Phil Peel

Film, video, photography, sound and story

Archive for the ‘film reviews’ Category

‘Wikileaks: We Steal Secrets’

Posted by Phil On July - 7 - 2013

If you are at all interested in what was going on in the Wikileaks saga, go watch this. It comes out on 12th July in the UK. But Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, however well intentioned intially, doesn’t come out of it well.

But what the film reveals is that Bradley Manning is the unlikely hero and his moral outrage and courage in revealing what he was seeing has been overshadowed by Wikileaks and the Assange sex scandal.

“Manning has plead guilty to leaking materials to Wikileaks, but the government or the US military is just determined to try him for this charge of ‘aiding the enemy’, it’s a precursor to criminalising journalism.” says this fine documentary.

If  Manning was “aiding the enemy”, what about the newspapers which actually published it far more widely than Wikileaks.   The Guardian, New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde – They all worked with WikiLeaks publishing the secrets.  But of course, they are powerful organisations and the US prefers to go after the little men; with Manning facing a possible 154-year jail sentence  (with a derisory 112-day reduction of any eventual jail sentence for  unduly harsh solitary detention methods) and Edward Snowden stuck in the “hell hole” of  the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. (I’ve been there ..believe me it’s a fate worse than death! )

Ironically “We steal secrets” is actually a quote made during the film by the US Government. Little would Oscar winning director Alex Gibney have realised how soon it would have been demonstrated by Edward Snowden’s  leakage of the massive US Prism “Big Brother” internet surveillance system.  

..and then the US Army attempting to block the Guardian wesitsite preserve “network hygiene.”


We live in scary times. This film may illuminate the extent of it.

The Lorax – New 3D animated film – Review

Posted by Phil On June - 22 - 2012

I remember buying The Lorax , the book that is, way back in the 1970s I think it was. Though it was a kids book and I was an adult the Lorax made a big impression on me.

lorax book

I think it was one of the first kids books to deal with environmental issues and for some reason it struck a chord with me.

Years later I read it to my children and my wife, who was a teacher, took it into school to read to  her classes. One day sadly it got left there, so I no longer have the 30 year old copy.  (I’ve subsequently discovered that first edition copies can reach over £1000 )

So I was keen to see the new version ( with added 3D!) yesterday  I saw it in a press screening at the Edinburgh Film Festival.   So how had it survived the journey from short book to major feature film?

Not too bad. Ok it has been Disneyfied and cutened ( is that word?) I’m not sure about all the songs. Particularly toward the end, it all became a bit evangelical. and Hapy Happy ending, which creates the impression that the world has all been put to rights, when of course it hasn’t. There was a young romance which I’m not sure was in the original story, but they did need to fill 90 + minutes, so a romance is an easy option.

The young hero sets out to save the planet (sorry trees) not out of any altruistic intentions, but to impress the girl.   Apart from that  I think it stuck pretty much to Dr Seuss’s theme.

NOTE: I’ve now check out the original story, which begins and ends with the environment as a wasteland, though the ending has a glimpse of hope, when the young lad is given the last live seed. So yes the story in the film has been changed.

The ancient computer I’m typing this on at the delegates centre is really slow, so I’m going to leave it there, before I get too frustrated

But I think I’ll go and buy the book again.



Oliver Sherman – film by Ryan Redford

Posted by Phil On June - 17 - 2011

A beautifully paced film directed with great assurance by Ryan Redford, about a lonely war veteran,  who 7 years after the war arrives at the family home of a fellow soldier. He’s been brain damaged, still carries his bayonet, has the crude behaviour of the the squaddie   and has still not recovered from the experience of killing. The  juxtaposition of this with  the family home life and the innocence of the sleeping children and caring mother creates an almost unbearable tension as you expect the worst to happen.  The acting is superb.

Through I feared this would all turn into extreme violence, but this accomplished feature does not go where you expect.    One to watch


Edinburgh Film Festival

Early morning breakfast on the first day of the Edinburgh festival for Ken, Graham and myself was a croissant and a coffee, gulped down en route to the delegates centre in order to catch the first film at 9am. This was the delightful Borrower Arriety, which was a beautiful Japanese animation adaptation of the English classic The Borrowers. Though I thought the music was overpoweringly sentimental at times, it was beautifully crafted, with excellent sound design. One scene had a contrived conversation on endangered species which spoilt the otherwise tight narrative