Tag Archives: march

Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 3 – March-el Cinematic Universe

With the third entry in his continuing year in review series, Owen casts a glance over the films he’s been watching throughout March 2015. As with each of the previous articles in the series, Owen will be breaking down the month by week, providing a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

I know I seem to be saying this with alarming frequency, but March really was a pretty busy month for me this year. Unusually busy, I’d say. I spent most of it planning, preparing, recording, editing and occasionally even publishing various different podcasts, which in turn influenced the kinds of films I watched. Not the worst kind of homework imaginable, but it did mean some of the films I’d have liked to have spent more time watching (including a nice set of recently purchased Fritz Lang movies on bluray and those blasted Werner Herzog films I bang on about in every article) were pushed to the wayside temporarily.

On top of this, I started the month off feeling pretty ill, then recovered somewhat, only to eventually catch the flu. The real flu. Not the “slightly bunged up”, “let’s stay at home and watch a load of daytime TV” one. This, as well as spend an evening in A&E with my wife. When I said in February that it was a hectic month for me? Well, March was doubly so. It is therefore a period in 2015 that I am very glad to now see the end of.

That said, I did see some absolutely fantastic movies during the past 31 days. Some of which were re-watches, like Desperado, A Field In England, Cyborg etc. Some of those rewatches were also seen during my Marvel Cinematic Universe-a-thon in preparation for Age of Ultron‘s release as well as our upcoming Avengers minisode podcasts. Other films I thought highly of were new releases, such as Chappie and It Follows, which I’ve already reviewed right here on the podcast at the beginning of March. There were of course stinkers, as there always are. The worst offender being Kill Keith; a film I was unceremoniously forced to endure thanks to Steve’s podcast quiz triumph. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an entirely miserable month film-wise, leaving me with quite a few I’d like to share with you now! So, on with the reviews…


Week 1 – Sunday 1 – Sunday 8 March 2015

Sunday (1) – Kill Keith (2011); Monday – It Follows (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Welcome To The Jungle (2014); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Preservation (2015); Saturday – The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), CHAPPIE (2015); Sunday (8) – [absolutely nothing]

la_ca_0105_chappieI had very mixed feelings going into Neill Blomkamp’s latest science fiction blockbuster. Trepidation, quiet optimism, maybe even a smidge of snobbishness that a director I once heralded as the saviour of intelligent sci-fi was getting a bit too self-indulgent. Alien 5? Really? Anyway. It seems I was no less sure of my own thoughts even after watching his rogue artificial intelligence Johnny-5-meets-RoboCop movie. It took a day or two of mulling it over before I felt confident enough to commit to an opinion either way, eventually settling on a very simple “well I enjoyed it” line of reasoning, with a big BUT caveat attached to it. Sharlto Copley is not a ‘big but’ (teehee) and is genuinely hilarious as the voice of our super-sentient runaway robot protagonist, with perfect comic timing in all of his fantastically well delivered lines of dialogue. The design and CGI of Chappie is also utterly spectacular. His banged up, tattered, scrap heap look matches the gritty urban South African world he inhabits exceptionally well. Both Ninja and Yolandi (of rap group Die Antwoord, for whom Blomkamp originally wrote the film), along with Jose Pablo Cantillo, were equally as entertaining, even if they are the ‘big buts’ I’m referring to. Their rough around the edges characters and performances may not be to everyone’s tastes, as they try to raise Chappie in seclusion in order to commit a heist. Sure, they’re not exactly Marlon Brando, Bette Davis and Richard Burton respectively, but it’s not like they were trying to be either. It’s clear they aren’t traditional actors but their overblown melodramatic style was apt and perfectly suited the explosive and enthralling action scenes that dominate through the final stages. Overall, the film may be a little inconsistent (here’s looking at you, Hugh Jackman) and when it is bad, it’s very flimsy and feels rather cheap in trying to bring out any emotion in the viewer. But honestly, when it’s good? It’s fucking brilliant. Bravo, Blomkamp.


Week 2 – Monday 9 – Sunday 15 March 2015

Monday – Legendary (2014), Desperado (1995), Rush Hour (1998); Tuesday – Source Code (2011), Cyborg (1989), HEATSEEKER (1995); Wednesday – A Field In England (2013); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Adrenalin (1996); Saturday – Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011); Sunday – Iron Man 3 (2013)

heatseekerIf you’re a fan of b-movies, it’s quite likely you’ve at least heard of Albert Pyun, if not outright adoring him. You know, aside from that failed Captain America abortion from 1990. In preparation for our upcoming Jean-Claude Van Damme Corridor of Praise podcast, I rewatched Cyborg and thoroughly enjoyed it. Which then led to me seeking out (see what I did there) other Pyun films, such as Heatseeker and Adrenaline. Whilst not without their faults – the overload of male bravado on show in both, despite having strong(ish) (relatively speaking) (ok, not exactly “strong” but “prominent”) female characters, is like being slapped across the face with a tiny steroid-reduced shriveled ball sack – I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst his movies are not going to win any awards (maybe a Razzie), just like Cyborg and another favourite Nemesis, they were in fact undeniably ambitious in their concept and design. On the surface, Heatseeker sounds like it has more potential to be a load of old shite rather than a successful project. You’ve got a futuristic world where fighters gather for a tournament and can enhance their skills with cybernetic technology provided by greedy sponsors, with our protagonist being a good man who doesn’t cheat by using these implants. It could easily have gone either way! Ignoring the terrible, soft-lighting, cringe-inducing romance scenes that come across like they’re written by a 14 year old virgin, the satire of corporations who will exploit anybody to get rich is well worked into the script. As a result, the film itself is, as expected, an enjoyable (if trashy) sci-fi action film.


Week 3 – Monday 16 – Sunday 22 March 2015

Monday – Thor: The Dark World (2013); Tuesday – Run All Night (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); Friday – [absolutely nothing]; Saturday – The Gunman (2015); Sunday (8) – THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008)

incredible hulkLater this month, we’ll be releasing a series of 10 “minisode” podcasts that are about 20-25 minutes in length, each focusing on each of the phase 1 and 2 Marvel Cinematic Universe films up to Age of Ultron. As a result, a lot of the films you’ll see listed in this article were rewatches ahead of this series. Including Louis Leterrier’s only venture in the MCU with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk. Now, I think The Transporter is an action film that’s as well directed as you’re ever likely to see for the genre. I didn’t even mind its sequel too much, nor Now You See Me from a couple year’s back. Alas, Clash of the Titans was a crock of shit and as it turns out, a film I’ve defended to death in the past after enjoying it upon its initial release, is also a disappointingly a mess. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned flu I was paralysed with, I actually missed this podcast recording with Steve and Brian Plank. Nevertheless…. It’s not like Leterrier intended to make a bad film. It was only the second in the franchise and it does struggle to come up with a proper identity of its own (although it is a step up from Ang Lee’s attempt with Hulk). I suppose at least it tries to have that now typical Marvel humour – a mistranslated line from Ed Norton as Bruce Banner in Brazil, “you wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry” is cheesy yet sort of works. However, the problem is the script is almost written for a different film than the one being shot. It’s clunky, badly paced and more like being shown a flick book of Hulk scenes rather than being a coherent story. It’s now my least favourite MCU film – this rewatch was definitely not kind to it at all.


Week 4 – Monday 23 – Tuesday 31 March 2015

Monday (23) – Hitman (2007), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014); Tuesday (24) – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008); Friday – Amadeus (1984), DIE NIBELUNGEN: SIEGFRIED (1924); Saturday – Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge (1924); Sunday – Fitzcarraldo (1982); Monday (30) – Avengers Assemble (2012); Tuesday (31) – [absolutely nothing]

die nibelungenIf you made it to near the end of the latest five hour long, 150th episode of the Failed Critics podcast – firstly, well done! That is more of an achievement, I think, than it was for us record it. Secondly, you probably heard me half attempt to reveal my wild card triple bill, which was on films centered around, based on, or otherwise influenced by the opera. A medium that I am by no means educated about on even the most basic level. Hence me choosing it. A foolish decision, right? That’s kind of what struck me as I started to open my mouth and explain to the guys which three films I was about to talk about. Something that resulted in what can only be described as a GOB Bluth “I’ve made a huge mistake” moment due to how poorly received an idea it was! Oh well, you live and learn. Regardless of how much of a balls up it was on my behalf, I really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone with Repo and Amadeus; and I fully expected to enjoy Fiztcarraldo as much as I ended up doing. But it was Fritz Lang’s 1925 five-hour, two-parter fantasy epic Die Nibelungen that really stood out for me. Whilst not directly adapted from an opera, rather it’s more of a retelling of an old epic poem, it did in fact take a huge amount of inspiration from Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. An opera that I have since tried (and failed) to enjoy, but maybe one day I will be cultured and sophisticated, like them fancy adults wot enjoy posh stuffs liek this. Until then, I’ll stick to my silent classics from 90 years ago that have so far brought me much joy. Such as the first part of Die Nibelungen, called Sigfried, about a young ambitious man who sets out to marry a princess and bathes in dragon blood, making him invulnerable everywhere but a specific spot on his back. It’s hilariously dated in parts, as you’d expect with funny looking dragon puppets and with antiquated notions about what being a brave man is all about. However, it’s as fantastical and wondrous today as I’m sure it would’ve been back then. The set design is just astounding and the shots that Lang managed to capture are breathtaking. Whilst the epic was incredibly popular back then, following the success of The Ten CommandmentsIntolerance and Cabiria some decade or so previously (all of which are worth anybody’s time if you’ve not yet seen them), Die Nibelungen in both of its parts is probably the best of the bunch that I’ve seen. And it’s a remarkable restoration job that Eureka! have done with this. They should be proud.


And that’s it! I’m done for another month. If you feel that I’ve picked the wrong film to review, or if you simply completely disagree with my review, then leave a comment below the article and I’ll argue my point until I’m blue in the face. Otherwise, I’ll see you again (hopefully) at the beginning of May as I look back at those films I’ve seen during this month.

Owen Hughes: 2014 Reviews Part 1 – Jan-Jun

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

I know technically that title doesn’t really make sense as I’m not about to post two-thousand and fourteen reviews, but it sort of rhymes. Following in my colleague Callum Petch’s footsteps with his top and bottom 10 movies of 2014 lists – and of course after the Failed Critics Awards winners were announced on our end of year podcast last month – I wanted to share my personal review of the last 12 months. Because… why not. It’s my film blog and I’ll cry if I want to. However, rather than provide a list of my favourite films, and given how much I enjoyed writing my Horrorble Month article back at the end of October, I wanted to adopt a similar format for a whole year in review.

As I mentioned in the top of that article, I watch what I would consider to be a lot of films. Indeed, from 1 January to 31 December 2014, I watched a total of 534 films. Not all of them good, either. In fact, exactly 250 of those I gave 3 stars out of 5 or less to. All the same, I just love watching films. Even the not-so-good ones. They’re worth it for the times you occasionally stumble across a film that thoroughly changes the way you think and feel about movies; about life; about, well, anything and everything, really. Films such as A Bittersweet Life, Ikiru, Poetry, The Great Beauty, The Great White Silence, The Act of Killing, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nashville……. A Bucket of Blood, even! All films that I watched for the first time in 2014, and all of which were astonishing in their own way and have left a heavy impression.

So, without further ado, I’m going to go through each month, listing my favourite 10 first time watches from each (in no particular order of preference) and discuss one of those that profoundly changed my opinion on films. For the sake of argument, I’m going to exclude those that were actually released in the UK in 2014 as I’ve talked about all those that I wanted to on the podcast. This is more of a “new discoveries” list. Also, like Callum, I will be splitting it over two parts (January – June, and July – December).


bittersweet lifeJanuary – The Yellow Sea (2010); A BITTERSWEET LIFE (2005); Brotherhood (aka Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War) (2005); The Housemaid (1960); Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003); Annie Hall (1977); The Informer (1935); The Hustler (1961); A Serious Man (2009); The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

During our end of year awards podcast, James asked each of us what we’ve learned from films in the past year. Matt made a very salient point that one should always seek to broaden their horizons. Not to be afraid to try something new or different. It’s an opinion that immediately resonated with me as, if you can’t tell from the titles above, half of those listed are Korean movies. It was towards the tail end of 2013 I finally started to get into films by Korean filmmakers, but that carried on right through to 2014. Within four days of the new year, I discovered Kim Jee-woon’s beautifully unpleasant romantic gangster thriller, A Bittersweet Life. Something about it was so… different. So unusual. So extraordinary. I’d already seen films like New World, I Saw the Devil, Oldboy etc, all films that deal with violence and, to an extent, organised crime… but this? It blew me away. It married that familiar raw savageness with an astounding beauty as the remarkably talented high-ranking Lee Byung-hun (due to star in Terminator: Genisys this year) deals with the consequences of falling in live with his bosses girlfriend. It’s grim, unrelenting and astonishingly exquisite. I doubt I’ll see another film like it.


act of killingFebruary – The Thin Red Line (1998); THE ACT OF KILLING (2012); Poetry (2010); Yojimbo (1961); The Skin I Live In (2011); Rushmore (1998); The Tree of Life (2011); Howl (2010); Ran (1985); Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Regardless of how some folk wrote off Joshua Oppenheimer’s profoundly moving and downright incredible documentary as little more than torture porn (they couldn’t be more wrong if they tried) (oh, wait, they could as some critics who claimed that didn’t even watch it), The Act of Killing was very highly thought of here at Failed Critics. I like to think I can stomach quite a lot when it comes to violence in films; I’ve been watching 18 rated movies for as long as I can remember! But the atrocities that former executioner Anwar Congo and his team re-enact churned my insides. Not necessarily because of the brutality of them, but the way in which these Indonesian death squad members jokingly tell Oppenheimer and his crew about how they would execute people, and the fact they are so disassociated with it despite fully, honestly and cooperatively explain the acts committed is haunting and chilled me to the bone. Whilst clearly giving Anwar enough rope to hang himself with, it’s not just about showing up these people for the monsters they are. There’s a real journey being captured on screen and I have never been so satisfied with a resolution to a documentary in my entire life than I was when the ugly, unbearable truth forced itself out of Anwar’s every orifice.


ikiruMarch – K2: The Killer Summit (2012); Cutie & The Boxer (2013); The Stranger (1946); The Lady Vanishes (1938); Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case (2013); Mother (2009); IKIRU (1952); Throne of Blood (1957); eXistenZ (1999); The Mission (1986)

Before Film4 began their Akira Kurosawa season in February, the only movies of the acclaimed Japanese director’s that I’d seen were probably his most famous two, Rashomon and Seven Samurai. Both of which I’d liked, neither of which I’d loved. However, watching Yojimbo, Sanjuro, The Hidden Fortress, Ran, Throne of Blood and finally Ikiru in quick succession immediately changed my opinion on him. I finally saw what all the fuss was about. None changed my opinion quite in the same way as his tale of a boring old bureaucrat called Kanji Watanabe (played affectionately by Takashi Shimura) being diagnosed with terminal cancer. The title of Ikiru literally translates as ‘living’; poignant in so many ways. Of course, it’s poignant because Kanji is dying, but also because he comes to the realisation that he’s not yet done and still has some living left to do. It’s amazing to think that although it was made on the other side of the world and over half a century ago, it crosses any cultural divide to try and inspire people to make the most of their lives. To not waste away your time on this planet working for a faceless company that doesn’t care about you. Go places, experience things, meet people, love someone and have a good time. It’s a beautiful innocence that is neither saccharine, naive nor insincere. If it takes a dying man to inspire people to live, then so be it. It certainly seems more easy to accomplish than building a blue-meth empire, in any case.


32_Toni_Servillo_foto_di_Gianni_Fiorito_05313.JPGApril – Stoker (2013); The Foul King (2000); Shiri (1999); Desperado (1995); Attack the Gas Station (1999);  (1963); Breathless (2008); THE GREAT BEAUTY (2013); Badlands (1973); Volver (2006)

I watched Fellini’s  just under a week before sitting down to watch Paolo Sorrentino’s film that had somehow rather unbelievably beaten The Hunt to best foreign language film at the recent Academy Awards. There are certainly similarities between the two; they’re both Italian, quite existential and assess where one finds beauty in life. Albeit through Fellini’s it’s mostly through women, in Jep’s world (Toni Servillo) he finds it in the city of Rome. The film is mostly just about the retired critically acclaimed author Jep wandering around town, meeting friends old and new, seeing the world as if experiencing it for the first time. However, that is where the real beauty lies. Whereas I wasn’t quite as blown away by Fellini’s 1963 thought-provoking classic as I’d hoped to be, I was more absorbed in Sorrentino’s film. It has been labelled as pretentious in some of the reviews I’d read prior to watching The Great Beauty, and it’s easy to understand why, but it is as hilarious as it is contemplative. The clever writing appears to be very knowing; an exchange between Jep and a highly pretentious artist early on in the film, whereby she is completely demolished by Jep during an interview. Brought to tears when trying to describe the vibrations she claims to live for, it was one of the funniest scenes I’d seen all year. But that’s just Jep. The effortlessly cool persona that Toni Servillo brings to the roll meant I could’ve spent all day hanging around with him, walking the streets of Rome in the middle of the night, and I’m damn well sure I’d have never gotten bored.


the damned unitedMay – The New World (2005); Late Chrysanthemums (1954); Day of Wrath (1943); Out of the Furnace (2013); Metro Manilla (2013); THE DAMNED UNITED (2009); The Selfish Giant (2013); Short Term 12 (2013); The Exorcist III (1990); Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas (2013)

I am a red blooded male from Great Britain. Phwoar, women eh! Oooh I love well done steak, me. Football? Get in! And so on and so forth. OK, you got me, that’s a slight exaggeration… but I do love football. And I am from the UK, therefore I know about the greatest manager England never had, the multiple league and cup winning legend that was Brian Clough. I was also aware of his ill-fated spell as Leeds United manager in the 70’s and that a few years ago, a film starring one of Britain’s greatest modern actors Michael Sheen was in it. Even so, I wasn’t that bothered about watching it. Don’t get me wrong, sports movies are all well and good, but they’re hardly ever worth going out of your way for. A rise, a fall and a rise again is probably one of the most over-used plots within the genre and that’s all I expected from The Damned United. How foolish I was. It took a train journey to London with nothing else on iPlayer worth downloading to my tablet than Tom Hooper’s movie before I finally gave it a chance and I absolutely loved it. Obviously, it’s not a bog standard sports movie so much as it is a short biopic tracking a rivalry only one half is aware of. I’m sure it probably takes a few liberties with some facts, but it was one of the finest acted dramas I watched all year. Sheen is somehow even better than he was in Frost/Nixon. He’s such a fantastic actor and is supported by a great cast of British/Irish talent including Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent, Giles Alderson, Maurice Roeves, Stephen Graham and plenty of others. The direction is equally as impressive but it’s what was achieved by the actors involved that really left a lasting impression.


peppermint candyJune – Punishment Park (1971); The Man from Earth (2007); The Show Must Go On (2007); PEPPERMINT CANDY (1999); The Borderlands (2013); You’re Next (2013); La Haine (1995); Green Fish (1997); Filth (2013); Save the Green Planet! (2003)

Back to South Korea again, I’m afraid, as I look at one of my favourite films from Lee Chang-dong, a man who over the course of the last 12 months became one of my most highly rated filmmakers working today. Although, I say “today”, between his work for the Korean government, it did take the multiple award winning 60 year old 13 years to release five films, with the last of those released in 2010. It was with each new film that I found myself in complete adoration of him. From Poetry back in February, to Green Fish and then Peppermint Candy in June, I knew I had found a director who had never made anything less than an astonishing film. In fact, I started to watch Peppermint Candy straight after finishing Green Fish, but stopped eight minutes in for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to really give my full attention to it, as I knew I would still be thinking about Green Fish; and secondly, because I wanted to wait until my wife was home so she could watch it too. It struck me as a movie that was better shared and I think it was worth the wait. Peppermint Candy was just about perfect on almost every scale. From the reverse-linear narrative that begins with a man killing himself and working backwards through his life, chronicling his various exploits in love and work. It’s so layered and has such depth that it’s almost as if it’s the story of a real person and not a work of fiction. A moment towards the beginning of the movie where Yongho (Sol Kyung-gu) meets a woman he hasn’t seen for a long time is as emotional and powerful as anything you’re likely to find anywhere else. Combined with the expertly structured narrative, the ingenuity of the story and the gorgeous cinematography, Peppermint Candy firmly established itself as one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. It’s almost inconceivable that it’s not even Lee Chang-dong’s best film!


Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon to conclude the series looking at my favourite films from July through to December.