Tag Archives: Marvel

Failed Critics Podcast: Colossal Geezers

Awight you pwopa nawty boys, oi oi! Brian Plank joins Steve Norman and Owen Hughes for a top, top podcast this week. We’ve got a review of Guy Ritchie’s new movie, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It’s sick, bruv. Banterific. As well as the Kaiju drama(?) comedy(?) action(?) indie(?) flick, Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway.

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2017 in Review – April

Another month into Andrew Brooker’s self-imposed challenge to watch 365 films in 365 days. See how he’s been getting on below.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Pirates, Space Pirates and Bad Pirate Jokes

Where does a pirate keep his buccaneers? Apparently on the bucking Failed Critics Podcast this week, as Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by both Andrew Brooker and Brian Plank for some jolly rogering – and to talk about Marvel’s latest space adventure movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2!

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Ooga-shaka, I’m hooked on a Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise and it keeps getting better. Owen Hughes reviews James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Fifth Birthday Bash

Look at me, listeners! I love you! It’s all for you, Damian— I mean, whatever your name might be! Happy birthday to us.

Yes, backs are slapped and circled are jerks as we celebrate reaching the fifth year of the Failed Critics Podcast. Hip, hip…

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Character Unlock: Residential Evil

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And so, as the first month of 2017 comes to a close, the first big video game of the year to make waves has finally arrived. But unlike Resident Evil VII’s intrepid hero, Character Unlock is bringing back-up.

Poached him from his regular seats on both Failed Critics and the Retro Gaming Discussion Show, hosts John Miller and Andrew Brooker enlist the help of Matt Lambourne in their exploration of the Baker Family House.

The gaming trio also wade through the swampy undergrowth of the last week’s gaming news. There’s plenty to talk about: Between theorising the possible ups and downs of a Marvel/Square Enix collaboration, there’s a brief chat on the soon-to-be-released Prey remake, and a trip down memory lane reminiscing on old Namco games in honour of the company’s recently departed founder. Brooker finds himself in Hell as John talks more on his Mass Effect series playthrough and Matt discusses the pitfalls of being a FIFA Ultimate Team player to the detriment of all other games.

In this week’s main feature the team discuss their history with the world renowned Resident Evil series. From its humble beginnings, through its bloated action phase, and finally on to the newest first-person frightener: is it a return to form for the series? Has Resident Evil lost its way entirely? Is it possible to finish the game without staining your trousers? We answer all the burning questions (and a few more) in episode 11 of Character Unlock.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Doctor Strange

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Apologies for this week’s podcast being so late. It took us a little while to master the art of manipulating time and space, unlike a certain Marvel wizard who can montage his way through ancient texts on the topic. Steve Norman was closely guarding the FC library which meant Owen Hughes, Brian Plank and Andrew Brooker had to use all their cunning to get past him.

You know what, I’m just going to end that metaphor there. It’s possibly the worst one I’ve ever come up with and I’ll just tell you what’s on the podcast this week.

The big new release this week is – as you’ve probably ascertained – the new Marvel movie, Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Chiewetel Ejiofor amongst others. (Scott Adkins!)

In What We’ve Been Watching, Steve stays quiet as Brian declares Hot Fuzz the best of the Cornetto trilogy, Brooker quenches his appetite for all things gruesome and grotesque with The Woman, and Owen doesn’t watch anything at all, but reviews the BBC Radio4 horror The Stone Tape by Peter Strickland (of Berbarian Sound Studio fame).

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Failed Critics Podcast: Halloween Necromancing Triple Bill

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Brushing the cobwebs out of the way through the passage right at the back of the Failed Critics library, where nobody has been for centuries or more, we’ve found an ancient book containing spells for raising the dead.

Using our powers wisely, we let Steve Norman, Owen Hughes and Tony Black conjure up some deceased actors, putting them straight back to work in brand new movies pitched on this very episode of the Failed Critics Podcast Halloween special.

Resurrecting the dead in a triple bill is about as creepy as it gets this year, with What We’ve Been Watching ditched in favour of reviewing the new release Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and a quick chat about the brand new semi-biographical comedy The Comedian’s Guide to Survivalstarring James Buckley (The Inbetweeners). Comedian’s Guide is co-written by and based on the life of our very own James Mullinger from Underground Nights – check out their latest episode for some great background information on the making of the hilarious film.

Elsewhere on this podcast, the Failed Critics found time to bring back the quiz with Owen in the driving seat. News was trailer heavy, packed with discussion about the new Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Logan trailers.

We’ll be back as normal next week with a review of Doctor Strange, but in the meantime keep an eye out for a brand new episode of our sister gaming podcast Character Unlock – as well as a round-up from this year’s Cambridge Film Festival, the longest running film festival in the UK!

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Failed Critics Podcast: Trilogy Trashing Triple Bill

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The Earth still spins, the sun still shines and Hollywood still makes trilogies that nobody in their right mind wants, with Ron Howard’s third Dan Brown adaptation, Inferno, hitting cinemas last weekend.

Rather than expend any amount of energy reviewing the Tom Hanks led mystery thriller, the Failed Critics instead run through a triple bill of film franchises that should have ended before getting to the trilogy stage. Boy, were there plenty to choose from!

With regular host Steve Norman off celebrating his birthday, we drafted in Matt Lambourne to swivel on the comfy high-backed armchair and guide Owen Hughes, Brian Plank and Tony Black through another podcast. There’s no quiz this week, but a discussion about the new Star Wars: Rogue One trailer arose, as did a short summary of this year’s London Film Festival.

In What We’ve Been Watching, the team cover Netflix series Luke Cage and half of their newest feature-length comedy, Mascots. There’s even time for a chat about HBO’s latest smash hit, Westworld, up to episode three (spoiler free!)

Join us again next week as we’re back with a Halloween triple bill, resurrecting the dead… Spooky!

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Front Row with Owen and Paul: Plugs And Gone

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As chaotic as ever, Owen Hughes and Paul Rutland stumble through another podcast edition of their Bucks101 Radio show, Front Row, replete with all the usual bumf.

There’s a very slight twist on the movie review, with Owen taking a leaf out of Paul’s sports round-up (which this week focuses primarily on Leicester City’s Premier League triumph) to live-review Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War. Also, prepare yourself for a full-on rant from Paul as they ‘roll the dice’ in the final section of the show.

Thanks to Andy Alcock for his suggestion for the musical theme on this week’s show, as Owen and Paul tried to pick songs that mention famous people. The songs were as eclectic a mix as ever – but you still don’t get the music on the podcast! You’ll need to tune in to Bucks101 Radio every Tuesday at 5pm to hear their selections or alternatively, listen to all the tracks from the show on the YouTube playlist below.

Playlist:

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Failed Critics Podcast: Civil War

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Battle lines have been drawn. Treaties are being drafted. The U.N. were informed.

It’s Steve ‘Captain Anyway’ Norman on one side, using his sense of justice and principles to determine what’s right. Opposite is Owen ‘Irony Man’ Hughes, putting his logic and rational thinking to the test. Listeners, choose your side as Civil War erupts on this week’s Failed Critics Podcast!

Andrew Brooker and Brian Plank are caught in the crossfire, therefore rather than being referred to as “guests” this week, you can legitimately call them Failed Critics collateral damage.

If you haven’t guessed what the main review on the latest episode is yet, then go speak to your doctor. But just for clarification, it is indeed the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War – and boy do we talk, and talk, and talk about this one. We have our usual spoiler-free review later in the show, followed by a Spoiler Alert after the end credits, where the team go into more depth without worrying about ruining the plot, twists, characters… or anything else for that matter.

It’s not only Marvel on the pod this week, although the show does kick off with a chat about a potential Punisher solo-series on Netflix after a short hastily prepared quiz. Speaking of, Steve sinks his teeth into the latest Netflix movie Special Correspondents, starring Ricky Gervais. Owen and Brooker also review the latest James Cullen Bressack / Zack Ward indie-thriller Restoration (out today (3rd May!)), before Brooker also tackles video-game adaptation Ratchet & Clank and Brian has a look at cult classic Rollerball.

Join us again next week as we pray that our cinemas show something, anything, other than just Civil War for the next three months.

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Captain America: Civil War

Civil War

“Sorry” might always seem to be hardest word, Elton, but “accountability” might be the most unsexy. Particularly so if you’re trying to build a 147 minute long action movie around such a concept.

Let’s chuck in a few more terms, shall we? How about “legislation”, “treaty” and “U.N.-Accord”?

Captain America: Civil War could easily have suffered from dry, phlegmatic, po-faced earnestness, wallowing in miserableness as a collection of dumbfounded superheroes sit on the naughty step and think about what they’ve done.

Instead, fresh from the Sokovia fallout of the dreary misstepping Avengers: Age of Ultron, our eclectic band of merry super-powered chums begin the third instalment of Marvel’s Captain America trilogy with a skirmish in Lagos. As perpetually happens around these unregulated vigilantes / brave protectors (delete as applicable), chaos, destruction and collateral damage is never too far behind.

Just as they were after the hundreds of deaths from the New York alien-attack in Avengers Assemble, the crashing helicarriers in Washington DC during The Winter Soldier, and of course the omni-shambles of Age of Ultron‘s Sokovia rescue, it’s the Avengers who are held responsible for the loss of innocents’ lives in Nigeria. Thus begins a slow dissection of the role played by a group existing outside of the law, punctuated by enormous and often exceptionally well paced inter-fighting punch-ups.

Policing the planet as they see fit in this fantasy world of magic crystals, impenetrable metals and super soldiers, it takes no time at all for General Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt) to step in on behalf of a world scared half to death by a rogue, unregulated group of suited, walking, fighting nuclear bombs, tick-tocking their way towards a potential armageddon.

Although in name this is a Captain America sequel, it certainly feels much more comfortable as the Avengers follow-up many hoped for last year. Returning after a successful stint helming The Winter Soldier, directors Anthony and Joe Russo’s wizardry with a camera has thankfully kept consistency in tone with the franchise, as Civil War continues to be a hard-hitting, politically-charged commentary with genre-defining action sequences and equally solid performances from a cast slotting back into place like a well-worn suit made of iron with a robot friend called Friday inside of it.

Friends and ideologies clash frequently during the blockbuster – and only some of the time by using their words and not their vibranium inventions. OK, most of the time the hullabaloo breaks out into bouts of armour-clad blows, rather than democratic discussions. But it’s still much more “talky” for a blockbuster than perhaps one is used to. And, crucially, it just isn’t boring. It’s full of engaging and often thought-provoking dialogue. Quips and visual gags worm their way into some of the more serious conversations, but it still attempts to raise some tough topics.

Just as Mark Millar’s 2006 comicbook series (upon which this film is loosely based) dealt with a post-9/11 society, fearing a self-appointed world-police, too powerful to stop – or even if stopping them was the right or wrong thing to do – so too does the Russo’s version relate events to the real world. Civil War could quite passably be an analogy for gun control in the US, amongst other things.

For example, on one side, there’s Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr) position as the man doing his best to negotiate a fair deal for his pals, arguing that the best way to arm is to disarm and sign the UN’s proposed Sokovia Accord (akin to the “superhero registration act” in the comics). On the opposite side is Steve Rogers’s (Chris Evans) team who feel it’s their duty to step-up whenever they need to, operating without the bias of any government agendas.

It could be argued that one side represents the regulation and control of firearms, with the other in support of the people’s right to bear arms (albeit briefly). The moment that the two teams clash in an epic showdown – the likes of which we haven’t seen performed as accomplished as this since Whedon’s Phase One concluding team-up some four years and six movies ago – puts paid to this exact notion from that point onwards. But there’s still a lot to be read into this movie. Prepare for more astute observations crossing your path in the weeks and months to come from thousands of other bloggers and writers.

Anyway, let’s take a quick look at the teams on either side of the scrap:

Team Cap
Against the idea of becoming United Nations controlled agents, restricted to fighting only the causes upon which they determine suitable

  • Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) – Leader of the movement and the main protaganist for whom the film’s perspective is mainly viewed from. Evans appears to be having a blast and his enthusiasm is infectious – but my God those are some seriously intimidatingly large muscles.
  • Falcon / Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) – Cap’s best friend and winged companion has an increased role in Civil War and benefits greatly from it. The first time that Falcon has been more than a bit-part character and Mackie handles the responsibility with aplomb. He actually appears to have a purpose on the team rather than being Cap’s fluffer.
  • Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) – Previously the ex-Hydra assassin was a feared villain, but Stan’s portrayal of the man, turned into a complex and emotionally fragile victim with an edge of danger, sees him sit comfortably alongside his former buddy in Rogers’ motley crew.
  • Scarlet Witch / Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) – The only Sokovian in the Avengers; traumatised and emotionally scarred by the events in her home country and those in Lagos, Wanda adds an extra dimension to the story, even if it is somewhat unrealised potential.
  • Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) – Thank Christ there’s no longer any weak attempts to puff out Hawkeye’s background with side-plots about his family that go nowhere and add nothing. He’s about as close to writer Matt Fraction’s version of the character that we’ve had so far and, although brief, is Renner’s best turn as Hawkguy yet.
  • Ant Man / Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) – Continuing to surprise, despite only a small (excuse the pun) part to play in Civil War, what Rudd does, Rudd does well. Fantastically well, even. He’s a highlight in what was already the best scene in the entire movie.

Team Iron Man
In favour of the UN’s Sokovia Accord, ensuring the Avengers are regulated by defence experts in order to limit the civilian casualties from their endeavours to save mankind

  •  Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) – For all intents and purposes, RDJ might as well share equal billing. It’s as much Iron Man 4 as it is Captain America 3. His role shows just how much the former weapons manufacturer has developed since first outing himself as a superhero in 2008’s Iron Man, bringing things full circle.
  • War Machine / James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) – If Falcon plays the role of Captain America’s sidekick, then War Machine fits as Iron Man’s. Provides the logos to the debate relative to Falcon’s pathos. But man, Don Cheadle is looking old.
  • Black Widow / Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) – The cynical may say Black Widow is only on this side of the fence to balance the teams’ female quotas. Nevertheless, the role she plays provides a contrarian narrative and further develops her relationship with Rogers from The Winter Soldier.
  • Vision (Paul Bettany) – The suave-voiced red-skinned being is reduced to the role of babysitter for much of his screentime, but twice Bettany gets to show off his acting talents with moments of profundity that keep the near God-like being grounded and relatable.
  • Black Panther / T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) – Making his debut, the Prince of fictional African country Wakanda is forced to pick a side in his pursuit of vengeance. Boseman’s suitably unplaceable accent aside, he makes as much of an impact as one could hope for (if not more) in such a role. Bring on his solo film in 2018!
  • Spider-Man / Peter Parker (Tom Holland) – Yes. Yes, yes, yes. This is how to do Spider-Man. It’s only taken 14 years, but this is it. Holland is perfect as the web-slinging wall-crawler in a larger role than perhaps expected. Currently in pre-production ahead of release next year, Homecoming looks set to be the fun adventure that the character deserves, if Civil War is any evidence to go by.

Regardless of the fact that we already have twelve characters squished into the two-and-a-half-hour long film, some people might be wondering where the other chaps are. Where’s Thor, Hulk, Fury, Maria Hill, Phil Coulson (still) – heck, why are Ant Man and Spider-Man being invited to the big leagues but Daredevil, Jessica Jones, et al left un-namechecked?

It’d be pure speculation to suggest answers. It could have been a creative decision made by the Russo brothers or writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, with Thor and Hulk especially deemed too over-powered for a film like this.

It could have been Marvel big cheese Kevin Feige laying down the law. Ruffalo and Hemsworth might have been too busy with other projects. Who really knows? The same principle applies as it always does in these situations: It really doesn’t matter. These are the characters selected. This is all you’re getting. Deal with it, as the meme goes.

The biggest issue lies not with who isn’t in it, but with who it does include. Incorporating Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo (an arch-nemesis of Captain America’s in the comics) structurally speaking makes a lot of sense when you lay out a blueprint for the entire movie.

However, the motivations behind his actions are at best understandable and at worst weak, predictable and a disservice to the character’s history. Also, he doesn’t wear purple pyiamas. What’s up with that?

Oh, right, yeah. It’s a bit naff.

Realistically, Zemo is somewhere in between the two, languishing around the “ordinary” mark. Hats off to Brühl for a competent account of himself as an actor, but Zemo is far from necessary in a film already overstuffed with characters. He adds nothing that couldn’t have been done equally well with, say, the returning Frank Grillo in a beefed up role as Crossbones.

Either way, it’s irrelevant as Captain America: Civil War is still very much worthy of your time. With a larger cast than any previous Marvel film, it somehow manages to balance screen time to an extraordinarily even degree, putting much of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to shame.

Yes, it may gradually escalate towards a big climactic fight scene, as happens in every Marvel superhero comic book action film ever, but the route it takes to get there combined with the rationale behind it makes the deciding brawl more meaningful than your average crash-bang-wallop finale.

Civil War is interesting, exciting, often fun and slightly unconventional. It goes straight into the top tier of the studio’s output and will doubtless only improve on future rewatches.

Failed Critics Podcast: 3 Critics, 1 Bathtub

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Welcome to this week’s episode of the Failed Critics Podcast. You know how we sometimes swear a lot and are rather crass? Yet, occasionally, we have to add an extra warning that the levels of explicit language and vulgar comments exceed our usually-already-fairly-high volume..? Well, this is one of those weeks.

Just as he was last week, Paul Field is back on the podcast along with hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes, and was once again given license to take over the quiz. The theme he went for is very tangibly linked to the first-person extremely graphic violent action movie Hardcore Henry, our main review this week.

We also have two other new releases to review this week as Owen looks at Jeff Nichols’ latest offering, the foreboding sci-fi drama Midnight Special, whilst Paul reviews Danish-noir sequel The Absent One. Never heard of it? Fear not! Paul also reviews the previous film, Keeper of the Lost Causes, in ‘What We’ve Been Watching’, where Owen lavishes praise on the documentary Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD and Steve ponders the point of Pegg with Absolutely Anything.

Join us again next week for presumably less potty-mouthed frivolities as we review The Jungle Book.

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Marvel vs DC: The Episodes

Punisher Daredevil Elektra

“I’m not here to threaten you, I’m here to kill you.”

Over the last couple of days, the world (and the heads of quite a few fanboys) have exploded with this Batman v Superman lark. As everyone tries to shout their theory about who would win and why, I want to bring up a slightly quieter little fight that’s been going on in our homes; less a one-on-one versus match, and more a battle royal for the ages. I’m talking, of course, about the DC and Marvel television universes.

Kicking off some 15 years ago, Warner Brothers fired the first shots when it brought probably the most successful comic book to TV adaptation to date to the small screen. Smallville was the story of young Clark Kent growing up in a little town in Kansas trying to – literally – find his place in the world. We spent ten years with young master Kent from high school to his time at the Daily Planet. Even as the ratings started to drop, it was much more successful for Warner than that bloody awful Superman Returns was.

With the rise of Smallville, everyone wanted a piece of the pie and it meant we, the viewing public, were subjected to some of the most awful cash-in TV that we’ve ever had to suffer with. Do we remember the terrible Gotham City set Birds of Prey? Or the ghastly Human Target? Warner and DC seemed to be happy to hope that some of the shit they threw at the wall would stick.

It didn’t. But they weren’t alone; Marvel tried to bring a film property they’d just screwed royally back to TV and make a few quid. Oh Blade, how I tried to love you. But you were so, so bad. Sticky Fingaz – yes, that’s his name – is an okay actor, he was great in The Shield, but as the vampire hunting day walker, man he was bad.

Fast forward a few years and we have found ourselves in an amazing little time in television. Hiding behind the super-high budget HBO style TV that gets accolade after accolade, is a slew of cool TV based on comic book properties both famous and not-so famous and what I’m going to do is put them head-to-head, Dawn of Justice style. Ok, I’m going to put some of them head-to-head – mainly because I’ve not watched iZombie and can’t really see myself doing so anytime soon.


Gotham (DC – 2014) vs. Powers (Marvel – 2015)

Let’s kick things off with the two shows that, while they are based on DC and Marvel properties, don’t really have much in the way of backing from those companies. Produced by Fox and Sony respectively, with the latter being available exclusively to American PlayStation Network customers, these are the two biggest risks, in my opinion, to their production companies.

Bat-baby vs a weird anti-Heroes/Alien Nation thing that never did quite get off the ground for me. Gotham‘s focus on a young Detective Gordon as the scum of the Batman comics rise from the dirt and make themselves known is brilliantly compelling TV that still keeps me glued week in, week out. Powers, on the other hand, was a flat attempt at getting a foot in the door of an already saturated film and television market. I could only bring myself to waste a couple of hours of my life with it before I had to give up.

Winner: Gotham


Supergirl (DC – 2015) vs. Jessica Jones (Marvel – 2015)

Yes, I’m pitching the girls against each other. No, it’s not out of any kind of agenda outside of I couldn’t decide who to put up against who. Anyways…

Supergirl is probably the closest we’ve gotten to having the success that Smallville saw replicated and forced upon us. The story of Superman’s long lost cousin, Kara Zor-El, a girl sent to protect a young Kal-El who, after a twist of fate arrives on Earth long after he has become the Man of Steel is a sadly boring one. We tried, we honestly did. We broke our “three episodes and out” rule trying to find good TV but the show came up short. I couldn’t care less about the characters on screen, the story they are telling or anything else to do with that show, frankly.

On the other hand, Marvel’s Jessica Jones is the dark and twisted tale of a woman struggling to get out of an abusive relationship with a person who uses their powers for nothing but evil. Essentially an investigative journalism drama with super strength and some pretty hilarious sex scenes. Jones divided audiences when she hit Netflix last year, but she’s definitely the stronger of the two here.

Winner : Jessica Jones


Legends of Tomorrow (DC – 2016) vs. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (Marvel – 2013)

DC’s ensemble spin-off, rolling in a few characters from its big sister shows (and a really crap Iron Man wannabe) isn’t really far enough in to make a judgement yet, but the episodes I watched have just been uninspired dross, playing off of the success of the shows that spawned it and not really living up to them, yet. I admit, I will probably let it go on a little longer before I give up, but it definitely needs to up its game.

Marvel’s offering isn’t doing itself any favours either. Basically doing the same thing as Legends of Tomorrow, it’s a massive ensemble piece loading in all those lesser known superheroes from the Marvel universe into a little sardine tin of X-Files style monster of the week episodes and Cinematic Universe Easter eggs. I gave up on this before the first season was done.

Winner: Neither of them. They’re both as pants as each other.


The Flash (DC – 2014) vs. Agent Carter (Marvel – 2015)

DC’s ultimate marathon runner didn’t grab me at first. I thought the show was a bit too Saturday morning cartoon-ish and honestly, I only continued to watch it because it shared a universe with Arrow. I’ll give The Flash its due, it’s a fun little show and it’s decent TV. But seasons seem to sag in the middle with writers seemingly not able to keep the pace up with 22 episode seasons. I don’t hate it, I just wish it was more engaging, more of the time.

Peggy Carter, on the other hand, and her fun little slice of World War II espionage drama, aside from keeping seasons to a brisk 8 and 10 episodes, never failed to be interesting. The story of her double life of secretary by day and investigator by night is woefully underrated. While a third season seems unlikely, the show’s first two seasons are well worth your time.

Winner: Agent Carter – and it has nothing, whatsoever, to do with me loving Hayley Atwell a little bit.


Arrow (DC – 2012) vs. Daredevil (Marvel – 2015)

Here we are ladies and gentlemen. The main event of the evening.

I knew absolutely nothing about The Green Arrow when this series first started, but seeing as it was the first of these shows I gave it a shot. And I really enjoyed it, for a year and a half! I gave up not far into season two and had to be convinced to try it again and stick it out because it improves (and plays as a soft-pilot for The Flash) and so I did. And I loved it. One of the few shows that we watch every week religiously and getting towards the end of season four, it’s still decent. Dodgy mate wearing cheap knock-off Judge Dredd helmet aside.

Now, Daredevil, man. Didn’t we all think this would be dog shit? Yeah, we did. Netflix’s first attempt at getting into Marvel’s universe was dark, brooding, violent; everything the MCU isn’t. And we loved it. With one of the greatest and most terrifying bad guys ever put to screen in Wilson Fisk in season one, Daredevil instantly solidified itself as one of the best TV shows to date, and may that stay true for years to come.

Winner: A solid draw. Both are great TV shows.


Preacher (DC – 2016) vs. Luke Cage (Marvel -2016)

Battle of the upcoming shows? Preacher is the dark and violent DC comic book that AMC are producing. Due in a couple of months, DC seem to be trying their hand at the dark and twisted stuff, while giving it to the Breaking Bad producing AMC to show distance if it fails. I’m certainly intrigued and going in open minded. We can but hope.

Luke Cage, on the other hand, the super strong and indestructible bar owner first introduced in last year’s Jessica Jones looks like it might be the most “fun” of all the Netflix adaptations. Roll on September, this is gonna be a hell of a fight.

Winner: Only time will tell.


Honourable Mentions:

No list like this would be complete without a few “also rans” that either didn’t fit, didn’t make the cut or no-one has heard of. DC’s spin-off of a spin-off Lucifer doesn’t seem to be getting much traction. Which is a crying shame, it’s great television, with a Constantine type feel to it, I fear it’ll suffer the same fate as the Hellblazer adaptation.

The Marvel side of things only has one thing worth mentioning, as far as I am concerned. The rumoured Netflix show that’ll give Daredevil season two’s Frank Castle the spotlight he deserves. Another Punisher movie would certainly be welcome, but the Punisher by Netflix? That would be all my dreams come true.

Overall winner:

Us. The TV watching audience. Because for the most part, this is some damn good television. Competition breeds excellence. Long may it continue.

The Rise of Netflix

orange is the new black

Ahead of this week’s Netflix Original special edition of the Failed Critics Podcast, Owen Hughes guides us through why exactly Netflix is becoming such a dominant force.

In 1997, I don’t think I even had a computer at home. I, like most people back then, rented films that I wanted to watch from Blockbuster or another local video store. Nostalgia alert: At about 11 years old, my mates and I would ride our bikes the 15 minutes down the road to the big Tesco superstore and rent VHS tapes of (usually) WWF main events from the Blockbuster outside. Old Wrestlemania’s, Royal Rumble’s, Summerslam’s etc, that sort of thing. If we could sneak in a Predator or a Terminator amongst the collection, we would. But they were rarities.

In 1997, a company in the US called Netflix probably quite cannily recognised that not everyone had a Blockbuster within a quarter-of-an-hour bike ride from their home, so instead decided to set up a Blockbuster-by-post type affair. Taking advantage of the new Digital Versatile Disc, much lighter and smaller than a VHS tape, you could rent a movie from them and the shiny new DVD would land the other side of your letterbox within days. Similar to LOVEFilM here in the UK.

Much earlier than pretty much any of its competitors, it expanded to launch a streaming service two years later in 1999. I don’t know about whatever internet connection you had back then, but we had a 56k modem in 1999. It would not have taken too kindly to streaming a 90 minute movie.

After years of operating under this model, expanding its streaming service into other regions around the world (including the UK) they basically took a step back and realised that rather than keep paying a license to other studios for their productions, they actually owned the means and the platform to create their own content. Financially, it was pretty savvy. Now that they had a reputation, people would soon start joining Netflix for their shows, and not other people’s. Their brand was to become renowned.

Looking at it purely from an advertising or marketing perspective; Netflix knew exactly who was watching what content, when they were watching it and where. To paraphrase Nick Bailey, the chief executive and executive creative director of Isobar UK, who gave a talk at the University I’m studying at last week, Netflix knew which dramas that their audience viewed most. Thus, taking a model already in place from an older British show – chiefly the story and setting – they created House of Cards, just over 3 years ago, in February 2013 because apparently their audience liked political dramas and Kevin Spacey.

What was immediately different about House of Cards from Network shows, was that Netflix made all of the episodes available in one go, advert free. Can you imagine just how mind-blowing that must’ve been, particularly for Americans, who don’t have the BBC the way that we do? Just a brand new show that you haven’t got to sit through 15 minutes worth of adverts to enjoy? This wasn’t a box-set released 12 months after airing. It was there, all of it, for you to watch as much of whenever you liked. Current subscribers didn’t even need to pay extra to watch this original content. All you needed was an account and an internet connection.

One of the other innovations that has let Netflix flourish so spectacularly is how they have embraced technological advances. Even moving from tapes to DVDs because they were cheaper to post was pretty innovative. Amazon are arguably their main competitor for streaming content on a subscription basis, particularly over here in the UK, yet they lagged behind quite tremendously when it came to streaming on mobile devices, tablets, TVs, computer consoles etc. Amazon previously used their streaming service to drive sales of their Kindle devices, making it exclusive content. Whereas Netflix were at the forefront of this revolution, setting the market-standard that audiences have come to expect from any provider they now use.

Whether reviving shows from the cold, dark, lonely pit of TV hell, such as Arrested Development, The Killing or Trailer Park Boys, or creating brand new stuff like Sense8, Narcos or Master of None, or even collaborating with other studios for shows such as Lilyhammer, or Marvel’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, they just seem to be unstoppable at the moment. Free from the same level of restrictions from sponsors, prime-time slots or watersheds, they have been able to create whatever shows they think their audience want.

The Netflix of today are a far cry from the “bargain bin” label they were tarnished with when they first arrived this side of the Atlantic. Hundreds of films, hardly any of which you would want to spend 90 minutes of your life on, was not that alluring. Securing deals to distribute shows in the UK like Breaking Bad is where they mainly earned their crust.

In fact, the most fun you could have had with Netflix back in 2012 was flicking through their endless catalogue of crap looking for the one gem hidden within – but by the point that you found it, you’d be too tired and bored to even bother watching it, as Kate explained a few years back.

Compare that to now… ok, the selection is certainly not always overwhelmingly positive! But comparably they have upped their game on all fronts from what they used to be. Producing their own documentaries, stand-up shows, on top of their Netflix Original TV shows; and now creating movies – award-winning movies, no less, in the case of Beasts of No Nation – it’s no wonder that studios like NBC are getting extremely defensive, trying to exert pressure on them.

It’s not that NBC are entirely wrong. Netflix does not hand out viewing figures, subscription numbers or other statistics (such as how long people spend trawling through their site before giving up entirely) willy-nilly. You can’t even find the overall star-rating for a film on Netflix that isn’t in some way tailored to match your expectations based on whatever algorithm they use; and that’s no surprise. They are under no obligation to share this with anybody. After all, this data mining is exactly why Netflix are getting things so right. This is their audience who they are creating content for. You can understand why they would be apprehensive about publicly sharing this information with the competition.

But the fact that traditional television networks are frightened by the competition that streaming provides just shows how big and influential Netflix are becoming.

They may make blunders occasionally, like Adam Sandler’s unfathomable four-picture deal – critically speaking, I mean, I’d consider it a blunder. The Ridiculous 6 was dire and quite deservingly panned by critics, yet it still became an instant hit and the most watched film across all regions somehow straight after release.

The only way that Netflix could lose grace with their fans would be to, say, I don’t know…? Allow them to see the catalogue of movies and shows available on much larger regions such as Canada and the US, and then to step up their attempts to block people from other regions gaining access to said content. That would just be foolish, right? Regardless of the quality of the product they’re putting out in the UK, for example, no matter how much better it is now than it was four years ago, it would be crazy to start telling people to pay the same amount of money for their subscription when clearly other countries have it better? The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but when you’ve already spent the afternoon barbecuing at your neighbour’s garden picnic and come back home to your regular brown, patchy, dried-out lawn…

It remains to be seen how the long-term future of Netflix will pan out. However, already this year, the engrossing true-crime story, Making a Murderer, has become a huge phenomenon after its Christmas holiday release induced binge-watching hysteria around the world. Judd Apatow’s series, LOVE, has been an immediate success amongst fans and critics alike. With a new series of Daredevil imminent, plus more movies like the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel starring Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh, as well as the fourth season of their most watched drama (formerly comedy), the multiple award-winning series Orange Is The New Black – not to mention the dozens of other original content on its way in 2016 – it certainly seems as though there’s a lot to look forward to for the customers who stick around once their DNS-changing service of choice is finally shut down.

Owen will be talking about his favourite Netflix Originals with Steve Norman, Phil Sharman and Chris Haigh on the podcast due out later this week.