Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dark Phoenix (2019)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Marvel and TSG Entertainment

Dark Phoenix – Film Review

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp

Director: Simon Kinberg

Synopsis: After a mission in space goes awry, a deadly cosmic force connects with the powerful Jean Grey creating an unstoppable force that threatens to have deadly consequences for mutants and humanity alike…

Review: Fox’s X Men franchise was for a time, the pinnacle of superhero films in the 2000s, at least before the genesis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet even as the MCU grew, Fox remained undeterred and, even with a few misfires, produced some outstanding superhero showdowns. However, with the deal to bring Fox under the Disney/Marvel umbrella now officially complete, this franchise is now coming to its conclusion. Though there is one more entry to come before the passing of the torch, this represents one final opportunity for the franchise to go out with a bang, but unfortunately it fizzles out into nothing.

Eight years after the events of the Apocalypse, the X-Men are summoned to a space mission that has gone badly wrong, leaving the lives of the astronauts in serious peril. During the rescue mission, a cosmic force of unknown power latches itself onto Jean Grey, creating the very powerful Dark Phoenix. Upon touching back down on Earth, though everything seems to initially be fine, trouble begins to brew and the X-Men must try and contain Jean’s power before she becomes too powerful for any of them to stop.

For every high that this franchise has experienced, there has always been a crushing disappointment, and sadly Dark Phoenix falls into the latter category, which given its troubled production, shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Things started off brightly when we first met these characters, though in the wake of the underwhelming Apocalypse, this continues that downward trajectory. For a story that is very popular in the comics, and one that has already been attempted before in The Last Stand, writer/director Simon Kinberg efforts to translate it for the big screen fall completely flat. It has a promising start, but once the Phoenix is born, the plot meanders along, only occasionally perking up every now and again to deliver an action scene, which while exciting, is not nearly enough given what we know this series is capable of.

One thing these films absolutely got right was the casting of the younger versions of these characters. James McAvoy is once again excellent as Xavier, being that father figure presence. Though he doesn’t get nearly enough material to work with, Michael Fassbender is solid once again as Magneto. Though, Jennifer Lawrence has definitely had better moments in the blue of Mystique. The key player here is Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, she does a sterling job conveying the pain and anguish that her character is experiencing at that moment in time, but her arc definitely had room for improvement.  Jessica Chastain’s presence  as a villain adds nothing substantial to the plot. Her motivations are threadbare and she’s just not intimidating enough to be taken seriously, a scandalous waste of her immense acting talents.

With the future of this franchise now in the hands of the folks running the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans were probably hoping for the franchise to sign off in spectacular flaming glory. The potential was there, but even with the talents of all these actors, and another excellent score from Hans Zimmer, it’s just not realised. The great journey that we have been on these characters started off well, but they didn’t get the send off that they would have wanted. It’s a real shame that the penultimate entry in this iteration of the X-Men franchise flickers briefly before being extinguished with a whimper.

Another attempt at this iconic story is regretfully another misfire, thanks to some lacklustre performances, stilted dialogue and a very tedious plot. This is one phoenix that won’t be rising from the ashes any time soon.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Red Sparrow (2018)

Image is property of TSG Entertainment, Chernin Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Red Sparrow  – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: A Russian ballerina is enrolled into a top secret programme that trains its recruits to become highly skilled agent known as Sparrows. Her primary target quickly becomes a CIA agent who is in possession of some top secret information.

Review: The United States of America and Russia,  two countries with an extremely murky history. A history that teased the terrifying prospect of nuclear conflict that lasted the best part of the 20th century. As such, it opens the door for filmmakers and storytellers to tap into this relationship of sorts between these two countries and how that may develop in the years to come. Mix that in with elements of espionage and seduction, and you have the materials to make a dark and unsettling espionage thriller.

Yet despite ticking all these boxes, there is something about Red Sparrow that just never  hits the mark. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Jason Matthews, it’s intriguing premise offers much, but the hope that this intriguing premise would deliver a compelling story feels really misguided. Marking his first project since completing the Hunger Games franchise, Francis Lawrence has reunited with his Hunger Games collaborator Jennifer Lawrence (no relation) to tell this story of Dominika. A gifted Russian ballerina who suffers a devastating accident which destroys her career as a ballerina. Unsure as to what she should do next, she is pushed into the direction of the Sparrow programme, and it’s from this moment, her life will never be the same again.

The trailers certainly made the movie look as though it was going to be an intriguing espionage thriller, yet sadly it really is not all that thrilling. The screenplay by Justin Hythe certainly offers up an intriguing first act, including some very dark scenes that could have taken the story in a very interesting direction. However, it all quickly fizzles away into insignificance before long. A story with this premise should not be this mediocre, but several scenes just meander and it all becomes just not very interesting to watch. The actual plot itself is extremely convoluted, and it all just gets a little bit messy.  There’s some impressive camerawork involving the moment her ballerina prospects go up in flames, but there’s not much else to shout about, which is frustrating given some of the work we have seen from Lawrence as a director (see Catching Fire).

Lawrence has shown that since she hung up her bow as Katniss that she can take on a variety of different roles and make them her own. Her performance is admirable as she tries to hold the film on her shoulders, but the extremely lacklustre material she has been given to work with prevents her from doing so. Though her accent does slip on occasions, she gives comfortably the strongest performance. The rest of this very talented cast are by and large either extremely under-utilised or not given enough development to really make the audience care for them. Edgerton is perhaps the only exception, but even then the development he gets is thin, at best. Meanwhile, other actors such as Jeremy Irons seem really miscast in their roles.

The chemistry between Lawrence and Edgerton is serviceable, but it could and really should have been so much stronger given the talent of the actors. The plot is so convoluted that by the time the credits begin to play, you’ll be wondering if it was worth it, and the answer sadly, is probably not.

An intriguing premise, thrown away on an extremely convoluted and messy plot, combined with very bland and forgettable characters, all of which results in an extremely disappointing finished product.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

mother! (2017)

Image is property of Paramount Pictures and Protozoa Pictures

mother! – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Synopsis: A married couple are in the middle of redecorating their home, living a quiet peaceful life, yet when some uninvited guests show up, their tranquil  lifestyle is changed forever…

Review: The wonder of film is that it can generate a considerable array of responses among audiences. A film can be inspirational viewing, it can leave you speechless in shock, it can make you very angry, and it can leave you wondering what on earth you just watched, leaving you thinking about the film for days afterwards. In the case of Darren Aronofsky, here’s a director who is not afraid to make some psychologically damaging stories that leave their mark on their audiences.

In his latest film, Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a wife and husband, neither of whom are really properly identified, known only as Mother and Him respectively. In a large house that is far too big for just the two of them, they live in quiet harmony with Mother decorating their house while Him is a poet, struggling to find his muse. However, their peaceful existence is ruined when a guest, Man (Harris) turns up unannounced. Mother is uncertain, but Him welcomes this visitor into their home. And when Man’s wife shows up (Pfeiffer) this is where everything gets really sinister.

To say this film is strange would be a severe understatement. Aronofsky reportedly wrote the screenplay in five days, which could imply that the story maybe a bit rushed, but this is for the most part, not the case. Though a slow burn in the initial act, once the guests start to arrive is when things go south very quickly. Right from the first shot, the tone is creepy and sinister with some very vivid imagery, and metaphors that can be open to many different interpretations. Be warned, some of the imagery is macabre,and deeply unsettling at times. The very unequivocal undertone that is at the centre of this story will either infuriate or mesmerise, as is evident by the boos and cheers that greeted the movie in equal measure at its Venice Film Festival debut. Divisive in every sense of the word.

With her Hunger Games days now long behind her, Jennifer Lawrence continues to show her considerable acting credentials by giving a haunting , wounded performance, an Oscar nomination wouldn’t feel out of place. She is front and centre of the film, we witness many of the horrors in this film from her perspective. Bardem has shown in the past that he can portray a terrific villain but here, he’s a bit more nuanced, but still also gives an unsettling performance given the role he plays in the developing horror that we witness in this film. The rest of the cast also do their best to add to the ensuing tension, and that makes said tension almost palpable.

Aronofsky helms the film in a way that makes it deeply unsettling to watch, which is clearly what he was going for. The camerawork certainly helps to build the tension. However, the screenplay is so engaging it will ensure that you will be transfixed by the events you see on screen, and equally aghast. Yet at the same time, there’s something so intriguing behind the themes and ideas that drive this film. With metaphors about a plethora of topics aplenty, Aronofsky has made something that certainly will not be to everyone’s taste. Nevertheless, what he has crafted has ensured it will be dissected and analysed at films schools for years and years to come, and that’s no mean achievement.

You will probably either love it or hate it, bold but dark and unsettling storytelling with two haunted performances at its heart, a film that will leave a lasting impression on its audience, for better or for worse.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

X Men: Apocalypse (2016)

xmen apocalypse
All image rights belong to 20th Century Fox, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Entertainment and Bad Hat Harry Productions

X Men: Apocalypse – Film Review

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, Oscar Isaac, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn

Director: Bryan Singer

Synopsis: After awakening from a multiple millennium long sleep, the world’s first mutant En Sabur Nur otherwise known as Apocalypse finds himself in the 1980s and seeks to bring about human extinction, and Charles Xavier and the X Men must stop him.

Review: Despite the nine films we have now had in this franchise, the events of 2014’s Days of Future Past scrambled those timelines for good and effectively erasing all the X Men films from existence, with the exception of 2011’s First Class. The reboot that set the wheels in motion for this new trilogy and the new direction that the franchise is heading. The first X Men trilogy certainly had after two great instalments, an ignominious third chapter is probably the reason the whole franchise got rebooted to get to where we are now. After two spectacular entries to the new trilogy, one could have hoped for that brilliant third chapter, yet sadly, the latest instalment once again falls short of matching the great quality of the films that came before it.

This isn’t to say that Bryan Singer’s latest venture into the world of mutants is anything like the car crash that was The Last Stand, it certainly has its moments, but there are problems too. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender having firmly established themselves in their roles as Professor X and Magneto bring very credible and powerful performances to the mix. For Magneto in particular when it looks as things are looking up for him in a new life, it isn’t long before it all goes very badly wrong. While she doesn’t give her strongest performance as Mystique, Jennifer Lawrence, also brings some solid acting to the mix.  Without doubt one of the highlights of Days of Future Past was Quicksilver’s moment of brilliance. He has a similar scene here, and it is fun to watch him in action, but it’s nowhere near as glorious as his moment in Days of Future Past.

Of the newcomers, by far the biggest stand-out is that of Sophie Turner’s young Jean Grey, a perfect casting choice as she gives off that vulnerability but extraordinary power that we saw from Famke Jensen in the first two X Men films, with her love interest Cyclops now played by Tye Sheridan. The two of them share a connection over their powers and it is exciting to see where this could go. Similarly Kodi Smit-McPhee gives an excellent performance as a young Nightcrawler. The script by Simon Kinberg does give each of these characters to flesh out their characters, but this isn’t applicable to every mutant.

Yet when it comes to the villains, this is where the film REALLY loses its way. Oscar Isaac may have been an inspired choice to play the titular villain as he’s fast becoming a very prolific and great actor. Yet frustratingly, his performance while having its menacing moments, does feel somewhat underwhelming in a similar vein to Ultron in last years’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is supposedly the most powerful mutant to have ever existed and he is nowhere near as menacing as he could and perhaps should be. This frustration extends to his horseman, Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto. With the exception of Magneto, their motivations are not entirely made clear and they are also given very little material to work with and flesh out their characters, unlike the younger mutants who are fighting for the X Men.

The plot is a little bit disjointed and messy in terms of its pacing at times, and there is one side arc that arguably could have just been cut out of the film altogether, although it is quite possible that it was there to help set up a future X Men film down the line. The CGI remains of a decent standard and the action scenes in particular the final throw down are enjoying to watch, but they are nowhere near as enthralling as those that were helmed by Vaughn in First Class and by Singer himself in Days of Future Past. Thus ultimately this was a real missed opportunity for Singer to make a film worthy to its two predecessors and to cement itself as a great X Men trilogy. The film’s extensive cast all certainly give their all, but with so many characters all vying for screen time, some do get left in the shadows of the great Egyptian pyramid that Apocalypse emerged from.

McAvoy and Fassbender bring the best performances, and a handful of new performances shine, but the underwhelming villain mean this doesn’t match the quality of Days of Future Past.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

X Men First Class (2011)

xmen first class
Image righrs belong to Marvel Entertainment, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Production, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners and 20th Century Fox

X Men – First Class Film Review

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon, January Jones

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Synopsis: In the middle of the Cold War, the US government seeks the help of a young Charles Xavier aided by a young Erik Lensherr, to stop the rise of Sebastian Shaw, a mutant hell bent on mutant supremacy, and human extinction.

Review: When we were first introduced to characters such as Professor X, Mystique, Magneto and the rest of the X Men crew back in 2000, they were already well established as seasoned mutant veterans, and the battle lines were already firmly drawn particularly between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr with very different ideologies. However, the origins of that rivalry were ultimately not explored in a substantial amount of detail in the original trilogy. What made them into the enemies that they ultimately become? Matthew Vaughn after directing the brilliant Kick Ass, has the answers to the questions with this prequel tale of the story that was set in motion by Bryan Singer.

It is the 1960s, and we meet a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) , with a head full of hair and not wheelchair bound, and his loyal friend Raven (Jennifer Lawrence by his side. Through circumstances and the plucky wit of CIA Agent Moira McTaggert, they come across the brilliant but somewhat warped Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon.) Shaw is a firm believer of mutant superiority and that mutants are the next step of the evolution process. His methods and madness certainly play on the mind of Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) who is hunting Shaw with a vengeance after some brutal tests that he carried out on him when Erik was a teenager. Through circumstances, the two cross paths and become allies in their fight to take Shaw down. But of course there is a very obvious difference between the two men in terms of their philosophy, and despite their initial friendship, the cracks begin to show.

With a whole new cast of mutants we had grown to love over the course of the original trilogy, this new crop had a great challenge on their hands, and thankfully they all came through in flying colours, particularly from McAvoy and Fassbender. McAvoy gives the younger Xavier a youthful spirit and while he remains the incredibly powerful mutant he is, he clearly loves life and cherishes those closes to him, specifically Raven, played by Jennifer Lawrence. After Rebecca Romijin’s great work with the blue skinned mutant, but Lawrence manages to give the character terrific depth as she struggles to decide where her place in the world really lies. Fassbender’s Lensherr is a man driven by hatred and revenge after some deep personal tragedy, and his performance is also incredibly powerful. It’s the work of these three that ultimately helps drive the movie forward, in particular the relationship between Charles and Erik, added with a very fine cameo from everyone’s favourite claw wielding mutant. Yet there’s a plethora of new mutants on show, and not all of them get a chance to shine which is a bit bothersome to say the least.

After showing his hand in the superhero genre with Kick Ass, Vaughn does a tremendous job once again. The screenplay that Vaughn penned with Jane Goldman along with Zack Stenz and Ashley Edward Miller goes deep into what it means to be a mutant. Are they superior to us weak and pathetic human beings, or should they be a part of society. And for some, they want to just hide away altogether. Vaughn knows how to handle the big action scenes and once again he delivers some gripping moments, with the final throw down in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis conflict is enthralling to the maximum. After suffering a few trips, this prequel gave the franchise a welcome return to form, no doubt leaving fans Xstatic and keen to see more!

With exciting performances from the new cast, especially from McAvoy and Fassbender, combined with some expert direction and action sequences, the franchise returned with a triumph!

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver-Linings-Playbook-Poster
Image rights belong to The Weinstein Company

Silver Linings Playbook – Film Review

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver, Chris Tucker

Director: David O Russell

Synopsis: As a former mental institution patient moves back in with his parents and seeks to make amends and rebuild his life, he comes into contact with a woman who has also been battling her own problems.

Review: You would think that if you were about to sit down and watch a film about someone having emerged from a mental institution seeking to turn his fortunes around in life, then said film would struggle to find its feet and its voice as a comedy, with very few laughs. Well you couldn’t have been more wrong, because in the capable hands of screenwriter and director David O Russell, adapting from the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, this romantic comedy packs plenty of heart, drama and unsurprisingly comedy into its 2 hour run time, and it does all this extremely effectively.

Pat Solitano (Cooper) is a man who has just come out of a mental institution after seeing his marriage hit the rocks and fall apart. But after his release, he is looking up, and feeling confident of making amends and moving forward. This is until he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a woman who is going through her own set of problems. When she comes onto the scene, things begin to take an interesting turn as these two begin to realise that they have a lot more in common than they care to think.

After the success that was his 2010 film, The Fighter, a film with a tremendously strong cast, Russell again manages to put together  another very strong cast all of whom excel in their roles. You have Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver as Pat’s wacky parents who are doing their best to help Pat rebuild his life, with a surprisingly funny and effective performance from Chris Tucker too. Yet, it is the performances of our two leaders in Cooper and Lawrence that truly steal the show. Their chemistry together is electric to watch and they have more than a few very memorable scenes together, with one scene in a diner standing out by far among many terrific scenes.

The film became the first film since 1981 to secure nominations in all four acting categories, and was the first since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby to be nominated for the Big Five Oscars. Lawrence was the only one to secure a trophy, and to be fair, she is the true star of the show. She manages to blend crazy antics and real heart and emotion into her performance. All of the performances are of such a very high standard, you could almost think that you weren’t actually watching a film, but real life instead. In the same year that she shot to stardom with The Hunger Games, Lawrence proved to the world that she is a force to be reckoned with, something that she is still demonstrating today. While Cooper didn’t take home the statue, his work was equally electrifying, and arguably to this day ranks as a career best performance. If it had not been for a sublime performance from Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, he might have won a statue himself.

The screenplay by Russell is equally terrific. Of course there are some dark moments that goes without saying, but there are plenty of funny and dramatic moments as well, and they all work. He manages to fuse all of these elements into the story very successfully and the story is very compelling to watch. There are highs but there are plenty of very low lows and you feel for all of the characters, as they are extremely well developed. But as the film makes a lot of effort to point out, every cloud has a silver lining, and in the case of this film, that silver lining is despite the somewhat dark subject matter, it produced one hell of a good movie that’s extremely entertaining to watch, and definitely ranks as one of Russell’s best movies.

Acted to perfection, with star performances from Cooper and especially Lawrence, with a terrific screenplay that packs heart and comedy aplenty.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Joy (2015)

joy
Image is property of  Fox 2000 Pictures, Davis Entertainment Company, Annapurna Pictures, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Joy – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd

Director: David O Russell

Synopsis: An account of the life of Joy Mangano, and her journey as an inventor and entrepreneur, with her main invention, the Miracle Mop.

Review: To become a very successful entrepreneur, a person would need a lot of charisma, determination and a relentless desire to succeed, as well as having an obvious passion for the product or products they are hoping to bring to the market. But if you happen to have a somewhat dysfunctional family life, and find things going wrong here there and everywhere, it would almost certainly make the challenges even harder than they already would be. These are the challenges that face Joy as she aims to revolutionise the market with her invention the Miracle Mop.

A mother who refuses to get off her bed and does nothing but watch TV, ex-husband living in the basement, deadbeat dad, as well as a mother to two children, Joy has just about everything she could going against her, but through all of this, she does possess that relentlessness, that desire, and that belief in her product, and it ensures that David O Russell’s third team up with Jennifer Lawrence as the titular character is an interesting watch, but it is not all plain sailing for Joy as she bids to get her product to market, things go wrong, a lot of the time. Yet that belief and will to succeed persists her to keep going in spite of the adversity she does go through is extremely uplifting.

As she has been in her last two links up with Russell, Jennifer Lawrence is once again excellent in the main role. She possess the aforementioned charisma and relentlessness in abundance, and it’s her performance that drives the plot forward, because except for a kind of comical performance from Robert DeNiro, the majority rest of the cast are just not interesting or engaging enough for the audience to really care about. There is one exception to this, that of Bradley Cooper’s character who does a massive favour for Joy, but even then his screen time is fairly limited. This is once again the Jennifer Lawrence show, and she clearly thrives under the direction of David O Russell. It’s by no means her strongest performance under Russell’s tutelage but it ensured another Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

Yet it does not have the emotional punch that the likes of The Fighter or Silver Linings Playbook had, or the brilliant ensemble cast that American Hustle boasted, with that awesome humour. The film takes its time to really get things going in the beginning, the film doesn’t quite know where it really wants to go, and is a little bit messy when it comes to its script and direction. Is it a happy film, or is it a sad film? In reality it’s probably a bit of both. Once it finds its spark, however it runs with it, and by the end there is some satisfying closure. Yet the build up in getting there was frustratingly slow. Although the film’s title is clearly referring to the main character and not the emotion, there’s not a lot of joyfulness to be found here.

A strong lead performance by Lawrence, but the film is bogged down by a lack of connection for the rest of the cast, as well as a real inconsistency in terms of the film’s tone and direction. 

b

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015)

mockingjay2
Image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: The war in Panem reaches its climax, as Katniss and her team, along with all of the districts of Panem prepare to launch a full out assault on the Capitol and President Snow, and to bring an end to tyranny that has plagued them for over 75 years.

Review: Another year, and another curtain falls for the (possible) last time an incredibly popular franchise, The Hunger Games. While many may feel this should have happened twelve months ago after the first part of Mockingjay, which while solid left fans a little bit wanting, as there was an aching desire for a lot more in the way of action. This closing instalment does bring said action, in considerable quantities. Yet it’s not all plain sailing, although for the most part, the odds are in the favour of this franchise.

Picking up where we left off, Katniss despite almost being murdered at the end of the last film, is preparing for her long awaited attack on the Capitol to hunt and kill President Snow. Very little time is wasted as the assembled crew battle their way into Panem and have to negotiate some sinister traps. Like in Catching Fire, director Francis Lawrence helms the action sequences extremely well and on the whole they do provide some exciting and nervy scenes as the team negotiate the mire that is the Capitol’s deserted and almost wasteland like streets. Yet for all the intense drama, there are a number of really impactful moments that hit hard in the book. Yet when put on the big screen, they are not as nearly as emotional or hard hitting as they should have been. We’ve spent three films with some of these characters, the emotional pay off should amount to more than it does.

Being the Oscar winner she is, a good Jennifer Lawrence performance is almost a given, and of course she’s as excellent as she has been right throughout the franchise’s beginnings. She clearly is carrying that deep trauma that has been effecting her by the events of the first three films, but at the same time she maintains that steely determination to carry out her goal “to make Snow pay for what he’s done.” Yet for Lawrence’s brilliance, the rest of the cast are not given much of a platform to shine, and some do get lost in the sea of the makeshift games of the Capitol. The cast is extensive with plenty of considerable talent in there from some of Hollywood’s biggest names, but not many show their quality, and in those rare moments that they do, it is fleeting, gone before it had a chance to really show itself.

You can tell that the film-makers were looking to honour the book in every way they can, and full credit for them for attempting that. However this extreme loyalty to the book means that the script unfortunately does suffer in places, with some very slow moments that drag on for longer than they need to. This gives weight to those who argued that the film should never have been split into two parts, and on the evidence of this final film, they may have a point. It’s not the fiery and astounding conclusion that some may have hoped for. However, there is still plenty here for hardcore fans to enjoy. The odds have been in their favour from the franchise’s beginning and it ends the series on a satisfying note.

An improvement on the first part, Part 2 delivers the action the fans were hoping to see, but there are shades of the problems that bogged down Part 1, while some of the important events do not have that emotional punch that they ought to.

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

Mockingjay
Image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – Film Review 

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis:  Following her rescue from the Hunger Games arena, Katniss finds herself in the unknown District 13, where she has to decide if she wants to take a stand against the Capitol, and become the Mockingjay and the symbol of hope…

Review: One inevitable fact of life is that when movies adapted from a series of books are adapted for the big screen, the last book is going to be split up into two movies. Harry Potter and Twilight did it, and Divergent will also follow suit. While it may be hard to look at this decision as anything more than a money related one, if the movies themselves deliver enough content to leave the viewer satisfied, then all is right with the world. With this first part, it feels like an elongated starter before we reach the excitement of the main course.

With Katniss being rescued from the 75th Hunger Games and arriving in the unknown District 13,  the initial focus is on her dealing with the events of the last movie. Her home has been destroyed, her best friend captured, and having to decide whether or not to become the Mockingjay, the leader who will take down the evil Capitol and the cold President Snow (no pun intended.) The film focuses on her psychological struggles, dealing with everything she’s been through and at the same time see the two sides using propaganda to try and rally people to their cause with her being the key piece in the puzzle for the rebellion. The propaganda does provide some compelling viewing with a particularly emotive and powerful scene at a lake, but there is a desire to get to the action scenes that you know are brewing.

The film is not devoid of action, and there are some great scenes to get the heart pumping, but they are over before they have had a chance to really get going. The main focus of the film is on the propaganda and the political speeches and in that we get a new angle on the story that we have not seen before. The Games themselves are now old news,  the brewing war between the Capitol and the Districts is the bigger picture of the story, and those who have read the books know what is coming. This part could have very easily fallen flat due to the surplus in action but it is held up by the scheming and the propaganda which is riveting to see. On top of this, it provides a beautiful piece of cinema with a song performed by Katniss herself, which is a nice companion piece to the film’s excellent soundtrack.

Jennifer Lawrence, is once again the driving force of the film. The Oscar winner shows the horrible Katniss struggles and her determination to save her family in the face of sheer horror and desolation make for some gripping moments. The audience has grown with her over these last two movies and she’s the one you really care about. With the majority of the rest of the characters, there is not the same level of connection and in that some of the characters do feel expendable. The one new character that stands out is Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin. As the charismatic leader of District 13, it is her task to rally the rebels and prepare for war, and she does this with great aplomb.  Of course the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman remains on form as former Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, as he did throughout his illustrious career. The acting on the whole remains solid from everyone else, but with all the build up and the political subtext we have, there is just not enough action to leave the viewer satisfied.

A step down from the highs of Catching Fire but there is enough in this instalment of this popular franchise to keep your attention. With Lawrence remaining as solid as ever in her role as Katniss, the odds are definitely in our favour for an action packed conclusion to this franchise.

b

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

X Men- Days of Future Past (2014)

DOFP
Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment and Bad Hat Harry Productions

X Men Days of Future Past Film Review 

Cast:  James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Nicholas Hoult,  Ellen Page, Evan Peters.

Director: Bryan Singer

Synopsis: In an apocalyptic future, with humanity enslaved and the X Men on the brink of extinction. Wolverine is sent back into the past in an attempt to change the future and prevent the extermination of all mutant kind.

Review: With the original trilogy of X Men films that came out in the 2000s, and the 2011 prequel X Men First Class, as well as the two Wolverine stand alone films. There were two different  timelines of this popular franchise with different casts.  Two loose ends that needed tying up. They were tied up and the end result is an enthralling combination of both of these timelines as past and future collide in epic proportions with the triumphant return of the man who launched this universe way back in 2000.

That man, Mr Bryan Singer has pulled out of the bag the best X Men movie that has been put to screen, whilst at the same time erasing the wrongdoings that went down in his absence (cough, The Last Stand). The amalgamation of both the First Class storyline and the present day X Men storyline is a master-stroke, and full credit for that must go to screenplay writer Simon Kinberg. Under Singer’s direction these two sets of actors, both of which are all exceptionally talented, go all out .Every one of them give excellent performances from the veterans like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, to new recruits such as Fan BingBing as Blink.

The mutant race is facing a dire threat in the form of the Sentinels who are coming to eradicate them. The mutants, past and future alike must stand together to avoid the extinction of all mutant kind. The real scene stealers come from The First Class cast, but the original cast are by no means out of their depth. One of the stand out performances comes from James McAvoy as the young Xavier. He is at his lowest low after his fall out with Magneto and must be urged to come to the fore once again. First Class really humanised the wise Professor X, and with Days of Future Past, that carries on.

Similarly as the young Magneto, Michael Fassbender, has similar grievances with Xavier and once again these two men clash. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has had a tendency to stand out in previous X Men movies and while he is central to this story, and he is still a really cool character, he’s outshone on this occasion by the younger versions of Magneto and Professor X.  Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique is another character who takes it up a gear. Her role in this movie requires here to be a lot more of a badass when compared to her role previously, and she pulls it off well.

With the old cast, they are not in the movie as much as their First Class counterparts, they feel somewhat underused, and some only make fleeting appearances. Likewise with the new selection of mutants, there are some exciting action scenes with these new characters, but they are almost over before they really get going. Yet with the central action of the film being focused on the events surrounding the First Class cast, it is understandable why the original cast have comparatively little screen time. With one scene involving one new character that you WILL remember once you have left the cinema.

The main antagonist in the form of Bolivar Trask, the man who created the Sentinels and brilliantly played by Peter Dinklage. While his motives are not completely clear, he nevertheless he gives an excellent performance. The action here is not quite as intense as First Class. The battle is not being waged right in the middle of the Cuban Missile crisis, but it gives it a great run for its money with a superb final showdown taking place in Washington DC.

Time travel films can be horrifically inconsistent if they are done badly, and plot holes can be found in abundance. Luckily with this film that is just simply not the case. The story is solid and it is very well done with excellent directing and great execution. It makes you care about all the characters and they all provide memorable performances. It breathes new life back into the old franchise that suffered a regretful fate following X Men 3. Furthermore, the franchise returned with a bang following First Class and with Days of Future Past, it is clear that this particular line of comic book superheroes still has a lot of Xciting things going for it!

With such a large cast of old and new, it means some characters do not have a large amount of screen time. However with Singer’s return, the amalgamation of these two franchises results in the best X Men film that has ever been made. 

a