Welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast. This one is actually being published within a reasonable amount of time since the recording. Aren’t we spoiling you, eh!
“Just another day in Starfleet.”
A few years have passed since Paramount and JJ Abrams tried to convince us that Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t really Khan. Even non-Trek fans like myself walked out after trekking Into Darkness to a resounding “meh” and a muscle-pulling shrug of the shoulders. So, I guess that makes it time for yet more Star Trek… Goodness?
Out is Abrams – off making star films of the Wars variety – and in is Justin Lin, the man behind four of the Fast and Furious films. Hoping to inject a little something different into this franchise and hopefully make fans forget about the travesty that that was the bastardisation of The Wrath of Khan back in 2013.
Sent into uncharted space on a routine rescue mission, Captain Kirk and his crew cross paths with a mysterious ship that chooses to respond to their calls with hostility and sets about attacking the Enterprise. Making light work of the Federation ship, the hostile race forces the captain and the crew that haven’t been taken prisoner by the unknown foe to abandon the Enterprise to crash land on a nearby planet.
Spread across the rocky landscape of the planet, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Dr. “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and Scotty (Simon Pegg) must brave the odds and rescue their crew from their maniacal hostage taker, the leader of an old race that live underground, known as Krall (Idris Elba in some very heavy makeup). With a little help from mysterious warrior Jaylah (Kingsman‘s Sofia Boutella), the last of her race, stranded on the planet by Krall and his murderous race, the survivors have little time to release the prisoners, escape the planet and find a way to stop Krall and his plans to destroy the galaxy.
Here’s the thing with Beyond – or in fact any of the Star Trek films whether they be originals or from the rebooted now trilogy – they are safe films. For fear of pissing off a massive fan base, they’ll never do anything groundbreaking to the franchise. I mean, they couldn’t even kill Kirk properly in the last bloody film could they? In an effort to keep the rabid fanbase appeased, there will never be something done that they can’t come back from and while I did quite enjoy my time with the latest in the sci-fi series to clearly be missing a colon in its title, it meant that even the opening salvo of destruction had very little in the way of peril in it.
It did look good though. The annihilation of the Enterprise by Krall’s “Bees” like a hot knife through butter looked amazing and was a solid fifteen minutes of beautiful destruction. But the franchise has gotten to a stage where it feels a lot like the episodes everyone used to watch and rave about. Once the world famous ship has crashed landed, it’s very run-of-the-mill and definitely more about the characters than the set pieces. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that at all – my favourite films his year have had almost no action and been all exposition – but the third film in this rebooted franchise should feel comfortable enough to keep bringing the action and maybe hold back a little with the fanboy callbacks. When there are set pieces, though, it’s generally pretty good. Action is competent, combat is thrilling and the camaraderie between long-standing characters during these moments is always fun to watch.
The characters are definitely what makes this film – and the previous entries in this reimagined franchise – worth sticking with. I’ve enjoyed watching the relationship build between Chris Pine’s James Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock as the pair are put in these impossible situations that does nothing but strengthen their friendship.
The same can be said for Spock and Karl Urban’s Leonard McCoy; who I honestly think steals the show in each of the films with his neurotic insanity and paranoia. Urban brings such a wealth of character and comedy to the doctor that you can’t help but love him.
As you can imagine, Idris Elba is very cool as the bad guy and fits the maniacal monster perfectly. Like a great bad guy in an episode of the show though, you always wish for a little more screen time that just doesn’t happen, and it’s a real shame.
Some bizarre choices made by the creative team all the way through do hinder the film a little though. Ok, it hinders the film a lot. The script may be the poorest of the trilogy with some achingly bad dialogue and a real lack of effort in parts. One glaringly obvious and just awful moment hits you towards the end when Elba’s Krall spots Kirk in the heat of a massive dogfight and utters “Kirk, my old friend.” Even though the characters have never met before the film and they spent around eleven seconds in each others company up to that point. By those standards, everyone I spoke to getting my Starbucks on the way in to see this film should be getting an invite to my wedding! It’s moments like that, that take this film down a notch or two to just another average flick.
Briefly, because I haven’t really mentioned these thing in reviews, podcasts, or even in my usual rants on social media. A couple of things I want to touch upon:
First, I love the way the death of legend Leonard Nimoy is handled; with grace and respect. He’s given a send off worthy of a man who played such a classic role. Bravo.
Second, the gay Sulu thing. I love it. I think it’s about time a franchise of this magnitude embraced the times and making Sulu the focus of these attentions is great. In my humble opinion, of course. I don’t buy the “Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t have wanted it” shit. The man famously gave us a black woman front and centre in a time that it wasn’t done. I believe he would have done the exact same thing for the gay community. Bravo, again.
And finally, while he doesn’t have much screen time, it’s achingly sad to see Anton Yelchin up on that screen. His dedication at the end of the film, along with Nimoy’s, was lovely.
Anyways, to wrap up. Dodgy scripting, some ghastly CGI, especially around a certain motorbike scene that made me cringe and massive sections of plot and continuity ignored, made for frustrating viewing at times. That’s not to say it’s unwatchable, but overall Star Trek Beyond is on a par with the previous entries in the series. You already know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t expect the world to change with this flick.
Remakes are a cause for concern in the world of cinema. Not many of them work, or can hold a candle to the original. An almost all CGI/digitally rendered version of the Jungle Book? Brave? Yes. Worth doing? No.
My thoughts until I saw the trailer.
It looked dark, exciting and very real, but that did not mean the film would be the same. Luckily it was.
Like most people who had a childhood, Disney films are remembered fondly. None more so than the 1967 version of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. The story, as I’m sure all the readers know: human child Mowgli lost in the jungle as a baby, raised by wolves and hated by the tiger Shere Khan. The movie is iconic for its characters and its catchy tunes.
The 2016 version, directed by Iron Man‘s John Favreau, is a darker and more grown up version but still retains its sense of fun. The plot is basic, but you don’t need something intricate; it is the performances, visuals and action that make the film a joy to watch.
It certainly is brave to make an almost exclusively CGI movie (I suppose it would have been braver to do a live action movie with a child acting with dangerous animals). We’ve all seen the flack that the Star Wars prequels and Hobbit movies got for excessive use of the green screen.
Here it works though. The jungle looks beautiful; from the muddy ravines and hillsides traversed by herds of wildebeests, to the wolf packs home and Baloo’s lush looking place of residence. The animals look amazing as well. Very real (I should know, I’ve been to Monkey World and Longleat) and you can see a lot of work has gone in to making both appearance and movement accurate. The only minor gripe is the smaller animals, which to me at least, looked very computer generated.
However, it is the voice acting that makes this film. Every single one is spot on. Idris Elba perhaps steals the show as the menacing Shere Khan, hell bent on killing Mowgli. He makes the character wonderfully menacing and intimidating. He really makes the tiger sound like someone to fear.
Of course, Bill Murray is great at as the fun loving Baloo. His singing voice might not be the best but if you cannot enjoy his rendition of the Bare Necessities then there is something wrong with you, you joyless misery. Sir Ben Kingsley is also wonderful as the wise protector of Mowgli, Bagheera.
You can almost run down the cast list and tick off every one doing a voice as top drawer. Scarlett Johansson in her brief appearance as Kaa is eerie and Christopher Walken puts in a great turn as the no-longer-an-orangutan King Louie.
Neel Sethi, as the only real thing in this movie, also does well. It seems a very natural performance and it looks like he’s having fun with it. Don’t forget this is a kid in his first major role working with, for the most part, things that are not there.
The best compliment you can give to the voice acting is that now, in my head, those actors and actresses voices are those characters whereas before seeing this I could still hear those from the 1967 version. Elba et al have over ridden those voices in my mind.
The Jungle Book is a beautifully crafted retelling of a classic story and well worth seeing. I only saw it in 2D but have a feeling it is one of few films where 3D works.
Oh and stick around for the end credits.
All of you that have never listened before and have seen your family die [from laughing], huh, you now have something that stands for you! That would be the Failed Critics Podcast: Halloween special.
OK, so it is a couple of weeks early, but think of all that extra time we’ve given you to source the incredible horror movies from a whole host of different decades that we discuss during our spooktacular (urrgghhhh sorry) triple bill. With picks by hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes, and guests Carole Petts and Phil Sharman, there’s plenty for you sink your fangs into (aahhhhhh sorry sorry sorry).
Before all that, we begin as we always do – with a quiz! Steve is in control of the questions and still 2-1 up after last week’s disaster (get it?) leaving Owen teetering on the edge of being handed a potentially diabolical booby prize should he be unable to prevent a joint Carole and Phil triumph. Perhaps regardless of whatever film might await either Owen or Steve, nothing could truly be more distressing than the news that a Die Hard prequel has gone into production. Still, at least there’s the London Film Festival round-up and Godzilla vs King Kong news to discuss, eh?
We even found time to sneak in a couple of new releases alongside our main triple bill feature. With reviews of Guilermo Del Toro’s latest visual gothic tale in Crimson Peak, and the very first Netflix original movie, Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba, there was plenty to talk about in this week’s episode.
Join us again next week for DE NE- NEEERRRR, DE NE- NERRRR, DE, DE NER NER NERRRR… 007 is back for his longest outing yet with the release of SPECTRE.
The penultimate entry in our Decade In Film spin-off mini-series sees Andrew, Liam, Mike, Owen and Paul turn their attentions to the year 2013.
It was a year in which the world of film criticism as a whole took a moment to collectively thank the late great Roger Ebert, who sadly passed away in early April. 2013 also gave rise to the term “McConaissance”, as James so astutely spotted before anybody else did back in 2012, with Matthew McConaughey knocking those crappy rom-coms on the head and thus being treated as a serious, proper actor.
It was also a year where, for the briefest of times, it looked like the Oscar for best picture would finally go to a science fiction film as Gravity‘s box office takings and critical acclaim garnered huge momentum heading into the Academy Awards. But… it didn’t win. Never mind. Who cares what the Academy think is a great film, right? What you’re really interested in is what we think were the best films of 2013, right? Right. Let’s start with…
Towards the end of summer in 2013, a trailer hit for Ron Howard’s new film, Rush. Not being a fan of Formula One racing I could have easily avoided this film, to be honest I couldn’t really recall the outcome of that momentous season and really only just remember the crash. Yet I really couldn’t get enough of this trailer, it was wonderfully edited, filled with passion, intensity and with some superb looking cinematography; I was hooked and suddenly I had high expectations for this film.
Usually high expectations for a film doesn’t end well for me. However, for once, my expectations were met – actually even bettered. Rush is a film about the passion of racing, the will to never give up and the drive to be the best of the best. The story of the infamous rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda through the early seventies and that fateful season in 1976 was riveting stuff. More of an intense drama set in the world of racing about two men with different outlooks on life. Hunt, the thrill of living on the edge, pushing himself to be the best by sheer determination and at times pure recklessness. Yet Lauda, with a talent to drive, doing a job because he was excellent at it, but also a desire to not risk everything, not to lay his life on the line for his job and this dangerous sport. A desire he lost in his attempt to better Hunt, during the race at the Nurburgring track in Germany. Lauda’s return to the track is an emotional fuelled occasion, and one which touches me every time I watch the film. The final race is a heart pounding experience as Hunt attempts to win the prize which has eluded for so many years.
There isn’t much I can fault this film for; its casting is excellent, Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt swaggers around the screen with an air of arrogance and bountiful charm. Though it is Daniel Bruhl’s wonderful portrayal of Niki Lauda which just wins the race to best actor in this film – only just, though. There is a great chemistry between the two actors as they vie to become the world champion. Both are backed up by an able supporting cast including the beautiful Olivia Wilde as Hunt’s wife and Alexandra Maria Lara who plays Lauda’s wife and delivers a stunning emotionally filled performance.
The direction is superb. While I have enjoyed many of Ron Howard’s films, this is by far my favourite of his. The cinematography is exceptional from Anthony Dod Mantle, the race sequences are breath-taking and they never over stay their welcome. Howard prefers to centre on the drama of the racers rather than the actual races. Of course I couldn’t not mention Han’s Zimmer as he delivers one of the best scores I heard in 2013.
Even if you don’t like F1 racing do give this film a chance. I don’t like it, but I do like this film. Let it start and I guarantee you will cross the finish line!
by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)
Written and directed by Alejandro Hidalgo, The House of the End Times is billed as Venezuela’s first attempt at a Horror Movie.
I don’t really think the label of Horror fits this film. It’s more along the lines of a Psychological/Paranormal Thriller, with a Sci-Fi element. There’s not much in the way of blood and gore, nor is it overtly violent, but the levels of menace and threat are chokingly intense.
A basic synopsis of the plot also gives the wrong impression. A family with young children move into a long abandoned, dilapidated house and weird things happening.
Another “Haunted House” reliving its gory past or trying to hoof new owners out? We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Well, no actually, we haven’t. This is no Poltergeist or Amityville clone, it’s an extremely cleverly constructed, complex plot that unfolds slowly and manages to keep you completely in the dark right up to the end.
The film, rather strangely, begins at the mid-point of the story. It opens with Dolce, the mother, regaining consciousness in a hallway, and slowly walking round the house surveying the devastation. She calls the police for help, but ends up being arrested for three murders she has no recollection of, and is carted off to jail.
We then jump forward thirty years, to the “Present Day”, and an elderly Dulce is released from prison to serve the remainder of her sentence under house arrest. It’s at this point that the film really takes off. The action switches quickly back and forth between three distinctly different parts of the same story; we see how things started to go wrong for the family in their new home, the build up to the night of Dulce’s arrest, and we follow Present Day Dulce as she tries to make sense of the chaos happening around her and, with the help of a very persistent priest, how it all relates back to one hidden fact.
It is figuratively (and literally in one particular aspect) a Three Card Monte scam in film form.
The use of sound throughout the film is a real highlight, a decent set of speakers make a massive difference to the chill factor here. The superb writing and direction keep you on your toes at all times. Ruddy Rodriguez is brilliant as Dulce, she plays each aspect of the part wonderfully. I’m not the biggest fan of Modern Horror films, and Sci-Fi is my least favourite genre by quite some distance and yet I’m willing to say that this film is a must see. It has so many “Jump Moments” it leaves you exhausted.
If I had to pick out something to moan about, the only real problem is the make up used on the elderly version of Dulce. It’s strange that they allowed it to look so much like make up, every other facet of this gem has been polished to perfection but this one important little touch seems oddly slapdash.
Easily one of my favourite films of the decade so far, it made me say very rude words very loudly on numerous occasions and has more jumpy moments than a crack addled kangaroo in a roomful of trampolines.
by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)
Being simultaneously released in cinemas, on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as screened in Film4 all on the same day, it’s fair to say that there was a lot of hype for Ben Wheatley’s psychedelic, experimental, black and white English Civil War era comedy-drama. Already a pretty divisive film maker with plenty of people who either absolutely adored Kill List, or unapologetically hated it, it was understandable that some of us were perhaps approaching A Field In England with a certain degree of trepidation.
Certainly that’s how it was treated on the Failed Critics Podcast, where Steve and Gerry both despised as much of it as they could stand to watch. “Pretentious”, “a shit idea”, “fucking terrible”, “hard work”, “indulgent”, “nonsense”, “arty wankery hipster shit”; these aren’t unpopular opinions held on Wheatley’s fourth theatrically released feature film. However, I personally loved it. I love the experimental nature of it, the trippy way it’s edited together and just how beautifully shot it is. Not to mention Amy Jump’s poetic writing, Jim Williams’ folky soundtrack and the darkly comic, almost horror film-levels of atmosphere.
I can’t claim to have understood it all, or that it made sense to me after the first time through. I’ve since seen the film a few more times and with each viewing it just gets better and better, picking up on something I missed on previous occasions… although I doubt I actually understand it any more or less!
Both Michael Smiley and Reece Shearsmith put in fantastic performances as the mysterious Irish alchemist O’Neill hunting for his treasure and the cowardly neurotic deserter Whitehead, respectively. Menacing, creepy, disturbing and both of them equally hilarious in that typically dark Ben Wheatley sort-of-way; they’re magnificent. As if we didn’t know already, Shearsmith proves that he’s one of Britain’s best character actors around today.
The rest of the cast were decent too. Peter Ferdinando was in one of the more straight-forward roles as the troubled soldier, but he did very well and his performance also improves every time I watch this film. Having been a fan of the BBC TV series Ideal, it was nice to see Ryan Pope in something else that wasn’t a McDonalds commercial too! Richard Glover was also excellent and his Ballou My Boy song was just one of the few highlights in what is one of my favourite ever British movies.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
Admit it! Come on! We all did it! Didn’t we all go into Pacific Rim expecting garbage? Sure, it was a Guillermo del Toro film, but it just looked like Transformers Vs. Godzillas didn’t it? And we all saw how awful those films ended up didn’t we?
So why were we watching this again?
I was expecting it to be visually great, but we’ve had our fair share of gorgeous looking rubbish haven’t we? What I wasn’t expecting was a film that was that beautiful, that fun, but still smarter than most of the films I saw in 2013. It was refreshing to have a film that looked like it was going to be a flashy, bombastic popcorn movie not treat me like an imbecile.
You get 10 minutes. That’s it. 10 minutes where the important parts of the story are explained to you. In that ten minutes you’re shown the fight between the monstrous alien Kaijus and the human piloted robot “Jaegers” and given all the character development you need for veteran robo-pilot Charlie Hunnam. After those few minutes, it’s assumed you will keep up with the pace of the film and the pace that information is given to you. It’s a breath of fresh air for a film, and a film maker, to just crack on, get the story told and not pander to the lowest common denominator in the theatre.
So, Pacific Rim. The film about mankind’s last ditch attempt to defeat an alien invader coming from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. An ever-evolving invader looking to wipe us from our planet and harvest whatever we leave behind. It’s up to Hunnam, Idris Elba and a host of supporting characters to “Cancel the apocalypse”. So it’s The Abyss meets Independence Day with a little Transformers and Godzilla for good measure. The film’s synopsis is a simple one. Painfully simple. But Del Toro’s direction speaks volumes when the plot doesn’t. And what more is there to say when a giant robot hits a Godzilla wannabe with a CARGO SHIP!
Oh, yeah. One thing is left to be said.
If, like me, you’ve spent a large amount of your life in front of screens for more than just films. If you’ve lost months of your life to video games, then the casting of Ellen McLain as the Jaeger Program’s AI is a stroke of genius, guaranteed to get a knowing smile with each viewing.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
This was a year end watch after seeing it appear on a couple of best of lists in December 2013. Wasn’t really expecting much – I mean, Dutch absurdist comedy? That’s a niche genre and then some. But this gentle Sunday afternoon film turned out to be the best thing I saw all year. Diederik Ebbinge served up an unexpected gem, that left me both in fits of laughter… and floods of tears.
Ton Kas who plays Fred, a man living alone in a devout Calvinist community, finds everything changes when René van ‘t Hof as the mentally impaired Theo enters his life. Kas conveys the mundane existence of Fred brilliantly. Whilst van ‘t Hof’s performance as Theo is utterly remarkable and one that will stay with me forever, Ebbinge helps things along by delivering visuals to match, drab and muted to the max.
We’re not told much if anything about them to begin with, bar little clues and inferences along the way. It’s brilliantly done. We have their story and history slowly unfold, we get to see intolerance and mistrust, friendship and love… don’t worry, you get to see a man making goat noises and wearing a dress too. From the laugh out loud comedy to the heartbreaking tears, I absolutely loved spending time with Fred & Theo. So much so that I sought out another film the actors appear in together, Plan C (where they play entirely different characters, but are just as much fun to spend time with).
I don’t know anybody who hasn’t enjoyed this, but equally I only know a few people who’ve seen it and it absolutely deserves an audience, but until the DVD price drops or it becomes available to stream in the UK, it just wont find one.
by Paul Field (@pafster)
And that’s it! Join us again next week for the final instalment of our Half A Decade In Film series as we reconvene to each pick our favourite movie of 2014. Until then, feel free to comment below and tell us where we’ve gone wrong or right!
Happy New Year to you all, and in an effort to stick to some hastily made resolutions about getting rid of the fat, the first Failed Critics podcast of the year is lean, mean, and looking forward to McQueen (next week’s big review is 12 Years a Slave).
This week’s chat sees the gents discuss the finer elements of the Oscar Foreign Language shortlist, as well as review new releases American Hustle and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. James also gets around to reviewing Anchorman 2, Owen takes us on a journey through South Korean cinema, and Steve is aiming to beat the bookies with his Oscar race tips/blind guesses (delete as appropriate).
The Lost Reviews are articles that our editor produced for another publication but, for one reason or another, never got published.
It’s not because they’re shit. Honest.
After 24 years, Ridley Scott returns to the universe that spawned arguably his best film, and certainly one of his most influential. It’s clear from the outset however that this prequel isn’t ‘Alien Begins’; it’s a far different beast, owing more in terms of its tone and ambition to Scott’s other sci-fi classic Blade Runner. While aspects of Prometheus’ set-design and its action set-pieces share a lineage with Alien, this film is epic in scale rather than claustrophobic and dripping in terror.
And while Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is nowhere to be seen, Noomi Rapace stands in more-than-ably as Elizabeth Shaw – a scientist who discovers a clue to the origins of mankind. She persuades the Weyland Corporation (yes, that Weyland Corporation) to fund an expedition to the darkest reaches of the universe to confront mankind’s creators. This being an ‘Alien’ film though, the meeting is unlikely to result in a welcoming party or cosy chat over the family photo albums.
Rapace is excellent as the head-strong Shaw, which will be no surprise to those who saw her in the original The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo. The star of the piece, though, is Michael Fassbender as the ship’s android David. We see him watching David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and practicing Peter O’Toole’s mannerisms while the crew are in hyper-sleep. However, it is another David that seems to imbue Fassbender’s android – that of David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He has the same other-worldly presence, clearly fascinated by humans but easily corrupted by them.
Sadly, and unlike Scott’s original Alien, the rest of the crew aboard the good ship Prometheus are largely underwritten. Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Guy Pierce are all more than competent in their respective roles, but as the action steps up a gear in the second half they become reduced to two-dimensional plot-devices.
The other major problem is the film’s unanswered questions. It’s great to see a motion picture refusing to spoon-feed its audience, but the ambiguity will frustrate many viewers. Whether this is intentional or not depends on how you view script-writer Damon Lindelof’s TV series Lost. Hopefully a rumoured sequel, or the almost-inevitable Ridley Scott director’s cut, will expand on the themes explored here.
Regardless of its flaws, let’s be thankful people have still got the ambition to make films as beautiful and ambitious as Prometheus