Failed Critics: Episode 10 – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

“Four score and seven days ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new film podcast, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all critics are created equal.”

Wise words from famous Failed Critics fan Abraham Lincoln. But how we feel about him, and his vampire killing exploits? Find out in this week’s podcast. Also this week we discuss films from the beginning and end of Spielberg’s career as James reports back on the new Jaws print, and Owen gives us his verdict on War Horse. Steve decided to watch Kill Keith. Yep.

In Triple Bill this week we discuss our favourite films that have been adapted from novels – and we have the first ever full-house as every critic (including the absent Gerry) picked the same film for their list.

James would just like to apologise for his performance this week. He was hungover, and ill-prepared. He let you all down, and he let himself down. Still, Steve is the one who gets the title of 3 films wrong…

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The Good, the Bad, or the Ugly 0:00:00 – 0:32:52
Triple Bill 0:32:52 – 1:09:15
Main Review 1:09:15 – 1:24:00
Spoiler Alert 1:24:00 – 1:24:36

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‘Are Father and Uncle Max going to push the car all the way to Switzerland?’ Genuine question.

She’s clearly upset. Just don’t ask me to tell you why.

Ah, the eighties. Simpler times. Before political correctness ‘went mad’ and we could just tape films off the telly with no regard for their regulatory deemed suitability. Before our parents were told that letting us play video games would make us grow up and kill people. (Indeed, any ounce of patience or tolerance I may possess today is entirely down to a childhood spent attempting to complete the 17 levels of Alex Kidd in Miracle World WITHOUT A SAVE OPTION!)

Rather than be corrupted by evil cinematic images I wasn’t considered old enough to see, for the most part I was blissfully unaware of their existence and enjoyed the films regardless. Not unlike the first time I saw The Usual Suspects, where I lost the thread of what was going on quite early into the film (my teenage head crammed too full of Boyzone trivia to be much use to anyone), but continued watching nonetheless because I liked Pete Postlethwaite’s accent. The big twist at the end was still a wonder to behold, even though I was just seeing it on a very base level. ‘He’s not who he said he was!’ was revelation enough, with the implications of said discovery reserved for, and enjoyed on, subsequent viewings.

I asked Twitter, and they reminded me about a whole host of films I enjoyed as a kid, while the finer details soared unknowingly over my head.

The (some might say integral) presence of Nazis throughout The Sound of Music escaped me. I knew there was much tutting over some flags, and that the family had to run away from the ‘police’ at the end. But that was as far as I got. I was also sad that Rolfe blew his whistle (because, for whatever reason, that meant he’d dumped Liesl) and kind of intrigued that they planned to walk to a whole other country at the end. But I was confident Maria would make everything fun with all her singing.

 I remember watching the hooker fairy tale Pretty Woman at a slumber party back in primary school, where we must’ve had such a scant understanding of the storyline it became nothing more than a series of shots of a lady going shopping, interspersed with a massive bubble bath and the occasional horse. It was a few years later before I realised the colourful strip of plastic Julia Roberts pulled from her boot were condoms, and a couple more before I understood the particular appeal of that piano solo.

Presumably long before the availability of ESPN on UK tv, my dad decided to show us the Snipes/Harrelson mashup White Men Can’t Jump one weekend, because my little brother was really into basketball. This proved something of an error on his part, as he proceeded to fast forward through three quarters of the film at the first sniff of a sex scene, while instructing us not to tell our mum we’d watched it.

In 1950’s high school romp Grease, I knew Rizzo wasn’t pregnant when she jumped off the ferris wheel screaming ‘I’m not pregnant!’. But I was oblivious to the entire unprotected sex conversation that preceded it. (Not to mention the references to nose jobs, hookers, gang bangs and chicks creaming throughout.) Looking back, Kenickie says he’s had his ’25-cent insurance policy’ since the seventh grade. Since he is roughly 45 by the time they graduate, is it any wonder the condom perished?

Despite Dickie’s kindly face and patient explanation on the Jurassic Park tour, I didn’t get the science behind it one little bit. Moreover, I was perpetually confused by the fact that, despite the writers obviously possessing the know how to breed dinosaurs, they chose to make a film about it instead of, you know, building an actual theme park. Which I would’ve forced my parents to sell their house in order to take us to. (Naïve maybe, but I was smart enough to realise the mean lawyer guy was joking about having a coupon day.)

The list is pretty extensive. The talking sperm at the beginning of Looks Who’s Talking, the endless vibrator references in Parenthood, the unorthodox approach to ceramics making in Ghost. I didn’t realise that ginger orphan Annie’s parents were dead, but I also couldn’t comprehend why she refused an offer to go live with someone who could buy out an entire cinema on a whim. I had no clue what Suffragette Mrs Banks was up to in Mary Poppins, and concluded that she was just a bit weird. And although I used to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail weekly, battered copy of the screenplay in hand, it never failed to piss me off when the police car turned up at the end. Presumably because I wanted it to be real. I still do.

Which films did you adore as a kid, if not entirely understand?

(With thanks to: @mooglemeg, @rella_robinson, @araarabella, @SuperduperJoJo)

Failed Critics: Episode 9 – Rock of Ages

We built this podcast! We built this podcast on ROOOOOCKKK and ROOOOOOLLLLLL!!! Just a small-town film critic, living in a lonely woooooorrrrrlllddd! Etc, etc.This week Steve, James, and Owen donned their spandex, let down their hair, and strutted their stuff while watching this week’s big release Rock of Ages. The Failed Critics also do their best to right the wrongs of the Academy over the years and pick their favourite films that just missed out on the Best Picture Oscar.

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Failed Critics: Episode 8 – J. Edgar

Welcome to episode 8 of Failed Critics. This week due to the laziness of the critics, and the fact that none of our cinemas were showing The Innkeepers, we are reviewing a brand new DVD release – Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the founder of the FBI ‘J. Edgar’.

We also list the actors and directors that we’ve fallen out of love with inthis week’s Triple Bill ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’, as well as discussing Men in Black 3.

Gerry is still missing (we wish him all the best), but Steve’s near-breakdown over a certain director is worth the price of admission alone.

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Star Wars (1977)

The weekend of Speed’s home release (on VHS and Laserdisc concurrently, nostalgia fans!) my best friend and I watched it 12 times. We alternated that and lying on her bottom bunk, gazing up at the life sized Keanu Reeves poster she’d blu-tacked to the slats of her sister’s top bunk. I guess you could call it a sexual awakening. We’ve all had them. It’s just that, for some, puberty coincided with the release of a more critically acclaimed blockbuster. That said, even if you’re not invested in marrying the protagonist, Speed is a superb film. We didn’t just watch it to stare at Keanu’s face. We used to rewind and watch the bit where Dennis Hopper’s head gets knocked off by the subway sign on slow motion, cheering all the way.

I stand by Speed’s merits as a film, but it’s no doubt the circumstances through which I discovered it that will lead me to defend it to the end. We were on holiday in Florida around the time of The Lion King’s theatrical release. We didn’t get a chance to see it out there, being somewhat preoccupied by the International House of Pancakes, and a mild case of sun stroke. However my brother and I, obsessed with Aladdin and massively anticipating the next Disney animation, came home with a suitcase full of merchandise. Including a cassette tape of the soundtrack. When the film finally hit Leicester Odeon several months later, we queued around the block to attend the first showing, and proceeded to be the weird kids on the back row who somehow already knew all the words to every song in the film.

Circumstances and surroundings surely have some influence on your opinion of a film. It’s not everything, granted. The first time I saw Amelie was at Glastonbury 2002 in the ill-fated Cinema Field. After three failed attempts to start the film, the inflatable screen collapsed and they gave up. But the five minutes I saw (three times) were enough to send me home from the festival with the overwhelming urge to see the entire film. (That and a commitment to make it through the rest of my life without ever having to watch The Charlatans perform live again.) Nonetheless, it must have some bearing. The Natalie Portman stripathon Closer was bad, no doubt. But the fact that my friend and I & drifted into the cinema lobby afterwards half asleep and thoroughly depressed, only to find our husbands clutching each other and crying with joy having just seen Team America: World Police for the first time didn’t help its cause. Best Picture Oscars have probably been won and lost over less.

Here’s the thing: as I sat down to watch Star Wars for the first time, aged 31, after a long day and a couple of beers, I was expecting to be blown away. In reality I found the beginning kind of slow. I didn’t immediately warm to the R2-D2 / C-3PO double act the way I knew I was supposed to. (Frankly he just annoyed me, wheeling around making his indecipherable beeps, dragging his big plate hands along behind him.) Yes, Alec Guinness kicked ass. And Harrison Ford was suitably dreamy. But I wanted an action movie and I didn’t feel I was getting one. My biggest disappointment was Darth Vader. I thought he was supposed to be scary? Stood in the Situation Room doing his heavy breathing routine? Come on! He wouldn’t last five minutes under Jed Bartlet. And don’t even get me started on the fact that he’s voiced by Mufasa from The Lion King. The kindest, noblest lion that ever lived. If you want menacing, try getting Jeremy Irons to voice Vader. Perhaps I should have watched it that summer we went to Florida. The Star Wars ride was far and away the highlight of Universal Studios. If I’d watched it then, off the back of that excitement, aged 13, less cynical, my Star Wars story would probably be different.

I understand the cultural significance of Star Wars. The fact that, if it wasn’t for this film, I wouldn’t know and love the likes of Clerks, Se7en, or even Toy Story. I get that, and I’m grateful. I love the fact that it’s created a generation of passionate, geeky, often obsessive film fans. That my husband has to deliver a 20 minute diatribe on the original theatrical versus newer versions before he can even open the dvd case. But, just as you don’t get butterflies in your stomach as the title hits the screen on the last note of ‘Circle of Life’, or a ridiculous grin on your face when Jack Traven shouts ‘It’s cans! It’s ok, it’s cans!’, I don’t love Star Wars. Sorry.

Lindsay Lohan: Far From Finished

Jason Mitchell looks at the rise, fall, and potential rebirth of the career of Lindsay Lohan.

Alcoholism, drink-driving convictions and drug addiction; rehab facilities, court rooms and incarceration. To many onlookers, Lindsay Lohan’s personal issues with substance abuse, and the subsequent legal problems stemming from them, seem to have completely destroyed a promising career for the young actress.

It is easy to see why such an opinion exists. Prior to her legal troubles Lohan was one of the hottest young actresses in the industry. In 2003 she earned herself positive reviews and an MTV Movie Award for ‘Best Breakthrough Performance’ for her role in Disney’s ‘Freaky Friday’. And she followed that success up with 2004’s ‘Mean Girls’, a film which garnered critical appreciation for its writing and for which Lohan herself earned a further two MTV Movie Awards. Five years into the 21st century, Lohan could boast several highly successful movies and two music albums – she was on top of the world.

Fast-forward seven years and Lohan’s film career has clearly taken a back seat to her extra-curricular activities. However, constant media interest in Lohan’s personal life and the potential for a redemption story has essentially prolonged her career beyond the usual shelf-life of a Disney actress with, to put it kindly, limited acting ability.

Take Hilary Duff for example. During her teenage years, she experienced similar success to Lohan. Yet, despite avoiding the pitfalls of Hollywood, her career has crumbled to the point where she was dropped from the title role in ‘The Story of Bonnie and Clyde’ in the aftermath of criticism from Faye Dunaway. “Couldn’t they at least cast a real actress?” Dunaway remarked.

Hilary Duff, of course, lacks the acting skill of a Faye Dunaway and should never have been cast in the role in the first place. But that’s besides the point. Her main problem has been her inability to shrug off the Disney tag. Her performance in ‘War Inc.’ went some way towards breaking the association, but it still clearly remains. No matter what roles she accepts in the future, she will never be thought of as a “real actress”.

Lindsay Lohan has, on the other hand, firmly distanced herself from the Disney brand. Through her personal struggles, she has carved out a bad-girl image for herself, without which she would never have landed a role in Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Machete’ ; a role which was described by The Washington Post as “a campier, trampier version of herself ” and a performance which was described as “her best work in some time” by Variety.

In reality, her supposedly promising career as a leading lady prior was anything but. She is simply not a good enough actress to maintain interest through what is supposed to be her day job and would have arguably struggled even more than Duff.

But, in spite of her unreliable nature, the media attention she garners through her personal life remains an attractive quality to filmmakers and will continue to guarantee her film roles for the foreseeable future. In addition, many will be unable to resist the thought of providing Lohan with on-screen redemption for her personal problems. Her media image lends itself to a variety of roles far removed from the permanent good-girl role she played during her supposed prime, allowing her to diversify far more than she otherwise would have been able to.

Additionally, her willingness to poke fun at her own situation, as demonstrated by her recent cameo in Glee, also generates good potential for comedy roles. In fact, she has recently completed work on Vince Offer’s comedy film ‘InAPPropriate Comedy’, where she stars alongside Hollywood A-listers including Adrien Brody, Rob Schneider and Michelle Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, despite being in and out of jail and supposedly finished as a leading lady, she has also been able to land herself the role of Elizabeth Taylor in the upcoming biopic ‘Liz & Dick’.

Although her career hit a temporary blip as a result of her personal struggles, those struggles may, in a strange way, prove to be the best thing that ever happened to Lohan’s career. And while she clearly lacks the talent required to be a member of the Hollywood elite, she continues to generate more mainstream media interest than just about any of them.

Jason Mitchell is a freelance sports writer who has decided that writing about films would add another string to his bow. Unfortunately, the additional string does not offer any assurances that he won’t still wildly miss the mark from time to time. Read more of his thoughts here

Support your local film makers

If this was a film it could be Clerks. Or Sharknado. But hopefully Clerks.

In a way, film-making and football have quite a lot in common. The people at the top of the pyramid are famous throughout the world, and get paid fortunes for work that can wow the world, but can also suck the joy out of anyone unfortunate enough to witness it.

Also like football, the average Joe in the street is far more likely to watch a film that cost millions to put together than go down the road and see something that was put together for the cost of a few pints and a the goodwill of the local community.

Which is a shame, as there is some really exciting work going on in the world of micro-budget film – and us mere mortals have an opportunity to get involved in a way which we could only dream of in the mainstream cinema world.

Well, here at Failed Critics we are not only willing to put our time and money where our mouth is, but we are asking our wonderful readers to do the same.

The first project is Rocky Road. Written by Daley-James Francis and directed by Lee Tomes, Rocky Road is described as “Rocky meets Shane Meadows”. Now, I haven’t seen the script, but the promo film and their previous work have piqued my interest and I have decided to donate to the cost of the film via the crowdfunding website Indie Go Go.

Not only does everyone who donates get a credit in the film, but each different level of funding will give you a different memento of ‘that time you helped finance a film’. So not only do you get a sense of smug self-satisfaction at doing some good, but you have a story to tell the grandchildren. They’ll probably ignore you, but that’ll only be because they won’t have an idea what a DVD is.

The second project I want to share with you isn’t even looking for your hard-earned. Just you ideas, your time, or maybe even just that useless movie trivia that no one else in your family finds at all interesting.

Citizen 598 are making a short film called Han Going Solo. It’s a love letter to cinema, especially the Star Wars trilogy (what do you mean, prequels? Never heard of them). Full details are available here, and I would suggest that even if you can’t think of a way you can help make this film you should definitely take a look at the finished project. I think it’s going to be great and  – to stretch the football analogy a little further – even at the lower levels you sometimes see the equivalent of a 30-yard volley that goes in off the post.

I should probably admit that I have worked a little on elements of the script for this film – but please don’t let that put you off.

Failed Critics: Episode 7 – Prometheus

They went to the cinema in search of a good film. What they found could be their end. Although it’s unlikely – unless the film is as bad as Dark Shadows.

Failed Critics is back – and it’s sporting a shiny new image. This week the pod discusses Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s return to the science-fiction genre after an absence of 30 years. We also choose our favourite Kings and Queens from the world of cinema in honour (or protest depending on how you view our choices) of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Plus we have more podcast views on Iron Sky, and James FINALLY watched Pan’s Labyrinth.

Gerry was sadly missed this week – but we soldiered on as best as we could. He’s back soon, we promise.

Next we will be reviewing an upcoming DVD release, as well as discussing those directors/actors we’ve fallen out of love with in Triple Bill.

Intro – 00:00 – 25:42

Triple Bill -25:42 – 51:47

Prometheus Premiere Report (spoiler free) – 51:47 – 56:36

Prometheus Review (no spoilers) – 56:36 – 1:12:53

Spoiler Alert! – 1:12:53 – 1:35:06

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Prometheus World Premiere – we were there…

So it came to pass that on the evening of 31st May, I managed to score a couple of tickets to the world premiere of Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction – the long-awaited Prometheus. After a discussion with the lovely lady who was dealing with our arrangements, it was decided that if Jeremy Clarkson was going to be there then we might as well go in jeans, shirt, and jacket as well. Clarkson-style. Except we made a pact not to insult public sector workers or an entire nation while we were there.

To hear what I thought about the film, you’ll have to download the next Failed Critics podcast (due tomorrow). What I will say is that I found it to be an enjoyable and intelligent sci-fi blockbuster, which looked gorgeous and had a couple of brilliant central performances.

Anyway, this is meant to be about me…

So we arrived at the Empire Leicester Square, and the entrance and red carpet was completely out of sight.

After picking up our tickets, we queued up along the outside of this pretty unglamorous dystopian fence and started to lower our expectations. We are going to be bundled in the back-door, but at least we get to see the film before the shitmuchers. So, we show our tickets, pass though a few security guards and end up being vomited out onto the red carpet…

And it wasn’t just us on the carpet. We had managed to turn up at the same time as Ridley Scott…

Guy Pearce…

And I even managed to catch Charlize Theron’s eye in amongst all the chaos.

I didn’t have time to even think about the Richard Curtis-esque romantic comedy about to occur before we were ushered into the cinema to take our seats…

Oh, and Ridley Scott introduced the film about 15-feet in front of me. Front-row seats were a bit of a neck-ache for the film, but it was worth it for this…

If you want to know how my mate and I ended up chatting to a film star and getting into the after-show party – you’ll have to listen to this week’s Failed Critics podcast – available on the 4th June 2012!