Tag Archives: Andrew Alcock

36th Cambridge Film Festival

 

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Fans of our recent 36th Cambridge Film Festival episode of the Failed Critics Podcast will be pleased to see that contributor Andrew Alcock has written down some of his thoughts on the cluster of world cinema that he managed to get his hands on during the UK’s longest running film festival. Starting with…


Wonderland
Wonderland

Wonderland (2015) – Switzerland

Ten young Swiss directors explore how society would react if their country was plunged into crisis. The crisis arises in the form of an ominous storm cloud which appears over central Switzerland. It quickly spreads until it covers the whole country, stopping exactly at the borders. Experts predict apocalyptic disaster, insurance companies panic, vital services collapse, electricity cuts out, the government re-opens WW2 bunkers, social disorder ensues. Some people try to flee, some hide, others try to ignore it.

The premise is very good, the dark clouds can be used as a metaphor for so many things and the directors have mainly gone in different directions. Some themes are obvious; immigration, xenophobia, power, wealth, the EU. Some are so subtle that I have to admit that I didn’t even spot them. Three or four of the stories add nothing to the film other than increasing the run time.

Had this been four or five perspectives with the directors collaborating so that the stories overlapped / characters interacted it could’ve been superb. Unfortunately, these are independent short films spliced together by an editor leaving your interest yo-yoing. The good stuff is good – at times very good – but overall I was left with a sense of frustration at a missed opportunity.


On the Other Side
On the Other Side

On The Other Side (2016) – Croatia

Vesna lives a content life in Zagreb. She works as a nurse and shares her home with a daughter whose wedding she is helping to plan. Her son and his wife have a house close by and Vesna often pops over to babysit her grandson. Her quiet existence receives a jolt when her estranged husband calls her out of the blue.

[I must point out that my knowledge of Eastern European conflicts, in particular the Croatian War Of Independence, is limited to what I could gather during the film and a bit of research since. I may have misinterpreted some things but I’ll explain as best I can.]

About 20 years prior to this phone call war broke out and split up Vesna’s family. Her husband, Zarko, is Serbian and heads off to fight for the Yugoslav/Serb forces against the Croats, leaving his Croatian wife and children behind. Not only do they have to live in a country at war but they are the family of a Serb, the enemy. The family soon move to Zagreb to start a new life, the Croats win their independence, Zarko is tried at The Hague on war crimes and no more is heard from him. Having reacted to the first call with dismay and anger Vesna receives more calls from Zarko. Over time she discovers he is back in Serbia and as they talk it brings back memories, both good and bad. Her son wants nothing to do with his father. Her daughter is more understanding but feels the legacy of Zarko’s actions when her applications to get a job in the law profession are rejected when the potential employers discover her family history.

Ksenija Marinkovic does a fine job as Vesna, portraying a woman who has horrific memories and is still seeing the effects of her husband’s choices on her children today but has reconnected with the man she loved. There’s a twist near the end of the film which I liked but really wanted more details of. I know what happened, I know who did what but I don’t know why. I’m not sure if it wasn’t explained or if I just didn’t pick up on it. That confusing end took the gloss of what was a very interesting and well-made film.


alba-cdt-stills-43-postalAlba (2016) – Ecuador

11-year-old Alba lives a very quiet life. Her mother has been unwell for some time. Almost entirely bed-ridden, a nurse comes in to wash her and change her clothes and Alba is able to help her to the bathroom and back to bed. Due to this Alba spends her time at home playing silently, allowing her mother to rest. This quietness continues at school where Alba is very reserved. She will sit with the other girls but rarely join in. Always reticent to speak. One night her mother takes a turn for the worse and is taken to hospital for ongoing treatment. This results in Alba being taken to stay with her dad, a man she has not seen since she was three. Her dad is used to a life of solitude, a man of few words. He does what he can to make her feel welcome but finds it hard talking to a child he barely knows.

There are long mute periods between the two, neither knowing what to say, any conversation they do manage consisting of a short question and reply. Alba switches school and her shyness again holds her back until she is approached by an older girl, Eva. They chat, Alba still not saying much, and Eva invites her to a party. Hearing of this the other girls at school try harder to engage with Alba whilst she tries to overcome her withdrawn nature.

The onset of puberty, awkwardness at living with her dad, her first kiss, truth or dare, the party and her mother’s illness all affect her as we see her slowly mature, becoming more confident, wrestling with her conscience whilst trying to be accepted. There’s a really nice scene where Alba and her dad go to the beach. Although they still don’t communicate verbally you can see they have accepted each other and enjoy their time together. Macarena Arias plays Alba wonderfully, displaying the difference between the introverted young girl at the beginning and the more self-assured character she becomes. I definitely recommend you give this a watch when it becomes available on whichever completely legal format you use for film viewing.


tel_0913790_s_01_xx_big_1Between Sea And Land (2016) – Colombia

Over-the-top melodrama. I could leave the review at that point and I think most readers would know whether they want to see this film or not. Many people enjoy this type of thing, I am not one of them. It follows the ‘person with debilitating illness tries to achieve goal with help of family and friends’ formula.

In this film:

Person = Alberto, a man in his twenties
Illness = a form of muscular dystrophy
Goal = experience the sea

To explain how disengaged I was from this film I will share a thought process I had upon seeing a shot which started above Alberto’s shack and pulled back directly upwards until there was a Google Maps-style shot: “I wonder how they got that shot. Perhaps a drone? Would a drone be able to carry a good enough camera to get such clarity? Might’ve had a built-in camera. Either way that’d be pricey. How much would the budget for a film like this be? Is the Colombian film industry particularly wealthy? Maybe it wasn’t a drone. Perhaps a crane? It would need to be a massive crane to pull back that high up and not have it in shot. Maybe they lowered something down and reversed the shot. No, that wouldn’t work, the waves would be going away from the shore…”


press__oneofus_victor_softgun-tif_One Of Us (2015) – Austria

A huge supermarket is the only thing of note in the hometown of 14-year-old Julian. So this is where he congregates with his mates. Sometimes going inside the shop, annoying the stuck-up manager. Often hanging about on the outskirts of the large compound, smoking, vandalising, chatting, messing about, doing whatever it takes to pass the time in their dead town. Michael, a kid a little older than Julian, is starting his career working in the supermarket. Despite not being overly enthused he does what he can to impress, performing his duties and trying to ignore the requests of local wannabe gangster, Sedler, to sneak things out. 16-year-old Marko is freshly out of prison, his first port of call upon his return to town is the supermarket. A reunion with his old mate Sedler soon follows as well as a meeting with Julian. As friendships grow, Julian tries harder to impress. During a night of smoking and drinking the decision to break in to the supermarket ends in tragedy.

I know I’ve not sold the film very well with that synopsis, it’s a tricky one to get across. At it’s heart is a very simple story of youngsters craving adventure, thrills and acceptance. Doing whatever they can to alleviate the monotony of life. The use of the supermarket is superb. Not only is it used symbolically, the most mundane of places seen as the beacon of excitement, but it is utilised visually throughout.

The straight lines of the regimented aisles, the gaudy, unnatural colours of the packaging all in blocks creating a rainbow effect, the bright artificial lighting. It all adds to create a surreal environment in contrast to the dull reality of the outside world. This is another I recommend you catch if you ever get the chance.

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Failed Critics Podcast: 36th Cambridge Film Festival Special

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As the 36th Cambridge Film Festival nears its conclusion, we round-up and preview some of the best independent and international movies that you still have a chance to see!

In this episode, Owen Hughes guides you through our pick of the bunch as he’s joined by our world cinema experts Liam and Andy (who you may remember contributed to our World Cinema Special podcast back in January).

From Romanian and Greek, to Ecuadorian and Colombian films. From docu-dramas to short film compilations. On topics as diverse as incest and the Russian avant-garde movement. If you’re looking for a movie that’s just off the beaten track from the usual mainstream cinema, then we’ve got you covered.

In the podcast, we chat about:

Cloudy Sunday – Showing Wednesday 26th October, 4pm (Arts Picturehouse)
Next Generation Tiger Shorts 2016 – Wednesday 26th, 5.30pm (Cinemobile)
Wonderland – Wednesday 26th, 5.30pm (Arts Picturehouse)
Between Sea and Land – Wed 26th 8pm (Arts Picturehouse) & Thu 27th 12.45pm (cinemobile)
Alba – Thursday 27th, 5.30pm (Arts Picturehouse)
Illegitimate – Thursday 27th, 6.15pm (Arts Picturehouse)

Plus the Dutch Scottish drama Bodkin Ras, high-brow documentary Revolution – New Art for a New World, and Andy’s favourite from the festival, Austrian drama One of Us. All of which you’re too late to catch at the festival, but are worth digging out if you can find them!

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Failed Critics Podcast: World Cinema Special 2

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From quirky Bulgarian movies to Jordan’s Oscar nominations. From 1931 in Germany to 2013 in Hong Kong. From the poetic realism of France to the period dramas of Afghanistan. This week’s Failed Critics Podcast is taking a truly global slant.

We could think of no better guests for our second ever World Cinema Special than aficionados Monsieur Liam and Herr Andrew Alcock. Along with regular hosts Signore Steve Norman and Señor Owen Hughes, together the team take a look at films from all over the world in both What We’ve Been Watching and this week’s triple bill. The caveat this time is that the Failed Critics had to pick three films each from three different countries, with some surprising – and some not so surprising – choices from our crew!

Join us again next week as Steve and Owen are joined by Failed Critics founder, grandmaster, and all round spiritual leader, James Diamond, as we prepare to induct another great of cinema into our Corridor of Praise.

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Failed Critics Podcast in 2015 Recap

As 2015 draws to a close, let’s take a look back over some of the best podcasts we’ve produced over the past 12 months.


JANUARY – The Pod In The Machine

ex machinaIn tandem with the release of Ex Machina, Matt Lambourne joined Steve and I for a special ‘Artificial Intelligence’ themed episode. On top of reviewing Alex Garland’s movie (which would go on to be voted the best British film of 2015 in our Failed Critics Awards this past month) we each chose our favourite movies featuring A.I. in honour of both this and the upcoming releases of Big Hero 6 and Chappie.


 

FEBRUARY – Your Unconventional Desire

50 shadesAs Fifty Shades of Grey hit the big screen in February, we invited Matt Lambourne and (for the first time ever) Paul Field onto the podcast to review the not-so-erotic erotic-thriller. It was almost left up to Paul to review the movie on his own as both Steve and I welched and Matt did his best to ruin Valentine’s Day. The podcast also featured reviews of two other new releases, with Will Smith’s con-film Focus and the sci-fi indie movie Predestination.


 

MARCH – Don’t Laugh, We’re Being Cool

?????????????????Quickly becoming one of our favourite guests on the show within just three months, Andrew Brooker was invited back onto the podcast again to discuss Neill Blomkamp’s latest action thriller, Chappie. Also joining us that week was Jack Stewart – then of Not This Again fame, but now one part of the Wikishuffle trio. It’s fair to say that there were some mixed opinions about this new release!


 

APRIL – Episode 150 and as shambolic as ever

New LogoIf you’re actually a fan of the Failed Critics Podcast, then April 2015 was quite the month for you as we put out 15 individual episodes, including a five-hour long triple-triple bill podcast with Matt Lambourne, Andrew Brooker and Paul Field, to celebrate reaching a pretty incredible milestone of 150 episodes. It was also the episode where we debuted our new logo and theme tune, which was a remix of the old tune by professional musician James Yuill.


 

MAY – Mad Critics Fury Podcast

mad max 4Andrew Brooker was back on the podcast as we reviewed the film that would go on to win first place in our Top 10 of 2015 list at the awards, Mad Max: Fury Road. From the way Brooker and Jackson Tyler reacted to it back then, it’s hardly surprising it had such a lasting impact. This was also the podcast that saw us change our opening quiz format for the first time to some degree of success, as I made up a few Albert Pyun film descriptions.


 

JUNE – Jurassic World & Christopher Lee

Jurassic-World-1With the legendary Sir Christopher Lee passing away, it seemed somewhat fitting that we had our resident horror expert on the podcast that week in Mike Shawcross. We paid tribute to the iconic film star, as well as reviewing the biggest film of the year, Jurassic World.


 

JULY – Small, Bald, Jaundiced Critics

illuminationIn our first podcast of the second half of 2015, Callum Petch joined us to review one of the highest grossing movies of the year, Minions. We also had some-time guest writer Nick Lay join us for review of yet more low-budget indie movies. We also ranted once again about another Spider-Man reboot news.


 

AUGUST – Corridor of Praise: Danny Dyer

dyerAfter much persuading by Paul Field, the ‘slice’, he convinced us to dedicate and entire episode to the work of British actor Danny Dyer … and it turned out to be our most downloaded podcast of the entire year! A lot of work went into it, with Paul watching every Dyer film in existence. We even got professional stand-up comedian James Mullinger to appear on the show, as well as an interview with film producer Jonathan Sothcott, who co-authored the book The Films of Danny Dyer with Mullinger.


 

SEPTEMBER – Legend, The Visit and Award Winning Comedy

legendWith Steve on a week’s break, Jack Stewart was back on the podcast – but this time in the host’s chair. Phil Sharman (also from Wikishuffle) appeared on this episode, fresh after the pair of them won Best Comedy Podcast at the UK Podcaster Awards. Andrew Brooker also helped join in the collective sigh of disappointment at Legend, starring Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy.


 

OCTOBER – In SPECTRE, It’s Columbo

spectre1208141280jpg-398894_1280wInadvertently spawning a new catchphrase, my review of a Columbo TV movie (that Steve forced me to watch) led to ‘it’s Columbo’ causing a few chuckles amongst our guests. Both Tony Black (of Pick A Flick and The X-Cast fame) and Brian Plank helped us to review the latest James Bond film and somewhat underwhelming SPECTRE.


 

NOVEMBER – Ronaldo, World Cinema and Listener Questions

NocturnaIn a re-hash of an idea we tried out in 2014, we invited listeners to send questions in to us and our guests for the episode (and world cinema aficionados) Liam and Andrew Alcock. We also discussed the new Cristiano Ronaldo documentary that had just been released, as well as lesser known international movies Nocturna, Green Butchers and Train of Life (yeah, I hadn’t heard of them either!)


 

DECEMBER – Winterval Special 2015

gremlinsEvery October, we have a Halloween special podcast. In April, we celebrate the “birthday” for Failed Critics. In December, of course we always have a Christmas special episode. It was the last of the year that both Steve and I were on (as he missed the end of year awards and I was booted off the Star Wars: The Force Awakens episode) so why not listen to both of us (plus Andrew Brooker and Brian Plank) spread some Christmas cheer!


 

Some others not mentioned above:

Field & Mullinger’s Underground Nights: Fred’s Pocket – Although I didn’t appear on this podcast, I am its Producer and Editor! Paul Field and James Mullinger started off their new podcast series with a look at their favourite Canadian films and interview WolfCop director Lowell Dean.

Avengers Minisodes and Age of Ultron – Gerry McAuley, Brian Plank, Leighton, Callum Petch, Tony Black, Carole Petts, Andrew Brooker, Matt Lambourne and Mike Shawcross each joined us for ten individual 15-20minute long “minisodes”, re-evaluating the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe up to and then including Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The Failed Black Wikishuffle Hole Quizcast and The Failed Black Hole Word of Friction Wikishuffle Critics – After we hosted the first ever quiz-only edition of the Failed Critics Podcast – dubbed a ‘Quizcast’ – featuring both Black Hole Cinema and Wikishuffle, back in April, it fell to Tony Black to host the second rendition which also added Word of Nerd and Fan Friction to the mix.

TV Specials: 2.5, (S3, Ep1) and (S3, Ep2) – In 2016 we’ll be hosting our first Netflix Original podcast, but earlier this year we hosted three TV specials, including episode 2.5 with Paul Field and Andrew Brooker, which reviewed Entourage: The Movie, and then again with episode 3 split into two parts. James Diamond (founder of Failed Critics) and Matt Latham (creator of The Bottle Episode) joined us in part 1 for a chat about the Emmy’s and in part 2 to talk more generally about our favourite TV shows.

The Blair Witch Project (Commentary) – Less of an actual film commentary and more like a watch-along (as I tried to explain on my blog), Steve, Matt, Brooker and I all watched cult 90’s found-footage phenomenon The Blair Witch Project and released our running dialogue as an episode people could either listen to whilst watching the film themselves, or just as a stand alone podcast. We’ll be trying it again at some point in the new year. If there’s any suggestions as to what we should watch next, leave a comment in the box below!


 

2016 is already shaping up to be another successful year for us. The first three months of podcasts have been scheduled and we’ve got two Corridor of Praise episodes lined up, our usual Oscars special, a world cinema triple bill, episode number 200 (!!) and of course all of the big releases including Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Hateful Eight, Creed and loads of others too.

Thanks to everyone who has downloaded or listened to any of our podcasts over the past 12 months. We’re ending the year on a high, having once again made it onto the iTunes Film Fanatics list on their podcasts page, sandwiched between Mark Kermode and the Barbican. You could help make it an even better end to the year by visiting our iTunes page and leaving us a review and/or a rating: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/failed-critics-film-podcast/id522507819?mt=2

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed listening to these podcasts almost as much as I’ve enjoyed making them and you will continue to listen to us throughout the next 12 months too.

Happy New Year all and see you in 2016!

Failed Critics Podcast: Ronaldo, World Cinema & Listener Questions

Nocturna

Bonjour, guten tag, konnichiwa, hola, namaste, aloha, salve, an-nyong, olá, goddag, ahalan, shalom, nei ho… and hello!

Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast as Owen and Steve take a break from reviewing new releases (sort of) to draft in special guests and world cinema aficionados (and podcast débutantes), Andy and Liam.

Whilst it may be the first time on Failed Critics for the cultured duo, this episode does see the return of a feature from earlier this year called ‘Listener Questions’. Through our Twitter and Facebook pages, we invited listeners and previous podcast guests to send in any question at all that they wanted to ask us – and they did! We’ve done our best to answer as many as we could but as ever, it’s all a bit shambolic from the get go!

There’s also reviews of some lesser known movies from around the world; from the Danish black comedy starring Mads Mikkelsen called Green Butchers, to the charming Spanish animation Nocturna, via a stop over in Romania for some tasteful holocaust comedy with Train of Life. We do manage to sneak in one quick new release review though as Steve reports back on sports documentary Ronaldo, executive produced by James Gay-Rees and Asif Kapadia (Senna, Amy, etc).

Join us again next week for a Hunger Games special episode with guests Callum Petch and Chris Haigh! Who will survive?? (Hopefully everybody. It’s only a podcast.)

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