Tag Archives: A Field in England

Failed Critics Podcast: Minimal Effort

castaway

Somebody hit the emergency switch at FC HQ earlier today. Only, what they didn’t realise, was that rather than stopping the machinery from whirring so that they could untangle their hair from the press, it instead sent all of the guests that we keep on stasis in their cryochambers shooting straight out of the vents and into a large pile of limbs, flesh and scrawled-on notepads near the FC skip.

Bugger.

Whilst we sort that mess out, the only two left undamaged were hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes who present this week’s podcast without the aid of any guests whatsoever. A first for Failed Critics!

Actually, all that stuff about cryochambers and a FC HQ is a load of bollocks. We just decided that for an experiment, given that we’re in the post-Civil War lull, that Owen and Steve should try presenting the show on their own. Does it work? Well, it’s not for us to say, but we still manage to squeeze over 100 minutes out of the pair of them. They look at the solo-Black Widow movie rumours, the Power Rangers reboot costume controversy, and gloss over last night’s BAFTA TV results.

Fresh from defeat last week, Owen explains why booby-prize Spice World is bad, but not the worst film he’s seen as a result of losing the quiz. Steve reviews new release Bad Neighbours 2 in our What We’ve Been Watching section, whilst Owen also reviews 2016’s indie thriller Hush.

Returning for the first time in a long while on this week’s episode is a triple bill. In honour of Steve and Owen going it alone, they each choose three films with minimal casts. There’s a beguiling mix of old and new, big and small budget; it’s fair to say there’s a wide range of films discussed on the show! Not only that, but your questions sent in to us on Twitter were answered. Everything from picking Bond songs that aren’t Bond songs, to what type of caravan is best for a bit o’ rockin’. Well… I say “answered”.

Join us again next week as we most definitely will be having guests back on the show. Please let us know if you think the little experiment worked, or if it was a failure!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Half A Decade In Film – 2013

The penultimate entry in our Decade In Film spin-off mini-series sees Andrew, Liam, Mike, Owen and Paul turn their attentions to the year 2013.

It was a year in which the world of film criticism as a whole took a moment to collectively thank the late great Roger Ebert, who sadly passed away in early April. 2013 also gave rise to the term “McConaissance”, as James so astutely spotted before anybody else did back in 2012, with Matthew  McConaughey knocking those crappy rom-coms on the head and thus being treated as a serious, proper actor.

It was also a year where, for the briefest of times, it looked like the Oscar for best picture would finally go to a science fiction film as Gravity‘s box office takings and critical acclaim garnered huge momentum heading into the Academy Awards. But… it didn’t win. Never mind. Who cares what the Academy think is a great film, right? What you’re really interested in is what we think were the best films of 2013, right? Right. Let’s start with…


Rush

Rush Chris HemsworthHappiness is your biggest enemy. It weakens you. Puts doubts in your mind. Suddenly you have something to lose.

Towards the end of summer in 2013, a trailer hit for Ron Howard’s new film, Rush. Not being a fan of Formula One racing I could have easily avoided this film, to be honest I couldn’t really recall the outcome of that momentous season and really only just remember the crash. Yet I really couldn’t get enough of this trailer, it was wonderfully edited, filled with passion, intensity and with some superb looking cinematography; I was hooked and suddenly I had high expectations for this film.

Usually high expectations for a film doesn’t end well for me. However, for once, my expectations were met – actually even bettered. Rush is a film about the passion of racing, the will to never give up and the drive to be the best of the best. The story of the infamous rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda through the early seventies and that fateful season in 1976 was riveting stuff. More of an intense drama set in the world of racing about two men with different outlooks on life. Hunt, the thrill of living on the edge, pushing himself to be the best by sheer determination and at times pure recklessness. Yet Lauda, with a talent to drive, doing a job because he was excellent at it, but also a desire to not risk everything, not to lay his life on the line for his job and this dangerous sport. A desire he lost in his attempt to better Hunt, during the race at the Nurburgring track in Germany. Lauda’s return to the track is an emotional fuelled occasion, and one which touches me every time I watch the film. The final race is a heart pounding experience as Hunt attempts to win the prize which has eluded for so many years.

There isn’t much I can fault this film for; its casting is excellent, Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt swaggers around the screen with an air of arrogance and bountiful charm. Though it is Daniel Bruhl’s wonderful portrayal of Niki Lauda which just wins the race to best actor in this film – only just, though. There is a great chemistry between the two actors as they vie to become the world champion. Both are backed up by an able supporting cast including the beautiful Olivia Wilde as Hunt’s wife and Alexandra Maria Lara who plays Lauda’s wife and delivers a stunning emotionally filled performance.

The direction is superb. While I have enjoyed many of Ron Howard’s films, this is by far my favourite of his. The cinematography is exceptional from Anthony Dod Mantle, the race sequences are breath-taking and they never over stay their welcome. Howard prefers to centre on the drama of the racers rather than the actual races. Of course I couldn’t not mention Han’s Zimmer as he delivers one of the best scores I heard in 2013.

Even if you don’t like F1 racing do give this film a chance. I don’t like it, but I do like this film. Let it start and I guarantee you will cross the finish line!

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


La Casa Del Fin de los Tiempo (aka The House of the End Time)

house at the end of timeThere’s no turning back

Written and directed by Alejandro Hidalgo, The House of the End Times is billed as Venezuela’s first attempt at a Horror Movie.

I don’t really think the label of Horror fits this film. It’s more along the lines of a Psychological/Paranormal Thriller, with a Sci-Fi element. There’s not much in the way of blood and gore, nor is it overtly violent, but the levels of menace and threat are chokingly intense.

A basic synopsis of the plot also gives the wrong impression. A family with young children move into a long abandoned, dilapidated house and weird things happening.

Another “Haunted House” reliving its gory past or trying to hoof new owners out? We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Well, no actually, we haven’t. This is no Poltergeist or Amityville clone, it’s an extremely cleverly constructed, complex plot that unfolds slowly and manages to keep you completely in the dark right up to the end.

The film, rather strangely, begins at the mid-point of the story. It opens with Dolce, the mother, regaining consciousness in a hallway, and slowly walking round the house surveying the devastation. She calls the police for help, but ends up being arrested for three murders she has no recollection of, and is carted off to jail.

We then jump forward thirty years, to the “Present Day”, and an elderly Dulce is released from prison to serve the remainder of her sentence under house arrest. It’s at this point that the film really takes off. The action switches quickly back and forth between three distinctly different parts of the same story; we see how things started to go wrong for the family in their new home, the build up to the night of Dulce’s arrest, and we follow Present Day Dulce as she tries to make sense of the chaos happening around her and, with the help of a very persistent priest, how it all relates back to one hidden fact.

It is figuratively (and literally in one particular aspect) a Three Card Monte scam in film form.

The use of sound throughout the film is a real highlight, a decent set of speakers make a massive difference to the chill factor here. The superb writing and direction keep you on your toes at all times. Ruddy Rodriguez is brilliant as Dulce, she plays each aspect of the part wonderfully. I’m not the biggest fan of Modern Horror films, and Sci-Fi is my least favourite genre by quite some distance and yet I’m willing to say that this film is a must see. It has so many “Jump Moments” it leaves you exhausted.

If I had to pick out something to moan about, the only real problem is the make up used on the elderly version of Dulce. It’s strange that they allowed it to look so much like make up, every other facet of this gem has been polished to perfection but this one important little touch seems oddly slapdash.

Easily one of my favourite films of the decade so far, it made me say very rude words very loudly on numerous occasions and has more jumpy moments than a crack addled kangaroo in a roomful of trampolines.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


A Field In England

A072_C001_1001IE“Friend: You think about a thing before you touch it, am I right?
Whitehead: Is that not usual?
Friend: Not in Essex.

Being simultaneously released in cinemas, on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as screened in Film4 all on the same day, it’s fair to say that there was a lot of hype for Ben Wheatley’s psychedelic, experimental, black and white English Civil War era comedy-drama. Already a pretty divisive film maker with plenty of people who either absolutely adored Kill List, or unapologetically hated it, it was understandable that some of us were perhaps approaching A Field In England with a certain degree of trepidation.

Certainly that’s how it was treated on the Failed Critics Podcast, where Steve and Gerry both despised as much of it as they could stand to watch. “Pretentious”, “a shit idea”, “fucking terrible”, “hard work”, “indulgent”, “nonsense”, “arty wankery hipster shit”; these aren’t unpopular opinions held on Wheatley’s fourth theatrically released feature film. However, I personally loved it. I love the experimental nature of it, the trippy way it’s edited together and just how beautifully shot it is. Not to mention Amy Jump’s poetic writing, Jim Williams’ folky soundtrack and the darkly comic, almost horror film-levels of atmosphere.

I can’t claim to have understood it all, or that it made sense to me after the first time through. I’ve since seen the film a few more times and with each viewing it just gets better and better, picking up on something I missed on previous occasions… although I doubt I actually understand it any more or less!

Both Michael Smiley and Reece Shearsmith put in fantastic performances as the mysterious Irish alchemist O’Neill hunting for his treasure and the cowardly neurotic deserter Whitehead, respectively. Menacing, creepy, disturbing and both of them equally hilarious in that typically dark Ben Wheatley sort-of-way; they’re magnificent. As if we didn’t know already, Shearsmith proves that he’s one of Britain’s best character actors around today.

The rest of the cast were decent too. Peter Ferdinando was in one of the more straight-forward roles as the troubled soldier, but he did very well and his performance also improves every time I watch this film. Having been a fan of the BBC TV series Ideal, it was nice to see Ryan Pope in something else that wasn’t a McDonalds commercial too! Richard Glover was also excellent and his Ballou My Boy song was just one of the few highlights in what is one of my favourite ever British movies.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


Pacific Rim

PACIFIC RIMFortune favours the brave, dude.

Admit it! Come on! We all did it! Didn’t we all go into Pacific Rim expecting garbage? Sure, it was a Guillermo del Toro film, but it just looked like Transformers Vs. Godzillas didn’t it? And we all saw how awful those films ended up didn’t we?

So why were we watching this again?

I was expecting it to be visually great, but we’ve had our fair share of gorgeous looking rubbish haven’t we? What I wasn’t expecting was a film that was that beautiful, that fun, but still smarter than most of the films I saw in 2013. It was refreshing to have a film that looked like it was going to be a flashy, bombastic popcorn movie not treat me like an imbecile.

You get 10 minutes. That’s it. 10 minutes where the important parts of the story are explained to you. In that ten minutes you’re shown the fight between the monstrous alien Kaijus and the human piloted robot “Jaegers” and given all the character development you need for veteran robo-pilot Charlie Hunnam. After those few minutes, it’s assumed you will keep up with the pace of the film and the pace that information is given to you. It’s a breath of fresh air for a film, and a film maker, to just crack on, get the story told and not pander to the lowest common denominator in the theatre.

So, Pacific Rim. The film about mankind’s last ditch attempt to defeat an alien invader coming from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. An ever-evolving invader looking to wipe us from our planet and harvest whatever we leave behind. It’s up to Hunnam, Idris Elba and a host of supporting characters to “Cancel the apocalypse”. So it’s The Abyss meets Independence Day with a little Transformers and Godzilla for good measure. The film’s synopsis is a simple one. Painfully simple. But Del Toro’s direction speaks volumes when the plot doesn’t. And what more is there to say when a giant robot hits a Godzilla wannabe with a CARGO SHIP!

Oh, yeah. One thing is left to be said.

If, like me, you’ve spent a large amount of your life in front of screens for more than just films. If you’ve lost months of your life to video games, then the casting of Ellen McLain as the Jaeger Program’s AI is a stroke of genius, guaranteed to get a knowing smile with each viewing.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


Matterhorn

matterhornYeah

This was a year end watch after seeing it appear on a couple of best of lists in December 2013. Wasn’t really expecting much – I mean, Dutch absurdist comedy? That’s a niche genre and then some. But this gentle Sunday afternoon film turned out to be the best thing I saw all year. Diederik Ebbinge served up an unexpected gem, that left me both in fits of laughter… and floods of tears.

Ton Kas who plays Fred, a man living alone in a devout Calvinist community, finds everything changes when René van ‘t Hof as the mentally impaired Theo enters his life. Kas conveys the mundane existence of Fred brilliantly. Whilst van ‘t Hof’s performance as Theo is utterly remarkable and one that will stay with me forever, Ebbinge helps things along by delivering visuals to match, drab and muted to the max.

We’re not told much if anything about them to begin with, bar little clues and inferences along the way. It’s brilliantly done. We have their story and history slowly unfold, we get to see intolerance and mistrust, friendship and love… don’t worry, you get to see a man making goat noises and wearing a dress too. From the laugh out loud comedy to the heartbreaking tears, I absolutely loved spending time with Fred & Theo. So much so that I sought out another film the actors appear in together, Plan C (where they play entirely different characters, but are just as much fun to spend time with).

I don’t know anybody who hasn’t enjoyed this, but equally I only know a few people who’ve seen it and it absolutely deserves an audience, but until the DVD price drops or it becomes available to stream in the UK, it just wont find one.

by Paul Field (@pafster)


And that’s it! Join us again next week for the final instalment of our Half A Decade In Film series as we reconvene to each pick our favourite movie of 2014. Until then, feel free to comment below and tell us where we’ve gone wrong or right!

Best Films on TV: 16 – 22 December

This week sees a return of our best film on TV articles. If you’re ‘bah humbugging’ your way through December, Owen is here to tell you what to watch out for this week.

Deep Blue SeaMonday 16 December – Deep Blue Sea (Five, 22.00)

Bah! It’s that time of year again where nothing is on TV but half-baked Christmas specials and those awful family Christmas movies starring kids you’ve never seen in anything else, getting all teary eyed at the magic the Yule tide brings. Thankfully, Five have seen sense and decided it put on a film about super-intelligent sharks, chomping their way through an underwater facility made up of scientists and Samuel L Jackson. Merry Christmas, every one.

Tuesday 17 December – Ping Pong (Film4, 23.05)

Although I would dearly love to choose Zoolander for the umpteenth time, what with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty due out soon and because it’s a very funny comedy, I am most intrigued by this documentary Film4 are showing. Released last year, it tells of an elderly man given a week to live and his trip to China to compete in a world senior ping pong competition (instead of setting up a meth lab to provide for his kids, a la Walter White.) With lots of good write ups and purely because it sounds so unusual, I reckon this will be the best film on TV on Tuesday. Yes. Even better than the generically sounding ‘A Star for Christmas’ on Five.

Wednesday 18 December – A Field In England (Channel 4, 00.20 (Thu morning))

Didn’t get a chance to see Ben Wheatley‘s trippy film about a group of deserters in the English Civil War? Well here’s an early Christmas present for you from Channel 4 who are repeating one of the most bizarre releases of 2013. Divisive amongst those who saw it, not just our podcast team, you’ll either think it brilliant or “pretentious shit”. (It’s brilliant, by the way.)

Thursday 19 December – The Social Network (Film4, 21.00)

Christmas can often be the time of year for taking stock of what you have in life and laughing hard at those losers who don’t got what you got lolz. Ahem. The Social Network is one such opportunity to do that, as you can point and sneer at Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of crushingly obnoxious super-rich loser and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. It’s also a pretty good film, which is something of a bonus.

Friday 20 December – Die Hard (E4, 21.00)

Oh, alright, I suppose I better pick at least one Christmas film this week. But if I have to, then it’s going to be John McTiernan‘s Godfather of all action movies, Die Hard. Starring Bruce Willis as the shoeless cop trapped in a building overrun with terrorists, trying to rescue his wife, what could be more Christmassy than that? Yipee kayay mother fuc–I mean, father Christmas.

Saturday 21 December – The Young Victoria (BBC2, 17.25)

For something a bit more mellow after the previous bout of fists, guns and blood, look no further than Emily Blunt giving one of her best performances to date as Queen Victoria in this period drama. Romantic, tragic and amusing, it is far better than it had any right to be. I’m trying to remember if she gives any speeches about reforms, pensions, and places her and Albert visited that year, but none spring to mind.

Sunday 22 December – My Neighbour Totoro (Film4, 11.00)

Are you sick of us recommending this yet? Is it because you still haven’t gotten around to watching it? Is that because there’s something wrong with you? Well, consider this a final warning.. or… recommendation (sounds less threatening that way.)  Studio Ghibli’s animation is sweet, funny and delightful. But, if you are feeling a bit depressed, you could check out ITV4. They’re showing men killing each other for petty reasons starting with All Quiet on the Western Front at 11.45, followed by Paths of Glory. Never Let Me Go on Channel 4 at 10.25 should be enough to leave you heartbroken and lost for breath should you not be able to get a copy of Up on DVD. Although, if you really must watch a proper Christmas film this week, then Scrooged starring Bill Murray is also on Channel 4 at 4.30. With all these good films arriving on one day, it’s like Christmas has come early. Sorry.

Failed Critics Podcast: TV Special II

a-field-in-england-1024_LRGAfter the success of last year’s TV Special, we decided to recommission a second series. And not just because none of us wanted to watch The Internship. Oh no. So we review TV programmes we’ve been watching recently, including The Newsroom, Arrested Development Season 4, Sherlock, and Jericho, and in Triple Bill we pitch our movie remake ideas for shows from our youth.

We also review Ben Wheatley’s A Field In England, the civil war psychedelic horror film that debuted in cinemas, on DVD, and on free-to-air television on the same day.

Join us next week for our Monsters Double Header, with reviews of Pacific Rim and Monsters University.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Best Films on TV: 1 – 7 July 2013

The best films on TV this week, as chosen by that weird brummie fellow off of the podcast, Owen Hughes.

searchers01Monday 1st July – The Searchers (Film4, 16.35)

One of the top 10 films of all time according to the Sight & Sound poll, John Ford‘s classic western starring John Wayne is one of the most influential movies of all time. Whilst arguably slightly dated, it still looks absolutely brilliant, just as you would expect from a Ford film. It’s worth watching at least once in your life, if only to see what all the fuss is about! (Also, if you miss it, it’s repeated all week on various channels, including TCM and BBC4.)

Tuesday 2nd July – The Running Man (Film4 23.35)

It’s the year 2017, the world is under the rule of a totalitarian state, and the only thing the people have to look forward to is a gameshow where criminals are pitted against gladiators in a battle to the death. You can keep your Hunger Games films, this 80s Arnie actioner is what I love! Ultraviolent, snappy one liners and cheese levels set to maximum; well worth staying up late on a school night for!

Wednesday 3rd July – Rope (More4 11.45)

Hitchcock is at his best when his films were set on a small scale. Dial M For Murder, Rear Window, and of course Rope. Telling the story of one 2 students trying to get away with the perfect crime in the middle of a dinner party they are hosting, all set in one apartment, filmed in four cuts, it is one of the greatest director’s greatest films.

Thursday 4th July – Kill List (Film4 23.05)

Get ready for Friday’s huge event, the release of A Field In England on DVD, cinemas and Film4 all at the same time, with Ben Wheatley‘s cult horror on Thursday. A dark tale of two hitmen who get involved in a job way over their heads, Kill List has an unnerving and ominous atmosphere throughout. Complete with good performances (particularly Neil Maskell (aka Andy from Utopia)) it made Ben Wheatley a director to watch.

Friday 5th July – A Field In England (Film4 22.45)

Finally! It’s arrived! Starring Wheatley regular Michael Smiley (Kill List, Outpost), Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville) and Julian Barratt (The Mighty Boosh, Nathan Barley), directed by Ben Wheatley, this is one of the most anticipated events of the year. ” ..released simultaneously in theaters, on DVD, free TV and video-on-demand” (The Hollywood Reporter) only adds to the excitement surrounding this black and white tale of two soldiers deserting the English Civil War. Not to be missed!

Saturday 6th July – Scott Pilgrim vs The world (Channel 4, 10pm)

Perhaps the ultimate hipster movie. Adapted from a relatively obscure Canadian comic you probably haven’t even read (I have, obviously) starring Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, a bass player who has to fight off his would-be girlfriends seven evil exes, Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a fantasy-action-adventure like no other. Want another reason to watch it? It’s directed by Edgar Wright. Still not enough? Beck wrote the soundtrack to this film. Still haven’t been convinced? Well you’re just wrong.

Sunday 7th July – The Iron Giant (Film4, 2.50pm)

More well known for being the director of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Brad Bird made his film debut with this beautiful animated film about a boy who discovers a giant alien robot. The Iron Giant does what all good kids films do, it handles a serious topic (i.e. loss and loneliness) very sensitively whilst still being a fun adventure film.