“The Mind Is A Fragile Thing. It Takes Only The Slightest To Tip In The Wrong Direction…”
With Avengers: Endgame showing forevermore how to successfully handle a blockbuster, superhero franchise which not only pretty much exceeded the expectations of obsessive fans across the globe, myself included, but ticked the boxes many times over in both the critical and financial categories, here we are no more than a month and a half later with X-Men: Dark Phoenix, 20th Century Fox’s own “endgame” which brings to a messy conclusion, the entire X-Men franchise which began all the way back at the start of the century with a movie which in retrospect, could be argued as being the kickstarter for the comic-heavy filmic universe we find ourselves in today. With the X-Men cinematic universe being handled with less delicacy as the MCU, it’s fair to say that Dark Phoenix arrives with little hype or expectation, a concluding chapter that screams with half volume a fond farewell to the alternative universe of our familiar mutated characters first introduced in X-Men: First Class, revived excellently in the franchise best, Days of Future Past, and once again in the not-so great but still watchable, Apocalypse, and with the movie attempting to revive the titular and very well regarded “Dark Phoenix Saga” from the original comics which was somewhat soiled in the franchise low, X-Men: The Last Stand, the final chapter in Fox’s almost twenty year franchise is indeed a solid, by-the-numbers superhero blockbuster, but that’s pretty much it.
As per the standard of most cinematic franchises, Dark Phoenix ultimately works or doesn’t work depending on how much you personally bring to it, and whilst I do not hold Fox’s own superhero franchise with anywhere near as much regard as I do with the MCU, I can claim to bear a slight relationship with the film’s central characters, with the likes of McAvoy (Filth), Fassbender (Shame) and Jennifer Lawrence (mother!) each returning in their respective roles, yet where the movie ultimately fails is in its’ approach to both the sloppy introduction of new characters, particularly Jessica Chastain’s (Zero Dark Thirty) criminally underdeveloped leading villain, and the wider universe, with timelines now completely out of whack and the effect of the predecessing movies having less of an impact when watching in retrospect. With sloppy dialogue and a highly predictable plot, Dark Phoenix is ultimately saved by the Phoenix herself, with Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones fame giving the best big screen performance of her career so far, outshining her elder Hollywood colleagues who in all honesty, seem to be waiting for the franchise to end in order to collect their well earned bonuses, and whilst a film which starts with a car crash is somewhat begging for certain similarities to be made, Dark Phoenix is by no means the worst superhero movie in the world, it just happens to be one of the more forgettable. See ya, X-Men…
Overall Score: 6/10
“The Cold War Did Not End, It Merely Shattered Into A Thousand Pieces…”
Based upon the similarly titled 2013 novel by former Central Intelligence Agency agent, Jason Matthews, director Francis Lawrence reunites with long-term collaborator, Jennifer Lawrence (mother!), after their work together on the final three entries within Hunger Games film series with Red Sparrow, a sadistic spy thriller which attempts to blend the nihilistic approach of cold war paranoia with a Robert Ludlum-esque secret agent mystery narrative featuring Lawrence in the leading role as the Russian ballerina turned operative who is tasked with discovering a native mole who has been supplying the US with state secrets. With a lifeless, cold tone and a jaw-dropping exploitation sensibility which airs more on the side of advantageous leering regarding its’ lead star than that of actual substance, Red Sparrow is a staggeringly misjudged and overly dull affair, one which although can be somewhat praised for attempting to present a more bolder and brutal by the numbers spy story, hashes it’s early promise and comes across more as an overly disappointing affair with a, hold your breath, completely miscast leading lady.
After sustaining an ill-fated injury which prematurely ends her career as a prestigious ballerina, Jennifer Lawrence’s awfully accented Dominika Egorova turns to Matthias Schoenaerts’ (The Danish Girl) Ivan Dimitrevich Egorov, her slimy, power hungry uncle who recruits her into the “Red Sparrow” programme and under the wing of Charlotte Rampling’s (45 Years) Matron who attempts to teach her the ways of psychological, sexual and overly humiliating manipulation. With Lawrence being confined to direction which forces her to maintain a complete look of utter boredom and attempting to preserve a straight face during set pieces which give Fifty Shades of Grey a run for its’ money, Red Sparrow suffers primarily from a key weakness regarding Lawrence’s implausibility as a hard-edged Russian spy, and whilst her dodgy accent isn’t the only one in the movie to induce sniggering fits of laughter, the film is made worse by being a key example of an obsession between director and leading star reaching astronomical levels, with the camera woozily ogling at the sight of its’ leading star whenever she is forced to take off her clothes or engage in one of many terribly misjudged sexuality torture scenes. Whilst I am all for nudity and stylised violence when absolutely necessary, Lawrence’s latest is one the most unnecessary gory examples of mainstream exploitation cinema I’ve seen in recent history, and when you through into the mix a yawn inducing underlying narrative about double-crossing agents and a resolution which is the definition of cop-out, Red Sparrow is indeed quite poor, even with a semi-decent Joel Edgerton attempting to save the day.
Overall Score: 4/10
“You Give, And You Give, And You Give. It’s Just Never Enough…”
Encapsulating in human form the very definition of divisive, Darren Aronofsky for me is the idealistic, brave and shit-hot filmmaker needed within the midst of summer blockbusters and endless unwarranted sequels in the current climate of cinema, and whilst many understandably lift their nose at the thought of anything with the Brooklyn born movie-maker’s recognisable touch, there is an unparalleled level of talent within a man who in my eyes rarely puts a foot wrong. Whether it be the depraved, nihilistic portrayal of addiction within Requiem for a Dream, the depiction of regret and sorrow within The Wrestler, or indeed the Argento inspired ripeness of Black Swan, Aronofsky holds no standards for a crowd-pleasing cop-outs and that alone has resulted in widespread appeal for his movies, particularly mother!, Aronofsky’s latest feature which for all its’ lack of publicity and reportedly inflammatory subject matter still manages to secure a wide release across the UK. Challenging, subversive, oppressive and surreal, Aronofsky’s latest transcends the realm of cinema itself and leaves you in a state of prolonged shock as soon as the final credits roll, and whilst many are guaranteed to loathe the sadistic and ripe arty nature of the film’s final product, mother! is an experience of an ilk similar to the likes of Funny Games and Kill List by being a film so terribly haunting and tough, the execution of such simply has to be rapturously applauded.
Set wholly within the confines of the winding home of Jennifer Lawrence’s “mother” and Javier Bardem’s writer’s block ridden “him”, Aronofsky’s narrative twists between home invasion horror, jet-black comedy, Lynch-style surrealism and a Dogville-style societal commentary, and whilst the underlying story is undoubtedly based upon writings drawn from Christianity and the sacred texts within the Bible, the twisted nature of Aronofsky’s storytelling offers much more than just one simple way to manoeuver through the ambiguity and the three-act structure, with each act after the next increasing in tension and shock value as the movie progresses through to its’ ultimate conclusion. With the camera solely fixed on the subjective view of Lawrence, with all but a few minor shots either directly focusing on her face or over her shoulder, the Oscar winning actresses performance is absolutely mesmerising, conveying a rafter of facial expressions and emotions as the narrative forces her to compliment the downward spiral of horror which transcends upon the screen and a performance which evoked the spirit of Nicole Kidman in Lars Von Trier’s Dogville and Mia Farrow’s iconic role in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, a movie of which directly influences mother! in it’s rollercoaster ride of a final act, one which comes extremely close to dive bombing the movie altogether in its’ sheer jaw-dropping extravagance.
With Bardem on usual form as the somewhat ciphered, unknown quantity, and both Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer reminding everyone of their raw and unquestionable talent, Aronofsky throws the remainder of his cast around and around in order to suit his narrative endgame, with jarring inclusions from the likes of Domhnall Gleeson and Kristen Wiig seeming so surreal it almost cripples the way in which you as a viewer should be embracing the movie, particularly in regard to its’ ever-wandering tone. If you head to in to a screening of mother! wanting a jump-scare ridden horror, you are bound to leave extremely disappointed, and whilst there is undoubtedly elements of genre-literate exploitation aplenty, with the film evoking everything from the likes of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me in terms of its’ hateful depiction of the human existence to the social commentary extremity evident within Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust, Aronofsky’s latest is not a film to be enjoyed, instead it is the type of movie you digest, mull over and decide to what to make of it after three glasses of whisky and a trip to a puppy farm to combat the oppressive shock your mind is layered in after exiting the auditorium. mother! gave me nightmares, and not many films manage to bury that deep within the confines of my psyche but it goes to show how much of an astonishing, messed-up cinematic achievement Aronofsky has managed to create in a cinematic environment when risks are so rarely eaten up.
Overall Score: 9/10
“There’s A Reason We Woke Up Early…”
If ever were a movie to put off its’ audience by sheer propaganda-esque exploitation, then Passengers is it, a movie advertised within the inch of its’ life within every single cinema screening over the past four months or so, and a movie which seems to be once again a case of revealing too much to be a true success as a two-hour spectacle instead of a two-minute preview. With two of most bankable acting talents at the moment leading the way in the form of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, Passengers, directed by Morten Tyldum of The Imitation Game alongside a story by Prometheus and Doctor Strange screenwriter Jon Spaihts, is a traditionally cheesy sci-fi romance, one which gains kudos for attempting to subvert its’ narrative giveaways within its’ trailers with a nice juicy twist to get the film going, but ultimately succumbs to its’ fundamental 12A-ness and becomes yet another flashy yet forgettable piece of cinema.
Following in the footsteps of Allied recently, a similarly forgettable tale which just happened to feature top-end A-List actors, Passengers suffers primarily from a saccharin-sweet filled narrative at its’ core, one which above all, results in the concluding act of the movie being one hard not to shout “Cheese!” at, with a cliched resuscitation scene being the heart of such of a problem. Whilst Lawrence and Pratt have some decent on-screen chemistry, the absurdness of their celebrity appearance throughout the movie (Not one pixel of make-up is out of place) creates a difficulty in taking in the apparent science fiction notions the film attempts to lay on its’ audience, with obvious nods to Interstellar, Alien, Solaris, Moon and even The Shining putting the film in danger of being just a reel of scenes from better and more memorable productions. Whilst there are a wide range of issues with Passengers, the inherent friendliness makes it somewhat suitable for this particular period of the year, yet its’ plain-sailing approach sadly just won’t make it past the month as something memorable, a shame when considering the talent on display. Also, what was the point of hiring Andy Garcia? HE DOES NOTHING. Merry Christmas.
Overall Score: 5/10
“I Was There To Spark And Fan The Flame of Man’s Awakening, To Spin The Wheel of Civilisation…”
Like the complete cinematic geek I am, Tuesday night at my local world of cine offered the chance to not only witness the midnight showing of the latest Marvel offering but to watch a riveting triple header of mutant goodness beginning with X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past and then leading smoothly into the UK release of X-Men: Apocalypse, the newest feature from the mind of Bryan Singer, the worldwide proclaimed saviour of all things X-Men when it comes to the big-screen after the superhero mess which was The Last Stand. I mean come on, Vinnie Jones? Watching all three on the big-screen once again gave the opportunity to see who was victorious in the realms of mutant supremacy and after watching almost seven hours of Marvel mayhem, I can safely say that Apocalypse is most definitely not the best of the X-Men canon, with that torch still indeed belonging to the far superior Days of Future Past, and in a month where the release of Captain America: Civil War emphasised the staying power of a franchise as gargantuan as the MCU, X-Men: Apocalypse is somewhat of a let-down, a let-down with a whole lot of CGI destruction intertwined with moments of greatness which only remind you how previous entries into the X-Men canon have been in the past.
Amongst the crazy amount of plot lines thrown into Apocalypse, including the introduction to a young Jean Grey and Scott Summers, played by Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan respectively, our ever-growing team of mutants led by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), now living life in the early 1980’s, soon have to face the growing threat of the powerful Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the world’s first mutant, who has risen from his tomb after centuries of being preserved and hidden from the outside world. Capturing the powers of Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as well as a young Storm (Alexandria Shipp) to fuel his destruction, Apocalypse believes the only way to save the Earth is to first destroy it and recreate it in his own image. Cue CGI mayhem and major mutant face-offs, intertwined with rather rushed introductions to a wide range of new mutants, Apocalypse almost seems the complete opposite of Civil War, a film which rather brilliantly manages to juggle its’ eye-watering cast and the introduction of new players, with the former struggling to keep up with the extraordinary demands it places upon itself.
One of the main reasons Apocalypse falters in this regard is the titular Apocalypse, a villain with only a shallow background to start him off and a motive of destruction which seems flawed to say the least. Add into the fact it was difficult to look at the character without laughing due to the rather rubbery amount of make-up leathered on Oscar Isaac, an actor of whom I would pay to watch in anything I might add, and Apocalypse can only be regarded as having the worst villain of the series so far. Even Kevin Bacon was better. A re-hash of the slow-motion Quicksilver scene from Days of Future Past halfway through the film only strengthens the claim that after four films in the directorial chair, Bryan Singer may indeed be running out of ideas on the mutant front with Apocalypse seemingly being the end point for the man who began the franchise all the way back in 2000. As Jean Grey states after a trip to watch Return of the Jedi during the course of the film, “the third film is always the worst”, and ironically, Apocalypse adheres to this assumption rather disappointingly. Civl War, you are still in the lead.
Overall Score: 6/10
After last years’ predetermination at the BAFTA’s, with Julianne Moore winning the prestigious Best Actress award for Still Alice, a film that hadn’t hit UK cinemas at the time of the ceremony leaving the choice of winner solely in the hands of preview-screened critics, the Oscar’s soon followed suit and awarded Moore with her first award after many nominations for films such as Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Far From Heaven. Completing this years’ nominations is a variety of talent ranging from rising stars to cinematic gems with each film definitely getting the vote of confidence from here at Black Ribbon, even Joy, the newest release from David O. Russell, which although features a riveting leading performance from Jennifer Lawrence has been regarded by many as a limp entry into the impressive canon Russell has already established, with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook doing particularly well at the prestigious ceremony in previous years. Could his and Lawrence’s success at the Oscar’s continue this year? Let’s ask the people in the know.
In the wise eyes of the bookies, Brie Larson is set to carry on her success at the BAFTA’s with her being odds on to pick up the Oscar for Best Actress in Lenny Abrahamson’s simply brilliant Room, a film which manages to carry the balance of the dark and the twisted yet ultimately proclaims itself as a life-affirming drama, featuring a world-class performance from young Jacob Tremblay who along with Larson brings the brilliance of the film to light, resulting in the rare occasion whereby I completely agree with the Academy. Sure, Cate Blanchett is rather flawless in Todd Haynes’ Carol and Saoirse Ronan continues her streak of being perfect in every way possible (CRUSH INCOMING) within the beautiful Brooklyn, but Larson is the stand-out, pulling in a performance that those at the Oscar voting table love; no make-up and a lot of crying. It might just be the start of something magical. Cringe.
Next Time: Best Director
“Don’t Ever Think The World Owes You Anything, Because It Doesn’t…”
Although I’m fundamentally confused and sometimes disorientated at the sheer amount of Oscar-waving movies that are dumped upon our screens within the space of around eight or so weeks at the beginning of each year, there is a sense of wonder when examining what makes the blueprint of a film destined for awards from all corners of well, Hollywood. Beginning my venture into the year of film in 2016 is Joy, the new film by David O. Russell, the man behind the simply brilliant one-two of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook and the rather tedious twiddle that was American Hustle, but hey, you’ve got to take the bad with the good. Ever since the success of Silver Linings Playbook, there is always a guaranteed set of events that are set to follow when a O. Russell film is announced. One. a cast that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in a supporting role. Two, a story that is overtly dramatic but relies mainly on performance rather than a presence of underlying depth, and finally, Oscars. With Joy, Russell’s latest indeed features the first two and may indeed end with the latter but in an overall summary, Russel improves on the no-show of American Hustle but fails to live up to the exceedingly high watermark of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook.
Loosely based on the real-life tale of Joy Mangano, Joy, features Jennifer Lawrence in the titular role, a over-worked single mother, basked with the responsibility of not one, but three generations of family from grandmother down to daughter and son, but with mother, father and half-sister seemingly being the hardest to comprehend and control. After a ring of unsuccessful attempts to spring out from obscurity, Joy begins to design the “miracle mop” with the financial help of her father’s partner and the advertising of Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper), a leading executive at QVC, yet it soon begins to materialise that perhaps Joy’s attempts at gaining success and riches are as difficult as controlling her stereotypical family of madness. Much like the life outside the ring for both Dickie and Micky in The Fighter, Joy is at its’ best when the real-life trivialities of family life is exposed, with its’ surprisingly limited comedic element only being adhered too during such scenes, scenes in which sibling rivalries are effectively propositioned by the acting talents of Robert De Niro and Diane Ladd as the one-two mother and father, and Elisabeth Rohm as Joy’s estranged and slightly jealous half-sister.
Where the film ultimately succeeds is it’s reliance on the strength of Lawrence’s leading performance, a testament to her incredible abilities as an actress who, at the age of 25, seemingly has accomplished much more than most of the veterans of today’s acting establishments, yet Joy not only gives her room to expand her vast array of acting talent in the titular role of her character’s single mother lifestyle, it also proves that even with a minimalistic plot that Joy unfortunately has, Lawrence can propel a film into something actually quite good rather than just being okay. Saying that, Joy indeed is the best film you will see this year about the creation of a mop, and as a starter for the year in film, it’s not a bad one. Not quite The Fighter, but definitely better than American Hustle, Joy is a heartwarming addition to the filmography of both Lawrence and Russell.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Turn Your Weapons To The Capitol! Turn Your Weapons To Snow…”
Looking back at my time growing up as a teenager, it is rather fair to say that in terms of cinematic experiences that was forged during my development from child-minded youngster to well, child-minded adult, that I, and many others of similar age, were well and truly spoiled. I mean come on, we had the reinvention of fantasy epics with The Lord of the Rings, the angsty teen family friendly years of Harry Potter, and the re-invention of both the Bond and the Batman films, with The Dark Knight still being a huge turning point in terms of my understanding of what makes a truly great cinematic memory. This complete spoilage of greatness during my own personal childhood has only received further gratitude in recent times when examining the recent implosion of child-targeted franchises hoping to fill the gaps that series’ such as Harry Potter vacated when they came to their concluding tales, most of which have seen that the teen-led dystopian universe is the right way to go. Although The Hunger Games series definitely is the leader of the pack when it comes to such, beating the Divergent and Maze Runner series’ hands down, its’ concluding tale in the form of Mockingjay – Part Two is an unfortunate mess, leaving the legacy of such a franchise ending with a whim, rather than a stage of defiance and strength in a vein similar to its’ titular character.
If you aren’t already well and truly versed in the plot-lines of the whole Hunger Games saga, there really is not much point attempting to try and explain almost seven hours worth of backstory right now except from the fact that the entire series is basically Battle Royale with cheese (yes, I loved that too Pulp Fiction fans) where aside from the rather important and intelligent notions of dystopian futures, uprisings and a fight against tyranny, something of which would give George Orwell a run for his money, The Hunger Games franchise has always seemed to be rather misplaced in my own personal point of view due to a variety of reasons that seem to come full circle in its’ concluding chapter. Firstly, aside from Jennifer Lawrence well and truly embracing the role of Katniss Everdeen, a character in which is meant to symbolise a role model for many fans of the series, there really isn’t one other character in which I can truly say I feel heavily invested in both emotionally and mentally. Because of this, the entirety of MJ Part One was rather a significant bore, with way too many scenes of exposition and explanation and much too less of actually getting to the point, highlighting the argument for why these concluding parts were not just made into one film rather than two.
Such a problem continues in MJ Part Two, where scenes of excruciatingly dull dialogue are played out far too long too often in comparison to scenes of vital importance which are sped through way too quickly, resulting in a sense of continuous questioning and a jump between states of sheer boredom and utter confusion. Thankfully, with Lawrence in the titular role as the Mockingjay, such scenes are saved from total extinction with her performance as the “girl on fire”, continuing her rather brilliant start to life as an actress, whilst the seedy, ice-like figure of the wonderful Donald Sutherland as the ruthless autocratic President Snow is also a trait in the film’s favour. Amid scenes of sheer tension, particularly one in which our heroes and heroines venture into the city’s sewers, is times in which the film’s fundamental dark subject matter come into force, particularly in one scene in which we witness a mass gathering of children being blown to pieces, and it is here where the age-old question of classification comes into account, with MJ Part Two, being definitely in the category of top-end 12A’s. In other words, do not take your seven year old child to see this. You may scar them for life.
Obviously as I am not a die-hard fan of the series, MJ Part Two was never going to fulfill all my expectations entirely, but the fact that the concluding chapter of this franchise is made in such a terrible fashion upsets me personally on behalf of its’ core fans. It’s messy, it’s overlong, it features the worse love-triangle since Twilight, MJ Part Two for me, was a severe let-down from my already mediocre expectations, ending on a sour note rather than a show of brilliance that the first two in the series brought with it. At the end of the day, it may be a suitable end to the Mockingjay series for some, but for me, Mockingjay – Part Two was a wholly mediocre affair, too hell bent on getting too much done too quickly whilst reeling on the lack of assured substance and depth that may have been accomplished if made into one film rather than two for the sake of the accountants. And boy, that ending was truly terrible.
Overall Score: 5/10
Best Visual Effects
- Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould)
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, Eric Reynolds)
- Iron Man 3 (Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, Dan Sudick)
- The Lone Ranger (Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, John Frazier)
- Star Trek Into Darkness (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton)
Prediction – Gravity
- American Hustle (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten)
- Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse)
- Dallas Buyers Club (John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa)
- Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger)
- 12 Years a Slave (Joe Walker)
Prediction – Gravity
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
- Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
- Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
Prediction – Lupita Nyong’o
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
- Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Prediction – Barkhad Abdi
Best Actress in a Leading Role
- Amy Adams (American Hustle)
- Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
- Judi Dench (Philomena)
- Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Prediction – Sandra Bullock
Best Actor in a Leading Role
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Prediction – Chiwetel Ejiofor (We are all rooting for you Leo!)
- American Hustle (David O. Russell)
- Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
- Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
- 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
- The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
Prediction – The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
- American Hustle
- Captain Phillips
- Dallas Buyers Club
- 12 Years a Slave
- The Wolf of Wall Street
Prediction – 12 Years a Slave
As an excessive internet fiend, I’ve been involved with many communities on the internet, particularly Tickld.com (go check it out!). My involvement with this community brings many fandoms to my attention on a regular basis and anything that involves Jennifer Lawrence tends to be fairly popular. With the constant push of these groupies, I caved in and watched the first of this series, the night before we saw Catching Fire. Unfortunately, I was let down. I’m still adamant that the Hunger Games is just Battle Royale with cheese and less blood. I had high expectations of violence, excitement and characters that would grasp my interest. After my disappointment and being reassured that the second book in the series is far more action packed, I went in with hope. What I’ve failed to grasp is the tween audience and devout love for everything and everything related to it, but it could be worse, they could have been “Beliebers”…
Carrying on. With a lot of hope, I sat through the movie. Considering I haven’t read the books, I was a bit pissed with the cliffhanger ending but otherwise, it was alright. Very little has changed from the first film. a lot of shit is still going on, riots have put various districts under lock down and general discomfort feeds a waiting beast. The only thing that has really changed is the settings for “Peeta” and Katniss which lacks any of the suspected riches. A year has rolled on, comfortably living in their shabby mansions with little colour and all the aesthetics of a mental institute plucked from Batman’s Gotham city; suddenly joined by Tim Burton’s wet dream – Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), garnered in vividly sickening colours with influence from Medieval England and a bin, she begins spluttering about some tour across the districts and all that jazz. As I couldn’t work out a name for this tour, lets call it the, “Look how rich I am because I won a game tour of 2013”. Funnily enough, Katniss was oblivious to the riots she caused with the salute mid-game and notices an impending trend which she begins to abuse. Noticing that it gets people killed, she backed up and did what she was told. Until, you guessed it, the Hunger Games. Each districts winners are called upon for the 75th anniversary slaughtering because grumpy old president doesn’t like being beaten. Once the big baby is satisfied, the games start but don’t end in your typical fashion. Yeah, so as a story, it’s pretty easy to deduct how big plot pieces unfolds with a few additional little surprises tucked away. Even if I had watched the previous movie on release day, I could have jumped into this movie without worrying to much about a complicated story line and forgetting everything that previously happened.
I’d like to pick on the visuals a little. I’m an ass for good CGI and FX from big budget movies but there is certainly occasions that I have to question what on earth they were thinking. At one point there centre island and the water effect around it lost a lot of it’s focus and resolution and some of the rocks genuinely looked like set props from the Flintstones movie. I fully understand that the Hunger Games world is representing the deformities between the bourgeois and proletariat with the upper classes manipulation of those with little power but I feel it really misses the potential to really portray it after the whole Occupy movement, but I digress. On a positive note, the CGI for the baboons was far better than the ass-faced ‘dogs’ from the end of the previous movie. But then we get to a few of the deaths. If you’re going to walk about without a top, I would at least like to see some blood when you get shot in the chest with an arrow.
Being that Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook, It’s a common belief that they could continue this streak through their other projects. Occasionally, it felt as if she was really struggling to push Katniss. It’s hard to get much when he doesn’t play much of a role in the actual fighthing too. When Katniss has to act joyfully and blissful, she can do that but it’s nothing we don’t expect from a person that is a very much the same. It’s when she has to portray despair, fear and the really raw emotion. Perhaps not Michael Fassbender’s breakdown in The Counsellor with snot smearing his face like a Jackson Pollock painting, but a medium. This issue probably falls on the script and poor directing for not really exploring her to give J.Law some form of platform. Peter, or the incompetent way of spelling it – ‘Peeta’ (Josh Hutcherson) is a fairly standard role. With very little context to him, he’s once again left out by a weak script that makes him look like a giant pussy. The rest are fairly standard, Liam Hemsworth decided he’d tag along and take a bit more time on screen but then just blends back into the ether for the rest of the film. Philip Sermour Hoffman is probably the strongest of the cast, he powers through the lines and enjoys to play a game like a cunning fox, throwing you from pillar to post wondering what he’d do next and redeem himself for playing both sides of the fence.
With all of it’s flaws, the film is better than it’s predecessor. Not massively but a little better. Created for teens, I may just be an old git. The overall will probably be a 7/10. The script is weak and reflects on everyone. Without the aggression, you never feel the rush of excitement that is a foundation for anything action. A few of the FX were weak and I just longed for more from a production of it’s size.
Sorry for the chaotic review. I’ve been procrastinating all week and it’s a bit of a mess so I could get a review up for Saving Mr Banks tomorrow!