All posts by Steve Norman

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s WWII drama, Dunkirk, has finally landed on these shores. We drafted our podcast host, Steve Norman, to write a few words on this “triumph in storytelling”.

Continue reading Dunkirk

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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To paraphrase another space based pop culture phenomenon: “It’s Star Wars, but not as we know it.”

With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we do away with the Skywalkers, the Jedi, the Millenium Falcon and the Force, but welcome a new cast of characters in what is a hugely enjoyable first Star Wars big screen spinoff.

Sure there have been spinoffs before: The below-par Wookie and Ewok spinoffs way back when, the whole (now non-canon) expanded universe of novels and comics; a few games; the somewhere between average and excellent animated shows Clone Wars and Rebels.

However, Rogue One is Disney’s first opportunity to deviate away from the story of the Skywalkers, perhaps beginning a new version of what they have already done with the Marvel MCU; and tell us how we got to what we saw at the start of Episode IV: A New Hope in 1977.

Rogue One tells us how the fledgling Rebel Alliance got its hands on the Death Star plans – and it does it very, very well. Gareth Edwards, whose previous work includes the interesting Monsters (2010) and the disappointing Godzilla (2o14), pulls off a space-based heist movie with all the added action and battles you would expect from a typical Star Wars adventure.

There are really two main characters, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn); the former is the daughter of the Death Star designer and criminal-turned-rebel hero. Jones carries this role out with aplomb, confidently and ably leading the film and the band of rebels as they go about their mission. It’s notable that female leads and heroines are becoming more commonplace these days; and she looks every bit the part.

Mendelsohn’s Krennic is the overseer of the Death Star’s construction and has the intimidating duo of Grand Moff Tarkin (more on him later) and Darth Vader breathing down his neck – quite loudly in some obvious cases. He shows an intimidating side when dealing with his foes and underlings; and an intimidated side when dealing with his superiors.

The support cast are also excellent, if underused. Perhaps “underused” is not the right phrase, but even the male good-guy lead, Diego Luna (playing Cassian Andor), is not that present in the film. Donnie Yen plays the nearest-to-a-Jedi Knight we have in the blind martial arts expert Chirrut Îmwe, who, while not attuned to the force, is certainly a believer in the light side. Of course a blind, force worshipping martial artist with a big staff that beats up stormtroopers automatically becomes one of the coolest characters. Mads Mikkelsen plays Jyn’s dad and the reluctant designer and developer of the Empire’s biggest weapon. Whilst we don’t see too much of Mikkelsen he is, as always, on top form. However, the show stealer is the droid K-2SO who has all the charm of C3PO and R2D2 but three time as much wit.

Just briefly back to Tarkin, who in A New Hope was played by the late, great, Peter Cushing. Now, rather than recast the role – tricky considering this version is the same age as he is in Episode IV – or leave the character out altogether, they have rendered him completely via CGI.

Now the likeness is uncanny, but it is quite obviously CGI. Was it needless? Perhaps. But I was willing to overlook it. Strange when you consider how all the CGI additions that George Lucas added in wound be up no end. But I know that, Lucas involved or not, LUCASARTS and LUCASFILM have always looked to push boundaries in terms of effects and technology, which I suppose should always be encouraged.

The film is beautiful to look at. Some of the locations they have used for some of the (stupidly named) planets just look stunning. There are enough nods and call backs to the original trilogy to keep fans happy without laying it on as thick as Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Oh, and there is just the right amount of Vader.

Perhaps not as enjoyable as last year’s The Force Awakens – which invoked the same amount of excitement in me as the original Star Wars – and perhaps more recently Guardians of the GalaxyRouge One is certainly less flawed, more gritty, and tells a good, self contained story.

Independence Day: Resurgence

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Perhaps there was a modicum of irony in seeing a film titled ‘Independence Day’ on the day when the UK ‘Brexited’ the European Union, but on Friday, with the future of the human race (ok, European politics) in the balance, I went to watch the long awaited sequel to the 1996 blockbuster hit.

Resurgence takes place 20 years after the events of the original in an alternate timeline where the victory over the alien invaders has unified humanity and led to 20 years of peace on Earf, an advancement in technology and improved Earf defence as a return from the bad guys is expected.

Will Smith’s character, Captain Steven Hiller, does not return, killed off in some promo material for the film, but Jeff Goldblum is back as genius science ‘boffin’ David Levinson. He is joined by the returning Bill Pullman as ex-president Whitmore, as well as Judd Hirsch and Brent Spiner – and also Vivica Fox, whose character has had one hell of an upwards career trajectory.

Joining the heroes from the war of ’96 are Independence Day: The New Class, with Liam Hemsworth playing rebellious pilot Jake Morrison, Jessie Usher as Dylan ‘son of Smith’ Hiller, Maika Monroe as Whitmore’s daughter, as well as some others that we aren’t given the chance to care about.

And therein lies the biggest problem. The new cast are just so bland and boring. Now, they are not helped by a script that never gives us time to get to know them or know about them and some clunky as hell dialogue.

I suppose Hemsworth ‘the Lesser’ is fine. I think I may prefer him in this to the Hunger Games, but the other two new leads are just terrible. I mean out of this world bad. Usher as Hiller Jr is void of charm of charisma and is just wooden. Will Smith, who played his step-dad 20 years ago, with his personality and the way he can revel in this type of film, would have improved the movie. Instead we are left with someone who is meant to rally the troops and the audience but can barely muster a modicum of excitement.

Monroe as Whitmore’s daughter, the Whitmore who stirred the world with his rousing speech to send the human race to victory and freedom, is just as bad as Usher.

And the forced rapport between characters is terrible. Hemsworth and Monroe’s characters are an item. Before the aliens return, in a brief scene where we are meant to begin caring about these people, they mention buying a house but she shows little interest. Then amidst the destruction, she brings up the houses, for no reason, to which Hemsworth replies ‘if it’s still there’. Just… horrible.

However, this is not the worst line of the film. That goes to the new president who, when aliens find her hidden base/hole in the mountain, she declares, stoically: ‘There will be no peace.’

Which was obvious when the aliens destroyed half of Earf without even a hello.

While the dialogue is poor, perhaps getting the audience on board with the characters could have been improved by getting rid of some of the guff and replacing it with more time with the main cast.

For example, we could cut all the nonsense with Judd Hirsch’s Levinson snr, anything with Vivica Fox would have not taken away anything from the film, and probably even improved it.

It sounds like I hated the film doesn’t it? After all I’ve spent the whole review slagging it off. However, I still had fun.

Goldblum is good as Levinson, just as he was 20 years ago. Pullman was also on form as the troubled ex-president, as was Brent Spiner as the presumed dead Area 51 Scientist. If anything almost saves the film, it is the returning cast.

I also liked and appreciated the world building, and the way in which director Roland Emmerich – a man whose name is synonymous with modern disaster films – has chosen to explain to us what exactly has happened between the events of the first movie and this; such as the fact that there were still some aliens on Earf. It was interesting – and could have done with more of it.

It is not perfect by any means, and in some places is just really stupid. But providing you are not some kind of snob who looks down on this kind of film and can switch your brain off for 120 minutes, you will spend it not being bored (in spite of the films many issues) and at the end of the day, is that not what you want from a sequel 20 years in the making about an alien invasion?

Although, the setup for the threequel is just… mind bogglingly stupid.

The Jungle Book – More Than The Bare Necessities

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Remakes are a cause for concern in the world of cinema. Not many of them work, or can hold a candle to the original. An almost all CGI/digitally rendered version of the Jungle Book? Brave? Yes. Worth doing? No.

My thoughts until I saw the trailer.

It looked dark, exciting and very real, but that did not mean the film would be the same. Luckily it was.

Like most people who had a childhood, Disney films are remembered fondly. None more so than the 1967 version of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. The story, as I’m sure all the readers know: human child Mowgli lost in the jungle as a baby, raised by wolves and hated by the tiger Shere Khan. The movie is iconic for its characters and its catchy tunes.

The 2016 version, directed by Iron Man‘s John Favreau, is a darker and more grown up version but still retains its sense of fun. The plot is basic, but you don’t need something intricate; it is the performances, visuals and action that make the film a joy to watch.

It certainly is brave to make an almost exclusively CGI movie (I suppose it would have been braver to do a live action movie with a child acting with dangerous animals). We’ve all seen the flack that the Star Wars prequels and Hobbit movies got for excessive use of the green screen.

Here it works though. The jungle looks beautiful; from the muddy ravines and hillsides traversed by herds of wildebeests, to the wolf packs home and Baloo’s lush looking place of residence. The animals look amazing as well. Very real (I should know, I’ve been to Monkey World and Longleat) and you can see a lot of work has gone in to making both appearance and movement accurate. The only minor gripe is the smaller animals, which to me at least, looked very computer generated.

However, it is the voice acting that makes this film. Every single one is spot on. Idris Elba perhaps steals the show as the menacing Shere Khan, hell bent on killing Mowgli. He makes the character wonderfully menacing and intimidating. He really makes the tiger sound like someone to fear.

Of course, Bill Murray is great at as the fun loving Baloo. His singing voice might not be the best but if you cannot enjoy his rendition of the Bare Necessities then there is something wrong with you, you joyless misery. Sir Ben Kingsley is also wonderful as the wise protector of Mowgli, Bagheera.

You can almost run down the cast list and tick off every one doing a voice as top drawer. Scarlett Johansson in her brief appearance as Kaa is eerie and Christopher Walken puts in a great turn as the no-longer-an-orangutan King Louie.

Neel Sethi, as the only real thing in this movie, also does well. It seems a very natural performance and it looks like he’s having fun with it. Don’t forget this is a kid in his first major role working with, for the most part, things that are not there.

The best compliment you can give to the voice acting is that now, in my head, those actors and actresses voices are those characters whereas before seeing this I could still hear those from the 1967 version. Elba et al have over ridden those voices in my mind.

The Jungle Book is a beautifully crafted retelling of a classic story and well worth seeing. I only saw it in 2D but have a feeling it is one of few films where 3D works.

Oh and stick around for the end credits.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..

My love affair with Star Wars began in 1997 when they were re-released in to cinemas for the 20th anniversary of A New Hope hitting the silver screen. I was 10 or 11 and had not seen them on television before – or at least not to my recollection.

Sure, I’d seen other big action films before. I had certainly seen Jaws and Jurassic Park – and I am sure that I had seen Apollo 13 too. All great, but nothing blew me away quite like Star Wars.

When ‘A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away’ hit the screen, followed by the fanfare, opening crawl and shots of spaceships in battle, I was overawed and in love straight away.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no geek or nerd, and you won’t find me at Comic-Con or bidding on eBay for the mint condition collectable of ‘second alien from the right in the Mos Eisley Cantina’. But if there are two things I’m obsessed with, then it’s football and Star Wars. That’s in spite of the prequels trying to dampen my love for them.

So, when Disney bought the rights from George Lucas and announced a new trilogy plus spinoffs, bidding to build a Star Wars version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, my excitement was tempered by trepidation. Would this be another Gungan filled Phantom Menace, or a return to form?

I’m happy to say it was the latter; a fun film that just felt like Star Wars. There were no trade disputes or convoluted issues in the senate hall. It was fun, it was exciting, it was intriguing, it was emotional, it was laugh out loud funny and it was dark.

Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2D2, C3PO and The Millennium Falcon all return to the franchise along with a number of background and secondary characters, giving call backs to the original trilogy (not much, if anything, from the prequels found its way to this to this corner of the galaxy) making certain that you are in Star Wars territory.

In fact, Han and Chewie are their usual, roguish, all-action selves. You can’t help but love the pair and feel a twinge of joy and nostalgia most of the time that they are on the screen.

However, it’s the new cast members that steal the show. This was John Boyega and Daisy Ridley’s big screen debut – arguably Adam Driver’s as well – and they perform admirably. Certainly adapting to and growing into their roles, as the reluctant heroes Finn and Rey, and the villainous Kylo Ren.

Kylo Ren is dark. Really dark. Darker than the darkside dark; conflicted and irrational. You get this real sense of menace from him. Although Snokes (his ‘boss’) lacked that and one of the downsides was his CGI appearance – not to give too much away, as I’m sure there’s more to come.

The Tarkin, to Ren’s Vader, was played by Domhall Gleeson. A small role performed well – again, hopefully there’s more to come in subsequent films.

It was as though Ridley and Boyega had to come out of this on top. One minor gripe from me: Their thick British and American accents respectively did grate a little bit.

Other than that though, they were both excellent. Especially when you consider it was two relative unknowns taking over the reins in cinema’s biggest franchise. I’ve no doubt big things await the pair.

Finally, Oscar Isaac was great in the limited role he was given as an X-Wing pilot and modern-day Han Solo, Poe Dameron. Charming, funny and adventurous; it will be good to see an expanded role for the Resistance’s best pilot in future films.

The action was as you would expect: Fast paced and fun, with jokes aplenty (more than any of the originals). Whereas the comedy in the prequels fell flat, this hit all of the right notes. And, of course, John Williams scores the film perfectly.

JJ Abrams has proven that he was the right choice for director. He rebooted Star Trek well enough for the big screen – although Into Darkness had its problems – and was trusted with this. He put the right team around him and successfully pulled it off.

I’m sure the film has its faults. Maybe once I calm down I’ll notice them? Still, it was a joy to watch and left me with a smile on my face, but still wanting more.

It’s not the best Star Wars film, but it is better than any of the prequels by some way and I think it is as good as Return of the Jedi, if not better.

Krampus

Krampus

I have a funny relationship with Christmas. I love the festive season but not too early. Decorations in October? Adverts in November? Not for me, it gets on my nerves. But usually a week or two before the big day I get swept up in the holiday season.

This year my Christmas spirit arrived earlier than usual and rather strangely through the horror comedy Krampus, about an evil Christmas spirit, and I don’t mean your dad’s homemade sloe gin.

Krampus was written and directed by Michael Dougherty (the man behind cult horror Trick r Treat) and stars Adam Scott (of Parks and Rec fame) and Toni Collette (from The Sixth Sense), as well as a few other recognisable faces.

The film begins as a traditional dysfunctional family Christmas; unwanted family coming to stay, issues at hand and things not being ready on time. In fact the opening scene set in a shopping mall is brilliantly done.

Things come to a head when youngest child Max – after bullying by his cousins and the contents of his letter to Santa being revealed – stops believing in the real meaning of Christmas and accidentally invokes a horribly dark and evil incarnation of Santa, Krampus, encountered once many years previous by Max’s gran Omi.

The film plays for laughs as much as it plays for shocks and scares, which was something I did not expect going in, thinking it would be a straight forward horror.

Whilst it is a horror film and is extremely dark in places – horrible creatures taking children and so on – it certainly draws influence from the likes of Gremlins and Cabin in the Woods, playing up to many horror tropes. Evil gingerbread men and toy robots get as many laughs as they do jumps.

You also get a creepy feeling. Elves, snowmen, toys and reindeer should not be twisted and intimidating but here they are and with good effect.

Performance wise everyone is good but not great. No-one stands out as amazing but as a cast they pull together to make the film funny and very, very dark.

Krampus himself is a creepy and intimidating creature, briefly seen until towards the end, and you almost want the real Father Christmas to swoop in to banish Krampus back to the underworld.

With so many films, past and present, being overly saccharine and ramming Christmas down our mince pie filled throats and falling flat, Krampus almost scares you into believing in the true meaning of Christmas.

If you want to start feeling Christmassy, don’t bother with Love Actually, Muppets Christmas Carol or Die Hard, but instead watch this ho-ho-ho-rror and let Krampus make your spine tingle all the way.

Box Office Bombs 2015: Mortdecai

Failed Critics Podcast host and dashing gent, Steve Norman, returns to his Box Office Bombs series to tackle Mortdecai…

Starring: Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany

Budget: $60m

Global Takings: $47.3m

Loss: $12.7m

Johnny Depp is a good actor, there’s no denying it. But in the last few years or so, his film choices have been pretty woeful. Whilst the recent gangster movie Black Mass was a partial return to form, recently we have seen him in Dark Shadows, Transcendence, The Lone Ranger and he has also ran his excellent Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean into the ground, with more films in that franchise to follow.

Mortdecai continues that trend. I mean, was anyone really encouraged by the trailers? It played before every film I saw in the run up to its release and every time I met it with a sigh of exasperation, despair and an ‘oh f*** off’.

So the film is about an eccentric British art collector and aristocrat who becomes involved in an art theft and subsequent plot to steal Nazi treasure or some such nonsense. It’s essentially a rejected plot for National Treasure 4 with a few adjustments.

Everything in Mortdecai is a shambles. The accents of Depp, McGregor, Paltrow and Bettany come straight out of TalkSport adverts. Why is everyone in this film talking like its early 20th century when it’s set in the modern day? It really grates after a while. Depp sounds like he’s in a Fast Show sketch. Paul Whitehouse in his cameo clearly thinks he’s in one.

The action falls flat. They try to play it with a modicum of humour, kind of like what you see in Kingsman, but it is neither exciting, funny nor choreographed well. For actions scenes they are quite dull.

The humour is just awful. The running jokes about moustaches, or Paul Bettany’s ‘Jock Strapp’ (yes that is his actual name, if Mortdecai had a butler in this he’d probably have been called T Bagg) being some prolific lady’s man, were tiresome at best.

Paltrow has previously played the partner of an eccentric millionaire (ok, perhaps billionaire) when playing Pepper Potts in Iron Man. She can clearly do that well and have fun with it. Why she doesn’t bother here is beyond me. Ewan McGregor brings back his Obi Wan Kenobi voice but even the force couldn’t save this movie, it needs a death star to destroy everyone involved with it.

Mortdecai has the same kind of feel that Austin Powers had. It’s that kind of film. It’s trying to be a comic spy film with a central character out of place or out of touch. And while I suspect that Austin Powers has aged badly, at least at the time of release of perhaps even all three films in that trilogy, I found some enjoyment and some laughs in them.  Mortdecai lacks that.

All in all, there is nothing to like about this film. The jokes fall flat, the performances are annoying and the ‘action’ is dull.

Johnny Depp seriously needs to sack his agent.

Ronaldo

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Cristiano Ronaldo may appear on the surface to be an uninspiring and uninteresting subject for a documentary. After all, despite being one of, if not the best footballers in the world, he is a preening, arrogant superstar more interested in his image and individual glory more than anything else.

However, Anthony Wonke and Asif Kapadia, the team behind the documentaries on the late Formula 1 driver Aryten Senna and singer Amy Winehouse have managed to produce a film that gives an insight into the person as well as the player.

The central themes are his rivalry with Lionel Messi, his desire to be the very best player he can be and his relationship with his family; especially his son.

Without giving too much away, it is his family life and learning about where he came from – a relatively less well-off life in Madeira – that provides the most interest, especially as a football fan.

The major difference between this and Wonke and Kapadia’s previous work is that the subject, Ronaldo, is alive and well and probably had some say over what could go in to the final cut. Whereas Senna and Winehouse were long dead when their life stories were told by the duo.

Ronaldo himself is very divisive. In this and subsequent interviews given around the release of this film he comes across as both very arrogant and very humble. He knows how attractive he is, how good he is at football and how loved he is and he loves to let people know as well.

But also he comes across as an excellent father (to a son he named after himself), a loving son and sibling and somebody who can talk openly and honestly about his strained relationship with his now deceased father and the fact that he does not drink because if his dad’s alcoholism.

Perhaps the one thing it doesn’t make much of is his charity work, how much he does for various charities in terms of both work and donations, and that he does not have any tattoos so he can continue to give blood a number of times a year.

Although including this may have made the documentary come across as sycophantic, too heavily influenced by the player himself and more of a publicity piece than an insight in to the man.

There are better sports documentaries out there; most of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and Senna to name a few. But this is worth a watch, especially for fans of the beautiful game.

If you are a football fan, you might not take anything away from this. You may know enough about the Portugal international already, or your allegiances to certain clubs and nations may have already given you an unwavering opinion on the man.

However, if you do not know much about football, or much about Ronaldo the person, you may just learn that the way he comes across on the pitch and off the pitch are very different.

Ronaldo is in cinemas across the UK right now. Check out the trailer below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33gTb1v3wds]

Training (S1 Ep4)

With one episode of The Office (US) already entered into our 100 Greatest TV Episodes series by Kate, Failed Critics podcast host Steve has taken it upon himself to induct his favourite episode from the original UK show. And it’s about damn time!

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

the office trainingI could quote The Office endlessly. It’s funny how a good show can permeate the mind like that. For some, it’s Only Fools and Horses or Monty Python. For others it’s The Mighty Boosh or I’m Alan Partridge. For me, it used to be Phoenix Nights.

Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant’s creation is a work of genius and lives long in the memory. The jokes range from side splittingly hilarious to cringe inducing laughs.

Undoubtedly the best episode comes from Series One and is titled ‘Training’. It has the three main protagonists of the show, Tim, Gareth and David, all at their best. It also taught me that a postage stamp is legal tender and should be accepted by bus drivers.

The episode centres around staff training at Wernham Hogg and Brent is at his obnoxious best. Constantly interrupting the outside teacher Rowan, thinking he knows better. Who can forget the exchange ending in ‘I THINK THERE’S BEEN A RAPE UP THERE….GET. THEIR. ATTENTION.’ Or the equally brilliant ‘There is no room 362 in this hotel. Sometimes the complaints will be false.’

It also introduces his back catalogue of tunes from the sombre Princess Di tribute ‘Goodnight My Sweet Princess’ to the epic ‘Freelove Freeway’ (which incidentally I think I know all the words to).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEtQj9wuqhs]

Gareth is at his moronic best – ‘Shouldn’t be allowed around animals then’ and ‘two girls, sisters, me just watching.’ Tim, who the viewer should be watching the show through the eyes of – the downtrodden office worker with a lack of ambition and drive and one small glimmer of hope in his life, Dawn – suffers the agony of rejection as the receptionist gets back with massive dickhead Lee and shows his frustration towards his irritating colleague and clueless boss.

Whilst Gareth and Brent are giving you the laughs in abundance, Tim is, well, not so much making you tear up, but making you annoyed with his co-workers . You genuinely feel for him and are frustrated for him. You will him to get Dawn and leave ‘The Office’. You want him to succeed, but deep down know he won’t.

The Office was always able to make you crack up with laughter but also feel genuine sadness or happiness for its relatable characters. Whether it’s Tim getting with Dawn, or Brent getting one over on Finchy, or Brent pleading for his job. It’s what all the best sitcoms do and this episode’s is that at its very best.

You can catch up on all of the entries to our 100 Greatest TV Episodes here and find Steve every week on our film podcast.

San Andreas

Podcast host Steve Norman has been to see the latest disaster film starring the Rock and picks the faults with San Andreas.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

san andreasDisaster films often disappoint. While the likes of Twister, Volcano, 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow portray the worst kinds of weather and natural disasters they make the viewer experience the same kind of peril that standing in a puddle would.

In fact the only ‘disaster movie’ of any note is Impossible, the movie starring Ewan McGregor and based on the real story of a family caught up in the 2006 Boxing Day Tsunami in Asia but of course this is very different to the Hollywood bombastic blockbusters.

Across the board these movies fail with boring plots, over the top CGI and dull performances from the cast.

San Andreas matches those movies almost step for step. You have a protagonist from a broken family, a child in trouble, a dickhead who gets his comeuppance and some (probably, I’m no seismologist) awful, awful science, although not as awful as 2012’s mutating neutrinos.

In fact the only thing that pulls this film into watchable-yet-forgettable territory, instead of the disappointing-and-forgettable area, is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (I’m not sure which he wants to go by so I hedged my bets). He has the charisma that Dennis Quaid lacked in TDAT and is far more believable in the role of leading action hero than John Cusack in 2012. The Rock is exactly the kind of person you want at the helm here. He is toned down from the almost cartoonish character he plays in the Fast and Furious franchise but still an all-out action hero.

Other than the Rock, there aren’t many positives. However, the special effects and set pieces are spectacular and exciting. The negatives are in abundance though. Despite the mass destruction, you never feel that the central cast are in any real danger and the story meanders at a very predictable pace.

You also have Paul Giamatti playing the scientist guy. He seems a bit out of place; comes across as if he’s phoning in his performance. Giamatti just doesn’t seem to commit to the role. He and his band of science people have come up with a way of predicting earthquakes and are annoyed when people don’t listen to them despite them having come up with their new hypothesis one day before the proverbial hits the fan and they probably haven’t even put the results in to report form yet.

We have two English brothers who have the most annoying, over the top – and in the case of the Australian playing the older brother – fake accents. In fact, other than the Rock trying to find his daughter, and his daughter trying to be found, all other characters are pretty irrelevant to the plot.

Oh, and there’s a fleeting appearance from Kylie Minouge.

And the ending. Oh my god. Such American patriotic bilge. This may not have been appropriate.

San Andreas is decent in the switch your brain off and watch some over the top action kind of way but it is ultimately instantly forgettable and they only time you’re likely to watch it again is when it becomes one of those films that ITV 2 repeat three times a week and you have spent the last hour indecisively flicking through Netflix.

And you will be able to hear Steve talk about San Andreas on the next episode of the Failed Critics Podcast.

Failed Critics Podcast: Lorraine in the Membrane

imitation gameThis week the Failed Critics join the Scottish BAFTA’s in paying homage to Lorraine Kelly, review new releases The Imitation Game and The Drop as well as having a look at the latest series of The Walking Dead and expose David Attenborough.

There was even time for Carole to review Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine; for Owen to review the documentary An Honest Liar; and for Steve to give us a run down of which bears are better than Paddington.

Join us next week for the new release, the first part of the last part of The Hunger Games films.

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’71

“..certainly one of the best British films of 2014 and will hopefully be considered that come award season.”

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

71The Troubles in Northern Ireland were not something I was taught about in school, perhaps as, with the Good Friday Agreement taking place in 1998, when I was eight years old, it was not yet ‘History’ and was, and probably still is, fresh in the minds of many British and Irish people or perhaps it was to complex and difficult a situation to teach schoolchildren about, even at GCSE level.

If you are looking for a film that looks into this period of history this is not it. 1970’s Northern Ireland is just a backdrop for the movie. It could easily have been set in Afghanistan or Iraq in the last 15 years or so, occupied France in World War 2 or perhaps any conflict of the last century.

This film does not pick a side. It plays it completely neutral and straight down the middle showing that there are/were good people and bad people on both sides of the conflict. There is a line where a young child asks the main character, Gary Hook, played by Jack O’Connell, if he is Catholic or Protestant and he replies ‘I don’t know’.

What you do get is a tense thriller about a young soldier stuck behind enemy lines with people out hunting for him and to ultimately kill him.

The film really knows how to ramp up the tension and sense of foreboding, whether it is through a chase through the back streets of Belfast with gunmen on Gary Hook’s tail or the young private hiding in an outhouse or alley way in the dark from a mob wielding weapons and Molotov cocktails.

This is done superbly by the direction of Yann Demange and the soundtrack which helps set the mood. I felt more tense and ‘scared’ watching ’71 than I have watching many modern horror films.

There is also a scene involving a bomb blast in a pub which is so realistic and effective it feels like you were in the explosion itself while sat in your cinema seat.

Jack O’Connell is undoubtedly the star and the most important character in the film but has very little dialogue. It would not be surprising to find out that many of the supporting cast had more lines than him.

However his performance is not hampered in any way at all. O’Connell seems to thrive in this role and can express his emotions, the fear and panic felt and the aggression and anger in a few scenes without needing to open his mouth.

Unfortunately it is not all positive and the film does let itself down towards the end. ’71 has a subplot involving some undercover agents which never really adds to it in anyway but as it comes to the fore in the closing stages it kind of takes the sheen off of a very polished film.

Still the film is easily worth watching and is certainly one of the best British films of 2014 and will hopefully be considered that come award season. O’Connell is set for big things following this and turns in Starred Up and Skins and it will be interesting to see how he does in the Angelina Jolie directed Unbroken later this year.

’71 is still in cinemas right now, catch it before it drops out. You can also hear Steve, Owen and Carole talk about ’71 on the upcoming podcast!

The Week In Film – 16 October 2014: Four-Four-F***ing-Two

If there’s one thing that gets Steve more excited than football related news, it’s football related film news. And we’re not referring to the revelation this week that Michael Owen hates all movies.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

mike bassettFailed Critics: England Manager

One of my favourite, and most under-rated comedies, Mike Bassett: England Manager, has a sequel. Personally I’m worried it will not live up to the original although a title of Mike Bassett: Interim Manager hints that it may still take a witty, satirical look at the beautiful game.

For £5k I could have a speaking part. So come on, put your money where your mouth is and get me on the big screen.

The Viewing Dead

Zombie series The Walking Dead broke all US cable records this weekend with the premier of its fifth season. 17.3 million tuned in to see Rick, Daryl and their group of survivors fight back against their captors at Terminus.

This beat the previous record of 16.1 million set by the shows fourth season premier. The show’s popularity was further enhanced due to the fact that over 12 million illegal downloads were made worldwide within the 24 hours after it aired.

The action packed opener will hopefully set the tone for a good series. Most previous seasons have featured strong beginnings and ends but have sagged in the middle. With the story taking slight deviations from the comic book we may see some fresh and interesting ideas and characters.

Where’s the News?

A lot of the time when researching this weekly article websites pass off new trailers or posters as news.

Is that actually news? Not in my book. It’s advertising.

Why Are Pirates Called Pirates? Because They Javi-ARRGHHH

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tells No Tales looks set to be the fifth POTC movie and is due for a 2017 release. Former Bond villain Javier Bardem has been linked with playing the protagonist to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.

Superhero Section

Big news coming out of Marvel this week with the announcement that Robert Downey Jr. will play Iron Man in Captain America 3.

No plot details have been revealed as of yet but the poster/artwork released may suggests, and will no doubt fuel the Twitter rumours that Steve Rodger’s third solo movie will take the Civil War storyline from the comic books to the big screen.

In Civil War Iron Man and Cap go head to head along with many other superheroes, good and bad, and has far reaching implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even more so than Cap 2.

Of course this could all be bluff and double bluff and the film is comprised of completely original material.

Elsewhere in Marvel Ewan McGregor is the latest actor to be linked with the Doctor Strange role joining the likes of Keanu Reeves and Ethan Hawke as the frontrunners to play the sorcerer?superman batman

Outside of Marvel Michael Keaton has revealed that he would be up for playing Batman again. Hardly a huge revelation, I’m sure Adam West would be as well if you asked him.

DC have also said that Wonder Woman’s origins will be revealed in Batman vs Superman but rather than an Amazonian she will be the daughter of Zeus, according to producer Charles Roven anyway.

Quite why the origin of a popular and well established character needs to be changed is beyond me, and most people and it just gives another reason for people to doubt the movie.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.

The Week In Film – 9 October 2014: Who Do They Think They’re Kidding?

Tell us, Steve. What’s happened in the world of film news in the past week..?

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

dads army 2DON’T PANIC

Sitcom Dad’s Army is being given a big screen makeover nearly 40 years after the T.V. show stopped being made.

Rumours of a film adaptation have been around for some time but this week a cast has been announced, some four decades after Captain Mainwaring uttered the fantastic line ‘don’t tell them your name, Pike’.

Toby Jones will play Mainwaring, the man in charge of Walmington On Sea’s Home Guard unit during World War 2. Billy Nighy takes on the role of Sergeant Arthur Wilson and the Inbetweeners Blake Harrison steps into Ian Lavender’s shoes as Private Pike while Michael Gambon, Danny Mays and Catherine Zeta-Jones are all set to feature.

The cast is pretty impressive and encouraging but the writer is the man behind Johnny English: Reborn and Mr Bean’s Holiday. So there is cause for both concern and positivity around this venture.

Anyway since the announcement the theme tune has been stuck in my head and I like most of you have it committed to memory.

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler…

Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Befuddle

J.K Rowling was in cryptic form this week tweeting the following anagram

Cry, foe! Run amok! Fa awry! My wand won’t tolerate this nonsense.

Some believed this to mean a return to either the silver screen or to book/e-book for Harry Potter but apparently not. However, the Potter universe, or the Potterverse as it will be hereby be known, is to be expanded with a movie based on a minor character from the books/films, Newt Scamander.

I Do It On The Night

Hugh Grant revealed live on television that he is a lazy so and so who does not prepare for roles.

He told some ITV morning programme (not Jeremey Kyle – now that would be an interesting lie detector) “I’ve barely ever done any research for a film. I just turn up and say the lines and hope they sound convincing.”

Sometimes it really does show Hugh.

Indecisive Man

Robert Downey Jr. signs on to Iron Man 4 according to reports, but then the man himself denies it on US T.V.

This leaves the Iron Man section of the Avengers/Marvel franchise up in the air. Will they leave it alone or will War Machine or someone else become Iron Man?

Downey Jr. did however reveal he would remain involved with Marvel suggesting that while he may no longer be up for standalone Iron Man outings he will stick around for future Avengers assembles.iron man 2

Comic Book News

With Comic Book movies and shows so popular and rife it may just be worth having a section of this weekly roundup dedicated to anything from the genre.

So briefly there may be an X-Men live action T.V series from Fox to partner the upcoming Deadpool; Dredd looks set for a seven episode mini-series although there is no news on Karl Urban’s involvement; and once again tentative whispers about Sony and Marvel working together to see Spider-Man appear in something produced by Marvel.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.

The Week in Film – 5 October 2014: I Am Legend, Pilgrim

Plenty of news has happened in the past week. Today’s article is brought to you by the words ‘franchise’ and ‘retrofit’.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

I Am, Wait for It, Legend

the searchersWe often speak of reboots in this column but this week we are talking about a retrofit.

After deciding that there is no real sensible way to do a prequel or sequel to Will Smith’s I Am Legend Warner Bros have just decided to release another version by converting a screenplay known as The Garden at the End of the World which was meant to be an adaptation of  the John Wayne flick The Searchers?

With me? No? Well I am not with me either.

The last I Am Legend, starring Smith, was a good effort, except for the ending which a) wasn’t the original one and b) nothing like the book ending. Smith put in a very good performance in what was an average yet watchable movie.

That thought, and this new effort, will not top Charlton Heston’s Omega Man. Nor Vincent Price’s The Last Man On Earth for that matter!

Tetris

I often claim that Hollywood has run out of original ideas with sequels, prequels, retrofits and reboots being the order of the day. However with the news that Tetris is set to be made into a movie I have changed my mind. Maybe original ideas should be banned if this is what is being considered.

Many video games and toys have been turned into movies, including Lego, Super Mario and Tomb Raider and Battleship, but a film about different shaped, different coloured blocks, falling into the correct gaps and holes with no characters, plot or story is pathetic.

Really?

So a Baywatch movie with Dwayne Johnson in the lead role, sans a Hasselhoff cameo, is in the pipeline?

A Baywatch movie appears to be an original idea but yet another bad one.

The Doctor is Out

Marvel’s desire to introduce more and more new characters in their ever expanding universe hit a bit of a snag after Joaquin Phoenix dropped out of talks to play comic book hero Doctor Strange.

The film is pencilled in for a summer release in 2016, under two years away so the Marvel team need to get a shuffle on casting their leading man with Tom Hardy, Ethan Hawke and Jared Leto linked to the role.star wars rebels

Rebel Rebel

Before the first episode was even aired animation Star Wars: Rebels was granted a second series.

Although clearly aimed at kids, the show will be broadcast on DisneyXD, it will clearly have a wide audience and is the first thing Disney have put out since acquiring LucasFilm. It will bridge the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and will apparently tease a few things about Episode VII.

The Bourne Confusion

A couple of weeks we spoke about Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass returning to the Bourne franchise and the sequel to the Jeremey Renner outing becoming the fourth Damon Bourne movie with Renner’s one being pushed back.

Now Renner is chatting about a crossover. Jeremy, I bet you end up annoyed at being sidelined as you did in the Avengers.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.