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)”

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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: Detention (2011)

Riley (Shanley Caswell) is an outcast with a crush on stud Clapton (Josh Hutcherson) and a rabid best friend, Sander (Aaron David Johnson), who can’t take no for an answer. Unfortunately for her, though, Clapton only has eyes for Ione (Spencer Locke). After being completely humiliated one day, Riley decides enough is enough, but her suicidal plans are quickly thwarted by the arrival of Cinderhella: a masked maniac who has chosen Grizzly Lake as her latest target. Continue reading “Review: Detention (2011)”

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: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

A sequel of sorts to Journey To The Center Of The Earth, albeit with only one returning character (Josh Hutcherson as young explorer Sean Anderson), Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is breezy fare at best, neither offensive nor game-changing.

When Sean decodes a signal sent by his missing grandfather, Alexander (Michael Caine), he recruits his mum’s new boyfriend, Hank (Dwayne Johnson), to accompany him on an adventure. Enlisting Gabata (Luis Guzmán) and his Continue reading “Review: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)”

Review: The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Lisa Cholodenko directs The Kids Are All Right, a mainstream comedy drama about modern family life.

The film centers on Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening), a strained lesbian couple living in the suburbs of California, who each gave birth to one of their children using a sperm donor.

When the eldest child, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) turns eighteen, her brother, Laser (Josh Hutcherson) asks her to initiate contact with their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), an attractive, single, laid-back restaurateur

Each of the family members respond to Paul in different ways: free-spirited Jules welcomes him with open arms; head of the family Nic grits her teeth; Joni hits it off with him straight away; while Laser almost rejects him and his self-centered attitude.

The partnership between Moore’s Jules and Benning’s Nic is pitch-perfect. Their personalities are vastly different, but appear to work well together. It’s only during the film as events reach a head that the true reality of their relationship is exposed. Both actresses handle the material beautifully, forming an understandable, and wholly believable, lesbian couple.

Ruffalo delivers one of his most under-stated, yet dignified performances, displaying a range of emotions through the body of an often immature and underdeveloped man. Paul breaks the equilibrium, forcing each character, in turn, to re-address their position within the family.

Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson as the children, Joni and Laser respectively, both provide clever and self-assured performances. Wasikowska in particular, in that tricky second film, shows she’s blossoming into a fine adolescent actress.

Cholodenko’s direction is superb, using the correct lighting and camera shots to add meaning and depth to each of her scenes and character profiles. Despite sometimes verging on static, she always manages to pull it back, the sign of a truly exceptional director.

The screenplay is well executed. Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg are able to find the perfect balance between humour and afflicting, allowing viewers to empathise with each character, never influencing our interpretation. Cholodenko’s personal experience with sperm donation quite clearly had an influence on the film’s narrative, but the film evidently benefits from the personal touch, managing to avoid common clichés and melodrama.

By exploring an experimental model of family, Cholodenko bravely introduces viewers to subject matter not normally addressed within Hollywood films. While this may put off some people, it’s something those willing to accept should celebrate.

A subplot focusing on Laser’s friendship with wayward skater Clay feels unnecessary, and the kids’ parts often feel slightly less integral than that of the adult trio. However, these are minor pitfalls, and never detract from the overall enjoyment or meaning of the film.

In all honesty, The Kids Are All Right a fantastic film, exuding charm, wit, love, insecurity and anguish at every appropriate corner. In essence, it’s a film about the struggles of human relationships, and shows a family’s love has the potential to overcome any obstacle. It’s certainly one of the finer films of the year.