All posts by James Diamond

Failed Critics Podcast: End of Year Special!

Like our beloved founder and his gut/disdain for the films of Seth MacFarlane, we’re sure that you can’t contain your excitement for the 2014 Failed Critics Awards any longer! It’s that most magical time if year again, where four people who’ve seen some films this year are shunned by their family, set up in a dark corner of the house with their laptop and some booze, and talk you through the good, the bad, and the ugly in cinema from the last twelve months.

Steve and Owen are joined by Matt Lambourne and prodigal son James Diamond as they attempt to better last week’s quiz (not hard), discuss the year’s films in a calm and rational manner (considerably harder), and try and make it sound like it was at least recorded on the same continent (hmmmmm…).

We all want to thank each and every one of you for listening over the last twelve months. God knows why you still do, but we love you for it. Have a great Christmas and a brilliant New Year! We’ll be back in the first week of January with a slightly different format and our review of Birdman.

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2014 in Review: A Soundtrack

Aside from very generously offering to collate the votes in our Failed Critics Awards 2014, James has also found time to return to the site to run through his favourite soundtracks of the past 12 months. The big question is, of course, did he manage to find something to get even more excited about than when Kristen Wiig sand a David Bowie song last year? Let’s find out…

by James Diamond (@CarlVaggio)

Apart from the awards themselves, this is always the most fun article I get to write for the site. And these days it’s pretty much the only article I get around to writing. I’m at the age now where I don’t really feel like I need any more music, and I’ve certainly stopped listening to the radio or watching MTV. Or even VH1. Almost all of the new music on my mp3 player these days comes from film soundtracks, and this article is a small celebration of the brilliant songs I’ve heard used in films this year. Some of them are old friends seen in a brand new light, while some are original compositions that won me over. All of them have been earworms at 6am at one point or another over the year. So, in no particular order…

Frank’s Most Likeable Song Ever (Frank)

Lenny Abrahamson’s film (loosely inspired by author/screenwriter Jon Ronson’s time as a keyboard player with Frank Sidebottom) has a number of great musical moments that deserve a place on this list, as befitting a great musical road movie that takes elements from films like Spinal Tap and the Leningrad Cowboys films. Jon’s (Domnhall Gleeson) opening scenes walking around his suburban town and failing miserably to gain inspiration from his surroundings are delightful, while the performances of Frank’s band The Soronprfbs are all very watchable. However, this thirty second ditty sums up the inner turmoil of the outsider artist who deep down just wants to be loved.

Hooked on a Feeling (Guardians of the Galaxy)

The soundtrack for James Gunn’s Marvel space opera was a wonderful concept, taking the form of the cassette that was Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) only remaining possession from his childhood on earth, and as such was packed with some cracking songs from the 1970s. I’m cheating a little bit though, as although this song was used well within the film itself, I’m choosing it here purely for its appearance in the film’s first trailer. I had mixed expectations of the film when it was announced, but hearing the familiar OOGA-CHAKA chant and refrain of the chorus towards the end, coupled with the original (and superior in my opinion) tagline “You’re Welcome” completely put my mind at ease. This film was never going to be anything but great fun.

Interrogation Song (Muppets Most Wanted)

A little like the second series of Flight of the Conchords, Brett McKenzie’s songs for this film initially suffered in comparison to the accessibility of his first efforts, and much like that underrated second season, the songs in Muppets Most Wanted prove to have a depth and charm that easily matches those from the 2012 ‘original’. ‘We’re Doing a Sequel’ would have been the obvious choice, opening the film in a self-referential and tongue-in-cheek fashion (“we can’t do any worse than The Godfather 3”), but it’s this classic musical song starring Sam the Eagle and Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell) that stole the show for me. Surely a Brett McKenzie-penned Broadway musical is on the cards?

Live and Let Die (American Hustle)

Last year’s article featured a hilarious performance from a great actor lip-syncing to a cheesy but enjoyable chart classic, and this year is no different. American Hustle’s soundtrack is probably my favourite collection of songs released this year, and everyone one of them is used with clinical precision in David O. Russell’s heavily nominated, but not hugely liked (except by me it seems) true-crime thriller. Jennifer Lawrence did two things in this film that I will forever love her for. The first is introducing the phrase ‘science oven’ into my lexicon, and the second is this; miming to Wings’ Live and Let Die while doing the housework in front of her stunned son.

Everything is Awesome (The Lego Movie)

This is another one of those moments when very early into a film everything just clicked and I settled in to enjoy the ride. If you follow me on Twitter, listened to me on the podcast, or were simply unfortunate enough to bump into me in the street, then you probably know how much love and respect I have for The Lego Movie. I’ll be going into more depth on the Failed Critics Awards podcast, and in my review of the year piece next week, so I’ll just leave you to enjoy a clip from the funniest and most heart-warming advert ever made.

Higgs Boson Blues (20,000 Days on Earth)

I almost feel like I’m cheating here, as this clip is essentially a performance by one of the most electric and interesting frontmen in rock. Of course this documentary/concert film/therapy session about Nick Cave was going to grab a spot on my list, and I don’t care how unfair anyone says it is. The clip I’ve chosen is the recording session for one of the tacks from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds most recent album, Push the Sky Away. Concert films are pretty common, but we don’t very often get a chance to glimpse into the creative process, something which this film is brilliant at showing us.

Please Mr Kennedy (Inside Llewyn Davis)

From a very real recording session to a completely fictional one, but one that is no less entertaining. One of the great things about Inside Llewyn Davis (if you enjoyed the music and the film, pretty painful if not) is that every song and performance is played in full, giving it a chance to breathe and relax into the wonderful 1960s New York universe that the Coen Brothers created. This is the most upbeat and fun song of the lot, and interestingly features Star Wars Episode 7 stars Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver, alongside Justin Timberlake. Here’s hoping JJ Abrams can persuade JT to cameo in the film and we might get a reunion of sorts in the Mos Eisley Cantina.

If James has convinced you that there were some great soundtracks this year, now’s your time to tell him by voting in our end of year awards! Voting closes Monday 22nd December 2014 at 5pm.

Failed Critics Podcast: The Return of the Fat White Duke

The Guest Dan StevensThat’s right ladies and gentlemen; just two weeks after saying some emotional goodbyes and handing over the keys to Failed Critics Towers, James has come crawling back begging to help out. Luckily for him, Steve’s holiday presented the ideal opportunity for a coup d’état and a triumphant return as guest host for one night only.

Luckily for you, Owen and Carole are on hand to keep the ego in check, and provide some much needed analysis of the week in film, including the launch of London Film Festival 2014. Elsewhere we review new releases Before I Go To Sleep and The Guest, and Triple Bill sees the team discuss Movie Recasting Decisions.

Next week we’ll be back to normal with Steve in charge and James banished to the forbidden zone until Christmas. Basically it means more puns and less French cinema.

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Failed Critics Podcast: James? Where we’re going we don’t need James

JamesDiamondPointlessHello everyone. I usually write these in the third person, like a pretentious wrestler or someone with a personality disorder, but I’m dropping the charade this one time to say thank you for listening to this podcast, and any others that you’ve happened upon over the last two-and-a-bit years.

I’m moving on for the time being to focus on other projects, but Failed Critics will always be very special to me, and I hope to come back in some shape or form at some point in the future. In the meantime though, I’m leaving it in the more than capable hands of Steve, Owen, and Carole, and it’s typical that I choose to leave just when we’ve finally got the sound quality sorted!

I honestly think this is one of our best podcasts to date. Not only do I try and steal all the limelight and attention with the most drawn out exit in history, but we even manage to fit in reviews on The Expendables 3 and Condorman, the highest stakes the quiz has ever seen, and a Triple Bill updating our first ever episode choices of ‘Desert Island Digital Versatile Discs’.

It’s been fun.

James.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Oh Captain! My Captain!

The Inbetweeners 2Really sad news this week as we react to the untimely death of Robin Williams on this week’s podcast. Steve, Carole, and James discuss his brilliant body of work, and choose their favourite performances of his for a hastily arranged Triple Bill. There’s also reviews of new releases The Inbetweeners 2 and Planes 2: Fire and Recue.

Join them next week for the return of Owen, and what is certain to be a very emotional farewell from James in his last podcast as a regular. Expect tears, tantrums, and tequila.

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And like that *poof* he’s gone!

jmsJust over two-and-a-half years ago I started yet another blog that, like the previous ones, would inevitably hold my interest for a month or so until I got distracted by some new shiny things. I started it with the lofty ambition of watching all of the IMDB Top 250 films, and generally trying to fill the gaps in my cinematic tastes and knowledge.

On one hand it was a categorical failure, as I’m still well over 70 films away from completing the set. However, if the underlying aim was to get me watching and writing more about film, and to put me in touch with an online community of some of the loveliest film fans in existence, then colour me a winner (as well as a sentimental old fool). Besides, any top 250 film list that doesn’t contain a single Powell/Pressburger picture isn’t worth the pixels it’s displaying on.

And that’s why I’m really quite sad about moving on. While Failed Critics has been online I’ve doubled the number of kids at home, moved house to accommodate said kids, and found myself in the rare and privileged position of developing a career that I not only enjoy, but am actually quite good at. Something eventually had to give, and although I’m going to miss this place I know I’m leaving it in the very capable hands of our podcast’s own Owen Hughes, Steve Norman, and Carole Petts; as well as a loose collection of brilliant writers – all of whom have been brilliant to read and elevated the site far beyond what I ever hoped to achieve on my own.

I’ve had some fantastic experiences while running the site, attending the Prometheus premiere (and becoming life-long mates with Jason Flemyng and Benny Wong); watching a weekend of David Bowie films at the ICA; and a couple of great years at the Glasgow Film Festival where I got to feel like a ‘proper’ critic for two weeks. I’d like to thank everyone I’ve ever spoken to about film on Twitter, and everyone who has ever read an article on the site or downloaded the podcast. Every single one of those page views or downloads has made this mid-thirties man inordinately happy.

I’ll still be watching films, talking about them on Twitter, and keeping my Letterboxd ratings up-to-date. And maybe in time I’ll even get around to popping back on the podcast, or helping run the annual awards. For now though, please continue to visit the site and support the brilliant work Owen has already been doing while I’ve been otherwise engaged. I can’t wait to see what he does with the place.

Until then, let me leave you with my ten (sort of) favourite films that I saw for the first time while running the site. I think they sum up the era pretty well.

The Raid/The Raid 2

One of the earliest films we reviewed for the podcast back in 2012, and the opening still fills me with nostalgic glee. I only need to see that blue Sony Pictures Classics title card to be transported back to the John Woo/Chow Yun Fat Hong Kong action films of the late 80s/early 90s, but The Raid follows up on this promise and was the most fun I had in a cinema that year. The sequel (out on DVD next week) is a completely different, but just as impressive beast. Not many films had such a unanimous affect on the podcast team.

The Lego Movie

Currently sat at the top of my 2014 ‘Best of’ list, and it’s going to take something pretty special to budge it. I can’t imagine that I would have made a beeline to see it on the preview weekend if I hadn’t been running a film site, let alone paying to see it again the following week. But Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’s anarchic, brave, and playful animation is so funny that I don’t care how much of an advert it is.

The Before films

In an early podcast, I remember Gerry McAuley almost blowing a gasket over how much he hated Before Sunrise, the Richard Linklater film starring a young and gloriously pretentious Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. At roughly the same time we had an argument over (500) Days of Summer, which he enjoyed and I felt was trite, overwhelmingly kooky, and horribly shallow. I then went and watched Before Sunrise, and very quickly followed it up with Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. Much like Mia Wallace suggests everyone is either a Beatles or a Stones fan in Pulp Fiction, I have a theory that you’re either a (500) Days of Summer or a Before… fan. Pick a side.

Barry Lyndon

In the weeks running up to our Stanley Kubrick podcast special I was l living and breathing Kubrick. Already my favourite director, I relished the chance to revisit some of my favourites (A Clockwork Orange, Dr Strangelove, 2001) as well as delve into a few that I had missed (Paths of Glory, The Killing, Lolita). It was this recommendation from Owen though that completely blew me away that week. Barry Lyndon’s episodic nature and purposely static action may not be to everyone’s taste, but I was utterly bewitched by this gorgeous and entertaining masterpiece.

My Neighbour Totoro/Grave of the Fireflies

Before I started Failed Critics I had never seen a Studio Ghibli film. Let that sink in. Then in our second podcast we had a Triple Bill of Films with Child Protagonists, and Gerry chose (I think) both My Neighbour Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies, released as a double bill in 1988. During their recent theatrical rerelease I took my daughter to see My Neighbour Totoro as the first film that she really watched at the cinema (great hipster credentials for the future!), but chose to watch Grave of the Fireflies on my own. Which was lucky as I basically sobbed non-stop through most of it. Simply the finest anti-war film I’ve seen, and up there with Life is Beautiful in terms of raw emotional reactions I’ve had to films.

Christiane F

Another brutal punch-to-the-stomach of a film. I saw this as part of Bowiefest and, while the Thin White Duke makes an appearance in concert and his music forms the soundtrack, the star is Natja Brunckhorst, who plays the titular character. Based on the real life memoirs of a 14-year-old drug addict and sexually exploited child, it is an incredibly stark and realistic portrayal of 1980s Berlin. As hard-hitting as it gets.

Avengers Assemble

This was our first ever ‘Best Film of the Year’ winner, and is still the touchstone for the podcast team in terms of how to do a comic book film. If we have a catchphrase on the podcast, it’s probably “this is one of the best comic book/action films since Avengers”, and it’s easy to see why it gets so much love. A brilliantly warm and funny script from director Joss Whedon, pitch-perfect performances from all (particularly Robert Downey Jnr and Tom Hiddlestone), and the sense that Marvel are risking everything and succeeding on such an ambitious project. I’ll never tire of watching this film.

The Intouchables

This French comedy really shouldn’t work. ‘Immigrant and petty thief somehow ends up with a job looking after a millionaire paraplegic, and hilarity ensues’ sounds like an Adam Sandler movie pitch that Awesome-O would come up with in the seminal South Park episode. But this film above all others is the only one still undefeated in terms of my recommending it to people and their enjoying it. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love it?

Rust and Bone

I’m a big fan of naturalistic French sex/relationship dramas, so when this film combined that genre with an incredible performance from Marion Cottilard and a brilliant soundtrack it seemed destined to be my favourite film of 2012. A story of violence, redemption, and killer whales dancing to Katy Perry’s Firework, and if that doesn’t make you want to watch it then I give up. Oh wait, I already am.

The Act of Killing

In my view not only the best film of last year, but simply one of the most important films ever made. This Indonesian documentary looked into a brutal and horrifying era of that country’s history, but rather than presenting the facts of the genocide that occurred in the 1960s the film gives the perpetrators of mass murder the opportunity to discuss and recreate their crimes in their favourite cinematic styles. What could have been a horribly crass piece of filmmaking ends up making the viewer look directly into the abyss of the darkest aspects of human behaviour. Essential viewing.

Failed Critics Podcast: Planet of the Apes Special!

POTAYou maniacs! You’ve done a whole podcast on the Planet of the Apes films! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!

That’s right listeners; this week’s podcast is dedicated to all things simian as we not only review Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but also discuss all the films that have gone before. Including the Tim Burton one. Sorry about that.

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4ailed C4itics 4odcast: Age of Existentialism

100 year old manWelcome back to the Failed Critics Podcast, after an unscheduled and unexpected (but we’re sure, not entirely unwelcome) break from lobbing our cinematic opinions directly into your ear holes.

There’s no James this week (hooray!) as the rest of the team review Trans4ormers: Age of Extinction (boo!), and The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared (huh?). We also hear about the sneak peak preview of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Join us next week for more film stuff. Probably.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Obligatory World Cup Special

Escape to VictoryWelcome to this week’s podcast, and due to the fact that we’ve all been watching football rather than any new cinema releases we decided to bandwagon-jump and bring you a World Cup Special!

Steve, James, and Owen are joined by Born Offside’s (and regular Glasgow Film Festival podcast contributor) Dave McFarlane to discuss the uneasy relationship between film and football, and in Triple Bill we choose our favourite football stories that we want to see made into films.

Next week sees us return to normal with reviews of 3 Days to Kill and Jersey Boys.

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Failed Critics Podcast: New beginnings, and the same old shambles

22 Jump StreetBetter late than never (probably), it this week’s Failed Critics Podcast! And please welcome our latest full-time member of the team… Carole Petts! In honour of this momentous occasion, James managed, with textbook precision, to do something dumb to the recording. Don’t worry though, as it only means there’s less of him this week.

And what a week? We review 22 Jump Street, discuss the latest news in Marvel’s Ant Man omnishambles, and Carole lets us know which is the bigger car crash (get it?) out of Diana and Grace of Monaco.

Join us next week for a World Cup Special (including free audio wallchart).

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Failed Critics Podcast: Episode CXV – A New Sound Quality

Edge of TomorrowWelcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast: now with added not sounding like we recorded it at the bottom of the ocean with only a drill and some bees for company. Steve, James, and Owen round up the week in film news, including the latest Star Wars rumours, and the joyous future collaboration of Nic Cage of John McTiernan.

We also review Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi blockbuster, Edge of Tomorrow, and will James finally convert to Seth MacFarlane fandom after watching A Million Ways to Die in the West?

Join us next week for reviews of 22 Jump Street and (brace yourself) Grace of Monaco, and put up the bunting and get the good champagne out as we introduce our newest full-time member of the team..

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Failed Critics Podcast: X-Critics: Hours of Future Mutterings

XMenDOFPWelcome to this week’s bumper Failed Critics Podcast, ans the usual suspects and special guest Carole Petts get in touch with their younger selves and combine their efforts in attempt to stop catastrophe: Steve winning the quiz and picking a film worse than Cutthroat Island…

They also find time to review new releases X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent, as well as a clutch of teen-focused dramas in What We’ve Been Watching, including Short Term 12, The Selfish Giant, and The Kids Are Alright. Not only that, but we even find time to discuss the departure of Edgar Wright from Ant-Man, and the recruitment of Gareth Edwards for a Star Wars spin-off.

Join us next week for reviews of Edge of Tomorrow and A Million Ways to Die in the West.

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The Failed Critics Podcast v Godzilla: Destroy All Critics!

ROOOOOOOOOOOOAAAARRRRR! Welcome to Critic Island, and we’ve assembled a cavalcade of monster critics to discuss the legendary Japanese kaiju, Godzilla. King Steve and MechaOwen are joined Space Matt Lambourne, and the returning Three-Headed Monster, James Diamond.

As well as reviewing Gareth Edwards’ modern take on the Godzilla series, the team also discuss some classic (and not-so-classic) films from the cult series, while Owen’s very own king of monsters (not his penis) attempts to destroy his house while we record.

Join us next week for our review of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Directorial Farewells and Debuts

The Wind Rises - Hayao Miyazaki's final film
The Wind Rises – Hayao Miyazaki’s final film

Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, as Steve and Owen are joined once more by Carole Petts to discuss the last week in film. There’s palpable excitement about new superhero movie news (not the Batfleck image, but the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger reboot!), as well as reviews of new releases Frank, and Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, The Wind Rises.

At the other end of the scale, and with buzz growing at Cannes about Ryan Gosling’s debut as a director, Triple Bill returns this week to discuss Directorial Debuts.

Join us next week as James returns just in time for our Godzilla Special!

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Failed Critics Podcast: Bad Neighbours and bad volcano films

Pompeii_movieWelcome one and all to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, and we’re back to a foursome this week as Steve and Owen are Joined by Matt Lambourne and Carole Petts to discuss new releases Pompeii and Bad Neighbours.

The team also pay tribute to Bob Hoskins, who sadly passed away last week, while the films they’ve seen this week range from the 1964 Danish film Gertrude, to the fantastic documentary Queen of Versailles, via the opinion-splitting American Hustle.

Join us next week for reviews of (hopefully) The Wind Rises, Frank, and Sabotage.

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