Tag Archives: 2016

From the Vault: Blair Witch

In the first of our new From The Vault series, we pluck out unfinished articles from the archives of unpublished material, sitting in the Failed Critics drafts folder, and spruce it up a bit before finally hitting that publish button. First up, Owen Hughes’s long forgotten review of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s found-footage collaboration, Blair Witch.
Originally written: September 2016
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Field & Mullinger’s Underground Nights: UGN’s Guide to 2016

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The tinsel is down, the tree is in a skip, the annual bottle of port is long gone and only the orange ones remain in the tub of Quality Street, but 2016 has one last hurrah as hosts Paul and James take a look back at their favourite films of the past 12 months.

First they tackle the results from the Failed Critics Awards 2016 and discover which hugely popular titles they’ve managed to completely miss. They discuss their biggest surprises, biggest disappointments and hopefully don’t alienate most of their movie-going listeners by rubbishing the biggest critical hits of the year.

Finally, they each countdown their three worst films – and the lads have their sights firmly set on those with money and talent who’ve managed to balls things up spectacularly in 2016. There’s also time for a round-up of the top 5 movies of the year. What a wonderfully mixed bag it is too!

As ever with Underground Nights, if you’re looking for superhero films, head elsewhere. If you want competitive endurance tickling, bizarre erotic fan-fiction, Nicolas Cage movies without Nicholas Cage, and Dave Courtney in a tank, then you’re in luck.

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Support the podcast by streaming the podcast from our hosts Acast, subscribing on iTunes and leaving us a review and rating, or sharing this page with all of your friends – and some people who aren’t your friends too, just for good measure.

Failed Critics Podcast: Awards 2016 – part 2

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Fanfare, please! It’s the final part of our Failed Critics Awards 2016 podcast. We’ve got the full list of all the films to make it onto our top 10 of the year, as voted for by you folks.

Also in part 2, Steve Norman, Owen Hughes, Andrew Brooker and Callum Petch reveal which have been the best performances of 2016 from both male and female actors. Spoiler: Mob Handed star, Yvette Rowland, didn’t make the shortlist – but did Mob Handed make it onto our worst 3 films of the year? Or even our top 10? You’ll just have to listen to find out.

If you missed the podcast yesterday, you can go back and listen to part 1 to find out what our best documentaries, British films, “foreign muck” and soundtracks are.

We’ll be back in the New Year, but until then, we’d just like to express our enormous gratitude to everybody who took the time to vote in this year’s Failed Critics Awards. We’re always surprised at just how many of you there are who are willing to give us any amount of your time, either to listen to the podcast, read our reviews or submit votes. Thanks and here’s hoping you’ll stick with us in 2017!

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Failed Critics Podcast: Awards 2016 – part 1

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Welcome to the first part of this year’s Failed Critics Awards!

Rather than force you to sit through a two-hour podcast only days after our three-hour compilation “best of” episode came out, we’ve split this year’s awards in half.

In part one, hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by Andrew Brooker and Callum Petch to scowl, whoop and whine about the winners in:

  • Best documentary
  • Best British film
  • Best film not in the English language
  • Best soundtrack

As well, of course, as our end of year quiz!

We’ll be back tomorrow (new year’s eve!) with the winners in our best male / female performances, worst films of the year and the big one: Our top 10 movies of 2016 – as voted for by you, our listeners and readers.

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New to Failed Critics? Try our ‘Best of 2016’ compilation episode!

It’s just gone midnight on Christmas Eve, which means those of you who have managed stay up past your bedtime and wait for Father Christmas can officially open one of your presents early! I’ve got the perfect one for you, right here…

This brand new episode is a three and a half hour long ‘best of’ the Failed Critics Podcast from the past 12 months, all cobbled together into some kind of Christmas TV type compilation episode. There’s all of our favourite bits, including Paul’s famous quizzes, reviews of Mob Handed and Killer Bitch, every single booby-prize that Owen and Steve put each other through, all of our pre-titles and post-credit stingers, and loads more.

It’s not gift wrapped. It’s not store-bought. There’s no receipt so you can’t go and exchange it for any other podcast during the Boxing Day sales. But hopefully it’ll keep you company should you be enduring any agonisingly long car journeys over this festive period.

Merry Christmas all and a happy new year from everyone here at Failed Critics!

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2016: A Year in Review, A Challenge Failed

“These timelines are so confusing.”  

2016 has been a real arse of a year, hasn’t it? With only a few days until this awful, awful year is behind us, I thought I would take a few words – OK, a lot of words – to share with you not only my challenge of the last twelve months, but my 365 day long journey towards failure.

I’ve been writing regularly for Failed Critics for more than a year now; closer to two, in fact. Between forcing Owen to constantly edit my pointless rants into something readable (sometimes two or three times a week) and being lucky enough to be invited to appear on the podcast every few weeks, I’m always watching something. But I got to the end of last year and thought that, considering what was becoming start a large part of my life, I wasn’t watching nearly enough. So I set myself simple enough challenge…

A film a day throughout 2016. That’s at least 365 unique films by the time we hit New Year’s Day 2017. They didn’t need to be brand new films, although of course some would have to be, but the list just needed to have 365 films on it.

Sadly, I failed. Miserably.

I started so well too. All those award season films we didn’t get until the new year and all those blu-rays I got for Christmas padded my numbers out nicely early on. With me making a real effort to watch everything in time for the Oscars podcasts in February, everything was looking peachy. The start of my year was looking great.

An early guest spot on fellow Failed Critic Tony Black’s Pick-a-Flick podcast in time for The Hateful Eight meant I banged through three Quentin Tarantino films in one night as preparation, not only filling in my spreadsheet super quick, but giving me the chance to have a night off. Similar super-fast binges followed for specials on South Korean cinema, Shane Black’s filmography and Batman Vs. Superman. It was all going so well.

Then, Deadpool happened.

Within our little echo chamber of people, there are a couple of things I’ve become a bit notorious for this year. The second of these was my explosion of hate and abuse that was my Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie review. A few hundred words of such utter contempt for a film that saw some of the worst things I’ve ever written put to paper for all to see. Everyone seemed to love it.

But the first was the fact that in its short theatrical run, I managed to see Deadpool ten times in the various cinemas local to me that, even with various Unlimited cards to my name, I still paid to see several times. It became the first movie this year that I pre-ordered on American iTunes to ensure I could watch it again as soon as possible, as well as buying a lovely looking steelbook blu-ray when it came out in the U.K.

As of right now, 2016 has seen me watch The Merc with the Mouth an insane sixteen times. But as great as that is, it had a pretty detrimental effect on my list of watched films. Filling out numbers with multiple viewings is great – more on that in a bit – but I wanted a unique film every day; and it was starting to look like it’d be a tough one to pull off now.

Months pass and, while I’m certain I’m going to fall short, I’m kept pretty busy. Between watching entire series’ within franchises before their latest instalments come out (*cough* The Purge: Election Year *cough*) and enjoying Suicide Squad enough to fit in multiple screenings, my numbers aren’t looking too bad. This might even be doable. Especially by the time August came around.

Baby’s first FrightFest!

I’m a long time horror fan. It’s usually my genre of choice and going to Fright Fest has been a dream of mine for years. This writing nonsense was the perfect (extra) excuse to spend a couple of hundred quid and get my arse to London. Sadly, work commitments (namely: hating my job), meant that my trip was kind of gimped and I could only manage three of the five days. But I saw some amazing stuff, including Rob Zombie’s latest gorefest, 31. It broke into my top ten instantly and is another film that I’ve paid to watch at least three times since I first saw it – including a trip to the hallowed grounds of the Prince Charles Cinema to see it on the big screen again.

Three days of non-stop horror added something like twenty films to my list in a short space of time. A welcome boost to my spreadsheet. The introduction of “Netflix of Horror” service Shudder to the UK certainly didn’t hurt either.

One of the reasons I set myself this challenge was because there was so much stuff taking up film watching time that I wanted to make space for more. But I also wanted to share it with the family. Obviously, my three year old can’t be watching Ringu, Suburra or Pet Sematary – all films that are on the list – but there’s a huge amount of children’s films that we can watch together. I could kill two birds with one stone; I can show Nikita a variety of films, avoiding the dross that is kid’s TV, and pad out my numbers during the day.

This backfired horribly. Instead of getting a ton of extra films on my list, I ended up watching thirteen films 83 times. EIGHTY THREE! This included sixteen views of Big Hero 6. We watched Zootropolis eight times, all of them at the cinema; and one ‘movies for juniors’ trip to see Kubo and the Two Strings, not at all influenced by the bollocking I took from Callum Petch for having not watched it yet. (Excellent little film, by the way). But, you know, she’s also squeezed in multiple watches of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book and the much hated Ghostbusters reboot, so I’m not going to complain too hard, even if the little git did ruin my numbers!

Of course it’s all well and good me blaming everyone else for me failing this ridiculous challenge. Once October rolled around, I had no one but myself to blame. It turned out that convincing Failed Critics head honcho Owen to give up his feed to me and my mate to chat bollocks about video games once a fortnight was the easy part to starting the Character Unlock podcast. Losing a night to record and a night (sometimes two) to editing eats away at your valuable film watching time. More than that, if you wanna talk about games, it helps if you’ve played them first! There goes more hours that could have been spent with my hands down my pants watching films. Damn, whatever was I thinking?

And that brings us to today. Where I’m sitting in the house on my own watching Scuzz TV and writing this instead of adding more films to my list. It’s no wonder I failed at this challenge this year. Hitting a little over half of the intended 365 unique films, I managed a measly 213. Once I tallied up the films I’d watched multiple times, whether it be with the little one or because I was weirdly obsessed with Ryan Reynolds’ spandex covered arse, my total is a slightly more respectable 344. Still not good enough, but I’m getting there.

So what does 2017 hold? Well, I’m looking to try the same challenge again once January kicks in, but I’ll be happy if I can beat this year’s numbers. I’ll be leaving Letterboxd aside and sticking to my Numbers spreadsheet and hoping for the best. With several long running franchises getting sequels this year, I’ll be binging through collections like Alien, Saw and The Fast and the Furious early on. I have every intention of hitting FrightFest stronger this year and getting to a few shows at the London Film Festival after having to skip it this year.

This time around though, I’m dragging you lot along with me. To try and force me to keep better track of what I’m doing, and hopefully to embarrass me enough to actually work at it, I’ll be putting together a monthly article covering the best and worst of what I’ve seen that month and hopefully start a bit of a running tally. I might not make it to 365, but I’m damn sure going to have fun trying. See you in January.

Character Unlock: So Long, 2016

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As the year draws to a close and everyone takes this opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief that the seemingly unending misery of the year of our Lord 2016 is finally over, it seems that we’ve actually had a pretty decent year for gaming.

To celebrate, join hosts Andrew Brooker and John Miller as they rattle down their best games of the year; and scrape the barrel to name a couple of rubbish ones. The lads drag out some games that they’ve talked about before on previous episodes, refusing to stop beating those dead horses and instead opt to get as much life out of them as possible; as well as finally getting to talk about a couple of games that they’ve been holding on to for just this occasion.

Tension and drama aplenty as John tries to big up one of his favourite games of the year but throws abuse at it instead, leaving Brooker to defend not only that, but the TWO Bethesda published games that John refuses to believe are good. Will this episode turn into a shouting match? Will either of them come out alive? Can you guess the one and only game the lads agreed on? All these answers and more in our final episode of 2016.

Join us bright and early in 2017, hopefully before anything awful has happened, to welcome a couple of guests onto the show where we dissect the Assassin’s Creed franchise.

Merry Christmas everyone. Thanks for listening to us ramble on over the back end of this year and we look forward to prattling on for hours on end come the new year.

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2016 in Review: A Soundtrack

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It’s been a while since we did a review of the year’s soundtracks, so we drafted in frequent collaborator Tony Black – and head honcho at the TV and film music podcast Between The Notes – who put down his microphone in favour of writing down his thoughts on the top soundtracks of 2016. Plenty to consider before you vote in this year’s Failed Critics Awards.

Let’s be honest, it’s not been a great year at the movies has it, 2016? Not if you’re a major blockbuster at least. Oddly enough though, the same can’t quite be said for the scores to many of those films, dodgy or otherwise. David Ayer, Zack Snyder or even Scott Derrickson may have let you down, but Michael Giacchino, Clint Mansell or Cliff Martinez have been right on the money with their orchestral scores to some of this year’s most disappointing or divisive pictures.

Here are five scores to the biggest (and not necessarily best) movies that have troubled your multiplex that I consider to be composers close to the top of their respective games:


5 – THE WITCH (Mark Korven)

Just like you probably hadn’t heard of The Witch before early this year, chances are you won’t have heard of Canadian composer Mark Korven. He’s a new kid on the block. Much like how Robert Eggers wowed us with his debut feature, Korven backs him up with a score that drips remote, screeching, primeval terror and the coldness of the austere Puritan setting in which Eggers tells his chilling tale. It’s not Sunday afternoon easy listening, but it’s one of the best horror/chiller scores in years.

Standout track: Caleb’s Seduction


4 – STAR TREK BEYOND (Michael Giacchino)

The new master and heir apparent to John Williams; it’s rare Michael Giacchino has a bad year. After a stonking 2015 scoring a raft of average movies with stunning music, he delivers this year both with Doctor Strange and even more so Star Trek Beyond. It’s his third score for the JJ Abrams spearheaded revival of the classic TV score and it’s possibly his best yet, a heady mixture of iconic, reworked themes with powerful, thrilling brass and an elegant sense of galactic scope. Plus you’ll always have a good laugh at the wonderful puns that litter the names of his cues, as if you needed more of a reason to listen!

Standout track: Night on the Yorktown


3 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Bear McCreary)

You’ve heard Bear McCreary, even if you don’t know his name. Trust me. He scored the excellent Battlestar Galactica remake and it’s his music that forms the memorable title track to The Walking Dead. He’s been much more television based (and continues to be) but in scoring the underrated, Hitchcockian sequel to secret blockbuster Cloverfield, he truly advances to the big leagues with a score one parts mythic, and two parts a gorgeous mesh of dark thriller & Jerry Goldsmith-esque creeping mystique. Even if you don’t love 10 Cloverfield Lane (and you should), it would be a surprise if you don’t end up a little in love with how it sounds by the end.

Standout track: Michelle


2 – THE NEON DEMON (Cliff Martinez)

Following previous partnerships with Nicolas Winding Refn on films such as Drive or Only God Forgives, Cliff Martinez perhaps reaches amongst the peak of his accomplishments with his remarkable and unique work on The Neon Demon. Now, not everyone took to Winding Refn’s garish horror about the fashion industry, but Martinez’s music drips with substance. It often sounds like diamonds falling onto a cold floor, infused with a sense of warped, pulsing disco, underlain with painful violins capturing the tragedy of Elle Fanning’s main character. It’s a stunning piece of work, and remarkable for the fact the standout piece, ‘The Demon Dance’, is a contributing from Julian Winding, the directors brother. If it’s not being played in clubs forevermore, it’ll be a travesty.

Standout track: The Demon Dance


1 – HIGH-RISE (Clint Mansell)

There’s a strong argument that Clint Mansell is the greatest composer on this list discussed today and, after listening to his score for High-Rise, it’s hard to provide a counterpoint. Ben Wheatley’s absurdist, neo-capitalist, period masterpiece and searing critique on Thatcherism may both be the greatest film of 2016 but also have a score to match. Mansell belies his roots as a Midlander growing up in the gaudy, concrete monstrosities of the 60’s & 70’s to deliver an operatic and creeping piece which matches Wheatley’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s commentary. It’s full of brash violins, strong towering themes and an underpinning of controlled mayhem which Mansell explodes outward for effect at just the right moments. Of all these pieces, it’s the score that can be most listened to and enjoyed in isolation. Even in Mansell’s glittering career it’s a standout, possibly career best piece of work.

Standout track: The World Beyond the High Rise


In terms of honourable mentions, a shout out again to Giacchino for Doctor Strange, to Henry Jackman for The Birth of a Nation, the great John Williams for The BFG, Johann Johannson for Arrival, John Ottman for X-Men Apocalypse, Abel Korzeniowski for Nocturnal Animals and John Powell/David Buckley’s collaboration on Jason Bourne. There are more I’ve missed, undoubtedly, from even the honourable mentions, let alone the best of list.

So take a moment to remember than even in a hellish political year, or a largely average one for movies on the screen, the composers behind the music are still delivering work you’ll be listening to for years to come. 2016 does have one saving grace, after all…

Failed Critics Podcast: Rogue Three – A Star Wars Podcast

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Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away…

…a bunch of humanoids (that rather suspiciously looked a lot like regular homo-sapiens) hatched a plan to steal some prized blueprints that will allow these feisty rebels to finally topple their evil authoritarian overlord once and for all.

Unfortunately for them, the best they could manage was to kick this wretched git off their podcast for a week instead, as Steve Norman, Paul Field and “Crisp Packet” Dave Valentine return for another Star Wars special episode – sans Owen Hughes.

With the arrival of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in cinemas this week – heralding Disney’s monopoly over the Christmas blockbuster with their second attempt at reviving George Lucas’s space-opera adventure series – we reunited last year’s trio to dissect all things good and bad with the post-prequel-sequel-prequel… thing…

There’s a quiz (of course there’s a quiz) that Quizcast host Paul takes charge of again, putting our Star Wars knowledge to the test, before a run through of the once-canon (but no longer so) spin-offs that arrived prior to 2015’s The Force Awakens, including a very Ewoky Christmas and some surprisingly good animated shows.

We won’t be releasing a new podcast next week, but you can still check out last week’s Christmas special if you’re feeling festive!

In the meantime, make sure you send in your votes for the Failed Critics Awards 2016 before midnight 27 December. Ignore Russell Brand, every vote counts. If you don’t do your duty, you’ll only have yourselves to blame if we end up with Mob Handed as our number one film of the year. You’ve been warned.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Office Christmas Party

“I once filed a sexual harassment complaint. Against myself.”

As if Bad Santa 2 wasn’t bad enough, leaving the spirit of Christmas in a back alley with its underwear around its ankles, bleeding from the anus, along comes another parasite of a movie hoping to get its jollies off at the unconscious victim its predecessor left behind.

Drunk, drugged and unlubricated, Office Christmas Party is here to have a bash at the sloppy seconds Billy Bob Thornton left behind. And wouldn’t you know, this party is a veritable ensemble gangbang that’s about to make a mess and spread its diseases all over the poor, crumpled up, whimpering Christmas spirit.

When the CEO of fictional tech firm Zenotek Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Anniston) visits her moronic, waste of space brother Clay (TJ Miller) and tries to close down his branch of the company that he’s ruining financially, him and his Chief Technical Officer, Josh (Jason Bateman), hatch a plan to throw the greatest Christmas Party ever, convince big fish IT Buyer Walter (Courtney B. Vance) to bring his business to them and save everyone’s job.

Honestly, don’t think about it too much. To give it more than a second or two’s thought is to waste valuable brain time and triple the amount of effort the “writers” put into this vile monstrosity.

I so desperately wanted this film to be good. I so desperately wanted to come out of this film having pissed myself laughing at it, struggling to breath as rapid fire gag hit rapid fire gag. But sadly, the only piss here was to be found on the trousers of the slightly tipsy guy that fell asleep three rows ahead of me who wet himself during the trailer for Star Wars.

As it was, this almost two-hour “comedy” was simply painful to watch. I saw so many people – all of whom individually I love to watch on screen and so many of whom are genuinely funny – in this shipwreck of awfulness, sinking to the bottom of the ocean of shit that is the ritual of the Christmas comedy.

I mean seriously, look at this damn poster! Look at the names on it!

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These people are in this shit show. Like last year’s awful Crimbo flick and every one before it, I’m positive these simple-minded fools are being tricked into appearing in these films. Because no way do I believe any of these imbeciles looked at a script that included someone 3D printing their own dick and proclaimed “I must be in this film!”. I just don’t believe it.

Honestly, at somewhere around the fifteen minute mark, as a pair of ball fondlers are hilariously knocking over a Christmas tree in a department store, I was desperately looking for a sharp candy cane around somewhere so I could light it on fire, push it through my eye and swirl it about in my brain for a bit just to make the ghastly cunt show end.

Out of 105 minutes, there was a three minute segment not set in an office full of turd chomping oxygen thieves, where Jennifer Anniston got the best lines in the film and the one and only laugh I got from the entire run time. She gets a scene all of her very own and throws a tirade of beautiful abuse at some little shit in an airport. Not amazing, but worth a chuckle.

What makes this worse – because it does get worse – before this diseased fanny of a film even started, we were subjected to a trailer for a third Christmas comedy for 2016. A THIRD FUCKING FILM. Hasn’t 2016 been bad enough already? We are getting three dreadful, hateful Christmas comedies in a year? I need that like I need a staff infection in my left testicle.

Please god, let this year pass without anymore films that leave me violated, because like the tattered body of my Christmas spirit, this dumpster fire of a movie has left me feeling like someone has banged a sandpaper wrapped traffic cone up my arse – and then asked me to fucking pay for it!

If I never see another ensemble comedy, filled with desperately overpaid donkey fondlers paying back the favours they were done over the year, pretending to celebrate this most meaningless of commercial celebrations again, it’ll be far too soon.

Do yourselves a favour: To get the same experience I got for half the mental anguish, give microwaving your own shit a go.

Or drunkenly shaving your nuts with a rusty razor.

Or perhaps try tattooing your own taint with a hot biro.

Anything to stop these fucking atrocious vaginal-secretions making money every bloody holiday season!

Failed Critics Podcast: Secret Sandra Xmas Special

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We left some mince pies and a nip of sherry out in a vain attempt to attract someone jolly onto the Christmas special podcast this year but instead we ended up with Steve Norman, Owen Hughes, Brian Plank and Tony Black.

Festive frivolities ensue on our very merry podcast with a Christmas-themed quiz to kick things off before a plug for our Failed Critics Awards 2016 (which you can vote for here before 27 December) and a glimpse at what we might be picking for each category.

You can thank Tony’s autocorrect for the invention of our Secret Sandra section of the show. Anonymously exchanging movies amongst each other in a ‘secret santa’ format, we somehow only exchanged one lump of coal. Steve ended up watching quirky black comedy I Love You, Philip Morris, whilst Brian unwrapped The Internet’s Own Boy (a documentary about Aaron Swartz) and Tony mulled over topical horror-comedy Krampus. Meanwhile, Owen sulked in the corner at being made to watch Kevin James’s Netflix Original, True Memoirs of an International Assassin.

We stuffed the Failed Critics Podcast Christmas turkey with a few new releases just for good measure (and to hide the taste of our giblets). There’s a few choice words for Office Christmas Party (look out for Brooker’s written review tomorrow – it’s a doozy) and a word of warning for those hoping to catch Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation. We even make room for a wrap-up of Season One of Westworld.

Join us again in a couple of days for our Rogue One: A Star Wars Story special!

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Failed Critics Awards Voting 2016

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Everybody loves lists. Reading them, writing them, or even voting in them – as has happened every December since we began collecting results in 2012 for the annual Failed Critics Awards.

Last year saw us achieve our highest ever number of votes as Mad Max: Fury Road smashed all that came before it to reach top spot on our final 10. Without such a clear runaway leader emerging this year, whatever film you’re voting for has much more of a chance of reaching top spot than in any other year.

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

  • Top 10 films of 2016*
  • Best male performance
  • Best female performance
  • Best documentary
  • Best British film
  • Best film not in the English language
  • Best soundtrack
  • Worst film

*that’s films released in the UK in 2016 only (e.g. Spotlight counts as it was released here in January 2016, but La La Land doesn’t as it isn’t released in the UK until January 2017. If in doubt, add a ‘/releaseinfo’ to the IMDb URL (e.g. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/releaseinfo))

Voting closes at midnight on Tuesday 27th December. The winners will be revealed on our End of Year Awards podcast, released a few days later. A list will also be posted on our Failed Critics Awards page.

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

VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED – THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SUBMIT YOUR NOMINATIONS! RESULTS WILL BE PUBLISHED ON THE AWARDS PAGE

Character Unlock: All The News Fit To Ignore

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As the year heads towards its end, it can only mean one thing: The annual splurge of awards shows and self-congratulatory press conferences continue and are going strong.

In this last week, we’ve had the latest Geoff Keighley wank-a-thon award show. Whilst hosts John Miller and Andrew Brooker are skipping out on the awards, “who won what” and “what missed out”, it is one of the best places outside of the gaming conventions to get an announcement or two and a few new trailers. This is where the lads are spending their time today.

Talking of gaming conventions, Sony’s first party touch-fest, “The Playstation Experience” gave us an hour long list of trailers, announcements and general silliness that the boys get into as well.

In what is likely to be a semi-regular occurrence, the guys have turned their video game podcast into a news broadcast. They get everything off their chests from the last few days, covering both shows and their opinions on just about everything. Is Brooker likely to play The Last Guardian? What’s his issue with Duke Nukem? And does John really not like Japanese people?

Join us next time for our end of year special (so our hosts can get their best and worst games of the year out in the open).

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

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Bleed For This

“Some hits, you don’t have to take.”

That time of year is here again, boys and girls. It’s “based on a true story” season. That time of year where we are all forced to sit and watch as many and varied true stories that are paraded out in front us to stare at, mope over and guess which one will be winning an award for its excellent depiction of a story no-one ever heard of before release weekend.

This week, it’s the story of boxer Vinny Pazienza.

A local hero and world champion boxer, Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza (Miles Teller) has dragged himself up from being a stepping stone to a card-carrying, belt-wielding force to be reckoned with in the ring. But it all seems to be over when a near fatal car crash leaves the fighter with a broken neck and no guarantee he’ll ever walk again.

But an inspirational story, such as this, can’t end there.

Vinny refuses surgery that would guarantee his mobility, but destroy his career, in favour of wearing a surgically fitted “halo” (essentially scaffolding for his head) in the hope that once healed he can train again and get himself back in the ring. After a torturous few months living like an invalid in his parents living room, Paz starts working on getting himself back in fighting shape in secret. Dragging in his trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) to help, the pair turn the basement into a makeshift gym to work while Vinny is still wearing his headgear. Once out of his halo, the former champion works to get his arse back in the ring.

We’ve had a couple of really good boxing movies the last few years, from Creed and Southpaw last year covering the fictional side of things, to 2010’s The Fighter covering the true story side.

And honestly, all of those films are better than this one.

The opening scene for this film sets the poor tone as we watch Vinny spend all of thirty seconds trying to cut weight for his next fight, only for the crowd to be insanely happy when he does. The dramatic music kicks in, the crowd applauds and we are clearly supposed to be super-pumped that he’s able to fight. Problem is, I don’t even know who this guy is yet. The film tries to manufacture that “Rocky wins the fight” feeling in its audience without even introducing the character to us (or showing him fighting). He then montages himself to victory without anything close to a moment to make me care about him.

And it doesn’t really improve after that.

Maybe I am just a callous motherfucker, but nothing here got any kind of emotional response from me. The car accident and subsequent surgeries, the suffering, nothing really makes me want to see this man succeed. And it’s not because I don’t like the guy, it’s because the film hasn’t yet given me the opportunity to even get to know him. I mean, I care more about his parents (played very well by Kathy Sagel and Ciarán Hinds) and his trainer than I do about him because the movie just doesn’t seem to want to tell me about him. I’m just supposed to care, and cheer, and applaud, just because he’s a boxer? No.

Teller’s performance doesn’t help either. I don’t think he’s a good actor anyway, but here he’s not convincing as a fighter, or a man in pain, or a man crippled by life events he had no control over. I mean, this should be a simple thing to communicate to its audience, but neither Teller nor writer/director Ben Younger (who wrote and directed the awesome Boiler Room) seem to know how to put this across to those of us watching.

Eckhart, on the other hand, is the best part of this film. His insane portrayal of Vinny’s trainer Kevin Rooney comes across like a bizarre mash up of TV actors and characters, playing like The Wire‘s Domenick Lombardozzi is channeling Tony Soprano for most of the film. He is definitely the part of the film that’s the most watchable, as little praise as that may actually be.

Younger’s direction is perfectly fine, but it fails to bring drama to any of the areas that it really should. Boxing matches feel short and lifeless, with no real focus on the sport what so ever. While training montages and periods of quiet drama just don’t emote any feeling for the characters involved. It feels like it’s been put together by a committee that watched the great history of boxing films and tried to just put the bits they thought were best into one film.

Essentially it’s a greatest hits of boxing movie moments with little or no context to get you engaged. Considering both last year’s entries into this genre left me a blubbery mess by the end, I expected the same here. What I got instead was a tired, fidgety arse and an overwhelming shrug of the shoulders as people asked if I liked it.

Disappointment at every level. That’s pretty much how I felt about Bleed for This.