source and 1995 animated version (full disclosure: neither of which I'm familiar with)? Every so often the whitewashing controversy surfaces again, be it Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange or Gerard Butler as an Ancient Egyptian deity in Gods Of Egypt, and while no-one appears to be going as far as Mickey Rooney's "hilarious" Japanese in Breakfast At Tiffany's (a characterisation that makes Benny Hill's forays into racial stereotype look like models of cultural sensitivity), the question remains of how far you can actually go with it. Should only British actors play Richard III? Should only Danes play Hamlet? Ridley Scott's justifications for casting Christian Bale rather than "Mohammed So-and-so" in Exodus: Gods And Kings were incredibly badly phrased, but was he reflecting studio reluctance to spend hundreds of millions on a film with an unfamiliar star, or the audiences who are unlikely to bother seeing it, thus making it a bad investment?

The real pity is that the star casting in Ghost In The Shell is ultimately going to be the most memorable thing about it: it's an oddly drab, murky movie which, for all the eye-popping visuals and action sequences is curiously joyless. Sometime in the near future, when humans can be augmented with any number of cybernetic implants, Mira (Johansson) has been thoroughly converted into a cyborg superagent in the anti-terrorism unit, and her team is up against a superhacker (Michael Pitt) with his own superaugmented abilities. But Mira's mind is glitching, as the deleted memories of her pre-conversion past are starting to surface...

The dense, bewildering cityscape with its giant advertising logos and bright coloured lights all over the place obviously recalls Blade Runner, though the robots starting to turn human and act on their own instincts harks back even to Westworld (Mira's was supposed to be a "clean brain", according to one line from the trailer that I didn't notice in the film itself). But this seems to be much less interested in what it means to be human and much more of a vehicle for Scarlett Johansson to leap around in her flesh-coloured cyborg suit that's absolutely not supposed to look like she's spending half the film naked, no sir. And given the substantial amount of leaping about, it really should be a lot more enjoyable.

Sure it's good looking with its immersive, detailed future. The action sequences are decent enough, there's some fun to be had from Takeshi Kitano and his weird hair, and they even throw in a giant mechanical spider towards the end, just because. It doesn't have any real emotional connection, and there's not enough to make you care whether Mira discovers how she became a cyborg in the first place. So it's a mixed bag: a superbly designed world but strangely, surprisingly unexciting things happening there. It's watchable enough, but there's the nagging sense throughout that it's not as enjoyable as it should be (certainly less fun than Lucy, for example), and it just didn't knock me sideways the way Blade Runner did. But few things do.


Saturday, 8 April 2017



Whose sparklingly bright idea was it to take a piece of innocuous late-1970s network fluff that played ITV at 7pm on a Saturday evening, and reboot it as a 15-rated frenzy of knob jokes, masturbation jokes, poo jokes and sex jokes, wrapped up with lots of of shooty violence and swearing? Not to suggest my inner Mary Whitehouse is stirring again, but it's like relaunching Last Of The Summer Wine and making Foggy an obese nudist and giving Compo a crystal meth habit. You're kind of betraying whatever it was that made the original show famous more than thirty years ago. Sure, you could argue that the awkwardly-capitalised CHiPs hasn't been a thing since about a fortnight after it was cancelled, less of a thing than The Dukes Of Hazzard ever was, but it's highly unlikely that a big-screen Chips is going to make it a thing once more.

In updating Chips from family-friendly primetime twaddle to grown-up action comedy (difficult to claim it as grown-up when the bulk of the humour struggles to escape the level of "poo willy bum knickers"), it's ended up as a shooty, shouty Lethal Weapon rip but without the wit, character or energy. Jon Baker (Dax Shepard, who also wrote and directed so it's really his fault) is now a former motocross stunt biker and colossal arsehole who thinks he needs to prove himself as a California Highway Patrol officer to stop his wife from leaving him. His hugely (and justifiably) reluctant partner Poncharello (Michael Pena) is now an undercover FBI agent tracking down a gang of corrupt cops, but constantly distracted by [1] Baker's inability to stay still and shut up and [2] women in yoga pants. (I just googled them and.... meh, to be honest. Whatever blows your skirt up.)

It's less Lethal Weapon (mismatched cops, full-throttle action ensues) and more Police Academy (morons join the police force, hilarity ensues) - or more accurately a Police Academy sequel, as the first Police Academy was actually perfectly good raucous fun. It honestly feels as though the makers had never sat through an actual episode of CHiPs; certainly there's no sense of love or affection for the source material. So why bother? This isn't any fun at all: I didn't laugh once during the whole running time, instead rolling my eyes at the ceiling as if to say "Really?". And I do still laugh at stuff sometimes, so I know it isn't just me, but there's absolutely nothing here.


Wednesday, 5 April 2017



Full disclosure at the outset: my hopes were not high for this one. For whatever reason, I've not clicked with any of Ben Wheatley's films thus far: the most entertaining was Sightseers, but the critical responses to High-Rise, Kill List and A Field In England literally made no sense to me. (He's also directed a couple of episodes of Doctor Who, a show whose increasingly abominable writing finally forced me to walk away from it when even the pantomime idiocies of the Sylvester McCoy era couldn't). This isn't necessarily a bad thing: not connecting with a particular film-maker is like not finding a particular standup funny or not liking a particular band, and it's nothing to be ashamed of, but when so many people you know and trust tell you he/she/it/they is/are wonderful you start to wonder if the fault lies with you, when the reality there is no more "fault" in not liking Ben Wheatley movies than there is "fault" in not liking walnut whips. The defence, such as it is, rests.

Free Fire is, hurrah, a lot better. Maybe because it doesn't have that nonsensical social allegory going on (High-Rise made no sense on any level at all), opting instead for a simple B-movie shoot-em-up scenario in which colourful, amusing (and distinct) characters fire guns at each other. It's some time in the 1970s (to judge from the cars, the clothes and the 8-track cartridge of John Denver) and Cillian Murphy is looking to buy guns for the IRA from dealer Sharlto Copley in a deal put together by Brie Larson. The groups meet up to make the exchange in an abandoned umbrella factory, but two of the low-level goons have unresolved business of their own and it suddenly escalates to an all-out Last Man Standing war between everybody....

It doesn't have the literary importance and significance of High-Rise (adapted from a notoriously unfilmable JG Ballard novel) and it doesn't have any of the Media Studies coursework artiness of A Field In England. What it does have is a straightforward set-up with a small starry cast in one well-used location (and apparently taking place in real time), and which is over in a crisp 90 minutes including credits. And considering it's set overnight in a derelict factory, it's well photographed and you're never lost for what's going on and who's where. It's also fun: zingy, sweary one-liners that come from character rather than the joke book, a solid lineup of character performers (Michael Smiley is probably Man Of The Match) having a great time with the 70s costumes and hair. The setting does obviously bring Tarantino to mind, and Reservoir Dogs in particular (rather moreso than the works of Martin Scorsese who acted as executive producer here), but Free Fire has a much softer and more likeable feel to it.

Against that: it's hard to care very much when Team A are international arms dealers and Team B are supplying the IRA. And to be honest the relentless shooting gets a tad wearisome from time to time, even in a film that's basically the length of a Carry On film. Yet, for some unaccountable reasons, I find I'm thinking of it more favourable than I did while I was actually watching it. I still don't think it's a Great Film and I still don't get Ben Wheatley as a master of cinema, but I can say that it's the film of his that I've most enjoyed and had the most fun with.




I don't generally do comedy. Even limited exposure to the senseless shouting of Will Ferrell, or the stoner/slacker dudery of Seth Rogen, has left the idea of modern mainstream American dimwit comedy entirely moribund and ghastly, even given my tin humerus for things that [1] are clearly meant to be hilariously funny and [2] lots of people hoot themselves hoarse at. Still, it's always good to poke your head round the door from time to time to see if things have picked up, be it the dreaded found-footage horror genre (at the last inspection, they hadn't) or, in this instance, the knuckle-headed high concept festival of mirth and japery that isn't Fist Fight.

Nope, things haven't improved here either, with a film as witless, charmless and utterly infantile as you couldn't imagine. It's the last day of the academic year at the roughest inner city high school in town, with many of the already demoralised staff fearing for their jobs in the face of budget cuts and the students celebrating the end of their education by pranking everybody and everything in sight. Small wonder that ball of anger history teacher Ice Cube snaps and smashes a desk with a fireaxe; less reasonable is his challenging hapless English teacher Charlie Day to a fist fight in the car park after school, like they're twelve.

There might possibly be some mileage (or inchage, anyway) in the idea of a high school where the grown-ups revert to a pre-teen state of stupidity while the students look on in bewilderment and disappointment. But that doesn't work when the kids behave like imbeciles and the staff behave like even bigger imbeciles: the film just passes straight through the event horizon of imbecility into a imbecile black hole that leads to an alternative universe made entirely of imbecilium. Sure, there's a shoehorned hint of social comment about how teachers should be valued and respected in an education system that's more interested in slashing costs and firing experienced staff to boost private corporate revenue, but it's lost in the stupidity, the inappropriate teacher-student sex fantasies, the perpetual comedy gold of drugs and masturbation, the inclusion of Tracy Morgan and a scene in which Day and his daughter perform a sweary rap song to win her talent show, because absolutely nothing on Earth or anywhere else is as intrinsically hilarious as a ten-year old girl repeatedly singing the line "Bitch I Don't Give A F*** About You".

Because that's what we've come to. Look, it's clearly not funny (there was some audible giggling from the back row of Screen 6, but no apparent reason for it), it makes absolutely no sense on any level and there isn't even any suggestion that this seemed like a good idea when they started it. It's not actively offensive, it's just offensively stupid and, like an entirely redundant simile, we could probably manage without it. My fault, my ticket - it's my own time I wasted.


Monday, 27 March 2017



And still they come: the zombie comedies shuffling and shambling along like the undead themselves. Haven't we reached saturation point on these things yet? Folklore, literature, and cinema itself have so many neglected and/or unexplored demons and evils to tap into, surely we could give the tired old zompocalypse a rest for a few years and try something else? This particularly wretched example isn't merely a low point in revenant cinema, but in its crossbreeding with the imbecilic teen sex comedy genre it has mutated into something truly hateful: a film that's not just an insult to zombie movies but horror movies, British movies, movies, Ibiza, Spain, Britain, humanity and the very concept of sentient life itself. Even the zombies themselves would remain unimpressed.

Three repugnant teenage simpletons head to Ibiza for a lads' paaaaartyyyyyy holiday of sex and booze, now that the island has been deemed clear of zombies. They're deeply misogynist imbeciles whose only terms of reference for women are "sluts", "bitches" and "my sister", so it's a matter of profound regret that none of them get ripped to pieces by hordes of flesh-eating undead. Inevitably (and as a direct result of the morons' own stupidity) the zombs get loose again and our three main characters, armed only with a level of intelligence that makes The Three Stooges look like The Bloomsbury Group, have to get back to the villa to rescue the sluts girls and get off the island....

Everything about Ibiza Undead grates horribly. The lads' relentlessly sexist comedy banter gets boring astonishingly quickly, to the extent that you actually want to clamber inside the screen and punch every single one of them repeatedly in the head until your fist stops bleeding. To be fair, the bitches women are scarcely portrayed any more deeply: they seem just as interested in drinking until they're sick and copping off with lads they've just met, but in the absence of anyone to care a hoot's worth about you're at best a dispassionate observer of events and at worst actively on the side of the zombies to hurry up and kill everyone.

Eventually someone who used to be in The Bill about twenty years ago turns up as a cheery barman and the wretched thing stops. There's a reasonable amount of gore (for a 15 certificate) but it's really not worth plodding through all the tedium and foulness to get there. Enough with the knockabout zombiegeddon, enough with the blokey misogyny, it's time to grow up and do something - anything - better than this worthless, witless dross.


Friday, 10 March 2017



I saw the original Kickboxer in what was then the Cannon quadplex in Panton Street sometime in 1989, and even back then I was aware that it wasn't Jean-Claude Van Damme's best work: I'd much preferred Bloodsport, purely on the grounds that it was more thuddingly violent. Pleasingly, and in the manner of Sleuth, this new remake/reboot promotes JCVD from pupil to master, leading to the hope that in thirty years' time they'll remake it again with this version's young pup taking the wise old mentor role to a kid who isn't even born yet. (Maybe they'll even get JCVD back again to cameo as the doddery old goat practising his tai chi moves in the courtyard.)

Kickboxer: Vengeance sticks fairly close to the original: following the death of his martial arts champion brother Eric (the late Darren Shahlavi) in an illegal tournament, Kurt Sloane (stunt double and bit-part player Alain Moussi) journeys to Thailand to take on Tong Po, the colossal brute responsible (recent Bond henchman Dave Bautista). After several thorough pummellings, Eric hires his brother's eccentric trainer Master Durand (Jean-Claude) to get him ready for a rematch...

It's all agreeably old-fashioned knockabout with lots of crunching body blows that would leave us frail and fragile mortals in pieces, but here it's more like Robocop fighting The Terminator as they keep going despite brushing off any number of roundhouse kicks to the head and body slams to the floor. That's all part of the fun of the genre, of course, and has been since the days of all those Shaw Brothers movies. Now 55 years old, Jean-Claude is more relaxed and seems to be having fun not doing as much of the fighty stuff as usual; it's more surprising that villainess Gina Carano doesn't get any action sequences at all given her track record in Muay Thai and MMA.

If, acting-wise and script-wise, Kickboxer: Vengeance is fairly uninteresting, it does liven up enormously every time it gets down to shirtless guys lamping each other - it's as if deep down that's really what the film wants to do, and stuff like character development and exposition are just the boring bits the makers (and we) have to stodge through in order to get to the good stuff. Happily, the good stuff is meaty and nasty enough to make it a decent enough watch. A sequel (which includes Christopher Lambert and Mike Tyson) is already in post-production.




My usual movie choices tend to be genre movies: horror, action, SF, thrillers. Not exclusively: I'll have a bash at other areas of the film landscape depending on synopsis and/or personnel involved and/or certain reviewers' recommendations. I'm happy to watch movies dating back to the late 1930s (and occasionally earlier) and I'm happy to watch movies from more or less any country on Earth. Granted, westerns have never grabbed me, big blowsy showtune musicals have never grabbed me, the less accessible reaches of impenetrable arthouse blather have never grabbed me. More often than not I watch alone, so I'd feel a bit sad and/or creepy watching romantic date movies and U-certificate childrens' films. But generally I'll give most things a stab.

The noodly indie slacker movie is one of those areas that I've not really looked into, and to be honest Cinema Six would have passed me by if [1] I hadn't been scrolling through Amazon Prime's latest additions at the time and [2] it was set anywhere other than a cinema. If it had taken place in a sardine cannery or a nuclear power plant I'd have ignored it and possibly that might still have been the wiser course. Six friends who work in various roles at a miserable-looking six-screen 'plex in Nowheresville (actually the much cheerier-looking Hometown in Lockhart, Texas) find the responsibilities of adult life creeping up on them, which they deal with in various unlikely ways....

Most of this seems to involve behaving like unreasoning idiots: one would rather stay behind the concession counter than go to college because it would mean meeting girls and he freaks out at the sight of them (he's actually been accepted at film school and he should go, because that would be really useful here). He meets a girl, behaves like an imbecile, but she's got a boyfriend who's a colossal sleaze, and then she cops off with Mr Imbecile's best mate. Another is about to have a second child so his wife is nagging him to stop goofing off at the cinema and get a proper job with her father's company but he doesn't want to do that because he's having too much fun hanging out with his buddies and rolling trailer reels down the corridors. One of the women is permanently mean and spiteful for some inexplicable reason but in a relationship with a colleague for some even more inexplicable reason. Everybody swears like they're in The Wolf Of Wall Street and their fixation on sex and women is surprisingly dull.

What Cinema Six really needs is a manager to come in and fire two of them immediately and put the rest on final written warnings; sadly, when the owners do turn up they're as hilariously unpleasant as everyone else. The film ends on the stuff of urban legend: an act of grossout grotesquerie that's beyond revolting, but it's the sign-off to what they clearly hope and assume is a cheery slacker comedy-drama about vaguely recognisable human beings. Frankly it would be hard to care about any of them if they were on fire. Odd lines and moments amuse, but nowhere near enough and interest dies away pretty early. Made in 2012 and only now surfacing here.


Monday, 6 March 2017



General question: how do we feel about futuristic action/horror fantasy movies featuring female leads in a state of undress? Does it objectify or demean? Does it empower or sexualise? One remembers films like Barbarella or Starcrash, or more recently Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Aeon Flux, in which the heroines capered about in costumes clearly designed for the more depraved fantasies of the male audience rather than any practical evil-fighting benefit to the wearer. One remembers Doctor Who's scantily-clad Leela taking over from the sensibly-dressed Sarah Jane Smith. One remembers the screaming fuss over a brief shot of Alice Eve in her undies in Star Trek: Into Darkness. I honestly have no idea if it's feminism or not.

The inexplicably-titled Chanbara Beauty is a Japanese zombie movie in which sword-wielding Aya, the unsmiling heroine, prefers to fight zombies while wearing a bikini and a ten-gallon hat. There is no explanation given for this curious strategy: it's unlikely the ambulant dead are going to be distracted from their quest by the sight of a women in her underwear, and surely in a world of flesh-eating undead it makes no sense to expose as much of your raw meat as possible. Aya is on a quest to track down her sister Saki, who dresses in school uniform. Again: no reason given for the costume choice, but it's a Japanese film so may have more relevance for the local audience. She's aided by gunslinger Reiko (who prefers skin-tight black leather) who's looking for the one-eyed mad scientist who created the zombie outbreak in the first place, and bumbling idiot Katsuji, who has neither courage nor weapons and who only manages to kill one zombie - and that's when it's busy chowing down on someone else. Eventually Saki and Aya confront each other and fight with magic swords that give them the ability to teleport and throw balls of coloured fire at each other...

I'm generally all in favour of zompocalypse movies and cool kick-ass women, and putting the two together is fine by me. But it's nonsense. If Aya has a magic sword that wipes out all the zombs in the vicinity, why doesn't she use that power all the time? Why are they walking everywhere - where are the cars or trucks that would be a lot faster and a lot better as defence against the zombie hordes? Indeed, given that set sometime in the future (the year 20XX, according to the opening captions), where's any of tomorrow's technology? Why is mad Dr Sugita working alone in apparently one room, and exactly what is he trying to achieve that requires blood from only Saki's family line?

You could perhaps ignore all that if it was at least put together with gusto, but it isn't. Much of it is dark and murky, shot cheaply and digitally, and all the blood splatter is done with CGI that couldn't look worse if it had been scribbled on with a felt-tip pen. They even put CG blood spurts onto the camera lens half a dozen times in the opening fight scene, before apparently getting bored with that idea and not using it again. And most importantly, despite that brilliant central theme of bikini-clad woman slaughtering zombies with a sword, it's surprisingly dull stuff. Those who can get on board with the lunacy and ignore all the problems might get some moderate fun out of it, but there's little if anything to be had by anyone else.


Friday, 3 March 2017



The first thing you notice about Logan, the third Wolverine movie and the ninth X-Men movie, is the big shiny 15 at the start and the BBFC's warning of "strong bloody violence, strong language". In an era where most comic-book superhero movies are fluffy 12As (even the ones that absolutely shouldn't be), it's refreshing to see one that doesn't stint on the blood and brutality, liberally tossing around F-bombs and severed heads, clearly setting it apart from the usual expectations of Captain America and Thor adventures. This is a "serious" superhero movie which does the seriousness properly: the problem with the DC movies isn't that they're taking Batman and Superman seriously, it's that they're confusing "dark" with "depressing and humourless". Man Of Steel should be fun but isn't; The Dark Knight should be fun but isn't, Deadpool is fun in its winking to the audience throughout. Logan is a proper comicbook superhero movie for grown-ups, and it manages to achieve that without the Zack Snyder techniques of washing all the colour out into a sepia smudge and smashing up cities left and right.

It's a movie FOR grown-ups because it's a movie ABOUT grown-ups: set in 2029, when John Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, for the final time), is an older recluse living and slowly dying in a rundown shack in the Mexican desert. His only fellow mutants are albino Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and a rambling, bitter Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), tortured by his guilt over something unspecified but unspeakable in his past. These are no longer the comfortable, likeable characters of X-Men movies past: the pills are no longer working, they're snappy, tired, aggressive and sour. They're also probably incredibly lonely: there are no mutants left now and only exist in comics. Until he encounters a young girl with mysterious superpowers whose adult guardian begs him to take them to the mythical Eden. He doesn't want to bother - Caliban and Xavier are in no fit state to make that journey and he can't abandon them - until a small army turn up intent on bringing the girl back to the laboratory complex where mad scientist Richard E Grant is trying to breed a new race of mutants....

It's a pleasingly old-fashioned film: it puts the main credits at the front (like movies used to do in olden days) and in a plain white typeface, with the kind of low-key main title music you'd expect from a 70s paranoia thriller rather than the double-forte anthems of modern superhero blockbusters, and it introduces its lead as a hard-to-like badass right from the start. I was never much of an X-Men fan anyway and Wolverine always seemed to me to be a miserable git (remember the one-line gag cameo in First Class?), but he's even less pleasant company here than usual. But what James Mangold has managed to do is find the human Logan within the superhuman Wolverine and, while that human might be bitter and angry, his journey and salvation are worth following. The film is called Logan, after all, not Wolverine Returns.

A pity, perhaps, that a movie that's been consciously designed and shot for a 1970s feel should look so terrible in the night scenes, many of which just look like unfiltered digital camcorder that kills that atmosphere they've gone to so much trouble to create. Maybe it's not as bad as the same effect in Public Enemies or Gangster Squad, where it killed the period settings as well, but there's something wrong when the night scenes look no better than the Making Of featurettes on the DVD. But that and the occasional odd casting (Caliban's superpower here appears to be making you think Ricky Gervais is standing behind you) apart, Logan's pretty impressive and probably the best of the whole X-Men run. The violence is bloody and painful and, even if it veers into Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome territory in its third act, it's a solid and generally very enjoyable finale for Wolverine and the kind of comicbook superhero movie that suggests what might happen if the films, like the characters, grew up a bit.


Tuesday, 28 February 2017



On a scale of nought to ten, exactly how surprising is it that a film called Sorority House Massacre II isn't the greatest assemblage of celluloid to ever get slung through a projector? It's barely registering at all on my personal Richter Scale of Astonishment: you'll be telling me next that cheese sandwiches have cheese in them. It's surprisingly difficult to cobble together any kind of vaguely semi-interesting review of a film which you have literally seen a hundred times before, and the occasional knowing wink to how lame and uninspired the movie is doesn't rally give you anything to work with. Unrelated to the first Sorority House Massacre (a more or less passable though forgettable entry in the direct-to-video teenslash subgenre), it's just flatly rehashing ideas from scores of earlier films, so maybe I should just cut and paste from old reviews of Blood Rage, Offerings, Slaughterhouse, Night Screams, Graduation Day....

Five annoyingly perky college girls buy up an old ruin to renovate and convert into a sorority house. They got the place cheap because (cue flashbacks and exposition from the creepy neighbour) five years ago the owner went on an axe rampage, and it's stood empty ever since. Having found a ouija board, they decide (at night, on the site of a massacre, during a storm) to hold a midnight seance and call up the spirit of the killer, because of course you do. Frankly this indicates a level of staggering idiocy you'd be shocked to find in a banana, or more likely a level of sheer bloodless laziness from a screenwriter who literally cannot be bothered. Did I mention that the girls all have a topless scene, and they spend the last two thirds of the movie running around in their underwear?

Meanwhile a hardboiled cop with nothing better to do (like, you know, solving crimes) decides to go and interview the sole survivor of the five years ago, and she works as a stripper, because of course she does. Remember, we haven't seen any norks for at least eight minutes now and it's absolutely vital to the narrative that we watch her entire performance as well as half of the next one (a brief appearance by the late porn star Savannah). Yes, dear, they're very nice, now put them away. Back at the spooky old mansion, the girlies are being picked off one by one....

The first kill moment is actually quite decently done, because at that point we're not sure what to expect: ghost, possession, or homicidal maniac creepy neighbour. But that's it. The rest of the film is just counting out the five idiots running around in their skimpies and screaming. Honestly, it's like feminism never happened. It's entirely bland, entirely unsurprising, and indifferently put together by people who don't care that much about quality, aimed at an audience who don't care that much about quality either. So long as we get to watch some young women in their pants. Your auteur is Jim (Scream Queen Hot Tub Party) Wynorski, who wrote and shot it in seven days. It shows.


Sunday, 19 February 2017



It's always awkward when a film comes along that you ultimately don't like very much and you know the writer-director. How do you confess this without being insulting - or at least coming across as insulting? Do you try and intimate that the problems are with you rather than the film or with him? Do you straight up lie and say you thought it was marvellous? Do you focus on minor issues or trivial items like knowing the locations or spotting the influences and references? As one who's never been great at social interaction at the best of times, it's even more of a minefield than usual and now you've been given huge tin boots to go stomping across it.

Pelzer Arbuckle has always been bullied and persecuted: at school the only thing that got him through was his imaginary friend Ronnie, but people died as a result. Now in some unspecified office role at a paper distribution firm, he's still picked on and humiliated on a daily basis by bosses and co-workers, ramped up even more after an eye-watering sexual accident that Google informs me is a genuine thing. Not to go into details here but I'm not touching the damn thing ever again; all I can say is thank heavens for the Delete History option. Following the death of the one work colleague who wasn't a colossal bastard to him (Laurence R Harvey), Pelzer realises that maybe conjuring up Ronnie once more is his only remaining option....

An entirely British stab at Revenge Of The Wimp horror, My Bloody Banjo (originally just titled Banjo) may be set in the town of Henenlotter, but it's the Frank Henenlotter of the more uncomfortably sexual Bad Biology than the grindhouse grime of Basket Case, and in any case the tone is much more aligned to Troma films, none of which I've ever liked even a little bit. The Toxic Avenger, Tromeo And Juliet and Class Of Nuke 'Em High (and various sequels) I've always felt were mean-spirited, shoddily put together and revelling in the worst of puerile bad taste; Lloyd Kaufman (who has a brief cameo as a doctor, named after his Toxic Avenger directing alias) talks a good movie but has yet to direct even a tolerable one.

Sadly that's the tone of My Bloody Banjo: abortion jokes, HIV jokes, wildly overpitched performances, excessive gore. Now I'm certainly not against tacky splatter movies, and some of my all-time favourites could never be described as subtle, but the trouble is that this movie is very much all on one note, and there's very little in the way of light and shade. It doesn't give you any respite from the horrors of Pelzer's constant suffering, until the final turning of the worm where good and bad alike are slaughtered and the worst of the villains do not suffer nearly enough (it also never explains why he even works there and even throws in better reasons why he doesn't need to). Some of the gore is impressive (there's a nifty chainsaw-head interface, and kudos for the truly uncomfortable banjo incident itself, one of the most effective look-away moments in years), and Ronnie himself is kind of fun, but I could have done with a little respite from the horribleness.


Friday, 17 February 2017



It's now fifteen years since the first XXX movie, and twelve years since it sputtered to a close with the Diesel-free follow-up. How many Vin Diesel franchises are there that you'd have expected to die off after the frankly underwhelming second one in which Mr Diesel didn't show up? (Fast And Furious doesn't really count - that didn't really pick up until Part 4 AND he was only in the teaser of Part 3, which actually takes place between Parts 6 and 7 anyway.) And it doesn't look like they've spent the intervening years fine-tuning the concept for a triumphant blockbuster return; rather it looks like they've simply sat down with any number of Mission Impossibles and other assorted globetrotting knockabouts, then hired a particularly excitable fourteen-year-old boy to knit them together.

That would explain why the film's line of demented action sequences include a motorbike chase through the jungle onto the beach and then into the sea, where the bike sprouts skis! And Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen chase each other through the surf! It would explain the oh-no-not-again MacGuffin of yet another whizzy computer gizmo, this time one that can send satellites plummeting to Earth. And it would also explain why the film is heaving with numerous hot chicks mercilessly objectified under the camera's pubescent gaze. Even the bespectacled techie nerd is an only slightly dressed-down Miss October. In anonymous retirement in the Dominican Republic, Xander Cage (Diesel) is brought back into the XXX program to retrieve a terrifying electronic plot device that has been audaciously stolen from American Intelligence but Must Not Fall Into The Wrong Hands. Assembling his own team of specialist mavericks and lunatics (in favour of hardass, dumbass Marines), Cage tracks down the team who stole the toy in the first place...

Of course it doesn't make a whole lot of sense: if not-in-it-enough Samuel L Jackson has been convinced Diesel's extreme sports maniac is still alive (despite being killed off and replaced by the slightly cheaper Ice Cube in The Next Level), how come it takes new boss Toni Collette absolutely no time to track him down? How does Diesel expect to go undercover on a tropical island full of rogue agents when he's got the XXX agency logo tattooed on the back of his neck? And how can the studio expect to make a stand against video piracy when Xander's first big action scene is a dizzying hillside descent so he can patch his slum town into the premium sports channels?

Still, despite the stupidity, of which it's not just fully aware but out-and-out proud, XXX: Return Of Xander Cage is perfectly adequate blockbuster action fare, and while it may not have the gripping suspense of the best of the Mission Impossible movies or the A-list class of the best of James Bond, it'll more than suffice in the (temporary?) absence of those franchises. Frankly I'm more excited about another Fast And Furious instalment, but while we're waiting, this will more than fill the gap.


Wednesday, 15 February 2017



Here we go again.... The middle section of the Fifty Shades Trilogy really is more of the same: bigger, raunchier, sillier, softer. While the original film was little more than a Pretty Woman poor-girl-rich-boy romance with tasteful lighting and music choices to dilute the depravities we weren't really shown anyway, Part Two ups the frank nudity factor (at last there's some meat to go with the cheese) but descends into so much absurdity and terrible dialogue that you expect the theme from Dynasty or Falcon Crest to erupt at half a dozen particularly gigglesome moments. Maybe it's unfair for me to pick holes in the Fifty Shades movies given that, like the Twilights or the Star Wars prequels, I'm not the target audience. This isn't a blokey film about bonking, it's a girlie film about lurve; a sweet and sentimental fairytale, albeit one in which Prince Charming likes to tie Cinderella to the bedpost and spank her with a table tennis bat. It's Beauty And The Beast, except he's ugly on the inside and America's Next Top Adonis on the outside.

Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) may have walked away from multi-billionaire Christian at the end of the first movie, but he can't let go: pining for her in his cavernous penthouse and plotting to win her back (apparently by shelling out money left and right in the belief this will impress her). His sexual hangups are all down to his backstory of abuse and mother issues, but he's trying to put it all behind him for Anastasia, even if it's just with apparently fantastic regular sex rather than cable ties and whips. But he's too controlling, too stifling - he buys the publishing house where she has her dream job, he won't let her go to New York for work because he's jealous of her boss (of course, it's fine for him to go off on business trips). Even when it looks like they're finally together and he pops the question, Kim Basinger is lurking around trying to break them up....

Fifty Shades Darker is a very silly episode of a very silly soap opera with dialogue George Lucas would have rolled his eyes at, and sex scenes that are franker than you'd expect at a multiplex these days, where an 18 certificate suddenly stands out amidst the 12A blandness. It's fairly painless and it looks nice, Danny Elfman has the soft strings going, and it's too silly to be either boring or offensive. Sure, you might want to read it as a film about emasculation - Christian Grey is giving up that very part of him that makes him what he is at the behest of a woman who's giving up very little in return, just as he was the one giving up control in the first film, the tagline of which was "Lose Control" - in which she's in charge, not the dominant sadist. It's still not very good though.


Thursday, 9 February 2017



Well, they've generally been kind of fun, the Resident Evil films, and there's not many franchises that have kept up this level of "bonkers but enjoyable". Sure, some have been better than others - I've never been that fussed about the second one (Apocalyse) but liked the third (Extinction) a lot better, perhaps for the visuals Russell Mulcahy brought to it. The ongoing antics of skimpily-dressed ass-kicking genetic clone Alice and the baffling corporate decisions of the Umbrella Corporation have brought much pleasure over the last fifteen years and six films, but perhaps it's now time to draw it to a close with one final blast of nonsensical zombie mayhem.

Very little of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter has much in the way of logic behind it. The Umbrella Corporation (whose incompetence with bio-weapon containment led to nothing less than a zombie apocalypse) is no longer a business but a religious crusade led by Very Mad Scientist Isaacs (Iain Glen) to wipe out humanity and start again with his cryogenically preserved super-race. Alice (Milla Jovovich) has forty-eight hours to get back into The Hive underneath Raccoon City and unleash an anti-virus that will deactivate the zombies and save what's left of humanity. But Umbrella are waiting for her and the gang of survivors...

How is this anti-virus is supposed to work across the world when Alice is already down to the last few minutes of her countdown? How come The Hive's defences are so easily bypassed? (Okay, it's not exactly a walk round Sainsburys but they left the giant slammy doors wide open and unmanned, for goodness' sake.) If mad Dr Isaacs doesn't want the anti-virus unleashed, why does he carry it around in an easily smashed vial and not stick it in a concrete safe with a forty nine hour time lock on it? Why is there an Umbrella spy in the group of survivors - what's in it for them? In between wondering about all that, you might ask why Paul WS Anderson has made a film large chunks of which seem to revolve around people beating his wife (Jovovich) up.

Still, there's fun to be had with the zombie hordes and the non-stop action, Iain Glen is agreeably over the top, it doesn't waste much time and the numerous chase, fight, monster and kaboom scenes are satisfyingly crunchy and violent. And at least it does end properly without the sense that it's all just leading to a To Be Continued caption: this is a natural conclusion without the vital loose ends that require a further instalment to take care of. Maybe it's not going out on a high, but if this is the end then this could be the one franchise that doesn't keep trundling on for two films longer than it needs to. Blu-Ray boxset for Christmas, perhaps...




It's easy to throw that "Worst film ever!" line around. That latest thing with Seth Rogen and/or Adam Sandler and/or Jennifer Aniston and/or Will Ferrell may be absolutely terrible, but it'll have some technical sheen to it that at least means it's in focus and the dialogue is audible. There's a lot further to fall: through the headbanging idiocy of Transformers and the like, anything with Danny Dyer, most of the cheerless British Sex Comedy genre, shonky 50s drive-in horrors from Edward D Wood Jr, Old Mother Riley films, a thousand public domain quickies from the dawn of the sound era. Sure, Sex Lives Of The Potato Men is lousy, but how many Al Adamson movies have you seen?

Beyond all that - stupidity, incompetence, artlessness, ugly people with their clothes off - there's still the ultimate crime of boredom. The very least a film should try and do is stop you from falling asleep at seven o'clock in the evening, and there are a few that can't even manage that. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Jekyll And Hyde Portfolio, a wretched slasher nudie from 1981 in which a mad killer is on the loose at some sort of home for wayward girls in drab woodland. Most of the ladies get their kit off, there's the occasional badly staged murder, a lot of blather, and a severed head. Meanwhile one of the tutors is having a high old time dissecting live frogs in macroscopic detail (for real, so a BBFC certificate seems unlikely). Or maybe I dreamed it all...

Eventually the murderer is unmasked as someone or other, and after just two days I can't recall who it was or why they were doing it: it's already faded from memory because the film somehow bypasses your conscious mind entirely and aims for the unexplored recesses of the subconscious, emerging as just disconnected fragments that make no more (and no sense) than when they were strung together as a hopeless excuse for a narrative. On a technical level it's astonishingly shoddy, none of the cast can act even slightly (granted, none of them were hired for their dramatic abilities and nobody went to see it for the high-calibre thesping), and the pacing is all over the place as whatever slasher mystery might be afoot keeps getting put on hold for yet another lumpen sex scene or another lingering look at what a frog's innards look like. Entirely sarcastic gratitude to Vinegar Syndrome for restoring it to its original lack of glory and Amazon for charging me no money to watch it.


Saturday, 4 February 2017



In news that is likely to surprise absolutely nobody who hasn't been living in a cave on the dark side of Neptune for the last twenty years, Rob Zombie has a new movie out and it's terrible. I know, who'd have imagined? Blowing an idiot-shaped hole in my New Year's Resolution to steer clear of obviously rubbish films, it's left me scrabbling furiously around for some kind of defence against the charge of adding the damned, damnable thing to my rental queue in the first place: Malcolm McDowell usually delivers the goods, it played on FrightFest's main screen last year, Mr Zombie's last film The Lords Of Salem was almost competent in parts....

Whatever: those aren't defences, they're just excuses. Rob Zombie's brief flirtation with the idea of being mildly interesting was clearly a one-night stand and not the start of a long term relationship as with the meaninglessly-titled 31 he's scurried back to his usual territory of Crazy Mad Things That Happen For Absolutely No Good Reason. A random assortment of travelling carnival workers is ambushed on the road: they wind up locked in an abandoned industrial plant and have twelve hours to survive the parade of colourful Crazy Mad whackos sent in by Gamesmasters Malcolm McDowell and Judy Geeson, wearing Carry On Don't Lose Your Head aristo wigs and white facepaint For Absolutely No Good Reason. (Quite how they even know what's going on, given that it's 1976 and there don't appear to be any cameras down there, is anyone's guess.)

So every reel or so a crazy mad maniac with a stupid name (Doom Head, Sex Head, Psycho Head) and a chainsaw or an axe shows up and our supposed heroes have to man up and kill in order to survive. In the event, they do, and as wimpy civilians they prevail against what are supposed to be top of the line mad killers - particularly the ultimate Doom Head who may wield a mean fireaxe but so loves the sound of his own prattling that he literally filibusters his own rampage by talking over the twelve hour final whistle, the absolute idiot. The big splatter setpiece of two simultaneous attacks with chainsaws is rendered incoherent in the editing suite, to the extent that I genuinely thought different characters had got killed. (Apparently they had to shoot that whole sequence in just eight hours, but that's not a defence, just an excuse.)

Why are there naked women wandering around? Why is the opening sequence in black and white? Why is it even called 31? Absolutely No Good Reason. I've no idea and Zombie has no idea either. He's more interested in shrieking riffs on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (why else have a crazy mad gas station attendant near the start?) together with an indulgence of gratuitous grindhouse excess, a recipe that frankly got boring halfway through House Of 1000 Corpses and has never really gone away. The Devil's Rejects was intolerable garbage, Halloween was only vaguely interesting when he was pretending to be John Carpenter and Halloween II didn't even have that. And this is just more of the same: bleak, nihilistic, violent and, for all the blood and shrieking, crashingly, crushingly dull. Not unexpected, given his track record, but it raises the question of why I bothered to watch it. Answer: For Absolutely No Good Reason.


Sunday, 15 January 2017



Utterly generic template horror movie gets utterly generic template review spoiler warning and, indeed, utterly generic template review. There are no surprises on offer in a film that, barring specific details, is as production-line a supernatural bogeyman and haunted house popcorn screamer as they come: if Lin Shaye had wandered in from the Insidious movies she wouldn't have seemed wildly out of place (especially given an early cameo from that series' Leigh Whannell).

The Bye Bye Man is a film that goes out of its way to avoid challenging expectations so much it looks like it came from an online screenplay generator full of [Insert Name Here]. Three dimbo college teens, a couple and a black best friend, lease an old house off-campus but soon find themselves beset by curious visions and hallucinations which may or may not be (but obviously are) connected to a reporter back in 1969 who went on a shotgun rampage and then killed himself. He was under the influence of a demonic figure called The Bye Bye Man, whose gimmick is that he doesn't actually exist in the physical world but the more you think about him, the more real and threatening he becomes. Merely saying his name brings him and his (dubious CGI) hellhound ever closer....

So it's a bit A Nightmare On Elm Street, a bit The Babadook, a bit Candyman, a bit The Conjuring and Insidious, a bit Lights Out, a bit Sinister. There's even a vaguely goth hot psychic chick brought on to be [a] predictably ridiculed, [b] predictably killed off in an unnecessarily violent and spectacular manner (that one dates all the way back to Witchboard!). But.... as a Friday night teen horror movie it does work on the level of basic Boo! and long scenes of damn fools wandering around a creepy old house in the dead of night without switching the lights on for no good reason. The early appearances by the Bye Bye Man himself (Doug Jones) are pleasantly unsettling, and the tricksy hallucination sequences where everyone is seeing different things are nicely handled. It's a pity that it sticks so rigidly to the formula. Delayed from last year after apparently being toned down for (yawn) a lower certificate - the close-range shotgun murders are ridiculously bloodless - it's worth a look but don't go in expecting anything radical or gamechanging.


Sunday, 1 January 2017


Boy were there some cinematic skidmarks in 2016....Again, my personal choices from the films I saw that had UK cinema releases in the last 12 months, no matter how minimal or brief.

Has found footage developed in the last few years? Amazingly, no; just more of the same. Why didn't they just make a proper film?

Looked nice but thoroughly empty.

Incomprehensible gibberish if you haven't seen the first two. It's incomprehensible gibberish even if you have seen the first two.

The most divisive film of the year? I know it's not the accepted wisdom but I got annoyed with it very, very quickly.

Dumb action comedy melange that didn't work, wasn't funny, wasn't exciting, and was a colossal waste of the usually reliable Dwayne Johnson.

The silliest big star thriller of the year (Pacino! Hopkins!), possibly the milliennium.

Tasteless, ugly bang-bang with an uncomfortable line in Muslim-bashing and some terrible CGI destructo-porn effects.

A hundred and fifty minutes of miserable, incoherent nonsense at full volume, with no laughs and no entertainment to be had.

Sacha Baron Cohen's latest attempt to redefine comedy as "thing that is not funny". Gross, grotesque, and actors like Mark Strong have no excuse.

It made me feel unclean and slightly ill and I wish I hadn't seen it.

Dishonourable mentions (in no particular order) to Shadwell Army (ID2), Yakuza Apocalypse, Ride Along 2, Bastille Day, Criminal, The Assassin (best director at Cannes or not, it bored the daylights out of me), Warcraft, Kill Command, We Are The Flesh and The Call Up.


So how was 2016? Anything good at the multiplexes? Arthouse fare suitably cerebral? Did the blockbusters bust enough blocks? There was certainly some good stuff on - not sure it was a vintage year, but there was some good stuff on show and of the ones that I saw (whether at cinemas, on Blu or via streaming services), these are the ten films I liked, admired or enjoyed the most. As ever, I use the Launching Films website of UK theatrical releases in 2016, regardless of when or where I actually saw them. They're my picks, so obviously they're not going to match up with yours....

(Also, a couple of titles have changed from the list I submitted to HeyUGuys last week. Sorry about that.)

There were some pretty good horror movies this year; sadly this one didn't get anything like the kind of release it deserved.

Ditto: supremely nasty in places, more of this sort of thing please.

Terrific crime thriller, fantastic mood.

One take. One shot. Enjoyable thriller and a stunning technical achievement.

Probably more straight-up fun than any other film this year.

So much more entertaining than a million online dunderheads wanted to believe.

Don't retire. Okay, so it's flawed and half an hour too long, but the good stuff is so good I'll forgive it. And it looks great on 70mm.

Again: pathetic bellowing halfwits whined about it not having white male leads in it (the way The Force Awakens didn't and the way The Phantom Menace did). Creepy CG aside, it's a further testament to what happens when George Lucas isn't involved in these things.

The best zombie movie in thirty years. FACT.

My favourite of the awards contenders from the start of the year:

Honourable mentions (in no particular order) to Deepwater Horizon, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Eye In The Sky, Green Room, Goodnight Mommy, Evolution, Room, Midnight Special, Mechanic: Resurrection (shut up, I enjoyed it) and The Witch,