Tag Archives: Jaws

Failed Critics Podcast: Silence is Golden (Globes)

SILENCE

Bad episode titles, published at 3am, and two miserly gits moaning about the world? It can only be the return of Failed Critics Podcast in 2017!

Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are on their Todd for the first podcast of the new year to talk about Scorsese’s latest drama, Silence, as well as supernatural hocus pocus shenanigans in The Invitation. The pair also end up chatting about the iconic Steven Spielberg after Steve’s first ever watch of The Color Purple – and perhaps more surprisingly, Owen’s first ever watch of Schindler’s List.

In the news, there’s a chat about Carrie Fisher’s passing, which leads to a discussion about the use of CGI to replace actors in movies. We also quickly skim through the winners and losers of the recent Golden Globes and the speeches that were worth paying attention to.

Join us again next week for reviews of La La Land and Manchester by the Sea.

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A Decade In Horror: Halloween Special – The Seventies

It’s October! The leaves on the trees are turning brown, it’s getting darker earlier in the evening and folks are rummaging through their DVD collections, looking for their favourite horror films to watch in time for Halloween. As such, every week this month will see us expand on our Decade In Film series with a spin off article focussing on five horror films from the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties and the noughties! The format will be much the same as our regular series, but with a slight twist.

Back again this week after successfully tackling the sixties (even if we do say so ourselves), our regular contributors to the series come up with a list of five-of-the-best for the nineteen-seventies. Owen and Mike are back along with our talented guest writers AndrewPaul and Liam, generously imparting their experience on us to tell us what are their favourite horrors of the 1970’s.

After the counterculture movement that occurred in the nineteen-sixties, what emerged in its place in the seventies (particularly with regards to the world of film) was something more artistic and radical. Directors were riskier, braver and perhaps even less subtle in their political motivations. There was no room for John Wayne to glamorise The Green Berets any more. Instead, the harsh reality of the toll the Vietnam War took was the topic of many films, from The Deer Hunter to Apocalypse Now. Director’s like Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Wes Craven, John Carpenter etc etc emerged out of their shells and produced some of the greatest and most challenging works ever. Horror films became edgier, darker and more popular with a mainstream audience than they had ever been before. Halloween, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, these movies terrified audiences and inspired film makers; and the best thing is, to this day they still continue to do so. We begin by looking at our particular favourites of this revolutionary decade, starting with…


 Jaws (1975)

jaws

Here lies the body of Mary Lee; died at the age of a hundred and three. For fifteen years she kept her virginity; not a bad record for this vicinity.

January 1976 and a visit to the Classic in Hastings to see Jaws. A stupidly excited 6 year old going to an evening showing of, “that film with the big shark in”. Circle seats (as was a birthday treat) secured, would’ve been a kia-ora and a choc-ice too. That music….even now sends shivers down your spine. Cinemas were pitch black during films in the 70’s, latecomers had to be shown to their seats by a torch wielding usherette. Booming audio, an enormous screen, total darkness.

Being transported to Amity, the terrifying opening scene, the respite as the sun drenched community springs into holiday mode. But always that sense of something unpleasant about to happen…..and when the underwater scene arrived. To this day, it’s still crystal clear, the heart stopping, terrifying moment that severed head bobs out. It’s just as effective now, as my daughter who was a similar age when I watched it with her, nearly jumped out of her skin. There are more horrific films from the era, and more frightening I’m sure, but to have been frightened by Jaws in its original cinema run was a real privilege that’s stayed with me forever.

by Paul Field (@pafster)


The Omen (1976)

the omenHere is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666.”

I always remember liking The Omen as a kid; the dogs, the great music and of course quite literally the child from hell; the name Damien now etched in the folklore of horror films. Yet it’s only recently that I’ve come to see just how good The Omen actually is.

Richard Donner’s slick direction, his stunning use of wide shots coupled with some beautiful cinematography gives the film a fantastic look. Whilst it’s a little dated now, it still looks better than most films from that time. Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar winning score is breath-taking, adding to the film’s constant dread, you cannot but think of this film when you hear “Ava Satani”.

Like Hitchcock’s Psycho, Donner doesn’t rely on gore or cheap scares as he allows the story to build to a frightful climax between father and son and one of the best endings in modern horror. Yet Donner still manages to shock with a number of well-crafted deaths throughout the film.

The screenplay is fine, but it’s the cast that truly makes this film work; there are strong performances all round. Harvey Stephens ‘Damien’ is evil personified; such a fantastic performance and pivotal to the film’s success. Peck and Remick as Damien’s parents are both excellent, while the supporting cast of Whitelaw, Troughton and Warner are all outstanding. Whitlelaw delivers one of the creepiest Nanny’s I’ve see in any film; a suitable ally for the evil Damien.

I liked The Omen, I like it more now I’ve grown up, my favourite horror film from the 70’s.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


Dawn of the Dead (1978)

dawn of the deadSomething my granddad used to tell us. You know Macumba? Vodou. My granddad was a priest in Trinidad. He used to tell us, ‘When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth.’

If George A Romero defined what a zombie film actually is with his 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead (as chosen by Andrew in our last article), then it is with Dawn of the Dead that he reclaimed the mantle of master of horror from a succession of pretenders to the throne throughout the early part of the decade.

Wry and satirical, pre-empting the capitalist self-serving boom in the eighties by setting the majority of the movie inside a brand new shopping mall – “they’re after the place. They don’t know why; they just remember. Remember that they want to be in here” – it is as biting in its message as the brain-munching zombies themselves.

From its explosive beginning as Kevin Foree and Scott H. Reiniger raid an apartment building infested with the undead, to the aggressive invasion of the fortified mall by a motorbike gang led by Tom Savini, when there’s no more room for zombies, the humans shall tear shit up instead. As friction rises between helicopter pilot Stephen (David Emge) and his TV Exec wife Francine (Gaylen Ross), it impacts on the trapped foursome as a whole, forcing them to confront the horrors inside as well as outside of their confines.

Throw in a memorable soundtrack by Goblin, a sophisticated and darkly comical story (written by Romero) and a marauding horde of blood thirsty corpses and you’re left with not only one of the best horrors of the seventies, but possibly one of the best movies of all time.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


Alien (1979)

AlienCrew. Expendable.

Towards the end of the 70’s, most horror sub-genres had their rules and tropes set in stone. But Sci-Fi horror didn’t quite find its feet until 1979, when Ridley Scott scared an entire generation into sleeping with the lights on with Alien.

Until then, the only real Science Fiction in “Sci-Fi Horror” came on the form of dodgy body snatching pods and the “Thing from Outer Space”. Writers Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon would change that by introducing arguably the most terrifying monster in horror movies. The “Xenomorph”.

Ordered to investigate a distress call on a strange planet, Tom Skerritt and his misfit blue-collar crew (including Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm and John Hurt) find nothing but an arachnid with a desire to attach itself to John Hurt’s face. A quarantine and a few experiments later and the thing seems to fall off like an old scab, appearing to leave Mr Hurt unharmed. You know, until he decides to give birth in the scariest, bloodiest way possible at the breakfast table!

What follows is possibly the scariest hour in film history. A dark, claustrophobic hunt for a seven foot bio-mechanical looking tower of teeth and more teeth while it, in turn, is hunting for Dallas (Skerritt) and his crew. Alien’s genius is in its simplicity. There is no complicated reason the creature kills. It just does. It’s not angry at its mum or its school councillor. It’s a killing machine, plain and terrifyingly simple and it’s coming for the unarmed, unprepared crew.

Alien solidified so much on its release. It made Sigourney Weaver a household name. It gave Ridley Scott his first massive success. But most importantly, it gave film lovers everywhere a reason to be fearful of heartburn more than three decades later.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


Nosferatu – Phantom Der Nacht (1979)

nosferatuThe absence of love is the most abject pain.

This version of the oft told vampire legend has many highs and lows, yet still manages to come out head and shoulders above any other version I’ve seen.

It’s beautifully shot in some wonderful locations, the lighting, tension building, long and lingering scenes stay in the memory. Klaus Kinski’s performance in the lead role is one of his finest. He brings an agonised, almost pitiful quality to the Count, without losing the base nature of the creature.

Isabelle Adjani’s portrayal of Lucy is extremely good. Her appearance in this is why Alison Brie looked so familiar to me, the likeness is very strong. This version of Lucy is brave (once she stops fainting) clever and cunning in her attempts to save her husband, Jonathan.

It’s Jonathan that brings the main low point. Bruno Ganz just isn’t very good in this. Guilty of terrible overacting in parts, both facial & body movements seem farcical in some scenes.

A hugely enjoyable film, even its faults are oddly entertaining. I’ve used the German title deliberately, see the German language version rather than the English. It’s far better, the English one really accentuates the faults and dulls the brilliance.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


Thanks for reading! We’ll be back next week, picking our top five horror films of the eighties, where things will undoubtedly be louder, cruder and cooler.

Shark Tale

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This year, DreamWorks Animation celebrates its 20th anniversary.  To mark the occasion, Callum Petch is going through their entire animated canon, one film a week for the next 30 weeks, and giving them a full-on retrospective treatment.  Prior entries can be found here, should you desire.


shark tale09] Shark Tale (1st October 2004)

Budget: $75 million

Gross: $367,275,019

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 36%

Oy vey.

Ever since I started this little project, I was dreading the moment when I would have to do Shark Tale.  Its presence on the “To Watch” list hung over the entire venture like a dead rotting albatross, never letting me forget its existence even whilst I was really enjoying myself with DreamWorks Animation’s other, really very enjoyable films.  Shark Tale, you see, has a reputation.  Despite taking $367 million worldwide and being the 9th Highest Grossing Film of 2004 Worldwide, you will find nobody who is willing to admit to liking Shark Tale.  It is widely seen as one of the worst animated films of the decade, a distillation of everything that is wrong with animated movies and DreamWorks Animation, and would have faded into total obscurity if it weren’t for obsessive asshats like my good self dredging it back up every so often to ensure that nobody forgets it, lest they end up making the same mistakes and subjected a new generation to unspeakable horrors.

Yet, though I approached my task with wary and weary resignation, I entered with a good sense of curiosity overriding everything else.  If you’ve noticed a common thread with regards to this series by now, it’ll be that this endeavour is just an excuse for me to take an in-depth look at animated movies and spend multiple A4 pages explaining why they do or do-not work, why they were or were-not successful at the time, and to go on for hours about the history of animation, a subject I know much less about than you think I do.  And let’s not short-sell it, Shark Tale was a giant success at the box office with the public.  It was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (2004 was not a good year for the medium, granted, but this over The Spongebob Squarepants Movie?!).  Obviously it must have done something right.  I even had the DVD and watched the film a few times as a kid.  Seeing as I remembered nothing about it, I decided to go in with the hopes that it couldn’t be as bad as it had been made out to be, and that I was going to try and figure out why this movie became so successful yet faded into memory.

Below, you will find my reaction to Shark Tale whilst it was running and for a good half hour after it finished.

double facepalm

Shark Tale is one of the worst films that I have ever seen.  This is not an exaggeration, one made for comic effect and to flanderize my true thoughts on the movie.  Shark Tale is one of the worst films that I have ever seen in my entire life.  At the 22 minute mark, I genuinely paused the film with the intent of shutting it off and never returning to it.  I have only ever (metaphorically) walked out of a film once due to it being absolutely dreadful (read: no outside circumstances, like power cuts or needing to be elsewhere), said film being Disaster Movie, and Shark Tale came this close to joining that club.  I don’t even know how I’m going to touch on everything wrong with this movie within my usual allotted space.  This is a total failure on every single level and there are no redeeming qualities anywhere.  That sentence should probably give you a strong indicator as to why I was all set to just quit at barely the 1/4 mark.

But, I persevered, for I set out to watch every single DreamWorks Animation film and over-analyse them like a nit-picky internet jerk.  Plus, it would look really bad if I missed a week and just moved onto Madagascar without saying anything about this.  So, with the remainder of our allotted time together (because you are busy people with places to be and better things to be doing than watching a 19 year-old man complain about Shark Tale for an eternity), I will attempt to explain what is wrong with Shark Tale.  The result will likely end up covering just a fraction of the problems with this film.  Be grateful this isn’t a video or audio-based series, as the end result would probably be about 90 minutes long and have at least 40% of the runtime consist of me sputtering futilely like an enraged-yet-despairing Looney Tunes character.

Let’s start with something easily tangible that we can all notice together: the animation and, most specifically, the character designs.  The animation itself is mediocre to poor: there’s a lack of detail pretty much everywhere, the water doesn’t look or feel like water, colours are muddied instead of decently shaded, and movements are pretty dreadful.  Whenever character movements aren’t being too jerky, less the artistic decision to make it “pose-to-pose” (like in the TV series Clone High) and more “this character needs to be in this position from that position, but lunchtime is coming up and I can’t be arsed, so I’m only going to do, like, half of the frames the job needs,” they’re instead being way too smooth and lacking in weight; it never feels like anyone’s actually in liquid of any viscosity, let alone the sea.  It’s bad and, yes, it does come off even worse considering the fact that Finding Nemo came out 18 months earlier.

But the animation is not the main issue with the look of Shark Tale.  That would be reserved for the character designs.  Now, there is a reason why one does not try and accurately make animated characters look like the people voicing them.  Actually, make that two reasons.  The first is that you’re going to look very silly if you design a character to look like Brad Pitt and then Brad Pitt doesn’t show up to play him.  The second is that a more cartoony and stylised art design for the rest of the film and a really accurate facial likeness of a celebrity don’t mix, meaning that your character is going to look hideous, terrifying, and completely ill-fitting with the rest of the world.  Apply the knowledge that you’ve just learnt, then, to answering this question: why do you not try and design a cast of fish to have faces that resemble the people playing them.

Answer: because you get Jellyfish Christina Aguilera.

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This is more terrifying than anything that Annabelle will cook up

That’s the most extreme example, but the rest of the cast are honestly not much better.  Oscar’s face is noticeably off-looking from a good majority of angles, due to his eyes being too wide and his facial features trying to resemble Will Smith.  Lola’s lips are stuck in this weird halfway house between fish and human, like they desperately tried to capture the effect of Angelina Jolie wearing lipstick and failed miserably, and just end up distracting as a result.  Sykes, meanwhile, is basically the result of copying a photo of Martin Scorsese’s face without glasses, circa 1978, and pasting it onto a puffer-fish, with the unholy result being what you spend 90 minutes viewing.  And the way that their fins move like human arms and hands is just unnervingly creepy.  These are bad, ugly character designs; the kind that makes even the film’s nicest character, Lenny, look like a knock-off tie-in toy for the real character rather than anything loveable or even bearable to look at for 90 minutes.

I’m probably not going to get any better of a segway than that last paragraph, so let’s transition over to the voice acting.  Now, stunt casting in animated films was absolutely nothing new in 2004.  Hell, Shrek 2 heavily indulged in it about six months prior to Shark Tale, and let’s not forget the all-star cast lists of other DreamWorks films.  And whilst I will sit here and grumble irritatingly about how professional VAs never get any chances in big budget cinema-focussed films nowadays, I will cease my complaining if the cast are really good or fit their parts well.  Basically, as long as they were cast for reasons that amount to more than “they’re big now, right?” then I don’t have a problem.  You’ll notice that this is why I didn’t moan about the overabundance of big-names populating Shrek 2, they may have been given garbage material but they were all at least trying to make it work.

As you may have guessed by that entire preceding paragraph, I am building up to the earth-shattering revelation that almost none of Shark Tale’s cast are any good or even trying at all.  There are those in paycheque-collecting mode (Robert De Niro who almost reaches the depths he plumbed in The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle just 4 years earlier), those who are flatter than Flat Stanley (Angelina Jolie who, goddammit, is supposed to be playing a sexpot, for crying out loud), those who are trying but being directed poorly (Jack Black is the only one of the main cast who actually tries putting on a voice, but he can’t stick with it the whole way through), and then there is Martin Scorsese.  Before watching Shark Tale, I firmly believed that I could listen to Martin Scorsese talk about anything for hours.  The man is just so excitable and passionate about pretty much anything that he could probably read the phone book and hold my interest.

Then, about 11 minutes into Shark Tale, this happens.

Look, maybe there’s a way to make that exchange funny.  Scorsese did not know how.  That was my first indicator that my long-held belief with regards to Scorsese was going to be put to the ultimate test.  The man, quite simply, is out of his depth (he he, sea puns) and I realised that he would not be able to elevate garbage material.  That, incidentally, is the only clip of Shark Tale that I can find on YouTube with Sykes prominently featured in it, which is a pain for me trying to illustrate my point, but a blessing for you, the reader.  See, that means that you don’t have to see or hear Martin Scorsese attempting fist-bumps, gangster lingo, dreadful mafia movie references, or “that one dance move where you lick your finger, place it on your butt and hiss like steam is going off” and you get to go through life without having those images permanently seared into your subconscious because DEAR GOD WHY!?

So it probably won’t surprise you to find out that Shark Tale was written by white people, yet keeps attempting to work in references to hip-hop, gangster, and lower-class New York life.  It also probably won’t surprise you to find out that their every attempt to tap into those sub-cultures is embarrassingly cringeworthy and gives off the strong impression that their only experience of primarily black culture was The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.  Fitting seeing as Will Smith is playing the lead, but it leads to this continual feel of people trying to tap into sub-cultures that have become popular without actually understanding them.  Or, in fact, knowing anything about them at all beyond a ten-second Google search and an afternoon watching MTV Base.  It’s like if your Granddad tried to prove that he is “hip” and “down with the kids” by using those very phrases earnestly.

Plus, those references don’t gel with the gangster movie that Shark Tale also wants to be.  In fact, Shark Tale is a confused and aimless movie with no general point to it.  It keeps trying on all of these different hats, all these different plot threads, all these different thematic threads, but it never settles on one.  Not once does the film seem to know what it’s trying to be.  Is it a mafia story about a father who is passing on his empire to his sons?  Is it a rags-to-riches story about a lowly schmuck who has dreams bigger than his current standing in life?  Is it a cautionary tale about how lying will only make things worse for everyone or about not letting success go to your head?  Is it a film about grief?  Is it a film about social standing?  Is it a film that uses the thinnest of metaphors for homosexuality and coming out to your parents?

Truth is that Shark Tale is about every single one of these and none of them whatsoever, because it tries to do them all at once and schizophrenically hops between them from scene-to-scene doing absolutely none of them justice.  As a result of this indecisiveness, the film lacks a thematic core, a central reason as to why all of its events are happening.  Of course, I’m pretty sure the problem is not indecisiveness.  The entire vibe that Shark Tale gives off, more than any other, is a desire to earn a quick buck.  A light bulb moment from everyone involved higher-up at the company: the realisation that Shrek may be a winning formula and a desire to milk that “edgy kids’ animation” udder as hard and as fast as is humanly possible.  Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the film was greenlit after somebody walked up to a man in charge one day with a list of A-list actors and a note saying that rap culture was in right now, with everything else just being made up on the fly after the fact.  It would explain the total over-stuffed mess that we ended up getting.

It would also explain how we ended up with one of the most inadvertently unlikeable heroes I have ever met in an animated movie.  Seriously, Oscar is a giant jerk-ass.  He is selfish, manipulative, a compulsive liar, gambler and overall degenerate, lazy, uncaring of his friends, and only helpful when it serves his own personal interests.  Now, I get that this is supposed to be the point, he starts a jerk and then gets better when character development kicks in, but there are two stumbling blocks to this.  1) He begins too unlikeable.  There is a difference between “a jerk who is entertaining to watch” and “a jerk who I would like to see flambéed immediately” and he is most definitely in the latter category, despite Will Smith’s natural likeable charisma.  2) His big heroic act near the end, rescuing Angie and revealing his lie, is still being done out of selfish desires, a desire to pork Angie, so he’s actually learnt nothing.  His making amends with the sharks feels crowbarred in purely to try and make that complaint hold little weight, instead of anything natural.

That “pitch” that I mentioned two paragraphs back would probably also explain why the film’s “jokes” are so utterly non-existent or just-plain-terrible.  As a little mini-case study, let’s all watch the fake shark attack sequence together.

Notice how most of this sequence is not built on broad physical comedy, character work, or at least contrasting the fake performance with how it looks to the bystanders.  Notice instead how it primarily attempts to get its laughs from random pop culture references.  Yes, references.  Lenny singing a bastardisation of the Jaws theme to himself (which is not a call-back, despite the joke having already been used with a different character earlier in the movie, because it’s the same joke), the battle taking place in a very-thinly veiled version of New York, and then there’s that bit where Oscar just starts shouting phrases from classic movies.  None of them have any reason for being said in the context of the scene, and there’s no rhyme or reason as to their delivery or choice; the lone exception being “YOU HAD ME AT ‘HELLO’!” because, hey, Renée Zellweger starred in Jerry Maguire so ha.

The scene has no actual jokes.  Lenny eating Oscar could have been a funny sudden gag, but it’s dragged out too long, leads into an overly-tangential rant by Oscar, and the animation is too low-quality to truly sell it.  Otherwise, it’s just pop culture references and a performance that’s too absurd and too long to be funny.  When concocting a scene where two characters are putting on a fake display of some kind, you need it to be absurd enough that it’s funny for the viewer, but not dragged out too long as to make them start wondering why nobody in the film’s world has cottoned on.  There also need to be jokes.  Shark Tale’s is absurd, but it goes on for way too long and lacks in jokes, making one wonder how anyone could be buying this.  (For an example of how to do this kind of thing right, I point you towards this scene from Avatar: The Last Airbender.)  Instead of there being actual jokes, Lenny gets punched through a billboard for Jaws.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

And that kind of quote-unquote joke abounds everywhere throughout Shark Tale.  From its casting (hey, look, it’s Michael Imperioli who is here because he was in Goodfellas and The Sopranos), to its billboard parodies (more on those in a sec), to brick jokes that should be funny (a shrimp that Lenny spared earlier in the movie returns in the climax quite literally so that it can say “Say hello to my little friends!”), to pretty much any usage of music.  What do I mean by that?  When Oscar seems to have outsmarted the sharks, he immediately gets up on the table and sings Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer, complete with doing the dance (which was the moment I realised why Oscar’s character design was the way it was).  When Lola is introduced (and I could write something like 20 paragraphs on this film’s usage and treatment of women, so be glad we’re near wrapping-up time), the soundtrack plays Gold Digger by Ludacris, to just ram that point home as hard as is humanly possible.  And then, there’s this.

Oy vey indeed, Robert De Niro.  It’s all just so goddamn lazy, completely devoid of skill or effort, and done with a near-total contempt for the audience the result ends up in front of.  Then, much like in Shrek 2, there are the jokes aimed only at children, because attempting double-coding properly like in the first Shrek was just too much work for everyone involved at DreamWorks Animation in 2004.  You know: fart jokes, inherently funny words being repeated endlessly for no reason, wacky comic relief that pops up with a joke any time that a scene gets in danger of being too serious (funny that the first Shrek lampooned this Disney trope and yet DreamWorks couldn’t stay away from it, isn’t it), more fart jokes, wacky comic relief based around racial stereotypes that everyone involved hopes that children are too young to realise are racist, something gross occurring, even more fart jokes, poorly-done physical humour, and sudden music cues because WACKY!  Wanna take a guess how this all turns out?

One last thing and then I will let you leave.  I get that Shark Tale is supposed to be set in an underwater equivalent to New York City.  I get that that means that there will be a temptation for the animators to create parodies of famous brands and advertising billboards and the like, littering them around the set.  When the parodies are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, to such a degree that I spent a good half of the movie thinking that there was genuine product placement going on for Coca-Cola until it got a close-up, though, you have failed at your job.  There are not-100%-intrusive places for product placement in movies.  An animated film aimed at kids’ about undersea life is not one of them.  This should have been cut down immediately in the concept stage of the film’s lifespan, especially since it’s one of the quickest ways to figure out exactly when the film came out and the culture it spawned from.

Well, we’re out of time.  I hope you enjoyed this systemic breakdown of just a small percentage, about 14% tops, of the ways that Shark Tale is a complete and total failure, a blight on DreamWorks Animation, the animation industry as a whole, and the world in general, and a completely creatively-bankrupt exercise in cynical cash-grab movie-making.  Fortunately for us all, despite being one of the year’s highest grossing films, we have been spared any further adventures in the world of Shark Tale as, apparently, it didn’t play well overseas.  Which is demonstrably false, but I guess is better for business than just admitting that everyone at DreamWorks done f*cked up and would prefer that we never speak of this again.  A sentiment that I will be happy to oblige…

…right after I subject you all to The Dance Party Ending.

See you next week, folks!


2004 was the year that DreamWorks Animation forcefully staked their claim to the feature-length animation landscape.  Two giant financial successes, one of which also being a critical smash, will do that to your standing.  The company would spend the next few years solidifying its position as one of the major players in that field, albeit mostly at the cost of the critical acclaim that stood them out from the pack of pretenders at the beginning of their career, keeping up a steady output of two films every year for almost the entire remainder of the decade.  Next week, we enter 2005 and look at the beginnings of their second mega-successful franchise, Madagascar.

A new edition of DreamWorks! A Retrospective will be posted here every Monday at 1PM BST!

Callum Petch might not ever get rich, but it’s better than digging a ditch.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

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.

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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. 

Godzilla

It comes maddeningly close to excellence, but Godzilla is fatally flawed.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

godzilla-nature-has-an-order-trailer-7You ask people why Jaws works and most will reply that it’s because you don’t see the shark all the time.  Jaws is paced expertly, saving the big reveal until the very end and instead spending its run-time teasing you with little glimpses of it and showing you the effect of its terror, constantly baiting the audience with the threat of the shark and the promise of the shark but realising that it doesn’t carry much impact if it’s on-screen too often.  They wouldn’t be wrong, it’s a key component of the suspense tease of the film, but it’s not the whole reason.  Jaws also works because it has characters; real characters with multiple dimensions whose plights were just as interesting as that of the chaos the shark was wreaking.  They didn’t feel incidental to the plot and, most importantly, it didn’t feel like their existence is just marking time until the shark can turn up and do its thing.  That’s why their boat trip to the sea to find the shark is so captivating: you’re scared for people, not just waiting for fireworks.

Gareth Edwards’ remake/adaptation (whichever you want to call it entirely comes down to your personal perspective) of the classic 1954 Japanese monster movie Godzilla is a master of The Tease part.  It gets that having Godzilla turn up from frame one and tear sh*t up until the last of the 123 minutes the film runs for are done is a bad idea, one that would create fatigue for the audience and end up making his rampage duller the longer it ran on.  It gets that you don’t give a clear shot of the monster until it’s close to wrapping up time because that lets the audience fill in the blanks, an act which is frequently scarier than whatever you’ve actually come up with.  And it gets that you don’t deliver on your promised monster smackdown at the hour mark of your two hour film because that leaves you little else to go after for the second hour.  It gets all that, and its masterful approach to The Tease is why every even-slightly prolonged section involving a monster is giddy-inducing instead of “seen it all before”.  It gets that better than any film I have seen in the cinema in a long while.

What Godzilla forgot, though, in the gorgeous execution of The Tease, was to add any characters.  This basic, fundamental tenant of pretty much any great film is completely lacking here and that fact is what almost kills the film.  Godzilla gets so much right, The Tease, the cinematography, the score, the effects, that it comes close to excellence; when this film is on, it is frakkin’ on!  But by skipping out on this one thing, this one crucial element, the film is kneecapped irrevocably.  What could have been an excellent film, a strong contender for one of the year’s best if/when some of the Summer’s more promising titles flop disappointingly, is instead a frustratingly good one where its flashes of greatness are heavily outweighed by the one thing it does wrong which, not coincidentally, makes its biggest strength almost just as much of weakness.

OK, that’s the spoiler-free version.  I’m not saying that the rest of this review is going to dive into every single aspect and plot-point or anything, but it is going to have to reference something that a fair bit of the marketing material did a good job of hiding if you weren’t voluntarily looking for it.  And, honestly, I kinda wish I didn’t know it going in, because then I might have appreciated The Tease even more.  So, if you haven’t seen the movie or you just plain don’t care, stop reading now.  You basically already know what I thought about the film by this point, anyway.  If you have seen the film or just plain don’t care, keep reading.  Again, there are no giant spoilers (the thing I’m referring to is basically made explicit by the 45 minute mark) but you may enjoy the film more if you go in dark to its plot and stuff.

Still here?  OK, then.  Let’s talk about The Tease.

Wisely, Godzilla saves its giant monster smackdown, between Godzilla and a new creature classified as M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Object), for the final 20-or-so minutes.  In addition, you don’t even get a clear shot of the titular monster until the very last minute of the film.  Instead, the film baits you and teases you.  A shot of his enormous foot here, the disappearance of its tail as it slinks around a half-destroyed building there; as you probably expected.  What you probably won’t be expecting, though, is just how far the film takes that tease.  Godzilla doesn’t just limit The Tease to a shot of the monsters, it also limits it to the destruction in general.  There’s a section where a M.U.T.O. begins destroying Las Vegas in broad daylight, but the film cuts away to the aftermath just as the destruction is ramping up.  The M.U.T.O.’s escape from its dormant pod is shot in low light, with occasional flashes teasing us as to its appearance but it also basically cuts to black when it seems like we’re really about to see some mayhem.  And, in the film’s standout example of how it gets The Tease, there’s a bit in Hawaii that I absolutely refuse to spoil because it will be the point where you are either on-board with what the film is trying to do or where you check out in frustration.

If you can’t get what the film is trying to do, you may find the whole experience the film equivalent of yelling “either sh*t or get off the pot!” at someone.  I, however, adored it as it trained myself to savour any piece of monster destruction I could get; it made those moments hit that much harder.  And when the film finally lets go of the reigns and gives you what you came here to see?  Man, it is an amazing feeling, let me tell you.  The fight itself is a slow, primal, animalistic affair, like watching two mad caged animals going at one another (which makes sense, considering the fact that they kind of are animals), that may have been underwhelming for most audiences in a post-Pacific Rim world if that build-up hadn’t been so masterful as to make a release, any release, feel like the coolest thing in the entire world at that moment in time.  I cackled with maniacal glee multiple times during this film and that was even before the really amazing moments entered the fray.  Edwards and his team get it, they get how to make what otherwise would have been mundane instead be a super awesome piece of ridiculous fun because they build up to it near-perfectly.

Credit should also go to the cinematography and visual effects.  In line with the teasing nature of the film, the cinematography holds off on giving you a clear shot of monsters causing carnage until near the end of the big fight.  Instead, it opts to show the action from a ground level, from the perspective of a bystander in the chaos, to fully impress upon you the scale of the action and the destruction.  It more than works, the first time the M.U.T.O. clambers out of its hibernation pod and effortlessly breaks through the containment barriers is shot on the surface just above the containment pit which makes the reveal of one of its legs that much more of a “sh*t has gotten real” moment.  There’s a section on a train bridge which manages to communicate the pure terror of being in the same area as a giant monster better than a lot of recent films I have seen.  And then there’s the entrance of Godzilla himself, which takes about an hour to occur, incidentally, and which really needs to be seen to fully grasp the effect of.

However, and thankfully, Godzilla also gets that shooting action from the perspective of bystanders (to make it feel like you are really there) does not give carte blanche to make the action incomprehensible.  Shaky-cam is kept to an absolute minimum and pretty much any action depicted on screen is shot by cameras that are steady and clear.  You can always tell what is going on where and who is involved when.  Everything is clear, everything is viewable and you have absolutely no idea how happy I am to finally see a Hollywood film that understands that shaking the camera like an epileptic having a stroke at a flashbulb convention does not make things more exciting.  And on that note, yes, a lot of the destruction and more monster-heavy sequences are shot at night under cover of darkness.  But, and this is crucial, the film still lights proceedings enough that, combined with the stable camerawork, you can still tell what’s going on at all times, which works gangbusters during the finale.

The score, meanwhile, handled by Alexandre Desplat, is damn near perfect here.  Eschewing both the gritty drone of your Hans Zimmer (or Hans Zimmer wannabes) and the faux-John Williams score of a lot of modern day blockbusters in favour of something that resembles classic Hollywood that’s been a bit updated for the modern day.  There’s a lot of brass, drums and urgent violins, bombast, that recall the style of classic monster movies from the 1960s.  But when the action slows down and the film is instead trying to create a more unsettling atmosphere, Desplat is more than happy to oblige with severely off-key instruments or, in a segment that I’m pretty sure took place on the Golden Gate Bridge, a choir that sounds like its announcing the incoming apocalypse.  It backs the action exceptionally; creepy and portentous at one moment, bombastic and energy-filled the next.  I realise that I’m doing a terrible job describing it, it’s one of those things you really need to experience to get why it works.

As for the effects… well, you don’t really need me to tell you how good this film’s special effects are.  You’ve seen the trailers, you know what to expect.  The M.U.T.O.’s design is excellent, heavily indebted to that of a bat but twisted enough to make the result much more nightmarish with its long, spindly arms and horrifying eyes, face and mouth.  Godzilla, meanwhile, is likely going to be more subjective.  Yes, he is much bigger than anything else in this movie and the scales on his back are rather a bit terrifying when they’re all you can see of him swimming through the water and bearing down on the camera, but his face is also rather a bit cute.  He looks strangely endearing and a bit huggable at certain angles which should spell the death-knell for his design… if it didn’t fit with his character in this particular film, which it does.  When it comes time for the monsters to make some destruction, though, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that things look great.  Not only do things get smashed real purdy-like, the monsters move with real weight and heft.  Not clumsiness, but force, how one would probably expect two animals of their size to move and duke it out and it is ultra-convincing.

So, right now, I imagine that you’re prepping to go to the cinema and fling all of your hard-earned moneybills at the people who hand out the tickets.  You’ve probably read all of that and decided that this is officially your favourite film of the summer, sight unseen.  And, in fairness, were there not this giant, puss-filled flaw blemishing Godzilla’s face, you’d probably be correct.  There were a tonne of highs in this film that I am expecting the rest of the summer to have a hard time matching.  Unfortunately, Godzilla has a giant problem that keeps dragging down the rest of the film the more and more it ruminates in my brain.  Hell, if everything else surrounding this problem wasn’t so good, it would have killed the film outright for me.  So, here’s the problem.

Godzilla has no characters.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  “Callum, that’s not a problem for me.  I didn’t come here for world class storytelling.  I came here to see giant monsters tear sh*t up.”  And you are more than welcome to want that out of your movie.  That still doesn’t stop it from being a problem, though, and it becomes a major problem because it almost serves to undermine the hard work that The Tease puts in.  We spend so much time with these humans whilst waiting for the next glimpse of a monster that the realisation finally sets in: I don’t care about any of these characters because none of these characters are characters.  At best they’re exposition machines, at worst they are quite literally nothing.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who, to put it in the bluntest possible terms, does nothing.  He has a wife (Elizabeth Olsen), a kid, a father (Bryan Cranston) who lost his wife, Ford’s mother, in a nuclear power plant destruction 15 years prior that he insists was not an accident, and he works in the army as a bomb disposal expert.  All of this is just window-dressing for the fact that he does nothing.  At no point during the story does Ford have a narrative reason for being in a scene, at no point during the film does he alter the course of the plot (barring one instance in the finale that seems to have been engineered to stop me going on this rant, take a guess how that turned out) and at no point does his character display any personality or charm or charisma that makes spending time in his company in any way worthwhile or interesting.  I could excuse this if the point was to show what the perspective of the film’s events would look like to a guy on the ground, except that most of the carnage scenes don’t involve him or even focus on him, instead locking onto various other crowds of bystanders.  His scenes feel poorly copy-pasted on from a much less interesting and dull version of Godzilla; you could excise them entirely and lose nothing, yet pretty much the entire first hour involves him or characters and events relating to him (because OF COURSE), even though they add nothing to the film.

This focus on Ford and his various acquaintances comes at the expense of a much more interesting angle involving the U.S. military and two scientists’ (Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins) attempts to stop the monsters and contain the damage, with the military trying take care of things themselves, making things worse in the process, and the scientists (one of whom is the world’s leading expert on Godzilla and WHY WAS HE NOT THE MAIN FOCUS OF THE FILM) attempting to convince them that Godzilla is their only hope.  Unfortunately, thanks to the focus put on Ford and his attempts to get back to his personality-less family, nobody here gets to do or say anything that doesn’t amount to spouting exposition which, again, means that Godzilla has no characters and nobody worth giving a damn about.  I’d call the humans one-dimensional but that insinuates that there’s enough going on with them to class them as one-dimensional.  Maker, I cared more for the M.U.T.O. and that’s supposed to be the villain and had that caring come from one single ten-second scene!

Which, ultimately, is what nearly causes The Tease, which I have already named as the film’s secret weapon, to become its biggest weakness.  By spending so much time in the presence of these non-entities masquerading as people we’re supposed to care about, it makes the appearance of some monsters that much more of a treat.  However, it also makes the quick snatching away of that treat even crueller because we’re thrust back into the company of these characters that have no bearing on anything and barely factor into or appear during the carnage caused.  This should either have been focussed on the military and the scientist’s attempts to save people from the wrath of the monsters or a personal tale of people stuck in the middle of the chaos trying to get away.  Instead, Godzilla wants to do both and it does so at the expense of the two coalescing and crafting characters that we, the audience, are supposed to give a damn about.  Rather than having the human side feel just as relevant, it feels like we’re just marking time until Godzilla is allowed to show up.  None of these scenes are dull, it’s just that they coast by on the promise of more Godzilla and have no real reason in this film to exist.

Oh, and whilst I have the time, I’d like to quickly comment on this.  Because the film doesn’t have real characters worth investing in and it can’t be bothered to go back and craft some, Godzilla instead tries to engender some sympathy for the people stuck in the wreckage of the mayhem by putting kids into the centre of it and going “LOOK!  WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!”  It does this three times, which is three times too many, and it never works.  It even strands an entire school bus full of children on the Golden Gate Bridge in gridlock when Godzilla shows up, for the love of the Maker!  That’s how blatant it is in trying to get a “OH, NO!  PLEASE DON’T HURT THE CHILDREN, GODZILLA!” reaction out of you.  It’s cheap, overly-manipulative and I’d get angry if were done with a single bit of effort or care, which is not.  Can we please retire this device and instead invest some effort into creating actual characters that we, the audience, will care about in future?  Is that too much to ask?

I am really glad that I don’t have to score films here on this website, because I’m honestly stumped with regards to this film.  Look, when Godzilla is on, it is f*cking on and the feeling that comes from those moments of genuine excellence have been almost unparalleled for me, so far this year.  When it works, it more than works.  It’s never anything less than an enjoyable and watchable film, even with the total lack of characters.  The issue is that it touches excellence so often that it can’t help but call even more unwanted attention to that “no characters” issue, not helped by the fact that only Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe & Sally Hawkins seem to be putting in any effort (with Watanabe’s facial expressions and general mood leaving hints of a far better lead character story, that for some reason the film chose to ignore in favour of Lieutenant Beef McFaceSlab), and that issue is retroactively spoiling the film for me.  Hell, it may even happen to you, too!

Godzilla, then, is ultimately one of those movies that comes at you with a tonne of potential and fulfills maybe half of it.  When it does deliver on that potential, it is sensational, but it also makes those times when it doesn’t sting even more and ultimately makes the film a disappointment.  A great time, but a disappointment all the same.

Callum Petch wades through the buildings towards the centre of town.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Favourite Vacation Films

the inbetweeners movieBowing to the “crushing demand” of our followers who will not accept our apology over technical issues relating to our eagerly awaited ‘triple bill’ podcast, in its place this week we have this hastily cobbled together written article which you we hope you’ll accept by way of apology. The idea behind this weeks triple bill is we each pick our favourite three films where one of the main features involves a vacation.

First up getting us going we have Gerry:

  1. The Inbetweeners Movie captures the lads holiday/cheap holiday resort full of Brits experience better than anything else on film (even the mighty Kevin & Perry). Plus it was genuinely funny all the way through, a pleasant surprise considering how things usually go when a TV series moves to the big screen.
  2. Little Miss Sunshine chosen for its realistic representation of the average family holiday, this road trip follows a massively dysfunctional family as they journey to a child beauty pageant. Abigail Breslin quite rightly got a Best Supporting Actress nod for this, one of the finest performances by a child actor ever on screen. Smart, funny and often painfully realistic. A great film.
  3. Adventureland most of us can relate to spending a summer working a minimum wage job with an assortment of weirdos. Michael Cera and Kristen Stewart both perform admirably but Ryan Reynolds steals every scene he’s in. Also, K-Stew‘s annoying open mouth/disinterested scowl thing actually works great here; unfortunately I saw this before I realised she wasn’t acting and this is actually how she is in every film!

Next is James with his 3 favourites:

  1. The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – While this may not be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces, it is still  a highly enjoyable murder-mystery romp that deserves further investigation. It stars James Stewart (who Hitch saw as a creative partner in a period that saw them make this film as well as Rope, Rear Window, and Vertigo) and Doris Day as an American couple on holiday in Morocco with their young son. They witness the murder of a foreign spy, and their son is kidnapped in an effort to keep them quiet, as the plot accelerates towards a conclusion in London where the Prime Minister is the target of an assassination. The film is most famous for its Oscar-winning song, Que Sera Sera, later adopted by football fans as the soundtrack for hopeful cup runs.
  2. Dirty Dancing – It’s difficult to imagine a film that divides genders as much as this 80s coming-of-age story of summer holidays, carrying watermelons, and putting people in the corner. If you approach the film with an open mind however, you will find a film that has not only aged better than many of its contemporaries, but is also quite enjoyable regardless of the equipment you were born with ‘down there’. Jennifer Grey stars as Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, the youngest daughter of a typical middle-class American family spending their summer vacation at Kellerman’s, a resort in the Catskill Mountains. Patrick Swayze is Johnny Castle, the resident dance instructor with a working class chip on his permanently unclothed shoulder. While the story itself may be a touch formulaic, the themes of the film explore growing up, privilege, and a remarkably even-handed view of abortion. I can’t guarantee the time of your life, but its ten the feminist tract that Sex & the City claims to be.
  3. Withnail & I – “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake”. One of the most iconic (and quotable) British film of recent times, it’s amazing that Withnail & I was not only the film debut of director and screenwritier Bruce Robinson, but also the cinematic screen debut of Richard E. Grant as the eponymous Withnail. Filmed on a tiny budget, this film has gone onto influence a whole generation of British film-makers. Withnail, and his roommate Marwood (the ‘I’ in the title, played with beautiful understatement by Paul McGann) have had enough of spending the summer in their dingy London flat with only unidentified creatures in the filthy kitchen and a bizarre drug dealer (played by Ralph Brown who essentially reused the character for his appearance in Wayne’s World 2) for company. They decide to ask Withnail’s lecherous Uncle Monty to borrow his country cottage for a holiday, but don’t count on him showing up there with designs on poor Marwood. The film epitomises the badly planned British holiday, with terrible accommodation, shitty weather, and unfriendly locals. We can only stand back and watch as the boys attempt to drink through the pain and spiral into self-destruction.

Steve‘s triple bill choices were the first that saw some crossover. Here’s what he had to say:

  1. The Inbetweeners Movie – More or less what Gerry said. Really captures the essence of the first holiday without mum and dad, first lads holiday and everything that comes with it while continuing the brilliant high standard of the tv series without labouring a half hour episode into a 90 minute movie. The jokes are excellent, the soundtrack is pretty good, Simon is a fucking helmet though. Took him 3 series and most of a movie to bin off Carly who wasn’t even that fit anyway.
  2. Jaws – A pretty tenuous link to the holiday theme but ‘Don’t Go in the Water’ was a tag-line on some posters. Well if the film took place in December sharks would hardly be an issue would they? But with people on their summer vacations on Amity Island, the shark sparks the mayor et al into doing something about it as the loss of tourism dollars could ruin the place. With people on holiday being a catalyst and a great white shark the protagonist Jaws is the ultimate holiday/thriller hybrid.
  3. The other I can’t remember now but it just edged out Weekend at Bernies [This is a direct quote from Steve here. If he can’t remember what it was, what hope do I have?! – Owen]

Lastly, Owen‘s three choices are as follows:

  1. American Werewolf in London – Directed by John Landis, in fact I think the last time I spoke to it on the podcast was when we were doing our directors and actors that we’ve fallen out of love with triple bill, and Landis was one of my picks. The story is essentially the tale of two american backpackers who, as part of their trip, are in Yorkshire walking across the moors when they are attacked by a werewolf. One of them is killed, the other only injured who becomes a werewolf. I love this film, I’m long overdue for a rewatch as I like to try and watch it at least once every year. It’s got some classic scenes that even now are scary and very violent. The machine gunning Nazi werewolves are just bizarre and really are the stuff of nightmares. Aside from your regular run of the mill cabin-in-the-woods type of film, it’s the ultimate supernatural “holiday gone wrong” movie.
  2. Rogue – My second choice was one I only watched the other week actually. I very briefly mentioned it by name on last weeks podcast, but Rogue is an Australian creature-feature. It’s about a group of tourists from all over the world really. England, Ireland, America, a few domestic holidayers too from Australia. They go on a trip down a river to take photos of the local wildlife, which includes crocodiles. You can already see where this is going. They respond to a distress flare which is set off which leads them into a sacred holy part of the river that they’re not supposed to be in, when they’re attacked by a gigantic, angry, territorial crocodile who proceeds to eat and kill them one by one. It’s directed by Greg McLean who is a part of the so called Splat Pack of horror film directors, although Rogue is more about the tension of man vs nature than it is about being a gorefest. It’s got a decent group dynamic amongst the cast of characters, some really well thought out scenes and the CGI isn’t too bad either really. Definitely worth a watch.
  3. Deliverance – All 3 of my picks have been pretty grim haven’t they? I wanted to avoid stuff like Evil Dead and The Hills Have Eyes but ended up with 3 holiday films where people die in them anyway. My final choice then is John Boorman’s Oscar nominated film which is about 4 guys who go on a trip down a river but don’t encounter a crocodile. Instead they’re in the arse end of the American south where they get bummed by some local rednecks. It features Jon Voight, who is as great as he always is, but I really liked Burt Reynolds’ character. He’s properly taken to the whole idea of a lads holiday. He’s got his own fishing equipment which consists of a bow and arrow and some rope, so they can live off the land. He may not have his moustache but still looks pretty bad ass. I think it’s a great film, really memorable scenes here too. Two different ones for two very different reasons, but the duelling banjos scene is excellent. Didn’t quite make my top 2 picks for my decade in film article for 1972, it would’ve had to go some to beat Godfather, but is legitimately one of the best holiday films I could think of.

We also had some great suggestions from twitter! @filmproject13 sent in quite a few different picks including Hostel, Vacation and also mentioned Roman Holiday which I suppose does count, even if it isn’t quite a vacation film like the others. Sightseers was an inspired choice by @tylea002 and one both Owen and James were in agreement over, but he also had Before Sunrise/Midnight (but not Sunset!) in his list. A choice that slipped my mind when drawing up my picks was helpfully tweeted to us by @andrew_alcock which was the Norwegian zombie horror Dead Snow. A slightly more bizarre pick was @wily365 who tried (and failed) with his shout for Lion King, but also sensibly suggested Die Hard too.

Thanks to everybody else who indulged us on Twitter. Next week things should be back to normal with our World Cinema special. Join us then!

Failed Critics: Episode 10 – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

“Four score and seven days ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new film podcast, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all critics are created equal.”

Wise words from famous Failed Critics fan Abraham Lincoln. But how we feel about him, and his vampire killing exploits? Find out in this week’s podcast. Also this week we discuss films from the beginning and end of Spielberg’s career as James reports back on the new Jaws print, and Owen gives us his verdict on War Horse. Steve decided to watch Kill Keith. Yep.

In Triple Bill this week we discuss our favourite films that have been adapted from novels – and we have the first ever full-house as every critic (including the absent Gerry) picked the same film for their list.

James would just like to apologise for his performance this week. He was hungover, and ill-prepared. He let you all down, and he let himself down. Still, Steve is the one who gets the title of 3 films wrong…

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

The Good, the Bad, or the Ugly 0:00:00 – 0:32:52
Triple Bill 0:32:52 – 1:09:15
Main Review 1:09:15 – 1:24:00
Spoiler Alert 1:24:00 – 1:24:36