Film Review: Saving Mr. Banks (Year)

Walt Disney must persuade P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, to sign over the film rights so he can finally make the Mary Poppins movie he’s been perusing for 20 years.

Emma Thompson is particularly good as the curmudgeonly P.L. Travers. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney as good as he ever does.

 

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Saving Mr. Banks on IMDb

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Film Review: Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Plot: Nonsense about a woman from earth being a space princess who has to save the galaxy or something.

Visual very impressive, in a videogame graphics kind of way, not much sense of reality. Some reasonable action scenes. The plot and characters seem to be lifted from a cartoon.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

Jupiter Ascending on IMDb

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Film Review: The Keep (1983)

A strange and surprisingly compelling early Michael Mann film. About some Nazis who hold up in an oddly constructed keep in Romania. Things start to go wrong when the soldiers remove one of the large stones from the interior walls, releasing an ominous power that begins to kill them.

It’s got some fine actors in it, flexing their acting chops. Jürgen Prochnow (Das Boot) shouts angrily, Ian McKellen (Gandalf) stares in wonder and Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects) is evil man.

The story is somewhat confused and probably compressed from the source novel of the same name. The sound mix is annoyingly quiet in parts, while being loud in others. One for the cinema, I guess. Some of the effects are really rather good, especially some tricks with smoke.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

The Keep on IMDb

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Film Review: The Winning Season (2009)

Sam Rockwell plays a disgraced, highschool basketball couch and part-time arsehole who’s been reduced to a dishwasher. His spirits are lifted when he gets the opportunity to couch again, but he wasn’t expecting it to be girl’s basketball.

The plot is nothing new; Rockwell‘s character has to turn his team around so they can actually win some games, while dealing with his bigotry and personal problems, which make him the arsehole he is. We’ve seen plenty of similar films before. What makes this one stand out for me is the slightly unusual performances from many of the actors. The exchanges between the teenage girls are not the normal stilted Hollywood formula, they seem more genuine and realistic. The same goes for the other actors and situations. Even though these character relationships are not explored to great depth, you’re given enough to help you care about them. Which adds more weight to the emotional and comedic moments.

I was pleasantly surprised by this film. It’s quite an emotional rollercoaster, dealing with various personal issues without over simplifying them with unrealistic easy solutions. And with a good smattering of laughs it makes for a very nice, feel-good flick.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

The Winning Season on IMDb

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Film Review: Year One (2009)

An adventure, comedy staring Jack Black and Michael Cera. Initially living with their primitive tribe in the woods, events thrust them into ancient civilisation where they enjoy and suffer the delights and injustices that come with it.

It’s not very good. While I did laugh at times, mainly due to the performances of Black, Cera and the other fine comedy actors involved, it’s not a well written or executed film. It’s fine for some escapism that doesn’t require much thought. It’s like the simpleton brother of Apocalypto, which is a fine film. Although this film doesn’t have the same epic scale in the sets, costumes, etc. It’s all rather cheesy.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Year One on IMDb

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Film Review: Haywire (2011)

A highly skilled covert operative discovers that those she works for have set her up for a deadly betrayal.

I went in expecting a sub-Bourne action flick, but while it’s similar to that series this film has a hard-hitting, raw style all of its own. A great deal of which is thanks to the extremely athletic and hard-as-nails lead actress. Gina Carano has taken time out from kick boxing and mixed martial arts to pretend to knock the shit out of some bad guys. When she’s not being chased through various locations and having fights she’s doing a pretty good job of acting. Apparently she performed all the stunt work herself and some of it really looks like it hurt.

The rest of the cast brings some recognisable faces, contributing solid performances. The story is either a little complex or just confusing. I lost it at the very end, but that didn’t really matter. The strengths of the film are in the action.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Haywire on IMDb

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Film Review: Dean Spanley (2008)

Set in Edwardian England a son makes his usual weekly visit to see his ageing, cantankerous father. Tired of the routine he decides to take his father to hear a talk by an Indian mystic. Which leads to a series of encounters with the increasingly eccentric Dean Spanley, played expertly by the eminent dinosaur dude Sam Neill.

It’s tricky to say much about the film without giving away details which would be best left unsaid. And it’s a fairly simple story and concept. I will say that it’s a charming and heartwarming tale. As it unfolds the story becomes somewhat incongruous with the straight, stiff upper lippedness, but that’s more than forgivable. Peter O’Toole in the role of the the old man is suitably infuriating and it’s nice to see him still in the acting lark.

If you enjoy the company of dogs you’ll likely get additional enjoyment from this film.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Dean Spanley on IMDb

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