Saturday, 28 December 2013

Saving Mr Banks - Phil's Five Words for Films

Saving Mr Banks Nothing wonderful ever comes easily and certainly not when you are trying to create a classic Disney film. Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are both brilliant as they wrestle and haggle over the storytelling rights and the creative process involved in the making of 'Mary Poppins'. Thompson plays P.L Travers, the creator of the practically perfect nanny and she nails the part, giving the writer just enough warmth to balance her cynical hard edge. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney, dogged in his pursuit of the permission to make the movie his way. The two meet in L.A in 1961 to discuss the production and Travers' remains unmoved

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Bling Ring - Phil's Five Words for Film

The Bling Ring A bunch of vacuous, spoilt, rich, celebrity-obsessed losers get robbed by a bunch of their equals. End of story. There is very little to recommend with this film, written and directed by Sophia Coppola and based on real events. The plot is paper-thin and the characters are so superficial that it is difficult to sympathise with either the stupid perpetrators or their stupid victims. Who leaves a key to a million dollar mansion under a doormat? People like Paris Hilton. People who don't miss the 'bling' property that they probably didn't know they owned. These people stole millions before anyone noticed. It is a sad reflection on people in society who know the price of everything

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Impossible - Phil's Five Words for Films

The Impossible This is the story of a young family in Thailand caught in the destruction and the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 whilst on holiday. With some great scenery and good acting, it is a well made and impressive film. The tsunami is recreated using models rather than CGI and this works really well, adding a realism to the opening scenes that really stays with you. The injuries, chaos and story are all high impact and the characters develop well which makes you really care about their plight. Ewan McGregor

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines - Phil's Five Words for Films

The Place Beyond the Pines As far as I am concerned, there are two main problems with this story of how events can effect people and even be passed on to future generations. Firstly, there is the linear storyline that is split in to three distinct parts. The first ( and the best by some distance ) follows Luke ( Ryan Gosling ), a motorcycle stunt rider who turns to a life of crime after discovering that he is a father. Just as the story and characters are becoming interesting, the film switches focus and pace, moving on to a police officer ( Bradley Cooper ) who stumbles upon Luke's activities. From here on in, we sit through a standard police corruption scenario before, once again, the film changes tack. The third act follows two ( annoying ) teenage boys caught up in the ongoing chain of events and trying to avoid the consequences. Although there are some great performances, ( Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelson, Gosling and Cooper are

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Gangster Squad - Phil's Five Words for Films

Gangster Squad  With a whole host of big names directed by Ruben Fleischer ( Zombieland ) I was expecting a lot more from Gangster Squad than I got. Set in 1949 Los Angeles and loosely based on some real events,  Sean Penn plays Mickey Cohen, a gang leader intent on controlling every aspect of the criminal underworld in LA. Josh Brolin plays a police sergeant given the job of forming an elite squad and running him in to the ground.  Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are supposed to add a bit of romantic intrigue but the whole thing is just lacking any real zing. There is an overall shine to the look of the film and it doesn't quite fit with the script or storyline, making it feel more like 'Dick Tracy' than

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Insidious - Phils Five Words for Films

Insidious Very much a film of three halves, this creepy, ghost train of a movie is silly, scary and amusing. It goes from being a tense haunted house film, to a daft exorcism film and ends up in a phantasmagorical romp through a spirit world. It does, however, have some genuinely chilling moments and these are nicely balanced by some comedy characters that fit perfectly into the 'non-too-serious-horror' genre. Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, play the parents of a young family who have to do battle with all manor of netherworld demons to bring back their son ( Ty Simpkins ) after he slips in to a coma. Although the last section

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Conjuring - Phil's Five Words for Films

The Conjuring - Instructions: Take a pinch of 'Amityville', a cup full of 'The Exorcist', a sprinkling of 'Paranormal Activity' and some small pieces of 'The Orphanage'. Add in a some Hitchcock and claim that it is all 'Based on real events'. Give the whole thing to 'Insidious' director, James Wan to see what he makes with it. The result is a well made, slow-burner of a movie that has some good acting and a couple of good scares that manage to deliver moments of spine tingles. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play Ed and Lorraine Warren, a ghost-hunting couple called in to help the parents of five children who have a problem with things going bump in the night. The Warrens' were also the investigators in the classic 'Amityville' case that spawned sequels and remakes. There are many good performances, most notably Lili Taylor as the haunted mother and a couple of the younger actors also stand out. Having seen many-a horror

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Phil's Five Words for Films

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Based on a novel and a screenplay by the director Stephen Chbosky, this angsty-teen drama has some good performances which help raise it above many 'coming of age' genre pieces. Set in a small American town in the early 1990s where popularity, proms and mix-tapes are more important than anything else that has ever happened, it follows a group of school kids as they struggle through their senior years. It is predominantly a film about belonging, friendship and dealing with life and death as a teenager and it will no doubt strike an emotional chord with many people that grew up during that period. Logan Lerman plays Charlie, a painfully

Thursday, 8 August 2013

End of Watch - Phil's Five Words for Films

End of Watch Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as LAPD officers who work in South Central Los Angeles, End of Watch sets out to be a realistic fake-umentary about the lives and perils of a serving officer. For me however, it is nothing more than one of the most disappointing, depressing and over-rated films of recent times. The hand held camera POV device starts out as an interesting, if not-too-original, idea but soon becomes annoying and is used almost as an afterthought throughout the majority of the film. The dialogue is firmly rooted in the 'fu#*ing bro dude whatever' style and irritates more than it entertains. The representation of police work in parts of LA may well be gritty and hard edged but it also represents everything that is nasty and pathetically evil about modern societies – guns, drugs, gangs, ghettos and a lack of

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Django Unchained - Phil's Five Words for Films

Django Unchained  Totally Tarantino. His take on the slave trade within pre-civil war America is awash with the director's outlandish style, machine gun banter and his obvious love of pulp cinema and spaghetti westerns. As with 'Inglorious Basterds', the controversial setting is designed to give Tarantino a cause to get his teeth in to and to allow him to head towards the ultimate, revenge bloodbath.  The first third of the film is gloriously absorbing and sets up an interesting cross-country manhunt and rescue mission as a bounty hunter teams up with a freed slave to track down some wanted men.  There are great performances from all concerned, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo Di Caprio, Samuel L Jackson and Kerry Washington all seem to revel in their roles of caricature and controversy but it is another brilliant performance by

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Paranormal Activity 4 - Phil's Five Words for Films

Paranormal Activity 4  The Law of  Diminishing Sequels is very much in evidence with the P.A franchise and the fourth film in the series does nothing to halt their slide in to the pit of sequel oblivion.  Directed once again by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman ( Catfish & PA3 ) there are some new, interesting characters but very little in the way of scares or horror.  Following on from the events of PA2 , the 'action' centres around Hunter, a missing child from the second film, who is forced to stay with the family across the road after his mother is taken in to hospital.  Once in the house, strange things start to happen and the new family find themselves being stalked by supernatural forces.  Most of the footage

Friday, 8 March 2013

Hanna - Phil's Five Words for Films

Hanna  For me, Hanna is such a wasted opportunity.  With some strong characters, a good opening and a nice central idea, it could have placed itself alongside films like the Bourne trilogy but was slowly pulled in too many directions and eventually felt messy and insubstantial.  It almost talked itself out of a sequel.  Trained to kill by her ex-CIA father ( Eric Banner ) whilst in hiding, Hanna ( Saoirse Ronan ) is a deadly 16 year old, ready to take on the world and the people that hunt her family ( Cate Blanchett ).  It is a violent fairytale that should have exploded on to the screen but unfortunately, everything about the film seemed a little misjudged. Without really knowing why or thinking about it for a second, Hanna has to press a button to alert her enemies to her location, starting an unnecessary game of cat and mouse.  Surely she was better off being below the radar?  The levels of violence were not really suitable for a 12 certificate audience but stopped short of giving the film any real edge or bite. The involvement of a family in a camper van was supposed to give structure and comic relief but just felt awkward and stilted. Even the locations used in the film felt like a tick-list of required settings. Don't get me wrong, the fight scenes were very well done and the characters were well portrayed but I thought that it missed or misjudged every bullseye. It could have been so much more stylish, dark and slick but instead it was a mixed bag of nice ideas with no real cohesion.  It is a shame because I really felt that the opening scenes were well handled and that there was enough interest in the main characters to carry a good series of films.  Hanna has been compared to the 1994 film 'Leon' ( 10/10 for me ) but lumbered with its 12 certificate and the lack of any real development, it is not in the same league. Shame.

5 out of 10.
Cert 12A ( uk )

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Phil's Five Words for Films

The Hobbit  ( seen in 2d ) Part One of Peter Jackson's planned trilogy based on J.R.R Tolkien's book is beautiful and lavish but for me, the story and character development are a little stretched.  A young Bilbo Baggins ( Martin Freeman ) is coaxed in to helping Gandalf ( Ian McKellen ) and a small band of dwarfs take back their lost kingdom from a dragon.  That is pretty much all you need to know.  With a run-time of about 2hrs 45mins, there are several places in the film that felt and looked like padding. ( Dwarfs washing up, dwarfs singing folk songs, rock monster boxing and the awful scene containing cringeable Cockney Trolls could so easily have been left out or reduced as they added nothing other than 30 minutes extra footage ).  The detail in some scenes is really quite impressive, having been shot at 48 frames per second, but the erratic pacing and obvious transitions from one set-piece to another detracts from the already stretched storytelling.  'The Hobbit' looks fantastic and is a great set up for the next two ( money spinning ) films but whether the story and characters are strong enough to carry it that far remains to be seen.  In my opinion, two films or one epic would have been more than enough to continue the story and wrap it in to the original trilogy without all the fillers.  By the end of this film, we still haven't got to the dragon.  On being given a small sword for protection, Bilbo Baggins is told that ' it is not the lives you take, but the lives you spare ' and for me, Peter Jackson should have heeded these wise words.  It is not how many frames you shoot, but the frames you spare from the final edit.  Beautiful but a little baggy. Whether or not there is enough in the story to avoid the next film feeling as thin remains to be seen. An hour and 15minutes too long.

7 out of 10
Cert 12A ( uk )

Snow White and the Huntsman - Phil's Five Words for Films

Snow White and the Huntsman Another adaptation of a Grimm Brothers tale.  Despite some good performances and some well put-together action sequences, this film lacks any heart or soul and is merely a set up for a sequel in which Kristen Stewart  has to pout a lot and decide between two male suitors.  Good costumes, production values, special effects and set-pieces make it watchable but sadly, that is all there is.  The most meaningful moment in the film is between Snow White ( K.S ) and an angry troll ( impressive CGI ) and that is the films main problem.  There is no real chemistry on show between any of the main characters, nobody to really care about.  Even a poisoned apple fails to add emotion.  It is a mixed up bag of dark, Gothic fairytale, Joan of Arc heroism and Disney princess fantasy, never really sure where it wants to head.  Charlize Theron is nasty enough in her role as Ravenna, the evil Queen / Stepmother and Chris Hemsworth pulls his weight as the Huntsman but there's very little to work with.  The films weaker characters ( e.g the prince and the queen's brother ) and daft, revised story slow it down too much.  Kristen Stewart is her usual self and will bring a guaranteed audience to the film whilst the dwarfs ( British comedy actors CGI'd to fit the roles ) bring very little to the party.  The result is an average film that is confused, messy and feels every minute of it's over-long 2 hour run time.

5.5 out of 10
Cert 12A ( uk )