Tag Archives: James Bond

Failed Critics Podcast: Spy Triple Bill

Leaping out of a moving aircraft with a Union Jack adorning their parachutes, before safely landing in the driver’s seat of their sub-aquatic Aston Martin, it’s your podcast hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes. Spinning around on his high-backed leather chair with a pussy in his lap, it’s our special guest Paul Field, joining Owen and Steve for a special spy triple bill episode!

Continue reading Failed Critics Podcast: Spy Triple Bill

Advertisements

Failed Critics Podcast: The UK’s 17th Best

tmnt2

Your official (not “official” official) 17th best podcast, Failed Critics, as designated by New Media Europe’s ‘Best UK Podcast of 2016’ award. Voting closed on Monday 30th May, with The Failed Critics Podcast ranked 17th out of 100 based on the number of Facebook votes we received. Thank you so much to anybody who helped us achieve this high a position by taking a few seconds to vote.

On this week’s episode, we draft in Underground Nights‘ very own Paul Field to help us run through a triple-bill of movie stars, where he and hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes each pick three actors whom they consider to be the very definition of the very subjective term ‘film star’.

Before all of that, Owen barely has chance to make himself comfortable before reviewing the new Michael Bay produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows after seeing it earlier that afternoon. Meanwhile, Paul introduces us to Victoria, a German film shot entirely in one take, and Steve catches up on some Shane Black with The Long Kiss Goodnight.

The news this week has the trio mulling over Tom Hiddleston’s imminent appointment as James Bond, as well as John Carpenter’s fabled return to the Halloween franchise. This, following a shambolic quiz that hopefully won’t sound as shambolic post-edit as it did pre-edit.

Join us again next week where we’ll be reviewing both Warcraft and The Nice Guys.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Front Row with Owen and Paul: Spinning Pigeons

Front Row Logo

Another week, another Bucks101 radio show complete and resultant podcast of said show…!

On this fourth episode of Front Row, hosts Owen Hughes and Paul Rutland bond over Bond, review the R-rated box office smash Deadpool, and mull over some rather curious superstitions in the sports round-up. The rules of the ‘roll the dice’ section are broken, just four weeks in, as the topic of conversation chosen by the random roll lands on ‘music’ yet again – three weeks out of four! Nope. Re-roll, please.

As always, Front Row will be back on Bucks101 Radio next Thursday at 6pm, where you can hear all of the lovely chat (…well, lovely-ish…) as well as that week’s music. A playlist of all the tracks you missed out on this week is below.

Playlist:

  1. Nirvana – I Hate Myself and Want To Die (Owen)
  2. The Darkness – I Believe in a Thing Called Love (Paul)
  3. Pixies – I’ve Been Tired (Owen)
  4. Muse – Feeling Good (Paul)
  5. Weezer – Tired of Sex (Owen)
  6. Queen – Hammer To Fall (Paul)
  7. Plumtree – Go! (Owen)
  8. New Radicals – You Get What You Give (Paul)

Right-click and choose ‘save as’ to download the podcast as an mp3

What I won’t be voting for in 2015

As today is the last opportunity for people to submit votes in our Failed Critics Awards 2015, I thought I might share a few of the movies that I won’t be voting for before midnight tonight.

Specifically, rather than just make a list of terrible releases from across the year (such as The Ridiculous 6, Transporter Refueled, Lost River etc), I’m going to pick those films that flattered to deceive. If you’d have asked me in January, I probably would have sworn blind that the following were guaranteed to make my final top 10 list. Unfortunately, as it happens, none of the following will be included because in their own different ways, they were either not actually that good, disappointingly average, or regrettably just plain bad.


Foxcatcher

steve_carell_foxcatcher1Going into Foxcatcher, it was hard not to be caught up in the Oscar-buzz for Steve Carell’s performance. In fact, on last year’s Awards podcast, James asked us all which films we were most looking forward to in 2015 and I actually picked Bennett Miller’s movie based on a true story about wealthy wrestling coach John E. du Pont (Carell) and his Olympic competitor Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). Now, I haven’t chosen it for this list because I didn’t enjoy the film. I did! It’s just that the momentum it had built up for the performances was perhaps a little bit unrealistic. If anything, Mark Ruffalo – who I hadn’t heard anything about before going to see Foxcatcher in January – was the standout actor of the three. Mainly because he was so good, as I’ve come to expect from Ruffalo, but the other two just weren’t all they were hyped up to be. Similarly, although I did find the story interesting, it was rather disappointingly told in a somewhat sluggish manner. Lingering on scenes for longer than is necessary far too often slowed the pace down to a crawl and meant that overall, even away from the performances, it just wasn’t quite good enough to break my top 10. Probably not even my top 15 of the year, either.


Legendmaxresdefault-2

Andrew Brooker and I had talked to each other quite extensively about what we were hoping for from the latest glorified re-telling of the lives of notorious London gangsters the Kray twins. Perhaps it’s fair to say that even though I do like Tom Hardy, Brooker is an even bigger fan. Getting to see two Hardy’s for the price of one seemed like reason enough to cross my fingers in hope that this British crime drama would deliver a high quality, gritty, colourful story. Alas, it transpires that no amount of Hardy’s can make a tepid script with woeful narration into a good film.


Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age-of-Ultron-0003Such was the disturbingly low amount of hype for Joss Whedon’s follow up to the spectacular Avengers Assemble that we decided to spin some of our own by creating 10 Avengers Minisode podcasts earlier this year, reevaluating all of the MCU movies to date. Despite some nervous anticipation, I still expected big things from Age of Ultron but it failed to deliver on virtually every level. Firstly, it was far too long and bloated. The cast for the previous outing of our Marvel superheroes was already pretty large, but they balanced enough screen time and dialogue for each to have an integral part to play in developing the story. In this follow up, there are far too many characters who do absolutely nothing except bash each other about the head occasionally. Hardly any two characters have a conversation in this movie without eventually a bout of fisticuffs, or reminiscing about that time they had a fight. I hated the Hulk & Black Widow storyline. The apologetic attempt to give Hawkeye more screen time by shoe-horning in a half-arsed story about his secret family-man life was underwhelming and shallow – and to top it all off, the villain was barely used except for a three-hour long explosion and fight sequence in the final act. Maybe I’ll re-watch it in a year or two and find that it’s decent really and I had just been expecting too much? But right now, it comes across as a badly written set up film for the rest of the MCU yet to come and is one of the biggest let downs of the whole year.


Southpaw

SOUTHPAW

I’ve already summed up my opinion back in August on Antoine Fuqua’s drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer who has a spectacular fall from grace. From the trailer alone, I thought Southpaw would be one of the standout films for 2015, with Jake Gyllenhaal still riding high on the crest of his incredible performance in Nightcrawler last year. And just like I mentioned when discussing Foxcatcher further up the page, it was a film that in the end was just “all right”. It was a good performance, it had a good story, it was well directed and well paced, but it lacked a certain element to propel it into greatness. Rather than feeling happy to have seen a good film, instead I left the cinema not ruing the fact I’d spent over two hours watching it, which itself is an indicator that something wasn’t quite right. A big part of the problem is that it doesn’t do anything particularly new or exciting. It felt like I’d seen it all done perfectly well before. Gyllenhaal put on a lot of muscle, his character has a fall and then a rise, there’s a strained home life, he’s a father and a champion etc. Regardless of how well structured it is, it’s hardly groundbreaking material. In the end, it was just another mildly entertaining sports drama.


SPECTRE

spectre-daniel-craigThis might be considered something of a spoiler for the results of the Failed Critics Awards that will be announced early this week (or maybe we should think of it as an exclusive instead) but only one person has voted SPECTRE into their top 10 of the year. One person. To you and I, who have seen 007’s latest outing, it probably isn’t a surprise, given how by-the-numbers it was. However, compared to Skyfall (Eon’s 23rd Bond film that celebrated 50 years of Britain’s worst-kept secret spy) which only narrowly missed out on winning top spot in our awards back in 2012, that’s pretty shocking. Admittedly, I’ve never been that big a fan of the Bond movies, as I discussed with Steve Norman, Tony Black and Brian Plank on our podcast back in October, but even I loved Skyfall. Sam Mendes was the perfect director to blend his visual flair with some good old-fashioned and exciting story-telling. It was for that reason alone that I was really looking forward to SPECTRE, despite being put off by the fact that it was to be the longest Bond film ever at 2 hours 28 minutes. “Starring Christoph Waltz” is as good a reason as any to get me interested in any movie. With the Day of the Dead opening scene in Mexico, the film started off already in about third gear and just plateaued from there. I don’t remember it really ramping up tension or suspense, or taking its foot off the peddle at any point. It just drifted along at an even and enjoyable pace, never feeling like it was dragging at all, but without building to something bigger. It tootled along from point A to point B, to point C, to point D and so on until reaching its destination calmly … and then blowing up £20m worth of Aston Martin. A bit like Age of Ultron, it does suffer from the hangover of its predecessor and will no doubt improve on a rewatch, but to be quite honest about it, I just can’t be bothered with it. I can see why for that one person it might have been in their top 10, but it definitely won’t be in mine.

SPECTRE

spectre-B24_09224_r_rgb

Sam Mendes is back in the hand-stitched, luxurious leather driving seat of the 007 series as the next instalment of British espionage kills and thrills reaches the US shores this weekend.

by Owen Hughes @ohughes86

Celebrating fifty years of James Bond, Eon’s twenty third film in the series, Skyfall, was released back in October 2012 and became an enormous runaway success. Accolade after accolade was poured over it – and rightly so, as it was a thoroughly entertaining action film. Our readers and listeners certainly thought very highly of it, voting it above the likes of Amour, The Intouchables, Argo and The Dark Knight Rises back in 2012’s Failed Critics Awards.

It might be fair to say then that the weight of expectation on SPECTRE couldn’t have been higher. Skyfall ably dealt with the notion that James Bond, the suave British super spy, just wasn’t suited to the modern world. That he was too old. Too outdated. Much like Casino Royale did in 2006, it found a way to make him relevant again.

Surely then, SPECTRE wasn’t going to go over the same old ground, right?

Well, not exactly.

Facing a new Orwellian threat that takes Bond across Europe to track down a secret organisation, whilst also under pressure back home with MI6 under scrutiny for its actions, it crosses almost every box on the 007 checklist. Trains, snow, Bond-girls and Aston Martins; if you’re planning on playing a drinking game with SPECTRE, you will be inebriated within half an hour, having your stomach pumped before you’re even half way through the enormous 148 minute run time, and dead before the film has finished.

But it’s not just regular tropes of the series that make a re-appearance. Again, the idea that the secret agent is an outdated practice is continued from the previous movie. Whilst Skyfall focussed primarily on James Bond being too old, this time around it’s expanded to examine the methods employed by MI6 as a whole.

Although SPECTRE is mostly entertaining, one of its biggest problems is that by asking you to consider a world where we have surveillance drones, billions of mobile devices and CCTV cameras on every corner, why do we persist with a man in a tuxedo sneaking into a party to seduce the crime-bosses wife for tidbits of information. The ultimate conclusion is of course a combination of “the old ways are the best” and “nobody does it better”, but unless the audience are well read on their 1984’s and Brave New World’s, what exactly is the problem with information gathering in the way that’s proposed? Why is it so menacing? Is your freedom more valuable than your safety? Whatever your opinion, SPECTRE never fully addresses the issues with this “newer” method beyond showing you that the guy collecting the information is evil.

Speaking of the bad-guy, Christoph Waltz plays the latest Bond villain with relish. His softly spoken, quietly sinister performance is easily the best in this modern era against Daniel Craig’s all action hero. I’m a big fan of Mads Mikkelsen and Javier Bardem (let’s just pretend Quantum of Solace doesn’t exist, as SPECTRE seems to do as well) and they both bring something different to the series, but Oberhauser is perhaps the most nuanced opposite to James Bond thus far. It’s the age-old battle of brains and exploding-gadget-and-fast-cars-braun.

Craig may be getting sick of playing the role, with this possibly being his last appearance as Bond, but he once again seems entirely comfortable at being the rugged interpretation of Ian Flemming’s character. One who doesn’t mind getting his shoes scuffed and suit ruffled in the pursuit of his nemesis. Just watch him during the absolutely incredible opening scene set in Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. He has the swagger, the charisma and perfect timing to please fans of the series, no matter who your favourite version of the character is. Prefer the goofy Roger Moore take? Craig is more then able to match the comic timing Moore offers. Enjoyed Pierce Brosnan’s confidence and cheekyness? Bingo. It’s all there in that opening 15 minutes.

The support cast are all decent enough too. Léa Seydoux as Madeleine – the closest the film gets to having the staple Bond-girl – does a good job at modernising the role. She’s not a floozie there only to fall under the charms of 007 and provide the audience with a bit of eye candy. One scene in particular on a train journey draws us back into the narrative of old-versus-new as she shows she doesn’t need Bond to show her how to use a gun. It’s a subtle development of a role that in the past has been reduced to little more than a damsel in distress that needs the big rugged man to come and save her.

Ralph Fiennes adds his own take on M, whose relationship to Bond has a lot more animosity and begrudging respect than when Judi Dench was in the role previously. Q (Ben Wishaw) is also given a lot more exposure this time around. His quirkiness will either annoy you or feel like a welcome break in the pace of relentless, non-stop action scenes and (£24m worth of) exploding vehicles. Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), C (Andrew Scott), Hinx (Dave Bautista) and Lucia (Monica Belluci) are reduced to minor supporting roles which seems a shame, but they all do well with what they’re given.

Overall, for such a long film, it doesn’t ever feel boring or stretched. It suffers from a Skyfall hangover as it will constantly be compared to its predecessor, and in that regard, it is the lesser film. The way it retrofits itself onto the rest of the rebooted franchise is contrived at best and just nonsensical at worst, but it doesn’t detract too much from its own plot. Effectively, it hinges on the relationship between Craig, Seydoux and Waltz (whose appearance really could have come sooner on in the movie) which is well developed across the course of the film, but is not quite enough to elevate it to the delirious heights of Mendes’ last feature.

So no, I don’t expect the Bond revival to die with SPECTRE. Bond (James Bond) is bigger than one film, but as to where I see the film heading next? I honestly have no idea – but I am excited to find out.

You can listen to Owen, Steve Norman, Tony Black and Brian Plank review SPECTRE as well as induct James Bond into our Corridor of Praise on the podcast released back in October.

Failed Critics Podcast: In SPECTRE, It’s Columbo

maxresdefault

The name’s Critics. Failed Critics. Should you expect us to die during our James Bond special episode? No, you should expect us to talk!

And that’s exactly what we do for about 90 minutes, as hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by special guests Tony Black (from Pick A Flick) and Brian Plank. The main review this week is of course the latest adventures of Britain’s (worst kept) secret agent in SPECTRE. Sam Mendes is back in the director’s seat after his record breaking success with Skyfall, and Daniel Craig faces yet more peril with the rise of a shady organisation threatening the safety of the British people.

To tie into the release of SPECTRE, we have a miniature version of our Corridor of Praise episodes as we induct 007 himself. Starting with Ian Fleming’s original novels, right through to Daniel Craig emerging from the sea in Speedo swimming trunks, we cover the character’s history from beginning to the modern day.

There’s also time for us to squeeze in Owen’s review of the Columbo TV movie that Steve made him watch after last week’s quiz, before this weeks Bond-themed quiz takes place. We also react to a few news items that have crossed our paths over the last seven days, including: Indiana Jones 5 and potential re-casting issues; why the Steve Jobs movie is tanking in the US; and one of Hollywood’s Golden Age actresses, Maureen O’Hara, passing away.

Join us again next week where we’ll have more guests, more films and less Columbo.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT LINK

Failed Critics Podcast: The Intern, The Martian & Sicario

sicario 1Hello and welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, released slightly earlier than usual to try and push it out just before the end of International Podcast today (that’s today for the next couple of minutes, anyway!) As such, we recommend you check out our fellow podcast comrades Wikishuffle, Black Hole Cinema and Diamond & Human; all of whom are deserving of your time during your commute or whilst peeling the spuds, or whatever you do whilst you’re listening to us.

Joining Mexican assassin Steve Norman and intergalactic failed critic Owen Hughes for this week’s episode is Andrew Brooker, undertaking his unpaid work placement, as they review three new releases. They’re so new, in fact, that they are not even out in the UK yet! First up, Owen reviews new Ridley Scott sci-fi The Martian (which doesn’t feature any aliens – xenomorphs or otherwise) before Brooker seethes over the new Anne Hathaway / Robert De Niro comedy The Intern. There’s even room for a review of the much anticipated crime-thriller Sicario, starring Emily Blunt as an FBI agent working with Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro on the trail of the Cartel in Mexico.

Before any of that though we have our quiz (which Steve helpfully explains in detail) and news section where the team react to Sam Smith’s Bond theme replete with improv poetry, The Simpsons opening Smithers closet, and the Prometheus sequel details. This is followed by our usual what we’ve been watching section, which sees: Owen review cult 80’s horror From Beyond as he pleads for your HP Lovecraft recommendations; Steve runs through three first watches of Beverly Hills Cop, Cooties and Cop Car; and Brooker reminds himself of a time when De Niro could do comedy well with Analyze This.

Join us again next week as we review ‘the Scottish play’, Macbeth, and have a very special guest in tow for our Scottish triple bill: It’s the acclaimed author of the Three Realistic Holes trilogy of novels, Escobar Walker!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT LINK

Failed Critics Podcast: Ant-Man

ant man 1Welcome one and all to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast where Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are this week joined by special guests Andrew Brooker and Matt Lambourne to review big-budget pint-sized Marvel superhero movie Ant-Man! There’s both a spoiler-free discussion on the film and a return of our ‘spoiler alert’ right after the end credits where we go into more specific details.

Also featured on this week’s podcast: Owen discusses the 1970’s Werner Herzog movie Stroszek; Brooker finally manages to get his hands on The Voices, starring Ryan Reynolds; Matt is back to say a few things to say about Terminator Genisys; and Steve puts him through the Danny Dyer film The Other Half ….with very good reason!

There’s even time for the group to mull over the Attack On Titan trailer, talk about our latest celeb Twitter follower after the very first Failed Critics meet up and we “react” to the as yet unreleased Spectre trailer.

Join us again next week for the return of our TV Special in honour of the biggest new release this week. No, not Southpaw. No, not Inside Out either. No, not even Maggie.

“Oh no. Oh Hell no! Surely you don’t mean… it’s not….. it can’t be… no way….??”

Yes way. It’s the eagerly anticipated release of Sharknado 3!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT LINK

Failed Critics Podcast: Fist-Fights Triple Bill

runallnightFor the first time ever (we think) there’s no Steve Norman on this week’s Failed Critics podcast as he’s still recovering from the pummeling he took at a recent charity boxing match. Rumours that it was Owen who sparked him out after a fracas over a cold dinner have neither been confirmed nor denied. Internal investigations are still ongoing.

Instead, taking over the hosting duties for one week only is Matt Lambourne, who is joined by Owen Hughes and Andrew Brooker as they each pick their favourite three fist-fights in films in honour of their absent colleague’s exploits.

Before that, the trio also get around to discussing the news this past week that Bill & Ted 3 is closer than ever; they take a look at the first teaser poster for the new James Bond film SPECTRE; as well as mulling over both the latest Statham film Wild Card and the latest Neeson film Run All Night. Matt even manages to finally get the opportunity to talk about 90’s sci-fi thriller Eve Of Destruction in all its robot penis-munching glory.

Join us again next week as we’ll be looking ahead to this summer’s blockbuster season.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

The Week In Film – 12 September 2014: Farewell Jaws, hello Batmobile

Welcome to the Week In Film!  No Steve this week, as he’s holding epic house parties in his gran’s flat in Marbella.  No, really.  Instead, Carole Petts takes you through the week’s news.

by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)

270px-Jaws_(Richard_Kiel)_-_Profile

Richard Kiel Passes Away at 74

First up, some very sad news that one of the truly great Bond henchmen has left us.  Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, has died a few days before his 75th birthday.  The gargantuan actor was also famous for his role in Happy Gilmore, and was a regular on the convention circuit.  Even though he is turned into something approaching comedy relief in Moonraker, he was a genuinely menacing presence in The Spy Who Loved Me, and was an actor who used his imposing physicality to great effect.  He will be sadly missed.

nBZU3Ch

Guns? Where we’re going, we won’t need…oh

Zack Snyder revealed the new Batmobile in full this week.  It’s a slightly more evolved version of the Tumbler, and Batman purists won’t be pleased to learn it has a small arsenal on the grill.  But it’s a Snyder film – wanton destruction is guaranteed.  The issue of not being able to see a dammed thing out of that windscreen remained unaddressed at the time of publication.  Somewhat less staged was the reveal of an X-wing fighter and a partially-built Millennium Falcon on the set of Star Wars Episode VII by a flight school in Berkshire.

A feeling of Dredd

Owen will be particularly excited to hear that there is a possible second Dredd film on the way – but it will be a prequel.  Speaking at Chicago Comic-Con, Dredd himself (or Karl Urban, as is his civilian name) said: “Why yes, there is a definite possibility. But, it is more likely that we will do the origins story with Dredd trekking through the cursed earth to find the first Chief Judge Fargo.”  Sounds exciting, and let’s face it, it will be a refreshing change from the endless conveyor belt of sequels we are currently being subjected to.  It’s also really good to hear we are getting a second Dredd film at all, as the excellent reboot scored a respectable but not groundbreaking box-office total of $41m worldwide.

Mass Hysteria

And finally, disciples gathered in Toronto to celebrate the inaugural Bill Murray Day on September 6 (personally I feel every day should be Bill Murray Day, but there you go).  The great man held court on the subject of the recently-mooted all-female Ghostbusters 3, and gave the project his blessing.  Also in Toronto, there have been good reviews for Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything and Nightcrawler, middling reviews for Jon Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater, and pretty bad reviews for Anna Kendrick musical The Last Five Years.  But altogether it seems to have been a decent year for the festival.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news. 

Failed Critics Podcast: Monsters Double-Header

Pacific RimIt’s a first for the podcast this week and we have a double main review. First we discuss Pixar’s latest sequel/first prequel Monsters University, and try to figure out if Pixar are getting lazy, or if everyone else has simply upped their game. After that we talk gigantic bad-ass robots and aliens in our review of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.

Also this week, we discuss Sam Mendes’ return to the Bond franchise (Yay!) and Johnny Depp’s return to the Alice in Wonderland franchise (why?!), James has a rant about films from The Asylum, particularly the so-bad-that-it’s-fucking-terrible Sharknado, and the other lads watched some films as well. Guess which forgetful old bastard wrote this.

Join us next week as we review the final film in the Wright/Pegg/Frost Cornetto Trilogy, The World’s End.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

100 Greatest TV Episodes: Skorpio (s1 e6)

Archer and LanaEver since Arrested Development was cruelly taken away from us in 2006, I have struggled to fill the void it left in my life. Then, a few months before AD’s triumphant return (15 brand new episodes available on Netflix from May 26th) I discovered my Bluth family methadone in the shape of US animated series Archer.

Much in the same way I stumbled across the pilot episode of Arrested Development late one Sunday night on BBC2, Archer is the type of show that you either discover by accident, or through the passing of secret television wisdoms by friends that you trust. It’s been showing on digital channel 5star for the last three years, but the first time I had even heard of it was when my brother-in-law recommended I watch it on Netflix.

When people say that a film or TV show is “something meets something else unrelated” it’s usually the sign of laziness and a lack of imagination. But if you’re reading a blog by me you’re used to that by now, so Archer most definitely is Arrested Development meets James Bond. Proper James Bond as well, not these fancy modern shenanigans. It’s not just a facile comparison though, Archer utilises snappy dialogue, call-backs and in-jokes, and even loads of the same cast as Arrested Development. Most recognisable is Jessica Walter as Mallory Archer, head of an U.N.C.L.E-style international spy organisation known as ISIS. In fact, she landed the role after her agent read a script describing Mallory as “think Jessica Walter in Arrested Development”.

Skorpio is a brilliant episode from the first season, and one which really allows the main characters to develop and start to make their own mark. Mallory is explaining the latest ISIS mission to her son, and ISIS super-spy, Sterling Archer. They have been tasked to kill an overweight terrorist by the name of Skorpio, with Archer wondering “is diabetes busy?” Much like Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development though, Mallory Archer gets off on being withholding to her son, and offers the mission (and substantial bounty) to Archer’s ex-girlfriend and fellow field agent Lana Kane.

This opening scene exposes the deliberate anachronisms and contradictions that underpin the style of the show. The drinking in offices, stylish fashions, and rampant misogyny  scream Mad Men. Surely I can’t be the only one to have struggled through an episode where nothing happens and wished it was half the length and had Don Draper fighting off three scuba divers with a harpoon gun? Or wished he’s stop looking all moody in a bar and talked someone into bed with a line like “Lana, your eyes are amazing. I mean, not compared to your tits…” If you’re anything like me, you’ll love Archer’s blending of cold war style with modern pop culture references.

Like any sit-com worth its salt, there’s a love triangle featuring the show’s womanising bastard of a protagonist, his ex-girlfriend and fellow field agent (Lana Kane, played by 24’s Aisha Tyler), and her oppressively clingy boyfriend and ISIS accountant Cyril Figis (played brilliantly by Chris Parnell, better known as 30 Rock’s Dr. Leo Spaceman). Unlike most sitcoms, each character is so unlikeable you can’t root for any of them to end up with each other, just to share some dark and disturbing sexual encounters. The supporting cast of office drones (including an overweight and undersexed gossip queen in charge of HR, a psychotic heiress working as Archer’s secretary, and a scientist cloned from the DNA of Adolf Hitler in true Boys From Brazil style) add some wonderful touches of banality to the exotic location and cartoonish violent action.

I’m a sucker for self-referential shows that treat call-backs and in-jokes as gifts for the loyal fans. Archer is full of them, and one that delivers time and time again is Sterling Archer’s failure to come up with awesome names for his brilliant plans, or when dispatching enemy henchmen. At one point in the episode he sets off to rescue Lana from Skorpio’s clutches, otherwise known as Operation something about I rescue Lana and she begs me to take her back so Cyril commits suicide. Unlike every action hero to have ever graced the screen, Archer is constantly looking for validation with his laboured one-liners. When he can think of one, unlike during an escape in this episode where armed with a hand-grenade he struggles to maintain his air of cool detachment with the immortal line “Damn, I had something for this too. Dammit. Eat grenade, stupids!”

I already can’t wait to watch every episode again, and that’s the sign of a great show in anyone’s books. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting my turtleneck. I’m not defusing a bomb in this!

Failed Critics Triple Bill: BOND SPECIAL!

“You’re talking about Bond actors and not discussing my fine body of work? Not even Mrs Doubtfire?Fucking mugs.

Welcome to the second of our Bond Special podcasts – in this week’s Triple Bill we name our favourite non-Bond performances from our randomly allocated Bond actors.

In the case of James and Owen, it was a matter of pretty much naming three performances they had seen from their actors (George Lazenby and Roger Moore), and James’ ongoing efforts to acquire a certain Lazenby performance in a 1993 Emmanuelle TV-movie proved sadly fruitless.

Join us next week for our reaction to the latest Star Wars news, as well as Watchdog-esque Cinema-chain reviews, and which films we’ve been watching.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Failed Critics Review: Skyfall/Bond Special

Duh, duh,duh, duuuuuhhh, duh, duh duuuuuuuuhhh!

Bond is back on the big screens, and to celebrate Failed Critics recorded a podcast devoted to all things Bond, James Bond. To discuss the latest outing of 007: Licence to Kill we gathered Steve (Licence to Thrill), Owen (Licence to Ill), James (Licence to Grill), and Gerry (Licence to Pop Down t’Mill – because he’s a northerner).

We also discuss some classic (and not-so-classic) Bond films, and attempt the most shamefully embarrassing Pop Quiz of all time.

Join us later in the week for the second of our Bond Specials as we discuss our favourite non-Bond performances from Connery, Moore, Lazenby, and Craig.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Reboot-era Bond themes: A reflection

Today’s inevitable Bond-related piece is from Guest contributor Liam Pennington as he walks us through the modern-era Bond themes. 

Goldeneye – Tina Turner (Goldeneye – 1995)

How to do “old” with a new twist. It’s got Bassey all the way through it, with a touch of 90s bombast and a respectful air for both the franchise and Tina Turner. It still stands up today, its movie score background making it a little incongruous on a list of power ballads, though it retains a credible pop sensibility

Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow (Tomorrow Never Dies – 1997)

Not the easiest title to put into a song and yet it’s not a bad job. The lyrics are clunkier than a car with square wheels but when you’ve got to retain Sheryl Crow’s country motif there’s no harm in throwing everything into a recording studio with a shit-tonne of melancholy and a slide-guitar. As ‘difficult second album’ type syndromes go, it’s not a bad song outside the context of Bond

The World is Not Enough – Garbage (The World is Not Enough – 1999)

Well I love Garbage as much as I do freshly boiled black pudding swimming in vinegar so yes, I’m gonna say it’s a good track. Oddly though, it’s not the most enduring of the ‘reboot’ songs, as it sits uneasily between a knowingly ironic Bond theme and a deliberately low-key Garbage album track. As such it comes across now as a bit too ‘arch’ or sneery. Very well sung

Die Another Day (Die Another Day – 2002)

And then the wheels fall off, the dog dies, the water dries up, the clouds part to reveal a sky made of stained bedsheets…..This was a leap too far in the wrong direction for the franchise, for Madonna, for just about everyone involved. This is face-swapping, invisible car driving nonsense of the highest order. As a dance song, it’s crap. As a pop song, it’s over produced, over-layered, badly structured, barely memorable. As a Madonna track, it’s weak, and that includes the one she did repeating “Hollywood” for approximately five hypergazillion times. Terrible, terrible song

You Know My Name – Chris Cornell (Casino Royal – 2006)

Reboot number 2 – the Bourne Years. It simmers, it burns, it catches in your ear for the rest of the day, it’s VERY good. I love this track still today – a broad-brush rock song which ditches the guns/Martinis/broken heart stuff and dumps the film’s name for a refreshing re-imagining of the franchise’s soundtrack.

Another Way To Die – Jack White & Alicia Keys (Quantum of Solace – 2008)

Given that Question of Sport was utter bobbins, this wasn’t such a bad song. It’s a bit clumsy and derivative lyrics wise, and I could do without the hash of a chorus, but it’s not all that terrible. I know it’s been labelled one of the worst, if not the worst, songs of all the Bonds, I don’t agree it’s that bad. Doesn’t stand out, doesn’t deserve to be labelled as rotten as Quandary of Boris

Skyfall – Adele (Skyfall – 2012)

Well I like it. Adele splits opinion right down the middle, I can understand why, though this one does it for me. The clichéd lyrics are back, the stirring of the Bond theme motif is back, the overblown choruses are back, and for all the lack of fashion, I think it all works really well. Having rebooted the franchise with Tina Turner taking on the task of being that era’s attempt of a Shirley Bassey number, it’s fitting to see the very same attitude with Adele. Here’s the 2012 version of “Goldeneye” – they needed a big, bold, brass ballad with all the subtlety of having anal pleasure with a switched-on kettle, and they got it.

Liam Pennington is at the action side of 30 years old and is the On-Line Editor for High Voltage. When not making good use of PR companies’ guff, he can be found groundhopping, writing for whoever else wants him, singing along to Eurovision records and sitting through arthouse films at Cornerhouse, Manchester.

@doktorb
www.liampennington.blogspot.com