Tag Archives: The Raid

Failed Critics Podcast: World Cinema Special 2

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From quirky Bulgarian movies to Jordan’s Oscar nominations. From 1931 in Germany to 2013 in Hong Kong. From the poetic realism of France to the period dramas of Afghanistan. This week’s Failed Critics Podcast is taking a truly global slant.

We could think of no better guests for our second ever World Cinema Special than aficionados Monsieur Liam and Herr Andrew Alcock. Along with regular hosts Signore Steve Norman and Señor Owen Hughes, together the team take a look at films from all over the world in both What We’ve Been Watching and this week’s triple bill. The caveat this time is that the Failed Critics had to pick three films each from three different countries, with some surprising – and some not so surprising – choices from our crew!

Join us again next week as Steve and Owen are joined by Failed Critics founder, grandmaster, and all round spiritual leader, James Diamond, as we prepare to induct another great of cinema into our Corridor of Praise.

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And like that *poof* he’s gone!

jmsJust over two-and-a-half years ago I started yet another blog that, like the previous ones, would inevitably hold my interest for a month or so until I got distracted by some new shiny things. I started it with the lofty ambition of watching all of the IMDB Top 250 films, and generally trying to fill the gaps in my cinematic tastes and knowledge.

On one hand it was a categorical failure, as I’m still well over 70 films away from completing the set. However, if the underlying aim was to get me watching and writing more about film, and to put me in touch with an online community of some of the loveliest film fans in existence, then colour me a winner (as well as a sentimental old fool). Besides, any top 250 film list that doesn’t contain a single Powell/Pressburger picture isn’t worth the pixels it’s displaying on.

And that’s why I’m really quite sad about moving on. While Failed Critics has been online I’ve doubled the number of kids at home, moved house to accommodate said kids, and found myself in the rare and privileged position of developing a career that I not only enjoy, but am actually quite good at. Something eventually had to give, and although I’m going to miss this place I know I’m leaving it in the very capable hands of our podcast’s own Owen Hughes, Steve Norman, and Carole Petts; as well as a loose collection of brilliant writers – all of whom have been brilliant to read and elevated the site far beyond what I ever hoped to achieve on my own.

I’ve had some fantastic experiences while running the site, attending the Prometheus premiere (and becoming life-long mates with Jason Flemyng and Benny Wong); watching a weekend of David Bowie films at the ICA; and a couple of great years at the Glasgow Film Festival where I got to feel like a ‘proper’ critic for two weeks. I’d like to thank everyone I’ve ever spoken to about film on Twitter, and everyone who has ever read an article on the site or downloaded the podcast. Every single one of those page views or downloads has made this mid-thirties man inordinately happy.

I’ll still be watching films, talking about them on Twitter, and keeping my Letterboxd ratings up-to-date. And maybe in time I’ll even get around to popping back on the podcast, or helping run the annual awards. For now though, please continue to visit the site and support the brilliant work Owen has already been doing while I’ve been otherwise engaged. I can’t wait to see what he does with the place.

Until then, let me leave you with my ten (sort of) favourite films that I saw for the first time while running the site. I think they sum up the era pretty well.

The Raid/The Raid 2

One of the earliest films we reviewed for the podcast back in 2012, and the opening still fills me with nostalgic glee. I only need to see that blue Sony Pictures Classics title card to be transported back to the John Woo/Chow Yun Fat Hong Kong action films of the late 80s/early 90s, but The Raid follows up on this promise and was the most fun I had in a cinema that year. The sequel (out on DVD next week) is a completely different, but just as impressive beast. Not many films had such a unanimous affect on the podcast team.

The Lego Movie

Currently sat at the top of my 2014 ‘Best of’ list, and it’s going to take something pretty special to budge it. I can’t imagine that I would have made a beeline to see it on the preview weekend if I hadn’t been running a film site, let alone paying to see it again the following week. But Christopher Miller and Phil Lord’s anarchic, brave, and playful animation is so funny that I don’t care how much of an advert it is.

The Before films

In an early podcast, I remember Gerry McAuley almost blowing a gasket over how much he hated Before Sunrise, the Richard Linklater film starring a young and gloriously pretentious Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. At roughly the same time we had an argument over (500) Days of Summer, which he enjoyed and I felt was trite, overwhelmingly kooky, and horribly shallow. I then went and watched Before Sunrise, and very quickly followed it up with Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. Much like Mia Wallace suggests everyone is either a Beatles or a Stones fan in Pulp Fiction, I have a theory that you’re either a (500) Days of Summer or a Before… fan. Pick a side.

Barry Lyndon

In the weeks running up to our Stanley Kubrick podcast special I was l living and breathing Kubrick. Already my favourite director, I relished the chance to revisit some of my favourites (A Clockwork Orange, Dr Strangelove, 2001) as well as delve into a few that I had missed (Paths of Glory, The Killing, Lolita). It was this recommendation from Owen though that completely blew me away that week. Barry Lyndon’s episodic nature and purposely static action may not be to everyone’s taste, but I was utterly bewitched by this gorgeous and entertaining masterpiece.

My Neighbour Totoro/Grave of the Fireflies

Before I started Failed Critics I had never seen a Studio Ghibli film. Let that sink in. Then in our second podcast we had a Triple Bill of Films with Child Protagonists, and Gerry chose (I think) both My Neighbour Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies, released as a double bill in 1988. During their recent theatrical rerelease I took my daughter to see My Neighbour Totoro as the first film that she really watched at the cinema (great hipster credentials for the future!), but chose to watch Grave of the Fireflies on my own. Which was lucky as I basically sobbed non-stop through most of it. Simply the finest anti-war film I’ve seen, and up there with Life is Beautiful in terms of raw emotional reactions I’ve had to films.

Christiane F

Another brutal punch-to-the-stomach of a film. I saw this as part of Bowiefest and, while the Thin White Duke makes an appearance in concert and his music forms the soundtrack, the star is Natja Brunckhorst, who plays the titular character. Based on the real life memoirs of a 14-year-old drug addict and sexually exploited child, it is an incredibly stark and realistic portrayal of 1980s Berlin. As hard-hitting as it gets.

Avengers Assemble

This was our first ever ‘Best Film of the Year’ winner, and is still the touchstone for the podcast team in terms of how to do a comic book film. If we have a catchphrase on the podcast, it’s probably “this is one of the best comic book/action films since Avengers”, and it’s easy to see why it gets so much love. A brilliantly warm and funny script from director Joss Whedon, pitch-perfect performances from all (particularly Robert Downey Jnr and Tom Hiddlestone), and the sense that Marvel are risking everything and succeeding on such an ambitious project. I’ll never tire of watching this film.

The Intouchables

This French comedy really shouldn’t work. ‘Immigrant and petty thief somehow ends up with a job looking after a millionaire paraplegic, and hilarity ensues’ sounds like an Adam Sandler movie pitch that Awesome-O would come up with in the seminal South Park episode. But this film above all others is the only one still undefeated in terms of my recommending it to people and their enjoying it. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love it?

Rust and Bone

I’m a big fan of naturalistic French sex/relationship dramas, so when this film combined that genre with an incredible performance from Marion Cottilard and a brilliant soundtrack it seemed destined to be my favourite film of 2012. A story of violence, redemption, and killer whales dancing to Katy Perry’s Firework, and if that doesn’t make you want to watch it then I give up. Oh wait, I already am.

The Act of Killing

In my view not only the best film of last year, but simply one of the most important films ever made. This Indonesian documentary looked into a brutal and horrifying era of that country’s history, but rather than presenting the facts of the genocide that occurred in the 1960s the film gives the perpetrators of mass murder the opportunity to discuss and recreate their crimes in their favourite cinematic styles. What could have been a horribly crass piece of filmmaking ends up making the viewer look directly into the abyss of the darkest aspects of human behaviour. Essential viewing.

Failed Critics Podcast: Snowpiercer, Noah, and Ray Winstone’s Floaty Head

Noah Ray WinstoneWelcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast, where once again Carole Petts has stepped into the rather large James-shaped breach at the last minute.

Join us as we discuss Darren Aronosfsky’s biblical epic, Noah, as well as the long-awaited Korean sci-fi classic-in-waiting Snowpiercer. Owen and Steve also come close to tearing out their own eyes as they remember watching Movie 43 like it was ‘Nam.

James promises he will return next week, and considering we’ll be reviewing The Raid 2 we wouldn’t bet against that.

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The Raid 2 (Berandal)

Iko Uwais in The Raid 2The Raid 2 is a cut 20 minutes and tighter focus away from being near-perfect.

by Callum Petch

Well, holy crap.

Look, despite anything bad I have to say in this review, I loved The Raid 2.  I got out of the cinema last night extremely giddy at what I had witnessed.  Said feelings only grew the longer I stayed awake and they are still here the day after.  If anything, that film keeps rising in my estimations the more I think about it.  When it officially releases on April 18th, I will be going to see it again.  If it were in the cinema again before that date, I would drop everything and see it again.  It is, in a word, amazing.  Unfortunately, there are legitimate problems with The Raid 2 and I can’t switch off my critic hat to ignore them.  So, regardless of whatever negative words I attach to this gushing session, you should not let it get in the way of going to watch The Raid 2 the very second it drops.  Promise me that and I promise you that you won’t regret it.  It really is that good.

OK, now to get professional.  Real Talk: I was not a fan of The Raid.  Well, maybe that’s a poor way of phrasing it.  I thought it was alright.  The first half of the film was great, it was tense, exciting and a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, the film really ran out of steam by about the midway point.  It attempted to force in a plot that was immediately forgettable, slowed the pacing to a crawl and had a final fight scene that, whilst undeniably badass, went on for so long I could see the seasons change outside my window by the halfway point.  There was half of a great film there, and half of a dull slog weighing down the back end.

The Raid 2 does not have that pacing or interest problem.  Even with its much-publicised two and a half hour runtime, this is not a film that drags at any point.  OK, maybe the opening crams too much exposition into too long of a time frame before the real fun starts, but once it does start, the film knows how far apart each of those fight scenes should be.  It knows how to make the plot-oriented stretches of the film feel as propulsive as the rest of it so that, even though I was never 100% certain as to who everyone was and what was going on (more on that in a moment), I was still as enraptured by villains secretly scheming with one another as I was when a man’s face was being forcibly applied to a hibachi grill.  There are actual peaks and troughs, here, and the film wisely holds off pitching its action scenes to 11 until the final hour (save for an absolutely stunning prison riot at about the 25/30 minute mark) to keep that section of the film, the cathartic and climactic release, from feeling like an extended sequence of “been there, done that”.

That being said, The Raid 2 still does not need to be two and a half hours.  The scope is much wider, this time, more resembling a sprawling crime drama except that any and all problems are solved by extended bouts of extreme violence, but it’s a bit too wide for its own good.  Following straight on from the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais) is sent undercover in order to help root out corruption on the Indonesian police force by cosying up to Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo) who runs Jakarta’s biggest crime syndicate.  That goal, however, rarely comes up again and Rama himself spends most of the film being shoved to the side-lines as the slowly-becoming-more-disgruntled Uco finds himself tempted by another rising crime boss in the shape of Bejo (Alex Abbad) who is trying to raise his stature in the criminal underworld by stirring up trouble between Bangun’s group and a Japanese crime syndicate led by Goto.

Seem a little bit too muddled yet?  Well, throw in about another 10 or so characters, each with less of a personality than the last, all of them affiliated with one side in some way shape or form and some with full-on subplots of their of their own, and a whole bunch of betrayals and double-crosses and you have the plot of The Raid 2.  You can’t fault writer-director-editor Gareth Evans for trying to address the original’s lack of plot, but he’s honestly not there yet in terms of keeping everything coherent.  It’s a bit too wide-reaching, there are too many characters running about (as cool as every fight sequence involving them are, Bejo does not need three separate gimmick-based assassins doing his dirty work in-story) and the overall aim and direction becomes a bit muddled, especially for Rama.  The ending of the film does strongly tease a sequel (and Evans has stated he wants to make this series a trilogy), so maybe some of the bloat and needless character work in this film will pay off in two or three years’ time, and again it’s a testament to Evans’ growing skills as a filmmaker that I was always thoroughly engaged during the plot stretches, but I can’t help but wish it were 20 minutes shorter and tighter in its focus.

Because, and I mean this with total sincerity, if the story being told were clearer and the scope reigned in just a bit, The Raid 2 would be near-perfect.  In fact, let’s stop beating around the bush and just talk about the fight scenes, already.  They start with a group of about 50 prisoners all trying to bum-rush Rama who is sitting in a locked prison toilet stall.  That’s how they start and, by the end of the film, that one is positively small-scale.  However, although there are many scenes of one man fighting his way through a seemingly endless horde of metaphorical red-shirts, the film doesn’t just decide to start at, say, 9 and go higher from there.  There are just as many shorter fight scenes of one guy fighting his way through, say, four or five metaphorical red-shirts or a fight involving just two guys that’s over in seconds instead of minutes.  Again, it all comes back to the film’s airtight and propulsive pacing.  Evans and his fight choreographers (star Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian) know when to reign it in and when to go big, which makes the big moments that much bigger.

And of those big moments?  Let me put it this way, The Raid 2 will fill up all top three slots on your Best Action Scenes of 2014 list and they will stay there until the end of the year.  Seriously, they’re that good and it’s not just down to some stunning choreography, which manages to be showy yet relatively realistic with extremely fast exchanges of strikes and no shortage of painful-looking limb breakages.  Although he still employs shaky-cam at several points, Evans seems more confident in his fight work or direction in general, because most every fight is shot super clearly and shots last much longer than in Hollywood action films.  Not once did I lose track of who was hitting who, where they were in relation to the rest of the scene and what else was going on around them; there’s excellent scene geography going on here.

But that’s not to say that the camera isn’t getting in on the action.  In fact, the sheer dynamism of the camera is why I’m stunned at the fact that the scene geography is so well done.  During an extended prison riot, the camera rarely stays in one place for long, running all over the scene to keep an eye on what else is going on around the fringes.  Quick whip pans help keep up energy and camera shakes help sell some of the more painful collisions of heads with scenery.  Sometimes the camera is almost literally flung about the scene, too; a chase with an escaping gangster has the camera move with him so that it crashes through a window at the same time he does.  It’s kinetic, frenetic and masterfully done.  Also, it must be said, even outside of the fight scenes there are some gorgeously composed shots going on here.  Big credit should be given to the film’s cinematographers Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono, they knocked it out of the park, here.

Yet that is nothing compared to how this film sounds!  There is some exceptional sound work throughout this thing.  Every hit sounds like there’s real force in its delivery, every stab from a weapon sounds painful, every bone snapped is physically wince-worthy and every gunshot is a deafening roar.  The fight scenes are excellent as is, but the sound work creates fights that have real impact and that only adds to the effect.  As for the score, barring an absolutely killer end credits theme, its mostly content help drive the action.  It doesn’t particularly call attention to itself but it fits the events on screen brilliantly, often with nice thumping energy and good builds to natural crescendos.  It’s one of those scores that you can’t necessarily hum individual tunes for but, in the moment, you know that you’d rather have nothing else backing it.

Now a moment to address the violence.  Yes, The Raid 2 is exceedingly violent.  It is even more violent than the original and, yes, that is more than possible.  One of the film’s smaller-scale yet best fights involves a single mute deaf girl carving her through six guards on a subway train with only two claw hammers.  Baseball bats are brutally buried in people’s faces.  Throats are ripped or stabbed or gouged or many other rather horrible things I’d prefer not to think of.  Shotguns utterly demolish faces.  Hibachi grills burn off half off somebody’s face.  Blood flows like wine at a party where everybody is too smashed to hold their drinks properly.  It will be too much for many people and some will claim that it’s all too gratuitous and meaningless, due to their aforementioned lack of coherent plot issues.  And taken on its own, yeah, maybe the violence is too much.

But when combined with the choreography, the cinematography, the sound work and the pacing it serves a true purpose: to create fight scenes with real impact and thrills that are rarer in modern day action films than I’d like.  It’s visceral, it’s uncompromising, it’s 900 other clichéd words you’ve heard from pretty much every other reviewer on the planet by this point but it works.  It works.  I was wincing at the more painful moves, laughing at some of the pitch black humour that litters the film, silently begging them to use that thing that was lying about the scene and then cheering when they did, on the edge of my seat during some of the closer fights and gasping in amazement at certain violent flourishes or impressive moves.  So was everyone else in my screening.  The Raid 2 delivers thrills aplenty during every single one of its action sequences (without wishing to spoil, the action scenes are not just hand-to-hand fight after hand-to-hand fight).

It also, and this is how confident I am in my opinion here that I am willing to go on official record with this, has my favourite fight scene of all time.  In one absolutely heart-in-mouth beautiful sequence, everything in the film goes up to 12.  The choreography, the sound work, the score, the camerawork, the violence and the pacing all come together to create a piece of ridiculously exciting, jaw-dropping and all of the available words in a thesaurus that still don’t quite adequately get across just how f*cking awesome it is.  Wisely, the film saves it for the end and doesn’t even try to wrap up the plot with something close to its level and it absolutely justifies the ticket price and 2 hour build-up alone.  Holy crap.

So, as you may be able to tell, I loved The Raid 2.  It is not perfect, its plot is too convoluted, it has too many characters and strands that don’t go anywhere and it is 20 minutes too long by virtue of that too-wide scope, but I honestly don’t care.  I am still high off of the energy I got from seeing it nearly 24 hours ago as I type these words.  When it is on, almost nothing else comes close to the level that The Raid 2 is operating on and I order you to go and see it.  I don’t care if extreme violence turns you off of films, I don’t care that you don’t want to read subtitles and I don’t care that you’re not old enough or don’t have any money, right now.  I am ordering you to go and see The Raid 2 and to see it in cinemas.  So do so.

Callum Petch has an old head on young shoulders.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

And the winner is…

avengers-assembleThe votes have been counted and verified, and we can now announce the first ever Failed Critics Awards winners!

On a chilly night at the end of December, the team from the Failed Critics Podcast recorded a virtual ceremony, complete with tuxedos, alcohol, and debauched behaviour. In other words, James treated it like every other podcast recording.

So for anyone who was too hungover to turn on their computer, still too drunk to operate it, or simply too sensible to listen to our inane ramblings; here are the results.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

Top 10 Films of the Year

1. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

2. Skyfall
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. Amour
5. The Raid
6. Looper
7. The Intouchables
8. Argo
9=. Rust & Bone
9=. Safety Not Guaranteed
9=. 21 Jump Street

Best Performances
Omar Sy (The Intouchables)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Best Foreign Language Film
The Raid

Best Soundtrack
The Dark Knight Rises – Hans Zimmer

Best Documentary
Dreams of a Life

Worst Film
Dark Shadows

Failed Critics Review: Paranormal Activity 4

Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Review – unfortunately delayed due to technical issues.

Gerry is technically an old man who can’t stay up past 11pm apparently.

Anyway, better late than never! On this week’s podcast we review the latest instalment of the Big Fish in the Found Footage pond – Paranormal Activity 4. We also catch up on what the critics have been watching in the past week, including the wonderful Safety Not Guaranteed, the utterly bonkers Holy Motors, and the little-seen Speed Racer. Steve also finally got around to watching The Raid.

Join us at the weekend for Triple Bill where we discuss the films that have scared the crap out of us – and next week the Review returns with a review of Skyfall and a BOND SPECIAL!

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The Failed Critic Podcast – Episode 6: The Raid

The Raid

Welcome to the Failed Critic Podcast Episode 6. This week the four of us entered a conversational cul-de-sac and in an attempt to bring some crimes against cinema to justice – only to find ourselves swinging aimlessly like a drunkard at kicking-out time in an effort to pin down this week’s big release The Raid.

We also discuss our favourite films that take place in less than 24 hours, and hear what the pod has to say on the long-awaited Moon Nazi epic Iron Sky. Plus James gets depressed beyond words by watching The Divide and (500) Days of Summer, Gerry picks a fight with Kevin Smith before his pod sabbatical, and Owen shocks us with a Zombie movie choice. And in an attempt to present a reasonably professional and relevant film awareness we even round up the best of the Cannes festival. Still stunned the Palm d’Or didn’t go to Sharknado!

Opening/Cannes/Good, Bad, or Ugly: 0:00 – 33:30

Triple Bill: 33:00 – 1:02:40

The Raid Review (spoiler free): 1:02:40 – 1:13:30

Spoiler Alert!: 01:13:30 – 1:29:39

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