‘Phil’s Quick Capsule Review’ (a nod to legendary comedian Bill Hicks who coined the phrase when he reviewed ‘Piece Of Shit’ movie Basic Instinct)… where a perfect 10 is rarer than a rain free British summer!
Written by Phil Hobden – UK based podcaster, writer and former filmmaker. Part of the All Things Film network…
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: On their last day of summer, four high-school girls confront sex, violence and their uncertain future as they struggle to reconcile a rebellious youth with impending adulthood. Low Low is an entertaining, challenging and interesting independent film that hits more than it misses, telling a simple well tread story with a solid cast and direction. It’s nothing new for sure but not everything has to be. Well worth a watch.
Phil Hobden is the former Film Editor & Writer for renowned martial arts focused COMBAT MAGAZINE in the UK. He is also a filmmaker in his own right, having produced two cult Independent action films in LEFT FOR DEAD and TEN DEAD MEN. He was the host for the award nominated Filmsploitation podcast for 4 years, currently co-hosts Ross And Phil Talk Movies and is a writer/editor for his own blog Phil’s Quick Capsule Review…
The Review: You Need To Hear This is proud to present ‘Fantastic Man’ a documentary investigating Nigerian musician William Onyeabor, a man shrouded in mystery and myth. Directed by Jake Sumner (Alldayeveryday) the film tells the story of a label’s attempt to track William down, speaking to fans such as Damon Albarn, Caribou and Femi Kuti and travelling to Nigeria to meet those who’ve worked with him in a bid to uncover the truth about his story.
What is evident from the start is that William was a highly regarded musician, ahead of his time in every way. There are a lot of questions asked in this documentary and a lot are left unanswered! A good example being where and how did he fund the purchase of the equipment he had and where would he have sourced this from, when you consider the time he was making records in. In the main as well he self funded his album releases.
I guess that in a large part the mystery that surrounds William is that he’s not wanting to be found, not wanting to be in the public spotlight. You get the feeling that the music was a small part of his life and he now does not want to walk this road again. He refuses interviews on more than one occasion, as do others in Nigeria. This is a well thought out and put together documentary, I believe it’s worth half an hour of everyone’s time, and covers the life and works of William Onyeabor in a good level of depth.
The Review: When the sad news the Apple creator and tech wizard Steve Jobs had died, most people figured it would only be a matter of time before his life was turned into a movie. With the popular book by Walter Isaacson released short after his death, a movie announcement followed. West Wing & Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin would be in charge of the script, guaranteeing this studio backed film would be a must see. But whilst almost two years later the Sorkin film is still being developed, another Steve Jobs film slipped out into the world. And unfortunately this one stars Ashton Kutcher.
This story of Steve Jobs’, tells of his ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century, through his initial tenure at Apple, his controversial ousting and his eventual return to what would become a golden age at the Palo Alto based company.
Very much an independently produced love letter, Joshua Michael Stern previously best known for his film Swing Vote with Kevin Costner (no, me neither) directs his own screenplay, in a film he produced and no doubt made the tea on as well.
And in a sentence that’s what’s wrong with jOBS… whist it flirts with being an interesting film , due to its TV movie of the week feel and overblown musical cues, it never quite makes it. Even more so it makes the critical error of skirting around the ‘real’ Jobs, polishing the rougher edges that made the man what he was, and what he was liked and loathed for in equal measure.
If you have read Isaacson’s book (which I have), this film adds very little to the mix. In fact what it does add is probably embellishment , rumour and supposition rather than fact and often shown through such rose tinted glasses (Steve is Good! The Apple board were bad!) that you’d think the renownedly difficult jOBS hardly ever put a foot wrong.
Also in compressing such a dense and event filled life, the film often skips over massive chunks of his story, leaving out the things that made Jobs the man he was, both good and bad.
It’s not all bad. The cast is very good, not least Kutcher, who shares more than a passing resemblance to his subject matter and manages to mostly drop the irritating ticks and traits that made his more recent career almost unbearable to watch. Whilst the film never shakes off it’s TV movie feel, the story it tells is an interesting one. Just one that also could have been better served by a writer-director with a slightly less rose tinted view of events and people, with a willingness to do something less linear or narratively predictable (someone like Aaron Sorkin maybe!)
In short: If jOBS had been an Apple product, it would no doubt have been sent back for more refinement. Well at least under the regime of Steve Jobs, anyway.
The Review: To be honest I have a soft spot for documentaries in general (despite my reputation as a lover a tat & blockbusters). So whilst I’m often impressed, I’m rarely wowed. But with a powerful story and captivating subject matter, Mccullin managed to do just that. And more.
The story: Celebrated photographer Don McCullin worked for The Sunday Times from 1966 to 1983, at a time when the newspaper was widely recognised as being at the cutting edge of international investigative photo-journalism. During that period he covered wars and humanitarian disasters on virtually every continent: from civil war in Cyprus, the war in Vietnam and the man-made famine in Biafra to the plight of the homeless in swinging sixties London.
Simply put McCullin is one of the most interesting films I have seen this year and certainly one of my top 5 favourite documentaries of all time.
Don McCullin is a fascinating subject from the start, open and honest about his time on the front line yet haunted by what he has seen and done (or not), a personal conflict the filmmakers capture perfectly.
McCullin arrives care of the producers of Award winning Senna. Which gives a long way to explaining the style the film takes and the successes it shares. A near perfect mix of archive footage, contemporary interview, and (naturally) his photographic work to tell a story that spans not just decades but some of the bloodiest and most heinous moments of modern history, all captured in their horrific detail by McCullin and in turn the filmmakers. And be warned this film shows some of the most horrific and disturbing of these images, from dying children to the true horrors of conflict, making it at times a very unsettling watch.
A run time that doesn’t allow the film to hang around, backed up by some excellent editing make this technically interesting as well but none of this would count for anything (much like Senna before it) without the man at it’s core.
So a brilliant, captivating film of a brilliant and captivating man and one of my Top 5 (maybe 3 ) films of 2013 so far.
The Review: The story of two totally contrasting figures who come together in the most hostile of circumstances, only to form an unlikely bond that will help them both find a way out of their respective troubles. It is a bittersweet comedy about growing up and rediscovering youth in parallel, united by the subconscious desire to seek out the missing elements in their lives
This is an good debut from writer/director Jules Bishop,that clearly has a sweet heart and the ambition to tell an unconventional original story, but it is not without flaws. An awkwardly sporadic tone is its major downfall, veering between overly broad comedy and heavy drama. It remains both funny and emotive, but only infrequently, leaving the film as a whole feeling a little inconsequential. It is refreshingly ‘uncool’ though, a step removed from cynical bargain bin urban dramas that it shares it’s setting with. It attempts to go against the grain, and for that it should be commended.
Borrowed Time shows potential for a number of different scripts, but unfortunately when things are all rolled into one it loses a lot of the charm and wit. A decent cast struggles to lift the film up, and the runtime feels bloated despite being under 90 mins. Some inspired moments, yes, but nowhere near enough to make this a film a must see.
The Review: One day, Tommy’s (Aneurin Barnard) pregnant girlfriend Joanne (Amy Shiels) is attacked by hoodied adolescent thugs outside their flat in the decrepit urban apartment building known as the Citadel. She’s left in a coma, but doctors are able to deliver the baby girl, whom Tommy raises alone for nine months. By that time, he’s moved out of the building but has become an agoraphobic shell, petrified to leave his home except to visit Joanne in the hospital and to attend therapy sessions.
However, Tommy’s safe haven is violated when the hooded figures track him down and break into his home. He’s able to ward them off, but thanks to a belligerent local priest (James Cosmo) who’s had dealings with the seemingly supernatural entities, he determines what they’re after: his baby daughter. Tommy must thus overcome his anxiety to protect his child and uncover the truth behind the dark and demented beings that are haunting his every moment.
Citadel is a film that shifts gears sharply but never clumsily, gingerly skipping from drama to horror to introspection. There’s a quiet sadness to the scenes that establish Tommy’s new way of life and his descent into madness is played subtly, patiently.
In trajectory and execution, Ciaran Foy’s relentlessly intense ode to urban paranoia, Citadel, is much like a nightmare in its refusal to ground itself in a relatable, or safe, framework for the duration of its runtime. Even the quieter moments away from the central chaos and threat are staged with unease and an unnerving unpredictability, adding visceral viability to a story that is as irreverent and socially conscious as it is psychological and character driven.
This impressively-rendered unease is apparently from the opening when soon-to-be parent Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) watches his pregnant wife get attacked by hooded youths from within a malfunctioning elevator. Pulling a needle from her stomach, his ensuing panic and disbelief ultimately defines him for months to come when he’s left alone with a baby after his wife succumbs to an “undetermined infection.”
Agoraphobic and riddled with self-doubt about parental abilities, Tommy starts seeing hooded youths outside of his window and eventually inside his home. And because Foy avoids establishing a separate style for reality and inner psychological environment, we’re never sure if the constant attacks are paranoid delusions or an external threat. While his nurse and potential love interest (Wunmi Mosaku) believes his fear is irrational, a foul-mouthed priest (James Cosmo) asserts that these slum-dwelling youths are actually infected with a virus and will stop at nothing to steal Tommy’s baby.
The film astutely captures the nature of victimhood as juxtaposed with nascent parental anxieties, Tommy’s character arc of controlling fear and escaping the cycle of passivity is in itself a driving force. But beyond this, there’s the added sociological element of generational class system repetition, noting that the infection these youths actually have is that of a morally abject upbringing sure to define them as lifelong predators, looking for weaker targets like Tommy.
In such, the parental subtext proves circular as our protagonist makes literal the metaphor of stealing back his child from the confines of a lower class fate. Here, needles and infections mirror the drug-addled and grim futures of erratic, dejected youths, just as Tommy’s eventual quest to rescue his son from their clutches—and their cyclic social deprivation—works as a satisfying and cathartic (but politically incorrect) bit of caustic honesty.
It’s rare for a film to capture visceral intensity, psychological complexity or cultural relevance with much lasting aplomb. But in the case of Citadel, Ciaran Foy has scored a hat trick by smartly interweaving all three elements into a riveting, low key work of greatness.
The Review: Based on a true British story from 2003, uwantme2killhim? Is a study into isolation, desperation, popularity, companionship, and murder at the beginning of the social networking phenomena.
Mark is a popular 16 year old who has been conducting an intense relationship with Rachael via an internet chat room. Rachael is in an abusive relationship and sees her loner brother John being bullied everyday at school. Rachael asks Mark to befriend her brother and help him defend himself against the bullies, a besotted Mark cannot agree quicker.
The two friends seem to get on well at first until John stops coming to school, it transpires that Rachael has been killed and the two boys hatch a plan to get revenge but who is playing who while climbing the social networking ladder?
This is an extraordinary story which is all the more harrowing because it actually happened, it clearly shows the dangers of internet chat rooms and the impact that social networking can have on people who are weak-minded and impressionable.
Reminiscent of the documentary Tallhotblonde which dealt with similar subject matter, uwantme2killhim? Is an engaging thriller with standout performances from the two young leads which will serve as a warning to anyone who underestimates the power of the internet. ★★★★★★★★★★
The Review: Quick Review – relative newcomer writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s drama thriller starring Ryan Gosling as a rebellious motorbike stunt driver learns he has a baby with Eva Mendes, and ends up robbing banks to pay for its upbringing. This leads him into a shootout with Bradley Cooper’s rookie cop, who has a kid about the same age as Gosling’s.
The film craftily introduces its real set up at the end of act 1; this is really a film of three halves, which is sort of why it loses its way. At 140 minutes, it is about half an hour too long, as the deep-rooted theme of vengeance and father-son parallels becomes all-too obvious before the expected showdown. The film however, benefits from an underplayed sense of direction; all the events are believable and the performances, particularly by the boys in the final third, are all outstanding. Less outstanding is the movie’s flash forward and the effects for all the characters.
Admire it for what it is; a very honest attempt at an allegory for right and wrong and cops and robbers. It’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is, but it is a fine entry from Cianfrance. Now, let’s see what he can do with a thoroughly ruthless editor.
Film of The Year: The Social Network (9/10) In Brief: A film about a guy and his computer debating with lawyers in a room… who would have thought that could be so good. Fincher and a superb cast deliver without exception. Awesome film.
2. American: the Bill Hicks Story In Brief: Fans or not, this innovative documentary charts the career of one of comedies best.
3. Toy Story 3 In Brief: One of Pixar’s best movies, Toy Story 3 completes one of the movies best trilogies.
4. Monsters In Brief: Proof that small budget doesn’t mean small film, this road movie sci-fi is a slice of movie perfection.
5. Shutter Island In Brief: Scorsese & DiCaprio do it again. Scary. Pulpy. And just the right side of stupid. Mostly.
Bubbling under: Sherlock Holmes, Where The Wild Things Are, Machete, The Town, Karate Kid, Ninja Assassin, The A Team, The Losers, Piranha 3-D