Cue the sax, it’s the Failed Critics Podcast: Latenight Softcore Edition, where host Steve Norman finally gets his wish to make Owen Hughes review Emmanuelle In Space, possibly the boobiest of all our quiz booby-prizes thus far. If you giggle when you hear naughty words, you’re going to, well, giggle, when you hear our quiz.
Look at me, listeners! I love you! It’s all for you, Damian— I mean, whatever your name might be! Happy birthday to us.
Yes, backs are slapped and circled are jerks as we celebrate reaching the fifth year of the Failed Critics Podcast. Hip, hip…
“Don’t you want to be the hero?”
As much as it may force me to sacrifice one of my man cards (I’m a massive, tattooed, bearded, former cage fighter; I can spare a couple), I can’t help but love Disney animated films. I adored Zootropolis earlier in the year. Not because it tries to cure all forms of xenophobia with a cute bunny, but because it was a fun film to watch. To spend a couple of hours every other week for a couple of months watching it in the cinema with my three year old was an awesome way to spend my Saturday mornings.
It’s also the only film this year who’s cinema trips comes close to the number of times I saw Deadpool.
So now the House of Mouse have squeezed in a second feature for the year, screwing up my favourite animations list for the upcoming Failed Critics awards and, possibly, thrown a wrench in the works for certain other upcoming rewards.
Moana is the strong headed teenage daughter of a tribal chief on a Polynesian island. Having discovered “The Heart of Te Fiti” as a toddler on the beach, Moana finds herself as the one person, chosen by the ocean itself, whose destiny is to travel across the seas to find a long missing demigod, Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). Foregoing the responsibilities of being a future chief, the young girl follows what she believes is her destiny and heads out to the open ocean to find the shapeshifting god that can save her tribe’s island from dying.
But her travels aren’t easy, and even once she’s found the banished god amongst men, the journey to return the Heart to its rightful place is wrought with danger and the unlikely pair must learn to work together so Moana can save her people and Maui can be the hero he wants to be.
First things first. I went to see this film having read more than one review that said the Maui’s musical number “You’re Welcome” is a song to rival “Friend Like Me” from 1993’s Aladdin. I’ll be honest, this put my back up a little bit and I rolled into the screening already on the defensive. Between being my favourite animated movie ever, and having a real personal and emotional connection with almost all of Robin Williams’ comedy works, I was ready to tear this film apart.
But I can’t. It’s just amazing.
No, the song doesn’t compare with Williams’ musical numbers. But Johnson’s Maui (not Maui’s Johnson – that’s the Brazzers XXX parody you’re looking for) is easily the best sidekick SINCE the Genie.
Another strong female character for Disney, Moana is immensely fun to watch and cheer for. She’s not infallible and she’s not the smartest kid on the block, but to watch her grow up in front of us is awesome. She grows from simply being a hotheaded kid to someone who doesn’t just get done what she needs to get done, but learns about herself, her path and her destiny along the way. Guided by not much more than her gut and her determination, to see this youngster succeed is an absolute pleasure.
Like the Genie before him, Maui – and his tattoos – steal the show. This cocky, arrogant, cheeky demigod is simply The Rock’s personality transplanted to the magical hero. Maui is what drives the story forward. Painted like a bad guy by Moana’s tribe, when we finally meet him and his story is revealed, we get to see the big man – this God on Earth – as a humbled hero looking to prove himself not just to the world, but to himself as well. You can only get so far on confidence alone and we see Maui grow almost as much as we see Moana. I mean, there’s almost certainly some dry-humping do-gooder out there complaining that the representation of the demigod plays to overweight Samoan stereotypes, but screw those guys. He looks cool!
Maui’s history is told through his tattoos, a gorgeous traditional Polynesian design that the hero talks to. Marked by the gods every time he does something to earn one, his ink is a storyboard of his life that includes more than one depiction of the man himself. It’s this silhouette that Maui talks to, argues with, and he brings a huge amount of laughs with his relationship with his tattooed self. The pokes, prods and insults that our hero suffers at the hands of his tattoos are an absolute show stealer.
The bottom line, Moana isn’t a film with as strong and serious an undercurrent as Zootropolis. But it is a story with a point. It’s a story about a strong woman proving she’s strong. It’s a story about a strong headed woman pushing back against a culture that tries to stifle her. More than anything else, it’s a fun, feel good family adventure with laughs aplenty for kids and adults alike.
It’s an exhilarating 100 minutes that I’m genuinely looking forward to sharing with the wife and kid once it hits general release. I dare you to give me a better measure of a movie than one you’re excited to share with the family.
Moana is released in cinemas nationwide on Friday 2nd December.
“We’re black. We don’t go to therapy. We go to the barbershop.”
I love watching Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. From Walking Tall and The Rundown, to Fast 7 and everything in between. He’s a consistently fun figure to watch and with his natural abilities, his almost unnatural size and buckets and buckets of charisma; he is, without a doubt, the most successful actor to ever come out of the WWE. It’s with absolutely no shame or regret that I say I will watch the man in absolutely anything.
Having now watched, Central Intelligence, I stand by that statement completely.
With the fate of the free world at stake, super spy Bob Stone (The Rock) tracks down Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart, playing Kevin Hart) – a former high school superstar who’s found himself in a bit of a rut – to help him track down a criminal enterprise looking to buy stolen satellite codes (or something, it really doesn’t matter though, does it?). Using Stone’s agency honed expertise and Joyner’s skills as an accountant to trace money back and forth to intercept the sale, the pair make an unlikely, but somewhat successful team.
Meanwhile, Stone is being chased by his own agency. Accused of treason and thought to be the one with the stolen doo-dad to sell; the world seems to shrink around him and his unwilling and unwitting partner in crime as they chase a shadowy bad guy and try to stay alive long enough to prove he exists.
Right off the bat, I feared I had made a horrible mistake and had let myself in for a ghastly couple of hours. Not only has that been pretty much the order of the day for every “comedy” we’ve been afflicted with this year, but within a few seconds of the film starting things take a fast downhill turn!
We are subjected to a naked 15 year old fat kid dancing in the school showers, jiggling arse on full display with The Rock’s face CGI’d onto him. Horrifying! But we are also introduced to super cool kid Calvin, a teenager who can apparently do absolutely anything except pick a decent nickname. “The Golden Jet” – I shit you not, it’s his name not a new category on PornHub – is the epitome of high school cool and the only person decent enough to help the humiliated Bob when it comes to it. But things do quickly pick up from there.
My biggest complaint I suppose about Central Intelligence is the bizarre choice to have The Rock not only pretend to be a bit simple as his cover before admitting that he’s actually in the CIA, but just how long after it’s stopped being funny, the joke is still going on. I mean, the first couple of minutes would have been grand – and I admit that the stupid Facebook chat the pair of unlikely colleagues have early on had me howling with laughter – but once you’ve seen a trailer for the film, the gig is up, we know it’s an act, it doesn’t need to go on for so bloody long. Like some weird parody of Channing Tatum’s “my name is Jeff” skit.
Outside of that though, this action-packed buddy comedy is actually alright. Hart and Johnson are so different in their appearance, resembling a black Harry Potter standing next to a Samoan, muscle bound Hagrid, and equally different in their acting styles that they compliment each other rather well. Hart’s fast-paced stand-up style is proudly on display here as a hapless accountant who’s tripped himself up and stumbled into this dangerous international incident.
And to give him some where it’s due, the man is much more entertaining than I think he’s probably given credit for. His denial and strong feelings against doing anything remotely dangerous is pretty fun when you see his multi-muscled opposite nonchalantly brushing off all the tiny tax-man’s worries and shooting some more stuff.
Don’t misunderstand, this is no Bad Boys. It’s probably closer to Spy for me, such is its mildly amusing nature. And like the McCarthy vehicle before it, Central Intelligence is a much better film when its stars are left to just work and be themselves.
Maybe I’ve just dropped my standards in the last 12 months of awful comedies, but not only did I not hate this silly actioner, I surprised myself when I got to the end and realised I’d been chuckling away at it for most of the film. Give it a butchers, you might actually find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Inspired by the imminent release of Hitman: Agent 47, Andrew Brooker takes a look at five of the most infamous movie adaptations of a variety of video games.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
In a couple of weeks, 20th Century Fox will release Hitman: Agent 47 to a world pretty much fed up of video games being turned into awful films and force fed to us. Most that have read some of my stuff, or listened to me on one of the many times Mr. Hughes lost his mind and invited me onto the podcast, know that I love my video games. Behind movies it’s my second biggest hobby (and arguably the most expensive) and every time my two favourite ways to waste time crossover, it should be a reason to celebrate. Sadly, this isn’t usually the case. More often than not, the films we are handed as we are told “it’s brilliantly close to the games, fans will adore it” turn out to be badly written, badly directed dusty clouds of dry spunk. This is where we find ourselves today.
So in a very scientific process, namely me and a buddy bouncing ideas at each other in the office, here are my five worst films based on video games.
5] Doom (2005)
Budget: $60 million
Gross: $55.9 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
So yeah, Doom. The mother of all games. The game that defined forever how we’d play games more than 20 years ago, was shat out as a movie a decade ago starring Dwayne Johnson back when we were just calling him “The Rock” and Karl Urban before he was Dredd.
My biggest gripe with Doom isn’t that it was bad, and it was pretty bad, it was how it took the game’s slight hint at a story and flat out ignored it. According to the game’s instruction manual, you are a lone space marine fighting to survive as Hell’s demons invade Mars and slaughter everyone. This was replaced with a group of space marines fighting to survive as a Mars base’s occupants are infected with a Martian virus and mutated. I mean, neither story is good, but is there really any need to switch out one bland story for another? Where’s the loyalty to the branding for Christ’s sake?
Adding to the terrible decision to make this film, we were treated to a spectacularly rubbish “first person shooter” scene that has us watching the film down the barrel of a gun that, as a fan, is beyond patronising and absolutely ridiculous. No other type of film insists on making us watch them like that. Fancy watching soccer film from the point of view of a stadium visit? With some fat unwashed screamy twat in front of you? No.
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, the man that also brought us:
4] Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)
Budget: $50 Million
Gross: $12.8 Million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 6%
Urgh! So yeah, there was definitely going to be a Street Fighter movie on this list. And a film would have to work pretty damn hard to be worse than a film that included Kylie Minogue and a ginger Jean-Claude Van Damme, but The Legend of Chun-Li blows it out of the water.
Intended as the origin story of one of the most iconic Street Fighter characters, The Legend of Chun-Li plays less like a story of how the young fighter found her way in life and instead treats us to a powerpoint slideshow on alienating film fans and gamers alike as more than a few tired old clichés are dragged out from the dusty cupboard they should have been left in. The mention of another key character at the end, hinting that a film based around Ryu was in the works shows just how much they thought they had a franchise starter on their hands and just how out of touch everyone involved in this film actually was.
3] Need For Speed (2014)
Budget: $66 Million
Gross: $203.3 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 22%
The one and only film that, at least according to Wikipedia, actually made money, tricking more than its fair share of gullible fools into thinking that it might actually be a good film. Sadly, we live in a post The Fast and The Furious world and a shit movie about a bunch of guys racing nice cars isn’t anything close to engaging anymore. Fast and Furious had to evolve to survive its flagging appeal and somehow Need for Speed still made a killing at the box office doing what Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were doing a decade and a half ago. And that would be ok, if it wasn’t so bloody dull!
Every one of us gamers saw just how bad an idea it was to try adding a story to the Need for Speed franchise with 2011’s disgrace of a game, The Run. So instead of trying something new, they simply put that same story to film, added a less than mediocre revenge story, stunt casted the pretty crap Aaron Paul and made a film that included Michael Keaton as a pirate radio running race organiser channelling Beetlejuice behind a mic.
The fact that this made a killing at the box office is only encouraging more of the same! In the next few years there are plans for a second Need for Speed film, as well as a film based on Sony’s Gran Turismo. And I blame everyone that added to that $203 million for that. It’s your fault!
2] DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)
Budget: $21 Million
Gross: $7.5 Million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 34%
Dead or Alive, oh how I loathe you. If ever there was a video game franchise that needed to die, it’s Dead or Alive. The franchise so out of touch with modern game playing that it focuses more on jiggling boobs than it does fighting mechanics; and considering the amount of vitriol thrown at game developers at even the hint of a bit of sexism in their game nowadays, how Dead or Alive constantly gets away with it, I’ll never know. Between sex pest levels of gross purchasable school-girl costumes and its volleyball tie-in game, it’s the channel five porno of fighting games and it’s fucking awful.
You would think that this would made perfect fodder for a rubbish straight-to-tv, or nowadays, straight-to-itunes, movie and in that respect, this would be a barely passable film. But to put this awfulness up on that hallowed silver screen is beyond sacrilegious. This film that sold its audiences on appearances from Holly Vallance (remember her?), Jaime Pressley and Devon Aoki. You know, those women absolutely known for their fighting skills and their attention to perfectly choreographed combat and NOT for just being gorgeous. Yeah? Them.
I feel a little guilty for having this film on the list, because the game is just as bad. But Jesus Christ, I’ve never felt so gross playing a game or so skeevy watching a film.
Leaving us with:
1] Super Mario Bros. (1993)
Budget: $48 million
Gross: $20.9 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 19%
No one can try and write one of these lists without mentioning Super Mario Bros; not only the worst film based on a video game ever made, but generally one of the worst things ever put to film. An absolute abortion of a film that its star, the late great Bob Hoskins, distanced himself from. Calling the film a “complete nightmare” and admitting that if he had a chance, he’d erase it from his past, Hoskins was never shy about sharing his opinion on this terrible flick. With similar stories from co-stars John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper, the film has left a legacy of terrible stories of a troubled production and should forever be used as an example of how never to make a film based on a beloved property.
Setting one of the most colourful video games in history in what looks like the underground society from Demolition Man, trying for an adult theme and attempting to make it grounded and realistic is absolutely not the way to do the Super Mario Brothers, or its legions of fans, proud.
Extra special hate gets directed at this lumpy skid mark of a film since Bob Hoskins’ death a little over a year ago. In an attempt to up their click count, video game websites started running stories that the man known for playing Mario Mario had died, shitting all over a stellar career by shining a light on the man’s worst moment in film and not educating an entire generation of players who’ve never seen The Long Good Friday on an amazing actor who deserved much, much better than that.
Dishonourable Mention – Uwe Boll
I couldn’t decide which of his films to add to the list, so instead I’ll simply mention the man, the myth, the douchebag that is Uwe Boll. A man whose legacy to film includes ruining more than a few outstanding games as he does the filmmaker equivalent of shitting into his own hand and smearing it on our walls. The man’s filmography includes monstrosities like Far Cry, two Alone in the Dark films, three BloodRayne movies and Postal.
Recently, the gaming community breathed a sigh of relief as “Raging Boll” took to YouTube to announce he wasn’t making films anymore.
Good. Because I believe I speak for every game playing film lover when I say “Fuck that guy!”
You can hear the team talk briefly about their favourite and least favourite video game adaptations on our podcast released back in 2013. If you’d like to hear us do a new podcast on the topic, leave a comment below or get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook or email at email@example.com!
People f*cking love dinosaurs, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Jurassic World made $204 million, making it the second biggest domestic opening weekend of all-time.
(*drops mic, leaves*)
(*walks back in*)
So, apparently, I have to write more than that for these things. But, I mean, I’m slightly at a loss as to what to write. That figure and those numbers kinda tower over everything else, grabbing the eye and the attention so totally that to talk about anything else feels like trying to hold a conversation at a party that’s about anything but the grizzly act of cannibalism that everyone just saw occur in the parlour room moments ago. You know how ridiculous that opening is? I ran the opening of Jurassic Park back in 1993 ($47 million) through an inflation converter, and the result ($77 million) was still nearly three times less than what Jurassic World just made. I am at a loss to explain this, I really am. Like, I knew that Jurassic Park was a beloved touchstone for a generation of moviegoers, and that everybody loves dinosaurs, but DAMN!
That said, it was not the only film making waves this past weekend. For, in the land of the limited releases, it was time to unleash Me and Earl and the Dying Girl upon the world. This year’s Sundance darling, having premiered to a standing ovation and winning the Grand Jury and Audience Prizes for Drama at the festival, critically beloved by most, and looking absolutely and totally motherf*cking INSUFFERABLY GODAWFUL, was launched in the Little Miss Sunshine slot to a pretty great success – $210,000 from 15 screens with a per-screen average of $14,000. On any other weekend, that would be a per-screen average to kill for, but this was Jurassic World’s weekend and that film managed a per-screen average of $47,871 FROM 4,274 SCREENS. So, dinosaurs beat sh*tty-looking try-too-hard indie dramedies in the public sphere! This is information that makes me happy.
Finally, before we get into the part that matters, there’s the issue of Love & Mercy, the biopic of Brian Wilson that came out last week. Now, as you may know, I didn’t talk about it last week or, in fact, any of the week’s limited releases as I was far too busy making easy jokes at the expense of Entourage – which, as I discovered about 8 hours after that post went live, was letting that film off was too easily – to report on them or the fact that United Passions only made $607 from 10 screens – side note: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA (*continues like so for another 10 minutes). Besides, I had the feeling that the supposedly great film would make an appearance in the Top 10 eventually, as it was too star-packed, too widely-released, and too critically-slathered to not break in at some point. Well, it did! This week, even! So, there!
This Full List found a way, the clever girl.
Box Office Results: Friday 12th June 2015 – Sunday 14th June 2015
1] Jurassic World
$204,600,000 / NEW
My review is over here, for those of you who are interested. Ended up digging this one a whole lot, even though it’s got characters that might as well just be breadsticks, dialogue that’s on the level of a five year-old, and themes that are communicated on the same level as that of a first year film studies student with a distrust of the military. But who cares about any of that when you have dinosaurs fighting each other and Chris Pratt – albeit minus any gratuitous shots of his abs, which is UNACCEPTABLE – both things I’ve wanted since I was 5 years-old? Not me, that’s for certain!
$16,000,000 / $56,937,000
Very strong 45% hold between weekends, which is very good for an R-rated comedy that is being released in this utterly insane Summer season. Can I also echo The Playlist’s demand that Melissa McCarthy gets a look-in for the Best Actress race come Oscar season? She is absolutely phenomenal in this, and I guarantee you that she’ll have put in a better performance than at least half of the people whose names get trotted out in this year’s Battle of Apparently Lowering Standards.
3] San Andreas
$11,010,000 / $119,321,000
…hey, Hollywood. Can’t help but notice that you haven’t gotten back to me about that goldmine of a film pitch that I gave you last week. Tell me, do you have a negative disposition towards the act of making money? Seriously, who doesn’t want to see Chris Pratt and The Rock solving crimes together in a buddy cop movie? I know that America wants to see The Rock lay the smacketh down on a bunch of candy asses whilst Chris Pratt says something Burt Macklin, FBI-y before The Rock raises his eyebrow inquisitively and humanity collectively creams its pants and explodes in pure glee!
No, seriously, this is pure f*cking gold, Hollywood! Hit me up about this! I’ll even convince my actually talented writing friend to sell out his principles to help me write this script, as it is surely guaranteed millions upon MILLIONS of dollars and millions of dollars and millions of dollars!
4] Insidious Chapter 3
$7,300,000 / $37,371,000
Forgot to mention this last week as I was too busy… whatever I was doing last week, but now’s as good a time as any. If you are writing a box office piece and use the phrase “scares up” when talking about the performance of a horror movie, quit. Just quit. Stop writing, resign from your position, and go and do something else with your life. I am dead serious. That phrase is so, so old and worn out, that even complete hacks will look at that and go, “Yeah, you absolutely put no effort into this whatsoever.” I find it a personal insult that professional writers are paid money to be that lazy whilst I slave away trying to find new spins on material and new talking points every week for free. So if you do use that phrase, quit. Give your job to people who deserve it.
5] Pitch Perfect 2
$6,000,000 / $170,715,000
This has managed to jump up one place, this week. People would rather see this again in its fifth week than Entourage in its second week. Humanity is not totally doomed, folks.
$4,340,000 / $25,870,000
I saw Entourage last Monday. If it weren’t for the fact that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is looming on the horizon like a strategically placed solid object aimed directly at one’s junk that you can’t avoid for whatever reason, I would feel very secure calling this the worst film I will see all year. It is just so totally abysmal. Brooker is still reviewing it for this site, but my thoughts were graciously housed by both Movieblort and my friend Charlize of HotMales.net. They’re absolutely worth a read at either location, I genuinely believe it’s one of the best reviews that I have ever written.
7] Mad Max: Fury Road
$4,130,000 / $138,630,000
Goddammit, I’ve been too busy to find the time to see this a third time. If I get lucky, it might hang around next week and I’ll be able to squeeze it between the new releases (otherwise known as the films I don’t give a sh*t about), but otherwise my chance has been and gone. Sigh. I’d say “at least I saw it twice”, but we all know that twice is nowhere near enough cinema-based viewings of Fury Road.
8] The Avengers: Age of Ultron
$3,641,000 / $444,743,000
I am excited and optimistic for Ant-Man. There, I said it. Revoke my “Film Critic” pass if you want, I don’t give a sh*t. It’s the truth and it’s how I feel.
$3,417,000 / $83,607,000
OK, homework for us all: let’s all watch The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille prior to meeting back up next week. We’re not actually going to talk about or do anything with them, it’s just always worth having seen those films. Great? Great.
10] Love & Mercy
$1,765,000 / $4,774,000
Here’s a scene from Walk Hard. Go and watch Walk Hard. This is not optional.
Dropped Out: Aloha, Poltergeist
Callum Petch only cares about that thing, that thing, that thing. Listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio (site link) and follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!
San Andreas is no busta, Aloha says Aloha to any semblance of money, Results can barely do one measly pull-up, I can’t even make up a terrible pun for Heaven Knows What cos it looks too miserable, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Prior to this weekend, it seemed very much like the box office was going to be extremely quiet until the release of Jurassic World in a fortnight. After all, we all knew that Tomorrowland was going to bomb, Spy will do well but isn’t exactly going to light anything on fire, I know of only one human being who is (self-loathingly) excited for the Entourage movie and he works for this very website, and I know of no human beings who are clamouring for another frickin’ Insidious movie. Post-Pitch Perfect and post-Mad Max, we basically entered a quiet period where little of interest was coming out and nothing was going to do particularly well or make for exciting headlines.
It turns out, however, that we all forgot one very important thing: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. So although San Andreas on paper looked to be a middling underperformer that would be collectively skipped because, goddamn, did this movie ever look (and was) excruciatingly boring, in practice the film stormed its way to number 1 with $53 million in ticket sales. There’s also the fact that it’s an expensive-looking disaster movie released on a weekend where there was almost literally nothing else of note coming out against it, but I think we all know that this is entirely down to Dwayne Johnson. I mean, the guy is just the best, isn’t he? He’s the best. I want him as my dad!
The “of note” was added onto that prior paragraph because San Andreas was not the only wide release of this past weekend. That other one would be Aloha, the first film in almost four years from writer-director Cameron Crowe. In case you hadn’t heard, the film is apparently utter garbage that even Sony heads hated which, combined with the fact that Cameron Crowe has only ever really broken out of being a cult filmmaker maybe twice (thrice if you want to count We Bought A Zoo) in his entire 25 year career, basically sealed its fate even with Bradley Cooper in the lead role. It’s kind of a bomb, opening in sixth place with an estimated $10 million – that, for those of you playing along at home, is behind the third weeks of Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road, the second week of Tomorrowland, and the fifth week of Avengers.
In the land of limited releases, Mumblecore architect Andrew Bujalski took a tentative step towards making a mainstream movie with the Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders, and Kevin Corrigan-starring rom-com-ish (I haven’t seen it yet so I don’t know how much it sticks to and how much it subverts formula) Results. The public responded somewhat warmly, with the film finishing up the weekend with $13,000 from 3 screens, which isn’t too bad considering that it’s been on VOD since March 13th. Meanwhile, pure-unfiltered-misery in the shape of Heaven Knows What – here’s the trailer which, even with the obnoxious and ill-fitting Harmony Korine-style editing and soundtrack, gives as good an idea as any as to how miserable that film is going to make me – got off to a very good start with $15,000 from 2 screens. I realise that doesn’t seem like much, but this is a movie about homeless heroin addicts that looks BLEAK AS F*CK. So, yeah, I’m gonna chalk that up as a win.
All this Full List had to do was FOLLOW THE DAMN TRAIN!
Box Office Results: Friday 29th May 2015 – Sunday 31st May 2015
1] San Andreas
$53,215,000 / NEW
Saw this on Saturday and I mostly agree with Steve, it’s not very good. I think the cast really try and there are a few sequences that are pretty good, but mostly I just found this incredibly, mind-numbingly boring. Oh, and loud. Very, very loud. It has got some fine Paul Giamatti overacting, though, so that’s worth something.
Also, yes, I do find the irony in the fact that Tomorrowland, a film that sermonises about our obsession with turning death and planetary destruction and disaster into harmless entertainment, was unceremoniously dumped from number one by a film that is exactly what the former spends 130 minutes railing against.
2] Pitch Perfect 2
$14,381,000 / $147,540,000
This has a surprisingly strong chance of surpassing Fifty Shades of Grey’s closing total of $166 million. It’s barely $20 million away from it, already, and with its strong mid-week grosses it could hold onto that trajectory even when Spy drops next week. Yay to all of this! And, yes, I still do really like this movie and believe it to be better than the first. Accept that I’m not budging, and let’s close the book on this issue.
$13,803,000 / $63,188,000
Yeah… this… this isn’t making its money back. Not even close. I really hope that the lesson Hollywood takes away from the failures of this and Jupiter Ascending is not that the public doesn’t want expensive original blockbusters. It’s that we want good expensive original blockbusters. Actually, that doesn’t quite work since Jupiter Ascending is a good expensive original blockbuster, but the sentiment is still the same.
4] Mad Max: Fury Road
$13,625,000 / $115,915,000
You know what? I think I’m going to go and see this again this week. You should too. I don’t care if you’ve already seen it 5 times in 3 weeks, that’s still not enough times to fully appreciate this magnificent specimen of a film and you damn well know it!
5] The Avengers: Age of Ultron
$10,920,000 / $427,070,000
Gee, Box Office Mojo! It sure would be great if I could find out how Age of Ultron is doing in China, the one market that actually matters for this movie, on a week-to-week basis! But not knowing anything because you have decided to skip on the details of your detail-oriented website and dropped so hard in overall quality since Ray Subers left is fine too! Really! I love having to put in an unnecessarily large amount of work for what should instead be a fun little 75 minute writing exercise each week! I’m not irritated at all!
$10,000,000 / NEW
Bummed to hear this one sucks, but I guess I now know why I have to wait until September 1st – The UK’s Dumping Ground – to see it. On an entirely unrelated note, I need to actually watch a Cameron Crowe film, since he’s one of those filmmakers I’ve heard great things about but never actually seen anything by (otherwise known as: Most Filmmakers). I guess I’ll start with Pearl Jam 20, since Lucy will not stop going on about Pearl Jam, and go from there.
$7,800,000 / $38,267,000
Told you this would sink like a stone. At least Insidious: Chapter 3 can’t use this as a scapegoat defence if it underwhelms next weekend. Side wish: please underwhelm majorly so I never have to be at risk of seeing an Insidious trailer again.
8] Far From The Madding Crowd
$1,420,000 / $8,362,000
Look, instead of watching this garbage, why don’t we all instead go and watch Thomas Vinterberg’s much, much, much better previous film The Hunt? It’s got Mads Mikkelsen in it! In fact, why don’t we all also just watch Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal TV series instead of this tripe? I think we can all agree that both options are much better usages of our collective time than this walking gasbag.
9] Hot Pursuit
$1,370,000 / $32,351,000
Well, goodbye, Hot Pursuit! You couldn’t even make back your $35 million budget, which would be sad if your film wasn’t apparently so excruciatingly terrible. Don’t let the actually-good Spy knock you on your arse on the way out. Spy, after all, deserves better than associating with wastes of space like you.
$1,150,000 / $170,409,000
Wait, this actually made it to 10 weeks on the chart?! And is the fourth highest-grossing film of the year domestically at time of writing? Alright! High fives and party poppers all round, folks! Today is a very good day! Now if Shaun The Sheep: The Movie could be somewhat of a success when it launches in America in August, that would be just peachy!
I know that that is never going to happen, just give me a few more seconds of blissful denial.
Dropped Out: Furious 7, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Although it’s a step down from Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7 is still a tonne of incredible fun.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Watching the film critic community slowly come around to the Fast & Furious series has been almost as fun as watching the evolution of the Fast & Furious series or, in fact, watching these movies themselves. See, with the obvious exception of 2 Fast 2 Furious – which failed because, as the title alone probably tips you off to, it tried force its ridiculous cheesiness in a cynical way instead of with the sincerity that the rest of the franchise has – this series has always at least been good. The Fast and the Furious is a perfectly watchable movie, if a little self-serious, the strangely-maligned Tokyo Drift would still be the series high-watermark if it didn’t have the problem of Lucas Black being near-incapable of acting, and I like Fast & Furious shut up.
Fast Five was the moment where the rest of the critical world sat up, took notice and collectively realised that these are some damn fine movies worthy of legitimate appraisal, likely helped by the fact that it’s still one of the best action movies released this decade – a lightning-in-a-bottle moment where all of the unintentional hard work in constructing this world and these characters paid off in spectacular fashion, whilst still working as a brilliant action film in its own right. Also it’s a heist movie and, as science can prove, good heist movies are better than pretty much anything else ever.
Fast & Furious 6 couldn’t hope to match up, although it gave it its best damn shot by once again changing genres. In fact, there’s another reason why this series has been great. In addition to its knowing but completely sincere silliness – I mean, this is a series whose main emotional and thematic through-line is about the unbreakable power of a surrogate family of friends with no knowing winking or under-cutting of said, after all – and its surprisingly deep and well-drawn cast of characters, the series is never afraid to simply change genres at the drop of a dime. The Fast and the Furious was a Point Break riff, 2 Fast was a bad buddy-cop movie, Tokyo Drift was basically a coming-of-age drama, Fast & Furious was a good buddy-cop movie shut up, Fast Five was a heist movie, and Fast & Furious 6 was a gloriously ridiculous action movie.
So, following on from all of that, Furious 7 turns out to be… Fast & Furious 6 again, sorta. In its defence, save for space or trans-dimensional hopping – which are both gold ideas, you can have those for free, Universal – there really isn’t anywhere else left to take this series, except to make the ridiculous action movie even more ridiculous. With the change in directors, though, from Justin Lin to horror movie veteran James Wan, you’ll have to forgive me for hoping for more of a shift than “bigger and crazier”, an admittedly welcome injection of extra melodrama, and more camera tricks for certain action sequences.
That being said, though, the fact that Furious 7 is still an incredibly fun and surprisingly coherent film is a goddamn miracle considering its troubled and beleaguered production. In fact, let’s address that room elephant right now: it’s amazing just how well the film manages to work around the death of franchise star Paul Walker and the necessary requirement to write the character of Brian O’Conner out of the series. I even spent a lot of the runtime sat there in the cinema trying to figure out where exactly the re-writes and stand-ins had started occurring, expecting it to be really obvious relatively early, but the way they do it is so natural and so keeping in kind with what they had set up before – Brian is adjusting somewhat reluctantly to domesticated family life with Mia (Jordana Brewster) and his son Jack, missing the life-or-death adrenaline that came from working with Dom – that it gains this extra eerie undertone that adds to the subplot’s weight instead of distracting from it.
Admittedly, it goes overboard near the ending, as the film proceeds to send off Brian and Paul in the most openly manipulative, cheese-ball way, but I would be lying to you if I told you that was a bad thing and that I didn’t shed multiple tears as it happened. Open heart-on-sleeve affectionate sincerity is how Fast & Furious operates, so the really on-the-nose way that it waves goodbye to Paul Walker is still fitting even if it is admittedly excessively manipulative. Also helped by the fact that, with the exception of one fight scene late in the game and the last sequence, I honestly could not tell where the real Paul Walker’s scenes finished and his stand-in-CG-combo double started.
And whilst I’m not spending the rest of this review making worrying sounds that approximately translate to how much I enjoyed this movie, I must note that the film is more than a little overcrowded. In addition to having Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) crew relentless pursued by the brother of Fast & Furious 6’s Owen Shaw, Deckard (Jason Statham), who is looking for vengeance, the crew are tasked by a possibly-government-affiliated division, headed up by a guy who calls himself Mr. Nobody (a positively-beaming Kurt Russell), to recover a super-surveillance software called “God’s Eye” for them before it falls into the hands of an evil warlord (Dijimon Hounsou) with the promise of Dom getting to use it to hunt down Deckard when all is said and done.
Consequently, Hounsou’s warlord feels… pointless, to be frank, and he doesn’t even get any memorable material to make up for that fact. There’s a lot of relatively unnecessary flab to proceedings, characters that walk in and walk out as required without much to do. On the positive side, Kurt Russell’s visibly joyous performance is infectious and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) makes a nice addition to the crew if she’s sticking around. On the negative side, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is side-lined for too much of the film for my liking, although that does let the focus return to Dom and Brian which is fitting, and Rhonda Rousey shows up quite literally just so that Michelle Rodriguez has somebody to fight because, hey, why not try to recapture those brilliant Gina Carano fight scenes from number 6? Fast Five had a similar excessive nature but did a better job at juggling everything without giving many characters the short shrift.
So, with that negativity and elephant-addressing out of the way… HOHOHOHOHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Oh, folks, words can’t truly express how much fun I had with this one! The Fast & Furious series just taps into a kind of primal adolescent joy for me, where everything to do with the action runs purely on Rule of Cool and a desire to be stupidly entertaining, which makes it one of the purest expressions of childlike imaginative fun on film today. I cackled with maniacal glee at this movie multiple, multiple goddamn times and every time I thought that they’d topped themselves, they proceeded to surpass that bar with ease. (Whether you agree depends on how much you like your glaringly obvious CGI, although I gave it a pass as I saw it as a stylistic choice.)
On that note, Deckard Shaw. Now, technically, he’s a victim of the film’s overstuffed nature, since he has to share screen-time with Hounsou’s uninteresting warlord and therefore suffers from alternating too often between being the primary and secondary villain. However, I honestly like the fact that he’s not really got much of a personality outside of the opening scene of the film – which, for the record, is fingertips away from Fast Five for me in “Best Opening Sequence of This Series” stakes – and I really like the way that he just keeps turning up randomly as our heroes are about to complete their objectives to throw a spanner in the works, like a one man army of TimeSplitters. He also gets a fantastic pair of fights with Hobbs and Dom, with the latter including a climax that is AMAZINGLY DUMB, so I’m satisfied.
Fight scenes are a lot of fun, even though James Wan and his team of editors have an unfortunate tendency to cut just a little too often. Tony Jaa is in this and gets to fight Brian with both instances delivering very nicely, the Rousey/Letty fight might not measure up to either Carano fight but is still pretty good and I once again appreciate a Hollywood film with a female fight scene where the aim is not primarily to be intentionally arousing, and the fight scene between Hobbs and Deckard is already a strong contender for the best of the year. Though he may cut a bit too often, Lin is also a man of style, employing 360° camera pans and a camera that keeps the person it’s shooting vertically-centred but spins the rest of the world around them as normal (I can’t describe it well but it’s self-explanatory in motion) to sparing but enjoyable effect.
You may notice that I’ve talked minimally about the film’s many gloriously deranged action sequences up to this point and, surprising no-one, this is intentional. I went into Furious 7 knowing pretty much next to nothing about what it would end up doing in said ridiculous action scenes. This is the optimum way to watch Furious 7. After all, why should I tell you how a last minute rescue made me laugh maniacally, how the end to one fight scene is officially the new “Most Wonderfully Dumb Thing to Happen In This Glorious Franchise”, how the Abu Dhabi payoff manages to overcome its CGI nature to still be one of the most entertaining setpieces I will likely see all year, or even allude to how the finale goes, when you can experience these things in glorious context properly? Why should I spoil them for you when I went got to see them near-totally fresh?
Don’t, however, assume that the character work has gotten lost in the shuffle. It’s all still here – Letty is still struggling with her amnesia, there’s Brian’s conflict with domesticity, and Roman wants to be taken more seriously as a part of the team – but the time delegated to just them is more reduced than it was in Fast Five or Fast & Furious 6. That said, these characters are all so strongly drawn and defined that any scene of them just bouncing off of one another is a joy to watch, and the action scenes take the time to put in multiple character beats instead of just being pure noise, the car skydive is a particularly great example. The new additions, again with the exception of the warlord, make great strong impressions and slide neatly into the world that screenwriter Chris Morgan – who has penned this franchise since Tokyo Drift – has created.
Most importantly, that silly heart-on-sleeve sincerity never leaves the film’s side. Not even for a minute. This is what separates the Fast & Furious movies from your lesser dumb blockbusters like, say, Transformers. Films like Transformers clearly hate their own existence almost as much as they hate the audience for turning up to them, so their dumbness is built on bitterness and cynicism, a desire to slap together a whole bunch of loud explosions in as lazy a fashion as possible to extract cash from an audience it reads as gullible walking wallets. The Fast & Furious series, however, has love for itself and love for its audience. It sincerely believes that your surrogate family is the strongest bond that one could have, that throwing cars at problems really is the best way to solve everything, and that the audience isn’t wrong for finding this all to be f*cking awesome because it correctly agrees that this is all f*cking awesome. So it puts effort into every scene, every stupid action sequence, every ridiculous pre-fight exchange, every character’s relationship with one another.
There’s love, genuine love and it doesn’t undercut that at any point. That’s why, when it comes time to say goodbye to Paul Walker and the character of Brian O’Conner, I proceeded to cry like nobody’s business, because it earned it. This is a series that earns its emotional release and its heart because it puts tangible love into every single frame. Yeah, it’s a dumb series about flinging cars at ridiculous problems until they stop being problems! It’s more f*cking sincere and heartfelt than the majority of last year’s so-called “prestige” pictures! And even though it doesn’t scale the heights of Fast Five and has its share of structural problems, Furious 7 is still a damn fantastic time at the cinema, another excellent instalment in the blockbuster series that all other blockbuster series should strive to reach for – not even mentioning its majorly diverse cast – and the perfect tribute to one of the series’ main stars.
Goddammit, I love this wonderful series.
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.
“It could have been stupid. Actually, it probably is a bit daft. But nevertheless, it all comes together evenly and most importantly, it’s actually entertaining in that popcorn munching, Coke slurping way you’d hope for.“
by Owen Hughes
There’s a certain type of nerd out there in the real world that can’t help but coil in disgust at the mere mention of Brett Ratner. Unforgiven is he, and so shall he remain, for the legacy he left the X-Men movie franchise in following his effort with The Last Stand. He will never get over the reputation held by many as “that guy who ruined Bryan Singer’s franchise”.
Not me personally. Growing up on a diet of kung-fu films, I still see him mainly as that guy who made Rush Hour, one of the better western Jackie Chan movies. Also, whisper it quietly, but I don’t think X-Men: The Last Stand is the worst thing to come out of the comic-book adaptation revival of the 2000’s; or even the X-Men franchise for that matter. In fact, it has some pretty great action sequences made in an old school “high wires and real explosives” kind of way, as opposed to being totally CGI. It’s the way he captures these impressive action scenes that, once again, is what he most successfully achieves with his latest flick, Hercules.
For anybody who has seen the trailer, a word of warning should probably go out that it is incredibly misleading. Forget it. Pretend that you’ve never seen it. Do you still have burnt into your mind the lingering memory of the woeful, tedious and entirely disappointing Clash of the Titans remake, therefore are expecting yet another snooze-inducing, monster-bashing, mythological sword and sandals affair? I am happy to be the one to inform you that this is far from it.
This is hardly a remake of the Disney animated classic. Dispensing with the monsters and mythical beasts within the first 5 minutes during a dramatic and exaggerated narration sequence, the movie we are presented with instead revolves around an older, more world-weary, mercenary-for-hire Hercules character. Together with his band of brothers (and one sister) he enters into one final contract to earn that last bag of gold. Just one more pay packet, enough for him to retire on and live out his days in solitude, away from the pressures that being a celebrity in ancient Greece holds. Wouldn’t you know it, not quite all the facts of this contract have been revealed to our scantily clad hero and his merry chums.
The ensemble cast (including a performance from the gargantuan Dwayne Johnson as the titular protagonist that is somewhat less charismatic than we have become accustomed to) does at least have an element of genuinely believable camaraderie between them. Ian McShane raises more eyebrows than our lead actor with his performance as the profit who sees only what the frequently annoying God’s want him to see, which as legend goes even includes his own death. A Spartan and best friend of Hercules, played by Rufus Sewell, provides us with most of the banter within the group and often at the expense of the invaluable storyteller (Reece Ritchie). I say invaluable, I mean he often provides exposition and insight into the groups history. The Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, playing a skilled archer, and a mute crazy warrior scarred by his past (also played by a Norweigan, Aksel Hennie) make up the remaining members. They appear to riff off each other well enough, albeit in a rather scripted way. Together, they help Lord Cotys (John Hurt) reclaim the land that once belonged to him.
With a plot not as straightforward as may have been apparent, the twists and turns along the path are delivered at an unwavering and consistent pace. It could have been stupid. Actually, it probably is a bit daft. But nevertheless, it all comes together evenly and most importantly, it’s actually entertaining in that popcorn munching, Coke slurping way you’d hope for. It also has a touch of the Spartacus about it. There’s clearly a socialist (or, at least, democratic) message buried underneath the mounds of baby oil and loin cloths. To say any more may be to spoil some of the second half of the film, but it definitely tries to have some deeper meaning tucked away in there.
Back on the podcast earlier this year when reviewing Pompeii, I accused Paul WS Anderson of being a director who “doesn’t make films badly, he just makes bad films”. Similar in some respects as these two films may be, it would be unfair of me to level that same accusation at Ratner’s version of Hercules. It’s not a bad movie at all. The story may be a tad lightweight, relying on some montage sequences and an audience either too young or wilfully ignorant enough to overlook some rather polarised set pieces. However, like Pompeii, it is also surprisingly watchable. Teenage boys who aren’t quite old enough to watch the superior 15-rated 300, or of the wrong generation to have seen 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, seem to be this 12A’s target audience. Which is fine. They will most certainly be the people who get the most out of it. It’s not a film to challenge your preconceptions of anyone or anything, but it will provide a couple of cheap thrills and who knows, maybe it will even help to ease the monkey off of Ratner’s back a little.
Owen Hughes will challenge your preconceptions of everyone and everything over on Twitter or on the weekly podcast.
When a director is as critically and artistically reviled as Michael Bay (best summed up in this classic song from Team America) it’s sometimes difficult to admit that they haven’t always been terrible at what they do. Films like The Rock, Armageddon, and Bad Boys may lack the subtlety and originality of the truly great films of our generation, but they are, on the whole, entertaining blockbusters in a style that has been sadly lacking in recent years.
This is pretty much all Michael Bay’s fault to be honest, with a decade of films that are all at once dumb, bombastic, sexist, and interminably dull despite the constant crash, bang, wallop of CGI ‘action’ scenes. Bad Boys 2 started the rot, and by the time the third Transformers film rolled into town everyone but teenage boys and the toy manufacturers were praying for his career to be taken out the back and shot as humanely as possible.
Then something strange happened. I, along with other film fans of sound mind and body, suddenly got excited about a new Michael Bay film. Based on a fascinating true life story, and starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Pain & Gain promised something we never thought possible; Michael Bay attempting his version of an indie film. And you know what, it’s actually not a bad film.
The story focuses on Wahlberg’s character Daniel Lugo, a former fraudster who is trying to live a straight life while ferociously pursuing the American Dream. He spends almost all of his time at his gym, sculpting the perfect body while training clients to realise their full physical potential. His confusion of ambition and greed leads to a bizarre scheme that involves kidnapping one of his mega rich clients, and violently persuading them to sign over everything to him. The weak link in the operation being his accomplices; a born again Christian battling addiction (Johnson), and his best friend and gym protégé (Anthony Mackie).
What follows is both highly entertaining, and morally troubling. The central performances are brilliant, with Walhberg and Johnson giving their best performances in recent years. A brilliant mix of comedy, desperation, and outright violence; along with Mackie they are the glue that holds this film together. They are ably supported by Tony Shalhoub as the kidnap victim who you never feel an ounce of sympathy for, and Ed Harris who is brilliant, but also rapidly turning into Peter Weller by the day.
The troubling aspects of this film are two-fold. Firstly, Bay’s misogynistic themes are right to the fore here with his usual slow-motion shots of women’s scantily-clad behinds, or the off-hand way almost every male character treats the women in their life. Even more questionable is the tone of the kidnap and resulting scenes of violence and torture, especially considering we are constantly reminded that this is based on a true story. I’ve read the original newspaper article the film is based upon, and the protagonists are not loveable, misunderstood oafs, but calculating psychopaths. This revisionism leaves an exceptional bad taste in the mouth as the credits role and the obligatory ‘where are they now’ title cards roll.
It’s ultimately a very entertaining film, and at times matches Bad Boys for its gleeful style of pitting buddies against explosions and worst case scenarios. If you can leave your conscience and morals at the door (and I don’t blame you if you can’t) I dare say you’ll have a great time watching this film. The saddest thing about this whole project is that Bay appears to have treated it as a little holiday, and he’ll very shortly get back to making Transformers 4 and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot that nobody wants. Still, at least then I can go back to happily slagging him off.
Pain & Gain is released in UK cinemas on 30th August.
In honour of our main review, this week’s podcast is both fast (coming it at under an hour) and furious (well, one of us is a little peeved). We not only review the 379th film released this year starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (Fast & Furious 6), but James even recaps the series for all of you who have missed out so far. Apart from the really rubbish ones.
Owen and James then wax lyrical and slightly homoerotic about Ryan Gosling, and his brilliant performance in The Place Beyond the Pines. Steve is impressed by a little-heard of gem called The Man From Earth, and Gerry revisits the genius of Four Lions.
Somehow we also manage to fit in some news from the Cannes Film Festival, recommendations on what to watch this week, and probably insult another major portion of our listeners. We usually do.
Tune in next week as we induct Studio Ghibli into the Corridor of Praise.
The first of a new series where two of our writers thrash out a film disagreement with only their wits and spell check to assist them. To the death!
Fast & Furious 6
Owen Hughes is a big dumb action fan (interpret that how you wish), but even he has standards.
Now I’m as big a fan of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in action movies as the next guy. He’s great in the earlier stuff like Welcome to the Jungle and Walking Tall, as well as more recently in films like Faster and GI Joe: Retaliation. Considering he’s in about a hundred films released this year, it’s not really that surprising then that not all of them can be hits. Some of them, such as Fast & Furious 6, had to be misses.
Maybe it’s because I’ve only ever seen the first film in the series and none of its sequels that I didn’t like F&F6? Maybe it takes time to warm to the annoying, one dimensional, unfunny characters and their slapstick comedy mixed with flailing one-liners?
I didn’t really expect the film to be any different to what it was. I’d seen the seven minute or so long preview that shows an edited version of the tank scene twice already when it was shown before Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. I wasn’t hugely impressed (“we need a plan b, c, d, a whole other alphabet”. Sigh.) Although, in the context of what’s happening with the plot – I use the term ‘plot’ loosely – that action set piece does work fairly well. If you could remove some of the horrendous snappy one-liners, I might even have said it worked rather well.
In fact, most of the action bits which punctuate every scene like an unnecessary exclamation mark are handled well. No less well than you’d expect, but ‘well’ all the same. You have people leaping from one car onto another, fighting on planes, some very pretty shots of London as cars race through the brightly lit streets at night. Can’t really argue with that.
However, it has virtually no substance. The Rock tries his best, but the cast are just charisma vacuums. Vin Diesel’s face has about 3 muscles in it; one to control his bottom lip to allow him to mumble and one which allows his thick leathery forehead to force his eyelids down so he can blink/sleep. The final muscle pulls back the corner of his mouth so you can tell when he’s happy/satisfied/pleased with himself. The rest of his face does. not. move. If they ever plan on remaking The Terminator…
I bloody love big dumb action films usually. We’ve all heard of the phrase “so bad it’s good”, and whether you agree with that term or not, there’s some truth to it. A film can be so intentionally stupid that it somehow becomes quite entertaining. But there’s a line to how dumb and how big an action film can be before it does a full 360 turn and goes back to being just dumb. F&F6 is one of those movies; one of the most ridiculous, lame, downright stupid movies I’ve seen in the cinema all year. It was trying so hard to have fun that it felt forced and meant I wasn’t having fun at all during it. The most excited I got during the film was at the end credits with a certain cameo. Why? I’ve no idea because I don’t really plan on watching the sequel!
Until this week I hadn’t seen a single Fast and/or Furious film, and in a disturbing turn of events I have now seen three of them. That’s half the series. I had always dismissed these films as Top Gear for teenagers. Big dumb car crashes, terrible acting, and that awful music that young people listen to. (You know, anything made after 1998.) Luckily, my obsessive and completest nature decreed I needed to make a dent in the franchise before we reviewed Fast & Furious 6 on this week’s podcast. Spending so long in such a short space of time with these ‘characters’ had an odd effect on me. I grew fond of them.
The thing is, it’s impossible to judge the true value of Fast & Furious 6 in isolation from the rest of the series. Indeed, this is a film franchise bizarrely obsessed with its own continuity and mythology which at times is more complex than a season of Game of Thrones. Going into FF6 without watching the rest of the series is akin to trying to jump straight into a random episode of a soap opera and criticising character decisions and motivations, or plot twists you didn’t see coming.
In fact, the Fast and the Furious films are the last great American soap opera. Not only does it follow the naming conventions of classics like The Bold and the Beautiful, or The Young and the Restless, but the themes and plot points are also remarkably similar. Fast and Furious 6 alone features fan favourites returning from the dead, characters with amnesia, and even a comment on the existence of evil twins. The script serves purely to move the story along, and this film features even more exposition than explosions.
It does stop every now and again for a character to put each other down, but usually in a loving, familial way. There are a few terrible lines delivered with the intensity of a Royal Shakespeare Company graduate auditioning for Hamlet though, with my personal favourite being Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) wisely imparting the knowledge that “to catch wolves, you need wolves”. I’m not sure that’s exactly how bait works. I’d consider a goat tied to a stake and armed men in position a better way than some kind of wolf showdown; but that’s why I’m not haring around the world recruiting criminals to catch other criminals, and playing hard and loose with diplomatic treaties.
Personally, I like Vin Diesel in these films. He’s cool, calm, and even gets to beat up The Rock at times. All while talking like he uses nettles and razor blades as mouthwash. Paul Walker is hilariously bad, but in a way that doesn’t detract from the film. He spends almost every scene with a look of childish glee on his face, as though he can’t quite believe this is his job. In many ways though, this is exactly how maverick FBI agent turner super criminal Brian O’Conner would behave in the same situation. Maybe we just don’t see that this giddy and excitable character has completely taken over the personality of method actor Paul Walker?
The rest of the cast are a pretty likeable bunch, and you definitely get the feeling of the dreaded ‘F’ word that is uttered every few minutes. Family. The really great thing about this film is that although it is very self-aware, it still treats its serious moments with a level of respect that is admirable. As a convert to the series I really enjoyed the latest outing for the crew, but even if I hadn’t become so connected with the characters I still would’ve had ten times the fun watching it than I did last year’s The Bourne Narcolepsy.
Sit down. Strap in. Ride or die.
Are you Team Owen or Team James (as we believe is the common parlance with the youth)? Is this fast becoming a favourite franchise, or are you furious that they keep making them?
This year, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is appearing in approximately 347 films. His screen time in this summer’s blockbusters is longer than the reign of Queen Victoria, and only Kevin Bacon (in those disappointingly bad EE adverts) will be seen by more pairs of eyeballs in darkened cinema screens across the land.
This is no happy accident though, rather it is the result of over a decade of hard work and bucketfuls of natural charisma that have led to the first true wrestling/Hollywood crossover action star. You have to admire the way that Johnson has put in a hard shift at the acting coalface, biding his time in an assortment of ropey children’s films like Tooth Fairy and Race to Witch Mountain, and honing his skills in small unconventional roles in films as diverse as Be Cool and Southland Tales.
Where he seems most at home though, is in the action genre. His film debut as the Scorpion King in 2001’s The Mummy Returns led to a woeful spin-off film, but even when left high and dry by a terrible script and lacklustre direction there is a genuine glint of stardust in the shit. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger before him, Johnson is a giant slab of muscle with a great sense of humour and a winning smile. Recent performances though, have suggested a greater depth of performance that could be the missing piece of the action star jigsaw that has been incomplete for so long.
Interestingly, Johnson has made a recent habit out of resurrecting franchises that should by rights have been long consigned to the great bargain bin in the sky. First with the Fast and Furious films, then the Journey series, and more recently with GI Joe: Retaliation. It’s not just franchises he is single-handedly resurrecting, and this summer he has achieved the near impossible by getting someone other than teenage boys excited about a Michael Bay film.
With that in mind, here are a few more moribund film series that I think Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson could infinitely improve:
The original was one of Stephen Spielberg’s best films, but the series went rapidly downhill after that. With Jurassic Park 4 in the pipeline, who better than The Rock to add a touch of kick-ass action to the mix. The only problem being the films’ inherent implausibility and complete lack of scientific grounding in fact. I mean, there’s obviously no way a T-Rex could withstand a People’s Elbow.
Aliens v Predator
It would take an infinite amount of monkeys an infinite amount of time to explain how two brilliant franchises combined to produce such a bad collection of spin-off films. It’s time for The Rock to resurrect this bafflingly bad, but so full of promise franchise. For the first time, Aliens and Predators must combine forces to defeat the most deadly force in the the universe…the Rock Bottom.
The worst thing about these dreadful films is the hour and a bit of watching some unlikeable fuckwits wander around a house while nothing happens. How about we watch The Rock chilling out at home for 90 minutes, and then he punches a ghost in the face. Box office gold.
Tell us which films you’d love to see Dwayne Johnson ‘rock’ up in. Is there a single film that wouldn’t be improved by his presence?
Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics podcast, and after the highbrow and in-depth exploration of the work of one of cinema’s greatest auteurs last week, we are genuinely reviewing the latest batshit crazy instalment in the G.I. Joe franchise.
We also mourn the fact that Dredd will not be getting a sequel, discuss the next film series that The Rock should resurrect, and James and Owen nearly come to blows over Danny Boyle’s Trance.
Join us next week for our Summer Preview Triple Bill!