Tag Archives: Will Smith

Suicide Squad

“That is a whole lot of pretty. And a whole lot of crazy.”

As I write this, it’s 3am on Suicide Squad release day. I’m absolutely exhausted and I’m in desperate need of sleep. The problem is, I’m fresh back from the midnight screening of my most anticipated movie of 2016 and I’m all hyped up on the pure adrenaline rush that I just saw.

I promise, I’ll try to be as coherent as possible.

The Skwad‘s story is a dead simple one. Seven or eight criminals, all varying degrees of nasty-bastard or crazy-nutbag have been brought together by the powers that be to form Task Force X: a literal suicide squad that the government can throw in at the deep end with complete deniability if something goes wrong.

And wouldn’t you know it? Just as they’ve wrapped up the back stories, along comes a shifty looking supernatural thing that means to destroy humanity and rule the world. Fitted with explosive low-jacks and threatened with imminent death, the squad are airlifted into Midway City. Their mission: traverse the ruined streets to rescue and evacuate a high value target, and take out the apocalyptic threat in the heart of the city.

Adding to their woes is world-famous psychopath and world creepy laugh champion, The Joker (Jared Leto). Caring little for the squad’s mission, the crazed maniac just wants to be on the same side of the prison walls as his sweetheart and Task Force X member Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). As such, he is inserting himself into the squad’s lives whether they want him their or not. It’s all fun and games if you’re a bad guy.

This is still early on in DC’s extended cinematic universe, but my biggest fear going in was that I’m not a comic book reader. I had the same issues when we started getting invested more in the MCU and I had no more than a passing acquaintance with some of these characters. It’s the same with DC. Outside of Batman, The Joker and the many and varied Batman villains from the films, the only knowledge I have of a lot of these characters comes from playing the Arkham video games and DC’s TV universe.

So when poor reviews (the only time I’ll mention those) poured in this week and director David Ayer – a real long-time favourite of mine – came out and gave the infuriating “I made it for the fans” quote, I was concerned that I was gonna be left out in the cold, not knowing what the hell was going on nor who anyone was.

Luckily, this wasn’t the case at all. In the opening minutes, we are introduced to the ragtag group of criminals in a way that you might expect from an Expendables movie or Borderlands video game. Each member of the team gets their own little over the top vignette to give us a look at who they are and why they’re here. And man, what an impressive cast we get.

A quick rundown I reckon, but you don’t need much more. Impressively, the film gives you everything you need and you came here for a review, not a bullet-pointed list.

Will Smith’s Deadshot is the most prominent character. The man that never misses is a killer-for-hire, but is easily manipulated into doing as he’s told by the powers that be; and man does that make Mr Smith mad! Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s Joker are the King and Queen of Gotham City. With one of the pair of psychos in prison and the other trying to free them from the government’s clutches, their story (and their chemistry) is, as expected, a highlight of the film.

Theirs isn’t the only exploited relationship here. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is a decorated special forces colonel who is dragged in as Task Force X’s on-the-ground leader. Whether or not he agrees with them, he always follows his orders. In no small part because of his relationship with Dr June Moone. Cara Delavingne plays the good doctor, whose body is inhabited by the eons old Enchantress; a character deserving of her own horror movie she’s so spooky. Jay Hernandez gets to sink his teeth into Diablo, a pyrokinetic former gang member haunted by the deaths that he’s caused. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s reptilian Killer Croc is the muscle of the group. A sewer dwelling monster that seems almost unstoppable, Croc is a product of the way he’s been treated because of how he looks (absolutely NOT a political statement, I’m sure). Jai Courtney is almost unrecognisable as thief and killer Captain Boomerang; and Karen Fukuhara brings up the rear as Kitana, a deadly martial artist with a soul stealing sword and close friend of Rick Flag. Like I said, ragtag!

Running the show though, is Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller. A ruthless, heartless woman who can manipulate anyone to to what she wants. Compared to this vicious bitch, Task Force X are a Boy Scout troop.

This massive ensemble can lead to problems, especially for a film this early on in a universe that we are expected to invest in. Everyone has a backstory and only a small percentage of the cinema going audience are going to know it before the opening titles roll. It means you have to get me, a film lover but a comic book virgin, invested in your characters without sacrificing too much screen time or turning your film into a PowerPoint presentation. Thankfully, I think Ayer (who was also on writing duties for our anti-heroes) gets the balance just right. Mixing in an occasional flashback with a little dialogue-driven exposition during the lulls in action to make sure that by the time the credits roll, we are all caught up and more or less on an even footing with the comic book lovers that came with you to see the film.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have problems. In fact, I’m almost – ALMOST – feeling a little forgiving of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice after watching Suicide Squad. The film has many of the same problems as its predecessor and I’m starting to think that a large part of it is studio interference and not just director incompetence. I mean, Bats Vs. Supes definitely suffers from having a rubbish director and, in my humble and slightly David Ayer fanboy opinion, the Squad doesn’t have that issue. But the film has been edited down into a bit of a mess. It’s not unwatchable, not by any stretch of the imagination, but there are very obviously bits missing and evidence of chopping and changing that messes with the film’s pace a little.

Luckily, a competent writer and director has led the charge for this film and he’s clearly taken a hands on role in the editing of this film so it’s not been shredded to within an inch of its life like the previous entry in the franchise has.

While I thought he was probably the weakest character in the film, Leto’s Joker was interesting to watch. He bounced almost incoherently between quiet psychopath and feral monster. Both iterations are fun to watch but he gets woefully little screen time to build the character. That said, it’s not his film. It’s his introduction to this Extended Universe and I am looking forward to seeing his character grow.

On the other side of that coin though, Harley Quinn is portrayed brilliantly by Robbie. In a role that could be easily overplayed and annoying (or worse, over-sexualised and used simply as teenage masturbatory material) she’s been written so well and portrayed so brilliantly that every flash of that typical hyper-sexualisation, that would be simply gross in most instances, is owned by Quinn. It’s her doing it and she’s not just the daft doll she pretends to be. Every overtly sexual act is empowering for her – and I bloody love her for that!

Everyone stands out though. Every character is fun to watch. Smith’s Deadshot is pretty much just Will Smith; wise-cracking, smart-talking and always cool to watch. Delavingne’s Enchantress is creepy and scary. I would love to see DC break the mould and do a full on horror film prequel for the 6000 year old witch. The same goes for everyone. Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, Rick Flag; the whole bunch are fun to watch. I would love to see more of Kitana, but that’s my love of watching great martial arts on screen talking. And a part of me that thinks she needed just a little bit more screen time.

I would kill for some more Diablo. Jay Hernandez blew me away as the gang leader that is trying desperately to live in peace, regretting every life he’s snuffed out with his gift. His quiet and reserved demeanour, juxtaposed with what happens when he lets himself fight with his new team is a beautiful thing to watch and I will queue up for every single film that DC want to put this man in. He’s amazing.

The film is such a tremendous amount of fun, you just can’t help but smile your way through. It’s certainly helped by having one of the most fun “various artists” soundtracks this year. The music compliments the film brilliantly.

Ok, there is one jarring section at the beginning of the film where, and I didn’t realise this was even a thing, but the film somehow smash-cuts the bloody soundtrack together giving us three very different tracks in just a few minutes, one after the other. Overall, though, a very good effort on the licensed music front.

I still think DC has a long way to go to be able to solidify this Extended Universe they are trying for. In the hands of lesser filmmakers these films could fail miserably. Batman Vs. Superman is testament to that.

Like I said, Suicide Squad shares many of the same problems, but competent filmmaking helps a lot. However, you know what helps it more? The film is fun. It’s non-stop, guilty pleasure style action. Roll on the blu-ray release, it’ll take pride of place on my shelf right next to Punisher: War Zone.

Failed Critics Podcast: Take-a-Break Hour

the nice guys

Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Podcast where hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes were joined by both Callum Petch and Andrew Brooker to review three new releases!

Book-ending Callum’s film-reviewing life in education with trips to Wonderland, he reveals that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is the worst blockbuster of the 2010’s – and why Alice Through The Looking Glass is no better. We also review Warcraft: The Beginning, confusing Steve no end as he can’t tell the difference between it and Warhammer (direct your outrage to @FailedSteve). Finally, we collectively agree that Shane Black’s noir-comedy The Nice Guys is nice, guys.

Before all of that in What We’ve Been Watching:  Owen puts on his shades and sees They Live for the first time (in years);  Brooker peels himself away from the PCC in London after a big-screen showing of True Romance;  Callum completes his own Tarantino collection with Inglorious Basterds;  and Steve stops watching football documentaries for two minutes to take in Will Smith’s portrayal of Muhammed Ali in the biopic of the legendary sportsman’s life.

The quiz this week was a little different to normal, as Steve, Callum and Brooker had the full length of the episode to work out the following 10 anagrams, all of which relate in some way to The Nice Guys:

1 – Teardrop
2 – Anal Hole Wept
3 – Usable Cyst Tooth
4 – Screw Sue Roll
5 – Inches Ye Tug
6 – Gas Ring Only
7 – Gamin Be Irks
8 – A Sank Belch
9 – Ah, Kiddie TV
10 – Iron

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Failed Critics Podcast: Episode 202 – AND IT’S LIVE!

202 live stream printscreen

Firstly, thanks to everyone who joined in on our live broadcast of episode 202 on our YouTube channel on Monday. We’re considering it a success – whether it was or wasn’t isn’t really up to Steve Norman, Owen Hughes and Andrew Brooker to decide! But people chatted to us during the show, we received messages via Twitter, and the live stream didn’t crash once. Huzzah!

This week’s podcast is pretty much a rip of the YouTube video edited into a more audio-friendly format. Jingles have been edited in, whilst the majority the references to stuff that happened visually that wouldn’t have made sense on an audio only podcast have been edited out.

What has been left in is our chat about this week’s film news, including another new Netflix movie acquisition starring Will Smith, directed by David Ayer, plus a set-top box that could potentially change the way we view cinema releases forever.

We’ve also got our round up of what we’ve been watching. Steve talks us through the generic but decent action film London Has Fallen; Owen discusses the first five episodes of the second season of Daredevil; and Brooker does his homework ahead of Batman v Superman by re-watching Nolan’s trilogy plus Man of Steel. Our new release reviews saw the team take in the safe-for-work porcelain doll horror The Boy, Ben Wheatley’s latest weird class-war narrative High Rise, and the thematic sequel to 2008’s monster movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane.

There’s even room for our regular film quiz and Steve’s reaction to Pudsey the Dog: The Movie, his booby-prize for losing last week’s quiz. Oh, and Owen’s mad rapping skills. Wiki-wiki-wild wild west…

Join us again next week as things return to normal for a review of DC’s newest blockbuster.

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Watch the full un-edited live broadcast of the episode (with webcams an’ all) on our YouTube channel.

Failed Critics Podcast: What The S**t? Coolest Name Ever

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Welcome to the Failed Critics Podcast, where hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by both Andrew Brooker and Paul Field to put their collective expert (ha!) minds together to predict who will win what at this year’s Academy Awards on Sunday 28th February. You too can take part! Simply leave a post in the comments box on our website to tell us which films you think will pick up the award in each of the categories listed below. The winner will pick up some DVD’s and blu-rays! OOooohhhh exciting.

Also in this episode, we feature a few new release reviews. Brooker, our residents American sports fan, finds Concussion is not all it’s cracked up to be. Meanwhile, Paul calls Steve’s heritage into question whilst reviewing British zom-rom-com Nina Forever. And then we all get together at the end to slightly gush over Deadpool‘s expletive-laden fourth wall-breaking comedy capers.

Join us again next week as Owen and Steve take part in our first ever Netflix special episode.

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1 – Best Picture
The Big Short – Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleiner
Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, and Kristie Macosko Krieger
Brooklyn – Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey
Mad Max: Fury Road – Doug Mitchell and George Miller
The Martian – Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, and Mark Huffam
The Revenant – Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mary Parent, and Keith Redmon
Room – Ed Guiney
Spotlight – Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, and Blye Pagon Faust
2 – Best Director
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
3 – Best Actor
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo as Dalton Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian as Mark Watney
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant as Hugh Glass
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs as Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener
4 – Best Actress
Cate Blanchett – Carol as Carol Aird
Brie Larson – Room as Joy “Ma” Newsome
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy as Joy Mangano
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years as Kate Mercer
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn as Eilis Lacey
5 – Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale – The Big Short as Michael Burry
Tom Hardy – The Revenant as John Fitzgerald
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight as Michael Rezendes
Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies as Rudolf Abel
Sylvester Stallone – Creed as Rocky Balboa
6 – Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight as Daisy Domergue
Rooney Mara – Carol as Therese Belivet
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight as Sacha Pfeiffer
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl as Gerda Wegener
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs as Joanna Hoffman
7 – Best Original Screenplay
Bridge of Spies – Matt Charman, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen
Ex Machina – Alex Garland
Inside Out – Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie del Carmen
Spotlight – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
Straight Outta Compton – Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus
8 – Best Adapted Screenplay
The Big Short – Adam McKay and Charles Randolph from The Big Short by Michael Lewis
Brooklyn – Nick Hornby from Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Carol – Phyllis Nagy from The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
The Martian – Drew Goddard from The Martian by Andy Weir
Room – Emma Donoghue from Room by Emma Donoghue
9 – Best Animated Feature Film
Anomalisa – Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, and Rosa Tran
Boy & the World – Alê Abreu
Inside Out – Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera
Shaun the Sheep Movie – Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
When Marnie Was There – Hiromasa Yonebayashi and Yoshiaki Nishimura
10 – Best Foreign Language Film
Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia) in Spanish – Ciro Guerra
Mustang (France) in Turkish – Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Son of Saul (Hungary) in Hungarian – László Nemes
Theeb (Jordan) in Arabic – Naji Abu Nowar
A War (Denmark) in Danish – Tobias Lindholm
11 – Best Documentary – Feature
Amy – Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees
Cartel Land – Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin
The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
What Happened, Miss Simone? – Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby, and Justin Wilkes
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom – Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor

Focus

Will Smith’s latest movie, the heist-pulling con-comedy drama, Focus, is clichéd, it’s predictable, but it is hard to hate.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

Will Smith and Margot Robbie in FocusCon-man comedy-drama’s are a dime a dozen. The majority of those that get churned out of Hollywood’s money-making factories all follow a very simple, very tried and tested format.

Firstly, set up the characters and assemble a team; pull a few small jobs; set up the big one and look like they’ve failed before– SURPRISE! [That] wasn’t the real con. [THIS] was. It’s a format that has always served the genre well and continues to do so, regardless of how artistically it may be presented from time to time. From Steven Soderbergh to Guy Ritchie. From The Hustler to The Thieves. Sometimes it works more successfully than others, of course, but it never really strays too far away from that traditional stratagem. Focus is no exception.

Written and directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, who have previously worked together on the feature films Crazy, Stupid, Love and I Love You Philip Morris, they reunite to bring their own spin on the con film. Staring the ever-popular Will Smith as Nicky, a professional con-man from a family of con-men, and rising-actress Margot Robbie as his protégé, Jess, they bring their own brand of humour and sex-appeal to what is essentially a disappointingly bland script.

The narrative of the film (or its focus, if you will) is based around the relationship of Nicky and Jess. After Jess tries and fails to pull her own amateur con on Nicky, unaware of who he actually is, she eventually convinces him to take her under his wing after what can loosely be described as a job interview. A series of small but well paying jobs later, a hint of romance between the couple blossoms and gambling problems and presents itself, before the biggest job they’ll ever pull appears. It’s nothing outstanding and certainly something you’ve no doubt never seen before (unless you’ve somehow managed to avoid watching any con-man film during your lifetime.)

Let’s get the performances out of the way first of all. To use modern parlance, Will Smith’s gonna Will Smith. He likes to show off his physique, so every other scene where he’s not looking pukka in a suit either shows him in a tight shirt or no shirt at all. His comic timing hasn’t yet deserted him which does make him perfect for the role. He’s charismatic, he’s funny, he’s just reliable ol’ Will bloody Smith putting in a shift that’s at a level somewhere between his Anchorman 2 cameo and Men In Black 3. His opposite, Margot Robbie, does what few actors and actresses manage to do when sharing the screen with the Fresh Prince, in that she often steals the spotlight away from him, much like she often did with DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. Despite having to deal with a much weaker character, whose role as exciting young pick pocket is snatched away from you before you’ve noticed and replaced with generic love interest, she still lights up the screen with her enthusiasm and humour. In fact, on a number of occasions, her conversations with ‘sidekick to the stars’ Adrian Martinez were the most natural and genuinely funny moments in the entire movie. It made me wish I had a friend like Martinez.

The thing is, the performances aren’t the issue here. Even the series of escalating con-jobs the characters pull aren’t a problem either. We all watch films like this knowing exactly how the story will pan out and what level of character we’re soon to be dealing with. What we all hope to see instead are creative and inventive cons, heists, twists and swindles. It doesn’t have to be tense, the jobs don’t even have to be on a grand casino-robbing scale, so long as they’re entertaining and fun. To be fair to Focus, it isn’t intelligent, it isn’t clever and the twists are polarised from the get go. Nevertheless, they still remain the most entertaining aspects, as they quite rightly should.

I can’t complain about the build up to the individual jobs, both large and small, because quite frankly the fast-cuts and jazzy music simply makes them hard to dislike. As soon as Robbie is strutting through a packed street, pinching wallets and slipping off watches, it’s all made to look so incredibly slick. A scene at a football stadium that sees the culmination of (admittedly well plotted) teasing is both predictable… and, surprisingly, absorbing. If you’re anything like me, you’ll think you know how everything is going to pan out eventually anyway, but it’s that need to see the film to its conclusion that will keep you rooted to your seat.

Therefore, whilst it undoubtedly has a badly written and predictable story, full of genre clichés and obvious twists, I can’t complain too much about the cons. If I were feeling generous, I’d probably even describe them as well directed. Focus is, if nothing else, impressively and suitably flashy. At worst, these fancy-Dan jobs are diversionary tactics to keep you from thinking too hard about the intelligence insultingly poor “who’s playing who” romance angle between Robbie and Smith. It tries to keep you guessing right until the end. Unfortunately, you’re not wondering what will happen, it’s more that you’ll be wondering when it will inevitably be revealed. It’s infuriating how often they felt the need to explain away events and how it will relate to events-yet-to-be.

Still, as I say, it’s hard to dislike. Occasionally I sat up and took notice at how well it had been cut and edited; just little things, like when Jess walks into a clothes shop, or as they’re pulling a few minor con jobs during her “interview”, or (as seen in the trailer) when a maniac smashes his car into Will Smith’s sporty little two-seater Peugeot etc. Evidently Requa and Ficarra know how to shoot and write stunts more so than they know how to build character relationships worth emotionally investing in.

Conversely, at other times, I was practically stifling laughs at how awkward and downright terrible it was. A super-serious-sex-scene that I assumed was being played for laughs, given how early on they make reference to the fact that Jess can’t “play” men and is utterly crap at being sexy, wasn’t actually meant to be so funny. It was a genuine, proper, “please take me seriously” sex scene that just happened to be absolutely dreadful. If there’s one problem between the dynamic of Robbie and Smith, it was that romantic chemistry just never sparked.

Overall then, as I said on last week’s podcast, it’s painfully obvious right from the get go exactly what sort of movie Focus is going to be, but it’s hard to hate it. If you can do your utmost to stop second guessing it, just sit back and let things play out as intended, then it does have a number of redeeming qualities. It’s funny when it wants to be, the jobs they pull are aren’t the most daring of any con-man film I’ve ever seen but are set at just the right tempo, but it won’t be anything new to regular film watchers. It plugs the gap of this year’s dumb but flashy light hearted thriller. To compare it to recent con-films, it’s more Now You See Me than it is American Hustle. Fine to watch if there’s nothing else on at the cinema and you’ve got a burning desire to munch some popcorn, but not really a particularly special film.

Focus is released in cinemas nationwide tomorrow (27 Feb). You can hear Owen talk about the film on last week’s Failed Critics podcast with Steve, Matt and Paul.

Failed Critics Podcast: Your Unconventional Desire

focusAs always, your illustrious host Steve Norman and ever present Owen Hughes lead the way through a tightly packed episode. Coming into your earholes to review the 18-rated, arse-ticklingly rude 50 Shades of Grey is Failed Critics debutant, Paul Field. Also joining them this week is Matt Lambourne, mainly so he can recount the story of why he didn’t see the (not so) erotic flick.

The team also craftily knocked out reviews for two other new releases before climaxing with 50 Shades of Grey, as Will Smith’s latest con-film Focus, as well as mind-bending time-travel thriller Predestination also get the once over.

They also somehow found room to squeeze in an extra couple of reviews. Paul filled us in on Korean revenge film I Saw The Devil (as reviewed in the Half Decade In Film article this week); Owen got slightly topical with space-hopping sci-fi Virtuality; and our pal Matt welcomed Die Hard and Enter The Dragon to the party.

Tune in again next week to hear less innuendos, in addition to the results of our Academy Award prediction quiz.

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For your chance to win a few crumby randomly selected second hand DVD’s that we no longer want, simply comment on this article with your picks for each of the 11 categories below! The winner will be the entrant with the most correct guesses. In the event of a tie, the winner will be chosen at random. The term ‘winner’ is used lightly.

1 – Best Picture
American Sniper – Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole
Boyhood – Richard Linklater and Cathleen Sutherland
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
The Imitation Game – Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman
Selma – Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner
The Theory of Everything – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten
Whiplash – Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster

2 – Best Director
Wes Anderson – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro González Iñárritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Richard Linklater – Boyhood
Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum – The Imitation Game

3 – Best Actor
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher as John Eleuthère du Pont
Bradley Cooper – American Sniper as Chris Kyle
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game as Alan Turing
Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Riggan Thomson / Birdman
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything as Stephen Hawking

4 – Best Actress
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night as Sandra Bya
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything as Jane Wilde Hawking
Julianne Moore – Still Alice as Dr. Alice Howland
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl as Amy Elliott-Dunne
Reese Witherspoon – Wild as Cheryl Strayed

5 – Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall – The Judge as Judge Joseph Palmer
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood as Mason Evans, Sr.
Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Mike Shiner
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher as Dave Schultz
J. K. Simmons – Whiplash as Terence Fletcher

6 – Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood as Olivia Evans
Laura Dern – Wild as Barbara “Bobbi” Grey
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game as Joan Clarke
Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as Sam Thomson
Meryl Streep – Into the Woods as The Witch

7 – Best Original Screenplay
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher – E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

8 – Best Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper – Jason Hall from American Sniper by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice
The Imitation Game – Graham Moore from Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges
Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson from Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
The Theory of Everything – Anthony McCarten from Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wilde Hawking
Whiplash – Damien Chazelle from his short film of the same name

9 – Best Animated Feature Film
Big Hero 6 – Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli
The Boxtrolls – Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold
Song of the Sea – Tomm Moore and Paul Young
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

10 – Best Foreign Language Film
Ida (Poland) in Polish – Paweł Pawlikowski
Leviathan (Russia) in Russian – Andrey Zvyagintsev
Tangerines (Estonia) in Estonian and Russian – Zaza Urushadze
Timbuktu (Mauritania) in French – Abderrahmane Sissako
Wild Tales (Argentina) in Spanish – Damián Szifrón

11 – Best Documentary – Feature
Citizenfour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutsky
Finding Vivian Maier – John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
Last Days in Vietnam – Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
The Salt of the Earth – Wim Wenders, Lélia Wanick Salgado and David Rosier
Virunga – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Callum Petch’s Bottom 10 of 2014: #10 – #6

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Happy New Year, everybody!  Over the last two days, I have shared with you the 10 films that stuck with me the most throughout 2014 for the right reasons.  Plaudits were thrown about, praises were slathered, and good times were had.  If you missed those articles, you can find them located here and here.  Today and tomorrow, though, I share with you the 10 films that stuck with me the most throughout 2014 for the wrong reasons.

I have never actually done a Bottom 10 list before.  As mentioned in the first of my Top 10 pieces, prior to this year I had to carefully select what films I went to see, but this year I could toss quality control out of the window and see everything.  Therefore, in the name of film criticism, I have seen a lot of total sh*t this past year.  However, this is not a list of the absolute worst made films of 2014.  Some of them are on here, but that is not what the list is about.  It’s too easy and not particularly interesting, especially since many of them are akin to shooting fish in a barrel with a blunderbuss machine gun.  I mean, are any of you at all surprised that Pudsey The Dog: The Movie turned out to be horrendous?

No, this list is a Bottom 10 and encompasses the films from 2014 that made me angry.  To get on this list, a film had to have left me with a strong negative reaction that did not go away after a short while.  These are the films that drew my anger, swallowed me in disappointment, offended my being in some way shape or form, or also represent everything that is wrong with filmmaking and the film industry today.  How much do these films deserve to be on this list?  Transcendence, Annie, Blended, and 300: Rise Of An Empire missed out on placements.

So, same rules apply here as they did for the Top 10, and same presentation style applies too – today, we count down #10 to #6.  If we’re all set, don your bile protection gear, don’t look directly into the films that are listed here, and ONWARDS, AOSHIMA!

There may be spoilers.  Proceed with caution.


boyhood10] Boyhood

Dir: Richard Linklater

Star: Ellar Coltraine, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke

Again, this is not a list of the worst films of 2014.  I can name you at least 20 or so films that I saw that are worse than Boyhood.  No, Boyhood is on this list because, more so than any other film released in 2014, it annoyed me.  It confounded me, it irritated me, it baffled me, it enraged me, it majorly disappointed me, and these feelings have remained with me ever since I saw the film because people won’t shut the hell up about the goddamn thing and because we might as well FedEx all awards ever to its undeserving doorstep now to save time and money on postage.

Look, my seething distaste for Boyhood is very much equal parts it not being a very good film, and my own personal feelings and baggage.  Boyhood purports to be a look at the coming-of-age of a white, suburban, straight, middle-class male throughout the 2000s but does so in a way and tone that feels like it’s putting down the final word on the matter.  That this is how it was for everybody, that it’s making some giant statement about it all, especially since the film keeps throwing out philosophical sound bites and barely tolerable bullsh*t about how “the moment seizes you” and stuff.  It looks down from upon high and decrees “THIS IS WHAT BOYHOOD WAS LIKE IN THE 2000s” with absolutely no self-awareness or analysis of what it actually means to be that kind of privileged white, straight, middle-class male, which makes its declarative nature all the more insufferable.

“Oh, but Boyhood is a character piece!” I imagine many are trying to counter with right about now.  Problem with that argument is that the film fails at that, too.  Mason, Jr. is a non-entity.  I spent two hours and forty minutes in his company – watched him go through 12 years of life – and the most I learnt about him is that he possibly has a interest in photography, and that his actor grew up to resemble Ethan Hawke so much that I’m honestly not 100% certain that he’s not just a clone of Ethan Hawke.  I don’t know what makes him tick, I don’t know what his aspirations are, I don’t know how he progressed from his six year-old self to his eighteen year-old self.  He feels less like a character and more like a blank slate that either you’re supposed to project your own self onto or who is supposed to stand in for every white privileged guy ever.

“But the whole point of the movie is that your adolescence cannot be boiled down to big standout moments!  That’s why it skips Mason, Jr.’s first kiss, first job, rambunctious teenager phase, etc.!”  OK, so why does the entire first half of the film concern itself with the theme of being too young to truly understand how the world works?  Much of the film’s first half dedicates itself to the lives of Mason and Olivia, Mason, Jr. and Samantha’s parents, and the complicated nature of their various relationships, living arrangements and procession of step-parents as viewed through the eyes of children who will never truly understand why these things are happening.  That’s why there is this ridiculously cartoonishly delivered sequence where Olivia bolts with the kids away from her alcoholic and abusive new husband.  That is a major standout moment of somebody’s life, and its grand theatricality – not helped by Marco Perella swinging for the fences with his playing of that scene – goes against the low-key nature of the rest of the film.

Yet the film drops that theme at about the halfway mark and just ambles about aimlessly for its remaining runtime.  It’s maddening to see a film wilfully waste its potential and possible avenues of storytelling and thematic resonance at damn near every opportunity.  Patricia Arquette has been getting major praise for her role as Olivia and understandably so, she does great work, which makes it all the more infuriating that, despite being Mason, Jr.’s primary parent and guardian, the film repeatedly side-lines her in favour of even more screen time with Mason, Sr. in a bunch of scenes that eventually reduce themselves to just hitting the same beats over and over again.  Olivia gets an outstanding scene near the end where she breaks down as an uncaring Mason, Jr. gets the last of his stuff from her house about the passage of time, and of heavily implied regret for giving her life to him instead of living it for herself.  That scene is outstanding, which only makes it all the more infuriating that the film isn’t about her – the one character in the film with an arc, thematic resonance or f*cking something going on.

That’s ultimately what annoys me most about Boyhood, is the fact that it has nothing going on besides its “shot over 12 years” gimmick.  It is a film with no central character, no consistent thematic arc, and nothing interesting to say because it actively steers itself away from having anything interesting to say.  I get the feeling that Linklater started this project with a real passion and desire, only for that to fade away from him as the years progressed, eventually becoming more of an obligation than anything he was seriously interested in working on – the film gets lazier and lazier, just drifting through its last forty minutes with no drive except for some half-assed pseudo-philosophical rambling (very much like a teenager).  Linklater is better than this, he has consistently proven over the last 12 years that he is a better filmmaker than this, and that’s why Boyhood disappoints me so.  It’s a pointless, muddled, dreary slog of a film that also touches on something real and honest infrequently enough to make its bungling of everything even more irritating.

Also, its last scene is one of the worst and most aggravating that I have seen all year, and the film managed to make me hate Arcade Fire for a good two hours after I left the cinema.


09] Let’s Be Copslet's be cops

Dir: Luke Greenfield

Star: Jake Johnson, Damon Wayans, Jr.

Let’s Be Cops is not the worst comedy of 2014 – that honour goes to Sex Tape, since that barely qualifies as a film, let alone a comedy.  It is not the most offensive comedy of 2014 – that honour goes to Blended.  It is also not the most disappointing comedy of 2014 – A Million Ways To Die In The West – or the most pointless – Horrible Bosses 2 – or the biggest pile of evidence that we should stop allowing British people to make comedies – Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie.  What Let’s Be Cops is, and why it is on this list instead of the far more deserving Sex Tape, is the most perfect encapsulation of everything that is currently wrong with the American feature-length comedy movie.

2014 has been a pretty miserable year for out-and-out comedies.  Of the many, many, many comedies released these past 12 months, only two were actually any good – Bad Neighbours (which came this close to cracking my Top 20) and 22 Jump Street (which had a very good chance of actually cracking the Top 10 if I had managed to watch it again before list-making time) – the rest were either diverting but pointless, or just plain torture to sit through.  I realise that every year has maybe two great straight comedies – a number that’s bumped up to four if you include comedy-dramas or black comedies – and a whole load of tripe surrounding them, but you’ll have to forgive me for being disappointed that an increased number of releases this year led to the same number of hits compared to misses.

The American comedy is currently stale, and Let’s Be Cops is such a grab-bag text of all of its worst impulses that I’m honestly still not sure that it wasn’t intentional – a desire to make a comedy I can point to for all aspiring comedy filmmakers and go “You see that?  Don’t do that.”  A loose rambling structure that sacrifices these things we call “set-ups” and “punchlines” in favour of dropping talented comedians with decent chemistry into scenarios and praying that they can improv up enough gold to fill out the runtime, direction and scene set-ups that are dull and interchangeable, editing that doesn’t know when to stop a scene, a needlessly stretched out runtime that gets way too close to two hours, genuinely funny material being beaten into the ground or stretched so thin that the entire enterprise feels endless, a casually tossed off sexist attitude towards women, a final third where the jokes are dropped completely because apparently only Phil Lord & Chris Miller know how to make plot funny anymore…

Let’s Be Cops also has the extra dead albatross of being released in the immediate aftermath of the tragic events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri which have sparked off an additional nationwide conversation about police brutality, racism and militarisation of the police force, adding an extra layer of awkward tastelessness to jokes like our two leads playfully brandishing their loaded guns at each other in a public restaurant.  But, honestly, that’s the least of its problems.  Let’s Be Cops could have used its premise to explore and ask tough questions about the current state of the police force in 21st century America, but it didn’t have to and it’s not automatically lesser for not doing so – there’s nothing wrong with a silly comedy and at no point did either of the Jump Street movies use their cop-comedy premises for social satire.  What is inexcusable, though, is the sheer laziness and half-assery of the film’s entire construction.  This is soulless, paint-by-numbers filmmaking where the only people trying are its two stars, which only serves to make them look desperate.

Again, Let’s Be Cops is not the worst comedy of the year – holy hell, is Sex Tape ever an appalling train wreck – but it is a perfect distillation of everything that is currently wrong with the comedy genre.  This trend of foisting near-laugh-free scripts on talented actors with lightning chemistry and expecting them to do all the heavy lifting with endless improv needs to stop.  I don’t care that the majority of today’s movie star comedians and comediennes come with an improv background; there is a never a better substitute for tight editing and a raucous script stuffed to the brim with proper jokes from start to finish.  Bad Neighbours got that, 22 Jump Street got that, why can’t anything else get that?


new york winters tale08] A New York Winter’s Tale

Dir: Akiva Goldsman

Star: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown-Findlay

That’s right, folks.  A film that I declared back in February to have been “one of the worst films that I have ever seen” is only #8 on my Bottom 10 of 2014.  And, honestly, it’s really only here out of some sort of obligation.  Oh, sure, A New York Winter’s Tale is pure garbage of the highest order, but it’s a film that I have warmed to since then, probably because it, unlike a lot of the tripe populating this list, at least is completely sincere in its attempts to be good.  Therefore, although I hated it at the time, I don’t hate it with the same ferocity that I once did.  Not anymore, I feel like I have moved on from it.

Again, though, that doesn’t stop A New York Winter’s Tale from being a complete and total failure on every single conceivable level of filmmaking.  The dialogue is atrocious, the plot is nonsense, it looks dreadful in both the practical sense – of set design, shot composition, costumes, hairpieces and such – and the computer-generated sense, it boasts atrocious performances from everybody involved, it is paced like a marathon populated by narcoleptics, its attempts at thematic resonance and foreshadowing are quite literally laughable…  I’m honestly not sure what’s more inadvertently hilarious, the movie or the fact that a former Oscar winner convinced Village Roadshow Pictures to give him $60 million and several talented high profile actors to give several weeks of their lives to filming this piece of guff.

The plot powering this guff – based on a novel I haven’t read but is apparently, by all accounts, nowhere near as rubbish as this – centres around Colin Farrell as a potential miracle maker who was raised and then hunted by a demon, played by Russell Crowe, legitimately named Pearly Soames (real name, not the gender-flipped version of Pearl from Spongebob Squarepants), who works for Lucifer, played by Will Smith (an incredibly sleepy and checked out Will Smith, before you get excited and, yes, it is problematic that the one major black guy in the film is playing Satan).  It turns out that Colin Farrell’s miracle is to apparently cure a young woman’s terminal tuberculosis through the power of love, whilst Pearly (real name) hunts the pair down with murderous intentions cos Lucifer don’t like any sunshine or kittens getting out into the world, thank you kindly.

See, this all sounds like the most enjoyable nonsense, a “So Bad, It’s Good” of epic proportions.  Yet, whilst I was watching the thing, I didn’t find it funny because it is so po-facedly earnestly serious about its stupid endeavour that any fun to be had at its ridiculous awfulness was lost.  This was a film with a Pegasus, a ridiculous pace-killing near-century time-skip, and a sequence in which somebody is quite literally f*cked to death, and all I could do was check my watch, yawn and question whether walking out would be preferable to continuing to submit myself to the thing – although I did laugh at the reveal of the Pegasus, mostly because it looks like what you’d get if you asked a 5 year-old to recreate the Tri-Star logo in MS Paint in the next 30 minutes.

But I no longer hate A New York Winter’s Tale.  I did, once upon a time, enough to write a long-winded and pretty funny review (if you’ll allow me one of my five annual tootings of my own horn) tearing the thing to shreds, but no more.  I have made my peace with this film’s existence.  If I were to ever see it again – preferably in the company of friends, drunk on soda of various kinds, during a Bad Movie Night – I’d probably be able to crack wise at the thing effortlessly and have myself a gay old time.  It is still one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my 20 years of existence, but as previously mentioned this is not a Worst Movies of 2014 list.  Therefore, A New York Winter’s Tale stalls out at #8.  The bile saved from this can instead be deployed on other, more deserving films, such as…


07] Transformers: Age Of Extinctiontransformers 4

Dir: Michael Bay

Star: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci

This one is just as much my own goddamn stupid fault as it is the film in question.  I stupidly – and it is stupidly, there is no other word or reasoning to make this alright – let a part of me become somewhat hopeful that this time things would be different.  The Transformers series, under the creative direction and influence of these people, gave me absolutely no reason to believe that it could produce anything great or even worth my time.  Yet, a part of me was allowed to be quietly optimistic.  After bottoming out with Revenge Of The Fallen, Dark Of The Moon took the series’ first tentative steps towards being a good movie – it wasn’t one, but it was on the path to at least being entertaining – and 2013’s underrated Pain & Gain proved to me that Michael Bay hadn’t forgotten how to make movies.  So a part of me got a little hopeful; this time, things were going to be different.

They weren’t.  They weren’t at all.  Age Of Extinction is a regression back to all of the same toxic sh*t that Transformers, Revenge Of The Fallen and to a lesser extent Dark Of The Moon had peddled beforehand, only now even more bloated and expanded and epic-ised (which isn’t even a real word but was likely a direction used for scene prep at some point during this thing’s production) to levels that make the resulting product an endurance test instead of anything that anybody could find entertaining.  Casual racism, creepy paedophilic undertones, an actively hateful bordering on misogynist view of women, product placement – including product placement for The People’s Republic of China despite current world events making that one of the most tone-deaf things one could do – abysmally directed and incomprehensible action, active wasting of interesting themes, and an utterly awful Imagine Dragons song – which is a step down from Linkin Park.

And in other news, the sun rose today, the sky is blue, and George Clooney is an incredibly sexy man.  Look, I get that we have all collectively realised that the Transformers movies are abhorrent pieces of trash and that their continued financial success will be one of life’s big mysteries.  Age Of Extinction’s appearance on this list is that barrel full of fish that I mentioned earlier, but sometimes really obvious fish need shooting for a reason and this metaphor has broken down.  Point is, Age Of Extinction is a reminder that there are people out there who have nothing but contempt for the movie going audience.  Who believe that they can push out thoughtless, stupid, toxic crap and that people will show up to buy it because the explosions are big and shiny and purdy.  There is always room for big dumb action films – the Fast & Furious franchise is beloved for a reason, after all – but those are films that do so with glee, joy and smartness, as crafting a good big dumb action film takes actual effort.

Age Of Extinction is not that film.  It is a cynical, joyless, mindless exercise whose sole reason for its existence is to line Paramount Pictures executives’ pockets with more money.  And I went into it stupidly thinking that it wouldn’t be.  People went to see this and not Edge Of Tomorrow, and, thanks specifically to China, we will be suffering through two more of these sh*tfests.  Well done, everyone.  Sterling job.


906429 - The Amazing Spider-Man 206] The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Dir: Marc Webb

Star: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx

We are in the middle of a full-on comic book boom at the cinema.  Now, admittedly, we’ve been in one since the early 2000s when Spider-Man, X-Men and Blade were ruling the box office, but we’re really in the midst of one.  Every studio has, or is attempting to cultivate, their own comic book empire out of the materials that Marvel Studios hasn’t already swallowed up, everybody is trying to serialise everything, and Marvel this year dictated the exact days in which I need to sit my ass down in a cinema for the next five years.  This boom will bust out eventually, but things are looking good for now.

They won’t look so good for very long, however, if studios keep pumping out films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  This one was a time-bomb, folks.  As you may have gathered from my original review, I strongly disliked the film but I didn’t hate it at the time – I thought I’d found a couple of redeeming factors and let the potential of the series dilute some of my venom for it.  But then it sat in head.  And sat.  And sat.  And, for at least three months afterwards, it wouldn’t leave because myself and my friends kept finding more and more wrong with it the more we let it settle.  We found new problems – like the incredibly poor pacing and structural mess that robs anything of any resonance – whilst old problems – the incredibly creepy and borderline sexist crap with Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey, Peter’s problem of him being a giant dick – were found to be even more systemic and problematic.

In the end, though, it all comes back to this simple fact: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not a film.  It is a commercial for the next film, and also a Sinister Six film that literally nobody was ever asking for.  This is not a film that was made by a cast and crew with a vision, a story to tell, and the drive and passion to pull it off.  This was a film ham-fistedly dictated by a studio for the sole purpose of forcing a franchise and making a lot of money because, “Yo!  Those kids loves them some Spider-Man!  I spies dollar signs, boys!”  There is no narrative reason for this film to exist, there is no thematic reason for this film to exist; this is a film that exists because Sony saw that Marvel Studios have made Scrooge McDuck-money with their franchises and shared universe continuity and wanted that green without actually having to do the work necessary to earn it.

Do you know why Marvel can unveil concrete dates for a five-year plan of films and the only negative thing it does to us is make us contemplate our own fragile mortality?  It’s because they, first and foremost, tell stories.  Each film so far, despite this shared-universe thing and their franchising and sequelising and such, works as a film on its own.  They tell complete stories, have effort and craft put into them, and each of them exist because, or give a good enough illusion, somebody wanted to tell a story, first and foremost.  Are they often still safe, less groundbreaking and risky than they appear, and mandated by the producers at the studio?  Well, yes, undoubtedly, but the films are great and satisfying and fun and have real effort put in that I really don’t care.

Marvel Studios, essentially, have earned my trust, and near everyone else’s trust, in this grand experiment because they have proven first and foremost that their movies are worth the commercial avenues that they will be taken down.  Sony don’t want to wait for that trust and have forced the Spider-Man license through the most cynical, money-driven, bereft-of-ideas ringer they could get their hands on, and practically every problem with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 can be traced back to a studio wanting their money now and not thinking through, or putting any effort whatsoever into, a single one of the film’s creative decisions.  When people disparage comic book movies and serialisation of movies, this is what they are referring to and I shiver at the possibility that I will be seeing more Amazing Spider-Man 2s in the coming future.

Sony, just torch the franchise and negotiate with Marvel.  Please?  It’s clearly been more trouble for you than it’s worth.  Just wash your hands of this game and move on.  For all of us.


Well, we’ve made it halfway through the list.  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I was being too harsh/not harsh enough on some of these?  Let me know in the comments below!  Tomorrow, we wrap up this week with the absolute bottom of the barrel.  Brace yourselves…

Callum Petch only dreams in black and white.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Shark Tale

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This year, DreamWorks Animation celebrates its 20th anniversary.  To mark the occasion, Callum Petch is going through their entire animated canon, one film a week for the next 30 weeks, and giving them a full-on retrospective treatment.  Prior entries can be found here, should you desire.


shark tale09] Shark Tale (1st October 2004)

Budget: $75 million

Gross: $367,275,019

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 36%

Oy vey.

Ever since I started this little project, I was dreading the moment when I would have to do Shark Tale.  Its presence on the “To Watch” list hung over the entire venture like a dead rotting albatross, never letting me forget its existence even whilst I was really enjoying myself with DreamWorks Animation’s other, really very enjoyable films.  Shark Tale, you see, has a reputation.  Despite taking $367 million worldwide and being the 9th Highest Grossing Film of 2004 Worldwide, you will find nobody who is willing to admit to liking Shark Tale.  It is widely seen as one of the worst animated films of the decade, a distillation of everything that is wrong with animated movies and DreamWorks Animation, and would have faded into total obscurity if it weren’t for obsessive asshats like my good self dredging it back up every so often to ensure that nobody forgets it, lest they end up making the same mistakes and subjected a new generation to unspeakable horrors.

Yet, though I approached my task with wary and weary resignation, I entered with a good sense of curiosity overriding everything else.  If you’ve noticed a common thread with regards to this series by now, it’ll be that this endeavour is just an excuse for me to take an in-depth look at animated movies and spend multiple A4 pages explaining why they do or do-not work, why they were or were-not successful at the time, and to go on for hours about the history of animation, a subject I know much less about than you think I do.  And let’s not short-sell it, Shark Tale was a giant success at the box office with the public.  It was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (2004 was not a good year for the medium, granted, but this over The Spongebob Squarepants Movie?!).  Obviously it must have done something right.  I even had the DVD and watched the film a few times as a kid.  Seeing as I remembered nothing about it, I decided to go in with the hopes that it couldn’t be as bad as it had been made out to be, and that I was going to try and figure out why this movie became so successful yet faded into memory.

Below, you will find my reaction to Shark Tale whilst it was running and for a good half hour after it finished.

double facepalm

Shark Tale is one of the worst films that I have ever seen.  This is not an exaggeration, one made for comic effect and to flanderize my true thoughts on the movie.  Shark Tale is one of the worst films that I have ever seen in my entire life.  At the 22 minute mark, I genuinely paused the film with the intent of shutting it off and never returning to it.  I have only ever (metaphorically) walked out of a film once due to it being absolutely dreadful (read: no outside circumstances, like power cuts or needing to be elsewhere), said film being Disaster Movie, and Shark Tale came this close to joining that club.  I don’t even know how I’m going to touch on everything wrong with this movie within my usual allotted space.  This is a total failure on every single level and there are no redeeming qualities anywhere.  That sentence should probably give you a strong indicator as to why I was all set to just quit at barely the 1/4 mark.

But, I persevered, for I set out to watch every single DreamWorks Animation film and over-analyse them like a nit-picky internet jerk.  Plus, it would look really bad if I missed a week and just moved onto Madagascar without saying anything about this.  So, with the remainder of our allotted time together (because you are busy people with places to be and better things to be doing than watching a 19 year-old man complain about Shark Tale for an eternity), I will attempt to explain what is wrong with Shark Tale.  The result will likely end up covering just a fraction of the problems with this film.  Be grateful this isn’t a video or audio-based series, as the end result would probably be about 90 minutes long and have at least 40% of the runtime consist of me sputtering futilely like an enraged-yet-despairing Looney Tunes character.

Let’s start with something easily tangible that we can all notice together: the animation and, most specifically, the character designs.  The animation itself is mediocre to poor: there’s a lack of detail pretty much everywhere, the water doesn’t look or feel like water, colours are muddied instead of decently shaded, and movements are pretty dreadful.  Whenever character movements aren’t being too jerky, less the artistic decision to make it “pose-to-pose” (like in the TV series Clone High) and more “this character needs to be in this position from that position, but lunchtime is coming up and I can’t be arsed, so I’m only going to do, like, half of the frames the job needs,” they’re instead being way too smooth and lacking in weight; it never feels like anyone’s actually in liquid of any viscosity, let alone the sea.  It’s bad and, yes, it does come off even worse considering the fact that Finding Nemo came out 18 months earlier.

But the animation is not the main issue with the look of Shark Tale.  That would be reserved for the character designs.  Now, there is a reason why one does not try and accurately make animated characters look like the people voicing them.  Actually, make that two reasons.  The first is that you’re going to look very silly if you design a character to look like Brad Pitt and then Brad Pitt doesn’t show up to play him.  The second is that a more cartoony and stylised art design for the rest of the film and a really accurate facial likeness of a celebrity don’t mix, meaning that your character is going to look hideous, terrifying, and completely ill-fitting with the rest of the world.  Apply the knowledge that you’ve just learnt, then, to answering this question: why do you not try and design a cast of fish to have faces that resemble the people playing them.

Answer: because you get Jellyfish Christina Aguilera.

maxresdefault

This is more terrifying than anything that Annabelle will cook up

That’s the most extreme example, but the rest of the cast are honestly not much better.  Oscar’s face is noticeably off-looking from a good majority of angles, due to his eyes being too wide and his facial features trying to resemble Will Smith.  Lola’s lips are stuck in this weird halfway house between fish and human, like they desperately tried to capture the effect of Angelina Jolie wearing lipstick and failed miserably, and just end up distracting as a result.  Sykes, meanwhile, is basically the result of copying a photo of Martin Scorsese’s face without glasses, circa 1978, and pasting it onto a puffer-fish, with the unholy result being what you spend 90 minutes viewing.  And the way that their fins move like human arms and hands is just unnervingly creepy.  These are bad, ugly character designs; the kind that makes even the film’s nicest character, Lenny, look like a knock-off tie-in toy for the real character rather than anything loveable or even bearable to look at for 90 minutes.

I’m probably not going to get any better of a segway than that last paragraph, so let’s transition over to the voice acting.  Now, stunt casting in animated films was absolutely nothing new in 2004.  Hell, Shrek 2 heavily indulged in it about six months prior to Shark Tale, and let’s not forget the all-star cast lists of other DreamWorks films.  And whilst I will sit here and grumble irritatingly about how professional VAs never get any chances in big budget cinema-focussed films nowadays, I will cease my complaining if the cast are really good or fit their parts well.  Basically, as long as they were cast for reasons that amount to more than “they’re big now, right?” then I don’t have a problem.  You’ll notice that this is why I didn’t moan about the overabundance of big-names populating Shrek 2, they may have been given garbage material but they were all at least trying to make it work.

As you may have guessed by that entire preceding paragraph, I am building up to the earth-shattering revelation that almost none of Shark Tale’s cast are any good or even trying at all.  There are those in paycheque-collecting mode (Robert De Niro who almost reaches the depths he plumbed in The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle just 4 years earlier), those who are flatter than Flat Stanley (Angelina Jolie who, goddammit, is supposed to be playing a sexpot, for crying out loud), those who are trying but being directed poorly (Jack Black is the only one of the main cast who actually tries putting on a voice, but he can’t stick with it the whole way through), and then there is Martin Scorsese.  Before watching Shark Tale, I firmly believed that I could listen to Martin Scorsese talk about anything for hours.  The man is just so excitable and passionate about pretty much anything that he could probably read the phone book and hold my interest.

Then, about 11 minutes into Shark Tale, this happens.

Look, maybe there’s a way to make that exchange funny.  Scorsese did not know how.  That was my first indicator that my long-held belief with regards to Scorsese was going to be put to the ultimate test.  The man, quite simply, is out of his depth (he he, sea puns) and I realised that he would not be able to elevate garbage material.  That, incidentally, is the only clip of Shark Tale that I can find on YouTube with Sykes prominently featured in it, which is a pain for me trying to illustrate my point, but a blessing for you, the reader.  See, that means that you don’t have to see or hear Martin Scorsese attempting fist-bumps, gangster lingo, dreadful mafia movie references, or “that one dance move where you lick your finger, place it on your butt and hiss like steam is going off” and you get to go through life without having those images permanently seared into your subconscious because DEAR GOD WHY!?

So it probably won’t surprise you to find out that Shark Tale was written by white people, yet keeps attempting to work in references to hip-hop, gangster, and lower-class New York life.  It also probably won’t surprise you to find out that their every attempt to tap into those sub-cultures is embarrassingly cringeworthy and gives off the strong impression that their only experience of primarily black culture was The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air.  Fitting seeing as Will Smith is playing the lead, but it leads to this continual feel of people trying to tap into sub-cultures that have become popular without actually understanding them.  Or, in fact, knowing anything about them at all beyond a ten-second Google search and an afternoon watching MTV Base.  It’s like if your Granddad tried to prove that he is “hip” and “down with the kids” by using those very phrases earnestly.

Plus, those references don’t gel with the gangster movie that Shark Tale also wants to be.  In fact, Shark Tale is a confused and aimless movie with no general point to it.  It keeps trying on all of these different hats, all these different plot threads, all these different thematic threads, but it never settles on one.  Not once does the film seem to know what it’s trying to be.  Is it a mafia story about a father who is passing on his empire to his sons?  Is it a rags-to-riches story about a lowly schmuck who has dreams bigger than his current standing in life?  Is it a cautionary tale about how lying will only make things worse for everyone or about not letting success go to your head?  Is it a film about grief?  Is it a film about social standing?  Is it a film that uses the thinnest of metaphors for homosexuality and coming out to your parents?

Truth is that Shark Tale is about every single one of these and none of them whatsoever, because it tries to do them all at once and schizophrenically hops between them from scene-to-scene doing absolutely none of them justice.  As a result of this indecisiveness, the film lacks a thematic core, a central reason as to why all of its events are happening.  Of course, I’m pretty sure the problem is not indecisiveness.  The entire vibe that Shark Tale gives off, more than any other, is a desire to earn a quick buck.  A light bulb moment from everyone involved higher-up at the company: the realisation that Shrek may be a winning formula and a desire to milk that “edgy kids’ animation” udder as hard and as fast as is humanly possible.  Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the film was greenlit after somebody walked up to a man in charge one day with a list of A-list actors and a note saying that rap culture was in right now, with everything else just being made up on the fly after the fact.  It would explain the total over-stuffed mess that we ended up getting.

It would also explain how we ended up with one of the most inadvertently unlikeable heroes I have ever met in an animated movie.  Seriously, Oscar is a giant jerk-ass.  He is selfish, manipulative, a compulsive liar, gambler and overall degenerate, lazy, uncaring of his friends, and only helpful when it serves his own personal interests.  Now, I get that this is supposed to be the point, he starts a jerk and then gets better when character development kicks in, but there are two stumbling blocks to this.  1) He begins too unlikeable.  There is a difference between “a jerk who is entertaining to watch” and “a jerk who I would like to see flambéed immediately” and he is most definitely in the latter category, despite Will Smith’s natural likeable charisma.  2) His big heroic act near the end, rescuing Angie and revealing his lie, is still being done out of selfish desires, a desire to pork Angie, so he’s actually learnt nothing.  His making amends with the sharks feels crowbarred in purely to try and make that complaint hold little weight, instead of anything natural.

That “pitch” that I mentioned two paragraphs back would probably also explain why the film’s “jokes” are so utterly non-existent or just-plain-terrible.  As a little mini-case study, let’s all watch the fake shark attack sequence together.

Notice how most of this sequence is not built on broad physical comedy, character work, or at least contrasting the fake performance with how it looks to the bystanders.  Notice instead how it primarily attempts to get its laughs from random pop culture references.  Yes, references.  Lenny singing a bastardisation of the Jaws theme to himself (which is not a call-back, despite the joke having already been used with a different character earlier in the movie, because it’s the same joke), the battle taking place in a very-thinly veiled version of New York, and then there’s that bit where Oscar just starts shouting phrases from classic movies.  None of them have any reason for being said in the context of the scene, and there’s no rhyme or reason as to their delivery or choice; the lone exception being “YOU HAD ME AT ‘HELLO’!” because, hey, Renée Zellweger starred in Jerry Maguire so ha.

The scene has no actual jokes.  Lenny eating Oscar could have been a funny sudden gag, but it’s dragged out too long, leads into an overly-tangential rant by Oscar, and the animation is too low-quality to truly sell it.  Otherwise, it’s just pop culture references and a performance that’s too absurd and too long to be funny.  When concocting a scene where two characters are putting on a fake display of some kind, you need it to be absurd enough that it’s funny for the viewer, but not dragged out too long as to make them start wondering why nobody in the film’s world has cottoned on.  There also need to be jokes.  Shark Tale’s is absurd, but it goes on for way too long and lacks in jokes, making one wonder how anyone could be buying this.  (For an example of how to do this kind of thing right, I point you towards this scene from Avatar: The Last Airbender.)  Instead of there being actual jokes, Lenny gets punched through a billboard for Jaws.  Ha.  Ha.  Ha.

And that kind of quote-unquote joke abounds everywhere throughout Shark Tale.  From its casting (hey, look, it’s Michael Imperioli who is here because he was in Goodfellas and The Sopranos), to its billboard parodies (more on those in a sec), to brick jokes that should be funny (a shrimp that Lenny spared earlier in the movie returns in the climax quite literally so that it can say “Say hello to my little friends!”), to pretty much any usage of music.  What do I mean by that?  When Oscar seems to have outsmarted the sharks, he immediately gets up on the table and sings Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer, complete with doing the dance (which was the moment I realised why Oscar’s character design was the way it was).  When Lola is introduced (and I could write something like 20 paragraphs on this film’s usage and treatment of women, so be glad we’re near wrapping-up time), the soundtrack plays Gold Digger by Ludacris, to just ram that point home as hard as is humanly possible.  And then, there’s this.

Oy vey indeed, Robert De Niro.  It’s all just so goddamn lazy, completely devoid of skill or effort, and done with a near-total contempt for the audience the result ends up in front of.  Then, much like in Shrek 2, there are the jokes aimed only at children, because attempting double-coding properly like in the first Shrek was just too much work for everyone involved at DreamWorks Animation in 2004.  You know: fart jokes, inherently funny words being repeated endlessly for no reason, wacky comic relief that pops up with a joke any time that a scene gets in danger of being too serious (funny that the first Shrek lampooned this Disney trope and yet DreamWorks couldn’t stay away from it, isn’t it), more fart jokes, wacky comic relief based around racial stereotypes that everyone involved hopes that children are too young to realise are racist, something gross occurring, even more fart jokes, poorly-done physical humour, and sudden music cues because WACKY!  Wanna take a guess how this all turns out?

One last thing and then I will let you leave.  I get that Shark Tale is supposed to be set in an underwater equivalent to New York City.  I get that that means that there will be a temptation for the animators to create parodies of famous brands and advertising billboards and the like, littering them around the set.  When the parodies are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing, to such a degree that I spent a good half of the movie thinking that there was genuine product placement going on for Coca-Cola until it got a close-up, though, you have failed at your job.  There are not-100%-intrusive places for product placement in movies.  An animated film aimed at kids’ about undersea life is not one of them.  This should have been cut down immediately in the concept stage of the film’s lifespan, especially since it’s one of the quickest ways to figure out exactly when the film came out and the culture it spawned from.

Well, we’re out of time.  I hope you enjoyed this systemic breakdown of just a small percentage, about 14% tops, of the ways that Shark Tale is a complete and total failure, a blight on DreamWorks Animation, the animation industry as a whole, and the world in general, and a completely creatively-bankrupt exercise in cynical cash-grab movie-making.  Fortunately for us all, despite being one of the year’s highest grossing films, we have been spared any further adventures in the world of Shark Tale as, apparently, it didn’t play well overseas.  Which is demonstrably false, but I guess is better for business than just admitting that everyone at DreamWorks done f*cked up and would prefer that we never speak of this again.  A sentiment that I will be happy to oblige…

…right after I subject you all to The Dance Party Ending.

See you next week, folks!


2004 was the year that DreamWorks Animation forcefully staked their claim to the feature-length animation landscape.  Two giant financial successes, one of which also being a critical smash, will do that to your standing.  The company would spend the next few years solidifying its position as one of the major players in that field, albeit mostly at the cost of the critical acclaim that stood them out from the pack of pretenders at the beginning of their career, keeping up a steady output of two films every year for almost the entire remainder of the decade.  Next week, we enter 2005 and look at the beginnings of their second mega-successful franchise, Madagascar.

A new edition of DreamWorks! A Retrospective will be posted here every Monday at 1PM BST!

Callum Petch might not ever get rich, but it’s better than digging a ditch.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

A New York Winter’s Tale

ANewYorkWintersTaleCroweA New York Winter’s Tale is a prolonged piece of deadpan anti-comedy.  The problems being that it’s not supposed to be and that it’s achingly, miserably dull.

by Callum Petch

A New York Winter’s Tale is fucking awful.  It is so fucking awful that I feel justified in using the phrase “fucking awful”.  Not “f*cking awful”, in my continuing attempts to keep my work at a PG level, not “frakkin’ awful”, in my continuing attempts to keep that PG rating and basically scream “LOOK AT ME, I AM SUCH A NERD ON THE INTERNET, NOTICE ME” at the top of my lungs.  No.  It is fucking awful.  At the 1 hour mark, which is just over the halfway point of this near two hour exercise in unbearably earnest philosophical romanticised wank, I strongly considered leaving the cinema.  I have never walked out of a film playing in the cinema and only once turned off a first-time-viewing of a movie because it sucked horrendously (Disaster Movie, if you’re wondering), and A New York Winter’s Tale came this close to beating me.  I didn’t, more due to the principle of the thing, but the thought was seriously rattling around my brain.  I could have left, snuck into another screen and saw The Lego Movie again instead, but I didn’t because I wasn’t going to let fucking A New York Winter’s Tale be the film to beat me.

And yet, even with that knowledge and the possibility that it may already be the year’s absolute worst film (although we do still have Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie to come, so it’s early days on that front), my task of reviewing A San Diego Summer’s Story is one fraught with difficulty and peril.  See, under no circumstances should you see this film, but the problem is that I will have to describe the story, a story so batshit insane that people have been incarcerated in mental institutions for less, and I can almost guarantee that you will be compelled to give it a shot after hearing it; whether that be due to ironic appreciation for its dumbness, bile fascination or legitimate interest and excitement.  And I am here to tell you, from the bottom of my heart and with the utmost sincerity, that to act on that compulsion and pay the people involved in the creation of this film money would be a really fucking dumb thing to do; almost as dumb as this film is.

The fact of the matter is that I could happily sit here and tear this film a new one for all manner of things that don’t revolve around the story of the film.  The acting, for example, is atrocious across the board: Colin Farrell looks permanently lost and confused, Russell Crowe delivers the majority of his lines like he’s suffering from the onset of a stroke, Jennifer Connelly seems to be 10 seconds away from firing her agent, and Will Smith (yes, Will Smith is in this fi-STAY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE AND KEEP READING) does an excellent impersonation of Will Smith on the other end of a phone call at 3am in the morning.  Oh, and there are at least three precocious child actresses running about the place delivering the abysmal dialogue in as precisely a melodramatic “I AM ACTING, LOOK AT MY ACTING, CAN YOU TELL HOW HARD I AM ACTING COS I AM ALL THE ACTING” fashion as you’re imagining.  Oh, sorry, my mistake.  There are only two precocious child actresses running about the place.  The third is Jessica Brown Findlay but she’s acting at the kids’ level, mind.

Oh, there’s also the CGI and effects in general!  Fun Fact: this film cost $60 million to make.  You wouldn’t be able to tell, mind, considering the fact that the film’s Pegasus (yes, this film has a peg-SIT THE FUCK DOWN AND FINISH READING) looks like it was ripped straight from the music video for Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication” with wings that look like someone got bored halfway through implementing the CG and somehow successfully passed off their laziness by going “But it looks so much cooler that way!” to their superiors.  And do not get me started on the exceedingly cheap and fake lens flare.  We’re talking JJ Abrams levels of egregious lens fares, here, except that he actually works to make it look like they’re coming from the scene; instead of being inserted in post-production and looking like somebody spilt caramel all over various parts of the film.

There’s also the overly-maudlin and manipulative score that strains so badly to tug on at least one of your heartstrings that Keane are, as I type these words, working out a way to incorporate parts of it into their next album, but it’s time I stopped beating around the bush.  I have to talk about the story and the plot and the first hour of this film.  And, yes, I have to talk about the first hour of this film here because it’s near impossible to talk about the film otherwise.  See, the marketing has positioned A Nottingham Spring’s Folly as a tale of forbidden romance that somehow transcends two centuries.  Except that they’ve hidden a key element and, again, I guarantee that, when I tell you what that element is, you will abandon all common sense and try to see this film despite mounting evidence that you really, really shouldn’t.

Therefore, I am throwing up the Spoiler Warning and the “Have Common Sense and Don’t Go See This Movie No Matter What You May Read About It After This Warning” Warning now.  I will not spoil anything outside of that first hour but the rest?  Fair game, but that’s only because A Scunthorpe Fall’s Urban Legend is a slow burner.  A really, really slow burner and it takes a full hour for it to fully reveal its setup, like it thinks it’s some kind of big mystery worth preserving.  Again, unfortunately, the film is impossible to talk about otherwise.  So, again, Spoiler Warning and Don’t Be An Idiot And See This Movie No Matter What You Think Of What You’re About To Read Warning are in effect.  Proceed with caution.

So.  The story.  A Cape Town Autumn’s Blood-Writing-On-The-Walls Warning follows Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) who we first meet as a baby when his family get turned away from immigrating to Manhattan.  Determined to leave their child behind in New York (for… your guess is as good as mine), they sneak him back into Manhattan on their boat ride out by stuffing him into a tiny model ship and pushing it towards the docks.  This, by the way, occurs whilst the film spoils its other twist for you and a voiceover dumps out pseudo-philosophical bullcrap about how everything is connected and destiny and fates and all that.  But, in any case, the film then jumps ahead 30 years to 1914 and we meet Peter again.  He’s a thief, on the run from a gangster played by Russell Crowe called Pearly Soames (no, really, that’s his name) for reasons that… you know, I think the film just goes “because he’s evil” and leaves it at that.  Other than an alleged betrayal by Peter, the film never seems to give a reason why Pearly (again, that’s his real name) has this extreme vendetta against him.

Anyways, Peter escapes by commandeering a horse that actually turns out to be a guardian angel disguised as a Pegasus.  See, it turns out that Pearly (again, real name that people signed off on in an allegedly serious film) and his gangster associate underlings are demons.  Agents of chaos working for Lucifer (played by… sigh, yes, Will Smith) who have made it their eternal life’s mission to kill off potential miracle makers before they turn into angels because they’re demons what you want more of an explanation?  Anyways, Peter finds himself drawn to, by the universe, a dying woman by the name of Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) and it seems like the miracle that the universe has insisted he perform is that of saving her life.  By falling in love with her.  After she catches him breaking into her house, as all great love stories begin.  Of course, this being a tale of forbidden love, Pearly (again, actual name that graced a best-selling book) and his goons are hot on their heels.  And by “hot on their heels”, I mean “there’s like a 35 minute window straight after the conflict is set up where nothing happens and Russell Crowe grimaces a lot”.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  “Callum, I saw The Adjustment Bureau and I thought it was alright, but the romance was a waste of a golden concept.  Nevertheless, I am more than willing to stomach another tale of forbidden romance for the chance to see angels and demons fighting each other and also WILL SMITH IS LUCIFER HOW CAN I PASS THAT UP?”  Well, firstly, there are no fight scenes between angels and demons, sorry to get your hopes up.  But, I admit, the premise sounds like prime “So Bad, It’s Good” material.  The kind of terrible film you love to watch to snark at repeatedly and violently.  This, again, is a film that, in the first five minutes, has two characters smuggle our lead into the country in a model ship for no discernable reason.  Except that there’s one thing keeping this from being some kind of Andy Kaufman-esque piece of deliberate, straight-faced anti-comedy: it’s dull.  It is endlessly, crushingly, miserably dull.

Oh, sure, it’s not to start with.  Again, I guffawed like a madman at the image of a baby in a model ship floating towards the New York harbour.  I tried really hard to suppress my tittering when Beverly started earnestly talking about her belief in light connecting every living being.  I reflexively let out a huge laugh when Pearly (again, his real name, not a cross-gender version of Pearl from Spongebob Squarepants) murders a waiter for no reason other than to reveal to the viewer that he’s a demon.  And, of course, there was some kind of strange noise meant to represent disbelief that emanated from me at the Pegasus reveal.  Here’s the problem: that’s where the film stops being funny.  Like, it’s so committed to its world and so committed to being this big grandiose statement about the power of love, goodness and righteous virtue and so committed to being so po-faced serious about the whole ordeal (even when it has a scene in which Will Smith as Lucifer rants about being stuck in a mortal body and how he hates sunshine and lollipops and new-born babies and all that jazz) that it stops being fun to laugh at.  It’s so committed that it just becomes sad.

And if you were coming to this film seriously, as in you were looking for a grand old inspiring tale of romance for the ages, well I’m afraid that you’re shit out of luck in that department.  Despite the film stopping to a halt for about 30 minutes so that it can truly sell you on the romance that Peter and Beverly have, it doesn’t work at all.  Farrell and Findlay have no chemistry, the dialogue between the pair is atrocious (Peter genuinely says, when he’s questioned by Beverly as to what the favourite thing he’s stolen is, “I’m beginning to think I haven’t stolen it yet”), and both of them decide they love each other totally despite only having known each other for about 48 hours by the time Pearly (again, real name, not an alter-ego on Match.com) catches up to them.  Peter tries to cure Beverly’s tuberculosis (sorry, consumption) by teaching her his super-special-safe-cracker-breathing rate tricks.  Beverly’s irritating kid sister showcases a greenhouse decked out to look like the glass coffin from Snow White in what is one of the more subtle pieces of foreshadowing and symbolism in this film.  They dance.  They have sex.  There, that is everything this whirlwind romance for the ages encompasses.  No, literally, that is everything that happens before the final 30/40 minutes kick in.

And OH GODS, THOSE FINAL 30/40 MINUTES.  The only reason I don’t tell you what happens in them and how they are, somehow, even stupider, even duller and even more poorly paced than the preceding 70 is because this is a review, and some people may be using it as consumer advice on whether this film is worth seeing or not and it is bad form for me, as a reviewer, to spoil the end of a film for the uninitiated.  Rest assured, however, that weren’t that unwritten entry into the code of reviewer ethics there, I would be gladly telling you everything that happens in there.  Both because it would complete my goal in giving you absolutely zero reason to watch this film, seeing as you’d already know what happens, and because I still can’t quite believe I actually witnessed it.  Like, I expect to wake up any second now and find that I slept through the entire thing.  No studio-based film is this relentlessly crazy, this relentlessly bad and this relentlessly, miserably dull about its craziness and badness, right?

Alas, I think it might be.  The realisation is finally setting in that I did not, in fact, imagine A New York Winter’s Tale.  This film actually happened, was completely serious about what happened and it is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the worst movies I have ever seen.  Unfortunately, I also know how people act and there will now be some of you salivating over this film: eager to add it to your future Bad Movie Night marathons or to go and pay money and/or devote two hours of your life to seeing if it really is as terrible as I am making out.  From the bottom of my heart, I implore you to eject those thoughts and go about your daily life.  You have one life to live and the two hours you would end up spending on this god-awful piece of utter shite in a 99p burger would be interminable and could be spent so much more productively or doing things that would make you happy.  Folks: it’s not even fun to make fun of.  Doing so is equivalent to picking on the kid who likes to imagine he’s flying a spaceship all the time, until you find out that he’s got genuine mental health problems and he genuinely thinks he’s flying a spaceship all the time.

To reiterate: A New York Winter’s Tale is fucking awful.  End of debate.  Stay the hell away.

Callum Petch is looking for salvation in the secular age.  He normally writes film reviews and box office reports for Screened.com.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Best Movie Dads

its-a-wonderful-life1After a well-earned week off, the Failed Critics Podcast returns with a Triple Bill of our favourite cinematic fathers. Sadly, we’re missing the one real-life dad in the team as James recovers from the exertions of taking a week off work.

Luckily Steve, Owen, and Gerry soldier on his his absence, and even find time to review new releases After Earth and Behind the Candelabra, as well as looking back at Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Departed.

Join us next week for our Superman special, as we look back on the cinematic legacy of Kal-El, and review the latest screen incarnation with Man of Steel.

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Failed Critics: Episode 8 – J. Edgar

Welcome to episode 8 of Failed Critics. This week due to the laziness of the critics, and the fact that none of our cinemas were showing The Innkeepers, we are reviewing a brand new DVD release – Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the founder of the FBI ‘J. Edgar’.

We also list the actors and directors that we’ve fallen out of love with inthis week’s Triple Bill ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’, as well as discussing Men in Black 3.

Gerry is still missing (we wish him all the best), but Steve’s near-breakdown over a certain director is worth the price of admission alone.

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