Christopher Nolan’s WWII drama, Dunkirk, has finally landed on these shores. We drafted our podcast host, Steve Norman, to write a few words on this “triumph in storytelling”.
We’ve reached the point in the year where it’s safe to start legitimately putting together a rough outline for your top 10 films of the year. Your number one might be displaced come December, or a handful of others might infiltrate the rest of the list; but it’s likely that those you’ve already decided are your favourites, will still be there or thereabouts by the time we compile our End of Year Awards. Continue reading Top 5 Films of 2017 (So Far)
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…
Remakes are a cause for concern in the world of cinema. Not many of them work, or can hold a candle to the original. An almost all CGI/digitally rendered version of the Jungle Book? Brave? Yes. Worth doing? No.
My thoughts until I saw the trailer.
It looked dark, exciting and very real, but that did not mean the film would be the same. Luckily it was.
Like most people who had a childhood, Disney films are remembered fondly. None more so than the 1967 version of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. The story, as I’m sure all the readers know: human child Mowgli lost in the jungle as a baby, raised by wolves and hated by the tiger Shere Khan. The movie is iconic for its characters and its catchy tunes.
The 2016 version, directed by Iron Man‘s John Favreau, is a darker and more grown up version but still retains its sense of fun. The plot is basic, but you don’t need something intricate; it is the performances, visuals and action that make the film a joy to watch.
It certainly is brave to make an almost exclusively CGI movie (I suppose it would have been braver to do a live action movie with a child acting with dangerous animals). We’ve all seen the flack that the Star Wars prequels and Hobbit movies got for excessive use of the green screen.
Here it works though. The jungle looks beautiful; from the muddy ravines and hillsides traversed by herds of wildebeests, to the wolf packs home and Baloo’s lush looking place of residence. The animals look amazing as well. Very real (I should know, I’ve been to Monkey World and Longleat) and you can see a lot of work has gone in to making both appearance and movement accurate. The only minor gripe is the smaller animals, which to me at least, looked very computer generated.
However, it is the voice acting that makes this film. Every single one is spot on. Idris Elba perhaps steals the show as the menacing Shere Khan, hell bent on killing Mowgli. He makes the character wonderfully menacing and intimidating. He really makes the tiger sound like someone to fear.
Of course, Bill Murray is great at as the fun loving Baloo. His singing voice might not be the best but if you cannot enjoy his rendition of the Bare Necessities then there is something wrong with you, you joyless misery. Sir Ben Kingsley is also wonderful as the wise protector of Mowgli, Bagheera.
You can almost run down the cast list and tick off every one doing a voice as top drawer. Scarlett Johansson in her brief appearance as Kaa is eerie and Christopher Walken puts in a great turn as the no-longer-an-orangutan King Louie.
Neel Sethi, as the only real thing in this movie, also does well. It seems a very natural performance and it looks like he’s having fun with it. Don’t forget this is a kid in his first major role working with, for the most part, things that are not there.
The best compliment you can give to the voice acting is that now, in my head, those actors and actresses voices are those characters whereas before seeing this I could still hear those from the 1967 version. Elba et al have over ridden those voices in my mind.
The Jungle Book is a beautifully crafted retelling of a classic story and well worth seeing. I only saw it in 2D but have a feeling it is one of few films where 3D works.
Oh and stick around for the end credits.
You may remember that a few of us here at Failed Critics got together back in July to tell you which five films were topping our list at the midway point through the year. Mad Max: Fury Road appeared to be doing well in the first half of 2015, whereas United Passions had sufficiently pissed off more than one of us to be the most (least?) popular “worst” film of the year.
It occurred to me the other day: How can I keep insisting that you vote in the Failed Critics Awards this year without letting you know how we will be voting?
Therefore, to follow up on July’s article, I caught up with everyone to find out if their top five films have changed at all since then. The short answer is that for most who contributed, not much is different.
In fact, Paul Field, not usually one to mince his words, said 2015 had been an “absolute shit house year so far”. Well, quite!
He added: “The Hateful Eight not landing til January, Kill Your Friends disappeared whilst I was on holiday. Fucking shambles.”
There was only one film to break into Paul’s list – and that was a test screening for an incomplete movie (The Comedians Guide to Survival) that isn’t even due out until next year.
Matt Lambourne concurred with Paul’s comments about 2015 being a “baron year since Mad Max“. Although he did make a few amendments to his previous list (right) when submitting his votes in the end of year awards.
That’s with the proviso, of course, that he can make amendments should Star Wars turn out to be any good.
Even podcast host Steve Norman was pretty much in agreement. “Ask me again on Thursday,” he said in reply to my question. Once Star Wars Episode VII finally comes out, it could make a huge different to everyone’s lists.
But Matt seemed confident that our most prolific writer, Andrew Brooker, could “come up with the goods”. Indeed, he is the first to make significant changes to his previous top 5, whilst acknowledging that picking a film from the back half of the year was a tough prospect.
“I’ve seen a lot of old guff the last few months and rarely have I seen anything worth cheering about,” he said, before revealing that Kill Your Friends was a film that ticked all of his boxes.
Describing it as dark, politically incorrect and beautifully acted movie, he emphasised that “it’s really funny and, it’s worth mentioning again, it’s so very dark”. Brooker doesn’t leave us in much doubt about it being one of his films of the year. Take a look at his review below to see why:
The tale of Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult), quite literally murdering his way through the mid-90’s British music industry, whose celluloid inspirations of films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels oozes from the screen and makes for an amazing hour and a half. Ok, so it maybe works a little too hard to be offensive, but its source material does the same and it’s that very point that makes it my top film of the last six months. In a day and age where we work so hard to not offend every beautiful and unique snowflake in the world, the brash and brazen way that Kill Your Friends just screams “Fuck you!” at all those people makes it a wonderfully crafted thing of beauty.
And man, what an amazing soundtrack.
Brooker isn’t the only one of our contributors to make changes to his summer choices. Our resident self-described “hopeless, old-fashioned romantic at heart”, Callum Petch, also finally found the true romance that has been sorely lacking from the cinema for him for a while.
He said: “For some utterly bizarre reason, the idea of falling in love with a literal Nazi doesn’t set my heart all aflutter.
“Much like the part in a romantic comedy where the idealistic female lead is about to give up on ever finding real love, in walked Carol to prove that romance isn’t dead after all.”
Having described Carol as the “perfect movie” recently on our podcast, the least we could do was to get Callum to update us in writing on why it’s made such an impact on him:
A film that actually takes the time to build its romance, that imbues the clichés and hallmarks of the romantic drama with genuine life, passion and sincerity, that places great emphasis on physical contact so that every touch carries genuine weight, where the sexual tension is not just palpable but is practically a main character in its own right, impeccably acted by its two leads (Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett), and capable of knifing the viewer in the heart without ever becoming miserable (its ending is one of the most beautiful that I have experienced in a long time). Carol is absolutely the best film of 2015, too perfect to do proper justice to in just 238 words, and I had to take 20 minutes to compose myself in the toilets afterwards to ensure I wouldn’t burst into tears again.
I guess the only person left to share their opinion is.. well.. me.
Whilst I’m fairly certain that when it comes to sending in my own votes for the FC Awards, I’ll omit documentaries and put them into the separate category, I’m still not budging from my top choice. In the upcoming Christmas Special podcast that you can catch next week, I defend choosing Birdman even further. Until then, I’ll have to point out one glaring omission in my original list.
Of those who have already taken the time to tell us what their top 10 films of 2015 are, there are two films consistently placing highly. Predictably, Mad Max is up there, just like it is in our own lists – as is the stunning US drama, Whiplash, which really should have been on my list the first time around.
Whiplash was originally released in the US in 2014, yet didn’t make it to these shores until January. Therefore I feel fully justified in rectifying my list as it is easily one of the best movies of the year. Here’s why:
Back in February, ahead of the Oscars, I put together a short 7 minute preview of Whiplash for Tony Black’s former podcast, Black Hole Cinema [pre-edited audio]. In it, I doubted director Damien Chazelle’s chances of winning too many awards this year, but that it would be a travesty if JK Simmons didn’t pick up a deserving Best Supporting Actor gong. His intense, terrifying and fierce performance as the violently obsessive music maestro, Terence Fletcher, is scarily good. All of his obscene tirades (of which there are plenty) at the ambitious young jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) – and student of the fictional academy, the Shaffer Conservatory – left me quaking in my boots! I don’t think I’ve been quite as close to the edge of my seat as I was during the scenes climactic few moments in any other movie all year. It’s strangely ironic that a film all about performance exceeding art, often ends up being praised a lot for its actors’ performance, but until you see it for yourself, it’s difficult to convey just how impressive they really are.
With our updated selection, picking out the films that we will be voting for before the deadline on Sunday 27th December, hopefully it will give you some inspiration before deciding on your final top 10.
When you’re happy with your choices, just click here to go straight to the submission page and vote in the Failed Critics Awards 2015.
With one episode of The Office (US) already entered into our 100 Greatest TV Episodes series by Kate, Failed Critics podcast host Steve has taken it upon himself to induct his favourite episode from the original UK show. And it’s about damn time!
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
I could quote The Office endlessly. It’s funny how a good show can permeate the mind like that. For some, it’s Only Fools and Horses or Monty Python. For others it’s The Mighty Boosh or I’m Alan Partridge. For me, it used to be Phoenix Nights.
Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant’s creation is a work of genius and lives long in the memory. The jokes range from side splittingly hilarious to cringe inducing laughs.
Undoubtedly the best episode comes from Series One and is titled ‘Training’. It has the three main protagonists of the show, Tim, Gareth and David, all at their best. It also taught me that a postage stamp is legal tender and should be accepted by bus drivers.
The episode centres around staff training at Wernham Hogg and Brent is at his obnoxious best. Constantly interrupting the outside teacher Rowan, thinking he knows better. Who can forget the exchange ending in ‘I THINK THERE’S BEEN A RAPE UP THERE….GET. THEIR. ATTENTION.’ Or the equally brilliant ‘There is no room 362 in this hotel. Sometimes the complaints will be false.’
It also introduces his back catalogue of tunes from the sombre Princess Di tribute ‘Goodnight My Sweet Princess’ to the epic ‘Freelove Freeway’ (which incidentally I think I know all the words to).[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEtQj9wuqhs]
Gareth is at his moronic best – ‘Shouldn’t be allowed around animals then’ and ‘two girls, sisters, me just watching.’ Tim, who the viewer should be watching the show through the eyes of – the downtrodden office worker with a lack of ambition and drive and one small glimmer of hope in his life, Dawn – suffers the agony of rejection as the receptionist gets back with massive dickhead Lee and shows his frustration towards his irritating colleague and clueless boss.
Whilst Gareth and Brent are giving you the laughs in abundance, Tim is, well, not so much making you tear up, but making you annoyed with his co-workers . You genuinely feel for him and are frustrated for him. You will him to get Dawn and leave ‘The Office’. You want him to succeed, but deep down know he won’t.
The Office was always able to make you crack up with laughter but also feel genuine sadness or happiness for its relatable characters. Whether it’s Tim getting with Dawn, or Brent getting one over on Finchy, or Brent pleading for his job. It’s what all the best sitcoms do and this episode’s is that at its very best.
Never actually listened to our podcast?
Only ever read our articles on the website?
Then why not try giving the following 60 second clip promoting our podcast a quick listen as we attempt to “string a few sentences together”!
Each week on the Failed Critics Podcast, the team review the latest cinema release, talk about what else they’ve seen in the past seven days and discuss the latest news from the film world (if it happens to have crossed their Twitter feeds prior to recording). Occasionally the team will also produce a themed Triple Bill, choosing three films each that fit a particular category.
If you want in depth reviews of the key components that make an individual movie good or bad, then you’re looking in the wrong place. If you want to listen to a group of people chat about film and be occasionally humorous with it, then that’s us.
In the meantime, if you’re new to the Failed Critics podcast and want to listen to more, but aren’t sure where to join in from, then the latest episode is always the best. We hardly ever have in-jokes or call backs to podcasts older than maybe one or two weeks, so hopefully you won’t feel left out!
The Failed Critics Podcast was created by James Diamond. It’s produced by Owen Hughes and presented by Steve Norman. Including (but not limited to) contributions by: Gerry McAuley, Carole Petts, Matt Lambourne, Callum Petch, Andrew Brooker, Mike Shawcross, Paul Field and James Diamond.
All music by Kevin MacLeod of http://incompetech.com (remixed by James Yuill from episode 150 onwards)
Welcome to the Failed Critics podcast– or should I say, “quizcast”! For the first time in Failed Critics history, we’re teaming up with some fellow podcasters for 60 minutes of quizzing.
With our regular host Steve Norman in the quiz master’s chair, it was up to Owen Hughes and Matt Lambourne to represent Failed Critics. Up against them, from the weekly film review podcast Black Hole Cinema, was Tony Black and Matt Latham. The third and final team on the quiz (and the only non-film related podcast) was Wikishuffle, with Jack Stewart, Chris Wallace and Phil Sharman. Claims of shenanigans were respectfully kept to a minimum, although promises to rein in competitiveness were hastily abandoned during the first round.
Feel free to play along and post your score in the comments box below – or tweet it to @FailedCritics, @Wikishufflepod or @BlackHoleCinema! There’s no prizes for beating us. Only pride and dignity are at stake here.
We’ll be back to normal next week with our Avengers: Age of Ultron podcast. Until then why not catch up with our special Avengers Minisode previews for Marvel’s next big blockbuster?