Tag Archives: Steve Coogan

Owen’s 2015 in Film: Part 5 – May: Pacino, Pyun, Papa & Perfection

The fifth entry in Owen’s continuing year in review series sees him mull over the movies he’s watched during May. 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)

An Evening With Al Pacino At Eventim ApolloThere is, and there is what you would like it to be.

That’s a quote attributed to Plato by Al Pacino’s character Big Boy Caprice in the 1990 crime comedy Dick Tracy. I’m not sure if Plato ever said it, but who cares? It’s a line that has, for some inexplicable reason, stuck in my mind ever since I heard it whilst watching Warren Beatty’s movie for the first time late last month. I literally thought it over and over for about 45 minutes whilst mowing the front lawn this past Saturday, out in the sunshine, mind wandering as it does during these menial tasks, trying to work out the saying’s meaning without going all Phaedrus. Why, of all the quotes from all of the 33 films I’ve watched in May, did this particular line from some pretty crappy (although multiple Oscar winning) comicbook adaptation stand out?

Short answer: I’ve no idea. I think maybe it’s just because it sounds quite cool in the same artificial way that Dick Tracy tries to be. In the film, as in all movies and life in general, there is what there is and there isn’t what there isn’t.

Therefore, I came to the conclusion that there are two ways to interpret the quote. The optimistic way is that ‘stuff just is what it is right now’, but you can always strive for something better; to shape something the way you want it to be (yes, that is me shoe-horning in an Alpha Papa reference, seeing as how I’ve watched the film twice this month).

Or, there’s the pessimistic way of looking at it, which is what I would personally subscribe to. And it’s also kind of the same with movies, for the record. Things are what they are, and you can accept them for that, but they can never be perfect. A movie exists as it is, but there’s always going to be a better movie, or a better way of making the movie. No matter how much you like it, or love it, or want to tell everyone you know about how amazing it is, it just is what it is, and there’ll be another way that you would like or prefer it to be. It’s why I struggle to ever give anything 10/10, or ★★★★★/★★★★★, or two thumbs up or six golden bananas or 100g of dogs bollocks or a full kinky duck or whatever your rating method may be!

I’m not a perfectionist, I just have a problem with the word – or the concept of – ‘perfect’, which is defined as: “as good as it is possible to be.” Nothing is perfect. If you move the goal posts of what’s ‘possible’, then it ceases to be perfect. In the case of a movie, as objective as you might try to be when rating a movie, subjectivity and relativity will always seep in.

If you listened to the recent podcast, you might have heard me talk about the Al Pacino Q&A I went to in Hammersmith last month. I spent a few days/weeks catching up on some of his more well known works that have slipped through the net somewhat during my film watching career (and reviewed a few below, and mentioned one above). I also rewatched one or two of his classics, including a film lauded by many as the perfect film, The Godfather; or, at least, the film that’s held up as an example of the best that it’s possible for a film to be. But The Godfather is only perfect relative to other films. As soon as something better comes along, it ceases to be perfect. Else, are we to believe that L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat is the perfect film? Literally the absolute best that it was possible for that movie to be at the time? Technically speaking, at least. Especially as there were no comparator margins. But it too could be considered flawed now we look at it in hindsight, comparing it to the potential that could be made of the techniques available. Similarly, the same can be said for all films. None of them are perfect. Not even my beloved Night of the Living Dead, as much as it pains me to say it!

It’s not just films, though. Nothing is perfect in the sense that it can never ever possibly be better. The sun isn’t perfect, it’s just the best it’s possible for it to be right now. Al Pacino isn’t the perfect actor, he’s just at times in his career put in the best performance that it was possible to do in his films. Our podcast isn’t perfect! It’s quite clearly limited by both Steve and I’s ……. well, it’s just limited by both Steve and I.

I do think there’s still optimism to be found in that, though. Just because something can’t ever be eternally inexplicably infallible, doesn’t mean it can’t actually meet the actual definition of ‘perfect’ as we know it to be. Things in life that are as perfect as it’s possible for them to be. Such as b-movie director Albert Pyun’s creativity and ambition, or the Alan Partridge movie….

….hey look, that almost resembles a segway into my actual reviews of stuff I’ve watched this month and I can knock the pretentious pseudo-intellectual nonsense on the bonce. You should go read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance instead afterwards to see the thoughts of someone who is actually clever talk about ‘quality’ in a much more meaningful and coherent way.


Week 1 – Friday 1 – Sunday 3 May 2015

Friday – [absolutely nothing]; Saturday – OMEGA DOOM (1996); Sunday – Frankenweenie (2012)

omega doomAlso in the podcast I linked to above in the intro (with the Al Pacino Q&A), at the beginning, just before the quiz, Steve reviewed an Albert Pyun film that I made him watch. Which, if you’ve been reading any of the previous four articles in this series, you might have been expecting to happen at some point. I gave Steve the option of watching any number of Pyun films, but he picked this particular movie, starring Rutger Hauer as the titular robot ‘Omega Doom’, in a post-apocalyptic future whose ‘evil circuits’ had been destroyed. Blade Runner it ain’t. The plot basically revolves around Doom as he pits two gangs against each other in a small town, both of whom are scared of the presumed extinct human race leading an uprising. Think Yojimbo, or A Fistful of Dollars, but with 1990’s, black-shades wearing, lame-joke making, red-lipstick clad, unemotional, menacing cyborgs. Steve described Omega Doom (rather unfairly, I might add!) as “a bit dumb, a bit annoying, a bit crap”. I tried to explain that the charm of Pyun is all about the concept of his films and the scope of his projects, regardless of his budgetary restraints. But it appears that rather unfortunately, Albert Pyun just isn’t for everyone. A shame, because I genuinely have loved watching his movies this year and would hold this specific example up as maybe his most accessible – and possibly even his best film. As much as I like his Jean-Claude Van Damme led 1980’s classic Cyborg (as discussed on our JCVD Corridor of Praise podcast), Omega Doom is certainly his most well realised. OK, so it’s not perfect………..


Week 2 – Monday 4 – Sunday 10 May 2015

Monday – Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), Unfriended (2015); Tuesday – FALSTAFF – CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT (1967), The Man With the Iron Fists 2 (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Kung Pow (2002); Friday – Repulsion (1965); Saturday – Vertigo (1958), The Punisher (1989), Cube²: Hypercube (2002); Sunday – Lake Placid (1999), Spooks: The Greater Good (2015), Prometheus (2012)

falstaffYes, that’s right, on May the 4th I watched a Star Wars movie. But in my defence, I was gonna anyway! I swear! It wasn’t planned that way to coincide with some Twitter trend. However, continuing my theme from the last article where I refused to talk about any of the Star Wars films, I’ll not be discussing them here either. And just to prove a point, I don’t only watch b-movie sci-fi films with a ridiculous (/equally awesome) premise. Sometimes I watch “proper” films. Like, black and white ones an’ that about plays and cultural things, y’know… For example, during the second week of May, I watched Falstaff, the film that Orson Welles himself described as his favourite of his own movies. That might just be down to the fact that he adored Shakespeare’s recurring character of Sir John Falstaff, who the famous, influential and iconic film maker stars as in this rough adaptation of a number of the Bard’s plays. I can’t purport to be super-knowledgeable about Welles, about Shakespeare, or about Henry V (surprising as that may be..!!) but the reason I’ve chosen this to talk about above all of the others on the list is partly to issue a public apology. I’m sorry everyone. This film did nothing for me. I chose to watch it for two main reasons: firstly, it’s Orson Welles. Secondly; it was research. Preparation for when we eventually get around to finishing the Decade In Film series. And I mention that because it’s unlikely I’ll include this film in my eventual list. The dubbing was very off-putting, although I can understand the rationale behind it from a technical point of view. It’s worht mentioning that the big Battle of Shrewesbury sequence that the film is famous for was extremely well done and gave it that epic feeling of having hundreds of extras, even if there were only a handful. But by the end, it felt like a box ticking exercise. One to disappointingly chalk off the list as “seen”, but not really enjoyed.


Week 3 – Monday 11 – Sunday 17 May 2015

Monday – Brainsmasher: A Love Story (1993) ; Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Invasion (2007), Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire (2010); Thursday – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015); Friday – Pernicious (2015), V/H/S Viral (2014); Saturday – THE CROW (1994); Sunday – Spawn (1997), What We Do In The Shadows (2014)

the crowInitially, when I first drafted this list, I really wanted to talk about The Crow in this bit. It was the first time I’d seen it in well over a decade and it was so much better than I remembered. I didn’t care about the cheesy electric guitar this time, I didn’t mind the crying goth anti-hero, or the crying long-haired flannel-shirted bad guy, or any of that! And then I thought, “no, what I really want to talk about is Mad Max: Fury Road, which was gloriously fucking spectacular”. But it seems somewhat greedy to go over Mad Max yet again, especially after Brooker and Jackson Tyler already joined us on the podcast to have a natter on its awesomeness for about half an hour. So, back to The Crow I go. Hand on heart, it was way better than I had expected it to be. I actually only sought it out after seeing a tweet from Brooker about his new blu-ray. Not only did the film take me by surprise, but Brandon Lee was also surprisingly excellent too. Not just in the way that the context around the film makes him seem posthumously, knowing how unfortunate he was to die on set with just 8 days before production wrapped on what would become by far and away his biggest, most successful film – not too dissimilar to his father Bruce Lee dying before getting to see just how successful Enter The Dragon would become. The Crow is undeniably melodramatic (in the best kind of way) and incredibly atmospheric. Strange to think that it was brought to us by the same director responsible for the shower of shit that is Knowing.


Week 4 – Monday 18 – Sunday 24 May 2015

Monday – Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – Scarface (1983); Thursday – Nemesis 2: Nebula (1995); Friday – …And Justice For All. (1979), In The Loop (2009); Saturday – ALPHA PAPA (2013); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

alpha papa“In England we have a saying for a situation such as this, which is that it’s difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.” Yeah, In The Loop is great, isn’t it? “Never, never criticize Muslims; only.. only Christians. And Jews a little bit.” Yeah, Alpha Papa is great, isn’t it? Yeah. Both are great, aren’t they? Considering that Alan Partridge is the best comedy character to come from these shores (or any shores, for that matter), and that The Thick of It is one of the best sitcoms to come from these shores (or any shores, for that matter), it’s not surprising that they both became such fantastic films. Intelligent, well crafted and, above all else, hilarious. On my train trip to London, I needed something to watch on the commute. With both of these available on iPlayer, there didn’t seem any point looking for anything else. In The Loop on the way down, Alpha Papa on the way back the following day. If I had to choose a favourite, then the Alan Partridge Movie nudges it. The evolution of that character from the obnoxious sports reporter and radio-turned-TV chat show host of the early 90’s, to the local radio disc jockey for North Norfolk Digital (Norfolk’s best–North Norfolk’s best music mix) – via one of the funniest sitcoms ever (I’m Alan Partridge), a stupendous webseries-turned-T V show (Mid Morning Matters) and the genius piece of work that is I, Partridge: We Need To Talk About Alan – is so good it makes me swell with pride that the human race is capable of producing something fictional that is as good as this. I saw Alpha Papa in the cinema twice and both times cried with laughter. I’ve seen it half a dozen times since and each time laughed until it hurt. In fact, I even watched it the following week (as you’ll see below!) and I still laughed like an idiot. I’ve seen this film with both Partridge and non-Partridge fans and seen them all with tears in their eyes when watching Steve Coogan’s greatest creation. I voted for it as one of my favourite films in our 2013 Awards, and I stand by that. And, it’s still on iPlayer too if you have yet to watch it.


Week 1 – Monday 25 – Sunday 31 May 2015

Monday – [absolutely nothing]; Tuesday – Scent of a Woman (1992); Wednesday – Dick Tracy (1990); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – The Panic in Needle Park (1971); Saturday – THE GODFATHER (1972); Sunday – Alpha Papa (2013)

godfatherI suppose I better talk about this Q&A with Al Pacino a little bit. My first reaction to Pacino wasn’t one of awe at what a presence he was in the room, but more like “wow, I never knew that the guy who played Michael Corleone and Tony Montana was so camp!” This chap, who I had always assumed was a bit macho, was actually leaping out of his chair to sing show tunes as soon as someone in the audience even finished saying The King & I. Other startling observations from the evening were that: he loved Shakespeare’s character of Richard more than is healthy; that he is genuinely very cool; and that he hated working on The Godfather so much that every day throughout filming, he hoped the studio or Francis Ford Coppola would fire him. It later transpired that my wife had never seen The Godfather (not as a result of the Q&A) as she doesn’t like gangster films. As is kinda normal, I think. Me? I love crime dramas and thrillers. So this past weekend, I forced her to sit through the second best film of all time (according to IMDb’s Top 250, anyway.) It was, as it always has been every time I’ve seen it, exceptional. Everything about it is tremendous. The build up of Michael’s character, the portrayal of the family, the acting on show from the likes of Pacino, Brando and Duvall, and yes, even the camera angles. I’ve already explained why I love it in our Decade In Film articles though, so you can go check that out if you’re actually bothered.


And that’s it. Job done. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do. As ever, I’m more than happy to chat about these films in more detail in the comments below or you can message me on Twitter at @ohughes86. See you next month!

2013 in Review: A Soundtrack

I’ve always loved film soundtracks, but ever since I’ve been film blogging they have pretty much replaced radio and MTV in being my primary channel for discovering new music and previously undiscovered classics. So, just as l did last year, here is my ‘Cinematic Soundtrack of the Year’, starring my favourite musical moments from film in the last twelve months.

Cuddly Toy by Roachford – Alpha Papa

Unfairly overshadowed by another Oscar-winning, tightly shot close-up musical performance (more on that later), the sight of Steve Coogan lip-syncing to forgotten 80s ‘classic’ Cuddly Toy while driving to work in his sponsored car let me know that everything was going to be okay with the one film I was desperate not to fail this year. It stayed true to the spirit of the TV show (in fact it’s very reminiscent of Alan’s air bass guitar to Gary Numan’s ‘Music for Chameleons’ in series 2), while laying down a marker for how this very British sitcom was going to expand onto our cinema screens by spending 3 minutes on one joke, which would have been unthinkable in a 27-minute programme.

Silver Lady by David Soul – Filth

Filth’s soundtrack is one of my favourites of the year, featuring a great Clint Mansell score as well as a number of interesting covers and rediscovered classics. However, the pinanacle of the film’s marriage of bizarre imagery and 70s soul comes in a scene where David Soul arrives in a car, picking up Shauna Macdonald (playing the wife of James McAvoy’s Bruce Robertson). The ensuing car journey has Soul singing his own ‘Silver Lady’, complete with glamorous backing singers in the back seat. Utterly bizarre and hilarious.

I Follow Rivers (The Magician Remix) by Lykke Li – Blue is the Warmest Colour

This must have been a huge hit in France, not only featuring on the soundtrack to Rust and Bone (my film of 2012), but even more memorably in this year’s Palm d’Or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour. In a picture notable for its lack of a conventional score, the party scene where Adele finds some much needed familiarity with her friends and family comes to life with this brilliant track.

Can’t Forget by Cliff Martinez (feat. Mac Quayle & Vithaya Pansringarm) – Only God Forgives

Like Nicholas Winding Refn’s last film Drive, Only God Forgives is scored superbly by Cliff Martinez. The highlight for me being the karaoke performance of a softly spoken, samurai sword-wielding police office played with an unearthly grace and calm by Vithaya Pansringarm. The scens of him singing his heart out to a room of impassive stony-faced colleagues was unnerving and almost Lynchian in its banal nightmarish qualities.

Space Oddity by David Bowie (and Kristen Wiig) – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Pipping the films use of the brilliant Arcade Fire track Wake Up is the moment where Kristen Wiig enters a bar in Greenland, dressed in winter clothing and with a guitar slung over her shoulder, and starts to sing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. A wondrous collision of incredible music and Ben Stiller finally seizing the day as my cinematic proxy made this one of my favourite moments in a cinema all year. Seriously, it was like porn to me.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite by Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak, and Emma Thompson – Saving Mr Banks

Any film featuring the near-perfect songs from Mary Poppins was always going to end up on this list, but even I was surprised by how affected I was by this film’s exploration into the themes and motivations behind the creation of Disney’s finest film. The moment that PL Travers (Emma Thompson) and the song-writing Sherman Brothers (BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman) finally reach a moment of understanding and conciliation over the climactic Mary Poppins is a joyous scene.

Let It Go by Idina Menzel – Frozen

This Disney musical is huge return to form for the animation studio that has struggled in Pixar and Dreamwork’s shadow over the last decade. But while other studios stagnated this year, Disney produced their best film since the renaissance of the early nineties. Frozen, based on a classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tale, looks absolutely fantastic and features songs comparable to Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, but with a post-Wicked twist. Idina Menzel’s (who has history as a Disney princess from Enchanted) performance as Elsa at the mid-way point of the film is the perfect marriage of stunning animation and incredible vocals.

I Dreamed a Dream by Anne Hathaway – Les Miserables

I simply couldn’t look beyond this as my choice for musical moment of the year. I’ve been a huge fan of the original musical ever since my wife persuaded me to grow up and forget my preconceptions about musical theatre, and it has been a long wait to see the musical version of Victor Hugo’s novel finally make it to the big screen. Luckily, the film didn’t disappoint (let’s just pretend Russell Crowe didn’t happen) and Tom Hooper’s film gained Oscar nominations and a place in my films of 2013 list.

The moment of the film that most sticks in the mind though is that incredible sequence where Anne Hathaway rescues one of theatre’s great songs from the hands of Susan Boyle. The close-up, the impassioned vocals, and the sobbing endeared Hathaway to a legion of new fans, and rightfully won her an Oscar.

These tracks, and more, are available on this collaborative Spotify playlist. We’d love you to add your favourite soundtrack music that we missed.

Failed Critics Podcast: Thor 2, Philomena, and liking scary movies

Thor 2 The Dark World Chris HemsworthAfter a long break during which some of us watched a lot more films than others, we’re back with a belated Halloween special, as well as reviews of Philomena, Bad Grandpa, and Thor: The Dark World (with the inevitable return of Spoiler Alert).

Joining us this week for his pod debut is Matt Lambourne, providing us with a fresh perspective and an encyclopedic knowledge of the Jackass films. Don;t worry though, we’re not forgetting our pretentious cinematistas, as Owen and James discuss the 1922 Danish silent horror documentary Haxan: Witchcraft through the Ages and Werner Herzog’s retelling of Nosferatu.

Join us next week for our long-awaited Gravity review.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Alpha Papa

Alpha Papa Small“I am Siege Face”

Ruddy hell, it’s only the Failed Critics back with another slice of digital broadcasting gold. This week we review the new Alan Partridge film, Alpha Papa, as well as other new releases in the shape of Only God Forgives, 2 Guns, and The Conjuring.

We also discuss Renny Harlin’s attempts to film Wikipedia’s most disturbing entry, James’ fancy dress habits, and another podcaster joins the growing swell of praise for Side Effects.

Join us next week for our review of Kick-Ass 2.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 16/02/13

jmsAfter what feels forever (or at least as long as a Judd Apatow film), my Glasgow Film Festival experience is well and truly under way. This is by far the biggest, and most prestigious film festival I have attended, let alone covered in any kind of blogging capacity. There is a definite buzz in the air, as the great, good, bad, and unheard converge on this fair city to celebrate film.

And is a fair city, despite what people might have you believe. When I mentioned to friends and colleagues that I was off to Glasgow for a week, I had to immediately add ‘to cover a film festival’ to avoid the kind of looks I usually reserve for fans of The Only Way is Essex. That said, you could hold a film festival on the hard shoulder of the M25 and I would think it was the most magical place on Earth.

Note to self: copyright motorway hard shoulder film festival idea.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Steven Neish (@popcornaddict) and Amy Taylor ‏(@TrashTaylor), and had originally planned to record our conversation for the one-off festival podcast I’m producing. Unfortunately I got too caught up in excitable tweet up chat, and before I knew it I had to run off to see my first film. We’ve rescheduled for Sunday, when we’ll all have some films under our belt.

So it was a relaxed start to the festival for me yesterday, with just one film. Michael Winterbottom‘s fourth (if you count The Trip) collaboration with Steve Coogan, and once more they’ve produced a character study of an often-misunderstood, egocentric, and uniquely British celebrity. The Look of Love is a biopic of Soho peep show ‘legend’ and one-time richest man in Britain  Paul Raymond. It details his successful business exploits, but focusses on the many women in his life; particularly on his relationship with his daughter. It’s an enjoyable film and the soundtrack, visual style, and casting of a number of British comic talents make the first half a good-natured romp.

The biggest problem I had with the film was Coogan’s performance, which at times bordered on Alan Partridge going to a fancy dress party as Tony Ferrino. That observation alone feels mean-spirited and snarky though, and can we really blame Coogan for having created such an iconic character that audiences struggle to differentiate between him and his alter-ego?

The real stars of The Look of Love are the female cast, in particular Anna Friel as Raymond’s wife Jean, Tamsin Eggerton as his ‘muse’ for the launch of his first magazine, and Imogen Poots as his daughter Debbie, who spends her life desperate for his validation. Poots is appearing later in the festival in A Late Quartet, and is fast becoming an actress of immense talent.

Today’s pick of the festival is Stoker – The first English-language film from Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is the art-house equivalent of a new Star Wars film. One of the most unique directors working in film today presents a twisted midnight-black tale about young India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) infatuation with the creepy uncle (Matthew Goode) who comes to stay after the death of her father. Nicole Kidman continues her career renaissance (you can also see her in The Paperboy at Glasgow Film Festival) as India’s fragile mother.

Stoker is showing at Cineworld at 4.30pm today.

BD_Logo_White
The Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.