30 December 2015

The Must See Films of 2015

Wow, and I thought that 2014 had been pretty great. It's been another fantastic year for cinema in 2015, a fairly consistent quality (bar a few stinkers) interrupted by soaring highs at frequent intervals, from films that have showcased new talent in-front and behind the camera to films that prove there is still life in long-running or dormant franchises. Box office be damned, we're talking pure quality here, and it's worth being able to know which films you should have seen in 2015.

As such, below is a list of films that I would consider the "Must See" films released in the UK in 2015. These aren't necessarily the best films of the year, the most artistic or the most "worthy" - these are just great films that I can see having a certain amount of longevity to them, films that impress in a variety of different ways by doing something or multiple things so well that it would a crying shame to have missed out on them.

Bearing in mind that I haven't seen every film released this year, in release date order...


A film about both the risks and rewards of extreme ambition, Whiplash follows aspiring jazz drummer Andrew Neiman as he is tutored by esteemed conductor Terence Fletcher at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory. With brilliant performances from both Miles Teller and J K Simmons, a great jazz soundtrack and a director who manages to make an extended drum solo one of the most captivating sequences of 2015, Whiplash was an early addition to this list and has firmly remained here ever since.

You can read my full review of Whiplash here.

26 December 2015

Doctor Who Christmas special "The Husbands of River Song" review

The Christmas specials of Doctor Who have always been somewhat light hearted affairs for the most part, low stake romps that are more focused on entertaining as much as possible in the space of an hour or so than they are adding anything of canonical value to the Doctor Who universe. And that's OK in my books - a Christmas special is a Christmas special, something to be enjoyed while dinner is still going down and everyone is a little bit sleepy. And from that perspective, "The Husbands of River Song" is a fine episode of Doctor Who.

21 December 2015

Supergirl S1E8 "Hostile Takeover" review

Supergirl’s mid season finale arrived this week, bringing back some characters that haven’t been seen since the beginning of the show and some moments that reflect on DC’s recent attempt at a live action Superman. Was it a culmination of all the progress made since it’s start or a reminder of the wasted potential that defines the majority of the first half of the series?

18 December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

Is Star Wars the most iconic franchise of all time? I think it might be - its impact is felt everywhere, from basic character archetypes that have been reused time and time again to more explicit references and homages in everything from The Simpsons to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's a franchise as influential as it is recognisable, one that has touched every aspect of pop culture since it was first released in 1977 - and now, nearly 40 years later, we find it circling back around and touching itself. Furiously, under the covers in the dead of night.

14 December 2015

Supergirl S1E7 "Human For a Day" review

Most television shows have a structure to set each episode around and for good reasons. It grounds the characters into set roles and allows a casual viewer to continue to watch the show even if they miss the occasional episode. It also can easily make a show repetitive and feel like no progression is being made to the overarching plot. This was something that Supergirl had already started to fall victim to, but luckily the latest episode brings an alternative take on the shows established formula. It shakes up the structure of an episode by introducing a scenario that allows the characters take the spotlight rather than the effects and villains. Sure, the idea's introduced may be overly used, especially in Superhero stories, but it's well executed and the benefits for the show are obvious.

11 December 2015

Krampus review

Opening up with Bing Crosby's "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" played over shots of stampeding customers fighting for bargains in a store, it's pretty obvious from the get go that Krampus isn't going to be quite like any Christmas film you've seen before. An entertaining mix of the "family regains their long-lost festive spirit" Christmas film and a pre-teen friendly horror, Krampus follows a fairly normal family over the Christmas period as they are terrorised by Krampus, the dark side of the Santa Claus story who punishes those without a festive spirit.

If that sounds like the general plot to dozens of low budget, straight-to-DVD horror films, that's because it is - but Krampus certainly doesn't deserve the association. It's the kind of film that you don't really see getting made any more, a pre-teen friendly horror that genuinely tries to scare its target audience, and it's surprisingly effective - creepy and frightening without relying on gore, Krampus is the kind of film that would have scared the bejesus out of me as a kid while still being suitable for anyone over the age of about 10.

7 December 2015

Supergirl S1E6 "Red Faced" review

Supergirl's latest outing is a great improvement over the last few episodes. It finally delivers on some of the potential the show has been promising from the start but hasn't been delivering on. A mixture of a strong story along with improvements in nearly every area of the show lead to an episode that this show has sorely been needing. While not perfect, it's a great stride that can hopefully be built upon into future entries.

The episode's title serves a dual purpose, referencing the entrance of DC character  robot/android Red Tornado who makes a rare live action TV appearance, while also referencing the main theme of the episode, anger. All the various aspects of Kara's life are finally starting to wear her down. Between her boss, friends, love life and family, her built up frustration starts to get the better of her, resulting in negative consequences for not only Kara but Supergirl as well. At the same time the Army is interested in testing their new android, designed for threats such as Supergirl, with obvious consequences.

Doctor Who S9E12 "Hell Bent" review

Opening up in a vaguely familiar diner located in Nevada, "Hell Bent" sees The Doctor telling the story of his time on Gallifrey to a waitress that works there. To say any more about the way the story develops would be to spoil it, but as the season finale it should be obvious that "Hell Bent" seeks to tie together the various plot threads that have been set up throughout season nine.

3 December 2015

Bridge of Spies review

Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies follows American lawyer James Donovan during the Cold War as he defends KGB spy Rudolf Abel against charges of espionage before being asked to negotiate an exchange of prisoners between the USA and the USSR in the wake of a U-2 spy plane being shot down over Soviet territory and pilot Francis Gary Powers being captured.

Despite being based on an event that occurred over 50 years ago, Bridge of Spies seems very applicable to the modern day at times thanks to the way it takes a look at the dangers of wrong-headed nationalism. As Bridge of Spies shows us with multiple different characters, people both then and now are all to quick to dispose of human rights and civil liberties the second they feel threatened, ironically destroying the foundation of the thing that they think they are trying to protect. We see it when Abel is denied constitutional rights during his trial and we are seeing it now as various countries are giving their Governments greater powers while making them less accountable for their actions, and Bridge of Spies questions the logic of sacrificing principles for security through its main character, James Donovan.