Tag Archives: Christmas

New to Failed Critics? Try our ‘Best of 2016’ compilation episode!

It’s just gone midnight on Christmas Eve, which means those of you who have managed stay up past your bedtime and wait for Father Christmas can officially open one of your presents early! I’ve got the perfect one for you, right here…

This brand new episode is a three and a half hour long ‘best of’ the Failed Critics Podcast from the past 12 months, all cobbled together into some kind of Christmas TV type compilation episode. There’s all of our favourite bits, including Paul’s famous quizzes, reviews of Mob Handed and Killer Bitch, every single booby-prize that Owen and Steve put each other through, all of our pre-titles and post-credit stingers, and loads more.

It’s not gift wrapped. It’s not store-bought. There’s no receipt so you can’t go and exchange it for any other podcast during the Boxing Day sales. But hopefully it’ll keep you company should you be enduring any agonisingly long car journeys over this festive period.

Merry Christmas all and a happy new year from everyone here at Failed Critics!

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Office Christmas Party

“I once filed a sexual harassment complaint. Against myself.”

As if Bad Santa 2 wasn’t bad enough, leaving the spirit of Christmas in a back alley with its underwear around its ankles, bleeding from the anus, along comes another parasite of a movie hoping to get its jollies off at the unconscious victim its predecessor left behind.

Drunk, drugged and unlubricated, Office Christmas Party is here to have a bash at the sloppy seconds Billy Bob Thornton left behind. And wouldn’t you know, this party is a veritable ensemble gangbang that’s about to make a mess and spread its diseases all over the poor, crumpled up, whimpering Christmas spirit.

When the CEO of fictional tech firm Zenotek Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Anniston) visits her moronic, waste of space brother Clay (TJ Miller) and tries to close down his branch of the company that he’s ruining financially, him and his Chief Technical Officer, Josh (Jason Bateman), hatch a plan to throw the greatest Christmas Party ever, convince big fish IT Buyer Walter (Courtney B. Vance) to bring his business to them and save everyone’s job.

Honestly, don’t think about it too much. To give it more than a second or two’s thought is to waste valuable brain time and triple the amount of effort the “writers” put into this vile monstrosity.

I so desperately wanted this film to be good. I so desperately wanted to come out of this film having pissed myself laughing at it, struggling to breath as rapid fire gag hit rapid fire gag. But sadly, the only piss here was to be found on the trousers of the slightly tipsy guy that fell asleep three rows ahead of me who wet himself during the trailer for Star Wars.

As it was, this almost two-hour “comedy” was simply painful to watch. I saw so many people – all of whom individually I love to watch on screen and so many of whom are genuinely funny – in this shipwreck of awfulness, sinking to the bottom of the ocean of shit that is the ritual of the Christmas comedy.

I mean seriously, look at this damn poster! Look at the names on it!

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These people are in this shit show. Like last year’s awful Crimbo flick and every one before it, I’m positive these simple-minded fools are being tricked into appearing in these films. Because no way do I believe any of these imbeciles looked at a script that included someone 3D printing their own dick and proclaimed “I must be in this film!”. I just don’t believe it.

Honestly, at somewhere around the fifteen minute mark, as a pair of ball fondlers are hilariously knocking over a Christmas tree in a department store, I was desperately looking for a sharp candy cane around somewhere so I could light it on fire, push it through my eye and swirl it about in my brain for a bit just to make the ghastly cunt show end.

Out of 105 minutes, there was a three minute segment not set in an office full of turd chomping oxygen thieves, where Jennifer Anniston got the best lines in the film and the one and only laugh I got from the entire run time. She gets a scene all of her very own and throws a tirade of beautiful abuse at some little shit in an airport. Not amazing, but worth a chuckle.

What makes this worse – because it does get worse – before this diseased fanny of a film even started, we were subjected to a trailer for a third Christmas comedy for 2016. A THIRD FUCKING FILM. Hasn’t 2016 been bad enough already? We are getting three dreadful, hateful Christmas comedies in a year? I need that like I need a staff infection in my left testicle.

Please god, let this year pass without anymore films that leave me violated, because like the tattered body of my Christmas spirit, this dumpster fire of a movie has left me feeling like someone has banged a sandpaper wrapped traffic cone up my arse – and then asked me to fucking pay for it!

If I never see another ensemble comedy, filled with desperately overpaid donkey fondlers paying back the favours they were done over the year, pretending to celebrate this most meaningless of commercial celebrations again, it’ll be far too soon.

Do yourselves a favour: To get the same experience I got for half the mental anguish, give microwaving your own shit a go.

Or drunkenly shaving your nuts with a rusty razor.

Or perhaps try tattooing your own taint with a hot biro.

Anything to stop these fucking atrocious vaginal-secretions making money every bloody holiday season!

Failed Critics Podcast: Secret Sandra Xmas Special

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We left some mince pies and a nip of sherry out in a vain attempt to attract someone jolly onto the Christmas special podcast this year but instead we ended up with Steve Norman, Owen Hughes, Brian Plank and Tony Black.

Festive frivolities ensue on our very merry podcast with a Christmas-themed quiz to kick things off before a plug for our Failed Critics Awards 2016 (which you can vote for here before 27 December) and a glimpse at what we might be picking for each category.

You can thank Tony’s autocorrect for the invention of our Secret Sandra section of the show. Anonymously exchanging movies amongst each other in a ‘secret santa’ format, we somehow only exchanged one lump of coal. Steve ended up watching quirky black comedy I Love You, Philip Morris, whilst Brian unwrapped The Internet’s Own Boy (a documentary about Aaron Swartz) and Tony mulled over topical horror-comedy Krampus. Meanwhile, Owen sulked in the corner at being made to watch Kevin James’s Netflix Original, True Memoirs of an International Assassin.

We stuffed the Failed Critics Podcast Christmas turkey with a few new releases just for good measure (and to hide the taste of our giblets). There’s a few choice words for Office Christmas Party (look out for Brooker’s written review tomorrow – it’s a doozy) and a word of warning for those hoping to catch Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation. We even make room for a wrap-up of Season One of Westworld.

Join us again in a couple of days for our Rogue One: A Star Wars Story special!

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Bad Santa 2

“It’s just a semi, don’t get so bent out of shape.”

Remember Bad Santa? I mean REALLY remember it? Because I remember it being one of those really wrong comedies that had me in stitches back in 2003. But that was the last time I watched it. So I thought I’d give the original a second pass last night before I saw its sequel.

Man that film has not aged well. An hour and a half of awfulness is the only way I can describe it. Absolute shite of the highest order that only managed to elicit a couple of mild chuckles out of me.

That didn’t leave me in the best frame of mind for the sequel, I can tell you.

Some 13 years after the events of the first film, we find Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) exactly where we left him: drunk in Phoenix, Arizona, with no prospects, no friends and failing miserably to kill himself when the oven he sticks his head in turns out to be electric! When the now 21 year old Thurman Merman appears at Willie’s apartment with an invite to Chicago for a job – and an obsession that’s only grown for the drunk Santa impersonating bank thief in the decade and a half since they met – it’s Christmas in the Windy City for Soke, reunited with his pint-sized partner Marcus (Tony Cox).

A family reunion awaits Willie in Chi Town as his equally crooked mum Sunny (Kathy Bates) meets him at his destination and lays out a plan to rob a kids charity during their Christmas Concert.

IT’S FUCKING NOVEMBER!!! Seriously! I’m watching Christmas comedies in November! Whoever scheduled this release needs to be strapped to every Christmas tree that’s put up this month and left to burn with them. IT’S FUCKING NOVEMBER!

Now that’s out of my system…

I’m not sure of the purpose of this film? It’s not like the world has been crying out for Billy Bob Thornton’s least likeable screen character – yes, I’m including the arsehole from Monster’s Ball – and I’m sure we’ve exhausted all the midget jokes there are to use. So what the Hell is the point of this movie?

Let me tell you, after ninety minutes and only a few genuine laughs, I can tell you that this review doesn’t have the answer you’re looking for. I just don’t know.

Bad Santa 2 doesn’t do anything different from the original; and maybe this is its biggest problem. On a second watch, the first film does not hold up against any measuring stick you wish to use. It’s an unfunny mess of a film that can’t skate through on its cut-close-to-the-quick, politically-incorrect comedy. Not because I’m some easily offended buffoon that thinks everyone needs a safe space, but because the jokes simply aren’t funny.

This misguided attempt at raking in Christmas movie money falls for the same problem for the most part, although where the original can be chalked up to a badly aged film, the sequel has absolutely no excuse for its lazy hack job script that attempts to offend anyone. It only really succeeds in getting under my skin because I took time out of my day to watch it.

I mean, Billy Bob must be kinda desperate for cash to do this. It’s possibly his most memorable character (except for the suit from Armageddon). I will never understand why Kathy Bates is doing the awful nonsense she keeps appearing in now. Between this, Tammy and The Boss over the last couple of years, I’m starting to fall out of love with the veteran, OSCAR WINNING actress. While she gets the best of the jokes and her delivery is the only thing that dragged laughs out of me for the most part, I can’t say the same thing for Christina Hendricks. A woman who’s had some amazing roles in the past, has been dragged into this monstrosity to be the replacement for Gilmore Girl Lauren Graham as the stock romantic interest. And honestly, I’m disgusted for her, if she isn’t already for herself. Brought in only so Thornton can deliver a “I’m not into that romantic mushy stuff” joke telling her she has big tits! An awesome talent, wasted because someone wanted to make a boob joke? For fuck’s sake.

As 2016 begins to wrap up, it never stops reminding us just how fucking pitiful a year it has been for films. As we roll into Oscar-bait season, we can only hope and pray that this unwashed nutsack of a film is forgotten as quickly as its predecessor; and hopefully the world will have ended before someone greenlights Bad Santa 3: Santa Harder.

IT’S FUCKING NOVEMBER!

Best Films on TV: Christmas to New Year 2015

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Every 23rd December, for the past three years, we have released our pick of the films being shown on freeview TV over the Christmas schedule. Last year’s choices were made by Paul Field, but returning to this Failed Critics Christmas tradition is site editor Owen Hughes. It practically guarantees less Carry On movies and probably more big budget blockbusters…

A couple of years ago, we were regularly posting lists of films that we would recommend for the week ahead. Oh, how times have changed. It seems these days that with the rise of Netflix and other streaming services, we’re less bothered about waiting for films to be shown on TV and instead watching whatever we want, whenever we want. Which is great! Except that it’s reduced these articles to annual posts.

Nevertheless, I’ve had a look through the TV schedule to see what tat is being pushed on us this year and tried to sift out some of the dross (although Steve will be pleased to know that The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is being shown on Christmas day at 11am) and chosen five decent-to-good movies each day in the run up to 2016.

Christmas Eve –

Finishing work early tomorrow? Want something to just stick on when you walk through the door to get you in a Christmassy mood? Well, stick Channel 4 on at 2.15pm and get straight into the classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Alternatively, if you’re sick of that bloody film already, try out the Robert Zemeckis animated A Christmas Carol over on BBC One at 2.20pm (it’s the version that I talked about on our Winterval Podcast this week). If you prefer your Scrooge’s to be real rather than cartoony, then stay up wrapping last minute presents until half past midnight for the 1951 version on Channel 5 starring Alastair Sim as the miserly grump. For those of us who relate a bit too much to Ebenezer, and can’t be arsed with this Christmas nonsense – bah humbug – then watch Karl Urban as the Mega-City One Judge, jury and executioner in Dredd on Film4 at 11.25pm or switch over to BBC Two five minutes later for one of Hitchcock’s best with Dial M For Murder.

Christmas Day –

We’ve had two of the most well known adaptations of Dickens’ novel, so why not start the afternoon with Channel 4 and give the other two a watch on Christmas day itself? Starting at 1.45pm with The Muppet Christmas Carol, they swiftly follow it up at 3.45pm with Bill Murray doing his thing in Scrooged. Later that evening, BBC Three have a double bill of animated movies that are safe to watch with granny, the kids, your other half or on your todd with Toy Story at 7.30pm and How To Train Your Dragon straight after it at 8.45pm. For something not at all schmalzy, sentimental or saccharine, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until much, much later in the evening as the Coen Brothers change the mood entirely at 00.05am on ITV4 with the hilarious 90’s comedy The Big Lebowski. Or, like, that’s just my opinion that it’s hilarious, man…

JURASSIC PARK, 1993. ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Boxing Day –

It may be somewhat twee, and I’m aware Wes Anderson isn’t for everyone, but if there’s a better film on TV for you to crawl out of your hangover with after getting up extremely late than Fantastic Mr Fox on Channel 4 at 11.25am, then I couldn’t find it. You can time it right to fit in a quick turkey sarnie and a fresh cuppa between it finishing and Jurassic Park starting over on ITV at 1.20pm, reminding you just how good the original was after Jurassic World swept the box office clean earlier this year. Really though, you should be watching the football. I believe that’s what Boxing Day was invented for. Once Final Score has finished, switch over to the horror channel at 6.40pm for the intense Spielberg thriller, Duel. Film4 can round off a very late evening with two modern British classics in crime thriller Sexy Beast (11.25pm) and Scottish sci-fi – and one of our favourite movies of 2014 – Under The Skin (1.10am).

Sunday 27th –

That’s the Christmas movies well and truly out of the way now and it’s Studio Ghibli to the rescue as we kick off the day with one of their most celebrated works, the charming My Neighbour Totoro. Flick over to Channel 5 at 2.25pm to see one of the greatest movies ever made, John Ford’s most revered western, The Searchers, starring the Duke himself, John Wayne. Starting at 4.05pm on BBC One is a fantasy movie returning to where it all began with Oz: The Great and the Powerful, which is actually quite a nice, funny little family movie. You can choose how you’d like to round off the day with one of the following two. Personally, I’d go for one of my favourite discoveries of the year, Cronenberg’s body-horror Videodrome (the horror channel, 10.50pm) over Channel 4’s showing of The Inbetweeners 2 at 11.10pm, that both Steve and Callum tore to pieces.

Monday 28th –

You maniacs! You haven’t yet set your reminder! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to Hell! Well, at least until Monday morning at 10.15am when you switch on More4 and watch the original Planet of the Apes – AND THEN later that day you’ll be fully prepared for Film4’s 6.55pm screening of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. At 8.30pm on BBC Three is Kung Fu Panda 2 (read why that’s a good thing in Callum’s brilliant piece from his DreamWorks retrospective). For something a little more… grown up… Steven Soderbergh’s movie Behind The Candelabra (BBC Two, 9pm) features one of Michael Douglas’s best ever performances. Finally, if the forgettable Terminator Genisys hasn’t already disappeared entirely from your memory, then James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day will wipe the last remnants from your mind on Film4 at 1.15am.

Tuesday 29th –

Channel 4, 2.30pm, Coraline. Film4, 6.10pm, Master & Commander. ITV2, 9pm, The Shawshank Redemption. ITV, 10.25pm, American Pie. My pick of the lot: Channel 5, 10.45pm, Erin Brockovich. That’s your lot. We’re running out of quality films on TV as the year comes to a close and I’m running out of patience trying to make these films sound interesting. However, if you think Tuesday’s films read a lot like a list of movies you’re glad that you’ve seen once but probably have no intention of ever watching again, just wait until you see what’s lined up for Wednesday…

Wednesday 30th –hobbit

We’ve got a run that starts with ITV2 at 5.45pm and Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth (that I actually thought was quite enjoyable) with The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyFilm4 will help change the tone to something surprisingly fun with Denzel and Wahlberg teaming up for crime-comedy Two Guns at 9pm. Tune into the horror channel at 10.45pm for some Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse horror at Planet Terror. Furious 7 may have already been voted for in quite a number of people’s submissions to the Failed Critics Awards, but Channel 4 go back a couple of sequels to Fast Five at 11.05pm. Afterwards, prepare for Joy with Film4’s showing of The Fighter at 1.10am.

Thursday 31st –

And here we are! New Year’s Eve and what better way to see off 2015 than with, er, well, The Adventures of TinTin on BBC One at 10.55am. (That was a rhetorical question. Don’t answer that.) More adventures are afoot with a rare screening of The Rocketeer on Channel 4 at 1.10pm and – a Pixar film guaranteed to make you cry – Up, over on BBC One at 2.50pm. I will be at a New Years party by this time (oooh get me) but if you fancy a night in watching movies to bring in 2016, then BBC4 honour Bob Hoskins, who sadly passed away this year, with Made In Dagenham at 10.55pm. Film4 are going slightly more modern and again doing the whole David O. Russell / Jennifer Lawrence / Bradley Cooper / Robert De Niro thing and are showing Silver Linings Playbook at 11.10pm.

Failed Critics Podcast: Winterval Special 2015

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Ding dong, merrily on high – Steve’s pants are wet and minging.

Don’t worry. He just got a bit over-excited on last week’s Star Wars podcast. But before Steve worked himself up into that state, you can listen to his usual mildly-subdued-self as he hosted our Christmas special podcast, recorded the week before he exploded in a fit of fan-geekery over The Force Awakens.

Joining him in our festive celebrations during this most unholy Winterval and non-religion-specific season are Owen Hughes, Andrew Brooker and Brian Plank. As is tradition, we start off with a Christmassy quiz – quite possibly the worst quiz we’ve had on the podcast all year. Possibly ever. But moods are soon lifted as the team run through which Christmas movies they’ve been watching over the holiday period.

In lieu of any main releases to talk about, we have a special triple bill where each member of the crew pick their films of Christmas past (favourite first watch of a non-2015 film during this year), Christmas present (favourite 2015 release) and Christmas future (which movie they’re most looking forward to in 2016). It really isn’t as confusing as I’ve made it sound.

There’s still one more podcast to go this year – our Failed Critics Awards end of year wrap up (deadline for votes is 27th Dec) – so you can join us again later this month. Until then, Merry Christmas from all of us here at Failed Critics!

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Krampus

Krampus

I have a funny relationship with Christmas. I love the festive season but not too early. Decorations in October? Adverts in November? Not for me, it gets on my nerves. But usually a week or two before the big day I get swept up in the holiday season.

This year my Christmas spirit arrived earlier than usual and rather strangely through the horror comedy Krampus, about an evil Christmas spirit, and I don’t mean your dad’s homemade sloe gin.

Krampus was written and directed by Michael Dougherty (the man behind cult horror Trick r Treat) and stars Adam Scott (of Parks and Rec fame) and Toni Collette (from The Sixth Sense), as well as a few other recognisable faces.

The film begins as a traditional dysfunctional family Christmas; unwanted family coming to stay, issues at hand and things not being ready on time. In fact the opening scene set in a shopping mall is brilliantly done.

Things come to a head when youngest child Max – after bullying by his cousins and the contents of his letter to Santa being revealed – stops believing in the real meaning of Christmas and accidentally invokes a horribly dark and evil incarnation of Santa, Krampus, encountered once many years previous by Max’s gran Omi.

The film plays for laughs as much as it plays for shocks and scares, which was something I did not expect going in, thinking it would be a straight forward horror.

Whilst it is a horror film and is extremely dark in places – horrible creatures taking children and so on – it certainly draws influence from the likes of Gremlins and Cabin in the Woods, playing up to many horror tropes. Evil gingerbread men and toy robots get as many laughs as they do jumps.

You also get a creepy feeling. Elves, snowmen, toys and reindeer should not be twisted and intimidating but here they are and with good effect.

Performance wise everyone is good but not great. No-one stands out as amazing but as a cast they pull together to make the film funny and very, very dark.

Krampus himself is a creepy and intimidating creature, briefly seen until towards the end, and you almost want the real Father Christmas to swoop in to banish Krampus back to the underworld.

With so many films, past and present, being overly saccharine and ramming Christmas down our mince pie filled throats and falling flat, Krampus almost scares you into believing in the true meaning of Christmas.

If you want to start feeling Christmassy, don’t bother with Love Actually, Muppets Christmas Carol or Die Hard, but instead watch this ho-ho-ho-rror and let Krampus make your spine tingle all the way.

Christmas With The Coopers

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“Just don’t mention Jesus, tax or gun control.”

It’s CHRISTMAS! That means we’ve been listening to carols in the shops for a month; mince pies have been on the shelves for two and we are slap bang in the middle of another period of a bunch of moronic boiled piss over some imaginary boogie man trying to “ban Christmas because it offends them”. It also means we get to see who is in film purgatory this year as the latest ensemble Crimbo film hits theatres.

This year’s rotten, stinking turkey of a film is Christmas with the Coopers; a family comedy drama with a cast so great, so fully loaded, that it couldn’t possibly fail. Could it? One giant family, fully populated with Hollywood greats all spending Christmas together sounds great. Grandad and family patriarch Alan Alda; Diane Keaton, John Goodman and Marisa Tomei bringing up the next generation; followed by Olivia Wilde and Ed Helms. All joined by the outsiders to the family Amanda Seyfried and Anthony Mackie, everyone has a story and everyone is trying to get home for Christmas dinner.

So, a quick run down of what’s going on, because it’s so stupidly complicated that I swear it started life as a Christopher Nolan film. Alda spends his days chilling in a local cafe, sweet talking waitress Seyfried who’s just being nice to the old dude. Keaton and Goodman are planning to tell the family they are seperating at Christmas dinner so spend the whole film bickering like, well, an old couple. Tomei is the petty sister who spends he whole film in the back of Mackie’s police cruiser having been busted for stealing a tacky old broach. Wilde is avoiding home, and her mum’s pity, and decides to drag along a soldier, waiting for a plane to take him to his first deployment but stuck in a snowed in airport, home to pretend she has a man. Helms is a recently unemployed dad trying to find a job and make Christmas for his kids. It’s all just so, so complicated, and so convoluted, and takes so bloody long to get to some kind of point that by the time everyone is introduced and explained, I’m already half asleep. As everyone travels, with varying degrees of success, towards home where a light and breezy happy ever after is guaranteed because, let’s face it, it’s a Christmas movie and we’ve all seen this film a hundred times before.

All of this narrated to us, via the family dog, voiced by Steve Martin, clearly just here to make us all go “who the fuck is that? I know that voice? Who is that?” For the entire hour and three quarter running time.

For shit’s sake. Can’t we have a year off from these things? Christmas With The Coopers is easily one of the worst of these movies I’ve seen in a while. It can’t tell if it’s a comedy about families falling apart and getting back together, or a long, drawn out drama about families falling apart and getting back together! For every forced gag there is an equally strained attempt at dragging a lump into your throat as everyone learns the meaning of life, the universe and everything in it over one Christmas Eve. I mean, this film made me laugh a measly three times! Two of those times came from the same joke, told twice, both of those times were shown in the film’s trailer! Ok, the third laugh was awesome. I pissed myself at a supremely childish but amazingly timed fart joke. But these jokes, and the amazing comedy talents of greats like Alan Alda and Olivia Wilde just can’t save this over long, boring, mainly unfunny sack of reindeer crap!

But hey. At least this one doesn’t have Vince Vaughn in it.

Failed Critics Podcast: End of Year Special!

Like our beloved founder and his gut/disdain for the films of Seth MacFarlane, we’re sure that you can’t contain your excitement for the 2014 Failed Critics Awards any longer! It’s that most magical time if year again, where four people who’ve seen some films this year are shunned by their family, set up in a dark corner of the house with their laptop and some booze, and talk you through the good, the bad, and the ugly in cinema from the last twelve months.

Steve and Owen are joined by Matt Lambourne and prodigal son James Diamond as they attempt to better last week’s quiz (not hard), discuss the year’s films in a calm and rational manner (considerably harder), and try and make it sound like it was at least recorded on the same continent (hmmmmm…).

We all want to thank each and every one of you for listening over the last twelve months. God knows why you still do, but we love you for it. Have a great Christmas and a brilliant New Year! We’ll be back in the first week of January with a slightly different format and our review of Birdman.

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Christmas Films on TV: Carry on Pauling

Last year we brought you a special edition of our Best Film on TV series, picking out the cream of the crop from the movies on TV over the Christmas period. We return to the series for a one-off article written by Paul to once again recommend the films being shown on television over this festive season. Think of it like the Radio Times. But better.

by Paul Field (@pafster)

carry on cleoHonestly, how lazy and predictable is the Radio Times Christmas film guide? They wheel out Barry Norman and Andrew Collins to tell you to watch James Bond & Toy Story, handing them 5 stars and gushing reviews aimed at people who’ve never seen them, in 2014…… it’s as if VHS, DVD, Blu-ray and the myriad of streaming services .never happened. Because clearly if you failed to see these films at the local picture house, terrestrial television is absolutely your first chance to see them – if it was 1975. Guess what Andrew, everyone already has Toy Story on DVD. You may live in a world where you all pile round the village elders hut, where the only telly in the village is located, and enjoy the annual treat of the Queen’s speech and James Bond on a black and white portable. We’re here to offer an alternative selection…

Christmas Eve –

Radio Times says Skyfall at 8pm on ITV (utter drivel, Craig has the charisma of a cereal box, three hours of your life I’ve saved you there). Instead head over to 5* for madcap horror at 9pm with Cabin in the Woods. 11.40pm on Film4 will see you set for brutal Indonesian actioner The Raid and set your recorder for C4’s Finnish offering Rare Exports at 1.55am, where we meet a very different Santa Claus….

Christmas Day –

Radio Times says Puss in Boots. I’d rather eat pus from an old boot. Who’s paying these people to pick whatever ropey kids film is on at 3 o clock as ‘film of the day’. Much more fun to be had by heading for Carry On Screaming on ITV 3 10.50, and staying with them as they deliver a feast of classic British comedy…Carry on Camping 12.50pm, On The Buses 2.35pm, Mutiny on the Buses 4.25pm, Holiday on the Buses 6.15pm, Carry On Cleo 8pm, Steptoe and Son Ride Again 10pm and finally Frankie Howard rocks up last knockings for Up Pompeii at midnight

Boxing Day –

Radio Times says Avengers Assemble is ‘film of the day’ on BBC1 at 8.30pm. What they mean is, ‘most expensive film of the day’. C5 at 5pm have the late great Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau in A Shot In The Dark. Movie Mix are kicking it old school at 9pm with Blue Thunder, you can’t do better than 80’s cops in cool helicopter movies. Late offering from Film 4, Shane Meadows nasty Dead Man’s Shoes with the ever watchable Paddy Considine 12.15am.

Saturday 27th –

Radio Times, finally pick something off the wall, The Raven (John Cusack in a ropey costume drama). No thanks, we’re heading off to BBC4 at 7.30pm for some truly wonderful Ealing comedy with Whisky Galore. E4 at 9pm deliver up some Statham action with the 3rd instalment of The Transporter series and its recorder time again for a 1.55am on Film 4 with the excellent and often overlooked… Super.

Sunday 28th –

Radio Times have gone all out, hours of thought and deliberation have gone into choosing ET…..sigh. There’s 80’s fantasy on offer with Movie Mix instead at 1pm for Krull, 5.15 on 5* has laughs aplenty with Danny Devito and Matthew Broderick doing battle in Deck The Halls, and good old Film 4 again come to the rescue with gritty period drama about bootleggers at 11.05pm, Guy Pearce, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Shia LaBeouf all star in Lawless.

Monday 29th –

Radio Times, I’d rather be back at work than watching today’s offering of The Muppets at 6.20pm on BBC1. For those of us off though, we’ve classic comedy on C4 at 2.50 with Brewster’s Millions or C5 are serving up a wartime treat with The Dam Busters at 3pm. Woody Harrelson puts in a shift over on ITV4 at 10pm with Natural Born Killers, and a late offering on Film 4 as Peter Dinklage stars in an odd little comedy about inheriting a disused railway station, The Station Agent 11.20pm.

Tuesday 30th –

Radio Times. One of those Harry Potter Movies, no idea which one, they’re all the same and they’re all shit. Move along please….7.45 in the am if you’re up and about, the original body-swap comedy is on C4, Freaky Friday. Couple of double bills that might float your boat, Young Guns 1 & 2 kicks off at 9pm on 5USA and who doesn’t love holidaying with the Griswalds? 11pm on ITV4 and you can have a National Lampoons Vacation & European Vacation.

New Years Eve –

Radio Times. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Barry Norman picked that, what meds he is on nowadays? We’ll be getting into our bustles and bonnets as James McAvoy rocks up with Anne Hathaway in Becoming Jane, 1.20pm on BBC2. Proper afternoon war film on C5 at 3.10pm as Lee Marvin leads an all-star Dirty Dozen. If you’re not down the pub, the best film of the whole festive break ends our listings, BBC4 at 11pm and the amazingly talented Alec Guinness before he was pissing about in Star Wars delivers multiple performances in one of the finest comedies ever made, Kind Hearts & Coronets.

Failed Critics Podcast: The Battle of the Four Critics

get santaWelcome one and all to a very merry penultimate edition of the Failed Critics Podcast 2014! We took a couple of weeks off in a bid to resolve our audio issues, but have returned just in time for Christmas. Joining stalwarts Owen and Steve are our special guests Matt Lambourne and Callum Petch.

Foregoing any news this week, mainly in an effort to keep spirits high, we kick off the festivities with a twist on the regular quiz theme. The team run through which Christmas movies they’ve been watching on the run up to the big day and there’s even time to squeeze in a review of the most anticipated December blockbuster The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Peter Jackson’s final journey into Middle Earth.

We’ve even brought you an early triple bill shaped present for such a joyous occasion as this. Steve, Owen, Matt and Calum pick their three favourite films featuring actors who have famously played Santa Claus on the big screen; Tim Allen (The Santa Clause), Richard Attenborough (Miracle on 34th Street), James Cosmo (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Tom Hanks (The Polar Express) respectively.

Join us next week for the end of year special as we reveal the winners (and losers) of the Failed Critics Awards 2014!

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A Festive Competition

Our friends over at  http://www.simoney.co.uk have been in touch to share a competition they’re running. To spread the Christmas cheer, we’re now sharing it with you!

To celebrate Christmas this year, they have designed a Christmas poster featuring characters from 25 famous Christmas movies:

Simoney-Christmas-Competition

 

Click the image to view a larger version

For your chance to win a printed copy of the poster, email failedcritics@gmail.com with the subject ‘Christmas Competition’ and your answers listed 1-25. The winner will be the entrant who gets closest to naming all 25 correctly. Deadline for submissions is Monday 5 January 2015.

Good luck and merry Christmas from all at Failed Critics!

Best Films on TV: 16 – 22 December

This week sees a return of our best film on TV articles. If you’re ‘bah humbugging’ your way through December, Owen is here to tell you what to watch out for this week.

Deep Blue SeaMonday 16 December – Deep Blue Sea (Five, 22.00)

Bah! It’s that time of year again where nothing is on TV but half-baked Christmas specials and those awful family Christmas movies starring kids you’ve never seen in anything else, getting all teary eyed at the magic the Yule tide brings. Thankfully, Five have seen sense and decided it put on a film about super-intelligent sharks, chomping their way through an underwater facility made up of scientists and Samuel L Jackson. Merry Christmas, every one.

Tuesday 17 December – Ping Pong (Film4, 23.05)

Although I would dearly love to choose Zoolander for the umpteenth time, what with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty due out soon and because it’s a very funny comedy, I am most intrigued by this documentary Film4 are showing. Released last year, it tells of an elderly man given a week to live and his trip to China to compete in a world senior ping pong competition (instead of setting up a meth lab to provide for his kids, a la Walter White.) With lots of good write ups and purely because it sounds so unusual, I reckon this will be the best film on TV on Tuesday. Yes. Even better than the generically sounding ‘A Star for Christmas’ on Five.

Wednesday 18 December – A Field In England (Channel 4, 00.20 (Thu morning))

Didn’t get a chance to see Ben Wheatley‘s trippy film about a group of deserters in the English Civil War? Well here’s an early Christmas present for you from Channel 4 who are repeating one of the most bizarre releases of 2013. Divisive amongst those who saw it, not just our podcast team, you’ll either think it brilliant or “pretentious shit”. (It’s brilliant, by the way.)

Thursday 19 December – The Social Network (Film4, 21.00)

Christmas can often be the time of year for taking stock of what you have in life and laughing hard at those losers who don’t got what you got lolz. Ahem. The Social Network is one such opportunity to do that, as you can point and sneer at Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of crushingly obnoxious super-rich loser and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. It’s also a pretty good film, which is something of a bonus.

Friday 20 December – Die Hard (E4, 21.00)

Oh, alright, I suppose I better pick at least one Christmas film this week. But if I have to, then it’s going to be John McTiernan‘s Godfather of all action movies, Die Hard. Starring Bruce Willis as the shoeless cop trapped in a building overrun with terrorists, trying to rescue his wife, what could be more Christmassy than that? Yipee kayay mother fuc–I mean, father Christmas.

Saturday 21 December – The Young Victoria (BBC2, 17.25)

For something a bit more mellow after the previous bout of fists, guns and blood, look no further than Emily Blunt giving one of her best performances to date as Queen Victoria in this period drama. Romantic, tragic and amusing, it is far better than it had any right to be. I’m trying to remember if she gives any speeches about reforms, pensions, and places her and Albert visited that year, but none spring to mind.

Sunday 22 December – My Neighbour Totoro (Film4, 11.00)

Are you sick of us recommending this yet? Is it because you still haven’t gotten around to watching it? Is that because there’s something wrong with you? Well, consider this a final warning.. or… recommendation (sounds less threatening that way.)  Studio Ghibli’s animation is sweet, funny and delightful. But, if you are feeling a bit depressed, you could check out ITV4. They’re showing men killing each other for petty reasons starting with All Quiet on the Western Front at 11.45, followed by Paths of Glory. Never Let Me Go on Channel 4 at 10.25 should be enough to leave you heartbroken and lost for breath should you not be able to get a copy of Up on DVD. Although, if you really must watch a proper Christmas film this week, then Scrooged starring Bill Murray is also on Channel 4 at 4.30. With all these good films arriving on one day, it’s like Christmas has come early. Sorry.

It’s a Wonderful Film!

its-a-wonderful-lifeWe’ve reached the end of our 12 Days of Christmas Films, and I cannot think of a better film to round off our festive series. It’s a special kind of film that makes you well up just reading the plot summary on Wikipedia. Or so someone told me. No, you’re trying to stop tears saturating your keyboard!

Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (a worthy prefix in the style of ‘William Shakespeare’s Hamlet’, or ‘Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol’) is simply the greatest Christmas film of all time. It might not feature Santa Claus, someone falling off of a roof putting up decorations, or even take place predominantly over the Christmas period – but its simple message is one that everyone needs reminding of at this particular time of the year.

James Stewart (in his favourite role) plays George Bailey; simply the most selfless and implausibly kind person who ever lived. Seriously, he makes Mother Theresa look like Tony Soprano. At the start of the film an angel (Second Class) by the name of Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers) is tasked with saving George as he contemplates taking his own life. Clarence’s line-managers (it helps me to put religion into context by imagining the afterlife as some higher form of bureaucracy) review the life of George Bailey, and the next 50 minutes or so are some of the most depressing and asphyxiating cinema ever committed to film.

George saves his brother’s life and, in doing so, loses his hearing in one ear; George stays at home to run the family business; George gives his college money to his brother; George sacrifices his honeymoon fund to save the townspeople. It’s one crushing disappointment after another, and George remains stoic above it all. He’s not even one of those people who uses their goodwill as a stick to beat the rest of us feckless bastards with.

It all finally gets too much for George though, leading to him meeting Clarence on the bridge where he is about to kill himself. Clarence proceeds to show George how Bedford Falls would look if he had never existed. It’s here where we learn (or are at least reminded of a) vital truth about our humanity. In recent years the trend has been to embrace science, with all its logic and reason rightfully highlighting how insignificant we are in the broad history of the universe. Compared to the alternative, that is a very good thing. But this film’s central message that “no man is a failure who has friends” is one even rabid atheists can use to embrace their humanity at Christmas.

This is a short piece for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m writing this on Christmas Eve before I go to the cinema with my family to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen. And I’m not even dressed yet. More importantly though, every extra word I write about this masterpiece is wasted computer ink compared to actually watching it for yourselves. So turn off your computer/phone/second-screen device, track down a copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, and hold your friends and family close.

Merry Christmas!

Read the 12 Days of Christmas Films so far, or catch White Christmas most days on Sky Movies Classics.

Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! (White Christmas.)

white-christmas-snowWe have a saying in our family: ‘Gran friendly’, used to describe inoffensive methods of entertainment which the whole family can enjoy together. This means something other than Rammstein on the stereo over Christmas lunch, board games other than Pictionary (which causes us to use only the good swear words while stabbing each other with pencils) alongside the cheese & biscuits, and a suitable film on the telly. Personally, one of my earliest Christmas day memories is staying up late to watch Tremors with my dad, but even I recognise the need for something a little more wholesome with your post turkey cuppa when there are pensioners present.

White Christmas tells the tale of two old war buddies slash entertainers. The film opens to a barrage of artillery, like Saving Private Ryan. Although, as this occurred some 50 years previously, the falling brickwork effects don’t feel quite so dramatic. Nonetheless filmed in Technicolor and, notably, the first film to be released on VistaVision, it looks fantastic before they’ve even dusted off those Christmas costumes.  Indeed, this is a simpler time. You know the era – everyone talks proper, people regularly launch into song, and if someone announces their engagement there’s always a pianist within earshot to immediately bash out a quick rendition of ‘here comes the bride’

Bing Crosby is Bob Wallace, the eternal brooding bachelor who pulls off a heart wrenching tribute to his former army General. Fred Astaire was originally offered the part of Phil Davis, Wallace’s singing partner, but turned it down after seeing the script, the silly billy. Still, Danny Kaye is a brilliant comic actor and pulls off a masterful slapstick performance. His fake falling down the stairs distraction technique is particularly endearing.

The Haynes sisters (“Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister”) played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, constantly wear matching outfits, which only goes to exacerbate how completely different they look from each other. Personally I think one of them is the milkman’s. Clooney is sensible and stern, and you can’t help studying her face for traces of her young Oscar winning nephew. Meanwhile Vera-Elle is sparkly eyed and ably flings herself around the dance floor, showcasing her footwork and ability to avoid health and safety hazards simultaneously. Seriously, who the hell puts a lake in a night club?

The four pals are soon living it up on the train to Vermont, America’s snow playground, singing “Snow, snow, snow, snow!” at any opportunity. I speak from experience when I say this is the perfect song to join in with through your drunken, post lunch haze. The musical numbers do all feel pleasingly familiar, which is lovely. There is nothing worse than watching a musical unable to sing along because you don’t recognise a single one of the songs. (Thanks a bunch recently viewed theatre production of Hello Dolly!)

The characters are cute and likeable, particularly the adorable General, which is just as well when you know what happens at the end. There are snow related jokes galore, and plenty of ballgowns and big dance numbers to keep Gran happy.

Phil Davis: My dear partner, when what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.

Bob Wallace: When I figure out what that means I’ll come up with a crushing reply.

Read the 12 Days of Christmas Films so far, or catch White Christmas most days on Sky Movies Classics.