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Isn’t Johnnie simply too fantastic for words?

Suspicion (1941)
(SPOILERS) Suspicion found Alfred Hitchcock basking in the warm glow of Rebecca’s Best Picture Oscar victory the previous year (for which he received his first of five Best Director nominations, famously winning none of them). Not only that, another of his films, Foreign Correspondent, had jostled with Rebecca for attention. Suspicion was duly nominated itself, something that seems less unlikely now we’ve returned to as many as ten award nominees annually (numbers wouldn’t be reduced to five until 1945). And still more plausible, in and of itself, than his later and final Best Picture nod, Spellbound. Suspicion has a number of claims to eminent status, not least the casting of Cary Grant, if not quite against type, then playing on his charm as a duplicitous quality, but it ultimately falls at the hurdle of studio-mandated compromise.

If both sides have arms, it’s not a coup d’état. It’s a war.

The Avengers 6.6: Have Guns – Will Haggle
The spot-the-stitched-together-with-sticky-tape sequence of early Season Six episodes salvaged by Brian Clemens reaches its penultimate chapter with this Tara in blonde wig-sporting number. Have Guns – Will Haggle isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, but it’s still rather uninspired and linear. The title’s probably the best thing about it, in fact.

I think, I ruminate, I plan.

The Avengers 6.5: Get-A-Way
Another very SF story, and another that recalls earlier stories, in this case 5.5: The See-Through Man, in which Steed states baldly “I don’t believe in invisible men”. He was right in that case, but he’d have to eat his bowler here. Or half of it, anyway. The intrigue of Get-A-Way derives from the question of how it is that Eastern Bloc spies have escaped incarceration, since it isn’t immediately announced that a “magic potion” is responsible. And if that reveal isn’t terribly convincing, Peter Bowles makes the most of his latest guest spot as Steed’s self-appointed nemesis Ezdorf.

No time to dilly-dally, Mr Wick.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
(SPOILERS) At one point during John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, our eponymous hero announces he needs “Guns, lots of guns” in a knowing nod to Keanu Reeves’ other non-Bill & Ted franchise. It’s a cute moment, but it also points to the manner in which the picture, enormous fun as it undoubtedly is, is a slight step down for a franchise previously determined to outdo itself, giving way instead to something more self-conscious, less urgent and slightly fractured.

I mean, I think anybody who looked at Fred, looked at somebody that they couldn't compare with anybody else.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018) 
(SPOILERS) I did, of course, know who Fred Rogers was, despite being British. Or rather, I knew his sublimely docile greeting song. How? The ‘Burbs, naturally. I was surprised, given the seeming unanimous praise it was receiving (and the boffo doco box office) that Won’t You Be My Neighbor? didn’t garner a Best Documentary Oscar nod, but now I think I can understand why. It’s as immensely likeable as Mr Rogers himself, yet it doesn’t feel very substantial.

She worshipped that pig. And now she's become him.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)
(SPOILERS) Choosing to make The Girl in the Spider’s Web following the failure of the David Fincher film – well, not a failure per se, but like Blade Runner 2049, it simply cost far too much to justify its inevitably limited returns – was a very bizarre decision on MGM’s part. A decision to reboot, with a different cast, having no frame of reference for the rest of the trilogy unless you checked out the Swedish movies (or read the books, but who does that?); someone actually thought this would possibly do well? Evidently the same execs churning out desperately flailing remakes based on their back catalogue of IPs (Ben-Hur, The Magnificent Seven, Death Wish, Tomb Raider); occasionally there’s creative flair amid the dross (Creed, A Star is Born), but otherwise, it’s the most transparently creatively bankrupt studio there is.

Son, lions don't leave the Serengeti.

White Boy Rick (2018)
(SPOILERS) '71, Yann Demange’s edge-of-the-seat feature debut, had me eager to see whatever he did next (one of those things turned outnotto be the next Bond movie, for which he was cited as shortlisted; probably for the best to avoid having his career derailed quite so soon). Unfortunately, while this account of the FBI’s youngest informant boasts excellent performances (not least Richie Merritt, debuting in the title role) and an unsurprisingly authentic milieu – Detroit looks an even less savoury place to live than it did in Robocop – Demange somehow allows attachment to the fate of Rick Wershe Jr to escape him.

Would you care to remark upon the remarkability?

The Avengers 6.4: Split!
The opening teaser can go a long way to cementing an Avengers as a good ‘un in the memory, but it can also be just about all there is to a story. Such is the case with Split! in which, once you’ve seen Mercer (Maurice Good, 1.10: Hunt the Man Down, 3.7: Don’t Look Behind You, The New AvengersForward Base) hear the name Boris, undergo a personality change (the clawed hand!) and shoot his Ministry of Top-Secret Intelligence (the name’s probably the funniest part of the episode) colleague Compton (Iain Anders), it’s pretty clear what’s up. The only variable is quite how science fiction the explanation is, and in this case it’s very.

If anyone knows how to take on a slugger like Drago, it would be Rocky.

Creed II (2018)
(SPOILERS) It wouldn’t be such a bad thing that this is a by-the-numbers, Stallone co-scripted sequel – after all, part of the pleasure of sports movies is their adherence to tried-and-tested formula – if only it had been made with a degree of evident enthusiasm. The (Sly-directed) follow-ups to the original Rocky weren’t exactly artful, but they knew how to rouse their audience. Creed II can’t even get the training montage right.

... of whom the opinion of all was that he was born to be hanged.

Tom Jones (1963)
(SPOILERS) It’s my impression that retrospection hasn’t been overly kind to this streamlined adaptation of Henry Fielding’s substantial novel, chiefly because of the quirky filmmaking ticks and devices employed by director Tony Richardson, many of which are now regarded as injudicious or undiscerning. Certainly, Tom Jones hasn’t remained on everyone’s lips as a go-to great Oscar winner (the picture was an instant hit in Britain despite iffy reviews; it was only when the French critics embraced it that its rep built across the pond) .

Deduction, Steed, deduction.

The Avengers 6.3: The Curious Case of the Countless Clues
Like Invasion of the Earthmen, this is a John Bryce-produced episode, and like Invasion of the Earthmen, it’s rather underrated. The Curious Cast of the Countless Clues includes its own heightened element amid the seriousness in the shape of Sir Arthur Doyle (Peter Jones, the Voice of the Book, of course, and previously Dr Adams in 4.17: The Thirteenth Hole) and a plot that plays out like a rather more feasible version of 5.21: You Have Just Been Murdered, also written by Philip Levene, with a couple of enterprisingly disreputable types, Gardiner (Kenneth Hopkirk Cope, 5.3: The Bird Who Knew Too Much) and Earle (Anthony Bate, the recently recovered 1.20: Tunnel of Fear), extorting the rich for art treasures thanks to elaborately set up blackmailing schemes.

I’m calling because I’m going to get to the leaves, the leaves on the lawn.

The Book of Henry (2017)
(SPOILERS) Colin Trevorrow, already the object of abject enmity from some quarters for his Jurassic World sequel, and then more so due to the (eventually retracted) engagement to direct Episode IX, received whole new levels of scorn for The Book of Henry, his smaller more personal movie that now slots between Jurassic expeditions. While that response (the final one, although the second at least made some sense too, and as for the first, well it’s only a Jurassic Park movie) makes some sense, given the almost deliriously misconceived nature of the picture, it does tend to ignore that in its own entirely messed-up, wrong-headed way, The Book of Henry is very watchable.

I mean, if you’re going to get shot in the head, that’s the way to do it.

Regarding Henry (1991)
(SPOILERS) How did the Golden Razzies miss this one? Regarding Henry is the kind of wretched miscalculation that kills careers, but somehow screenwriter JJ Abrams (a tender twenty-five at the time, and his first solo credit) rebounded unscathed – even his cameo unaccountably did him no damage – although it would be the end of the decade before he was really making inroads, and on TV. Perhaps because the prime culprit, the one who comes out with half-a-dozen eggs on his face, is hubristic star Harrison Ford, believing he could have a slice of the disability pie that was, during that period, paying off handsomely for so many other famous actors and seeing them reap awards glory.

I shall lead my army into these new worlds and colonise them. My army of astronauts.

The Avengers 6.2: Invasion of the Earthmen
Some have labelled this one of the show’s nadirs, but I really can’t see it. Sure, the episode has many obligatory, patented Terry Nation SF teleplay clichés, including some quite ridiculous logic, it’s fair share of visual clunkers and a patchy quality betraying its troubled production even to those unaware, but for good stretches, Invasion of the Earthmen is a quite serviceable more serious-minded episode, even if that’s in direct contrast to the absurdity of its diabolical mastermind’s scheme.

Come on. Let’s ignite Jupiter!

The Wandering Earth (2019)
(SPOILERS) Proof that Hollywood doesn’t hold the monopoly on empty-headed disaster movies. The Wandering Earth is currently the third-biggest movie of the year globally (99% of receipts were sold at the Chinese box office, however) and China’s second-largest homegrown hit ever, but as Titanic proved, a guarantee of quality in no way comes as part and parcel of such spectacle. Director Frant Gwo is a huge fan of James Cameron, but it’s Armageddon you’ll be thinking of here – only even bonkerers – complete with absurd Bay-hem style CGI action that only gets dafter as the daftness escalates. And a prerequisite comic-relief Cosmonaut (Arkady Sharogradsky).

You draw with a good hand.

The Dark Tower (2017)
(SPOILERS) The Dark Tower was released only five weeks before It’s stratospheric success had every studio scrabbling around for any Stephen King property they could get their hands on, in the hope of landing a similar goldmine. But even during the 80s, the heyday of King adaptations, box office was very variable, as was quality, and as the recent Pet Sematary remake has shown, there’s every reason to believe It (and it’s second chapter) will remain an exception rather than a new rule. The Dark Tower’s prospects certainly wouldn’t have been helped had it been released in its wake; a misbegotten disaster that had been through so many variations and versions before it finally limped to the screen, it stood no chance of retaining whatever essentials were needed as an introduction to the author’s epic series.

Always keep you bowler on in times of stress. And watch out for diabolical masterminds.

The Avengers 6.1: The Forget-Me-Knot
I’d best clear up one thing right away. I like Tara King. Maybe it was my age I first saw her (eleven or twelve) or being simultaneously made aware of how unbeatable Mrs Peel was, and thus hers was a period I could have for myself in some way, but I didn’t perceive the assumed drop in quality, and liked her slightly dappy, make-do quality. Of course, I can see “objectively” that the relationship with Steed isn’t a patch on that of Emma or Cathy, but its biggest failing is not that it isn’t a match of equals, but rather the attempt to impress a romantic twist upon it.

You have a white voice in there. You can use it.

Sorry to Bother You (2018)
(SPOILERS) There’s a cumulative fatigue accompanying Sorry to Bother You, akin to readily agreeing to sign a petition only to be immediately subjected to a ten-minute tirade detailing all the reasons you should sign said petition. Boots Riley’s film can boast several great performances (in particular, Lakeith Stanfield, marvellously deadpan in the lead role), is intermittently very funny, has an appealing visual flair and a deftly complementary soundtrack (courtesy of Tune-Yards and Riley’s The Coup), but by the time it’s done, you’ve more than had enough. And that’s without including the horse-men.

I have to admit that I wait to talk, but I'm trying harder to listen.

And the Oscar Should Have Gone To… The 1994 Contenders Ranked
It isn't every year you can say the Oscars at least had an interesting selection of nominees, but 1994 not only managed that, it included two unassailable classics among the five Best Picture contenders. Also unlike most years, there isn't an enormously misjudged dud in the ranks, and at least three of the pictures represented something different to the usual Academy fare.

Are you seriously telling me that your plan to save the universe is based on Back to the Future?

Avengers: Endgame (2019)
(SPOILERS) I had a good time with Avengers: Endgame, what with its Back to the Future Part II revisiting of its own history, various of its character developments and particularly with its resourceful throwing of spanners in the works of the team’s best laid plans to return the lost populace of the galaxy to their present, but I wasn’t overly impressed by the Russo brothers’ ability to explain their pet version of time travel. Indeed, I went away thinking that element was something of a train wreck. I’ve since moderated that view (there’s a particularly concise, digestible account of how Endgame most likely coheres here, but it’s very much the exception among numerous pieces explaining “How time travel does make sense in Endgame” that make no sense unto themselves) but with a few caveats. Endgame isn’t the most elegant picture, plot-wise – I’m sure there’s an actual kitchen sink in there somewhere – and like all Marvel movies (almost all) it culminates in a bat…

You're gonna fit right in. Everyone in here is innocent, you know that?

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
(SPOILERS) The Shawshank Redemption’s reputation has become so ubiquitous – still number one on IMDB – that it’s inevitable, having been the underdog out of the gate (a poor box office performance, no Oscars from its seven nominations, but subsequently the top rental of 1995 as word of mouth exploded), that it’s now commonly dismissed as overrated. It’s impossible to counter such a claim, except to note that Shawshank’s a victim of being a “universal” tale, accessible in a manner relatively few modern movies are (there’s little sex, violence or swearing, the occasional instance of male rape aside); it has the robust, conservative air of classical Hollywood, of simpler times and the unbesmirchable values of aspiration and hope, but without oft-accompanying, off-putting cloying sentimentality. So yeah, Shawshank’s overrated to the extent that it isn’t the best movie of all time, but when it comes to “likeable” movies, it has little competition. You probabl…

Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
(SPOILERS) From a UK perspective, Pulp Fiction’s success seemed like a fait accompli; Reservoir Dogs had gone beyond the mere cult item it was Stateside and impacted mainstream culture itself (hard to believe now that it was once banned on home video); it was a case of Tarantino filling a gap in the market no one knew was there until he drew attention to it (and which quickly became over-saturated with pale imitators subsequently). Where his debut was a grower, Pulp Fiction hit the ground running, an instant critical and commercial success (it won the Palme d’Or four months before its release), only made cooler by being robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by Forrest Gump. And unlike some famously-cited should-have-beens, Tarantino’s masterpiece really did deserve it.

If I do nothing else, I will convince them that Herbert Stempel knows what won the goddam Academy Award for Best goddam Picture of 1955. That’s what I’m going to accomplish.

Quiz Show (1994)
(SPOILERS) Quiz Show perfectly encapsulates a certain brand of Best Picture nominee: the staid, respectable, diligent historical episode, a morality tale in response to which the Academy can nod their heads approvingly and discerningly, feeding as it does their own vainglorious self-image about how times and attitudes have changed, in part thanks to their own virtuousness. Robert Redford’s film about the 1950s Twenty-One quiz show scandals is immaculately made, boasts a notable cast and is guided by a strong screenplay from Paul Attanasio (who, on television, had just created the seminal Homicide: Life on the Streets), but it lacks that something extra that pushes it into truly memorable territory.

Basically, you’re saying marriage is just a way of getting out of an embarrassing pause in conversation?

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
(SPOILERS) There can be a cumulative effect from revisiting a movie where one glaring element does not fit, however well-judged or integrated everything else is; the error is only magnified, and seems even more of a miscalculation. With Groundhog Day, there’s a workaround to the romance not working, which is that the central conceit of reliving your day works like a charm and the love story is ultimately inessential to the picture’s success. In the case of Four Weddings and a Funeral, if the romance doesn’t work… Well, you’ve still got three other weddings, and you’ve got a funeral. But our hero’s entire purpose is to find that perfect match, and what he winds up with is Andie McDowell. One can’t help thinking he’d have been better off with Duck Face (Anna Chancellor).

Only an idiot sees the simple beauty of life.

Forrest Gump (1994)
(SPOILERS) There was a time when I’d have made a case for, if not greatness, then Forrest Gump’s unjust dismissal from conversations regarding its merits. To an extent, I still would. Just not nearly so fervently. There’s simply too much going on in the picture to conclude that the manner in which it has generally been received is the end of the story. Tarantino, magnanimous in the face of Oscar defeat, wasn’t entirely wrong when he suggested to Robert Zemeckis that his was a, effectively, subversive movie. Its problem, however, is that it wants to have its cake and eat it.

I have discovered the great ray that first brought life into the world.

Frankenstein (1931)
(SPOILERS) To what extent do Universal’s horror classics deserved to be labelled classics? They’re from the classical Hollywood period, certainly, but they aren’t unassailable titans that can’t be bettered – well unless you were Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan trying to fashion a Dark Universe with zero ingenuity. And except maybe for the sequel to the second feature in their lexicon. Frankenstein is revered for several classic scenes, boasts two mesmerising performances, and looks terrific thanks to Arthur Edeson’s cinematography, but there’s also sizeable streak of stodginess within its seventy minutes.

Stupid adult hands!

Shazam! (2019)
(SPOILERS) Shazam! is exactly the kind of movie I hoped it would be, funny, scary (for kids, at least), smart and delightfully dumb… until the final act. What takes place there isn’t a complete bummer, but right now, it does pretty much kill any interest I have in a sequel.

He’ll feel a lot better after he’s robbed a couple of banks.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
(SPOILERS) I’m doubtful Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid could have been made in the form it was a few years earlier, but you won’t find it identified with “New Hollywood” that was percolating at the time of its release (it merits a mere three mentions in Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders and Raging Bulls). Elements – trendy, “cool” nihilism – were, if not informed then fanned by the likes of Bonnie and Clyde, but this was very much a big Hollywood production, with a then bank-busting sum commanded by William Goldman’s screenplay and the studio martialling the talents of top stars and composers.

Vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose.

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
(SPOILERS) Plenty of movies become hugely successful while killing off their protagonist (Gladiator only three years earlier, for example), so that’s definitely not the problem per se with The Matrix Revolutions. No, it’s principally that, despite being filmed back-to-back with The Matrix Reloaded – so ennui on the directors’ part wasn’t a factor – the film feels like the trilogy has run out of steam and inspiration.

There is so much in this world that I do not understand.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
(SPOILERS) On release, I found myself feeling curiously out of synch with underwhelmed audiences’ prevailing response to The Matrix Reloaded; I loved it, for the most part. Indeed, there was but one scene I felt failed spectacularly, and yet it mystifyingly seemed to come in for the most praise: the Burley Brawl, assisted by some of the ropiest CGI in a major motion picture up to that point. So it wasn’t the ponderous exposition – the Architect’s discourse, memorably mocked by Will Ferrell in an MTV awards sketch – or especially the sweaty sexy Zion rave that got my goat, it was that the Wachowskis failed to meet the high standards of seamless world building evidenced in the first instalment.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999)
(SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet (Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Make those ears disappear.

Dumbo (2019)
(SPOILERS) Some would have you believeDumbo’s less than astonishing opening weekend takings were down to an IP that held no cachet for today’s generation, the kind of argument trotted out when it’s convenient but is also used to contrasting effect when it suits (“They smartly managed to freshen the age-old brand up for a modern audience”). That, and a side order of “Sadness, animal cruelty, loss of parents. Who wants to line up for that?” Answer: plenty, it’s all in the telling. Rather than reaching such rash conclusions, I suspect the reason Dumbo has gone down like a lead elephant is that it managed to trample on everything that made the original so beloved. In retrospect, perhaps you could hardly have expected otherwise, given the collaboration of the successful writer of the Transformers franchise and a director who has (mostly) long since sold his soul into creative limbo. Dumbo’s a lame duck principally because it’s barely even about its title character.

I want to see what love looks like when it’s triumphant. I haven’t had a good laugh in a week.

It Happened One Night (1934)
(SPOILERS) In any romantic comedy worth its salt, you need to be rooting for both leads to end up together. That’s why, while each has its individual pleasures – and one is an unchallenged classic in every other department – the triptych of Andie McDowell ‘90s romcoms (Green Card, Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral) fail on that score; she doesn’t elicit any degree of investment (ironically, she’s much better as a knockabout nun doing a dolphin impression in Hudson Hawk). Even Hanks and Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle are merely likeable; you can’t get that caught up if there aren’t any sparks flying (Crystal and Ryan, though). It Happened One Night has sparks in spades, the back and forth between Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert ensuring it’s as vital and versatile today as it was 85 years ago.

To die, to be really dead. That must be glorious.

Dracula (1931)
(SPOILERS) The movie that kicked off the Universal horror cycle and thus, pretty much, horror as a (Hollywood) movie genre. Not that you’d know it to look at it now, as the last thing it is is remotely terrifying. Indeed, Garrett Fort’s adaptation – he’d next tackle Frankenstein – of Hamilton Deane’s stage play of Bram Stoker’s novel often plays like unadulterated parody, so ingrained are the tropes and clichés that have accumulated in its wake. Director Tod Browning would make Freaks a year later, a picture that retains the power to disturb, but in the case of Dracula, you’d best not look for Bela Lugosi’s count to give you shivers.

Caustic wit is my religion.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
(SPOILERS) There’s probably a version of Can You Ever Forgive Me? – perhaps even one starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant – that’s more lightweight and less ruminative, emphasising the hoodwinking hijinks and hilarity over the alcoholism and despair. Not that Marielle Heller’s is a depressing film – it’s frequently very funny – but it’s undeniably an inward looking one, which may explain why material with in-built potential for reaching a wider audience – a down-on-her luck author turns forger and becomes something of a cause célèbre – failed to make a splash.

Nobody wants the boat, dad.

Us (2019)
(SPOILERS) Jordan Peele evidently loves his conspiracy lore, so he’ll probably appreciate inevitable theories that his sophomore movie, even with movie and literature antecedents and influences such as The Skeleton Key, C.H.U.D. and Wells’ Morlocks, is an exposé of celebrity cloning antics in underground bases and/or Vrill body snatching, right through to the facilities being shut down. I mean, he onlyoffers the most ungainly of expository monologues in the latter stages of Us to that essential effect, during which we’re told that these subterranean locales have been used in the past for producing soulless clones. It’s very on-the-nose material in that regard; the conspiracy-minded might suggest Peele has purposefully shoehorned his “revelation” into such a lumpen info-dump, one that invites ridicule and profoundly damages the architecture of the movie, in order to exhibit the truth in plain sight. Unfortunately, Us has little to offer beyond that bizarre, high-concept, retro-…

As I heard my Sioux name being called over and over, I knew for the first time who I really was.

Dances with Wolves (1990)
(SPOILERS) Kevin Costner’s Oscar glory has become something of a punching bag for a certain brand of “white saviour” storytelling, so much so that it’s even crossed over seamlessly into the SF genre (Avatar). It’s also destined to be forever scorned for having the temerity to beat out Goodfellas for Best Picture at the 63rdAcademy Awards. I’m not going to buck the trend and suggest it was actually the right choice – I’d also have voted Ghost above Dances, maybe even The Godfather Part III – but it’s certainly the most “Oscar-friendly” one. The funny thing, on revisit, is that what stands out most isn’t its studiously earnest tone or frequent but well-intentioned clumsiness. No, it’s that its moments of greatest emotional weight – in what is, after all, intended to shine a light on the theft and destruction of Native American heritage – relate to its non-human characters.

Sorry I’m late. I was taking a crap.

The Sting (1973)
(SPOILERS) In any given list of the best things – not just movies – ever, Mark Kermode would include The Exorcist, so it wasn’t a surprise when William Friedkin’s film made an appearance in his Nine films that should have won Best Picture at the Oscars list last month. Of the nominees that year, I suspect he’s correct in his assessment (I don’t think I’ve seen A Touch of Class, so it would be unfair of me to dismiss it outright; if we’re simply talking best film of that year, though, The Exorcist isn’t even 1973’s best horror, that would be Don’t Look Now). He’s certainly not wrong that The Exorcistremains a superior work” to The Sting; the latter’s one of those films, like The Return of the King and The Departed, where the Academy rewarded the cast and crew too late. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is the masterpiece from George Roy Hill, Paul Newman and Robert Redford, not this flaccid trifle.

You had to grab every single dollar you could get your hands on, didn't you?

Triple Frontier (2019)
(SPOILERS) Triple Frontier must have seemed like a no-brainer for Netflix, even by their standards of indiscriminately greenlighting projects whenever anyone who can’t get a job at a proper studio asks. It had, after all, been a hot property – nearly a decade ago now – with Kathryn Bigelow attached as director (she retains a producing credit) and subsequently JC Chandor, who has seen it through to completion. Netflix may not have attracted quite the same level of prospective stars – Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum were all involved at various points – but as ever, they haven’t stinted on the production. To what end, though? Well, Bigelow’s involvement is a reliable indicator; this is a movie about very male men doing very masculine things and suffering stoically for it.

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

Trouble’s part of the circus. They said Barnum was in trouble when he lost Tom Thumb.

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
(SPOILERS) Anyone of a mind that it’s a recent development for the Oscars to cynically crown underserving recipients should take a good look at this Best Picture winner from the 25thAcademy Awards. In this case, it’s generally reckoned that the Academy felt it was about time to honour Hollywood behemoth Cecil B DeMille, by that point into his seventies and unlikely to be jostling for garlands much longer, before it was too late. Of course, he then only went and made a bona fide best picture contender, The Ten Commandments, and only then pegged it. Because no, The Greatest Show on Earth really isn’t very good.

Well, hyperbole isn’t the worst crime.

The Greatest Showman (2017)
(SPOILERS) I can see why The Greatest Showman was such a big hit, but largely, I still have to side with the critical drubbing it received. As a patchwork of infectiously catchy songs (all with the same effusive crescendos to get you properly emotionally uplifted) it has a certain appeal, in an extended pop-promo sense. As a movie, it’s barely coherent.

What lit the fire that set off our Mr Reaper?

Death Wish (2018)
(SPOILERS) I haven’t seen the original Death Wish, the odd clip aside, and I don’t especially plan to remedy that, owing to an aversion to Charles Bronson when he isn’t in Once Upon a Time in the West and an aversion to Michael Winner when he wasn’t making ‘60s comedies or Peter Ustinov Hercule Poirots. I also have an aversion to Eli Roth, though (this is the first of his oeuvre I’ve seen, again the odd clip aside, as I have a general distaste for his oeuvre), and mildly to Bruce when he’s on autopilot (most of the last twenty years), so really, I probably shouldn’t have checked this one out. It was duly slated as a fascistic, right-wing rallying cry, even though the same slaters consider such behaviour mostly okay if the protagonist is super-powered and wearing a mask when taking justice into his (or her) own hands, but the truth is this remake is a quite serviceable, occasionally amusing little revenger, one that even has sufficient courage in its skewed convictions …

You're very frank, Clarice. I think it would be quite something to know you in private life.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
(SPOILERS) I was pleased for The Silence of the Lambs’ Oscar glory, a rare genre entry to be bestowed such garlands, even though I didn’t think it was the most deserving of that year’s nominees (that would be JFK, Oliver Stone’s crowning achievement, after which he would never be quite the same again). Indeed, while it’s generally regarded with hindsight as one the Academy definitely got right, I don’t think it’s even the best Thomas Harris adaptation.

I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
(SPOILERS) There isn’t, of course, anything left to say about 2001: A Space Odyssey, although the devoted still try, confident in their belief that it’s eternally obliging in offering unfathomable mystery. And it does seem ever responsive to whatever depths one wishes to plumb in analysing it for themes, messages or clues either about what is really going on out there some around Jupiter, or in its director’s head. Albeit, it’s lately become difficult to ascertain which has the more productive cottage industry, 2001 or The Shining, in the latter regard. With Eyes Wide Shut as the curtain call, a final acknowledgement to the devout that, yes, something really emphatic was going under Stanley Kubrick’s hood and it’s there, waiting to be exhumed, if you only look with the right kind of eyes.

Ferris Bueller, you're my hero.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
(SPOILERS) John Hughes’ greatest, most lasting contribution to western civilisation. Time Out’s review of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off opined that it was unfortunate no one got to ring the little bastard’s neck, and a number of reviewers have taken issue with the movie’s apparent unchecked materialism: a teenager running amok, unfettered, in the avaricious ‘80s and getting away with it. Which is fair comment; one might regard Ferris, his aspirations and achievements, as the inevitable end product of such self-involved, me-centric “progress”. Which is also why the movie is both hugely satisfying and entirely empty.

What about large, blind, fat girls with boils?

How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)
(SPOILERS) Bruce Robinson’s mostly forgotten sophomore outing follows in step with more than a few directors’ crash-back-down-to-earth second feature following a much-feted debut (Kafka, Southland Tales). Robinson allows his passion to get the better of him, and the result is a high-concept, one-joke state-of-the-nation polemic that isn’t nearly as sharp as it would like to think. Mainly because it mistakes a point for a bludgeon. He isn’t alone in this type of hoisted-by-one’s-own-petard thinking – Downsizing is just a recent example of blithe disconnect with a sketch concept that audiences simply won’t be interested in stretched to feature length – but even in outline form (a vituperative boil growing on adman Richard E Grant’s neck becomes a second head, subsuming his actual one, and so takes over) it was obvious How to Get Ahead in Advertising was on rocky ground.

Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
(SPOILERS) I dothink it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. There are movies I’ve watched so many times – Withnail & I springs to mind – that I can’t envisage enjoying it as “purely” as I once did again, and certainly doubt that I’ll revisit again any time soon. Indeed, these days, I’ll rarely watch a new movie more than a couple of times in short order so as to preserve that quality as much as possible (sometimes that’s hard; Fury Road is five and counting). The Big Lebowski is one I’ve seen on numerous occasions over the years, but it’s probably been half a decade since the last time, for exactly the same reason of not wanting to diminish it.

If you honk, I’ll spew.

Oscar Winners 2019
Not having a host this year meant it was much more difficult to find a decent quote line. I considered using an excerpt from Regina King’s acceptance speech, but quoting it ironically probably wouldn’t travel. So Mike Myers gets it by default, since it sums up the ceremony quite nicely (he and Dana Carvey really should have resisted dredging up Wayne and Garth under any circumstances, though, since their schtick had dated badly approximately six months after the release of the first film).

No one ties down this Batman forever.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)
(SPOILERS) The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part isn’t very good. Which is to say, it’s just about passable – nothing more, so don’t take the equal and opposite tack and interpret that as effusiveness – until the last twenty minutes, when it opts to become actively objectionable in its efforts to patronise and consequently provoke children (and hopefully their parents) everywhere into states of abject wrath. The fact that Phil Lord and Chris Miller penned the screenplay should, by rights, cause any rational person to question every positive impression they hitherto had of the duo.