Toy Story 3

I didn’t see Toy Story 3 at the cinema. I remember the hype, but I was pretty pregnant that summer, and my preferred method of watching a film was bouncing on an exercise ball, mainlining Maltesers and pausing the dvd every 10 minutes to visit the toilet. They don’t let you do that at the Odeon. I went to the cinema once, to the badly named, pseudo Love Actually ensemble fest Tamara Drewe. (Weird film. Someone gets trampled to death by a cow!) But I spent almost the entire thing standing in the aisle because my right rib ached when I sat down. And, after that, people didn’t want to go out in public with me so much.

In case it wasn’t already clear, I’m a very emotional person. I highly rate any film which has the ability to make me bawl my eyes out after multiple viewings. Armageddon (including, weirdly, the bit where Bruce Willis tells the Nasa guy they don’t want to pay taxes ever again). Pretty much all of Con Air (Nic Cage has never met his little girl, for fuck’s sake!). And Life Is Beautiful (which is frankly too tragic for me to even consider watching since having a baby). Toy Story 3 makes the list. Along with all the hype at the time, I heard there was a really sad bit. Naturally I mistook this to be Buzz, Woody, et al holding hands to face certain incineration at the refuse plant. I brushed this scene off ‘obviously they’ll be saved, they wouldn’t end it like that!’ and didn’t cry one bit. Well I had my smug face wiped out several minutes later, didn’t I? When Andy started handing his toys over to Bonnie, lovingly describing each one, and I was utterly destroyed. And still am. Every single time.

The details are wonderful, to the point where it feels like you’re being rewarded for watching, and for paying attention. And the endless characters never grow tiresome. This also helps when you’re in possession of a stroppy toddler, who refuses to watch any tv besides this, Fantastic Mr Fox, and Million Pound Drop. Sid, Andy’s evil neighbour from the first film, returns in Toy Story 3 as the air-drumming garbage man. Buster, the puppy who arrived at the end of the first film, and saved Wheezy from the yard sale in the second, is back in the third as an overweight old dog. And the remaining Green Army Men who parachute out of Andy’s window at the start of Toy Story 3 as the fate of the toys is beginning to come clear, arrive at Sunnyside during the end credits.

Andy’s drippy mum is back, naturally, to inadvertently throw away toys and generally sob about him going off to college. I have my own theories about her however, since stumbling upon one fan site which categorically stated Woody was Andy’s dad, I have given up speculation in favour of washing out my eyeballs. What is clear is that she spends the entire trilogy secretly drinking gin in the kitchen, and I do worry about her now Andy & all the toys have moved out. His little sister looks like a bit of a handful. Michael Keaton’s Ken doll has to be the triumph of the new characters. Though even Jessie, whiney annoying brat throughout Toy Story 2 and the beginnings of Toy Story 3 ‘We’ve been replaced!’, ‘I can’t breathe!’, ‘He left us on the cuuuurb!’ redeems herself by the end. Thanks mainly to her relationship with Spanish Buzz Lightyear.

Toy Story 3 is epic, no doubt. It’ll make you laugh. It’s relentlessly quotable. It’s poignant because it deals with the passing of time, and with getting older. The things we adults are all trying to avoid by watching films about a talking space ranger. And then, at the end, everyone can have a good sob. The Spanish version of You’ve Got a Friend in Me over the end credits is the perfect accompaniment to all the nose blowing.

In a world where kids are growing up surrounded by tv and computer screens, Toy Story 3 is pretty much the perfect toy to have.

‘Now Woody, he’s been my pal for as long as I can remember. He’s brave, like a cowboy should be. And kind, and smart. But the thing that makes Woody special is he’ll never give up on you…ever. He’ll be there for you, no matter what.’


The Failed Critic Podcast – Episode 6: The Raid

The Raid

Welcome to the Failed Critic Podcast Episode 6. This week the four of us entered a conversational cul-de-sac and in an attempt to bring some crimes against cinema to justice – only to find ourselves swinging aimlessly like a drunkard at kicking-out time in an effort to pin down this week’s big release The Raid.

We also discuss our favourite films that take place in less than 24 hours, and hear what the pod has to say on the long-awaited Moon Nazi epic Iron Sky. Plus James gets depressed beyond words by watching The Divide and (500) Days of Summer, Gerry picks a fight with Kevin Smith before his pod sabbatical, and Owen shocks us with a Zombie movie choice. And in an attempt to present a reasonably professional and relevant film awareness we even round up the best of the Cannes festival. Still stunned the Palm d’Or didn’t go to Sharknado!

Opening/Cannes/Good, Bad, or Ugly: 0:00 – 33:30

Triple Bill: 33:00 – 1:02:40

The Raid Review (spoiler free): 1:02:40 – 1:13:30

Spoiler Alert!: 01:13:30 – 1:29:39



Another shabby IMDB Update – Numbers 241, 166, 57

I am increasingly finding it difficult to keep on top of this blog – mainly because I find that podcasting is not only more fun and social than the solitary world of the blogger, but it is also a lot more work than turning up for 2 hours every Sunday. I’m going to the cinema a lot more, and believe it or not I actually spend a lot of time writing notes for my appearances. This may well astound those of you who listen to The Failed Critic Podcast.

I have seen three more films on the Top 250 since the last update – and here is a quick summary:

No. 241 – The Social Network (2010)


Directed by David Fincher and scripted by Aaron Sorkin – this film was always going to be very stylish with some witty quick-fire dialogue. The fact that this film is also edge-of-your-seat interesting despite essentially being the story of two simultaneous tech industry lawsuits is testament to the greater film-making skills of Fincher/Sorkin.

It tells the story of how Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) created Facebook, and how he fell out with his “only friend” Eduardo Saverin (the heart of the film, and played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield) in the process of making Facebook the internet behemoth it is now.

In short, I really enjoyed it. Not the best thing Fincher and Sorkin have ever done – but deservedly in the Top 250.

No. 57 – A Clockwork Orange (1971) and No. 166 – The Life of Brian

You can listen to my thoughts on both of these films here – in the podcast where I choose three of my favourite films of the 1970s, and discuss the problems that all 3 faced with censorship at the time.


A Clockwork Orange is simply one of my favourite films ever. The combination of elaborate staging, alienating direction, the classical music, and Alex’s narration allow us to enter a space where we can feel sympathy for a rapist and murderer. The alienation of the viewer is vital, as this film could never work if shot in an ultra-realistic style.


Monty Python’s Life of Brian however, is not even my favourite Python film. That said, that’s like saying Lagavulin 16 year-old isn’t my favourite single malt whisky (it’s Glengoyne 21 year-old if you’re interested). The fact is, Life of Brian is a brilliant comedy film that hasn’t dated in over 30 years. It contains some of the greatest comedy sketches of all time (What Have The Romans Done For Us, and The Judean People’s Front come to mind), and is probably a more rounded film than Holy Grail (which I maintain is the funnier film, and therefore ultimately the better film).

The Failed Critic Podcast – Episode 5: The Dictator

You may now bow before your benevolent leaders once more, you worthless listeners – for The Failed Critic Podcast is back, and ready to rule your collective backsides. This week we review Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedy The Dictator, present our favourite films from the 1970s, and talk about the films that have interested, entertained, or maybe even just bored us in the last week.

This week we have some brand new additions to the podcast. Firstly, we welcome Owen Hughes to the Failed Critic fellowship – he’s an entertaining and engaging bloke with an interest in some very obscure cinema. He still watches films on VHS!

We are also trying a new bonus feature this week – ‘Spoiler Alert’, where we will discuss the main review in further detail.

We apologise to all Gerry fans for his apparent absence for the last half-hour of the podcast – I’m assured he was still listening to us, but hadn’t seen The Dictator this week. What Gerry is here is Gerry-gold though.
Intro & The Good, the Bad, or the Ugly 00:00 – 24:30

Triple Bill: films of the Seventies 24:30 – 1:01:25

The Dictator (spoiler-free review) 1:01:25 – 1:18:13

Spoiler Alert: The Dictator 1:18:13 – 1:34:18



The Failed Critic Film Podcast: Episode 4 – Dark Shadows

Hello Pod Pickers! Welcome to Episode 4 of the Failed Critic Podcast, and this week we dust off our dancing shoes, strike up the orchestra, and empty our spit valves as we name our favourite film soundtracks. Also in this episode we review this week’s big release – Dark Shadows, a rare collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. I wonder what that will be like. There’s some love for Jeff, Who Lives at Home, a little less for Being Elmo, and downright disdain for Apollo 18. Moon films without Nazis are so last year…

Intro / The Good, the Bad, or the Ugly: 0:00

Triple Bill: 21:05

Dark Shadows Review – Spoiler Alert!: 43:34

Total time: 1:04:13



IMDB Top 250 Update – Numbers 247, 217, 205, 134

I’ve made it 10% of the way to my target!

Due to my blossoming rediscovery of the wonderful world of film I have neglected this blog lately. I’ve been too busy planning and recording the Failed Critic podcast, going to the cinema, and tracking down obscure documentaries to watch online to get on with the serious business of writing about the ‘Top 250 Films of All Time’.

That said – I have managed to watch the following films recently which I will briefly discuss now.

No. 134 – The Wizard of Oz (1939)










I rewatched this classic musical featuring a young girl plucked from her small Kansas farm and dumped in the wonderful world of Oz for the Child Protagonist Triple Bill in the Failed Critic Podcast. I think it actually gets better with every viewing – or at least, I have lost another layer of hipster cynicism between each viewing.

I actually tried the ‘Dark Side of the Rainbow’ trick, and I was reasonably impressed. My attempts to recreate this magic with Shed Seven’s seminal ‘A Maximum High’ album were less conclusive.


No. 205 – The Exorcist (1973)









Another one I had already seen – although this was the Director’s Cut on Blu-ray which was brand new to me. I know that some people think the extra 10 minutes either slows the film down needlessly, or consisted of schlocky SFX – but I think this was my favourite viewing of the film to date.

It’s an outstandingly creepy film, and it’s easy to forget how natural Linda Blair is in front of the camera. I love this film, and I think I love the mythology and stories behind the making of it even more.


No. 217 – Sherlock Jr. (1924)








This was my first experience of watching Buster Keaton, and I am ashamed that it has taken me this long. I adored this film, and the care and attention paid to some of the stunts is nothing short of amazing.

There are a few scenes that don’t quite work for a modern viewer – a prime example being the immediate moments after Keaton steps into the film projection which if he wasn’t there would be a bland and slightly random montage of scenery clips.

The pool scene has immediately placed itself in my top 10 scenes of all time already. I’m now looking forward to The General.


No. 247 – Nosferatu (1922)











The original vampire film, and one I hadn’t seen in years – and certainly never sober. This film has a fascinating back story about how the film-makers basically took the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and changed a few names and plot details to avoid getting sued by the estate of Bram Stoker.

It didn’t work.

The most interesting change to the story, and the one which has lived on long beyond anyone involved in making the film – is the fact that Nosferatu (the rip-off of Dracula) is killed by direct sunlight, rather than just weakened by it as in Bram Stoker’s version.

This is more of an interesting film for its cultural relevance and influence, rather than for entertainment value – unlike Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. for example.

The Failed Critic Film Podcast: Episode 3 – Summer Preview

Once more unto the pod dear friends, once more! They may take our bandwidth, but they will never take our freedom! We’re just three boys, standing in front of our audience, asking you to love us. That’s right people, our Triple Bill this week is Great Speeches! Also in this week’s podcast we discuss our top picks from this summer’s releases that aren’t called Prometheus or The Dark Knight Rises; as well as new and future independent releases in the shape of Safety Not Guaranteed and Breathing.

Click below to listen to Steve’s reboot idea for a classic Disney franchise; Gerry’s rather desperate attempt to get free drinks in return for praise of the splendid Showroom Cinema in Sheffield; and James doth protesting rather too much about the Sex and the City Movie.

No spoilers, but if you do want to skip between sections, then the timings are:

Intro Summer Preview: 0:00

Triple Bill: 20:38

The Good, the Bad, OR the Ugly: 43:00

Total time: 1:11:00



Bonus Feature! We have collated Youtube links to full versions of all of the speeches chosen for this week’s Triple Bill. They are unlabelled for those of you who may prefer the surprise…

James’ Choices:





Steve’s Choices:




Gerry’s Choices:




New Release – Safety Not Guaranteed (Dir. Colin Trevorrow)

On Sunday I finally attended my first ‘proper’ film festival – Sundance London. At least, I think I attended a film festival. My experience tells a slightly different story, in that it feels like I travelled 3 hours to London to visit a quiet Cineworld cinema. I suppose these crazy festival types don’t tend to show their face at screenings at midday on a Sunday.

What did mark this as being above the standard cinema experience was that not only were we treated to a film that is still months away from general release in this country, but we also got a very relaxed Q&A session with the director afterwards. Drinks were still extortionate though.

The film I trekked half-way across the country to see was Safety Not Guaranteed – the feature debut from director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly that received rave reviews at the ‘proper’ Sundance in January that led to it being included on the programme for this Sundance-taster taking place in the UK for the first time.

The film takes its inspiration from a real-life classified advert from someone seeking a companion for space travel. This completely fictional film follows a group of 3 staff at a magazine who head out on assignment to track down the person who placed the ad and interview him.

I wouldn’t want to talk too much about the plot of the film – not because I might spoil it, but because that would be to rob the viewer of the joy of letting it unfold before their eyes.

What I would like to talk about though are the central performances for Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. Trevorrow explained in the Q&A that the role of Darius (an intern at the magazine who tags along on assignment, and becomes the honey-trap that cynical journalist Jeff uses to get the scoop on our ‘time traveller’) was written for Aubrey Plaza – and anyone who has seen her performances in the vastly underrated Parks and Recreation, or her small role in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, will instantly agree that the writer achieved his aim. Plaza’s sarcastic, yet vulnerable performance is the heart of this film. You completely believe her desire to want to disappear from the present.

Opposite her Mark Duplass plays a blinder as Kenneth – the loner who is wholly convinced of his ability to travel through time. He stays just the right side of being outright weird, and carries the look of a man who knows he is right, and if the world doesn’t believe him then that’s their problem. There are a number of touching scenes between the two of them, including a campfire scene that plays its cards so honestly and earnestly you wonder how they got away with it. But this films selling point is that is has truckloads of charm, and if you can buy into the universe then you will be utterly smitten.

There is some excellent support from Jake Johnson and newcomer Karan Soni as Darius’ co-workers, as well as some lovely cameos from Mary Lynn Rajskub and Jeff Garlin.

Trevorrow has said that this film is heavily influenced by the 1980s Amblin films. In fact, the version shown at Sundance London had a new ending that the director said came from thinking about how he would have wanted this film to end if he was a kid watching it in the eighties.

In a summer dominated by multi-multi-million blockbusters, it is so refreshing to see a film made for less than $1million that can give us a modern science-fiction story with this much heart.

Please, please try and catch this when it inevitably plays in your local arts cinema for a few nights later this year.

James will be reviewing Safety Not Guaranteed on this weeks Failed Critic Podcast

The Failed Critic Podcast – Episode 2: Avengers Assemble

Critics assemble! They have an army – we have the Failed Critic podcast, featuring Steve Norman, James Diamond, and Gerry McAuley.

This week the Failed Critics review the first BIG blockbuster of the summer Avengers Assemble, and discuss this weeks Triple Bill theme – Child Protaganists. We also have their thoughts on recent releases Lockout, and The Kid With a Bike, and a little-known gem called The Third Man – starring some up-and-comer called Orson Welles. There is also scintilating chat about frame rates, more Mighty Ducks chat, and one of the contributors gets all tongue-tied when proposing to Cobie Smulders. Also a little bit of bad language right at the end. It’s worth it though.

Spoiler Alert! If you want to avoid the Avengers review, then skip 6 minutes through to 31 minutes. Also, completely avoid the podcast if you’re desperate to avoid the endings of The Sixth Sense and My Girl.