Tag Archives: BBFC

Failed Critics Podcast: Leonard Nimoy, It Follows and a Game of Soggy Critics

We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet it should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.

it followsWelcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast where Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by returning special guest, Andrew Brooker.

We kick off the podcast with Owen putting a price on Steve’s head after he forced Owen to watch c-list celebrity horror/revenge/thriller-spoof Kill Keith as a result of losing last week’s quiz. Andrew sparks another debate on BBFC’s system after controversial indie movie Hate Crime was refused a rating, before leading on a review of the brand new release and genuinely creepy horror movie, It Follows.

In honour of Leonard Nimoy who sadly passed away this week, the trio get together for a Spock-inspired triple bill which was as shambolic as ever. As I’m sure everyone is already aware, during Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, Mr Spock sacrifices himself to save his captain and friend James T. Kirk. Thus, the team each pick their three favourite film characters who die and then come back to life.

Join us again next week as the team will reunite to review Neill Blomkamp’s action sci-fi movie Chappie. Until then, live long and prosper.

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The Expendables III

Not great, not bad, The Expendables III is diverting entertainment for the over-long run-time it lasts for.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

expendables 3There is not a whole lot to say about The Expendables III.  It is a film that does exactly what it says on the tin and nothing more.  You want to see some over-the-hill action movie stars and some up-and-coming would-be action movie stars blow stuff up real good in the cinematic equivalent of being subjected to a straight shot of testosterone for two and a bit hours?  Do you mind that being done in a competent and not exactly stellar fashion?  Congratulations, this is your movie.  It is utterly passable and diverting filmmaking that knows its limitations and, as a result, sticks solely to what it wants to do.  I hesitate to say “its strengths” because, much like the last two, it’s still not great at what it does and is far too long (this one busts through the two hour mark by the time the credits are finished and does it ever feel like it at points), but it is decent fun, although less overtly silly than the last go-around (you decide whether that’s a good thing or not).

Honestly, there’s really not a whole lot to talk about here.  If you’ve seen an Expendables film before, you know exactly what you’re signing up for.  It’s another one of those, it’s a bit more serious than the last one but the overall pros and cons are the same.  Stallone and Statham still have inexplicably amazing buddy chemistry together, so obviously they don’t spend nearly enough time together on screen.  There’s still a perverse joy in seeing these aging action stars, and up-and-comers who often deserve budding action careers (Kellan Lutz is the real surprise standout of the younger cast, especially so given that The Legend Of Hercules is barely six months old), kicking ass and taking names, but the film is still too overstuffed and therefore many people (including, yes, perennial “fill-out-the-numbers” members Randy Couture and Terry Crews) don’t get their big moment, let alone a character to play.  The final action scene, which spans pretty much the entire final half-hour, kicks all kinds of ass but the film seems permanently stuck in third gear for the rest of its run-time.  There is a good sense of fun throughout the production, but it’s still overwhelmingly macho and the equivalent of watching a raging boner projected on a cinema screen for two hours which, depending on how willing you are to turn off your brain, may be off-putting (although, thankfully, it’s a dumb action film in 2014 that doesn’t sneak a whole bunch of disgusting racism and sexism past everyone under the guise of “we’re a big dumb action film, it’s not like anything uncouth that we do or say matters, right?”).

Let’s talk minor differences, then, eh?  First, that 12a rating.  It means there is no blood.  That’s it.  Literally the only things stopping this from being rated a 15 are the complete lack of blood and an excessively shaky camera whenever knives get involved (otherwise known as “Hunger Games-ing it”).  Swears are thrown about frequently, hundreds of people are violently gunned down, bones are broken… you know, the usual, just now with 100% less CGI blood-squirts and only one deployment of the f-word.  This is still not a film that is suitable for anybody under the age of 10 (stop using the cinema as a babysitter, random parents who brought their two young children into the screening with them), don’t panic.  It’s still violent, still brutal, it’s just cagier about the details.  Also, none of this spoils the last extended action sequence; despite taking place across a large space and multiple floors, it’s nearly always clear where everyone is in relation to what and to what they’re engaged in.

Elsewhere, I found the way the film treated the younger Expendables to be really refreshing.  See, the plot kick-starts when a routine mission for Expendables Classic that has them assassinating Mel Gibson (there really is no point remembering these guys’ names, better to just come right out and call them by their actors’) goes south.  Gibson puts Terry Crews in the hospital and causes Sylvester Stallone to have to face the reality that his current crew (also comprising Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and a freshly-broken-out-of-jail Wesley Snipes) aren’t getting any younger and soon may end up in the ground.  So he forcibly breaks up Expendables Classic and jets off with Kelsey Grammar to recruit Expendables Modern (Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey in the role of “Michelle Rodriguez Said ‘No’”) to try and take revenge on Gibson who, surprise, has a deep-forged connection to the Expendables crew.  Oh, also, Antonio Banderas shows up as a mercenary cross between Charlie Chaplin and Doug from Up, and Harrison Ford is subbing for Bruce Wills and looking more interested and happy to be here than he has been in years.

What’s refreshing is that this “Damn these new kids, swanning in here trying to claim that our line of work is a young man’s game, now” plotline never actually demonises the new kids.  Yes, they do get captured, necessitating a rescue and eventual team-up (which is not particularly a spoiler as a) all of the damn trailers have revealed this point and b) you saw this coming if you have seen almost quite literally any action film ever before), but that’s simply because Gibson is one step ahead of everyone, in typical movie bad guy fashion.  Otherwise, the kids are shown to be exceedingly competent, their methods are proficient, their technology really useful, they get the job done.  They even hold their own in the big chaotic finale without having to have their butts saved by the older guys.  It’s a surprisingly embracing approach to this kind of plotline, one that’s often used simply to refute the young whippersnappers and remind everyone that the old guys are still relevant dammit (*coughcoughSkyfallcough*)!  I mean, one may immediately want to retract this point due to the fact that none of the youngsters have a real character (Lutz apparently has a problem with authority, Powell is the tech guy who can climb stuff, Rousey is The Girl and derisively says “Men…” after every beatdown, and Ortiz… I’ll get back to you on that one) but I’d counter-argue that nobody in this franchise has a real character so it all shakes out.

Oh, and there’s also a really amazing dreadful one-liner near the end.  Like, holy crap, is it hysterically terrible.  It’s one of the best and worst lines I have ever heard.  You have to hear this line, it is ridiculous.  Not kidding, I burst out laughing at it, 100% unintentionally.  We’re talking Mortal Kombat 4 levels of brilliantly bad, here.

Aaaand… yeah, that’s about it on my thoughts on The Expendables III.  It’s another one.  It drags too long in the middle, its final 30 minutes are the best kind of dumb popcorn fun, it’s lightweight, everyone seems to be having fun, there’s nothing particularly memorable, the dialogue still stinks to high heaven but in an endearing way.  If you’re not sold on this franchise, this won’t change anything; if you are, this is another reliably decent way to spend two hours.  I feel like I should be lauding it to high heaven for at least being a dumb action spectacle this Summer that’s actually good at what it does (heaven knows those keep getting rarer), but it’s still just a bit too forgettable for me to go overboard on the praising.  It’s good at what it does, I had fun whilst it played.  If what it does is what you want, go for it.  If not, skip.  Simple.

Of course, it does feature the image of a man entering the sixth storey of a bombed-out building by jumping a dirt bike up the tail of a destroyed airplane.  Plus, that line.  Holy crap, that line.  So, there’s those.

Callum Petch is about to bloody this track up, everybody get back.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Ride Along

Ride AlongRide Along is a pretty decent action-comedy with a great lead performance from Kevin Hart.

by Callum Petch

Last things first, this should not be a 12a.  Now, I’m not one of those prudes who believes that the absolute worst thing a young, impressionable child can be introduced is fictional sex and violence or accidentally muttering one of The Seven Words You Do Not Say Around Children.  I haven’t turned into an overzealous moral guardian on you overnight.  What I am a proponent of, however, is a rating system that is consistent in its ratings.  And, presumably through bribery or the dark arts, Ride Along has slid through the BBFC with a 12a rating it doesn’t deserve.  This is a 15 rated comedy in a 12a body.

Why?  Well, “sh*t” is tossed around more often than an angry gorilla at a zoo, despite the promise of only one use of strong language, I counted at least two or three usages of the word “f*ck”, “n*gger” is swapped between characters every now and again, there are a tonne of sex references and jokes about sex that would a) make a dork age DreamWorks Animation blush and b) will likely go right over the heads of most younger audience members anyway, and there are several moments of black comedy that would have fit more into 21 Jump Street than, say, a film that apparently deserves the same rating as Pitch PerfectAnchorman 2 was rated 15 and Ride Along is about that level.

Now, admittedly, the kind of humour that Ride Along traffics in will seem like the funniest thing in the world to 12 year olds and above and that’s fine.  What’s not fine is that I know that there will be parents out there who will see that 12a rating and decide that that means it’s OK to bring their 8 year-olds to the cinema with them because, “Hey, Glee is rated 12!  The Amazing Spider-Man is rated 12a!  This can’t be any worse than that, right?” only to regret their decision by, at the very latest, the 10 minute mark.  Again, I’m not one of those people who constantly screams “WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?” but I am somebody who likes the BBFC to be consistent in the ratings they give out because there will be people who will ignore what the content of the movie looks like and will just look at the rating before deciding that “it MUST be fine for my kids to go and see it with me because Thor: The Dark World was also a 12a!”  So, to reiterate, this film should not be a 12a.  It should be a 15.

Now, you may be wondering why I made such a big thing out of that and, no, “being rigidly loyal to my principles” is not it this time.  It’s mainly because there’s not too much to say about Ride Along.  It’s a pretty good action-comedy.  Admittedly, we don’t get too many of those (and I can count the number of good to great comedies that were released last year on one hand) but that’s kinda all it is.  Pretty good.  Decent.  OK.  Disposable.  There are some really funny jokes that were shown in the trailer.  One or two other really funny jokes that weren’t shown in the trailer.  A lot of chucklesome jokes.  Some very bad jokes.  There’s a bit where Ice Cube drops the name of one of his most famous songs as a punch line and I audibly groaned out loud.  In short: it’s alright.  Not a bad way to spend 100 minutes, perhaps at whatever our equivalent of a matinee showing is, and you will have forgotten most of it 24 hours after you’ve exited the cinema.

Nevertheless, I have to go into more detail.  So, our story revolves around Kevin Hart and Ice Cube (their characters do have names but I’m writing this nearly 48 hours after having seen the film so forgive me for not remembering their characters’ names and choosing not to look them up for both comedic effect and an accurate representation of what your brain will remember about this film 48 hours removed from it).  Ice Cube is a tough, no-nonsense detective for the Atlanta PD who breaks the rules but, dammit, he gets results!  Kevin Hart is a videogame-loving high school security guard who dreams of becoming a police officer and is in a relationship with Ice Cube’s sister (played by Tika Sumpter, not actually Ice Cube’s sister).  Ice Cube’s sister wants Ice Cube to bless Kevin Hart’s marriage proposal to her, because she’s old school like that, and he agrees to if Kevin Hart can survive a day’s ride along with Ice Cube.

What happens next you can probably already figure out.  Ice Cube purposefully sets up a crappy day full of pranks at Kevin Hart’s expense in order to scare him away from the police academy and his sister.  There’s lots of physical comedy at Kevin Hart’s expense.  There’s the moment where the ruse is figured out.  The point where it starts getting too real.  The part where Kevin Hart and Ice Cube actually start bonding.  And there’s also the part where Ice Cube’s determined trail of an elusive arms dealer named Omar comes to a head at the worst possible time.  The plot for Ride Along almost literally could not be more by-the-numbers.  It’s like it was constructed by the film’s writers actually following an instruction book.  The mystery, in particular, entirely lacks mystery or plot turns.  Nobody has ever seen Omar before, Kevin Hart stumbles onto some clues, they find out where a deal is going down and then Laurence Fishburne turns up to chew some scenery.  That’s not particularly a spoiler, mind, his name comes up at the end of the cast list during the opening credits to allow anybody with a working brain to figure it out and for everyone else to figure it out after the 900th time somebody says that “nobody’s ever seen this guy before”.

But, eh.  Nobody’s really expecting Ride Along to set the world on fire with its plotting, and that’s fine.  We’re here for the jokes.  So, did I laugh?  Yeah, I did.  A fair bit.  As mentioned a bit further back, there are some very funny jokes, some very bad jokes, some chuckle-worthy jokes and then some jokes that inspired no reaction either way.  Although refreshingly free of gay-panic type jokes (as much as I loved 21 Jump Street, I really hope the sequel tones down the number of “ha!  Gay stuff, amirightlads?” jokes), the film makes up for that slack in regards to Kevin Hart’s obsession with videogames.  If you’re currently imagining a lot of jokes about Kevin Hart taking games too seriously, being overly cocky with real guns on a firing range, Ice Cube derisively shouting “This ain’t no damn videogame!” or variations of such in his direction a lot and for his love of videogames to come into play in a positive way in the finale… congratulations!  You too could have written anywhere between 25% – 35% of Ride Along’s screenplay!  Some of the jokes are pretty funny, to be fair, but it’s a button and a well that the film goes back to too often.

Much better are the times when Kevin Hart is bumbling his way through scenarios that Ice Cube has set-up for him.  In fact, I’m just going to get this out of the way now: Kevin Hart is the main reason to see this film.  He’s been America’s best-kept secret for a long while now (he’s pretty much conquered America with his stand-up over the past half-decade) and Ride Along seems to announce him to the rest of the world as a great comic talent in film in the making.  Sometimes he does go just a little bit too over-the-top (the bit from the trailer where he knocks himself out is not funnier in context), but his manic energy and total commitment to making any material thrown his way work is the film’s ace-in-the-hole.  There’s a section around the film’s midpoint (a.k.a. The Sequence Where It Starts Getting Real) that is made hilarious because Hart is flinging himself around the scene, exuding charisma and playing every line at the perfect pitch so that, when it does come time for him to start panicking, his ratcheting up to 11 hits that much harder.

Ice Cube doesn’t fare as well, his delivery is much less consistent and is prone to under or over-performing, but he does strike up a good chemistry with Hart that keeps the film trucking along.  If Hart’s thing is to comically overreact to everything, Ice Cube’s is to be comically angry at all times and, unlike Hart, he’s not able to either deliver the jokes well enough or to find enough spins on that trait to make it work.  There are points where he reaches the quality that he displayed in 21 Jump Street, but they’re fleeting.  Of the supporting cast, Laurence Fishbourne is the stand-out in that he’s the only one who makes a lasting impression but, man!  You know that one bit in Hannibal where he shouts “USE THE LADIES’ ROOM!” at another FBI agent entering the toilets?  Take out the serious tone of Hannibal and that’s pretty much how Laurence Fishbourne plays the villain role here.  It’s pretty funny, just putting that out there.

And… yeah, that’s pretty much all I have to say about Ride Along.  There’s really not a lot going on here.  It’s a pretty funny comedy where the best jokes have predominately been shown in the trailer but there are enough funny moments in the rest of the film to justify giving it a watch if you’re desperate for a decent comedy or if you’ve already seen everything else that’s great out.  You won’t remember any of it 72 hours after seeing it, but you will laugh.  I laughed.  I laughed a fair bit, and that’s what I wanted at the time I saw it so I’m willing to give it a pass.  Just don’t take your 8 year-old to see it.  Not unless you want to have them dropping “sh*t” around the house like it’s going out of style.

Callum Petch follows me with his good friend, the threat of poverty.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Die Hard 5

12a certificate bbfcIn this week’s podcast we’re reviewing Die Hard 5 (we’re refusing to play along with their ridiculous naming practices), and in an effort to appeal to a younger audience we have decided to make the following changes and earn ourselves a 12a certificate.

  • James is still drinking while recording, but his part has been cut to a 10 minute phone call from a Brewdog Glasgow (sponsors of our Glasgow Film Festival coverage)
  • All references to the makers of Die Hard 5 being ‘motherf***ers’ for delivering an inferior version of the film to the UK market have been replaced by the more child-friendly ‘dickheads’
  • All scenes of extreme violence by Steve and Gerry on Owen have been replaced by scenes of mild peril

We’re back next week (including James) with our Oscars Special!

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Failed Critics Review: ParaNorman

This week on Failed Critics we talk about the story of a youngster with no friends and an unhealthy obsession with ropey zombie films. And as well as moaning at Owen pulling a sickie, we also review stop-motion kiddie-horror film ParaNorman!

Thank you, we’re here all week. Please try the fish.

Despite Owen’s absence, we still put together a meaty podcast for you this week – with reviews of the latest Stiller/Vaughan comedy The Watch, Hidden (Cache), and Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 heist film The Killing.

James also passionately puts forward his case for Failed Critics not reviewing Taken 2.

Join us later in the week for our Winter Preview Triple Bill.

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Why we will not be reviewing Taken 2

“It seems to me that more and more we’ve come to expect less and less from each other, and I think that should change” – Aaron Sorkin

If my life was an Aaron Sorkin TV show not only would I be funnier (and probably fitter from all the walking and talking), but today would be the day I made a principled and ultimately futile stand against something that is going very wrong in the industry that I love.

A small, and very deluded, part of me feels I am following in the fictional footsteps of Jed Bartlett or Will McAvoy today. Enough is enough, and someone needs to take a stand.

As we mentioned on this week’s Failed Critics Review, Taken 2 (the sequel to the trashy but entertaining Liam Neeson revenge-thriller Taken) has received a 12a certificate for cinema release in the UK. We were worried this would lead to a toning-down of the violence and bad language in a film franchise which previously relied entirely on violence and bad language.

Overnight the first reviews have started to appear online, and it looks as though things are worse than we feared. The language and violence has been cut, but in such a way that scenes now apparently make now sense.

Den of Geek have written a wonderful piece on Taken 2’s decision to seek a 12a certificate and the recent trend of studios to provide an ‘uncut’ version of films for home release. They’ve also reviewed the film, and have given their readers the full facts to make up their own minds.

But we will not be reviewing Taken 2.

Failed Critics is a very small blog run by me in my spare time and with contributions from people also giving up their spare time. We don’t get to see press previews of films weeks ahead of release. When we review a film on the podcast, it’s based entirely on the experience we had of paying to watch a film in a cinema.

And I am not going to pay a penny to watch Taken 2.

We’ve paid to see some pretty terrible films this year. I don’t begrudge spending my money on any of them (even the exceedingly lazy Dark Shadows) as I realise that the deficiencies in those films may not only be subjective, but will if they do exist they are caused by constraints of creativity, talent, money, or a misguided belief of ‘what the public want’.

The Taken 2 situation is different in that they have a cut of the film they know is better, but they would rather put out an inferior product that they know doesn’t work purely to get 12 year olds (and younger) to come and see the film.

Let’s look at that again. A company is knowingly putting out an inferior product, and they expect us to still pay full price for it. Then they hope we’ll pay again for the privilege to watch the ‘fixed’ product.

That naked greed and disregard for their customers shouldn’t be rewarded.

There’s also a moral issue here. Should we really be condoning a company that wants to market Death Wish-style films to children? Personally I have never seen a credible link between movie violence and violent behavior in children – but that still doesn’t mean that certain films are appropriate for children to watch. What happened to the divide between adult and family entertainment? The answer to falling cinema attendances is not to retool adult films to get more kids through the doors. Choose who your market is, and make the very best films for that market that you can.

Last weekend the top two films at the UK box office were Dredd and Lawless. Both very violent and stylized 18 certificate films. Dredd’s bravery in unfashionably going for an 18 certificate was rewarded, and will almost inevitably lead to a captive audience for sequels. If there’s any justice, Taken 2 will be the end of the Taken franchise as we know.

As consumers we don’t have many choices, but the choices we do have are powerful. Don’t give your hard-earned money to studios that show you no respect. I’m not saying that every film released should, or even can be a masterpiece. All I’m saying is that studios and distributors should do us the courtesy of releasing they very best products that they can.

That is why we will not review Taken 2 until we get access to the cut the director intended us to watch.