Review: Divergent (2014)

Divergent

The current obsession with YA franchises continues with Divergent, an adaptation of the first instalment in Veronica Roth’s best-selling trilogy that’s less Hunger Games and more Twilight. Set in what’s left of a post-apocalyptic Chicago where people are divided into factions – Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the smart), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful) and Candor (the honest) – based on human virtues, Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) discovers she’s Divergent, and so doesn’t fit into one set faction. Continue reading “Review: Divergent (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: Bel Ami (2012)

Georges Duroy (Robert Pattinson) is a peasant. Finding himself in Paris, he’s taken under the wing of old friend Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister), who lands him employment as a political writer and introduces him to three high society ladies: his wife Madeleine Forestier (Uma Thurman), Virginie Walters (Kristen Scott Thomas) and Clotilde De Marelle (Christina Ricci). Through means of seduction, betrayal and deception, Georges slowly rises from poverty to wealth, but it all comes at a price.

The concept of one man’s elevation to wealth and power through any means necessary is a fascinating one, and, perhaps with a screenwriter more attuned Continue reading “Review: Bel Ami (2012)”

Review: Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood is director Catherine Hardwicke’s follow-up to the hugely successful Twilight, and stars Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Lukas Haas, Billy Burke, Gary Oldman and Julie Christie.

Valerie (Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter (Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Irons). Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter plan to run away together when they learn that Valerie’s older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village.

For years, the people have maintained an uneasy truce with the beast, offering the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Oldman), to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon’s arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them.

As the death toll rises with each moon, Valerie begins to suspect that the werewolf could be someone she loves. As panic grips the town, Valerie discovers that she has a unique connection to the beast – one that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect and bait.

Hardwicke’s direction is limp and lifeless, undoubtedly let down by awkward staging, tacky production design and a script that doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, what era it’s in or how best to use its talent both in front of and behind the camera.

Seyfried is striking to look at and easily fulfills the sumptuous ‘big eyes’ part of the characters profile, but it never capitalises on the actress’ raw talent to demonstrate both innocence and transgression simultaneously.

The less said about the male leads, the better, as neither Fernandez nor Irons prove themselves capable of acting with conviction – they’re merely there as objects of Valerie’s affection.

The supporting crop, including Oldman, Christie, Haas and Burke, all take a decent stab at their respective characters, showing much more conviction and flair than the younger, more integral group, but they suffer from far too many cliches, hilariously cheesy dialogue, and severely limited screen time to make an overlying impression.

Red Riding Hood is quite obviously cashing in on the Twilight crowd, and does nothing to convince audiences otherwise. It’s badly acted, badly scripted and shockingly directed.

Saying that, with its glossy aesthetic, thundering emo-rock soundtrack and inclusion of Seyfried, there are obvious attempts at bringing the old Red Riding Hood fairytale into the 21st century, but sadly Hardwicke’s vision isn’t strong or clear enough for it to be any more than a disastrous attempt.

Review: The Runaways (2010)

The Runaways, although heavily advertised around Kristen Stewart’s uncanny resemblance to Joan Jett, centres upon Dakoka Fanning’s turn as Cherie Currie and her sudden rise to fame in the first all-female rock group, The Runaways.

Fanning, now a 16-year-old, embodies the reckless character with sheer determination and passion, distancing herself greatly from her childhood roles in such films as Charlotte’s Web and The Cat In The Hat, whilst cementing her transition from childhood sweetheart to a grown-up, serious actress.

Stewart, with her almost uncanny resemblance to her character, takes on the role of Joan Jett, proving to audiences and critics alike that there’s a lot more to her than weak, moody character of Bella from the Twilight films.

In terms of supporting cast, it has to be noted that Michael Shannon fits the role of Fowley perfectly, verging on the brink of total insanity, while Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton and Riley Keough all give strong performances as the other members of the band.

Floria Sigismondi displays true potential with her particular style of cinematography and attention-to-detail, framing the action beautifully, illustrating the growth both lead characters experience with a sense of ambiguity, which helps keep the film light-weight, and it’s all the best for it.

The Runaways may not be one of the best biopics ever made, but it gives a fun, electric and gritty glimpse into the lives of a group of five teenagers being rocketed to fame in the first female punk band.