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Movie Review: The Hunger Games Mockingjay - Part 1


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 picks up the story after The Hunger Games have been destroyed. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, discovers District 13 has been decimated before moving onto District 12, where President Coin convinces her to become a symbol for the revolution. All the while, Peeta's increasingly dire situation is being transmitted via talk show interviews with Caesar Flickerman, making an attempt at rescuing him seem inevitable if not impossible.

Katniss Everdeen without The Hunger Games is like Harry Potter without Hogwart's. After two similar movies building up to the series selling point of teens in a lethal Lord of the Flies game of Survivor, it would have been a yawn to go there again. However, without the underlying tension of a relentless tumbrel on its path to a kill-your-buddy-or-be-killed scenario, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1feels like a different movie altogether.

Peeta and Katniss have been separated, the Districts are playing up some Wag the Dog propaganda with Katniss and a guerilla film-making crew and it's now a much broader war game. The concept of an insider bringing down "The Man" by playing according to his rules helped create a wonderful sense of irony and tension. Watching Katniss being groomed to be a figurehead for a revolutionary struggle, without truly questioning it herself, doesn't have the same appeal.

While The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 feels somewhat adrift, it's still a finely crafted film. Francis Lawrence has a more mature grip on the series, as demonstrated by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. He continues to exert this influence, providing us with a grittier, darker and ominous vision of The Hunger Games aftermath. While on the brink of revolution is dead serious business, it would have been good for there to have been some levity to a fairly joyless experience.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Movie Review

"Guns, roses, jungles... sweet child o mine!"

The lead trio return with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth reprising their roles. Lawrence is still on-form continuing where she left off, although a few of the vulnerable moments don't quite work. Hutcherson is good but less prominent, and we literally see less of him as the actor seems to have slimmed down to an almost emaciated state. Liam Hemsworth delivers another second fiddle performance and you can't help but feel the character's been short-changed.

The formidable supporting cast is made up of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. It's impressive on paper and while Hoffman and Moore get most of the screen time, each of their performances help anchor the dramatic integrity of Mockingjay - Part 1.

The sets and solid CGI add weight and scale to this epic war time sci-fi adventure as Katniss rallies the troops like a futuristic Joan of Arc. While dark and almost depressing at times, we get behind our heroine's quest to free the enslaved and scatter President Snow's troops. While often set underground, the film does sometimes feel like a Star Trek battle as two spaceships and camps wage a tactical and political war from their home bases.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 is enjoyable owing to the groundwork done by the series and its ability to keep us invested in our heroine's plight. While the experience is rather joyless and seems somewhat adrift, the film's overriding quality and thrilling action peril smooth over the no-fun approach with Jennifer Lawrence heralding a grand showdown for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2. It's not as sharp as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, but there's enough to tide us over.

The bottom line: Entertaining

 
New Releases at Ster-Kinekor Cavendish this Week! (20/11/14)

Ster-Kinekor, Cavendish Square is one of the best cinemas in Africa, delivering a world-class digital film experience so that you get to watch GREAT moments at their GREATEST. Here's a selection of what's hot-and-happening at this state-of-the-art cinema complex at Cavendish Square in Cape Town. Visit the SPL!NG Facebook fan page to stand a chance of winning double movie tickets! And don't forget TWO brand new Cine Prestige cinemas are opening later this month!

HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1

 


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 sees Katniss Everdeen rise up after The Hunger Games are destroyed. After District 12 is leveled, she moves to District 13 where President Coin convinces her to become a symbol for the rebellion, while trying to save Peeta from the Capitol. Jennifer Lawrence, the symbol for The Hunger Games, brings us another fine performance as Katniss in this dark, harrowing chapter of the sci-fi adventure series.

Why you need to see it: It boasts a stellar cast, epic sci-fi sets, action peril, a front line propaganda film crew... and an enslaved state on the brink of war.


 
Movie Review: The Drop


The Drop is a slow-boiling, character driven Brooklyn crime drama based on Dennis Lehane's short story,Animal Rescue, about a Brooklyn bartender, who finds himself entwined in an investigation after a robbery gone awry. It's quite surprising that this is Lehane's first feature film screenplay when you consider his novels: Mystic RiverShutter Island and Gone Baby Gone have all been adapted into great films.

Lehane's story is small and intimate in scale, immersing us in a close-knit Brooklyn neighbourhood of friends and foes, where bars are used as drop-off points for illegal cash transfers. He's extrapolated his short story into a feature-length crime drama turned character portrait about gentle, simple bartender, Bob Saginowksi, played by Tom Hardy.

Tom Hardy is excellent as Bob Saginowski - delivering a blend of Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump and Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. His nuanced and thoughtful performance embodies the spirit of The Drop as Belgian director Michaël R. Roskam brings a similar tension and intensity to his previous film, Bullhead.

"Does it look like I'm joking?"

You'd expect The Drop to fall in-line with a number of similar NY gang-related crime dramas, however this is a slow-burning drama that gets by without quick pacing and explosive action set pieces. It's the sort of drama that creeps up on you, catching you off-guard with surprising character-defining moments.

Tom Hardy's performance is The Drop's backbone, which is fleshed out by a strong supporting cast and solid performances. The late James Gandolfini brings his immense presence and New York essence, Noomi Rapace is a shadowy romantic interest and Roskam's lead from Bullhead, Matthias Schoenaerts, is a slimy drifter.

This is a smart, mature thinking man's crime drama, relying on great characters, fine performances, dense atmosphere and taut direction. Instead of being thrown in the deep end, we're lured into a gritty community of grey areas, giving the complex characters space to glow brighter as a stifled investigation gets underway.

The bottom line: Subtle

 
New Releases at Ster-Kinekor Cavendish Tomorrow! (14/11/14)

Ster-Kinekor, Cavendish Square is one of the best cinemas in Africa, delivering a world-class digital film experience so that you get to watch GREAT moments at their GREATEST. Here's a selection of what's hot-and-happening at this state-of-the-art cinema complex at Cavendish Square in Cape Town. Visit the SPL!NG Facebook fan page to stand a chance of winning double movie tickets! And don't forget TWO brand new Cine Prestige cinemas are opening later this month!

DUMB AND DUMBER TO

 


Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, two reprobate losers, who happen to be incredibly dumb and downright hilarious. Twenty years after their first madcap adventure, and one epic prank later... the two set off on a quest to find Harry's estranged, adopted daughter. The Farrelly brothers are known for their outrageous comedy and have returned to a comedy duo who have a special place in many people's memories.

Why you need to see it: If you loved Dumb and Dumber, then you have no choice but to see what the Farrelly brothers have concocted with slightly older, just as silly co-leads.


TARZAN

 


Tarzan and Jane Porter face a mercenary army commanded by the evil CEO of Greystoke Energies, a man who took over from Tarzan's parents. With the Planet of the Apes reboot and so many superhero origin stories doing the rounds, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before jungle hero Tarzan got one himself. Reinhard Klooss, the director behind Animals United and Impy's Wonderland, brings us another animated adventure.

Why you need to see it: It swings into cinemas in 3D and stars the voice talents of ellan Lutz, Spencer Locke and Jaime Ray Newman.


 
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