Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Raid - Phil's Five Words for Films

The Raid  ( Indonesian with subtitles ) Written and directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, this martial arts action film set in Jakarta, Indonesia is a breath-taking, non-stop, ludicrously gory romp of a movie.  The plot seems unimportant - an elite special forces group attempt to raid a fifteen storey apartment block, owned, populated and controlled by a local drugs lord and his low-life pals.  Once inside, their cover is blown and as the bullets fly, a small group are left to fight their way out.  Done. It is the beautifully choreographed and artfully directed fight scenes that really stand out in the film, each one more ridiculous and painful than the last.  The punches, kicks and snaps come thick and fast, leaving you feeling as breathless as if you had fought the bad guys yourself.  The pacing, sound and editing of the film are really well judged, giving every impact maximum effect. The lead role of Rama is played by the superb Iko Uwais and you should expect to hear more from him and everyone involved in this film in the near future.  There will probably be a sub-standard American remake too, as happens with any interesting or successful subtitled film.  The Raid may not be to everyone's taste but nobody could deny that it is a really well put together piece of genre film making.  A painful and wincing watching experience.  Brutal fun. Stunning.

8.5 out of 10.
Cert 18 ( uk )
2012. 101mins

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Skyfall - Phil's Five Words for Films

Skyfall  You have to trust me on this, I am a huge Bond fan.  I have seen each and every Bond film several times over and have been to the cinema to see each film since the release of 'A View to a Kill' in 1985.  Even taking into account my love of the Toy Story, Star Wars, Bourne and  Harry Potter films, Bond is my movie franchise of choice.  So, I was very excited to hear all the honking praise for the release of Bond 23, in his 50th year as a screen legend.  Bring on the Bond.  It begins with a bang.  A hard drive has gone missing and security is compromised.  We are straight in to a furious chase over rooftops, fist fights on moving trains, amazing stunts and explosions.  The traditional, big opening ends on a great cliffhanger and the famous Bond theme kicks in, raising the hairs on the back of my neck.  And then Adele starts singing. Her song is a mish-mash of the expected, ticking the boxes, nodding in all the right directions but ultimately, a little flat and unexciting.  For me, the same applied to the remainder of Skyfall as a film.  Daniel Craig can undoubtedly be a great Bond and he has done a good job so far but I don't think he has had a decent film script to really get his teeth in to.  It feels as if someone, somewhere is uncomfortable with the things the franchise can offer since it's reboot in 2006. Do they stick with the tried and tested Bond formula or strike out in a new direction, continuing to rebuild a spy thriller for a new audience.  The balances don't feel right.  It feels like a film being pulled in too many directions at once.  The cars, the girls, the one-liners, the action is all still there but it feels airbrushed, sanitised, apologetic and desperate to not offend. Somehow grittier but cleaner. The gadgets have gone and so has the tongue-in-cheek joy of the earlier incarnations.  Javier Bardem plays a super-camp cyber-terrorist seeking to get revenge on 'M' for something in his past but the character lacks any real menace and comes across more like a deranged school bully with abandonment issues. Sam Mendes brings a touch of class to the look of the film and keeps the action trotting along nicely but the final stand-off was a disappointment.  There is a host of new characters to signal the change of direction and it depends what you want from your 007, but for me, a weak, vulnerable Bond with a backstory is just too touchy-feely and too many factors felt like box-ticking.  In trying to take influences from films like Bourne and TDKR, Bond doesn't look entirely happy in his own skin.  I could write and rant for ages but I won't.   Skyfall is a good film.  Is it the best Bond film ever?  No.  

7.5 out of 10.
12A ( uk )

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Lawless - Phil's Five Words for Films

Lawless  Boasting a fantastic cast and directed by John Hillcoat ( The Road, The Proposition ), Lawless is a gangster bio-pic set during American Prohibition.  It tells the story of the Bondurant brothers who run an illicit trade in their own home-brew moonshine and export the product over county lines whilst exploiting local rumours that the head of their family, Forrest, appears to be indestructible.  These dealings bring the family in to conflict with other local gangs and law enforcement officers, with brutal consequences.  As events unfold,  Forrest's younger brother Jack decides to up the stakes.  With Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska all giving solid performances, it is surprising that the film doesn't manage to reach any dizzy heights.  With nearly every scene shot in tight close up, lacking background detail, the film looks intense but has very little depth to it and in places, the choice of soundtrack is baffling, both factors that reduce the enjoyment of the film.  The script, story and acting are all of a high standard but the characterisation, pacing and tone of the film seems a little off here and there.  Reportedly based on true events, Lawless is a solid, gangster folk tale that could have been so much more. It is the sort of film that may benefit from a second watch.

7.5 out of 10

Cert 18 (uk)