Another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast where hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are left on their lonesome to review the week’s major new release. With no news to discuss nor quizzes to, er, quiz, it makes space for both a spoiler-free and a post-credits Spoiler Alert, all about Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Unfortunately there are no instructional videos presented by Captain America to teach us how to write a good wholesome film review of the latest attempt at repackaging Spider-Man. Alas, you’ll just have to make do with Owen Hughes’s thoughts on this Sony / Marvel concoction.
Awight you pwopa nawty boys, oi oi! Brian Plank joins Steve Norman and Owen Hughes for a top, top podcast this week. We’ve got a review of Guy Ritchie’s new movie, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It’s sick, bruv. Banterific. As well as the Kaiju drama(?) comedy(?) action(?) indie(?) flick, Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway.
“Daddy’s gotta go to work.”
2017 has begun – and with it, my challenge to see a film a day for the duration of the year. 365 films before New Year’s Day 2018 should at least be a half decent way to watch a bunch of films that I either haven’t seen for ages or wouldn’t usually watch.
I tried and failed miserably last year, but I’m determined to make a decent go of it this time and so far, it is going pretty well. Months like this one would make it impossible to just list all the films I saw, there’s no way I can write that amount of film titles and make it interesting; so let’s try it this way.
2017 started with a bang. We waited up for the fireworks and we watched a film. By 2am on the first day of the year film one, The Expendables, was in the bag. With a bunch of new films out that day, including Assassin’s Creed and A Monster Calls, my count was climbing nicely with, I shit you not, seven films done by the end of the day.
The rest of the week wasn’t that successful, but it honestly didn’t need to be. I had done a week’s worth of films on day one so everything from here was a bonus. A pair of Ted films and the end of The Expendables trilogy paved the way for us to start the next series on our pile of shame: The Fast and The Furious. We got through five of those movies in week one, dotted around shit sci-fi with Kill Command, a ghastly “horror” film in The Lesson and a surprisingly fun action revenge flick in I Am Wrath.
The first few days of the challenge ended with the surprisingly fun The Wolverine and the bloody awful Sisters. I’ve definitely had worse weeks.
Back to work after the Christmas break meant no more cramming films during the day. But a new phenomenon was showing it’s head in our house. As well as the animated movies, my kid is wanting to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. She’s been asking for ages to watch Avengers Assemble, so I let her. And she loved them. Now she’s going through a load of the films in the MCU, with varying degrees of success, and enjoying them for the most part. She asks for them, I add them to my count. Win-win.
A couple of Oscar-bait films with the ghastly La La Land and Manchester by the Sea early on before we finished off the last two Fast and Furious entries. A fun popcorn horror flick in the form of the silly The Windmill Massacre, followed by the cut to pieces waste of space The Bye-Bye Man. Topping them off with the umpteenth viewing of Rob Zombie’s 31.
The week ended with more preparation for upcoming sequels with the final cut of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. What a way to end the week.
We have a pile of blu-rays stacked up next to the TV. It’s our pile of shame. I vowed to have it cleared by the end of January and dammit that’s what I’m trying to do. This week was all about a shit film or two at the cinema – xXx 3 the worst culprit – and banging through these films I keep buying but not watching.
In Bruges, V for Vendetta, La Femme Nikita and Captain America: Civil War filled our week nights nicely this week. With our own Nikita’s comic book film love spreading to asking for Spider-Man films, I’m starting to regret letting her watch them. But I can’t help it, I love the look of amazement on her face when she watches them. As shit as some of these films are; more for the list. Finally managed to find time to rewatch the awesome Krampus too.
Now things are getting complicated. It’s the first big game release of the year and I’m dying to play it. I now have to figure a way to balance playing Resident Evil VII with film watching this week. I’ve watched plenty so I’ve got some wiggle room, but this is where I got complacent last year. So a balancing act it has to be.
But a ton of MCU films in the evenings means that once the kid is in bed, it’s guilt-free xbox time! I’ve racked up an unbelievable number of films in the last few weeks, but it’s not over for January yet. For the first time in years I sat down and watched the classic Ghost in the Shell, a film that never stops being good. For the first time I watched it with the English dub and the voice work actually did more to persuade me that Scarlett Johansson will be worth watching in the remake.
This week also saw the Oscars nominations released, which gave me an enormous list of films to source and watch before the awards in a few weeks’ time. In a roundabout way, this led to chat about documentaries, which led to me rewatching (and the wife watching for the first time) last year’s Zero Days and the thoroughly depressing, life ruining 13th.
Cinema trips felt limited this week though. Although I finally got to see the outstanding Hacksaw Ridge and the thoroughly crap Denial; they were both overshadowed by last film I saw this month, the brilliant Moonlight – a film whose review I start writing the second I’m done with this.
Overall, a solid month. Saw some amazing movies and some real dross. But my count is looking good and healthy.
One month down, eleven to go.
Films seen this month: 60
Current count, as of 31st January: 60 of 365.
This week’s episode of the Failed Critics Podcast features Callum Petch, returning for the first time in 2016, to join both Steve Norman and Owen Hughes for four new-release reviews.
With the latest entry in the Divergent Series franchise, it seemed almost impossible to record a show without Callum’s input on Allegiant – particularly after his last appearance on the pod the week after the previous instalment, Insurgent, came out! Continuing to play to Callum’s strengths this week, there are two new animated movies out. As if it wasn’t already well set up for him with a new Dreamworks Animation out, Kung Fu Panda 3, there’s also a new Disney film (Zootopia / Zootropolis / whichever it is wherever you’re from) which has already set the standard by which to judge all other movies this year – or, at least, that’s what Callum says.
As well as this, Steve and Callum have a chat about 2008’s monster-movie Cloverfield ahead of the upcoming 10 Cloverfield Lane, whilst Owen reminisces about the 90’s and watching cult comedy Beavis & Butt-Head Do America. In the news this week, we also take a look at the Indiana Jones 5 announcement, Han Solo casting news and the furore over Spider-Man’s cameo in the Civil War trailer.
Join us again next week for our 202nd episode. Yep. We’ve recorded 201 of these things so far. It’s as astonishing to us as I’m sure it is to you too.
No, we haven’t brought back Brooker and Paul!! I’m talking about the prequel to Illumination‘s Despicable Me franchise, all about those little yellow goofy sidekicks. Joining Steve Norman and Owen Hughes to review Minions is our animation expert Callum Petch. The team also take a look at action thrillers Everly (starring Salma Hayek) and Eli Roth’s Knock Knock (starring Keanu Reeves).
There’s even some news for the group to discuss this week as Tom Holland is named as the new (yes, NEW) high school age Spider-Man (they’re really making another Spider-Man film!) (Really!)
We also have a special guest débutante to the Failed Critics podcast in Nick Lay, author of our articles on We Are Many, Dish & Dishonesty and Kung Fury! In a pre-recorded review, he joins Owen all the way from Canada to discuss the micro budget British thriller Through The Lens. Meanwhile, Steve reveals the startling news that prior to this week, he’d somewhat unbelievably never seen The Terminator before, whilst Callum takes over the b-movie duties from Owen to review 80’s cult classic Hard Ticket To Hawaii.
Join Steve, Owen and Callum again next week as we review Terminator: Genisys and Magic Mike XXL.
Callum Petch, Callum Petch, does whatever Callum can – i.e. talking even more than James used to as he swings straight from last week’s episode to this week’s edition of the Failed Critics podcast. He joins your regular podcast host Steve Norman and hanger-on Owen Hughes to discuss the big film news over the past seven days.
Chiefly, Tuesday’s long-expected announcement that the rebooted Spider-Man will definitely be making his first appearance in an upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, on loan from Sony. We mull over potential ramifications for existing Marvel films, casting choices we’d make and if it’s actually that big a deal anyway.
Completely forgoing our regular “what we’ve been watching” segment, as there just wasn’t enough damn time, we instead take a detailed look over the weekend’s BAFTA award winners and losers, as well as the awards ceremony itself.
We also couldn’t have hand picked four different main release reviews if we tried, as the eclectic mix of space opera Jupiter Ascending, Aardman animation Shaun the Sheep: The Movie, controversial comedy The Interview and the Oscar nominated Selma all get discussed.
Join us again next week for a special Academy Award preview episode with more guests, probably more arguments and hopefully a shorter run time!
Tell us, Steve. What’s happened in the world of film news in the past week..?
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
Sitcom Dad’s Army is being given a big screen makeover nearly 40 years after the T.V. show stopped being made.
Rumours of a film adaptation have been around for some time but this week a cast has been announced, some four decades after Captain Mainwaring uttered the fantastic line ‘don’t tell them your name, Pike’.
Toby Jones will play Mainwaring, the man in charge of Walmington On Sea’s Home Guard unit during World War 2. Billy Nighy takes on the role of Sergeant Arthur Wilson and the Inbetweeners Blake Harrison steps into Ian Lavender’s shoes as Private Pike while Michael Gambon, Danny Mays and Catherine Zeta-Jones are all set to feature.
The cast is pretty impressive and encouraging but the writer is the man behind Johnny English: Reborn and Mr Bean’s Holiday. So there is cause for both concern and positivity around this venture.
Anyway since the announcement the theme tune has been stuck in my head and I like most of you have it committed to memory.
Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler…
Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Befuddle
J.K Rowling was in cryptic form this week tweeting the following anagram
“Cry, foe! Run amok! Fa awry! My wand won’t tolerate this nonsense.“
Some believed this to mean a return to either the silver screen or to book/e-book for Harry Potter but apparently not. However, the Potter universe, or the Potterverse as it will be hereby be known, is to be expanded with a movie based on a minor character from the books/films, Newt Scamander.
I Do It On The Night
Hugh Grant revealed live on television that he is a lazy so and so who does not prepare for roles.
He told some ITV morning programme (not Jeremey Kyle – now that would be an interesting lie detector) “I’ve barely ever done any research for a film. I just turn up and say the lines and hope they sound convincing.”
Sometimes it really does show Hugh.
Robert Downey Jr. signs on to Iron Man 4 according to reports, but then the man himself denies it on US T.V.
This leaves the Iron Man section of the Avengers/Marvel franchise up in the air. Will they leave it alone or will War Machine or someone else become Iron Man?
Comic Book News
With Comic Book movies and shows so popular and rife it may just be worth having a section of this weekly roundup dedicated to anything from the genre.
So briefly there may be an X-Men live action T.V series from Fox to partner the upcoming Deadpool; Dredd looks set for a seven episode mini-series although there is no news on Karl Urban’s involvement; and once again tentative whispers about Sony and Marvel working together to see Spider-Man appear in something produced by Marvel.
Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Did you see The Amazing Spider-Man from 2012? Congratulations, you don’t need to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2! You know, the lazier of us film critics like to snarkily dismiss sequels with the phrase “more of the same” as if that is inherently a bad thing. Sometimes it’s very much a good thing, something that works happily repeating its formula in a “if it ain’t broke” manner. Sometimes, though, it is a bad thing, the observation that the sequel hasn’t learnt from the previous film’s failings and the growing loss of patience on the reviewer’s behalf. This film is one of that kind. The second one. I am not kidding, this film makes the exact same mistakes as the first one did with the exact same potential of a great movie permanently bubbling underneath the near-endless mess of bad ideas or poor executions or bad ideas with poor executions.
Ladies, gentlemen and others, this was maddening to sit through. In fact, in lieu of a traditional review, I am going to dedicate my time and your time to a couple of case study examples as to how this film fails, in order to fully impress upon you, the reader, the way in which The Amazing Spider-Man 2 spends upwards of two hours taking a giant extended piss on its potential. No, there will be no spoilers, nothing more than the trailers have shown off, but I feel that this is a far more productive usage of our time. This film and its predecessor will be used by future, more intelligent generations who are less distracted by flashy and actually rather OK, all things considered, filmmaking as the basis of an entire class in film school on what not to do. I’m just getting in on the ground floor.
First, let’s talk about the Tragic Villain plotline. This is something that both this film and the original use as the basis for their villains, in an attempt to give them depth and something to do besides instructing the audience to comically boo their every appearance like we’re at a panto. I am all for this, it adds a nice measure of moral ambiguity to proceedings and a level of depth and maturity to the superhero medium in general; not every villain is evil for the sake of being evil, after all. The problem is not the fact that the franchise has used this idea for every single one of its villains so far and, in ASM2’s case, twice in one movie with Max Dillon a.k.a. Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). You can find enough spins on that formula. The problem is that the films never ever follow through with it.
The reason why The Dark Knight gets this right whilst The Amazing Spider-Man series doesn’t boils down simply to the fact that the former commits to the tragedy inherent to the plotline. In fact, sod it, this paragraph is going to spoil The Dark Knight. So, if you haven’t seen it and still want to, just jump on down to the next paragraph, you shouldn’t be missing too much if you do so (and if I’m doing my job right). See, Harvey Dent’s slide into the man known as Two-Face works because his motives remain understandable and relatable. He still has the same goal, to clean up the streets of Gotham and wipe out corruption in the GCPD, but his methods are now harsher. The point is that he has snapped mentally and now no longer cares about working within the law to get his goals. He’s not evil for the sake of evil, he’s just had his hope crushed and now he’s willing to do anything to reach his otherwise noble end goals and it’s the way the film commits to that falling that the plotline works.
Contrast this with Max Dillon. When he starts the film, he is a weak loner. He has an important job at Oscorp but he is constantly pushed around and harassed and put-upon by the world because he basically lets it. He has no backbone, no social skills and no life outside of his work and this makes him miserable, even emotionally disturbed. He just wants someone to notice him. Then, out of the blue, Spider-Man saves him from an oncoming truck and gives him the usual Spider-Man speech of “you are a somebody because you’re somebody to me”. This gives Max a reason to live and a reason for us to care about him, even if he becomes hopelessly obsessed with the man. It’s what’s supposed to make his fall into the electro-chamber sad and painful because it’s the world’s fault, not his. It’s why the public triggering of his powers is supposed to carry real emotional resonance as he finally gets the attention he craves from the public at large and his obsession, Spider-Man.
Pity the film is only an hour in by this point. So, because the film is only an hour in, the emotional arc of Max is very quickly wrapped up and the tragic side of his schtick is almost immediately dropped in favour of “I will do evil things because I am evil”. This would have been majorly disappointing… had the film actually handled any of this well to begin with, because they play pre-accident Max for laughs. Jamie Foxx pitches his pre-accident performance to absurd wet-doormat extremes and his every scene is backed by bouncy silly music so you know that you’re supposed to find events on screen funny instead of saddening. It undercuts the emotional groundwork and comes off as mean-spirited, overall.
In fact, before I move on, I want the name of whoever decided on the music that should back Electro’s action sequences and I want to make sure they never work in this field again. Why? Because his theme is dubstep. Nearly every shot of electricity is accompanied by dubstep wubs that are severely out of place with the rest of the film’s score. But that’s not why I am calling attention to this. No, there’s also the fact that his music contains whispers buried in the background. Whispers that go something like “Hate… destruction… kill… I hate him…. I hate him…” This kind of crap might have been cool to a teenager in 2001, but to me in 2014 it’s the equivalent of backing his action scenes with “Batman’s Untitled Self Portrait” from The Lego Movie. It’s embarrassing is what it is.
Harry Osborn gets a better treatment on the whole Tragic Villain angle but the film falls down by again just not committing to keeping his goals sympathetic and relatable to the end. Him and Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, still deserving of so much better) used to be childhood friends (because everybody is connected to everyone for cheap and easy drama in amateurishly written scripts). He’s dying of the same disease that’s killing his father and, therefore, desperate for a cure. His cure may involve Spider-Man and, when things don’t go his way, he goes a bit off the deep end. That last part would be fine… except that it involves him turning straight crazy evil so that we can have a two-part action finale.
The failure of the Tragic Villain plotlines, the same reason it failed in the first film with Curt Connors and his sudden obsession with creating an army of lizard men, is twofold. The first is the lack of faith from the screenplay that the audience will be completely behind and invested in the proceedings if they don’t know who to cheer and root for. And since Peter is still kind of a huge boring dick in this one (more on that in a bit), the film cops out on its moral ambiguity and emotionally heavy stakes by reverting to “these bad guys are evil because they’re eeevilll!!” which squanders the depth previously built up and the groundwork laid beforehand. The second is the fact that this is just a bad screenplay, in general, with both villains’ switches to straight-up evil-doing boiling down to the switch on the back of a Krusty doll. I guess you could salvage such a behavioural switch but it requires far better writing and handling than what’s on display here. It’s amateur work.
Now let’s move onto the issue of serialisation. Do you want to know why the Marvel Cinematic Universe get away with doing things the way they do? It’s because when their films end, they feel like they’ve ended. They’ve told a complete story, all of the plot threads are wrapped up and the character arcs are completed. They may leave an uncertain future or a sequel tease but they can do that because it doesn’t feel like story is being held back for future instalments. I could hop off after pretty much any of MCU entries with the sense of completion. That is why Iron Man is allowed to end the way it did, that is why The Avengers was allowed to end the way it did, that is why Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are allowed to end the way they do. Some had some plot threads hanging, others blatant sequel teases but all felt complete because everything important is wrapped up and all character arcs have concluded.
Much like its predecessor, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 does not do that. In fact, despite running over two hours and even having a clear stopping point ten minutes before the end (even if, yes, it still would have failed to wrap up several big plot threads and character arcs so I would still be having this rant anyway), it actually has the gall to not have an ending. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 stops. It just stops. At roughly two hours and nine minutes it goes “OK, that’s all the time we have! Come on back in two years and we’ll pick this up again!” So, no, the conspiracy stuff with Peter’s dad Richard Parker (Campbell Scott who plays the role like a gruff William Shatner and is awful here) again does not get a payoff, Peter still doesn’t seem to learn anything from the events of the film (and the incredibly rushed final five minutes do not serve to fix this problem) and Harry Osborn remains a threat who even starts up his latest scheme as the film wraps up (and, no, not in the sense of “I’ll get you next time, Gadget!”).
There’s no resolution here. I don’t feel like I’ve been told a full story. I feel like I’ve been told half of a story, at best. There’s no payoff. Just a whole bunch of clumsily handled foreshadowing and set-up work for the endless sequel parade to possibly payoff down the line in the future maybe who knows? The Man In The Shadows from the mid-credits stinger of the first film makes a reappearance at the end because reasons, Harry’s assistant is called Felicia (as in Felicia Hardy because that’s just how subtle this film is in regards to going “THIS CHARACTER WILL DO SOMETHING IN A FUTURE INSTALMENT”) but she doesn’t do anything and, surprise sur-f*cking-prise, there’s a conspiracy at Oscorp that is left totally unresolved at the end because of-f*cking-course it is. The point of a film ending is that it is supposed to have told all of the story it needed and wanted to tell but such a thing is clearly not the case for ASM2.
Speaking of, Peter Parker is a boring dick. Andrew Garfield is trying so very, very hard to make this character work (he has a lot of natural, easy-going charisma and he is great at the better parts of Spidey’s mid-combat snark) but his character spends most of the film in the background and, when he does actually get to wrestle control of his own film back to him, he’s actively dislikeable. He’s a dick to everybody almost all the time, primarily because his character arc is almost permanently stuck on the cusp of the transitional period from “dickwad hero” to “noble figure for hope and justice” and he doesn’t actually start that transitional phase and learning lessons until ten minutes before the end of the GODS. DAMN. MOVIE.
And the stuff with Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone, deserves better). Oh, Maker, how I hate all of the material with him and Gwen Stacey. It’s predicated around the fact that Peter loves Gwen but the promise he made to her dying father to stay away from her is causing him to feel guilty about that love. Good, fine, you can do stuff with this. You can do good, non-crappy stuff with this. Except this manifests as Peter being a dick to her at all times but his love for her leads to him stalking her (again), putting her in danger (again) and begging her to give up her own wants so that they can be together happily (again). Hell, a better movie would make parallels between his obsession with Gwen and Electro’s with Spider-Man, but that movie wouldn’t allow a big loud action sequence with a hint of tragedy, apparently, so it’s nowhere to be found and their romance is played as true love that’s futile to deny. Credit to Stone and Garfield, they have excellent chemistry, but the material is awful.
Those are just a few of the major problems with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 that were also present in the original (well, admittedly, the original at least had the decency to attempt to come up with an ending). I’d go on for more, but I’m running out of time here and I need to wrap up. This a bad film. It is a bad, bad film. But it is going to make hundreds of millions of dollars and we are going to be up to our eyeballs in sequels for however long the shared-universe superhero bubble manages to avoid bursting. And it will do so because it is not a badly made film. The surface level sheen is great. The performances are mostly great (Dane DeHaan still makes time to put in excellent work even as he seems to be voluntarily flushing his career down the toilet between this and Metallica: Through The Never), the film is nice and pacey which at least didn’t make me feel like I had been dragged through a sloggy bog watching the damn thing (*coughcoughDivergentcough*), the effects are great and the fluidity of them fits the hyper-reality of the film’s universe, and action scenes are shot like every action scene in every Western action movie ever (shakily, busily, nearly incoherently at points) but may at least seem exciting to less jaded viewers.
More importantly, there is still the spark of a great movie and a great franchise in here. No matter how badly the series so far has tried to snuff them out, there are still nuggets of potential littering The Amazing Spider-Man 2. This could be a fantastic superhero movie in a fantastic superhero franchise but it, like its predecessor, keeps making all the wrong moves at the worst times and in the crappiest possible manner whilst, all the while, never openly sucking. This is not an outwardly and plainly bad movie; its badness simmers underneath beneath a protective sheen of great performances and well-made filmmaking, but still ruining everything. It’s why I cannot tear this film to shreds. I should do, it is terrible, but that potential is still there and I am adamant that if people who actually knew what they were doing were given creative control, this series would learn from its mistakes and subsequently realise that potential.
Consider this a staying of execution, then. I am prepared to give The Amazing Spider-Man franchise one more chance to realise that potential and learn from its mistakes. If I come back here in two years’ time to find a sequel that again wastes that potential and makes the same mistakes, I will consider this series officially devoid of all hope and the resulting review will be merciless. In the meantime and nevertheless, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bad film. You should not go and see it.
Callum Petch run on the track like Jesse Owens, broke the record flowing without any knowing. Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!
In honour The Amazing Spiderman – this week’s Failed Critics has been rebooted for a modern audience. We are going to give you the origin story of how James, Steve, Gerry and Owen first met. Starring Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Tom Hardy, and Vincent Cassell.
Or we could just review The Amazing Spiderman and tell you how we would remake/reboot movies we think need a makeover.
James also reviews the worst film he has seen so far this year, Steve turns into a later-day Bob Holness (he’s too young to get the reference), and Gerry sounds like he’s on the same continent as us and NOT being attacked by an angry wasp. Owen just did well not to get confused with Gerry if we’re honest.
This week’s running time is a frankly epic two hours and five minutes. We won’t apologise, but we are taking steps to try and keep all future podcasts under 90 minutes.
We hope you enjoy this extended episode though!