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Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 6 – June: Electric Boogaloo

Following on from last month’s article, Owen continues his ongoing year in review series by reviewing the films he’s seen in June. As with each of the previous articles in the series, the month will be broken down by week, with a review of one arbitrarily chosen film seen during each period.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

delta forceI thought football was supposed to be over for the summer? The World Cup was last year, the Euro’s are next year. The season ended in May and yet somehow I seem to have spent so much time being disappointed with the England U21 side out in the Czech Republic and cheering on the women’s team over in Canada. I even stayed up until 3am watching football! This isn’t meant to happen. At this time of the year, it’s only supposed to take up half an hour of your day. Reading the transfer gossip columns over lunch, guffawing at Twitter rumours about Pogba to Man City, Angel Di Maria to Barcelona, or famous baldy Gervinho to Al Jazira including £85k per week wages, his own private beach and personal helicopter…

Hell, even two of the films I’ve watched in June have been football related. However, I did manage to squeeze both of them into the same day’s viewing so in reality they didn’t take up too much time away from other, proper, serious films. Like the myriad of Chuck Norris movies and micro-budget horrors listed below. Ahem.

Coupling these unexpectedly exciting international football tournaments and hilarious football transfers (Spurs mugging some Chinese team off by selling Paulinho for £10m?!) with new seasons of Hannibal and True Detective starting, plus the last few episodes of Game of Thrones and various other TV shows, I’m as surprised as anybody (probably, er, more than anyone else I guess) that I’ve actually watch so many films last month. Especially as quality seems to have gone completely out of the window in place of quantity, all thanks to a certain documentary. But I’ve tried to pick out a few of the more interesting movies seen lately to talk about below.


Week 1 – Monday 1 – Sunday 7 June 2015

Monday – Kung Fury (2015), San Andreas (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Spy (2015); Thursday – The Redwood Massacre (2015); Friday – Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Fist of the North Star (1986); Saturday – COBRA (1986); Sunday – The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

cobraEight films, five of which were released this year, including three cinema trips, plus two films from the year I was born and one classic 80’s comedy (that Steve recently revealed he has somehow never seen before despite it being on TV constantly.) As you can tell, I started off June with a bit of a mixed bag. A neat little indie film, a couple of decent comedies, a long boring blockbuster and a classic Sylvester Stallone 80s crime thriller released in the UK 10 days before I was born. I’m not quite sure what it was I was expecting from Cobra. It’s just one of many blurays on a Stallone box-set I own, it looked kinda cheesy but was fairly short so I stuck it on late one Saturday evening after Barcelona battered Juventus in the Champions League final (yep, more football). I don’t know whether it was due to a combination of the beer in me and sleep deprivation, or what, but man it was so much fun. From the moment Lt. Cobra rocks up in his first appearance with a hugely inappropriate muscle car and ‘AWSOM 50’ license plate, proceeding to take out the crazed gunman inside the supermarket delivering the one liner “you’re a disease, and I’m the cure”, I knew it was going to be a film I’d love. Sly is effortlessly cool as the policeman personally protecting a witness from the New World crime wave. I can’t believe I’d never seen it before but will absolutely be watching it again. And again. And again.


Week 2 – Monday 8 – Sunday 14 June 2015

Monday – Insidious (2010); Tuesday – Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013); Wednesday – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2015); Thursday – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2015), SAFETY LAST! (1923)Friday – The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959); Saturday – Jurassic World (2015); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

safety lastIt was bitterly sad news on Thursday 11 June as the iconic Sir Christopher Lee passed away. I knocked up a quick article highlighting some of my favourite performances of his and remembered I’d never seen The Hound of the Baskervilles before. In short: it was fine, not going to make me re-think my list, but Lee and Cushing together were absolutely brilliant. The best film I watched this week was actually the Electric Boogaloo documentary about Cannon films, but I’ve already written a review of that (and you should go watch it right now!) However, the film I’m actually going to talk about is the classic Harold Lloyd silent comedy, Safety Last!, which I saw at the Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford with a score performed by Unsilent Movies live in the cinema. It was immensely entertaining; both witnessing this unbelievably talented duo keeping beat with every movement on screen, as well as the movie itself. I’ve confessed many times before that I like watching the odd silent film, but when it comes to silent comedies, I’m a little out of touch. Chaplin is pretty much my only point of reference. I’ve not seen any Laurel & Hardy, for example. The only Buster Keaton film I’ve seen (The General) had just one scene that made me laugh. Nevertheless, I genuinely found that the quality of the gags and humour in Safety Last! matched the joyful experience I was having at the UPP. The plot was simple enough to allow for some fantastical scenarios to occur, as Harold Lloyd moves to the city to get a good enough job to impress his sweetheart back home in the country, pretending to have a better job than he actually has. It’s constant gag after gag after gag, but each one is so well crafted that even now, 92 years on, you can still admire them and, more importantly, laugh at them. I guess you could say that it’s timeless. And yes, that is a shoe-horned in pun on the film’s most famous scene, that doesn’t really work. No, you shut up.


Week 3 – Monday 15 – Sunday 21 June 2015

Monday – Weaverfish (2015), Over The Top (1987); Tuesday – American Ninja (1985); Wednesday – La Grande Illusion (1937); Thursday – Invasion USA (1985); Friday – Dragon Lord (1982); Saturday – Gascoigne (2015), UNITED PASSIONS (2015); Sunday – Mr Holmes (2015)

united passionsThis is possibly only the fifth time this year that I’ve actually watched at least one film every day for an entire week. Despite that, the film I’m going to talk about is probably the least deserving of any minor publicity my reviews might bring. In fact, have we ever talked about a film on Failed Critics more obsessively than United Passions? I suppose Star Wars gets a mention every so often when Steve and I are in full-on argumentative mode. Kill Keith lingered like a chip van outside of an inner-city school at lunch time, refusing to go away despite repeated attempts to get rid of it. But this God awful piece of FIFA propaganda, this slimy, abhorrent garbage, this offensively obnoxious drivel, this nauseating, badly directed, badly written, badly acted detestable xenophobic filth just won’t leave us alone. I’ve listed the release year for the movie as 2015, but if this ever sees wide distribution in the UK, I will eat Sepp Blatter’s oversized hat off of his humongous head, once he’s finally extracted it from his fetid engorged colon. I’m aware that you have to allow artistic license for these kinds of biopics, so most of the film is based on fictional events (or at least highly exaggerated events), but to portray Sepp Blatter as a virtually infallible hero of world football, protecting it from the corruption all at the same time as being solely responsible for the promotion of the women’s game and saving Africa, it’s a fucking embarrassment. £16m of FIFA’s money was pumped into this smug circle jerk. Sixteen. Millions. Pounds. That’s £16m that has been taken out of the game, money that could be put back into developing football at a grass roots level in countries that would benefit from the investment. Instead all of it is splurted over Blatter’s scrotum-textured face like a FIFA-backed money-bukake. His resignation from FIFA cannot come soon enough, but knowing what a cowardly conniving bald fat twat he is, based on his real-life exploits not just those of Tim Roth’s portrayal in United Passions (Tim-bloody-Roth, what the fuck are you doing for crying out loud) he’ll no doubt renege on his promise, stand for re-election and miraculously win it it. Again. Ugh.


Week 4 – Monday 22 – Sunday 28 June 2015

Monday – Zombeavers (2014); Tuesday – The Terminator (1984); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Delta Force (1986), Pet Semetary (1989); Saturday – TWIN WARRIORS (AKA TAI-CHI MASTER) (1993); Sunday – Minions (2015), Through The Lens (2015)

tai chi masterHaving seen The Terminator for the second time this year (albeit on this occasion on the big screen for the very first time) I thought I’d give you all a break and talk about something else. In the first ever article I wrote for this series back at the end of January, I mentioned how I’d seen a boat-load of kung-fu movies. Well, it seems that itch returned as I sought out a few more in the latter part of June. Partly because after trying to think of my four favourite actresses for a Twitter trend that’s taking over my feed lately, I named one of them as Michelle Yeoh. It then got me thinking how few of her lesser known films I’ve actually sat down to watch during these recent binges. A quick trip to America to search for Yeoh’s films on Netflix revealed a 1993 martial arts action-comedy co-starring Jet Li that was quite highly rated at 4.5 stars. Whilst Yeoh herself is more of a side character who helps out Jet Li’s banished monk-turned-political rebellion activist after his long-time friend’s lust for power drives them apart, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s occasionally funny, has some excellently choreographed combat scenes with both Yeoh and Li involved in some high-wire stunts. It even possesses quite a well crafted morality play throughout the plot. The sides of good and evil, right and wrong, friendship and enemies etc with not all of the important scenes involving fisty-cuffs. It’s balanced well enough to keep you engaged even when there’s no wave after wave of useless goons being pummeled by Jet Li’s furious fists…


Week 5 – Monday 29 – Tuesday 30 June 2015

Monday – The Last Dragon (1985), The Big Sleep (1946); Tuesday – Police Assassins (AKA Yes Madam) (AKA  Huang jia shi jie) (1985)

the last dragonOn Monday, I had the evening to myself as my wife was away. I played a bit of Star Fox 64 on my new 2DS (it’s still rock solid) before spending a few hours watching two and just-over-a-half films. Don’t get too excited. I’m not going to name the ‘half a film’; not solely because I didn’t make it to the end before switching it off, but because it was a preview screener for review and don’t think it would be fair to name-and-shame unless I’d seen it all the way to the end. Who knows? That last 20-25 minutes could’ve been spectacular. Alas, of the hour and a bit I did see, it was, without doubt (bearing in mind I also watched United Passions last month) one of the worst, most incoherent, horrendously edited, joyless, completely devoid of any redeeming qualities and downright appalling movies I have ever seen in my entire life. To be fair to it, I personally think that werewolf films are the most difficult Horror sub-genre to tackle. They’re very rarely done right, particularly if you have no money for decent CGI or proper practical special effects. An American Werewolf In London might be one of my favourite films, but An American Werewolf In Paris ain’t. Ginger Snaps, Curse of the Werewolf and Dog Soldiers = good. Ginger Snaps Back, Never Cry Werewolf and Strippers vs Werewolves = bad, bad and ‘just fuck off’ bad. This particular screener for an as-yet unreleased werewolf film was just gibberish. If there was a main character, protagonist or antagonist, I couldn’t tell you. It seems stuck between avoiding replicating PG-rated teen romance dramas, and copying violent, more explicit OTT Japanese animes, whilst trying to construct an appalling superhero origin movie. Random characters would occasionally have exposition read out during mid-scene narration sequences. Think of the line “Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home” from Airplane! and you’re half way there. In some scenes, the actual conversational dialogue was inaudible due to the overbearing dubstep background music, yet explosions and sound effects were ear-bleedingly loud to the point that Michael Bay would’ve been proud. I genuinely rued that wasted hour of my evening. It was so bad I actually began questioning whether or not I even enjoy watching movies any more… before putting on The Big Sleep and realising I do enjoy films, just not this particular one. To make matters worse, I was actually going to talk about The Last Dragon in this review, Mo-Town’s funky kung-fu film about a (seemingly autistic) virgin dubbed Bruce Leroy, with a bordering-on-racist phony Asian accent, despite being from Harlem, who fantasises about achieving a “glow”. Ah well. Maybe I’ll get around to that should I ever rewatch it in the next 6 months. (Spoiler: that’s very, very unlikely.)


And that’s it, I guess! I’ll be back around about the same time next month to round up the stuff that I’ve been watching throughout July. No doubt more kung-fu films, a couple of classic movies and some 80’s cult Cannon films. As ever, if you’ve any comments to make on the films I’ve talked about (or not talked about) above, leave them in the box below or send me a tweet.

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Owen Hughes: 2014 Reviews Part 2 – Jul-Dec

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

Following part one of my year in review articles where I picked out my favourite first-time watch of each month in 2014 (excluding new releases) from January to June, it’s about time I got my arse in gear and wrote up my second and final piece. So here it is! Starting with July….


the great white silenceJuly – Samaritan Girl (2004); THE GREAT WHITE SILENCE (1924); Blue is the Warmest Color (2013); Forgotten Men (1933); Peeping Tom (1960); Excision (2012); Red Sorghum (1987); Amores Perros (2000); Splinter (2008); Audition (1999)

Originally released in 1924 but recently restored by the magicians who work at the BFI to a gloriously high definition standard, The Great White Silence uses real footage from Captain Scott’s two-year long ill-fated journey to the South Pole aboard the Terra Nova ten years earlier. Nevertheless, it is as provocative and inspirational now as I’m sure it would’ve been to those viewing it 90 years ago. I was completely taken by surprise with it. In fact, I’ve no memory of even adding it to my LOVEFiLM rental list! However it got there, I’m glad it did because I have never been taken aback by the breathtaking beauty in a documentary quite like I was with this. I had no idea that this 100 year old footage even existed, let alone that the expedition was immortalised by Herbert G. Ponting. It was absolutely fascinating to see Captain Scott and his crew trampling snow underfoot that had never seen human life before. The optimism in the air is captured tremendously well considering there wasn’t even any sound recorded, just film footage. Unsurprisingly, that does give proceedings a rather ominous tone given the fact we know what ends up happening to Scott and his four friends. It’s just a tremendous documentary and an incredible restoration to boot.


secret sunshineAugust – House (1977); Revenge of the Ninja (1983); The Battery (2013); American Movie (1999); The Battle of Algiers (1966); Doomsday Book (2012); Oasis (2002); SECRET SUNSHINE (2007); A Separation (2011); Pastoral: To Die in the Country (1974)

With a week in the middle of the month where I was away, and with FrightFest leading me to catching up on a few new-release horrors, I saw very few first time watches that weren’t actually released in 2014. However, for my birthday I did receive an imported copy of Lee Chang-dong’s (the guy who made Peppermint Candy, which I talked about in Part 1) Secret Sunshine. Starring one of my favourite Korean actors, Song Kang-ho, in a supporting role and Jeon Do-yeon absolutely batting it out of the park in the lead role, it’s one of the most moving and genuinely heart-touching performances I have ever seen. After moving from the big city to her recently deceased husband’s small home town in order to start over, and then suffering further tragedy as her only son goes missing, you are completely dragged under the waves of emotional outpouring with no strength to fight against the tides. As she’s constantly battered by family and friends, by well wishers and local creeps, in her fragile state she reaches out for something to soothe her pain. When she finds it in the communal church going community, Lee Chang-dong attempts to unearth exactly why religion and faith can protect someone from their grief, whilst all the time analysing and exploring the fragility of such a thing. It was such a traumatic watch for me that I literally had to take a break in the middle of the movie to go and get a cup of tea! But like with Peppermint Candy, like Poetry, Green Fish and like Oasis (which I also watched for the first time in August), it’s the complexity of the narrative interwoven with multiple layers of emotional depth that leave such a mark on the viewer and why even after pausing for a moment, I had to go back and finish the film. Alas, it was the last film of Lee Chang-dong’s I had left to watch, and it has left a hole in my cinematic heart because I know there’s no more feature length films directed by him out there left for me to consume.


ordetSeptember – American Mary (2012); The Importance of Being Earnest (2002); The Breakfast Club (1985); An Education (2009); The Midnight Meat Train (2008); Lord of the Flies (1963); ORDET (1955); Le Jour se lève (aka Daybreak) (1939); Potpourri (2011); Happiness: The Himalayan Boy and the TV Set (2013)

Released in the US as ‘The Word‘, Ordet is Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s only financially and critically (upon initial release) successful film in his entire canon. Whereas something like The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) may be one of my favourite ever films, as it is for a lot of other people too, it was a financial flop due to the surrounding controversy and lack of distribution / censorship resulting from that. His films were not always immediately accepted by critics, either. Vampyr was famously booed at festivals and became one of the leading factors in his nervous breakdown. However, back in September, you would not have heard me booing him nor his work as I became utterly engrossed with this extraordinary story. Much like Secret Sunshine come to think of it, the key aspect seems to be one of the human will power and ability of the mind, versus that of faith and religion. It tells the tale of three brothers, their devout father and Inger, married to one of the brothers who is agnostic, in a small 1920’s farming community. The youngest brother plans to marry a girl from another local “rival” community. The final brother is called Johannes, who is the most interesting character in the film by far. He used to study religious texts but has gone slightly insane and now thinks he’s Jesus Christ. As a film, it’s less about a story and more of a naturalistic look at people; how family and religion and faith all come together and what that means to different people. It may have a rather tepid pace, but this only forces you to think for yourself about what’s going on, about seeing beyond what’s there on screen, and look deeper into it. Of the five Dreyer films I’ve seen, it’s certainly the closest to bettering The Passion of Joan of Arc that he came.


corman's worldOctober – The Masque of the Red Death (1964); A Bucket of Blood (1959); The Fly (1986); The Fall of the House of Usher (1960); Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966); CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (2011); Fright Night (1985); The Intruder (1962); Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Seeing as how I’ve already written a lengthy article chronicling my attempts to watch a horror film every single day throughout October in my Horrorble Month piece, I don’t think there’s much point repeating myself! Suffice to say, I discovered during those 31 days leading up to Halloween that I am an enormous fan of Roger Corman. After inducting myself to his work primarily via Vincent Price when researching films for the Decade In Film: 1964 article, I became fascinated by him. At some point during the month I was recommended the documentary Corman’s World, which had as profound an effect on me as I think Life Itself appears to have done for Callum. Quite rightly a hero to many thanks to his plethora of b-movies, both those directed and the hundreds he produced, to fans and colleagues alike (indeed, Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Peter Fonda, Dick Miller etc all pay tribute to him in the documentary). The ambition and drive that Roger Corman has is infectious and an inspiration. If you want to make a movie, then do it. Don’t wait for somebody to tell you that you can, or that you’re good enough. If you’re prepared to work hard and if you are talented, then you can make it. Eventually. Maybe.


nashville_b3.tifNovember – Life is Beautiful (1997); NASHVILLE (1975); Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988); My Bloody Valentine (1981); Creepshow 2 (1987); Panic Room (2002); Miller’s Crossing (1990); Monkey Shines (1988); Black Rain (1989); The Mummy (1959)

I did not do it! I did not pick The Room after Carole made us watch in for the podcast! I didn’t! It’s bullshit. I did not! Oh, hi folks. November was not a fantastic month for first time watches for me (excluding 2014 releases, of course). Barely any of those listed above scored any more than 3.5 stars out of 5. Well, excluding the Robert Altman directed, Joan Tewkesbury written musical drama Nashville, that is. As anyone who has read our Meet the Critics page will be aware, I bloody hate musicals. Even more so when it is essentially country music. To give a little bit of context as to why I ended up watching this; for much of November, my internet was down. This meant I finally had to open that envelope from LOVEFiLM (yes, it’s a perennial problem that I leave them on the side unopened for up to 6 weeks at a time before bothering with them) and put on the three hour long DVD. After 20 minutes in, I really wanted to give up on Nashville. It just wasn’t winning me over, I hated the music, it seemed completely devoid of plot and interesting characters, and was so, so slow. Even 20 minutes from the end, despite a vast improvement, I was still checking the digital display on my blu-ray player, trying to work out how long was left. And then…. it ended. And I was gutted. Quite unaware of exactly what had happened, it seems that despite my protestations at terrible country music, an inordinate run time and a lack of uniquely interesting characters, I was actually gutted that Nashville had finished. So I sat there, I thought about it, and came to the conclusion that actually, I had enjoyed it. More than enjoyed, I had really, really liked it. I realised that the character is the place, and the people, and the music, and all that it entails. The story is the simple story of life. Of celebrity, of love, of exploitation, of triumph, humiliation, of belonging, of culture, of family… of Nashville. It wasn’t just a well acted and well shot film. It was a key hole and I had been peering through it solidly for 160 minutes, confused, enthralled and unaware.


3-ironDecember – Brother (2000); Bait (2012); Skeletons (2010); Afflicted (2012); Labyrinth (1986); Willow (1988); Scrooge (1951); The Coast Guard (2002); L.A. Confidential (1997); 3-IRON (2004)

December became mostly a month of fantasy films. After watching the entire extended edition Lord of the Rings trilogy, and re-watching the two Hobbit films in preparation for The Battle of the Five Armies in November, I ended up ploughing through films like Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Willow, Legend, Krull and so on. Yet, it wasn’t any of these that were my favourite first time watches during December. In fact, towards the very end of the month, in that gap between Christmas and New Year, I watched a boat load of Kim Ki-duk movies. Moebius, his entirely dialogue free story of a boy whose mother cuts his penis off in his sleep and eats it in a revenge attack against her husband/his father for sleeping around, which is as weird as it sounds, ended up making my top 10 films of the year list when submitting my votes in the Failed Critics Awards. I already liked his films like Pieta and probably his most famous work Spring Summer Fall Winter… And Spring. Yet, I had a few movies on my DVD shelf that were unwatched and what ended up becoming my favourite films of his (and of the whole of December), watched on the penultimate day of the year, was 3-Iron. Whilst nowhere near as bizarre as Moebius, or even Pieta, it was even better. The plot begins following a young man who appears to reside in the shadows (metaphorically speaking), breaking into the houses of people who are away from their homes and spends the night there. He does a few domestic chores, takes a few photos of himself around the place, that sort of thing. It’s all a bit creepy, but ultimately harmless. Upon entering one home he assumes is unoccupied, he ends up meeting Lee Seung-yeon, who appears to be in an abusive relationship. I say “appears” because neither Lee Seung-yeon nor Lee Hyun-kyoon have any dialogue. At all. The message seems to be that love can transcend language. What you feel is not restricted to the sounds that you can make with your mouth. It’s the way that what’s unsaid is actually what’s being whispered the loudest that makes 3-Iron his most beautiful, soft and haunting film. The final 5 minutes are probably the best thing he has committed to film in his entire career.


And that’s it! My favourite 120 non-2014-release first-time-watches of each month from last year. With a bit of luck, 2015 will be just as consistent with each new discovery. Thanks for reading!