Category Archives: Commentary

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.


FILMS

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


TELEVISION

1) The Terror

If you would kindly allow me to self-plagiarise for a moment, I’ going to copy something I wrote for SetTheTape.com 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
6) GLOW
7) Norsemen
8) Daredevil
9) All or Nothing: Manchester City
10) The Good Place


BEST NON-2018 RELEASE FIRST TIME WATCHES

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


OTHER GOOD STUFF THIS YEAR

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)

Return of the Living Dead 3 and the Best Zombie Romances in Film

Following on from Owen’s recent recommendation on the Failed Critics Podcast for the Vestron re-release of Brian Yuzna’s 90’s cult classic zombie film, Return of the Living Dead 3,  this article takes a look at the undying love found only in this weird but wonderful genre.

Continue reading Return of the Living Dead 3 and the Best Zombie Romances in Film

Can’t get to Horror Channel FrightFest? Watch these instead

The UK’s biggest film festival dedicated to all things horror kicks off later today with over 60 films being screened across the bank holiday weekend. The annual Horror Channel FrightFest returns to its home in the dark heart of London on Leicester Square from the 24-28 August, showcasing some of the most anticipated and unique genre movies around.

If you’re not as fortunate as our writer Andrew Brooker, who is attending the extravaganza (and will be reviewing it on next week’s podcast along with Mike Shawcross), then don’t worry! We’ve picked out two films being shown on the Horror Channel each day across the duration of the festival for you to enjoy instead.

Whack your popcorn in the microwave, crack open that 2ltr bottle of pop from the corner shop, and turn your tele on for some quality horror, all from the comfort of your own home.

Continue reading Can’t get to Horror Channel FrightFest? Watch these instead

2017 in Review – July

“It ain’t the size that counts, asshole. It’s what you do with it.”

Brooker’s challenge to watch 365 films in 365 days takes an unexpected turn this month. An announcement from his favourite cinema had him slamming on the brakes hard at the half way point of July.

Continue reading 2017 in Review – July

The Legacy of George A Romero

Yesterday the iconic filmmaker, George A Romero, passed away. Owen Hughes tries to explain why the mark left on the horror genre by the creator of the Living Dead trilogy and other cult classics will be around for a long, long time yet.

Continue reading The Legacy of George A Romero

Top 100 Films on Netflix (UK)

Tired of flicking through Netflix for an hour before bed looking for something to kill the time, only to settle on another episode of Bottom that you’ve seen a hundred times before? Next time, why not try one of our top 100 films on Netflix instead, as chosen by Failed Critics editor, Owen Hughes.
Continue reading Top 100 Films on Netflix (UK)

Top 5 Films of 2017 (So Far)

We’ve reached the point in the year where it’s safe to start legitimately putting together a rough outline for your top 10 films of the year. Your number one might be displaced come December, or a handful of others might infiltrate the rest of the list; but it’s likely that those you’ve already decided are your favourites, will still be there or thereabouts by the time we compile our End of Year Awards. Continue reading Top 5 Films of 2017 (So Far)

Origin Wars and the Best Original Sci-fi of 2017

To tie in with our latest podcast where Owen reviews Lionsgate’s new sci-fi adventure film, Origin Wars, we take a look at what else the genre has to throw at us this year.
The content of this post is courtesy of @LionsgateUK.
Continue reading Origin Wars and the Best Original Sci-fi of 2017

2017 in Review – June

“Guys, It’s okay. He just wanted his machete back!”

Six months ago, Brooker challenged himself to watch 365 films in 2017. At a rate of one-a-day, it seemed like a challenge that should be do-able but almost certainly would hit a hiccup or two along the way. At the half way point of the year, he’s well on his way to completing a challenge… With a couple of months in hand, too.

Continue reading 2017 in Review – June

2017 in Review – May

Andrew Brooker continues his challenge to watch 365 films in 365 days. Here’s how he got on back in May.

Continue reading 2017 in Review – May

2017 in Review – April

Another month into Andrew Brooker’s self-imposed challenge to watch 365 films in 365 days. See how he’s been getting on below.

Continue reading 2017 in Review – April

Star Wars: Live Tweet-a-thon

Early this morning, podcast host Steve Norman took over the Failed Critics Twitter account (@FailedCritics) from around 9.30am for a very special tweet-a-thon. For almost 18 hours, Steve will live-tweet all eight Star Wars movies in sequential order, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Continue reading Star Wars: Live Tweet-a-thon

2017 in Review – March

“That’s it. Game over man. Game over…”

…although it’s not quite “game over” yet for Andrew Brooker who continues his challenge to watch 365 films in 365 days.

Continue reading 2017 in Review – March

2017 in Review – February

deadshot

“Y’all jokers must be crazy.”

February. Awards month. This second diary entry starts with a list of Oscar nominated films I would love to get through before the awards ceremony on the last Sunday of the month. Try as I might, I don’t have the time nor energy to travel up and down the country to obscure little picturehouses to watch three hour French films about the government’s war on Brussels sprouts (I don’t know what any of these films are about. Call that an educated guess) so that pipe dream was never going to be doable.

Maybe that’s a tick list for next year. One challenge at a time. Maybe next year will be the year I watch every single nominated film. For now, it’s all about these 365 films I have to watch. So…


the martian 2015Week One

The first week felt pretty busy when it came to films. More blind luck than organisation, the month started by knocking another film of the blu-ray pile of shame; The Martian‘s extended cut burned through our evening on day one. I honestly forgot how good that film was.

The three year old’s journey through the MCU continued with Iron Man 2 on the same night we bought foreign film Oscar nom A Man Called Ove. The Saturday of the Failed Critics Pubcast gave me train time for a first watch of 1984’s Bad Taste and a repeat visit to Luc Besson’s Lucy. A family trip for the excellent Lego Batman Movie, followed by the pretty rubbish Gold was how that Sunday started. Rounded it off with the traditional yearly watch of Any Given Sunday.

Early February ended a bit of a mixed bag. The hopefully final but surprisingly fun Resident Evil movie was certainly better than the first Schumacher Batman that I somehow ended up watching. But with the last films of the week being the great Hidden Figures and the sublime Gone Baby Gone, things were looking up.


mad-max-chromeWeek Two

In my misguided attempt to watch all the Oscar nominated films, I forced myself through a couple of horrendous films to start week two. Michael Bay’s Stars and Stripes masturbatory fantasy that is 13 Hours may be one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Followed by the promising, but overall sleep inducing Passengers felt like the worst way to continue this challenge. Luckily, the newly released “Definitive Directors Cut” of Heat was enough to cleanse the palette.

The next few days was a mix of first watches and old favourites. John Wick and Training Day filling the quota of films we’d seen before; while new films were covered by The Girl With All The Gifts and Fences. All superb choices, if I do say so myself. The bizarre documentary Beware the Slenderman was our Saturday night viewing this week. Four films on the Sunday filled in my numbers nicely, I finished off the weekend with the beautiful, boner inducing “Black and Chrome” cut of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Luckily, work was quiet as this week carried on. An empty office and a stack of paperwork meant iTunes films to pass the time. A couple of films at work, the original Jungle Book with the kid when I got home and I ended the week with an early contender for film of the year, John Wick: Chapter 2.


DEADPOOLWeek Three

More films at work mean that by the time we are watching Leon that evening – another from the Pile of Shame – I’ve added three more to the list. Revisiting last year’s War on Everyone, along with an impromptu Paranorman watch and rewatching Antoine Fuqua’s Shooter meant my list had a diverse selection being added.

Excellent espionage thriller/comic book film Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Founder clocked in at numbers 98 and 99 on my spreadsheet. Leaving space for something special for the next milestone. Film 100 was the first watch of this year, the seventeenth since the film came out almost a year ago to the day. Film 100 was the one, the only, Deadpool.

A couple of animated films, that included the surreal but fun A Cat in Paris brought up the rear for the most part this week. I also managed to get my sticky hands on a review screener for the latest film from one of my favourite directors to end this week. If you ever get the chance, you should definitely watch James Cullen Bressack’s Bethany.


nuns-with-gunsWeek Four

The month begins to come to a close. The original cut of Mad Max: Fury Road kicks things off (yes, a different cut is a different film. My challenge, my rules). Peter Berg’s Patriots Day and Gore Verbinski’s A Cure For Wellness meant the week had an up and down middle section. You can hear me wax lyrical about both on the Oscar fallout podcast. This week also saw us dig into one of the worst films we have ever seen; Nude Nuns with Big Guns is just as award worthy as you think it is.

Loads of films with the kid this week, too. On request, we saw three, THREE, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. The two recent ones and the original 1990 version. Creepy, rapey Michelangelo aside, they ain’t the worst movies in the world. And she loved them, that’s all that matters. It’s the same reason I sat through the Angry Birds Movie again! Luckily, she didn’t watch our final one of that weekend, we watched the dug in to The Greasy Strangler. Just… wow.

Finally, after weeks of joking around about how ridiculous it is that we could live in a world where Suicide Squad won an academy award, it actually happened. So a rewatch of the film I loved that everyone else despised; the Oscar winning Suicide Squad. Then, as I write this, I’m in my seat at the local IMAX waiting for the premiere of Logan to begin. And thanks to Fox’s brilliant marketing ploy to show it at 10.23pm, it still counts as a February film. And much like last month, the second I turn this in, it’s onto writing the review.

This is getting tiring. But at this point, I’ve done more than half of the number I totalled last year. That can’t be bad.

Two months in the bag. Only ten to go.

Films seen this month: 54

Current count, as of 28th of February: 114 of 365.