Hopefully by now you will have caught up with DCEU’s latest attempt at salvaging a flailing franchise with Justice League. Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes run their beady eye over Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon’s ensemble superhero flick, as well as chatting about some post-apocalyptic fiction and reviewing their favourite cough sweets. Yum.
We’ve got what you want, what you need AND what you deserve on this week’s Failed Critics triple bill special episode with not one, not two, but a whole bunch of Wonder Women – and we’re not just referring to Maaya Brooker!
In an ugly, grey and corrupted world, Wonder Woman impresses Owen Hughes to be one of the best comic book movies we’re likely to get this year. Read his full review below.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast. Proving that they’re not just a pair of losers with no friends, hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are back again but this time Paul Field and Tony Black join them.
As ever the podcast kicks off with a quiz, this week hosted by Steve, that puts the Failed Critics’ soap knowledge to the test, before they move on to What We’ve Been Watching. Paul makes a bold declaration that Park Chan-wook’s Handmaiden is the Oldboy director’s best film yet; Steve also takes a trip to Korean cinema with zombie-thriller Train to Busan; Tony reaches peak noughties teen melodrama as he continues his run-through of Smallville; and Owen laments ever letting Paul know his address after receiving a copy of British gangster-exploitation flick Killer Bitch in the post.
The big new release this week for the team to chew over is Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard’s eagerly anticipated Blair Witch, the sequel to the iconic cult classic, The Blair Witch Project in case you were wondering. It also leads to the second quiz of the week, with Paul surprising the other three with a game of ‘Bitch’ or ‘Witch’!
Join us again next week for a special triple bill of our favourite westerns as The Magnificent Seven remake hits the silver screen.
“That is a whole lot of pretty. And a whole lot of crazy.”
As I write this, it’s 3am on Suicide Squad release day. I’m absolutely exhausted and I’m in desperate need of sleep. The problem is, I’m fresh back from the midnight screening of my most anticipated movie of 2016 and I’m all hyped up on the pure adrenaline rush that I just saw.
I promise, I’ll try to be as coherent as possible.
The Skwad‘s story is a dead simple one. Seven or eight criminals, all varying degrees of nasty-bastard or crazy-nutbag have been brought together by the powers that be to form Task Force X: a literal suicide squad that the government can throw in at the deep end with complete deniability if something goes wrong.
And wouldn’t you know it? Just as they’ve wrapped up the back stories, along comes a shifty looking supernatural thing that means to destroy humanity and rule the world. Fitted with explosive low-jacks and threatened with imminent death, the squad are airlifted into Midway City. Their mission: traverse the ruined streets to rescue and evacuate a high value target, and take out the apocalyptic threat in the heart of the city.
Adding to their woes is world-famous psychopath and world creepy laugh champion, The Joker (Jared Leto). Caring little for the squad’s mission, the crazed maniac just wants to be on the same side of the prison walls as his sweetheart and Task Force X member Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). As such, he is inserting himself into the squad’s lives whether they want him their or not. It’s all fun and games if you’re a bad guy.
This is still early on in DC’s extended cinematic universe, but my biggest fear going in was that I’m not a comic book reader. I had the same issues when we started getting invested more in the MCU and I had no more than a passing acquaintance with some of these characters. It’s the same with DC. Outside of Batman, The Joker and the many and varied Batman villains from the films, the only knowledge I have of a lot of these characters comes from playing the Arkham video games and DC’s TV universe.
So when poor reviews (the only time I’ll mention those) poured in this week and director David Ayer – a real long-time favourite of mine – came out and gave the infuriating “I made it for the fans” quote, I was concerned that I was gonna be left out in the cold, not knowing what the hell was going on nor who anyone was.
Luckily, this wasn’t the case at all. In the opening minutes, we are introduced to the ragtag group of criminals in a way that you might expect from an Expendables movie or Borderlands video game. Each member of the team gets their own little over the top vignette to give us a look at who they are and why they’re here. And man, what an impressive cast we get.
A quick rundown I reckon, but you don’t need much more. Impressively, the film gives you everything you need and you came here for a review, not a bullet-pointed list.
Will Smith’s Deadshot is the most prominent character. The man that never misses is a killer-for-hire, but is easily manipulated into doing as he’s told by the powers that be; and man does that make Mr Smith mad! Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s Joker are the King and Queen of Gotham City. With one of the pair of psychos in prison and the other trying to free them from the government’s clutches, their story (and their chemistry) is, as expected, a highlight of the film.
Theirs isn’t the only exploited relationship here. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is a decorated special forces colonel who is dragged in as Task Force X’s on-the-ground leader. Whether or not he agrees with them, he always follows his orders. In no small part because of his relationship with Dr June Moone. Cara Delavingne plays the good doctor, whose body is inhabited by the eons old Enchantress; a character deserving of her own horror movie she’s so spooky. Jay Hernandez gets to sink his teeth into Diablo, a pyrokinetic former gang member haunted by the deaths that he’s caused. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s reptilian Killer Croc is the muscle of the group. A sewer dwelling monster that seems almost unstoppable, Croc is a product of the way he’s been treated because of how he looks (absolutely NOT a political statement, I’m sure). Jai Courtney is almost unrecognisable as thief and killer Captain Boomerang; and Karen Fukuhara brings up the rear as Kitana, a deadly martial artist with a soul stealing sword and close friend of Rick Flag. Like I said, ragtag!
Running the show though, is Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller. A ruthless, heartless woman who can manipulate anyone to to what she wants. Compared to this vicious bitch, Task Force X are a Boy Scout troop.
This massive ensemble can lead to problems, especially for a film this early on in a universe that we are expected to invest in. Everyone has a backstory and only a small percentage of the cinema going audience are going to know it before the opening titles roll. It means you have to get me, a film lover but a comic book virgin, invested in your characters without sacrificing too much screen time or turning your film into a PowerPoint presentation. Thankfully, I think Ayer (who was also on writing duties for our anti-heroes) gets the balance just right. Mixing in an occasional flashback with a little dialogue-driven exposition during the lulls in action to make sure that by the time the credits roll, we are all caught up and more or less on an even footing with the comic book lovers that came with you to see the film.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have problems. In fact, I’m almost – ALMOST – feeling a little forgiving of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice after watching Suicide Squad. The film has many of the same problems as its predecessor and I’m starting to think that a large part of it is studio interference and not just director incompetence. I mean, Bats Vs. Supes definitely suffers from having a rubbish director and, in my humble and slightly David Ayer fanboy opinion, the Squad doesn’t have that issue. But the film has been edited down into a bit of a mess. It’s not unwatchable, not by any stretch of the imagination, but there are very obviously bits missing and evidence of chopping and changing that messes with the film’s pace a little.
Luckily, a competent writer and director has led the charge for this film and he’s clearly taken a hands on role in the editing of this film so it’s not been shredded to within an inch of its life like the previous entry in the franchise has.
While I thought he was probably the weakest character in the film, Leto’s Joker was interesting to watch. He bounced almost incoherently between quiet psychopath and feral monster. Both iterations are fun to watch but he gets woefully little screen time to build the character. That said, it’s not his film. It’s his introduction to this Extended Universe and I am looking forward to seeing his character grow.
On the other side of that coin though, Harley Quinn is portrayed brilliantly by Robbie. In a role that could be easily overplayed and annoying (or worse, over-sexualised and used simply as teenage masturbatory material) she’s been written so well and portrayed so brilliantly that every flash of that typical hyper-sexualisation, that would be simply gross in most instances, is owned by Quinn. It’s her doing it and she’s not just the daft doll she pretends to be. Every overtly sexual act is empowering for her – and I bloody love her for that!
Everyone stands out though. Every character is fun to watch. Smith’s Deadshot is pretty much just Will Smith; wise-cracking, smart-talking and always cool to watch. Delavingne’s Enchantress is creepy and scary. I would love to see DC break the mould and do a full on horror film prequel for the 6000 year old witch. The same goes for everyone. Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, Rick Flag; the whole bunch are fun to watch. I would love to see more of Kitana, but that’s my love of watching great martial arts on screen talking. And a part of me that thinks she needed just a little bit more screen time.
I would kill for some more Diablo. Jay Hernandez blew me away as the gang leader that is trying desperately to live in peace, regretting every life he’s snuffed out with his gift. His quiet and reserved demeanour, juxtaposed with what happens when he lets himself fight with his new team is a beautiful thing to watch and I will queue up for every single film that DC want to put this man in. He’s amazing.
The film is such a tremendous amount of fun, you just can’t help but smile your way through. It’s certainly helped by having one of the most fun “various artists” soundtracks this year. The music compliments the film brilliantly.
Ok, there is one jarring section at the beginning of the film where, and I didn’t realise this was even a thing, but the film somehow smash-cuts the bloody soundtrack together giving us three very different tracks in just a few minutes, one after the other. Overall, though, a very good effort on the licensed music front.
I still think DC has a long way to go to be able to solidify this Extended Universe they are trying for. In the hands of lesser filmmakers these films could fail miserably. Batman Vs. Superman is testament to that.
Like I said, Suicide Squad shares many of the same problems, but competent filmmaking helps a lot. However, you know what helps it more? The film is fun. It’s non-stop, guilty pleasure style action. Roll on the blu-ray release, it’ll take pride of place on my shelf right next to Punisher: War Zone.
Steve returns to sum up everything of interest that’s happened in the past week in the world of film and some stuff not quite in the world of film. More in the world of Failed Critics.
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
I don’t pay tribute to people often. However with the Failed Critics founder James Diamond leaving the site, as a regular at least, I felt it only right to say a few words.
James started Failed Critics around two years ago now because he loves film. He created this blog and podcast from nothing and has been kind enough to tolerate my involvement for that time despite me being completely ignorant of the film-making process and barely able to be coherent and eloquent in a discussion about film.
Furthermore without him we would not have Failed Critics which you all (I assume) enjoy reading and listening to and many of us enjoy writing and podcasting for.
After ‘The World’s End’ we thought the Wright/Pegg double act had come to its natural end. However it has been confirmed that the duo will make another film together.
They, along with Nick Frost, have been the driving force behind Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the aforementioned The World’s End.
They have successfully sent up and parodied pop culture, zombie films, buddy cop movies and more. With Wright having his well-publicised fall out with Marvel over Ant Man could we see them rip in to the Super Hero genre next?
The Jungle Books
I’m confused. They are making two Jungle Book movies at the same time. Not a prequel/sequel and a remake of the original but two movies by two studios, as far as I can see.
Ironically though Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan for the second time in his career.
More Comic Book News
Dwayne’ The Rock’ Johnson will play either Black Adam or Shazam in an upcoming DC Comic book movie adaptation.
Shazam is an orphan who can transform into a hero merely by uttering the word Shazam. It’s hardly transforming by eating a banana is it?
To be honest the Rock sounds more like someone Marvel would cast in one of their roles rather than DC/WB who seem to be taking the serious route.
Join us next week when no doubt more news will have occurred and Steve will have witnessed it.
Earlier today we discovered that Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel sequel, where the rumour is the long-awaited onscreen battle between Superman and Batman will finally be realised. There was a storm of protest over the decision, followed by a backlash to the backlash, followed by the rest of civilisation laughing at two groups of people arguing over a casting decision. The Failed Critics have happily jumped on the Batwagon of debate, and here are their reactions to the news:
James Diamond: Site editor who stands by his assertion that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was better than Man of Steel
Don’t like Ben Affleck being cast as Batman? In the words of Alan Arkin’s character in Affleck’s Oscar/Bafta/Golden Globe-winning film, Argo fuck yourself.
I was genuinely surprised by the level of the backlash to Warner Brothers/DC’s announcement this morning. My wife happened to mention to me that Affleck had been cast as Batman, and I replied “yeah, I can see that” (I’ll be honest, it’s a sadly very rare incident of my wife and I discussing comic book adaptations and their casting before breakfast). When I stumbled onto Twitter I was taken aback by the level of abuse being aimed at Affleck, with everyone throwing Daredevil and Gigli back in his face as if the last 10 years haven’t happened.
I’m grown-up enough to admit when I am wrong about an actor, with my increasingly uncomfortable man-crush over Matthew McConaughey being just the most recent example. The fact is, Affleck has grown and matured into a very fine actor, but even more importantly for me, an excellent director. This level of experience on the set of the next Superman film will be vital in my opinion, especially with Christopher Nolan apparently taking a back-seat in the day-to-day side of the production. As someone said a little cruelly, at least it means there will be one director on set.
I believe Affleck will be a great Bruce Wayne, and I am excited about seeing if he can pull off Batman. There were similar scenes of fan annoyance when Michael Keaton was cast as the Caped Crusader, and again when Heath Ledger landed the role of The Joker. They didn’t turn out too badly.
Armageddon really annoyed with the Domga-tic opinions of everyone with no Good Will (Hunting) towards this upstanding resident of Hollywoodland. [That’s enough terrible puns – Ed. Wait, that’s me]
Owen Hughes: Podcaster, film addict, and resident neeeeerrrrd
It was going to be the film that fans have wanted for the longest time. To finally see the caped crusader, the dark knight, the world’s greatest detective, coming up against the big blue boy scout, the man of tomorrow, the last son of Krypton. Batman vs Superman. The nerdgasm to end all nerdgasms.
Not only that, but director Zack Snyder hinted that the clash of these comic book titans would resemble their encounter from dark, edgy, 80’s game changing graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns. We were going to see a grizzled and older Bruce Wayne donning the cape and cowl before coming to blows with the Man of Steel. It opened up a world of possibilities over who would be cast as Bats.
Would they go all out to bring Christian Bale back? Maybe try to shoehorn some semblance of continuity into the series following the Nolan trilogy and bring in Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Or would Warner Brothers start looking at actors like Bruce Greenwood (who has played Batman in an animated film already), Josh Brolin, Max Martini or even Karl Urban? I’ve even seen Russell Crowe linked with the role, which would’ve been brilliant if not for the awkward plot twist that would’ve endured when Kal-El finds his father running around Gotham City in spandex.
Well the answer has finally arrived, and it seems to be a rather uninspiring ‘Ben Affleck’.
I don’t have a problem with Affleck as an actor, he was excellent in Argo. But with all the exciting avenues that could’ve been explored, of all the names linked with the role, it’s… OK. I’m sure he’ll be a competent Batman, probably a better Bruce Wayne, and with Snyder at the helm I’ll probably enjoy the film on some level. It’s just something of a safe choice which is disappointing.
Steve Norman: Podcast host, and real-life crime-fighting vigilante
So Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman for the 2015 crossover movie Batman vs Superman and sweaty nerds worldwide seem to be up in arms about the decision.
Bloody hell nerds, calm down.
Their main issue appears to be that Affleck once made a film called Daredevil and it was a bit rubbish. In fact it was very rubbish. It is that bad that I cannot remember much about it after seeing it many years ago.
However this film was made ten years ago. We all make mistakes, I make them almost daily, and in ten years a lot can change. You can grow as a person, you can improve and develop your craft.
Since Daredevil, Affleck has starred in some good films while starring in and directing The Town and the Oscar winning Argo.
I would go as far to say that Affleck should have been allowed to direct the film as well seeing as Zac Snyder’s attempt at Superman was pretty average while Affleck’s directing has been impressive and his career has had somewhat of a resurgence.
Gerry McAuley: Podcaster, Batman fanatic, and phoning it in from sunnier climes
This is total bullshit. Affleck directing = win. Affleck as Batman = epic fail.
I’m very disappointed by that news. I think he would’ve made a more than competent director (and indeed we talked about him as a potential director for Batman, Star Wars and others on the podcast last year) but I just don’t think he has the charisma or the right attributes to be a good Batman. Daredevil was garbage, we all agree on that. Bale is going to be a very hard act to follow but Affleck will have a lot to do to convince me – and hordes of others – that he is a suitable replacement for the cowl. I really, really hope he does though. I bloody love Batman. I want him to be good!
What do you think? Let us know below, or tweet us at @FailedCritics