Tag Archives: Alpha Papa

Failed Critics Podcast: TV to Film Triple Bill

Mathlete's_Feat_24

Influenced by this week’s triple bill, getting ideas above their station and blowing a huge amount of money on an extravagant holiday because they didn’t quite know what else to do with it, Steve Norman and Owen Hughes return in a feature-length edition of the Failed Critics Podcast. With the help of their good friend Liam, the trio ramp things up to 11 and have a great time doing it!

I mean, that’s what you do when you turn an otherwise weekly serialised show into a big-budget production, right? Send all your mates on holiday to piss about in the sun whilst blowing huge wads of cash on a subpar (albeit much, much longer) episode of what you normally do?

Well, at least this episode isn’t subpar, even if it is longer than usual, as the Failed Critics each choose their three favourite movie adaptations of TV shows and/or characters.

Everything was up for grabs, from “much loved” family flicks like The Simpsons Movie (nobody chose it), PopEye (not a chance) and The Flintstones (you must be kidding), to big-budget Hollywood re-inventions like Mission:Impossible (not a sausage), The Man From UNCLE (close but no cigar) and The Equaliser (I hate to break it to you, but…). It really could have been anything. The Sweeney! (nope), Dad’s Army (nuh-uh) or even The Last Airbender (absolutely not, no way, not a snowflake’s chance in hell!)

As mentioned, this was a pretty full-on episode. Not only did we pack in all of the triple bill choices, but we even found time for Owen to review 1960’s classic horror The Innocents on Liam’s recommendation, for Steve to dissect modern-war drama Lone Survivor, and for Liam to scratch his head over the documentary Spellbound. The news this week also saw the team look back on the work of the recently departed Caroline Aherne and Michael Cimino as well as Chris Evans stepping down from Top Gear.

Join us again next week as something strange happens in our neighbourhood. Where’d I put that phone..?

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Failed Critics Podcast: San Andreas, Tomorrowland & A Pod Virgin

san andreasDogged this past week by claims of corruption, rigged voting and overweight power mad men running the show… No, it’s not Steve and Owen here at Failed Critics!

No. It’s not even Sepp Blatter at FIFA. It’s actually our guest Tony Black, who is joining us from Black Hole Cinema. After an open and equal voting process, Tony won his opportunity to join us this week completely fairly. Owen’s new sports car and Steve’s new handbag are just mere coincidences.

The quiz this week has a slightly tongue in cheek twist as the team try to defend the FIFA backed film United Passions (don’t forget to let us know which one is your favourite!) As well as this, the team also discuss: the front runners for the role of Spider-Man in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe film; Owen watches Alpha Papa twice in a week; Tony takes a look at the Kickstarter backed short film Kung Fury; and Steve finally gets around to seeing 22 Jump Street.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s even time to squeeze in reviews of Brad Bird’s somewhat underwhelming fantasy story Tomorrowland, AND even The Rock’s new film, San Andreas, the “best disaster film since Volcano” (interpret that how you will!) makes it onto the pod.

Join us again next week as we rebuild [cue: American flag] and discuss Jason Statham’s new comedy film Spy.

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Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 5 – May: Pacino, Pyun, Papa & Perfection

The fifth entry in Owen’s continuing year in review series sees him mull over the movies he’s watched during May. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

An Evening With Al Pacino At Eventim ApolloThere is, and there is what you would like it to be.

That’s a quote attributed to Plato by Al Pacino’s character Big Boy Caprice in the 1990 crime comedy Dick Tracy. I’m not sure if Plato ever said it, but who cares? It’s a line that has, for some inexplicable reason, stuck in my mind ever since I heard it whilst watching Warren Beatty’s movie for the first time late last month. I literally thought it over and over for about 45 minutes whilst mowing the front lawn this past Saturday, out in the sunshine, mind wandering as it does during these menial tasks, trying to work out the saying’s meaning without going all Phaedrus. Why, of all the quotes from all of the 33 films I’ve watched in May, did this particular line from some pretty crappy (although multiple Oscar winning) comicbook adaptation stand out?

Short answer: I’ve no idea. I think maybe it’s just because it sounds quite cool in the same artificial way that Dick Tracy tries to be. In the film, as in all movies and life in general, there is what there is and there isn’t what there isn’t.

Therefore, I came to the conclusion that there are two ways to interpret the quote. The optimistic way is that ‘stuff just is what it is right now’, but you can always strive for something better; to shape something the way you want it to be (yes, that is me shoe-horning in an Alpha Papa reference, seeing as how I’ve watched the film twice this month).

Or, there’s the pessimistic way of looking at it, which is what I would personally subscribe to. And it’s also kind of the same with movies, for the record. Things are what they are, and you can accept them for that, but they can never be perfect. A movie exists as it is, but there’s always going to be a better movie, or a better way of making the movie. No matter how much you like it, or love it, or want to tell everyone you know about how amazing it is, it just is what it is, and there’ll be another way that you would like or prefer it to be. It’s why I struggle to ever give anything 10/10, or ★★★★★/★★★★★, or two thumbs up or six golden bananas or 100g of dogs bollocks or a full kinky duck or whatever your rating method may be!

I’m not a perfectionist, I just have a problem with the word – or the concept of – ‘perfect’, which is defined as: “as good as it is possible to be.” Nothing is perfect. If you move the goal posts of what’s ‘possible’, then it ceases to be perfect. In the case of a movie, as objective as you might try to be when rating a movie, subjectivity and relativity will always seep in.

If you listened to the recent podcast, you might have heard me talk about the Al Pacino Q&A I went to in Hammersmith last month. I spent a few days/weeks catching up on some of his more well known works that have slipped through the net somewhat during my film watching career (and reviewed a few below, and mentioned one above). I also rewatched one or two of his classics, including a film lauded by many as the perfect film, The Godfather; or, at least, the film that’s held up as an example of the best that it’s possible for a film to be. But The Godfather is only perfect relative to other films. As soon as something better comes along, it ceases to be perfect. Else, are we to believe that L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat is the perfect film? Literally the absolute best that it was possible for that movie to be at the time? Technically speaking, at least. Especially as there were no comparator margins. But it too could be considered flawed now we look at it in hindsight, comparing it to the potential that could be made of the techniques available. Similarly, the same can be said for all films. None of them are perfect. Not even my beloved Night of the Living Dead, as much as it pains me to say it!

It’s not just films, though. Nothing is perfect in the sense that it can never ever possibly be better. The sun isn’t perfect, it’s just the best it’s possible for it to be right now. Al Pacino isn’t the perfect actor, he’s just at times in his career put in the best performance that it was possible to do in his films. Our podcast isn’t perfect! It’s quite clearly limited by both Steve and I’s ……. well, it’s just limited by both Steve and I.

I do think there’s still optimism to be found in that, though. Just because something can’t ever be eternally inexplicably infallible, doesn’t mean it can’t actually meet the actual definition of ‘perfect’ as we know it to be. Things in life that are as perfect as it’s possible for them to be. Such as b-movie director Albert Pyun’s creativity and ambition, or the Alan Partridge movie….

….hey look, that almost resembles a segway into my actual reviews of stuff I’ve watched this month and I can knock the pretentious pseudo-intellectual nonsense on the bonce. You should go read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance instead afterwards to see the thoughts of someone who is actually clever talk about ‘quality’ in a much more meaningful and coherent way.


Week 1 – Friday 1 – Sunday 3 May 2015

Friday – [absolutely nothing]; Saturday – OMEGA DOOM (1996); Sunday – Frankenweenie (2012)

omega doomAlso in the podcast I linked to above in the intro (with the Al Pacino Q&A), at the beginning, just before the quiz, Steve reviewed an Albert Pyun film that I made him watch. Which, if you’ve been reading any of the previous four articles in this series, you might have been expecting to happen at some point. I gave Steve the option of watching any number of Pyun films, but he picked this particular movie, starring Rutger Hauer as the titular robot ‘Omega Doom’, in a post-apocalyptic future whose ‘evil circuits’ had been destroyed. Blade Runner it ain’t. The plot basically revolves around Doom as he pits two gangs against each other in a small town, both of whom are scared of the presumed extinct human race leading an uprising. Think Yojimbo, or A Fistful of Dollars, but with 1990’s, black-shades wearing, lame-joke making, red-lipstick clad, unemotional, menacing cyborgs. Steve described Omega Doom (rather unfairly, I might add!) as “a bit dumb, a bit annoying, a bit crap”. I tried to explain that the charm of Pyun is all about the concept of his films and the scope of his projects, regardless of his budgetary restraints. But it appears that rather unfortunately, Albert Pyun just isn’t for everyone. A shame, because I genuinely have loved watching his movies this year and would hold this specific example up as maybe his most accessible – and possibly even his best film. As much as I like his Jean-Claude Van Damme led 1980’s classic Cyborg (as discussed on our JCVD Corridor of Praise podcast), Omega Doom is certainly his most well realised. OK, so it’s not perfect………..


Week 2 – Monday 4 – Sunday 10 May 2015

Monday – Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), Unfriended (2015); Tuesday – FALSTAFF – CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1967), The Man With the Iron Fists 2 (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Kung Pow (2002); Friday – Repulsion (1965); Saturday – Vertigo (1958), The Punisher (1989), Cube²: Hypercube (2002); Sunday – Lake Placid (1999), Spooks: The Greater Good (2015), Prometheus (2012)

falstaffYes, that’s right, on May the 4th I watched a Star Wars movie. But in my defence, I was gonna anyway! I swear! It wasn’t planned that way to coincide with some Twitter trend. However, continuing my theme from the last article where I refused to talk about any of the Star Wars films, I’ll not be discussing them here either. And just to prove a point, I don’t only watch b-movie sci-fi films with a ridiculous (/equally awesome) premise. Sometimes I watch “proper” films. Like, black and white ones an’ that about plays and cultural things, y’know… For example, during the second week of May, I watched Falstaff, the film that Orson Welles himself described as his favourite of his own movies. That might just be down to the fact that he adored Shakespeare’s recurring character of Sir John Falstaff, who the famous, influential and iconic film maker stars as in this rough adaptation of a number of the Bard’s plays. I can’t purport to be super-knowledgeable about Welles, about Shakespeare, or about Henry V (surprising as that may be..!!) but the reason I’ve chosen this to talk about above all of the others on the list is partly to issue a public apology. I’m sorry everyone. This film did nothing for me. I chose to watch it for two main reasons: firstly, it’s Orson Welles. Secondly; it was research. Preparation for when we eventually get around to finishing the Decade In Film series. And I mention that because it’s unlikely I’ll include this film in my eventual list. The dubbing was very off-putting, although I can understand the rationale behind it from a technical point of view. It’s worht mentioning that the big Battle of Shrewesbury sequence that the film is famous for was extremely well done and gave it that epic feeling of having hundreds of extras, even if there were only a handful. But by the end, it felt like a box ticking exercise. One to disappointingly chalk off the list as “seen”, but not really enjoyed.


Week 3 – Monday 11 – Sunday 17 May 2015

Monday – Brainsmasher: A Love Story (1993) ; Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Invasion (2007), Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire (2010); Thursday – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015); Friday – Pernicious (2015), V/H/S Viral (2014); Saturday – THE CROW (1994); Sunday – Spawn (1997), What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

the crowInitially, when I first drafted this list, I really wanted to talk about The Crow in this bit. It was the first time I’d seen it in well over a decade and it was so much better than I remembered. I didn’t care about the cheesy electric guitar this time, I didn’t mind the crying goth anti-hero, or the crying long-haired flannel-shirted bad guy, or any of that! And then I thought, “no, what I really want to talk about is Mad Max: Fury Road, which was gloriously fucking spectacular”. But it seems somewhat greedy to go over Mad Max yet again, especially after Brooker and Jackson Tyler already joined us on the podcast to have a natter on its awesomeness for about half an hour. So, back to The Crow I go. Hand on heart, it was way better than I had expected it to be. I actually only sought it out after seeing a tweet from Brooker about his new blu-ray. Not only did the film take me by surprise, but Brandon Lee was also surprisingly excellent too. Not just in the way that the context around the film makes him seem posthumously, knowing how unfortunate he was to die on set with just 8 days before production wrapped on what would become by far and away his biggest, most successful film – not too dissimilar to his father Bruce Lee dying before getting to see just how successful Enter The Dragon would become. The Crow is undeniably melodramatic (in the best kind of way) and incredibly atmospheric. Strange to think that it was brought to us by the same director responsible for the shower of shit that is Knowing.


Week 4 – Monday 18 – Sunday 24 May 2015

Monday – Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Scarface (1983); Thursday – Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995); Friday – …And Justice For All. (1979), In The Loop (2009); Saturday – ALPHA PAPA (2013); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

alpha papa“In England we have a saying for a situation such as this, which is that it’s difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.” Yeah, In The Loop is great, isn’t it? “Never, never criticize Muslims; only.. only Christians. And Jews a little bit.” Yeah, Alpha Papa is great, isn’t it? Yeah. Both are great, aren’t they? Considering that Alan Partridge is the best comedy character to come from these shores (or any shores, for that matter), and that The Thick of It is one of the best sitcoms to come from these shores (or any shores, for that matter), it’s not surprising that they both became such fantastic films. Intelligent, well crafted and, above all else, hilarious. On my train trip to London, I needed something to watch on the commute. With both of these available on iPlayer, there didn’t seem any point looking for anything else. In The Loop on the way down, Alpha Papa on the way back the following day. If I had to choose a favourite, then the Alan Partridge Movie nudges it. The evolution of that character from the obnoxious sports reporter and radio-turned-TV chat show host of the early 90’s, to the local radio disc jockey for North Norfolk Digital (Norfolk’s best–North Norfolk’s best music mix) – via one of the funniest sitcoms ever (I’m Alan Partridge), a stupendous webseries-turned-T V show (Mid Morning Matters) and the genius piece of work that is I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan – is so good it makes me swell with pride that the human race is capable of producing something fictional that is as good as this. I saw Alpha Papa in the cinema twice and both times cried with laughter. I’ve seen it half a dozen times since and each time laughed until it hurt. In fact, I even watched it the following week (as you’ll see below!) and I still laughed like an idiot. I’ve seen this film with both Partridge and non-Partridge fans and seen them all with tears in their eyes when watching Steve Coogan’s greatest creation. I voted for it as one of my favourite films in our 2013 Awards, and I stand by that. And, it’s still on iPlayer too if you have yet to watch it.


Week 1 – Monday 25 – Sunday 31 May 2015

Monday – [absolutely nothing]; Tuesday – Scent of a Woman (1992); Wednesday – Dick Tracy (1990); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – The Panic in Needle Park (1971); Saturday – THE GODFATHER (1972); Sunday – Alpha Papa (2013)

godfatherI suppose I better talk about this Q&A with Al Pacino a little bit. My first reaction to Pacino wasn’t one of awe at what a presence he was in the room, but more like “wow, I never knew that the guy who played Michael Corleone and Tony Montana was so camp!” This chap, who I had always assumed was a bit macho, was actually leaping out of his chair to sing show tunes as soon as someone in the audience even finished saying The King & I. Other startling observations from the evening were that: he loved Shakespeare’s character of Richard more than is healthy; that he is genuinely very cool; and that he hated working on The Godfather so much that every day throughout filming, he hoped the studio or Francis Ford Coppola would fire him. It later transpired that my wife had never seen The Godfather (not as a result of the Q&A) as she doesn’t like gangster films. As is kinda normal, I think. Me? I love crime dramas and thrillers. So this past weekend, I forced her to sit through the second best film of all time (according to IMDb’s Top 250, anyway.) It was, as it always has been every time I’ve seen it, exceptional. Everything about it is tremendous. The build up of Michael’s character, the portrayal of the family, the acting on show from the likes of Pacino, Brando and Duvall, and yes, even the camera angles. I’ve already explained why I love it in our Decade In Film articles though, so you can go check that out if you’re actually bothered.


And that’s it. Job done. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do. As ever, I’m more than happy to chat about these films in more detail in the comments below or you can message me on Twitter at @ohughes86. See you next month!

Failed Critics Awards 2013: The Winners

We’ve been making a list, checking it twice, trying to find out who the Failed Critics podcasters, writers, and our beloved readers/listeners think was naughty, nice and downright talented in 2013. If you want some pomp and circumstance (and can handle two hours of us drunkenly announcing the winners) then you can download the Review of 2013 Podcast otherwise, strap in tight because here we go.

Top 10 Films of 2013

BlueIsTheWarmestColour10. Blue is the Warmest Colour / Rush / The World’s End

A complicated three-way tie for tenth place in our poll, and it’s difficult to imagine three more different films to kick off with. Abdellatif Kerchiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour not only won the Palm d’Or in 2013, but for the first time in its history the prize was shared between the director and the stars of the film (Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos). A brilliant, yet simple film about first love, identity, and well, lesbian sex. Rush was Ron Howard’s return to form after the needless Angels & Demons and the inexplicable The Dilemma. Howard works best as a chronicler of recent history (see Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon) and the story and setting of James Hunt and Nikki Lauda’s tragic and inspiring rivalry was perfect fodder for the man most famous these days for his brilliant turn as the narrator of Arrested Development. Rounding off this trio is the last film in Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’. The World’s End combines Shaun of the Dead’s invasion themes and b-movie sensibility with Hot Fuzz’s exploration of small town life and authoritarian control of the populace, but at its heart is a story about friendship, growing up, and growing apart. With some brilliant fight scenes.

The Place Beyond the Pines9. The Place Beyond the Pines

Possibly the sexiest film of the year, starring Failed Critics Podcast man-crush Ryan Gosling, dreamy Bradley Cooper, and the gorgeous Eva Mendes, but this film is so much more. Director Derek Cianfrance’s ambitious modern-day Greek tragedy is not only wonderful to look at (and we’re not just talking about the acting talent now), but a brilliant exercise in tone and storytelling. While the third act may have grated with many, not many films would have been brave enough to even try it in the first place.

iron-man-downey-jr8. Iron Man 3

The highest-grossing film of the year, and while Marvel Studios must realise they’ve essentially got a licence to print money it is great to see that they are still taking risks on directors with with plenty of baggage, but utterly unique takes on cinema. After resurrecting Joss Whedon’s career, Marvel handed their biggest single-character franchise to a man who had only directed one film before. Luckily that man was also the writer of some o the best action films of the 1980s and 1990s – Shane Black. Iron Man 3 suffered from a comic fan backlash over a number of decisions, but cinema audiences lapped up the self-referential humour.

Anne Hathaway Les Miserables7. Les Miserables

Years in the making, and not to be confused with the completely non-singing version starring Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman, Tom Hooper’s film was always going to bring in the crowds. What surprised many people though was how technically brilliant the film was, taking the almost unheard of step of recording the cast’s vocals onset, which in turn allowed for far more naturalistic performances, especially from Oscar winner Anne Hathaway.The only drawback was that Russel Crowe’s singing was so lifeless you wish he’s given it 30 odd foot of grunts.

The Way Way Back Sam Rockwell6. The Way, Way Back

Probably the biggest surprise entry on this year’s top ten, The Way, Way Back was an American indie gem of a comedy written and direct by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, Oscar-winning co-writers of Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. One of the finest ensemble casts of the year, with great performances from the likes of Steve Carrell, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Rob Corddry, Amenda Peet, and Liam James. Most impressive of all is Sam Rockwell, as the Peter Pan-esque manager of a scruffy water park where a shy 14-year-old boy spends his summer and discovers himself. Heart-warming, and very funny stuff.

Pacific Rim5. Pacific Rim

This film didn’t have the easiest ride from the critics (including one or two members of our own podcast), but its high showing in our awards just proves that there is still a huge audience out there for decent monster movies. So the script sucked and some performances were a little wooden? When giant ass robots fighting giant as alien sea creatures looks as good as this, who cares?

Django Unchained Waltz Foxx4. Django Unchained

Another film that divided critics and audience alike, Quentin Tarantino was at his most breathtaking, hillarious, and frustrating in this epic western starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz. Featuring a trademark QT soundtrack and visual flourishes loving recycled from the Speghetti Westerns of the 1960s, Django Unchained was a brutal and guiltily enjoyable romp through the old west and the height of slavery. Nobody does it quite like Quentin.

Alpha Papa Small3. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

The highest-placed British film of 2013, and a real rarity: a movie adaptation of a sitcom that delivered on the humour, while not sacrificing the feel of the original. Steve Coogan donned the string-back driving gloves once more to play one of the greatest comic creations since Basil Fawlty, and was in imperious form. From the opening credits featuring Partridge lip-syncing to Roachford’s Cuddly Toy to the pinpoint skewering of local radio, Alpha Paper was unashamedly British, and almost embarrassingly funny.

Gravity Sandra Bullock2. Gravity

The common link between our illustrious top ten of the year, and a similar list published by those hacks at Sight & Sound, is that this film from writer/director Alfonso Cuarón finished in second place on both. Everyone who saw it agreed that it is a stunning technical and visual acheivement, with many (including us) going so far as to state that it’s one of the few positive uses of 3D they’ve seen in the cinema. However, without Sandra Bullock’s central performance grounding the film in some kind of recognisable humanity the film would have been a flashy, but ultimately soulless experience.

Cloud Atlas Weaving Old George1. Cloud Atlas

Ignored by the Academy, the cinema chains, and the ‘man in the street’ (barely making back its $100m+ budget), the Wachowski siblings and Tom Twyker’s co-directed historical drama/conspiracy thriller/escape caper/sci-fi blockbuster/fucking bonkers post-apocalyptic nightmare is exactly the kind of film that film bloggers love to write about, and they voted for it in their droves. Adapted from David Mitchell’s ‘unfilmable’ novel. Cloud Atlas is an incredible experience, jumping between six very different, but intertwined stories, each featuring the same cast of actors. It swings from the sublime (Ben Whishaw as an aspiring composer, Tom Hanks as a manipulative doctor, Donna Bae as a replicant service worker) to the ridiculous (Hugh Grant as an angry Korean restaurant owner, Halle Berry as a white Jewish emigre, Hugo Weaving as The Hitcher from The Mighty Boosh) at regular intervals, and is certainly not the kind of film you can watch with one eye on your Twitter timeline.

For its sheer ambition, imagination, and chutzpah, we are very proud to call this our film of the year.

The best of the rest:

13. Side Effects
14. Stoker
15. Before Midnight
15. Wreck-it Ralph
17. Spring Breakers
18. Zero Dark Thirty
19. Captain Phillips
20. Despicable Me 2

Here are the rest of our awards, and you can hear a full discussion about these awards on the Failed Critics Podcast:

Best Performance by an Actor

1. Tom Hanks for Captain Phillips

2. Sam Rockwell for The Way, Way Back

=3. Daniel Bruhl for Rush, and James McAvoy for Filth

Best Performance by an Actress

1. Adèle Exarchopoulos

2. Sandra Bullock for Gravity

3. Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables

Best Documentary

1. Blackfish

2. The Act of Killing

3. The Great Hip-Hip Hoax

Best Film not in the English Language

1. Blue is the Warmest Colour (France)

2. The Thieves (South Korea)

3. The Act of Killing (Denmark/Indonesia)

Best Soundtrack

1. Cloud Atlas

2. Gravity

3. Les Miserables

2013 in Review: A Soundtrack

I’ve always loved film soundtracks, but ever since I’ve been film blogging they have pretty much replaced radio and MTV in being my primary channel for discovering new music and previously undiscovered classics. So, just as l did last year, here is my ‘Cinematic Soundtrack of the Year’, starring my favourite musical moments from film in the last twelve months.

Cuddly Toy by Roachford – Alpha Papa

Unfairly overshadowed by another Oscar-winning, tightly shot close-up musical performance (more on that later), the sight of Steve Coogan lip-syncing to forgotten 80s ‘classic’ Cuddly Toy while driving to work in his sponsored car let me know that everything was going to be okay with the one film I was desperate not to fail this year. It stayed true to the spirit of the TV show (in fact it’s very reminiscent of Alan’s air bass guitar to Gary Numan’s ‘Music for Chameleons’ in series 2), while laying down a marker for how this very British sitcom was going to expand onto our cinema screens by spending 3 minutes on one joke, which would have been unthinkable in a 27-minute programme.

Silver Lady by David Soul – Filth

Filth’s soundtrack is one of my favourites of the year, featuring a great Clint Mansell score as well as a number of interesting covers and rediscovered classics. However, the pinanacle of the film’s marriage of bizarre imagery and 70s soul comes in a scene where David Soul arrives in a car, picking up Shauna Macdonald (playing the wife of James McAvoy’s Bruce Robertson). The ensuing car journey has Soul singing his own ‘Silver Lady’, complete with glamorous backing singers in the back seat. Utterly bizarre and hilarious.

I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix) by Lykke Li – Blue is the Warmest Colour

This must have been a huge hit in France, not only featuring on the soundtrack to Rust and Bone (my film of 2012), but even more memorably in this year’s Palm d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour. In a picture notable for its lack of a conventional score, the party scene where Adele finds some much needed familiarity with her friends and family comes to life with this brilliant track.

Can’t Forget by Cliff Martinez (feat. Mac Quayle & Vithaya Pansringarm) – Only God Forgives

Like Nicholas Winding Refn’s last film Drive, Only God Forgives is scored superbly by Cliff Martinez. The highlight for me being the karaoke performance of a softly spoken, samurai sword-wielding police office played with an unearthly grace and calm by Vithaya Pansringarm. The scens of him singing his heart out to a room of impassive stony-faced colleagues was unnerving and almost Lynchian in its banal nightmarish qualities.

Space Oddity by David Bowie (and Kristen Wiig) – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Pipping the films use of the brilliant Arcade Fire track Wake Up is the moment where Kristen Wiig enters a bar in Greenland, dressed in winter clothing and with a guitar slung over her shoulder, and starts to sing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. A wondrous collision of incredible music and Ben Stiller finally seizing the day as my cinematic proxy made this one of my favourite moments in a cinema all year. Seriously, it was like porn to me.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite by Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak, and Emma Thompson – Saving Mr Banks

Any film featuring the near-perfect songs from Mary Poppins was always going to end up on this list, but even I was surprised by how affected I was by this film’s exploration into the themes and motivations behind the creation of Disney’s finest film. The moment that PL Travers (Emma Thompson) and the song-writing Sherman Brothers (BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman) finally reach a moment of understanding and conciliation over the climactic Mary Poppins is a joyous scene.

Let It Go by Idina Menzel – Frozen

This Disney musical is huge return to form for the animation studio that has struggled in Pixar and Dreamwork’s shadow over the last decade. But while other studios stagnated this year, Disney produced their best film since the renaissance of the early nineties. Frozen, based on a classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tale, looks absolutely fantastic and features songs comparable to Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, but with a post-Wicked twist. Idina Menzel’s (who has history as a Disney princess from Enchanted) performance as Elsa at the mid-way point of the film is the perfect marriage of stunning animation and incredible vocals.

I Dreamed a Dream by Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables

I simply couldn’t look beyond this as my choice for musical moment of the year. I’ve been a huge fan of the original musical ever since my wife persuaded me to grow up and forget my preconceptions about musical theatre, and it has been a long wait to see the musical version of Victor Hugo’s novel finally make it to the big screen. Luckily, the film didn’t disappoint (let’s just pretend Russell Crowe didn’t happen) and Tom Hooper’s film gained Oscar nominations and a place in my films of 2013 list.

The moment of the film that most sticks in the mind though is that incredible sequence where Anne Hathaway rescues one of theatre’s great songs from the hands of Susan Boyle. The close-up, the impassioned vocals, and the sobbing endeared Hathaway to a legion of new fans, and rightfully won her an Oscar.

These tracks, and more, are available on this collaborative Spotify playlist. We’d love you to add your favourite soundtrack music that we missed.

Blockbusted?

iron-man-downey-jrWe’ve been hearing reports that the summer blockbuster is on life-support after the last few months served up a number of badly under-performing (box office-wise) flops. We asked the Failed Critics team what they thought of this summer’s releases.

James Diamond – Editor and reluctant cynic

I really do hate to say what I’m about to say. Some of us don’t enjoy being cynical, and I am a lot more comfortable with feelings of pleasure and optimism. That said this has been the Sum-meh of Blockbusters for me.

It all started so promisingly, with Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr giving us the Iron Man film that we all hoped and prayed they would make. It was funny, gripping, and bombastic in all the right places. It set a tone that, unfortunately, the rest of the big budget summer films failed to live up to.

Man of Steel was two and a half hours of Nolan-lite cinema from Zak Snyder that bored the pants off me (worn on the outside of course, unlike this modern Superman), while Star Trek Into Darkness also disappointed with a script full of holes and crowbarred-in references to  far superior films (well, mostly one far superior film). Oblivion looked wonderful, but suffered from similar problems of plotting and dialogue, while the relatively warm reception for World War Z was mainly due to fact that everyone was convinced it was going to be a disaster.  Pacific Rim was an absolutely brilliant film for large sections, but utterly atrocious for others.

Fast 6, GI Joe: Retaliation, and Pain & Gain received mixed reactions, but at least offered something the summer’s other blockbusters were missing; a sense of fun and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Mixed reviews for Kick-Ass 2 and Elysium have severely dented any hopes I had for a upturn before the autumn season begins with its mix of late-season blockbusters, award-seekers, and those awkward films that no one seems to know how to market.

That’s not to say it’s been a poor summer overall though, just that other areas of the film ecosystem have stepped up to the plate. I’ve seen three great mainstream comedies this summer (This is the End, The World’s End, and Alpha Papa), which is three more than last year), and Only God Forgives and Much Ado About Nothing are also likely to find spots in my Best of 2013 list come December.

Owen Hughes – Podcaster and a lover, not a fighter

With still a few more weeks to go yet and the likes of Kick Ass 2, The Lone Ranger and one I’m particularly excited for, Elysium, still to be released, it might be a bit premature to form a judgement yet. Whilst some might say the summer has so far been disappointing, I disagree.

Kicking off the summer was Shane Black’s venture into the Marvel cinematic universe, Iron Man 3, which got us off to a good start. Big budget sci-fi actioners were obviously the order of the day as over the next few months we’ve seen everything from the stunning but shallow Tom Cruise flick Oblivion, to enjoyable films like JJ Abrams’ Lens Flare Into Darkness and Del Toro’s Pacific Rim. Man of Steel was another triumph, although some critics disagree. Even The Wolverine was a fun way to spent a couple of hours.

We’ve also been spoilt with some good drama films this year. The Place Beyond The Pines is my favourite film of 2013, never mind the summer. Soderbergh signed off with his elaborate biopic of Liberace in Behind The Candelabra. The Look Of Love starring Steve Coogan was also enjoyable.

Although Coogan’s biggest success is not only the best comedy of the summer, but probably the best comedy for years, Alpha Papa. How can any summer be considered disappointing when we’re presented with this gift to mankind? Enough to induce tears of laughter, it’s ruddy excellent. Somehow it topped the years other major successful comedy in Pegg, Frost & Wright’s latest ‘The World’s End’.

The biggest ever zombie flick was released to some critical acclaim and much financial success as Brad Pitt adapted Max Brooks novel World War Z. Evil Dead and Dark Skies have also been decent but the years stand out in the genre is James Wan’s The Conjuring. A Field In England gave us something, erm, different too.

Speaking in general terms, I enjoyed the vast majority of this summer’s releases. There have been stinkers (After Earth, Monsters University) and Dwayne Johnson hasn’t quite given us all that we’d hoped for with Fast & Furious 6 and Snitch both being disappointing. Whilst we’ve not had an Avengers Assemble or Dark Knight Rises to wow us either, it’s been a more consistent summer than most.

Gerry McAuley – El Northern Podcaster

Alpha Papa delivered, as did Pacific Rim, two of the main ‘could be shit but I really hope it’s great’ films for me. Kick Ass 2, Pain & Gain, and Elysium are all yet to come (some of my most eagerly anticipated films of the year) so it may well be too early to tell. The awesomeness of Despicable Me 2 is a personal highlight, particularly as it did so well at the box office. Man of Steel and Monsters University were good without being great which was a slight disappointment but otherwise I think it’s been just that as a summer: good, but not particularly great. Given the amazing quality of 2012 though, it was always going to struggle to match such standards.

Matt Lambourne – Contributor exiled in a cultural black hole

My hopes for summer were somewhat ‘constrained’ as there was little there to wet my appetite with the exception of Pacific Rim which did an excellent job of re-igniting the Kaiju fan laying dormant for many years. So much in fact I went and watched the latest Godzilla Millennium series in tribute, but needless to say Pacific Rim takes the tried and tested formula and does it much better. It’s easily been my stand out movie of the summer.

Another highlight for me was Fast 6. Needless to say, I’ve found limited appeal in the series (Jordana Brewster provided much of that appeal) prior to Fast 6, and whilst this latest addition to the series won’t win much on technical merit, my goodness did it ever deliver on entertainment! Another film falling into that category is Hangover PT III. I’m a massive fan of the original and have a significant aversion for the 2nd, but I really found part III going back to utter silliness that made the 1st so likeable and when you watch it in a good crowd at the cinema, as with any good comedy movie, you really get a great sense of communal satisfaction.

Then comes the lowlights… Oblivion was adequate distraction if nothing else although is a very crisp and attractive looking piece, but the big downer for me was ‘The Wolverine’. I’m a huge fan of the character, from comics, to animated television and for the most part all of Jackman’s outings as Weapon X to date, but this really bombed for me. It was certainly the lamest Wolverine incarnation to date, I was furious that the Silver Samurai turns out to be a robot (of sorts) and that Logan has become far to hospitable in general. I hope that the next X-Men movie really gets him back on track, but can’t help but think that Jackman has become too big of a star to be cast as the ultra-aggressive and socially incapable anti-hero type depicted in early Marvel writing.

Mike Shawcross – On first-name terms with the ushers at Cineworld

What a fantastic time I’ve had at the cinema this summer with most of the films I’ve seen so far. I’ve seen cities brought to rubble by starships, giant robots fighting giant aliens, and of course a couple of super strong aliens slugging it out in my favourite film of the summer so far; Man of Steel. I’ve seen a car chase with a tank and an aeroplane; car’s racing around London with stunts to gasp at, all in the 6th film of the Fast and Furious franchise. Star Trek Into Darkness was superb as was Iron Man 3, while World War Z was a great zombie action flick. Pacific Rim was visually stunning but I was dismayed by the woeful script and acting, and Wolverine wasn’t the train wreck I expected.

Looking past the big hitters, and Stuck in love and Mud were both excellent. Behind the Candelabra was also very good. Now ou See Me had me guessing to the end, Populaire a film about speed typing was a joy, while Before Midnight was a fitting end to a great Trilogy. James Franco’s party to end all parties was a great laugh but Pegg’s pub crawl was a little flat. 2 Guns and Stand up Guys were great fun yet Alan Partridge made my belly ache. I had fun with The Heat, along with the antics of Mike and Sully at Monster’s University. I’ll finish on a couple of excellent horror films Byzantium and The Conjuring. There may be more to come as well with Kick-Ass 2, The Lone Ranger and Elysium left for me to see.

What do you think about this summer’s offerings? Have the good films outweighed the bad? Are we focusing too much on a few big budget films at the expense of some great films made for peanuts? Let us know…

Failed Critics Podcast: Alpha Papa

Alpha Papa Small“I am Siege Face”

Ruddy hell, it’s only the Failed Critics back with another slice of digital broadcasting gold. This week we review the new Alan Partridge film, Alpha Papa, as well as other new releases in the shape of Only God Forgives, 2 Guns, and The Conjuring.

We also discuss Renny Harlin’s attempts to film Wikipedia’s most disturbing entry, James’ fancy dress habits, and another podcaster joins the growing swell of praise for Side Effects.

Join us next week for our review of Kick-Ass 2.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Summer Preview!

alpha papaIt’s a bumper episode of the Failed Critics Podcast this week as we look forward to our most anticipated movies this summer that aren’t called Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, or Star Trek Into Darkness.

As well as looking forward to the summer, we look back on our viewing this week, including Steve’s decent into Box Office Bomb hell with Cutthroat Island. We also pay tribute to Roger Ebert, one of the truly great film critics to have ever lived.

Join us next week for a review of Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi blockbuster, Oblivion.

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