Tag Archives: Netflix

Failed Critics Podcast: We Go Again

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Dawn breaks on a new day, ushering in the fresh optimism that another year on God’s green Earth brings with it. New starts, new ideas and new opportunities to shambolically attempt to review movies, for Paul to use wildly-offensive non-PC terms, and for the rest of us to fall flat on our arses.

As Steve Norman nurses a poorly rum-addled brain after two weeks of non-stop partying whilst not on the Failed Critics clock, he returns to the driving seat – probably still too inebriated to drive, but nobody could wrestle the keys from his clutches. Gripping the armrests, clinging on for dear life and hoping to make it out alive are Steve’s passengers, Owen Hughes and Paul Field.

Three new releases make their way onto on of our shortest podcasts in a long time, as awards season well and truly hits these shores. Paul begins this section by trying to comprehend the new Terrence Malick movie, Knight of Cups, before Owen joins in a verbal rant about the Oscar-baiting The Danish Girl. David O. Russell’s latest feature to star Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Joy, also can’t avoid the onslaught as Steve gets agitated by it.

Things are little more rosy in ‘What We’ve Been Watching’ before we even get to the new releases, beginning with Owen prepping for The Hateful Eight by checking out some other westerns; specifically The Homesman, Meek’s Cutoff and Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Steve gets on the bandwagon for the new Netflix documentary series, Making A Murderer, whilst Paul looks slightly more afield for his documentaries, Russian Woodpecker and Finders Keepers.

Join us again next week as we find shelter in Quentin Tarantino’s cabin full of nefarious characters.

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Jessica Jones – Season One

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“Maybe it’s enough that the world thinks I’m a hero.”

Netflix have quickly become the kings of event TV. The marketing genius behind throwing all episodes of their latest show up at 8am on release day for us to binge over a couple of days is just amazing. It gives us, the audience, the opportunity to watch the shows at our own pace. It gives the creators a chance to stretch their muscles when they aren’t relying on artificially hyping up week-by-week viewings with cliffhangers and – most importantly for me – it means I can watch and review these shows as the 13 hour movies they are created as.

Jessica Jones is the second of three original series’ in conjunction with Marvel and ABC studios after the surprise hit that was Daredevil. It stays within that same universe, but plays it a little differently than our new favourite blind superhero.

But, the same as everything in the combined Marvel and DC universes, I get to go in as the anti-comic book nerd. I know next to nothing about these worlds unless a film or something has mentioned them first. My comic book/graphic novel history begins and ends with The Mask, one volume of Hellblazer and a volume one compilation of Fables. While I may not always be the target audience for these, I admire the commitment of the production companies involved in keeping me, a non-believer, in their thoughts when they make them.

Meeting Jones (Krysten Ritter) as a New York private eye, we are instantly given a showing of her powers; an insane strength, as she overpowers a client that refuses to believe what she’s dug up about God knows who and tries to take it out on our new hero. That, as she tells us, rarely goes well for them as the client’s head appears through a pane glass window. Little is revealed about the mysterious woman outside of the stereotypes she brings to the table; loner, alcoholic, you name it. Fitting more with an old pulpy noir novel than the bright lights of New York, Jessica Jones clearly spends her life in the wrong place and the wrong time.

A woman who seems to be nothing short of a walking cliché, Jessica is damaged; terrorised by haunting visions of her past and fearful of her future. Still running from a lifetime’s worth of abuse, Jones must break free from a man whose control over her is more than just theoretical. It’s very real and extremely dangerous.

This man, Kilgrave, a monster in more ways than one, has the power to manipulate people and bend them to his will. His “gift” leaves a lasting impression on his victims, affecting them long after he has seemingly left them be. Thinking she has been free of Kilgrave for long enough to finally move on, Jessica feels his presence returning to New York and starts to see his influences all across her city. Enlisting help from her best friend, Trish (Rachael Taylor – of See No Evil fame) a radio personality who seems to have the magical ability to talk sense into Jones when no one else can; and Luke Cage (Mike Coulter – an almost full-time TV actor who is a regular voice actor for the Halo series) an indestructible bar owner who’s only connection to Jessica is also being gifted; the private eye must take the evil mentalist head-on in a game of wits that puts the lives of dozens of people on the line. Success will mean freedom for the tortured superhero. But failure will mean an eternity of suffering for her, and those close to her.

The underlying premise for Jessica Jones is a simple one; a woman who has spent years in an abusive relationship must find the strength within herself to escape her abuser. The draw to go back to a bad relationship and try again, believing an abuser can be changed or they really aren’t that bad is one that many abused people find themselves repeating time and time again with a form of Stockholm syndrome that makes them believe they need to stay and this is an amazingly strong theme across Jessica Jones‘ 13 episodes, followed closely by the belief that what is happening is their fault and to watch Jones fight her way through her own personal hell is to root for every mentally and physically beaten woman that can relate to her situation.

As with everything that comes out of the Netflix TV studios, Jessica Jones has the quality and style to keep almost everyone entertained and invested for not just the first season, but for the entire run of the show. It’s why I’ll be going back to House of Cards in March even though the previous season didn’t quite hit expectations. Jessica Jones‘ first season lets us spend a little over ten hours with this tortured soul and while it doesn’t necessarily hit the highs that Daredevil did earlier in the year, it’s certainly well worthy of your time.

In the titular role, Krysten Ritter is amazing. Having only ever seen her in Breaking Bad before now, I wasn’t too familiar with her and as such I was quite open minded going in and had no expectations. Sadly, I can’t say the same for David Tennant. A man I only really know from Dr. Who, a show I loathe and despise. Everything I’ve seen him in since (maybe excluding the Fright Night remake) has just irked me, so I went in ready to have him be the worst bit of a show I was quite excited about. But no, he steals every scene from his co-stars and his portrayal of Kilgrave comes with a terrifying air and a maniacal look in every frame. Every scene has a flash of purple – a nod to his “Purple Man” moniker from the source comic books – that feels like a nice, sometimes not too subtle, alternative to having a really sinister soundtrack play with every scene he arrives in. And once you spot it, the influence bleeds into scenes Kilgrave isn’t even in, but his presence is most definitely a part of; a beautiful little bit of direction that sits as an example of how and why Netflix as a production company are becoming a worldwide phenomenon.

But Jessica Jones isn’t perfect. And when its holes appear, they seem to be much more obvious because of the quality of show that they are making look bad. For example, the show works very hard to remind you that it’s part of the Avengers universe, to quite a jarring level. We know it’s set in a post-alien invasion New York – and for those that don’t, a quick mention of it will be fine to set the scene for us all. Mentioning it more than once felt unnecessary and as if the show is treating us like morons who may have forgotten after a couple of hours.

Directors and editors do a fantastic job of making Jones’s gifts seem realistic. I suspect this is to save spending a fortune on effects that will date the show and ruin the tone they are going for. “Flying” looks awkward and uncomfortable because it would be, wouldn’t it? Jessica’s feats of strength don’t look unrealistic because to keep herself inconspicuous, she has to limit herself and as such, she isn’t lobbing sweaty fat guys into the sun and just using what she needs to get the job done – dishonourable mention to one awful effect that is so bad, and so jarring, that the fact it happened in the last episode almost ruined my whole experience – but for the most part, everything looks and feels great.

But overall, Jessica Jones is an excellent show. The only thing that stops it being up there with Daredevil, in my opinion, is the simple fact that miss Jones didn’t have an awful, awful film overshadowing it before the show premiered that it managed to blow away in the first 15 minutes. Daredevil has the beautiful, visceral combat that I covet so much. But Jessica Jones is a gorgeously dark noir thriller that, just because I say isn’t as good as its predecessor, doesn’t mean for a second that you shouldn’t be watching it.

These Netflix/Marvel productions are putting a premium on quality and characterisation and as such, have become a name that can easily be mentioned in the same conversation as HBO, FX and Showtime.

The Ridiculous 6

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A new two-hour long Netflix Original was released yesterday called The Ridiculous 6. It’s the second Netflix Original Film, after Beasts of No Nation, and the first of four (yes, four) productions by Adam Sandler for the online streaming service.

Set in the wild west, The Ridiculous 6 is a spoof of old fashioned westerns, taking its title from John Sturgess’s 1960 genre-defining classic The Magnificent Seven – well, duh – and is most likely also a pop at Quentin Tarantino’s forthcoming The Hateful Eight. Kind of like how the bastions of quality over at the Asylum try to copy other bigger budget, better films with their mockbuster titles.

In it, Sandler is joined by his usual posse of sycophantic chums, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson, Taylor Lautner, Jorge Garcia and Terry Crews. One by one, they each discover that they all share the same dad (Nick Nolte) and heralded by the “Injun” raised Sandler, set out to steal enough money to pay a ransom to a bandit (Danny Trejo) to save their absent father’s life.

For the past few years, the branding ‘Netflix Original’ has been something of a mark of quality. Generally speaking. From some of their earlier productions like the award winning original dramas Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards, to more recent shows such as Better Call Saul and Daredevil, their label has been a signifier of some level of quality. Even when some of their more ambitious projects like Sense 8 have left me impressed but overwhelmed, I still kept faith in their ability to produce new and exciting material.

Although, with some of their more recent output like the smug-fest that was the God-awful joyless A Very Murray Christmas, my faith is being tested more often than I’d prefer it to be.

Back in October last year, it was announced that the first Netflix movie was in production. It seemed inevitable that they would be producing feature films sooner or later. Whilst we’re still waiting for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny to get up and stop hiding, somehow this piece of garbage wrangled its way into production and onto my YouView box.

I tried with the best will in the world to give it a chance on Friday afternoon. I managed to reach the 15 minute mark before holding my hands up in the air, declaring “nope”, and then switching it off. I couldn’t stand any more of it. I took a breather, watched a few episodes of the excellent Narcos, and then finished The Ridiculous 6 off afterwards, all so I could confidently state that it is without question the worst Adam Sandler film that I’ve had the misfortune to waste 120 minutes on.

It’s meant to be a spoof of westerns in general, particularly the stereotypes that those old movies often employed; yet I see it more as a spoof of Adam Sandler’s ability to keep getting huge wads of cash to make lowest common denominator, repetitive, unoriginal, schmalzy, unfunny, complete and utter fucking dog shit over and over again. Only, instead of a satire of Sandler’s monopoly on “buckets of turd” (an actual line from the film) made by a much funnier comedian, it’s actually not a spoof. It really is the 50 year old actor still pretending to be 13 years old.

It has every single Adam Sandler trademark that you can think of. There are: attractive women desperately trying to capture his attention (but he’s too cool for that, given his already very attractive fiancé); “hahaha he’s black ahaha and we’re white ahahahahaha”; sidelined female characters (and that’s stretching it calling them characters); an elderly person saying something along the lines of “ow that’s gotta hurt”; an animal and related dick / toilet humour, etc. I can’t think of a single “joke” that you might associate with an Adam Sandler film, that isn’t right here in the opening 15 minutes.

And who can blame him? How much money has this schtick made him and his production company, Happy Madison Productions? If you come at this from a business perspective, thinking of Adam Sandler as just some other guy who goes to work like everybody else and earns a living, then there really is no reason for him to change what he does given that there’s clearly a paying audience for this constant barrage of mindless twaddle.

What makes it more infuriating is that I can’t hate The Ridiculous 6 for being bad, because I actually thought it was well directed by Frank Coraci – to a certain degree. It’s a film that’s meant to be seen in 4k, a service that Netflix charges users more for, suggesting that they clearly see Adam Sandler as not only a draw for new customers, but also enticing existing subscribers to upgrade. Not me, I can do without seeing his smug unbothered face in ultra-high definition, thank you very much.

My point is that there clearly was a lot of effort put into making it look very snazzy. There are plenty of lovely individual shots of the old west, as well as nice sequences that give it a bit of a spaghetti western feeling, even though it was shot in New Mexico rather than the cheapest most expansive land in Italy or Spain. The costumes are also rather cool in their own way too, adding a bit of character to otherwise quite bland caricatures. I just get the impression that everybody working on The Ridiculous 6, from set designers to the well-stocked suppliers of push-up bras, they all seemed to want to do something good with this film.

That’s everyone except for Adam Sandler and his writing partner Tim Herlihy. I’m not suggesting they intended to make a bad film. Worse, I’m implying that they’re incapable of it. In an effort to put together a semi-cohesive story with a couple of call backs and set ups along the way, it appears as though they just decided to forgo writing clever, funny gags. Instead, I think they went straight to a local charity shop to spend 50p on a children’s joke book from the 1970’s.

At one point, a farting donkey sprays shit all over a wall for no apparent reason whatsoever except so that he can do it again later at a slightly more opportune time without it appearing to be too random. At another point in the plot, there’s a rock that looks like a giant phallus because LOL IT’S A ROCK THAT LOOKS LIKE A COCK, which impresses everyone with its size, except for Crews because he’s black lololol. Taylor Lautner plays a retard who laughs at every joke so you, the expectedly similarly retarded audience, also know when to laugh.

Which, in hindsight, is fair enough because I certainly didn’t know when to laugh.

It’s not even that the cast are unlikeable. I have a lot of time for Terry Crews. Brooklyn Nine-NineThe Expendables series, even White Chicks, he’s pretty damn funny in them. But here, he’s reduced to little more than token black guy who makes jokes only at the expense of his race. Jorge Garcia does fat-guy-falls-down. Schneider is a donkey-loving Mexican. Luke Wilson is Luke Wilson. It’s just thinly veiled attempts to satirise the pervasive stereotypes of old without having anything new to say about it. It mimics the offensiveness with neither subtlety nor impetus.

The less said about the controversial portrayal of native Americans, the better (although the whole “four out of 150 stormed out during production” seems to be something of a storm in a teacup.)

For a comedy, it is the biggest crock of shit that I’ve seen all year. The worst thing is, is that I knew it would be and yet I still wanted to give it a go because of that Netflix Original brand. With another three of these films to go, regardless of the quality of Beasts of No Nation, I’m beginning to think that maybe they should have just stuck to making original shows, steering clear of the movie business. Because if the poisonous Sandler infection spreads and Netflix ends up as a syphon for his bankroll (this fucking film cost $60-fucking-million to make) then I may have to reconsider my subscription.

But hey, if you’re looking for something to submit in your “worst 3 films of the year” category for the Failed Critics Awards, then why not give it a shot.

Failed Critics Podcast: Sharman & Other Filth

american_ultra_2015-1366x768Welcome to another edition of the Failed Critics podcast. This week, hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by Paul Field (making his first appearance since the Corridor of Praise: Danny Dyer episode) and Phil Sharman, one third of the award nominated comedy podcast Wikishuffle.

On top of the news about Danny Boyle confirming production will begin on Trainspotting 2, there are two new release films reviewed by the team this week; Nima Nourizadeh’s stoner comedy American Ultra, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, and the Statham-less Statham-vehicle Transp4ter (…no? AKA The Transporter Refueled.) As well as the new releases, Owen discusses the documentary Welcome to Leith (which is screening this week at the Cambridge Film Festival) with Paul, who also reviews Fort Tilden. Phil rewatches a recent favourite in The Adjustment Bureau and Steve follows up on a discussion from last week’s FrightFest summary by checking out Australian pre-post-apocalyptic thriller These Final Hours.

Fans of our classic debates will also be in for a treat as plenty of our most popular topics were brought up for discussion at various points! A conversation about the Netflix series Narcos somehow ends up as a rambling stream of thought about the BBC and future of broadcasting. The Transp4ter review leads into another rant about film classification. We even manage to squeeze in a quick chat on the merits of found footage horrors, American remakes of English language movies and a short quiz complete with dodgy fake accents.

Steve will be on holiday next week but you can join Owen and Phil again, who will be ably assisted by Jack Stewart and Andrew Brooker to review Legend, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and The Visit.

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100 Greatest TV Episodes: Good Grief (s2, ep4)

arrested development good grief peanutsCult US sitcom Arrested Development returns to our screens this Sunday and, rather than the harsh and unforgiving world of network television, it has found a new home on Netflix. It would be unfair to blame Fox for the show’s failure to gather an audience during its original three season stint between 2003 and 2006. The network gave it a fair crack, but this idiosyncratic comedy couldn’t attract more than the proverbial handful of dedicated followers.

It wasn’t that the show was too clever or highbrow, just that it required commitment. Most popular sitcoms allow you to dip in and out casually, with the majority of the jokes being explicitly and verbally expressed; ‘there’s the uptight one getting annoyed by the lazy one, then the one with the great one-liners is about to deliver a great one-liner’. On AD, Ron Howard’s title-sequence narration spelt out the basic premise of the Enron-style downfall of a family-run construction firm (“And now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together”), but the myriad of inter-related storylines were far from simple.

Arrested Development’s greatest triumph, and ultimately its downfall, was the abundance of call backs, in-jokes, pop culture references, and visual gags that required some serious concentration and, at times, remarkable recall from the viewer. I can’t think of a greater example of this interweaving than in the second season episode ‘Good Grief’. In fact, I’m going to have to assume that you’ve already seen it, as to try and explain the set-up of this episode would take 5000 words alone.

The episode opens on G.O.B (Will Arnett) asking Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) “Did you see the new Poof?”. Michael thinks G.O.B is referring to the company’s new homosexual employee Gary, rather than the magician’s industry magazine. G.O.B didn’t even realise Gary was gay (which makes the flashback where he tells Gary he would “kill for that ass” seem like a come-on), and is instead jealous of rival magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller) making the cover of Poof by baking himself into a loaf of bread and then popping out of the resulting sandwich to feed the troops.

What makes this particular episode so strong though, is the way the entire Bluth family spend the majority of the episode in the same plot strand. Ice (who bounty hunts to support his real passion of party planning) arrives with news that George Snr has been killed in a Mexican jail. That this is proven by a political cartoon showing George being lowered into a ‘cornballer machine’ shows how deep the call backs go. The corn baller is a deep-fat fryer that George marketed in Mexico despite the US government banning it as hugely unsafe. To really find this funny you would need to have seen a particular episode in the first season, and that’s the point you realise why the casual viewers didn’t stay.

George Snr’s body hasn’t been recovered, but G.O.B spots an opportunity to “get in this Poof” declaring “I will be my father’s body”. His fake burial at George Snr’s wake is one of the crowning moments of the series. Standing atop a mound of earth, he dismisses the rest of his family, ”the speeches we have heard today are nothing more than words, but I will prove I loved my father more than anybody”, and proceeds to dance and pose to a gothic version of Europe’s The Final Countdown’. Again, hilarious if you’ve seen G.O.B perform magic before, but probably slightly bewildering if not.

In Good Grief we also get Michael in a less-than perfect light. In most episodes he is the grounded character, a beacon of sanity in a world populated by magicians, analrapists (Tobias Funke, the world’s first analyst-therapist), and Carl Weathers. However his son’s relationship with Ann Veal brings out the worst in him, frequently referring to her as Egg (after he once saw her eat an egg) and at one point telling George Michael that the love they share is “as Ann as the nose on plain’s face”.

I could reel off a whole list of brilliant moments from this episode. Buster telling the family that “Army had half-a-day” while trying to hide the fact that he hasn’t actually joined the army; George Michael’s eulogy to the man that he’s hiding in the attic; Maeby trying to set her mum up with Ice so that she can get divorced from her parents: “All Pop-Pop ever wanted was to see you with another man besides Daddy”.

But it isn’t just the funny lines, it also has the subtle details that are sometimes only spotted during (numerous) repeat viewings. Since this is the Peanuts episode, most of the male characters do the Charlie Brown head-down walk to ‘Christmas Time is Here’, while a Christmas Tree and a kennel with a dog lying on top can be spotted in the background of one scene. The Bluth Banana Stand has a sign saying “The Frozen Banana Maker is…OUT” in exactly the same format as Lucy’s psychiatrist stand.

Love this show with all your heart, and it will love you back.

Hopefully Arrested Development has found the perfect home on Netflix. It won’t need to worry about ratings, and people can discover it at their leisure. Then inevitably binge on an entire season over a weekend once they get obsessed with it.

Taste the happy!

Arrested Development Season 4 is available to stream on all Netflix regions from Sunday 26th May. 

Failed Critics Podcast: Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-it Ralph VillainsWe were sadly a man down on this week’s podcast, with Gerry suffering in the same way Eddie Redmayne did at this week’s BAFTAs. Come to think of it, we’ve never actually seen Gerry and Eddie in the same room…

Talking of the BAFTAs, we give you the low-down on the winners and losers from Sunday night’s ceremony, as well as giving our Oscar predictions. We review the various film streaming services currently available (including Netflix, Lovefilm, and Mubi), and finally get around to reviewing Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph.

James is away next week covering the Glasgow Film Festival, so who knows what’s going to happen next week…

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I’m 32 years old. TV is my life.

FCTVThe problem with films is that they’re ever so long.

Maybe if they were 90 minutes as standard (alright, with the odd exception for Tolkien based adaptations) I’d be on board. After all, 90 minutes was good enough for High Noon, Airplane, Stand By Me. But films seem longer than ever these days. If you go to the cinema, factoring in the obligatory half hour of adverts, that’s the whole evening written off. And if you watch a film at home, well, my sofa is so comfortable, and I’m only going to shut my eyes for a second.

I like watching trailers. It’s like seeing a whole movie, with all of the drama and none of the time commitment. And, although I’ve probably never mentioned it before, I also love TV.

I’ve seen most of my favourite films a handful of times. But if you tot up all the time I’ve spent watching The West Wing (which is only one and a half viewings of seasons 1 – 7 , plus the occasional episode here and there) it comes to over an entire week of solid TV! And, let me tell you, there are few better ways to use up seven days of your year. Bartlet for America.

Yes, I once went to the hairdressers and asked for a ‘Rachel’. But I was 14. Who else was I supposed to look to as a role model? I’ve grown up with some of these shows. ER was on air for the best part of 15 years. How can you invest so much time in something without forming an emotional attachment? You have your inevitable rough patches (ER pushed its entire fan base to the very brink with a certain chimpanzee surgery storyline) but ultimately you know you’ll stick it out until the bitter end, before enjoying a suitably soppy final episode (Seinfeld notwithstanding) and mourning its loss from your viewing schedule for a long time to come.

Some might see me as kind of pretentious, but I just like to think I take my TV seriously. When Friends ended we had a small gathering of, well, friends over to watch the finale together. I served food, but cleared it away hours before the broadcast, lest anyone ruin one last Ross & Rachel moment for me by crunching too loudly on a crisp. When 24 made the leap from BBC to Sky (killing off the excellent spin-off Pure 24 in the process) we eschewed the entire following season, instead waiting for the DVD release because we couldn’t bear to see our precious CTU tainted by adverts. Thank god Sky+ came along when it did. I have a self-imposed ban on Arrested Development quoting on twitter, as I find it difficult to stop. I think of Meadow Soprano every time I parallel park, long to swear as competently as Susie Greene, and have spent at least two hours of my life practicing the Troy & Abed handshake with my husband. I’ve been known to chastise people who write off The Office (US) without having seen it, and am already judging those who will inevitably dismiss Parks & Recreation when it finally hits UK screens this Spring. I watch my favourite TV shows without my phone in my hand. And there isn’t much I do these days without my phone in my hand. Including writing this.

The majority of my disastrous dalliances with Netflix end with me flicking back to my recently watched list, and highlighting a comedy or drama series I’ve seen before. The beauty is that, when one episode ends, you can just stare unblinking at the screen and wait for the next one to kick in without even touching the remote. It’s kind of like watching a film. But a film made of TV. So it’s better.