All posts by Owen Hughes

Freelance journalist and video editor, writing words and creating pictures for BBC, JACKfm and Reach PLC. Co-editor of independent pop-culture website Podcaster and editor of

Failed Critics Podcast: Triple bill 2019 and that

Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes had a day off work and decided to kill time by doing an impromptu podcast on stuff they’ve seen in 2019. It also means we edge one step closer to the magic episode 300 mark – just nine more to go. But, seeing as the last podcast they released was in June 2018, it’s unlikely to be reached any time soon.

The pair talk about what they’ve watched recently, including a chat about bizarre Japanese arthouse film Tetsuo, The Iron Man, and the wave of true crime documentaries lately. In triple bill, they each pick out their favourite new film of 2019, their favourite first-time watch of the year, and the worst film they’ve seen over the past three months or so.

We’ll be back.. probably.. at some point.. hopefully.

Or right click and download it as an mp3 here.

Best ‘stuff’ of 2018

It’s around this time of the year that we would normally be publishing the Failed Critics Awards after weeks of voting from you lot. However, this year, we have published a sum total of five articles; all of which are actually just blurb for individual podcasts. So I’m sure you’ll allow me the good grace this year to just run with my personal favourite ‘things’ of 2018, from films to TV and whatever else pops into my head.


1) Hereditary

Luca Guadagnino’s loose remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 cult classic Suspiria was so very, very close to being top of my year-end film list, but Ari Aster’s debut feature-length horror Hereditary pips it to the post. It has actually been a baron year for good movies outside of the plain weird folky subgenre of horror that both Suspiria and Hereditary nestle into. You can throw in there the likes of The Raid director Gareth Evans’s freakly period island-cult thriller Apostle, the disorientating ‘heavy metal’ Nic Cage-starring 80s-set Mandy, Macon Blair and Jeremy Saulnier’s reunion Hold the Dark, and even Ex Machina / Dredd writer/director Alex Garland’s Netflix Original Annihilation too as batshit crazy but insanely atmospheric, mesmerising and wholly engrossing films that I really took a shine to over the past 12 months.

But Hereditary, about a mother (Toni Collette) slowly succumbing to an inevitable mental breakdown following the death of her mother – and all the unusual, bizarre and downright messed up (possibly supernatural) goings on at the same time – was such an original and spectacular movie on so many levels, that I loved it from its first second until its divisive last. The performances were outstanding throughout, especially from the understandably deranged Collette whose mental health seemed to deteriorate further and further the longer the film went on, pushing the pace of the movie up and up like a juggernaut shifting up gears.

The ending left a lot of people upset as Peter (Alex Wolff) seemed to just stop and explain exactly what was going on and what had just happened, in case the viewer hadn’t quite caught up with it yet. Irrespective of how irritating exposition can be sometimes, it seemed the perfect way to end a film like this. Given the sheer amount of foreshadowing that was layered into the opening 20 minutes, it’s somewhat wryly amusing to see the movie only stop and take a breather to end things.

Folk horror seems to be making a resurgence of late. If the 90s belonged to teen horror, and the mid-00s to found-footage horror, then the rise of folk horror in the latter half of this decade could probably be put down to both a maturing audience and a societal influence. We are living in what is surely just the kindling of the digital age; it makes sense for horror filmmakers to strip away all these advantages and even necessities of modern living to make its audience feel uneasy. Granted, Hereditary doesn’t quite do this exactly, but it feels otherworldly, almost as if it could be set in any decade over the past 60-70 years. The evil cannot be banished by researching it online, nor is its presence really even known at all.

Or, more likely, I’m reading too much into it and should just learn to accept and love Hereditary for being the creepy weird horror that it so expertly is.

The rest of the list:
2) Suspiria
3) The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
4) Avengers: Infinity War
5) Outlaw King
6) Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
7) A Quiet Place
8) Black Panther
9) You Were Never Really Here
10) Revenge


1) The Terror

If you would kindly allow me to self-plagiarise for a moment, I’ going to copy something I wrote for about AMC’s The Terror at the turning point in the year. I don’t think the show was bettered in the remaining six months and it seems foolish to rewrite what I’ve already written – although I could also point you to this thing I wrote about Norsemen because that show is great and doesn’t seem to get enough love.

“Horror television programmes are few and far between. For every The Exorcist – which is bloody marvellous – there is a The River. For every The Walking Dead – which was marvellous at one point – there is a Fear The Walking Dead. For every Hannibal, there is a The Mist. Ad. Nauseam. When a Ridley Scott executive produced AMC mini-series started to quietly build hype, I resisted getting my hopes up too much given past experiences. Oh ye of little faith.

“The Terror is set in the 1840s as two British Royal Navy ships, the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, trudge through the Arctic in search of an elusive trade route known as the Northwest Passage, led by Captain John Franklin (Ciarán Hinds). They soon get stuck and spend winter in the frozen tundra. One winter turns to two. Loyal British stiff upper lips turn to rumblings of discontent, which moves closer and closer to outright mutiny. The death of an Inuit is met by spiritual consequences in the shape of a monstrous polar bear. Even if we get away from the palpable atmosphere and intense sense of dread that permeates the intoxicating beautiful scenery, it is just a magnificently paced, written and performed series. Jared Harris puts in a career-best performance and steals the show. The BT TV exclusive series can rue the fact that it is not made by HBO for its relatively low viewing figures because there is no doubt that if this had been featured on Sky Atlantic, Channel 4 or BBC, it would be rated far higher than it already is.”

The rest of the list:
2) Better Call Saul
3) Taskmaster
4) BoJack Horseman
5) Preacher
7) Norsemen
8) Daredevil
9) All or Nothing: Manchester City
10) The Good Place


1) Flesh + Blood

I was dreading having to watch and review the remaster of Paul Verhoeven‘s medieval rape-revenge movie Flesh + Blood when the copy landed on my door mat. Don’t get me wrong, I love RoboCop, Starship Troopers and Total Recall just as much as the next person. Equally I really, really do not like Showgirls; and Basic Instinct is not too much better. His movies are a bit of a lucky dip. Am I going to watch a hidden gem like Soldier of Orange, or a load of old guff like Hollow Man? Turns out that Flesh + Blood, starring a contractually obligated Rutger Hauer as a ‘saintly’ rebel leader in the European middle ages, is actually pretty damn good indeed. So much so that it now rivals the Dutch director’s magnum opus, RoboCop, as my favourite of his.

The movie mostly acts as a satire of fascism and tries to understand its intoxicating appeal to various classes of society, but it also attempts to deconstruct the male/female relationship in a way that the veteran director has done so expertly throughout his career. This fully uncut restoration includes some incredibly controversial scenes of rape and trademark ultra-violence – and violence against women in particular – but uses them as metaphor in a much more clever way. It also looks absolutely stunning, capturing both the mud-punk attitude that so many modern medieval films desperately try to replicate, but the sets are so vivid and the colours so strong in the remaster that it all feels very real and very alive.

Aside from the use of a stupid ‘+’ symbol in the title instead of saying ‘and’ (or even using an ampersand for goodness sake) it still manages to top my list of first time watches this year. Even that minor irritant can’t downgrade it.

The rest of the list:
2) Threads
3) Michael (1924)
4) The Gunfighter
5) McCabe and Mrs Miller
6) Inherit the Wind
7) Thelma and Louise
8) Heathers
9) Phenomena
10) Dead Ringers


Album: Slaves – Acts of Fear and Love (The punk-meets-Blur album that I  didn’t realise I so desperately wanted all along)

Comic: Final issues of Descender by Jeff Lemire (A comic series that just continued to get better and better with each issue, each page and each panel. Looking forward to reading the follow-up Ascender when it gets published in 2019)

Most disappointing film: The Nun (oh, what could have been a great sequel in the Conjuring Universe akin to Annabelle Creation turned out to be yet another formulaic jump-scare horror – rivalled by Aquaman which was a load of bobbins but I didn’t hate it)

Biggest surprise: Revenge (another rape-revenge thriller but one directed by a woman that completely subverts all the tripes associated with the problematic subgenre)

Best TV rewatch: Peaky Blinders (Not just because I’m from the Birmingham are, but the Steven Knight’s writing astounds me. How he successfully fits so much character, so much story and so many great memorable moments into one hour-long episode is beyond me)

Things that should be on a list but aren’t: F is for Family (underrated), She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (yep), Bodyguard (if only to discuss the hype), the FIFA World Cup (best moment of 2018?), James Acaster: Repertoire (fair play), Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Inside No. 9 Live (hu-wah I don’t even), Marvel’s Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2 (just because)

Failed Critics Podcast: Solo: A Star Wars Podcast

We’re back! Sort of. Host Steve Norman is back, at least, for another Star Wars special episode with regulars Paul Field and Dave Valentine booting misery guts Owen Hughes from the podcast.

There’s quizzing, japes, and of course more Solo: A Star Wars Story chat than you could shake a lightsaber at.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Avengers: Infinity War and Birthday Celebrations

Happy birthday to you guys! Yes, it’s your birthday everyone. Or, rather, the Failed Critics Podcast turned six this week, which means happy birthday to us and all of our listeners who witnessed this Frankenstein’s monster of a podcast come to life.

To celebrate, hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes have put together a hastily arranged episode with a sneaky post-credits Avengers: Infinity War review.

Also on the episode, we return to a classic format for the quiz section, before covering The Discovery, Money Monster, Alien 3 and Rampage in WWBW.

Thanks to everyone who has ever downloaded, listened, shared, liked, commented on, complained about, subscribed, unsubscribed, or otherwise interacted with the podcast in some form or another throughout our existence.

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Field and Mullinger’s Underground Nights: Rom com ramble

After a winter hiatus, James and Paul are back with a new episode of Underground Nights.

In this episode, the pair take a look at James’s secret passion that he’s finally telling the world about: romcoms. The boys count down their top five in the genre, offer an early sneak peak review of the new Mark Murphy comedy, For Love or Money, and Paul forces more recommendations on his co-host.

There’s even time for James to review new release, Love, Simon, and they are still banging on about why Oscar films are boring. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show, leave us a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts, and for UK audiences, check out Mullinger’s live stand up special for free on Amazon Prime, Anything is Possible.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Oscars That Never Were – Triple Bill

We’re back for a bit. No biggie. Just Steve Norman, Owen Hughes and Paul Field, hanging around recording a random triple bill podcast trying to ride the crest of interest that usually comes during the Oscars season.

Resurrected from the near dead, the Failed Critics revive an old quiz – not an old quiz format, literally they replay an old quiz – and chat about what they’ve been watching lately. Paul revels in riotous horror Freehold, Owen revisits 10 Cloverfield Lane, and Steve rubbishes a bunch of Netflix Originals.

In the triple bill section, there’s chaos, confusion and regular shambolic behaviour as each critic picks a movie that missed that all important award nod from the Academy throughout history.

Don’t get too excited; this doesn’t actually signal a return to a weekly format for FC. But we’re on 288 episodes now. You’ll probably see us appear in your feed at 12 other points throughout the year as we push for the magic 300, so don’t unsubscribe just yet!

If you want more regular podcasting goodness from Owen and Steve (and Tony Black!) then please subscribe, listen and rate to STT: Rewind over at

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Failed Critics Unplugged: Live in Oxford (Again)

Happy New Year and all that jazz. We’re back from our end of year celebrations (sort of) as hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes head to a pub in Oxford to chat movies and TV with Character Unlock’s Andrew Brooker.

Recorded over a month ago in the same pub as our last live podcast, the trio run through what they’ve been watching lately, as well as a triple bill giving insight into what has caught their eye over the past year at the cinema, on Netflix and on the goggle box.

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Failed Critics Podcast: FC Awards 2017

Another year down, and another awards ceremony concluded. Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by a returning Paul Field to produce another quality end-of-year quiz, and to help us round-up the results from the Failed Critics Awards 2017.

Our huge thanks go out to everybody who took the time to submit nominations in the various categories. We’ll be posting the results as a list later in the week, but for now we hope you have a great New Year!

We’ll return soon for another special live episode recorded in Oxford earlier this year.

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Failed Critics Podcast: The Last Jedi

A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Steve, Paul and Crisp Packet Dave returned for their annual Star Wars podcast and took an in-depth look at Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. (Note: This review contains spoilers, a lot of them.)

Elsewhere, there is the traditional quiz where football-loving Steve tries to hide his geek tendencies. And with 5 years of Failed Critics the lads look back at their 5 favourite films of the last 5 years, as well as their least favourite.

We hope you all have a great Christmas and happy new year and all that jazz. We’ll have the results of our end of year awards in the next episode. Don’t forget to vote if you haven’t already! Deadline for submissions is midnight on Boxing Day.

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Failed Critics Awards Voting 2017

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Come on folks, put the tinsel down and mince pies back in the cupboard for just one second and take five minutes out of your busy schedules to vote in the return of the annual Failed Critics Awards.

We’ve made some slight changes to the format from last year, but still hope to receive even more votes than last year. Some categories have been rejigged – top 5 male and top 5 female performances is now simply top 10 performances, and the documentary category now allows you to include documentary series and not just those that received a theatrical release – whilst a couple of additions have made their way into the selection.

To vote, simply complete the form below listing as many (or as few) submissions for each of the following categories:

  • Top 10 films of 2017*
  • Best documentary
  • Best British film
  • Best film not in the English language
  • Best soundtrack
  • Best performance
  • Best programme
  • Best podcast
  • Worst film

*Remember, that’s films that made their general release in the UK between 1 January until 31 December. Ergo, La La Land or Moonlight would count, despite being released in the US in 2016, whereas The Shape of Water and Molly’s Game would not as they are not due for release here until 2018. If you’re still unsure, bring the film up in IMDb and add /releaseinfo to the end of the url and look for ‘UK’.

Voting closes at midnight on Tuesday 26 December. Can’t say fairer than that; I’ve even left you time to watch and vote for Star Wars this year, should you so desire.

The winners will be revealed on our End of Year Awards podcast, released a few days later. A list will also be posted on our Failed Critics Awards page.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, you can flick through our reviews or listen to some of our podcasts over the past year.


Failed Critics Podcast: Justice League

Hopefully by now you will have caught up with DCEU’s latest attempt at salvaging a flailing franchise with Justice League. Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes run their beady eye over Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon’s ensemble superhero flick, as well as chatting about some post-apocalyptic fiction and reviewing their favourite cough sweets. Yum.

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Front Row with Owen and Paul: Enormous Walrus

The stars align for hosts Owen Hughes and Paul Rutland who make their final trip to the Bucks 101 Radio studio to chat about topics that probably sum their tastes up more than any other episode produced across the two years, five series and 8,600 downloads of Front Row. Owen reviews the indie found-footage horror film sequel Creep 2, whilst Paul returns from his trip to Twickenham to watch live NFL football.

If you’ve ever downloaded one of our podcasts, tuned in to our live radio broadcasts (at or by searching ‘Bucks 101 Radio’ on TuneIn), suggested songs for us to play, interacted with us on Twitter or done anything else at all to support us over these past couple of years, then we both want to say a huge THANK YOU to you all. It’s been our pleasure to make these shows and hopefully you’ve enjoyed them too on some level.

If you want to keep in touch with us, you can find Paul on Twitter @p_rutland96 or Owen at @ohughes86. You can keep supporting future University of Buckingham media and journalism students by listening to Bucks 101 Radio during term time, leaving comments on TuneIn and Facebook, and generally being as lovely for them as you were with us.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Thor: Ragnarok

So very, very late this week that it’s actually now “next week” but hey, at least it’s here, right? Let’s cut out the chit chat and get straight to it: Steve Norman hosts (and edits) this week as Owen Hughes and Brian Plank join for a review of the MCU’s latest fantasy adventure with Thor: Ragnarok. In the absence of the news section, the trio run through some Netflix stuff, chat about what else they’ve been watching, and recommend you some stuff to watch during the week that’s just been so is now entirely useless. Sorry about that.

Listen via Acast because it’s the best or something.

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Front Row with Owen and Paul: A Big Moon and Trump

With no Failed Critics Podcast this week (you’ll have to wait for our Thor: Ragnarok review next week), it means your sole audio-pleasure must instead be derived from Owen Hughes and Paul Rutland’s Bucks 101 Radio show Front Row.

The latest bitesize podcast from their hour-long radio show this week features a chat about The Big Moon (again) after Owen ventured into Oxford for their gig straight from the Q Awards, before reviewing Netflix Original horror-comedy The Babysitter. Paul’s usual sports round-up is somewhat sacrificed so that he can reveal the greatest living sportsman – and it’s probably not who you’re expecting it to be – and much like the BBC News headlines, Trump dominates Roll the Dice.

All of our archived episodes of Front Row can still be accessed for free.

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Failed Critics Podcast: London Film Festival 2017 Special

Welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast as hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by Callum Petch, fresh from this year’s London Film Festival.

Continue reading Failed Critics Podcast: London Film Festival 2017 Special