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Captain America: Civil War

Civil War

“Sorry” might always seem to be hardest word, Elton, but “accountability” might be the most unsexy. Particularly so if you’re trying to build a 147 minute long action movie around such a concept.

Let’s chuck in a few more terms, shall we? How about “legislation”, “treaty” and “U.N.-Accord”?

Captain America: Civil War could easily have suffered from dry, phlegmatic, po-faced earnestness, wallowing in miserableness as a collection of dumbfounded superheroes sit on the naughty step and think about what they’ve done.

Instead, fresh from the Sokovia fallout of the dreary misstepping Avengers: Age of Ultron, our eclectic band of merry super-powered chums begin the third instalment of Marvel’s Captain America trilogy with a skirmish in Lagos. As perpetually happens around these unregulated vigilantes / brave protectors (delete as applicable), chaos, destruction and collateral damage is never too far behind.

Just as they were after the hundreds of deaths from the New York alien-attack in Avengers Assemble, the crashing helicarriers in Washington DC during The Winter Soldier, and of course the omni-shambles of Age of Ultron‘s Sokovia rescue, it’s the Avengers who are held responsible for the loss of innocents’ lives in Nigeria. Thus begins a slow dissection of the role played by a group existing outside of the law, punctuated by enormous and often exceptionally well paced inter-fighting punch-ups.

Policing the planet as they see fit in this fantasy world of magic crystals, impenetrable metals and super soldiers, it takes no time at all for General Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) to step in on behalf of a world scared half to death by a rogue, unregulated group of suited, walking, fighting nuclear bombs, tick-tocking their way towards a potential armageddon.

Although in name this is a Captain America sequel, it certainly feels much more comfortable as the Avengers follow-up many hoped for last year. Returning after a successful stint helming The Winter Soldier, directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s wizardry with a camera has thankfully kept consistency in tone with the franchise, as Civil War continues to be a hard-hitting, politically-charged commentary with genre-defining action sequences and equally solid performances from a cast slotting back into place like a well-worn suit made of iron with a robot friend called Friday inside of it.

Friends and ideologies clash frequently during the blockbuster – and only some of the time by using their words and not their vibranium inventions. OK, most of the time the hullabaloo breaks out into bouts of armour-clad blows, rather than democratic discussions. But it’s still much more “talky” for a blockbuster than perhaps one is used to. And, crucially, it just isn’t boring. It’s full of engaging and often thought-provoking dialogue. Quips and visual gags worm their way into some of the more serious conversations, but it still attempts to raise some tough topics.

Just as Mark Millar’s 2006 comicbook series (upon which this film is loosely based) dealt with a post-9/11 society, fearing a self-appointed world-police, too powerful to stop – or even if stopping them was the right or wrong thing to do – so too does the Russo’s version relate events to the real world. Civil War could quite passably be an analogy for gun control in the US, amongst other things.

For example, on one side, there’s Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr) position as the man doing his best to negotiate a fair deal for his pals, arguing that the best way to arm is to disarm and sign the UN’s proposed Sokovia Accord (akin to the “superhero registration act” in the comics). On the opposite side is Steve Rogers’s (Chris Evans) team who feel it’s their duty to step-up whenever they need to, operating without the bias of any government agendas.

It could be argued that one side represents the regulation and control of firearms, with the other in support of the people’s right to bear arms (albeit briefly). The moment that the two teams clash in an epic showdown – the likes of which we haven’t seen performed as accomplished as this since Whedon’s Phase One concluding team-up some four years and six movies ago – puts paid to this exact notion from that point onwards. But there’s still a lot to be read into this movie. Prepare for more astute observations crossing your path in the weeks and months to come from thousands of other bloggers and writers.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at the teams on either side of the scrap:

Team Cap
Against the idea of becoming United Nations controlled agents, restricted to fighting only the causes upon which they determine suitable

  • Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) – Leader of the movement and the main protaganist for whom the film’s perspective is mainly viewed from. Evans appears to be having a blast and his enthusiasm is infectious – but my God those are some seriously intimidatingly large muscles.
  • Falcon / Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) – Cap’s best friend and winged companion has an increased role in Civil War and benefits greatly from it. The first time that Falcon has been more than a bit-part character and Mackie handles the responsibility with aplomb. He actually appears to have a purpose on the team rather than being Cap’s fluffer.
  • Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) – Previously the ex-Hydra assassin was a feared villain, but Stan’s portrayal of the man, turned into a complex and emotionally fragile victim with an edge of danger, sees him sit comfortably alongside his former buddy in Rogers’ motley crew.
  • Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) – The only Sokovian in the Avengers; traumatised and emotionally scarred by the events in her home country and those in Lagos, Wanda adds an extra dimension to the story, even if it is somewhat unrealised potential.
  • Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) – Thank Christ there’s no longer any weak attempts to puff out Hawkeye’s background with side-plots about his family that go nowhere and add nothing. He’s about as close to writer Matt Fraction’s version of the character that we’ve had so far and, although brief, is Renner’s best turn as Hawkguy yet.
  • Ant Man / Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) – Continuing to surprise, despite only a small (excuse the pun) part to play in Civil War, what Rudd does, Rudd does well. Fantastically well, even. He’s a highlight in what was already the best scene in the entire movie.

Team Iron Man
In favour of the UN’s Sokovia Accord, ensuring the Avengers are regulated by defence experts in order to limit the civilian casualties from their endeavours to save mankind

  •  Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) – For all intents and purposes, RDJ might as well share equal billing. It’s as much Iron Man 4 as it is Captain America 3. His role shows just how much the former weapons manufacturer has developed since first outing himself as a superhero in 2008’s Iron Man, bringing things full circle.
  • War Machine / James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) – If Falcon plays the role of Captain America’s sidekick, then War Machine fits as Iron Man’s. Provides the logos to the debate relative to Falcon’s pathos. But man, Don Cheadle is looking old.
  • Black Widow / Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) – The cynical may say Black Widow is only on this side of the fence to balance the teams’ female quotas. Nevertheless, the role she plays provides a contrarian narrative and further develops her relationship with Rogers from The Winter Soldier.
  • Vision (Paul Bettany) – The suave-voiced red-skinned being is reduced to the role of babysitter for much of his screentime, but twice Bettany gets to show off his acting talents with moments of profundity that keep the near God-like being grounded and relatable.
  • Black Panther / T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) – Making his debut, the Prince of fictional African country Wakanda is forced to pick a side in his pursuit of vengeance. Boseman’s suitably unplaceable accent aside, he makes as much of an impact as one could hope for (if not more) in such a role. Bring on his solo film in 2018!
  • Spider-Man / Peter Parker (Tom Holland) – Yes. Yes, yes, yes. This is how to do Spider-Man. It’s only taken 14 years, but this is it. Holland is perfect as the web-slinging wall-crawler in a larger role than perhaps expected. Currently in pre-production ahead of release next year, Homecoming looks set to be the fun adventure that the character deserves, if Civil War is any evidence to go by.

Regardless of the fact that we already have twelve characters squished into the two-and-a-half-hour long film, some people might be wondering where the other chaps are. Where’s Thor, Hulk, Fury, Maria Hill, Phil Coulson (still) – heck, why are Ant Man and Spider-Man being invited to the big leagues but Daredevil, Jessica Jones, et al left un-namechecked?

It’d be pure speculation to suggest answers. It could have been a creative decision made by the Russo brothers or writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, with Thor and Hulk especially deemed too over-powered for a film like this.

It could have been Marvel big cheese Kevin Feige laying down the law. Ruffalo and Hemsworth might have been too busy with other projects. Who really knows? The same principle applies as it always does in these situations: It really doesn’t matter. These are the characters selected. This is all you’re getting. Deal with it, as the meme goes.

The biggest issue lies not with who isn’t in it, but with who it does include. Incorporating Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo (an arch-nemesis of Captain America’s in the comics) structurally speaking makes a lot of sense when you lay out a blueprint for the entire movie.

However, the motivations behind his actions are at best understandable and at worst weak, predictable and a disservice to the character’s history. Also, he doesn’t wear purple pyiamas. What’s up with that?

Oh, right, yeah. It’s a bit naff.

Realistically, Zemo is somewhere in between the two, languishing around the “ordinary” mark. Hats off to Brühl for a competent account of himself as an actor, but Zemo is far from necessary in a film already overstuffed with characters. He adds nothing that couldn’t have been done equally well with, say, the returning Frank Grillo in a beefed up role as Crossbones.

Either way, it’s irrelevant as Captain America: Civil War is still very much worthy of your time. With a larger cast than any previous Marvel film, it somehow manages to balance screen time to an extraordinarily even degree, putting much of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to shame.

Yes, it may gradually escalate towards a big climactic fight scene, as happens in every Marvel superhero comic book action film ever, but the route it takes to get there combined with the rationale behind it makes the deciding brawl more meaningful than your average crash-bang-wallop finale.

Civil War is interesting, exciting, often fun and slightly unconventional. It goes straight into the top tier of the studio’s output and will doubtless only improve on future rewatches.

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Deadpool

deadpool-movie-stills-dream

“Whose balls did I have to fondle to get my very own movie?”

Let’s get this out the way quick and easy; I don’t read comic books, I don’t care about comic books and I certainly couldn’t care less about how faithful comic book films are to their source material. I just want a good film out of whatever I’m paying to see this week. That being said, no matter how aggressively average X-Men Origins: Wolverine was, its depiction of Deadpool may have been one of the worst things I have ever seen put to film. Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson was funny, but the Deadpool character he was mutated to, played by Scott Adkins – an entirely different actor – was just fucking awful.

Thankfully, after years of threatening to give fans exactly what they wanted with a real, true to the comics, Deadpool; Reynolds and first-time director/long-time video game effects producer Tim Miller have vowed to do us all proud and brought the “Merc with a mouth” to the big screen in not just the best comic book film that Fox has put out, ever; but maybe a challenger for my favourite comic book film ever.

Chasing after the man that left Wilson a scarred, deformed mess under his red spandex, Deadpool sees our hero cutting a path through anyone that gets between him and his new worst enemy; a man who has made a career creating mutants from desperate people. Having offered Wade Wilson escape from the multiple cancers that riddle his body, his cure comes at far too high a price for ‘Pool who loses far more than he gains from his “treatment”.

Story wise? That’s pretty much all you need. Deadpool isn’t a film that lives and dies on its story telling. It is a film whose sole existence is to make you laugh harder than you’ve laughed at any comedy in the last year or so. Making no bones about the fact that this film isn’t supposed to exist, Deadpool is a beautifully self aware film that shows far more genius than anyone expected. Within a couple of minutes of the opening titles, the fourth wall is broken as the red-suited nutter addresses his audience and drags us kicking and screaming into a world that so many of us thought we would never get to enjoy.

The real surprise with this flick, though, is the emotion at its centre. Most of Deadpool’s motivation comes via the girlfriend he proposed to just before his cancer diagnosis; Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa is the perfect emotional core for a film that I wasn’t expecting to have one. They bring us some weighty, heartfelt moments that serve not only to help us connect with the pre-mutated Wade Wilson; but they also amplify the already pretty out there, balls to the wall comedy to insane levels.

The laughs and the action are where Deadpool‘s greatest strengths lie. Razor sharp humour that takes aim at some of the most unexpected targets with a few politically incorrect and just flat out wrong digs at some that clearly wronged the writers in a past life. Genuine laugh-out-loud moments that had me wishing I could pause the film to wipe the tears from my eyes before the next joke came along. With action scenes as sharp as its humour; every fight, every explosion, every set piece looks absolutely gorgeous and feels bone-crunching. When your film’s fights include people with super-powers, the only way to go is completely ridiculous and that, is Deadpool‘s bread and butter.

With impressive and surprisingly good support from his bad guys, Deadpool has as much fun with its bad guys as its hero. With fun turns from Ed Skrein, a man who has finally embraced his budget price Statham image and enjoyed his time with it; and the always fun to watch Gina Carano in as his henchman (henchwoman? Henchperson?) doing all his heavy lifting. We’ve had a couple of X-Men imported into our film but even when the over the top Colossus and the delightfully stupid Teenage Warhead come on screen, nothing feels out of place or overpowered. Everyone compliments everyone else and at no point, even when we are eyeballs deep in insane superhero jousting tournaments, do any of these characters feel stupid or out of place.

Everything about this film screams that it’ll be filled with in-jokes and meta humour that will quickly become irrelevant and in a couple of years simply won’t we worth watching anymore. Thankfully, that’s nothing like what we get here. On its surface, Deadpool is a childish, silly flick for those looking to giggle their way through a couple of hours. But in reality, its sharp humour, superb cast and great action make this a film that not only blows away most of what Marvel have been putting out over recent years, but will still be fun to watch without losing any edge for years to come. In his fifth comic book movie appearance, Ryan Reynolds has finally given us an almost perfect film and an almost perfect performance. I can’t recommend it enough.

Fantastic Four

Wolverine Origins. Elektra. Catwoman. Rise of the Silver Surfer. If you really think Josh Trank’s new Fantastic Four is on the same rung of the ladder as these appalling excuses for entertainment, then you should prepare yourself for some serious head-shaking if you decide to read on.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

fantastic four 2015Hi, my name is Owen Hughes and I am a comic book reader. Something that pre Marvel’s film renaissance was something to share with only a select few like-minded friends, not to admit to in public. Well, Batman was fine to confess to. Spider-Man too in some circles. But mention goofy names like Fantastic Four and you were on your own.

Admittedly, I’m not now (nor have I ever particularly been) an avid reader of Marvel comics specifically. I’m more of a DC kind of guy. If that doesn’t make much sense to you, then consider the age-old quote about Marvel heroes being aspirational, whereas DC’s roster are inspirational; whilst not quite as consistently black and white as that, I felt myself drawn more often than not towards DC’s God-like characters (and Batman. Everybody loves Batman.)

What comicbook issue or story I would pick up in next month’s pull list only ever came down to two determining factors: a) which characters I liked and had invested time in already; and b) what writer was working on a project. Cue my interest developing in Fantastic Four when, after some limited experience with their place in the Ultimates Universe via other titles, a friend foisted upon me the first trade paper back of the run by the immensely talented writer Jonathan Hickman. It was… difficult. Not completely impenetrable, but certainly confusing and disorientating to begin with, but at the same time impressively ambitious. It wove mind-bendingly intricate plots and character arcs that I couldn’t even begin to conceive of how they would end, let alone how the next page or panel would continue.

When Josh Trank started to talk about being influenced by the work of David Cronenberg, I wasn’t sure how to react. A part of me was still reeling from the lamentable 2005 film and its sequel. Yet another part of me remained optimistic. A Cronenberg-esque Fantastic Four movie? Yep, that could work. Taking his inspiration from the Brian M Bendis / Mark Millar (yes that Kick-Ass guy) interpretation of the characters in their Ultimate Fantastic Four comics, it should have been perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to make the characters and story primarily for young children just because the group’s name is embarrassing to say out loud as an adult. I’ve seen Hickman successfully do more adult and darker stories in the comics. Twice, no less, if you include the few issues of Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates that I’d read. If any young aspirational director out there could do it justice, then naturally the guy behind one of 2012’s surprise hits, Chronicle, could be that guy?

Unfortunately, from the moment the project was announced, it hasn’t been without its lion share of controversy. With Trank allegedly trashing the set, upsetting his crew and causing headaches for the higher-ups at Fox, however true or false the rumours were, it permitted a swell of negativity about the movie in the public perception even before its trailer had made it to the screen. Throw in the ridiculous furore over casting an African American, Michael B Jordan, as the traditionally Caucasian hot-head character Johnny Storm, as if this was somehow an integral part of the character’s make up, and it just fanned the flames (get it? Because Johnny Storm says “flame on” when he sets himself on fire! It’s a joke! I’m trying to add humour to a super-serious film review… oh, never mind.)

Whilst many fans rejoiced at the progressiveness of casting the best actor for the role regardless of skin colour, a small section of narrow minded idiots couldn’t deal with it. “What if they decided to cast James Bond as a woman?” “What if they made Batman a disabled child?” “What if they cast a midget as Jack Reacher?” Yeah. Exactly. What if? If the end product is good enough, then who honestly has reason to care?

I suppose that’s what this review should eventually boil down to. Was this a good enough interpretation of not just the Human Torch, but of all the characters in general? From Johnny Storm’s adopted sister Susan, played by Kate Mara, to best buddies Ben Grimm (aka The Thing) played by British actor Jamie Bell, and (the ever-growing in popularity) Miles Teller as the limb stretching Mister Fantastic, Reed Richards, they just don’t gel as a unit at any point. Trank often breaks the group up into smaller teams to demonstrate how they are weaker apart. Tragedy befalls the group every time they don’t work as a cohesive line-up, especially when they ditch a key component of their group to navigate some inter-dimensional travel in what is for all intents and purposes an origins story to a sequel that may never happen based on initial critical reception.

It should be pointed out that this isn’t clearly explained within the film itself. For a movie that appears to pride itself on developing its characters, it appears to have bitten off more than it could chew. Rather than let characters organically drift in and out of the story as and when necessary, it seems as though Trank presumably accidentally casts them adrift for large portions of the runtime. For example, when Ben has done his bit with Reed, off he goes for a good 20 minutes. Not that Reed himself is immune to the chop as he all but disappears for what must be about 8-10 minutes of the film too. Hoping to see the fallout from Victor Von Doom’s shenanigans? Think again. At least the other characters get name checked during their absence. Poor old Doom isn’t even alluded to during his time out. I can only assume that the point is to drive home the “better together” message at the heart of the story. Alas, like large chunks of proceedings, it just wasn’t portrayed well.

Admittedly that may be slightly harsh as it’s hard enough sometimes to properly develop a couple of characters in a 100 minute movie, let alone six or more. Nevertheless, it’s still a problem. There was also little to no balance between characters’ emotions as they one second appeared to hold a certain opinion before careering off suddenly into a completely different lane like an out of control Toyota.

Frequently scenes had me scratching my head. Not because of its complex Warren Ellis inspired levels of scientific detail, but because of either how badly edited and/or written they were, which is only the more infuriating as in some areas there seems to be a lot of care of attention to detail. If you are at all wound up by little niggly pedantic problems often labelled as “goofs” on IMDb profiles, then this won’t be the movie for you as they were all too common an occurrence to be ignored.

However, like most moments throughout, there’s both good and bad to be found in every scene. The specific moment when the characters first gain their abilities is one of the more entertaining sections, generating as much tension as the film could muster. The effects looked stunning and played their part in increasing the excitement. In contrast, the set of circumstances leading these characters to this point are so incredibly contrived and lazy that it makes my defence of it so much more difficult. Even the events immediately afterwards show very little of the fallout and are nowhere near as cataclysmic as they should be. Reg E. Cathey is arguably the most well cast member of the entire bunch, but the hints at backstory between him and Toby Kebbell’s Victor Von Doom are underplayed and superficial. Tim Blake Nelson plays the government representative like a pantomime villain, but even the friction there with his interactions with the quartet is not utilised enough.

All in all, it’s great that Trank has at least attempted to avoid the all too common pitfalls of the genre. It would be an exaggeration to describe the opening third as exciting, but I count it as a positive that matters were very rarely resolved with a short period of clobbering. The seams start to come away through a plodding and stiflingly slow middle section which seems to be heading nowhere. That is until Trank can resist no longer and relents with a grand (albeit generic) action-packed finale. In keeping with the rest of the film, even this climactic showdown struggles to have a bit of fun with itself. If anything, I had the distinct impression that Trank was almost apologetic in the necessity of including such a mass-appeasing scene, rendering it rushed and unsatisfying in its conclusion.

What makes Fantastic Four hard to hate, and why I can’t get on the “this movie is terrible” train that is steaming past me at 100mph, is that despite what I’ve said, I honestly didn’t sit there bored. Instead, I was mostly in a constant state of waiting for the expected to eventually happen. Then, when it did happen, it disappointingly didn’t elicit any emotion in me one way or the other. The movie was over, and so too is presumably the franchise until the inevitable soft-reboot.

It’s a big budget superhero movie that will go down in the annals of history as a project that never fulfilled its potential with a director who never quite found his rhythm. It so nearly broke the mould for its type, but obliged to pander to its typical audience, it never strayed too far from what was familiar and ended up underachieving.

Half A Decade In Film – 2012

To bastardise a famous Eric Cantona quote: 2012 was a great year for film. Failed Critics was born.

Yes, this humble, modest, unassuming (what?) and shambolic film blog and podcast had its inaugural year less than a third of a decade ago. Beginning life as James Diamond’s personal blog, The Failed Critic, as he attempted to watch through the entire IMDb Top 250 list (and, suitably enough, failed to do so), it quickly expanded to include a weekly podcast and half a dozen other writers and contributors. Almost three years later and here we still are, if a little podgier larger than we were back then…

As we continue our quest to bring you the Failed Critics’ favourite films of the first half of this decade, it’s to 2012 that we look back on. A year when a James Bond film grossed over $1bn worldwide; when Peter Jackson introduced HFR to the mainstream with his first return to Middle Earth since The Lord of the Rings ended; and when people suddenly started to take Ben Affleck seriously again.


Dredd

Judge Dredd Still ImageNegotiation’s over. Sentence is death.

There’s a thing I do when I write something that someone else might read. If I’m reviewing anything, be it a film or a game or whatever, before I start writing I watch the trailer for it. Mainly so I know how far I can go with spoilers. If it’s in the trailer, it’s fair game to talk about. I do it when I’m spit-balling ideas on what to write and I can fully load my notes with stuff before I watch or play whatever I’m reviewing.

When I watched the trailer for Dredd to get the ideas flowing before I watched it that night, all the shivers I got the first time I saw it came back and I realised I’d made the right choice in my pick of 2012.

Judge Dredd was the only comic book I read as a kid. I still have my dog-eared copy of The Dark Judges on my bookshelf. So when I saw that trailer on a trip to the flicks, the teenager in me screamed! 13 year old me still hasn’t forgiven me or Sylvester Stallone for the abomination that was Judge Dredd. Stallone and his damn ego ruined the one comic book I love and seeing the trailer for Dredd showed me hope!

Turns out, that was pretty well placed hope. Dredd‘s story of a Judge and his rookie taking down a drug ring based in an apartment block is uncomplicated, brutal and just outstanding. Forget that awful “The judges are good guys really” thing from Sly’s film, Dredd is single-mindedly lethal and 100% the judge that fans wanted in the film adaptation of Mega City One.

Karl Urban’s Dredd is excellent. You can finally forget that terrible moment you saw Judge Dredd’s face (and it was Stallone) and place your faith comfortably on Urban’s gruff, uber-masculine chin and its outstanding acting ability. I had to fight against every fibre of my being wanting to stand and cheer when he says the iconic “I am the law”. Lena Heady is terrifyingly brilliant as the brutal head of the drug empire in the Peach Trees tower block. Going up against Dredd needs balls and smarts and Heady’s “Mama” has both, in spades. The two going at each other is a sight to behold for Dredd fans. Now, if we could only get a sequel.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


The West Memphis Three

unnamedIf I focused on the things I can’t change, the things that have hurt me, what people have done to me, then they would have already broken me.

2012 was the year of the documentary feature for me and I’m going to give them some love in this week’s Half A Decade In Film. Jackie Siegel in The Queen of Versaille, she had me shouting at the screen and holding my head in my hands. Joyce McKinney told her ‘Mormon in Chains’ story, in Errol Morris jaw-dropping and sleaze fuelled Tabloid. Things got even weirder by the time The Imposter hit our screens… this actually happened, really and truly. I’ve seen the dramatised version of this and they tone it down to make Frederic Bourdin’s tale even vaguely believable. Right there is a mind blowing triple bill, but its another triple bill that tops 2012. The West Memphis Three.

Damien Echols, Jessie Miskelley & Jason Baldwin and their tangle (understatement of the decade dropped in there) with the Arkansas justice system. In three ground breaking and truly eye-opening films we follow their story in Paradise Lost (1996), Paradise Lost 2 – Revelation (2000) and finally Paradise Lost 3 – Puragtory arrives to conclude matters. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky had no idea how this project would pan out and even if you’d told them, they’d never have believed you. If you don’t know their story, then it has to be seen to be believed, don’t go Googling though – go in knowing nothing and you’ll take away so much more. If you’re curious, but not convinced by investing 7 hours of your time to watch all this, Peter Jackson (yes, that one) & Amy Berg put out another film West of Memphis in 2012; this covers everything in a couple of hours, but the reality is, that simply doesn’t do their story justice.

Incredulity, rage and many, many tears is what awaits you here. Two decades of story telling warrants seven hours of your time.

by Paul Field (@pafster)


El Ultimo Elvis (The Last Elvis)

the last elvisHave you ever felt that you’ve done everything? That you’ve reached all your goals?

The recent “Best Film” Oscar for Birdman will, hopefully, result in interest being shown in the back catalogue of Armando Bo, co-writer of Birdman and the writer/director of this wonderful drama from Argentina.

Despite the name, this is NOT a film aimed at Presley fans. I don’t, knowingly, own any Elvis records and yet absolutely love this film; it’s a story about fandom taken to levels that far exceed what most people would class as obsession.

Carlos “Elvis” Gutiérrez is a Buenos Aires based Elvis Presley impersonator. Other than the fact that he is a fat, sweaty, bloke crowbarred into a sparkly jumpsuit, he doesn’t much look like Elvis but he most certainly does sound like him. The problem is Carlos isn’t content to just sound like him, he’s focused on being Elvis.

He spends the day working in a washing machine recycling factory with headphones clamped to his ears. When he visits his, understandably hostile, ex-wife he constantly calls her Priscilla, her name is Alejandra. His daughter and his car are both, naturally enough, named Lisa-Marie.

When Alejandra is badly injured in a car crash, Carlos has to put his “big plan” on hold to look after his daughter. The bulk of the film follows the relationship he attempts to build with Lisa-Marie and his spiralling, deeply damaging, obsession starts to change the way you feel about him. Is he a harmless crank, to be allowed his passion, or is he a selfish jerk?

Carlos is played by John McInerny, an American professional Elvis impersonator. The producers initially hired him to coach an Argentinian actor for the live performance segments of the film, apparently he won them over to such an extent they gave him the part instead. Considering he is not an actor by trade, his performance throughout the whole film is nothing short of wonderful. He is completely believable in the part. He plays the numerous emotional scenes superbly and, needless to say, the musical performances are of a very high quality. The only part of his performance that is hard to judge is his speech. I do not speak Spanish so am not qualified to comment. It sounds authentic to me but could well be a Dick Van Dyke abomination to a native speaker, and we all know how horrific that is.

Infuriatingly, the polish of this jewel gets a little rubbed by the horribly heavy handed direction of the end of the story. There’s nothing wrong with the writing or the acting, but the way the climax is handled visually really does grate. That most dreaded of Crime Against Film-Fan Humanity, the montage, gets a pretty full work out, the accompanying music takes a distinct turn for the worse too.

It’s nowhere near enough to spoil the film but it’s an annoying feeling to take away with you at the end of a great watch.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


The Intouchables

intouchablesWe listened to your classics. Now it’s time to listen to mine.

During this year I had noticed a film advertised at the cinema, a French film called The Intouchables, yes even Cineworld were showing it. Yet the poster didn’t really inspire me to see it, just a standard promo shot of Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy, it really was quite lacklustre. I remembered Cluzet from Tell No One back in 2006, but had no idea who Omar Sy was, I couldn’t even be bothered to look him up on IMDB; I was that unimpressed with the one-sheet.

During the films second week a friend turned to me and said “have you seen Intouchables?” I said I hadn’t. He just said “you really need to see it, it’s fantastic.” I had to take the next afternoon off to go and see it on this recommendation. I’m so glad I did. Intouchables ended up being one of my favourite films of the year, in a year which included Avengers, Skyfall, Amour and Rust & Bone, it really was a good year for French films.

Aside from the recommendation, my expectations were still very low. I really wasn’t prepared for how much I enjoyed this film. From the opening sequence as Sy drove Cluzet through the streets of Paris, the stunning cinematography accompanied with a fantastic score; a wonderful piano piece from Ludovico Einaudi. I was hooked. The sombre opening the scene changed as Sy’s explosive personality coned the local police after been caught for speeding that they were in an emergency and needed to get to the hospital, the whole mood changed. Cue September from Earth Wind and Fire and Sy and Cluzet singing along in the car escorted by the police, from sombre to comical effortlessly. I was then taken back in time and to the story of Philippe (Francois Cluzet) and Driss (Omar Sy) first encounter together and how the relationship between these two people turned into a truly remarkable friendship. I really want to be coy about the circumstances of both men, how they become friends because I really don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t seen it. Also I don’t want to put people off either, I know people are not interested in films regarding certain conditions or situations, or even the poster…

Cluzet is remarkable as Philippe, it must have been one of his toughest acting jobs. I really did believe him, a sombre man due to his condition, the life sucked out of him. Then Sy as Driss is equally as good, filling the film with his personality, his fun and bringing life back to Philippe. There are scenes which make you howl with laughter, and scenes which make you want to cry, in both happiness and sadness. The emotional range I went through watching this film was incredible, with a perfect ending which always makes me smile.

The direction and writing from both Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano is assured, they never over cook the drama or under cook the comedy, the balance is perfect. Along with one of my favourite mixed soundtracks of all time, the Einaudi score pieces are sublime and with a good mix of songs as well. A remarkable film and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do watch it.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


Avengers Assemble

avengers“Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?
Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.

Marvel’s The Avengers. The Avengers. Avengers Assemble. “That film with Ironing Man and Captain USA and Thaw and that green dude Bulk.” Whatever you want to call it, the Marvel juggernaut finally hit full steam (if juggernauts are powered by steam?) crushing lesser comic book films in its path. It is actually one of four 2012 releases to have grossed well over a billion dollars worldwide (Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit being the others) and currently sits at 3rd in the all time highest grossing films list. Regardless of your opinion on comicbook movies, if you didn’t see Avengers, then I haven’t done the maths but I believe that means you simply weren’t on this planet upon its release.

Indeed, as voted for by listeners of the podcast way back when, it came out top of the pile in our first ever Failed Critics Awards. Whilst time and a rewatch has slightly softened my initially held incredibly high opinion of Joss Whedon’s superhero team-up blockbuster, it’s still a movie that I thoroughly enjoy. After leaving the cinema, thinking about what I’d just witnessed, I couldn’t think of a similar type of movie that I had seen done as well as this, nor one that was more fun. It had it all. Whilst the likes of Nolan and Snyder had tried to make superhero films that were gritty and a touch more realistic relatively speaking, Marvel had decided to stick more closely to what their readers and film fans wanted; a cartoony, humorous, ludicrously over the top actioner. Not only that but with Whedon at the helm, they had a guy who knew how to write light-hearted and entertaining characters. And who knew that he could direct action scenes involving multiple heroes, aliens and giant multi-dimensional worm things so well?

So, as mentioned, over the past couple of years, I’ve come to perhaps enjoy a couple of other movies released in 2012 slightly more, such as Looper and The Raid, yet none have ever topped that experience I had of walking out of the cinema believing I had just seen “my generations Star Wars“. The child-like excitement, the satisfying buzz and relief I felt that they had finally nailed what a comic book film should be has never left me and it still remains one of my favourite movies of its kind.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


And there we go, another year down, and only two more to go! As with previous articles, we’re more than happy to debate the relative merits of all the films above, or if you just want to contest our decisions entirely, simply leave a comment below and tell us where we’re going wrong. We’ll return next week with (yes, you guessed it) our 2013 article.

 

The Week In Film – 9 October 2014: Who Do They Think They’re Kidding?

Tell us, Steve. What’s happened in the world of film news in the past week..?

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

dads army 2DON’T PANIC

Sitcom Dad’s Army is being given a big screen makeover nearly 40 years after the T.V. show stopped being made.

Rumours of a film adaptation have been around for some time but this week a cast has been announced, some four decades after Captain Mainwaring uttered the fantastic line ‘don’t tell them your name, Pike’.

Toby Jones will play Mainwaring, the man in charge of Walmington On Sea’s Home Guard unit during World War 2. Billy Nighy takes on the role of Sergeant Arthur Wilson and the Inbetweeners Blake Harrison steps into Ian Lavender’s shoes as Private Pike while Michael Gambon, Danny Mays and Catherine Zeta-Jones are all set to feature.

The cast is pretty impressive and encouraging but the writer is the man behind Johnny English: Reborn and Mr Bean’s Holiday. So there is cause for both concern and positivity around this venture.

Anyway since the announcement the theme tune has been stuck in my head and I like most of you have it committed to memory.

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler…

Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Befuddle

J.K Rowling was in cryptic form this week tweeting the following anagram

Cry, foe! Run amok! Fa awry! My wand won’t tolerate this nonsense.

Some believed this to mean a return to either the silver screen or to book/e-book for Harry Potter but apparently not. However, the Potter universe, or the Potterverse as it will be hereby be known, is to be expanded with a movie based on a minor character from the books/films, Newt Scamander.

I Do It On The Night

Hugh Grant revealed live on television that he is a lazy so and so who does not prepare for roles.

He told some ITV morning programme (not Jeremey Kyle – now that would be an interesting lie detector) “I’ve barely ever done any research for a film. I just turn up and say the lines and hope they sound convincing.”

Sometimes it really does show Hugh.

Indecisive Man

Robert Downey Jr. signs on to Iron Man 4 according to reports, but then the man himself denies it on US T.V.

This leaves the Iron Man section of the Avengers/Marvel franchise up in the air. Will they leave it alone or will War Machine or someone else become Iron Man?

Downey Jr. did however reveal he would remain involved with Marvel suggesting that while he may no longer be up for standalone Iron Man outings he will stick around for future Avengers assembles.iron man 2

Comic Book News

With Comic Book movies and shows so popular and rife it may just be worth having a section of this weekly roundup dedicated to anything from the genre.

So briefly there may be an X-Men live action T.V series from Fox to partner the upcoming Deadpool; Dredd looks set for a seven episode mini-series although there is no news on Karl Urban’s involvement; and once again tentative whispers about Sony and Marvel working together to see Spider-Man appear in something produced by Marvel.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.