We’ve reached the point in the year where it’s safe to start legitimately putting together a rough outline for your top 10 films of the year. Your number one might be displaced come December, or a handful of others might infiltrate the rest of the list; but it’s likely that those you’ve already decided are your favourites, will still be there or thereabouts by the time we compile our End of Year Awards. Continue reading Top 5 Films of 2017 (So Far)
They call it Baby Driver, and once upon a pair of wheels, Edgar Wright hit the road and was gone, zooming a full two chevrons ahead of most other action-comedies you’re likely to see this year. Read on to see what Owen Hughes thought of this toe-tapping caper.
(Click this link and press play now!) Dare to believe you can survive [another Michael Bay Transformers movie]. You hold the future in your hand. Dare. Dare to keep all of your dreams alive [of never having to sit through another one]. It’s time to take a stand. And you can win, if you dare [to stay home when the Bumblebee solo film comes out].
It’s getting a bit musky in the FC HQ this week as Steve Norman, Owen Hughes and Callum Petch engage in their very own sausage party to review Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s latest collaboration. The foul-mouthed animated comedy pretty much divided the group down the middle, but you’ll have to listen to find out who hated it, who thought it was fine, and who loved it.
Elsewhere on the pod: hooked on an Ashton Kutcher-fix, Steve reviews time-travelling sci-fi The Butterfly Effect; Owen realises he should watch a film before coming on a film podcast so squeezes in a first viewing of Roger Corman’s Piranha; and Callum revisits an old favourite in Scott Pilgrim vs the World to see if he still likes it in the same way as he used to.
Plus there’s quizzing, recommendations, chat about who is a chan of Jackie Fan (who isn’t a Jackie Fan chan?) and Callum comprehensively guides us through this year’s London Film Festival line-up.
Join the same trio again as well as the returning Tony Black next week for (sigh) Ben Hur.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is not particularly intelligent, mature or able to fully escape the shadow of a certain other Matthew Vaughn film, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Matthew Vaughn is now one of the best action directors working today. That feels really weird and kinda wrong to type and say, but it’s honestly true by this point. The guy who got his start producing Guy Ritchie crime films and directing Layer Cake is now one of the best action movie directors working today. It all, however, becomes more than clear when one actually watches Kingsman: The Secret Service. In stark contrast to the typical way of shooting action films, Vaughn doesn’t shake the camera around like a drunkard who is sobering up, he doesn’t keep it tightly zoomed in on the characters in a misguided attempt to make the viewer feel like they’re there, and he doesn’t rapidly cut between sixteen different shots to mask any violence in incomprehensibility.
Instead, Kingsman is fond of actually showing you stuff. He prefers longer takes with slightly steadier cameras, although they do shake, that keep enough distance from the people that it’s filming without losing the impact of the various hits. In addition, Vaughn is a man of style, flinging himself into the comic book world of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ source material with gleeful abandon. Choreography is wild and exaggerated – many unnecessary flips, highly impractical moves, and operating on rule of cool more than anything else – and he plays with speed to great effect. There are instances of the obvious Zack Snyder super-slo-mo-then-speed-up-then-slow-down-again school of filmmaking, but most of the time things are more subtle, employing brief doses of hyper-speed to enhance the kineticism of the fight scenes as well as purposefully jarring usages of CG’d environments and stitched together shots.
This all ends up creating action scenes that feel very reminiscent of the Lucas Lee fight from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the entirety of The World’s End, like Matthew Vaughn saw what Edgar Wright was doing and, instead of merely taking notes, lifted pretty much the whole aesthetic for himself. It really, really works, though. When Kingsman does get into its action scenes, they end up being a tonne of glorious fun. Much like when he directed Kick-Ass, Vaughn displays a gleeful rather teenage enthusiasm for action sequences, prioritising fun and coolness over logic, reality and good taste. In its standout sequence, Vaughn ends up crafting an utterly ridiculous brawl that starts off feeling like slightly uncomfortable wish-fulfilment bad taste, but becomes so gloriously deranged – aided by a perfect music cue – and so impeccably staged and shot that I ended up revelling with the film in its excessive line-crossing mayhem. It’s the kind of action scene that films don’t have the balls to make nowadays.
That’s what Kingsman has going for it. Pure glorious debauched fun, where you can also actually make out what’s going on, which is an incredibly nice change of pace from humourless incomprehensible dreck like Taken 3, The Equalizer and their ilk. I mean, it’s not the only thing going for it, but it is the main thing going for it and the thing that powers it through most of its problems. Vaughn’s direction is always pacey and stylish, the performances are all excellent – in particular, relative newcomer Taron Egerton really nails lead character Eggsy’s innate goodness without losing sight of the fact that he’s a mischievous young adult, whilst Colin Firth legitimately (and surprisingly) impresses as a halfway convincing action movie star – and there are many legitimate belly-laughs to be found within.
This all being said, Kingsman does have many problems. For one, at two hours and change, it is too long and that sustained energy eventually starts feeling a bit tiring at many points where the film isn’t going full-tilt. For two, whilst I do give the film points for a female lead character, in the shape of competing Kingsman candidate Roxy (Sophie Cookson), I do take those points back for the film not really giving her much to do, despite making a big deal out of her existence. This is actually a problem with the film overall, lots of time is spent on certain characters and plotlines – the main ones involving chav Eggsy beings groomed by Colin Firth’s Harry Hart to become the latest Kingsman, a member of an elite and highly secretive spy organisation, whilst tech billionaire Richmond Valentine (a lisping Samuel L. Jackson) puts into play an evil plan that threatens the world – and that split can, at times, leave the film feeling unfocussed and underdeveloped in parts.
More of an issue than those, though, is the simple fact that Kingsman is not Kick-Ass. And I’m not just saying that because it’s the same people who made Kick-Ass the film (Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman) adapting work by the same people who made Kick-Ass the comic (Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons). Kingsman has that same anarchic tone, that same gleeful desire to revel in immaturity, that same stylish nature, the same attempt at melding action and comedy, that same irritating self-conscious insistence on having characters refer to the type of movie the film is trying to be in-dialogue, that same shock death of [REDACTED] at the two-thirds mark… I think you see what the problem is.
Kingsman ends up hitting a lot of Kick-Ass’ beats only without the surprise impact that Kick-Ass had back in 2010. It’s also kinda just a lesser movie in general. It’s nowhere near as funny, most of its cast isn’t as developed, its pace over the runtime isn’t as well managed, and I rarely found it as giddy and grin-inducingly brilliant as I found, and still find, Kick-Ass to be. It feels less vital, less like a shot in my movie-going arm, and less brilliant than that film, basically. When it’s going full-tilt, pushing itself well past the typical limits of immaturity and backing utterly ridiculous extended displays of violence in sync to “Pomp And Circumstance”, that lower-quality Xerox feeling rescinds completely and the film is a delight to watch. When it slows down from that, though, my personal being was filled equally with enjoyment for what I was watching but also a desire to just watch Kick-Ass again.
That all being said, Kingsman: The Secret Service is still a delight and a far better film than its last minute delay and eventual January release date would have you believe. In its lesser moments, it’s a less-great version of Kick-Ass. In the moments when it’s on fire, and those do eventually come and my word are they glorious, it sets a high bar for the rest of 2015’s action films to clear. Superbly directed, very well acted, and a great deal of fun, Kingsman is very much a delight that, although it never overcomes the shadow of Kick-Ass, is another excellent entry into the filmography of Matthew Vaughn: one of the best action movie directors working today.
Still feels weird saying that.
Kingsman: The Secret Service will be released in UK cinemas on January 29th, and in US cinemas on February 13th.
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.
Welcome to this week’s bumper Failed Critics Podcast, ans the usual suspects and special guest Carole Petts get in touch with their younger selves and combine their efforts in attempt to stop catastrophe: Steve winning the quiz and picking a film worse than Cutthroat Island…
They also find time to review new releases X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent, as well as a clutch of teen-focused dramas in What We’ve Been Watching, including Short Term 12, The Selfish Giant, and The Kids Are Alright. Not only that, but we even find time to discuss the departure of Edgar Wright from Ant-Man, and the recruitment of Gareth Edwards for a Star Wars spin-off.
Join us next week for reviews of Edge of Tomorrow and A Million Ways to Die in the West.
Also this week we discuss the events of Comic-Con, including the announcement of Superman vs Batman, and Loki building a formidable geek army. We also review Apollo 13, Sssssss (yes, really), and new Netflix Original show Orange Is the New Black.
Join us next week when we induct Studio Ghibli into the Corridor of Praise.
The best films each day on free-to-air TV as chosen by site editor and self-confessed John Hughes obsessive, James Diamond.
Sam Mendes may have hit the commercial and critical jackpot with last year’s Skyfall, but some of his finest work is in portraying the minutiae of family life, and the struggles to save a relationship rather than the world. American Beauty is a modern classic, and Away We Go is an underrated gem of a movie. That’s why I’m recommending Revolutionary Road without having seen it myself. Mendes directing Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as an American couple in the 1950s is all I need to hear.
Tuesday 23rd April – LA Confidential (ITV4, 10pm)
More fantastic period drama from an Oscar-winning writer/director, this time it’s Curtis Hanson (who won the Oscar for this co-written screenplay) and the elegantly brutal L.A Confidential. A noir thriller set in Los Angeles in the decade after the Second World War, it confirmed the status of Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey as Hollywood heavyweights, and proved Kim Bassinger also had something left to give. That’s before even mentioning brilliant performances from Guy Pierce, James Cromwell, and Danny DeVito. Film-making at its best.
Wednesday 24th April – The Naked Gun (Film4, 9pm)
From one end of the movie cop spectrum to the other. While some may argue that Airplane is one of the funniest movies ever, I have always preferred this Zucker/Abrahams franchise, with the brilliant Leslie Neilsen as Frank Drebin. Let’s just hope that recent rumours of a reboot turn out to be false.
Thursday 25th April – Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Film4, 10.45pm)
You may have noticed that if I see a John Hughes movie showing during the week, it invariably gets a spot on my list. This week is no exception, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles is one of his best. The story of Steve Martin and John Candy as a mismatched pair of strangers struggling to get home for Thanksgiving. It doesn’t do anything clever or original with an admittedly derivative premise, but is carried to brilliance by great central performances, and a heavy dollop of John Hughes heart.
Friday 26th April – Rear Window (Film4, 4.45pm)
Despite Vertigo’s place at the top of the most recent Sight and Sound poll, Rear Window is the film I most often hear people pick when talking about their favourite Hitchcock pictures. It certainly has a less creepy performance from James Stewart, backed by a brilliantly simple plot that allows the Master of Suspense to work his magic to perfection. For those of you after a late-night choice, why not catch Withnail & I on Film4 at 12.20am. Though you’d be wise not to start the drinking game at that hour of the day.
Saturday 27th April – Notorious (BBC2, 2.05pm)
Recommending two Hitchcock films on consecutive days is possibly the height of film blogging laziness. I just can’t help it though, especially when you can spend Saturday afternoon watching the great Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in another of Hitch’s perfect films. The fact that it’s on BBC2 means you don’t even have to worry about adverts. Bliss.
Sunday 28th April – Hot Fuzz (ITV2, 9pm)
One of the reasons that we at Failed Critics are so excited about The World’s End this summer is because whenever Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost produce something, its guaranteed to be another slice of fried gold. This 2007 follow-up to Shaun of the Dead is an ambitious buddy cop action film set in Gloucestershire, with touches of Point Break and The Wicker Man thrown in for good measure. The brilliant support cast includes classic British thespians like Edward Woodward and Timothy Dalton, as well as a number of the new guard including Paddy Considine and Olivia Coleman.