Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Mockingjay - Part 1

After the action-heavy drive of the previous instalments, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is decidedly sober and contemplative in comparison, but no less thrilling. Bunkered down in District 13 after being saved from the Quarter Quell, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) reluctantly concedes to become the face of the rebel uprising. Her reluctance quickly turns to intensity, however, as President Snow (Donald Sutherland) continues his tight dictatorship, using Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as bait.  Continue reading “Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)”

Review: American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle

The third part in his own self-proclaimed reinvention (one that’s so far brought with it The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, two Academy Award winners), American Hustle finds David O. Russell at his most playful, tackling the infamous ABSCAM scandal – a hugely publicised FBI sting into political corruption – with a tremendous amount of wit, vigour and vibrancy. While certainly not without its faults, it’s a film that’s more often than not massively entertaining, and a constant platform for spectacular performances and outlandish 70s fashion. Continue reading “Review: American Hustle (2013)”

Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Catching Fire

The Hunger Games managed to achieve what the entire Twilight series had tried so hard, yet failed to do: appeal to critics and audiences, while also satisfying the loyal fan base of its adored source material. It had its fair share of impediments though, and was weighed down by the fact it skimmed over many of the bigger issues in favour of displaying a sparkly fantasy tale. Thankfully, with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second instalment in a four-part film series, those complications are been ironed out to an impeccable degree by new director Francis Lawrence. Continue reading “Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)”

Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

After spending the past eight months undergoing therapy in a mental institution, former high school teacher Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) returns to suburban Philadelphia and into the lives of his parents, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver). Wasting no time in attempting to straighten himself up and win back his wife, Pat comes to a deal with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a troubled widow and force of nature, that sees him become her partner for a Continue reading “Review: Silver Linings Playbook (2012)”

First Poster For House At The End Of The Street

Relativity Media have issued the first poster for their upcoming horror-thriller House At The End Of The Street, due for release in the US on September 21.

The film, which marks British filmmaker Mark Tonderai’s second crack behind the camera, centers on a girl who, after moving into a new house with her mother, befriends the surviving son of the family that once live there, and soon learns of their horrifying story.

Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) stars opposite Elisabeth Shue (Hollow Continue reading “First Poster For House At The End Of The Street”

Lionsgate Acquires The Glass Castle; Jennifer Lawrence Eyed For Lead Role

Lionsgate have acquired the rights to The Glass Castle, American writer and journalist Jeannette Walls’ tell-all memoir, The Playlist has revealed.

Released to acclaim in 2005, The Glass Castle recounts Walls’ and her siblings’ troublesome, poverty-stricken childhood at the beck and call of their intensely flawed and abusive parents, Rex and Rose Mary.

Marti Noxon, best known for her work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and last Continue reading “Lionsgate Acquires The Glass Castle; Jennifer Lawrence Eyed For Lead Role”

Review: The Hunger Games (2012)

In a world torn apart by war, drought and famine, there lies Panem, a society split into a Capitol and twelve separate districts. To compensate for past rebellions, each district must annually offer up two “tributes” to take part in the Capitol’s “Hunger Games”: a televised fight to the death. When her sister is chosen as one of the “tributes”, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a strong-willed teenage girl, volunteers herself to take her sister’s place. Alongside her male counterpart Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a lowly baker’s boy, Katniss enters The Hunger Games, only for them to find themselves in a situation like no Continue reading “Review: The Hunger Games (2012)”

Review: Like Crazy (2011)

Anna (Felicity Jones), a British student, embarks upon a passionate, life-changing relationship with classmate, Jacob (Anton Yelchin), only to be separated when she overstays her visa and is refused re-entry into the US. Forced apart, Anna and Jacob must battle distance, jealously and their flourishing personal lives to keep their spark alive.

In stripped-back, scrapbook-like fashion, Like Crazy flits between time periods – from when Anna and Jacob first meet in Los Angeles, to their Continue reading “Review: Like Crazy (2011)”

Review: X-Men: First Class (2011)

Synopsis: When the CIA discovers the existence of Mutants, telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is charged with recruiting a team to oppose the evil mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and the mysterious Hellfire Club. But not all of Xavier’s team share his vision of peace with humanity as the powerful Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) becomes convinced of mankind’s intolerance of Mutants.

X-Men: First Class is 20th Century Fox’s chance to start over with the X-Men franchise, to iron out the creases and resolve the sour taste that the critically panned X-Men: The Last Stand left in viewers’ mouths. Thankfully, by bringing on board Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn and a crack team of screenwriters – including Vaughn’s Kick-Ass counterpart Jane Goldman – X-Men: First Class has truly reinvigorated the franchise. It has adapted, evolved and and, most importantly, re-imagined itself, rather than living in the shadows of Bryan Singer’s original X-Men franchise.

The script is tight and fast-paced, with very few dull moments throughout and, instead of focusing too heavily on big budget action set-pieces, Goldman and co. instead opt to create a more intimate character piece, knitting each one into the thoroughly realised 1960’s world. The ensemble characters’ passages are handled with such care, and intercut with such genuinely terrific yet retrained action sequences, that they don’t feel bogged down or too developed for their own good.

Instead, the film and its characters are set up in a timely and neat manner, before the focus quickly shifts to the tempestuous relationship between Charles and Erik, and urgent stoppage of Sebastian Shaw. Of course, this means that some of the supporting characters aren’t as explored as others – Emma Frost (January Jones) and Moria McTaggert (Rose Bryne) are two that instantly come to mind – but these are minor quandaries, and something that audiences have come to expect from comic book adaptations through the years.

Vaughn’s direction compliments the script wonderfully, and he impressively adapts to the kinetic adventure tone after the hardcore and R-rated blood-fest that is Kick-Ass. Through his enthusiastic eye, X-Men: First Class exudes charm, wit, excitement and moments of indubitable terror. What’s most impressive is the wonderful way in which he infuses all these different elements, enhancing the overall enjoyment of the film rather than simply letting it becoming too complicated for viewers to understand. Similarly, despite being set amidst the Cuban Missile Crisis, it manages to avoid tangling itself in a web of political inquisitions, remaining light, level-headed and to the point for its entire running time.

In terms of acting, McAvoy, Fassbender,  Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence, in particular, immerse themselves in their respective roles, while Bryne and Nicholas Hoult do their best with their limited screen time. McAvoy and Fassbender are the undeniable nucleus of X-Men: First Class, with both exquisitely conveying the push-pull relationship between Charles’s quest for world peace and Erik’s attraction to evil. It is, essentially, a friendship between two men who know they need each other, but who are pulled apart by the different aims they possess.

Lawrence, in her first mainstream Hollywood role, holds her own as Raven/Mystique, bringing a remarkable level of susceptibleness and sobriety to her shape-shifting alter-ego, while Bacon is able to truly shine as the films central villain. Bryne and Hoult, despite being used so sparingly, both inhabit their roles with equal flavor, and we can only hope they are used more centrally in future X-Men instalments so they can prove their worth.

Some of the supporting cast, however, including, but not limited to Jones, Jason Flemyng and Lucas Till simply don’t have the necessary instruments to hold their own against such a heavyweight principal cast and are essentially brushed to to the side – though, in some ways, this is to the film’s merit.

Unfortunately, some precarious special effects – perhaps due to the time restricted post-production schedule – and an uneven middle act prevents X-Men: First Class from hitting the giddy highs some were anticipating. Even so, it’s a remarkably cohesive and assured origin story that deserves to be treasured and adored for its valiance and entertaining dexterity. All that’s left to say is, bring on X-Men: Second Class.

Review: Winter’s Bone (2010)

Winter’s Bone is a vivid adaptation Daniel Woodrell’s crime novel set in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, Missouri.

17 year-old Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is responsible for keeping her family together in a dirt poor rural area. When the local Sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) tells her that her father put up their house as collateral for his bail, Ree sets off to find her errant father, digging up some very dangerous secrets in the process.

Debra Granik brings this bleak environment to life through her flawless attention-to-detail, her keen eye capturing the landscape’s undertones beautifully. Granik tells the story as naturalistic drama, punctuating thrills throughout to keep them authentic and unexpected.

The most obvious example of this is through the character of Teardrop, Ree’s uncle, whom she asks for help. John Hawkes’ performance as Teardrop is haunting, verging on sadistic as it’s never made clear to Ree, or to the audience, whether he will help Ree, assault her, or kill her.

Lawrence’s performance as Ree is a truly stand-out piece of acting, transposing her apparent emotional intelligence and warmth with the incredible pressure she’s under to keep her family alive.

Winter’s Bone is a realistic, engaging and fearless film about transgression and the consequences of digging into the past, showcasing a truly magnificent, afflicting performance from Jennifer Lawrence.