After quite literally years of podcasting, and uncountable hours of work going into it – the Failed Critics Film Podcast has reached its 250th episode! We know it’s just three or four blokes who have gotten to know each other quite well over the past five years, talking about films, but we’re pretty proud of it and hope that you enjoy listening to our little show as much as we’ve enjoyed reaching this milestone. If you think we show any promise at all, please subscribe and spread the word.
The Failed Critics Podcast – Episode 250: The Human Cinematipede
Yes, for this very special edition, we’ve gone all retro. Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes managed to convince both founding members James Diamond and Gerry McAuley to come out of retirement for old times’ sake.
Our rather serendipitous main release review this week is The Lego Batman Movie; a convenient call back to our review on the 100th episode. In fact, most things here are call-backs to past episodes, as you may notice from the featured image and bumf above, taken from the very first podcast published way back on the 25 April 2012.
However, some things never change. There’s still a quiz to kick us off (with added questions and catch-ups that I’m sure you’re all dying to hear about) and we end with the recommendations. One in particular which will no doubt crush you on this Valentine’s Day. What We’ve Been Watching has as eclectic a mix as ever: Owen watches Hearts of Darkness, the “best film about a film”; James explains why Brent: Life on the Road was such a disappointment; Steve is impressed by yet another Jack O’Connell performance in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken; and Gerry squanches all over Rick and Morty.
Thanks to everybody who has downloaded this podcast – or any of our podcasts. Your support, feedback and kind comments have been the motivation for us to keep doing this. Who knows what we’ll be doing in another 250 episodes, but we hope you’ll still be listening – and hope you still find us idiots entertaining to listen to.
Somewhere around the forty-minute mark of the latest television show to get a big screen adaptation, I wondered to myself “maybe Ricky Gervais is being a little self-referential. Maybe he’s being a little self-deprecating. Maybe this sad, pathetic, bumbling dickhead on screen is supposed to be some kind of metaphor for Gervais and his career.”
Then, I realised that Gervais isn’t clever enough to think of making a film that intelligent.
Long made redundant from the job that made him famous, David Brent is back in front of the documentary cameras as he tries desperately to fulfil his dream of being a rock star and not a bottom rung rep for a toiletries peddler.
Gathering together a band and planning a massive tour of Berkshire, Brent finds himself struggling with empty clubs; militant band members and trying desperately to look good for the cameras as the world falls apart around him.
David Brent: Life on the Road is not a good film. It’s not even a watchable film. In fact, the only reason I didn’t walk out half way through Ab Fab style was because I had another film to watch directly after the screening and I had no intention of hanging around in the lobby of Cineworld for an hour looking like a complete loser. While the idea of killing some time, banging one out in the disabled loos certainly appealed more than the idea of sitting to the end of this utterly self serving bag of shit; the thought of going into my next film red-faced and sweaty didn’t really sound like a viable option.
Never before has a show had such little need of a movie to follow it on. Never before has it been so apparent that a star/writer/director is doing something because the money dried up and it was either this, or start selling Daz and Cillit Bang to the pathetic inbreds watching Jeremy Kyle on a weekday morning.
I am flabbergasted that there seems to be a market for his film. What might seem appealing in the short episode of The Office simply doesn’t work in an extended amount of time. Everything from the casual racism, that in a better film or a good bit of tele would elicit a gasp and a “you can’t say that” as you guiltily giggle at it, feels nothing but offensive in the worst possible way as you haven’t laughed once up to the point that Native Americans, black and even disabled people are ribbed in a “look at how edgy I can be” kinda way. To the terrible songs that are purposely written to be hilariously bad, but forgot the hilarious part.
The hour and a half runtime seems far too long as we see Brent clumsily claw at his dignity in documentary form, like one of those awful misery porn shows that Channel 4 like to advertise as real life television. Watching him scrabble for the limelight and embarrass his band mates – who have, for what it’s worth, spent the entire time bitching about the guy like old women over fences – is just a little sad and very embarrassing.
After a little while, you get the feeling that you’re watching the escapades of “Ricky: the little boy that could” as this simpleton seems to be aiming for nothing but a participation trophy. Not helped one little bit by the turn of the entire cast from hating Brent and his bullshit to saccharinely falling for his boyish charms and daft demeanour with a “aww, he’s lovely really” kinda vibe towards the end. Utter, utter bollocks.
Gervais’ trademark – if you insist on calling it that – style, is obviously aimed at those that enjoyed watching him in his ghastly TV show, or any of his stand-up sets or movies since it finished. Seeing as I wasn’t the intended audience for this film, and the fact that I find the guy to be a charmless cretin with all the comedic chops of a bag of chilled AIDS; it’s no surprise that I spent most of my time in the film hoping for some kind of act of terrorism in the heart of sunny Milton Keynes just to end my suffering for me.
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.
With one episode of The Office (US) already entered into our 100 Greatest TV Episodes series by Kate, Failed Critics podcast host Steve has taken it upon himself to induct his favourite episode from the original UK show. And it’s about damn time!
I could quote The Office endlessly. It’s funny how a good show can permeate the mind like that. For some, it’s Only Fools and Horses or Monty Python. For others it’s The Mighty Boosh or I’m Alan Partridge. For me, it used to be Phoenix Nights.
Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant’s creation is a work of genius and lives long in the memory. The jokes range from side splittingly hilarious to cringe inducing laughs.
Undoubtedly the best episode comes from Series One and is titled ‘Training’. It has the three main protagonists of the show, Tim, Gareth and David, all at their best. It also taught me that a postage stamp is legal tender and should be accepted by bus drivers.
The episode centres around staff training at Wernham Hogg and Brent is at his obnoxious best. Constantly interrupting the outside teacher Rowan, thinking he knows better. Who can forget the exchange ending in ‘I THINK THERE’S BEEN A RAPE UP THERE….GET. THEIR. ATTENTION.’ Or the equally brilliant ‘There is no room 362 in this hotel. Sometimes the complaints will be false.’
It also introduces his back catalogue of tunes from the sombre Princess Di tribute ‘Goodnight My Sweet Princess’ to the epic ‘Freelove Freeway’ (which incidentally I think I know all the words to).
Gareth is at his moronic best – ‘Shouldn’t be allowed around animals then’ and ‘two girls, sisters, me just watching.’ Tim, who the viewer should be watching the show through the eyes of – the downtrodden office worker with a lack of ambition and drive and one small glimmer of hope in his life, Dawn – suffers the agony of rejection as the receptionist gets back with massive dickhead Lee and shows his frustration towards his irritating colleague and clueless boss.
Whilst Gareth and Brent are giving you the laughs in abundance, Tim is, well, not so much making you tear up, but making you annoyed with his co-workers . You genuinely feel for him and are frustrated for him. You will him to get Dawn and leave ‘The Office’. You want him to succeed, but deep down know he won’t.
The Office was always able to make you crack up with laughter but also feel genuine sadness or happiness for its relatable characters. Whether it’s Tim getting with Dawn, or Brent getting one over on Finchy, or Brent pleading for his job. It’s what all the best sitcoms do and this episode’s is that at its very best.
And that feeling is one of happiness after seeing the fantastic Guardians of the Galaxy this week. The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been met with universal acclaim and huge box office takings.
I have seen some great films in the last 12 months from Oscar nominated The Wolf of Wall Street and 12 Years a Slave to inspirational sports documentary Next Goal Wins and none of them made me want to sit down and watch them again the same day. With Guardians I would have happily gone back to the cinema in the evening to view it a second time.
James Gunn was let loose with the studio’s riskiest film considering the characters are not that well known among the general population and perhaps lack the same draw as Iron Man or Captain America.
But a fun trailer, five star reviews, great performances, hilarious jokes, a banging soundtrack and stunning visuals have turned this into a contender for Marvel’s best film yet.
Inbetweeners a Rock and a Hard Place
It is always a worrying sign when movies forgo press screenings or advance screenings but hopefully this will not be the case with the imaginatively titled ‘The Inbetweeners Movie 2’.
The first film, set during Simon, Will, Neil and Jay’s first lads’ holiday, was a surprising success, raking in £45m at the box office and managed to bridge the gap between sitcom and feature film that many comedies fail to do.
The trailer for the second film has not exactly been packed full of laughs but hopefully this is down to the fact that a trailer played on TV or before a 12A film has to err on the side of caution.
Milligan, Cleese, Everett…Brent?
Ricky Gervais has announced plans to bring his most iconic creation (no, not Karl Pilkington) David Brent to the big screen.
Brent first appeared in mockumentary sitcom ‘The Office’, written by Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and became one of the funniest characters in British TV history and even breaking America leading to a US spinoff version.
Brent came back for Comic Relief and a few Youtube videos and despite fears of a dead horse being flogged Gervais retained the humour of Wernham Hogg’s finest.
Gervais on the big screen has generally not been a success and it remains to be seen if Merchant will be back to co-write but hopefully this will be more Alpha Papa and less Mr Bean’s Holiday.
Who You Gunna Call? Paul Feig!
The director of Bridesmaids and The Heat has been linked with taking the reins of the third Ghostbusters film which could star an all-female lead cast (no immature ectoplasm jokes from me).
Why we quite need a third Ghosbusters film I don’t know.
Next week, Steve will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news.
Welcome to this weeks Failed Critics Podcast, and in this episode we’re reviewing two of the most anticipated films of the early blockbuster season. Marvel Phase Two continues apace with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, while another sequel in the shape of Muppets Most Wanted also comes under the spotlight.
James is away this week, but we’re joined by our friend Carole Petts as the team not only review Captain America 2, but also delve into what it means for the MCU in Spoiler Alert. Owen also gives us a sneak preview of another highly anticipated sequel after he was lucky enough to gaze upon the brutal spectacle of The Raid 2.
We’re hopefully back to normal next week, with James back in the saddle and reviews of Noah and The Double.
It’s a definite step down from their big comeback, but Muppets Most Wanted is still a lot of super happy fun.
by Callum Petch
Muppets Most Wanted opens with a musical number where Kermit and Fozzie sheepishly admit that “everybody knows the sequel’s never quite as good”. It could be taken as a pre-emptive apology on the behalf of everyone involved; an admission that everyone knows that they will not recapture the lightning that 2011’s The Muppets so effortlessly bottled and a warning to tone down your expectations. Admittedly, I found this self-deprecatory plea rather humorous seeing as it was paired with a song that I thought was better than any of the ones The Muppets cooked up (yeah I said it, I have a soft spot for knees-up sing-a-long show tunes, and I will gladly fight you over this), but they’re not wrong to give you the heads up as, no, Most Wanted is nowhere near as good as The Muppets.
Then again, it’s not exactly trying to be. See, 2011’s The Muppets was, for all intents and purposes, a fan film. A fan film written, directed, starring and scored by fans as a love letter to the Muppets themselves. It was a labour of love and it wore that and its heart on its sleeves, it was sentimental and nostalgic and was counting on you feeling the same way so that, when Rainbow Connection finally appeared, you too would be bawling your eyes out. Most Wanted does not have such ambitions. Most Wanted doesn’t want to make you get all nostalgically teary-eyed, it just wants you to laugh. It wants you to laugh and laugh and laugh so loudly that the sheer volume of your laughter causes distressed family members to look at you suspiciously. Because of this, it was never going to be as good as The Muppets, in much the same way that The Great Muppet Caper was never going to be as good as The Muppet Movie. And that’s fine, because laugh I did. A hell of a lot. To the point where I left the cinema with a jolly little skip instead of just going “Yeah, that was not quite as good as the last one.” I liked it on its own merits, for what it was because it is damn good at what it does.
The set-up for the jokes, then. Shortly after the conclusion of The Muppets, the Muppets are tapped by a big-shot tour manager named Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais at his smarmy best) to go on a world tour of their show so that they can capitalise on their return to fame whilst they still have it. What the Muppets don’t know, though, is that Dominic is in league with an escaped master criminal named Constantine who is a dead ringer for Kermit, save for the mole on the former’s face, and that the pair are planning on using the tour as a cover to steal various elements that would help them steal the crown jewels. With Kermit being shanghaied off to a Russian Gulag under the strict watch of secret Kermit super-fan Nadia (Tina Fey), Constantine takes his place as the leader of the Muppets and his laissez-faire attitude to his cover allows the rest of the gang a degree of creative control that it be better they didn’t have. And not helping matters are the Interpol (Ty Burrell) and CIA (Sam the Eagle) agents on their tail after the heists start causing too much noise.
It’s a farce, basically. A good old-fashioned farce where the stakes are relatively low, the mood is nice and light and breezy and features a plot where everything could have been solved in five seconds if any of the characters involved had their brains switched on that day. Like I previously mentioned, there’s little emotional depth going on here, the sole exception being Miss Piggy’s continued attempts to finally get Kermit to put a ring on her finger, which makes things much more easily disposable. Do not expect to be moved and, honestly, don’t fully expect to still be thinking about it about a week or so removed from seeing it. Again, this is not the film’s intention.
And that would be a legitimate problem if it weren’t for the fact that Muppets Most Wanted is absolutely hilarious. It can’t quite sustain its manic pacing for its near-two-hour runtime (I honestly feel like it could have trimmed a good 10 minutes and ended up with a wall-to-wall hysterical 95 minutes), but it comes damn near close. Nearly everything that Constantine says in his awful-Russian Kermit impersonation (that at times seems to inadvertently slip into Transylvanian but only adds to the effect) is comic gold, especially his butchering of classic Kermit phrases. Nadia’s simultaneously hard-assed and affable prison warden (she doesn’t even really try to stop Kermit’s escape attempts because she knows every single prison escape trick in the book, because she’s seen every prison break film ever made, yes, even the ones in space) is a near-perfect usage of Tina Fey. The constantly bickering nature of agents Jean-Pierre and Sam the Eagle is priceless and equally as priceless are the running jabs at France’s… lackadaisical attitude to work breaks by having Jean-Pierre literally take a break every single time that something big happens in the case. And as for the film’s best gag? I won’t spoil it but, as a lifelong Muppet diehard, it was exactly the kind of reverential self-deprecatory gag that is capable of making me burst out into extreme laughter.
More importantly, though, it’s consistent. This is not the kind of film that blows all of its best gags in the opening 30-odd minutes or revealed all of them in the trailers. The giant laughs are infrequent but well-spaced out and linked with consistently chucklesome or chortle-worthy material (and I apologise for using the phrase “chortle-worthy” but it’s the best I could come up with for “laughing loudly material that’s not as laughing loudly-worthy as the film’s best jokes”) so I spent the majority of the film with a giant smile on my face. It also helps that the human cast trio are almost equally happy to be here. Nobody’s at Jason Segel-levels of “Oh, man, I COULD NOT BE MORE STOKED TO BE HERE!” because that is almost impossible, but everybody is game for whatever the script throws at them. Ricky Gervais seems positively thrilled at getting asked to have his boss tap dance on his head during a song entirely designed to disparage his character’s role in the story; it’s his best performance in years. And while most may think that Ty Burrell is the standout human actor, and they can be forgiven for thinking that (he is excellent as a cartoonish Swiss stereotype), those people will immediately realise just how wrong they are when Tina Fey pulls out a newspaper clipping of Kermit The Frog and starts snogging the lights out of it. She’s pretty funny in this.
A brief note on the celebrity cameos. Yes, there are a lot of them. However, this is not a problem and everybody who is trying to insist otherwise is wrong for these reasons. 1] Celebrity cameos have always been inherent to the world and premise of The Muppets. They’ve been there since nearly Day 1 and anybody who has a problem with them now is either not familiar with The Muppets or their nostalgia goggles happened to forget everything about the cameos. 2] They’re not just “Look at this A-lister we got for these five seconds!” There will be just as many that go over your head as there will be that you recognise. For every Lady Gaga, there’s a Tom Hollander, for every Christoph Waltz, there’s a Hornswoggle from the WWE. 3] There are no more cameos here than there were in The Muppets. 4] They never take the focus away from the Muppets themselves. When Tom Hiddleston pops in for five seconds, that’s all he does. He’s not stealing vital plot and screen time from the Muppets themselves. In fact, this is probably one of the more Muppet-focussed Muppet movies, the attention is on them at nearly all times and I don’t think that there’s a scene in here that doesn’t feature a Muppet in some way, shape or form; news that will likely please Muppet purists.
And as for Walter, who basically led the last Muppet movie despite it supposedly being about the other Muppets themselves? Well, and most likely for the better, he slides comfortably into the supporting Muppet cast as the closest thing the film gets to a straight man. He fits the role well and he’s a nice part of the overall ensemble. Speaking of that ensemble, it’s also mostly well handled. Gonzo fans will likely be disappointed that, again, he’s pushed to the side-lines and only really gets a couple of really funny moments, but the Muppets are a large cast of characters and I think it’s to the film’s credit (or, at least, I’m pretty sure it is, it may also just be my fan nostalgia talking) that most of the cast get a defining line or action. Most of the cast get the chance to do or say something extremely funny which is probably the best we can all hope for as, let’s face it, everybody has different Muppet preferences and no two people are going to be 100% satisfied with how the balance turns out in a Muppet film.
If there is one thing I can properly knock the film for, besides its slightly-too-long running time, though, it’s the occasional usage of CGI. Now, I know that the merest mention of CGI will likely immediately send most Muppet diehards running for the Internet message boards to complain, but there is good news about this. The most prominent usages of CGI come in Constantine’s prison break sequence and his first musical number, both of which are dealt with in the opening 30 minutes. Afterwards, if there are a tonne of CGI-enhanced shots, I didn’t notice them. The bad news, however, is that the CGI in those two sequences (and especially Constantine’s prison break) is awful. It sticks out dreadfully, moves shoddily and cheaply and looks like it was done in about 15 minutes before a lunch break. I wonder if that was the intention, quite frankly, because everything else in the film looks spectacular (these are master puppeteers at the helm, after all) and it only leaves such a sour taste because it’s one of the very first things you see after the opening musical number and you know what they say about first impressions.
Still, two instances of dreadful CGI in the opening 30 minutes are not enough to distract from what Muppets Most Wanted is good at and that is making the viewer laugh something fierce. It lacks the openly sentimental heartfelt-ness of The Muppets but it’s still top-quality entertainment. And, in all honesty, if you can easily apply the phrase “it’s The Great Muppet Caper to the original’s The Muppet Movie” in regards to a film sequel, then it’s not exactly a comment that’s supposed to be taken as a knock against the film in question. More film sequels should strive to that kind of level as a minimum baseline. Muppets Most Wanted is huge fun, has great songs and I left with a big old smile on my face, what more of a recommendation do you need to go and see it?