Tag Archives: Speed

Failed Critics Podcast: The Luminous Critics

The-Neon-Demon-Elle-Fanning

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Failed Critics Podcast, where hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by special guest Paul Field to tackle a few new releases (and one not-so-new release).

One new release that isn’t reviewed (despite what was suggested on last week’s podcast), due to an administrative cock-up of gargantuan-Stay-Puft proportions, is Ghostbusters. Sorry about that. You’ll just have to tune in again next week.

However, instead, Owen and Steve strived to stay awake long enough during the slog that was The Legend of Tarzan in order to share their thoughts with you all, whilst Paul survived an 80-mile round-trip specifically to see Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest divisive feature, The Neon Demon.

Elsewhere this week:  Steve takes a nostalgia trip all the way back to the mid-90’s for The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down or Speed Up Fast Enough To Escape the Simpsons Meme (aka Speed);  Paul digs out the best fan-fiction he can find after watching Slash at the Munich Film Festival (and by “best”, he means “smuttiest”);  and Owen endures the micro-budget Amish horror/thriller/mystery/psychological/thing, The Harvesting. Unfortunately for Steve and Paul, it didn’t come with a salad bar and free refills.

The quiz this week was utter chaos – this time thanks to Steve, not Owen! But topical chats were had about Sulu’s sexuality in Star Trek Beyond and the process of delaying or renaming films / TV shows after an unfortunately-timed national tragedy has occurred.

We’ll be back next week to definitely (definitely) review Ghostbusters. Definitely.

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A Decade in Film: The Nineties – 1994

In the latest entry to our Decade in Film series, Kate takes a look back at her favourite films released 20 years ago. A year so good that none of Jim Carrey’s 3 classic comedies, Tom Hanks’ most celebrated role nor the most expensive movie ever made (at the time) could squeeze into the top five. That’s how good a year it was. Want to know what was better? Read on…

by Kate Diamond (@katediamond)

5. The Lion King

LION KING SCAR

“Meticulous planning tenacity spanning
Decades of denial is simply why I’ll
Be king undisputed respected, saluted
And seen for the wonder I am”

The current widespread hysterical hype over Ice Princess romp Frozen? That was the UK in the autumn of 1994 with The Lion King. OK, that was me in the autumn of 1994 with The Lion King. I’m a Pride Rock obsessive. Though even casual observers would have to admit that this was the last great Disney film for a while. Possibly even until Elsa & Anna came along some twenty years later. (Full disclosure? I prefer Tangled.)

A Hamlet-esque tale of elephant graveyards, laughing in the face of danger, and grub; in which Jeremy Irons steals the show entirely as the delightfully brutal Scar. From the sublime (the wonderful Circle of Life opening sequence) to the ridiculous (I Just Can’t Wait To Be King: worst animation ever), it’s a true musical feast – picking up the Academy awards for both original score and original song. Although I think we can all agree that the harrowing stampede scene should never have been granted a U rating.

4. Speed

SPEED

“Cans! There was no baby, it was full of cans!”

While the imdb ‘turned down the part of Annie’ list features almost every actress in Hollywood, the relatively unknown Sandra Bullock cracked on and actually passed her bus driving licence for this role. Who’s laughing now, Sarah Jessica Parker? Keanu Reeves is our, let’s not beat around the bush here, protagonist DREAMBOAT. The white t-shirt, the cropped hair, the monotonous emotionless line delivery – I was 14, and I’d never known love like it. Support comes from Jeff Daniels as the loveably loyal partner, and Dennis Hopper as the wronged ex-cop with a detonator, and a penchant for pop quizzes.

The somewhat ill-advised tagline for Speed was ‘get ready for rush hour’. Which, on a bus set to explode if it drops below 50mph, would have made for a pretty short movie. Instead this is 116 minutes of high octane elevator shaft, subway and bus jumping drama. And there’s even time for a little bit of romance at the end. My brother met his missus on a bus, and it wasn’t nearly as exciting as this.

3. Clerks

CLERKS

“You, you’re so obsessed with making it seem so much more epic, so much more important than it really is. Christ, you work in a convenience store, Dante, and badly I might add.”

The picture that launched Kevin Smith’s career, and possibly still his finest work, was filmed in black & white on a tiny budget. Essential viewing for anyone who’s ever worked in the service industry, or indeed uttered the words ‘I’m not even supposed to be here today’, Clerks introduces us to a host of characters who would return in some of Smith’s later work, including Jay & Silent Bob, one of cinema’s most enduring double acts.

Set in a fully functioning convenience store, shooting could only take place at night outside of its opening hours. This resulted in a plot centred on a brilliant hand written sign, and recurrent references to the smell of shoe polish. Watch it for the dialogue, for a reminiscence of the days of actually going to a shop to rent a film; or as a stark reminder of the dangers of using public toilets. I once paid £16.99 for a copy of this on VHS, to impress a guy. Worth it.

2. Pulp Fiction

PULP FICTION

“God damn that’s a pretty fucking good milkshake”

Reservoir Dogs, with all that ear business, was a bit gory for me, truth be told. Accidentally shoot a man in the face, however, and I’ll laugh for hours. You’d have to reside under a pretty huge rock not to be aware of this film. The delicious ensemble cast, the out of sequence storyline, and a pop soundtrack in lieu of a score that is pretty much the greatest mix tape ever.

The movie that resurrected John Travolta’s career, it would have made my top five purely for getting him to dance on the big screen again. But add to that Bruce Willis brandishing a machete, Samuel L Jackson brandishing a cheeseburger, and the aforementioned Bonnie Situation, and I’m there every single time you want to watch it. Pulp Fiction is what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity. As cool as a million Fonzies.

1. The Shawshank Redemption

SHAWSHANK

“I guess I just miss my friend.”

If someone asks me to name my favourite film (Why the hell would you ask me that? Are we on a speed date?) I’ll more than likely name this. And I hate that, because it does seem like the kind of safe, middle of the road choice a boring brother in law might offer. But this film genuinely does push/punch/beat into submission so many of my buttons that I can cry just thinking about the final 20 minutes. (An A level film studies class once hosted a screening of it at our local independent cinema, and my post credits bumbling snotty thanks to them for the opportunity to see it on the big screen probably ruined their experience entirely. Sorry to them.)

An epic tale of Mozart, hope and money laundering in a jail in Maine. While it’s easy to like Morgan Freeman’s affable prison stalwart Red, critics described Tim Robbin’s Andy Dufresne as lacking in warmth and ability to connect with the audience. However his quiet contemplative performance as a man wrongly convicted of killing his wife makes for a pretty damn emotional conclusion. A film with an (albeit slightly ridiculous) final reveal that if, like me, you were blissfully unaware of the first time you saw it, leaves you immediately wanting to watch it again to relive the details. Shawshank did little at the box office on its original release, however later gained deserved success, plaudits and praise thanks to those already discussed video stores. Good on you, the nineties.

You can find more of our revitalised Decade In Film articles so far here, from 1963-2004.

Star Wars (1977)

The weekend of Speed’s home release (on VHS and Laserdisc concurrently, nostalgia fans!) my best friend and I watched it 12 times. We alternated that and lying on her bottom bunk, gazing up at the life sized Keanu Reeves poster she’d blu-tacked to the slats of her sister’s top bunk. I guess you could call it a sexual awakening. We’ve all had them. It’s just that, for some, puberty coincided with the release of a more critically acclaimed blockbuster. That said, even if you’re not invested in marrying the protagonist, Speed is a superb film. We didn’t just watch it to stare at Keanu’s face. We used to rewind and watch the bit where Dennis Hopper’s head gets knocked off by the subway sign on slow motion, cheering all the way.

I stand by Speed’s merits as a film, but it’s no doubt the circumstances through which I discovered it that will lead me to defend it to the end. We were on holiday in Florida around the time of The Lion King’s theatrical release. We didn’t get a chance to see it out there, being somewhat preoccupied by the International House of Pancakes, and a mild case of sun stroke. However my brother and I, obsessed with Aladdin and massively anticipating the next Disney animation, came home with a suitcase full of merchandise. Including a cassette tape of the soundtrack. When the film finally hit Leicester Odeon several months later, we queued around the block to attend the first showing, and proceeded to be the weird kids on the back row who somehow already knew all the words to every song in the film.

Circumstances and surroundings surely have some influence on your opinion of a film. It’s not everything, granted. The first time I saw Amelie was at Glastonbury 2002 in the ill-fated Cinema Field. After three failed attempts to start the film, the inflatable screen collapsed and they gave up. But the five minutes I saw (three times) were enough to send me home from the festival with the overwhelming urge to see the entire film. (That and a commitment to make it through the rest of my life without ever having to watch The Charlatans perform live again.) Nonetheless, it must have some bearing. The Natalie Portman stripathon Closer was bad, no doubt. But the fact that my friend and I & drifted into the cinema lobby afterwards half asleep and thoroughly depressed, only to find our husbands clutching each other and crying with joy having just seen Team America: World Police for the first time didn’t help its cause. Best Picture Oscars have probably been won and lost over less.

Here’s the thing: as I sat down to watch Star Wars for the first time, aged 31, after a long day and a couple of beers, I was expecting to be blown away. In reality I found the beginning kind of slow. I didn’t immediately warm to the R2-D2 / C-3PO double act the way I knew I was supposed to. (Frankly he just annoyed me, wheeling around making his indecipherable beeps, dragging his big plate hands along behind him.) Yes, Alec Guinness kicked ass. And Harrison Ford was suitably dreamy. But I wanted an action movie and I didn’t feel I was getting one. My biggest disappointment was Darth Vader. I thought he was supposed to be scary? Stood in the Situation Room doing his heavy breathing routine? Come on! He wouldn’t last five minutes under Jed Bartlet. And don’t even get me started on the fact that he’s voiced by Mufasa from The Lion King. The kindest, noblest lion that ever lived. If you want menacing, try getting Jeremy Irons to voice Vader. Perhaps I should have watched it that summer we went to Florida. The Star Wars ride was far and away the highlight of Universal Studios. If I’d watched it then, off the back of that excitement, aged 13, less cynical, my Star Wars story would probably be different.

I understand the cultural significance of Star Wars. The fact that, if it wasn’t for this film, I wouldn’t know and love the likes of Clerks, Se7en, or even Toy Story. I get that, and I’m grateful. I love the fact that it’s created a generation of passionate, geeky, often obsessive film fans. That my husband has to deliver a 20 minute diatribe on the original theatrical versus newer versions before he can even open the dvd case. But, just as you don’t get butterflies in your stomach as the title hits the screen on the last note of ‘Circle of Life’, or a ridiculous grin on your face when Jack Traven shouts ‘It’s cans! It’s ok, it’s cans!’, I don’t love Star Wars. Sorry.