Last year was a very good year for filmmaking but 2016 is shaping up even better already. You know the scene in Pulp Fiction (1994) where Bruce Willis’ character is moving from one weapon to a bigger/better one before he tortures Zed in the basement?  That’s what cinema going is like for me in January. I’ve seen so many brilliant films in succession either as good as or better than the last.  Moreover, the Oscar fodder is launched on the silver screen thus; I saw NOT one, but FOUR films which are already likely to be on my Best of 2016 list.

I’ve slightly tweaked my FILM/TV review format so instead of covering, in detail, EVERYTHING I saw, I’ve made it a bit punchier and reviewed in depth the best of the best. As usual – marks out of eleven!



(2015) – (MARK: 10.5 out of 11)

Room is an amazing film. Probably the best and most moving I will see ALL year. It concerns Joy (the incredible Brie Larson) and her young son Jack (stunning Jacob Tremblay) who have been abducted and trapped in a shed by a nefarious kidnapper referred only as “Old Nick”.

The film is presented from the innocent boy’s perspective and the pathos and empathy I felt throughout was both touching and heart breaking. What the writer’s premise does and filmmakers do is make you care about the characters immediately making every scene so suspenseful and soulful. If you are captured by stories about proper characters trying to survive dire events then it’s a must see.

The budget was low at $6 million yet director Lenny Abrahamson, his brilliant cast and writer Emma Donoghue have created a masterpiece in emotional storytelling.  Ultimately, it’s a film not just about isolation, abandonment and the horror of humanity; but also the unbridled love a mother has for their child and child for their mother. This is a truly stunning film which will linger in the memory for some time to come.

THE REVENANT (2015) – (MARK: 10 out of 11)

While Room is intimate and claustrophobic, The Revenant was the polar opposite. It’s a massive, heart pounding survival epic that must be seen on the biggest cinema screen you can find. Don’t stream it illegally online you cheap bastards; leave the house and GO TO THE CINEMA!

It concerns a Trappers’ expedition circa 1823 which is assaulted most violently by the indigenous Arikara Native Americans from the get go. The brutal attack set-piece kicks off the film in startling fashion with fire, blood and bone spilling and crunching and blasting death upon our characters. Our hero – Oscar-winner-elect – Leonardo DiCaprio is a tracker, Hugh Glass, whose expertise is required to get the survivors across the cold and brutal landscape in one piece.  But he is attacked by a bear in one of the most incredible feats of filmmaking I have seen in a long time. It just has to be seen to be believed as Glass is ripped to shreds by the bear leaving him at death’s step knocking on the door.

DiCaprio is then left with his Native American son and the greasy John Fitzgerald portrayed with dirty aplomb by brilliant Tom Hardy, as the rest head back to “civilization.” After which it’s safe to say that things don’t go too well for Glass as the money-grubbing Fitzgerald double-crosses him and leaves him for dead precipitating a series of deadly encounters that left me gasping for air and shaken to the heart of my dramatic core.

This is just superb, grueling, bloody and beautiful filmmaking! Inarritu adds some exquisite artistic touches and the cinematography and vistas are a thing of beauty. The filmmaking team spent nine months shooting the film and they have given birth to an epic masterpiece which, while a simple revenge story at heart, beats a powerful drum to the testament of the human spirit and against-the-odds survival. If you’re not watching this on a massive cinema screen then you haven’t seen it at all!


THE BIG SHORT (2015) – (MARK: 9 out of 11)

This is a very entertaining film satire about the global economic crash and the 2008 housing meltdown. It simplified everything in a very amusing fashion and felt like an extended American Office, both in style and humour. Steve Carell and Christian Bale are on particularly good form as are the rest of a very attractive case.  Bankers, Brokers, Regulators and the Government are presented as crooked, greedy, moronic or all of the above! I’m still shocked this actually happened as I have always held humanity in such high regard. NOT!

CREED (2015) – (MARK: 8 out of 11)

For a genre/franchise/boxing film CREED is a fantastic watch; full of emotional ups and downs. Stallone is terrific as ageing Rocky Balboa and this movie harked back to the raw quality of the first Rocky (1976). Ryan Coogler proved with Fruitvale Station (2013) he can direct real heartfelt drama and illustrates it once again here. The boxing scenes are impressive and Michael B. Jordan proves he is a very natural performer as the film delivers some proper knockout entertainment.


DANISH GIRL (2015) – (MARK: 7.5 out of 11)

Eddie Redmayne truly delivers in this story about Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe and their attempts to reassign gender. Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener is equally brilliant as Einar’s wife, who at first sees her husband’s flirtations with female impersonation as a game but realises it is much more than that. Overall, this is stunningly attractive filmmaking set in 1920s Copenhagen which could arguably have had a touch more dramatic bite. Yet, Tom Hooper is a formidable director of beautifully humane dramas and this is a touching testament to a person trapped and prepared to risk it all to escape.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2015) – (MARK: 9.5 out of 11)

Any other month this would have been my film of the month.  I love Westerns. I love Tarantino films (mostly). I love brilliant dialogue. I love lots of blood and violence.  Here QT remakes Reservoir Dogs (1992) via Agatha Christie, setting it in the snowy West of America circa 1870s.  It concerns eight hard-bitten souls consisting of criminals, bounty hunters and soldiers and the mayhem that ensues as they cross paths.

Set pretty much in one location there is tension and bullets galore by the end. However, the main strength lies in the ensemble cast firing verbal stingers at each other as trust breaks down and the characters turn against each other as the plot thickens. Kurt Russell, Walton Goggins and Samuel L. Jackson are real standouts and Jennifer Jason Leigh holds her own amidst the sweat and testosterone.

Though not as epic in stature as Django Unchained (2012), and in need of a wee trim, this is a fine movie which will improve on subsequent views. Tarantino is a proper auteur and can always be relied on to deliver an impressive work of entertainment. Mustn’t forget Ennio Morricone’s awesome score either, which haunts the scenes like the Reaper on collection day.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (2015) – (MARK: 7.5 out of 11)

Ever dependable Ron Howard has crafted an excellent adventure and survival story. A well evoked period drama Chris “Thor” Hemsworth takes to the high seas on the hunt for whales, only to come up against the white “monster” which would inspire Herman Melville’s literary classic Moby Dick. Men against nature and the elements always play well on the big screen and overall, it’s very solid entertainment. While the bookended script is old-fashioned by design it has subtext too, indicating the importance oil has always played within our society.

SPOTLIGHT (2015) – (MARK: 9 out of 11)

This is yet another Oscar-runner with an incredible true story at its heart. The film “spotlights” the Boston Globe’s investigation into endemic paedophilia and subsequent cover up by the Catholic Church. It’s a riveting story with a fantastic ensemble cast including Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton on very fine form.

Screenwriters Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer have crafted a sterling script that gets into the minutiae of a press investigation and also reveals the corruption and hypocrisy in organised religion, public relations and the legal system.  Just when you think people couldn’t get any lower stories like this highlight the darkness at the heart of humanity.  Thankfully, the press gang at the Boston Globe has proved more than just celebrity-baiters and given the victims of horrific abuse both a voice and justice.




ADAM AND PAUL (2004) – YOUTUBE – (MARK: 9 out of 11)

Irish black comedy about two junkies trying to get a hit; manages to be both hilarious and sad simultaneously. Great feature debut from Lenny Abrahamson.



More bonkers horror as witchcraft, murder and voodoo mix to grisly and hilarious effect.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (2015) – BBC1 – (MARK: 8 out of 11)

Stylish drama with a stellar cast committing murder most foul in fine Agatha Christie adaptation.


BLUE RUIN (2014) – NETFLIX – (MARK: 6 out of 11)

Impressive low budget neo-noir let down by the bad plotting and unsympathetic lead protagonist. 


THE FALLING (2014) – AMAZON PRIME – (Mark: 6 out of 11)

Artful period drama about fainting young girls starts well but runs out of story by the end.


THE HUNTER (2011) – AMAZON PRIME – (Mark: 7 out of 11)

Intriguing Aussie drama as Willem Dafoe’s hired gun tracks down the last Tasmanian tiger.


ROME – SEASON 1 – (2005) – NETFLIX – (MARK – 8 out of 11)

Brilliant Caesarean drama with devilish plotting and bloodier battles plus a cracking cast.

SHERLOCK: THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE (2015) – BBC1 – (Mark: 8 out of 11)

Oh-so-clever-meta-drama featured Holmes & Watson on the trail of a ghostly murderess in a wedding dress. Stylish with little substance but entertaining nonetheless.


SLOW WEST (2014) – NOW TV – (Mark: 7 out of 11)

Idiosyncratic Western that is too pretentious in places, but saved by ever-excellent Michael Fassbender and a fine shoot-out at the end.


THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2014) – NOW TV – (Mark: 7 out of 11)

Eddie Redmayne bagged the Oscar for his portrait of Stephen Hawking in this beautifully acted, lovely looking, yet, dramatically tepid romance-biopic.


WHAT RICHARD DID (2012) – DVD – (Mark: 8 out of 11)

Slow moving but impactful drama from Lenny Abrahamson, as a rich teenager’s actions causes massive reverberations amidst an Irish family and the wider community.



THE VISIT (2015) – SKY STORE – (MARK: 2 out of 11)

Some said this was a return to form for M. Night Shyamalan – IT WASN’T! Dreadful supposed horror film with one of the most annoying child actors I’ve had the displeasure to witness.





“All that live must die, passing through nature to eternity.”
William Shakespeare

Death: the final frontier.  The long anorexic finger of the reaper hangs over all of us and the annoying thing is we can do nothing about this. We are cold hard truth Cassandra.  We know we are going to die; we just don’t know when. The cruel irony of life is we don’t know why we are here or where we are going when it ends. Today alone – according to Google – the utter bastard that is death has taken approximately 150,000 people worldwide due to: illness, war, old age, murder, accidents, suicide, natural disaster and so on.  Of course we cannot grieve everyone but death is always magnified when we lose a famous or esteemed person. Recently we have lost musical genius David Bowie, acting gentleman Alan Rickman and hard-rocker Lemmy.

Of course these are sad losses to the art and entertainment worlds as all were esteemed entertainers who seemingly lived their lives to the full.  Bowie especially had a phenomenal talent for Phoenix-from-the-flames-like reinvention and for me remains one of the greatest songwriters this country has ever produced; while Rickman was a fine acting talent who always brought gravitas to every role. Lemmy was well, Lemmy: a hard-drinking-hard-playing-hard-drug-taking-mad-man!


What I have observed is the various approaches to mourning across the world, media and more specifically the Internet which generally explodes with a combination of emotions. More often than not humans also attack each other with Facebook and YouTube being especially brilliant for hilarious rows which quickly descend into personal attacks on parentage, religion, sexual preference; or whether someone’s Gran is a Nazi or not.

Ultimately, we all know death is a prick and people handle it in a variety of different ways, including:

  1. Overwhelming outpouring of emotion for the life lost.
  2. Praise and celebration of the artists’ work.
  3. Irreverent comments where people say “I didn’t know them so why be upset?”
  4. Aggressive comments which accuse people of “grief tourism”!
  5. Humorous retorts such as, “Bowie is dead at 69. Rickman is dead at 69. Donald Trump is NOT DEAD at 69!”
  6. Angry comments such as:   “I hate you God – you took Bowie and Rickman but Rupert Murdoch is still living and now getting married!”


Personally I prefer the silent contemplative response and the people who are overly negative and criticise people for “grief tourism” irk me a bit. Indeed, it especially annoys me when the whole “you did not know them — so why are you grieving” statements come out.  Well, I disagree with that because you do “know” them through their art and knowledge one has of their songs, acting, product and performances.

Surely, it’s instinctive to react to someone’s death?  Are people really using a famous persons’ death to gain attention for themselves?  Maybe they are; nothing surprises me with human beings. But to be honest, if they are holidaying in death and they’re not harming me then who cares!   Let’s face it even the “grief-trolls” or “haters” or whatever-you –want-to-call them are scared of death and their defensive, satirical or ironic approach is a valid way of dealing with death and grief. Therefore, I respect their reaction as that is how THEY are grieving.


Ultimately, we’re all animals who get scared when illness and death comes a knocking and when a hero or an artist or someone famous dies we are all confronted with our OWN mortality and I suspect that is what we are most upset about.  I mean who actually thought David Bowie would die – the guy is immortal surely?!  But he has passed away and that is sad; but we should celebrate a wonderful life of creativity. We should also respect how a person chooses to grieve however over-the-top or emotional or irreverent or negative it may be. We are all human. Let’s just try and get on as we’re all in the same sinking boat. You win some – you lose some.  Nothing lasts forever; apart from death that is.




Overall, 2015 was a highly satisfactory cultural year for me. I went to some cracking musical events including gigs by: The Prodigy, Johnny Marr and the Nozstock Festival. I attended the theatre more times than ever before notably Gypsy, View From The Bridge and Oppenheimer and watched some fine live comedy by Paul Foot and Stewart Lee. I also witnessed some marvellous television shows, both new and on catch-up including: Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle 3, Better Call Saul, Daredevil, Going Clear, American Horror Story (Seasons 1 & 2), South Park, Doctor Who, Gomorrah, Fargo (Season 1) to name a few.


Of course, the cinema remains my church; the hallowed place at which I preserve my holiest of prayer and last year was very enjoyable. Some big blockbuster films like Spectre and The Force Awakens were decent entertainment but not as great as many said. Marvel continued to hoover up the profits on behalf of Disney and their Age of Ultron was a decent enough episode in the franchise. So, here are my favouritest films I saw last year. They are not necessarily the best or most artsy but they are the ones where I left the cinema feeling uplifted intellectually and emotionally.  Either that or they were just bloody good entertainment!


Here they are in alphabetical order with marks out of 11 plus a quote from my original review.



ANT-MAN (2015)

“It’s simplistic narrative-wise but what it does have is a fizzing script full of zingers and comedic moments as well as some great action set-pieces built around a complex but well-orchestrated final act heist.” (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)



“This is a stunning drama which leaves you battered and burnt emotionally.  It’s about a civil war in Africa and the child soldiers whom are ripped from their families and made to fight for despotic mad men. Don’t watch if you are easily upset.” (Mark: 9 out of 11)

BIRDMAN (2014)

“. . .an intellectual and artsy dark comedy about loads of stuff involving: celebrity, identity, artistic credibility, insanity, family, f*cked up egos, vanity as well as analysing the creative process. It is NOT a superhero film but a satire on that kind of thing” (Mark: 9/11)


CAROL (2015)

“Todd Haynes beautifully shot and designed period love story has a standout performance from Cate Blanchett and great support from Rooney Mara. . . poetic storytelling, deft direction, stunning design and photography plus the cinematic score of the year from Carter Burwell.”  (Mark: 8.5/11)

DHEEPAN (2015)

“. . . brilliant character study about immigrants in France, attempting to forge a life in the crime-ridden estates of Paris. What starts as a humane tale of survival crosses over into explosive thriller territory by the end.” (Mark: 9/11)



“A powerful and haunting tragedy with incredibly subtle direction, this complex psychological thriller which shines a light on billionaire John DuPont and his fascination with fraternal Olympic wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz” (Mark: 9/11)

JOHN WICK (2014)

“As John Wick, Keanu Reeves absolutely blows the back doors off as a “retired” assassin who rampages after the gangsters who killed his dog.” (Mark: 8.5/11)



“Pitch perfect pace and delivery by cast and crew as the script hybridizes kitchen sink, action and spy genres. To quote the parlance of our age: “The film is well sick, bruv!” (Mark: 9/11)



“It’s weird, wonderful and very funny as Colin Farrell plays a single man – in the not-too-distant-future – who has a limited time to find a mate or he’ll be turned into an animal of his choice. Obviously, he chooses the eponymous crustacean and what ensues is a peculiarly dark and hilarious satire of human relationships and dating mores. . . “ (Mark: 9.5/11)



“There isn’t really any plot to speak of on the Fury Road but what you get is an incredible visual feast with carnage galore and some incredible stunts in a barren yet beautiful desert setting.  Hardy and Theron share great chemistry within the action and Miller executes some mesmerising moments of dialogue-free pure cinema.” (Mark: 9.5/11)



“. . .if you like any of the following: TimeCrimes (2007), Looper (2012), The Adjustment Bureau (2011), Time After Time (1979), Back to the Future (1985), The Terminator (1984), Doctor Who etcetera… then do watch this one. It’s a fine low-budget time-travel film starring Ethan Hawke and breakout performance from brilliant Sarah Snook.” (Mark: 9/11)


WHIPLASH (2014) 

“Echoes of Officer and a Gentlemen (1992) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) with the fearsome Drill Sergeant battering the young grunts but at a middle-class music school – sterling stuff! (Mark: 9/11)


WILD TALES (2015) 

“. . . delivers a dark sarcasm and hilarity via six separate stories concerning themes of: revenge, political corruption, class division and bloody violence! It opens with a breath-taking little prologue featuring a horrific incident on a plane and culminates in arguably the wildest tale when the Bride goes on the rampage at her wedding. The film delivers a full deck of twists that master of the macabre Roald Dahl would be proud of.” (Mark: 10/11)











This will be my final Screenwash in this format. From next year I won’t review EVERYTHING I have seen but do a more qualitative review of something I really loved or hated with a little round-up of other stuff. I think it’s good to mix up the format in order to keep it fresh for 2016. Anyway, along with battling flu I managed to watch quite a lot of stuff in December at the cinema and via the usual channels. Marks as usual are out of eleven!



This show is disgusting but I love it.  A true must for horror show addicts with all manner of death and mayhem in two seasons of sick, perverse and grim nastiness. Both Murder House and Asylum are the stuff nightmares are made of. Highly recommended. (Mark: 9 out of 11)


Thor stars in a Michael Mann cyber-thriller which was panned by critics but isn’t actually that bad. Hacker-action dramas never quite come off on the big screen but Chris Hemsworth and some okay twists make this worth watching I guess. (Mark: 6 out of 11)


Todd Haynes beautifully shot and designed period love story has a standout performance from Cate Blanchett and great support from Rooney Mara. The majestic score and perfect direction make this filmmaking of the highest quality and Oscars beckon come award season. The story could have been slightly more dramatic in places but Haynes goes for mood and subtlety rather than soapy melodrama and is to be commended for such a stylish work of film art. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)


They don’t make them like this epic love story anymore. Beautiful Julie Christie and dashing Omar Sharif are red-star crossed lovers caught amidst the bullets and snow of revolutionary and war-torn Russia. This is stunning and epic filmmaking from David Lean with a haunting score and incredible cinematography. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

FOCUS (2015) – NOW TV

I like a good con film and this one starring attractive couple Will Smith and Margot Robbie is a fast-paced and fun double-twister with ups and downs and turns and burns throughout. (Mark: 7 out of 11)



This is a tremendously odd yet moving character study of Frank, the leader of an experimental rock band who happens to wear a papier-mache head to mask him from the world. Domnhall Gleeson excels as the keyboardist coerced into the mayhem as he attempts to apply order to a chaotic creative process. Yet, Michael Fassbender is phenomenal as the tragic and titular lead. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)


Excellent naturalistic drama centred on the final day in the life of Oscar Grant who was shot by police at Fruitvale Station when out on New Year’s Eve. It’s a touching film about an ordinary guy in the wrong place at the wrong time with fine direction and performances. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

THE GIFT (2015)

Joel Edgerton’s creepy film was an excellent exercise in subtle and horrifying low-key thrills as his seemingly meek character unhinges Rachel Hall and Jason Bateman’s middle class world.  This was an excellent slowburner with a wonderful reveal at the end and relied on subtle twists rather than over-the-top action. (Mark: 8 out of 11)


Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1970s stoner detective adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel is stylish and narratively obtuse and doesn’t really add up to much by the end really. However, Anderson is always an interesting director and throws himself at the material with gusto and Joaquin Phoenix’s spirited performance drags you through a pretty pointless exercise in style over content. (Mark: 6.5 out of 11)


Sondheim’s musical gets the Hollywood treatment and it’s big, loud and clever but not really my cup of tea. The meta-references were great as we get: Cinderella, Jack, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Prince Charming all thrown into a heady narrative mix which didn’t quite pay off on the big screen. While the direction is spirited and the musical numbers flawless, it all fell flat as a story for me despite the great cast. (Mark: 6.5 out of 11)



If you like alternative fairytale films then do check out this devilish Christmas film. It’s kind of like Evil Dead 2 meets Bad Santa with a bit of Jaws and Gremlins too. Both funny and scary throughout it’s full of nasty Christmas creatures and is a perfect anathema to those sickly feel-good Christmas stories clogging up the arteries of cinema and TV schedule. (Mark: 8 out of 11)


This is a silly but impressive cop/martial arts 80s pastiche with pumping soundtrack and ultra-violence from Swedish filmmaker David Sandberg.  (Mark: 7 out of 11)



One off Christmas special found Luther “hiding” from the world waiting for contact from Alice. He’s in for a long wait though as it would appear she has been killed in Amsterdam – or has she?!  It was formulaic yet enjoyable cop-genre stuff with Idris Elba owning the screening as he hunts Alice’s killers plus a lunatic serial-murderer.  (Mark: 7 out of 11)

MACBETH (1971)

I’m studying Macbeth to help my son with his GCSE’s and Polanski’s version is a very decent stab at the Bard’s gloomy Scottish masterpiece.  Having seen Fassbender and Cotillard excel in an atmospheric version earlier in 2015, this one is equally bloody and venomous as the foolish Scottish laird falls foul of murder and ambition as his plotting backfires spectacularly. (Mark: 7 out of 11)



Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic nun musical is an opposites-attract-love-story tied up with a formidable musical presentation beautifully performed, choreographed, directed and lit. Julie Andrews is phenomenal in the lead opposite fussy but handsome Christopher Plummer. This is an old favourite with classic songs which definitely stand the test of time. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)


Bong Joon Ho’s impressive socialist Sci-fi actioner is highly original in concept and delivery as a disparate bunch of renegades – including: Jamie Bell, Chris Evans and John Hurt – attempt to gain control of a never-stopping train. Surprisingly never released in the UK I had to order my Blu Ray from New Zealand and it was worth the wait as the film constantly surprises with a decent mix of intelligent action and brutal violence. (Mark: 8 out of 11)


JJ Abrams Star Wars reboot broke not only the internet but also box office records worldwide. It’s a safe and impressive spectacle with – aside from the young hipster Jedi bad guy – bland leads and the best actor jettisoned early (Oscar Isaac) for an uneasy mix of older characters and young ones. The action was breathtaking though and brilliantly done, however, the story was a retread of A New Hope (with female Luke) plus a series of glaring plot holes. Still, loads of action and great bad guys made this a fun blockbuster. (Mark: 7 out of 11)


Dystopian, near-future Aussie Western boasts hard-bitten performances from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. It’s a simple story about a man hunting for his car and the power remains in the understated nihilistic drama and bleak, dusty landscapes. Not a lot happens but it does so with a quiet, memorable power. (Mark: 8 out of 11)


TAKEN 3 (2014) – NOW TV

Liam Neeson smashes up more bad guys in this not-too-bad B-movie thriller. This time the baddies have killed his wife and stitched him up as prime suspect – but will he get out of it!?  What do you think?  Silly, formulaic but watchable stuff!  (Mark: 6 out of 11)


Reliable hard man Jason Statham’s latest B-movie has a very good supporting cast and is passably entertaining but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Having said that Las Vegas always makes an interesting cinematic setting and as a character study of a destructive gambler it works okay. (Mark: 6 out of 11)


This is a gloriously over-the-top grindhouse feature with an alcoholic cop who turns into a vicious lycanthrope hell-bent on murdering those who break the law. It’s stupendously silly but very entertaining nonetheless with some funny blood-letting and howling gore. (Mark: 7 out of 11)




If you go to the Doctor Who Facebook page or YouTube or Radio Times or other online forums, you will find a fanatical passion for the Timelord usually reserved for football teams or religions.  Much of it is high praise, constructive criticism and healthy debates involving: timey-wimey stuff; various plot explanations; merits of favourite Doctors or companions; and that “the old classics are better than the new ones” exclamations etc.  Moreover, there’s also a very negative faction who think they should play two up front, sack the manager, that God is a construct so people can control humanity and your mum’s a dick. Sorry, wrong forums.

Actually, the main negatives from the current Who detractor-fans are: the writing has gone downhill since Moffat took over as show-runner; Capaldi is too old as the Doctor; Clara is a rubbish companion and should die (they got their wish); Season 8 was diabolical and worse than cancer; plus other gripes.  Well, I don’t subscribe to hysteria and hyperbole; after all it’s just a TV show that I enjoy very much.  I do agree though that Season 8 was a bit off due to the Danny Pink/Clara romantic arc that dragged the show into Hollyoaks territory. Furthermore, Moffat was still finding Capaldi’s “voice” as the Doctor too so Season 8 was hit and miss indeed. Yet, there were still some great episodes such as: Listen, Dark Water, Flatline and the joyously dark Mummy on the Orient Express.
As a show-runner the negativity toward Moffat is boring.  He has an excellent imagination and eye for a concept and has written some incredible episodes over the years, many of which I covered in my epic Doctor Who blog tribute that can be revisited here:

Plus, as captain of the Doctor Who ship it is a big responsibility to avoid sinking such a revered national treasure. Indeed, while I don’t like some of Moffat’s tricksy ret-con leaps, at least he strives for originality within a genre formula and more often than not produces moments of brilliant television.

Basically, Doctor Who is a mainstream sci-fi, family TV drama with comedy sprinkled in and as such I watch for entertainment purposes. But it so often is more than that as it offers a grand look at history, space, end of worlds, universes and existence itself. Season 8’s narrative arc involved Missy/Master (splendid Michelle Gomez) wreaking havoc on the new Doctor, who with his new face, had to decide whether he “was a good man”. Well, he decided that he was and in Season 9 he found he had a mission statement too: “I’m the Doctor and I save people”.  The only problem was the Doctor’s actions created the Hybrid or did they? Well, it created the Hybrid arc which permeated a series of mainly two-parters which on the whole were just wonderful. Hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.


The episode opening was a bit of a minefield; literally a minefield of actual “hand” grenades threatening a young boy who happened to be Dalek creator Davros.  We were in Genesis of the Daleks territory where imperious Tom Baker was sent back in time to kill the Daleks at birth.  It was a showstopper and the episode was full of fine moments as Missy popped up again (thought she was dead) with The Doctor’s “confession dial” in hand and having nabbed Clara she went on the hunting for the Doctor.  They found him playing guitar, wearing some neat, gimmicky sonic-sunglasses before he came face-to-face with a dying Davros keen on revitalising himself.
The hybrid theme popped up here with the Doctor using Timelord regenerative energy to reignite the Dalek’s and foster Davros’ wicked plan, which off course backfires on him. Plus, Clara was abused by Missy and made to inhabit an evil Dalek during their escape echoing Oswald’s first appearance from Asylum of the Daleks.  Overall, it was a cracking opening and Capaldi’s little chats with Davros were full of tension and irony.  I especially loved the Dalek sewers full of horrible monsters out for revenge on their Master.  Michelle Gomez shone as the bullying spinster while Capaldi begins with an authority and confidence that became a feature of the season.


Toby Whithouse has created some entertaining Doctor Who episodes including: School Reunion and Vampires of Venice and this two-parter was equally so.  I mean who doesn’t love a ghost story set on an Underwater Base in the future.  Indeed, it’s temporally very tricky and has some wonderful moments and brilliant end-of-episode cliff-hanger where the Doctor himself must die to solve the mystery.

I’m a sucker for paradoxes and these episodes are full of them as the Doctor travels back from 2119 to 1980, crossing his own timeline in order to foil the future ghosts of which he is one. Before the flood he ultimately faces the nefarious Fisher King who is intent on an awakening and having his wicked way with the Earth.  Some wonderful moments include: the scary hollow-eyed ghosts; the deaf character Cass lip-reading the ghosts; some heart-stopping cat-and-mouse chases around the base; the Doctor “cue” cards which prompt more tactful responses; plus the perplexing yet sparkling puzzle box narrative which wraps up an overall fast-paced and fun episode.    



This loose double-header began with a standard Dr Who set-up as he and Clara met with the Vikings and then entered into a war with the space-race, the Mire.  Cue a Seven Samurai style “defending the village” story which featured the wonderful actress Maisie Williams as young Viking storyteller, Ashildr.  There were some great one-liners and humour to be had as well as some soul searching by the Doctor as he conversed with a baby.  The end battle was a bit farcical as the Doctor turns the Mire’s technology against them involving, believe it or not, the Benny Hill theme tune.
The episode then went from okay to amazing when tragedy struck as the Doctor had an incredible epiphany following Ashildr’s death. Using the Mire tech he brings her back to life and there’s the rub because she is now immortal. We then get an incredible montage which finds Ashildr pass through the years unchanged by time. Indeed, the Hybrid theme rears itself again and in The Girl Who Died, the Doctor met Ashildr again and she was now known as ‘Me’.  Williams was brilliant in this episode and her ‘Me’ was an entirely different character: a bitter, world-weary person ravaged by time, experience and loss.  Plot wise the second-part was kind of weak but in terms of character it was very powerful. Now, the Doctor had created a new foe that like him was an ‘immortal’ time-traveller. However, ‘Me’ wasn’t necessarily on the side of good as we would discover later in the series.


In this two-parter the writers showed that primetime television doesn’t have to just be whimsical as the Doctor took on Zygon extremists determined to destroy all humans.  The episode, picking up the plot from Day of the Doctor, was political, allegorical and powerful, with the Doctor acting ultimately as peacekeeper in an attempt to prevent human and Zygon armies from destroying the world. With clear parallels to the current refugee crisis, rise of ISIS and the gung-ho nature of Western Governments the Doctor weaves between the factions as “President of the World” and tricksy Zygons who are body-snatching humans.  There’s some great action and suspense in this two-parter with suspicion falling on friends and neighbours.
The Zygon episodes were full of memorable moments, notably the performances of Ingrid Oliver as Osgood and Jenna Coleman as Evil Clara AKA Bonnie.  Both gave nuanced characterisations in their respective roles and of course both were human/Zygon hybrids.  Coleman especially was excellent and she ultimately revelled in playing a bad girl.  The denouement, however, belonged to Capaldi as he attempts to broker peace amidst the warmongering. He delivers an incredible speech about “Truth or Consequences” of going to war and echoes his pain of feeling following the destructive Time War.


This Mark Gatiss written episode was kind of hung out to dry and thrown away following the previously brilliant two-parters.  While I’m not a fan of found footage horror films this was an interesting experiment which really could have done with another part to wrap up the loose ends.  Stand-out elements included:  a wonderfully unhinged and unreliable narrator in Reece Shearsmith; some witty repartee between Clara and the Doctor; some lovely Macbeth quotes, plus some silly but fun Sandmen monsters which were created from the sleep in our eyes.  Pilloried online by fans I enjoyed the silliness but it felt unfinished as an episode and I hope we get to see Shearsmith’s Dr Rassmussen and his Morpheus monsters again next season.


In a rather interesting spoiler, prior to the start of the season, it was announced that Jenna Coleman would be leaving the show to pursue other acting challenges.  Thus, the episodes were filled with the drama of wondering when Clara’s end would come.   Well, this rather brilliant episode is when it occurred as Rigsy (from Season 8 episode Flatline) popped up with a weird tattoo on his neck. Now this wasn’t a Croydon tramp stamp but rather a countdown to death – Rigsy’s death!  Of course, the Doctor and Clara set about tracking down the people responsible and found themselves in a secret street which housed all sorts of space migrants; like a galactic version of Casablanca. The “mayor” of the street was Ashildr/”Me” who was back doing the bidding of a hidden enemy. Jenna Coleman is brilliant as Clara. As her arrogance causes her demise she begs the Doctor NOT to seek revenge. Yet her death is so dramatic and touching and the Doctor can do nothing to save her, although you sense he will try and bring her back somehow. He won’t give up on Clara: he has a “duty of care” after all.


Peter Capaldi is a triumph in Season 9.  He owns every scene, episode, speech and every furrow of his crinkled brow and sparkle in his eye betrays an actor making the character his own.  I wouldn’t have reignited my love of the Tardis had Capaldi not been cast.  So, after the apparently up-and-down Season 8, which I actually enjoyed mostly, Capaldi, show-runner Steven Moffat, writers, cast and production team  gave us a season full of highs, some dips but overall some stunning and brave television. This was none more so witnessed in the Heaven Sent episode where the Doctor was trapped in his own version of hell.  In an Escheresque prison in which the walls and cells moved the Timelord had to face his demons and death over and over again. It was an episode full of scares and haunting images as the Doctor dies again and again to escape the “confession” trap laid by the Timelords.  In fact, Moffat probably over-eggs the pudding by having the Doctor “live” for over 4 billion years within the parallel hell, but you have to admire the Doctor’s desire for retribution.

Having escaped to, of all places, Gallifrey the Doctor discovers head honcho Timelord, Rassilon, is behind his torture as they were desperate to know about the whereabouts of the “Hybrid”. Quickly dispatching him and the Gallifreyan Council off into exile the Doctor then sets about retrieving Clara from beyond the “Raven”. Here Moffat then does his favourite thing of retroactively rewriting the past by bringing her back in between heartbeats. So, technically she is dead but physically functioning.  Clara and the Doctor then go on the run until the end of time and find immortal “Me” as the only person left alive. The Doctor and “Me” debate the nature of the hybrid before the Doctor decides it is wise, as he has gone “too far”, to blank his mind of Clara thus saving her and ending their partnership.  Overall, it was a heady mix of emotion and science fantasy which didn’t quite gel for me, plus the Hybrid arc was ultimately and classic Macguffin device overall. But Moffat knows how to ratchet up the pace and the concepts and by the end I felt quite giddy.  Clara and “Me” headed off back to Gallifrey, the long way round, and the Doctor headed off alone. Had he forgotten the “impossible girl” – I doubt it somehow!


So with a tremendous raft of episodes in the bank for Season 9 the Husbands of River Song Christmas special was a fluffy addendum to the season.  It was a kind of heist/romance involving stolen heads and villainous space-ships full of mercenaries. It passed the time amusingly save for a wonderfully soppy ending when the Doctor bid fond farewell to his wife, River.  But it was no more than a tasty cherry on the season as a whole, which was a big triumphant and brilliant time cake full of memorable and outstanding ingredients delivered by the awesome Peter Capaldi as the Doctor.



**This contains massive spoilers and offensive language**

Up until 2013 I had only watched a handful of episodes of the irreverent and scurrilous animated show South Park. But since then I have caught up with a hell of a lot of episodes and it has become one of my favourite ever TV programmes and a new season of Trey Parker’s vicious satire is always a highlight of my cultural year. Moreover, one of my most efficient and extensive blog articles was Respect My Authoritah which listed my favouritest seventeen episodes up to Season 16.  Which if you can be arsed can be read here:

Seasons 17 and 18 have come and gone since I wrote that and they had some terrific episodes including my own personal favourites: Informative Murder Porn, Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers, Game of Thrones parodies Black Friday/Song of Ass and Fire, Freemium Isn’t Free, Grounded Vindaloop and #Happy Holograms.  What these and many other previous episodes contained was a keen knowledge of cultural, social and political issues with two parodic fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist, ripping into many media and political targets. This of course was done while continuing the misadventures of Kenny, Cartman, Stan, Kyle, Randy, Sharon, Mr Garrison and other inhabitants of South Park.

What Season 18 did especially well was to link the episodes with call backs to previous events forming a narrative continuum as opposed to just funny stand alone episodes. This allowed for much joy to be had through individual and connected gags as well more satisfying storytelling. Trey Parker obviously felt this worked so he continued this trend with the whole of Season 19. In fact I felt that this season was the most complete and satisfactory in regard to the humour, themes, continuity and narrative. My teenage son says the earlier ones were much funnier and ruder and less political and perhaps he is right, but I defy anyone to find a more scathing and funny satirical show on TV at the moment.

Season 19 began with Stunning and Brave; and we got a brand NEW character in PC Principal.  It’s risky to bring in new elements to an established show but this character hit the ground running with his muscular Jock-look, frat-boy speech and aggressive politically-correct motivations. The writing illustrated the apparent rise of left-leaning-liberal-movements in society and social media which while having decent motives, have become as fascistic in their application of their ideologies as much as right wingers. Indeed it could be argued people have become scared of saying anything in case it’s racist or sexist or offensive and positive discrimination has become so prominent to blind us to character deficiencies.  Indeed, the episode parodies transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner who has been proclaimed a societal heroine. However, one may argue she is essentially just another media whore seeking attention in any way they can.

Caitlyn Jenner would pop us a running gag and mate of Garrison in the next episode, Where has My Country Gone. The disgraced teacher Garrison is in despair at the Canadian immigrants spoiling his country, so he politicizes himself vowing to fuck all immigrants to death. Eventually he ends up in Canada where it has been revealed that Canadians have fled their country because a Donald Trump like “joke” politician actually won the Presidency.  Garrison fucks fake-Trump to death and this “policy” propels him forward as a Presidential candidate with Jenner alongside him.

What Trey Parker does so well is highlight the ridiculous but dangerous nature of soapbox politics and so-called immigration perspectives. Of course, freedom of speech is important but when a wealthy man shouts loudest we must be wary that apathy and inaction by the majority are his weapons too. The use of the Canadians as the whipping boys of South Park is a recurring theme and of course they are merely symbols for attitudes toward all non-Americans.  There’s also a touching “Romeo and Juliet” subplot involving the ever-innocent Butters and his Canadian love.

Having Garrison run on an anti-immigration ticket causes South Park to be ridiculed on television. The shamed residents led by Randy and the Mayor then attempt upward mobility and get a Whole Foods opened in the town. Such social snobbery satirizes the preposterous idea that where you shop makes you a better person.  As such within the episodes City Part of Town and You’re Not Yelping we get some brutal satire at the expense of gentrification and narcissistic individualist behaviour in which people attempt to give their life meaning by elevating their social shopping status or writing pretentious restaurant reviews. As someone who writes reviews for their own enjoyment I did find it particularly hilarious when Gerald Broflovski (Kyle’s Dad) disappears up his own arsehole while writing his Yelp review.

I personally loved the scathing critique of apparent “hipster” culture and gentrification which invaded this season.  I don’t think it’s because I am old and the hipster is supposedly new and cool. No, it’s because they seem to try too hard to be right on plus why should SOMEONE else’s idea of style be all pervasive. Indeed, the episode Safe Space also rabidly attacks charity and the guilt-induced tactics used on Randy; can it not be free choice rather than a system of control over who one gives money to. Meanwhile, poor Butters suffers once again as he hallucinates via sleep deprivation having had to edit the social media accounts of Cartman, Vin Diesel, Steven Seagal and many more celebrities because of fat shaming. Of course, bullying of any kind is a wicked thing but what Safe Space says is that it’s part of reality and we must change our reality rather than simply edit out all that is negative about our lives.

The next episode Tweek x Craig (which calls back to the 3rd season episode Tweek vs. Craig) finds Trey Parker innovatively incorporating satire of Japanese yaoi art while examining the different parental perspectives when an offspring is thought to be gay.  The episode is hilarious in the stereotypical portrayals of the Chinese but more importantly the ridiculous lengths people will go to appear non-homophobic. Cartman also ends up in “love” too as he finally falls in love with himself; not a pretty sight in the bathroom.

What the season arguably lacked was a great ensemble episode of the boys and their particularly brutally honest and funny interactions; however, we got that with Naughty Ninjas.  Here Kenny and Token then Stan, Kyle, Butters etc. and then Cartman (and then not Cartman) become Ninjas but get mistaken for ISIS by typically idiotic and ignorant South Park residents. The subplot involving police brutality is hilarious as police methods are seen as barbaric and over-the-top in these times of tolerance. Yet, when a tough job has to be done such as clear junkies and homeless away from the Whole Foods, understanding will always needs a baton and jackboot to do its dirty work.

The final triptych of episodes — Sponsored Content, Truth & Advertising and PC Principal: Final Justice — dovetailed all the characters and themes of the previous seven into a wholly satisfying end to the season. Trey Parker’s main target was the oppressive and aggressive nature of advertising which, while a necessary industrial evil has become so sneaky it brainwashes us subliminally reading our search engines and attacking us at every window. The episodes had satirical digs at social-justice warriors and gun control, with a plot that revolved around Leslie a “human” advert that has gone sentient and was attempting to control South Park and the world.  Full of fun surprises and nods to sci-fi classics like Bladerunner (1982) and The Terminator (1984), PC Principal ultimately ends up being a kind of action hero. Overall, the message seems to be that in controlled bursts political correctness is appropriate but we must be wary to avoid following trends and always retain an individual perspective.

Season 19 was a triumph of savage satire, cogent narrative, zeitgeist references, brilliant songs and of course, some gloriously offensive humour. It poses many questions in relation to political correctness and trendsetting progressivism. I personally feel that with the amount of morons and ignoramuses in the world who like nothing more than to oppress people due to their race, country of birth or colour of their skin, political correctness is necessary. However, it is important that such ideologies are not used to make everything homogenized and bland and that freedom of speech is permitted. Ultimately, we can check our privilege but definitely not check our humour because what’s life without it?  Indeed what’s life without South Park:  no life at all?



“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Frederic Nietzsche

I have over the years always wondered why I am alive. I mean: what’s the point of life?  Why are humans here at all?  Are we just animals or are we meant for something more?  God or faith is one such thing that has papered over those cracks for some people. However, I am not a religious person as I prefer to believe in my own eyes, ears and experience. I am open to theories and hypothesis but do not require ideological brainwashing to help me get through the day.

Blasphemy it may be but much of my spirituality is gained from worshipping movies, music, sport and other cultural interests.  Of course, family and loved ones are the priority and quite rightly give my life meaning and structure.  But what keeps a person going from one day to the next?  Money, work, exercise, drugs, travel, hobbies and the sheer desire just to stay alive are up there.  Indeed, fear of the abyss can be another powerful reason to keep going; death is a great motivator!

Generally speaking my philosophy is be good to others, don’t be a cunt and if you can’t be positive make sure your negativity is either funny or interesting. I don’t need a God or a set of spurious ideologies to live my life. But, what I do like though from year-to-year is some kind of creative or personal target with which to propel me through the months. It gives me focus and takes my mind off death. There’s also a delusion in my psychology that perhaps one day my creative ability could get rewarded either in some form of employment or financial reward. You never know! Miracles do happen.


Targets of late have included:

  • Lose weight and get fit.
  • Start a diary where I record my events and thoughts through the year.
  • Write and produce a cultural blog reviewing films, shows and events.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Write and perform comedy at one of the Fringe Festivals.
  • Write, film and edit my own short film productions.
  • To train and achieve a 10 mile distance run within a 12 month period.
  • Do something for a Charity.


I can honestly say I have achieved these targets over the last ten years and in 2015 I decided to set myself another goal. On top of continuing my blog and diary and fitness routines I decided I would set about writing TWELVE short film screenplays in a year. Given I have a full-time job and am a parent this is quite a big ask. But on December 21st 2015 I hit this target! Good for me!!

So, for my own benefit I have listed the short screenplays I have written and the ideas behind them.  Here’s to 2016: small victories are the way forward!

A McTaggart-Riter 003



PAUL MORRIS is owed money by his so-called friend GODDARD and desperately needs it back. However, he’s in for a very long wait.


This is a snapshot story of friendship and betrayal. I wanted to write something that was simple to shoot and also a kind of homage to the opening sequence of Once Upon a Time in America.




Comedy short satirising film shows incorporating reviews, clips and trailers of classic and upcoming film releases.


METRO LIVE is a bold, colourful and fun new TV channel serving London. It’s youthful and energetic and punchy and its USP is many of the shows are presented ‘LIVE’.  SCREENWASH is its ‘LIVE’ weekly movie review show.

The show takes the structure of new movie release reviews; classic DVD/movie reviews; articles on featured movie director/actor; an artistic strand where he champions a gay/lesbian/black Eastern European filmmaker etc.; movie news and forthcoming presentations including trailers; competitions etc.

I basically wanted to embrace my love of movies through quick fire comedy sketches structured within a review show format. I also wanted to satirise the contemporary hipster styles and pretentious nature of arthouse reviewers. It’s probably my most ambitious script as it also incorporates a crumbling relationship between the presenters of the programme.




Postman, JOHN MILLER, gets trapped in a spatial loop on a building stairwell and can find no way of escape.


This story is classic-one-location-short-film-low-budget-territory with a Postman trapped in a spatial-time-loop unable to escape. I was inspired by my love of Dr Who as well as the notion of characters being trapped by circumstances and a dead-end job.




MARTHA FOLEY wakes up one day and finds her every sound, movement and action is replaced by a movie sound effect.


When I was editing my comedy documentary The Rock ‘N’ Droll Experience I used some sound effects and I got the idea from that. I just liked the idea of experimenting with the form and content of sound effects. It’s a simple, silly idea with which to have fun with so for example our protagonist yawns and it sound like a duck quack. There’s no depth involved just a one-joke short.




At the cinema ALICE and her boyfriend JOHN are terrorised by the noises made by fellow filmgoer, DARREN. When an argument ensues between them the characters from the film also take umbrage as chaos ensues.


This was inspired by my own experience of rude crisp and popcorn munchers at the cinema. So I set out to write something ridiculous and funny that deals with that particular pet hatred of mine. The idea of the characters on the cinema screen coming to life and interacting with “real” people is not new and clearly influenced by Woody Allen’s classic Purple Rose of Cairo.




Two strangers reach out for each other on Beachy Head.


This is a very heavy drama about the desire to commit suicide. My filmmaking partner Gary O’Brien suggested I write something about an older man and younger woman but without any suggestion of anything sleazy.  On TV and film older males are often characterised as “dirty old men” and he wanted to portray something nobler. Lastly, I had visited Beachy Head recently and found it to be a beautiful place tinged with a suggestion of tragedy as it is apparently a suicide spot for people in the UK.




HOSTAGE and KIDNAPPER find themselves attracted to each other in twisty crime drama.


Essentially an extended sketch I wanted to write something that was risqué and a little bit saucy so utilised oft-used kidnapping scenario for a dark story with a twist in the tale.


Workaholic JONATHAN LAKE finds himself terrorised by a Shredder while working late at the office.


As someone who has spent long hours missing their family at a dead end job I wanted to do a simple morality horror story. Here the main character is committing more time to work than his family and the Shredder is a necessary evil to remind of what is actually more important.  The horror genre is always good for symbolism of this sort and this film is silly but with a serious message.




The up-and down journey of a bike from the United Kingdom to Africa.


In Britain, millions of bikes are thrown away or lie unused in sheds, whilst many people in Africa have no access to transport of any kind. So, I wanted to chart the story of a bike from the UK and follow its journey to a new home in Africa. A bit of a preachy one this one with a serious message as in the UK and Western world we take so much for granted and chuck things without making proper use of their potential.




SADIE CORT plots evil revenge on the sex-addicted boyfriend who did her wrong!


Good old-fashioned revenge story here with a little twist. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl this is a sweetly plotted two-hander which I really enjoyed writing because it’s funny and involves bloody death.




Having killed his father and made it look like a suicide, SIMON BORG is hunted down by the tie he strangled GERRY BORG with.


Similar to The Shredder this finds an inanimate object – a Tie – taking on anthropomorphic powers and wreaking havoc.  It’s obviously ridiculous but I like the idea of an object representing an emotion or feeling; and in this case it is guilt.  Also, I love the idea of playing this one straight with heavy drama and homage to Jaws (1975) thrown in.




Following a mysterious time-slip,  KEVIN MANN’S life is thrown into flux when he finds out he has a double.


This idea was inspired by the many doppelganger films and stories around and I wanted to have a go at one of those. I also wanted to write something about a really normal, “boring” person and how they might react to having another version of themselves in existence.


Writer. Filmmaker. Semi-Pro Comedian. Wageslave


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