The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is not meaty enough

A Review by Brenda Daniels

In the first movie in this series (The Hunger Games) viewers were introduced to a terrifying future in which humans, struggling for basic resources, are sent to participate in a macabre game of life and death: the Hunger Games.

In the games Katniss Everdeen, well portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence, comes to the fore as a tough, genuine heroine. At the same time a love triangle is established between Katniss and fellow Hunger Games fighter, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and childhood friend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth).

In the second film, The Hunger Games Catching Fire, the plot thickens when Katniss Everdeen returns to the Hunger Games, and this time uses her fighting skills, not to kill her fellow participants, but to attack the overarching enemy, the Capitol. She does this by shooting and destroying the Hunger Games’ dome. Meanwhile, tension in the love triangle grows.

Unlike the first two films, the third, and highly anticipated The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is not a complete story. This is because, as the title explains, the full story, based on the third book in the series, has been broken into two parts. And it suffers for it.

Yes, there is a new twist; Peeta has been captured by the Capitol and is forced to speak out against the growing rebellion in the districts. As a result, in the midst of heavy fighting against the Capitol, District 12 launches a mission for his rescue. But this section of a story is not meaty enough to keep audience attention.

The love story too, wears a bit thin, with too many close-ups of Katniss in several chin-wobbling tearful scenes.

In an effort to milk too much from an interesting and unique series, the filmmakers have spoilt what should have been a fitting finale. Ending this film on a “cliffhanger” will not be enough to entice me to see the next (last?) one.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 opens at cinemas in South Africa on Friday 21 November.

An impression of the new Mockingjay - Katniss Everdeen by MartAiConan. Photo: Creative Commons.

An impression of the new Mockingjay – Katniss Everdeen by MartAiConan. Photo: Creative Commons.

This image can also be seen along with the artist’s other paintings at this website.

Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games. Photo (Creative Commons) by Gage Skidmore.

Josh Hutcherson plays Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games. Photo (Creative Commons) by Gage Skidmore.

 

New X-Men, with an opening scene best left in the past

A review by Brenda Daniels

Mutants attack earth relentlessly in the opening scenes of this new X-Men movie. Despite their best efforts at retaliation, the X-Men clearly are not powerful enough to fight off their attackers and things look desperately grim.

The scene is accompanied by the voice of a narrator who asks a question worded something like this: Do we have to accept our fate or can we change what happens?

This question forms the basis for X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest installment in the X-Men movie series. After the opening scene ends (which it did much to my relief), the story begins in earnest with the X-Men discussing how to solve the mutant problem that is decimating earth.

Their solution is to send one of their members back into the past in order to intercept Raven’s (Jennifer Lawrence) actions at a particular point, actions that had set the mutants in motion. Whilst Charles Xavier is the best choice to convince Raven, he isn’t physically capable of making the time-travel journey, bound as he is to a wheelchair.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), with his twitching muscles and visible veins, is therefore chosen to go instead. Wolverine makes the journey successfully and meets up with a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). A very different Xavier  then, he at first resists Wolverine’s efforts at persuasion before giving in and helping to contact Raven. The action then proceeds along these lines.

Apart from Erik’s (Michael Fassbender) metal-bending antics, I quite enjoyed the story. Peter Dinklage as the evil Dr Trask makes an interesting enemy and there is a good amount of depth displayed within and between the characters. The film ends with just a hint that it’s not all over yet… So fans can probably look forward to more…

X-Men: Days of Future Past opens at Nu Metro cinemas in South Africa in 2D and 3D on Friday 23 May.

Soon to be released in South Africa - X-men: Days of Future Past

Soon to be released in South Africa – X-men: Days of Future Past

Ian McKellen (Magneto) at the San Diego Comic Con International

Ian McKellen (Magneto) at the San Diego Comic Con International

Hairstyles show deeper meaning in American Hustle

A review by Brenda Daniels

American Hustle has been nominated for Best Picture and various other awards for the upcoming Oscar ceremony on 3 March, so I went along to the South African preview to see what all the fuss was about.

The film, set in New Jersey in the 1970s, tells the story of con man, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), and his partner, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). The two meet and become lovers and then, posing as a Briton with “banking connections”, Sydney helps Irving take his underhand dealings to a new level. Caught out by FBI agent, Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they are lured into an even bigger world of crime in an effort to catch dirty politicians and the mafia red-handed.

Cooper brought a certain manic amusement to his role as an agent determined to make it big and I enjoyed this. The hoodwinked politician, Mayor Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner, had a certain endearing vulnerability to him, and Irving, convincingly played by Bale, had a soft side to him, exhibiting patience with his dumb wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and affection for his young son.

The film opens with Irving working on an elaborate “comb-over” hairdo, and most of the characters sported hairstyles that required some work. This aspect seemed to mirror the characters’ fake lifestyles, and highlighted their weak efforts at, now and then, wanting to “be real” with each other.

Apart from these mildly redeeming qualities the characters and action in American Hustle are relentlessly seedy.

It was hard, and in fact quite boring, to enjoy a two-hour film that gave no interesting message, showed no characters I could identify with enough to care about, and provided no relief from the dirt. Whilst I don’t like the 70s era with its iconic clothing, music, coiffeurs and American mobsters, there are viewers who do. They’ll get plenty in this film.

American Hustle opens at Ster Kinekor in South Africa on 28 February. It carries an age restriction of 16LS.

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)

Jennifer Lawrence (left) and Amy Adams in a scene of American Hustle (Source: Creative Commons)