Tag Archives: Home Alone

Failed Critics Podcast: The Battle of the Four Critics

get santaWelcome one and all to a very merry penultimate edition of the Failed Critics Podcast 2014! We took a couple of weeks off in a bid to resolve our audio issues, but have returned just in time for Christmas. Joining stalwarts Owen and Steve are our special guests Matt Lambourne and Callum Petch.

Foregoing any news this week, mainly in an effort to keep spirits high, we kick off the festivities with a twist on the regular quiz theme. The team run through which Christmas movies they’ve been watching on the run up to the big day and there’s even time to squeeze in a review of the most anticipated December blockbuster The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Peter Jackson’s final journey into Middle Earth.

We’ve even brought you an early triple bill shaped present for such a joyous occasion as this. Steve, Owen, Matt and Calum pick their three favourite films featuring actors who have famously played Santa Claus on the big screen; Tim Allen (The Santa Clause), Richard Attenborough (Miracle on 34th Street), James Cosmo (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Tom Hanks (The Polar Express) respectively.

Join us next week for the end of year special as we reveal the winners (and losers) of the Failed Critics Awards 2014!

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Failed Critics Podcast: Christmas Triple Bill

Home Alone Christmas TreeHo ho ho! Merry Christmas to every single one of our beautiful listeners (we hope the less good-looking ones have a decent time as well), and as an early Christmas present to you we present our favourite Christmas films. Well, three of us do anyway. One of the team decided that they wanted to be different and chose some films that might have a bit of snow in them, possibly a tree in one of the scenes. I wonder who…

We’ll be back on New Years Eve with a review of the year destined to be bigger, more bloated, and even less self-aware than late-period Marlon Brando. There’s still one more day to vote for you favourite films of 2012 by visiting the site here – rock the vote!

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“This is Christmas. The season of perpetual hope.” (And breaking and entering.)

home alone aftershaveThere have been some great story-tellers who have entertained children over the years. From Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm, to Roald Dahl, and the wonderful individuals that helped created a dynasty of Disney classics. But, for me, none of them understood children quite in the way that John Hughes did.

I grew up on John Hughes films and, unlike every other film-maker I’ve known, his work really spoke to me as a child. I always felt he understood my dreams, fears, and what makes me tick – even growing up in a small Devon village, an entire world away from the fictional town of Shermer, Illinois, where the majority of his films took place.

It wasn’t a matter of realism – anyone who complains about a lack of realism in a John Hughes film is missing the point more drastically than one of his trademark villainous teachers. Of course someone like John Bender wouldn’t turn up for Saturday detention. But, if he hadn’t  geeks like me wouldn’t have ever know we had common ground with the likes of the seemingly 30-year-old career criminal in our school, and we certainly wouldn’t have had one of the finest closing shots in cinema history.

Excuse me while I just pop out and punch the air while walking across a football field to Simple Minds.

So to bash Home Alone (directed by Chris Columbus, but written by Hughes) for its utter ludicrousness and unbelievable concept completely misses the point. This is a fantasy film rooted in the mundane. Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin in a genuinely brilliant performance) is an eight-year-old boy who wishes his family would disappear, then wakes up to find them gone. What follows is exactly how an eight-year-old imagines they would spend a few days looking after themselves.

Kevin’s parents act in the way we all thought our parents did when we were mad at them. They’re self-obsessed, stupid, and really unfair. The chain of events that lead to Kevin being left home alone (hey, that’s the name of the film!) leave us in no doubt that Kevin is the wronged party here – someone eats all of the cheese pizza he ordered, no one will help him pack his case for his first ever trip abroad, and finally he’s sent to bed early in the loft after a fight instigated by his older brother leads to carnage in the kitchen and the family calling him a “little jerk” and a disease. The genius of Hughes is that children and adults will watch that sequence and come to entirely different conclusions on who is to blame for the fracas.

Once Kevin is left at home he acts in pretty much the same way we all did when we were left at home. He snoops around bedrooms, eats junk food, and watches trashy grown-up movies. Hell, that’s still how I act when my wife leaves the house to go and get a pint of milk.

The rest of his adventures are exactly how a child imagines things would play out in this situation. Accidental shoplifting charges being avoided with a chase across a crowded ice-rink; imparting of wisdom to old men who may or may not be serial killers while listening to a choir singing the frankly awesome Carol of the Bells; and defending your house against a Goodfella-turned burglar (and the other one, you know, him) in the style of MacGyver delivering Bruce Willis-esque one-liners.

If the naysayers had their way the film would end in 20 minutes, when the number of boarding passes doesn’t match the number of passengers. Or when the policeman who goes to check on Kevin actually does his job instead of telling Kevin’s mum to “count her kids again”. Or maybe they’d prefer a film where two strong career criminals easily overpower a defenceless 8-year-old boy and murder him during the course of a burglary, and a film instead focusing on the trial of a mother who abandoned her son to die at the hands of these fiends?

These people are adults – and they are not your friends. They’re what the French call “les incompetent”. They cannot be trusted.

Instead, slap on your Dad’s aftershave, sledge down a staircase, and conquer your fears of the type of basement furnace which is a huge contributing factor to global warming. Then watch Home Alone (two Oscar nominations and highest-grossing comedy of all-time) and remember when you promised yourself you’d never be like them when you grew up.

Read the 12 Days of Christmas Films so far. If you want to watch Home Alone you’ll have to buy it. It’s already been on.

A Decade In Film: The Nineties – 1990

A new series where Failed Critics contributors look back on a particular decade in the world of cinema, choose their favourite films from each year of that decade, and discuss the legacy those years have left us.

Kate has chosen to relive the nineties, because she’s old enough to remember them in their entirety  This week she revisits 1990.

5. Pretty Woman

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“I think we both know she’s not my niece.”

Bridging the gap from the big hair and leather boots of the Eighties to the sleek bobs and kitten heels of the Nineties is Pretty Woman. Hot off the heels of the female-barbershop-quintet-renal-failure-romp Steel Magnolias, Julia Roberts smashes it, teaches Hollywood Boulevard a lesson, and basically makes us all want to become a hooker.

I’ve written before that I first saw this film in primary school. Over twenty years on, it stands the test of time. Roberts is adorable and exquisite – the need to exclaim how much nicer her real hair is once she loses the wig never tires. I generally don’t see the appeal of Gere, though his brooding business man (a precursor to Sex and the City’s Mr Big)  is endearing. However it’s Héctor Elizondo as the kindly hotel manager who steals the show. And his real life love story with director Garry Marshall is even cuter than Edward & Vivian.

 

4. Home Alone

“Kevin, you’re such a disease!”

After defining teen movies throughout the Eighties, John Hughes enters the new decade with a new protagonist, and children everywhere respond by attempting to bunk off their family holidays. As is the John Hughes grown up hating way, eight year old Kevin is smarter, more socially aware, with better woodworking skills than his adult counterparts, and defends his house accordingly.

Watching this as a kid around the same age as the star was pretty exciting, and a great way to diminish a fear of burglars. Just don’t say it launched Culkin‘s career, because he was brilliant in Uncle Buck the year before. It stands up to repeat viewings, and the great Catherine O’Hara as Kevin’s forgetful mum becomes more infuriating each time. I’m a sucker for a good Christmas film, and you can’t beat a bit of Carol of the Bells. Home Alone 2 is miles better, though.

 

3. Ghost

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“Molly, you in danger, girl.”

The highest grossing film of the year, nominated for five (winner of two) Academy Awards, and perpetually dismissed as a chick flick. The ghost of a murdered banker enlists the help of a usually phoney psychic to save the life of his lover. A potter’s wheel and The Righteous Brothers also star. That Sam and his colleagues conduct their multimillion dollar deals on VDU green screens shows the leap in technology about to take place. By the end of the decade we were watching The Matrix.

A love story, no doubt, but the relationships both Sam and Molly have with psychic Oda Mae Brown are the important ones. Goldberg plays cynical and hysterical to perfection, and this role sets her up nicely for a career as a nun. The late Patrick Swayze offers up some serious emotional acting, after spending the previous few years typecast as a face kicking dancer. He still manages to take his top off quite a bit though, which is no bad thing.

 

2. Edward Scissorhands

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“Before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did.”

Tim Burton‘s surprise follow up to Beetlejuice and Batman chronicles the discovery of an inventor’s unfinished creation in weird suburbia. The film is said to be largely autobiographical for Burton. Except the bit where he has scissors for hands. A tragic love story about society, reality and hedge-trimming. Beauty and the Beast for the Nineties, but without the happy ending.

An angsty teen staple, I watched my VHS copy until it died. Even the trailer makes me well up. Depp is stunning as our Gothic hero, in the first of many collaborations with Burton. And the always good Dianne Wiest, is the nicest Avon lady you could ever hope to procure eye shadow from.

 

1. Goodfellas

“One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother’s groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.”

Spanning three decades in the life of a gangster and, after the economic slump of the Eighties, showcasing a lifestyle we could all aspire to. A contender for the greatest film of all time (until we reach 1994, at least) and certainly one of Scorsese’s greatest achievements (not counting his Curb Your Enthusiasm cameo).

Ensemble cinema at its best, marred only by the fact that our original DVD copy had to be flipped over halfway through the film to accommodate the 146 minute running time. From the pitch perfect soundtrack, to that tracking shot, Goodfellas is perfect every time. And then we got to relive it the following decade, when half the cast showed up in The Sopranos.