Thursday, 9 December 2010

An Education - Phil's Five Words for Films

An Education A nice, gentle film that is frightfully English. Full of red letter boxes and double decker buses, boating trips to Oxford and nice cups of tea. The film is based on a memoir of Lynn Barber and focuses on the relationship between a 16 year old girl, studying for university and a much older man who opens her eyes to all life has to offer. In places, the relationship seems slightly creepy and predatory but there is a fantastic acting debut by Carey Mulligan and the script, produced by Nick Hornby, trots along nicely, diverting attention away from the seedier side of the story. Well acted by all concerned and with a 60's period feel, the 'education' of Mulligan's character through schooling and life experience makes for a pleasant story, well told. A good film for a Sunday afternoon or a quiet night in. Deserving of the praise.

8 out of 10.
Cert 12A (uk). 2009

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Sherlock Holmes - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Sherlock Holmes. If you imagine what Sherlock would look like if done by Guy Ritchie - then you've pretty much seen this film. It is flashy, full of slow-mo voice overs and a little bit madcap. Robert Downey Jnr plays a slightly insane version of Sherlock and spends a lot of time mumbling, fumbling with evidence and fighting off all the baddies ( he's a street fighter too ). Jude Law is relatively sensible and plays a good solid partner to the slightly deranged sleuth. After lots of loud bangs, speedy dialogue and hectic action, it all comes together in an enjoyable way. It looks great and the effects are often excellent. However, sometimes the sound is a little mixed up and hard to hear. A bit clunky in places but it rolls from one set piece to another, looks stylish and is fast-paced and entertaining. You might as well see it because there will be sequels. The BBC recently gave us a classy, quirky Holmes. Here, Guy Ritchie gives us a rock and roll Sherlock - just as you would expect.

7.5 out of 10
Cert 12 (uk). 2010.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The A Team - Phil's Five Words for Films -

The A-Team Completely over-blown remaking of the classic 80's tv show. There are plenty of explosions, leaping cars, gunfights, flying tanks and plane rides as the boys try to clear their names after a crime they didn't commit but ridiculous action sequences and brain dead set pieces can only hold your attention for so long. There just isn't enough in the film to stretch to a 2 hour run time and by the end I just didn't care any more. How about a smaller budget and a run of hour long TV episodes? The main characters are quite well cast and I'm ( sadly ) sure that we will see them again in 'A-Team II' but I pity the fool that stumps up full ticket price for that one. Some nice stunts here and there but the over-reliance on CGI, ludicrous plot and poor script really drag the film down. The 80's tv show was tongue-in-cheek fun on a shoestring budget. This latest Hollywood remake is loud, crass, soulless nonsense with too much money to burn. The plan just doesn't come together.

5 out of 10

Cert 12A (uk).2010.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Toy Story 3 - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Toy Story 3 ( seen in 3d ) It seems like such a long time ago that I was blown away by the first Toy Story film - can it really be 1995 since that first incredible journey? Well, time flies and now Andy is all grown up and heading off to college, packing his much-loved toys in to a box and consigning them to the attic. Can there be one last adventure and a happy ending for Woody et al.? Of course there can. And what a roller coaster. With a cast of new characters joining the old friends - a super camp Ken who falls for Barbie being the best of the bunch - the laughs just keep coming, you really can't help smiling. There are moments of sadness too and they are more profound and darker than the earlier films as a sense of mortality and loss is gently introduced. However, it is friendship and team work that shine through and the more adult themes are handled really well. The plot, script, jokes and voices are as perfect as ever and the whole lot is wrapped in Pixar's flawless animation - the 3d version is beautifully unobtrusive. Endlessly inventive and full of imagination, humour and heart, this is not just an outstanding film, it is a triumph as a trilogy too. Classic.

10 out of 10
Cert PG ( uk ) 2010.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Box - Phil's Five Words for Films -

The Box A mysterious package and a curious offer. Would you push a button if it meant that somewhere in the world, a stranger died and you received a million dollars? What if you were struggling for money? What if the unknown victim was a criminal? A moral dilemma to get your teeth in to. There was some nice Prisoner-esque conspiracy in the early stages - informants with nose bleeds etc - but from a promising and intriguing opening idea, I was hoping for so much more than we actually got. The film just grinds to a halt having seemingly run out of good ideas. In an effort to jump-start the action, all manner of silliness is thrown in. Garbled stories of lightning strikes, Martian space projects, afterlife and teleportation. Directed by Richard Kelly ( Donnie Darko ), Cameron Dias, James Marsden and Frank Langella limp through the remainder of the film and it all ends as a bit of a mess. So many dead ends and hanging threads. The main premise for this film was taken from a short story by Richard Matheson and that probably worked as a snappy piece of storytelling. Here, lumbered with poor acting, an overblown soundtrack and overstretched by an hour, it doesn't. Start with the seed of a good idea and stretch it and twist it until it breaks. Snap.

4 out of 10
Cert 12A (uk) 2009

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Coraline - Phil's Five Words for Films

Coraline. Director Henry Selick ( James and the Giant Peach and The Nightmare Before Christmas ) lets loose his wild imagination and takes us in to the twisted and psychedelic world that lies behind a secret door in Coraline's new house. At first, the new, other-world is full of wonder and excitement but all is not what it seems. Dark, grotesque characters mingle with trippy, insane dreamscapes and the result is a perfectly balanced voyage in to an eerie and frightening world. The stop-motion animation is incredible and the invention and originality that fills the screen is fantastic. Part fairytale, part nightmare, this film is definitely a children's story told for adults. Menacing enough to terrify young children and so full of beauty that it will mesmerise all. Coraline has everything that the recent 'Alice in Wonderland' lacked - humour, darkness, menace and style. A masterpiece of surreal animation.

9 out of 10
Cert PG (uk) 2009.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Terminator: Salvation - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Terminator: Salvation As a huge fan of the first two 'T' films and having liked the way the third film tied up it's loose endings, I was not sure that another film in the franchise was really necessary to complete the story. So I have put off seeing 'T4' as I didn't want to trample on the memory of those early masterpieces. A lot has to happen between the end of the third film and the beginning of the first, but most of it is now predestined to have already happened - if you get the idea. The action takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2018 as the war against the machines rages and John Connor ( Christian Bale ) struggles to lead the human resistance. He also has to meet a young boy who will travel through time and become his father. There's no wonder he is always in such a bad mood. The plot is well constructed, the idea of Salvation is nicely worked in to the story, the casting of certain characters is excellent and the film flows nicely from beginning to end. The special effects are basic and despite the setting, the tone of the film is much less dark than any of the previous outings. There isn't the feeling of hopelessness or inevitability and the Arnie look-a-likes aren't so threatening. That's the problem with making a kid-friendly Terminator movie. The door is very much left open for 'T5' but this is not a bad film, it is just the weakest in the T-collection by a long way.

6 out of 10
Cert 12A ( uk )

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Zombieland - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Zombieland Ah, the Zom-Com. I always look forward to a good mix of horror and comedy and wasn't let down here. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson team up to travel across America after a mutated form of 'mad cow' disease has wiped out the population and turned nearly everyone in to flesh craving, fast footed zombies. Together with Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, the four embark on a road trip to the safety of a west coast theme park. 'Zombie Kill of the Day' and Jesse's 'Rules for Survival' keep the chuckles coming and the gun-slinging, banjo-swinging, twinky craving Tallahassee ( Harrelson ) provides some great zombie dispatches. As the journey continues, it becomes more of a feel-good buddy movie that just happens to have loads of zombies in it. Warm, funny and charming with blood, guts and biting. More than anything though, it just looked like everyone enjoyed making the film and was pleased to be there and that really showed. Inventive and witty, pointless and good fun.

8 out of 10
Cert 15 (uk). 2009

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Hurt Locker - Phil's Five Words for Films -

The Hurt Locker Not so much a film about war. 'The Hurt Locker' almost ignores the issues of politics and war, concentrating instead on people addicted to warfare and risk-taking. The main character is a reckless, danger addict who seems fine about risking his own life and those around him whilst making a series of dangerous situations even more dangerous. At one point, even his own team consider blowing him up because he is a liability. The film goes from one bomb disposal situation to the next and is suitably tense and uncomfortable but, I felt that it just relied on it's location and subject matter too heavily. There was one attempt at plot which I felt wasn't really worth the effort and detracted from the documentary feel of the film. The characters were well played and the style and location of the film were excellent but, in the end I was left with that 'So, that won an oscar?' feeling. Not as shocking or thought provoking as it could have been but still worth seeing. From bomb to bomb via shouting and shooting.

6.5 out of 10
Cert 15(uk).2009

Monday, 12 April 2010

Kick Ass - Phil's Five Words for Films

Kick Ass Ordinary guy, Dave Lizewski ( Aaron Johnson ), decides that he is sick of being mugged and picked on and, after buying a wetsuit costume from the Internet, tries his hand as a 'super' hero. Violence begins and Dave quickly finds himself in too deep. Sometimes funny, sometimes brutal, there are some great moments, scenes and characters within the film and for the most part, I really enjoyed the trip. The real stars of the show however, are Hit Girl and Big Daddy ( Chloe Moretz and Nicholas Cage ), a daughter-father killing spree who take great pleasure in what they do. The comic book violence is quite graphic in places and, coupled with the tone and language of the film, I am surprised that it was only given a 15 certificate. Do we really want kids to see a 12 year old girl getting stamped on? Do I want to see that? Original and well made, there is plenty of good stuff here but I felt that it was lacking in some areas and dragged a little towards the end. So what would happen if you tried to be a superhero? Well you'd probably get a good kicking, see some stuff you didn't want to and, in the end, take it all a little too far - but it would be fantastic fun. Exactly how I felt after watching Kick Ass.

7.5 out of 10
Cert 15 (uk). 2010

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Paul Blart: Mall Cop - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Paul Blart: Mall Cop Imagine the humourless love child of Mr.Bean, Home Alone and Die Hard. You would be left with 'Mall Cop'. There is nothing good to say but here goes. A hapless security guard who rides around on a segway ( 95% of the comedy ) tries to outwit an equally hapless band of 'terrorist' who try to take over his mall. Enough said. If you want to see a fat bloke rolling round on the floor ( 4%) and falling over drunk ( 1% ), then this is the film for you. Otherwise, I would steer well clear of this stinker and save yourself an hour or two. Wrong subject matter to be aimed at kids and too stupid to be aimed at adults, it is difficult to think of anyone who would see this as a good evenings entertainment. If it was more of a spoof then it might have had some credibility but you get the feeling that this was a genuine attempt at a comedy. Truly awful. The fact that this film took enough in America to warrant a possible sequel speaks volumes. Again, truly awful.

2 out of 10. ( the segway looked fun )
Cert PG (uk). 2009.

Adventureland - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Adventureland A basic tale of love, summer jobs and the pains of being an awkward adolescent. Although the characters and storyline are fairly good, the film just seems to plod along at an even pace all the way through. There was no real highs and lows, no real empathy with any of the characters and their bleak situations, no true comedy to lift you up or drama to grab you. The story just kind of washes over you and, by the end, you realise that you are exactly where you expected to be without much having happened. It is a nice enough film to pass a couple of hours but I doubt that it has left a lasting memory in my head. Standard boy-meets-girl stuff set in a fairground with a lively eighties soundtrack. Some nice moments, the attention to 80's detail really gives it a period feel and the characters, desperate yet hopeful and warm, are well played. Light on comedy, light on drama - there is nothing wrong but nothing new, it just didn't 'Rock Me Amadeus'.

5.5 out of 10.
Cert 15.(uk).2009.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Premonition - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Premonition. Sandra Bullock plays Linda, a women who wakes up after the death of her husband, only to find him sipping coffee in the kitchen, only to wake up again to find herself at his funeral and then wake up to discover that she can stop any of it happening at all. Sound confusing? Well it is. If you think about the plot too hard, then it all begins to unravel a little and not really make much sense. Is it a premonition or has she travelled in time? What has actually taken place and what was just a dream? Is she just mad and making it all up in her head? Best not to think about it too much. The plot ends up a little confused but it is the journey rather than the destination that makes this a very watchable film. There are glimpses of Sandra Bullock at her best, something she was recently given an Oscar for. She carries the film by herself and gives a very good performance as the desperate dreamer. It’s the kind of film that leaves you with loads of questions and requires a good post-film discussion. The twisting plot will keep you watching and the after film post-mortem will be lively and dizzying. Like a colander – good at what it does but full of holes.

7 out of 10.
Cert 12A(uk).2007

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Alice in Wonderland - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Alice in Wonderland (Seen In 3D) As more and more films seem to be hitting the big screen in 3d, it sometimes feels like the format is just there to take more money, having been crowbarred in at the last minute and the prices cranked up. This is definitely the case here. Tim Burton has created a lovely looking film but it doesn't really gain anything from being in 3D. In places, the 3d effects are rough round the edges and distract you from the action and body of the story. It does look good as a Tim Burton film, but he has made better films and this is nothing amazing. It looks ok in 3d, but there are better examples in cinemas right now and here, it is nothing amazing. It is a good version of the 'Alice' story, but... nothing amazing. In short, it is just an average film that left me feeling, well, nothing much at all. There is a great collection of famous voices on offer but no real character development and much of the talent is under-used or wasted. Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter all do a good job with their parts but, nothing amazing. You get the idea?. Everything about it was OK and I can't really say much more. See it in old fashioned 2d because you won't miss much, maybe wait for dvd for the same reasons. It just lacked a little something in every department. Just average all round.

5.5 out of 10
Cert PG (uk).2010.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Rec - Phil's Five Words For Films-

Rec. ( short for record - in case you were wondering) Turn off the lights, crank up the sound, sit back and get ready for the terror. Imagine taking '28days later', 'Sean of the Dead' and 'Blair Witch', putting them in a pot and mixing them about. The result would look something like 'Rec', a Spanish horror that really piles on the fear. Without giving too much away, the film is set in a Spanish apartment building as a film crew is following the local fire-fighters on a routine patrol. A women has been heard screaming in one of the flats and the locals are worried. From there, all hell breaks loose. Filmed entirely on a hand-held camera, this is a frantic film that, once started, doesn't stop with the scariness. Bring on the gore. Tense, claustrophobic and a great example of proper, small budget horror at it's best. As long as you don't suffer from camera motion sickness, this is a cracking film that will grab you by the throat and try to bite your nose off. I love a good scare and this did the job. Don't worry about the subtitles, sheer panic is the same in any language. Great fun with a raised pulse. No need to bother with the American remake either.

8.5 out of 10.
Cert 18 (uk). 2007

Friday, 26 February 2010

Tell No One - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Tell No One ( Ne le Dis a Personne) There were several times whilst watching this film that I found myself saying 'I'm not sure where this is going or what that was for, but I'll go with it'. The plot idea was excellent and the film gets to it's conclusion in a nice way but it is a long and sometimes slow journey. The initial set-up worked really well and the 'email scene' was very well done and quite chilling. Someone should make a film based on that idea alone. The multi-strand plot slowly reveals itself and you have to pay attention or you will quickly lose touch. Scenes with the main characters as children and the baffling musical-montage scenes could probably do with being left on the cutting room floor but the plot, dialogue and acting are excellent. The direction is quirky to say the least but, in the end, you are left with a gripping, twisty, who dunnit type film that has some truly nice moments. Francois Cluzet played a brilliant part as the desperate Doctor. Slow but enjoyable.

7 out of 10
Cert 15 (uk). 2007.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Paranormal Activity - Phil's Five Words For Film -

Paranormal Activity. This is not a 'Horror' film, it is more of a 'Terror' film. The plot is this: A young woman is hearing and seeing things in her own home at night. Her sceptical boyfriend gladly sets up a camera to capture any night-time activity. To begin with, the events are nothing more than twitching bedsheets and some sleep-walking but it soon gets much worse. The tension gradually builds with the clever use of off-camera noises and long, oppressive stretches of silence, when you are straining your eyes and ears waiting for the inevitable scare. It is refreshing to see a film that doesn't come with a 12 piece orchestra in the background gently announcing the next moment of terror. Filmed on an amazingly low budget, the clever use of hand-held cameras and night vision effects - a bit 'Blair Witch' but without the motion sickness - increases the claustrophobic nature of the footage. The increasing ferocity of the 'hauntings' is cleverly controlled and the atmospheric tension in places is really effective. The terror is mostly suggested / off camera until the climax of the film when it becomes very real. I was a touch disappointed with the ending but it in no way detracted from the rest of the film. Home movie-type acting and script added to the general feel of this film which should be a case study in how to successfully generate on-screen tension. Creepy.

8 out of 10
Cert 15 (uk) 2009.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Avatar - Phil's Five Words For Films -

Avatar First things first - this really is a film to be seen on the big screen and in 3D. It looks great, sounds great and the CGI characters are awesome - but throwing money at a film is no guarantee of a classic. Visually, the film is stunning, but it should be after 10 years and endless millions of pounds. The 'new-world' of Pandora is beautiful and wondrous and the 3D really comes into its own, adding depth rather than 'in-your-face' effects. The plot is fairly simple, lovely spiritual world is being invaded by nasty humans who don't care about anything other than the mighty dollar and see the lovely, spiritual world as profit owned by savages. Warfare. Rebellion. American / human history?. Overall though, it is a cracking tale, it looks amazing, it is a little too long (nearly 3hrs), it sometimes seemed to be preaching a bit too much about capitalism / nature / gun toting americans and it is the only film that made me wish I was a blue hunter from another planet. Oh and spot the crazy cigarette product placement and discuss where some of those millions came from. Well worth the ticket price though.

8.5 out of 10
Cert 12A (uk).2009.

Taken - Phil's Five Words for Film -

Taken. ( Contains Spoilers) Liam Neeson seems to have had a mid-life crisis and decided to become super-kick-ass bad. If you forget about the first 15mins of this film ( start from 'that phone call' ) then it works as a brutal, if slightly silly, tale of revenge. Everybody good is American and all the baddies are European. The body count mounts up as Liam hunts down the nasty Europeans that have 'taken' his daughter. Everyone bad ( I hereby invent the word Euroganistans ) will die and his daughter seems untroubled by the terrible things she's been through - recovering enough to go for her dream of being a singer - god bless america. The end. Good action in places, brutal body count for one fella, thin plot with many holes but quite enjoyable.

6 out of 10
Cert.18 (uk).2008.

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People - Phil's Five Words For Films -

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People It is such a shame to see the talents of Simon Pegg being put to waste here. Having loved SP's earlier work, this is a real let down. A few famous faces can't make up for a lack of script, lack of decent gags and an all-round weak idea. The comedy misses the spot throughout and is mostly poor slap-stick, the characters are 2d and too selfish to care about and the love interest is totally far-fetched. Not funny enough for a comedy, not nice enough for a Rom-Com and not edgy enough for a satirical comment on the fashion world. There are a few decent performances as it must be difficult to work with such weak material, but in general it really isn't worth it. Forgettable and puerile - this really is how to lose friends and alienate people. Sorry Simon.

4 out of 10
Cert 15 (uk) 2008.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Damned United - Phil's Five Words For Films -

The Damned United Another brilliant character portrayal by Michael Sheen. Not so much about football but a story of friendship and competition. The beautiful game takes a back seat as Cloughy shines through and makes you yearn for characters with integrity in today's over-payed, money rich game. Well scripted and nicely shot. It is the sort of film that washes over you and leaves you feeling that, although not a lot has happened, you have seen a good story told by people that actually care. A good film for a relaxed night. Gentle, thoughtful and worth a watch. 10% footy 90% character 100% Cloughy.

8.5 out of 10
Cert 15 (uk) 2009

Thursday, 11 February 2010

2012 - Phil's Five Words For Films -

2012 Definitely a film that is meant to be seen at the cinema. It is over-long, loud and it is BIG. Some of the effects are pretty ropey and, for the most part the action is stupid, in places, COMICAL…the same could be said for the science involved. Global environmental disaster keeps happening 10 meters behind you and most people seem able to outrun it anyway. Oh and somehow all the mobile phones still work as the skies go black and the cities collapse. The plot is predictable and heavily loaded with just about every cliché from the "Disaster Film Manual". Having said that, if you can turn off your brain and sit still long enough, it is quite enjoyable. There’s even an over-acting chicken. Don't expect too much, try not to look too hard for plot holes or laughable effects and you might just make it through. Not a classic. A film for the brain dead.

4.5 out of 10
Cert 12A (uk). 2009.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Gran Torino - Phil's Five Words For Films -

Gran Torino Clint Eastwood stars in and directs another great film. Slow paced, growling and mad at the word , Eastwood plays an aging war veteran isolated in his home as the neighbourhood changes around him. With the gangs, the guns and the scum closing in, he decides it is time to take a stand. Heart warming moments of pride, hope and laughter are intermingled with the violence and hatred as Eastwood reluctantly seeks to help out the hard working immigrant family next door. Smashing through stereotypes and ignoring the PC brigade, it builds to the tense stand-off you would expect. A surprising tale of friendship that is nicely directed and well told. I'm a bit surprised that it didn't make much of a splash at the awards season though - perhaps Eastwood just makes too many great films.

8 out of 10
Cert 15.(uk) 2009.

Phil's Five Words for Films

I love films - I really love horror and thrillers but Rom-coms leave me cold and sickly. I have decided to blog a few words about films that I have seen recently - on dvd or at the flicks - and hopefully build up a nice collection of reviews. I have decided to pick 5 words from each review that best describe how that film left me feeling. It's not complicated so I am calling this string of posts "Phil's Five Words For Films". Hope that makes sense. Reviews will follow spasmodically.

Let the Right One In - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Let the Right One In - Is this a horror? Is it a love story? It is difficult to put this beautiful, crafted film in to any particular box. The mood is dark and cold, as is the setting, yet the story is warm and powerful. You don't get blood-curdling screams or out-of-your-seat shocks. There is no gore-fest or ridiculous body count. Instead, you get a personal view of the grotesque. A warm, fuzzy vampire film that portrays the fight against demons. The horror is gentle but spine-chilling and the struggle of both main characters is tragic. Forget the subtitles, forget the Hollywood Vamp-flick remake- this is a subtle, wonderful story of society, bullies and friendship.

9.5 out of 10
Cert 15 (uk). 2009.