The depressing and disturbingly violent 12A-rated Hunger Games finale draws to a close with a bleak procession of whining characters, uneven pacing and far too much politics. And an episode of bombing civilians in the Capitol, which is unfortunate given the recent events in Paris.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdene is not so much the Girl on Fire as the numbed PTSD survivor, on a mission to assassinate President Snow. MJ-2 is part Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Heart of Darkness; but mainly Fellowship of the Ring, with a record-equalling Return of the King number of epilogues.
The action shifts to the assault on the Capitol, with Katniss and Peeta trailing the front lines of the rebellion making propaganda videos. She’s an automaton, he’s a brain-washed psychopath trying to kill her. Worse still, the Capitol has been booby-trapped by Snow’s game-makers, the streets a lethal killing ground for the advancing rebels – and we’re back in the Hunger Games arena. Continue Reading
In 1973, lacrimose Northern playwright Alan Bennett allowed the homeless Miss Sheppard to park her van in his driveway in Camden’s smart Gloucester Crescent. She stayed fifteen years.
Bennett (The History Boys) adapts his much-loved memoir and stage play to the screen, with the ineffable Maggie Smith (Best Exotic, Quartet) in the title role as The Lady in the Van. In a cleverly self-aware script, directed by the National Theatre’s Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George) Bennett plays with fact, fiction and his own identity in a tragi-comic tale that is both universal, and as British as afternoon tea. Continue Reading
Mia Wasikowksa’s young spinster Edith Cushing is swept off her feet by impoverished English aristocrat Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hidddleston), touring America with his chilly sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Ghost-whisperer Edith should have run a mile from both of them, but instead, marries into the Gothic monstrosity that is Allerdale Hall, crumbling into the red clay of Cumberland’s Crimson Peak.
Guillermo Del Toro mounts a handsome horror that promises much in the early reels but even with layers of Gothic design, truly scary ghosts, snow and bloody violence, can’t reach the highs of The Orphanage or Pan’s Labyrinth. Continue Reading
In what looks like Daniel Craig’s swan-song, the Bond team reunite in an all-too familiar, albeit stylishly executed, rummage through the toy box. The lame plotting links the other three Craig outings, while our gritty blonde Bond-shell does what he does in exotic locations, with a variety of transport and weapons, two Bond girls and a supporting cast who nod and wink their way through International espionage like an end-of-Summer-season variety show. Spectre is an uneasy throwback to classic Bond nonsense
At two hours twenty it’s loud, violent, frequently silly and at least two set pieces too long. There’s back-story, psycho-babble, and a lot of pompous dialogue, but none of it can disguise the sheer pointlessness of the whole thing, fun, though it is. Continue Reading
The script has forgiveable flaws; the performances are universally superb; the story is worth the telling in the twenty-first century. So why did director of photography Ed Grau have to spoil the whole thing by smearing Vaseline on the lens and shooting during an Earthquake? Continue Reading
Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog, Down by Law) returns as writer-director in this languid, mordant antidote to vampire movies. Tom Hiddlestone (Thor, Avengers, Warhorse) and Tilda Swinton (Narnia) are the undead husband and wife Adam and Eve. Largely ‘vegetarian’ for decades, a changing world threatens their peaceful life in the shadows, an existence unchanged for centuries, may well be lost forever.
Slow moving, intimate, with barely any action but packed with drama and suspense, Only Lovers is the quintessential vampire movie. The subject material may be innately silly, name-checking all the famous writers, musicians and scientists the pair have met down the centuries; but this is a most believable world of the undead. Continue Reading
Another near-miss in the hunt for a Young Adult fantasy franchise, post-Twilight; this time it’s witches in South Carolina, closely adapted from the YA book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, in which star-crossed teenage lovers have to battle ancient curses and the in-laws from hell.
Beautiful Creatures is fortunate to have two, er, beautiful creatures in Alice Englert and Alden Ehrenreich to carry the leads. Which is just as well; their scenes together make for a delightfully tense and sparky rom-com; but step beyond and we’re into hocus-pocus, camp theatricality and hum-drum CGI. Continue Reading