Graham Woods is a lifelong lover of cinema. Graham’s love of film has inspired him into acting across both stage and film. Graham also works as a graphic designer, creating posters and artwork for musicians, comedians and film-makers.

Film 1 – The film you’ve seen more than any other

I’ve seen Back to the Future more times than I can count. Hundreds. I enjoy it every single time. The whole film is the perfect balance of tension, comedy, romance, adventure..everything.   I was ten when it was released and I thought Marty McFly was the coolest person I’d ever seen. I’m 42 now and I still think that’s true.

back to the future

Film 2 – The Classic you’ve never seen

There are several but the one I feel I should get stuck into is Citizen Kane. I understand its influence is completely pervasive and it’s often cited as the greatest movie ever made, but I’ve never seen it. I’m not really sure why, but it might be my tendency to be deliberately stubborn when I’m told I must do something or I must see something.

Film 3 – The film that will definitely give you a lift

Monster Inc. is one of the few movies in which I find it impossible to find flaw. It’s full of stupid, slapstick humour and amazing chemistry between Billy Crystal and John Goodman. It’s quoted regularly in our house and although my children are 12 years older than when they first saw it, we can still put it on and laugh as loud as we did back then.

Film 4 – The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit

The Godfather bored the life out of me, and I did not see what all the fuss was about.  I think I was too young and impatient when I saw it and back then I don’t think I had the right cinematic vocabulary to process it. I’m a lot older now and feel like it must be worth a second look.


Film 5 – The film you wished you’d made

I was 18 when I first saw Naked (1993) by Mike Leigh. Watching David Thewlis as Johnny completely and angrily unravel on screen made me want to be an actor; well, it made me want to be Johnny. His performance was beyond intense and if I could act to a tenth of the power he brought to screen in Naked, I’d be happy.

Film 6 – The film that had the biggest effect on you

Mike Leigh again, I’m afraid. Despite the title, Life Is Sweet is a pretty tough film about a family and their various relationships. But it’s shot through with love for the characters and their love for each other. I first saw it in my teens and it helped me realise that parents can be flawed but still love you. When I watch it now, as a parent, it makes me realise that no-one gets it 100% right of the time, but your intent is what matters.

Films 7 & 8 – Wild Cards

Upstream Color by Shane Carruth. It was his follow up to the amazing Primer. I’ve seen it a couple of times now and I’m still not sure I understand it. It’s deliberately and beautifully ambiguous. If I took it to a desert island I could watch it daily, for years, and then perhaps I could work out what was happening.


La Grande Belleza (The Great Beauty) by Paolo Sorrentino.  It’s really difficult to put into words what I love about this film. It follows an old, wealthy writer as he enjoys his flamboyant social life in Rome. Every shot is gorgeous and it’s like a love letter to the city. Tony Servillo is brilliant as the main character, Jep; erudite, cool and aloof but also damaged, vulnerable and weary. It would be a perfect desert island film because it completely surrounds you in colour, sound and life.

The rogue disc – The film you wished you’d never seen

Evil Dead 2. I am unable to see a single thing about this film that warrants the rabid praise and cult-like adoration it enjoys. It was neither scary, nor funny so for me, it failed to achieve either of its aims. Within five minutes of it starting I was wishing it would end, but I’d promised someone I’d watch it, so had to commit. I would gladly throw every single copy of it into the sea.

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10. I Am Not Your Negro

9. The Death of Stalin

8. Elle

7. Jackie

6. Dunkirk

5. David Lynch: The Art of Life

4. Mother!

3. Moonlight

2.The Salesman

 1. The Handmaiden

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The oddity of the Christmas film

As traditional as turkey, carols, presents and the John Lewis advert, the end of the year sees the re-watching of many classic (and some not so classic) Christmas films. They end up on hard rotation, churned out more than other films and have become part of a cultural tradition.

Yet there is something of an oddity regarding just about every Christmas film. Think about how many of them actually take place at Christmas. No, really think about it. Be it Home Alone, It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, Love Actually, Die Hard, A Christmas Carol (Muppets or otherwise), Bad Santa, Meet me in St. Louis, Scrooged, Miracle on 34th Street, The Nightmare before Christmas or any others you can think of, none of them are set primarily at Christmas time.


Let’s take a step back. If we consider that Christmas is, in its official capacity a twelve day festival that begins on 25th December and then look at the aforementioned films we start to realise that, the ending scenes aside, the vast majority of these take place before the festivities begin. Kevin McAllister wishes his family would disappear, learns to realise he misses them and fights off Harry and Marv by Christmas Eve.

George Bailey meets with Clarence and realises that he has had a wonderful life before the clock strikes midnight to welcome in the festivities. John McClane defends Nakatomi plaza on 24th December. Buddy the Elf goes in search of his father in the early part of the month. Jack Skellington goes looking for Christmas just after Halloween. Scrooge (in the many incarnations) is shown the error of his ways and come morning decides to honour Christmas in his heart and keep it with him all the year. The Grinch, who was sick of the stockings and tags but when he removed them, saw the real meaning of Christmas in the light of Christmas morning. The US government acknowledges that Santa exists on courtesy of the 34th Street miracle. Alonzo Smith tells his family that, as per their wishes, they will be staying in St. Louis, again on Christmas Eve. Willie Stokes actually finds that he maybe isn’t entirely a bad Santa and delivers a down on his luck child his chosen toy on the 24th.


These films all exist in the lead up to Christmas but don’t have much action set during the actual festival itself.

This is a reflection of our culture. Christmas may well start on 25th December but all the festivities take place before that. Carol concerts, Christmas parties, nativity plays, pantomimes, family gatherings, opening advent calendars, Secret Santa, shopping, listening to Christmas music and even the watching of the aforementioned classic titles take place before the big day. Cinema reflects society and this is an example of how much of Christmas is about the apprehension and the excitement of what is to come. Do we watch Christmas films after Christmas day? Does anyone really listen to Christmas music post Boxing Day? And speaking of music, if we listen to the lyrics of many Christmas songs, we see a similar trend – Driving home for Christmas, Santa Clause is coming to town, it was Christmas eve babe and so forth. It’s all about the anticipation that come Christmas morning begins to unravel, much like the presents that were carefully wrapped up the night before.

Yet it is more than just the material side of Christmas that means films set at this time of year conclude around the 24th or 25th of the month. Christmas means different things to different people in our culture – be it a period of change stemming from the pagan origins in yuletide, the Christian belief of the arrival of a baby to show us the way or the more humanist notion of reflecting on ourselves- it’s all tied up in the many reasons for celebrating in December.

Many of the aforementioned characters go on a redemptive journey pre-Christmas, culminating on 25th December, a date which carries with it a magical sense of arrival. Fictional Christmas narratives tend to derive, thematically or otherwise, from the two most oft-repeated seasonal stories of A Christmas Carol and the nativity, both which are set just primarily before Christmas day, culminating on that day with their respective messages.


So many films can live or die by their endings, as it’s the element of any story that we remember the most when the credits roll. Therefore it makes perfect sense for films about us at the most wonderful time of the year to reach their conclusion on Christmas morning – a point of arrival, a moment of change and with a view to the future. Kevin McAllister gets his family back, Scrooge and the Grinch what it’s actually about and become all the better for it, George Bailey realises his life isn’t so meaningless, Alonzo accepts the importance of his family’s happiness ahead of his job in New York, the court decides that maybe, just maybe Kris Kringle is the real Santa.

The subsequent reward for these characters is a change of heart that arrives, not before Christmas when they go on a journey, but on Christmas day when they reach a happy ending and things change for the better.

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Films of 2017 (… far)


Not quite the mid-point of the year but it’s always good to follow this particular trend.  Below we list the five films that have impressed us most. What films have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

5. The Graduation. Dir: Cristian Mungiu

A strong start to the list from a director whose consistency in excellence continues to shine with this taut moral drama. It doesn’t quite reach the compelling intensity of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or Beyond The Hills but is still filmmaking of the highest order. Genuinely riveting and genuinely brilliant.

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Desert Island Flicks – Episode 4: Chris Olson from UK Film Review

UK Film Review LogoOur latest castaway is Chris Olson from London based film review website UK Film Review

From the latest blockbusters, to small indie cinema, UK Film Review tackle as many films as possible.

UKFR promote not just films but also movie trailers from around the world. They also help support indie films that are using kickstarter to raise money.

Film 1 – The film you’ve seen more than any other

You’ve watched it countless times, but it never tires and you could watch it many more times and it will still have an effect.

CO: Funnily enough, it would be a musical! And I say that as someone who rarely indulges in that genre voluntarily. But it is also an animated, very adult, comedy: South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. I’ve seen this movie so many times, growing up and as an adult, and it still makes me cry with laughter. The jokes are great, the characters are brilliant, the songs are incredibly catchy, and I dare anyone not to laugh at Saddam Hussein in bed with the Devil!

South Park

Film 2 – The Classic you’ve never seen
We all have classics we’ve meant to watch but haven’t…yet. Which one would be top of your catch up list. Why haven’t you seen it? What would make you put it on?

CO: At uni, I used to make a list of the “50 Films Everyone Says I Should Watch” – and then make my way through them. These were chock-filled with so-called “classics”, and when you’re a film critic if you ever tell someone you haven’t seen a certain film they like, their instant reaction is utter astonishment and outrage. The film that keeps doing this for me is The Sound of Music. I just can’t bring myself to sit down and watch it. I think if I was on a deserted island, someone had just deflated my best friend, and I overcooked my lizard dinner, then perhaps it would be time to indulge.

Film 3 – The film that will definitely give you a lift
It can be sad and depressing when you’re all alone. Which film would you put on that is guaranteed to lift your spirits

CO: Spaceballs. I have seen this countless times and constantly quote the lines to my brother over text. For me, Spaceballs is better than Star Wars. There it is, I said it.


Film 4 – The so-called masterpiece that deserves a re-visit
Sometimes everyone seems to love a film but it doesn’t work for you. Maybe being on an island will enable you to try and see what everyone else was seeing

CO: With a reboot due soon, it seems fitting that I reveal a lukewarm enjoyment for Blade Runner. I feel like I need to see this film in complete isolation with every comment about it wiped from my memory though! Perhaps the desert island will treat me to a coconut to the head which will erase the hyperbolic praise I have heard over the years.

Film 5 – The film you wished you’d made
Either as writer, director, actor, editor, D.P. or in any other role, which film do you wish you’d had a hand in and what role do you wish you’d played?

CO: As a writer, I wish I could have written the dialogue for Glengarry Glen Ross. That film is a masterpiece, and to then see that stellar cast bring it to life would have been orgasmic. “Always…Be…Closing”…getting chills thinking about it.


Film 6 – The film that had the biggest effect on you
Which film influenced your life, either personally or professionally, the most?

CO: Most likely Fight Club. My dad let me watch this when I was probably a couple of years too young, but he knew I would love it. After that I chased any film by David Fincher. I also tried to start a little fight club with my friends, which resulted in four very unfit lads huffing and puffing in a park having managed to hurt absolutely no one.

Films 7 & 8 – Wild Cards
Pick any other two films that you’d take along and tell us why

CO: The Prestige by Christopher Nolan. I would have to take one of that man’s films and I feel that this is one of his most underappreciated.

Then it would be Rope, the Hitchcock movie. I think this is excellent filmmaking and it stands up better than some of his other movies.


The rogue disc – The film you wished you’d never seen

Even bad films can teach us in some way but there are some that seem to be without any merit at all and you wish, like Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you could erase them from your memory. Which film, if it somehow made its way onto your desert island, would you gladly throw out to sea?

Eraserhead. David Lynch is an auteur but not one I enjoy. Blue Velvet is okay and Mulholland Drive is good, but this is something I will never endure again! Ironically the time I saw it was at a BFI screening, and the guy in front of me had brought a date. On the way out it became apparent that he was a cineast, lauding Lynch’s filmmaking prowess to his obviously unimpressed partner. After he was finished she simply said, “I’d like to go home now”…my thoughts exactly.

Chris Olson is the editor and founder of You can find him on Twitter @UKFilmReview and follow the site itself @UKFReview