Welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast. This one is actually being published within a reasonable amount of time since the recording. Aren’t we spoiling you, eh!
“I was a bit curt. Okay, I was an asshole.”
Every year awards season brings out that one film that everyone falls head over heels in love with. Almost every time it’s a film that’s been doing the rounds for months before it gets to us in the UK and we’ve been beaten to death with headline after headline telling us how it’s the greatest film you’ve ever seen, destined to change the world.
It never does.
And neither will La La Land.
Daydreaming jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) seem to keep crossing paths with each other. When the pair eventually give in to their destiny and become a couple, they begin to push each other to follow their dreams.
Time goes on and whilst things on the surface seem fine, life just has a habit of getting in the way. As the happy couple’s aspirations start to pull them in opposite directions, the hard work just gets harder as the pair have to make some tough decisions.
Oh, and it’s a musical.
I really hate musicals. With a blinding passion. I hate them so much that I considered not going to see this preview screening and instead acting the hermit at home watching playoff football.
I dislike this genre so much that I’d rather stab myself repeatedly in the leg with a blunt pencil dipped in Ebola and knob cheese than suffer through a collection of dickheads singing and dancing their way through conversations that would be much more effective if they were just spoken. Like a normal person. Not like a dithering granny who can’t help herself as she bursts into song while washing the dishes.
Saying that, I don’t have an awful lot of time for silent cinema either, yet I gave The Artist a fair shot. It’s only right that I give the same chance to La La Land.
Unfortunately, what should be an homage to the golden age of Hollywood, feels like a grim reminder that the musical has no place in Hollywood any more.
Damien Chazelle, the director behind the sublime Whiplash has tried to capture lightning in a bottle a second time with his love letter to musical cinema. There’s no denying the man has an eye for a good film and the parts of La La Land that work, look great. He’s made a near perfect choice for his leading actors. Both Gosling and Stone are spectacular to watch and are undeniably on top form (as their recent Gold Globes wins can attest to). But the good parts don’t outweigh the poor; and there are plenty of those.
For starters, the film is dull. Just dull. Its overlong runtime of around two hours feels stretched to within an inch of its life as we watch this pair of dullards, seemingly unable to get their shit together, sing and dance through their lives. Apart from the opening salvo of imbeciles dancing and singing over cars on a packed motorway, and a concert with John Legend doing the singing, I’m pretty sure that Gosling and Stone are the only ones doing any vocal work. So dragged out is this damp lumpy fart of a movie that I was begging for it to be over. I was checking my watch hoping to see the time tick away faster. I was sick of listening to their voices.
Let’s be honest about this, whether or not I like musicals, I should be able to remember some of the songs, right? Nope. All of them are completely forgettable. Considering the film’s biggest song “City of Stars” won the Golden Globe for Best Song, it’s pretty bad that 12 hours after I saw the film, I can remember nothing but the opening line. It’s “City of stars”, if you’re wondering.
La La Land shifts its tone so often that it doesn’t feel like I’m watching a musical or a romantic drama. It feels like a mish-mash of ideas splattered onto a page with little regard for how it plays out. As a romance-filled drama, it almost plays well; but just as it looks like it might do something interesting, it bitch slaps you with another rubbish, forgettable song that resets any good will it had dragged from me back down to zero.
The awards it has garnered in the last day and the untold number of people ejaculating over social media, thoroughly in love with this shambles of a film, tell me I’m in a very small minority when it comes to my negative views on this musical farce. But don’t worry friends, I hate it enough to balance the books perfectly. What a complete waste of two hours that I’ll never get back.
It was a podcast that began just like any other podcast. Two guys, Owen Hughes and Paul Rutland, sat around a microphone, speaking into it. They opened the show with an intro. It recapped what was in the upcoming penultimate episode. Everything was there, as normal; a sports round-up, roll the dice, the latest film reviews. You name it. If you wanted it, they had it.
It was then that I began to get suspicious. Where was the music? What happened to last week’s roll-the-dice section? Why was I talking as if in the opening segment of a noir movie?
And then it hit me.
This was the week that Owen finally got to review the eagerly awaited Shane Black crime-noir comedy, The Nice Guys. And boy, did he love it!
Paul, on the other hand, had no idea who Shane Black was or why Owen was so excited about it, so instead led the sports round-up, including: A short tribute to the late, great Muhammad Ali; Andy Murray’s French Open failure; as well as a brief introduction to Friday’s European Championship kick-off in France.
In other news, with Bucks101 Radio over for the term and still experiencing technical issues, this week’s podcast (and next week’s final episode in the series) was not originally broadcast on the radio. Therefore, there’s no playlist for this episode. Sorry.
However, Owen and Paul now have a new email address that you can contact them on at OwenAndPaulProductions@gmail.com – and in more exciting news, you can check out the latest trailer for their documentary on the YouTube clip below. You can look forward to seeing the full documentary when it’s released on Friday.
After you’ve listened to Front Row, of course…
“Hey man, that girl in your trunk? She was in that car.”
Almost three decades ago, Shane Black all but invented the buddy comedy when he wrote Lethal Weapon and unleashed Riggs and Murtaugh on the world. One of the most famous – and most infamous – action-comedy duos would propel Black into a string of writing jobs where he would hone his craft.
When it finally came time to make the jump to directing, his debut would of course be one of his own scripts – and it was going to be a buddy comedy. In 2005, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang was almost universally adored and with Marvel tapping the man to helm Post-Avengers set Iron Man 3, he is as close to a household name as a cult film screenwriter has ever been.
Not one to rest on his laurels and take it easy, Shane Black is using his new-found status to get some of his own writing on the big screen to be noticed. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, The Nice Guys.
Los Angeles, 1977. Days after the death of a well known porn star, hapless private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is hired by the actress’ aunt, convinced that she’s seen her alive, to track her down. When he finds himself on the trail of young activist Amelia (The Leftovers‘ Margaret Qualley) he also finds himself on the wrong end of paid enforcer Jackson Healy’s (Russell Crowe) uncanny skill for violently persuading people off of whatever course they happen to be on.
When Amelia suddenly disappears, the unlikely pair find themselves forced to work together and wade through the seedy underbelly of LA to find her; unravel the truth behind the growing collection of bodies that seem to be following them around and try desperately not to end up at the top of that pile of corpses themselves.
Now, some films like to think they’re funny and fail miserably. Some films want to tell a story and never quite seem to keep me interested enough to have me care about it. The beauty of a film like The Nice Guys is that it hits a perfect sweet-spot of really cool story, told brilliantly; and a perfectly paired up couple of polar opposites that get a steady stream of laughs as one hapless detective becomes two.
Headlining our fun little noir crime caper, in unlikely comedic turns for both, are all-but-typecast hard-man Russell Crowe as investigator/leg-breaker Healy – the stereotypical tough guy loner who may (or may not) have a heart of gold – along with his unwitting partner, Ryan Gosling’s equally unlikely funny-turn as the stumbling, bumbling, private eye who moonlights as a single dad to a mouthy, attitude filled teenage girl.
Supported by a pretty stellar cast including Matt Bomer as the hired clean-up guy; Keith David just being Keith David as a long-in-the-tooth heavy sent to beat on Healey; and Kim Basinger popping in for a few scenes and getting to play a high up police official for a bit. All of them come together to give an outstanding overall performance, but are almost completely outshined by relative unknown Angourie Rice as March’s teenage daughter, Holly; a girl whose smarts equal that of any of those she shares the screen with, but has more balls than any of them. She’s just outstanding and a ton of fun to watch.
70’s Los Angeles has been created beautifully, with plenty of subtle – and not so subtle – things to say about the way the world is today. The nuts political landscape in the States, climate change, and I’m sure if I actually understood how the entire city of Detroit went bankrupt a couple of years back, I’d get the point that was being made about the American auto industry. But as it is, I know our writer is poking at someone or some thing. I just don’t get what or who. What makes it great though, is that it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to get all the little nuances to thoroughly enjoy the film.
To say that Shane Black has found a nice soft chair right in the middle of his comfort zone would, without context, seem a little damning. But the fact is, he has long been the master of the buddy comedy, so he’s throwing the big punches that brought him to this fight and he’s throwing them perfectly. All those years hanging around the pros has given Mr. Black all the experience he needs and in only his third outing as a director has more than proven his ability to stand with the big boys. He delivers The Nice Guys with a precision of pace usually reserved for much more seasoned veterans, without compromising the story or the dialogue that once made him the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood.
The film doesn’t break any new ground, certainly not for its director. When you see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang‘s noir crime setting, The Last Boy Scout‘s ballsy teenage daughter and, frankly, every great buddy cop movie since 1987 – to name just a couple of the more obvious nods – The Nice Guys feels like you’re watching Shane Black’s greatest hits in one two-hour film.
But man, if you’re going to watch the best bits of someone’s Hollywood career, there aren’t many better to watch than his. I went in expecting a great film, well made, with a clever script and plenty of laughs – and that’s exactly what I got. A thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable film that I’ll gladly pay to go watch again.
“You want to bet against the housing market, and you’re afraid we won’t pay YOU?”
I’m not a smart guy. I have absolutely no idea what happened in the housing market crash of 2008 and the economic balls-up that followed. I know my hard-earned money suddenly became less valuable and that it was gonna be a few more years before I got to own my house; but outside of that, I am a blinkered, clueless idiot as far as the last few years on Wall Street are concerned.
So what I needed was someone to explain to me what the holy crap happened back then, without talking to me like a complete muppet.
The Big Short was just what I was looking for. The intertwining tale of a handful of financial experts who, through one means or another, figure out that the housing market and the credit bubble associated with it are in the verge of collapse and work on making themselves rich in the process. Based on a true story (again), Christian Bale is the real-life Michael Burry; a brilliant but eccentric hedge fund manager who has a penchant for predicting insane financial changes that no-one else can see. When he discovers that a lot of money can be made when this collapse, that no-one sees coming or believes will happen, he sets about betting against the housing market and making him, and his clients, a fortune.
Obviously, making waves this big attracts attention and Burry’s actions eventually get him noticed by a few others that look to cash in on the banker’s foresight and savvy. Catching the eye of Jared Vennet (Ryan Gosling – who also serves as a narrator of sorts), a trader smart enough to see that Burry is right and poised to make a fortune; he in turn mistakenly lets slip to a couple of traders who work for another hedge fund manager, Steve Carell’s Mark Baum, who also jumps in on the action. As the money hungry bankers are ridiculed for their predictions, more dodgy practices and money magic is discovered that takes the men’s predictions quickly from probable to inevitable and the men go all in; betting their reputations and other people’s fortunes against the incoming crash.
Do you want to know the thing about The Big Short that makes me love it so much? It isn’t the amazing cast. A cast that includes Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo and Marissa Tomei on top of those I’ve already mentioned that all chew the scenery up at any point they are on the screen; and it isn’t the direction from comedy veteran Adam McKay, a guy that can drag a laugh from almost anyone with his films – even if most of them do star Will Ferrell, I won’t hold that against him.
What this film has, much like Wall Street did but, say, The Wolf of Wall Street didn’t, was the ability to explain to me what was going on on-screen as it was happening. I learned a little bit and understood what was happening as it happened because the film let me understand it. More importantly, the book this film was based on was written by Michael Lewis; the same author that wrote the books that would later become Moneyball and The Blind Side. Much like the baseball drama and football biopic did before our film today, they explained what was going on without patronising me or making me feel like a complete imbecile; and that’s a miracle all on its own, especially since when it comes to finance, I am borderline retarded.
The Big Short is a surprisingly funny film that has a very serious message running through it. It’s a scathing look at the financial situation we all found ourselves in in the mid-2000’s and the people that put us there while simultaneously giving us that knew bugger all about what happened a lesson or two in the economics of stealing from the world. The film wonderfully balances the poking fun at the slew of true stories put to film recently with the stark warning that we will face another collapse if we don’t pay attention to the slick bastards in slicker suits.
This amazing film should be required viewing for anyone with a need to be able to spend the money in their wallets; it’s a harsh reminder of things of the past and a warning for our future. But just as important, at least as far as these last few paragraphs are concerned, is that it’s a brilliantly made film that kept me glued to the screen the entire time.
Lost River is an ambitious project, but ultimately a hollow, lifeless experience.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
I first started a new post on WordPress for this review on the afternoon of Saturday 18th April, shortly after the credits rolled on Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut. I then looked at the blank white box, paused for a second, looked straight down at the keyboard, paused again, then hit ‘Save Draft’ and decided I’d come back to it on the following day. “It’s the kind of film that needs mulling over first,” I explained to myself.
So, I came back to the draft the following afternoon, where I proceeded to then look at the blank box, scratch my head, then leave the tab open for most of the day without writing down a word. “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
In the intervening week I’ve been back to this review almost every day. Deleting bits, adding bits, rewriting huge chunks of it. Such is the kind of film that Lost River is that it’s taken me nearly two weeks to finish putting my thoughts into something vaguely intelligible. It’s not because I have so much to say about it, but quite the opposite. How do you write a review for a film that isn’t a just an image of yourself shrugging your shoulders?
Annoyingly, none of the alternatives immediately sprang to mind nor properly revealed themselves over the past thirteen days. Nothing that adequately explained exactly how I felt about the film quite as aptly anyway. Turning this review into a simple black and white “this bit is good, this bit is bad” conventional style post would be to paint too plain a picture of this ponderous, futuristic fantasy story.
It’s probably important to lay out some context at least before even attempting to dissect the individual elements of the neo-noir tale. What I can say straight off the bat is that it isn’t a good film. An ambitious one, highly influenced by Gosling’s work with directors like Nicolas Winding Refn and Derek Cianfrance, but lacking in the final execution of its concept.
It’s set in what appears to be the not-too-distant future, in a Detroit that was devastated by an apparent natural disaster or flood, much akin to certain parts of New Orleans post-hurricane Katrina. Billy (Christina Hendricks) and her sons Bones (Iain De Caestecker) and Franky (Landyn Stewart) remain behind as virtually everyone else gradually deserts the city. Bones spends his time looking for scrap metal to earn a pittance to help his mum save their family home. However, he soon learns to avoid his foe, the psychotic Bully (Matt Smith) who runs the slums, but he does make friends with Rat (Saoirse Ronan) who lives at home with her mute grandmother, played by the legendary Barbara Steele. With Billy struggling to pay her bills to Dave (Ben Mendehlson), the bank manager, he suggests she joins him at a bizarre violent nightclub show, before convincing her to work alongside Cat (Eva Mendes). Yeah, don’t worry, it is as weird, lucid and aimless as it sounds.
Let’s begin with the films key component: its director. Whatever the name Ryan Gosling means to you – whether it’s that kid from the Disney club, that good looking romantic film actor chap your girlfriend wishes you were, Derek Cianfrance’s apparent muse or the guy who stomped some bloke to death in that neon-soaked Nicolas Winding Refn movie – he’s one of the world’s most instantly recognisable film stars around today. Popular with critics and those in the business (receiving an Oscar nomination for Half Nelson) as well as more general film fans alike for the roles he’s played; as diverse as a cross-dressing manic potential-wife-killer in All Good Things, and presidential candidate George Clooney’s staffer embroiled in the dirty side of politics in The Ides of March. He’s young, famous, good looking and popular.
And he’s good at what he does. More than good. Great, even. He’s one of the most popular actors currently working and a major movie star for a reason. However, it’s perhaps to his credit in many ways that with his directorial debut, he resisted the temptation to cast himself in the lead role (or any role at all), as financially frugal as it may have been. Although clearly the project means a great deal to him, after all Gosling not only directed but also wrote and produced Lost River. If he were in any of the major roles, it probably would’ve ended up being another stick to beat him with. As we’ve seen other relatively young and well respected actors turn their hand to making movies after decades of starring in them, such as Joseph Gordon Levitt in Don Jon and Keanu Reeves in Man of Tai Chi, who have in turn cast themselves in a starring role, not everyone can get away with it.
The fact that Ryan Gosling is not acting in the film is not one of its problems. Instead, what for all intents and purposes ruins Lost River, leaving it as desolate and vacant as the Detroit it portrays, is its incredibly weak meandering plot. Characters are little more than one dimensional moving images, disappointingly wasting the talent of its cast. For example. casting Matt Smith as the menacing Bully was a risk that so nearly paid off, yet due to the shallow writing, leaves him as little more than a scissor-happy scally. Smith’s performance is unlike any I’ve ever seen from him before; certainly it’s a million miles away from the time lord he’s most famous for. But it just doesn’t work. Whether it’s due to his performance or an underwritten part is debatable.
The same could almost be said for every member of the cast. Ben Mendelsohn is without question the most talented member of the entire bunch, yet has barely enough to do other than act slightly odd, squandering away any gravitas or emotional depth he could have brought given a better opportunity. Much like Eva Mendes who could have been the star but is rather unceremoniously squashed into the background. Similarly, Christina Hendricks and Iain De Caestecker’s mother / son relationship was the epitome of lightweight. The best word I can think of to describe their appearances on screen together is “brief”. It’s rushed, pushed to one side, quickly skimmed through to get to more delicate images of brutal urban decay.
Which isn’t a problem strictly reserved for only this part of the film. Every line of dialogue is unnatural, which I know may seem unfair given it’s a neo- fantasy film, therefore of course it’s unrealistic. Right? Well, wrong. I’m afraid that doesn’t excuse the fact that no line is delivered in a convincing or believable manner. Stilted readings as if someone is holding up a cue card for them to read their bits from, akin to Marlon Brando in Superman, which is then cut down further in the edit so you get at most six or seven word sentences in two minute barrages between yet more (admittedly well shot) dreary bleak soulless landscapes.
Two weeks back, I thought Lost River was all right but nothing more, nothing less. Having now mulled it over, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to describe who would enjoy this or who it is meant for. Its lack of substance and nuance makes it too flimsy for an art-house crowd. The dissociated abstract nature leaves it too inaccessible for the mainstream audience. As unfortunate as it may be, it isn’t a surprise that Lost River has virtually bombed both financially and critically. If Gosling can find his own unique identity, use this project as a learning curve and come back stronger, there’s enough here to suggest it could lead to better things. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
Lost River may have dropped out of cinemas by now, but is available for rent on VOD and released on DVD at the beginning of June.
During October last year, we assembled a team of writers to put together five Decade In Horror articles during the build up to Halloween. It was a short mini-series; a kind of spin-off from our regular Decade In Film series, where we each chose our favourite horror film from the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s.
The reason we stopped at the noughties was because, well, quite frankly, we’re still currently in the 2010’s. We can’t exactly do a retrospective on a decade that hasn’t yet ended! Or…. can we? No, we can’t. But what we can do is party like it’s 2015.
By which I mean, re-assemble the squad and take a look back at the first half of the decade so far. In the five years from 2010-14, we’ve seen the likes of Gareth Edwards, Richard Ayoade, Paddy Considine, Joe Cornish, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and more all making their directorial debuts, as well as witnessing the birth of the super-blockbuster. Seven of the ten highest grossing films of all time were released during this past half decade. From genre-revitalising micro-budget Indonesian action films made by Welsh directors, to expanded cinematic universe’s, we’ve had it all. So, let’s start right at the beginning and see what Owen, Paul, Liam, Mike and Andrew have chosen for 2010.
“Listen, I didn’t wanna be somebody’s husband, okay? And I didn’t wanna be somebody’s dad. That wasn’t my… goal in life. For some guys it is – wasn’t mine. But somehow I’ve… it was what I wanted. I didn’t know that. And it’s all I wanna do. I don’t want to do anything else. That’s what I want to do. I work so I can do that.”
A couple of years back, there was this film I saw a trailer for in the cinema called The Place Beyond The Pines. Something about the look of the film, the way it was fixed on three different people whose lives were all intertwined, I just really, desperately wanted to see it. Unlike a great many other films I want to see that never turn up at my local Cineworld, this one bizarrely made it there. Huzzah! A screening… that’s at midday… in the middle of the week. Bummer.
I took a day’s leave from work with the sole intention of seeing The Place Beyond The Pines. It ended up being one of my favourite films of the year and consequently led to me almost immediately checking out director Derek Cianfrance’s previous film, Blue Valentine, the following day.
Well, wow. If The Place Beyond The Pines was strangely uplifting and optimistic in the most pessimistic and disheartening way plausible, then Blue Valentine was as depressing and heartbreaking in as magical and romanticised way possible. Detailing both the coming together of two people in love, jumbled up amongst the collapse of their marriage, all told in a non-linear way that constructs and deconstructs relationships in one fell swoop, it just absolutely blew me away.
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams were incredible, both nailing all aspects of their characters; their flaws, their quirks, their love and hate for one another. There’s a wildness in both of their performances that never feels constrained or restricted, instead making the moments that they express their love for one another seem genuine, as well as hammering home just how painful it is to see their situation forcing them further and further apart.
I think I said on the podcast at the time, as a story about falling into and out of love, about duty and responsibility, about simply being a fucking human, then it’s hard for any movie top something as devastatingly inspiring as Blue Valentine.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
Christopher Nolan is a director you don’t take for granted. He constantly innovates, he never rests on his achievements, strives to create a film that you will never forget. I’m not saying I’m a Nolan fan boy and there are a few films of his which I’m not that keen on. Yet, even in these films there are moments which leave you speechless because Nolan will push cinema to its limit, and that’s what makes him one of the most interesting and exciting directors we have today.
In 2010, Inception was a film which left a huge mark on me. This was and still is my favourite Nolan film. Yes, I even think it’s better than The Dark Knight (which is also pretty incredible). That said, from its incredible set pieces to a stunning score from Hans Zimmer (which for me is his finest cinema music to date), it just left me in awe of Nolan’s vision, his ability to ignite the imagination and create something this incredibly unique is extremely impressive. Is Inception Nolan’s homage to spy films? It is sort of, but it takes that element and just flips it on its head, because Nolan’s spies infiltrate dreams to access their victims secrets, none of this breaking into high security offices and photocopying a few documents, no that’s far too mundane for Nolan, he takes it to a whole new level. The set pieces in the film are incredible, well we are in dreams, where imaginations can run wild. Nolan shows his aptitude for action, his ability to excite and push you to the edge of your seat, the action in Inception is flawless, I do wonder what he would do if he ever directed a James Bond movie.
Yet one problem is it tends to over complicate matters and sometimes you are left scratching your head and wondering what is really going on. In fact Nolan does leave the ending open, which did bring groans from the audience and leaves you in that state of was it or wasn’t it all real. I do tend to go for the happier ending after the fade to black, but it was a hot topic of discussion.
The cast is incredible, Leonardo DiCaprio leads the stars in this film, and his work is outstanding in the film. He’s backed up by the brilliant Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and Ken Watanabe. Nolan brings out the best in his cast and they are all on top of their game.
by Mike Shawcross (@Shawky1969)
Late 2010 and a first visit to the London Korean Film Festival. A hidden gem on the calendar, that’s well worth looking out for each year. £10 gets you entry to a West End Premier, with free hospitality. Front row seats, an absolute skinful of Korean Soju (those little green bottles you see in every Korean film) and out walks director Kim Ji-Woon to present his latest (controversial film), I Saw The Devil, in all its uncut glory to an expectant and wildly appreciative audience.
The Korean revenge genre is one of my favourites, so to see a couple of Korean heavyweights in Lee Byung-Hun (A Bittersweet Life, GI Joe) and Choi Min-Sik (Oldboy !!!) team up with Kim Ji-Woon to have a crack at it, was bed wettingly excited for this.
It delivers in spades. It looks absolutely amazing, the cinematography is simply beautiful. It has all the hallmarks of a cracking Korean lark, the ridiculous tonal shifts, a shambolic police force, the eye rolling melodrama and plot holes you can drive a truck through. Throw in a completely over the top take on the genre and some of the nastiest violence ever committed to screen and we have ourselves a movie. The revenge on offer here…is different….darker….more brutal…
Kim Ji-Woon has almost killed this genre, there’s literally nowhere to go after this, he’s turned the dial up to 10, ripped it off and stamped on it. Everything he turns his hand to has been good to great so far, from a Western, to Drama, Comedy, Horror and even an Arnie action flick. He’s one of the greatest working directors of our age and this was the most fun anyone could possibly have had in a cinema in 2010.
by Paul Field (@pafster)
The story revolves around a group of obsessive drummers planning and performing a series of gigs. The problem is that their idea of a “Gig” is far closer to what the general public would call a terrorist raid.
Hot on their heels is Detective Amadeus Warnebring, a (figuratively and literally) tone deaf police officer with a hatred of music and musicians.
Warnebring is the black sheep of an extremely accomplished musical family. He comes from a long line of singers, musicians, conductors and composers. His younger brother was feted as a Wunderkind and is now a big star in the classical music world, so poor old Amadeus is treated as a bit of a dunce by most of his family and is more tolerated than loved. Only his mother shows any kind of real affection for him, and even that takes the form of a kindly patronisation.
Although essentially a surreal comedy, the film also has significant dramatic content and features several brilliant musical scenes. The group perform extremely complicated rhythmic pieces using a huge variety of objects, none of which would normally be considered musical instruments. Who knew that you could get a decent tune out of equipment as unlikely as; heart rate monitors, operating tables, money counting machines, bulldozers and even electric pylons?
Running under the surface of all the absurd humour and musical madness is a rather warm and tender love story. Quietly and subtly handled, it never threatens to derail the fun or get overly sloppy but it does add a welcome layer of true humanity to a group of people that could quite easily be seen as somewhat mechanical in their all consuming need to live life to the beat of a metronome.
There are a few moments that do stray perilously close to that fine line between madcap, surreal humour and just plain annoying. The humorous concept of Warnebring’s selective deafness does teeter on the edge of overuse in one of the most important scenes but, thankfully, just about manages to keep its balance.
This film is an expanded follow on from the excellent 2001 short Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, which is well worth seeing on Youtube. It is made by and stars the same group.
by Liam (@ElmoreLTM)
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Nothing gets the Oscar committee’s genitals tingling quite like a good, old fashioned true sports story. But what usually makes the better ones the best of the bunch is the part where the film isn’t really about that sport. From Pride of the Yankees all the way to this year’s Foxcatcher, the lives of its characters takes centre stage over whichever sport happens to be in the backdrop.
It’s one of my favourite things about The Fighter. The true story of champion boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward, isn’t really about boxing. In fact, the first hour or so is essentially Shameless with expensive actors. It’s a story about a down-trodden guy, who could be any guy, dragging his arse out of the sludge that he’s living in and trying to make things better for himself while his delinquent family are a constant weight around his ankles.
The beauty of these films is that they come packaged with outstanding performances. Both in front of and behind he camera. The Fighter revitalised David O’Russell’s career, giving him the start of a three film run filled with Oscar nominations (some more deserving than others). Most of The Fighter‘s nods were for its stars and deserving is definitely the word here. From Mark Wahlberg’s turn as struggling boxer Mickey Ward trying to make it big in a world that’s all but forgotten him. To Melissa Leo’s pathologically controlling, wannabe reality TV star matriarch. Everyone brings their best and we, the audience, are rewarded handsomely for their work.
Christian Bale’s performance as Mickey’s crack addicted, former boxing superstar brother, Dickie, is a career best and the greatest performance in the film. The insane weight cut that, while not The Machinist levels of grim, had to take a toll and that commitment shines from every frame he’s in. Galvanised when you see the short clip of the real Dicky at the credits and see just how well Bale plays him. I don’t think anyone could argue how much he deserved the Oscar he won for the role.
The Fighter is an emotional urban drama and a powerful underdog story all wrapped in a boxing film and it’s easily one of the greatest dramas ever. Not just 2010.
by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)
And there you go. No room for critically acclaimed movies such as the best picture winning The King’s Speech, The Social Network, Black Swan, 13 Assassins, Toy Story 3 or, perhaps most unbelievably of all, Piranha 3D. But that just goes to show how good a year that 2010 was. We’ll be back next week with the same crop of writers to pick the five undisputed (….) best films of 2011.
Ruddy hell, it’s only the Failed Critics back with another slice of digital broadcasting gold. This week we review the new Alan Partridge film, Alpha Papa, as well as other new releases in the shape of Only God Forgives, 2 Guns, and The Conjuring.
We also discuss Renny Harlin’s attempts to film Wikipedia’s most disturbing entry, James’ fancy dress habits, and another podcaster joins the growing swell of praise for Side Effects.
Join us next week for our review of Kick-Ass 2.
In honour of our main review, this week’s podcast is both fast (coming it at under an hour) and furious (well, one of us is a little peeved). We not only review the 379th film released this year starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (Fast & Furious 6), but James even recaps the series for all of you who have missed out so far. Apart from the really rubbish ones.
Owen and James then wax lyrical and slightly homoerotic about Ryan Gosling, and his brilliant performance in The Place Beyond the Pines. Steve is impressed by a little-heard of gem called The Man From Earth, and Gerry revisits the genius of Four Lions.
Somehow we also manage to fit in some news from the Cannes Film Festival, recommendations on what to watch this week, and probably insult another major portion of our listeners. We usually do.
Tune in next week as we induct Studio Ghibli into the Corridor of Praise.
Do you hear the critics sing?
Podding the thoughts of angry men,
They are the musings of a people who won’t watch Rock of Ages again,
When the bleating of the fool,
Echoes the bleating of the drunk,
There is podcast about to start when tomorrow comes!
That’s right, James has finally managed to persuade the critics back into the cinema to see another musical, and hopefully this time they won’t want to kill him afterwards. Also on our big return we review new releases Gangster Squad, The Sessions, The Impossible, and Quartet.
Join us next week as we review Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. The D is silent, the podcast won’t be…
You wanna know how to make The Untouchables for the so-called MTV Generation? They cast double Oscar-winner Robert De Niro as the bad guy; you cast double Oscar-winner Sean Penn. They have a dreamy Latino marksmen in the shape of Andy Garcia; you cast Michael Peña as a dreamy Latino marksman. And fuck it; get Ryan Gosling in as well. That’s the Hollywood way!
Back in our 2013 preview I asked if Gangster Squad was going to be “this generation’s The Untouchables or Dick Tracy”. Well, I didn’t expect them to answer so literally in the former. This film is essentially a remake in all but name. The city may be different, and under threat from a different historically-inspired gangster, but the main elements are all here.
Sean Penn stars as
Robert De Nero Mickey Cohen, a ruthless mob boss determined to run Los Angeles as his own private empire. The film opens on him torturing one gangster, and ordering another to tell Chicago what happened. It’s almost as if director Ruben Fleischer is flicking two-fingers at Chicago-based The Untouchables. This film is going to be bigger, better, and down-right nastier he seems to say. And it’s a bold statement.
Josh Brolin is
Kevin Costner AND Sean Connery Sgt. John O’Mara, one of the few good cops in the city, and the man chosen by Nick Nolte’s police chief to bring down Cohen’s Empire. Luckily at this point the film does strike out on its own a little. As O’Mara puts his team together, and they embark on their mission, this does appear to be a slightly different gangster movie to those that have gone before. O’Mara’s Gangster Squad don’t carry badges, and they don’t make arrests. This is guerrilla warfare played out on the streets of LA. And it’s actually a lot of fun.
A major element that sets Gangster Squad apart from its predecessors is its use of humour. The film has very funny moments, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering Fleischer’s previous work (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less). The comic relief does help to break up some pretty brutal scenes of violence, and stops it being as unremittingly bleak as Lawless was last year. Sadly though, the plot is inevitably drawn back to its inspirations, and far too often I watched events on screen thinking “oh, that’s just like in The Untouchables”.
One thing The Untouchables didn’t have though is Ryan Gosling. Once you get past his character’s name (Jerry Wooters) he is everything that is good about this movie. He oozes charm, and has great comic timing. His transformation from laid-back, ‘looking after number one’ cop to avenging angel may be a little unbelievable plot-wise, but he sells the hell out of it up there. His love interest is played by the always delightful Emma Stone; who, like Gosling, is yet to put a foot wrong in her Hollywood career. The film genuinely lights up when these two are on screen.
Fleischer has made an enjoyable and stylish film. It may lack the gravitas and emotional punch of L.A. Confidential, and is a little too derivative of previous portrayals of this fascinating era at times, but there’s enough humour and great set-pieces to make it worthwhile.
Gangster Squad is released on 10 January.
This week on the Failed Critics Review we look at the cop film that French Connection director William Friedken described as the “best movie about cops ever made”. Can James get over the found footage angle? Can Steve suggest a way he would have done it better? Can Gerry get around to seeing it? (No).
Also on this week’s podcast we look at James’ future wife Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone, and discuss films as varied as Network, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and The Devil’s Backbone.
Next week’s episode is the launch of the Failed Critics Hall of Fame, where we award some poor Oscar-less schmuck with some award I’ll try and rustle up on Photoshop.