Tag Archives: A New York Winter’s Tale

Callum Petch’s Bottom 10 of 2014: #10 – #6

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Happy New Year, everybody!  Over the last two days, I have shared with you the 10 films that stuck with me the most throughout 2014 for the right reasons.  Plaudits were thrown about, praises were slathered, and good times were had.  If you missed those articles, you can find them located here and here.  Today and tomorrow, though, I share with you the 10 films that stuck with me the most throughout 2014 for the wrong reasons.

I have never actually done a Bottom 10 list before.  As mentioned in the first of my Top 10 pieces, prior to this year I had to carefully select what films I went to see, but this year I could toss quality control out of the window and see everything.  Therefore, in the name of film criticism, I have seen a lot of total sh*t this past year.  However, this is not a list of the absolute worst made films of 2014.  Some of them are on here, but that is not what the list is about.  It’s too easy and not particularly interesting, especially since many of them are akin to shooting fish in a barrel with a blunderbuss machine gun.  I mean, are any of you at all surprised that Pudsey The Dog: The Movie turned out to be horrendous?

No, this list is a Bottom 10 and encompasses the films from 2014 that made me angry.  To get on this list, a film had to have left me with a strong negative reaction that did not go away after a short while.  These are the films that drew my anger, swallowed me in disappointment, offended my being in some way shape or form, or also represent everything that is wrong with filmmaking and the film industry today.  How much do these films deserve to be on this list?  Transcendence, Annie, Blended, and 300: Rise Of An Empire missed out on placements.

So, same rules apply here as they did for the Top 10, and same presentation style applies too – today, we count down #10 to #6.  If we’re all set, don your bile protection gear, don’t look directly into the films that are listed here, and ONWARDS, AOSHIMA!

There may be spoilers.  Proceed with caution.


boyhood10] Boyhood

Dir: Richard Linklater

Star: Ellar Coltraine, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke

Again, this is not a list of the worst films of 2014.  I can name you at least 20 or so films that I saw that are worse than Boyhood.  No, Boyhood is on this list because, more so than any other film released in 2014, it annoyed me.  It confounded me, it irritated me, it baffled me, it enraged me, it majorly disappointed me, and these feelings have remained with me ever since I saw the film because people won’t shut the hell up about the goddamn thing and because we might as well FedEx all awards ever to its undeserving doorstep now to save time and money on postage.

Look, my seething distaste for Boyhood is very much equal parts it not being a very good film, and my own personal feelings and baggage.  Boyhood purports to be a look at the coming-of-age of a white, suburban, straight, middle-class male throughout the 2000s but does so in a way and tone that feels like it’s putting down the final word on the matter.  That this is how it was for everybody, that it’s making some giant statement about it all, especially since the film keeps throwing out philosophical sound bites and barely tolerable bullsh*t about how “the moment seizes you” and stuff.  It looks down from upon high and decrees “THIS IS WHAT BOYHOOD WAS LIKE IN THE 2000s” with absolutely no self-awareness or analysis of what it actually means to be that kind of privileged white, straight, middle-class male, which makes its declarative nature all the more insufferable.

“Oh, but Boyhood is a character piece!” I imagine many are trying to counter with right about now.  Problem with that argument is that the film fails at that, too.  Mason, Jr. is a non-entity.  I spent two hours and forty minutes in his company – watched him go through 12 years of life – and the most I learnt about him is that he possibly has a interest in photography, and that his actor grew up to resemble Ethan Hawke so much that I’m honestly not 100% certain that he’s not just a clone of Ethan Hawke.  I don’t know what makes him tick, I don’t know what his aspirations are, I don’t know how he progressed from his six year-old self to his eighteen year-old self.  He feels less like a character and more like a blank slate that either you’re supposed to project your own self onto or who is supposed to stand in for every white privileged guy ever.

“But the whole point of the movie is that your adolescence cannot be boiled down to big standout moments!  That’s why it skips Mason, Jr.’s first kiss, first job, rambunctious teenager phase, etc.!”  OK, so why does the entire first half of the film concern itself with the theme of being too young to truly understand how the world works?  Much of the film’s first half dedicates itself to the lives of Mason and Olivia, Mason, Jr. and Samantha’s parents, and the complicated nature of their various relationships, living arrangements and procession of step-parents as viewed through the eyes of children who will never truly understand why these things are happening.  That’s why there is this ridiculously cartoonishly delivered sequence where Olivia bolts with the kids away from her alcoholic and abusive new husband.  That is a major standout moment of somebody’s life, and its grand theatricality – not helped by Marco Perella swinging for the fences with his playing of that scene – goes against the low-key nature of the rest of the film.

Yet the film drops that theme at about the halfway mark and just ambles about aimlessly for its remaining runtime.  It’s maddening to see a film wilfully waste its potential and possible avenues of storytelling and thematic resonance at damn near every opportunity.  Patricia Arquette has been getting major praise for her role as Olivia and understandably so, she does great work, which makes it all the more infuriating that, despite being Mason, Jr.’s primary parent and guardian, the film repeatedly side-lines her in favour of even more screen time with Mason, Sr. in a bunch of scenes that eventually reduce themselves to just hitting the same beats over and over again.  Olivia gets an outstanding scene near the end where she breaks down as an uncaring Mason, Jr. gets the last of his stuff from her house about the passage of time, and of heavily implied regret for giving her life to him instead of living it for herself.  That scene is outstanding, which only makes it all the more infuriating that the film isn’t about her – the one character in the film with an arc, thematic resonance or f*cking something going on.

That’s ultimately what annoys me most about Boyhood, is the fact that it has nothing going on besides its “shot over 12 years” gimmick.  It is a film with no central character, no consistent thematic arc, and nothing interesting to say because it actively steers itself away from having anything interesting to say.  I get the feeling that Linklater started this project with a real passion and desire, only for that to fade away from him as the years progressed, eventually becoming more of an obligation than anything he was seriously interested in working on – the film gets lazier and lazier, just drifting through its last forty minutes with no drive except for some half-assed pseudo-philosophical rambling (very much like a teenager).  Linklater is better than this, he has consistently proven over the last 12 years that he is a better filmmaker than this, and that’s why Boyhood disappoints me so.  It’s a pointless, muddled, dreary slog of a film that also touches on something real and honest infrequently enough to make its bungling of everything even more irritating.

Also, its last scene is one of the worst and most aggravating that I have seen all year, and the film managed to make me hate Arcade Fire for a good two hours after I left the cinema.


09] Let’s Be Copslet's be cops

Dir: Luke Greenfield

Star: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr.

Let’s Be Cops is not the worst comedy of 2014 – that honour goes to Sex Tape, since that barely qualifies as a film, let alone a comedy.  It is not the most offensive comedy of 2014 – that honour goes to Blended.  It is also not the most disappointing comedy of 2014 – A Million Ways To Die In The West – or the most pointless – Horrible Bosses 2 – or the biggest pile of evidence that we should stop allowing British people to make comedies – Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie.  What Let’s Be Cops is, and why it is on this list instead of the far more deserving Sex Tape, is the most perfect encapsulation of everything that is currently wrong with the American feature-length comedy movie.

2014 has been a pretty miserable year for out-and-out comedies.  Of the many, many, many comedies released these past 12 months, only two were actually any good – Bad Neighbours (which came this close to cracking my Top 20) and 22 Jump Street (which had a very good chance of actually cracking the Top 10 if I had managed to watch it again before list-making time) – the rest were either diverting but pointless, or just plain torture to sit through.  I realise that every year has maybe two great straight comedies – a number that’s bumped up to four if you include comedy-dramas or black comedies – and a whole load of tripe surrounding them, but you’ll have to forgive me for being disappointed that an increased number of releases this year led to the same number of hits compared to misses.

The American comedy is currently stale, and Let’s Be Cops is such a grab-bag text of all of its worst impulses that I’m honestly still not sure that it wasn’t intentional – a desire to make a comedy I can point to for all aspiring comedy filmmakers and go “You see that?  Don’t do that.”  A loose rambling structure that sacrifices these things we call “set-ups” and “punchlines” in favour of dropping talented comedians with decent chemistry into scenarios and praying that they can improv up enough gold to fill out the runtime, direction and scene set-ups that are dull and interchangeable, editing that doesn’t know when to stop a scene, a needlessly stretched out runtime that gets way too close to two hours, genuinely funny material being beaten into the ground or stretched so thin that the entire enterprise feels endless, a casually tossed off sexist attitude towards women, a final third where the jokes are dropped completely because apparently only Phil Lord & Chris Miller know how to make plot funny anymore…

Let’s Be Cops also has the extra dead albatross of being released in the immediate aftermath of the tragic events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri which have sparked off an additional nationwide conversation about police brutality, racism and militarisation of the police force, adding an extra layer of awkward tastelessness to jokes like our two leads playfully brandishing their loaded guns at each other in a public restaurant.  But, honestly, that’s the least of its problems.  Let’s Be Cops could have used its premise to explore and ask tough questions about the current state of the police force in 21st century America, but it didn’t have to and it’s not automatically lesser for not doing so – there’s nothing wrong with a silly comedy and at no point did either of the Jump Street movies use their cop-comedy premises for social satire.  What is inexcusable, though, is the sheer laziness and half-assery of the film’s entire construction.  This is soulless, paint-by-numbers filmmaking where the only people trying are its two stars, which only serves to make them look desperate.

Again, Let’s Be Cops is not the worst comedy of the year – holy hell, is Sex Tape ever an appalling train wreck – but it is a perfect distillation of everything that is currently wrong with the comedy genre.  This trend of foisting near-laugh-free scripts on talented actors with lightning chemistry and expecting them to do all the heavy lifting with endless improv needs to stop.  I don’t care that the majority of today’s movie star comedians and comediennes come with an improv background; there is a never a better substitute for tight editing and a raucous script stuffed to the brim with proper jokes from start to finish.  Bad Neighbours got that, 22 Jump Street got that, why can’t anything else get that?


new york winters tale08] A New York Winter’s Tale

Dir: Akiva Goldsman

Star: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown-Findlay

That’s right, folks.  A film that I declared back in February to have been “one of the worst films that I have ever seen” is only #8 on my Bottom 10 of 2014.  And, honestly, it’s really only here out of some sort of obligation.  Oh, sure, A New York Winter’s Tale is pure garbage of the highest order, but it’s a film that I have warmed to since then, probably because it, unlike a lot of the tripe populating this list, at least is completely sincere in its attempts to be good.  Therefore, although I hated it at the time, I don’t hate it with the same ferocity that I once did.  Not anymore, I feel like I have moved on from it.

Again, though, that doesn’t stop A New York Winter’s Tale from being a complete and total failure on every single conceivable level of filmmaking.  The dialogue is atrocious, the plot is nonsense, it looks dreadful in both the practical sense – of set design, shot composition, costumes, hairpieces and such – and the computer-generated sense, it boasts atrocious performances from everybody involved, it is paced like a marathon populated by narcoleptics, its attempts at thematic resonance and foreshadowing are quite literally laughable…  I’m honestly not sure what’s more inadvertently hilarious, the movie or the fact that a former Oscar winner convinced Village Roadshow Pictures to give him $60 million and several talented high profile actors to give several weeks of their lives to filming this piece of guff.

The plot powering this guff – based on a novel I haven’t read but is apparently, by all accounts, nowhere near as rubbish as this – centres around Colin Farrell as a potential miracle maker who was raised and then hunted by a demon, played by Russell Crowe, legitimately named Pearly Soames (real name, not the gender-flipped version of Pearl from Spongebob Squarepants), who works for Lucifer, played by Will Smith (an incredibly sleepy and checked out Will Smith, before you get excited and, yes, it is problematic that the one major black guy in the film is playing Satan).  It turns out that Colin Farrell’s miracle is to apparently cure a young woman’s terminal tuberculosis through the power of love, whilst Pearly (real name) hunts the pair down with murderous intentions cos Lucifer don’t like any sunshine or kittens getting out into the world, thank you kindly.

See, this all sounds like the most enjoyable nonsense, a “So Bad, It’s Good” of epic proportions.  Yet, whilst I was watching the thing, I didn’t find it funny because it is so po-facedly earnestly serious about its stupid endeavour that any fun to be had at its ridiculous awfulness was lost.  This was a film with a Pegasus, a ridiculous pace-killing near-century time-skip, and a sequence in which somebody is quite literally f*cked to death, and all I could do was check my watch, yawn and question whether walking out would be preferable to continuing to submit myself to the thing – although I did laugh at the reveal of the Pegasus, mostly because it looks like what you’d get if you asked a 5 year-old to recreate the Tri-Star logo in MS Paint in the next 30 minutes.

But I no longer hate A New York Winter’s Tale.  I did, once upon a time, enough to write a long-winded and pretty funny review (if you’ll allow me one of my five annual tootings of my own horn) tearing the thing to shreds, but no more.  I have made my peace with this film’s existence.  If I were to ever see it again – preferably in the company of friends, drunk on soda of various kinds, during a Bad Movie Night – I’d probably be able to crack wise at the thing effortlessly and have myself a gay old time.  It is still one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my 20 years of existence, but as previously mentioned this is not a Worst Movies of 2014 list.  Therefore, A New York Winter’s Tale stalls out at #8.  The bile saved from this can instead be deployed on other, more deserving films, such as…


07] Transformers: Age Of Extinctiontransformers 4

Dir: Michael Bay

Star: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci

This one is just as much my own goddamn stupid fault as it is the film in question.  I stupidly – and it is stupidly, there is no other word or reasoning to make this alright – let a part of me become somewhat hopeful that this time things would be different.  The Transformers series, under the creative direction and influence of these people, gave me absolutely no reason to believe that it could produce anything great or even worth my time.  Yet, a part of me was allowed to be quietly optimistic.  After bottoming out with Revenge Of The Fallen, Dark Of The Moon took the series’ first tentative steps towards being a good movie – it wasn’t one, but it was on the path to at least being entertaining – and 2013’s underrated Pain & Gain proved to me that Michael Bay hadn’t forgotten how to make movies.  So a part of me got a little hopeful; this time, things were going to be different.

They weren’t.  They weren’t at all.  Age Of Extinction is a regression back to all of the same toxic sh*t that Transformers, Revenge Of The Fallen and to a lesser extent Dark Of The Moon had peddled beforehand, only now even more bloated and expanded and epic-ised (which isn’t even a real word but was likely a direction used for scene prep at some point during this thing’s production) to levels that make the resulting product an endurance test instead of anything that anybody could find entertaining.  Casual racism, creepy paedophilic undertones, an actively hateful bordering on misogynist view of women, product placement – including product placement for The People’s Republic of China despite current world events making that one of the most tone-deaf things one could do – abysmally directed and incomprehensible action, active wasting of interesting themes, and an utterly awful Imagine Dragons song – which is a step down from Linkin Park.

And in other news, the sun rose today, the sky is blue, and George Clooney is an incredibly sexy man.  Look, I get that we have all collectively realised that the Transformers movies are abhorrent pieces of trash and that their continued financial success will be one of life’s big mysteries.  Age Of Extinction’s appearance on this list is that barrel full of fish that I mentioned earlier, but sometimes really obvious fish need shooting for a reason and this metaphor has broken down.  Point is, Age Of Extinction is a reminder that there are people out there who have nothing but contempt for the movie going audience.  Who believe that they can push out thoughtless, stupid, toxic crap and that people will show up to buy it because the explosions are big and shiny and purdy.  There is always room for big dumb action films – the Fast & Furious franchise is beloved for a reason, after all – but those are films that do so with glee, joy and smartness, as crafting a good big dumb action film takes actual effort.

Age Of Extinction is not that film.  It is a cynical, joyless, mindless exercise whose sole reason for its existence is to line Paramount Pictures executives’ pockets with more money.  And I went into it stupidly thinking that it wouldn’t be.  People went to see this and not Edge Of Tomorrow, and, thanks specifically to China, we will be suffering through two more of these sh*tfests.  Well done, everyone.  Sterling job.


906429 - The Amazing Spider-Man 206] The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Dir: Marc Webb

Star: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx

We are in the middle of a full-on comic book boom at the cinema.  Now, admittedly, we’ve been in one since the early 2000s when Spider-Man, X-Men and Blade were ruling the box office, but we’re really in the midst of one.  Every studio has, or is attempting to cultivate, their own comic book empire out of the materials that Marvel Studios hasn’t already swallowed up, everybody is trying to serialise everything, and Marvel this year dictated the exact days in which I need to sit my ass down in a cinema for the next five years.  This boom will bust out eventually, but things are looking good for now.

They won’t look so good for very long, however, if studios keep pumping out films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  This one was a time-bomb, folks.  As you may have gathered from my original review, I strongly disliked the film but I didn’t hate it at the time – I thought I’d found a couple of redeeming factors and let the potential of the series dilute some of my venom for it.  But then it sat in head.  And sat.  And sat.  And, for at least three months afterwards, it wouldn’t leave because myself and my friends kept finding more and more wrong with it the more we let it settle.  We found new problems – like the incredibly poor pacing and structural mess that robs anything of any resonance – whilst old problems – the incredibly creepy and borderline sexist crap with Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey, Peter’s problem of him being a giant dick – were found to be even more systemic and problematic.

In the end, though, it all comes back to this simple fact: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not a film.  It is a commercial for the next film, and also a Sinister Six film that literally nobody was ever asking for.  This is not a film that was made by a cast and crew with a vision, a story to tell, and the drive and passion to pull it off.  This was a film ham-fistedly dictated by a studio for the sole purpose of forcing a franchise and making a lot of money because, “Yo!  Those kids loves them some Spider-Man!  I spies dollar signs, boys!”  There is no narrative reason for this film to exist, there is no thematic reason for this film to exist; this is a film that exists because Sony saw that Marvel Studios have made Scrooge McDuck-money with their franchises and shared universe continuity and wanted that green without actually having to do the work necessary to earn it.

Do you know why Marvel can unveil concrete dates for a five-year plan of films and the only negative thing it does to us is make us contemplate our own fragile mortality?  It’s because they, first and foremost, tell stories.  Each film so far, despite this shared-universe thing and their franchising and sequelising and such, works as a film on its own.  They tell complete stories, have effort and craft put into them, and each of them exist because, or give a good enough illusion, somebody wanted to tell a story, first and foremost.  Are they often still safe, less groundbreaking and risky than they appear, and mandated by the producers at the studio?  Well, yes, undoubtedly, but the films are great and satisfying and fun and have real effort put in that I really don’t care.

Marvel Studios, essentially, have earned my trust, and near everyone else’s trust, in this grand experiment because they have proven first and foremost that their movies are worth the commercial avenues that they will be taken down.  Sony don’t want to wait for that trust and have forced the Spider-Man license through the most cynical, money-driven, bereft-of-ideas ringer they could get their hands on, and practically every problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can be traced back to a studio wanting their money now and not thinking through, or putting any effort whatsoever into, a single one of the film’s creative decisions.  When people disparage comic book movies and serialisation of movies, this is what they are referring to and I shiver at the possibility that I will be seeing more Amazing Spider-Man 2s in the coming future.

Sony, just torch the franchise and negotiate with Marvel.  Please?  It’s clearly been more trouble for you than it’s worth.  Just wash your hands of this game and move on.  For all of us.


Well, we’ve made it halfway through the list.  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I was being too harsh/not harsh enough on some of these?  Let me know in the comments below!  Tomorrow, we wrap up this week with the absolute bottom of the barrel.  Brace yourselves…

Callum Petch only dreams in black and white.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Pudsey The Dog: The Movie

Pudsey-the-MovieFilmmaking so inept that it’s almost funny, Pudsey The Dog: The Movie is like a barely tolerable feature-length episode of a terrible CBBC sitcom.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

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Oh, sorry, that was just me repeatedly slamming my head on the keyboard.  Ahem…

If Pudsey The Dog: The Movie managed to accomplish anything (besides stringing together a bunch of pictures and sounds in a manner that, when presented to other people, technically constitutes labelling the product a “movie”) it’s that, for a few short minutes, it made me hate Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright.  As I saw poor old Jessica Hynes miserably (visibly miserably, I might add) attempt to inject some semblance of life into this thing, all I could do was curse Pegg & Wright.  “Why?!” I mentally cried to the heavens.  “Why did you both drop her after Spaced and that brief funny in-joke cameo in Shaun Of The Dead?  Why couldn’t you both have taken her with you?!  Why did you leave her to have to cash paycheques by appearing in crap like this?!  You monsters!  You heartless b*stards!”  I may have fixated on this little detail a bit too much.  Besides, despite being second billed, she’s barely in the thing which is both to the film’s benefit (because then I don’t have to get sad watching her failing to make anything here close to decent) and its immense misfortune.

To elect to watch Pudsey The Dog: The Movie is to elect to watch a train wreck.  I’d like for you to imagine, if you can, the giant pile-up from The Blues Brothers only in reality so that there are actually good men and women involved in this total ridiculous, absurd and utterly incompetent car crash.  Add “of a film” onto the end of that previous sentence and you have Pudsey The Dog: The Movie, because that’s what this is.  Folks, I have not seen a film that is this pathetically constructed since… well, arguably since A New York Winter’s Tale.  Nothing works.  The pacing is non-existent, the staging, of both normal scenes and any time it chooses to indulge in physical comedy (which film seems to be on a mission, this year, to utterly cock up at every opportunity), is hopeless, the acting from the adults is strained and from the kids is like we’ve wandered into the world’s worst panto, the voice acting is atrocious, the script is lazy, the plot is non-existent, the music headache-inducing…  If you were to super-impose silhouettes of Joel/Mike and the bots along the bottom of the screen, I’d think I were watching a lost Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode where everyone is too dumbstruck at the film they’re watching to crack jokes.

And yet the whole time I was exposed to it, the enterprise carried an air of familiarity.  A throwback feel, if you will, to something that I used to watch a lot when I was child.  And I mean “child”, the kind of thing I happily watched from age 5 – 8 until my household got a Sky box and I discovered that there were TV channels devoted to nothing but cartoons.  Then it hit me: I was watching a feature-length episode of a CBBC sitcom.  You know the ones.  Where every actor and actress permanently seems five seconds away from physically walking over to a piece of the set, picking up a knife and fork and going to town on it.  Where the plots are nonsensical when they’re not contrived or generic.  Where the jokes come from physical humour, funny voices or sound effects on the soundtrack.  Where the staging is purposefully limited to take advantage of the lower production values of television (or, back in my day *shakes walking stick*, the multi-cam format).

Here’s the thing, though, not all CBBC sitcoms were that bad.  Say what you want about them, they were often good at what they were aiming to do.  Plus, sometimes you get something like The Story Of Tracy Beaker which, admittedly, hewed closer to a drama than a sitcom but could still bring the funny along with its relative emotional heft.  The best ones, if nothing else, had effort.  They had heart.  They were clearly trying and they clearly wanted to be good.  Pudsey, in the continuing failure conga known as its existence, can’t even get that right.  It fails spectacularly at everything, but very little effort seems to have been put in in the first place.  You want examples?  I’ll give you examples. Pudsey is a dog, dog stereotypes dictate that dogs love sausages, so Pudsey will frequently mention his desire to be fed some sausages and you will laugh because he is a dog that said he likes sausages and that is exactly what you expected!  Ha!  Ha!  HAHAHAHA!!  The three kids in Jessica Hynes’ care are a teenage daughter who is desperate to impress cute boys and is otherwise “a weirdo” by virtue of the fact that some bullies say so at the beginning, a younger son who plays PlayStation All Stars: Battle Royale at every opportunity and who just can’t live without videogames, and an even younger son who has chosen to become a mute ever since his dad left but is probably more because GOOD LORD this kid cannot deliver any lines to save his life.  These are the entire extent of their characters, by the way.

Sometimes, there will be some physical comedy wherein a character will be punted large distances by a bucking horse, or Pudsey will cause a large comical series of pratfalls as one person falls into two people who knock over a piece of the set which sends someone flying etc.  Once again, I love physical comedy.  Pulled off right, with good staging and timing and effects-work, little else slays me quicker.  Pudsey’s pratfalls are staged weirdly, awkwardly timed and cut between shots and stunts in such a way that you can clearly see how disjointed each of the segments of them are (there’s a bit where a well that one of the characters is leaning on collapses and they fall in, and the lean, the well collapsing, the actor getting ready to fall and the fall itself are given individual shots that clearly show that each little section has been filmed separately; they all start about half a second too early).  Nothing’s convincing.  The plot, meanwhile, is practically non-existent but its beats are lifted wholesale from “Every Light Family-Focussed Family-Targeted Film Plot Ever” (including an ineffectual villain, played by John Sessions of all sodding people, who irrationally hates dogs and wants to destroy the family farm to build a supermarket and OH GOD this script really was just stolen from the 90s, wasn’t it?) and the film does nothing to improve or vary them in any way shape or form.  The only way you could make a more generic script would be to cobble one together after years of scientific research and analysis.

But the laziness continues!  David Walliams voices Pudsey (who, incidentally, I have talked very little about so far in this review and, yes, that is to get across just how relevant he is in his own damn movie) and he is atrocious.  You could come up with a whole load of possible voices to give a dog, professional VAs do in various cartoons every week in America.  What does David Walliams go for?  Ever have your mother pretend to voice a dog’s thoughts and forever talk to the dog in that same “Oh, who’s a good boy?  You’s a good boy!  Yes, you are!  You love sausages, don’t you?” tone?  It’s that.  It’s not even a good one, either, Walliams often slips back into his normal voice for a few seconds by accident (I realise that this is hard to convey in text form, you’re just going to have to go with it, I’m afraid).  The kids, meanwhile, are all equally atrocious, mugging for every camera in sight when “comedy” is supposed to be happening and offering up line deliveries flatter than a dead skunk that’s been sat on a motorway for two weeks when “drama” is supposed to be happening.

Also lazy?  Animal lip movements are performed by horrifying CGI instead of the practical effects that abound in, say, Babe.  Not even slightly convincing CG, by the way.  It’s of a noticeably lower quality than the rest of the animals it ends up attached to, which creates a terrifying uncanny valley effect, and they just flap about, barely in-sync with the words the animals are supposed to be saying.  Fortunately, it’s an effect that’s rarely used, because most of the animal dialogue consists of Pudsey’s thoughts (or maybe he is actually talking aloud, the film is really unclear on this point) or more distant shots of the animals that are in conversation, presumably to save money in animation.  Speaking of Pudsey… he’s a dog.  Sometimes he stands up on his hind legs and spins a bit.  If the film were to actually back these moments with music, one could conceivably claim that he was dancing.  That’s about it, really.  He gains points for being a cute dog, and, as a dog owner and a human being, I am a sucker for cute dogs, but that’s about it.  This should be where the film jumps in to give him a personality but, aside from his fondness for sausages and the continual weird insinuation that he didn’t have a family at all prior to the events of this film (despite starting off as a fully-grown dog who works in movies), that’s a lost cause.

There are times where the film almost managed to make me laugh, albeit for entirely the wrong reasons.  There’s a bit where the family are bonding after the youngest son started speaking again and everyone’s utterly pathetic “emotional” reactions are almost bad enough to consider it being a parody.  The aforementioned well-collapse is meant to be played for drama but the sheer incompetence of the scene almost caused me to burst out laughing.  Several scenes loop footage in order to extend it for long enough to let the animals finish speaking.  With a group of friends, that are either really drunk or just plain really funny, this film would be prime “So Bad, It’s Good” riffing material.  You know, those bad movie nights where everyone just insults the film they’re watching?  One of those.  Under the right circumstances, it’s recommendable in a “No, you have to see this!  It’s so bad!” way.  Under circumstances that dictate that you have to pay money and/or sit in a cinema for several hours?  God, no!  This is rotten, stay away.

On its own terms as a movie, divorced from the possible riff sessions that it’s pretty much destined to become a part of in the future, the film actually offers up an image that best sums up its quality.  It’s of a pig, that thinks it’s a chicken, taking a dump on-screen, believing it to be an egg, and then sitting on said dump.  Pudsey The Dog: The Movie is that pig.  Except that it doesn’t think it’s a chicken, or that it thinks it’s laying eggs because that would insinuate that anybody involved tried here, and, in fact, this metaphor has kind of fallen apart.  I guess I just wanted to highlight the fact that there is a scene in this film in which a pig takes a crap on-camera and then sits in that crap on-camera, in close-up.  I think that says all you need to know, really.

Callum Petch must be a hundred and nine.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

A New York Winter’s Tale

ANewYorkWintersTaleCroweA New York Winter’s Tale is a prolonged piece of deadpan anti-comedy.  The problems being that it’s not supposed to be and that it’s achingly, miserably dull.

by Callum Petch

A New York Winter’s Tale is fucking awful.  It is so fucking awful that I feel justified in using the phrase “fucking awful”.  Not “f*cking awful”, in my continuing attempts to keep my work at a PG level, not “frakkin’ awful”, in my continuing attempts to keep that PG rating and basically scream “LOOK AT ME, I AM SUCH A NERD ON THE INTERNET, NOTICE ME” at the top of my lungs.  No.  It is fucking awful.  At the 1 hour mark, which is just over the halfway point of this near two hour exercise in unbearably earnest philosophical romanticised wank, I strongly considered leaving the cinema.  I have never walked out of a film playing in the cinema and only once turned off a first-time-viewing of a movie because it sucked horrendously (Disaster Movie, if you’re wondering), and A New York Winter’s Tale came this close to beating me.  I didn’t, more due to the principle of the thing, but the thought was seriously rattling around my brain.  I could have left, snuck into another screen and saw The Lego Movie again instead, but I didn’t because I wasn’t going to let fucking A New York Winter’s Tale be the film to beat me.

And yet, even with that knowledge and the possibility that it may already be the year’s absolute worst film (although we do still have Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie to come, so it’s early days on that front), my task of reviewing A San Diego Summer’s Story is one fraught with difficulty and peril.  See, under no circumstances should you see this film, but the problem is that I will have to describe the story, a story so batshit insane that people have been incarcerated in mental institutions for less, and I can almost guarantee that you will be compelled to give it a shot after hearing it; whether that be due to ironic appreciation for its dumbness, bile fascination or legitimate interest and excitement.  And I am here to tell you, from the bottom of my heart and with the utmost sincerity, that to act on that compulsion and pay the people involved in the creation of this film money would be a really fucking dumb thing to do; almost as dumb as this film is.

The fact of the matter is that I could happily sit here and tear this film a new one for all manner of things that don’t revolve around the story of the film.  The acting, for example, is atrocious across the board: Colin Farrell looks permanently lost and confused, Russell Crowe delivers the majority of his lines like he’s suffering from the onset of a stroke, Jennifer Connelly seems to be 10 seconds away from firing her agent, and Will Smith (yes, Will Smith is in this fi-STAY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE AND KEEP READING) does an excellent impersonation of Will Smith on the other end of a phone call at 3am in the morning.  Oh, and there are at least three precocious child actresses running about the place delivering the abysmal dialogue in as precisely a melodramatic “I AM ACTING, LOOK AT MY ACTING, CAN YOU TELL HOW HARD I AM ACTING COS I AM ALL THE ACTING” fashion as you’re imagining.  Oh, sorry, my mistake.  There are only two precocious child actresses running about the place.  The third is Jessica Brown Findlay but she’s acting at the kids’ level, mind.

Oh, there’s also the CGI and effects in general!  Fun Fact: this film cost $60 million to make.  You wouldn’t be able to tell, mind, considering the fact that the film’s Pegasus (yes, this film has a peg-SIT THE FUCK DOWN AND FINISH READING) looks like it was ripped straight from the music video for Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication” with wings that look like someone got bored halfway through implementing the CG and somehow successfully passed off their laziness by going “But it looks so much cooler that way!” to their superiors.  And do not get me started on the exceedingly cheap and fake lens flare.  We’re talking JJ Abrams levels of egregious lens fares, here, except that he actually works to make it look like they’re coming from the scene; instead of being inserted in post-production and looking like somebody spilt caramel all over various parts of the film.

There’s also the overly-maudlin and manipulative score that strains so badly to tug on at least one of your heartstrings that Keane are, as I type these words, working out a way to incorporate parts of it into their next album, but it’s time I stopped beating around the bush.  I have to talk about the story and the plot and the first hour of this film.  And, yes, I have to talk about the first hour of this film here because it’s near impossible to talk about the film otherwise.  See, the marketing has positioned A Nottingham Spring’s Folly as a tale of forbidden romance that somehow transcends two centuries.  Except that they’ve hidden a key element and, again, I guarantee that, when I tell you what that element is, you will abandon all common sense and try to see this film despite mounting evidence that you really, really shouldn’t.

Therefore, I am throwing up the Spoiler Warning and the “Have Common Sense and Don’t Go See This Movie No Matter What You May Read About It After This Warning” Warning now.  I will not spoil anything outside of that first hour but the rest?  Fair game, but that’s only because A Scunthorpe Fall’s Urban Legend is a slow burner.  A really, really slow burner and it takes a full hour for it to fully reveal its setup, like it thinks it’s some kind of big mystery worth preserving.  Again, unfortunately, the film is impossible to talk about otherwise.  So, again, Spoiler Warning and Don’t Be An Idiot And See This Movie No Matter What You Think Of What You’re About To Read Warning are in effect.  Proceed with caution.

So.  The story.  A Cape Town Autumn’s Blood-Writing-On-The-Walls Warning follows Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) who we first meet as a baby when his family get turned away from immigrating to Manhattan.  Determined to leave their child behind in New York (for… your guess is as good as mine), they sneak him back into Manhattan on their boat ride out by stuffing him into a tiny model ship and pushing it towards the docks.  This, by the way, occurs whilst the film spoils its other twist for you and a voiceover dumps out pseudo-philosophical bullcrap about how everything is connected and destiny and fates and all that.  But, in any case, the film then jumps ahead 30 years to 1914 and we meet Peter again.  He’s a thief, on the run from a gangster played by Russell Crowe called Pearly Soames (no, really, that’s his name) for reasons that… you know, I think the film just goes “because he’s evil” and leaves it at that.  Other than an alleged betrayal by Peter, the film never seems to give a reason why Pearly (again, that’s his real name) has this extreme vendetta against him.

Anyways, Peter escapes by commandeering a horse that actually turns out to be a guardian angel disguised as a Pegasus.  See, it turns out that Pearly (again, real name that people signed off on in an allegedly serious film) and his gangster associate underlings are demons.  Agents of chaos working for Lucifer (played by… sigh, yes, Will Smith) who have made it their eternal life’s mission to kill off potential miracle makers before they turn into angels because they’re demons what you want more of an explanation?  Anyways, Peter finds himself drawn to, by the universe, a dying woman by the name of Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) and it seems like the miracle that the universe has insisted he perform is that of saving her life.  By falling in love with her.  After she catches him breaking into her house, as all great love stories begin.  Of course, this being a tale of forbidden love, Pearly (again, actual name that graced a best-selling book) and his goons are hot on their heels.  And by “hot on their heels”, I mean “there’s like a 35 minute window straight after the conflict is set up where nothing happens and Russell Crowe grimaces a lot”.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  “Callum, I saw The Adjustment Bureau and I thought it was alright, but the romance was a waste of a golden concept.  Nevertheless, I am more than willing to stomach another tale of forbidden romance for the chance to see angels and demons fighting each other and also WILL SMITH IS LUCIFER HOW CAN I PASS THAT UP?”  Well, firstly, there are no fight scenes between angels and demons, sorry to get your hopes up.  But, I admit, the premise sounds like prime “So Bad, It’s Good” material.  The kind of terrible film you love to watch to snark at repeatedly and violently.  This, again, is a film that, in the first five minutes, has two characters smuggle our lead into the country in a model ship for no discernable reason.  Except that there’s one thing keeping this from being some kind of Andy Kaufman-esque piece of deliberate, straight-faced anti-comedy: it’s dull.  It is endlessly, crushingly, miserably dull.

Oh, sure, it’s not to start with.  Again, I guffawed like a madman at the image of a baby in a model ship floating towards the New York harbour.  I tried really hard to suppress my tittering when Beverly started earnestly talking about her belief in light connecting every living being.  I reflexively let out a huge laugh when Pearly (again, his real name, not a cross-gender version of Pearl from Spongebob Squarepants) murders a waiter for no reason other than to reveal to the viewer that he’s a demon.  And, of course, there was some kind of strange noise meant to represent disbelief that emanated from me at the Pegasus reveal.  Here’s the problem: that’s where the film stops being funny.  Like, it’s so committed to its world and so committed to being this big grandiose statement about the power of love, goodness and righteous virtue and so committed to being so po-faced serious about the whole ordeal (even when it has a scene in which Will Smith as Lucifer rants about being stuck in a mortal body and how he hates sunshine and lollipops and new-born babies and all that jazz) that it stops being fun to laugh at.  It’s so committed that it just becomes sad.

And if you were coming to this film seriously, as in you were looking for a grand old inspiring tale of romance for the ages, well I’m afraid that you’re shit out of luck in that department.  Despite the film stopping to a halt for about 30 minutes so that it can truly sell you on the romance that Peter and Beverly have, it doesn’t work at all.  Farrell and Findlay have no chemistry, the dialogue between the pair is atrocious (Peter genuinely says, when he’s questioned by Beverly as to what the favourite thing he’s stolen is, “I’m beginning to think I haven’t stolen it yet”), and both of them decide they love each other totally despite only having known each other for about 48 hours by the time Pearly (again, real name, not an alter-ego on Match.com) catches up to them.  Peter tries to cure Beverly’s tuberculosis (sorry, consumption) by teaching her his super-special-safe-cracker-breathing rate tricks.  Beverly’s irritating kid sister showcases a greenhouse decked out to look like the glass coffin from Snow White in what is one of the more subtle pieces of foreshadowing and symbolism in this film.  They dance.  They have sex.  There, that is everything this whirlwind romance for the ages encompasses.  No, literally, that is everything that happens before the final 30/40 minutes kick in.

And OH GODS, THOSE FINAL 30/40 MINUTES.  The only reason I don’t tell you what happens in them and how they are, somehow, even stupider, even duller and even more poorly paced than the preceding 70 is because this is a review, and some people may be using it as consumer advice on whether this film is worth seeing or not and it is bad form for me, as a reviewer, to spoil the end of a film for the uninitiated.  Rest assured, however, that weren’t that unwritten entry into the code of reviewer ethics there, I would be gladly telling you everything that happens in there.  Both because it would complete my goal in giving you absolutely zero reason to watch this film, seeing as you’d already know what happens, and because I still can’t quite believe I actually witnessed it.  Like, I expect to wake up any second now and find that I slept through the entire thing.  No studio-based film is this relentlessly crazy, this relentlessly bad and this relentlessly, miserably dull about its craziness and badness, right?

Alas, I think it might be.  The realisation is finally setting in that I did not, in fact, imagine A New York Winter’s Tale.  This film actually happened, was completely serious about what happened and it is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the worst movies I have ever seen.  Unfortunately, I also know how people act and there will now be some of you salivating over this film: eager to add it to your future Bad Movie Night marathons or to go and pay money and/or devote two hours of your life to seeing if it really is as terrible as I am making out.  From the bottom of my heart, I implore you to eject those thoughts and go about your daily life.  You have one life to live and the two hours you would end up spending on this god-awful piece of utter shite in a 99p burger would be interminable and could be spent so much more productively or doing things that would make you happy.  Folks: it’s not even fun to make fun of.  Doing so is equivalent to picking on the kid who likes to imagine he’s flying a spaceship all the time, until you find out that he’s got genuine mental health problems and he genuinely thinks he’s flying a spaceship all the time.

To reiterate: A New York Winter’s Tale is fucking awful.  End of debate.  Stay the hell away.

Callum Petch is looking for salvation in the secular age.  He normally writes film reviews and box office reports for Screened.com.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!