Tag Archives: Paddy Considine

Half A Decade In Film – 2014

So here we are then. We are at the literal half way point in the decade, albeit the final point in our Half A Decade In Film spin-off mini-series. Yes, the fun ends here (well, about 2000+ words on from here) as Andrew, Paul, Liam, Mike and Owen each pick their favourite film of 2014.

Anybody who listened to our End of Year Awards podcast released not three months back will know just how much Failed Critics loved last year’s selection of movies. From the disturbing and eerie sci-fi Under The Skin, to the disturbing and eerie thriller Gone Girl and all the disturbing and eerie films in between, it was a hell of a year for disturbing and eerie movies, as voted for by you people.

Still, we’ve managed to find five more films to talk about, not all of them dark, violent, disturbing and / or eerie. Well, maybe one or two. Starting with…


Kundo: Age of the Rampant

kundoToday, those who serve the people, serve only their own interests, and neglect their sworn duty. Isn’t that shameful?

Directed and co-written by Yoon Jong-bin, of Nameless Gangster fame, Kundo is a Korean action packed drama set in the middle of the 19th Century.

I’m not a fan of Action films in general but I do love a good Western and thoroughly enjoy Martial Arts fight-fests. Kundo manages to combine the look, feel and sound of the former with the thrills and messy spills of the latter.

The basic story is not overly original in its theme. Jo Yoon, the illegitimate son of a nobleman, is knocked down a rung of the ladder when a fully legitimate heir is born. When he starts to show resentment toward to the new heir he is disciplined and eventually packed off to a life in the military. Many years later the nobleman’s son is killed and Jo Yoon returns to the family as a bitter, corrupt, evil and violent despot hell bent on claiming his birthright and milking his subjects for all he can get.

He hires a lowly butcher, Dol Moo Chi, to kill his dead brother’s pregnant widow to prevent the birth of a new legitimate heir that could challenge his claim as head of the dynasty. When the hitman fails in his mission, Jo Yoon’s vengeance is so brutal that Dol Moo Chi joins a secretive clan of mountain dwelling warriors and monks dedicated to righting the wrongs of despotic nobles and saving oppressed peasants from a life of slavery.

The story then follows the to-and-fro battles between the heartless Jo Yoon’s army of mercenaries and the altruistic mountain clan with Dol Moo Chi in the front line.

Although the basic plot cannot be said to be breaking new ground as a story, the way it is told is thoroughly enjoyable. The best analogy I can come up with is to imagine Quentin Tarantino (at his peak), Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone getting together and deciding to retell the Robin Hood story.

It is beautifully shot, the acting throughout is superb, there are some fantastic fight scenes and just the right number of humorous little interludes.

There are a few issues with it though. The quality of the CGI used is pretty poor. They are not pivotal to the story but are glaringly clunky. One horseback chase sequence, in particular, is terrible. It’s less convincing than those stock moving backgrounds you see out of the window of a car in old black and white movies. There are a few countryside scenes where flocks of birds have been overlaid. They make Hilda Ogden’s “Muriel” look a masterpiece. Even little touches as insignificant as glowing embers drifting away from a fire look like afterthoughts.

But, to be brutally honest, I’m a real grump when it comes to CGI and rarely miss a chance to moan about it, I seriously doubt these issues would bother the majority of normal people.

A genuinely enjoyable film, it may lack originality but is both beautiful to look at and fun to lose yourself in.

by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)


Pride

prideI’ve had a lot of new experiences during this strike. Speaking in public, standing on a picket line. And now I’m in a gay bar.

Another late comer in the film year that I had little or no expectation for. Director Matthew Warchus hadn’t done a feature film for 15 years (his previous film, Simpatico, I’d never even heard of) but this managed to push all my buttons. The soundtrack was for me: Heaven 17, Dead or Alive, Tears for Fears, The Smiths; this was so absolutely in my wheelhouse. The period setting, the 80s, I grew up in the 80’s and it’s always portrayed poorly on film. All that miserable Shane Meadows stuff. I was born in 1970, that was a miserable shit decade, the 80’s were fucking awesome!

We get to meet two very different groups in Pride. Gay activists and striking miners. So we get a double dose of fish out of water, elderly working class Welsh ladies going to gay clubs and party boys going to a working men’s clubs for a spot of bingo. Joyous, absolutely joyous. There’s so many jokes to be had right there.

The cast are all first rate, and mainly unknown to me, though Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine & Bill Nighy all pop up and do a turn. There’s a decent coming of age story, the mad culture clash to explore, issues of bigotry and discrimination, and yet it all hangs together beautifully and made me laugh, a lot. Proper belly ache, tears down the face, laughter. Looks great, sounds amazing, and absolutely the best of British – oh and to quote Imelda Staunton….. ““We’re just off to Swansea now for a massive les-off!”

by Paul Field (@pafster)


Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America The Winter SoldierBefore we get started, does anyone want to get out?

As a series of films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was always just a bit of fun. I’m not denying the quality, not at all. What I’m saying is while they are all good films, I never saw any of them as “great”. Until Captain America: The Winter Soldier rocked up and smacked me around for making such stupid statements.

For the most part, the story of Steve Rogers teaming up with S.H.I.E.L.D and fighting the bad guys, all while trying to find himself in a world he doesn’t know or really fit in to, foregoes the fantastical elements of previous Marvel films and the universe they created. Instead choosing to ground itself in some kind of reality and weave us a tale of conspiracy rivaling that of most other espionage thrillers.

Make no mistake, this is an MCU film through and through. But this time around the Marvel universe feels more like a way to get some of the sillier ideas onto film. Ideas that haven’t really been acceptable since early 90’s James Bond. You know? Mechanical wing suits, hover-carrier thingies and, well, super soldiers!

Cap 2‘s greatness comes when you realise that you can take all those elements out and still be left with a top-notch spy film. A complex and engaging espionage film about shady little men trying to take over the world by using their own little terrorist army headed by a larger than life super-bad-ass bad guy. All of which can only be stopped by one man. Jason Bourne. No, James Bond? Nope. I got it, Ethan Hunt? Oh. Well, you get the idea.

My favourite part though? The fighting. I’ve said it a thousand times. A well choreographed and filmed fight can make a film great. Cap 2‘s fights hurt. Every hit is a bone crunching treat for fight fans that ramps up the stakes and forces you to feel every single punch. Captain America’s confrontation with UFC legend George St. Pierre and the first fight with the titular Winter Soldier are particularly great examples.

It’s Bourne with extra toys. Old school Bond with the ability to still have old school fun. Most importantly, it’s a brilliantly built thriller that’s grounded itself in the real world and, at least as far as I am concerned, is the best MCU film yet.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)


Nightcrawler

NIGHTCRAWLERYou can’t win the lottery unless you make the money to buy a ticket.

Some of you may have already read my review on the main site about Dan Gilroy’s atmospheric thriller. There’s not too much point in me running through the film with a fine tooth comb again, except to say that it is still my favourite movie of 2014. I had a blast watching Guardians of the Galaxy on the big screen, big tub of popcorn in hand. I loved Kundo for all the reasons Liam has stated above. Under The Skin, The Attorney, The Raid 2, Inside Llewyn Davis, Moebius; it was just a fantastic year for film. But none of those that I saw during the year, none of those that I’ve caught up with since the turn of 2015, seriously, none have bettered this expertly made, tense, psychological dark masterpiece.

Brooker touched on Jake Gyllenhaal’s resurgence in our 2011 article, yet as good as he’s been in films like End of Watch, Prisoners, Zodiac and Source Code (and that crazy violent slightly NSFW music video thing he was in), it’s definitely with Nightcrawler that he reached his apex as an actor. The sheer ludicrousness of his omission from the Academy Awards list last month was bafflingly moronic. How he could’ve been overlooked for a Best Actor award is quite frankly beyond my understanding. As the crime-scene videographer Lou Bloom, living out his twisted version of the American dream, it was arguably the best performance of the entire year.

It managed to tread that very thin line of being both sickeningly realistic and uncomfortably amusing. Not just Gyllenhaal’s performance, although that obviously is the central piece in the jigsaw, but the film as a whole. He has a suitably talented cast of actors around him including Bill Paxton, Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed; a director/writer who appears to have hit the ground running with his debut feature as a director; and some excellent cinematography courtesy of the very experienced Robert Elswit. It’s a film that has gotten even better the longer time has passed since I last watched it and I can’t wait to see it again.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)


Guardians of the Galaxy

gotgHe said that he may be an… “a-hole”. But he’s not, and I quote, “100% a dick”.

Over the last few years I’ve watched quite a lot of films at the cinema, and the ones I’ve enjoyed I’ve gone back to see again, sometimes more than just twice. When 2014 came along, there was a film which I was looking forward to seeing. Another entry in the Marvel universe. As usual I had avoided seeing any trailers or even any footage for this film. On my first viewing I was blown away at how much I enjoyed it. Even on a 2nd and 3rd viewing I was enjoying it more each time, my kids loved it, and so I embarked on what turned into a marathon number of watches of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Oh go on then, I saw it 23 times in the end! “Why” I hear you cry? Mainly because (I have a Cineworld card and 3 kids who loved it as well) I just enjoyed the hell out of it. Everything about it entertained me, from the characters to the score and the soundtrack which was rather cool. It had action, it was lots of fun and had some fantastic looking spacecraft and it was just 2 hours long, a decent run time for once. I missed – or rather never got on board as Star Wars changed the world of films, and while I’ve seen films that have blown me away, they have disappeared into my collection only to see the light of day once in a blue moon. Maybe Guardians is my Star Wars, or even my kids Star Wars..? I’m not sure, I just know I really wasn’t expecting to like it so much.

James Gunn has produced a Marvel film like no other. While the other films tend to return to earth for some or most of the film, Gunn left Earth way behind. Taking his hero Peter Quill as a child into space and with some back story to give Quill a little character, just enough for us to like him, Gunn just lets the film fly. With a great opening sequence, the film powers along, and soon we are introduced to the full team, though they don’t know it yet. Rocket, a talking Racoon; Groot, a tree, who doesn’t talk much, Gamora a green assassin and Drax a beast of man looking for revenge. Really with that line up of characters this should fall flat on it’s face or at best just about hold together. Yet Gunn and his cast breathe so much life into the film that it soars. Chris Pratt is superb as Quill, he might be a rogue be he is extremely likable. Zoe Saldana is also great as Gamora, while Rocket and Groot and both voiced well by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. It is Drax played by Dave Bautista who really steals the show; his deadpan delivery is wonderful and nothing goes over his head (his reactions are too fast!) As for the rest, Karen Gillan gives a solid performance as Nebula and Michael Rooker (a constant in Gunn’s films) is also excellent. Lee Pace continues to impress as Ronan and his one of Marvel’s better villains.

The design of this film is also superb; the look of the space crafts, the clothes, the outer space sequences are all stunning to look at. The chase sequences are exhilarating and the final battle is superb leading to a one of the best moments of the film, the dance off! Yet while the plot is rather weak it does add some weight to Thanos and may give some clues to wear Marvel are taking the films. Even so it’s still a pretty strong origins film, as it relies on its energy and the energy of the cast to get us through it. Gunn’s trick is to continue this with the sequel, it’s a big ask, but I think Gunn and his cast might just pull it off again.

by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)


And there we go, we’re done, no more new Half A Decade In Film articles to go (until perhaps five year’s time when we attempt the same thing again perhaps?) You can catch all of our prior entries here, or even click this link to view the entire back catalogue of features for the Decade In Film series. As always, let us know in the comments below if you think we’ve crucially overlooked or overrated any films so far.

Advertisements

Pride

Although it plays it a bit too safe at times, Pride really is a feel-good triumph.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

PRIDETrailers are funny beasts.  Their stated goal is to sell you a movie by showing you enough to get you interested whilst accurately representing the film that you’ll be plonking down hard earned cash to watch.  Most of the time, though, they go a bit too far.  They spoil most setpieces or plot points in search of the all-important money shot and to find that unique hook to draw you in (I’m pretty sure that the only thing that the trailer for next week’s A Walk Among The Tombstones didn’t spoil is the identity of the villains), and sometimes they just straight up lie about the kind of film you might be sitting down to watch (Lucy may have been utterly insane, as the trailer indicated it would be, but it was hardly a movie bursting at the seams with action, not that I’m complaining).  Pride was one of those cases where the trailer misrepresented the film into looking like it was going to be something that it wasn’t.  A comedy-drama in which a group of “not-normals” come into an ignorant village and their mere presence causes everyone to learn to be more tolerant, whilst some famous faces act innocently insensitive at points for comedic effect?  I literally just ripped Million Dollar Arm to shreds for not bothering to characterise its “not-normals” and being only focussing on the innocently insensitive normals two weeks back!  Why should I give this one the benefit of any doubt?

So I entered Pride with my skepticals firmly attached.  I was all set to find this one yet another example of a “nice” film that got ideas above its station and failed miserably at being an awards-bait film that wanted to say something.  So, imagine my surprise when, at around about the 30 minute mark, I found myself really invested in Pride.  See, Pride is much lower-key than its early-Autumn awards season release date and “two groups of differing ends of whatever scale learn to get along” premise and marketing suggest.  Pride is not trying to say much beyond the obvious “for the love of the Maker, people, we are all humans, just get along already!”  It has pretty much no pretentious towards earning as many awards as the producers can fit into their cabinets.  No, Pride just wants to tell a story.  Pride wants to tell a story about characters, about people.

And that’s really where the film’s secret to its success comes from.  This is a story about people and how a shared crisis causes them to come together in solidarity.  Yes, the message is still of tolerance, but it comes naturally from the story, the result of fire-forged friends building mutual respect with one another that creates bonds for life.  Pride’s masterstroke, and this really should be the norm instead of the exception so I’m a bit peeved that I have to point this out, is that it humanizes the gays and lesbians.  Whereas a lesser film would have made them interchangeable or simply made them blank slates that we’re only supposed to care about because the “normal” protagonists have everything riding on them, Pride makes them human, gives them agency, gives them their own characteristics and individual personalities and arcs.  They aren’t just some nebulous force that further the “normal” protagonists arcs, nor are they something to force a whole bunch of jokes off of.  They’re people.  Individual people!

The events of the film are predominately seen through their eyes, with only occasional scenes that come solely from the viewpoint of the mining community, and it works gangbusters.  We see how they convinced a town to warm up to them through their charming personalities and the genuine good that they do, rather than just their mere presence warming the hearts of the grinches.  We see how they’re not some unified force of good that’s completely free of human foibles; there are frequent rumblings from the few lesbians that are part of the group of creating a splinter-group solely dedicated to lesbians, they get into arguments with one another, they make mistakes, they can be just as prejudiced as the people who hate them.  They feel human, like real people, not a walking embodiment of tolerance messages.

For example, there’s a relationship between the elder gay men of the group, Gethin (Andrew Scott) and Jonathan (Dominic West), and the film treats it as no big deal.  There is no giant meet-cute, there’s no big second act break-up and their relationship is not a big plot point.  They are a couple, they bicker and fight occasionally, and they love each other; Pride expects the audience to accept that as a thing that would happen and move on.  Joe (George McKay) is a shy gay man who learns to embrace his sexuality thanks to the events of the story, an arc that admittedly doesn’t hit as hard as it should because he gets lost in the ensemble shuffle but is still nice to see because, again, it humanizes him and makes him a well-defined character.  Mark (rising star Ben Schnetzer who is phenomenal in this) comes into his own as a leader thanks to the support he receives from the mining community and the success the campaign gets, until tragedy throws him into self-doubt.  They all tease each other, share little in-jokes and nicknames and give off the spirit of being true companions.  That’s how the film works!  These are people, and that’s what makes the film engaging and investing even when it hits the obvious beats (you get one guess as to why the film makes a point to mention that gays don’t go out collecting alone), writer Stephen Beresford being that good at crafting these characters.

The same is true of the citizens of the Welsh mining village (which, unless I’m mistaken, is never actually given a name).  The bigotry is clearly fuelled by ignorance and improper knowledge and, though the moment where they come around to the gays and lesbians is mostly encapsulated in one scene, the change is one that comes on naturally as a result of actions that occur by the characters rather than a magic switch flipping from “Irrational Bigotry” to “Total Slavish Devotion”.  It feels more natural instead of obviously constructed, even if it still really is very constructed.  The one misstep that the film makes with them is to personify the attitudes and bigotry into one person, specifically one family, that of the head of the mining council.  It feels like taking the easy way out, crafting an obvious easily hateable and personable villain, designed to quickly and easily remind viewers that not everybody supports the gays and lesbians siding with the miners rather than trusting that the viewers can just figure that out for themselves or leaving the villainy as an over-arching concept.

In fact, that’s representative of the only real fault that Pride has: a little too often does the film take the easy way out.  It softens edges, follows formula, plays it safe.  This isn’t really a comedy (despite what the prior mentioned trailer sold it as) but the times when the film awkwardly stretches for laughs in order to keep the film from getting too dramatic, which are infrequent but do happen, are the weakest, like it doesn’t have enough faith in the material for the audience to hang on for the feel-good ending to this “feel-good” story.  When the inevitable outcome of why gays don’t go out collecting alone comes about, the film just cuts to the awhile after the aftermath, robbing the scene of all but the tiniest part of its impact (for contrast, look at the scene in Brokeback Mountain when the inevitable possibly happened and the film forced you to watch the majority of it).  The score is exactly as generic and manipulative as you’re expecting, never getting off-beat enough to reflect the subject matter and the best instances of the film’s tone, and unnecessarily intruding on scenes that were already getting their point across before you laboured it, thank you kindly.  When the obvious constructed nature of this “feel-good-based-on-a-true” story pokes through the otherwise natural pacing and character-work, which isn’t too often but is often enough for me to mark it down, the magic takes a hit and a great drama is brought down to the level of a very good biopic.

But I’m not prepared to knock the film too much for all of that, as the fact of the matter is that I was engaged and invested in Pride for the majority of the two hours that it ran for.  I was entertained by the less-forced humour, completely behind the campaign and caring for the characters that were involved in it, and was filled with little swells in my heart when acceptance started winning out.  It’s got some great performances by both the more established actors (Bill Nighy, in particular, scores major points for a pair of late-film scenes that re-contextualise his deliberate underplaying of his role perfectly), although that’s expected to be the case when you sign people like Dominic West and Imelda Staunton and Andrew Scott up for anything, and the newer-kids-on-the-block (the aforementioned Ben Schnetzer, but there’s also George MacKay’s very well-delivered youthful uncertainty and This Is England’s Joe Gilgun doing a great job as the anchor to the group).  I’ve already mentioned the character work…  See, there’s not a lot to Pride and even less as to why it works, but that’s kind of its charm.  It doesn’t get ideas above its station, it isn’t openly trying to be a “message movie,” it instead puts its eggs into the character basket and expects that the rest will slot into place.  And it all does; very much so.

To put it another way, Pride is the kind of film that, even though history deems this to be all-set for a downer ending, manages to manufacture an uplifting climax anyway, complete with “Where Are They Now?” text descriptors, and my criticism of said thing only amounted to “the text descriptors are a little unnecessary.”  I was really pleasantly surprised by this one, folks, and I have the feeling that other people like me may be too.  And for those who took one look at the trailer and thought this would be the film for them?  They’re more than likely going to love it.

Callum Petch is a born-again poor man’s son.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

GFF14 Diary: Sunday 23rd Feb – The Double

TheDoubleStarting the festival a day or two after everyone else (and missing the Opening Gala screening of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel) was always going to leave me feeling like I was playing catch-up, and so the pressure was even higher for my first film in Glasgow to impress me. Last year I started off with a highly anticipated film starring Mia Wasikowska that ultimately left me bored and slightly betrayed. Shame on you Stoker.

So it was that I took my seat in the lecture hall-style GFT1 for The Double, Richard Ayoade’s second feature starring Jessie Eisenberg and the aforementioned Wasikowska, as well as a host of alumni from Ayoade’s debut Submarine (a film that I shamefully still haven’t seen, but that I have bought with me to Glasgow for one of those mythical periods of ‘free time’).

The Double is loosely based on a novella written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but the immediately obvious influences are Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, as well as the dark humour and nightmare future envisioned in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The narrative also feels at times like the work of Czech absurdist playwright and former President Vaclav Havel, yet the film itself feels both personal and original.

Jessie Eisenberg stars initially as Simon James, a middle-ranking bureaucrat at an data entry organisation where despite seven years of hard work he is still not recognised by the security guard on the gate, or even by his boss. He dreams of one day meeting ‘The Colonel’ (James Fox), the company figurehead who claims in an TV commercial that “there are no special people, just people”, and he also has designs, bordering on a Rear Window-style obsession, on his co-worker Hannah (Wasikowska).

One day, Simon’s doppelganger appears at work, by the name of James Simon (obviously, also played by Eisenberg). James Simon is everything that Simon James is not; confident, carefree, and utterly irresistible to women. At first the two bond over a very funny night out drinking, and James Simon even offers advice on how Simon James can win Hannah round, including the excellent advice that when accompanying a date the man should “put your hand just above their ass. It shows that you’re interested, but that you can push them down the stairs at any time”.

Slowly the doppelganger starts to take over Simon’s life though, and paranoia quickly consumes his very existence. Even his work colleagues struggle to understand, with his colleague Harris only finally seeing the similarities after much prodding, commenting on their likeness that “you’re not even Chinese, that’s pretty fucked up”.

The plot very quickly starts spinning out of control, and if you’re not careful you’ll struggle to keep up as it reaches its denouement. That said, the performances and production design are so spot on that you’ll forgive a slightly muddled third act. The sound design is comparable to the excellent Berbarian Sound Studio, and the production design is a brilliant vision of steampunk bureaucracy that belies the director’s love of or obsession with the 1980s.

Ayoade fleshes out the cast with great performances in small roles, including the always brilliant Wallace Shawn as a company middle manager, Paddy Considine as a futuristic space cop in a James’ favourite television show, and the welcome return of Chris Morris to our screens as an unsympathetic personnel officer.

The Double is a film that not only cements its director’s status as a major challenge, but is also a brilliant and individual dystopian thriller in its own right.

BD_Logo_WhiteThe Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.