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!
As we’re now well and truly past the half-way mark for the year, it seems like as good a time as any for a few of the Failed Critics contributors to bundle together and reveal which films they’ve enjoyed the most so far. Come December, we’ll still be running the annual Failed Critics Awards, giving you the opportunity to cast your vote for your favourite films of 2015.
In the meantime, let’s have a quick run through of what some of our writers and podcasters have chosen as their five favourite films of the year. Will the biggest film of the year so far, Jurassic World, be featured? Will United Passions somehow infect this article too? Will anyone pick anything other than Mad Max?? Find out below…
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
Fighting the urge to fill my word limit with just paragraphs of me repeating the words “Perfect”, “Awesome” and “The most fun I’ve had this year with clothes on”, I’ll try and be a little more cohesive in my description. It had been thirty years since the last film in the iconic Mad Max franchise, to bring a fourth entry to a series after that long is a massive undertaking at the best of times. But when its original star is as iconic as the film’s that made him famous, replacing him as well would be a recipe for disaster in any other filmmakers hands. Thankfully for all of us, the series’ creator made a triumphant return and gave us one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. A breathtaking, visceral two hours (on three occasions) in the cinema left me shellshocked and shaking with excitement and almost unable to write my review when I got home I was so pumped. Oh, and there’s a dude on a truck made of drums and speakers playing heavy metal on a flame throwing guitar! No more needs to be said!
2] Ex Machina
4] Still Alice
5] It Follows
WORST: Avengers: Age of Ultron – Years of subtle hype and weeks of actual hype in the buildup to this, the biggest Marvel movie yet. What we got was a more than two hour long wet fart of a film that left me blindingly disappointed with a really bad taste in my mouth.
by Paul Field (@pafster)
1] Wild Tales
Dark, twisted and utterly enthralling anthology from Argentina. All of the stories are great, no fillers here as is often the case with anthology films. I love a revenge film, and to have 6 served up in one sitting is a real treat. Hard to pick my favourite… the parking ticket is brilliant, the plane passengers unsettling and hilarious, the overtaking motorist caper that escalates out of all control…..but I think the Wedding. Pissing off the bride on her wedding day is an absolute no no, and here, she conveys her displeasure in spectacular fashion. As a first feature from Damián Szifron, this is outstanding and will take some toppling come the end of the year.
WORST: Lost River – Ryan Gosling believing his own hype, delivers the most pretentious load of cobblers ever committed to film. Utter, utter toilet.. and yes, I’ve seen United Passions, Accidental Love and the new Danny Dyer film this year too. Its worse than all three of those, on repeat, for eternity.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
Released in the UK on 1 January 2015, I still don’t think I’ve seen a funnier, more entertaining film in the cinema all year. Michael Keaton is absolutely phenomenal as the flailing former superhero movie star attempting to reinvent himself as a stage actor and producer. His manic behaviour, coupled with director Iñárritu’s frenetic, constantly adapting story shot as if the whole production was just one long take; I just loved every minute of it. However, I was hesitant to put it as number one on my list, given a couple people I’ve recommended it to have hated it! But ultimately, despite seeing it only two days into the year, nothing else has managed to better it yet for me.
2] Mad Max: Fury Road
5] John Wick
WORST: United Passions – Technically not even released in the UK this year, and unlike Jupiter Ascending (cinema) and The Man With The Iron Fists 2 (VOD), I didn’t even watch this legally. But if there’s a more abhorrent, reprehensible piece of offensive propagandist garbage with as high a budget and released globally within the next decade, I’ll be surprised.
By Matt Lambourne (@LamboMat)
I’m still thinking about this movie, weeks after seeing it. The action, the character, the dialogue, the music and most importantly, the SCALE. It’s over the top in every sense and works for me on every level. I can’t wait to get hold of the home release and enjoy it without the hindrance of 3D. Absolutely superb movie!
3] Furious 7
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
The Stephen Hawking biopic earned lead man Eddie Redmayne an Oscar and deservedly so. His portrayal of a genius of a man going through various stages of a terrible, life changing illness was extremely believable. The film also put over a side of Hawking you don’t often see, the friend, parent and husband, not the man who invented time. Or something.
2] Ex Machina
5] Furious 7
WORST: United Passions – Garbage of the highest order. I found Tim Roth less deplorable playing a racist in Selma than I did playing Sepp Blatter in this tripe. It’s offensive that it was even made.
by Callum Petch (@CallumPetch)
1] Mad Max: Fury Road
Fury Road is the kind of film whose existence is a reminder that this Movies thing might be alright after all, a beacon of hope that we can all look to in dark times and remind ourselves that we can, in fact, have it so much better. From its uncomplicated story, to its unique world and set design, to its outstanding special effects, to its jaw-dropping practical stunts, to its brilliantly subtle Tom Hardy performance, to its mesmerising Charlize Theron performance, to its openly and furiously feminist and matriarchal heart, every last frame of this utter masterpiece is what I have heard perfection is supposed to be like. It is everything that modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking isn’t, a purposeful pushback against everything wrong with those films right now that, in a just world, will have everyone following its example in the years to come. Both times that I saw this movie, my veins pulsed with pure adrenaline from frame one and the feeling did not stop until long after I left the screen in tears of pure joy at that perfect final shot. I foresee nothing else coming anywhere close to it for the rest of this year, mainly cos I have no idea what’ll happen to me if there is a better film than Fury Road to come.
3] The Voices
Or stay in your regular 26-letter alphabet world if you like? You can still come with us through another 90 minutes of Failed Critics Podcast film chatter. On this episode, the usual voices of Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by the returning Callum Petch to review new releases Terminator Genisys and Magic Mike XXL.
Also on this episode, the team take a look over the past week’s film news, including the Film4 FrightFest programme announcement and Inside Out smashing a box office record previously held by Avatar! Sticking with the James Cameron theme, Owen reviews his 1989 deep-water sci-fi The Abyss in our What We’ve Been Watching section; Steve reveals his thoughts on spy-comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service and why Danny Dyer would still make a good James Bond; and continuing along his path to see more cult 80’s classics, Callum watches the recently restored Furious, as well as voluntarily torturing himself with the abhorrent FIFA-backed drama United Passions.
Join us again next week as we’ll be chatting with Jack, Chris and Phil from the Wikishuffle podcast! And probably reviewing Ted 2..? We’ll see.
Furious 7 makes Fast mo-HOLY MOTHER OF CRAP, THAT’S MORE THAN I’LL MAKE IN 11 LIFETIMES, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
OK, let’s see if I still know how to do this…
I think we all expected Furious 7 to do well. It’s the sequel to a series that has slowly become genuinely beloved as time has marched on, the last one made $97 million opening weekend – no, I have no idea how, and I say that as a fan of these movies – and it’s the last appearance of Paul Walker and, let’s face it, we were all morbidly curious to see how they dealt with it in film. Oh, yeah, and the film itself is pretty great and stuff. So, a high debut was pretty much guaranteed. That didn’t stop me from flinging out the shocked profanity when I saw that it made $67 million on opening day alone. I mean, $67 million! That’s more than the GDP of some countries in a year! In one day!
Furious 7 would close out the weekend with $143 million, officially the ninth best opening weekend ever for a film in America (assuming that actuals don’t drop it by about $800,000). Undoubtedly the film was kept from ridiculously stupid echelons of money by the fact that it opened on Easter weekend, making Saturday and Sunday totals come in lower than they otherwise could have… but then I remember that $143 million is still ridiculously stupid echelons of money and I go back to just being in awe of that total. I mean, aren’t you? And that’s not even mentioning the fact that the film also made $240 million overseas, and that’s not including China as it doesn’t open there until next week. All that money from a film with a predominately non-white cast. Y’know, it’s almost like Hollywood could learn something from this but I just don’t know what…
Despite that commanding performance, which we all sort of saw coming from multiple miles away, other films did attempt opening against Furious 7. They just correctly stuck to limited release. Best performing of the lot was Woman In Gold, the Weinsteins’ attempt to re-capture that Philomena magic kinda sorta maybe not really – the trailer gave me a lot of Philomena vibes, OK? On 258 screens, the film managed $2 million overall and actually broke into the chart itself, which isn’t bad at all. Chinese possibly-comedy – I can find sod all about this film on the Internet – Let’s Get Married did next best with $180,000 from 39 screens, with the Anton Yelchin romantic drama 5 To 7 bringing up the rear but technically doing the best with $19,600 from 2 screens. Indie films!
Elsewhere, before we get into the real meat of things, despite having collapsed disappointingly in America like a man who talks a big game about his bedding prowess but can only give you a few brief moments of satisfaction, Fifty Shades of Grey is now up to $400 million overseas from people who just don’t know how to quit this terrible movie. It Follows continues to post relatively strong numbers in its nationwide expansion despite it getting next-to-no-marketing and, unsurprisingly since these are the people who made Ouija a success, being rejected by the general public at large. Home dropped 47% between weekends but is still making good money, thank the Maker! And finally, The Gunman dropped out after 2 weeks and nothing of value was lost.
This Full List lives its life a quarter-mile at a time.
Box Office Results: Friday 3rd April 2015 – Sunday 5th April 2015
1] Furious 7
$143,623,000 / NEW
My review, for those of you who are interested. This is going to be a fun week; I have to go on two separate audio outlets and defend this movie against two separate misery guts who wouldn’t know what a fun movie was if it sla- (*remembers that Owen is the head of this site and hastily shuts up*)
$27,400,000 / $95,621,000
Home is the first DreamWorks Animation film since Shrek Forever After to be classified as Rotten because critics are unpleasable tits. Trust me, Home is great. Mind you, you probably already know that as you’ve likely already seen it, thank the Maker again! Seriously, even though it’s nothing particularly brilliant, Home being a success makes me really legitimately happy for both DreamWorks’ immediate future and for more diversity in our animated leads. Seriously, look at this image! LOOK AT THIS GODDAMN IMAGE! If your heart doesn’t swell with happiness looking at that, you are basically dead.
3] Get Hard
$12,925,000 / $57,004,000
I did see this last weekend, but I just never got around to reviewing it. Probably for the best, otherwise you would have read nearly 2,000 words of me insisting that Kevin Hart is actually a really funny guy honest! Seriously, he is a really funny guy, it’s just that his movies are really bad which makes my opinion come off as deluded for anybody who has only seen his terrible, terrible movies. Seriously, man. Pick better films! Quickly, whilst I still have a chance at convincing people of your talent!
$10,289,000 / $167,251,000
Didn’t review this one for one simple reason: I’m getting really self-conscious about the fact that I am a straight white guy writing frequently about women in film. Even the fact that I consider myself a feminist doesn’t help assuage the guilt and fear that I might be dictating how things should be with my man ways and such, and crowding out female voices which are far more important to this conversation. Therefore, I point you towards Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve whose thoughts basically line up with mine but are far better expressed than I ever could.
5] The Divergent Series: Insurgent
$10,000,000 / $103,385,000
I was on the Failed Critics Podcast two weeks back where I attempted to explain this stupid, stupid universe to people who either hadn’t seen the movies or couldn’t remember the movies. It was fun, even though I’m still 80% certain that I am the drunk stepchild that everybody puts up with out of politeness whenever I show up on there.
6] It Follows
$2,465,000 / $8,541,000
I’m looking forward to finally watch this when it hits Blu-Ray. At home. With all of the lights on. And the ability to pause and/or mute the film when it inevitably pushes my nerves beyond breaking point. Have I ever mentioned that I am really bad when it comes to horror?
7] Woman In Gold
$2,004,000 / NEW
8] Kingsman: The Secret Service
$1,700,000 / $122,260,000
With Home about to cross the mark sometime this week, that will make 7 films in the space of just over 3 months that have made $100 million at the domestic box office – 8 if you want to also count American Sniper from last year. If I hear or see any “The Domestic Box Office Is Dying!” thinkpieces at any point this year, I am going to go f*cking nuclear. Fair warning.
9] Do You Believe?
$1,500,000 / $9,811,000
…in life after love? After love? After love? After love?
10] The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
$1,000,000 / $30,059,000
Has anybody else seen the trailer for The Lady In The Van yet? If not, go do so. It’s not out until November, which clearly means that this is being positioned as one last Best Actress roll call for Maggie Smith, but it looks so off-beat and distinctly and truly British – in the way that films like The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game could only dream of being – that I’m really intrigued by it. There are still 7 months to go until I can actually see the thing, but I’ve already got a good feeling about it! I’m optimistic!
Dropped Out: Run All Night, The Gunman
The main release reviews this week see the team chat about Matthew Vaughn’s new action-comedy Kingsman: The Secret Service starring Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson, Mark Strong and Taron Egerton; as well as the latest in Disney’s recent animation resurgence, Big Hero 6.
From Steve’s second excursion through the Harry Potter franchise and Callum’s complete bafflement at Luxembourgian comedy The Notorious Guys, to Owen’s elongated gushing over German high-brow arty-farty Werner Herzog film The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, there’s plenty to mull over in this week’s edition.
The team also managed to fit in conversations about the Sundance Film Festival and Annie Award winners, even with Steve’s threat to up the ante in the quiz after finally forcing himself to watch I, Frankenstein looming over proceedings. Uh oh!
Join us again next week as we’ll be reviewing The Interview, Jupiter Ascending and picking through the weekend’s BAFTA winners.
Kingsman: The Secret Service is not particularly intelligent, mature or able to fully escape the shadow of a certain other Matthew Vaughn film, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Matthew Vaughn is now one of the best action directors working today. That feels really weird and kinda wrong to type and say, but it’s honestly true by this point. The guy who got his start producing Guy Ritchie crime films and directing Layer Cake is now one of the best action movie directors working today. It all, however, becomes more than clear when one actually watches Kingsman: The Secret Service. In stark contrast to the typical way of shooting action films, Vaughn doesn’t shake the camera around like a drunkard who is sobering up, he doesn’t keep it tightly zoomed in on the characters in a misguided attempt to make the viewer feel like they’re there, and he doesn’t rapidly cut between sixteen different shots to mask any violence in incomprehensibility.
Instead, Kingsman is fond of actually showing you stuff. He prefers longer takes with slightly steadier cameras, although they do shake, that keep enough distance from the people that it’s filming without losing the impact of the various hits. In addition, Vaughn is a man of style, flinging himself into the comic book world of Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons’ source material with gleeful abandon. Choreography is wild and exaggerated – many unnecessary flips, highly impractical moves, and operating on rule of cool more than anything else – and he plays with speed to great effect. There are instances of the obvious Zack Snyder super-slo-mo-then-speed-up-then-slow-down-again school of filmmaking, but most of the time things are more subtle, employing brief doses of hyper-speed to enhance the kineticism of the fight scenes as well as purposefully jarring usages of CG’d environments and stitched together shots.
This all ends up creating action scenes that feel very reminiscent of the Lucas Lee fight from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the entirety of The World’s End, like Matthew Vaughn saw what Edgar Wright was doing and, instead of merely taking notes, lifted pretty much the whole aesthetic for himself. It really, really works, though. When Kingsman does get into its action scenes, they end up being a tonne of glorious fun. Much like when he directed Kick-Ass, Vaughn displays a gleeful rather teenage enthusiasm for action sequences, prioritising fun and coolness over logic, reality and good taste. In its standout sequence, Vaughn ends up crafting an utterly ridiculous brawl that starts off feeling like slightly uncomfortable wish-fulfilment bad taste, but becomes so gloriously deranged – aided by a perfect music cue – and so impeccably staged and shot that I ended up revelling with the film in its excessive line-crossing mayhem. It’s the kind of action scene that films don’t have the balls to make nowadays.
That’s what Kingsman has going for it. Pure glorious debauched fun, where you can also actually make out what’s going on, which is an incredibly nice change of pace from humourless incomprehensible dreck like Taken 3, The Equalizer and their ilk. I mean, it’s not the only thing going for it, but it is the main thing going for it and the thing that powers it through most of its problems. Vaughn’s direction is always pacey and stylish, the performances are all excellent – in particular, relative newcomer Taron Egerton really nails lead character Eggsy’s innate goodness without losing sight of the fact that he’s a mischievous young adult, whilst Colin Firth legitimately (and surprisingly) impresses as a halfway convincing action movie star – and there are many legitimate belly-laughs to be found within.
This all being said, Kingsman does have many problems. For one, at two hours and change, it is too long and that sustained energy eventually starts feeling a bit tiring at many points where the film isn’t going full-tilt. For two, whilst I do give the film points for a female lead character, in the shape of competing Kingsman candidate Roxy (Sophie Cookson), I do take those points back for the film not really giving her much to do, despite making a big deal out of her existence. This is actually a problem with the film overall, lots of time is spent on certain characters and plotlines – the main ones involving chav Eggsy beings groomed by Colin Firth’s Harry Hart to become the latest Kingsman, a member of an elite and highly secretive spy organisation, whilst tech billionaire Richmond Valentine (a lisping Samuel L. Jackson) puts into play an evil plan that threatens the world – and that split can, at times, leave the film feeling unfocussed and underdeveloped in parts.
More of an issue than those, though, is the simple fact that Kingsman is not Kick-Ass. And I’m not just saying that because it’s the same people who made Kick-Ass the film (Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman) adapting work by the same people who made Kick-Ass the comic (Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons). Kingsman has that same anarchic tone, that same gleeful desire to revel in immaturity, that same stylish nature, the same attempt at melding action and comedy, that same irritating self-conscious insistence on having characters refer to the type of movie the film is trying to be in-dialogue, that same shock death of [REDACTED] at the two-thirds mark… I think you see what the problem is.
Kingsman ends up hitting a lot of Kick-Ass’ beats only without the surprise impact that Kick-Ass had back in 2010. It’s also kinda just a lesser movie in general. It’s nowhere near as funny, most of its cast isn’t as developed, its pace over the runtime isn’t as well managed, and I rarely found it as giddy and grin-inducingly brilliant as I found, and still find, Kick-Ass to be. It feels less vital, less like a shot in my movie-going arm, and less brilliant than that film, basically. When it’s going full-tilt, pushing itself well past the typical limits of immaturity and backing utterly ridiculous extended displays of violence in sync to “Pomp And Circumstance”, that lower-quality Xerox feeling rescinds completely and the film is a delight to watch. When it slows down from that, though, my personal being was filled equally with enjoyment for what I was watching but also a desire to just watch Kick-Ass again.
That all being said, Kingsman: The Secret Service is still a delight and a far better film than its last minute delay and eventual January release date would have you believe. In its lesser moments, it’s a less-great version of Kick-Ass. In the moments when it’s on fire, and those do eventually come and my word are they glorious, it sets a high bar for the rest of 2015’s action films to clear. Superbly directed, very well acted, and a great deal of fun, Kingsman is very much a delight that, although it never overcomes the shadow of Kick-Ass, is another excellent entry into the filmography of Matthew Vaughn: one of the best action movie directors working today.
Still feels weird saying that.
Kingsman: The Secret Service will be released in UK cinemas on January 29th, and in US cinemas on February 13th.