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Much better than the first one
Catching Fire had a lot to live up to. The Hunger Games was a huge hit both with audiences and critics and the books have millions of fans expecting the very best from the movie adaptation. There was so much that could go wrong in Catching Fire including the new arena, the expanding love triangle and the introduction of new, key characters. Luckily nothing, well very little, goes wrong and Catching Fire managed to improve on The Hunger Games in every way.
I really liked The Hunger Games, as a movie goer and a fan of the books it ticked most of the boxes for me but the effects were less than amazing and some of the actors were not quite comfortable in their roles. The opening was confusing, especially for those who had not read the books and it could have used a little more polish. Thankfully Catching Fire had all the polish but managed to keep all the great things from The Hunger Games.
Catching Fire picks up not long after themHunger Games. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are back in District 12 and barely talking to each other, they are both struggling to come to terms with what they experienced in the area. They are trying to get on with their lives but the ever present and often drunk Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) is a reminder that the experience of the games doesn't just fade away. In the capital President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and new game maker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are trying to stop the start of a revolution that was sparked by Katniss' actions in The Hunger Games.
Catching Fire is a darker and meaner affair than its predecessor. It pushes the boundaries of its 12 rating and there are moments of awful and menacing violence that surprisingly mainly appear out of the arena, as we get to see how very dangerous and disturbing President Snow's leadership really is. One moment in particular when Katniss and Peeta visit District 11 the home of their former allies Rue and Thresh is moving and utterly disturbing. Francis Lawrence has delivered a film that is both exciting and touching. The arena is not the only place where people are fighting for their lives and we are constantly reminded that Snow will go to any length to prevent his control from slipping. It is not always an easy watch.
The acting was one of the great triumphs of this movie and is what sets the Hunger Games franchise apart from its other teen counterparts. Jennifer Lawrence seems to get better and better with everything she appears in. Katniss is wounded and defenceless in this and the emotional toll is plain to see in Lawrence's captivating and surly performance. Other stand outs are Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Their conversations about how to 'end' Katniss are chilling yet subtle and are some of the best moments in the movie.
Elizabeth Banks' Effie Trinket is one of the most improved characters from the first movie. Here she is given a little more emotional depth and she handles that brilliantly whilst still being her larger than life 'that is mahogany' self. Another improvement came from Josh Hutcherson who has really settled into Peeta's character. I thought he did alright in the first movie but he looks much more comfortable here and manages to hold his own impressively. Catching Fire is where you really start to see what kind of person Peeta is, you see how he is the good in a world full of bad and that really came across well in the movie.
Out of all the new characters (of which there are many) it is Sam Claflin's Finnick Odair and Jena Malone's Johanna Mason that really shine. Finnick and Johanna are my favourite characters from the books so I was nervous that this casting might not work. Claflin is perfect as Finnick, he is devastatingly good looking, charming, yet manages to show off Finnick's massive vulnerable side. If you think what Katniss and Peeta have been through is bad it is nothing in comparison to Finnick and Sam Claflin did a great job at brining that sadness to the character. Mason is perfect as the potty mouthed and opinionated Johanna and she has some of the best and most humorous moments in the movie.
But it wasn't all perfect. Gale (Liam Hemsworth) was given very little screen time and you never got to see the evolution of that character. It is in Catching Fire where he begins to come into his own but that was muted in the movie version and he was little more than someone for Jennifer Lawrence to kiss. Also I am still unconvinced that Lenny Kravitz was a great casting choice as Cinna. His performance is a little cardboard and because of that one of the moments that made me ball my eyes in the books had little effect on me whilst watching the movie.
So many sequels fail to live up to the first movie in the series but Catching Fire is not one of them. It is a million times better than The Hunger Games and is a clear indication that this franchise is not going to falter any time soon.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Just loved it
It is fair to say that this movie had a lot to live up to. The Dark Knight blew not only comic book movies, but action movies out of the water. It raised expectations for this type of film. It was smart, thoughtful and to be honest just pure brilliance, well in my opinion anyway. So the question was always can the Dark Knight Rises match it? Personally, I think the answer is yes.
The Dark Knight Rises doesn't have the madness and darkness of the Joker. It doesn't have Batman show as much emotion and vulnerability. This movie doesn't try to beat The Dark Knight. Instead, it tries to be different. The threat in this movie is bigger and we see Batman stood with others beside him not alone. And for the first time we see the 'legacy' Batman has left on Gotham. This movie is not about a war between two men in masks, it is about something much more than that. Aesthetically this movie is pleasing. Christopher Nolan knows this world well. The effects, action sequences, camera work are all stunning. The music is epic and used well. He proves yet again that he is a talented and smart director.
The performances are top notch. The returning characters are all great. Bale's Batman is as brooding and suffering as always. Caine's Alfred is full of more heart than I know what to do with, and Freeman and Oldman are just brilliant as they always are.
It is the new members of the cast that have to shoulder the weight of this movie, most notably with Tom Hardy's Bane. It is hard not to compare his performance with Heath Ledger's Joker but to do so is not really fair. I am not sure if we will ever see such an outstandingly dark and manic performance again. Bane, as a character, has maybe a little more heart and there are moments where it shows. His motivation to harm is not the same as The Joker; in fact it could not be more different. I have not seen Hardy like this before, the performance was restrained but it worked and I enjoyed his character a lot.
Anne Hathaway's cold and calculating Catwoman is also impressive. To be honest I was not expecting much from her but she delivered and she ended up being one of my favourite parts of the movie.
Of all the new characters it is Joseph Gordon Levitt's good cop John Blake that really stood out for me. There is something about this guy that just works on screen, he is effortless in the role and I cared for his character more than any other.
The Dark Knight Rises is not just good action and acting. There are also moments of humour, of light-heartedness. There are amazing gadgets, a great ending and quite a few twists and turns.
This movie is genius, it fits perfectly with the rest of the series and I loved it.
As a whole the Batman trilogy is something that will never be beaten and I hope no one ever tries. As far as batman movies go (in my opinion), they start here and they should end here to. I am sad to see the back of Christian Bale's Batman but glad that it ended on a high.
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Good action movie but not much else.
The Bourne Legacy does what is says on the tin. It is an action movie and nothing more which is fine because as action movies go, The Bourne Legacy is a pretty good one.
It does get off to a bit of a slow start. There is a lot of jumping around and a lot of information the uninitiated Bourne movie goers might not understand. It does eventually settle down and from there it is all action.
The action scenes are exciting and done well, but don't quite pack the punch Haywire (from earlier this year) did.
The acting was also good. Jeremy Renner plays the action hero convincingly and overall his performance is good, but his character is a little bland and lacks charisma. There are a few moments where Renner's acting really shines and you are reminded why he is a two times Oscar nominee.
Edward Norton is great. There is no action for him but his cold and calculating performance works well. It is great to see him back in a mainstream movie.
Rachel Weisz is also good. She plays damsel in distress well but is more than capable of delivering more than this. All in all The Bourne Legacy is a good action movie that is more fun than thoughtful.
Looking through the reviews on this site and seeing so many people rate Defiance as a 10 out of 10 or give it a high rating truly confuses me. I almost want to sit through it again and try to find exactly what everyone saw in it that I didn't but there is nothing on this earth that could make me sit through that movie again. It was hard enough the first time, I wouldn't make it through a second viewing.
Defiance is truly one of the worse films I have seen. I went into it with an open mind, it was a movie that I really wanted to see. I don't think I have ever been so disappointed.
This movie could have been amazing, it should have been amazing but it lacks everything.
Where to start? The script was poor, horrific even. It was full of 'heroic' speeches that failed to inspire and half the time didn't have any impact at all.
The acting was mediocre. I really do like Daniel Craig but this was a poor outing for him. People have said numerous times how great he is in this movie but how is that possible when he doesn't seem to have the faintest idea where his character comes from. His accent goes from Russian, to German, to posh English every five seconds and it is really, really distracting.
All in all Liev Schreiber gives a good account of himself and is the saving grace of this movie. Unlike Craig his accent is spot on and he really adds grit to his role but is not given enough screen time to really make an impact.
The rest of the characters were dull, predictable and clichéd. The women were weak and given nothing to do apart from die, gossip about men and lay around naked with Daniel Craig. The rest looked like they walked off the set of every other WW2 movie that featured the Holocaust. There was a villain, a scholar, a wise teacher. Generally these characters added nothing to the movie at all. The only thing they seemed to do was stand around shivering eating apples. (I would love to know the amount of apples consumed during the making of this movie because at least half of the time that is all you see) Or try and be heroic and fight the Nazis by...blowing themselves up. (accidently)
Some of the cinematography was nice but far to much screen time was taken up by a close up of Daniel Craig looking either perplexed or...perplexed.
Half the time no one seemed to know what to do or what was happening and the truth of the matter is nothing much did happen at all. There was a story here but it was told poorly and was over-run with macho speeches (one off the back of a white stallion in the vain of Braveheart, add in Craigs ever changing accent and the scene is hard to take seriously)
I got the feeling that you were supposed to chose between the warring brothers (Craig & Schreiber) but the complete lack of back story makes the task impossible.
I think this film was such a waste of a good story. If it had been told properly it could have been amazing and touching instead it left me cold and bored. I couldn't wait for it to end. Some people on this site and others have said that people rate this film poorly because they 'cannot handle' the subject matter. I think this is untrue. I rate this film badly because it was awful and because the subject matter deserved so much more.
The Town (2010)
Hit and miss
I watched The Town at least a month ago and I have only now (after a second viewing) made up my mind as to what I thought about it. I think I felt confused by all the outrage that poured out from the general public when it was not nominated for an Oscar, while people were blasting the academy for ignoring it I was thinking did I watch the same movie that you guys watched? That is not to say I didn't like The Town, I did, but I don't understand the why people think it is up there with movies such as Black Swan, The kings Speech and The fighter.
The Town gets a lot right. It looks amazing and I think that Ben Affleck has done an incredible job directing this movie, and coming from me that means something because I don't really like him that much. He nailed the gritty, corrupted, underground world of criminals pretty darn well, and some of the filming is simply beautiful. The action and chase sequences are top draw, they are probably the best part of the movie and they have put The Town up there with the best action movies of last year.
The acting is generally good, Affleck is OK, I have never really seen a strong performance for him and that opinion of him still has not changed, but for me what he lacks in acting skills he makes up for in directing talent. Again Rebecca Hall was alright, it was not a commanding performance but also nothing to be ashamed of. If I am honest I do not think she was given enough to work with and it all felt a little restrained.
The stand out actors in The Town are the supporting cast. Jon Hamm is perfect as the determined FBI agent. Blake Lively is a revelation in this, I have only known her as one of the annoying girls in Gossip girl, but in this she shows promise. Her portrayal of a drug addict and desperate mother was one of the stand outs in this film.
The real star of this movie though (unsurprisingly) is Jeremy Renner, his performance is enough to make you sit on the edge of your seat. You never know what James could do, he seems controlled and loyal to his friends and family, but underneath all that is a monster wanting to be set free. Watching him battle with the worse sides of himself is truly brilliant. Renner is deserving of his Oscar nomination although maybe not the win.
But for every great performance and car chase in this film there is still something wrong with it all. The movie concentrates on the romance between Doug and Claire, which feels a bit empty. I get the feeling that this romance was not what the film was really about, the story here was the friendship between Doug and James, but it is not really looked at in detail which is a shame because if it was it could of made the different to the academy, in my opinion at least Also, I feel like nothing is given enough time or explanation and this made me not care about the characters as much as I should have.
I feel almost sad that the town did not fulfil the potential it had, I mean it was there and the bits that were good were amazing, but it was never enough. The Town kind of just floats along showing you glimpses of brilliance but never really giving you the goods.
The Fighter (2010)
Not what I expected.
Writing a review for a film like the fighter is extremely difficult to do.
A review is supposed to highlight the good and bad of it's subject, the things that worked and the things that didn't. The performances that inspired and the ones that just couldn't keep up.
You see, my problem with the fighter is that there is no problem at all, I simply cannot think of anything bad about it, anything I would tweak, change or challenge...I think the fighter is a masterpiece and I have fallen completely and utterly in love with it.
This is a rarity for me, normally there is at least something in a movie, TV program or book that I just think could have been better, or that I think was not needed, but right now I am completely stumped.
I have to admit that before watching this film I had my reservations. I have never really liked boxing movies before. I never understood the hype over Rocky and Raging Bull. I was also unsure of the cast. On paper it looked like an excuse for Mark Wahlberg to be the tough guy, and what the hell was the chirpy girl from Enchanted doing in a heavy film like the fighter? The only thing I new with certainty was that Christian Bale would give a performance that I would love, simply because he always does.
I think one of the things that makes the fighter work so well is that it is not over ambitious, yes the movie is about a boxer but it is not about the sport itself, boxing is a supporting role to a story about family. It doesn't get lost in all the drama and violence of the sport but focus's on the personal life's of those involved. This is a refreshing change.
I can talk about this movie all day, I could talk about David O Russell's great directing, the exceptional script and great shooting work until I am blue in the face. But I only have a character limit of 1000 words, besides the thing that makes the fighter so good is the performances from its exceptional cast.
This is Mark Wahlbergs labour of love, the film he has been trying to make for years and he poured his heart and soul into his character Micky. His understated and underestimated performance in this film was unexpected. Micky is quiet and peaceful, even when the world is erupting around him and his family are making life unbearable he still manages to keep his cool and deal with the punches as they come. Did he deserve an Oscar nomination for this performance? Probably yes, yet I am not surprised that he didn't. His performance and his characters quietness is simply overwhelmed by the loud, proud and damn craziness of the supporting cast and characters.
Christian Bale, in this movie, is a revelation. I would go as far to say that it is one of the best performances I have ever seen from an actor. Yet again he dropped weight for this role, and yet again he has been criticized. The criticism is uncalled for and unfair, he is playing a former welterweight boxer who is addicted to crack, show me one of those who are not skinny to the bone. He pretty much steals the show here and has proved to many that he really is one of the actors of our generation.
It is not only Bale who impresses in this movie, Melissa Leo who plays Micky and Dicky's mother is fierce and loyal. She is aggressive in her love for her children, and I pray for anyone that ever gets in her way. Leo's performance is worthy of her Oscar nomination, she is tough and edgy, a woman struggling to hold everything together when in reality everything is falling apart. Amy Adams who plays Micky's girlfriend Charlene is also brilliant, she is as tough as Leo and provides a lot of the humour with her bad ass attitude and fierce loyalty for Micky.
The fighter is without doubt one of the films of the year and maybe even the best boxing movie to come out of Hollywood. It feels real and the performances are some of the best I have seen. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone.
And, if Christian Bale does not come out of this with an Oscar I shall ignore the academy awards for the rest of my existence.