Tag Archives: 2016

White Crack Bastard

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“This is my shock therapy.”

We are a horror loving house. We try everything from unheard of indies to Lionsgate paint-by-numbers shit in our efforts to find decent horror flicks. So when fellow Failed Critic – and one of the few whose recommendations I’d watch without question – pointed me in James Cullen Bressack’s direction with To Jennifer, I never looked back.

I’ve bleated on time and time again about my love for Bressack and his films, so I won’t go on too much about it again here. Suffice to say that, with his earlier work not available in the UK, when I get the opportunity to watch and review a JCB flick, I jump in with both feet, dead excited; and White Crack Bastard was no different. Although the side-step from horror to drama left me wondering what I was letting myself in for.

Luke Anderson is the White Crack Bastard of note, a well paid freelance photographer who, in his copious amounts of free time, likes to while away his hours with his raggedy friends and a crack pipe between his lips. Luke isn’t anywhere close to needing to live this life; he does it as a form of therapy and self-medication, justifying it by telling himself that he’s only doing it so that when his head is on straight, he can appreciate what he has in his real life away from the pipe. Luke’s problem is that he isn’t working as much as he should and he’s increasingly spending more time smoking his way towards self-destruction. As he spirals out of control, it starts to effect his life outside of his own personal drug-fuelled therapy sessions and begins to ruin everything for him.

Now let me get this out of the way, because I’m truly mortified that I have to say it. White Crack Bastard is not good. The film is riddled with issues that, when I wasn’t bored, seemed to be put in purposefully to annoy me. For instance, Rhett Benz’s Luke Anderson seems to have an issue keeping track of his car when he goes on a bender. But what might be a running joke in a TV series or a reason to giggle in a longer, more fleshed out film, is simply an annoyance that is apparently put there to use more than once and keep the running time up a bit. It didn’t work in Dude, Where’s My Car? and it certainly didn’t work here.

White Crack Bastard plays like a student film; and that’s ok. It’s fine that everyone from writers to directors need to hone their craft and sharpen their skills and the only way to do that is to keep doing what they are doing. But once you get to a point where your film is getting a VOD release, it’s time to realise that you’re going to be poked and prodded the same way any other film would be. Biases aside, I am aware that this film is a few years old now; that it’s only Bressack’s third film – and more importantly the first that he made but didn’t write or produce. With poor script work from first time writer Lisa Vachon and even worse editing from a guy who hasn’t worked in the industry since; James Cullen Bressack was fighting uphill, on roller skates, with one hand tied behind his back the entire time – and, sadly, it shows.

I’m not sure I can recommend White Crack Bastard to anyone that isn’t a devoted fan of someone involved in its creation; and even then, I think it would be hard to justify anymore than a one-time rental. Bressack’s earlier work, and the films he’s made since, far surpass this messy, incoherent film and I genuinely can’t see any reason to give this film the time of day.

Mr. Cullen Bressack, in the unlikely event you’re reading this, I love you man. Your films have quickly found a special place in my collection and I cannot wait to get my hands on Bethany when it arrives later this year. But man, this wasn’t a film indicative of your skills as a filmmaker at all.

White Crack Bastard gets its first release, three years after completion via BrinkVision on 20 February. Check out the trailer below:

Yakuza Apocalypse

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“Taste of my blood. And walk as a Yakuza vampire.”

So yeah, after all these Oscar-bait movies we’ve been, err, treated to lately, what I needed for a bit of a break was a decent palette cleanser. Something truly stupid that I didn’t have to concentrate on and could switch off and enjoy for a bit. A good silly film.

I should have been careful what I wished for.

The latest cinematic entry from legendary director Takashi Miike – the nutter behind classics like Audition and Ichi the Killer – has found its way into a whole three cinemas in the country (or VOD in a butt load of other territories) so I headed off to find myself a little indie picture house to get myself a piece of the latest bit of Miike craziness.

Akira Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara) is a young member of the local Yakuza, still learning the ropes and finding his place in the world. A turf war with a rival gang leads to his boss being killed in the street and his head being twisted off and left for Kageyama to retrieve. But while apologising to the disembodied head, it comes back to life and insists that he drink blood from the manky, torn apart neck of the old gang leader. Before Akira has a chance to question the dead head, it leaps from his hands and takes a bite from his neck, turning the man into a vampire!

Stay with me…

Kageyama’s instant transformation from man to vampire and his bloodlust mean that once he gets up off his arse, he’s heading around and biting the throats of anyone he can find and turning them into… wait for it… Yakuza vampires! Yep. Yakuza Vampires! Insanity ensues as the town fills with vampires horribly fast and as each one believes they are also a part of the Yakuza, they chase down other Yakuza to kill too!

Now, those of you that haven’t seen a Takashi Miike film before, I should tell you now that the guy is twisted! You’ll never read a synopsis of one of his films and have an idea of what you’re letting yourself in for; this is most true with his very bizarre definition of the word “Comedy”! In reality, Yakuza Apocalypse is two hours of the goofy director’s brain spewed across the screen in many and varied wonderful colours. Starting off very straight and almost serious, Yakuza Apocalypse quickly descends into bat-shit crazy territory as a weird dude dressed up like a cowboy priest, including spurs on his damn boots, takes out the boss with his partner, an unnamed bloke who would just look like a tourist in his glasses, high waisted jeans and plaid shirt if it wasn’t for the fact that you can easily spot The Raid‘s Yayan Ruhian under those glasses.

Talking heads quickly appear to be the most sane thing to be coming from the screen as we are treated to a room filled with men chained to tables all knitting scarves as their captor – for reasons best known to himself – walks around in massive wooden sandals stomping on the sewing circle’s feet. Kageyama is taught how to be a vampire via an old man with pre-prepared chalk boards and blank pieces of paper; and brains exploding out of people’s ears like a giant zit being popped!

But the ultimate moment of what-the-fuckery, the dude in a giant furry frog suit, wandering around karate chopping the shit out of the Yakuza! No explanation, no dialogue; just some dodgy mind controlling eyes, some time with a baseball bat and a shit load of Karate! To explain the frog further would ruin him, but suffice to say that by the time he’s explained, you know what’s coming, but that doesn’t stop it from being completely ridiculous and chuckle inducing.

Yakuza Apocalypse makes no apologies for what it is. It is a completely bonkers horror comedy that is horrendously bloody, but equally as funny. The comedy bounces brazenly between hilarious and eyebrow raising weirdness and while it’s not the greatest flick you’re going to watch, it’s got more moments that’ll leave you going “what the FUCK?” than any other film I’ve seen recently. Would I say you must watch it? No, absolutely not. But I would say that it’s worth taking a look at if the idea of furries beating the shit out of vampire yakuza is one that makes you smile.

It’s that kind of weird-funny that you get when you are deliriously tired and find everything just absolutely hilarious. I wasn’t sure what I was letting myself in for; Takashi is definitely a bit of an acquired taste and I much prefer his darker films; but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Yakuza Apocalypse.

Creed

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“One step, one punch, one round at a time.”

Forty years after we first saw Rocky Balboa take on champ Apollo Creed in Philadelphia in Rocky, putting together another film in a franchise that had some pretty extreme ups and downs was a definite risk. With a literal 50% success rate across the series, you’d be forgiven for going into Creed a little dubious. Thankfully, the series has now all-but-retired its original hero and in his place, given us a new underdog to cheer for.

Seventeen years after Adonis Johnson, the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, was taken in by Creed’s widow Mary Anne, Johnson jacks in his job and decides it’s time to follow in his father’s footsteps and heads to the ring. Having been boxing on his own for years, Donny realises he needs a trainer – and when his brother refuses, he heads to Philadelphia in search of the man that beat his dad. Whilst Rocky might not be the guy Johnson expected, after he track’s him down at the restaurant the long-retired boxer spends his days in, Donnie sets about convincing the Italian Stallion to get in his corner and teach him how to go from the rough-around-the-edges brawler he is to a refined fighter ready to take on anything.

Donnie starts to make a bit of an impact locally, getting himself known around town and soon takes a fight with another local guy who’s had his upcoming bout cancelled. Expected to be a bit of a squash match, Johnson takes it to the more experienced fighter and beats him decisively. An impressive win is one thing, but once it gets out that Johnson is in fact Apollo Creed’s lad, the publicity sky rockets and the call comes in from the reigning champion’s guys offering Donnie a chance to climb in the ring with Liverpool’s Ricky Conlan in what could be Conlan’s last fight.

After last year’s Southpaw, and spending my Christmas holiday catching up with the Rocky saga, I thought I’d be all burnt out on boxing movies. It turns out that all I needed to blow the dust away was a great film, brilliantly made, with a stellar cast.

Starting with Michael B. Jordan, a guy I’ve been waiting to appear in something big and special since he finished his time in the awesome Friday Night Lights, plays the titular Creed. Cast perfectly in the role of the upstart son of a champion, Jordan; and his in-film brother played by The Wire‘s Wood Harris, not only look enough like each other to be brothers, but look like they could easily be Carl Weathers’ sons. Having been disappointed by half of the films in this series, I wasn’t sure even a guy I thought was great would be able to make a watchable film. But Jordan not only took to the role and made it his, he managed to embody everything that the original Creed was and bring it to the screen. Having clearly trained hard to not only look good for the role but to make his boxing convincing, Michael B. Jordan is nothing short of a revelation in his performance.

Similarly, Sylvester Stallone’s performance as Rocky is just wonderful. Over the last forty years he’s gone from bruising boxer to sage-like mentor and he just plays it so well. Spending his days sharing stories and advice, the retired champion finds a new lease of life training Donnie and it’s evident that Stallone feels the same way playing the role. Slipping himself into his most familiar, comfortable slippers, Sly looks at home in his position as Donnie’s trainer, taking on the Mickey role from previous films and passing the torch on, in more than one way, to Michael B. Jordan and Adonis Johnson. The same goes for his audience; Rocky’s dulcet tones have a calming effect on us watching him, like listening to a war veteran in his rocking chair telling stories of his time battling, Balboa is the wise old man we all feel comfortable with.

I’ll be honest and say that my biggest surprise came from Ryan Coogler’s writing and direction. I had never heard of him prior to the film’s release and I haven’t seen his previous work. Although the fact he’s being tapped to helm Marvel’s Black Panther gave me a little confidence – add to that the fact that for the first time in the series, Stallone relinquished writing duties and handed them over to Coogler as well; hopefully getting a completely fresh perspective on Philadelphia’s hero and the boy he’s training.

It turns out that Ryan Coogler is actually a damn good director. Starting relatively straight and by-the-book, Creed’s direction is very good throughout, but it ramps itself up to amazing in Johnson’s first time in the ring under Rocky’s tutelage against Leo Sporino, a local light heavyweight. Coogler takes a page out of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s handbook and films each round, from within the ring, on a steadycam in one long take. Each round lasts three minutes and you can’t help but be on the edge of your seat, fists clenched, wanting to throw punches with him. Any longer than that three minutes and there would be people passing out from holding their breath with tension and fear. Coogler’s writing and direction are outstanding and let you care for everyone on the screen; this guy has a hell of a future.

Creed is a stunning film. Heartfelt, beautifully acted and a joy to sit and watch. It’s kept enough of its legacy to feel like it’s part of the Rocky series, whilst simultaneously feeling new and fresh enough to stand on its own two feet and be a film on its own. That, in itself, is a slight miracle. This year’s Oscar race has finally heated up for me.

Now, it may seem like an insult to the film to say that Creed isn’t the best film I’ve seen chasing an award or three, it is second only to The Revenant in my book; both surpass anything else I’ve seen from this year’s race up to this point that I’d be happy for either or both of them to be taking home the statues next month.

Failed Critics Podcast: The Hateful Bolshoi Bowie Overdogs

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With the tragic passing of one of British music’s most iconic people earlier this week, our latest episode features a touching tribute to the pioneer that was the Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, Jareth the Goblin King or just simply ‘David Bowie’. Failed Critics founder and Bowie super-fan, James Diamond, returns for a short emotional farewell to one of the most inspirational figures of this and last century.

We even dug up a clip from an episode we recorded back in 2012 when James went to the inaugural Bowiefest in London and have edited into the post-credits of this week’s podcast.

Elsewhere, Steve Norman hosts with Owen Hughes, Andrew Brooker and Matt Lambourne back for reviews of Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, The Hateful Eight, starring Kurt Russell, Samuel L Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and more. Loads more. More than eight others.

Owen also reviews the fly-on-the-wall documentary Bolshoi Babylon, from the producer of Man On Wire and Searching for Sugarman, about the historic ballet theatre company in Moscow and all of its recent scandals. Meanwhile, Brooker indulges himself with the surfer-cop-classic Point Break in preparation for the imminent remake’s release.

We even took a few minutes to scratch our heads over the Golden Globe categories, never-mind the winners that were announced this past weekend.

Join us again next week for reviews of Creed, Room and The Revenant.

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Room

Jacob Tremblay and Brie Larson in "Room" from EPK.tv

“This is the story you get!”

Knowing what kind of film I was heading off to see tonight, I was preparing a ton of quippy, sarcastic things to say about soppy-arse drama films that are there to do nothing but make you feel bad for having a half decent life. But the fact is, I walked out of Room completely shell shocked. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for as I sat down to watch what turned out to be a genuinely heart warming little flick.

Jack is five and all of his life, he’s lived in confinement. Locked away in a room with no one but his mother, a TV and his imagination for company; he has never seen the outside world and believes that the world begins and ends within those four walls. His mother, Joy, has done her best to raise him and teach him about the world, but with a skylight and a crappy television as her teaching resources, she can only do so much.

When Jack and his mother hatch a plan to escape the confines of the room, freedom proves to be almost as trying on the pair as imprisonment was. Jack must learn about the world he has only seen on a screen or heard about in stories; whilst Joy needs to not only learn how to be a mother in the real world, but needs to unlearn everything she has had to teach herself about life in that room. With no way either of them can get through the troubles ahead on their own, they have to rely on each other more now than they ever did before.

I honestly don’t know where to begin. Room is a masterpiece. The star of the show, without a shadow of a doubt, is nine year old Jacob Tremblay. His portrayal of Jack will make you want to climb into the screen, grab this kid and never let him go. Every single moment he is on the screen is just perfect. The amazing way that he makes your stomach knot up every time he asks what would normally be a simple question is incredible. With him and his mother getting under each others feet in that little room, tension between the two regularly boils over and his raw emotion on screen is more than just heart breaking, it’s actually quite upsetting.

A close, close second is Brie Larson as Joy. Whether in the room or out of it, the pain and anguish on her face the entire movie just made me want to cry! Free from their imprisonment or not, her struggle is our struggle and even when she’s free, we all feel the room following her and her son. She evokes those feelings that we all have of wanting to protect our kids and has you gripping the arm of the chair, or holding your face in fear, hoping and praying that everything will be all right as this wretched nightmare plays out in front of your eyes. The cast is tightly wrapped up with Joan Allen and William H. Macy as Joy’s parents; who, having not seen their daughter for so long, are suffering almost as much as the stars of this gut-wrenching film.

Room is a perfectly balanced film; really dark and depressing where it needs to be, but with enough beams of light to tip the scales back to a point where you can enjoy what you’re watching. Let’s be clear, the imagery of the first half of this film is bleak. Very bleak. The heartbreaking moments that hammer home the plight that Joy and Jack are suffering through leave a tight knot in your stomach; partly down to the horror of the situation these people are in and partly because you’re imagining yourself in that position and genuinely terrified at the thought of living that way.

But, like I said, the film is perfectly balanced. While mother and son struggle in the outside world, when the good moments hit you, it’s with a sledgehammer. You’ll buckle under the weight of all the goodness coming from the screen and Jack’s innocence and lack of understanding of what is happening makes you want to wrap the poor bastard in cotton wool forever as you drown in your own tears.

Room is beautifully directed by Lenny Abrahamson and has two of the most powerful, heartfelt performances you’ll ever see at its centre. To recommend it is to warn you that you will need tissues and a rock solid method of getting your composure back in that short walk out of the screen. It’s a stunning film that will leave you mentally beaten by its end. Only the very coldest and soulless people will leave the cinema having not lost half a pint in tears.

Phil Sharman’s Worst & Best of 2015

Before the results of the Failed Critics Awards are published here in writing, Phil Sharman (one of our contributors to the end of year podcast) has created this beautiful document, highlighting which films he enjoyed and not-so-enjoyed last year.

(Seriously, it’s pretty darn gorgeous and combines the use of spreadsheets and fantastic writing to read like something right out of the middle of a popular newspaper pull-out (that’s meant as a compliment). What’s not to like?!)

Having seen exactly 64 films released in 2015, Phil decided to run his very own knockout tournament to find out what were his best – and, just as importantly, his worst – films of the entire past 12 months. But I will let him explain his own rationale in the finished article below…

Click the image to open the full PDF file
Click the image to open the full PDF file

You can find all of Phil’s appearances on the Failed Critics Podcast throughout 2015 here, including reviews of Transporter: Refueled, Ted 2, Crimson Peak, Beasts of No Nation, and of course the end of year awards show.

The Revenant

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“I ain’t afraid to die anymore… I did it already.”

Oh goody! Another “inspired by true events” film. I mean, for crap’s sake, I’m getting sick of reading “based on a true story” in trailers and at the start films. Aren’t you? And critical acclaim or not, sitting down to watch my third dramatisation of a true story in less than a week – the others being here and hereThe Revenant had absolutely NONE of my confidence.

Man. I’ve never been so happy to eat my words and stuff a bit of humble pie down my cake hole.

“Inspired” by the true story of Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in 1820’s Montana, The Revenant is the latest film from the Oscar winning director of last year’s Birdman and 2007’s Babel, Alejandro G. Iñárritu. It stars powerhouse couple – and two of my personal favourites – Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy in the good guy/bad guy one-two punch.

Set in the 1820’s, during the time of the Louisiana Purchase, Glass (DiCaprio) leads a team of hunters and trappers who narrowly survive a brutal ambush by some native tribes. Soon after escaping into the hills, Glass is savagely attacked by a grizzly bear. Stitched up to the best of their abilities by the remaining group members (including his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck)), Glass is reluctantly left for dead. Tom Hardy’s terrifying John Fitzgerald isn’t willing to wait for Glass to die and so decides to speed things up – only for Hawk to complicate matters.

Fitzgerald’s plans go horribly, horribly wrong when several miracles, a few strokes of luck and a twist of fate see Glass crawl from his makeshift grave. With revenge on his mind, the explorer must quite literally crawl after his prey. As time goes on and his body begins to heal, Hugh must brave the winter landscape, the roaming Native Americans and the wildlife to find retribution against his would-be murderer.

Man! Where to begin? Iñárritu’s direction, as expected, is stunning. The exceptionally long shots that have become a staple of his films in recent years are here in all their glory. For example, the opening ambush, filmed in one long, flowing shot, is comparable to the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan in its beauty and brutality. It is possibly one of the greatest scenes put to film in quite some time. Similarly, the bear attack is possibly the scariest, most viscerally affecting scene I’ve ever watched. As this animal literally tears strips out of DiCaprio’s hunter, every strike from those claws and every roar from this massive Grizzly had me pushing back in my seat wanting to get away from it. Every shot is beautifully framed. It looks cold, unforgiving and every splash of blood in the snow glistens beautifully.

Both guys in the lead roles are spectacular. DiCaprio’s performances over the years have always included stories of the lines he crossed pushing for the best performance he can; The Revenant is no different. Coming along with tales of making himself sick, forgetting he’s a vegetarian and chowing down on some raw bison liver, the man’s almost feral role of Hugh Glass is quite possibly his best role yet. If it wasn’t such a ridiculous ongoing joke over his constant snubbing by the Academy, I’d be screaming to give the man an Oscar for his role of the vengeful trapper. In the same vein, Tom Hardy’s cold and scary performance as Fitzgerald is maybe his best – and certainly his most terrifying since he spent his days being Charlie Bronson all those years ago. The pair chew up every scene they are in; and the ones they share – from the fast paced opener to the literally nail-biting last scene – are pure cinematic gold. And the supporting guys (including Domhall Gleeson and Will Poulter) all come together to bring you one of the most well performed movies in years.

The Revenant stands proud this year. In a sea of absolute dross chasing Academy gold, Iñárritu’s film is just a stunning masterpiece of a film that stays with you long after the lights have come up. It’s possibly the best film I have seen since last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road. The only reason I’m not screaming out loud for statues all around is because I haven’t seen Creed yet.

It’s not perfect, with a bit of sag in the middle that makes it feel needlessly long and some bloody awful dubbing of the native languages that stick out in such a great flick. But aside from that, The Revenant is easily in the running for the best film of the year already. Your move, 2016.

Joy

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“The only thing that you’re ever gonna have is what you make.”

Another year, another collection of films chasing statues that they quite possibly don’t deserve. Another day, another film inspired by a true story. Another David O. Russell film, another wasted Jennifer Lawrence performance. Ladies and gentlemen, Joy.

Joy is the “true story” of Joy Mangano, the struggling mother-of-two who invented the Miracle Mop and is the latest film from David O. Russell; director of the excellent Three Kings and The Fighter but doesn’t seem to have produced much of note since. His third film in a row to star Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper seems to be following quite a steep downward trajectory in terms of writing, direction and just generally having the ability to be interesting in almost any way.

Jennifer Lawrence is the titular Joy, a young woman with aspirations to be an inventor but is stuck. She’s stuck in a dead end job; stuck living in a house with her ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez) living in the basement; stuck with her mother (Virginia Madsen) who lives and dies by the soap operas she has developed an unhealthy addiction to and now, stuck with her father (Robert De Niro) who has been dumped on her doorstep by the latest woman in his life. Working herself silly trying to make ends meet, Joy has become a dab hand at almost everything and can do a bit of anything; from your standard household chores to a quick repair of the house plumbing.

After cutting her hand cleaning up a broken glass on the boat of Trudy (Isabella Rossilini), her father’s latest squeeze, Joy goes home with an idea for a new type of mop, one that wrings itself to prevent accidents like the one she suffered on that day. As the ideas keep coming, Joy convinces Trudy to invest in her and her product. Struggling at first to get her idea off the ground, between shady companies she’s forced to work with for manufacturing and interference of almost every member of her family; Joy gets a break when she’s introduced to Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), an expert salesmen who is a fundamental part of the newly formed QVC shopping channel and Joy seems destined to make her fortune.

Bad business and worse advice means that life isn’t all plain sailing for Joy, but we get to see this young woman’s resolve as she refuses to give up on her family, her invention or her dreams.

Joy clocks in at two hours and change. And in that two hours, the only thing that David O. Russell manages to convince me of is that maybe he needs to rethink his strategy when he’s writing and directing movies. I mean, I’ve seen films that on paper should be boring but are in fact, excellent – I’m looking at you, Whiplash – but this is a mess of a film that would be simply bad if it wasn’t trying so hard to put me to sleep. I’m assuming that the point of Joy’s family was to make me so angry that I considered getting up and walking out of the cinema uttering coarse abuse at the douche canoe of imbeciles on the screen. Between De Niro’s skulking, manipulating dad; Madsen’s moronic mum and her attention seeking arsehole of a sister (Elisabeth Röhm), Joy is surrounded with idiots that do nothing but hold her back.

But that was pretty much my only strong reaction that I think was intended by the guys behind the camera. All my others circled somewhere between boredom and annoyance at almost all times. I’m sorry, but you can’t take the story of the woman who invented the Wonder Mop and make her story one anybody wants to see. I need a reason to care about the people on screen and whether or not someone can get their product into the Betterware catalogue just ain’t going to do it. The cast try their hardest, but there’s nothing there for them to get me invested. De Niro is doing his best to prove that he’s going senile in his old age and has forgotten how to pick a great role (see the incoming Dirty Grandpa) while Madsen just seems desperate to be on the big screen and willing to do anything; including play a soap addicted imbecile who’s behaviour is borderline retarded the whole way through.

My love of Jennifer Lawrence in roles that aren’t The Hunger Games took a severe knock here too. I don’t hate her, I just don’t think she’s right for the part. We all know she can carry a big film – and even a big franchise – but that doesn’t mean she should be doing everything that comes across her desk. One of my favourite young actresses is wasted here, looking far too young to be playing the part and given a par-boiled script that fell flat the entire time. I’ll admit to enjoying Cooper’s part. The super smart sales guy role suits him and he played it very well. If the acting jobs ever dry up, he’ll make a great addition to your local Ford dealership.

One last thing, I don’t think I can mention this enough. This is the film about the woman who invented the Miracle Mop! I mean, how much scraping of the true story barrel has been done to mean that we’re left with this? I really think there must be something better around that’s worth looking at first. The coffee mug with a biscuit holder? The Wonderbra? The stink bomb? Anything! No, ladies and gentlemen, we get the self squeezing mop. And don’t let that trailer fool you. You know the one I mean don’t you? It’s nothing like what’s advertised. Don’t waste your energy, fall asleep in your living room chair in front of a good film instead.

Failed Critics Podcast: We Go Again

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Dawn breaks on a new day, ushering in the fresh optimism that another year on God’s green Earth brings with it. New starts, new ideas and new opportunities to shambolically attempt to review movies, for Paul to use wildly-offensive non-PC terms, and for the rest of us to fall flat on our arses.

As Steve Norman nurses a poorly rum-addled brain after two weeks of non-stop partying whilst not on the Failed Critics clock, he returns to the driving seat – probably still too inebriated to drive, but nobody could wrestle the keys from his clutches. Gripping the armrests, clinging on for dear life and hoping to make it out alive are Steve’s passengers, Owen Hughes and Paul Field.

Three new releases make their way onto on of our shortest podcasts in a long time, as awards season well and truly hits these shores. Paul begins this section by trying to comprehend the new Terrence Malick movie, Knight of Cups, before Owen joins in a verbal rant about the Oscar-baiting The Danish Girl. David O. Russell’s latest feature to star Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Joy, also can’t avoid the onslaught as Steve gets agitated by it.

Things are little more rosy in ‘What We’ve Been Watching’ before we even get to the new releases, beginning with Owen prepping for The Hateful Eight by checking out some other westerns; specifically The Homesman, Meek’s Cutoff and Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Steve gets on the bandwagon for the new Netflix documentary series, Making A Murderer, whilst Paul looks slightly more afield for his documentaries, Russian Woodpecker and Finders Keepers.

Join us again next week as we find shelter in Quentin Tarantino’s cabin full of nefarious characters.

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The Danish Girl

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“I’ve only liked a handful of people in my life, and you’ve been two of them.”

Sometimes, a film can be so powerful that simply watching it emotes such a strong feeling about its themes and subjects that you can’t help but sympathise with the characters on the screen. No matter how far removed you are from these on-screen personalities, you can’t help but get yourself worked up, wanting the best for these people and getting angry when things aren’t going the way they should.

Sadly, The Danish Girl isn’t the film to get you going like that. Instead, it’s a complete waste of two hours that resolves nothing and invoked nothing but boredom and annoyance no matter how hard I was trying to sympathise with those onscreen.

Another one of these “inspired by true events” films, The Danish Girl is the story of Einer Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) a man who – after his painter wife Gerner (Alicia Vikander) asks him to stand in for a female model who didn’t show up for a portrait session – suddenly finds himself intrigued by the feelings that the women’s clothes he’s had to wear bring out in him. As time goes on, Einer develops a taste for not just wearing the clothes, but playing the part of a woman. Encouraging her husband’s desires, Gerner helps to make the man she married feel comfortable in his own skin and teaches him how to make himself look like the woman he yearns to be.

But this is the 1920’s. Not only is this not the done thing, it’s something you can be committed for. So he keeps his secret while spending more and more time being the woman he now believes he was born to be. As he gradually becomes she, Einer’s alter-ego Lili becomes the prominent and dominant personality and his marriage dissolves until it becomes little more than a convenience for the pair of them. As Lili’s personality grows and she allows herself to spend time with other men, Gerner is nothing more to him than the woman that taught him how to be a woman.

I watch films like this for more than just entertainment. They should be gateways into a world that I can’t understand and genuinely want to understand. I can’t even begin to pretend to know what a transgender person goes through; the turmoil and the suffering of having to live in a way that simply doesn’t feel natural to them. I desperately want it explained in such a way that I, a complete meat head, can understand. Unfortunately, that’s not what I get with The Danish Girl. What I get is a two hour long fluff piece, made on the back of a couple of years of LGBTQ issues being in the spotlight, from a director (Tom Hooper) who seemed to peak with The King’s Speech and is content to sail through on a sea of mediocrity in the years following.

The story of the man that ultimately becomes one of the first recorded people to receive gender reassignment surgery is not only handled poorly but I simply can’t find it in myself to care for the people on screen. Vikander’s performance is great (as her performances always are) and when this film gets the politically correct nominations at Oscar time, hers will be the only one deserving of the nomination. On the flip-side, Eddie Redmayne needs to do us all a favour and just stop. I don’t find him believable, I don’t find him likeable and I definitely think he should have become famous playing Doctor Who and staying away from films that should be culturally important but can’t be because of his presence.

Do yourself a favour. If you want a poignant and powerful film about the struggles that transgender people go through, leave this half-arsed Oscar-bait alone and find yourself a copy of Kimberly Pierce’s Boys Don’t Cry, because this film, and Redmayne’s performance, pale in comparison to Hilary Swank’s genuinely hard hitting drama.

Rocky: A Retrospective – Part Two

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“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.”

Creed is getting closer. Just a few more days until one of Stallone’s most beloved characters returns to the big screen and has a go and relighting that fire we all saw in 1976. It’s been a fun time to revisit these films that have such a special place in the hearts of so many; and getting to spend some time with one of Sly’s most iconic creations has been amazing.

Last time, we left our hero, the Italian Stallion, having just beaten the mohawked Mr. T and won his title back much to the delight of us and the crowd. Having beaten the monster that embarrassed him, this should have been the official retirement of Rocky Balboa, the boxer with a legendary will to keep going. But common sense be damned. Unbelievably, we are only at the halfway point of Rocky’s story. So what do you say? Before this year’s latest chapter in Balboa’s saga comes through the curtain, you want to join me in seeing through the last of the iconic boxing franchise’s entries?


Rocky IV (1985)
Budget $28,000,000
Box Office – $300,400,000
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 40%

Mr T is done, Apollo and Rocky have had their little bit of fun, now it’s time to retire. Surely, now it’s time to retire?

Sadly, no. After watching his friend, Apollo Creed, die at the hands of a pre-Masters of the Universe Dolph Lundgren; our hero swears revenge on the seemingly indestructible Russian wrecking machine. Calling out the monosyllabic monster, Rocky and his entourage of mainly former Creed trainers and his lifelong pal, Paulie, head to a frozen cabin in Russia to train for the latest in a long list of biggest fights of his life.

After Creed embarrassed him with his Stars and Stripes entrance that includes fireworks, flags and James Brown, Lundgren’s Ivan Drago turns the tables and gets his own super-patriotic entrance for the Russian crowd. With Rocky getting nothing but boos from those in attendance as his entrance music, the stage is set for another dominant Drago performance.

Another fifteen round barn burner ensues, with the tables balancing well between the two. Drago knocking Balboa on his arse in the first round, with our hero coming back and opening up the challenger’s face in the second. It’s a tough match with both men having to dig deep for the win they both so desperately need. Call it luck, call it will, call it what you like, but Rocky pulls out a final round miracle as he floors the Russian monster and gets the knockout win. His victory speech includes a rousing call to the Russian people to remember that if they can change their tune towards him, the world can change its tune towards each other.

I think, at least quality wise, diminishing returns kicked into full gear here. Rocky III was passable as a film but there was a definite dip in quality; this time around I felt the struggle to keep watching was more powerful than the film I was sitting in front of. We were on the fourth straight copy/paste film in the series and I was beginning to lose my patience with watching the same formula over and over again. Simply changing location doesn’t change the fact you’re watching the same film. If this was a horror movie, it would be the one set in space hoping the change of scenery would fool the audience! I wasn’t invested in the fights at all. Worse, I just wanted them to be over. The subtle-as-a-sledgehammer implications with the beefy Russian juicing on multiple steroid cocktails versus the good, wholesome American were maybe the clumsiest “America! Fuck Yeah!” moments I’ve seen in a film in quite some time.

Rocky IV substituted the first film’s Oscar nominations for more than a healthy amount of Razzies. Stallone’s direction, writing and a large amount of his cast all fell foul of the Golden Raspberry nominations with quite a few wins to boot. The first film in the franchise to not have “Gotta Fly Now” in its soundtrack is much worse for that fact. Don’t let that box office take fool you; this film isn’t worthy of the Rocky name.


Rocky V (1990)
Budget – $42,000,000
Box Office – $119,900,000
Rotten Tomatoes Rating – 29%

Diagnosed with brain damage from years of taking abuse and suffering from a severe lack of money after a crooked accountant loses the Balboa fortune, Rocky and his family head back to where it all began. The dirty streets of Philadelphia.

Slumming it in a house much like the first one Rocky and Adrian bought together, the man of the house finds solace back at Mickey’s gym with no thoughts of being back in the ring; categorically turning down an offer to fight again. When Balboa gets the chance to mentor a young, raw boxer named Tommy Gunn, he jumps in so deep that it strains the bonds of his family. Caring more for the success of his young protégé than the problems his own son is having with bullies at school, Rocky quickly begins to lose all touch with his family.

After a string of healthy wins, Tommy is poached from Rocky by George Duke; a loudmouth, unscrupulous promoter who gets Tommy a title shot with the champion he also manages. After an easy win for the belt and little time for Tommy to celebrate, Duke’s intentions become very clear: He wants the fight with Rocky to happen whether it’s with his champion or Tommy Gunn – and now, he doesn’t even care if there is a ring involved. After an embarrassing press conference, Gunn seeks out his fight with Balboa in Rocky’s home town where a war of words ends with a war of fists in the street.

After both nearly killing each other, Rocky defeats Gunn; leaving him beaten and bloodied on the floor where our hero quickly puts Duke next to him.

Bringing back John G. Avildsen, the director of the original Rocky, was supposed to be a shot in the arm for the franchise. Hoping to rekindle the magic that made the early films such a success, Stallone went from boxing drama to family drama with-a-bit-of-boxing to try and change the tune a little. Sadly, it was a miserable failure. Undoubtedly the worst of the franchise and barely recognisable from the inspirational drama that saw us join the Italian Stallion on his path a mere fourteen years previously.

This killed the series for sixteen years, until…


Rocky Balboa (2006)
Budget – $24,000,000
Box Office – $155,700,000
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 76%

The world has long forgotten about Rocky Balboa. A former champion who now runs a restaurant named after his dead wife, he shuffles through life from one day to the next, passing on his little pearls of old man wisdom and thinking nothing of the life he once had.

That is, until a computer simulation shows an in-shape, championship holding Rocky of times long gone beating the current champ. Spurred on to do what he was born to do all along, realising the fire hasn’t quite fizzled out yet, Rocky gets his license back and heads out to train after securing himself an exhibition fight with the reigning title holder. Using current events as an opportunity to mend fences with his estranged son, Rocky becomes his most humble self as he looks to everyone around him – from his family to his community – for the inspiration he needs to dig deep for just one more training montage.

The big night rolls around and in modern boxing fashion, we are in Las Vegas. Champion Mason Dixon and Rocky lock horns for another full length boxing match where the pair trade blows almost evenly ending in a loss for Rocky via a close split decision.

Rocky Balboa brings back everything you loved about the early films: A reason to get behind our champ. A great, well built boxing film and (most of all) an amazingly written and directed drama that, once it gets to the ring, doesn’t pull any punches. A great, great fight is the delicious icing on a perfectly made cake that packs as much emotional punch as it does ACTUAL punch.

Easily the best of the Rocky series for me.

That brings us completely up-to-date and leads up nicely to…


Creed (2015)
Budget – $35,000,000
Box Office – $109,000,000 (so far)
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 93%

Stallone has handed both directorial and writing duties off to other people to focus on acting this time around. His and Michael B. Jordan’s performances (and the film itself) have been critically acclaimed since it released in the US at the end of 2015.

Come see me in a few days, when I can give you my full opinion on the film and whether or not it’s been worth me trudging through this series over the last couple of weeks.

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!

Of cows, war and tumours: Best Foreign Language Oscar 2016

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Booker Prize awarded, Mercury Prize on its way, the time of year is upon us when industries line-up the envelopes and hand-out the free champagne (….and often vice-versa).  The film industry loves dishing out the trophies more than most, and next year’s Chris Rock presented Academy Awards will trump all before it by most measurements, even if the current betting odds suggest a wider field than usual. There will soon happen the coalescence of opinion behind names, titles, figureheads, so prepare yourself for the post-award “missed opportunities” chat fans of “Inside Out”, we all know what you want, and it’s not happening.

What is happening, for the third year in a row, so I must be doing something right, is the swift eyeing-up of submitted entries for that ever maligned Academy Award staple: the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Fans of blue moons might like to know that, yes, the United Kingdom has an offering this year in the shape of Welsh-language Under Milk Wood, a thoroughly bonkers take of a famously unhinged text (remaining as a set-text across Welsh schools). In my hazy foggy memory, I recall taking one attempt at enjoying the tale of “Llarreggub” without much success, although that was before the days when Cerys Matthews would breathe softly into her 6Music microphone with a particularly saucy rendition, so maybe there’s room for me to be impressed yet. Whether the UK will get anywhere in Oscar-land with this version is doubtful, though I would hope that this submission means we’re still able to provide funding for minority language arts in this country. More, please.

Documentaries are eligible for this category with two takes on a similar, sadly depressing, theme taking my eye from this year’s longlist. Iraqi-Swiss filmmaker “Samir” (he avoids using his religious-based surname) helms Iraqi Odyssey, a deeply personal documentary casting a net from Baghdad to the numerous global cities where his family now calls home. Through the numerous, and seemingly never-ending conflicts in Iraq, the once proud population soon spread themselves across the globe; this ‘odyssey’ is covered by interviews and archive footage contrasting the past, the future, and the sense of a future denied.

By way of a tonal contrast of sorts, The Wanted 18 submitted by Palestine explores that region’s own conflicts in a much more esoteric fashion. Partly animated and re-enacted, this true story of how eighteen diary cows were hidden from Israeli security forces magnifies the surreal heart of the tragic reality of the Middle East conflict. The core element of the story may be one of constant battles, but its overall story has such humour that it appears impossible not to be charmed by Canadian Paul Cowan and Palestinian Amer Shomali’s work.

Conflict of a similar kind – drawing on historic borders, historic language, historic resentment – probably stopped Spain from ever submitting an entry in the Basque language. Indeed it took some time to find a YouTube trailer of Loreak not dubbed into Spanish, something of a reminder of the cultural friction between the country of Spain and the unsettled region of the Basque peoples. To this writer’s eyes, Flowers as it’s translated, hardly hides its analogy of discomfort and directionless behind the story of a woman receiving bouquets from an anonymous source, and the conflict which draws from her need to find her true destiny. It’s somewhat bleak and shadowy in its trailer, though there’s enough strong women to bring Pedro Almodóvar to mind, and that’s hardly a bad thing, now, is it?

There are some countries on which you can often rely for suggestions when running your fingers along the World Cinema section at HMV/on Netflix. This year, they have submitted something of a pic-n-mix. Japan does not impress this writer much with 100 Yen Love, which appears to be a darkly comic tale on a young woman slacking at home wasting her life when suddenly it becomes a version of every ‘turn your life around the easy way’ rags to riches tale you’ve ever ho-hummed over.

Goodbye Mr Tumor is not the kind of title I’d expect from a film outside High School biology class (and even then not outside an episode from Series 6 of The Simpsons). The full 2-hours of China’s submission is on-line if you fancy giving your Mandarin a good airing, I stuck with the trailer and cannot make head-nor-tail of any of it. Warning, the first two-minutes of that link is a trailer, the remaining two-minutes appears to be spoiler-tastic spoiler-ness of the most spoiler-ific kind. If you’re in need of that sort of heads up.

France used to be a safe-bet for shortlisting; they’ve gone for Turkish coming-of-age drama and it’s not doing anything for me. The Italians seem to have gone for a full-colour La Haine which has a certain charm, whilst from India comes a beguiling and deeply peculiar looking court-room drama with unusually slow and languid editing.

I cannot leave this article without mentioning Thailand, even if it does come across as a forced in-joke. It’s my article, I’m going to keep pushing this. Two years ago their entry slapped me around the face with a long-haired drug dealing Jesus inflicting torture on teenagers in a bath. Last year they went safe with a goofy romcom about a teacher. For this time around How To Win at Checkers (Every Time) firmly sets its stall as much as any mainstream Hollywood film possibly could for Academy attention: two brothers in sibling rivalry torn apart by an army draft, full of family tensions and road-trip soul searching. It’s bound to do well, isn’t it? Here’s my one hope for shortlisting above all others, with so many boxes ticked it surely can’t go unnoticed.