It Comes At Night – review

It’s a sign of the overall ambiguity of It Comes At Night, the hair-raising new chiller from writer-director Trey Edward Schults, that it’s never entirely clear what ‘it’ is. ‘It’ could  be the deadly virus that has ravaged the world at large, forcing Paul (Joel Edgerton), wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and 17-year old son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) to barricade themselves in their woodland homestead. ‘It’ could be the nightmares that plague Travis whenever the sun goes down. ‘It’ could be the intruder who one night breaks into their home. Continue reading “It Comes At Night – review”

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Wonder Woman – review

Even in an era where no summer is complete without a tidal wave of comic book adaptations filling every screen in the land, female-led superhero films remain as rare as a mint condition Action Comics #1. The last one of any note was 2004’s Catwoman, a film so catastrophically terrible that even now it’s spoken of in the hushed, maudlin tones used to describe a horrific road accident. Continue reading “Wonder Woman – review”

The Red Turtle – review

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It’s very, very unusual for Studio Ghibli to release a film not made entirely in-house but though the famous Japanese animation studio’s name features prominently in the marketing material for The Red Turtle, it’s Michaël Dudok de Wit who wrote and directed this production. Though his name is likely unfamiliar to most cinemagoers, Ghibli’s founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata have long been fans of the UK-based Dutch animator (who won an Oscar for his 2000 animated short Father and Daughter), and in this breathtakingly wonderful film he repays their faith in him a thousand times over.  Continue reading “The Red Turtle – review”

Ranking the Alien Movies

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Few movie series can boast the longevity of the Alien franchise, which now spans eight films over nearly forty years. It’s hard to over-emphasise just how influential the Alien movies have become since the release of the first film in 1979. The alien has become one of cinema’s most famous, universally recognised monsters, while in Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley the series has arguably Hollywood’s most celebrated female protagonist.

With so many instalments in the series, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the quality has been…somewhat variable. With the release last week of the franchise’s latest entry, Alien: Covenant, I decided to go through and rank all eight films from worst to best, starting with:  Continue reading “Ranking the Alien Movies”

Alien: Covenant – review

“You can’t go home again,” Thomas Wolfe once wrote. Someone should really tell Ridley Scott, whose persistent attempts to return to the Alien universe he created are beginning to look more and more misguided. First there was 2012’s Prometheus, a muddled mess of a film where Scott’s execution fell far short of his ambition. Now he’s back with Alien: Covenant, and it’s another deeply disappointing entry in a once great franchise.  Continue reading “Alien: Covenant – review”

The Best Fantasy Books Of All Time

For a genre theoretically bound only by the author’s imagination, fantasy novels are too often depressingly unimaginative: simplistic tales of good and evil that slavishly riff of genre tropes. Yet every now and then a fantasy novel comes along which breaks the mould and raises the bar for all that follow. Here’s my list of the best fantasy books around.

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The Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
A series of seven books published between 1950 and 1956 (beginning with a little book called The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe), for many The Chronicles of Narnia remain the template for what great fantasy novels should look like. Centring on a magical land populated by talking animals and ruled over by a mighty lion, the Chronicles are rip-roaring stories of adventure and magic, even if the overt religious themes can occasionally make things a bit impenetrable for non-believers. Though The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe remains the most well-known and beloved title in the series, for me it’s third book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, recounting a physical and spiritual journey to the ends of the earth, which remains the most entertaining and evocative. Continue reading “The Best Fantasy Books Of All Time”

Books Everyone Should Read: American Gods

“One question that has always intrigued me is what happens to demonic beings when immigrants move from their homelands. Irish-Americans remember the fairies, Norwegian-Americans the nisser, Greek-Americans the vrykólakas, but only in relation to events remembered in the Old Country. When I once asked why such demons are not seen in America, my informants giggled confusedly and said, ‘They’re scared to pass the ocean, it’s too far.”

– Richard Dorson, ‘A Theory for American Folklore’, American Folklore and the Historian. Epigraph to American Gods

It’s tempting to think of mythology as solely a feature of ancient societies. The word itself calls to mind images of togas and temples, of gods and monsters, of Zeus and Arthur. But every generation, in every country, from the beginning of time to the modern day, has had its own myths and icons, its own  heroes and villains, and its own devotions.  And in American Gods, Neil Gaiman turns his eye to 21st century America and asks just what deities the citizens of this high-tech melting pot really worship. Continue reading “Books Everyone Should Read: American Gods”

Ghost In The Shell – review

Mamoru Oshii’s groundbreaking 1995 anime film Ghost In The Shell famously begins with its main character stripping naked before leaping off a skyscraper to engage in a gun battle. In Rupert Sanders’ live-action remake, it’s Scarlett Johannsen who takes the plunge (modesty now just about protected by a skintight suit, no doubt to help the film maintain a PG-13 rating). But what’s notable about this Ghost is not how similar it is to the original, but how different. Unfortunately, the changes are not always for the better.  Continue reading “Ghost In The Shell – review”