That's right, you are witness to the beginning of a new thing. The thing? The Guys on Film Podcast Film of the Month.
Designed in part for the snappy "say it in the schoolyard" acronym, part because we had a really clear set of criteria in mind (hint: reading on will make the contrary abundantly clear) - the GOFPFOTM is here, and for the time-being at least it's here to stay.
Read on GOF listeners... welcome to our mutual journey into accolade-based 'journalism' - and tell us what we didn't get right in the comments.
Olly's Choice: Fast and Furious 8
If you’re a long time listener of the Podcast you’ll know this; I love Action Nonsense™. What is Action Nonsense™? Well My friend, fasten your seatbelt and make sure you are fully hydrated, because you’re about to find out! Action Nonsense™ is when a film defies all physical logic, makes character/story development take a backseat, pushes you inches from migraine and awakens your inner Beavis. Normally these films are directed by Michael Bay - sometimes they are not - but all I’m saying is… if you’re surprised when they are, then it's your own fault.
I love Action Nonsense™, but even I performed elaborate evasive maneuvers to avoid the Fast/Furious franchise for a number of years. The first film in the series - I thought - was fine. Fast/Furious 2-4 looked a bit like they were being smashed out for sequel’s-sake… and then Fast Five came out. It just looked ridiculous; less a film about street racing and more a collection of increasingly berserk stunts, muscle lads, and more exposed arse cheeks than you could throw a stick at*. For some reason, people loved it. People can sometimes like really bad things and make books like Fifty Shades of Grey sell enough copies to reach Mars or something. People can be dead wrong. People however insisted this was different.
No, I wasn’t having it. This Action Nonsense™ was not the right type of Action Nonsense™ for me, so I avoided it. I avoided it even when The Rock was introduced with his impossible charm. I avoided it when the promotional posters shifted to rather nice photography. I avoided it when Luke Evans turned up to play what looked like a decent bad man. I avoided it when they had a car chase on a runway that meant the runway needed to be 20 miles long to make sense. I avoided it when Jason Statham turned up. I even avoided it when KURT RUSSELL joined the party. [IAIN: three paragraphs in and he’s still talking about not watching F&F. Be kind, Olly is new to this]
I don’t know why I relented for Fast/Furious 8 but I am glad I did (thanks me). It’s exactly the type of Action Nonsense™ I like. It’s sort of the most ridiculous film you could ever make... and it’s all the better for it. Don’t get me wrong; you’ll have internal battles with yourself over the corny dialogue and script, but then Jason Statham does a kick, or The Rock swears, or Charlize Theron glares, or Vin Diesel drives a car in such a way that the only reasonable response is to laugh... and what’s wrong with any of that?
Nothing. Nothing is wrong with that.
Film of the Month, though? U Mad? Well, it’s certainly the most entertained I have been in the cinema in April. Guardians Vol.2 hit me with a tad too much deja vu and a couple of storyline elements I’d rather have ignored on a deleted scenes menu for it to get this badge of honour.
Back to Fast and Furious 8. My understanding is that a particular character’s heel turn was a step too far for some. Well, keep in mind I had only ever seen the first one before inexplicably deciding jumping back into this stuff was a good idea. So consider that point null from my perspective.
From the off Vin Diesel’s Dom, driving an absolute mechanical nightmare beats “the fastest car in Havana” in a drag race. In reverse. He then bails out of the car (now engulfed in flames) at roughly 100mph with only his muscles and his never- in-fashion white vest and white linen trousers combo for protection against the asphalt. Of course: not a scratch. But it’s spectacular. It’s not a world where realism has to be strictly adhered to, but when it sticks to its own set of rules, that’s great. Jason statham absolutely steals the film in one Jackie-Channelling sequence that I doubt will be topped this year in terms of pure Action Nonsense™ Those in the screening I was in seemed to agree as they cheered on The Stath as he out-wicked John Wick. There is also a story about “family” in there. There’s something about a terrorist attack in the form of a very terrifying Charlize Theron [Iain: so she is the attack?] but it was all pretty much an excuse to have escalating mayhem.
The thing I really admired about this film was that it’s so blatantly in on the joke (or at least I hope it is) It knows it’s the type of film people say “just turn your brain off and enjoy” about, so when Tyrese Gibson decides a Lamborghini is the best loadout for a mission across an icy lake, the film has done enough to earn that visual. It inevitably backfires and sets up a daring rescue involving a Rock-guided torpedo and what must be the best sledging on a car door scene ever filmed.
And if that doesn’t make something film of the month then I don’t know what does.
*There’s still probably a bit too much leering arse-cheek action, maybe The Rock should consider baring his for cheek gender balance.
Iain's "Choice": The Belko Experiment
Here’s the deal…
I could perhaps have chosen The Transfiguration; a coming-of-age, contemporary vampire picture concerning blood-lust and cannibalism (all big thumbs up from me) as my Movie of the Month. Or Raw; a coming-of-age, contemporary horror picture concerning blood-lust and cannibalism (again, the thumbs are up) as my Movie of the Month. I could have even gone for the visually arresting The Handmaiden. But the one, serious issue with choosing any of these pictures is that in typical Guys on Film fashion, I’ve not actually prepared for this at all and haven’t seen any of them.
So to ensure I start off as I mean to go on - by setting up the GOFPFOTM as an elite, rarified standard; a veritable seal of excellence in filmmaking - I’ve chosen from a pool of only three movies. Now, hold on, the thing is… nah, really… I’ve actually been to the cinema a pretty decent number of times over the last month or so… considering I’m not an “unlimited”-type card holder like Olly is. I’ve seen Get Out, Free Fire, The Eyes of My Mother, as well as Carnage on the small screen. All along with the April offerings I did manage to see. But those listed movies don’t make the cut because they’re the wrong feckin’ month. So I’ve basically just got Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, The Belko Experiment and Aftermath to choose from. We’re talking creme de la crap creme here, folks.
Now, I already mentioned The Belko Experiment and Aftermath on the podcast, and neither in a particularly positive light. And it's probably true that from a purely technical standpoint, the filmmaking on show in the Guardians follow-up is superior to the other two options. But, for reasons I’m willing to bore Olly with at length on a forthcoming podcast - there was just a little missing zing, heart and purpose to Guardians. And at a Marvel-hallmark two hours sixteen minutes, all a bit lacking in self-control too.
I’d love to be saying Arnie’s latest outing was a Movie of the Month in 2017. But for reasons stated on the podcast, it unfortunately misses the mark too. So, despite calling it things like “totally normal” and probably all manner of other negative things, the film for April is The Belko Experiment.
Now, it may not have broken any ground that The Exam (2009), Das Experiment (2001) or Circle (2015) hadn’t done before (and by the way, those are of extremely varying quality too) but amongst the limited pool I’m working with, it was the one I got the most satisfaction from watching. Satisfaction? Satisfactory? Similar, right?
In IMDB’s words:
In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company's intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.
So… there’s some tension, there are moral quandaries, there are allegiances which are kept and then others which are broken. There’s blood. There’s more blood and a bit of body horror. And then there’s blood with exploding heads. Lots of exploding heads.
And that sounds like a pretty neat package to be fair. But I think the winner for me with this is that the pacing keeps you keen until the end; which from a purely comparative point of view, can’t be said about the other options. Even if some of the outcomes end up being just as expected (in one form or another) I was still locked in and stayed with it until the end. So basically, it’s worth a watch when it arrives on VOD.
My one gripe is that there is a fair bit of emphasis on a particular character which amounts to nothing. Which rather than being shocking - as I assume was desired - was just kind of deflating, really.
Nevertheless, my first ever GOFPFOTM goes to the unassuming, unexpected (not least by me) The Belko Experiment. Whether Arnie (or I) like it or not.