Tuesday, 6 December 2011

[Rec]2 - Phil's Five Words for Films

Rec2 Having watched, loved and reviewed the first film ( here ) I was looking forward to finally seeing the second in the Spanish horror series. Taking place almost immediately after the end of the first film, we follow a team of soldiers as they enter the same condemned building to search for and document evidence. Armed with a video camera and helmet-cams, we watch as the action unfolds. Where the first film triumphed was its basic and low budget approach to scaring people - there is something in the dark that is going to get you. It seems that in making the follow up film, they have forgotten how effective this was and instead decided to throw everything at you in the hope that it scares. There are machine guns, helicopters, grenades, religious mumbo-jumbo, invisible rooms and at times it looks and feels more like a computer shoot'em-up than a horror film. There are still some good scares to be had here but I felt that too much was added in, almost trying too hard. The result is a louder, weaker, less tense horror experience that left me slightly disappointed. Good sequels should compliment and add to the original - Rec2 is not a bad film but not in the same league as the first.

6.5 out of 10.
Cert 18 (uk ).

Monday, 7 November 2011

Contagion - Phil's Five Words for Films

Contagion An all-star cast cough and splutter their way through Steven Soderbergh's sobering look at the effects of a worldwide pandemic virus on society and human nature. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Beth Emhoff, the first victim of a new strain of virus spread by human contact and Soderbergh wastes no opportunity to pray on the paranoia of the 'antibacterial generation'. There are plenty of lingering close-ups of doorhandles, work surfaces, bar snacks and sneezing as we watch the rapid spread of the fast acting debutant. Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law and Kate Winslet amongst others, give solid performances as the story unfolds. Within days, millions are infected and society begins to deconstruct as governments struggle to contain the outbreak. The film has just as much to say about the spread of rumour and panic via the Internet as it does about bacterial infection as illness footage and untested on-line cures travel just as quickly across the globe. There is little emotion or action to speak of and the film plays out in quite a factual and stark manor, feeling more like a sombre 'best case scenario' film prepared by government scientists. If it's "ActionVirus" you want, go and rent the 1995 film 'Outbreak'. If you want an insight in to just what may happen in the event of a long overdue pandemic, then Contagion is well worth a watch - just don't go if you have a cold.

7.5 out of 10
Cert 12A (uk)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II - Phil's Five Words for Films

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II So it all ends. 7 books, 400 million copies. 8 films, $6billion turnover, 1 incredible, long-lasting cast and 9 academy award nominations. Surely now is the time for this amazing series of films to be given the recognition they deserve and finally be awarded a bag full of Oscars. The new film rattles through the action and neatly pulls together all the strands of this amazing story as Harry and friends do battle with 'you-know-who' for one last time. There is a great balance to the film, with moments of humour and love set against a backdrop of sadness and tragedy. I still think that HP3 - The Prisoner of Azkaban- is the best of the bunch but the cinematography and effects have improved greatly and this latest film looks and sounds amazing. The soaring shots and epic battle scenes are like something from a war film. It's the affection for the characters and their world that really drives the films forward and any shortcomings are glossed over as the story reaches it's conclusion. The fantastic cast have really grown into their characters and the sense of loss within the film is tangable. It is the end of an era. Ten years in the making and full of energy, talent, wonder and magic, the story may well be told but the world will be with us forever. Brilliant.

9.5 out of 10
Cert 12A (uk)

Friday, 6 May 2011

Paranormal Activity 2 - Phil's Five Words for Films

Paranormal Activity 2 A prequel-sequel, PA2 concerns the events immediately before those of the first film (reviewed here) and centers on members of the same family. Cleverly tied in to the storyline of the first film, PA2 uses more CCTV footage to capture the events that unfold and relies less on handheld, home movie style. The long, repeating shots of nothing happening are there to draw you deeper in to the film, pull you closer to the action, allowing the loud bangs and crashes to do their job. Again, it is the balance between menace and anticipation that gives the film its feel. There are some good scares to be had here and at times it is nicely creepy but, on the whole, there seems to be slightly less threat than before. The challenge was to add to the success of the first film and connect the two in a way that didn't feel contrived whilst delivering some spine tingling moments - they succeed. With clever use of plot, sound, dogs and babies, PA2 is a great pre-follow-up. Definitely a must see for anyone who has seen ( and enjoyed ) PA1.

7.5 out of 10
Cert 15 (uk )

Monday, 7 February 2011

Black Swan - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Black Swan So, you think a film about ballet might not be your thing? Well, think again. You think you'll be seeing a pleasant story about dancing and twirling and beating the odds? Well, think again. Natalie Portman is absolutely brilliant as she plays Nina, a slightly unhinged young ballerina, slowly falling to pieces whilst searching for the perfect performance. After being asked to play the lead roll in Swan Lake, Nina becomes caught up in a sordid and tragic battle with the dark side of herself, her passions and her overbearing mother. Beautifully directed by Darren Aronofsky ( The Wrestler ) the film descends in to a fantastical, trippy world of hallucinations, self-harming, sexual intrigue and madness. The cinematography, score and script are all completely OTT but, coupled with the insanity at the film's heart, it works really well. Natalie Portman has surely bagged an Oscar here but Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Vincent Cassel are also superb. I'm sure there are holes to be picked at but this is a dark, twisted, sometimes repulsive, psychological drama that is thrilling and completely overwhelming. Could you ask for anything more? Great cinema.

9.5 out of 10.
Cert 15 (uk).2010

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Disappearance of Alice Creed - Phil's Five Words for Films

The Disappearance of Alice Creed This is a nicely put together British thriller that twists and turns its way through a very uncomfortable opening premise and takes you on a totally unexpected journey. Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston play a couple of ex-cons who spend the first few minutes of the film silently preparing a bedroom to house a hostage. Gemma Arteton is excellent as the feisty kidnap victim and the tension between the 3 characters helps the film maintain it's uncomfortable feel throughout. The opening kidnap scenes are hard to watch and seem to be taking the film in unsavoury directions but the twists soon turn the film on it's head. First-time writer/director J Blakeson has created a minimalistic, character driven thriller reminiscent of the original 'Saw' film without the gore. It is only at the closing credits that you realise just how much has been achieved on a very limited budget. A gritty script and some fine performances draw you in to the action. Thrilling and twisty.

7.5 out of 10.
Cert 18 (uk). 2009.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Catfish - Phil's Five Words for Films -

Catfish It's difficult to review a documentary film like Catfish, that relies on the unfolding of a story to keep you hooked, without giving anything away. Even the title is designed to keep you in the dark. The film makers are either extremely lucky and opportunistic to stumble upon such an intriguing story or they have put together an extremely well made 'fake-umentary'. Either way, the story plays out beautifully and is handled with a great deal of grace and sensitivity. Nev Schulman is filmed by his brother, Ariel and his friend Henry Joost as they carefully unravel the online world he has been drawn in to. What could have been a cheap and exploitative film is crafted in to a moving snapshot of on-line relationships and Facebook ' friends'. Touching, funny, fresh and well made, this is a salutary tale of the modern cyber world. Well worth a watch.

8 out of 10.
Cert12A (uk). 2010.