Tag Archives: Sightseers

Failed Critics Podcast: Holy Folk! It’s Inside Llewyn Davis

Oscar Isaac in a still from Inside Llewyn DavisWelcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, and it’s a shorter one than usual as James had to shut up a lot more than usual due to a sore throat. We’re sure many of our listeners will appreciate this improvement.

We’ve only managed to get out and see one new release this week, but [SPOILER ALERT] it’s a great one. The Coen Brothers are back with Inside Llewyn Davis, an exploration of the search for fame in the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene. Also reviewed this week is the Aubrey Plaza-starring The To Do List, war photography documentary Which Way is the Front Line From Here?, and yet the final member of the team gets around to watching Sightseers.

We also discuss the furore over Quentin Tarantino’s leaked The Hateful Eight script (and the film’s subsequent shelving), and discuss our most anticipated films to come out of this year’s Sundance Festival.

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Best Film on TV: Christmas Special

With a festive season packed full of brilliant films on TV, Owen picks the cream of the crop for you over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day itself and Boxing Day. Whilst it’s 4 days shorter than the usual Best Film on TV article, it’s practically bursting with quality movies, starting with….

manchurian-candidate1Christmas Eve –

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) (ITV4, 12.10) – A favourite of ITV’s as it seems to be on at least once a month recently, it doesn’t make it any less worthy of your time. Starring Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and ol’ Blue Eyes himself Frank Sinatra, this psychological thriller about a returning POW who’s been brainwashed by the commie Koreans is as nightmarish as it is absorbing.

It’s a Wonderful Life (Channel 4, 13.10) – Whilst the proposed sequel is still some way off development, it wouldn’t be Christmas if this wasn’t on TV now would it? Last year we actually outlined exactly why you should see this in James and Kate’s 12 Days of Christmas series.

Fantasia (BBC2, 16.15) – Believe it or not, this is actually the terrestrial premiere of Walt Disney’s Fantasia, despite the fact it was released some 73 years ago now. Blending classical music with spell-binding, magical animation, it’s sure to draw in a huge number of viewers young and old to marvel at the splendour of classic Disney.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Film4, 00.45) – Adapted into a feature film by Finnish director Jalmari Helander from his own short film, this is a Christmas film like very few others! As a horror-comedy about a young boy that discovers the real Santa, an evil child stealing monster, is trapped in the mountains of his home town, it quite obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously! You will either love or hate it. If you stay up to watch it, it could even be the first film you see on Christmas day!

Children of Men (ITV4, 01.05) – Not Christmassy at all. In fact, I don’t even like Children of Men. However, director Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity made it into the top 10 of 2013 in the Sight and Sound list and was mostly enjoyed by our podcast team and by Carole, our roving reporter at the London Film Festival, so one of his earlier sci-fi films about a world where women have stopped giving birth may appeal to the cinephiles out there looking for something a little bleaker this Christmas.

theredshoes2Christmas Day –

The Red Shoes (BBC2, 08.50) – The best Powell & Pressburger film that I’ve seen, The Red Shoes is about a ballet.. but don’t let that put you off like it threatened to do to the uncultured swine that I am. It is truly excellent. The actual ballet scene itself is mesmerising. The hissing romance between its two superb lead performers, Moira Shearer and Marius Goring, stuns the film into one of the most enchanting and mesmerising I’ve ever seen. Atmospheric, beautiful, tense. amazing, spectacular, illuminating… I could go on!

Gone With The Wind (Five, 10.15) – The episodic structure to this epic Civil War southern romance story from 1939 starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh means you can quite easily dip in and out of it between your view getting blocked by nan standing in front of the tele and helping with the tidying up without really missing much. If you make it to the end in one sitting, complete with sitting through ad breaks, then frankly my dear, I’m proud of you.

Casablanca (Five, 14.35) – Another film I don’t care too much for but is hailed as a classic is Michael Curtiz’s Oscar winning war time political-romance drama Casablanca. Taking a look at the profile page for the film over on Letterboxd, only one reviewer has given it anything less than 5 stars; even they gave it 4.5 stars! That, my friends, is a rarity. I would wager it will be a while again before I see the likes of that. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow.. ok I’ll drop the cheesy quote-jokes.

Toy Story 3 (BBC1, 15.20) – Whilst it has been argued that Pixar are on the decline as of late, it’s hard to beat watching one of their films on Christmas Day. BBC seem to have developed a tradition of showing their movies on the 25th December, and this year they have decided to air the eleventh highest grossing film of all time. Indeed it was even nominated for an Oscar in 2011! Financial and critical success might suggest Pixar are far from a spent force, but nothing they have released since the third instalment of their Toy Story franchise has come close to matching its achievements.

The Muppets Christmas Carol (Channel 4, 16.35) – As I’m yet to pick a proper Christmas family movie, taking a peak at the schedule, it’s got to be the Muppets Christmas Carol. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you why you should be watching this. It’s plainly obvious.

Big Fish (Film4, 16.50) – Ewan McGregor plays the son of a dying father in this fantasy adventure film. I don’t tend to pick many Tim Burton films for these Best Film on TV articles, however I will make an exception for Big Fish as it’s the time of forgiving. It might just be the last good film he made.

Ghostbusters (5*, 16.55) – If Big Fish.. ain’t your thing.. what else should you watch? Ghostbusters!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (BBC3, 20.30) – Ah, good ol’ Indy. Reliable, entertaining Indy. Proper Christmas day evening adventure film Indy. If you, like many other incorrect people, consider Temple of Doom to be a bit shit, you could wait for The Last Crusade on Boxing day at 20.00… or even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is on BBC1 at 18.05 on Friday.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy (BBC1, 00.40) – With the release of Anchorman 2 last week, the long awaited sequel, BBC1 are giving you the chance to go back and watch where it all started. Arguably Will Ferrell’s greatest comedy creation pits the out-dated news anchor against an up-and-coming female counterpart. If you’ve had a bit to drink, just realised the time, and can stomach staying up just another hour and a half, then this is the perfect tonic.

The Host (2006) (Film4, 01.30) – As per my review on the latest podcast, this South Korean creature-feature about a mutant creature from the Han River in Seoul is tons of fun. Grotesque and hilarious, with a great cast of people recognisable from lots of other Korean films, such as Kang-ho Song (the vampiric priest in Thirst, and also in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance), and Doona Bae (who was also in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance as well as one of the best films of the year in Cloud Atlas), it is rightly regarded as one of the country’s best.

BenHurBoxing Day –

Ben Hur (More4, 11.45) – It’s just not Christmas without Ben Hur. Sword and sandal epics are what Christmas TV needs; Ben Hur, Spartacus, Cleopatra, Jason and the Argonauts, etc. It’s the time of year where it’s acceptable to watch an hour or so of a 3+ hour long film before giving in and changing channel, yet still feeling proud of yourself. Hopefully you time it just right so that you tune in just as the chariot race scene begins.

Paths of Glory (ITV4, 12.05) – Stanley Kubrick is a favourite of the Failed Critics team, even being inducted into our illustrious Corridor of Praise this year. His anti-war film from 1957 may be rather more tame than his more famous war film, Full Metal Jacket, but it is still just as impressive. It pits Kirk Douglas as the commanding officer, defending a group of soldiers facing a court martial. It’s bold and powerful, arguably the best of Kubrick’s pre-Strangelove films.

Fantastic Mr Fox (More4, 18.10) – Wes Anderson can be an acquired taste for some, but his quirky stop-motion animation based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book is a great film to wind down to after a long and tiring day of unwrapping presents, cooking a massive dinner, and pretending to be pleased at your annual gift set of Dove for Men from Boots.

Sightseers (Film4, 21.00) – As far as road trip films go, Ben Wheatley’s sinister and darkly comic story of a young couple from Redditch, serial killing their way through a caravan holiday, is one of the best, most disturbing and hilarious of its kind. It even made it onto James’ top 10 of 2012 list last year. If that isn’t recommendation enough, then I don’t know what is.

Horror of Dracula (BBC2, 00.10) – Remember when you were young and these Hammer Horror films used to be on TV really late at night? Me neither. I’m too young for that. But my dad assures me this was the case. Dracula, starring Sir Christopher Lee as in the titular role and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, is arguably one of their finest. Certainly one of their most iconic and justifiably so.

Failed Critics Podcast: Happy Birthday!

oldschoolAgainst the odds, and at times against our better judgement, the Failed Critics Podcast has made it to its first birthday! So light the candles, eat some cake, and dust off your beer bongs as we celebrate our first year together.

This week sees us look back on our reviews from the last twelve months with What We’ve Been Watching: Second Opinion. Films to get a second-look from our colleagues this week include Before Sunrise (which Gerry hated when he watched it last year) and (500) Days of Summer (which wound James up something chronic in 2012). We also get second opinions on Sightseers, Trollhunter, Rust and Bone, and The Divide. We also answer those burning issues we asked you to put to us, and get a shocking confession from Steve regarding Citizen Kane.

Join us next week for the retooled and rebooted ALL NEW Failed Critics Podcast. It’ll be the same contributors and sound quality, but we might out up some new curtains or something. Oh, and we’ll be reviewing Iron Man 3.

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2012: The Year in Film (in Music)

2012 was the first year in a long time where I didn’t compile a playlist of my favourite songs of the year. Either I’ve reached the age where I can’t hear ‘new’ music because nothing will ever top Mansun’s Attack of the Grey Lantern, or I’ve been too focussed on film to notice. I just haven’t had time to properly explore the great new music that is out there (although I did really enjoy the new Spector album). I did, however, listen to  more film soundtracks than ever before. I present a virtual mix-tape of my favourite musical moments in film during 2012.

holy_motors_accordn_sept12Let My Baby Ride – Doctor L (Holy Motors)
Otherwise known as ‘that awesome accordion song from Holy Motors’, which is exactly what I typed into Google to find out its proper name. One of the most exhilarating moments of Leos Carax’s bonkers masterpiece. Sadly there is still no sign of a Holy Motors soundtrack, so watching this on YouTube will have to do for now.

Tainted Love – Soft Cell (Sightseers)
One of the great advantages of discussing the best music used in film during the year is that a few stone cold classics will appear. This is one of those old songs given new life by a new context; this time by Ben Wheatley in his black comedy about a couple on a caravanning holiday who enjoy the thrills of serial killing. Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’ gave the film a beautifully dramatic climax, but Soft Cell’s electro classic is the song that everyone remembers from the start of the road trip.

Firework – Katy Perry (Rust and Bone)
Another song given new meaning by the context bestowed on it, this time by Jacques Audiard in my favourite film of the year. As well as being the soundtrack to a tragic accident involving a killer whale, it is used to even greater effect in one of the film’s most touching moments. Sadly not included on the official soundtrack, which means I’ve had to actually buy a Katy Perry track.

Skyfall – Adele (Skyfall)
You can judge a Bond film very quickly by the quality of its pre-credit sequence, and its theme tune. Skyfall delivered wonderfully on both counts, with Adele’s effort creating the best Bond theme since Goldeneye, and a throaty homage to Shirley Bassey at her best.

Jamming (live at the Jamaican Peace Concert) – Bob Marley (Marley)
I know this feels a little bit of a cheat, a  Bob Marley song from a documentary about Bob Marley. However, this version (as used in the film and on the official soundtrack) is taken from a pivotal moment in the life of Bob Marley; his return to Jamaica to headline the 1979 Peace Concert where he persuaded the two political rivals of the time to shake hands on stage. An incredible moment.

Who Were We – Kylie Minogue (Holy Motors)
Another entry for Holy Motors, this time performed by the wonderful Kylie Monogue and written by Neil Hannon (of The Divine Comedy) in full-on Jacques Brel/Scott Walker mode.

man or muppetMan or Muppet – Jason Segel & Walter (The Muppets)
The song that earned an Oscar for one half of The Flight of the Conchords, and the highlight of Brett MacKenzie’s soundtrack for one of the funniest films of the year. I have adopted it as my own personal theme tune.

The Concept – Teenage Fanclub (Young Adult)
The resurrection of this classic track from the vaults of Scottish indie-band Teenage Fanclub was made possible by writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, who used it to great effect in one of the most underrated films of the year. What made this song unforgettable for me was how integral it was to the film, and how it became the trigger for Charlize Theron’s character (in an incredible performance) to go fully off the rails.

Song of the Lonely Mountain – Neil Finn (The Hobbit)
Watching The Hobbit felt like slipping on a pair of comfortable slippers. I knew exactly what I was going to get, and I was very content to spend a few more hours in Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth. A major contribution to that was provided by the Howard Shore score, and in particular this song which combined the vocal talents of the wonderful Neil Finn with Shore’s recognisable music, and the sound of Dwarfs singing and hammering on metal.

As well as these individual songs, I cannot end my round-up of the great film music of 2012 without mentioning the incredible work of Alexandre Desplat. This year alone he has produced brilliant scores for Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Rust and Bone, and Rise of the Guardians. I cannot think of a more consistent brilliant composer working today.

Failed Critics Podcast: 2012 in Review/Failed Critics Awards

2012 in FilmWelcome to our first ever End-of-Year Review and the inaugural Failed Critics Awards! Get your tuxedo on, raid the free bar, and join Steve, James, Gerry, and Owen as they discuss their highlights from 2012, and their thoughts on the winners as chosen by contributors to Failed Critics. As well as the prestigious Top Ten Films of the Year, we also award the best performances, foreign-language film, documentary, and soundtrack of great year for film.

Not only that, but we also review our last batch of films for the year – including our thoughts on Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, Ang Lee’s sumptuous Life of Pi, and Ben Wheatley’s caravanning ‘comedy’ Sightseers.

We’ll be back on the 14th January with our review of Les Miserables – and we would like to wish all of our listeners a very happy New Year!

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The Failed Critics Awards – Editor’s Choice

The votes have been cast, and the polls are now closed for the first ever Failed Critics Awards. While you’re going to have to wait until New Year’s Eve for the results, James Diamond (Founder, Editor, and all-round Svengali of the site) presents his personal picks of 2012.

Best Films of 2012

Sightseers10. Sightseers

From the opening bars of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, to the epic climax featuring The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Ben Wheatley’s third feature is gloriously British and reminiscent of a time that many of us have long-forgotten. It’s also very, very funny – like Mike Leigh directing the League of Gentlemen.

9. Holy Motors

The few of you who caught Holy Motors will not have seen anything else like it this year, or possibly ever. Leos Carax’s surreal odyssey stars Denis Lavant as a performer travelling Paris by limousine and performing ‘assignments’ along the way – including kidnapping Eva Mendes and licking her armpits, singing with Kylie Minogue, and leading the finest marching accordion band committed to film.

8. Untouchable

The kind of film you imagine Hollywood screwing up royally (and we’ll know for sure when the inevitable remake appears), Untouchable tells the true story of a millionaire paraplegic and his assistant from the clichéd ‘wrong side of the tracks’. What lifted this film above my low expectations of a saccharine-saturated heart-warmer is its cutting and cynical humour and brilliant central performances (particularly Omar Sy as Driss).

berberian sound studio7. Berberian Sound Studio

This wonderful exploration of the use of sound in cinema reminded me of David Lynch at his creepy best. Toby Jones is sublime as the sound engineer summoned to Italy to work on the sound for the intriguing giallo film-within-a-film The Equestrian Vortex. Funny, and spine-chilling in equal measure.

6. Argo

Who would have guessed back when he was starring in Gigli that Ben Affleck would become one of the most reliable directors in the business. After serving his apprenticeship on low-key films like Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck nailed the classic Hollywood thriller with Argo – the ‘true story’ of the showbiz-facilitated extraction of US Embassy staff during the Iranian uprising. I’ve backed this as my outside bet for Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars, which guarantees it won’t win, sadly.

5. Avengers Assemble

In my humble opinion the best blockbuster of a year that saw the conclusion of the Nolan Batman series, the reboot of Spider-Man, and the return to the Alien franchise of Ridley Scott. Joss Whedon’s supergroup of a comic book adaptation improved on every single Marvel lead-up movie, and more. Featuring a typical Whedon script that managed to be funnier than most ‘comedies’ (I’m looking at you two in particular, The Dictator and Ted), as well as introducing a number of children to the year’s best insult (“you mewling quim”), Avengers Assemble has it all. Except a decent name in the UK. With Whedon already planning a sequel, and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang screenwriter) in charge of Iron Man 3, Marvel looks to have stolen a march on DC Comics who are frantically trying to pull together a Justice League film to retaliate.

4. Safety Not Guaranteed

Finally getting a UK release on Boxing Day, this smart and funny film from first-time director Colin Trevorrow is full of charm, humour, and no little romance. I saw it at Sundance London in May, and wouldn’t shut up about it for the following seven months. I challenge you not to fall in love with Aubrey Plaza as Darius, the magazine intern who is investigating a small ad that simply reads:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

The man who placed the advert is seemingly dangerous loner Kenneth (Mark Duplass), and the resulting film is part-adventure/part-romance in true 1980s Amblin style.

3. The Imposter

This is one of those documentaries that hammers home the cliché that truth really is stranger than fiction. It tells us the story of a young French man who impersonated a missing 13-year-old boy from Texas, ensconcing himself within the family home and their community with tall tales of being trafficked by the military. What makes this film more than a weird Channel 5 documentary is its innovative use of recreated flashbacks and, most importantly, interviews with the people at the centre of this strange situation – including the con-man himself. A true story that plays out like a Coen Brothers thriller, this film really has everything.

2. Amour

Michael Haneke’s second Palm d’Or-winning film is a brutal study of the inevitability of death, ever-so-slightly tempered by a wonderful portrayal of octogenarian love. With his trademark long-takes allowing space for the incredible performances of Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant to breathe, Heneke has created a near-perfect film that immerses the viewer into a world more than the technical wizardy of 3D and 48fps could ever hope to. As patrons left the screening I attended no-one wanted to speak to each other. The silence was a sign of the sheer power of this film.

rust-and-bone1. Rust and Bone

Beaten by Amour at Cannes, and unlikely to renew battle at the Oscars after France nominated Untouchable for the Foreign Language award, at least Rust and Bone director Jacques Audiard can take consolation in grabbing the number one spot on this list. I fell in love with this film back in November, and I have struggled to communicate exactly why since. I mean, it’s the story of a killer-whale trainer who loses her legs in a tragic accident, and her heart to a drifter and single parent who finds his niche in bare-knuckle boxing. It sounds ridiculous, but it is an incredible study of romance, and the importance of finding ‘the one’. Marion Cotillard is incredible, but Matthias Schoenaerts holds his own as her extremely flawed lover. Yet another brilliant Alexandre Desplat score (surely the best composer working in cinema right now) is backed by an eclectic soundtrack, with an unbelievably moving use of Katy Perry’s Firework. Honestly.

I’ve seen 75 films so far this year, so some great films were always going to miss out, and the following were very close to making my top ten.

The Muppets – A wonderful mix of the anarchic Muppet humour, the charm of Jason Segal and Amy Adams, and the brilliant songs of Brett ‘Flight of the Conchords’ McKenzie. The most fun I’ve had in a cinema for years.

Shame – The second Steve McQueen/Michael Fassbender collaboration, I enjoyed this even more than Hunger. A fascinating study of addiction, with plenty of The Fass and Carey Mulligan on show for those who are interested in that kind of thing.

The Raid – Quite literally the best pure-action film I’ve seen since Hard Boiled. The action world has a new star in Iko Uwais.

Skyfall – After the mess that was Quantum of Solace, this was a welcome return to form for 007. Equally influenced by the TV series Spooks and Home Alone, it featured the best Bond villain in years.

Holy Motors Denis LavantBest Performance

Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) and Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)

Best Soundtrack

I can’t choose between three very different soundtracks. Rust and Bone for its fantastic score and eclectic track selection; The Muppets for the best original songs in the cinema this year; and Searching for Sugar Man for introducing me to the wonderful story and music of Sixto Rodriguez.

Biggest Surprise

I have spoken about Matthew McConaughey’s rebirth as a credible actor at length, so I’ll have to give this jointly to 21 Jump Street and Goon for being far funnier (and more sweet and charming) than Ted or The Dictator.

Worst Film

This Means War was an abomination with even Tom Hardy looking confused. Dark Shadows though, was the film that made me loudly and involuntarily exclaim “oh, for fuck’s sake!” in a reasonably busy cinema.

The Failed Critics Awards will be presented during the Failed Critics End-of-Year Podcast Special.