Failed Critics Triple Bill: Winter Preview

After a less than stellar summer of blockbusters this year, the critics turn their attention to the films we hope to be entertained over the winter, including a number of films getting ready to take at run at the ‘awards season’.

Sadly Owen was still pulliung a sickie, and Gerry pissed off after his bit to get his much-needed beauty sleep. Still, Steve and James manage to just about keep it all together like the pros that they are.

Join us next week for the Failed Critics Review, where we review Looper, as well as Killing Them Softly and a mini Bruce Willis special.

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Do you remember the first time?

image The first time I went to the cinema I was in top infants. It was Natasha’s seventh birthday, and her mum took a bunch of us to see Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on its fiftieth anniversary re-release.

We were wearing party dresses, it being a birthday party, and clutching boxes of Smarties, because that was the done thing on visits to the cinema, theatre, probably even the rugby, back then. The film was showing at our old Art Deco Odeon, which has long since been turned into a wedding venue. The screen was so big it had top and bottom entrances. We were understandably excited. We took our seats, long before the lights were dimmed and the curtain (remember the curtain?!) was raised, chattering and giggling while Natasha’s mum went off to get a drink. Gin, probably.

It was at this point a girl in the row behind us, and she was notably an older girl so ten, or maybe even eleven, tapped me on the shoulder. She leant forward to us and whispered viciously ‘I hope you’re not going to make noise like that during the film’. There was something about her authoritative tone, her commanding presence, her obvious experience as a cinema patron. She scared the shit out of me. I turned around, shut the hell up, and watched the film, my unopened box of Smarties by my feet.

I wish I could meet that girl today. I’d like to shake her hand. She taught me the true meaning of going to the pictures: to just shut up and watch the damn film. We should employ her, now probably approaching her 40th birthday, to shout at kids the very first time they set foot inside a cinema. I reckon she could single-handedly eradicate the nachos, text alerts and viewer commentary which accompany screenings in today’s multiplexes.

Nowadays you don’t generally wait until you’re seven and it’s someone’s birthday. The Odeon, et al, encourage your offspring through their doors pretty much as soon as they’ve left the womb. A variety of kids clubs run during weekends and holidays, where parents generally go free, to numb the pain of watching Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked on the big screen. and to offset the equivalent of a week’s shopping budget being dropped on popcorn and fluorescent drinks.

‘Newbies’, meanwhile, offers a safe haven for parents of new babies, where they show films adults may have some vague interest in watching, and everyone agrees not to tut at all the screaming kids. This was the scene of my daughter’s first trip to the cinema, at approximately six months old, to see chameleon Western Rango. She had a feed and promptly slept through the rest of the film. Still, it made a nice change for me to sit in a different darkened room holding a snoring baby until my arms went dead. It’s important to get out of the house. I put it on again today and she watched 40 minutes in still silence, before solemnly placing a toy police car into her play pushchair and wheeling it out of the room. Quite a solid review from an almost two year old.

What was the first film you saw at the cinema, and did it scar you for life?

Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Guest contributor John Fitzsimons tells us why IMDB Top 250 film Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrells turned him into a RIGHT FAHKIN’ MUG!

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a film that does strange things to people.

It prompted a chap in my class at school to phone me – twice – within an hour of finishing the movie to explain the plot. It convinced Hollywood that Vinnie Jones could act.

Most troubling of all, it led to me adopting the accent of an East End geezer.

This wasn’t an immediate thing. After all, the film came out in 1998 when I was still at school in East London, so had something of an accent anyway. But it was when I went to University in sunny Southampton in 2002 and sat my new friends down for a watch of the movie that it turned me into a tragic, bespectacled Ray Winstone tribute act.

The story itself is nothing revolutionary. A card game goes wrong. A group of friends end up hugely in debt to the sort of chap you don’t want to owe money to. And they only have a week to pay it off. Hilarity ensues.

But it’s the way that story is told. There’s a real swagger to the film, the sort of cocksure arrogance that was all over the place in the days of Cool Britannia. If ever a film smelt of Lynx Africa, it was Lock, Stock.

The film-making itself is very slick, with the sort of camera angle flourishes that – for better or worse – are synonymous of Guy Ritchie films.

And then there’s the dialogue. It’s punchy, it’s memorable, it’s funny. I’m a sucker for a film that’s quotable in everyday life, and lines from Lock, Stock very quickly became standard fare down the pub. Honestly now, who among us hasn’t seen a bargain down the shops or online and responded: “It’s a deal, it’s a steal, it’s sale of the fucking century!”

The music also deserves a mention. There has rarely been a more perfect soundtrack. From the opening montage and Ocean Colour Scene’s 100 Mile High City to James Brown’s The Boss via Dusty Springfield’s Spooky, every song perfectly fits the characters on screen and the mood at that moment.

If Quentin Tarantino had been born in Bow he would have made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

There are a number of stand-out performances in the film. Jason Statham was the epitome of gravelly cool – if I was Kelly Brook, I would have slept with him too. You’d never believe this Dexter Fletcher was the same guy from Press Gang and that awful spell hosting Gamesmaster, while Frank Harper’s Dog is a genuinely unsettling thief with a mean golf swing.

The cameos are great too: Rob Brydon’s parking attendant, Sting as a bar owner and Danny John-Jules (better known as Cat from Red Dwarf) in a fabulous scene spoofing the excesses of cockney rhyming slang.

But really, the movie is all about one man.

Vinnie Jones was an untalented hacker as a footballer, and he’s not much better as an actor. Yet he is by a distance the best thing in this movie as Harry the Hatchet’s debt collector Big Chris.

He oozes charisma and menace, bringing the pain to anyone who doesn’t pay their debts or dares to swear (or even blaspheme) in front of his son, Little Chris. It’s not just the violence though – Jones demonstrates some beautiful comic timing and is clearly relishing every second. It’s difficult not to get caught up in that.

Great films don’t just leave a mark on their audience; they also influence other filmmakers. Just as Blair Witch Project led to a flurry of handheld footage movies (which are still rife today), Lock, Stock also saw a revival in the British gangster movie.

Sadly, many of these feature Danny Dyer. But genuinely brilliant films like Layer Cake simply would not exist if not for Lock, Stock. That’s a fantastic legacy.

As for me, it didn’t take long to realise I sounded like an absolute berk. Besides, when I read the philosophy texts I was supposed to be studying, the voice in my head did so in a Cockney accent. Cogito ergo sum, you mug.

John Fitzsimons is the editor of personal finance website lovemoney.com and writes about things other than money to keep him sane. His wife still hasn’t forgiven him for subjecting her to Green Street simply for the chance to hear Frodo sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”.

@johnthejourno

Failed Critics Review: ParaNorman

This week on Failed Critics we talk about the story of a youngster with no friends and an unhealthy obsession with ropey zombie films. And as well as moaning at Owen pulling a sickie, we also review stop-motion kiddie-horror film ParaNorman!

Thank you, we’re here all week. Please try the fish.

Despite Owen’s absence, we still put together a meaty podcast for you this week – with reviews of the latest Stiller/Vaughan comedy The Watch, Hidden (Cache), and Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 heist film The Killing.

James also passionately puts forward his case for Failed Critics not reviewing Taken 2.

Join us later in the week for our Winter Preview Triple Bill.

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On Netflix, indecision, and about five minutes of Face/Off.

You know when you have severely limited time for sitting on your arse watching tv, to the point where you actually kind of forget how to do it? And then when you’re suddenly faced with a free evening on your own, with full access to the remote control, you just panic?

I hate Netflix. I mean, I love it. It’s an incredible achievement. Tell 12 year old me, with her cherished collection of taped off the tv double bills (Dirty Dancing & Uncle Buck, anyone?) that one day she’d be able to watch films on demand. WITHOUT ADVERTS! She’d promptly give up school and commit to an education via the Police Academy franchise.

But it’s hard work, all those films. It’s not like flicking around the tv channels of an evening and landing on ITV2 showing Mission: Impossible III again, and you might as well leave it on as it’s the blowing up the Lamborghini scene soon. This is a billion different films all vying for your attention and you have to pick one. And then watch it without all the while thinking ‘oh, I wish I’d scrolled a little further & found something better.’

The arbitrary categories don’t help. Sports Movies, for example, aren’t guaranteed to all be as heart wrenching as Jerry Maguire. Annoyingly, some of them will just be about sport. I don’t want to be pigeon holed into watching a Romantic Movie (a section which may just as well be renamed ‘J-Lo filmography’) and I can’t watch a Foreign Movie because it’s Friday night and my attention span is small, and how am I supposed to tweet and read subtitles? Also: is the entire Netflix catalogue on these scrolling categories? Or are there extra secret films for people who know what they want to watch, and remember the names of stuff?

I default to Action & Adventure Movies because, well, Die Hard. And I remember Face/Off being good, John Woo and all that. However my thought process throughout goes something like ‘there’s Joan Allen – she was in Pleasantville – with Jeff Daniels – King of Newsroom – I wish there were new Newsroom episodes to watch immediately!’ And then someone on twitter tells me I’d really like teen drama Gilmore Girls, so I have to pause the film and see if it’s on Netflix (it’s not, for shame!) and then I get an email about a hen do I’ve been invited to, which contains a 13 part questionnaire, so then there’s that to deride on all available social networks. And so it goes, to the point where, an hour in, all I’ve really got is Nic Cage’s hilariously manic laughter and a vaguely recurring theme of peaches.

Two hours later I’ve made weekend shopping plans with my mum, had an in depth discussion about nursery rhymes on twitter, and smirked at Nic Cage’s naked arse. There are two fundamental flaws to this movie, one being that they left Sean Archer’s removed face just flopped out on the side, instead of putting it under police protection or at least locking it in a fridge somewhere. The other is that Sean and his wife didn’t have some secret code word for just these situations. Adopting a code phrase to be used in the event of duress is the second rule of marriage, for crying out loud! The first is preparing a Zombie Apocalypse contingency, and the third is not arguing about the washing up.

I could have watched seven episodes of Parks & Recreation in that time. I could’ve made my own personal best of Jim & Pam tribute. I could’ve learnt Latin via the last episode of season two of West Wing. Besides which, as if that distraught family (not a patch on the Bauer clan, by the way) would just adopt Castor Troy’s kid as a replacement for their own dead son. C’mon! Film is slowly losing me to tv, one Over The Rainbow montage at a time.

Suggestions for you to watch now…Braveheart. Oh do fuck off, Netflix.

Failed Critics Triple Bill: Bar Scenes

Failed Critic Cocktail

1 measure emotional old man

1 measure grumpy Northerner

dash of vigilante

a handful of anti-Star Wars vitriol

2 spoons of the obligatory Star Wars choice

1 terrible Begbie impression

Shake, and serve over headphones.

This week the critics choose their favourite film scenes that take place in a bar/pub/place that serves booze. We’ve got surprises, tons of crossover, and the usual fawning over Michael Fassbender.

Join us next week for reviews of ParaNorman in the Failed Critics Review, and our Winter Preview Triple Bill

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Why we will not be reviewing Taken 2

“It seems to me that more and more we’ve come to expect less and less from each other, and I think that should change” – Aaron Sorkin

If my life was an Aaron Sorkin TV show not only would I be funnier (and probably fitter from all the walking and talking), but today would be the day I made a principled and ultimately futile stand against something that is going very wrong in the industry that I love.

A small, and very deluded, part of me feels I am following in the fictional footsteps of Jed Bartlett or Will McAvoy today. Enough is enough, and someone needs to take a stand.

As we mentioned on this week’s Failed Critics Review, Taken 2 (the sequel to the trashy but entertaining Liam Neeson revenge-thriller Taken) has received a 12a certificate for cinema release in the UK. We were worried this would lead to a toning-down of the violence and bad language in a film franchise which previously relied entirely on violence and bad language.

Overnight the first reviews have started to appear online, and it looks as though things are worse than we feared. The language and violence has been cut, but in such a way that scenes now apparently make now sense.

Den of Geek have written a wonderful piece on Taken 2’s decision to seek a 12a certificate and the recent trend of studios to provide an ‘uncut’ version of films for home release. They’ve also reviewed the film, and have given their readers the full facts to make up their own minds.

But we will not be reviewing Taken 2.

Failed Critics is a very small blog run by me in my spare time and with contributions from people also giving up their spare time. We don’t get to see press previews of films weeks ahead of release. When we review a film on the podcast, it’s based entirely on the experience we had of paying to watch a film in a cinema.

And I am not going to pay a penny to watch Taken 2.

We’ve paid to see some pretty terrible films this year. I don’t begrudge spending my money on any of them (even the exceedingly lazy Dark Shadows) as I realise that the deficiencies in those films may not only be subjective, but will if they do exist they are caused by constraints of creativity, talent, money, or a misguided belief of ‘what the public want’.

The Taken 2 situation is different in that they have a cut of the film they know is better, but they would rather put out an inferior product that they know doesn’t work purely to get 12 year olds (and younger) to come and see the film.

Let’s look at that again. A company is knowingly putting out an inferior product, and they expect us to still pay full price for it. Then they hope we’ll pay again for the privilege to watch the ‘fixed’ product.

That naked greed and disregard for their customers shouldn’t be rewarded.

There’s also a moral issue here. Should we really be condoning a company that wants to market Death Wish-style films to children? Personally I have never seen a credible link between movie violence and violent behavior in children – but that still doesn’t mean that certain films are appropriate for children to watch. What happened to the divide between adult and family entertainment? The answer to falling cinema attendances is not to retool adult films to get more kids through the doors. Choose who your market is, and make the very best films for that market that you can.

Last weekend the top two films at the UK box office were Dredd and Lawless. Both very violent and stylized 18 certificate films. Dredd’s bravery in unfashionably going for an 18 certificate was rewarded, and will almost inevitably lead to a captive audience for sequels. If there’s any justice, Taken 2 will be the end of the Taken franchise as we know.

As consumers we don’t have many choices, but the choices we do have are powerful. Don’t give your hard-earned money to studios that show you no respect. I’m not saying that every film released should, or even can be a masterpiece. All I’m saying is that studios and distributors should do us the courtesy of releasing they very best products that they can.

That is why we will not review Taken 2 until we get access to the cut the director intended us to watch.

Failed Critics Review: Lawless

Brothers. Gangsters. Heroes.

That doesn’t apply to any of us, if we’re honest. Except maybe heroes. Steve chased someone from a kebab shop once.

We are critics though, and this week we’re tackling prohibition-era Shia the Beef-starring movie Lawless. We also hear from James as he struggles to wax lyrical about two of his favourite films so far this year – Berberian Sound Studio and The Imposter – as well as hearing reviews on Barry Lyndon and Glengary Glen Ross.

James was hungover and without notes, Gerry had only seen Lawless, Owen’s internet kept cutting out, and Steve was…well, Steve. Somehow we recorded a show.

Enjoy!

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A Decade In Film: The Noughties – 2000

The first in a new series of articles where  Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choose their favoruite films from each year of that decade, and give us a little insight into the legacy those years have left us.

As this is Gerry’s (from the Failed Critics podcasts) own idea, he’s nabbed the noughties. Today he counts down his favourite films from 2000.

5. Meet the Parents

A remake of an independent film from 1992 and essentially little more than a comedy about families, Meet the Parents is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. Ben Stiller is his usual self and brings some good laughs, but it’s Robert De Niro who is the real star here with a wonderful comedic performance. It hasn’t aged as well perhaps as the likes of American Pie and Zoolander but these are situations we can all empathise with and it is this universality that makes it so consistently funny.

It’s more slapstick and slightly less gross-out than the other comedies of that era, making it more of a family-friendly and arguably complete film than most of its ilk. The sequels which followed it never quite reached these heights but it’s always worth a watch and at the very least helped inspire American Dad, Family Guy’s sister show.

4. Battle Royale

Brutal, violent and shocking, Battle Royale somehow manages to be genuinely thought-provoking despite its subject matter. Now a cult classic, it tells the tale of a class of high-schoolers who are forced to battle it out to the death on a remote island by their sadistic teacher, the iconic Takeshi Kitano.

The obvious inspiration for The Hunger Games, the film and the novel it was adapted from sparked massive controversies both in Japan and worldwide, with the Japanese Parliament trying to ban both. They succeeded only in generating more interest and the film has become one of the most successful in Japanese cinema history. Tarantino counts it as the only of the films released since the beginning of his career that he wishes he had made, and there is certainly a Tarantino-esque flair for combining violence with social commentary.

The Hunger Games made a big splash this year and James talked about this genre here. In my opinion this is basically a far superior original that was copied and made for Western consumption by Suzanne Collins 9 years after the Japanese novel’s release (Collins denies copying Battle Royale, for the record). If you’ve seen the Hunger Games and not this, go and rectify this immediately. Harrowing but brilliant, Battle Royale is that rarest of things – a violent action thriller with a deeper message that’s well communicated.

3. Snatch

Building on the success of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Ritchie’s frantic cockney gangster film managed to combine comedy and brutal violence so perfectly that he practically spawned a new sub-genre. The cast is large and features the likes of Brad Pitt as an Irish-gypsy boxer and everyone’s favourite platform diver Jason Statham (seriously, look it up – he doesn’t just bang hot models you know) among many others. Ritchie’s supreme ability to manage such a large cast and juggle so many sub-plots is what makes the film so outstanding – all the characters end up being well developed and the world created is utterly believable.

Visually, the film is also great – fast paced, brilliantly edited and with an almost constantly moving camera. Whilst the film is very similar to its predecessor, the characters are brilliant enough to distinguish themselves, even if some of the actors are the same. With a whipping 163 usages of the F-word, Snatch’s dialogue could have been crude and boring; instead, it is consistently funny and created a cult following whose only downside is that your mate always quotes the film to you in certain situations. Must-see viewing for all Brits and surprisingly successful across the pond, this film helped put British cinema back on the map. Takings of £12m+ domestically and $30m+ in the US, from a £3m budget, certainly helped make our filmmakers an attractive proposition for studios.

2. Memento

Christopher Nolan’s mind-boggling thriller was made for just $5,000,000 and was only his second feature-length outing. Having garnered a lot of critical acclaim following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, the film was a major success around Europe when it was released towards the end of the year; however the project struggled to find a US distributor initially and was passed up by the likes of Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. Once the film found a distributor and made its way onto US screens in March 2001, eventually grossing $25,000,000, Weinstein and his pals realised their mistake. Nolan hasn’t struggled for work since and went on to make some brilliant blockbusters.

The plot is complex, as Guy Pearce’s Leonard tries to overcome his amnesia and discover who murdered his wife. Running two strands of the storyline parallel to each other, with one moving in normal chronological order and the other in reverse, was a brave decision which put off the likes of Weinstein. It paid off massively. Memento was a breath of fresh air and managed to find the right balance of complexity, thoughtfulness and thrills.

I’m quite a fan of Nolan, as most of the world seems to be now, but I still think this is one of his finest films. I probably even prefer it to Batman Begins, and as you know I’m a big Batman fan. Accomplished, compelling and innovative, Memento launched the career of one of the biggest figures in the industry today with very good reason.

1. Gladiator

If one film dominated the box office in 2000, it was Ridley Scott’s swords and sandals epic. Russell Crowe is iconic as Maximus, Joaquin Phoenix is brilliantly sinister and scheming as Commodus, and Connie Nielsen is captivating as his sister Lucilla. It’s the casting outside of the three main protagonists where I think Gladiator really excels though – Oliver Reed famously died during filming and some scenes were added using CGI, but he’s absolutely fantastic throughout; Marcus Aurelius is played convincingly by Richard Harris; Djimon Hounsou launched his career off the back of his turn as Juba, Maximus’ companion in the arena. The characters have become so recognisable thanks to the excellent performances of all the cast.

That said, this was not an easy shoot by all accounts. Harris, at 70, could not be bothered to learn new lines when re-writes were made, although he reportedly became good friends with Crowe. Reed, on the other hand, is purported to have offered Crowe out at one stage having taken an instant dislike to the gruff Australian. Similarly, Crowe emulated Harrison Ford in clashing frequently with director Scott and the writers, and criticising the dialogue (as James mentioned on a recent podcast). The schedule was punishing and shoots went on so long that the film was altered significantly by the long days: the blurring in the opening battle sequence was necessitated by the light running out and everyone being too tired to come back again the next day, while the usage of CGI to replace Reed was preferred to going back and shooting scenes again by the now exhausted crew.

Despite all these difficulties, Gladiator is a cinematic triumph. Shying away from the clichés of the genre such as the Emperor languishing in a chair being fed grapes, Scott nevertheless builds on classic elements from films such as Ben Hur and gives them a vibrancy and reality that those productions never achieved. This Rome feels real, gritty, crawling with corruption, greed and malice. The North African setting looks dusty, hot and uncomfortable, the sets look lived-in rather than freshly constructed. The battle scenes are amongst the best I have ever seen and have set a benchmark, in my view, for all that has followed. We’ve probably all seen it, we all know it won 5 Oscars and it’s one of the most quoted and spoofed films in recent history, but we can’t forget just how great Gladiator is. Undoubtedly the best film of 2000.

Honourable mentions:

American Psycho
Amores Perros
Billy Elliot
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Road Trip

Downfall (2004)

Guest contributor Liam Pennington reviews another IMDB Top 250 film, Downfall, and finds thatthis film humanises Hitler, and that is its greatest strength.”

How do you deal with your country’s most infamous moment in history? With compassion, criticism or an uncomfortable compromise? For Germany, ‘Downfall’ marks its most thorough and stark re-examination of the Second World War, and one of the first feature films produced by the country before or since reunification set during the period. That Bruno Ganz is the first German born actor to play Adolf Hitler is highly significant enough before the analysis of his performance is taken into consideration. With fearful accuracy, and not once moving into parody, Hitler was brought back to life.

At the time of its release, ‘Downfall’ was heralded for its honesty and brutality. The question was asked; “Does ‘Downfall’ humanise Hitler?” When I watched the film for the first time, I was struck by the humanity and humility of the man, repulsed by the mindset I’ve always known despite learning almost nothing I hadn’t already known. That said, there was a new dimension to him which underlined or embellished that which is sometimes hinted by contemporary footage uncovered for documentaries. Here is the Adolf Hitler who smiles, who puts a comforting arm around his secretary, whose care about his vision of Germany is as much flavoured by love as hate. ‘Downfall’ produced a version of Hitler who existed behind the propaganda and jokes back home. Whilst the comedians back home painted him as ‘barmy’ and ‘a twerp’, the man himself was being slowly engulfed by the madness which surrounded him. To answer the question, yes, this film humanises Hitler, and that is its greatest strength.

‘Downfall’ records the closing weeks of Hitler’s grip on Berlin specifically and Germany generally. It’s a claustrophobic film, throwing the viewer deeper and deeper into the Führerbunker as liberating forces encroach the city. This is no mere ‘war’ film, though shots are fired and people do die – a good number by their own hand before the deaths of Hitler and Eva Braun.  The film’s pace has an arthouse speed, lingering and exploring, cold and compelling. It’s striking that such films are rare in the English speaking world, with such exploration of a nation’s failings often only produced on the sidelines and by independent minded directors. I always took ‘Downfall’ to avoid ‘cleansing’ the country of its unease about the Second World War, as though this was always intended not to be therapy.

It’s difficult to avoid one of the least expected creations to come from the film, and by which I mean the now over-used Internet ‘meme’ taken from the celebrated bunker scene in which Hitler is made painfully aware just how weak were the defences around Berlin. The scene grasped the fragility of a man whose inner strength came from the belief that he would be saved, that he would be proved right. The ‘meme’ replaced the original subtitles for whichever comedic (and most often, not very comedic) purposes of the creator. Football, soap operas, other films, even references to other ‘memes’, one by one hijacking the scene for their own amusement and taking away with it a tiny part of its soul. The fear of photographs doing the same for the subject perhaps coming true.

Nonetheless, that scene works so well because it manages to combine that which was known about Hitler and that which was always assumed, that the man was weak and vulnerable despite his bombast. The descent for him and his regime is covered with a detached inevitability. Its style is distinctly European, with its series of haunting scenes all the more notable for being captured through German eyes and spoken in the German language. What ‘Downfall’ leaves is a prominent example of storytelling, one which lacks fear and almost all bias. This is not ‘that Nazi film’ anymore than ‘The Counterfeiters’ (Die Fälscher) could be described as such. Quite how any other examination of Adolf Hitler during the last days of the War could be made in the aftermath of ‘Downfall’ is a chin-stroking question and then some. Any more brutal could be dangerously close to pure sympathy, something this avoids. Anything attempting absolute neutrality might fall into parody. Seventy years after the events it follows, ‘Downfall’ retains its unflinching importance.

Liam Pennington is at the action side of 30 years old and is the On-Line Editor for High Voltage. When not making good use of PR companies’ guff, he can be found groundhopping, writing for whoever else wants him, singing along to Eurovision records and sitting through arthouse films at Cornerhouse, Manchester.

@doktorb
www.liampennington.blogspot.com

Failed Critics Triple Bill: Top Movie Cops

Freeze punks! You have the right to remain silent and listen to Failed Critics Triple Bill. Anything you do say will be ignored because, well, we can’t hear you. It’s not live. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, we’re not going to provide one. Especially if you’re the victim of a kebab-based vigilante attack from a film podcast host.

Where were we?

Oh yes – it’s Failed Critics Triple Bill, and this week in honour of the excellent Dredd 3D we’re naming our favourite movie cops.

There’s crossover (that you might not expect), and Owen makes his second, possibly fatal, error since joining the podcast.

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Failed Critics Review – Dredd 3D

In this desolate future there are thousands of films, and the only thing seperating the criminally bad film from the public are the men and woman of the Hall of Film Justice. We are the judge, juries, and executioners of horrific cinema. We are the law!

On this week’s Failed Critics Review we give our verdict on Dredd 3D, and find out whether it is able to lay to rest the ghost of the atrocious Stallone effort. Also reviewed this week are The Inkeepers, Blade Runner (Final Cut), and Jurassic Park. Owen even manages to compare a Van Damme film to Goddard’s Breathless (really).

Join us later in the week for Triple Bill, where this week we choose our favourite film cops.

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The Lost Reviews… Prometheus (2012)

The Lost Reviews are articles that our editor produced for another publication but, for one reason or another, never got published.

It’s not because they’re shit. Honest.

After 24 years, Ridley Scott returns to the universe that spawned arguably his best film, and certainly one of his most influential. It’s clear from the outset however that this prequel isn’t ‘Alien Begins’; it’s a far different beast, owing more in terms of its tone and ambition to Scott’s other sci-fi classic Blade Runner. While aspects of Prometheus’ set-design and its action set-pieces share a lineage with Alien, this film is epic in scale rather than claustrophobic and dripping in terror.

And while Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is nowhere to be seen, Noomi Rapace stands in more-than-ably as Elizabeth Shaw – a scientist who discovers a clue to the origins of mankind. She persuades the Weyland Corporation (yes, that Weyland Corporation) to fund an expedition to the darkest reaches of the universe to confront mankind’s creators. This being an ‘Alien’ film though, the meeting is unlikely to result in a welcoming party or cosy chat over the family photo albums.

Rapace is excellent as the head-strong Shaw, which will be no surprise to those who saw her in the original The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. The star of the piece, though, is Michael Fassbender as the ship’s android David. We see him watching David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and practicing Peter O’Toole’s mannerisms while the crew are in hyper-sleep. However, it is another David that seems to imbue Fassbender’s android – that of David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He has the same other-worldly presence, clearly fascinated by humans but easily corrupted by them.

Sadly, and unlike Scott’s original Alien, the rest of the crew aboard the good ship Prometheus are largely underwritten. Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Guy Pierce are all more than competent in their respective roles, but as the action steps up a gear in the second half they become reduced to two-dimensional plot-devices.

The other major problem is the film’s unanswered questions. It’s great to see a motion picture refusing to spoon-feed its audience, but the ambiguity will frustrate many viewers. Whether this is intentional or not depends on how you view script-writer Damon Lindelof’s TV series Lost. Hopefully a rumoured sequel, or the almost-inevitable Ridley Scott director’s cut, will expand on the themes explored here.

Regardless of its flaws, let’s be thankful people have still got the ambition to make films as beautiful and ambitious as Prometheus

Failed Critics Triple Bill: Based on a True Story

After a week away, we welcome back Failed Critics Triple Bill. This week the critics choose their favourite real-life stories that they want to see made into films. Not only that, but they tell us why and how, and even cast their imaginary films.

This was one of our favourite recordings, and there are some great stories here – including the only man to kill someone with a crossbow in WWII, an Opera-loving Russian wrestler, and a man who made the Suez Canal disappear.

Also, James recorded this one in his car while his neighbours looked suspiciously out of their windows, so it’s a bit of a collector’s item.

We’re back on Wednesday with a review of Dredd 3D, and next weekend with our favourite film cops in Triple Bill.

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Failed Critics Review: Bowiefest and Total Recall

The return of the Fat White Duke – yep, James is back from London and is here to tell us about Bowiefest, the first film festival devoted to the cinematic work of David Bowie.

Also this week, the Failed Critics review Total Recall, a film that is definitely a remake of the 1990 Arnie classic, regardless of what the studio tells us.

We also discuss what we’ve been watching this week including The Hunger Games, Labyrinth, Very Bad Things, and Jean Claude van Damme’s classic Time Cop.

Join us on Friday for Triple Bill, where we choose our favourite true-life stories that we would love to see made into films.

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