Film Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is a fitting end to The Hunger Games franchise. The film makes the most of its strong protagonist.

Following the events in District 13, President Coin has her sites set on Capitol stronghold District 2. Katniss leads a team in, as the war escalates. With Peeta still in a fragile state, Katniss must concentrate on defeating President Snow…

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is a decent blockbuster, and a film that fans of the franchise will no doubt find satisfying. Director Francis Lawrence has created a war film, with a wider scope on the big picture in this instalment. Mockingjay Part 2 is imbued with a sense of finality, heightened in particular by the abrupt ending of its predecessor.

Aspects of Mockingjay Part 2 are predictable for certain. Some of the dramatics are entirely in keeping with the franchise’s young adult novel roots. The love story, for example, has never felt particularly compelling. This theme continues in this instalment. Nevertheless, there is enough tangibility in the central narrative to keep viewers engaged.

Mockingjay Part 2 concentrates on war and the climax of the rebellion. As such the film is rather bleak, but this is not surprising given the overall tone of the dystopian franchise. Mockingjay Part 2 does not shy away from depicting the harsh trials of the protagonists. Action sequences in the film are well executed. There is a good combination of action and dialogue-heavy scenes which move the plot along.

Katniss is a great protagonist, and yet again shows her worth in this final film. Katniss is a great central character in that she is strong and commanding, yet still engaged with her humanity. She is, perhaps, a stronger protagonist than the film series overall. Jennifer Lawrence reprises her role in a convincing manner. Josh Hutcherson is given a meatier part than previous instalments, whilst Julianne Moore is decent as President Coin.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is a more gratifying film than its predecessor, and serves as an apt conclusion to the film series.

Film Review: Epic

Epic

When titling a film with a term such as Epic, it is surely hoped that the movie lives up to this billing. Unfortunately Epic is an uninspired animated adventure.

Professor Bomba believes in a race of tiny people living in the forest, and he has spent his whole career trying to prove their existence. When his daughter M.K. comes to stay, she gets closer to them than he could ever believe…

The problem with Chris Wedge’s Epic is two-fold. Firstly, the narrative is not really engaging. There is no real sense of peril. Despite the protestations of potential calamity, it never feels as if anything bad will happen. There is little in the story for viewers to get their teeth into.

Secondly, none of Epic‘s characters are endearing. The usual archetypes are present here, and there is little to no development beyond this. The comic sidekicks are not really successful in their function as they fail to raise laughs. M.K. has a struggle that is played out rather despondently. The villain meanwhile is so caricature that he never poses  any real danger.

As the adventure itself is not captivating, the film needed something to make it entertaining. Almost all the attempts at humour fall flat. An attempt at romance adds nothing to the overall film except posing some puzzling questions with the way the film concludes.

Epic‘s production values excel beyond the narrative restraints. The film looks great, with animation appearing crisp. The 3D works well, as it tends to do for most animated films.

The film features a host of well-known stars voicing its characters. Some, like Jason Sudeikis and Josh Hutcherson, do a good job. With others, it is difficult to forget which actor is voicing them. This is particularly true of Colin Farrell and Beyonce Knowles; their voices are unmistakable for any viewers who are familiar with them.

Epic is an unsatisfying film that is unlikely to engender a strong positive response from viewers young and old.

Film Review: The Hunger Games

Gary Ross’ adaptation of the bestselling novel is a well-executed production. The Hunger Games is a extremely watchable film, although there are a few flaws.

In the futuristic world of Panem, the 12 districts are each forced to send two young competitors to take part in the Hunger Games. A brutal annual tournament where 24 young people must fight to the death on live television, there can only be one winner. When her younger sister Prim is selected to represent District 12, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to go in her place…

The Hunger Games is an enjoyable film. It hits the right notes in terms of drama and apprehension. Moments of tension are tremendously well executed. In particular, the lottery scene and the countdown scene are fantastic. The lack of music, and in part sound, is incredibly effective in heightening tension in this scenes.

There are some very obvious parallels between The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins’ book, with Battle Royale. The Ross’ film differentiates itself by providing its own dystopian back story. The futuristic setting works well; any allegory is simple and does not distract from the microcosm of Catniss’ involvement in the tournament.

Costumes and art direction create quite the contrast between the Capitol and the world of the districts. Some of the effects used appear synthetic, however. Due to cuts made to guarantee a 12A certificate, some of the action sequences seem haphazardly edited. These scenes would most likely have been more satisfying in their original state. Furthermore, the cuts seem ironic, given that the film is preoccupied by themes of violence.

Jennifer Lawrence delivers a commanding performance as protagonist Catniss. Lawrence is really proving why she is one of Hollywood’s brightest young actresses. Elsewhere, Josh Hutcherson is believable as Peeta, while Stanley Tucci is suitably larger than life as Caesar Flickerman.

The Hunger Games is implausible at times, with some suspect plotting and explanations. Nevertheless, the film entertains throughout its 142-minute duration.

Film Review: The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right effectively mixes drama and comedy, producing a film that explores family dynamics without pushing any kind of agenda.

Joni and her brother Laser decide to contact their biological father, behind the backs of their two mothers. After Paul enters their life he becomes more ingratiated with their family, revealing the cracks in the relationship between Jules and Nic, as well as the issues with their children…

The premise of the film is fairly simple. A newcomer enters the lives of an established (and a little stuck-in-a-rut) group, disrupting their lives and causing them to reflect on the dynamics of their structure. The Kids Are All Right moves beyond this basic plot by portraying complex and three-dimensional characters with complicated relationships.

Jules and Nic are depicted as a couple who are still affectionate, but their relationship is a little tired, having been together for so long and raised two children together. Although at first it seems like a case of opposites – Jules is free-spirited while Nic is more controlling – as the film progresses, it is clear that there is so much more to them than this. They are much like any married couple, having their quirks and niggles. The fact that they are same-sex partners is only significant to facilitate a requirement for the sperm donor. The Kids Are All Right is not a film concerned with gender or sexual orientation; the focus is firmly on the family unit.

Paul is a laid-back, carefree guy, who seems like the antithesis of Nic in several ways. He appears to genuinely want to spend time with Joni and Laser, yet at the same time seems unsure of what he wants in life. Mark Ruffalo is entirely appropriate for the role; he is wholly believable as the relaxed Paul.

Annette Bening as Nic also shows inspired casting. She is convincing portraying all of Nic’s emotions, and has great chemistry with Julianne Moore as Jules. Mia Wasikowska is great as Joni, she effectively displays the placidity of the character, whose emotions are bubbling just under the surface. Josh Hutcherson is also persuasive as Laser, a teen longing for a father figure.

The Kids Are All Right exhibits a very Californian feel to the entire movie. As well as the settings, which include plenty of outdoor scenes, the music and natural lighting add to this atmosphere. There are some beautiful images in the film, which director Lisa Cholodenko wisely keeps in frame to background a very character-driven film. The shooting style works well; a shot of Nic on the couch while the other characters cook in the kitchen together really exemplifies her isolation from the group at that time.

Pacing is good, and the film keeps a regular supply of laughs in amongst the drama. Overall, The Kids Are All Right is a relatable film, with good performances and story that is both realistic and engaging.

The Kids Are All Right is being screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.