Tag Archives: Fences

2017 in Review – February


“Y’all jokers must be crazy.”

February. Awards month. This second diary entry starts with a list of Oscar nominated films I would love to get through before the awards ceremony on the last Sunday of the month. Try as I might, I don’t have the time nor energy to travel up and down the country to obscure little picturehouses to watch three hour French films about the government’s war on Brussels sprouts (I don’t know what any of these films are about. Call that an educated guess) so that pipe dream was never going to be doable.

Maybe that’s a tick list for next year. One challenge at a time. Maybe next year will be the year I watch every single nominated film. For now, it’s all about these 365 films I have to watch. So…

the martian 2015Week One

The first week felt pretty busy when it came to films. More blind luck than organisation, the month started by knocking another film of the blu-ray pile of shame; The Martian‘s extended cut burned through our evening on day one. I honestly forgot how good that film was.

The three year old’s journey through the MCU continued with Iron Man 2 on the same night we bought foreign film Oscar nom A Man Called Ove. The Saturday of the Failed Critics Pubcast gave me train time for a first watch of 1984’s Bad Taste and a repeat visit to Luc Besson’s Lucy. A family trip for the excellent Lego Batman Movie, followed by the pretty rubbish Gold was how that Sunday started. Rounded it off with the traditional yearly watch of Any Given Sunday.

Early February ended a bit of a mixed bag. The hopefully final but surprisingly fun Resident Evil movie was certainly better than the first Schumacher Batman that I somehow ended up watching. But with the last films of the week being the great Hidden Figures and the sublime Gone Baby Gone, things were looking up.

mad-max-chromeWeek Two

In my misguided attempt to watch all the Oscar nominated films, I forced myself through a couple of horrendous films to start week two. Michael Bay’s Stars and Stripes masturbatory fantasy that is 13 Hours may be one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Followed by the promising, but overall sleep inducing Passengers felt like the worst way to continue this challenge. Luckily, the newly released “Definitive Directors Cut” of Heat was enough to cleanse the palette.

The next few days was a mix of first watches and old favourites. John Wick and Training Day filling the quota of films we’d seen before; while new films were covered by The Girl With All The Gifts and Fences. All superb choices, if I do say so myself. The bizarre documentary Beware the Slenderman was our Saturday night viewing this week. Four films on the Sunday filled in my numbers nicely, I finished off the weekend with the beautiful, boner inducing “Black and Chrome” cut of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Luckily, work was quiet as this week carried on. An empty office and a stack of paperwork meant iTunes films to pass the time. A couple of films at work, the original Jungle Book with the kid when I got home and I ended the week with an early contender for film of the year, John Wick: Chapter 2.


More films at work mean that by the time we are watching Leon that evening – another from the Pile of Shame – I’ve added three more to the list. Revisiting last year’s War on Everyone, along with an impromptu Paranorman watch and rewatching Antoine Fuqua’s Shooter meant my list had a diverse selection being added.

Excellent espionage thriller/comic book film Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Founder clocked in at numbers 98 and 99 on my spreadsheet. Leaving space for something special for the next milestone. Film 100 was the first watch of this year, the seventeenth since the film came out almost a year ago to the day. Film 100 was the one, the only, Deadpool.

A couple of animated films, that included the surreal but fun A Cat in Paris brought up the rear for the most part this week. I also managed to get my sticky hands on a review screener for the latest film from one of my favourite directors to end this week. If you ever get the chance, you should definitely watch James Cullen Bressack’s Bethany.

nuns-with-gunsWeek Four

The month begins to come to a close. The original cut of Mad Max: Fury Road kicks things off (yes, a different cut is a different film. My challenge, my rules). Peter Berg’s Patriots Day and Gore Verbinski’s A Cure For Wellness meant the week had an up and down middle section. You can hear me wax lyrical about both on the Oscar fallout podcast. This week also saw us dig into one of the worst films we have ever seen; Nude Nuns with Big Guns is just as award worthy as you think it is.

Loads of films with the kid this week, too. On request, we saw three, THREE, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. The two recent ones and the original 1990 version. Creepy, rapey Michelangelo aside, they ain’t the worst movies in the world. And she loved them, that’s all that matters. It’s the same reason I sat through the Angry Birds Movie again! Luckily, she didn’t watch our final one of that weekend, we watched the dug in to The Greasy Strangler. Just… wow.

Finally, after weeks of joking around about how ridiculous it is that we could live in a world where Suicide Squad won an academy award, it actually happened. So a rewatch of the film I loved that everyone else despised; the Oscar winning Suicide Squad. Then, as I write this, I’m in my seat at the local IMAX waiting for the premiere of Logan to begin. And thanks to Fox’s brilliant marketing ploy to show it at 10.23pm, it still counts as a February film. And much like last month, the second I turn this in, it’s onto writing the review.

This is getting tiring. But at this point, I’ve done more than half of the number I totalled last year. That can’t be bad.

Two months in the bag. Only ten to go.

Films seen this month: 54

Current count, as of 28th of February: 114 of 365.

Failed Critics Podcast: No Winners Here


Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes and special guests Paul Field and Andrew Brooker indulge in a bit of back-slapping over the Oscars in this week’s episode.

If you look directly underneath your seat, every listener to the podcast will find a spectacular, one-of-a-kind goody-bag filled with luxury items, such as one of 20 possible variations of a DVD with “Hooligan” in the title, a plastic receptacle measuring approximately 10 cubic centimetres, a mini-statuette of Dave Courtney with no trousers on, and a metaphorical token of our appreciation (redeemable once per lifetime and not for resale).

We re-cap our picks for this year’s Academy Awards from last week’s episode and find out which of the team is going to be most happy and who will be the most disappointed with the final results. We also reminisce about Bill Paxton, who sadly passed away last week, before running through some of the films we’ve been watching lately.

Steve finally found a cinema showing Fences after his rant about staggered releases on the previous podcast; Paul got his hands on a copy of decent Brit-flick Bonded by Blood 2; Owen actually listened to Steve’s recommendation at the end of last week’s podcast and for some unfathomable reason watched Nazi Vengeance; and Brooker snuck a few new releases into the mix with Patriots Day and weird psychological thriller A Cure for Wellness.

Join us again next week as the team take on Wolverine in the latest X-Men movie, Logan.




“It’s hard for me to admit I’ve been standing in the same spot for eighteen years.”

As I wrap up the last of this year’s Best Picture nominations, I sit wondering if last year’s negativity towards the Academy with the #OscarsSoWhite campaign has led to the disproportionate number of films this year based around race and racial tensions, or if the committee genuinely thinks these films are worth the nominations.

I mean, Hidden Figures is excellent, but it’s got such a flat, emotionless ending that it almost ruins the film. Loving is a great story, well acted, but is so formulaic that I’m forced to ask if it wasn’t for the fact that it was about what it’s about, would it have been nominated? But here we are, with Denzel Washington directing Denzel Washington in a film that perfectly encapsulates Denzel Washington.

A bin man in Pittsburgh in the 1950’s, Troy Maxson (Washington) is a man trying to raise his family, all the while being bitter about the cards life dealt him. His failures in his past are not only holding him back, but they’re forcing him to hold back his long suffering wife, Rose (Viola Davis) and his son Cory (Jovan Adepo).

Feeling like he’s been trodden on and kept down his whole life, Troy insists on pushing his life views onto his family even as they try desperately to move forwards and make their lives better. As life carries on around him, the old man has to come to terms with the fact that he has stood still for god knows how long as everyone and everything around him has moved on.

Based on August Wilson’s play of the same name, and with a screenplay written by Wilson himself; Fences is set almost exclusively in Maxson’s back yard, which acts as a natural point for people to hang out and chat – much like your kitchen every time you’re forced to have people over. This central location gives us an interesting view on Maxson family life as time goes by; like a time-lapse photo of Denzel Washington being an asshole. And it works surprisingly well.

Washington’s bitter patriarch is a joy to watch, as any Washington character is. The man has made a career shaped in excellence with both his acting and directing and that’s continued with Fences. We are invited to watch this legendary actor seamlessly move between loving husband, jovial workmate and concerned dad. We get to watch him try his hardest to be good at all three roles, but not necessarily do a great job at any of them.

It’s an interesting look at a working husband’s life in this particular slice of time, no matter your views now, it’s no doubt mirroring the lives of so many from that time. If I had to pick a fault, it would simply be that while Denzel Washington is excellent, he has become the king of the angry monologue and that is pretty much his only move here. It really is a great move, but it’s nothing new. I was hoping for something a little more than the man’s greatest hits.

However, the stand out performance is Viola Davis as Rose, Troy’s wife of almost two decades. She brings such a spectacular performance that you can’t help but be in awe of her. Admittedly, I don’t know an awful lot of her work (aside from last year’s Suicide Squad) so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect – outside of the fact she was already Oscar nominated by the time I got to the film – so I was more than pleasantly surprised when almost all of the emotional pull comes from her role. In this year of very racially charged Oscar-bait films, I was very impressed that her performance came more from her portrayal of an almost downtrodden woman, fighting for respect in her own house, than anything else. I can’t speak highly enough of her performance.

With an excellent rear guard consisting of usually excellent, but almost always ignored support actors, like Mykelti Williamson and Stephen Henderson, Washington’s film has a near perfect cast to tell this story for him. Setting the film in a twenty square-foot garden doesn’t give the actor/director much opportunity to show off his cinematic chops, but somehow the man with only a few films under his belt has managed to make this both interesting and compelling. Which, considering the limits he has, is a small miracle.

Fences isn’t the best of the Oscar Season films, but it’s an excellent entry in 2017’s contender bracket. A film with a point – several points in fact – and a fascinating story certainly isn’t one to be ignored. I look forward to seeing more from Denzel’s directorial playbook in the future.