Where does a pirate keep his buccaneers? Apparently on the bucking Failed Critics Podcast this week, as Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by both Andrew Brooker and Brian Plank for some jolly rogering – and to talk about Marvel’s latest space adventure movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2!
Ooga-shaka, I’m hooked on a Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise and it keeps getting better. Owen Hughes reviews James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Yeehaw, listeners! It’s a darn tootin’ mighty fine show we’ve got for you this week. Hosts Steve ‘the kid’ Norman and Smilin’ Owen Hughes are joined by pardners The Liam With No Surname and Django Brooker for a special westerns triple bill episode.
Their pistols are cocked and ready to fire on each of their favourite three westerns in honour of this week’s big new release, Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven, starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Lee Byung-hun amongst others.
A ‘west’ inspired quiz opened the podcast with the score delicately poised at 2-2 between Owen and Steve, who was just one loss away from watching the abhorrent Killer Bitch. There was also time for a short chat about the furore over the latest images from the Jumanji sequel.
Join us again next week for reviews of Deepwater Horizon and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
“I seek righteousness, as we all should. But I’ll take revenge.”
Can you believe it? Just as I say one of the best films of the year is a Western in a time when both modern and classic style westerns are either lacking or simply not a thing anymore, along comes the second one is as many months that isn’t only excellent, but has all those classic hallmarks that made the greats from all those years ago, well.. great.
Now in their third collaboration together (after Training Day and The Equalizer) director Antoine Fuqua and average Joe badass for hire Denzel Washington return to us with a remake of a remake of a remake, The Magnificent Seven.
When landowner and businessman Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard, The Killing) rolls into Rose Creek wanting to take control of the little town, killing a bunch of people and threatening the rest, newly created widow Emma Cullen (Hayley Bennett, The Equalizer) goes in search of someone to help her rescue her town from the merciless industrialist.
As luck would have it, she finds Sam Chisholm (Washington), a lawman who seemingly wants nothing to do with her problem until Bogue’s name come up. Setting out to recruit a few more guys good with guns, Chisholm assembles The Magnificent Seven. Sharpshooter and gambler Josh Farady (Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Chris Pratt) is the first to join and is sent off to grab legendary soldier Goodnight Robicheaux (I will go with Training Day‘s Ethan Hawke) and his sidekick Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun, of I Saw The Devil and The Good, The Bad, The Weird fame), while Chisholm goes to find outlaw Vasquez (From Dusk til Dawn‘s Manuel Garcia-Rulfo).
Coming along for the ride and helping to build an army from the small town’s residents are skilled tracker and famous Indian hunter Jack Horne (Daredevil‘s Vincent D’Onofrio) and Comanche Red Harvest (Martin Senmeiser, soon to be seen in the Westworld remake).
But even with this collection of certified badasses, Rose Creek is going to need more than a slight miracle to overcome the land baron and his army of hired guns.
Now, it must be fifteen years since I last saw, well, any iteration of The Magnificent Seven – or Seven Samurai – so I had to go into this latest version of the classic as if I was watching a brand new film and not compare it to any of the others. And as such, I reckon The Magnificent Seven is a damn fine film.
Every member of the cast has their part to play, and does so perfectly. Even as the film quickly becomes the manly-man filled, trope-infused guns and trench coats film you expect it to, every single person feels perfect in their place.
This is a huge thing for me. The announcement of Chris Pratt joining the production previously left me worried for the film. I was concerned that he was being brought in for comic relief and not because he was the right man for the part; but boy was I wrong. In fact, Pratt’s presence in this film, while not entirely straight-faced, is one of the more seriously played roles here. Second only to that of the near silent Native American, most of Farady’s jokes actually fall rather flat, with several of his cast mates enjoying much better one-liners.
And like I said, everyone here is perfect on screen, but one man I reckon needs special mention (and it’s not Mr. Washington, as you may think). While Denzel has been awesome in recent years, he’s often just playing the near invincible ass kicker character that he perfected back in the days of Man on Fire‘s John Creasy. While he’s just as awesome here, in his perfect black getup that even out in the desert never seems to get a spec of dust on it, he’s not the man I’m talking about.
I’m talking about Vincent D’Onofrio; a man I’ve been a fan of for decades (literally) who outshines everyone he’s on the screen with with his wise-cracking, near-psychopathic tracker Jack Horn. This bear of a man, so often overlooked, is easily the best and purest bad ass on that screen. From his introduction to the end credits, he’s a joy to watch.
Antoine Fuqua’s direction is superb. A man who got famous with films like Training Day does a fantastic job of capturing the old west look and feel, giving us that ‘comfortable slippers’ vibe while still managing to feel somewhat fresh.
Action feels fast and frenetic, balanced out with slower moments for story and exposition; the film keeps the pace spot-on and interesting in every frame. The Magnificent Seven‘s two hour and change run-time doesn’t feel long or drawn out. Instead of praying for it to be over, I found myself wanting more. A rarity for this most masculine of action genres.
All in all, The Magnificent Seven feels like a return to those Westerns we all used to love. The ones that Film4 delight in putting on during weekday afternoons. The ones your old man used to watch. It’s a killer cast having a ton of fun working for an excellent director and it shows. This remake of a classic is destined to be a classic, in and of itself in years to come. It is, in a word, magnificent.
People f*cking love dinosaurs, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Jurassic World made $204 million, making it the second biggest domestic opening weekend of all-time.
(*drops mic, leaves*)
(*walks back in*)
So, apparently, I have to write more than that for these things. But, I mean, I’m slightly at a loss as to what to write. That figure and those numbers kinda tower over everything else, grabbing the eye and the attention so totally that to talk about anything else feels like trying to hold a conversation at a party that’s about anything but the grizzly act of cannibalism that everyone just saw occur in the parlour room moments ago. You know how ridiculous that opening is? I ran the opening of Jurassic Park back in 1993 ($47 million) through an inflation converter, and the result ($77 million) was still nearly three times less than what Jurassic World just made. I am at a loss to explain this, I really am. Like, I knew that Jurassic Park was a beloved touchstone for a generation of moviegoers, and that everybody loves dinosaurs, but DAMN!
That said, it was not the only film making waves this past weekend. For, in the land of the limited releases, it was time to unleash Me and Earl and the Dying Girl upon the world. This year’s Sundance darling, having premiered to a standing ovation and winning the Grand Jury and Audience Prizes for Drama at the festival, critically beloved by most, and looking absolutely and totally motherf*cking INSUFFERABLY GODAWFUL, was launched in the Little Miss Sunshine slot to a pretty great success – $210,000 from 15 screens with a per-screen average of $14,000. On any other weekend, that would be a per-screen average to kill for, but this was Jurassic World’s weekend and that film managed a per-screen average of $47,871 FROM 4,274 SCREENS. So, dinosaurs beat sh*tty-looking try-too-hard indie dramedies in the public sphere! This is information that makes me happy.
Finally, before we get into the part that matters, there’s the issue of Love & Mercy, the biopic of Brian Wilson that came out last week. Now, as you may know, I didn’t talk about it last week or, in fact, any of the week’s limited releases as I was far too busy making easy jokes at the expense of Entourage – which, as I discovered about 8 hours after that post went live, was letting that film off was too easily – to report on them or the fact that United Passions only made $607 from 10 screens – side note: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (*continues like so for another 10 minutes). Besides, I had the feeling that the supposedly great film would make an appearance in the Top 10 eventually, as it was too star-packed, too widely-released, and too critically-slathered to not break in at some point. Well, it did! This week, even! So, there!
This Full List found a way, the clever girl.
Box Office Results: Friday 12th June 2015 – Sunday 14th June 2015
1] Jurassic World
$204,600,000 / NEW
My review is over here, for those of you who are interested. Ended up digging this one a whole lot, even though it’s got characters that might as well just be breadsticks, dialogue that’s on the level of a five year-old, and themes that are communicated on the same level as that of a first year film studies student with a distrust of the military. But who cares about any of that when you have dinosaurs fighting each other and Chris Pratt – albeit minus any gratuitous shots of his abs, which is UNACCEPTABLE – both things I’ve wanted since I was 5 years-old? Not me, that’s for certain!
$16,000,000 / $56,937,000
Very strong 45% hold between weekends, which is very good for an R-rated comedy that is being released in this utterly insane Summer season. Can I also echo The Playlist’s demand that Melissa McCarthy gets a look-in for the Best Actress race come Oscar season? She is absolutely phenomenal in this, and I guarantee you that she’ll have put in a better performance than at least half of the people whose names get trotted out in this year’s Battle of Apparently Lowering Standards.
3] San Andreas
$11,010,000 / $119,321,000
…hey, Hollywood. Can’t help but notice that you haven’t gotten back to me about that goldmine of a film pitch that I gave you last week. Tell me, do you have a negative disposition towards the act of making money? Seriously, who doesn’t want to see Chris Pratt and The Rock solving crimes together in a buddy cop movie? I know that America wants to see The Rock lay the smacketh down on a bunch of candy asses whilst Chris Pratt says something Burt Macklin, FBI-y before The Rock raises his eyebrow inquisitively and humanity collectively creams its pants and explodes in pure glee!
No, seriously, this is pure f*cking gold, Hollywood! Hit me up about this! I’ll even convince my actually talented writing friend to sell out his principles to help me write this script, as it is surely guaranteed millions upon MILLIONS of dollars and millions of dollars and millions of dollars!
4] Insidious Chapter 3
$7,300,000 / $37,371,000
Forgot to mention this last week as I was too busy… whatever I was doing last week, but now’s as good a time as any. If you are writing a box office piece and use the phrase “scares up” when talking about the performance of a horror movie, quit. Just quit. Stop writing, resign from your position, and go and do something else with your life. I am dead serious. That phrase is so, so old and worn out, that even complete hacks will look at that and go, “Yeah, you absolutely put no effort into this whatsoever.” I find it a personal insult that professional writers are paid money to be that lazy whilst I slave away trying to find new spins on material and new talking points every week for free. So if you do use that phrase, quit. Give your job to people who deserve it.
5] Pitch Perfect 2
$6,000,000 / $170,715,000
This has managed to jump up one place, this week. People would rather see this again in its fifth week than Entourage in its second week. Humanity is not totally doomed, folks.
$4,340,000 / $25,870,000
I saw Entourage last Monday. If it weren’t for the fact that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is looming on the horizon like a strategically placed solid object aimed directly at one’s junk that you can’t avoid for whatever reason, I would feel very secure calling this the worst film I will see all year. It is just so totally abysmal. Brooker is still reviewing it for this site, but my thoughts were graciously housed by both Movieblort and my friend Charlize of HotMales.net. They’re absolutely worth a read at either location, I genuinely believe it’s one of the best reviews that I have ever written.
7] Mad Max: Fury Road
$4,130,000 / $138,630,000
Goddammit, I’ve been too busy to find the time to see this a third time. If I get lucky, it might hang around next week and I’ll be able to squeeze it between the new releases (otherwise known as the films I don’t give a sh*t about), but otherwise my chance has been and gone. Sigh. I’d say “at least I saw it twice”, but we all know that twice is nowhere near enough cinema-based viewings of Fury Road.
8] The Avengers: Age of Ultron
$3,641,000 / $444,743,000
I am excited and optimistic for Ant-Man. There, I said it. Revoke my “Film Critic” pass if you want, I don’t give a sh*t. It’s the truth and it’s how I feel.
$3,417,000 / $83,607,000
OK, homework for us all: let’s all watch The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille prior to meeting back up next week. We’re not actually going to talk about or do anything with them, it’s just always worth having seen those films. Great? Great.
10] Love & Mercy
$1,765,000 / $4,774,000
Here’s a scene from Walk Hard. Go and watch Walk Hard. This is not optional.
Dropped Out: Aloha, Poltergeist
Callum Petch only cares about that thing, that thing, that thing. Listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio (site link) and follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!
Jurassic World is honestly kind of a bad film, but I love it anyway.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
There’s this thing about irony: if you coat enough of your work in it, it can lead a critic to become genuinely confused as to where the intentional faults and flaws end and the unintentional ones begin. It’s honestly a pretty brilliant tactic, cos how am I supposed to know what is an intentional mistake and what isn’t when almost the entire point of the movie is being drowned in irony and satire? Especially when the film itself calls out in-universe its satirical and ironic aims and intentions.
Jurassic World is a film that swims in irony, perhaps too much for its own good, occasionally appearing to use that as a defence mechanism for the rest of the film. Is the fact that almost every last dinosaur is a never-quite fully convincing CGI effect a comment on modern filmmaking’s detrimental obsession with CGI or just a detrimental obsession with CGI? Is the film’s constant product-placement, that is even a minor plot point and a point of contention for one of the park’s staff members, a wink and nod to its blatancy in modern blockbusters, with its eventual destruction a cathartic blow to such a practice, or just blatant cost-subsidising product placement? Is the fact that the film really isn’t at all scary an acknowledgement that we’re no longer frightened by things that have become institutions, and the failure of the I-Rex to change that being a comment that you can’t just manufacture scary things by throwing a bunch of scary ideas in a blender and printing the resulting concoction, or just a failure on the part of director Colin Trevorrow?
Again, it’s difficult to know where the intentional faults end and the genuine faults begin. Is the fact that much of the movie is all about shaming emotionless Cylon Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard, not actually a Cylon) into understanding that these animals are animals, dammit, and not just numbers on a spreadsheet – as well as being shamed into realising that work should not be everything and that family, specifically visiting nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins), are deserving of time and attention too a sly parody of such “women shouldn’t science or business” plots or just poor writing that ends up lapsing unintentionally into that area? Speaking of, is her relationship with Owen (Chris Pratt) a purposefully ridiculous demonstration of how fast, frivolous, and ultimately pointless these sorts of obligatory romances in blockbusters are, filled with awkward implications and such, as a “take that” to their continued existence, or is it just all of that with none of the parodic undercurrent?
I could keep going on and on and on – applying this same uncertainty to things like the film’s barely one-note characters, its sledgehammer subtle digs at the military, its unresolved plot threads that are just blatant sequel-teasing, the fact that Owen is quite literally portrayed and characterised by the film as The Greatest Human Being Who Ever Lived and whose sneezes can probably cure cancer – but hopefully you get the point. Since Jurassic World announces from practically the first frame that this is going to be a film with a meta-text about the state of filmmaking today running through it, it eventually reaches the point where one just has to question if it’s only doing so as a pre-cautionary defence in case everything went wrong; the equivalent of slipping on a banana peeling, falling, breaking six bones, and proclaiming, “Totally meant to do that!” I’m glad that we have another blockbuster, the second in two months no less, that wants to say something instead of just being pretty lights and loud explosions, but the sheer extent of its commitment (?) to this theme and message for much of the film’s runtime arguably does it more harm than good.
See, by traditional metrics and what we usually define as ‘good filmmaking’, Jurassic World is a bad film. Its characters are barely the definition of one-note, its dialogue is not corny enough to be corny, it’s not scary, the dinosaurs and the humans never give off the illusion that they share the same reality as one another barring one sequence that only serves to make that fact even more clear, there are some plot turns and developments that scream “last minute sequel-opening rewrite”, its desperate desire to be Aliens sometimes does it no favours (more on that in a sec), its extreme pacing means that there’s barely time for everyone to get their bearings before the I-Rex breaks free, and the Owen and Claire stuff – despite Chris Pratt being on a full-on “come on, come fall asleep on my abs” charm offensive – never works and never stops feeling token at best.
But, goddammit, do I love this friggin’ movie anyway.
Jurassic World is nonsense. Jurassic World is absolute nonsense and, goddammit, do I love it for that, because it is massive amounts of pure fun! That meta-text may sound like it drowns the film in humourless detachment, but it still bristles with pure glee at its various setpieces and ideas. That sprinter’s pacing is like the film is just desperately trying to get to them out of palpable excitement: “No, folks, seriously, there’s a moment where the I-Rex fights an Ankylososaurus! Hold on, I’m just gonna hit the fast-forward button so we can get there quicker! I can’t wait to see the look on your faces, you are going to flip!” In a way, it’s rather analogous to Zach’s character in the film, as the big brother who doesn’t seem like he wants to be here at all, but is not immune to the pleasures of seeing a Mosasaurus eat an entire shark in one bite.
This glee at being able to fling full-scale mayhem about the place does occasionally cross over into being rather mean-spirited – the Pteranodon setpiece is a load of fun but is tainted by one extended and really unnecessarily cruel death sequence – but mostly sticks on the right side of that line. Mainly by being Aliens. I’m not kidding, Jurassic World lifts so much from Aliens’ playbook that I’m expecting James Cameron’s lawyers to be sicced on Universal any second now. Precocious children? Check. A mother figure who puts herself in harm’s way despite wishing not to in order to keep those children safe? Check. One capable partner whom she eventually bonds with despite prior reservations? Check (minus the romance part in Aliens for we all know that no man can tie Ellen Ripley down). That same endless breathless rush from one setpiece to the next once the release valve is turned? Check, check, check!
Now, of course, these are all traits that are not specific to Aliens, but the similarities don’t stop there. There’s even a Weyland-Yutani equivalent in the form of InGen, a corporation who have got their mitts all over Jurassic World, even the parts that no-one else knows about, and who have really just the worst and stupidest ideas. Those raptors that Owen is trying to tame are being bred to become weapons of war, loyal and efficient comrades of soldiers in the field, whilst you gain absolutely no surprises for guessing that they’ve been involved in the creation of the I-Rex and that their refusal to be forward about what went into the thing is very bad for everybody involved. They’ve got a representative, played by the great Vincent D’Onofrio, who is such a smug asshole that you can imagine he drives his car to work on a personal make-shift carpet of baby seals. And there is even a setpiece in the film’s ridiculously fun final third that is so startlingly similar to the first Xeno ambush at Aliens’ halfway point that I’m still not sure that the projectionist didn’t just splice in some footage from that briefly.
This is sometimes to Jurassic World’s detriment, when it is being so blatant in its Aliens referencing that it distracts from the quality of the film itself, but it manages to get away with it by being Aliens in spirit, rather than in flesh. These are two films that share similar makeups and similar traits, but still feel fundamentally individual. This is still a Jurassic Park movie at its core, it’s got that same sense of wonder and the same sense of awe and spectacle, but it’s also a Jurassic Park movie that realises that trying to be just Jurassic Park again won’t work. The core can still be the same, but everything else needs a change-up. So why not take from the playbook of Aliens and go bigger, more action-packed, more crowd-pleasing, and fundamentally different, whilst not losing sight of the core of your series, instead of just doing the first film again?
Jurassic World is not a film that is going to win any awards for storytelling, or for character-work, or pacing, or thematic depth or anything of that sort. Again, take it on traditional merits for what we consider ‘good filmmaking’ and it’s honestly a mess and kinda terrible. But the film instead succeeds on something far more valuable to me: fun. Wonder. Pure entertainment. I don’t hold Jurassic Park up to the same unassailable nostalgic standard as most do, although I do still really like that movie, and even I felt my heart stir and soar at our first introduction to the new park as John Williams’ classic theme overtook the soundtrack. And when the film takes off the safety and goes all-out in the crazy, ridiculous nonsense, including an absolutely wonderful finale that aimed directly for my inner 5 year-old and did not miss? Oh, it is right up there with Mad Max: Fury Road for the most amount of fun I’ve had at the cinema this year.
So, in a way, I guess Jurassic World really is like a theme park. It’s emptier than it lets on, hides behind the “I meant to do that” defence for anything that goes wrong, and kinda falls apart if you think too much about it. But if you just sit back, let go, and allow the pure fun of the whole thing to overtake you, then nothing else matters because HOLY YES THAT LAST SETPIECE YES OH MAN! And, really, shouldn’t we all just let go and give into stupid fun nonsense a little more often?
In the run up to the latest hotly anticipated Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron, Steve and Owen have been busy putting together a series of short 20-25 minute long minisode podcasts. With clips from the films, trailers, retro reviews taken from our archived podcasts as well as brand new retrospective reviews featuring a varied mix of different guests for each episode, we’ll be running through all of the MCU movies thus far in chronological order.
Welcome to the very last episode in our Avengers Minisode series! Here we take a look back on the second best film of 2014, as voted for by you in our Failed Critics Awards. I am of course referring to the spectacular space-adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy, the tenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
First conceived as a movie to enter the franchise back in 2009, when writer Nicole Perlman pretty much hand picked it herself, it wasn’t until 2012 that the ball really started rolling on production when director James Gunn was attached to the project. Released two years later, the film was a huge success for Marvel Studios, nearly quadrupling its budget by grossing approximately $774,000,000 worldwide – most of those ticket sales courtesy of our special guest for the retrospective review, Mike Shawcross, who saw the movie 23 times at the cinema!
Featuring the likes of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Peter Serafinowicz, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro, it had an enormous ensemble cast that rivaled even that of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble some two years earlier. All of whom were fantastic in their individual ways as the MCU ventured into the realms of space-opera, with the Starlord and his “group of wrong-uns” attempting to stop the psychopathic Ronan the Accuser from getting his hands on a powerful orb containing an infinity stone and thus destroying the Nova Empire.
As through the rest of our Avengers Minisodes, this episode will feature clips and trailers, as well as retro review taken from an archived podcast released last year when we were joined by Carole Petts. As mentioned earlier, the brand new retrospective review sees occasional writer and podcast guest Mike Shawcross share his educated opinion on the film.
We’ll be back next week with a review of Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, released here in the UK tomorrow!
Warning: these minisodes may contain spoilers
So here we are then. We are at the literal half way point in the decade, albeit the final point in our Half A Decade In Film spin-off mini-series. Yes, the fun ends here (well, about 2000+ words on from here) as Andrew, Paul, Liam, Mike and Owen each pick their favourite film of 2014.
Anybody who listened to our End of Year Awards podcast released not three months back will know just how much Failed Critics loved last year’s selection of movies. From the disturbing and eerie sci-fi Under The Skin, to the disturbing and eerie thriller Gone Girl and all the disturbing and eerie films in between, it was a hell of a year for disturbing and eerie movies, as voted for by you people.
Still, we’ve managed to find five more films to talk about, not all of them dark, violent, disturbing and / or eerie. Well, maybe one or two. Starting with…
Directed and co-written by Yoon Jong-bin, of Nameless Gangster fame, Kundo is a Korean action packed drama set in the middle of the 19th Century.
I’m not a fan of Action films in general but I do love a good Western and thoroughly enjoy Martial Arts fight-fests. Kundo manages to combine the look, feel and sound of the former with the thrills and messy spills of the latter.
The basic story is not overly original in its theme. Jo Yoon, the illegitimate son of a nobleman, is knocked down a rung of the ladder when a fully legitimate heir is born. When he starts to show resentment toward to the new heir he is disciplined and eventually packed off to a life in the military. Many years later the nobleman’s son is killed and Jo Yoon returns to the family as a bitter, corrupt, evil and violent despot hell bent on claiming his birthright and milking his subjects for all he can get.
He hires a lowly butcher, Dol Moo Chi, to kill his dead brother’s pregnant widow to prevent the birth of a new legitimate heir that could challenge his claim as head of the dynasty. When the hitman fails in his mission, Jo Yoon’s vengeance is so brutal that Dol Moo Chi joins a secretive clan of mountain dwelling warriors and monks dedicated to righting the wrongs of despotic nobles and saving oppressed peasants from a life of slavery.
The story then follows the to-and-fro battles between the heartless Jo Yoon’s army of mercenaries and the altruistic mountain clan with Dol Moo Chi in the front line.
Although the basic plot cannot be said to be breaking new ground as a story, the way it is told is thoroughly enjoyable. The best analogy I can come up with is to imagine Quentin Tarantino (at his peak), Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone getting together and deciding to retell the Robin Hood story.
It is beautifully shot, the acting throughout is superb, there are some fantastic fight scenes and just the right number of humorous little interludes.
There are a few issues with it though. The quality of the CGI used is pretty poor. They are not pivotal to the story but are glaringly clunky. One horseback chase sequence, in particular, is terrible. It’s less convincing than those stock moving backgrounds you see out of the window of a car in old black and white movies. There are a few countryside scenes where flocks of birds have been overlaid. They make Hilda Ogden’s “Muriel” look a masterpiece. Even little touches as insignificant as glowing embers drifting away from a fire look like afterthoughts.
But, to be brutally honest, I’m a real grump when it comes to CGI and rarely miss a chance to moan about it, I seriously doubt these issues would bother the majority of normal people.
A genuinely enjoyable film, it may lack originality but is both beautiful to look at and fun to lose yourself in.
by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)
Another late comer in the film year that I had little or no expectation for. Director Matthew Warchus hadn’t done a feature film for 15 years (his previous film, Simpatico, I’d never even heard of) but this managed to push all my buttons. The soundtrack was for me: Heaven 17, Dead or Alive, Tears for Fears, The Smiths; this was so absolutely in my wheelhouse. The period setting, the 80s, I grew up in the 80’s and it’s always portrayed poorly on film. All that miserable Shane Meadows stuff. I was born in 1970, that was a miserable shit decade, the 80’s were fucking awesome!
We get to meet two very different groups in Pride. Gay activists and striking miners. So we get a double dose of fish out of water, elderly working class Welsh ladies going to gay clubs and party boys going to a working men’s clubs for a spot of bingo. Joyous, absolutely joyous. There’s so many jokes to be had right there.
The cast are all first rate, and mainly unknown to me, though Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine & Bill Nighy all pop up and do a turn. There’s a decent coming of age story, the mad culture clash to explore, issues of bigotry and discrimination, and yet it all hangs together beautifully and made me laugh, a lot. Proper belly ache, tears down the face, laughter. Looks great, sounds amazing, and absolutely the best of British – oh and to quote Imelda Staunton….. ““We’re just off to Swansea now for a massive les-off!”
by Paul Field (@pafster)
As a series of films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was always just a bit of fun. I’m not denying the quality, not at all. What I’m saying is while they are all good films, I never saw any of them as “great”. Until Captain America: The Winter Soldier rocked up and smacked me around for making such stupid statements.
For the most part, the story of Steve Rogers teaming up with S.H.I.E.L.D and fighting the bad guys, all while trying to find himself in a world he doesn’t know or really fit in to, foregoes the fantastical elements of previous Marvel films and the universe they created. Instead choosing to ground itself in some kind of reality and weave us a tale of conspiracy rivaling that of most other espionage thrillers.
Make no mistake, this is an MCU film through and through. But this time around the Marvel universe feels more like a way to get some of the sillier ideas onto film. Ideas that haven’t really been acceptable since early 90’s James Bond. You know? Mechanical wing suits, hover-carrier thingies and, well, super soldiers!
Cap 2‘s greatness comes when you realise that you can take all those elements out and still be left with a top-notch spy film. A complex and engaging espionage film about shady little men trying to take over the world by using their own little terrorist army headed by a larger than life super-bad-ass bad guy. All of which can only be stopped by one man. Jason Bourne. No, James Bond? Nope. I got it, Ethan Hunt? Oh. Well, you get the idea.
My favourite part though? The fighting. I’ve said it a thousand times. A well choreographed and filmed fight can make a film great. Cap 2‘s fights hurt. Every hit is a bone crunching treat for fight fans that ramps up the stakes and forces you to feel every single punch. Captain America’s confrontation with UFC legend George St. Pierre and the first fight with the titular Winter Soldier are particularly great examples.
It’s Bourne with extra toys. Old school Bond with the ability to still have old school fun. Most importantly, it’s a brilliantly built thriller that’s grounded itself in the real world and, at least as far as I am concerned, is the best MCU film yet.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
Some of you may have already read my review on the main site about Dan Gilroy’s atmospheric thriller. There’s not too much point in me running through the film with a fine tooth comb again, except to say that it is still my favourite movie of 2014. I had a blast watching Guardians of the Galaxy on the big screen, big tub of popcorn in hand. I loved Kundo for all the reasons Liam has stated above. Under The Skin, The Attorney, The Raid 2, Inside Llewyn Davis, Moebius; it was just a fantastic year for film. But none of those that I saw during the year, none of those that I’ve caught up with since the turn of 2015, seriously, none have bettered this expertly made, tense, psychological dark masterpiece.
Brooker touched on Jake Gyllenhaal’s resurgence in our 2011 article, yet as good as he’s been in films like End of Watch, Prisoners, Zodiac and Source Code (and that crazy violent slightly NSFW music video thing he was in), it’s definitely with Nightcrawler that he reached his apex as an actor. The sheer ludicrousness of his omission from the Academy Awards list last month was bafflingly moronic. How he could’ve been overlooked for a Best Actor award is quite frankly beyond my understanding. As the crime-scene videographer Lou Bloom, living out his twisted version of the American dream, it was arguably the best performance of the entire year.
It managed to tread that very thin line of being both sickeningly realistic and uncomfortably amusing. Not just Gyllenhaal’s performance, although that obviously is the central piece in the jigsaw, but the film as a whole. He has a suitably talented cast of actors around him including Bill Paxton, Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed; a director/writer who appears to have hit the ground running with his debut feature as a director; and some excellent cinematography courtesy of the very experienced Robert Elswit. It’s a film that has gotten even better the longer time has passed since I last watched it and I can’t wait to see it again.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
Over the last few years I’ve watched quite a lot of films at the cinema, and the ones I’ve enjoyed I’ve gone back to see again, sometimes more than just twice. When 2014 came along, there was a film which I was looking forward to seeing. Another entry in the Marvel universe. As usual I had avoided seeing any trailers or even any footage for this film. On my first viewing I was blown away at how much I enjoyed it. Even on a 2nd and 3rd viewing I was enjoying it more each time, my kids loved it, and so I embarked on what turned into a marathon number of watches of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Oh go on then, I saw it 23 times in the end! “Why” I hear you cry? Mainly because (I have a Cineworld card and 3 kids who loved it as well) I just enjoyed the hell out of it. Everything about it entertained me, from the characters to the score and the soundtrack which was rather cool. It had action, it was lots of fun and had some fantastic looking spacecraft and it was just 2 hours long, a decent run time for once. I missed – or rather never got on board as Star Wars changed the world of films, and while I’ve seen films that have blown me away, they have disappeared into my collection only to see the light of day once in a blue moon. Maybe Guardians is my Star Wars, or even my kids Star Wars..? I’m not sure, I just know I really wasn’t expecting to like it so much.
James Gunn has produced a Marvel film like no other. While the other films tend to return to earth for some or most of the film, Gunn left Earth way behind. Taking his hero Peter Quill as a child into space and with some back story to give Quill a little character, just enough for us to like him, Gunn just lets the film fly. With a great opening sequence, the film powers along, and soon we are introduced to the full team, though they don’t know it yet. Rocket, a talking Racoon; Groot, a tree, who doesn’t talk much, Gamora a green assassin and Drax a beast of man looking for revenge. Really with that line up of characters this should fall flat on it’s face or at best just about hold together. Yet Gunn and his cast breathe so much life into the film that it soars. Chris Pratt is superb as Quill, he might be a rogue be he is extremely likable. Zoe Saldana is also great as Gamora, while Rocket and Groot and both voiced well by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. It is Drax played by Dave Bautista who really steals the show; his deadpan delivery is wonderful and nothing goes over his head (his reactions are too fast!) As for the rest, Karen Gillan gives a solid performance as Nebula and Michael Rooker (a constant in Gunn’s films) is also excellent. Lee Pace continues to impress as Ronan and his one of Marvel’s better villains.
The design of this film is also superb; the look of the space crafts, the clothes, the outer space sequences are all stunning to look at. The chase sequences are exhilarating and the final battle is superb leading to a one of the best moments of the film, the dance off! Yet while the plot is rather weak it does add some weight to Thanos and may give some clues to wear Marvel are taking the films. Even so it’s still a pretty strong origins film, as it relies on its energy and the energy of the cast to get us through it. Gunn’s trick is to continue this with the sequel, it’s a big ask, but I think Gunn and his cast might just pull it off again.
by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)
And there we go, we’re done, no more new Half A Decade In Film articles to go (until perhaps five year’s time when we attempt the same thing again perhaps?) You can catch all of our prior entries here, or even click this link to view the entire back catalogue of features for the Decade In Film series. As always, let us know in the comments below if you think we’ve crucially overlooked or overrated any films so far.
The Maze Runner out-runs the competition, audiences leave This Is Where I Leave You, refuse to invite in The Guest, and ask Tusk to go away, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
In what should come as a surprise to pretty much no-one, giving audiences the opportunity to watch brand new movies at the cinema stimulates box office income. Therefore, this past weekend was the most alive the American box office has been in a good month or so. Leading the charge was The Maze Runner, working title “Attempt To Capture That Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games Lightning Again #749”, and its status as the first new Event Film to come along since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles paid dividends as it cruised easily to first place with $32 million in ticket sales. That’s a pretty good opening, although it’s nowhere close to Divergent levels ($50 mil) and I imagine that 20th Century Fox will have wanted it a bit higher in general. That sequel is still going ahead, though, so I guess this is another bunch of interchangeable pretty faces and stupid character names that I’m going to have to learn. Swell.
Fairing a lot worse, we have the Liam Neeson-fronted A Walk Among The Tombstones and perhaps Neeson-fatigue is setting in, as this one could only manage $13 million for second place. Now, yes, that is a second place opening but, more importantly, that’s only $13 million. Maybe people are just sick of seeing Liam Neeson vehicles every 12-or-so months, or maybe everybody saw the trailer and correctly said to themselves, “Great! Thanks for that! Now I don’t need to see the movie!” Below that we have the Shawn Levy-directed dramedy This Is Where I Leave You, starring pretty much any well-liked American comedic actor primarily found on television that you can think of, which could only muster a little under $12 million in tickets and which continues Mr. Levy’s failed attempts to be seen as anything other than “The Director Of The Night At The Museum Movies”.
Meanwhile, artier cinemas practically groaned under the weight of new debuts filling their boots this past weekend. Audiences of said cinemas proceeded to groan in exasperated derision in the general direction of Tusk, the first of what currently amounts to 4 films that Kevin Smith postponed his retirement to make (although, this being Kevin Smith, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number jump up to 11 by the time I finish this sentence). Advertising was supposedly only focussed on Kevin Smith fans, and I get the feeling that an opening weekend total of $886,000 from 602 screens (for a per-screen average of $1,472) accurately displays the amount of patience that Kevin Smith fans have left for Kevin Smith nowadays. Still, could be worse. Could be an action film about 15 year-old yoga aficionados starring Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp’s daughter and Kevin Smith’s dau… that’s exactly what his next film is? For fu…
In sadder limited release news; audiences, for some utterly bizarre reason, decided to collectively stay away from writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard’s latest, despite it being one of the best films of the year so far. The Guest only managed to bank $82,100 from 19 screens for a per-screen average of $4,321, which is decidedly average. Of course, if you add on Wednesday and Thursday, that total goes up to $111,700, but that’s still not enough for me, goddammit! Everybody should watch The Guest al-frickin-ready! Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem, meanwhile, finally got its US debut this week and, fittingly for a Terry Gilliam movie where nothing seemed to go catastrophically wrong during the production process, it crashed and burned at cinemas with only $82,000 from 63 screens and a $1,302 per screen average because the man is CURSED!
Beating both of them in terms of audience demand was Hector & The Search For Happiness which took $46,000 from 4 screens for a per-screen average of $11,500. Goddammit, America.
Take a walk among the Full List.
Box Office Results: Friday 19th September 2014 – Sunday 21st September 2014
1] The Maze Runner
$32,500,000 / NEW
OK, I was rather overly mean when I referred to The Maze Runner’s cast as “interchangeable pretty faces” earlier. There are actually a fair few I recognise from other places. Like, look, it’s Will Poulter from Son Of Rambow and Wild Bill (and also Plastic, which we don’t talk about)! And there’s Thomas Sangster, otherwise known as Jojen from Game Of Thrones and Ferb from Phineas & Ferb! Kaya Scodelario from Skins has found the vehicle to bring her worldwide mainstream attention! So you know what? Even if this film sucks uncontrollably (which it may not, it’s not out here in the UK for another three weeks), I’ll be glad it exists, letting me know that talented people are getting steady paycheques for the next few years!
2] A Walk Among The Tombstones
$13,126,000 / NEW
My review, for those of you who have seen the trailer but are still undecided. Will point out that if you have seen the trailer, you have basically seen the movie. The only things it doesn’t show, not kidding here, are the identities of the killers (which the film promptly gives up on hiding about 45 minutes in, anyway) and the fact that Brian “Astro” Bradley from Earth To Echo is also in this. It’s not a bad film (it’s pretty good but totally forgettable), but there’s no reason to turn up if you only see films for the plot and have been exposed to the trailer.
3] This Is Where I Leave You
$11,860,000 / NEW
Disappointed to hear that this one is bad. I realise that stacked casts mean absolutely nothing if the material isn’t fantastic or engaging (I learnt that one the hard way when Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy did absolutely nothing for me), but that still won’t stop me from being bummed out when I hear that a film with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver and Jane Fonda is exactly as disappointing as the underwhelming trailer threatened it to be.
4] No Good Deed
$10,200,000 / $40,100,000
A pretty precipitous 58% drop between weekends, perhaps as word got around that the “GIANT SHOCKING TWIST” the marketing company pivoted the film on at the last minute could have been figured out by anyone within two minutes of hearing about the film’s premise. I mean, take away the “GIANT SHOCKING TWIST” hook and all you’ve got to sell the film with is that it looks offensively awful which, as marketing hooks go, is not exactly a strong base to sucker punters in with.
5] Dolphin Tale 2
$9,005,000 / $27,070,000
Dolphin Tale 1 used its second weekend to leapfrog to the top of the chart. Just saying: don’t expect a Dolphin Tale Part III.
6] Guardians Of The Galaxy
$5,180,000 / $313,669,000
So… what’s Chris Pratt’s flaw? You know what I’m talking about. The man’s pretty much perfect. He’s a talented actor, he’s very funny, a total beefcake and a half, he’s charitable, he steals his costume from film sets so he can visit kid’s cancer wards dressed as said characters, and he can spit Eminem’s verse from Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre” at double speed at the drop of a hat. So, what’s his flaw? What’s wrong with him? Does he have a pile of dead bodies buried in his wine cellar? If I have learnt anything these past few years, it’s that anybody who seems amazing or cool or perfect is actually a complete sh*tbag in some department!
Except Anna Kendrick. For, as we all know, Anna Kendrick is a goddess who can do no wrong, sent down from heaven to remind us all that the world is not completely without merit.
7] Let’s Be Cops
$2,675,000 / $77,196,000
Well, this has been a pretty poor year for comedy, hasn’t it? I count 22 Jump Street, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Bad Neighbours (and, if you really want to stretch the comedy definition, The Double) as the only ones that have been great, and everything else (with the exception of The Inbetweeners 2, which was just good) has been meh to awful. I know that this is usually the ratio for comedy every year anyway, but it hurts extra bad this year because there have been so many of them. You’d figure that at least a few more would hit it out of the park to some degree.
8] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
$2,650,000 / $185,018,000
This list is based off of the Weekend Estimates and I expect that these two may actually swap positions when the Actuals come in, it being that close between the pair and all. Do not expect me to update this list if they do, though. My time is far too occupied with watching and writing about the crappy period in DreamWorks Animation’s lifespan to take 10 minutes out of my life to writing a new pithy addition should such a thing occur. Accept it and move on.
9] The Drop
$2,050,000 / $7,690,000
Don’t make the obvious joke. Don’t make the obvious joke. Don’t make the obvious joke.
10] If I Stay
$1,835,000 / $47,672,000
Hey! It actually outlasted The Fault In Our Stars after all! Way to… go… bad movie… ah, crap. At least Chloë Grace Moretz has a decently-performing box office success to add to her resume! Now she can go back to starring in great movies that I li… “She’s appearing in that dull-looking Denzel Washington-starring film reboot of The Equalizer next week?” (*flips table in frustration and storms off*)
Dropped Out: The November Man, The Giver, The Hundred-Foot Journey
Callum Petch is trying to cuss and see, trying to figure it out. Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!
James is absent, but not yet retired. Just lazy. Steve warns against watching the latest b-movie from The Asylum, Sharknado 2: The Second One. Meanwhile, Carole tries to hold it together after the announcement that Studio Ghibli may be closing to give us the low-down on a slightly more up-market Boyhood and Chef, whilst Owen reviews a hundred year old documentary, The Great White Silence, in light of the Sight & Sound’s recent awards.
Oh, and there’s some film about people saving the galaxy that’s out that you may have heard of? Guardians of the Galaxy? Oooh. Yeeeaaaah. It’s a doozy.
Join us next week for what will likely be a sentimental farewell as James makes his final regular appearance on the podcast.
“Undeniably an origin story but it works so well I would have been happy to sit through a sequel there and then.”
by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)
I must admit to being slightly apprehensive about this film. Even Marvel Studios, the behemoth responsible for most of the box office take since 2008, seem to have got ants in their pants about this film – we’ve had a more formulaic trailer, a tagline change (from the smart-arse “You’re Welcome” to the schmaltzy “All Heroes Start Somewhere”) and tonight I’m sitting in Crawley, as part of a nationwide premiere event presumably designed to get social media buzz a-going.
They needn’t have worried. From the credits sequence (Marvel’s only to date, and therefore the best by default), it’s clear this is going to be a winner.
The film is essentially the origin story of the titular band of misfits; a thief (Chris Pratt), an Ent (voiced by Vin Diesel), a creature who looks an awful lot like a raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), a green-skinned living weapon (Zoe Saldana), and a chap who wouldn’t look out of place in a wrestling match watched by Doctor Who (Dave Bautista). They are thrown together in the pursuit of a mysterious MacGuffin which could make them all rich. Problem is, others also want said object for nefarious reasons of their own, and the stage is set for an interstellar jousting match between good and evil.
Guardians is immediately up against it because the group are, to be frank, not Marvel’s best known commodities. It’s difficult to remember a time when the cinema-going public at large didn’t know much about Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, but they did at least have a large following devoted to their source material before laying waste to multiplexes. Guardians doesn’t really have that luxury, and also has to introduce (and make us care about) five whole characters in one film. As a result we are given crib notes on each character’s past – Peter Quill’s tenure on Earth lasts mere minutes in the film before he’s abducted, most of the other back stories are explained in a few sentences, but you still end up caring about them. (This can be said less about the antagonists of the film – we are introduced to the baddies and told they want to destroy stuff without ever really being told why.)
In a Q&A this evening, James Gunn said that Guardians of the Galaxy may be “the most James Gunn film ever”. The fact that he’s accomplished this on a major studio’s tentpole release, rather than the low-budget fare he has made his name with, is nothing short of amazing. The film looks wonderful, bringing to life alien otherworlds and star systems with the visual flair of a much more accomplished director at this level. The script zips along with Gunn’s trademark vim and vigour, albeit slightly sanitised for his newly-found PG-13 audience. Everyone involved is clearly having a lot of fun; Pratt brings his likeable everyman persona to a leading role for the first time and succeeds hugely, Saldana is quiet but pulls out some excellent fighting technique when required; Cooper channels the most smart-arse New York cab driver you could ever meet, and hits the emotional mark more frequently than you’d expect from a talking rodent. Even Diesel brings the vocal pathos he first displayed in The Iron Giant to Groot, infusing a talking tree with warmth and humour. The real revelation, however, is wrestler Bautista as Drax, a man with a sad story to tell. He takes his time but eventually becomes the source of some rich comedy (standing up to accomplished laugh merchant Pratt with ease), as well as some surprisingly emotional moments. It’s the interplay between the five characters which makes this such a fun watch. It does mean that other characters are under-served as a result of developing this chemistry – Benicio del Toro and Glenn Close are woefully underused in their roles, and Ronan the Accuser probably has a good reason for his scheme, but we never find out what it is. The biggest disappointment is probably Thanos – who seems to have been rendered with the leftover CG money that wasn’t used to make Rocket and Groot look amazing. It’s an incongruous appearance from one of the great all-time Marvel baddies and doesn’t really serve the story at all.
This is very much an origin story. I got the same feeling walking out of this film as I did walking out of X-Men – that of the start of the story being told very well, but also feeling that there were greater things to come. And despite being slightly rushed at times, this is a great origin story, setting up the group of misfits as an entity currently separate from the rest of the Marvel Universe (save a couple of Easter eggs thrown in for those who are paying attention) and thoroughly deserving of their own adventures. I would have happily sat through a sequel right then and there, I had so much fun in the universe that Gunn has created. And I can’t wait to go back.
Guardians of the Galaxy is out in cinemas nationwide on Thursday 31st July 2014.
Carole is the latest permanent edition to the Failed Critics Podcast team and can usually be found roaming the streets of London on the look out for unwanted Nic Cage DVD’s. Or on twitter.
After a disastrous attempt at recording our 100th episode last week, we’re back after our brief hiatus with our ‘official’ centenary podcast. And it’s more packed than ever, with no less than six new (or nearly new) release reviews. We argue over whether or not The Lego is awesome or simply just very good; we look at two very different explorations of humans/machine relationships with Her and Robocop, and we still find time to talk about Dallas Buyers Club, The Monuments Men, and Cuban Fury.
We also discuss the Bafta results, make our Oscars predictions, and you finally get the Cutthroat Island review you’ve all been waiting for.
Next week we’ll be ‘live’ from Glasgow Film Festival, with reviews of 20 Feet From Stardom, Mood Indigo, and The Zero Theorem plus loads more.