Tag Archives: Suburra

2016: A Year in Review, A Challenge Failed

“These timelines are so confusing.”  

2016 has been a real arse of a year, hasn’t it? With only a few days until this awful, awful year is behind us, I thought I would take a few words – OK, a lot of words – to share with you not only my challenge of the last twelve months, but my 365 day long journey towards failure.

I’ve been writing regularly for Failed Critics for more than a year now; closer to two, in fact. Between forcing Owen to constantly edit my pointless rants into something readable (sometimes two or three times a week) and being lucky enough to be invited to appear on the podcast every few weeks, I’m always watching something. But I got to the end of last year and thought that, considering what was becoming start a large part of my life, I wasn’t watching nearly enough. So I set myself simple enough challenge…

A film a day throughout 2016. That’s at least 365 unique films by the time we hit New Year’s Day 2017. They didn’t need to be brand new films, although of course some would have to be, but the list just needed to have 365 films on it.

Sadly, I failed. Miserably.

I started so well too. All those award season films we didn’t get until the new year and all those blu-rays I got for Christmas padded my numbers out nicely early on. With me making a real effort to watch everything in time for the Oscars podcasts in February, everything was looking peachy. The start of my year was looking great.

An early guest spot on fellow Failed Critic Tony Black’s Pick-a-Flick podcast in time for The Hateful Eight meant I banged through three Quentin Tarantino films in one night as preparation, not only filling in my spreadsheet super quick, but giving me the chance to have a night off. Similar super-fast binges followed for specials on South Korean cinema, Shane Black’s filmography and Batman Vs. Superman. It was all going so well.

Then, Deadpool happened.

Within our little echo chamber of people, there are a couple of things I’ve become a bit notorious for this year. The second of these was my explosion of hate and abuse that was my Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie review. A few hundred words of such utter contempt for a film that saw some of the worst things I’ve ever written put to paper for all to see. Everyone seemed to love it.

But the first was the fact that in its short theatrical run, I managed to see Deadpool ten times in the various cinemas local to me that, even with various Unlimited cards to my name, I still paid to see several times. It became the first movie this year that I pre-ordered on American iTunes to ensure I could watch it again as soon as possible, as well as buying a lovely looking steelbook blu-ray when it came out in the U.K.

As of right now, 2016 has seen me watch The Merc with the Mouth an insane sixteen times. But as great as that is, it had a pretty detrimental effect on my list of watched films. Filling out numbers with multiple viewings is great – more on that in a bit – but I wanted a unique film every day; and it was starting to look like it’d be a tough one to pull off now.

Months pass and, while I’m certain I’m going to fall short, I’m kept pretty busy. Between watching entire series’ within franchises before their latest instalments come out (*cough* The Purge: Election Year *cough*) and enjoying Suicide Squad enough to fit in multiple screenings, my numbers aren’t looking too bad. This might even be doable. Especially by the time August came around.

Baby’s first FrightFest!

I’m a long time horror fan. It’s usually my genre of choice and going to Fright Fest has been a dream of mine for years. This writing nonsense was the perfect (extra) excuse to spend a couple of hundred quid and get my arse to London. Sadly, work commitments (namely: hating my job), meant that my trip was kind of gimped and I could only manage three of the five days. But I saw some amazing stuff, including Rob Zombie’s latest gorefest, 31. It broke into my top ten instantly and is another film that I’ve paid to watch at least three times since I first saw it – including a trip to the hallowed grounds of the Prince Charles Cinema to see it on the big screen again.

Three days of non-stop horror added something like twenty films to my list in a short space of time. A welcome boost to my spreadsheet. The introduction of “Netflix of Horror” service Shudder to the UK certainly didn’t hurt either.

One of the reasons I set myself this challenge was because there was so much stuff taking up film watching time that I wanted to make space for more. But I also wanted to share it with the family. Obviously, my three year old can’t be watching Ringu, Suburra or Pet Sematary – all films that are on the list – but there’s a huge amount of children’s films that we can watch together. I could kill two birds with one stone; I can show Nikita a variety of films, avoiding the dross that is kid’s TV, and pad out my numbers during the day.

This backfired horribly. Instead of getting a ton of extra films on my list, I ended up watching thirteen films 83 times. EIGHTY THREE! This included sixteen views of Big Hero 6. We watched Zootropolis eight times, all of them at the cinema; and one ‘movies for juniors’ trip to see Kubo and the Two Strings, not at all influenced by the bollocking I took from Callum Petch for having not watched it yet. (Excellent little film, by the way). But, you know, she’s also squeezed in multiple watches of Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book and the much hated Ghostbusters reboot, so I’m not going to complain too hard, even if the little git did ruin my numbers!

Of course it’s all well and good me blaming everyone else for me failing this ridiculous challenge. Once October rolled around, I had no one but myself to blame. It turned out that convincing Failed Critics head honcho Owen to give up his feed to me and my mate to chat bollocks about video games once a fortnight was the easy part to starting the Character Unlock podcast. Losing a night to record and a night (sometimes two) to editing eats away at your valuable film watching time. More than that, if you wanna talk about games, it helps if you’ve played them first! There goes more hours that could have been spent with my hands down my pants watching films. Damn, whatever was I thinking?

And that brings us to today. Where I’m sitting in the house on my own watching Scuzz TV and writing this instead of adding more films to my list. It’s no wonder I failed at this challenge this year. Hitting a little over half of the intended 365 unique films, I managed a measly 213. Once I tallied up the films I’d watched multiple times, whether it be with the little one or because I was weirdly obsessed with Ryan Reynolds’ spandex covered arse, my total is a slightly more respectable 344. Still not good enough, but I’m getting there.

So what does 2017 hold? Well, I’m looking to try the same challenge again once January kicks in, but I’ll be happy if I can beat this year’s numbers. I’ll be leaving Letterboxd aside and sticking to my Numbers spreadsheet and hoping for the best. With several long running franchises getting sequels this year, I’ll be binging through collections like Alien, Saw and The Fast and the Furious early on. I have every intention of hitting FrightFest stronger this year and getting to a few shows at the London Film Festival after having to skip it this year.

This time around though, I’m dragging you lot along with me. To try and force me to keep better track of what I’m doing, and hopefully to embarrass me enough to actually work at it, I’ll be putting together a monthly article covering the best and worst of what I’ve seen that month and hopefully start a bit of a running tally. I might not make it to 365, but I’m damn sure going to have fun trying. See you in January.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Tale of Resurgence

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With temporary host Paul Field getting to the ballot box and voting in blind panic to leave the Failed Critics Podcast after two long successful weeks, we finally have our Steve Norman back!

Luckily, Steve hasn’t done a Roy Hodgson as his team of Owen Hughes and Andrew Brooker don’t bottle it on the grandest stage of all. Assuming that you agree that the “grandest stage” is of course a free audio podcast.

Although they are still a bunch of fucking £50k fucking cocaine prostitute fucking limousine fucking cunts.

This week’s episode features reviews of three brand new releases, with a main review of Roland Emmerich’s sci-fi disaster feature (well, what other kind of film was he likely to make?) Independence Day: Resurgence. Set 20 years after the original, the aliens have come to reap their revenge – only this time, they’re… just… going to do the same thing again. Probably because they knew there would be no Will Smith this time.

Owen and Brooker also find time to discuss a fantasy movie worth watching as the Italian-French-English Tale of Tales arrives in cinemas – and on VOD services such as Curzon and Google Play simultaneously – just a touch too late to show how well the UK can work with our European brethren.

Speaking of Italian productions, Brooker also talks up Suburra, the crime film of the year that you probably haven’t heard of. Meanwhile Steve conjures up a review of The Conjuring (see what I did there?) and Owen continues the horror-film discussion by reminding everybody how great Hellraiser is.

All of this plus Steve’s reaction to Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix feature The Do-Over, James Earl Jones voicing Darth Vader in Star Wars: Rogue One, and the tragic death of Anton Yelchin.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

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Suburra

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“Leave. Now. We mourn alone.”

Google Translate reliably tells me that the title for this almost unheard of Italian crime thriller, Suburra, means “slum”. I can tell you, that this grimy little tale of crime and corruption certainly fits its name.

Ostia, a waterfront area on the outskirts of Rome, is prime real estate in a country on the brink of financial turmoil. Desperate to make it the next Las Vegas or Atlantic City; a respected old school middle man has brokered deals across the city with everyone to make it happen. Using tried and tested methods – murder, extortion, all the favourites from The Sopranos‘ handbook – a man known as “Samurai” has done everything from guarantee a law needed for the work is passed to securing deals to buy the land he wants to convert.

Everyone involved finds themselves on a downward trajectory though, when paid-off politician Filippo Malgradi (Marco Polo’s Pierfrancesco Favino) finds himself with a dead hooker on his hands after an evening of debauchery. After cleaning up his mess with a little help from a local rent-a-thug, Malgradi sets himself on a path that will have him cross paths with not just the mafia(s), but a family of terrifying gypsies – who’s head, Manfredi, looks like the bastard lovechild of Tom Sizemore and Vincent D’Onofrio – and almost everyone else with more than a passing acquaintance with the darker corners of Rome’s underworld.

As everyone’s selfish interests soon start to unravel Samurai’s wheeling and dealing, he can only watch as the criminal underworld implodes on itself.

Remember a few months ago when the posters promised you that Triple 9 was “the crime film of the year”? Yeah, forget all that. I’ve found your crime film of the year ladies and gentlemen; its brought to you by Stefano Sollima – the man behind Gomorrah – and it’s simply outstanding.

Spaced across a week, Suburra‘s story is one that has been told time and time again, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best told stories I’ve seen in a while. From the opening frames the film seems to be a quiet, subtle affair with as much focus on the uncertain political landscape of Italy as we have on the criminal element of what’s to come.

But with the first gruesome murder – a man hit at a ridiculously high speed and bounced across the road – you’re quickly shown the true tone of the film you’ve sat down to watch. Then, somewhere around an hour into this twisting and turning flick, the pieces fall into place and the stories that were on the brink of intertwining are suddenly mashed together and all hell breaks loose, letting the film wrap itself up in a tense, thrilling finale.

If it was in English, you could easily mistake Suburra for a Martin Scorsese film, such is its stellar direction and story telling. It’s an absolute travesty that this film has got such a limited theatrical release. Luckily, sensible heads have prevailed and allowed the film to go to your VOD method of choice. So, if like me you’d have a long and expensive journey to see it at the flicks, you can rent a copy and watch it at home. Hopefully, with a Netflix exclusive follow-up TV series due next year, this spectacular little film will get a little more attention.