Despite reports of different creative visions for this episode of the Failed Critics Podcast, hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes haven’t left the project, but have brought on board Underground Nights co-host Paul Field to delve into some film news and reviews.
“I’ve done terrible, unspeakable things.”
It’s taken far too long to get here. Seventeen years since the first X-Men movie and finally someone has realised that a film about an indestructible human being who, via several super secret military experiments, has enormous razor sharp claws that appear on command should probably be a little bit violent. A little bit bloody. Maybe, just maybe, there should be a fatality or two in it.
The fear, of course, is that things might go completely over the top. With 20th Century Fox chasing that Deadpool money, it’s always possible the studio get their grubby little fingers into the Wolverine flavoured pie and ruin it for all of us, forgetting that The Merc with the Mouth was almost certainly a one-off. But there I was, popcorn in hand at the premier screening of director James Mangold’s latest foray into the X-Men universe, hoping for great things.
It’s 2029, mutants are all but extinct and Logan (Hugh Jackman) is an old man who has completely dropped any illusions of being a hero. Living day-to-day as an Uber driver to make enough cash to keep himself in booze, and his ward – the ageing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) – safe, away from prying eyes that may be looking for him. Logan’s world is turned upside down when he meets Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl with extraordinary abilities.
Suddenly finding himself with an army of mercenaries on his tail, the man the world once knew as Wolverine unwittingly has a new mission: to get Laura and Xavier to safety.
As much a western as it is an action film, Logan‘s story is one of redemption. It’s not your everyday, run-of-the-mill comic book movie; and certainly not what you’d expect from a film in the X-Men universe. These usually fluffy and slight films are all well and good – ok, they’re not really, not any more – but that’s not what you’re getting here. Instead, a darker tone (without being all The Dark Knight about it) is how we get to spend the little over two-hour runtime.
First, the elephant in the room. The question so many had. After Deadpool last year, the rumours of a violent, expletive-filled Wolverine movie were floating around almost instantly. There was a worry that 20th Century Fox were just going to throw us a crappy film loaded with content that gives it a 15 rating, with no thought to actually giving us a decent film.
That’s simply something you needn’t worry about. Back on directorial (and writing) duties is James Mangold, the creative force behind 2014’s The Wolverine; a film that was more fun than most of the other films in its shared universe and very, very close to being a perfect Wolverine movie. With Mangold at the helm and seemingly let off the leash to flex his muscles, the veteran writer/director has delivered a thriller that has you enthralled for the whole time it’s on, riveted to the screen, unable to look away.
Hugh Jackman’s Logan is a character to be admired – and the performance is one to sit in awe of. As one of the last remaining mutants in this near future, Wolverine has been forced to become a care-giver and protector of the professor that used to be both to every mutant at his school. This position change takes its toll on the biologically upgraded soldier. He looks tired, both battle and world weary, and Jackman sells that fatigue beautifully.
The same goes for Patrick Stewart as the ninety year old Professor X. A character so used to being the one in charge and in front of everyone else when it came to danger, but has to rely on Logan’s dwindling strength to protect him. Almost entirely helpless in his old age, the ailing mutant can only look on impotently, where once he would have taken charge. Like Jackman’s role reversal, Stewart’s is a thing of beauty to watch. A heartbreaking turn from a person who has previously shown nothing but strength, it’s guaranteed to gently pluck at those heart strings.
Relative newcomer, Dafne Keen, is truly thrown in at the deep end. The eleven year old Laura, a mute girl, whose past mirrors that of Logan’s, is a role that she takes on wholeheartedly and brings everything to. Teaming up with Wolverine is just as much a necessity for her as it is unwanted. Forced into this pairing with the cantankerous mutant is as much a shock to her as it is to him. The young actress deserves a ton of respect; clearly fighting for screen presence against Stewart and Jackman, yet she still manages to shine whilst surrounded by all that star power. Her action scenes are sublime and I was in awe of her performance. She’s clearly worked exceptionally hard to get as good as she is. Long may she continue to impress us.
On the surface, the bad guys can seem a little rubbish. Richard E. Grant’s head-honcho businessman, creating mutants for weapons, is possibly the most one-dimensional, clichéd bad guy you can get. A proper weak spot in an otherwise excellent film is made up for by his dogs body, Pierce. The lead mercenary chasing Laura and Logan is a surgically cold killer. Played by Boyd Holbrook, the brutal, violent headhunter should be commended for being limitlessly entertaining in a role that should be pretty bland, maybe even a little boring. Not here though. The robotically enhanced killer is the kind of guy you could root for, if he wasn’t trying to kill Wolverine.
I feel like we’re being spoiled with Logan. Between Mangold’s near perfect direction and his excellent writing, it has culminated in a brilliantly filmed, amazingly paced actioner that has a surprising amount of emotion and heart. It is excellently acted by its stars (both old and new) in a story about a violent world gone completely mad.
And make no mistake: this is a violent, bloody film. But its beauty is in the fact that while it’s nasty and over the top, it never feel gratuitous or unnecessary. Every bloody swipe of Wolverine’s claws, and every bad guy impaled on the end of them, feels like it had to be done for the good of the character’s progression. Even those moments that make you wince feel necessary.
Dark, morose and grim were always going to be the order of the day for Logan. Loosely based on a comicbook story arc called “Old Man Logan”, there was only ever had one choice when it came to Hugh Jackman’s last outing as Weapon-X. Whether the adaptation is true to the comic book arc or not, I neither know nor care. What I can tell you is that we have finally gotten the Wolverine film that we all wanted. A near perfect movie from everyone involved. If this is indeed the last time we see Jackman and Stewart on the screen together in an X-Men movie, like so many interviews up to his point have said, then everyone has bowed out on a genuine high for the series.
I went into Logan with phenomenally high expectations – as I write this I’ve already seen the film twice and I’m looking to squeeze in a third showing – yet it still managed to blow me away. Honestly, if the people that do the organising can remember this far back when the time comes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this grabbing a few retrospective awards, later down the line.
Brushing the cobwebs out of the way through the passage right at the back of the Failed Critics library, where nobody has been for centuries or more, we’ve found an ancient book containing spells for raising the dead.
Using our powers wisely, we let Steve Norman, Owen Hughes and Tony Black conjure up some deceased actors, putting them straight back to work in brand new movies pitched on this very episode of the Failed Critics Podcast Halloween special.
Resurrecting the dead in a triple bill is about as creepy as it gets this year, with What We’ve Been Watching ditched in favour of reviewing the new release Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and a quick chat about the brand new semi-biographical comedy The Comedian’s Guide to Survival, starring James Buckley (The Inbetweeners). Comedian’s Guide is co-written by and based on the life of our very own James Mullinger from Underground Nights – check out their latest episode for some great background information on the making of the hilarious film.
Elsewhere on this podcast, the Failed Critics found time to bring back the quiz with Owen in the driving seat. News was trailer heavy, packed with discussion about the new Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Logan trailers.
We’ll be back as normal next week with a review of Doctor Strange, but in the meantime keep an eye out for a brand new episode of our sister gaming podcast Character Unlock – as well as a round-up from this year’s Cambridge Film Festival, the longest running film festival in the UK!
Welcome to this week’s episode of the Failed Critics Podcast, with your hosts … erm … Stan? Stuart? Stephen? Steve, Steve Norman, that’s the fella, and Owen Hopkins– I mean, Hughes. They’re joined by Andrew Brooker to review, look at, discuss, scratch their heads and generally mull over the latest Fox-driven superhero movie, X-Men: Apocalypse.
Before all of that, the trio run through the latest film news to cross their paths; namely the trailers for Ghostbusters (and why it might be OK to not like it), Star Trek Beyond, The Purge: Election Year and Independence Day: Resurgence. There’s also room for a discussion about Nicolas Winding Refn’s plans to remake Witchfinder General, as well as an astonished glance towards the impressive cast list of Thor: Ragnarok, boasting the likes of Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban and Jeff Goldblum.
As ever, the ongoing, never ending quiz battle between Owen and Steve rages on, this week pitting the latter against Brooker as they try to work out which X-Men names are real and which Owen has simply made up. In What We’ve Been Watching: Steve revisits a the first and the most recent of the X-Men movies prior to his trip to see Apocalypse; Brooker MC’s over Magic Mike XXL; and Owen gushes over cult zombie classic The Return of the Living Dead.
Join us again next week for a special movie-star triple bill episode.
“From the ashes of their world, we’ll build a better one.”
It’s been sixteen years since Bryan Singer brought the world the X-Men. It was a silly bit of fun that was pretty enjoyable. It gave us a perfect personification of fan favourite Wolverine and introduced a generation to the awesome abilities of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart (if you were two years old when it came out, you’re old enough now to go watch Green Room – get to it).
Somehow, miraculously, even after a bloody awful second sequel, this franchise is the only one left from the super-cheesy noughties comic book films that plagued filmgoers for years. Now we find ourselves, if you count the Wolverine solo outings, with the ninth film in the series and some of us wondering what they can possibly do next.
Buried underneath the ruins of a destroyed pyramid, En Sabar Nuh – the world’s first mutant – has been imprisoned under the ancient rubble for thousands of years. Resurrected by a cult believing him to be an all-powerful God, the man we will come to know as Apocalypse (played by the suddenly everywhere Oscar Isaac) sets about recruiting his own personal Four Horsemen and putting plans in place to kick-start the end of the world.
Sinking his teeth into the strongest, most disillusioned mutants he can find, Apocalypse soon has an entourage that includes a young, impressionable Storm (Straight Outta Compton‘s Alexandra Shipp) ; the beaten down Angel (former Eastenders regular Ben Hardy); the power hungry, vicious Psylocke (Olivia Munn); and the world-weary, disenchanted Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Tapping into the anger and negativity in their lives, convincing these powerful mutants to work for him makes the wannabe-god a force to be reckoned with and together they waste no time in bringing about, well, the apocalypse.
Meanwhile, James McAvoy’s Professor Xavier is dealing with his own band of misfits in his now world famous school. But, when Apocalypse kidnaps the X-Men’s leader for his own ends, it’s down to Mystique (the returning Jennifer Lawrence) to rally the troops and fight the impending doom. Returning good guys Hank “Beast” McCoy (Nicholas Holt), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Alex “Havok” Summers are joined by a cavalcade of newcomers. Fresh to the First Class arc, if not necessary the franchise, the younger incarnations of Scott Summers, Nightcrawler and Jean Grey all join the fray and team up to take on the biggest, most powerful mutant that the world has ever seen.
Director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg have returned to the X-Men franchise to round off this particular story arc and, believe it or not, they’ve done an okay job of it. Now, I know this is going against the grain a little for this film, so maybe I should clarify that a little.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of First Class or Days of Future Past. I don’t think they’re bad films, not at all, but I honestly believe that X-Men, as a franchise, has been treading water since the year 2000. Singer and 20th Century Fox found a winning formula when the first film was a hit all those years ago and as Fox have tried and failed over and over again to bring a decent comic book film to profit, they have refused to take any risks and change up the recipe with these films.
The biggest issue there is that when you’re averaging a film every two years and you’re not changing things up, the audience, no matter how die hard they are, will eventually stop going to see your films as a way to tell you that they’ve had enough of your shit. What made this trilogy – yes, I’m calling it a trilogy – worth a second look was the genius casting of Michael Fassbender in the recently vacated Ian McKellan role of Magneto. I’m still convinced that First Class is actually the quietly disappeared Origins: Magneto movie we were supposed to get; and as such, the story of Erik Lehnsherr and his change to the maniacal Magneto across the first two films is nothing short of riveting.
But after the reboot/timeline shift/whatever you want to call it, I was ready to write this film off as the worn out end of another trilogy, soon for the glue factory. But once again, while Apocalypse may not be the best film you watch this year, and it’s got some pretty glaring problems, but it’s a film I wouldn’t tell you to avoid. It’s almost worth the *phew* two and a half hours you’ll spend watching it.
As far as flaws, I’ve got to start with the most obvious one. Apocalypse himself. For what is supposed to be a terrifying, world ending bad guy, I genuinely couldn’t care less about him or his motives. The problem with these super-strong bad guys, the ones that are supposed to be unbeatable, is that by the time you get to the end of the movie you know full well that he’s gonna get his arse handed to him. Usually through the power of teamwork, or love, or a mutual fondness for hardcore pornography, or something. Either way, and this is another problem with this refusal to change the formula, you know you’re in for a happy ending when the forces of good triumph! And to be honest, Apocalypse is just a bit crap.
And man, this film is so very long. I mean it’s nearly two and a half hours. It’s an X-Men movie for shit’s sake, there’s just no need for it. So much is put on that screen with so little actually happening that I really, truly wondered on more than one occasion if I’d missed something, a plot point or bit of story somewhere. I wondered if maybe I’d slipped into a mini coma at one point and missed a chunk of exposition at around the half way mark. And if someone could explain Olivia Munn’s terrible, terrible costume, I’d really appreciate it. She looks awesome and bad ass when you first meet her, and she transforms into some weird vinyl clad monstrosity that isn’t half as titillating as the 12 year old boys in the costume department thinks it is.
But things aren’t all bad. In fact, the film has a few positives that elevate its standings quite a bit for me. Newcomer to the series and Game of Thrones alum Sophie Turner has a decent turn as the young Jean Grey. Much like Jennifer Lawrence before her, I was a fan of the actress originally in the role and Turner has managed to convince me that, yet again, I was wrong to doubt the younger replacement. Although, she has taken on the annoying trait McAvoy had in previous films of touching her face to indicate she’s doing a psychic thing; but it doesn’t detract from her performance and she’s rather good. It’s always good to see homegrown talent on the big screen, especially when she’s from your surrogate home of Northampton. Quicksilver’s return isn’t half bad either; he’s not overplayed and his super-speed shtick isn’t overused, but when it is used, it’s a wonderful, fun little bit of film.
As with the previous films though, the big hitter here is Michael Fassbender. I’ve really enjoyed watching Eric’s gradual change to Magneto over the years. Fassbender has always been convincing as the guy who’s trying, sincerely, to do good and is screwed with at every turn. Back at the turn of the century, McKellan’s role as the already jaded and evil Magneto was stupendous, but Fassbender makes you genuinely feel some sympathy for the mutant who is proven to over and over again that he won’t be accepted, even when he’s being the good guy. Long after these films are gone, the German-Irish actor’s role in them will be remembered as the defining part of this trilogy.
I went in to X-Men: Apocalypse with pretty low – okay, very low – expectations; but overall, I have to admit that it wasn’t as rubbish as I anticipated it to be. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it doesn’t quite hit the awful levels of X-Men: The Last Stand where it throws all the shit at the wall hoping something will stick. A rubbish bad guy and a severely bloated run time hinder a film that was actually pretty enjoyable. If I had to score it, I’d give it a solid 6/10.
Tell us, Steve. What’s happened in the world of film news in the past week..?
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
Sitcom Dad’s Army is being given a big screen makeover nearly 40 years after the T.V. show stopped being made.
Rumours of a film adaptation have been around for some time but this week a cast has been announced, some four decades after Captain Mainwaring uttered the fantastic line ‘don’t tell them your name, Pike’.
Toby Jones will play Mainwaring, the man in charge of Walmington On Sea’s Home Guard unit during World War 2. Billy Nighy takes on the role of Sergeant Arthur Wilson and the Inbetweeners Blake Harrison steps into Ian Lavender’s shoes as Private Pike while Michael Gambon, Danny Mays and Catherine Zeta-Jones are all set to feature.
The cast is pretty impressive and encouraging but the writer is the man behind Johnny English: Reborn and Mr Bean’s Holiday. So there is cause for both concern and positivity around this venture.
Anyway since the announcement the theme tune has been stuck in my head and I like most of you have it committed to memory.
Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler…
Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Befuddle
J.K Rowling was in cryptic form this week tweeting the following anagram
“Cry, foe! Run amok! Fa awry! My wand won’t tolerate this nonsense.“
Some believed this to mean a return to either the silver screen or to book/e-book for Harry Potter but apparently not. However, the Potter universe, or the Potterverse as it will be hereby be known, is to be expanded with a movie based on a minor character from the books/films, Newt Scamander.
I Do It On The Night
Hugh Grant revealed live on television that he is a lazy so and so who does not prepare for roles.
He told some ITV morning programme (not Jeremey Kyle – now that would be an interesting lie detector) “I’ve barely ever done any research for a film. I just turn up and say the lines and hope they sound convincing.”
Sometimes it really does show Hugh.
Robert Downey Jr. signs on to Iron Man 4 according to reports, but then the man himself denies it on US T.V.
This leaves the Iron Man section of the Avengers/Marvel franchise up in the air. Will they leave it alone or will War Machine or someone else become Iron Man?
Comic Book News
With Comic Book movies and shows so popular and rife it may just be worth having a section of this weekly roundup dedicated to anything from the genre.
So briefly there may be an X-Men live action T.V series from Fox to partner the upcoming Deadpool; Dredd looks set for a seven episode mini-series although there is no news on Karl Urban’s involvement; and once again tentative whispers about Sony and Marvel working together to see Spider-Man appear in something produced by Marvel.
Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.
by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)
Casting news for the second series of hit HBO show True Detective has been drip fed to us this week. Colin Farrell is set to star alongside Vince Vaughn.
These are a couple of brave choices to pick for lead roles. Neither have the acting chops that stars of the excellent first series, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, have.
Both can be good on their day but both have had very hit and miss careers in the silver screen.
Vaughn was good in the likes of Swingers, Old School and Dodgeball but has been in a lot awful – just awful – comedies and the only serious role I can think of him in was the Jurassic Park sequel.
Farrell’s career has been better but he is still capable of a Miami Vice sized stinker.
The first series will command optimism for the second, the current cast may dampen it.
Where Batman’s From
The Batman prequel (I think) Gotham premiered in the US to mixed reviews.
The show tells the story of Gotham pre-Batman and features Bruce Wayne as a child and is more about the early careers of Commissioner Gordon and some of the most iconic villains from the comics.
From the sounds of it they tried to cram too much in to the first episode in terms of nods and references but hopefully it can develop in to a good series on par with fellow DC small screen show Arrow.
Men and Women Who Are Mutants
Bryan Singer is returning to the X-Men franchise to direct the next outing, X-Men: Apocalypse.
Singer directed the first two and Days of Future Past which absconds him from responsibility of the awful third and the standalone Wolverine films.
A Group of Mates
When researching this weeks column I found a quiz celebrating the 20th anniversary of Friends. 20 questions testing your knowledge on the much loved sitcom.
I scored 15 out of 20. Respectable. Does the fact that a programme that I would not rank in my top 10 in its genre is so ingrained in my brain show just how good it really was?
I actually scored 1.7% less on a 15 question quiz on Spaced, which I like much more than Friends.
Some guys have all the luck. Keanu Reeves has found a girl in his library and in his pool in the last few weeks.
Imagine that. Having a pool and a library. Some towns don’t even have those resources.
Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.
Welcome to this week’s bumper Failed Critics Podcast, ans the usual suspects and special guest Carole Petts get in touch with their younger selves and combine their efforts in attempt to stop catastrophe: Steve winning the quiz and picking a film worse than Cutthroat Island…
They also find time to review new releases X-Men: Days of Future Past and Maleficent, as well as a clutch of teen-focused dramas in What We’ve Been Watching, including Short Term 12, The Selfish Giant, and The Kids Are Alright. Not only that, but we even find time to discuss the departure of Edgar Wright from Ant-Man, and the recruitment of Gareth Edwards for a Star Wars spin-off.
Join us next week for reviews of Edge of Tomorrow and A Million Ways to Die in the West.