Tag Archives: 2015 in film

The Best of 2015

You may remember that a few of us here at Failed Critics got together back in July to tell you which five films were topping our list at the midway point through the year. Mad Max: Fury Road appeared to be doing well in the first half of 2015, whereas United Passions had sufficiently pissed off more than one of us to be the most (least?) popular “worst” film of the year.

It occurred to me the other day: How can I keep insisting that you vote in the Failed Critics Awards this year without letting you know how we will be voting?

Therefore, to follow up on July’s article, I caught up with everyone to find out if their top five films have changed at all since then. The short answer is that for most who contributed, not much is different.

Paul's previous top 5 films of 2015
Paul’s top 5 films of 2015 hasn’t changed since July

In fact, Paul Field, not usually one to mince his words, said 2015 had been an “absolute shit house year so far”. Well, quite!

He added: “The Hateful Eight not landing til January, Kill Your Friends disappeared whilst I was on holiday. Fucking shambles.”

There was only one film to break into Paul’s list – and that was a test screening for an incomplete movie (The Comedians Guide to Survival) that isn’t even due out until next year.

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Matt’s top 5 films of the year from back in July

Matt Lambourne concurred with Paul’s comments about 2015 being a “baron year since Mad Max“. Although he did make a few amendments to his previous list (right) when submitting his votes in the end of year awards.

That’s with the proviso, of course, that he can make amendments should Star Wars turn out to be any good.

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Steve stands by his choices – until Star Wars comes out at least

Even podcast host Steve Norman was pretty much in agreement. “Ask me again on Thursday,” he said in reply to my question. Once Star Wars Episode VII finally comes out, it could make a huge different to everyone’s lists.

But Matt seemed confident that our most prolific writer, Andrew Brooker, could “come up with the goods”. Indeed, he is the first to make significant changes to his previous top 5, whilst acknowledging that picking a film from the back half of the year was a tough prospect.

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Brooker’s previous top 5 films

“I’ve seen a lot of old guff the last few months and rarely have I seen anything worth cheering about,” he said, before revealing that Kill Your Friends was a film that ticked all of his boxes.

Describing it as dark, politically incorrect and beautifully acted movie, he emphasised that “it’s really funny and, it’s worth mentioning again, it’s so very dark”. Brooker doesn’t leave us in much doubt about it being one of his films of the year. Take a look at his review below to see why:

The tale of Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult), quite literally murdering his way through the mid-90’s British music industry, whose celluloid inspirations of films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels oozes from the screen and makes for an amazing hour and a half.  Ok, so it maybe works a little too hard to be offensive, but its source material does the same and it’s that very point that makes it my top film of the last six months. In a day and age where we work so hard to not offend every beautiful and unique snowflake in the world, the brash and brazen way that Kill Your Friends just screams “Fuck you!” at all those people makes it a wonderfully crafted thing of beauty. 

And man, what an amazing soundtrack.

Brooker isn’t the only one of our contributors to make changes to his summer choices. Our resident self-described “hopeless, old-fashioned romantic at heart”, Callum Petch, also finally found the true romance that has been sorely lacking from the cinema for him for a while.

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Callum’s original top 5 choices

He said: “For some utterly bizarre reason, the idea of falling in love with a literal Nazi doesn’t set my heart all aflutter.

“Much like the part in a romantic comedy where the idealistic female lead is about to give up on ever finding real love, in walked Carol to prove that romance isn’t dead after all.”

Having described Carol as the “perfect movie” recently on our podcast, the least we could do was to get Callum to update us in writing on why it’s made such an impact on him:

A film that actually takes the time to build its romance, that imbues the clichés and hallmarks of the romantic drama with genuine life, passion and sincerity, that places great emphasis on physical contact so that every touch carries genuine weight, where the sexual tension is not just palpable but is practically a main character in its own right, impeccably acted by its two leads (Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett), and capable of knifing the viewer in the heart without ever becoming miserable (its ending is one of the most beautiful that I have experienced in a long time). Carol is absolutely the best film of 2015, too perfect to do proper justice to in just 238 words, and I had to take 20 minutes to compose myself in the toilets afterwards to ensure I wouldn’t burst into tears again.

I guess the only person left to share their opinion is.. well.. me.

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Owen’s final vote may look entirely different to his July picks

Whilst I’m fairly certain that when it comes to sending in my own votes for the FC Awards, I’ll omit documentaries and put them into the separate category, I’m still not budging from my top choice. In the upcoming Christmas Special podcast that you can catch next week, I defend choosing Birdman even further. Until then, I’ll have to point out one glaring omission in my original list.

Of those who have already taken the time to tell us what their top 10 films of 2015 are, there are two films consistently placing highly. Predictably, Mad Max is up there, just like it is in our own lists – as is the stunning US drama, Whiplash, which really should have been on my list the first time around.

Whiplash was originally released in the US in 2014, yet didn’t make it to these shores until January. Therefore I feel fully justified in rectifying my list as it is easily one of the best movies of the year. Here’s why:

Back in February, ahead of the Oscars, I put together a short 7 minute preview of Whiplash for Tony Black’s former podcast, Black Hole Cinema [pre-edited audio]. In it, I doubted director Damien Chazelle’s chances of winning too many awards this year, but that it would be a travesty if JK Simmons didn’t pick up a deserving Best Supporting Actor gong. His intense, terrifying and fierce performance as the violently obsessive music maestro, Terence Fletcher, is scarily good. All of his obscene tirades (of which there are plenty) at the ambitious young jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) – and student of the fictional academy, the Shaffer Conservatory – left me quaking in my boots! I don’t think I’ve been quite as close to the edge of my seat as I was during the scenes climactic few moments in any other movie all year. It’s strangely ironic that a film all about performance exceeding art, often ends up being praised a lot for its actors’ performance, but until you see it for yourself, it’s difficult to convey just how impressive they really are.

With our updated selection, picking out the films that we will be voting for before the deadline on Sunday 27th December, hopefully it will give you some inspiration before deciding on your final top 10.

When you’re happy with your choices, just click here to go straight to the submission page and vote in the Failed Critics Awards 2015.

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Owen’s 2015 In Film: Part 11 – No(tmanyfilms)vember

In the penultimate entry to Owen’s 2015 in review series that has been looking back on all of the movies he’s watched during each month of the year, he discusses a few of the films he’s seen in November.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

cg-buckle1If October was my busiest movie-watching month of the year, watching at least one horror film every single day, then November was something of a respite period. When I wasn’t writing stuff for my University assignments, then I was writing a new blog post every single day, or occasionally even finding time to review movies on here.

What I apparently didn’t find time for is actually watching more films. I think this past month is possibly the first time since around 2011 that I actually went four days in a row without watching anything at all. Not only did that happen once, but twice! What kind of behaviour is that for a man who supposedly runs a film podcast?

Although, some of that time that I didn’t spend watching films, I did spend productively. I appeared on the pilot of The Bottle Episode‘s new podcast, talking about my TV genealogy, which was a lot of fun. I also drove down to Wikishuffle HQ and interviewed Chris Wallace and Phil Sharman about their show and Best Comedy Podcast award, which you can watch on my YouTube channel.

Anyway. Back on topic, I suppose I better get on with discussing a few films that I’ve seen lately, starting with…


Week 1: Sunday 1 – Sunday 8 November 2015

Sunday – The Blair Witch Project (1999); Monday – The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Blair Witch Project (1999); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Batman (1966), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994); Saturday – Iris (2015), HUDSON HAWK (1991); Sunday – Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (2015)

hudson-01I’ve already moaned about this on the podcast, but I honestly don’t think I can fully portray just how bad I thought Hudson Hawk was. For those that don’t know, Bruce Willis plays a cat burglar recently released from prison, who is set up with a new job to steal various Da Vinci inventions from museums. Hidden in said items are special diamonds required to power an alchemy machine, turning lead into gold. I said it at the time and I stand by it now, even after the steam has stopped blowing from my ears, but Bruce Willis (credited as a story writer) is absolutely appalling in what is one of the worst movies I have seen all year. Possibly even ever. From the eye-rollingly bad premise that’s too absurd to contemplate, to the lamentable performances and sickeningly smug comedy skits, it’s just horrendous. I’m sure it was probably a lot of fun to make, as Danny Aiello, Richard E Grant, Andie MacDowell etc all seem to be enjoying themselves in what I think is supposed to be a throwback to old fashioned goofball comedy capers; it just doesn’t translate into anything even remotely associated with the word “fun” for the viewer. It’s definitely one to avoid.


Week 2: Monday 9 – Sunday 15 November 2015

Monday – He Named Me Malala (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968); Saturday – [absolutely nothing]; Sunday – Green Butchers (2003)

2a9435Going right back to where this blog series all started with last October’s Horrorble Month, where I watched one horror film every day in the build up to Halloween, the very first review I wrote was for Witchfinder General. I don’t remember when I first watched Michael Reeves’s English folk-horror, starring Vincent Price as the infamous Matthew Hopkins. What I do remember is that it was then – and still is now – one of my favourite horror films of all time. It might possibly have been my first introduction to Price, kick-starting my love-affair with his movies. It’s atmospheric, dark and uncomfortable to watch as you might expect. Whether it’s because the charismatic witchfinder himself is asserting his influence to sexually assault and murder women, or from the sheer brutality of the violence, it’s a chilling historical drama. I think this time around, one thing struck me more than any other, which was the fact that you never understand Hopkins’ motivation for doing what he does. Not properly. You don’t know whether or not he believes he’s actually on a mission from God, or if he’s just a sadistic killer who is after fame and fortune. It’s odd that I’ve never really noticed that before. It seemed like a glaring omission at first, but the more I thought about it, the more clever I thought it was. Hopkins (the real Hopkins who was responsible for around 60% (nearly 300) of ALL the women killed in the 17th century accused of witchcraft) was a monster. Leaving the film character’s motivations as clouded as the real man’s were, it’s entirely fitting. And, more to the point, doesn’t matter. Price’s subtleties in the role are more than enough to keep you interested in the character – and again, credit to the young director for winning Price’s respect and forcing him to tone down his occasional tendency to perform with a certain… vivaciousness. Excuse the plug for a moment, but I wrote up a piece on Witchfinder General for my blog, Films As News, which you can read here.


Week 3: Monday 16– Sunday 22 November 2015

Monday – [absolutely nothing]; Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – THE VOICES (2015); Saturday – X-Men: First Class (2011); Sunday – Don’t Look Now (1973)

The-Voices-01-GQ-10Mar15_rex_b_813x494I think I owe Callum a certain degree of gratitude for being so insistent earlier this year that The Voices was one of the best films of 2015. If it wasn’t for his continuous recommendations for this psychological horror comedy, starring Ryan Reynolds as a delusional psychopath whose dog and cat talk to him (both of which are voiced by Reynolds), it might have passed me by entirely. As it happens, I’m inclined to agree with his assertion that it genuinely may be one of the most underrated gems of the entire year so far. It’s almost guaranteed to make my top 10 list when I submit it for the Failed Critics Awards (ahem, please vote in them this year as soon as you’re done with reading this article!). As Callum also pointed out in his review, to say too much about The Voices would be to spoil it for those who have yet to see it. Suffice to say, it’s a plot that escalates in its complexities as Reynolds’ character, Jerry, stops taking his meds. Whilst I’m positive there’s a message behind the film about not-so-much perhaps mental illness and how it affects people, but more about a general social conscience and how we, the mentally well, perceive them, the mentally unwell. With Jerry more contented to live in a fantasy world as it makes his grim situation more easy to digest, there’s a sadness in what feels like an uncomfortable truth. Marjane Satrapi deserves to take credit for the way she portrays Jerry’s dreamlike existence with its vibrant colours that fade or get stronger, depending on what stage his mental wellbeing is at, but I also think that Michael R Perry’s script is incredibly detailed and it just seems like the perfect combination of style and substance that’s so very rare. So if Callum’s recommendation wasn’t strong enough for you, let me add my weight behind it too. Go see it! It’s on UK Netflix right now so you have no excuses. Unless you don’t subscribe to Netflix, I guess.


Week 4: Monday 23 – Monday 30 November 2015

Monday – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Event Horizon (1997); Friday – The Warriors (1979), Zardoz (1974); Saturday – [absolutely nothing]; Sunday – Force Majeure (2015); Monday – Cartel Land (2015), THE COMEDIAN’S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL (2016)

James-bombing-on-stageI’m not going to talk about The Hunger Games again. I made my feelings quite clear on the podcast that week that it’s just not a series of films I’ve particularly enjoyed. In fact, I am struggling to think of a series of movies that I’ve invested so much time into and got so little out of with each passing entry in the series. Especially as I didn’t even enjoy the first bloody one! Instead, I’m going to talk about (and not review) a film that I went to see the test screening of in London that’s due for release sometime next year. It’s called The Comedian’s Guide To Survival and stars James Buckley (Jay from The Inbetweeners) as the struggling stand-up comedian, James Mullinger. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Mullinger is not only an actual professional comedian with his own TV show, but is also (and more importantly, I’m sure) the co-host of the first Failed Critics spin-off podcast, Underground Nights, along with Paul Field. The movie about his life (which he wrote along with director Mark Murphy) had an audience test screening that Paul, Carole and I went along to see at the Courthouse Hotel. It’s a bit weird going to see a film about the life of someone you kind-of know. Mostly, as Paul and I discussed on our way there, what happens if the film turns out to be.. well.. shit? Do you lie about it? Do you not say anything at all? As it turned out, it wasn’t an issue, because the film was thankfully very funny. With support from various British comedy actors such as Paul Kaye, Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap and so on, I think it could go on to be a success next year. Word of warning, though: don’t buy a round of drinks at Soho hotels. £28 for three drinks! What a rip off. (Cheers for that by the way, Carole. I’ll buy you one next time….)


And that’s it. Only one more of these to go that I will be scrabbling around to write in the following few weeks. If you’ve any thoughts about the reviews above, or if you disagree and want to tell me why I’m wrong, leave a comment in the box below or message me over on Twitter at @ohughes86. See you all in the new year!

Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 10 – The Revenge of the Horrorble Month

Another month, another article as Owen’s ‘year in review’ series continues. On to October and Owen reviews a selection of the horror films that he’s been watching. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

lovecraft-from-beyond-1986-dThis time last year is where the idea of recording a whole month’s worth of movies began. I set myself the task of proving to myself that I could watch a horror film every single day during October 2014 in the build up to Halloween – and somehow managed to succeed. I dubbed it my Horrorble Month (geddit?!)

Once again, I thought that given how the inspiration for this year-long series started, I owed it to myself to give this experiment another crack.

It was made doubly difficult considering the change in personal circumstances. You know. Entering full time study for the first time since I was 15 years old, back in 2002. I spent a lot of time and energy on trying to work out how much spare time I had, never mind thinking about how to watch at least 31 different horror films. Between all the normal duties I had, like keeping a house from falling to pieces, spending time with my wife and running this website and podcast, I had to prioritise fitting in time to find a part time job (tick), get to grips with my course content (tick) and complete assignments at home (tick).

Needless to say, this month more than any, it has been a heck of a trial.

Nevertheless, I seem to have pulled it off. The trick, apparently, is to simply watch the shortest films you can get your hands on! Especially on those days where you have to spend time watching other movies for the podcast, like new releases and bloody Columbo TV episodes.

Anyway, here’s how the Revenge of the Horrorble Month turned out…


Week 1: Thursday 1 – Sunday 4 October 2015

Thursday – The Package (2015), Dagon (2001); Friday – Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972), Shine (1996); Saturday – CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954); Sunday – The Oblong Box (1969)

creature-from-black-lagoon-swim-aThere were a couple of things that I managed to do during the last Horrorble Month. One of those things was finish off a boxset of 1950’s sci-fi movies that I had. Most of them were actually pretty good, but amongst the best was Universal’s Creature from the Black Lagoon, directed by the iconic Jack Arnold. As a sort of tribute to these discoveries, I decided to revisit it to make sure it was still as entertaining as I remembered. Short answer: Of course it was. From the cast of men all sucking in their bellies when they’re standing around on set in their swimming shorts, to the impressive costume design on Gill-Man, it’s a short but sweet creature feature that’s got a lot more subtlety to it than you might expect.


Week 2: Monday 5 – Sunday 11 October 2015

Monday – The Raven (1963), Macbeth (2015); Tuesday – Tales of Terror (1962); Wednesday – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), 28 Days Later (2001); Thursday – Day of the Dead (1985); Friday – Fright Night (2011); Saturday – The Pyramid (2014); Sunday – The Walk (2015), BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)

Black-Christmas-2006-1Much like how fans and pundits talk about statistics for the top flight of English football by ignoring everything that happened prior to the inception of the Premier League in the early 1990’s, so too do slasher-films often get short-shrift if they were made prior to John Carpenter’s redefining foray into the sub-genre with 1978’s Halloween. Of course, most slasher fans are aware of the likes of Peeping Tom and Psycho in the 60’s, and the wave of giallo movies out of Europe by Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and so on. But in most people’s minds back then, slasher was synonymous with exploitation. It took until that stretched William Shatner mask first graced our screens for the genre to be taken seriously by the majority. However, there were one or two others that were often held aloft by critics and movie-goers – usually in hindsight after a poor initial box office run. One of those was Bob Clark’s festive-horror, Black Christmas, about a group of sorority girls who receive threatening phone calls and are eventually the subject of a series of murders. In never seeing, only ever hearing the stalker, it’s the complete opposite effect of Halloween – and yet it still manages to have as much tension and suspense. Whilst I would be exaggerating to say it matches up to Carpenter’s classic on a similar level, it’s still worth watching and definitely deserves its place in history as one of the best pre-Halloween slashers.


Week 3: Monday 12 – Sunday 18 October 2015

Monday – Night of the Living Dead (1968), Suffragette (2015); Tuesday – Grabbers (2012); Wednesday – The Haunted Palace (1963); Thursday – VIDEODROME (1983), Re-Animator (1985); Friday – Late Phases (2014), Beasts of No Nation (2015); Saturday – Masque of the Red Death (1964), Inside Out (2015); Sunday – Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)

videodromeI definitely talked about David Cronenberg’s Videodrome on the podcast recently, but for the benefit of those who are hearing impaired, I guess… It follows the President of a controversial Canadian television network (James Woods) who unwittingly becomes the target of a conspiracy after discovering a series of snuff films with subliminal hallucinogenic side effects. Cronenberg, particularly through the 70’s and 80’s, picked up a certain reputation, but Videodrome is not just another body-horror. The Wikipedia page actually describes it as a Canadian neo-noir postmodernist science fiction body horror/psychological horror – if you can get your head around that. But don’t worry. There’s still some sexually explicit violence, insanely complex mysteries to unravel and some ambitious attempts to contort and distort reality through the use of various practical (and impractical!) effects. I really need to get a hold of the DVD again to give it another watch. I liked it a lot, but it gives the impression things improve even further a second time around.


Week 4: Monday 19 – Sunday 25 October 2015

Monday – Night of the Comet (1984), The Beast Within (1982), Dead Cert (2010); Tuesday – Let’s Scare Jessica To Death (1971); Wednesday – FROM BEYOND (1986); Thursday – Ghosts of Mars (2001); Friday – Thinner (1996); Saturday – Bad Grandpa (2013), Horns (2013), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997); Sunday – From Dusk Til Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999)

frombeyondI actually watched From Beyond for the first time in September this year, but enjoyed it so much that I had to re-watch it again during my Horrorble Month. It is genuinely brilliant. From the concept of a scientist using frequency resonators to see all the creatures that live in another dimension, but that we share space with all of the time, to its beautifully disgusting visuals, I loved every element of it. The first hour or so of the plot is compelling and frantically paced, which doesn’t really change or develop in the latter part, but is still just as entertaining in a different kind of way. Jeffrey Combs, Ken Foree, Barbara Crampton and Ted Sorel are extremely good value. It’s blackly comic but with a really terrifying concept behind it. From Beyond is one of my favourite discoveries of the year so far. Much like how Roger Corman and Vincent Price’s adaptations of Poe were in 2014, I think 2015 might properly be the year I delve deeper into the world of HP Lovecraft movies.


Week 5: Monday 26 – Saturday 31 October 2015

Monday – Trick ‘r Treat (2007), SPECTRE (2015); Tuesday – Tales from the Darkside (1990); Wednesday – Fargo (1996), The Prophecy (1995); Thursday – PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION (2015); Friday – Child’s Play 2 (1990); Saturday – The Crazies (2010), Dawn of the Dead (2004), What We Do In The Shadows (2014), Fright Night (2011), Oldboy (2003)

la-et-mn-paranormal-activity-the-ghost-dimension-trailer-teases-the-end-20150624Halloween this year was a lot of fun. I spent the whole day exposing my youngest brother (18) to a host of horror films he hadn’t seen before. He came over a few years back now and I scared him to death with The Blair Witch Project and the original Paranormal Activity. It seemed only reasonable that I picked slightly more fun movies this time around. All the same, I am still a big fan of the Paranormal Activity films in general. I think found-footage still needs people to stand up for it with far too many prepared to write off a film without giving it a chance if it’s been made in that particular style. The latest – and quite possibly last – film in the series, The Ghost Dimension, once again sends us back into the world of Katie, Kristi and their invisible friend Tobi. Only this time, more than any other, we’re able to see more of the demon haunting another household thanks to a special kind of ghoul-capturing camera. It’s actually not a bad film, but is troubled by one crucial issue. It’s not scary. That’s a pretty big problem right there. But then again, which of the PA films have actually been scary? The first two? Maybe the third? The atmosphere and sheer creepiness of the original is what makes it unnerving, whereas the rest have relied on inflicting diversionary jump scares on the audience. Ghost Dimension is no different. However, it does compensate by rapidly increasing background on the families involved in this series of hauntings and wraps things up to a standard that I’m fairly satisfied with. Let’s not forget, there are six movies in this franchise. SIX. That’s a lot to try and keep a consistent standard throughout. I know they have their detractors, but I’m not one of them. I will be back at some point in the future, no doubt, to attempt a marathon viewing of all of the Paranormal Activity films and I’ll enjoy seeing the story play out in full.


And that’s it! I’m done. That’s a wrap and my second ever Horrorble Month is over. You can expect me back around about the same time next month to look back on the movies I’ve been watching throughout November. I can tell you already: It’s a much lower number. If you’ve any comments on this article or if you simply disagree with some of my choices – or if you want to chat to me about any of the other movies I’ve listed above – leave a comment in the box below and I promise to get back to you!

Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 8 – August, You Slice

Another month on in his year in review series, Owen takes a look at some of the films that he’s seen this past August. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

these final hours 2015Anyone who has been following the website and podcast over the past few months might have noticed that for a little while now, we’ve been going a bit Danny Dyer crazy. Not, like, mugging off slaaaags as per his persona. I mean, we’ve been covering a lot of Danny Dyer stuff.

In last month’s article, for example, I talked about how his tweet at the Failed Critics meet up in July played a part in cheering me up after some rather gutting news. We then had our most popular individual episode since 2012 when we inducted Dyer into our Corridor of Praise. Basically, we haven’t shut up about him. Throughout August, particularly in the couple of weeks leading up to that particular podcast, I watched a boat load of his movies. I’ll try not to talk about them all here [if you really want you can read my short reviews of them all over on Letterboxd] to spare you from being subjected to the same material over and over again.

Instead, I’m going to kick off this month’s article by talking about something completely original for this series: a b-movie sci-fi horror…

…What?


Week 1 – Saturday 1 – Sunday 2 August 2015

Saturday – HARDWARE (1990); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

hardware 1990In my July In Review article, the very last film I talked about was a documentary called Lost Soul. It follows director Richard Stanley’s doomed attempt to bring HG Wells’s novella The Island of Doctor Moreau to the silver screen back in 1996. It led to me immediately afterwards searching frantically online for a copy of said film to stream with no luck whatsoever. However, I did find Stanley’s two previous feature length movies available on Netflix, starting with his futuristic, dystopian, science fiction thriller Hardware. As you may have already ascertained from the title, the plot can essentially be boiled down to “cyborg gone bad”. It has the claustrophobic paranoia of Alien crossed with the relentlessness of The Terminator, made for a fraction of the cost of either film. Anyone who has been following these articles will know that during the past eight months, despite already having some degree of fondness for b-movies, one particular director, Albert Pyun, has really grabbed my attention of late. Richard Stanley’s Hardware is very reminiscent of Pyun’s style, with a nuclear ravaged world and killer-robot running rampage in an apartment, although it is somewhat smaller in scale. Where Pyun’s ambition is to always tell as epic an adventure as is possible, it maybe stretches him further than his budgets would sometimes allow. When he pulls it off, I love it. When he’s been a bit too ambitious, obviously it leaves his films rather painful to watch. Stanley seems as aware of his restrictions and tries to utilise them as much as possible. Hardware isn’t a perfect movie; indeed the last 20 minutes seem very repetitive and ends rather tamely. There are so many different ideas all crammed into an hour and a half that it convolutes things slightly too. But there’s a lot to admire here. Visually, I absolutely adored it. From the design of the robot to the red and orange tint across the picture, it is beautiful to look at all the way through. The world building is great to start with but kind of gets thrown out of the window at the mid-way point to turn it into a more close-knit horror, but is interesting all the same. All in all, despite knowing what happened to Stanley’s Island of Dr Moreau, Hardware just made me all the more keen to find it and question the reputation of it being one of the worst films ever made!


Week 2 – Monday 3 – Sunday 9 August 2015

Monday – Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)SOUTHPAW (2015)Tuesday – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015), Fantastic Four (2015); Wednesday – Dust Devil (1992); Thursday – Top Gun (1986); Friday – Ginger Snaps (2000); Saturday – [absolutely nothing]; Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

southpawI could continue this Richard Stanley theme and talk about Dust Devil, his next feature after Hardware, but I won’t say any more than simply: I didn’t enjoy it as much. I could also discuss the two Mission: Impossible films that I enjoyed – alas, I found them largely forgettable and, as such, have… er… forgotten most of what they’re about beyond Cruise-gon’-Cruise. Instead, I want to explain why Southpaw was the film I was most looking forward to seeing this August and why it didn’t actually live up to my expectations. I actually picked Southpaw on our Summer Preview Podcast back in May, mostly because I was excited to see if Jake Gyllenhaal could improve on his performance in Nightcrawler last year. (Spoiler: it doesn’t.) The fact is, his performance is good enough to warrant a film like this; the way he transforms himself so he’s hardly recognisable in each role is thoroughly impressive. But Southpaw as a whole simply turned out to be a film that is just good enough. It keeps coming back to me. It’s just good enough. Good enough for me to have not felt like I’d wasted two hours in the cinema. Good enough for me to say it wasn’t disappointing. Good enough for me to have liked a lot about it. But it’s not great and I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. Perhaps the story is little more than OK, with a Rocky-meets-Raging-Bull quality to it? Boxing films do seem to follow a pretty standard pattern, whatever culture they’re from. It doesn’t matter if it’s South Korea’s Crying Fist or a very Clint Eastwood Million Dollar Baby; they are typically about a character falling on hard times, facing adversity and then redeeming themselves. Maybe the lack of anything new or original is why I’m struggling to think of any reason that this would be anywhere near my top 10 of the year so far list, despite not actually disliking it? It’s just good enough. Nothing more and that’s a real shame.


Week 3 – Monday 10 – Sunday 16 August 2015

Monday – Apocalypse Now (1979); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – The All Together (2007); Friday – Devil’s Playground (2010); Saturday – The Other Half (2006); Sunday – Next Goal Wins (2014), WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER (2001)

wet hot american summerLike a lot of other people, I have since found out, I too was tricked by the pretty terrible TV advert for the new Netflix prequel series, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. It didn’t appeal to me at all, despite Callum raving about it on our podcast not too long back. The cast looked impressive, but it had something off-puttingly Scary Movie / Epic MovieMeet The Spartans / other-shit-parody-movie about it. However, I knew it had cult status and I fancied watching a comedy film – something that The All Together and The Other Half had failed to deliver earlier in the week! So, despite going into Wet Hot American Summer with some degree of trepidation, it actually delivered a very smart, mostly laugh out loud comedy full of self-parody, fantastic comic-performances and made me re-think how I’d interpreted that TV ad for the Netflix series. I’m certainly glad that I watched the film first as even though the show is a prequel (made 15 years after the first film – something hilarious in itself) it does have a heck of a lot of call backs and set ups for the movie that have great pay-offs that I otherwise would have missed out on. Also, I’m aware that they very rarely all appear on screen together, but to get some of this cast back on board is simply amazing. Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper etc are all so much more well known now compared to back in 2001, yet still fit together like they’ve been planning a prequel show all this time. I highly recommend it for some quick consistent giggles and advise against letting that fucking advert put you off.


Week 4 – Monday 17 – Sunday 23 August 2015

Monday – The Island of Dr Moreau (1996); Tuesday – The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015); Wednesday – The Wraith (1986); Thursday – VENDETTA (2013)Friday – Dead Man Running (2009); Saturday – Soldier (1998), Piranha 3DD (2012); Sunday – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

VendettaIf I’m going to pick any Danny Dyer film to talk about in this month’s article, it’s got to be the revenge thriller Vendetta, featuring an appearance from James Mullinger and produced by Jonathan Sothcott, both of whom appeared on that Corridor of Praise podcast I mentioned at the top of the page. The plot is very straight forward as British soldier (Danny Dyer) goes AWOL, returning to the UK to catch the scumbags who have burned his parents alive. It’s very nicely shot, there’s a lot of violent revenge enacted on people who “deserve their comeuppance” (described by The Guardian as revenge-porn) and it’s entirely unapologetic about it. If that’s your thing, then you are quite likely to love Vendetta. It’s probably the most grown-up performance from Dyer who, although having the reputation as a geezer and/or gangster, is usually playing the likeable, fallible, boy-ish good looking fellow in a group, not the rampaging murderer. In this, he properly is the hardened cold-killer and nails the role. Paul Field basically pressured me into buying this on blu-ray and it turned out to be a good decision as it’s an entertaining low-budget British thriller. It’s actually a shame that there’s no sign of a sequel just yet as they can’t “get Danny out of Walford” for the foreseeable future.


Week 5 – Monday 24 – Monday 31 August 2015

Monday – The Business (2005), The Football Factory (2004); Tuesday – Outlaw (2007); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – White Chicks (2004); Friday – THESE FINAL HOURS (2015)Saturday – The Guvnors (2014); Sunday – American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987), Sinister 2 (2015); Monday – [absolutely nothing]

these final hoursWe’ve talked about this Australian pre-post-apocalyptic (a genre term I’m pretty sure I coined) on the podcast in recent weeks, particularly as it was shown at FrightFest this year – although I actually found it on US Netflix. Written and directed by Zak Hilditch, starring Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek), Sarah Snook (Predestination) and Jessica De Gouw (Arrow, Dracula), as mentioned on the pdocast it does start off a bit like a music video. You’re not really invited to connect to the story nor the characters as a series of expositional dialogue sets things up alongside a show of bright, shallow visuals. It’s safe to say that it didn’t grab me straight away and I immediately thought it’d be a tediously dull wasted concept. However, once I got past the opening credits and the first five minutes, things suddenly get very dark. Whilst on the surface it appears to be as bleak as hell about humanity when facing a crisis – hey, let’s all get pissed, do a load of drugs and party until our skin is burnt from our bodies in 12 hours time – it does showcase some brightness in how we interact with each other. That there’s good in some of us. As the protagonist James stumbles across a young girl who has been separated from her family (played brilliantly by Angourie Rice), he decides to help her find her dad; at first reluctantly, but eventually it takes him on a course to see visit his mother, make peace with some friends and discover something about himself (albeit a little bit too late!) As far as these stories go, it never quite gets as distressing as something like The Road, but if you’re into an apocalyptic story that doesn’t feature either vampires or zombies, this might just be for you.


And that’s it! I’ll be back next month to recap what I’ve been watching throughout September. Until then, leave a comment if you’d like or just ignore the entire article completely. Your call.

Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 7 – July Meets and Danny Dyer Tweets

Continuing his ongoing year in review series, Owen runs through some of the films that he’s watched in July. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

143955551975437What the hell happened, July? You used to be cool. The month started out with such optimism. Life was good. Failed Critics was on the up and with an ever increasing number of downloads and visitor numbers to the site every day following the switch to Acast in May, the outlook was positive. Arranging guests to appear on the next three months worth of podcasts was a doddle and the exciting first ever real-life meet up in London was edging closer.

And then, on the afternoon of Thursday 16th July just before the meet was due to take place, like a punch to the gut knocking the wind out of me, I found out that I was to be made redundant from my full time job. Not through any fault of my own either, but because it was cheaper to outsource my team’s role to a contractor. Bummer. A few drinks with some pals that weekend, the worst hangover I’ve ever had and one extraordinary new follower on our Twitter account (DANNY-FUCKING-DYER) later and things started to feel more optimistic again.

Whilst things have worked out for the best now, and from next month I will be a fully enrolled student for the first time since I was 15 years old, it’s both a scary and quite exciting time in my life! It took a lot of hard work and time for me to make this decision. Therefore, for July, the knock on effect (and what I’m certain that readers will perceive as the absolute worst thing to come out of losing my job…!) is that in researching the options I had available to me, I had hardly any spare time later on in July in which to watch films. It’s a good job I ploughed through a few of those nearly three hour long classics earlier in the month, eh?

Anyway, here’s a run through of the films that I actually did manage to see…


Week 1 – Wednesday 1 – Sunday 5 July 2015

Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – DEATH WISH 3 (1985)Friday – [absolutely nothing]; Saturday – 88 (2014), Terminator Genisys (2015); Sunday – Machete (2010)

death wish 3Not that I was expecting it to be, but Death Wish 3 is nowhere near as good as the original 1974 film starring Charles Bronson as a vigilante ex-cop getting revenge on some criminals. Directed by Michael Winner, a man who (as I’m sure we can all agree) was a massive twat, what Death Wish 3 shares in common with the original is how it notoriously descends deeper and deeper into a right-wing rant about modern societal values. However, whilst Death Wish has its faults, it was at least a proper movie. When Cannon Group created the first sequel, Death Wish II, eight years later with one half of its long-term contracted mega-expensive movie stars (i.e. Bronson, the other being Chuck Norris) it was, by and large, contemptible re-hashed shit. Nevertheless, it made enough money for the studio to be convinced it was a commercial success and another sequel was commissioned. Of course it was commissioned. This is Cannon we’re talking about. They probably commissioned ten Death Wish sequels, designed posters for 50 and pitched 100 before eventually folding. Playing up to the crass vulgarity that its audience so clearly demanded, Death Wish 3 is much more comfortable in being exactly what it is. There’s no integrity here. The biggest achievement is that it was released at all, but with Golan & Globus behind it, I suppose it’s not that surprising. It’s often held up as the only good sequel in the franchise (admittedly I haven’t yet seen Death Wish 4, but Death Wish 5 was … OK) and I can see why. It is completely over the top, ridiculous in the extreme and so very, very eighties. I mean, I still wouldn’t call it a good film; imagine The Purge but with doddery old man Bronson as the protagonist. It’s not far off that quality. Nevertheless, morally dubious nature and an out-right rejection of anything com’nist aside, taking its politics with a pinch of salt and admiring it as a daft action-verging-on-exploitation film, it has its occasional entertaining popcorn moments and could have been a Hell of a lot worse.


Week 2 – Monday 6 – Sunday 12 July 2015

Monday – The God of Cookery (1996); Tuesday – The Abyss (1989); Wednesday – Hoop Dreams (1994); Thursday – Red Beard (1965); Friday – 30 For 30: Straight Outta L.A. (2010)THE THIN BLUE LINE (1988)Saturday – The Lost Gold of the Highlands (AKA Garnet’s Gold) (2014); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

the thin blue lineIt was about this time last year that Sight & Sound revealed the winners of their Greatest Documentaries of All Time poll. You might remember that soon afterwards, Paul Field issued a rebuttal on our site listing his personal favourite documentaries. There was only one film to make both of his and the S&S list, and that was Errol Morris’ critically acclaimed investigation into the American penal and judicial system that had sentenced a man for the murder of a policeman on little more than circumstantial evidence. Whilst there is a bigger picture discussed about how people in the US at the time could be convicted of crimes, at its core there is of course a very real case to be made for saving the life of one individual who was the victim of what Morris perceived to be a broken bureaucratic and prejudiced system. Paul described the film best when he said “Errol Morris changed the way investigative documentaries are made. People talk about influential or important, this paved the way to save lives.” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Aside from being absorbing in its narrative and genuinely emotional without needing to be as highly manipulative as its contemporaries often are, the impact that The Thin Blue Line had is recognisable and virtually insurmountable. It is a breathtaking achievement that undoubtedly deserves the adoration it has garnered.


Week 3 – Monday 13 – Sunday 19 July 2015

Monday – Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011), Ted 2 (2015), LAND OF SILENCE AND DARKNESS (1971)Tuesday – Heart of Glass (1976); Wednesday – Stroszek (1977); Thursday – Touch of Evil (1958); Friday – Encounters at the End of the World (2007), Kickboxer (1989), Ant-Man (2015); Saturday – [absolutely nothing]; Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

land of silence and darknessI had a fortnight of quality films smack bang in the middle of July, with one or two exceptions (ahem, Ted 2). If in the previous month I felt my love for film slipping away ever so slightly after some of the dirge I’d sat through, the first couple of weeks in July had me reacquainted with exactly why I do what I do. I finally got around to watching the last few Werner Herzog movies on my Sky Planner, something I’d been promising to do since watching The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser back in January. I’ve raved about Stroszek on the podcast already and the intentional dreamlike nature Heart of Glass just confused, disoriented and scared me. Continuing with the documentary theme of above, I also watched Encounters at the End of the World, which was fine although far from Herzog’s best. However, it was in Land of Silence and Darkness, the touching portrayal of a snapshot in the life of the death-blind German woman, Fini Straubinger, that I found the most inspiring of the bunch. She was truly a remarkable woman who used her drive, determination and talents to enhance the lives of so many other people. Whether helping a young boy who was blind and deaf since birth to feel music, or taking her friends on trips, or arranging meetings for similarly afflicted people, it’s enough to make me feel emotional just remembering specific scenes. In the most poetic (and probably pretentious) way possible, watching the trust that a different young chap puts in somebody else to do something as simple as enter a swimming pool; it produces a swell of emotion. It’s uplifting, heartbreaking and immensely powerful all at the same time. Fini’s story is inspirational and Herzog captures a kind of abstract beauty in the way that in the face of this cripplingly lonely disability, her strength of character saw her achieve far more than most able-bodied folk ever could. Let’s just say that it certainly put a lot of trivial personal dilemmas into perspective somewhat.


Week 4 – Monday 20 – Sunday 26 July 2015

Monday – [absolutely nothing]; Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Hyena (2015), Last Man Out of Vietnam (2015); Thursday – Sharknado 3 (2015); Friday – Coherence (2014), CREEP (2015)Saturday – Silent Running (1972), Inside Out (2015); Sunday – Three Outlaw Samurai (1964)

mark duplassFour days in a row without watching a film; that must surely have been a first for me this year! Notwithstanding Thursday’s SyFy channel debut of Sharknado 3, those days that I did see a film, I think I chose well. Some half-decent new releases, a couple of great recommendations picked up from our Best of 2015 Thus Far list, plus two legitimate classics; it was what I can only describe as a solid week. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the lot was Creep, the mockumentary horror-thriller starring, written and directed by Patrick Brice. I didn’t have particularly high expectations of Creep. If anything, I anticipated a slightly run-of-the-mill, cheap looking, pretty average thriller but instead found it a well paced and suspenseful indie horror. The binding ingredient that excels it to a higher rung on the ladder than most is its star, Mark Duplass. He is absolutely fantastic as the unsettlingly odd, terminally ill man who hires a freelance videographer (Brice) to record his remaining days to give to his as yet unborn baby. Admittedly I haven’t seen Duplass in too many films; maybe just Safety Not Guaranteed, Parkland, Zero Dark Thirty and one episode of The League. Yet I would easily call it by far the best performance of his that I’ve seen. He is properly creepy and unnerving and it may even be one of the best performances of the year. The film itself slightly veers off course in the last 5-10 minutes and ends up somewhat trite but otherwise I’d give it a solid 8/10.


Week 5 – Monday 27 – Friday 31 July 2015

Monday – [absolutely nothing]; Tuesday – Irreversible (2002); Wednesday – Wild Tales (2015); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (2015)

lost soulFinally for this month, another documentary to end on. One that tracks the tumultuous production of Richard Stanley’s fated adaptation of HG Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau. Particularly with Josh Trank getting a lot of flack from critics at the moment about his recent Fantastic Failure, for anyone interested in learning just how badly things can go wrong on set with a director out of his depth and an interfering studio, I’d highly recommend giving Lost Soul a watch. Of course we’ll never get to see the fully realised original vision Stanley had for Dr Moreau, which is a huge shame, but at least it makes for an interesting story with anecdotes of the crazy Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando’s antics! As for the quality of the documentary; it is a fascinating story to tell, but it was slightly garbled in its structure. For example, without having seen 1996’s Island of Dr. Moreau, I didn’t even know David Thewlis was in the bloody film until I caught a glimpse of him in the background of a still with Brando and Kilmer. Never mind the fact that he stepped in to replace Rob Morrow, whose departure isn’t covered in any significant detail. Similarly, Ron Pearlman is entirely absent too. With both Thewlis and Pearlman declining to appear, it does leave a rather noticeable hole in the documentary. Nevertheless, it is largely an entertaining documentary. And just like Marco Hofschneider – and presumably every other man on set – we’re all basically jealous that we aren’t Val Kilmer. What a guy.


And that’s it. Apologies again for posting this midway through the month and not closer to July! But if you see any opinions above that you agree/disagree with, or would like to chat about any of the other films mentioned, leave a message in the comments box below. Otherwise, I’ll be back next month!

The Best of 2015 Thus Far

As we’re now well and truly past the half-way mark for the year, it seems like as good a time as any for a few of the Failed Critics contributors to bundle together and reveal which films they’ve enjoyed the most so far. Come December, we’ll still be running the annual Failed Critics Awards, giving you the opportunity to cast your vote for your favourite films of 2015.

In the meantime, let’s have a quick run through of what some of our writers and podcasters have chosen as their five favourite films of the year. Will the biggest film of the year so far, Jurassic World, be featured? Will United Passions somehow infect this article too? Will anyone pick anything other than Mad Max?? Find out below…


by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

1] Mad Max: Fury Road

mad maxFighting the urge to fill my word limit with just paragraphs of me repeating the words “Perfect”, “Awesome” and “The most fun I’ve had this year with clothes on”, I’ll try and be a little more cohesive in my description. It had been thirty years since the last film in the iconic Mad Max franchise, to bring a fourth entry to a series after that long is a massive undertaking at the best of times. But when its original star is as iconic as the film’s that made him famous, replacing him as well would be a recipe for disaster in any other filmmakers hands. Thankfully for all of us, the series’ creator made a triumphant return and gave us one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. A breathtaking, visceral two hours (on three occasions) in the cinema left me shellshocked and shaking with excitement and almost unable to write my review when I got home I was so pumped. Oh, and there’s a dude on a truck made of drums and speakers playing heavy metal on a flame throwing guitar! No more needs to be said!

2] Ex Machina

3] Whiplash

4] Still Alice

5] It Follows

WORST: Avengers: Age of Ultron – Years of subtle hype and weeks of actual hype in the buildup to this, the biggest Marvel movie yet. What we got was a more than two hour long wet fart of a film that left me blindingly disappointed with a really bad taste in my mouth.


by Paul Field (@pafster)

1] Wild Tales

wild talesDark, twisted and utterly enthralling anthology from Argentina. All of the stories are great, no fillers here as is often the case with anthology films. I love a revenge film, and to have 6 served up in one sitting is a real treat. Hard to pick my favourite… the parking ticket is brilliant, the plane passengers unsettling and hilarious, the overtaking motorist caper that escalates out of all control…..but I think the Wedding. Pissing off the bride on her wedding day is an absolute no no, and here, she conveys her displeasure in spectacular fashion. As a first feature from Damián Szifron, this is outstanding and will take some toppling come the end of the year.

2] Hyena

3] Creep

4] We Are Still Here

5] Buzzard

WORST: Lost River Ryan Gosling believing his own hype, delivers the most pretentious load of cobblers ever committed to film. Utter, utter toilet.. and yes, I’ve seen United Passions, Accidental Love and the new Danny Dyer film this year too. Its worse than all three of those, on repeat, for eternity.


by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

1] Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

birdmanReleased in the UK on 1 January 2015, I still don’t think I’ve seen a funnier, more entertaining film in the cinema all year. Michael Keaton is absolutely phenomenal as the flailing former superhero movie star attempting to reinvent himself as a stage actor and producer. His manic behaviour, coupled with director Iñárritu’s frenetic, constantly adapting story shot as if the whole production was just one long take; I just loved every minute of it. However, I was hesitant to put it as number one on my list, given a couple people I’ve recommended it to have hated it! But ultimately, despite seeing it only two days into the year, nothing else has managed to better it yet for me.

2] Mad Max: Fury Road

3] Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

4] Cobain: Montage of Heck

5] John Wick

WORST: United Passions – Technically not even released in the UK this year, and unlike Jupiter Ascending (cinema) and The Man With The Iron Fists 2 (VOD), I didn’t even watch this legally. But if there’s a more abhorrent, reprehensible piece of offensive propagandist garbage with as high a budget and released globally within the next decade, I’ll be surprised.


By Matt Lambourne (@LamboMat)

1] Mad Max: Fury Road

mad max 4I’m still thinking about this movie, weeks after seeing it. The action, the character, the dialogue, the music and most importantly, the SCALE. It’s over the top in every sense and works for me on every level. I can’t wait to get hold of the home release and enjoy it without the hindrance of 3D. Absolutely superb movie!

2] American Sniper

3] Furious 7

4] Jurassic World

5] Terminator Genisys

WORST: Fifty Shades of Grey Bloated, tacky, overly polished and un-sexy. I didn’t get an erection and I didn’t get a shag that night.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

1] The Theory of Everything

theory of everythingThe Stephen Hawking biopic earned lead man Eddie Redmayne an Oscar and deservedly so. His portrayal of a genius of a man going through various stages of a terrible, life changing illness was extremely believable. The film also put over a side of Hawking you don’t often see, the friend, parent and husband, not the man who invented time. Or something.

2] Ex Machina

3] Kingsman: The Secret Service

4] Selma

5] Furious 7

WORST: United Passions Garbage of the highest order. I found Tim Roth less deplorable playing a racist in Selma than I did playing Sepp Blatter in this tripe. It’s offensive that it was even made.


by Callum Petch (@CallumPetch)

1] Mad Max: Fury Road

mad max fury roadFury Road is the kind of film whose existence is a reminder that this Movies thing might be alright after all, a beacon of hope that we can all look to in dark times and remind ourselves that we can, in fact, have it so much better.  From its uncomplicated story, to its unique world and set design, to its outstanding special effects, to its jaw-dropping practical stunts, to its brilliantly subtle Tom Hardy performance, to its mesmerising Charlize Theron performance, to its openly and furiously feminist and matriarchal heart, every last frame of this utter masterpiece is what I have heard perfection is supposed to be like.  It is everything that modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking isn’t, a purposeful pushback against everything wrong with those films right now that, in a just world, will have everyone following its example in the years to come.  Both times that I saw this movie, my veins pulsed with pure adrenaline from frame one and the feeling did not stop until long after I left the screen in tears of pure joy at that perfect final shot.  I foresee nothing else coming anywhere close to it for the rest of this year, mainly cos I have no idea what’ll happen to me if there is a better film than Fury Road to come.

2] Magic Mike XXL

3] The Voices

4] Shaun The Sheep Movie

5] Spy

WORST: Entourage  I said everything I needed to say about this reprehensible piece of abysmal shite here and here.  I’m not going to repeat myself.

Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 6 – June: Electric Boogaloo

Following on from last month’s article, Owen continues his ongoing year in review series by reviewing the films he’s seen in June. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

delta forceI thought football was supposed to be over for the summer? The World Cup was last year, the Euro’s are next year. The season ended in May and yet somehow I seem to have spent so much time being disappointed with the England U21 side out in the Czech Republic and cheering on the women’s team over in Canada. I even stayed up until 3am watching football! This isn’t meant to happen. At this time of the year, it’s only supposed to take up half an hour of your day. Reading the transfer gossip columns over lunch, guffawing at Twitter rumours about Pogba to Man City, Angel Di Maria to Barcelona, or famous baldy Gervinho to Al Jazira including £85k per week wages, his own private beach and personal helicopter…

Hell, even two of the films I’ve watched in June have been football related. However, I did manage to squeeze both of them into the same day’s viewing so in reality they didn’t take up too much time away from other, proper, serious films. Like the myriad of Chuck Norris movies and micro-budget horrors listed below. Ahem.

Coupling these unexpectedly exciting international football tournaments and hilarious football transfers (Spurs mugging some Chinese team off by selling Paulinho for £10m?!) with new seasons of Hannibal and True Detective starting, plus the last few episodes of Game of Thrones and various other TV shows, I’m as surprised as anybody (probably, er, more than anyone else I guess) that I’ve actually watch so many films last month. Especially as quality seems to have gone completely out of the window in place of quantity, all thanks to a certain documentary. But I’ve tried to pick out a few of the more interesting movies seen lately to talk about below.


Week 1 – Monday 1 – Sunday 7 June 2015

Monday – Kung Fury (2015), San Andreas (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Spy (2015); Thursday – The Redwood Massacre (2015); Friday – Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Fist of the North Star (1986); Saturday – COBRA (1986); Sunday – The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

cobraEight films, five of which were released this year, including three cinema trips, plus two films from the year I was born and one classic 80’s comedy (that Steve recently revealed he has somehow never seen before despite it being on TV constantly.) As you can tell, I started off June with a bit of a mixed bag. A neat little indie film, a couple of decent comedies, a long boring blockbuster and a classic Sylvester Stallone 80s crime thriller released in the UK 10 days before I was born. I’m not quite sure what it was I was expecting from Cobra. It’s just one of many blurays on a Stallone box-set I own, it looked kinda cheesy but was fairly short so I stuck it on late one Saturday evening after Barcelona battered Juventus in the Champions League final (yep, more football). I don’t know whether it was due to a combination of the beer in me and sleep deprivation, or what, but man it was so much fun. From the moment Lt. Cobra rocks up in his first appearance with a hugely inappropriate muscle car and ‘AWSOM 50’ license plate, proceeding to take out the crazed gunman inside the supermarket delivering the one liner “you’re a disease, and I’m the cure”, I knew it was going to be a film I’d love. Sly is effortlessly cool as the policeman personally protecting a witness from the New World crime wave. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before but will absolutely be watching it again. And again. And again.


Week 2 – Monday 8 – Sunday 14 June 2015

Monday – Insidious (2010); Tuesday – Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013); Wednesday – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2015); Thursday – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2015), SAFETY LAST! (1923)Friday – The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959); Saturday – Jurassic World (2015); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

safety lastIt was bitterly sad news on Thursday 11 June as the iconic Sir Christopher Lee passed away. I knocked up a quick article highlighting some of my favourite performances of his and remembered I’d never seen The Hound of the Baskervilles before. In short: it was fine, not going to make me re-think my list, but Lee and Cushing together were absolutely brilliant. The best film I watched this week was actually the Electric Boogaloo documentary about Cannon films, but I’ve already written a review of that (and you should go watch it right now!) However, the film I’m actually going to talk about is the classic Harold Lloyd silent comedy, Safety Last!, which I saw at the Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford with a score performed by Unsilent Movies live in the cinema. It was immensely entertaining; both witnessing this unbelievably talented duo keeping beat with every movement on screen, as well as the movie itself. I’ve confessed many times before that I like watching the odd silent film, but when it comes to silent comedies, I’m a little out of touch. Chaplin is pretty much my only point of reference. I’ve not seen any Laurel & Hardy, for example. The only Buster Keaton film I’ve seen (The General) had just one scene that made me laugh. Nevertheless, I genuinely found that the quality of the gags and humour in Safety Last! matched the joyful experience I was having at the UPP. The plot was simple enough to allow for some fantastical scenarios to occur, as Harold Lloyd moves to the city to get a good enough job to impress his sweetheart back home in the country, pretending to have a better job than he actually has. It’s constant gag after gag after gag, but each one is so well crafted that even now, 92 years on, you can still admire them and, more importantly, laugh at them. I guess you could say that it’s timeless. And yes, that is a shoe-horned in pun on the film’s most famous scene, that doesn’t really work. No, you shut up.


Week 3 – Monday 15 – Sunday 21 June 2015

Monday – Weaverfish (2015), Over The Top (1987); Tuesday – American Ninja (1985); Wednesday – La Grande Illusion (1937); Thursday – Invasion USA (1985); Friday – Dragon Lord (1982); Saturday – Gascoigne (2015), UNITED PASSIONS (2015); Sunday – Mr Holmes (2015)

united passionsThis is possibly only the fifth time this year that I’ve actually watched at least one film every day for an entire week. Despite that, the film I’m going to talk about is probably the least deserving of any minor publicity my reviews might bring. In fact, have we ever talked about a film on Failed Critics more obsessively than United Passions? I suppose Star Wars gets a mention every so often when Steve and I are in full-on argumentative mode. Kill Keith lingered like a chip van outside of an inner-city school at lunch time, refusing to go away despite repeated attempts to get rid of it. But this God awful piece of FIFA propaganda, this slimy, abhorrent garbage, this offensively obnoxious drivel, this nauseating, badly directed, badly written, badly acted detestable xenophobic filth just won’t leave us alone. I’ve listed the release year for the movie as 2015, but if this ever sees wide distribution in the UK, I will eat Sepp Blatter’s oversized hat off of his humongous head, once he’s finally extracted it from his fetid engorged colon. I’m aware that you have to allow artistic license for these kinds of biopics, so most of the film is based on fictional events (or at least highly exaggerated events), but to portray Sepp Blatter as a virtually infallible hero of world football, protecting it from the corruption all at the same time as being solely responsible for the promotion of the women’s game and saving Africa, it’s a fucking embarrassment. £16m of FIFA’s money was pumped into this smug circle jerk. Sixteen. Millions. Pounds. That’s £16m that has been taken out of the game, money that could be put back into developing football at a grass roots level in countries that would benefit from the investment. Instead all of it is splurted over Blatter’s scrotum-textured face like a FIFA-backed money-bukake. His resignation from FIFA cannot come soon enough, but knowing what a cowardly conniving bald fat twat he is, based on his real-life exploits not just those of Tim Roth’s portrayal in United Passions (Tim-bloody-Roth, what the fuck are you doing for crying out loud) he’ll no doubt renege on his promise, stand for re-election and miraculously win it it. Again. Ugh.


Week 4 – Monday 22 – Sunday 28 June 2015

Monday – Zombeavers (2014); Tuesday – The Terminator (1984); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Delta Force (1986), Pet Semetary (1989); Saturday – TWIN WARRIORS (AKA TAI-CHI MASTER) (1993); Sunday – Minions (2015), Through The Lens (2015)

tai chi masterHaving seen The Terminator for the second time this year (albeit on this occasion on the big screen for the very first time) I thought I’d give you all a break and talk about something else. In the first ever article I wrote for this series back at the end of January, I mentioned how I’d seen a boat-load of kung-fu movies. Well, it seems that itch returned as I sought out a few more in the latter part of June. Partly because after trying to think of my four favourite actresses for a Twitter trend that’s taking over my feed lately, I named one of them as Michelle Yeoh. It then got me thinking how few of her lesser known films I’ve actually sat down to watch during these recent binges. A quick trip to America to search for Yeoh’s films on Netflix revealed a 1993 martial arts action-comedy co-starring Jet Li that was quite highly rated at 4.5 stars. Whilst Yeoh herself is more of a side character who helps out Jet Li’s banished monk-turned-political rebellion activist after his long-time friend’s lust for power drives them apart, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s occasionally funny, has some excellently choreographed combat scenes with both Yeoh and Li involved in some high-wire stunts. It even possesses quite a well crafted morality play throughout the plot. The sides of good and evil, right and wrong, friendship and enemies etc with not all of the important scenes involving fisty-cuffs. It’s balanced well enough to keep you engaged even when there’s no wave after wave of useless goons being pummeled by Jet Li’s furious fists…


Week 5 – Monday 29 – Tuesday 30 June 2015

Monday – The Last Dragon (1985), The Big Sleep (1946); Tuesday – Police Assassins (AKA Yes Madam) (AKA  Huang jia shi jie) (1985)

the last dragonOn Monday, I had the evening to myself as my wife was away. I played a bit of Star Fox 64 on my new 2DS (it’s still rock solid) before spending a few hours watching two and just-over-a-half films. Don’t get too excited. I’m not going to name the ‘half a film’; not solely because I didn’t make it to the end before switching it off, but because it was a preview screener for review and don’t think it would be fair to name-and-shame unless I’d seen it all the way to the end. Who knows? That last 20-25 minutes could’ve been spectacular. Alas, of the hour and a bit I did see, it was, without doubt (bearing in mind I also watched United Passions last month) one of the worst, most incoherent, horrendously edited, joyless, completely devoid of any redeeming qualities and downright appalling movies I have ever seen in my entire life. To be fair to it, I personally think that werewolf films are the most difficult Horror sub-genre to tackle. They’re very rarely done right, particularly if you have no money for decent CGI or proper practical special effects. An American Werewolf In London might be one of my favourite films, but An American Werewolf In Paris ain’t. Ginger Snaps, Curse of the Werewolf and Dog Soldiers = good. Ginger Snaps Back, Never Cry Werewolf and Strippers vs Werewolves = bad, bad and ‘just fuck off’ bad. This particular screener for an as-yet unreleased werewolf film was just gibberish. If there was a main character, protagonist or antagonist, I couldn’t tell you. It seems stuck between avoiding replicating PG-rated teen romance dramas, and copying violent, more explicit OTT Japanese animes, whilst trying to construct an appalling superhero origin movie. Random characters would occasionally have exposition read out during mid-scene narration sequences. Think of the line “Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home” from Airplane! and you’re half way there. In some scenes, the actual conversational dialogue was inaudible due to the overbearing dubstep background music, yet explosions and sound effects were ear-bleedingly loud to the point that Michael Bay would’ve been proud. I genuinely rued that wasted hour of my evening. It was so bad I actually began questioning whether or not I even enjoy watching movies any more… before putting on The Big Sleep and realising I do enjoy films, just not this particular one. To make matters worse, I was actually going to talk about The Last Dragon in this review, Mo-Town’s funky kung-fu film about a (seemingly autistic) virgin dubbed Bruce Leroy, with a bordering-on-racist phony Asian accent, despite being from Harlem, who fantasises about achieving a “glow”. Ah well. Maybe I’ll get around to that should I ever rewatch it in the next 6 months. (Spoiler: that’s very, very unlikely.)


And that’s it, I guess! I’ll be back around about the same time next month to round up the stuff that I’ve been watching throughout July. No doubt more kung-fu films, a couple of classic movies and some 80’s cult Cannon films. As ever, if you’ve any comments to make on the films I’ve talked about (or not talked about) above, leave them in the box below or send me a tweet.

Owen’s 2015 In Film: Part 2 – And The Award Goes To: February

In this second entry to a new series of articles where Owen will be taking a look at the films he’s seen during each month of 2015, he talks us through the films he’s seen during February 2015. A month notoriously associated with “awards season”.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

terminator salvation 1I ended January’s article by saying how much I’d bloody loved Werner Herzog’s 1974 film, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, and how you could expect to see reviews of Fitzcarraldo, Heart of Glass and Stroszek in this month’s piece. Well, sorry to disappoint you if that’s what you were expecting, but unfortunately I still haven’t gotten around to them. Instead they are taking up space on my TV planner. However, I am still desperate to see them so hopefully they make it into March’s entry to my 2015 In Film series.

Instead, the month started off with me watching a mix of Terminator movies and catching up on one or two of those nominated for Oscars at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony. I don’t know whether or not you listened to our Oscar predictions podcast earlier in February, where I said that I’d love it if Birdman won best picture, but couldn’t see past Boyhood dominating the awards. Well, I couldn’t be happier to be wrong. I was delighted when I woke up, checked the news and found out that Alejandro González Iñárritu had walked away with the two big awards. Not because I have a deep-rooted hatred of Boyhood or anything. I just really, really enjoyed Birdman. A little over two months in and it’s still my favourite film released in the UK this year.

I also put myself about a bit this past month, in a manner of speaking. I made my first debut on a non-Failed Critics podcast when two awesome gents called Jack and Chris were kind enough to invite me onto Not This Again to talk Oscar predictions. I then somehow ended up being invited onto another podcast by another awesome gent called Tony Black, as we reviewed Jupiter Ascending, Kingsman and others. I also recorded two short preview pieces for Tony’s ‘Black Hole Cinema’ podcast ahead of the Academy Awards; one for Whiplash and another for American Sniper.

Throw in an extremely busy period during my day job and it’s just resulted in a hectic month for me, which has left less room for films throughout February, particularly compared to January. Still, there’s plenty enough for me to talk about! On with the reviews…


Week 1: Sunday 1 – Sunday 8 February 2015

Sunday (1)Boyhood (2014), The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991); Monday – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003); Tuesday – Point & Shoot (2014); Wednesday – THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ (2014); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Ip Man 2 (2010); Saturday – [absolutely nothing]; Sunday (8) – She’s The Man (2006), Jupiter Ascending (2015)

the internet's own boyOriginally I had planned to talk about Boyhood during this segment. It won BAFTAs, Golden Globes and plenty of other awards and until a couple of days before the ceremony, it was hotly tipped as the favourite for best picture. However, I cannot top Barry Shitpeas and Philomena Cunk on the latest episode of Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, Besides which, I really want to talk about a documentary I watched on BBC’s Storyville series called The Internet’s Own Boy. I knew nothing at all about it beforehand; I had no idea who Aaron Swartz was, what had happened to him or why someone had decided to document his life. By the time the end credits came up, I was proclaiming him as the internet’s Che Guevara, a modern day hero, and telling all and sundry to watch this film and learn about this amazing man. For those like me who were unaware of who Aaron Swartz was, I’ll give a quick summary. He founded Reddit and openlibrary.org amongst others, he was partially responsible for inventing RSS and Creative Commons, he was a child prodigy when it comes to coding, and a social and political activist. This documentary explores 26 years of his life, from first learning to read, to his eventual suicide after being involved in an excessive, relentless and bullying persecution by the federal government. Tribute style documentaries can often be a bit of a let down. They’re too respectful, too soppy and too personal a project for those involved to really translate well to the screen. However, there are obvious exceptions such as this (and Grizzly Man, Life Itself, etc) when you truly feel educated on a cause worth knowing about. Rarely do documentaries inspire the level of emotion in me as The Internet’s Own Boy did, and for that, I had to talk about it in this month’s article. It’s still available on iPlayer until 11.30pm this Wednesday. Watch it! I urge you.


Week 2: Monday 9 – Sunday 15 February 2015

Monday – TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009); Tuesday – The Interview (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Virtuality (2009); Friday – Hitman (aka Contract Killer) (1998); Saturday – Wing Chun (1994); Sunday – Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015); Dracula Dead & Loving It (1995); War of the Worlds (2005)

terminator salvationThis is less a review of Terminator Salvation and more a general thing about the franchise as a whole. You may have noticed that I started off the month by rewatching the first three Terminator movies. The first of which is an absolute classic of the sci-fi horror genre, as per its rightful inclusion in Matt’s 1984 Decade In Film piece. It’s an extraordinarily tense, atmospheric, brilliant film that never ceases to entertain, no matter how many times you watch it. I seem to have vague memories of James posing the question on one of my first podcast appearances as to whether or not I preferred it to James Cameron’s sequel, T2: Judgement Day. At the time, I definitely said T2. Having now seen them back to back, the spectacle of T2 is still there, and it’s still an immensely entertaining action blockbuster, but something drew me more to the original. The unrelenting machine vs woman battle and inevitable apocalypse brought on by our playing God (*ahem*) is so horrifying, it has far more impact than in the flashy, fun and over-the-top sequel. The less said about Terminator 3, the better. I don’t think John Connor got into a vehicle or building that didn’t explode in that movie. Sheesh. Suffice to say, after suffering T3 again, expectations were low for Terminator Salvation. Aside from the fact I don’t think I can trust a grown man who refers to himself as McG, I’d heard bad things about it. I knew how troubled the production was and it just sounded dull. You don’t set a Terminator movie in the post apocalyptic future, for crying out loud. Nevertheless, I gave it a chance and… it wasn’t that bad. Bizarrely, it was the worst performance I’ve seen from Christian Bale. I love the guy, think he’s a brilliant actor, but when you’re outshone by Sam Worthington…….. well. Say no more. There’s some interesting concepts around the artificial intelligence angle, plus the climactic battle with Skynet and CGI Arnie is handled moderately well and ties into the franchise nicely, but for large parts it was incredibly tedious. Maybe next time, eh? Roll on Terminator: Genisys.


Week 3: Monday 16 – Sunday 22 February 2015

Monday – Focus (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – THE FIGHTING FISTS OF SHANGHAI JOE (1973); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Man of Tai Chi (2014); Saturday – The House at the End of Time (2013); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

shanghai joeA woeful week for film watching. I didn’t even finish The House at the End of Time, Focus I’ve already reviewed on here, and Callum summed up Man of Tai Chi best when he said it was nothing groundbreaking but a very strong directorial debut. Which leaves me with only this slightly racist spaghetti western from the 70’s to talk about. A film I only happened upon because I noticed the title on movies4men, thinking it sounded like a kung-fu film where a westerner called Joe appears in Shanghai and beats up some people or something generic like that. Alas! It was the complete opposite as a Chinese man turns up in the wild west and beats up some people or something generic like that. The only reason I hit that ‘record’ button and gave it a chance is because I noticed Klaus Kinski’s name in the description. It actually turned out to be quite enjoyable! Utter nonsense with a plot that was barely coherent, as our titular hero is chased from pillar to post by a variety of hired assassins. Regardless, it was a lot more fun than I had expected it to be. Released in the same year as Bruce Lee starred in Enter The Dragon, a film that catapulted kung-fu into the American mainstream, it’s not difficult to understand why the already out-dated Confucius quoting Chen Lee faded into obscurity. Even so, the goofy stunts and not-exactly culturally sensitive gags made it an amusing experience all the same.


Week 4: Monday 23 – Saturday 28 February 2015

Monday – Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Project Almanac (2015); Tuesday – The Darjeeling Limited (2007); Wednesday – Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead) (1960); Thursday – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011); Friday – TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (2014); Saturday – The Babadook (2014), Superman (1978)

two days one nightIn a slightly more successful final week, it became the only one in February where I managed to see a film every day. When I could stand to look at the screen without feeling sick, I watched Project Almanac at the cinema. I took advantage of an offer Pringles were running and nabbed Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited for free. I even watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on the off chance that it’d convince me to go and see the sequel that came out on Friday (it didn’t). Actually, I think the best film I watched during this week was The Babadook, another film I managed to acquire for free after my mother in law and her lodger / my mate palmed the blu-ray off on me after being disappointed with it. Instead though, I’m going to take a second to express my own personal disappointment with a film I’d been looking forward to. Two Days, One Night is a French film set in Belgium starring Marion Cotillard as a young depressed mum on the brink of losing her job if her colleagues decide to vote for keeping their bonuses instead of keeping her on. Over the course of a couple of days, she attempts to convince her co-workers to vote in favour of allowing her to retain her job. I’d seen the film described as a masterpiece and knew how highly regarded Cotillard’s performance was. Why is it thought of as a masterpiece? I couldn’t tell you. The film was a repetitive, monotone chore with nothing interesting to say about relationships; be they intimate man-and-woman loving relationships, or about the reflections of the employer/employee relationships. It was just one “sometimes-life-throws-up-difficult-decisions” drum banged over and over again. It’s one thing to make a film seem naturalistic, it’s another to stretch scenes so thin that you are literally watching 30 seconds of someone say they don’t know so-and-so’s address, but here’s [that guy]’s address, then write it down on a bit of paper, then hand it over, then have a slight pause before “merci, au revoir” and slowly walk out of frame. Bah. I know that in reviewing a shitty spaghetti western and the Terminator franchise that maybe I’ve painted myself as a certain kind of movie-watcher. But in all honesty, I do watch any and every sort of film. I stated above that I was looking forward to this film, but even Cotillard was disappointing. She wasn’t bad; in parts I’d go so far as to say that she was quite good. Between the saturation of constant tears and slow awkward conversations, she (and it) just left me tired and bored.


And that’s a wrap. I’ll be back next month to look back at the films I’ve seen in March, as well as hopefully more films to choose from! I’m happy to talk about any of the others listed above too should you want to know more. Just leave a comment below or send me a Tweet at @ohughes86.

Owen’s 2015 In Film: Part 1 – Janur-hi-YAH!

In a brand new series, Owen will be taking a look at the films he’s seen during each month of 2015. The format will follow the same pattern as his A Horrorble Month article last year, breaking down the month by week, providing a review on one arbitrarily chosen film seen during that period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

ouaticWelcome to my new series! I think I better start as I mean to go on, by apologising. I’m aware that this seems like a rather self-indulgent project. There probably isn’t actually even an audience for this sort of thing. I mean, who really gives a shit what I’ve been watching over the past 31 days?

However, at the start of 2015, our most prolific writer, Callum Petch, went on a short break which prompted me to start writing a bit more often for the main site. It made me remember that as well as reading about films, talking about films and of course watching films, I also used to enjoy writing about them too before I got so lazy and left all the heavy-lifting to Callum. So, basically, you can consider this an exercise in egotism. Read it if you desire, but I’m writing this series for no better reason than because I want to!

Exactly as I began 2014, so had it also ended with me watching a boat-load of South Korean movies. In between the fantasy films, extended edition Lord of the Rings films and Hobbit preparation, I’d managed to squeeze in a few Kim Ki-duk’s and one or two other Korean movies into December. I fully expected to carry on along the same trajectory during January 2015, given that the final film of the year that I watched was Hong Sang-soo’s In Another Country.

For one simple reason, that didn’t actually happen. Instead, partly because I decided early on in the year to re-watch Bruce Lee’s films for a retrospective I was planning on writing, I spent most of last month catching up on various martial arts flicks. Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan, one or two others; I accidentally became hooked on their films, nostalgia and Cantonese films in general. Add to that the fact I also ended up on an A.I. / sci-fi binge, and the flood of new releases I was actually interested in seeing at the cinema, there simply wasn’t time for any Korean films, sadly.

Anyway! I’m sure you’ll see for yourselves how my month turned out. On with the reviews…


Week 1: Thursday 1 – Sunday 4 January 2015

Thursday – Pinocchio (1940), AUSTIN POWERS: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY (1997); Friday – Birdman (2015), Becket (1964); Saturday – Rapture (1965), Predator (1987); Sunday – I’m All Right Jack (1959), Big Hero 6 (2015)

austin powersOK, I’m aware none of those listed above could in any way be classed as martial arts movies. My year actually started with a Disney movie and a film I haven’t seen for years as I recovered from a New Year’s party hangover. Clearly, Mike Myers’ spy-spoof from the 90’s is not the best film listed there. Yet his puerile and immature sense of humour was exactly what I was looking for on New Year’s Day. It may not have aged particularly well; there’s a debate to be made over how good it ever was in the first place, I suppose! However, there’s no case to be made for how clever the film is, or how intelligent the jokes are, because it’s nothing more than one throwaway gag after another. Playing both the cryogenically frozen shagadelic British spy from the swingin’ 60’s awoken 30 years later in the hip 90’s, as well as his arch nemesis Dr Evil hell bent on holding the Earth to ransom for the princely sum of one million dollars, Myers is just very fun to watch. I used to love the Austin Powers films. Back in secondary school, me and my mates must’ve watched it and its sequel on VHS about a hundred times over and it never seemed to get any worse. I can look at it now with slightly more objective eyes, but it was still a hoot and it was somewhat surprising how it frequently had me laughing like an idiot as if watching it for the first time all over again.


Week 2: Monday 5 – Sunday 11 January 2015

Monday – Exodus: Gods and Kings (2015); Tuesday –  Passport to Pimlico (1949), Unbroken (2015), The Theory of Everything (2015); Wednesday – The Collector (1965), Manuscripts Don’t Burn (2013), The Big Boss (1971); Thursday – Taken 3 (2015), Fist of Fury (1972), Way of the Dragon (1972), Enter The Dragon (1973), Game of Death (1978); Friday – Alpha Papa (2013), The House of Usher (1960), Gremlins (1984); Saturday – Lost in Space (1998), The History Boys (2006); Sunday – PROJECT A: PART II (1987)

project a 2Obviously then, as you can see from the above, this is when my month really began. Having watched five Bruce Lee movies (six if you count the 40 minutes of the original Game of Death footage, or four if you discount GoD altogether) in little under two days during my final week off work over the Christmas period, I soon moved on to Jackie Chan’s back catalogue. Specifically a DVD I purchased for £2 on a whim back in December, Project A: Part II, Jackie’s follow up to his 1984 film. As well as being the star of this kung-fu comedy, he both wrote and directed it, and the influence of his idols like the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy and so on are all over it. Just like they were doing for audiences 60 or 70 years before him, JC’s stunts here are both hilarious and genuinely thrilling. Like, in a similar way to Chaplin roller skating whilst blind-folded near a ledge in Modern Times, or Harold Lloyd dangling off a clock face in Safety Last, only with the danger and ingenuity increased ten-fold. Fighting off two men on a rickety construction, swinging off one bit whilst performing some amazing acrobatics off another bit, after swallowing a mouthful of chilli peppers, it is both excruciating to watch him put his life on the line for these stunts, and immensely entertaining. The plot to Project A: Part II is all over the place, the support characters are bland and the message (if it has one) is muddled, to say the least. But if it isn’t one of the best examples of Jackie’s talent at shooting comedic action sequences, then I don’t know what is.


Week 3: Monday 12 – Sunday 18 January 2015

Monday – Foxcatcher (2015), Wild (2015); Tuesday – The Ipcress File (1965); Wednesday – In Bruges (2008); Thursday – Whiplash (2015); Friday – 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) (Steven Soderbergh cut); Saturday – Armour of God (1986), Armour of God II: Operation Condor (1991), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990); Sunday – American Sniper (2015), The 36 Crazy Fists (1977), Once Upon A Time In China (1991)

2001I don’t think I’ve written or talked about any other film for Failed Critics as often as I have done with Stanley Kubrick’s pre-moon-landing science fiction feature, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Just last week I included HAL in my A.I. In Film article. The week before I reviewed this exact cut on the podcast. It even made its way onto my Into ‘Stellar piece last year, never mind the Stanley Kubrick: Corridor of Praise we recorded two years ago. And yet, I could talk about it even more. The thing about 2001:ASO is, there are dozens of ways to interpret what happens throughout the course of the movie. Every time you watch it, you notice something new that you missed out on last time. Whilst this is certainly what I’d consider a positive aspect, it’s also something that prevents you from truly knowing the film intimately. Well, it does for mere mortals like you and I. For someone like Soderbergh, he managed to get to know Kubrick’s magnum opus better than most as he took it upon himself to edit the film and present the footage how he sees it, available to watch for free (legally) on his website. Rather than taking a knife to the masterpiece and tarnishing it forever, creating something new, he merely trimmed some scenes down, re-arranged the score, re-ordered footage and shortened the overall run time to present a feature that still prominently displays one of its most integral themes, albeit in a more direct format. Like the original, it still naturally progresses the acquisition of knowledge, displaying how ‘knowledge’ is a primary driver in the progression of mankind from ape to, erm, gigantic floating space infant. Plus, it’s actually quite refreshing in a way to only have to dedicate one hour and fifty minutes to the film, rather than over two and a half hours, and not feel like you’ve seen a lesser film.


Week 4: Monday 19 – Sunday 25 January 2015

Monday – Gravity (2013); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – CINEMA PARADISO (1988); Thursday – The Machine (2013); Friday – The Twilight Samurai (2002); Saturday – Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010), Iceman (2014); Sunday – Ex Machina (2015), Warriors Two (1978)

cinema paradisoI tweeted my ★★½  /  ★★★★★ Letterboxd review of Cinema Paradiso not long after writing it and it was met with what might be considered “controversy”. On a small, completely irrelevant and non-life threatening scale, of course. Still, it seemed to irk a handful of people whilst an even smaller amount nodded in agreement. I don’t know what to tell you or how to explain myself. It wasn’t like the film was an awful, sloppy, intolerable mess. It just seemed to play very heavily on a nostalgic vibe, of which appeared to be on a separate wavelength to me. The saccharine tone and tosh profundity left me stony faced and unaffected, but I’ve since been told the director’s cut (which adds another hour onto the whopping 155 minutes run time) makes it less mawkish. I’m not sure I could stand to watch it again as is, never mind with an additional 60 minutes on top of that, but that would definitely be the first issue I’d address if I were to improve the film (as if I’d know how to improve a film). It wasn’t all sickly-sentimental. Occasionally, even I couldn’t prevent my lips from raising at the edges into something resembling a smile, particularly during the triumphant final scene. It also managed to make me laugh sporadically throughout, but it never quite touched me on an emotional level which as far as I could make out was the only thing Tornatore’s movie was trying to do. Ergo, ★★½. Sorry.


Week 5: Monday 26 – Saturday 31 January 2015

Monday – Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing again!]; Wednesday – The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (2012), Sabotage (2014); Thursday – THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER (1974); Friday – The Road (2009); Saturday – Chinese Zodiac (2012)

kaspar hauserJeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (literally “Every Man for Himself and God Against All”) or as we know it here in the UK, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, came close to becoming my favourite Werner Herzog film last week. I’d been recommended it a year or two ago, but noticed that Film4 were holding a Werner Herzog Season and jumped at the opportunity to watch this (supposedly) true story of the 19th century German foundling. I’m going to review it in more detail on the podcast due out this week (look out for that!) but suffice to say, it’s bloody excellent. It took a certain degree of effort, patience and perseverance to get into it, as do most of Herzog’s best films, but it was absolutely worth it in the end. From the outstanding performance of its enigmatic (see what I did there) lead actor, Bruno S. (as he was credited) to the simply astonishingly well plotted story, it’s just magnificent. You can expect to see Heart Of GlassFitzcarraldo and Stroszek in next month’s entry to this series.


Phew! That’s it. I’m done. I’m only half joking when I say that I’m only writing this for my own personal benefit. If you’ve got any comments on the above, or if you want to talk about any of the other films I’ve listed then please leave a comment below or talk to me on Twitter. Until the end of February, adiós!