• Hillbilly Elegy

    Hillbilly Elegy

    Good grief this was bad.

    Oscar bait, poverty porn twaddle that asks us to sympathise with a venture capitalist who has the personality of a toaster as it apporaches its hackneyed material in the most banal way imaginable. The direction is bland, the editing is awful, the script is packed with forced conflict and every single character is a walking stereotype (with Amy Adams and Glenn Close delivering perfromances that are laughably histrionic). To say this is superficial would be an understatement.

  • Blackhat

    Blackhat

    ★★★★★

    Still outstanding. It feels like the natural conclusion to Michael Mann's digital era.

    Blackhat mixes the lyrical expressionism of his later work with the thematic elements that he has been playing with throughout his entire career. All of it converges around this cybercrime thriller about the terrifying and disorientating ubiquity of technology. The system which so many of Mann's characters have fought against is now so large and abstract in the landscape of global capitalism that success is almost impossible.…

  • The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger

    ★★★★½

    One of the best blockbusters of the 2010s.

    A fiercely audacious, visually stunning and fervently strange adventure flick from Gore Verbinski which pays homage to and deconstructs the myths of the Old West. The influences range from the Westerns of Sergio Leone and John Ford to the intricate physical comedy of Buster Keaton. The critiques of Manifest Destiny and the corrupting impact of capitalism are surprisingly poignant, providing a sense of melancholy that lingers throughout. The framing device is effectively…

  • Sweet Smell of Success

    Sweet Smell of Success

    ★★★★

    A pitch-black Noir that presents a world of moral bankruptcy, where blackmail and deception have spread to every corner. Principles go out the window if you wish to get ahead in life and success is determined by how much use you can be not by how much talent you possess. Tony Curtis radiates sleazy charisma, Burt Lancaster is unnervingly dispassionate, James Wong Howe's photography is strikingly vibrant and Ernest Lehman's script is packed with memorable dialogue.

    One of the most caustic films of its era.

  • Double Indemnity

    Double Indemnity

    ★★★★½

    An essential Noir from Billy Wilder that manages to deftly weave all of the tropes throughout its superbly constructed plot. What really impresses me about Double Indemnity (as well as a lot of Wilder's more serious work) is how it never loses its playful tone despite its dark thematic focus on morality and the ever-increasing sense of tension. The striking black & white photography and urgent score are balanced out by the droll narration and the sharp banter between the two…

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

    ★½

    Overly substandard, but not quite as aggressively dull as On Stranger Tides because there are at least a few cool set-pieces and visuals this time around. Yet so much of this film just feels uninspired, from the plot which is like a video game side quest to the exposition-laden dialogue to the inept attempts at comedy. The new leads are irritatingly bland, Javier Bardem is given nothing of interest to work with and it's morbidly impressive how much Johnny Depp is phoning it in as Jack Sparrow.

    How I wish this series had started and ended with Verbinski's trilogy.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

    A big load of nothing. The inventive insanity of Verbinski's trilogy has been replaced by sleep-inducing tedium. Any sense of fun or spectacle or even eccentricity has completely vanished and Jack Sparrow is bordering on self-parody. The direction is clunky, the visuals are drab, the characters are lacklustre, the comedy falls flat and the action sequences are woefully unimaginative.

    Perplexing that a film as insipid as this is currently the most expensive ever made. Evidently the money wasn't spent where it really mattered.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

    Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

    ★★★★

    Funny to think that I used to actively dislike At World's End seeing as my admiration for it has only increased over time. It is undoubtedly overstuffed and ponderous, and yet it is filled with some of the most creative blockbuster filmmaking of the modern era. I'm genuinely astonished that a film this wildly ambitious, enthusiastically weird and dense with mythology was once the most expensive of all time. The fact that Disney (who now churn out lifeless remakes, bland…

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

    ★★★★

    Deserves so much credit for constantly expanding its horizons with excellent world building, a massive sense of scale and increasingly higher stakes. Both the action and comedy are impressively orchestrated, whilst the tone walks the fine line between light and dark seamlessly. Almost every frame is visually spectacular and the CGI is among the best of its time (Davy Jones himself still looks lifelike). Sure it has issues with a plot that is packed with narrative threads to an almost…

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

    Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

    ★★★½

    The first entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean series works for two main reasons. Firstly, the tonal balance. The swashbuckling hijinks are interlaced with fun character interactions, dark mythology and well executed comedy. Secondly, Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. The character is like the intoxicated pirate version of Groucho Marx with his wacky antics and lively disposition, bringing both hilarity and unpredictability to proceedings. Depp himself is superb in the role with his witty delivery, exaggerated movements and zany…

  • Ready Player One

    Ready Player One

    ★★½

    Fine as a fun spectacle but struggles to really resonate or leave a lasting impression. Steven Spielberg's visual flair is as strong as ever and the talented cast play their parts well, yet the overly conventional narrative holds it back. It follows too many cliches without adding anything of note and the engaging ideas lingering below the surface (about the legacy we leave behind and how the capitalist hell of modern life forces us to look for meaning in virtual…

  • V for Vendetta

    V for Vendetta

    ★½

    The type of film you think is profound when you're 15, but as soon as you mature you realise it has the depth of a summer puddle. Alan Moore's graphic novel about facism and anarchy in Britain has been turned into an insipid allegory on Bush-era America. It offers little insight beyond 'the government is bad and doesn't like to be undermined', with the plot just an excuse to make vacuous political statements and stage some plodding action scenes. Everything…