Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part I Review

As far as adaptations of YA novels go, Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games series stands on the very pedestal that many strive to reach. Since its introduction to adoring fans, a whole new generation has begun, with the representation of war and loss presented for a younger audience to embrace and digest. With such success also comes expectation, and with the third film in the series, The Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part I arriving, those anticipation levels have hit a peak.
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has survived the Hunger Games Quarter Quell and is now immersed in a rebellion that thrusts her front and centre as the beacon of hope. As Panem's very own Mockingjay, Katniss is the very spirit whose defiance against the Capitol and President Snow has sparked a fightback and ultimately a revolution. Driven by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) she must rally the troops, provide propaganda videos and fight the good fight to finally free the people of the despicable forces currently in charge.
That doesn't come lightly though, with Katniss far from devoid of her own troubles on a personal level. Haunted by the traumatic two Hunger Games she has competed in, Katniss is riddled by nightmares and feels almost removed from those around her. Add to that her concern for Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) - currently within the clutch of Snow - and a man who loves her on a different level to her own emotions in Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss is going to require plenty of steel to get through these difficult and testing times.
It can often be a risky move in making a drastic change in tone in a franchise but in Mockingjay this shift in focus is utterly justified as we move on from the Games of the title to much more grounded and affecting territory. The bigger picture of Collins' series is focused on war and the consequences of battle and this is captured none moreso than in Francis Lawrence's return to bring to life her next page turner.
Gone are the colourful, vibrant costumes of the opening ceremonies, the glamour of the contestant quarters and everything in between, all replaced by a grey pallet. A world thrust into
rebellion and war, a rubble-filled series of districts plagued by violence and destruction; one that is simply exquisite in its detail and powerful in its presentation. Lawrence has a strong world to represent and in visiting various Districts creates some hugely emotive and flooring scenes and imagery. Rubble, bodies and remains all combine to leave the audience with a striking realisation that this is a world in turmoil and never far away from conflict.

That feeling also emanates throughout as another spellbinding performance from Jennifer Lawrence comes to fruition. Her execution as a war-trodden, plagued Katniss is a sheer delight and connects on every level. Whether interacting with her family (favourably increased this time round), breaking down at the state of Peeta on the television or facing the brutality she has to come face-to-face with, Lawrence conveys the emotional impact with great gusto.

Lawrence isn't the only guiding light as her comrades and support cast all present additional favourable elements to the film. Gale's chunkier role this time around proves Hemsworth possesses a great likeability, while both Moore and the late Hoffman bring forth the authorative figures brilliantly. The return of the likes of Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson will no doubt

delight and provide some well-timed laughs and Donald Sutherland continues to induce fear and loathing as he takes Snow to another level. Put quite simply, this is a dream cast that contains too many exceptional performances to mention in one analysis.

Fans of the book will also feel wholly satisfied with the end product, with only slight alterations to the source material, but little to deter from the story they have been privy to. In fact, the conclusion to the film will no doubt leave everyone aghast and the inclusion of a Godzilla-esque rescue sequence will have even seasoned readers of the book edging towards the corner of their seat. Such changes are necessary and work to great effect throughout.

Mockingjay - Part I is a great removal from the two outings we have journeyed through previously and the tonal shift is superbly executed. Lawrence and co once again prove that this is one of the most consistent and all-round compelling franchises in recent times, and there's little denying this trumps its predecessors. Gritty, affecting and enthralling, Francis Lawrence has done it once again and delivered one of the blockbusters of the year. 

Film Rating: 5 F's out of 5

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

5 Reasons Why The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Is Worth Your Attention

Of all the comic book properties to hit the big screen it seems that a critical eye heads towards Spider-Man more often than not in recent times. Marc Webb's reincarnation of Peter Parker's webbed wonder was criticised for its 'recycled' elements and a villain whose appearance and presence were less than favourable.

Enter The Amazing Spider-Man 2, a chance at redemption and to iron out the creases in that unitard and seal the deal for an ever-expanding universe. Still subject to some critical response, the sequel, set for its DVD and Blu-Ray release, possesses plenty to shout about. 

Don't believe me? Then enjoy five reasons why I think it could catch you in its glorious web.

Out of the darkness into the light
Unlike its predecessor, TASM2 boasts a largely colourful tone, sticking faithful to its comic book origins with a resplendent foray of bright and bold animations that feel all so true to its origins. With Spider-Man himself improved visually, plus Jamie Foxx's Electro sending volts of energy and visual flair to the film, it's hard to deny this is one of the most vibrant and true to its source comic book outing.

Spider-Man humours us
Humour is a big part of Spider-Man's personality and we finally witnessed this as the one-liners and visual comedy came flying at us at a pace that even Our Spidey sense would have struggled with. From an opening chase scene littered with hilarious gags aimed towards Paul Giamatti's Aleksei Sytsevich, to subtle exchanges between Peter and Gwendoline, this saw an exit from the darkness of the previous film into much more illustrated territory.

A love that lights up the screen
If there's one thing that can be said for Marc Webb is that he knows how to nail an on-screen relationship, namely Peter and Gwendoline. Admittedly aided by their real-life partnership, this is a love that blossoms with every frame and fills our hearts with warmth. The awkwardness that oozes charm, the simmering tension and the constant reminder that they simply cannot be without one another, this is a love story that demands your support and certainly grips you with both hands and never let's go. 

Fears of villain overload quelled
Spider-Man 3 saw a barrage of complaints over its over-indulgence in villains and a failure to execute them sufficiently and that fear extended to this sequel. Indeed, how could Electro, Rhino, Green Goblin and an inclusion of Sinister Six rumblings co-exist? Thankfully, Webb was not ready to take that pitfall and balanced his tyrannical figures with great ease, neither rushing their progression nor over-elaborate in their presentation. Electro sizzled, Green Goblin teased greater dangers and the Sinister Six were poised for birth...

Zimmer excels yet again
It's easy for many to forget the impact of personnel on films whose involvement is for no-one to see. Nevertheless, one man who guarantees he will be heard is Hans Zimmer, and once again the man himself produces an exceptional soundtrack worthy of plaudits. From the game-changing use of dubstep to hammer home the appearance of Electro, to the softer tender musical accompaniment to Peter and Gwen's scenes, Zimmer and his ensemble prove the perfect individuals to add that extra spark to an already electrifying movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from 1st September.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Cinema Review - The Wolf Of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese's directorial career has spanned no less than 4 decades, in which he has presented to audiences a rich array of powerful stories, enigmatic characters and simply scintillating cinematic adventures that are more than often unmatched. A man who possesses a filmography that speaks for itself, Scorsese knows no limits to his creations, and The Wolf Of Wall Street is one cinematic entry that will once again live long in the memory.

Based on the true life story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, The Wolf Of Wall Street follows the young go-getter (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he heads into the bullpen and tackles one of the toughest and meanest industries known to man. Introduced immediately by cocaine-snorting, money-lusting Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey), Jordan soon finds himself at the heart of proceedings as he loses his job, but then finds his drive and determination resuting in his own company and a whole wealth of opportunities.

Banding together a team that includes best friend Donnie (Jonah Hill), a man whose white teeth are as unsettling as his marriage to his cousin, his eccentric father (a brilliant Rob Reiner) and many others, Jordan finds excitement in robbing from people to line the pockets of himself and his employees. As the game reaps the ultimate rewards and Jordan marries the beautiful Naomi (Margot Robbie), the authorities close in, with Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) turning his sights on taking down Belfort once and for all.

If you're not too fond of violence, drug-abuse, sex and explicit language then you may want to turn away now; if not, then you're in for a treat of the Martin Scorsese masterpiece kind. We all know Marty has served up some truly remarkable films in his esteemed directorial career, and now the man himself serves up on a silver platter yet another to have you singing from the rooftops.

The praise for the film comes from every corner; at the heart is the man whose stretch without an Oscar is perplexing as it is infuriating, and once again Leonardo DiCaprio proves he is one of the best leading men in the business. Arrogant, lustful and outrageous, his portrayal of Jordan Belfort is one that will stick long in the memory. Whether it be his over-enthusiasm for cocaine, his constant sex drive or the moment he loses all control of his body in one of the most hilarious drug-fuelled scenes you will have ever seen, Leo has it all and deserves all the accolades under the sun.

That too can be said of his extremely well-crafted supporting cast. Jonah Hill strikes a chord yet again with both his dramatic and comedic credentials, director Rob Reiner proves he is just as good in front of the camera as he is behind it, and former Neighbours star Margot Robbie adds her name to the list of desriable actresses around today with a sultry and unforgettable performance.

It's not just the actors who are in top form here. The double-act of Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winter are simply electric. While Marty whisks us frantically through the bullpen, has Leo talking directly to us down the lens, and serves up a multitude of simply breathtaking scenes, Winter, known for his work on The Sopranos, brings to us a script littered with the most profanities in one film, yet wholly justified, and combined with such slick and engaging dialogue that it really feels like you are in the thick of it. 

The Wolf Of Wall Street, like its main protagonist, is a one of a kind beast; it's a dirty, filthy, foul-mouthed piece of work and the better for it!

Film Rating: 5 F's out of 5