Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Film Review: "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (2013).

"Now, Katniss, you have been our mission from the beginning. The plan was always to get you out. Half the tributes were in on it. This is the revolution, and you are the mockingjay.” Which is what The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has in store for us. This science fiction adventure film based on Suzanne Collins's novel, Catching Fire, the second installment in The Hunger Games trilogy. The film is the sequel to The Hunger Games (2012). The film was directed by Francis Lawrence, and was adapted by Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt (credited as Michael deBruyn). The film continues the story of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark from the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem, who become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem. And they are forced to return to the arena in a special edition of the Hunger Games.

Months prior to the first film's release, Lionsgate greenlit the second film and Gary Ross, director of the first film, was expected to return as director. However, on April 10, 2012, he announced his departure from the project due to the tight and fixed production and on May 3, Francis Lawrence (I am Legend (2007)) was hired as the film's director. Throughout July and September 2012, the film's supporting cast was filled out, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Lynn Cohen, Jena Malone, Amanda Plummer, Alan Ritchson, and Meta Golding brought in to portray key roles. Filming began September 10, 2012 in and around metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia before moving to Hawaii.

Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen along with Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland and Toby Jones also reprising their roles. With Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, Jeffrey Wright as Beetee Latier, Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair, Lynn Cohen as Mags, Jena Malone as Johanna Mason, Amanda Plummer as Wiress, Alan Ritchson as Enobaria, and Meta Golding as Enobaria. The performances in this film were all magnificent. Especially to Lawrence who commits to Katniss just as much as she would a complex David O. Russell character. She was both on fire and in the process of becoming, and it’s magnificent to watch. Katniss is a character worth a handful of sequels. And Lawrence lights up the screen. You'll follow her anywhere. The same applies to the performances of Hutcherson, Hemsworth, Harrelson, Banks, Kravitz, Tucci, Sutherland, Jones, Hoffman, Wright, Claflin, Cohen, Malone, Plummer, Ritchson and Golding. Not only that, they were also visually intriguing.

Dark, thrilling, and occasionally quite funny, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is also visually stunning and emotionally satisfying. The film is a tour-de-force that combines style and substance, special effects and heart and most importantly great performances from all of the actors young and not-so-young. To conclude, not only is the film masterful and emotional, it is a worthy addition in the series.

Simon says The Hunger Games: Catching Fire receives:

Also, see review for The Hunger Games.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

"Bust Rape Culture Now!" Protest

This is dedicated to all the countries in the world who are suffering from the unspeakable and unbearable act of sexual violence, and who uphold gender equality and women's rights.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Film Review: "The Counselor" (2013).

Lines such as "I suspect that we are ill-formed for the path we have chosen. Ill-formed and ill-prepared. We would like to draw a veil over all the blood and terror that have brought us to this place. It is our faintness of heart that would close our eyes to all of that, but in so doing it makes of it our destiny... But nothing is crueler than a coward, and the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining.” Describe perfectly the new Ridley Scott/Cormac McCarthy film, The Counselor. This American thriller film directed by Ridley Scott, from the first original film screenplay by Cormac McCarthy. The plot revolves around a lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.

On January 18, 2012, it was reported that novelist Cormac McCarthy had sold his first spec script, The Counselor, to Nick Wechsler, Paula Mae Schwartz, and Steve Schwartz, who had previously produced the film adaptation of McCarthy's novel The Road. On January 31, it was reported that The Counselor would be Ridley Scott’s next film after Prometheus (2012). On February 9, it was confirmed that Scott would direct. Principal photography began on July 27, 2012 in London. As well as in Spain and the United States. However, on August 20, 2012, Scott halted production due to his brother Tony Scott's death. He canceled that week's shoot in order to travel to Los Angeles to be with his brother's family. Scott returned to London to resume production on September 3.

The film stars Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt. Fassbender gave a brilliantly emotional performance as the title character. He epitomizes the film's thematic idea of greed and its eventual slow downward spiral. Cruz gave a fantastic performance as the counselor's fiancé, Laura. Even though I felt Cruz gave a fantastic performance, I felt that an actual American actress such as Natalie Portman (who was originally cast but dropped out) would have been more suitable. Since the character of Laura is American. I also felt that her chemistry with Fassbender was not strong and believable. Diaz gave a terrific and cold performance as Malkina, a malicious woman who lacks moral empathy. However, like Cruz's casting, I felt that the casting of Diaz was not right as well. I would have gone with someone who was actually either from Barbados (which was where she came from in the film) or Buenos Aires, Argentina (which was suggested in the original screenplay). Bardem gave a brilliant performance as Reiner, a charismatic entrepreneur by day and an underground drug kingpin by night. Lastly, Pitt gave an incredible performance as Westray, a womanizing, charismatic middleman and a friend of Reiner's who meets with the Counselor to develop the deal.

Its plot is sometimes hard to swallow, but some fine acting and director Ridley Scott's stylish visual flair makes The Counselor an engaging crime thriller. However, there's nothing in this film that we haven't seen in many other movies.

Simon says The Counselor receives:

Also, see my review for Prometheus.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Film Review: "The Butler" (2013).

"I'm Cecil Gaines. I'm the new butler.” Which is what this unlikely movie called The Butler brings to the screen. This American historical fiction drama film directed by Lee Daniels, written by Danny Strong. The film tells the life of Cecil Gaines, an African-American who eye witnessed notable events of the 20th century including the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war, and other major events that affected this man's life, family, and American society. And served eight presidents during his 34-year tenure serving as a White House butler.

The film is loosely inspired by the real-life figure, Eugene Allen (July 14, 1919 – March 31, 2010) who worked for the White House for 34 years until he retired as the head butler in 1986. Allen was born in Scottsville, Virginia, and died at the Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Montgomery County, Maryland; his death was caused by renal failure. He started in the White House in 1952 as a "pantry man" and over the years rose in his position until finally attaining the most prestigious rank of butlers serving in the White House, Maître d'hôtel. Allen had been married to his wife, Helene, for 65 years. Helene died on Nov 3, 2008. The couple had one son, Charles Allen.

The film features an ensemble cast; Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, loosely based on the real-life figure, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Clarence Williams III, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lenny Kravitz. Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, the 35th President, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, the 37th President, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, the 40th President, and Jane Fonda as First Lady Nancy Reagan. The cast in this film all gave their best performances in their careers. Whitaker gave his best performance of his career since his Oscar-winning role of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006). His reflective, powerfully understated performance fills this flawed film with potency and purpose. Winfrey gave her best performance since her role in Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985). Redgrave gave her finest performance playing Gaines' cotton farm owner who is genuinely the first character in the film who shows Gaines kindness, unlike Pettyfer's character who showed nothing but hatred and violence. Williams gave a fine performance since Ridley Scott's American Gangster (2007). Gooding, Jr. gave his finest performance since Jerry Maguire (1996). Williams gave his best dramatic role since Christopher Nolan's Insomnia (2002), and One Hour Photo (2002). Lastly, Marsden gave the best performance of his career and was convincing as the 35th president of the United States.

Daniels and company have performed a powerful service with The Butler: they have brought Eugene Allen’s life and story to the big screen, both as man and legend. An ambitious, tough, seriously considered biographical film that, with honor, eludes easy characterization. The perfect combination of epic and personal, intimate and spectacular.

Simon says The Butler receives:

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Film Review: "Thor: The Dark World" (2013).

"Some believe that before the universe, there was nothing. They're wrong. There was darkness... and it has survived.” This true in this Summer’s Thor: The Dark World. This superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Thor, produced by Marvel Studios. It is the sequel to 2011's Thor and it is the eighth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is directed by Alan Taylor. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Development of Thor: The Dark World began in April 2011, when producer Kevin Feige announced plans for a sequel to follow the crossover film Marvel's The Avengers (2012). In July 2011, Kenneth Branagh, the director of Thor, withdrew from the project. Brian Kirk and Patty Jenkins were considered to direct the film before Taylor was hired in January 2012. The supporting cast filled out in August 2012, with the hiring of Eccleston, Dennings and Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Principal photography began in September 2012 in Surrey, England with filming continuing in Iceland and London, before wrapping up in December 2012.

The film features Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins reprising their roles from the first, with newcomers Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Zachary Levi and Clive Russell joining the cast. Hemsworth gives another magnificent performance as the title character, with the additional character development and expansion that differs from his first performance from the first film. Portman gave another great performance as the brilliant scientist and love interest of Thor. Hiddlestton gave another fantastically devilish performance as the deliciously evil adopted brother of Thor. Skarsgård, this time round, gave a comical performance unlike his previous performances in the first film and The Avengers. Elba gave a more extended performance than his first performance. Personifying the voice-of-reason or counsel for Thor in his dark times. Stevenson, Asano, Alexander, Russo and Russell all gave strong performances for their roles. Hopkins gave another bold performance as the king of Asgard and father of Thor. Though I felt his role was somewhat decreased from the first film. Lastly, Eccleston gave a cold and brooding performance as Malekith: The ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim.

It isn't quite the breath of fresh air that Thor was, but Thor: The Dark World comes close with solid performances and an action-packed plot. The film isn't as much fun as its predecessor, but by the time the smoke clears, it'll do. It doesn't come close to the emotional heft of that rare 2 that outclassed its one: Spider-Man 2 (2004). But the film hums along quite nicely. To conclude, It is a polished, high-octane sequel, not as good as the original but building once again on the iconic performance by Chris Hemsworth.

Simon says Thor: The Dark World receives:

Also, see my review for Iron Man 3.