Tag Archives: Jennifer Lawrence

X Men: Apocalypse

X-Men_-_ApocalypseThe third chapter in a trilogy is always tricky one to get right, something the teenage mutants acknowledge themselves during the third film in the X Men prequel seires. But it can’t be as bad as X Men: The Last Stand can it?

Its 1983, ten years on from the events of Days of Future Past and mutants are living alongside humans but while they are not at war they are living on a knife’s edge. When one of the world’s first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakes from centuries of slumber he is determine to lay the world to waste and start again, with himself as it’s God. It’s up to Professor X (James McAvoy) , Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and their students to stop him.

OK so Apocalypse is not as good as Days of Future Past or X2 but thankfully it’s nowhere near the flops that were The Last Stand or Origins: Wolverine. Despite the influx of new characters (or returning, younger characters depending how you look at it) the film doesn’t feel overloaded and most get some good moments.

Perhaps the ones that get least development is the new mutants who become the Four horsemen working for Apocalypse aside Magneto (Micheal Fassbender – always good). Out of the three newcomers only Storm (Alexandra Shipp) has some potential. Psylock (Olivia Munn) looks cool and Angel (Ben Hardy) is great looking -apart from the dodgy 80’s hair- but aside from that they make little impact. Oscar Isaac also feels hampered under the prosthetics in what ends up being another generic supervillain, especially compared to Fassbender’s compellingly tragic anti-hero.

Lawrence’s Mystique is served better by the story this time than she was in Days of Future Past and the always dependable McAvoy shines again as Xavier. Out of the new students Kurt/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is instantly endearing and Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey looks set to become an interesting addition to the team. Maybe if they do more movies they can tackle the Dark Phoenix storyline properly this time.

Action wise there are some good scenes even though the climatic scenes feature the over familiar destroying of a major city. One of the highlights of the film is the reappearance of Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who once again gets a scene stealing moment as he rescuing a bunch of mutants from a building. Peters is hugely likeable and very funny in his extended role. So when will we get a solo Quicksilver movie then?

Rating 3.5/5 – fun if a tad long addition to the X Men franchise

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

After three books and four movies we are finally coming to the end of The Hunger Games series. But does Katniss and co get a fitting end?

Struggling after seeing a tortured and brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) decides to take the fight to President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and kill him herself. However she is not prepared for the dangers in the Capitol or the scheming behind the scenes of District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore).

Full disclosure-this is probably my least favourite out of all The Hunger Games movies. Unlike the other movies I actually felt the running time dragged, some of the deaths didn’t have the emotional impact I was expecting and it has more false endings then Return of the King.

Having said all that it’s still a terrific movie. Lawrence’s perfromance has been a highlight across all the series and as expected she’s excellent in her final outing as Katniss. Katniss has been a fantastic character, flawed, three-dimensional, inspirational and The Hunger Games success has shown Hollywood that female-led films and franchises can bring in the audience. It’s also nice to see the wonderful supporting cast once more, even if for some of them it’s very fleeting. It’s also bittersweet to see Phillip Seymore Hoffman in his last performance.

The film also delivers on something that Mockingjay Part One lacked which is action. While it takes it’s time building up, when Katniss and her ‘Star Squad’ bring the fight to Snow the pace quickens dramatically as Snow uses the Captiol as his own personal Hunger Games with various traps being used against the heroes. Whether out in the open or traveling underground Katniss and co are being hunted and dispatched before they can complete their mission and it’s exciting stuff.

The Hunger Games series has always had a dark edge and Mockingjay Part 2 is no different. The stakes are high and much loved charcaters get killed. The film doesn’t hesistate to comment on how war changes people and encourages criticism of leaders and the tatcis used to win said wars. It’s great that a popular and commerical movie deals with these major themes and doesn’t alienate fans.

It’s sad to see The Hunger Games come to an end, but it ends on a good note that stays faithful to themes and characters of the books.

Rating 4/5 – a final and fitting farewell to the Mockingjay and Panem

 

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The end is near for The Hunger Games movies. But like all franchises these days the concluding book has to be split across two films. But is there enough material to spread over two movies?

Katniss is now in District 13 but she is still suffering from her experiences in the Hunger Games and her guilt over Peeta being left behind and under the Capitol’s control. But with District 12 having been destroyed and the other Districts looking to riot against the Capitol, Katniss is needed to become the symbol of the rebellion so they can win the war against President Snow. But is Katniss up to the task?

Splitting the final Hunger Games books could be seen as a purely cynical move, and while the obvious motivation is clearly all about the money, that doesn’t mean its a terrible idea. When I heard that Mockingjay was to become two movies I actually liked that idea (and I’m normally not a fan of such thing – I’m looking at you The Hobbit movies). This way I get to see more of the characters I like and it allows all the subplots to get fully developed.

So the main themes around Part 1 is about propaganda and perception. To win a war you don’t just need to fight in battles but you need to win the hearts of the people, or in the case of the villainous Snow frighten them into submission. I liked that the film showed how both sides use the media to get the public’s support and both are not afraid of using teenagers to their own ends. Katniss and Peeta are both being used  as puppets of the two Presidents, although they both aren’t as easy to control as they’d hope.

It’s almost redundant at this point to go on about how great Jennifer Lawrence is as Katniss but I’m going to anyway. Everyone’s favourite moody teenager is back (not that she doesn’t have reason to be sullen), and while she may not be in the arena anymore, the games are still being played, even if they are more political in nature they are still as dangerous. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Katniss is only about 17 and yet so much expectation is on her shoulder. Lawrence perfectly captures the trauma that Katniss has been through due to her experiences and how that is affecting her behaviour and decisions. She is trying to do right by everyone-Peeta, Penam, President Coil- however she doesn’t know what the consequences of her actions will be or how others will retaliate.

So there’s a lot of heavy scenes and political manipulation. Thank god for Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) to bring some much-needed light relief. But they are not just there for comedy as they provide Katniss with support and reassurance that she so desperately needs, and they actually do care about her wellbeing too. Out of the new characters Natalie Dormer is striking as Cressida the director of Katniss’ propaganda films, and  Julianne Moore’s gives District 13’s President Coin makes the cold and calculating more interesting than she could have been. With so much going on that does mean some characters are neglected a bit such as Finnick but at least  Sam Clafin makes the most of the few scenes he’s in and he has much better chemistry with Katniss than she does with either of her supposed live interests Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) or Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

Being the first of two movies does of course have its drawbacks, including a lack of a proper ending to the movie. Also without the tension of the arena there’s not as much action in this movie compared to the previous instalments. At least after the build up during this movie, Mockingjay part 2 should give us the more than enough action when the Capitol is finally stormed by Katniss and co.

Rating 4.5/5 -while it’s not as action-packed as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire it’s still as gripping and smart as ever with Jennifer Lawrence once again on spectacular form

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

I used to love watching the X-Men cartoon as a kid, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the mutants. Despite a few fumbles along the way (particularly The Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins), I’ve enjoyed the big screen version of the X-Men. But with time travel and a huge ensemble involved in this sequel will it be an epic adventure or an overloaded mess?

In the future robots called Sentinels are killing mutants. Things have gotten so bad that Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor X(Patrick Stewart) have come together with a small band of surviving mutants to try to set things right. When Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) is able to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time (it makes more sense in the film-kind of), he tries to bring together the younger version of Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) to stop Mistique (Jennifer Lawrence) from making a terrible mistake that will affect all the mutants.

Ok first up the bad points. Anyone who reads this blog knows how much of a fan I am of Jennifer Lawrence. However this was not her best film. Not that she was awful but she looked like she bored the whole way through. It may be because her character Mistique didn’t have a powerful character arc this time around. Most of the time her character was just there to be in the middle of a power struggle between two men. Boring. I also didn’t understand how the character Kitty Pryde got the power to send Wolverine back in time in the first place. Maybe I missed something.

Thankfully there is plenty of good things in this movie. The highlight of which is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), one of the new mutants brought into the film franchise. He’s of particular interest because his character is appearing in both this movie and in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Based on what we’ve seen here, Marvel Studios have got their work cut for them trying to beat this version. Peters’ speedster Quicksilver has just a few scenes but his Quicksilver is funny and interesting. The sequence when we see things from his perspective as he speeds up and everyone slows down is brilliantly realised. The humour, the music, everything is perfect. I’m also glad they kept him to just those scenes as he could have been overused but instead it’s one of the memorable moments of the film.

Out of the future mutants I was really interested in was Blink (Fan Bingbing) and her portal creating abilities. I hope we get to see more of her. While it could have been mutant overload with the two timeline worth of characters sharing the screen, the film never feels messy and it easily flits back and forth between the two settings. There is also a lot of welcome humour amidst all the drama. Jackman’s Wolverine has a lot of the best lines and it’s always fun to watch him step back into the role. It’s also great to see both versions of Magneto and Professor X again, and we even get a scene where both Charles face each other for a pep talk.

Occasionally this movie drags a bit in between the action. However it tends to pick itself up again quite quickly. And I have to say I love the ending. The last few scenes are great and leaves you eagerly anticipating the next film.

Rating 4/5 – exciting, fun and full of action, in other words a great summer blockbuster

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American Hustle

Combining key cast members from The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook director David O’Russell brings us this crime comedy drama  based partly on a true story.

When con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are caught by FBI agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), they strike a deal that they won’t get prosecuted if they assist Di Maso with four additional arrests. Things get complicated when a politican Mayor Carmine Polito comes on the scene and Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) gets herself involved.

As a big fan of Silver Linings Playbook I was excited to see this movie. However the experience left me rather cold. It may have been that I was expecting to see a different type of film. I thought it would a fun heist flick  with some great twists up its sleeves and although American Hustle has its moment it’s more a case of style over substance. I’m not sure what enticed a cast this talented to be a part of the movie-I guess they enjoyed working with O’Russell on his previous projects. 

The performances however are great. Bale, Cooper and Renner are all convincing in their respective roles but it the women who really shine in this film. Ever since I saw Adams in Enchanted I’ve been a huge fan of hers and she is fantastic as hustler Sydney, a woman who will do whatever she has to in order to survive. She’s tough, intelligent and more than a match for the men around her. She’s already bagged a Golden Globe and Bafta nomination for this role and I expect an Oscar nom will also be on the horizon. Lawrence also gives another amazing performance as Irving’s boozy, wildcard wife Rosalyn. A whirlwind mess of big blonde hair and ballsy attitude, she manages to be funny, hideous and vunerable often within the same scene. Another possible Oscar nomination should be within her sight.

Good performances aside the story is just not as strong. The plot rumbles on well enough but fails to captivate or intrigue as a good crime drama should do. I guess I was waiting for a really great plot twist or character reveal to come. However I just found myself not caring what happened to anyone in the film or how things would work out. It looks great and the cast perform well but all in all it’s not the modern classic I thought it would be.

Rating 3/5-a great cast elvates an otherwise average movie

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It’s fair to say I’m a huge fan of The Hunger Games franchise and it’s star Jennifer Lawrence, therefore my expectations were through the roof. But now I’ve seen it have I been brought crashing down to Earth?

A year on from the Hunger Games, and it’s winner Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) is struggling with the memories of the killings during the games and the complicated love triangle she has with fellow hunter Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and her joint winner of the games Peeta (Josh Hutcherson). All this is pushed to the side once President Snow (Donald Sutherland) decided to get rid of Katniss -and any potential threats of uprising- by announcing the next Hunger Games will throw previous Victors back into the game.

There’s no point pretending otherwise. I LOVED THIS FILM!

I was worried that previous director Gary Ross’ departure would leave the franchise in trouble, however Francis Lawrence has shown a great understanding of the characters and the wider world of the hunger games. I enjoyed seeing the meetings of Snow and his collaborators behind the hunger games and revealing their motivations behind certain events. Its a nice development from the book which was limited in showing the wider world of Panem due to its first person narration. The games are just as brutal as ever with poisonious fogs and rain of blood, while Katniss is again left wondering who she can trust and just who the real enemy really is. 

The whole thing is brilliantly cast. It is hard to pick stand outs from the supporting actors otherwise I’d might as well list the entire cast but particular mention has to go to Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, one of my favourite characters from the book –he fights against the regime using fashion!-and Kravitz plays him brilliantly. His relationship with Katniss is a joy to watch and really pulls at the heart strings. I had initial reservations about the castings of Sam Clafin and Jena Malone as previous victors Finnick and Johanna  but now I’ve seen them in the roles they perfectly encapture their characters from the books and are welcome new additions to the film.

Above all this though there is one star of this film and that is Jennifer Lawrence. She manages to make a character who may otherwise come across as sullen and moody become likeable, strong and inspiring. Its not surprising that Katniss Everdeen has become something of an iconic character, and the main part of this is Lawrence’s portrayal of her. She can go from emotional and devastated, to enraged and rebellious in an instant.

The only downside for me is that I would have liked to have seen Haymarch’s (the excellent Woody Harrelson) backstory in the film. His experience in his Game was an important part of the book and made Peeta and Katniss understand why their mentor has turned out the way he has. That aside this was a tremendous experience to watch.

Rating 5/5-Leaving us on one hell of a cliffhanger I can’t wait for the next installment

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Silver Linings Playbook

Oscar season is now on the way and Silver Lining Playbook is a strong contender to pick up a few awards this year.

The film follows Pat (Bradley Cooper) who has just come out of an institution after beating up his wife’s lover into a bloody pulp. Pat still wants to make his marriage work while dealing with a restraining order, his well-meaning parents (including an OCD Robert De Niro), and his bi-polar. Thrust into his life is newly widowed Tiffany-who deals with her grief by sleeping around.

This sounds like it could be some wacky Hollywood comedy about some oddballs, and it kind of is in a way, but the film is also serious at times. Pat and Tiffany’s mental illness are not brushed away or there to be an entertaining quirk to the lead characters, they are treated seriously and the characters are shown to be deeply flawed and in need of help. The fact they are also likeable comes down to the great performances by Cooper and Lawrence, in any other hands these characters could have been unsympathetic and irritating. Bradley’s Pat is someone struggling to get his life-and marriage back on track and it is shown to be a struggle for him. You are willing for him to get better and turn his life around. It’s a great performance by Cooper who we’ve seen mostly in broad comedic roles. It’s still a comedy but there are tough edges to his performance.

Lawrence is also on brilliant form as Pat’s new friend Tiffany. It’s a wonderful performance that could easily have fallen into the annoying, “kooky”, girl role, but Lawrence restrains from allowing her character to fall into that trap. It’s a three dimensional character who is hurting deep inside and has dealt with her grief badly at times, but she is also trying to build her life back and throws herself into a dance competition, blackmailing Pat into helping her.

It’s a film which also shows the difficulty families have in dealing with a loved one who suffers from a mental illness, while also showing us that maybe everyone has a bit of craziness inside them too. It’s probably one of the better portrayals of mental illness I’ve seen in mainstream Hollywood film.

Maybe some will feel the cheesy ending is too much, but having been on this journey with the characters I was rooting for them the whole way, and as Pat says why can’t there for once just be a happy ending?

Rating 4.5/5

A comedy that deserves to do well come Oscar time, and Cooper and Lawrence deserve all the nominations going.

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