Spectator, 2026

Simone saves the Spectator a fortune in salaries.  Early experiments with using children as columnists had proven unsuccessful.  No matter how young the child was.  It really didn’t make a lot of sense.  Social media would go wild for pithy anecdotes of woke infants telling hard truths about politics, but long form essays written by toddlers rarely went viral.  And now the company has started to get the lawsuits.  Did we knowingly expose children to hazardous workplace environments?  Were we really responsible for the psychological damage to these children?  Weren’t they, as we suspected, already severely broken to begin with?

Costs had to be cut, the Spectator had to be saved, and Simone was the solution.

Simone is the perfect replacement columnist: a simulant who recreates the moaning of a right wing pundit.  She works for free and produces three flawless opinion pieces per day.  Absolutely flawless.  The pieces are full of all the usual hateful, spiteful, indulgent nonsense that her human colleagues could produce, but we don’t waste any of the usual time fluffing her ego or managing office politics with her.

Continue reading

Hey you with the pretty face, welcome to the human race… Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is atrociously good

I am one of those people who has a list of ‘rules’ about how to construct a story.  I think about structural things and the way we use shortcuts to convey meaning.  I think about how the audience fills gaps in what they’re being told and how they mapped what they saw to intuitions about bigger issues.  And then I use all of these thoughts to compile a list of rules about what works and what doesn’t.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 largely breaks all of the rules.  Nothing about this film should work, and yet it really does.

Continue reading

There goes the baker with his tray, like always the same old bread and rolls to sell… Review of Beauty & the Beast

Remember the classic Beauty and the Beast from 1991?  Remember how good it was?  Go watch that.

We are in a dark age of recreating animated films as live action movies.  Cinderella a few years ago explored new areas of body horror with footmen and coach drivers screaming while transforming back into farmyard animals.  Last year, we had The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon remind us of animated movies that were really great and didn’t need gritty remakes in the flesh.  To a degree, Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent also fit into this category.

But Beauty and the Beast is perhaps the most confusing entry to date.  For 70% of the film, Hermoine is interacting with an entirely CGI world of dancing pots, pans, and candlesticks.  What meaning do we get from watching an actress not make eye contact with any of the people in her world?  What new is created?

Continue reading

Perfected poem, powerful punch lines… Fantastic Beasts and Two Hours of Total Bullshit

Since the election of Trump, we have been saturated in Harry Potter nonsense.  We turn to popular culture to understand our legal, political, ethical, and social frameworks.  It teaches us and reinforces the adoption of norms that we need to navigate our complex worlds.  But there was so much Harry Potter.  So much.  And it’s not even like Harry Potter is any good.  It was like the only coping mechanism available the lumpenliberals who riddle our commentariat was to escape into mediocre white fantasy.

So it’s against this background — utterly, utterly sick to death of everything J.K. Rowling — that I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Continue reading

Baby, please let me in. I can swear my hands are clean… Review of Dr Strange

People sometimes accuse me of being incapable of fun.  ‘Mark,’ they say with an exasperated look about them, ‘You need to go to a movie, switch off your brain, and just enjoy the ride.’  I’m too critical.  I look for meaning.  I want to know why we think the good guy is good and how punishment works.  I want my characters to represent something bigger, and my plots to explore some deeper question.

Dr Strange is a watery fairy-floss movie.  It feels a lot like an early draft and it takes forever to set up.  It is a film without substance and it doesn’t even make up for it by being an attractive film.

Continue reading

With every mistake we must surely be learning… Review of Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings ends with Regina Spektor doing a cover of the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps.  It’s a fitting end to an Anglo story written by Anglos with Asian sounds.

I am yet to find this genre of stop-motion cinema endearing.  I find it creepy.  Nothing moves right.  The light on faces is all wrong.  Everything makes me want to vomit.


Continue reading

I’ll stand kind of pushed, kind of bent, on this heavy land… Review of Suicide Squad

Yes, the film is bad.  Not unwatchably bad.  But it’s bad.  And other people are taking great delight in describing how excruciatingly awful various parts of it are, particularly Jared Leto as the Joker.

The other way to critique Suicide Squad is to move beyond how unfathomably ‘meh’ it is, and discuss instead what we can learn from the film.  And I did this by rewatching The Dirty Dozen and rereading the introduction of Harley Quinn into the comics.

Continue reading

The rusted chains of prison moons are shattered by the sun… Bunch of movie reviews

I need to be less busy.  In those times when I’m not busy, I’m watching movies.


There is something wonderfully delicious about films that are both technically beautiful and beautifully technical but which completely forget to have a story.  That is Warcraft which is less a film about protagonists performing some actions in response to a threat resulting in a resolution, and is more an essay on how to shoot absolutely beautiful fantasy movies.

Fantasy movies have long suffered the problem of space.  Given an unreal environment, how do you create the feeling in the mind of the audience that event A is taking place at location 1, and that is roughly this distance from event B taking place at location 2.  The opening shot of the film shows a man battling an orc in some kind of waste, but it locks the camera to the side of the man, keeping the orc always as the object of attention.  We then understand the distance between the two subjects, and feel the effort needed for the man to attack the orc.

The film is then an uncountable number of variations on this theme, weaving between each other to create a theatre of war.  I have never seen anything like it.  I have never seen anything so carefully constructed.  I have never been so bored in a fantasy movie.

Part of the problem is that the acting is quite good, meaning you don’t get the enjoyment of watching a schlock film.  The plot belongs to a movie created by seven nerds and a green screen.  The plot belongs to a movie with ‘vs’ in the middle of the title.  The plot belongs to a direct-to-television sequel to a movie that only got made due to contractual obligations.  Instead, it finds itself in the movie of a genius and it clearly does not belong.

I find myself really looking forward to a sequel.

Ghostbusters (2016)

I have long complained about the critic-proof film.  The Dark Knight Rises was going to be loved regardless of how bad it was.  Man of Steel was going to be a box office hit regardless of how bad it was.  Numerous franchises spawn without ever needing a decent film to start the dodecadrilogy.  Ghostbusters finds itself in an absurd position of being the site of a gendered kulturkampf, making it impossible to distinguish criticism of the film from politicised misogyny.

Ghostbusters attempted to be a different kind of critic-proof film, mining the deep well of nostalgia to remind us all of the wonderful age in which there were original cultural outputs.  We get to see the films we grew up with being remade with blockbuster budgets and computer generated images.  How soon will it be before we’re rebooting The Dark Crystal but replacing all the puppets with Jar-Jar Binks-esque horror shows?

The new Ghostbusters film takes all the things that we loved about the original movie and shows them to us again.  Remember that bit where Bill Murray gets covered in slime?  This film gives us Kristen Wiig covered in slime… four times!  Remember that bit where they use the proton packs?  This film gives us proton packs and proton whips and proton grenades and proton knuckledusters!  Remember that bit with Slimer?  This film gives us Slimer!

Melissa McCarthy is hideously miscast.  If you had replaced her with Tina Fey, Margaret Cho, Chelsea Peretti, or Sarah Silverman, you’d probably have a better film.  McCarthy absolutely struggles to portray an obsessive, neurotic intellectual, and all of her comedy is broad slapstick and complaining.

The other leads are good, with Kate McKinnon being superlatively good.  Unfortunately, the character she’s given is undercooked, reducing her to a quasi-mute Id creature of manic impulse.

It’s an ugly film filled with mostly irritating cameos (I really didn’t need to see Bill Murray or Dan Ackroyd again).  The script is an utter train wreck.

Star Trek Beyond

Captain Kirk and Spock are having moments of self-doubt.  They put those doubts on hold for an hour and a half while they engage in a mostly inconsequential battle with a character who makes no sense, and then decide that their self-doubt isn’t such a big deal after all.  The end.

The Last: Naruto the Movie

I love the Naruto series.  It’s like eating chocolate ice-cream straight from the tub.  One day, I will have to write the definitive analysis of the utter chaos that is the Naruto soap opera.

The Last takes place four years after the end of the Naruto Shippuden television series which, awkwardly, hasn’t actually finished yet.  There’s a feeling that the producers are a bit sick of the television series; it’s been running since 2002.  Instead of wrapping up the television series first, they released The Last (set after the events of the television series, spoiling a bunch of plot points) and Boruto: Naruto the Movie which is set after the main character has grown up and had kids (Boruto is his son).

Fortunately, the whole thing is so batshit insane that it’s so pleasurable to watch, and only terrible people get upset about spoilers.

Naruto is a hero for his role in rescuing everybody from the threat currently being fought in the television series.  There’s peace in the world, so people are prospering and generally living it up in the bourgeois style of those who don’t suffer existential threats.  Hinata is a woman who has fancied Naruto ever since they were children.  Hinata was born to a noble family; Naruto has (inexplicably) been something of an outcast.  So this relationship was always going to be implausible from Hinata’s perspective.  She’s also really shy and timid.

Alas!  Before she can finally reveal her true feelings to Naruto (again) by knitting him a scarf, she’s abducted by an alien who has been living on the moon.  The alien collects eyes and uses the magic of these eyes to create a superweapon that he intends to use to destroy life on Earth because his ancestor was the brother of the man who created the precursor to ninja and spread his chakra amongst the human societies before his sons would begin a generations-long war of ninja clans, reincarnating as rivals who would reincarnate the ancestor’s mother who was an alien with a third eye capable of hypnotising everybody by reflecting light off the moon.  Anyway, his moon clan was tasked with always watching over the people of the Earth but they clearly weren’t doing a terribly good job of it because the mother of the ancestor got reincarnated and the moon race did absolutely nothing about it, even though they knew about it because they were supposed to be looking after a statue that was needed to reincarnate the mother of the ancestor but it got teleported to Earth about a decade before the start of the movie.

If that all sounds like a clown car of chaos, that’s nothing in comparison to what occurs in this film.  Giant spiders.  Magic portals that go to the moon.  A fight on the moon between a giant statue and a giant fox, which results in the moon being split in half.  And a superweapon designed to blow up the moon.  It’s so good.  So good.