Look at me, listeners! I love you! It’s all for you, Damian— I mean, whatever your name might be! Happy birthday to us.
Yes, backs are slapped and circled are jerks as we celebrate reaching the fifth year of the Failed Critics Podcast. Hip, hip…
Look at me, listeners! I love you! It’s all for you, Damian— I mean, whatever your name might be! Happy birthday to us.
Yes, backs are slapped and circled are jerks as we celebrate reaching the fifth year of the Failed Critics Podcast. Hip, hip…
“We’re black. We don’t go to therapy. We go to the barbershop.”
I love watching Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. From Walking Tall and The Rundown, to Fast 7 and everything in between. He’s a consistently fun figure to watch and with his natural abilities, his almost unnatural size and buckets and buckets of charisma; he is, without a doubt, the most successful actor to ever come out of the WWE. It’s with absolutely no shame or regret that I say I will watch the man in absolutely anything.
Having now watched, Central Intelligence, I stand by that statement completely.
With the fate of the free world at stake, super spy Bob Stone (The Rock) tracks down Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart, playing Kevin Hart) – a former high school superstar who’s found himself in a bit of a rut – to help him track down a criminal enterprise looking to buy stolen satellite codes (or something, it really doesn’t matter though, does it?). Using Stone’s agency honed expertise and Joyner’s skills as an accountant to trace money back and forth to intercept the sale, the pair make an unlikely, but somewhat successful team.
Meanwhile, Stone is being chased by his own agency. Accused of treason and thought to be the one with the stolen doo-dad to sell; the world seems to shrink around him and his unwilling and unwitting partner in crime as they chase a shadowy bad guy and try to stay alive long enough to prove he exists.
Right off the bat, I feared I had made a horrible mistake and had let myself in for a ghastly couple of hours. Not only has that been pretty much the order of the day for every “comedy” we’ve been afflicted with this year, but within a few seconds of the film starting things take a fast downhill turn!
We are subjected to a naked 15 year old fat kid dancing in the school showers, jiggling arse on full display with The Rock’s face CGI’d onto him. Horrifying! But we are also introduced to super cool kid Calvin, a teenager who can apparently do absolutely anything except pick a decent nickname. “The Golden Jet” – I shit you not, it’s his name not a new category on PornHub – is the epitome of high school cool and the only person decent enough to help the humiliated Bob when it comes to it. But things do quickly pick up from there.
My biggest complaint I suppose about Central Intelligence is the bizarre choice to have The Rock not only pretend to be a bit simple as his cover before admitting that he’s actually in the CIA, but just how long after it’s stopped being funny, the joke is still going on. I mean, the first couple of minutes would have been grand – and I admit that the stupid Facebook chat the pair of unlikely colleagues have early on had me howling with laughter – but once you’ve seen a trailer for the film, the gig is up, we know it’s an act, it doesn’t need to go on for so bloody long. Like some weird parody of Channing Tatum’s “my name is Jeff” skit.
Outside of that though, this action-packed buddy comedy is actually alright. Hart and Johnson are so different in their appearance, resembling a black Harry Potter standing next to a Samoan, muscle bound Hagrid, and equally different in their acting styles that they compliment each other rather well. Hart’s fast-paced stand-up style is proudly on display here as a hapless accountant who’s tripped himself up and stumbled into this dangerous international incident.
And to give him some where it’s due, the man is much more entertaining than I think he’s probably given credit for. His denial and strong feelings against doing anything remotely dangerous is pretty fun when you see his multi-muscled opposite nonchalantly brushing off all the tiny tax-man’s worries and shooting some more stuff.
Don’t misunderstand, this is no Bad Boys. It’s probably closer to Spy for me, such is its mildly amusing nature. And like the McCarthy vehicle before it, Central Intelligence is a much better film when its stars are left to just work and be themselves.
Maybe I’ve just dropped my standards in the last 12 months of awful comedies, but not only did I not hate this silly actioner, I surprised myself when I got to the end and realised I’d been chuckling away at it for most of the film. Give it a butchers, you might actually find yourself pleasantly surprised.
No. It’s not even Sepp Blatter at FIFA. It’s actually our guest Tony Black, who is joining us from Black Hole Cinema. After an open and equal voting process, Tony won his opportunity to join us this week completely fairly. Owen’s new sports car and Steve’s new handbag are just mere coincidences.
The quiz this week has a slightly tongue in cheek twist as the team try to defend the FIFA backed film United Passions (don’t forget to let us know which one is your favourite!) As well as this, the team also discuss: the front runners for the role of Spider-Man in the new Marvel Cinematic Universe film; Owen watches Alpha Papa twice in a week; Tony takes a look at the Kickstarter backed short film Kung Fury; and Steve finally gets around to seeing 22 Jump Street.
And as if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s even time to squeeze in reviews of Brad Bird’s somewhat underwhelming fantasy story Tomorrowland, AND even The Rock’s new film, San Andreas, the “best disaster film since Volcano” (interpret that how you will!) makes it onto the pod.
Join us again next week as we rebuild [cue: American flag] and discuss Jason Statham’s new comedy film Spy.
Podcast host Steve Norman has been to see the latest disaster film starring the Rock and picks the faults with San Andreas.
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
Disaster films often disappoint. While the likes of Twister, Volcano, 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow portray the worst kinds of weather and natural disasters they make the viewer experience the same kind of peril that standing in a puddle would.
In fact the only ‘disaster movie’ of any note is Impossible, the movie starring Ewan McGregor and based on the real story of a family caught up in the 2006 Boxing Day Tsunami in Asia but of course this is very different to the Hollywood bombastic blockbusters.
Across the board these movies fail with boring plots, over the top CGI and dull performances from the cast.
San Andreas matches those movies almost step for step. You have a protagonist from a broken family, a child in trouble, a dickhead who gets his comeuppance and some (probably, I’m no seismologist) awful, awful science, although not as awful as 2012’s mutating neutrinos.
In fact the only thing that pulls this film into watchable-yet-forgettable territory, instead of the disappointing-and-forgettable area, is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (I’m not sure which he wants to go by so I hedged my bets). He has the charisma that Dennis Quaid lacked in TDAT and is far more believable in the role of leading action hero than John Cusack in 2012. The Rock is exactly the kind of person you want at the helm here. He is toned down from the almost cartoonish character he plays in the Fast and Furious franchise but still an all-out action hero.
Other than the Rock, there aren’t many positives. However, the special effects and set pieces are spectacular and exciting. The negatives are in abundance though. Despite the mass destruction, you never feel that the central cast are in any real danger and the story meanders at a very predictable pace.
You also have Paul Giamatti playing the scientist guy. He seems a bit out of place; comes across as if he’s phoning in his performance. Giamatti just doesn’t seem to commit to the role. He and his band of science people have come up with a way of predicting earthquakes and are annoyed when people don’t listen to them despite them having come up with their new hypothesis one day before the proverbial hits the fan and they probably haven’t even put the results in to report form yet.
We have two English brothers who have the most annoying, over the top – and in the case of the Australian playing the older brother – fake accents. In fact, other than the Rock trying to find his daughter, and his daughter trying to be found, all other characters are pretty irrelevant to the plot.
Oh, and there’s a fleeting appearance from Kylie Minouge.
And the ending. Oh my god. Such American patriotic bilge. This may not have been appropriate.
San Andreas is decent in the switch your brain off and watch some over the top action kind of way but it is ultimately instantly forgettable and they only time you’re likely to watch it again is when it becomes one of those films that ITV 2 repeat three times a week and you have spent the last hour indecisively flicking through Netflix.
And you will be able to hear Steve talk about San Andreas on the next episode of the Failed Critics Podcast.
Steve returns to sum up everything of interest that’s happened in the past week in the world of film and some stuff not quite in the world of film. More in the world of Failed Critics.
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
I don’t pay tribute to people often. However with the Failed Critics founder James Diamond leaving the site, as a regular at least, I felt it only right to say a few words.
James started Failed Critics around two years ago now because he loves film. He created this blog and podcast from nothing and has been kind enough to tolerate my involvement for that time despite me being completely ignorant of the film-making process and barely able to be coherent and eloquent in a discussion about film.
Furthermore without him we would not have Failed Critics which you all (I assume) enjoy reading and listening to and many of us enjoy writing and podcasting for.
After ‘The World’s End’ we thought the Wright/Pegg double act had come to its natural end. However it has been confirmed that the duo will make another film together.
They, along with Nick Frost, have been the driving force behind Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and the aforementioned The World’s End.
They have successfully sent up and parodied pop culture, zombie films, buddy cop movies and more. With Wright having his well-publicised fall out with Marvel over Ant Man could we see them rip in to the Super Hero genre next?
The Jungle Books
I’m confused. They are making two Jungle Book movies at the same time. Not a prequel/sequel and a remake of the original but two movies by two studios, as far as I can see.
Ironically though Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan for the second time in his career.
More Comic Book News
Dwayne’ The Rock’ Johnson will play either Black Adam or Shazam in an upcoming DC Comic book movie adaptation.
Shazam is an orphan who can transform into a hero merely by uttering the word Shazam. It’s hardly transforming by eating a banana is it?
To be honest the Rock sounds more like someone Marvel would cast in one of their roles rather than DC/WB who seem to be taking the serious route.
Join us next week when no doubt more news will have occurred and Steve will have witnessed it.
“It could have been stupid. Actually, it probably is a bit daft. But nevertheless, it all comes together evenly and most importantly, it’s actually entertaining in that popcorn munching, Coke slurping way you’d hope for.“
by Owen Hughes
There’s a certain type of nerd out there in the real world that can’t help but coil in disgust at the mere mention of Brett Ratner. Unforgiven is he, and so shall he remain, for the legacy he left the X-Men movie franchise in following his effort with The Last Stand. He will never get over the reputation held by many as “that guy who ruined Bryan Singer’s franchise”.
Not me personally. Growing up on a diet of kung-fu films, I still see him mainly as that guy who made Rush Hour, one of the better western Jackie Chan movies. Also, whisper it quietly, but I don’t think X-Men: The Last Stand is the worst thing to come out of the comic-book adaptation revival of the 2000’s; or even the X-Men franchise for that matter. In fact, it has some pretty great action sequences made in an old school “high wires and real explosives” kind of way, as opposed to being totally CGI. It’s the way he captures these impressive action scenes that, once again, is what he most successfully achieves with his latest flick, Hercules.
For anybody who has seen the trailer, a word of warning should probably go out that it is incredibly misleading. Forget it. Pretend that you’ve never seen it. Do you still have burnt into your mind the lingering memory of the woeful, tedious and entirely disappointing Clash of the Titans remake, therefore are expecting yet another snooze-inducing, monster-bashing, mythological sword and sandals affair? I am happy to be the one to inform you that this is far from it.
This is hardly a remake of the Disney animated classic. Dispensing with the monsters and mythical beasts within the first 5 minutes during a dramatic and exaggerated narration sequence, the movie we are presented with instead revolves around an older, more world-weary, mercenary-for-hire Hercules character. Together with his band of brothers (and one sister) he enters into one final contract to earn that last bag of gold. Just one more pay packet, enough for him to retire on and live out his days in solitude, away from the pressures that being a celebrity in ancient Greece holds. Wouldn’t you know it, not quite all the facts of this contract have been revealed to our scantily clad hero and his merry chums.
The ensemble cast (including a performance from the gargantuan Dwayne Johnson as the titular protagonist that is somewhat less charismatic than we have become accustomed to) does at least have an element of genuinely believable camaraderie between them. Ian McShane raises more eyebrows than our lead actor with his performance as the profit who sees only what the frequently annoying God’s want him to see, which as legend goes even includes his own death. A Spartan and best friend of Hercules, played by Rufus Sewell, provides us with most of the banter within the group and often at the expense of the invaluable storyteller (Reece Ritchie). I say invaluable, I mean he often provides exposition and insight into the groups history. The Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, playing a skilled archer, and a mute crazy warrior scarred by his past (also played by a Norweigan, Aksel Hennie) make up the remaining members. They appear to riff off each other well enough, albeit in a rather scripted way. Together, they help Lord Cotys (John Hurt) reclaim the land that once belonged to him.
With a plot not as straightforward as may have been apparent, the twists and turns along the path are delivered at an unwavering and consistent pace. It could have been stupid. Actually, it probably is a bit daft. But nevertheless, it all comes together evenly and most importantly, it’s actually entertaining in that popcorn munching, Coke slurping way you’d hope for. It also has a touch of the Spartacus about it. There’s clearly a socialist (or, at least, democratic) message buried underneath the mounds of baby oil and loin cloths. To say any more may be to spoil some of the second half of the film, but it definitely tries to have some deeper meaning tucked away in there.
Back on the podcast earlier this year when reviewing Pompeii, I accused Paul WS Anderson of being a director who “doesn’t make films badly, he just makes bad films”. Similar in some respects as these two films may be, it would be unfair of me to level that same accusation at Ratner’s version of Hercules. It’s not a bad movie at all. The story may be a tad lightweight, relying on some montage sequences and an audience either too young or wilfully ignorant enough to overlook some rather polarised set pieces. However, like Pompeii, it is also surprisingly watchable. Teenage boys who aren’t quite old enough to watch the superior 15-rated 300, or of the wrong generation to have seen 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, seem to be this 12A’s target audience. Which is fine. They will most certainly be the people who get the most out of it. It’s not a film to challenge your preconceptions of anyone or anything, but it will provide a couple of cheap thrills and who knows, maybe it will even help to ease the monkey off of Ratner’s back a little.
Owen Hughes will challenge your preconceptions of everyone and everything over on Twitter or on the weekly podcast.
When a director is as critically and artistically reviled as Michael Bay (best summed up in this classic song from Team America) it’s sometimes difficult to admit that they haven’t always been terrible at what they do. Films like The Rock, Armageddon, and Bad Boys may lack the subtlety and originality of the truly great films of our generation, but they are, on the whole, entertaining blockbusters in a style that has been sadly lacking in recent years.
This is pretty much all Michael Bay’s fault to be honest, with a decade of films that are all at once dumb, bombastic, sexist, and interminably dull despite the constant crash, bang, wallop of CGI ‘action’ scenes. Bad Boys 2 started the rot, and by the time the third Transformers film rolled into town everyone but teenage boys and the toy manufacturers were praying for his career to be taken out the back and shot as humanely as possible.
Then something strange happened. I, along with other film fans of sound mind and body, suddenly got excited about a new Michael Bay film. Based on a fascinating true life story, and starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Pain & Gain promised something we never thought possible; Michael Bay attempting his version of an indie film. And you know what, it’s actually not a bad film.
The story focuses on Wahlberg’s character Daniel Lugo, a former fraudster who is trying to live a straight life while ferociously pursuing the American Dream. He spends almost all of his time at his gym, sculpting the perfect body while training clients to realise their full physical potential. His confusion of ambition and greed leads to a bizarre scheme that involves kidnapping one of his mega rich clients, and violently persuading them to sign over everything to him. The weak link in the operation being his accomplices; a born again Christian battling addiction (Johnson), and his best friend and gym protégé (Anthony Mackie).
What follows is both highly entertaining, and morally troubling. The central performances are brilliant, with Walhberg and Johnson giving their best performances in recent years. A brilliant mix of comedy, desperation, and outright violence; along with Mackie they are the glue that holds this film together. They are ably supported by Tony Shalhoub as the kidnap victim who you never feel an ounce of sympathy for, and Ed Harris who is brilliant, but also rapidly turning into Peter Weller by the day.
The troubling aspects of this film are two-fold. Firstly, Bay’s misogynistic themes are right to the fore here with his usual slow-motion shots of women’s scantily-clad behinds, or the off-hand way almost every male character treats the women in their life. Even more questionable is the tone of the kidnap and resulting scenes of violence and torture, especially considering we are constantly reminded that this is based on a true story. I’ve read the original newspaper article the film is based upon, and the protagonists are not loveable, misunderstood oafs, but calculating psychopaths. This revisionism leaves an exceptional bad taste in the mouth as the credits role and the obligatory ‘where are they now’ title cards roll.
It’s ultimately a very entertaining film, and at times matches Bad Boys for its gleeful style of pitting buddies against explosions and worst case scenarios. If you can leave your conscience and morals at the door (and I don’t blame you if you can’t) I dare say you’ll have a great time watching this film. The saddest thing about this whole project is that Bay appears to have treated it as a little holiday, and he’ll very shortly get back to making Transformers 4 and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot that nobody wants. Still, at least then I can go back to happily slagging him off.
Pain & Gain is released in UK cinemas on 30th August.
Site editor James Diamond presents his picks for the best films on terrestrial television this week in increasingly inaccurately titled blog.
If, like me, you were disappointed by Man of Steel and Zack Snyder’s by-numbers impressions of Christopher Nolan and Terence Malick, then sit back and watch the film that really announced him as an exciting director to watch. Viscerally violent and almost comically homoerotic in equal measure, it’s also fun to spot the now-very-recognisable actors on display here including a young Magneto, a brunette Cersei Lannister, and a particularly shifty McNulty.
Tuesday 25th June – The Outlaw Josey Wales (5USA, 11pm)
Clint Eastwood’s second Western as a director (after 1973’s High Plains Drifter) and although he was clearly still learning the craft at the time, this film owes more than a passing resemblance to Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy. Set before and during the American Civil War, Eastwood also stars as the farmer who joins a Confederate guerrilla unit and pledges to take revenge on the Union soldiers who killed his family.
Wednesday 26th June – The Rock (BBC3, 10pm)
BBC3 continue their screenings of one of the most impressive purple patches in cinematic history, known by historians as the ‘Cage Action Era’. This week it’s The Rock, starring everyone’s favourite bonkers anti-hero, alongside a suitably grumpy and charismatic Sean Connery. For tenuous and barely explained reasons, Ed Harris is the army general who has gone rogue and is holed up in Alcatraz threatening to release chemical weapons across the western seaboard. A stark reminder that Michael Bay used to make quite fun films.
Thursday 27th June – The Blair Witch Project (Horror Channel, 9pm)
For all my usual aversion to the found footage genre, I actually really enjoyed this film on release, and it’s staggering to think of the hype surrounding a film made for less than $10k back at the end of the nineties. Obviously the success of the film lead to over a decade of mostly poor and badly made imitators, but for a few brief moments a horror film shocked the mainstream cinema-going public and moved the goalposts in favour of young film-makers with tiny budgets.
Friday 28th June – The Talented Mr Ripley (More4, 9pm)
I’m sure everyone will have already seen The Running Man (Film4, 11.20pm) and Starship Troopers (BBC1, 11.25pm) more times that I’ve said I don’t get ‘found footage’ films on the Failed Critics podcast. So I am going to recommend this thriller from the late Anthony Minghella, starring Jude Law and Matt Damon. Damon plays the titular Mr Ripley, an underachiever who blags a job to retrieve a millionaire’s son (Law) from his Italian sojourn in the 1950s. The fantastic central performances are matched only by the beauty of the Italian locations, and Minghella’s change in tone midway through the film just about holds together. An art-house ‘guilty pleasure’ in many respects.
Saturday 29th June – Stardust (Film4, 1pm)
This Matthew Vaughn adaptation of a Neil Gaiman book is about as close as this generation has got to its version The Princess Bride. A classic tale of a simple young man drawn into a fantasy world in the 1800s when he retrieves a fallen star, only to discover the star is a young woman (Claire Danes) being pursued by three witches (led by Michelle Pfieffer). Rober DeNiro steals the show as a crossing-dressing pirate, while even Ricky Gervais manages not to grate too much during his cameo.
Sunday 30th June – Dr Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Film4, 11am)
I recently lauded this as my one of my two favourite Stanley Kubrick films on Failed Critics Podcast (along with A Clockwork Orange) and every viewing always seems to make me love it more. Despite Kubrick’s reputation for cold and harsh direction of his actors, he famously said that directing Peter Sellers in this was easy, as all he had to was make sure he always had at least three cameras pointed at him. A fine example of how satire and comedy can sometimes be the most frightening way to confront our worst fears.
Also on television on a brilliant day for film is Groundhog Day (5*, 2.15pm), Fantastic Mr Fox (Channel 4, 4.55pm), and Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (Sky One, 8pm).
This year, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is appearing in approximately 347 films. His screen time in this summer’s blockbusters is longer than the reign of Queen Victoria, and only Kevin Bacon (in those disappointingly bad EE adverts) will be seen by more pairs of eyeballs in darkened cinema screens across the land.
This is no happy accident though, rather it is the result of over a decade of hard work and bucketfuls of natural charisma that have led to the first true wrestling/Hollywood crossover action star. You have to admire the way that Johnson has put in a hard shift at the acting coalface, biding his time in an assortment of ropey children’s films like Tooth Fairy and Race to Witch Mountain, and honing his skills in small unconventional roles in films as diverse as Be Cool and Southland Tales.
Where he seems most at home though, is in the action genre. His film debut as the Scorpion King in 2001’s The Mummy Returns led to a woeful spin-off film, but even when left high and dry by a terrible script and lacklustre direction there is a genuine glint of stardust in the shit. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger before him, Johnson is a giant slab of muscle with a great sense of humour and a winning smile. Recent performances though, have suggested a greater depth of performance that could be the missing piece of the action star jigsaw that has been incomplete for so long.
Interestingly, Johnson has made a recent habit out of resurrecting franchises that should by rights have been long consigned to the great bargain bin in the sky. First with the Fast and Furious films, then the Journey series, and more recently with GI Joe: Retaliation. It’s not just franchises he is single-handedly resurrecting, and this summer he has achieved the near impossible by getting someone other than teenage boys excited about a Michael Bay film.
With that in mind, here are a few more moribund film series that I think Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson could infinitely improve:
The original was one of Stephen Spielberg’s best films, but the series went rapidly downhill after that. With Jurassic Park 4 in the pipeline, who better than The Rock to add a touch of kick-ass action to the mix. The only problem being the films’ inherent implausibility and complete lack of scientific grounding in fact. I mean, there’s obviously no way a T-Rex could withstand a People’s Elbow.
Aliens v Predator
It would take an infinite amount of monkeys an infinite amount of time to explain how two brilliant franchises combined to produce such a bad collection of spin-off films. It’s time for The Rock to resurrect this bafflingly bad, but so full of promise franchise. For the first time, Aliens and Predators must combine forces to defeat the most deadly force in the the universe…the Rock Bottom.
The worst thing about these dreadful films is the hour and a bit of watching some unlikeable fuckwits wander around a house while nothing happens. How about we watch The Rock chilling out at home for 90 minutes, and then he punches a ghost in the face. Box office gold.
Tell us which films you’d love to see Dwayne Johnson ‘rock’ up in. Is there a single film that wouldn’t be improved by his presence?
Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics podcast, and after the highbrow and in-depth exploration of the work of one of cinema’s greatest auteurs last week, we are genuinely reviewing the latest batshit crazy instalment in the G.I. Joe franchise.
We also mourn the fact that Dredd will not be getting a sequel, discuss the next film series that The Rock should resurrect, and James and Owen nearly come to blows over Danny Boyle’s Trance.
Join us next week for our Summer Preview Triple Bill!
With nearly a quarter of the year already a distant memory, James Diamond presents the notable releases and hidden gems in UK cinemas from April through to June.
Spring is turning into the new Summer in terms of the big studio blockbusters, and getting the jump on your rivals this early in the year can work out heavily in a film’s favour if it’s good enough (Avengers passed the $1 billion mark before The Dark Knight Rises even saw the inside of a multiplex last year). Marvel has opted for a repeat of that strategy with the release of Iron Man 3 on 26th April, and they’ll be hoping for similar success from Shane Black’s take on Tony Stark. Personally, I just think it’s great to see Shane Black getting the kind of backing that Joss Whedon received last year. It genuinely seems like the age of the blockbuster auteur.
Iron Man 3 isn’t going to have it all its own way in terms of the sci-fi blockbuster landscape though, with the Tom Cruise vehicle Oblivion getting its UK release on 12th April. Cruise plays one of the last remaining drone repairmen, looking after the surface of Earth which was deserted by humanity decades before, following a brutal war with an alien race. From its Wall-E-esque beginnings, it’s clear that the film soon descends into an all-action shoot-em-up and conspiracy thriller, also featuring Morgan Freeman and Andrea Riseborough.
This really is a month of action, with ‘Die Hard in the White House’ thriller Olympus Has Fallen (17th April) stealing a march on a very similar looking White House Down (released in September) and making the brave choice to be a violent adult action film in a world where the Die Hard and Taken franchises have chosen to appeal to a child audience. We also get our second glimpse of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in as many weeks as he follows up GI Joe: Retaliation with Snitch; a film apparently based on the true life story of a father who went undercover for the FBI to get his son out of trouble.
I wish The Rock was my dad.
Also released this month is the unnecessary, but potentially great Evil Dead remake, as well as the latest Michael Winterbottom /Steve Coogan collaboration The Look of Love, which has been impressing audiences at Sundance and Glasgow Film Festival.
Another month, another highly anticipated sci-fi blockbuster sequel. Star Trek Into Darkness (no colon there? Really? Sounds like a film about hiking) arrives in the UK on 9th May, and first impressions have all of us at Failed Critics very excited. The first instalment of the reboot series was impressive, but things look like getting a whole lot bigger, darker, and Benedict Cumberbatchier in the sequel.
The following week the UK will get its first look at another big budget, 3D and CGI’d beast of a blockbuster in the shape of a screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby. Wait, that can’t be right. I have a feeling that The Great Gatsby in 3D is either going to be incredible, or one of the worst films of the year. Baz Luhrmann doesn’t tend to do shades of grey.
This month also sees the release of a couple of sequels, with their respective franchises suffering very different fortunes at the moment. While The Hangover Part III (24th May) looks like being another experiment in ever decreasing comic returns in a series that started reasonably well and then went off a cliff, Fast and Furious 6 looks like being the biggest and most utterly bonkers instalment of a franchise that people had written off as irrelevant years ago.
How did they do it? Two words: The Rock.
Also out this month is a foreign language film to get those of you who don’t mind reading your movies excited. A Hijacking was one of my favourite films of Glasgow Film Festival, and it finally gets a UK release on 10th May. Written and directed by one of the creators of Borgen, it tells the harrowing story of a Danish freighter hijacked by Somali pirates in quite harrowing and ultra-realistic style.
Every year we see films with a similar narrative start point going up against each other. Years ago it was Armageddon and Deep Impact. A few years later we had Melancholia and Another Earth, while last year we saw two excellent ‘cops trapped in apartment block’ movies in The Raid and Dredd. This summer a couple of ‘deserted Earth and the fight for humanity’s future’ blockbusters coming out within a few months of each other. I’ve already written about Oblivion, but 7th June sees the release of After Earth, the latest film from the crossword wrapped in a Sudoku that is M. Knight Shyamalan. It’s got plenty of star power though, starring Will Smith in one of his rare screen appearances, and his son Jaden Smith.
The big release this month is the return of Superman in Zac Snyder’s Man of Steel. Clunkily billed as ‘Produced by the Director of The Dark Knight Trilogy’, the early trailers suggest that Snyder may have toned down the visual style that made 300 and Watchmen so great to look at. I’m looking forward to this, but I have a nagging suspicion that this might be Snyder doing a Nolan impression, and that’s a worry.
World War Z starring Brad Pitt is out on 21st June, and it seems to have fallen into the trap of thinking that the kids today just aren’t scared by shuffling zombies any more It’s a shame, as I really enjoyed the book and I think it may have been better produced as an HBO miniseries, rather than a bog-standard zombie flick that is World War Z in name only. We shall see.
A far more entertaining look at the end of the world could be found in Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s This Is The End. The setting is a party at James Franco’s house, and a variety of celebrities end up facing the apocalypse together. While there is definitely the potential for this to be horrifically self-indulgent and only funny to those on set, the trailer holds up very well and the cast list is a veritable who’s who of US comedy. Fingers crossed.
Rounding off this preview is Joss Whedon’s new film. Considering his last film was a near 3 hour epic that made over $1 billion at the box office and resurrected the superhero ensemble movie, it’s typical Whedon that his next release is a black and white Shakespeare comedy that he filmed in his house with his close friends over a couple of weeks. Much Ado About Nothing got rave reviews at Glasgow Film Festival last month, and word is that it could be one of the great adaptations of the Bard’s work.
This week’s podcast returns to the bread and butter work of reviewing the latest releases, and the spotlight is on Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to the brilliant In Bruges – Seven Psychopaths. Boasting a brilliant cast including Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, and Christopher Walken half of the podcast team (yes, I know…) give their verdicts.
Also in this episode James tries to cement his hipster art-house credentials while sporting the worst French accent since ‘Allo ‘Allo with his glowing reviews of Amour and Intouchables; Gerry finally gets around to watching Prometheus; Owen gets confused and somehow watches Predators instead of Predator; and Steve goes to great lengths to test the podcast theory that we can watch any film which stars The Rock by reviewing Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.
We’re back next week with a Tolkien-inspired special episode with our first thoughts on The Hobbit.