Month: January 2014

Saving Mr Banks – Review

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Saving Mr Banks is the unexpectedly touching story about the inspiration and creation of the Disney classic, Mary Poppins and it’s author P.L. Travers. Reluctant to hand over the rights to Walt Disney, she struggles to part with the true motivation behind her story.

Played by Emma Thompson, Travers is the cold-hearted, humourless writer struggling for money. The year is 1961 when Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, decides that he wants to make a film based on Travers’ Mary Poppins. Unfamiliar to the gallingly bubbly atmosphere of LA and Disney studios, Travers spends two weeks with Disney and his production team who are stunned by her strict nature. Criticising every suggestion from the team that Disney-size her tale, Travers seems more and more reluctant to offload Mary Poppins (it’s never just Mary).

Little do the Disney boys working on the movie know Travers’ story is really based on her childhood account. The parallel story in Saving Mr Banks accounts the life of Travers as a child with her real name Helen Goff (Travers is her father’s name which she later takes as her own). Her father, played by Colin Farrell, is an alcoholic bank manager with problems at work – all effecting the relationship with his family including Helen.

This therefore offers the explanation behind Travers’ unwillingness to portray her nanny as a twinkling Disney character, forcing the audience to sympathise with her when we are informed of the true tragedy behind her story.

Thompson is expertly cast as Travers and subsequently delivers a near perfect performance. Her body language and delivery of the difficult, snappy character is well portrayed and yet she manages to balance this with her lesser-known sensitive background, which we sympathise for. In the opposite corner is Hanks playing Disney who also offers a well illustrated account of the flamboyant head, yet the most pleasing aspect of his character is that we perhaps don’t always see him in bright lights wearing a comforting smile – struggling to cope with the difficult Travers throughout. The two however come to a moving conclusion however with Hanks’ Disney eventually getting his way.

Saving Mr Banks is therefore a very powerful, moving, comical and heart warming story, which eventually concludes with a satisfying finale. P.L Travers openly disliked Disney’s Mary Poppins, but regardless, her story behind the creation of the famous nanny is one very well consumed – just like a spoonful of sugar.

8/10 #WebbersRatings

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The Wolf of Wall Street – Review

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The Wolf of Wall Street takes you through the extraordinarily flamboyant rise to riches of Jordan Belfort and his inevitable downfall due to dodgy deals and heavy sex, money and drug addictions.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Belfort, a talented young stockbroker who rapidly discovers a method of making money illegally upon setting up his own firm, Stratton Oakmont. And right from the word go, Belfort’s only plan is to obtain an obscenely rich status. Jonah Hill plays Belfort’s overweight, nerdy sidekick Donnie Azoff, and together work in search for their millions. However, living the life on endless prostitutes, copious amounts of drugs, huge houses and plenty of sports cars, Belfort inevitably faces jail time for his crooked deals.

When the FBI begin sniffing, headed by Agent Patrick Denham, played by Kyle Chandler, Belfort and Azoff desperately seek means of hiding their dirty money using contacts in Switzerland and Britain. This leads to short but smart cameos from Jean Dujardin and Britain’s own treasure, Joanna Lumley, who plays Aunt Emma, Belfort’s aunt-in-law.

Martin Scorsese manages to replicate the wild, ostentatious lifestyle of Belfort and his team with the almost unbelievable quantities of drug and sex abuse using his own style of filmmaking. He also returns to his Goodfellas narration technique, which offers a keen eye into the greed driven lifestyle of the contemptible wealthy. This therefore works well for the film, with Belfort splitting personality based on his portrayal. It’s hard to feel empathy when things turn sour, yet you also want him to find an ulterior motive rather than leading his unhealthy lifestyle. The film is entertainingly shocking and explicit and for a three hour film, its snappy scenes and fast paced reflection on its events make it fly by as well as its black comical back bone.

DiCaprio and Hill are at their absolute best on every drug-induced front and both are involved in some extraordinary set pieces.

Perhaps not Scorsese’s best work, yet The Wolf of Wall Street is a highly exhilarating piece of film based on a quite incredible lifestyle of someone with more money than they know what to do with.

9/10 #WebbersRatings

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Review

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a charming tale directed by and starring Ben Stiller.  Exploring his unorthodox film repertoire, Stiller struggles to disguise his comedic capabilities and fails to reach the full potential of this emotionally engaging character. Nevertheless, we see an interesting story portrayed in a heartening fashion.

Walter Mitty is a man guilty of falling into lapses of daydreams in which he paints a portrait of himself as a heroic figure that he otherwise wishes to be. This affects him socially, drifting off mid conversation. Walter works at LIFE magazine – irony being he has no life. When asked by a consultant at eHarmony why his “been there, done that” section is blank, Walter simply replies, “because I haven’t been anywhere or done anything.”

But when a chain of events at work occurs, Walter’s life takes a dramatic step forward. A new firm has bought LIFE magazine and are set to release its final printed issue, causing a huge shake up at the corporation. Walter is given the task to find a specific photo for the final cover by his new boss (Adam Scott), who he immediately gets off on the wrong foot with. After misplacing the photo, Walter goes in search of previous photographer Shaun O’Connell (Sean Penn) in order to find the missing photograph. This provides to be more difficult than first anticipated for Walter and in turn takes him around the world, with an encouraging push from the girl literally of his dreams (Kristen Wiig).

Some stunning shots and sequences depict Walter’s travels and at stages he struggles to believe the transformation from fantasy to real life given the sudden introduction of excitement in his life. The film in general is well shot and offers a sweet, sensitive aspect, but if there is one disappointment, it would be Stiller’s less than spectacular performance. Having starred in similarly awkward roles such as Greenberg, Stiller is accomplished enough to produce the goods with this type of character. However, he fails to truly nail down the character, trying too hard with the comedic element when he should be tugging on our heartstrings.

Walter Mitty is, nevertheless, a heart-warming story and much of its underbelly and clever tones makes for pleasant viewing. Unfortunately it fails to engage fully on an emotional scale and therefore loses some credibility especially given the potential of such an interesting character.

7/10 #WebbersRatings