It might not be the podcast you wanted, but it’s the podcast you deserve. It’s the proper critics in one corner, the audience in another corner, and your hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes with special guests Brian Plank and Andrew Brooker in the other corner. The final corner is where Sad Ben Affleck is hanging his head in disappointment, next to Henry Cavill’s pile of gold.
That’s right, this week we’re reviewing DC’s latest $250m mega-blockbuster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Divisive amongst those who’ve watched it, as well as on this episode. We’ve a full spoiler-free review where the team discuss everything they liked (mainly Batfleck) and didn’t like without giving away much, before Spoiler Alert Returns towards the end.
Also on this episode: Owen reviews freshly released found-footage horror JeruZalem (that’s with a capital ‘Z’ and no lower case ‘s’); Brian prepares for Zack Snyder’s superhero movie in the only way he knew how… by watching Kramer vs Kramer…; Brooker revisits Failed Critics favourite Kill Your Friends; and Steve finally catches up with our third best film of last year, Disney Pixar’s Inside Out.
Join us again next week for any episode that’s probably not going to be 50% comic book oriented.
You may remember that a few of us here at Failed Critics got together back in July to tell you which five films were topping our list at the midway point through the year. Mad Max: Fury Road appeared to be doing well in the first half of 2015, whereas United Passions had sufficiently pissed off more than one of us to be the most (least?) popular “worst” film of the year.
Therefore, to follow up on July’s article, I caught up with everyone to find out if their top five films have changed at all since then. The short answer is that for most who contributed, not much is different.
In fact, Paul Field, not usually one to mince his words, said 2015 had been an “absolute shit house year so far”. Well, quite!
He added: “The Hateful Eight not landing til January, Kill Your Friends disappeared whilst I was on holiday. Fucking shambles.”
There was only one film to break into Paul’s list – and that was a test screening for an incomplete movie (The Comedians Guide to Survival) that isn’t even due out until next year.
Matt Lambourne concurred with Paul’s comments about 2015 being a “baron year since Mad Max“. Although he did make a few amendments to his previous list (right) when submitting his votes in the end of year awards.
That’s with the proviso, of course, that he can make amendments should Star Wars turn out to be any good.
Even podcast host Steve Norman was pretty much in agreement. “Ask me again on Thursday,” he said in reply to my question. Once Star Wars Episode VII finally comes out, it could make a huge different to everyone’s lists.
But Matt seemed confident that our most prolific writer, Andrew Brooker, could “come up with the goods”. Indeed, he is the first to make significant changes to his previous top 5, whilst acknowledging that picking a film from the back half of the year was a tough prospect.
“I’ve seen a lot of old guff the last few months and rarely have I seen anything worth cheering about,” he said, before revealing that Kill Your Friends was a film that ticked all of his boxes.
Describing it as dark, politically incorrect and beautifully acted movie, he emphasised that “it’s really funny and, it’s worth mentioning again, it’s so very dark”. Brooker doesn’t leave us in much doubt about it being one of his films of the year. Take a look at his review below to see why:
The tale of Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult), quite literally murdering his way through the mid-90’s British music industry, whose celluloid inspirations of films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels oozes from the screen and makes for an amazing hour and a half. Ok, so it maybe works a little too hard to be offensive, but its source material does the same and it’s that very point that makes it my top film of the last six months. In a day and age where we work so hard to not offend every beautiful and unique snowflake in the world, the brash and brazen way that Kill Your Friends just screams “Fuck you!” at all those people makes it a wonderfully crafted thing of beauty.
And man, what an amazing soundtrack.
Brooker isn’t the only one of our contributors to make changes to his summer choices. Our resident self-described “hopeless, old-fashioned romantic at heart”, Callum Petch, also finally found the true romance that has been sorely lacking from the cinema for him for a while.
He said: “For some utterly bizarre reason, the idea of falling in love with a literal Nazi doesn’t set my heart all aflutter.
“Much like the part in a romantic comedy where the idealistic female lead is about to give up on ever finding real love, in walked Carol to prove that romance isn’t dead after all.”
Having described Carol as the “perfect movie” recently on our podcast, the least we could do was to get Callum to update us in writing on why it’s made such an impact on him:
A film that actually takes the time to build its romance, that imbues the clichés and hallmarks of the romantic drama with genuine life, passion and sincerity, that places great emphasis on physical contact so that every touch carries genuine weight, where the sexual tension is not just palpable but is practically a main character in its own right, impeccably acted by its two leads (Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett), and capable of knifing the viewer in the heart without ever becoming miserable (its ending is one of the most beautiful that I have experienced in a long time). Carol is absolutely the best film of 2015, too perfect to do proper justice to in just 238 words, and I had to take 20 minutes to compose myself in the toilets afterwards to ensure I wouldn’t burst into tears again.
I guess the only person left to share their opinion is.. well.. me.
Whilst I’m fairly certain that when it comes to sending in my own votes for the FC Awards, I’ll omit documentaries and put them into the separate category, I’m still not budging from my top choice. In the upcoming Christmas Special podcast that you can catch next week, I defend choosing Birdman even further. Until then, I’ll have to point out one glaring omission in my original list.
Of those who have already taken the time to tell us what their top 10 films of 2015 are, there are two films consistently placing highly. Predictably, Mad Max is up there, just like it is in our own lists – as is the stunning US drama, Whiplash, which really should have been on my list the first time around.
Whiplash was originally released in the US in 2014, yet didn’t make it to these shores until January. Therefore I feel fully justified in rectifying my list as it is easily one of the best movies of the year. Here’s why:
Back in February, ahead of the Oscars, I put together a short 7 minute preview of Whiplash for Tony Black’s former podcast, Black Hole Cinema [pre-edited audio]. In it, I doubted director Damien Chazelle’s chances of winning too many awards this year, but that it would be a travesty if JK Simmons didn’t pick up a deserving Best Supporting Actor gong. His intense, terrifying and fierce performance as the violently obsessive music maestro, Terence Fletcher, is scarily good. All of his obscene tirades (of which there are plenty) at the ambitious young jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) – and student of the fictional academy, the Shaffer Conservatory – left me quaking in my boots! I don’t think I’ve been quite as close to the edge of my seat as I was during the scenes climactic few moments in any other movie all year. It’s strangely ironic that a film all about performance exceeding art, often ends up being praised a lot for its actors’ performance, but until you see it for yourself, it’s difficult to convey just how impressive they really are.
With our updated selection, picking out the films that we will be voting for before the deadline on Sunday 27th December, hopefully it will give you some inspiration before deciding on your final top 10.
When you’re happy with your choices,just click hereto go straight to the submission page and vote in the Failed Critics Awards 2015.
Everybody, raise your right hand and say it with me:
On my honour, I promise that I will do my best
To do my duty to Owen and to Steve,
To help other people
And to keep the Failed Critics Podcast on my iTunes subscription list at all times.
You may lower your hand so that you can press play now and listen to your hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes, with their special guest Brian Plank, play a game of 20 Questions around the camp fire, stay up late talking about movies (such as He Named Me Malala, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Kill Your Friends) and scare Brian by telling him ghost stories.
Well, Steve tells a ghost story of sorts with a review of Housebound, a horror film from New Zealand (not Australia). Owen finds possibly the worst Bruce Willis movie ever made in Hudson Hawk, whilst Brian – still recovering from the shock – talks about indie documentary King of Kong.
There’s time before all of that for the group to sing a rendition of Kumbaya – but unfortunately the mic wasn’t plugged in. So instead of doing seven versus in full again, they decide instead to take a look at why the Chinese market get a different Star Wars trailer and what’s wrong with Warcraft. We pay a small tribute to horror icon Gunnar Hanson who passed away this week, as well as casting our beady eyes over the BIFA nominations.
Join us again next week where we’re inviting you lot to send in your listener questions! We’ll answer them, whatever they may be about, during the podcast.
I’ve said before, many times, how I try very hard to read a book before I see the film it’s based on, especially if it’s interesting looking or if someone I trust recommends it to me. Of course, there’s a limit, I absolutely will NOT be reading any of the Hunger Games books, ever. But Kill Your Friends looked like an interesting read and it was recommended to me by a friend who, if he recommended them, would have me buying animal porn that starred Japanese men with Hitler moustaches and bowler hats because I know full well it would be worth a butcher’s if he says it is.
So, comparisons to American Psycho – a book I genuinely loathed and couldn’t finish – be damned, I grabbed John Niven’s nineties music business romp and hid myself in a corner for a bit to read. Sadly, this is where my comparison to Bret Easton Ellis’ novel starts, because I couldn’t finish the book. I hated it. I hated the characters, the setting, the dialogue, everything; so at a measly 47%, my kindle has been retired for a bit and I hoped that, much like American Psycho before it, the film turns out to be much better than the book that I couldn’t stand. I was genuinely fearful as our protagonist – a word that really doesn’t suit our main character, Steven Stelfox – uttered the words “Get fucked. You couldn’t last ten minutes” as I thought I quite possibly won’t.
Steven Stelfox is a young A&R executive, hip deep in the mid-nineties British music business at the height of the brit-pop era. Ambitious, in that “I want to have everything, but it sounds like awfully hard work” kind of way; the hungry Artists and Repertoire (nope, I didn’t know what A&R was either – I’m still none the wiser) agent is far more comfortable conniving and back-stabbing his way to the top and isn’t adverse to treading on and stepping over his friends and colleagues to get what he wants. As we learn very quickly, he’s more than willing to quite literally kill his friends if it means a better office.
As we come to find out, the music business is a cutthroat business, and successes and failures come in at extremes. Success can mean a big pay check and a happy, easy life; but failure can mean your job. We meet Stelfox as he is dancing along a razor sharp edge between the two; without a hit record and a way to make his name for quite some time but always seemingly on the cusp of making a killer move to make himself and his label a ton of money. The problem for Stelfox, however, is that he is more adept at accidentally sabotaging himself than he is at discovering hit records and his preference of snorting cocaine instead of working is beginning to get the better of him. Among a haze of booze, drugs, women and music both good and bad; Stelfox and his ilk are searching for the next big thing and, perhaps more importantly, putting all their effort into making sure their counterparts, their enemies, don’t get their hands on the hit makers they are discovering.
Nicholas Hoult is fast becoming an actor whom I would watch, no matter what he was in. His awesome turn in Mad Max: Fury Road earlier in the year was spectacular. But in a completely different and relatively original role, his portrayal of Steven Stelfox is just as good. The hate fuelled music agent who seemingly runs on a massive amount of cocaine and alcohol without having a need or want to slow down is the purest form of the word “anti-hero” since The Terminator and he best reason to cheer for a bad guy since Riddick as he snorts his way into and back out of trouble on several continents with a lot of money at stake. The contempt he has for his co-workers, and us, the audience he talks to throughout the film oozes sinisterly from the screen as he pulls off a world-class “What the fuck is this?” face with every awful new band he’s forced to listen to for our pleasure. As his world collapses around him and he fights to build it back up before it’s too late, Stelfox is an interesting, if completely unlikable, character that no one can relate to, but we can all love to hate. We don’t want him to find redemption and we don’t want him to come out on top, but we know he will and he’ll drag us kicking and screaming with him.
With a tremendous supporting cast that includes Georgina King, James Corden, Jim Piddock and Ed Skrein (I know no-one else likes him, but I do, dammit!) Kill Your Friends is a tremendously dark comedy that will have you feeling bad every single time you laugh, but won’t actually stop you from laughing. With a (not completely unexpected) soundtrack that is guaranteed to bring those memories rolling back, even if it does play a little like “Now That’s What I Call Music 1997” minus the Spice Girls poisonous shit, Dutch music producer Junkie XL has done an amazing job on everything from the licensed music to his own composed score that instantly transports the audience to the end of one of the most insane decades for music in Britain and keeps us there for the duration of the drug fuelled flick.
From the narcissism to the petty one-upmanship; from the feel, tone and attitude of the main character’s narration to the uncomfortably extreme violence; whilst Kill Your Friends feels like it’s influenced quite heavily by the writings of, and subsequent films based on, Hunter S. Thompson, its comparisons to American Psycho certainly aren’t unfounded or unwarranted. But Kill Your Friends does do enough to separate itself from most of the dark crime thrillers we’ve been getting and is a glorious film to behold.
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