Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes do not podcast with their microphones; he who podcasts with his microphone has forgotten the face of his father. They podcast with their friends, Maaya Brooker and Liam, as the each pick their three favourite Stephen King movies for this week’s triple bill episode, in addition to a review of the sci-fi / horror / fantasy author’s latest big screen adaptation, The Dark Tower.
“Now are you a rusher? Or are you a dragger?”
Yup, the Oscars are almost here. The annual celebration of people doing their job very well when they’re paid hundreds of thousands of times more than you and me do for our nine-to-fives. Basically, it’s Hollywood’s Employee of the Month award with an almost ironclad guarantee that winners will go on to do something bloody awful afterwards – I’m looking at you, Halle Berry and I’m DEFINITELY not looking at Swordfish.
So what do you say? Shall we continue my list of missed opportunities and wrong decisions? I promise to be a little less controversial than I was in the first part and hopefully, hopefully, you’ll agree with some of my choices. Only one way to find out.
1994 – Pulp Fiction
The first of a 1994 double bill that lost out to the bloody terrible Forrest Gump. Yeah, I know, I’ve probably lost you already, but hear me out. My dislike for Tom Hanks aside, I simply don’t like Gump and his stupid face. The whole film just bugs me, and the fact that it has beaten a bonafide classic like Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is just unforgivable.
The intertwined stories of gangsters, everyday criminals and Joe average that blurs the lines between good guys and bad is one of the most amazing films dedicated to celluloid. To spend the two and a half hour running-time with these characters is to spend a tenth of your day with some of the most brilliantly written characters in the history of film.
Between this, and the next film in my list, there’s no way on God’s green earth that anyone, ANYONE, can tell me that they think the escapades of Mr. Gump deserves that Oscar.
1994 – The Shawshank Redemption
Yeah, believe it or not, the Forrest Chump beat this to the Oscar too. Based on a Stephen King short story and current, almost permanent, number one on the IMDB top 250 (Pulp Fiction is 5, while Hanks’ statue thief sits at 13), Shawshank is regarded by many as the greatest film is ever made.
Frank Darabont makes his feature film debut and gets his name known around the world with what is easily the best prison drama put to film. Featuring Tim Robbins and an Oscar nominated performance from Morgan Freeman as a pair of unlikely friends working through years behind bars with each other. With escape constantly on the mind of Robbins’ innocent Andy Dufresne and Freeman’s “Red” living with the desire to just play out his time in peace and quiet; Shawshank is maybe the only film that could beat Tarantino’s Classic to the finishing line if quality of film was actually the standard used for handing out these awards.
1997 – Good Will Hunting
Genuinely, I think this is a no-brainer. Forget the star power of writers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting is a truly original film. The story of Damon’s Will Hunting who, with the help and guidance from his court appointed psychologist (Robin Williams) learns to find his identity in a world where he can solve almost any problem, but can’t seem to shift his own personal demons.
Compare that to the film that won the Oscar that year? A film about a giant sinking boat. And while Titanic may be a visually impressive film to watch, the fact that it’s a love story, based on an unsinkable boat that sank, where the happy ever after was one of the lovers freezing to death in the water while the other clung to a lump of wood to survive? No thanks. Utter guff. And again, no staying power. All these years later, Titanic looks like a CGI laden mess, Good Will Hunting can still draw you in with its fantastic drama.
2011 – Moneyball
Definitely more of a personal opinion for this one than a flat out obvious mistake on the Academy’s part. Based on Michael Lewis’ book, The art of winning an unfair game, this Brad Pitt starring drama lost out to The Artist. Now, I enjoyed The Artist; it was a well made film that, considering what it was, kept me riveted the entire time it was on. But in my opinion, it was a flash in the pan and on second viewing isn’t half as good.
Moneyball earned a handful of nomination in 2011, including acting nods for its star and, much to everyone’s surprise, Jonah Hill. The film takes the mundane behind the scenes stuff of pre-season baseball and makes it a thrilling, interesting, drama that has you hooked early on and doesn’t let go. Its author hits his third adaptation to get a nomination for best film this year with The Big Short (the frankly amazing The Blind Side as also nominated in 2009 but lost, quite rightly, to The Hurt Locker) and honestly, this should have been his first win.
2015 – Whiplash
Now, I know I’m gonna get shit for is one, and that’s ok. There was absolutely nothing wrong with last year’s winner, the brilliant Birdman was deserving of its statue. And even when watching it again, it’s just as good; well acted, brilliantly directed and with a very cool improvised jazz score I would gladly have The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance in my collection.
But it didn’t do one thing that Whiplash did. Not only did the film completely blow me away, but the story of the young jazz drummer going up against his abusive band leader and trying to come out on top left me walking out of the cinema in a state that I can only describe as shell shocked. It’s a state I’ve been in several times after watching this amazing spectacle of a film. Every rewatch leaves me exhausted and at the same time begging for more. The only other film to do that recently is 2016 best pic nominee Mad Max: Fury Road. And only time will tell us if whatever beats it has the staying power that both of these films have.
That’s me done. For this year at least. What did you think? Do you agree with my choices? Think I’m a complete imbecile for hating Titanic and Forrest Gump? Do feel free to let me know. There’s nothing I like more than a good argument over great films!
Every 23rd December, for the past three years, we have released our pick of the films being shown on freeview TV over the Christmas schedule. Last year’s choices were made by Paul Field, but returning to this Failed Critics Christmas tradition is site editor Owen Hughes. It practically guarantees less Carry On movies and probably more big budget blockbusters…
A couple of years ago, we were regularly posting lists of films that we would recommend for the week ahead. Oh, how times have changed. It seems these days that with the rise of Netflix and other streaming services, we’re less bothered about waiting for films to be shown on TV and instead watching whatever we want, whenever we want. Which is great! Except that it’s reduced these articles to annual posts.
Nevertheless, I’ve had a look through the TV schedule to see what tat is being pushed on us this year and tried to sift out some of the dross (although Steve will be pleased to know that The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is being shown on Christmas day at 11am) and chosen five decent-to-good movies each day in the run up to 2016.
Christmas Eve –
Finishing work early tomorrow? Want something to just stick on when you walk through the door to get you in a Christmassy mood? Well, stick Channel 4 on at 2.15pm and get straight into the classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Alternatively, if you’re sick of that bloody film already, try out the Robert Zemeckis animated A Christmas Carol over on BBC One at 2.20pm (it’s the version that I talked about on our Winterval Podcast this week). If you prefer your Scrooge’s to be real rather than cartoony, then stay up wrapping last minute presents until half past midnight for the 1951 version on Channel 5 starring Alastair Sim as the miserly grump. For those of us who relate a bit too much to Ebenezer, and can’t be arsed with this Christmas nonsense – bah humbug – then watch Karl Urban as the Mega-City One Judge, jury and executioner in Dredd on Film4 at 11.25pm or switch over to BBC Two five minutes later for one of Hitchcock’s best with Dial M For Murder.
Christmas Day –
We’ve had two of the most well known adaptations of Dickens’ novel, so why not start the afternoon with Channel 4 and give the other two a watch on Christmas day itself? Starting at 1.45pm with The Muppet Christmas Carol, they swiftly follow it up at 3.45pm with Bill Murray doing his thing in Scrooged. Later that evening, BBC Three have a double bill of animated movies that are safe to watch with granny, the kids, your other half or on your todd with Toy Story at 7.30pm and How To Train Your Dragon straight after it at 8.45pm. For something not at all schmalzy, sentimental or saccharine, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until much, much later in the evening as the Coen Brothers change the mood entirely at 00.05am on ITV4 with the hilarious 90’s comedy The Big Lebowski. Or, like, that’s just my opinion that it’s hilarious, man…
Boxing Day –
It may be somewhat twee, and I’m aware Wes Anderson isn’t for everyone, but if there’s a better film on TV for you to crawl out of your hangover with after getting up extremely late than Fantastic Mr Fox on Channel 4 at 11.25am, then I couldn’t find it. You can time it right to fit in a quick turkey sarnie and a fresh cuppa between it finishing and Jurassic Park starting over on ITV at 1.20pm, reminding you just how good the original was after Jurassic World swept the box office clean earlier this year. Really though, you should be watching the football. I believe that’s what Boxing Day was invented for. Once Final Score has finished, switch over to the horror channel at 6.40pm for the intense Spielberg thriller, Duel. Film4 can round off a very late evening with two modern British classics in crime thriller Sexy Beast (11.25pm) and Scottish sci-fi – and one of our favourite movies of 2014 – Under The Skin (1.10am).
Sunday 27th –
That’s the Christmas movies well and truly out of the way now and it’s Studio Ghibli to the rescue as we kick off the day with one of their most celebrated works, the charming My Neighbour Totoro. Flick over to Channel 5 at 2.25pm to see one of the greatest movies ever made, John Ford’s most revered western, The Searchers, starring the Duke himself, John Wayne. Starting at 4.05pm on BBC One is a fantasy movie returning to where it all began with Oz: The Great and the Powerful, which is actually quite a nice, funny little family movie. You can choose how you’d like to round off the day with one of the following two. Personally, I’d go for one of my favourite discoveries of the year, Cronenberg’s body-horror Videodrome (the horror channel, 10.50pm) over Channel 4’s showing of The Inbetweeners 2 at 11.10pm, that both Steve and Callum tore to pieces.
Monday 28th –
You maniacs! You haven’t yet set your reminder! Ah, damn you! Goddamn you all to Hell! Well, at least until Monday morning at 10.15am when you switch on More4 and watch the original Planet of the Apes – AND THEN later that day you’ll be fully prepared for Film4’s 6.55pm screening of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. At 8.30pm on BBC Three is Kung Fu Panda 2 (read why that’s a good thing in Callum’s brilliant piece from his DreamWorks retrospective). For something a little more… grown up… Steven Soderbergh’s movie Behind The Candelabra (BBC Two, 9pm) features one of Michael Douglas’s best ever performances. Finally, if the forgettable Terminator Genisys hasn’t already disappeared entirely from your memory, then James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day will wipe the last remnants from your mind on Film4 at 1.15am.
Tuesday 29th –
Channel 4, 2.30pm, Coraline. Film4, 6.10pm, Master & Commander. ITV2, 9pm, The Shawshank Redemption. ITV, 10.25pm, American Pie. My pick of the lot: Channel 5, 10.45pm, Erin Brockovich. That’s your lot. We’re running out of quality films on TV as the year comes to a close and I’m running out of patience trying to make these films sound interesting. However, if you think Tuesday’s films read a lot like a list of movies you’re glad that you’ve seen once but probably have no intention of ever watching again, just wait until you see what’s lined up for Wednesday…
We’ve got a run that starts with ITV2 at 5.45pm and Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth (that I actually thought was quite enjoyable) with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Film4 will help change the tone to something surprisingly fun with Denzel and Wahlberg teaming up for crime-comedy Two Guns at 9pm. Tune into the horror channel at 10.45pm for some Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse horror at Planet Terror. Furious 7 may have already been voted for in quite a number of people’s submissions to the Failed Critics Awards, but Channel 4 go back a couple of sequels to Fast Five at 11.05pm. Afterwards, prepare for Joy with Film4’s showing of The Fighter at 1.10am.
Thursday 31st –
And here we are! New Year’s Eve and what better way to see off 2015 than with, er, well, The Adventures of TinTin on BBC One at 10.55am. (That was a rhetorical question. Don’t answer that.) More adventures are afoot with a rare screening of The Rocketeer on Channel 4 at 1.10pm and – a Pixar film guaranteed to make you cry – Up, over on BBC One at 2.50pm. I will be at a New Years party by this time (oooh get me) but if you fancy a night in watching movies to bring in 2016, then BBC4 honour Bob Hoskins, who sadly passed away this year, with Made In Dagenham at 10.55pm. Film4 are going slightly more modern and again doing the whole David O. Russell / Jennifer Lawrence / Bradley Cooper / Robert De Niro thing and are showing Silver Linings Playbook at 11.10pm.
In the latest entry to our Decade in Film series, Kate takes a look back at her favourite films released 20 years ago. A year so good that none of Jim Carrey’s 3 classic comedies, Tom Hanks’ most celebrated role nor the most expensive movie ever made (at the time) could squeeze into the top five. That’s how good a year it was. Want to know what was better? Read on…
by Kate Diamond (@katediamond)
“Meticulous planning tenacity spanning
Decades of denial is simply why I’ll
Be king undisputed respected, saluted
And seen for the wonder I am”
The current widespread hysterical hype over Ice Princess romp Frozen? That was the UK in the autumn of 1994 with The Lion King. OK, that was me in the autumn of 1994 with The Lion King. I’m a Pride Rock obsessive. Though even casual observers would have to admit that this was the last great Disney film for a while. Possibly even until Elsa & Anna came along some twenty years later. (Full disclosure? I prefer Tangled.)
A Hamlet-esque tale of elephant graveyards, laughing in the face of danger, and grub; in which Jeremy Irons steals the show entirely as the delightfully brutal Scar. From the sublime (the wonderful Circle of Life opening sequence) to the ridiculous (I Just Can’t Wait To Be King: worst animation ever), it’s a true musical feast – picking up the Academy awards for both original score and original song. Although I think we can all agree that the harrowing stampede scene should never have been granted a U rating.
“Cans! There was no baby, it was full of cans!”
While the imdb ‘turned down the part of Annie’ list features almost every actress in Hollywood, the relatively unknown Sandra Bullock cracked on and actually passed her bus driving licence for this role. Who’s laughing now, Sarah Jessica Parker? Keanu Reeves is our, let’s not beat around the bush here, protagonist DREAMBOAT. The white t-shirt, the cropped hair, the monotonous emotionless line delivery – I was 14, and I’d never known love like it. Support comes from Jeff Daniels as the loveably loyal partner, and Dennis Hopper as the wronged ex-cop with a detonator, and a penchant for pop quizzes.
The somewhat ill-advised tagline for Speed was ‘get ready for rush hour’. Which, on a bus set to explode if it drops below 50mph, would have made for a pretty short movie. Instead this is 116 minutes of high octane elevator shaft, subway and bus jumping drama. And there’s even time for a little bit of romance at the end. My brother met his missus on a bus, and it wasn’t nearly as exciting as this.
“You, you’re so obsessed with making it seem so much more epic, so much more important than it really is. Christ, you work in a convenience store, Dante, and badly I might add.”
The picture that launched Kevin Smith’s career, and possibly still his finest work, was filmed in black & white on a tiny budget. Essential viewing for anyone who’s ever worked in the service industry, or indeed uttered the words ‘I’m not even supposed to be here today’, Clerks introduces us to a host of characters who would return in some of Smith’s later work, including Jay & Silent Bob, one of cinema’s most enduring double acts.
Set in a fully functioning convenience store, shooting could only take place at night outside of its opening hours. This resulted in a plot centred on a brilliant hand written sign, and recurrent references to the smell of shoe polish. Watch it for the dialogue, for a reminiscence of the days of actually going to a shop to rent a film; or as a stark reminder of the dangers of using public toilets. I once paid £16.99 for a copy of this on VHS, to impress a guy. Worth it.
2. Pulp Fiction
“God damn that’s a pretty fucking good milkshake”
Reservoir Dogs, with all that ear business, was a bit gory for me, truth be told. Accidentally shoot a man in the face, however, and I’ll laugh for hours. You’d have to reside under a pretty huge rock not to be aware of this film. The delicious ensemble cast, the out of sequence storyline, and a pop soundtrack in lieu of a score that is pretty much the greatest mix tape ever.
The movie that resurrected John Travolta’s career, it would have made my top five purely for getting him to dance on the big screen again. But add to that Bruce Willis brandishing a machete, Samuel L Jackson brandishing a cheeseburger, and the aforementioned Bonnie Situation, and I’m there every single time you want to watch it. Pulp Fiction is what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity. As cool as a million Fonzies.
“I guess I just miss my friend.”
If someone asks me to name my favourite film (Why the hell would you ask me that? Are we on a speed date?) I’ll more than likely name this. And I hate that, because it does seem like the kind of safe, middle of the road choice a boring brother in law might offer. But this film genuinely does push/punch/beat into submission so many of my buttons that I can cry just thinking about the final 20 minutes. (An A level film studies class once hosted a screening of it at our local independent cinema, and my post credits bumbling snotty thanks to them for the opportunity to see it on the big screen probably ruined their experience entirely. Sorry to them.)
An epic tale of Mozart, hope and money laundering in a jail in Maine. While it’s easy to like Morgan Freeman’s affable prison stalwart Red, critics described Tim Robbin’s Andy Dufresne as lacking in warmth and ability to connect with the audience. However his quiet contemplative performance as a man wrongly convicted of killing his wife makes for a pretty damn emotional conclusion. A film with an (albeit slightly ridiculous) final reveal that if, like me, you were blissfully unaware of the first time you saw it, leaves you immediately wanting to watch it again to relive the details. Shawshank did little at the box office on its original release, however later gained deserved success, plaudits and praise thanks to those already discussed video stores. Good on you, the nineties.
You can find more of our revitalised Decade In Film articles so far here, from 1963-2004.
This week’s choices are from our editor, James Diamond.
Try to forget the sheer boredom of last year’s The Bourne Narcolepsy by diving into one of the better sequels of recent times. Paul Greengrass’s first go at the helm of a Bourne film, and it’s a cracker of an action movie, with Matt Damon returning as the super soldier pushed to the edge when sinister forces won’t let him enjoy his retirement. Brilliant support from Brian Cox and Joan Allen ensure that the film feels more heavyweight than the majority of its peers.
Tuesday 16th April – Stalag 17 (More4, 11.10am)
As is now pretty standard in these pieces, I’m going to suggest a film that I’ve got tucked away on my unnamed DVR box and still haven’t got around to watching. This week’s choice in that category is about as low-risk a recommendation as they come though, what with it being a Billy Wilder film that’s firmly entrenched in the IMDB Top 250. William Holden stars as a wheeler-dealer POW during WWII who suddenly finds himself in grave danger when his men suspect him of being an informer for the Germans. Also on today is Blue Valentine (Film4, 11.20pm), and all you need to know about that is that it stars Ryan Gosling.
Wednesday 17th April – Tropic Thunder (BBC3, 10pm)
One of the better examples of the type of high concept comedy that Hollywood seems to churn out by the shedload these days, usually starring some combination of Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Steve Carrell. What elevates Tropic Thunder is its happiness to poke fun at the very industry that made it, from Robert Downey Jr’s character’s extreme method acting, to Tom Cruise cameo as a vile Hollywood producer.
Thursday 18th April – 24 Hour Party People (Film4, 11.30pm)
The first of the Steve Coogan/Michael Winterbottom ‘ego’ collaborations (with their latest The Look of Love out this month), and probably their best. It charts the rise of ‘Madchester’, Factory Records, and the brilliant Tony Wilson (surely an inspiration for Alan Partridge). My local indie nightclub seem to have this playing on mute in a constant loop most Saturday nights, so I’ll be taking this rare opportunity to actually listen to the brilliant soundtrack. Word of warning though, DO NOT watch Knowing (Film4, 9pm) directly beforehand. I didn’t know it was possible for a Nic Cage film to be this bad.
Friday 19th April – The Shawshank Redemption (ITV2, 9pm)
Look, I know it’s obvious. I know it’s a clichéd choice, and I know that you’ve probably already seen it before. That doesn’t stop The Shawshank Redemption being the best film on TV today. Its number one rating on IMDB may be overstating its brilliance slightly, but away from the hype it is still a wonderfully written and directed film (adapted from Stephen King’s novella by Frank Darabont, the man who brought The Walking Dead to our screens), driven by two utterly magnificent central performances from Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.
Saturday 20th April – Parenthood (ITV, 10.45pm)
Now and again a film comes along with an ensemble cast that is so perfect, with everyone at the top of their game, that you just want to sit back and watch them work. Parenthood is one of those films, with brilliant performances from Steve Martin, Mary Steenburgen, Rick Moranis, Dianne West, Tom Hulse, Keanu Reeves, and a young Joaquin Phoenix. A film with great humour, and a lot of heart.
Sunday 21st April – Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (ITV2, 12.10pm)
I know this is cheating a little, but I’m not going to turn down the chance to recommend a double-bill of Toy Story and Toy Story 2. My site, my rules. Toy Story is the film that made Pixar famous, and possibly even saved Disney. Even now the animation looks great, but it’s the smart script (including input from none other than Joss Whedon) and top-notch voice performances from the likes of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen that make this one of the finest family films ever made. Toy Story 2 doesn’t quite live up to the first film, but if you’re watching the first you’d need to have had your mind melded not to hang around for the sequel. Those in search of the perfect family film day can probably fit in a quick toilet break before Jurassic Park (ITV, 3.55pm) starts. Heaven.
The podcast’s very own Steve Norman talks us through the various plot-holes, and narrative choices in films that beguile, frustrate, and bemuse him. BEWARE – HERE BE SPOILERS…
Before he’s became president Abe was a vampire hunter going after the people who wronged his family. In his training he learnt that his weapon of choice had to be finished in silver to kill the enemy permanently.
Then when the vampires join the south during the civil war Lincoln seems to forget the fact that silver kills them for years, almost until it’s too late.
Surely such an experienced vampire slayer and one of the greatest men to have ever lived wouldn’t have overlooked such an important fact.
Mentioned in another article but a Mexican illegal immigrant living in the United States with no real footballing pedigree or background beyond an organised kick a bout would not be able to get a work permit to play for Newcastle United.
Robots are pretty clever in Star Wars. C3PO can calculate the odds of navigating an asteroid field quicker than Ladbrokes can work out the odds of your five team accumulator. He can speak 3 million languages and in those awful prequels robots made up the whole Trade Federation army.
So why would the Empire not blast a single escape pod out of the sky just because it had no life forms on board. You’d have thought some jobs worth would have pulled the trigger as it was an Imperial directive 7563.
Not breaking any ground with this revelation so I won’t dwell on it too much but how did Andy Dufresne get the poster back on the wall?
Not really a plot hole as Indy didn’t know what he was doing but Indiana Jones is responsible for the Second World War and the atrocities committed by the Nazis. If he doesn’t stop the Nazis, the Ark of the Covenant will make its way directly to Berlin and Adolf Hitler. When history’s second famous moustache (behind Neville Southall) opens the big box he and the majority of his high command will have their face melted off.
The toys know they are a toy that’s why they act inanimate and like toys when humans, or even dogs, are around. But when Buzz Lightyear comes into the fold he thinks he is a space ranger. So why does he act like a toy when Andy’s in the room?
Hugo Stiglitz is so famous everyone in the German army has heard of him. His face is in the papers as a traitor. So why when the Basterds go to the Inn does nobody recognise him?
I didn’t really want to include it but it’s in the title. However how an advanced alien race is able to have their systems hacked by Windows 95 is explained in a deleted scene. On that basis I’ll let it slide.
Feel free to offer up explanations to some of the ‘plot holes’ above, or even let us know the plot holes that have annoyed you over the years.