Early this morning, podcast host Steve Norman took over the Failed Critics Twitter account (@FailedCritics) from around 9.30am for a very special tweet-a-thon. For almost 18 hours, Steve will live-tweet all eight Star Wars movies in sequential order, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace…
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Owen Hughes has vanished. In his absence, the sinister Steve Norman has risen from the ashes of the Failed Critics Podcast and will not rest until he has reviewed Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
With the help of Paul Field and Dave Valentine, Steve leads a brave effort to restore order to the podcast..
OK, enough of that. You get the idea with our opening crawl. It’s a Star Wars special episode that celebrates the iconic movie series, from the original trilogy all the way through to JJ Abrams smash hit Episode 7 – The Force Awakens, released in UK cinemas yesterday.
As Owen has been kicked off the podcast this week, it’s up to Steve to host on his lonesome, with support from Underground Nights‘ very own Paul Field, and making his debut on Failed Critics, Dave Valentine. All of whom have been huge fans of the sci-fi fantasy saga from a young age and share their nostalgic experiences and how it may or may not have impacted on their enjoyment of the latest release in the franchise.
If, like Steve, Paul and Dave, you too had been avoiding spoilers like the plague, then don’t worry. We have a main review that is as spoiler free as is humanly possible for a film review, keeping the nitty gritty to a separate ‘spoiler alert’ section after the end credits, with plenty of warning in advance!
Don’t forget to take the time to vote in our Failed Critics Awards if the force is strong enough to break your top 10 films of the year.
Join us again next week for our rather festive Christmas episode!
My love affair with Star Wars began in 1997 when they were re-released in to cinemas for the 20th anniversary of A New Hope hitting the silver screen. I was 10 or 11 and had not seen them on television before – or at least not to my recollection.
Sure, I’d seen other big action films before. I had certainly seen Jaws and Jurassic Park – and I am sure that I had seen Apollo 13 too. All great, but nothing blew me away quite like Star Wars.
When ‘A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away’ hit the screen, followed by the fanfare, opening crawl and shots of spaceships in battle, I was overawed and in love straight away.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m no geek or nerd, and you won’t find me at Comic-Con or bidding on eBay for the mint condition collectable of ‘second alien from the right in the Mos Eisley Cantina’. But if there are two things I’m obsessed with, then it’s football and Star Wars. That’s in spite of the prequels trying to dampen my love for them.
So, when Disney bought the rights from George Lucas and announced a new trilogy plus spinoffs, bidding to build a Star Wars version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, my excitement was tempered by trepidation. Would this be another Gungan filled Phantom Menace, or a return to form?
I’m happy to say it was the latter; a fun film that just felt like Star Wars. There were no trade disputes or convoluted issues in the senate hall. It was fun, it was exciting, it was intriguing, it was emotional, it was laugh out loud funny and it was dark.
Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2D2, C3PO and The Millennium Falcon all return to the franchise along with a number of background and secondary characters, giving call backs to the original trilogy (not much, if anything, from the prequels found its way to this to this corner of the galaxy) making certain that you are in Star Wars territory.
In fact, Han and Chewie are their usual, roguish, all-action selves. You can’t help but love the pair and feel a twinge of joy and nostalgia most of the time that they are on the screen.
However, it’s the new cast members that steal the show. This was John Boyega and Daisy Ridley’s big screen debut – arguably Adam Driver’s as well – and they perform admirably. Certainly adapting to and growing into their roles, as the reluctant heroes Finn and Rey, and the villainous Kylo Ren.
Kylo Ren is dark. Really dark. Darker than the darkside dark; conflicted and irrational. You get this real sense of menace from him. Although Snokes (his ‘boss’) lacked that and one of the downsides was his CGI appearance – not to give too much away, as I’m sure there’s more to come.
The Tarkin, to Ren’s Vader, was played by Domhall Gleeson. A small role performed well – again, hopefully there’s more to come in subsequent films.
It was as though Ridley and Boyega had to come out of this on top. One minor gripe from me: Their thick British and American accents respectively did grate a little bit.
Other than that though, they were both excellent. Especially when you consider it was two relative unknowns taking over the reins in cinema’s biggest franchise. I’ve no doubt big things await the pair.
Finally, Oscar Isaac was great in the limited role he was given as an X-Wing pilot and modern-day Han Solo, Poe Dameron. Charming, funny and adventurous; it will be good to see an expanded role for the Resistance’s best pilot in future films.
The action was as you would expect: Fast paced and fun, with jokes aplenty (more than any of the originals). Whereas the comedy in the prequels fell flat, this hit all of the right notes. And, of course, John Williams scores the film perfectly.
JJ Abrams has proven that he was the right choice for director. He rebooted Star Trek well enough for the big screen – although Into Darkness had its problems – and was trusted with this. He put the right team around him and successfully pulled it off.
I’m sure the film has its faults. Maybe once I calm down I’ll notice them? Still, it was a joy to watch and left me with a smile on my face, but still wanting more.
It’s not the best Star Wars film, but it is better than any of the prequels by some way and I think it is as good as Return of the Jedi, if not better.
Apologies for the… un-Christian… language in this week’s episode title, but when Steve goes off on one during the podcast recording – as he does this week – it’s hard to ignore.
For everyone but the Pope, welcome to another episode of the Failed Critics Podcast! It’s our last regular episode now until 2016, as Christmas, Star Wars and End of Year specials are the only thing left for us to record in order to see the year out.
As ever, this week’s episode starts off with a quiz, straight from Steve’s bulging sack. Yes, you guessed it! It’s Santa themed (that’s what you were guessing, right?) and swiftly followed by a look through a few of the winners at the BIFAs. We also make an appeal for votes in this year’s Failed Critics Awards! Last year we had record numbers of people submitting their top 10 films of the year to us, and we hope this year that you’ll help improve on 2014’s total! Voting ends on Sunday 27th December.
We also have a lengthy discussion about the relative merits of Star Wars Episodes I-VI that Brooker has been watching recently – and quickly preview what we’re expecting from Episode VII: the Force Awakens. We also have a moan about the new full Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice spoilerific trailer that came out this past week. Steve reviews a couple of films that he’s watched of late, including Tony Scott’s final movie, Unstoppable, and the Disney classic, Jungle Book. Meanwhile, Owen is back on the Korean movies for a review of the Hitchcockian crime-thriller A Hard Day, as well as recommending Danish Western The Salvation, starring Mads Mikkelsen.
All of this, plus three new release reviews! Festivities may be under way in Christmas With The Coopers, but Brooker doesn’t think it’s bringing much joy to the world. Similarly, he struggles to remember much about the awful Victor Frankenstein adaptation that came out this weekend. Finally, ending on a positive note, Krampus establishes itself as one of our favourite Christmas films of all time. Genuinely.
Join us again next week as Andrew Brooker returns along with Brian Plank for our Christmas special 2015!
Notice: Apologies for the return of our audio issues this week. We’re currently investigating the issue and will update this page in due course.
This week, as you’ve probably guessed already, the team mull over the teaser / trailer / pre-trailer-teaser / clip things for Jurassic World and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and decide if they’re ‘clever girls’ or just stinky old nerf herders. Also on this episode, we have a review of the first part of the third part of the Hunger Games series with Mockingjay, Part 1; as well as brand new docu-drama about the life of the titular artist, Hockney.
Amongst all of this and the mayhem that is the dramatic conclusion to our ongoing quiz, there’s still time for Carole to review the gorgeous new Guardians of the Galaxy steelbook; Steve questions dodgy accents in Ocean’s Eleven; and Owen explains why he “quite liked” Life Is Beautiful.
Join us again next week for more news and reviews. Until then, may the force be–no sorry I can’t do it. Just.. come back next week. I’m sure you’ll find a way.
Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast: now with added not sounding like we recorded it at the bottom of the ocean with only a drill and some bees for company. Steve, James, and Owen round up the week in film news, including the latest Star Wars rumours, and the joyous future collaboration of Nic Cage of John McTiernan.
We also review Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi blockbuster, Edge of Tomorrow, and will James finally convert to Seth MacFarlane fandom after watching A Million Ways to Die in the West?
Join us next week for reviews of 22 Jump Street and (brace yourself) Grace of Monaco, and put up the bunting and get the good champagne out as we introduce our newest full-time member of the team..