Tag Archives: Sam Clafin

Rapid Review: Their Finest

Their_Finest

Set in Britain during the Second World War, Their Finest centres on a young woman named Catrin (Gemma Arterton) who is hired to write morale boosting films for the Ministry of Information.

It’s hard to define this film into one category, it’s a behind the scenes drama with some comedic elements and insights into the way women’s roles were changing during this period. Small moments of sexism are all in a normal working day for Catrin as she hired to write ‘slop’ (women’s dialogue). Rather than this being an ‘issue’ film these elements are woven naturally into the story and it’s a fascinating insight into the work behind these propaganda and moral boosting films. I can imagine there are scenes that scriptwriters are all too familiar with such as producers making changes to the script or finding out their American lead (Jake Lacey) can’t act. These scenes are much more engaging than the sub plot with Catrin’s artist husband (Jack Houston) which feels a bit by the numbers.

Director Lone Scherfig brings the 40’s to life without hitting us over the heads with it, and captures the confusion and panic of living through the Blitz whilst its characters have to get on with everyday matters like finding work. She also brings out the best from her cast. Arterton is a sympathetic and likeable lead who can easily go between comedy and drama and has good chemistry with Sam Clafin as her co-writer Tom Buckley, who is sometimes infuriated and also infatuated with Catrin. As always Bill Nighy is great as an actor who still wants to be cast as the handsome lead despite his age. He steals scenes with his comedic one liners but is also poignant in some of the more sombre scenes.

Rating 4/5 – a great British drama that’s a welcome relief for anyone who wants a break from the blockbusters

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Me Before You

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A few years ago I read Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes and found myself bawling my eyes out. Now it’s been made into a film starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claffin. Will it still have the same power to make me cry?

After being suddenly let go from her work,  Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke) finds herself in a new job as a carer to Will (Sam Clafin) a young man who became quadriplegic after an  accident. While initally they find it hard to get along, soon they develop a friendship that edges to beocme something more.

I really enjoyed the film and like the book it had me crying in the cinema along with quite a few other people. It also had welcome moments of warmth and humour along the way. The two leads worked well, making sure the film didn’t slide into tackiness. Clarke grounded the character of Lou to make sure she isn’t too kooky and Claffin is strong as Will,  dealing well with the comedy and romance as well as the film’s more darker subjects.

However the film does deal with issues such as euthanasia and suicide which may upset some people in the audience maybe not expecting such matters to be raised. The film has also already caused some contraversy with disability groups which has objected to the way the film implies people with disabilities are a burden. While I personally don’t feel the film was trying to send a negative message it also doesn’t have long enough to really delve into such sensitive subjects, so I can see why some people may feel like that way. On a personal note I was disapointed that some of Lou’s own backstory from the novel was left out.

Rating 4/5 – emotionally draining and saved from cheesiness by the sincere performances of it’s leads

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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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The Quiet Ones

The term loosely based on a true story should be banned at the cinema! Especially when it comes to a horror movie. They might as well just say 98% of this movie is completely made up!

So…loosely based on the 1972  Phillip experiment, College Professor Coupland  (Jared Harris) attempts to create a poltergeist using the negative energy of a disturbed young girl named Jane (Olivia Cooke). With the help of his students and a young cameraman Brian (Sam Clafin)- hired to film the experiments, Coupland intends to prove his theory that supernatural occurences are caused by human energy. However things soon take a sinister turn.

At first I thought this would be a supernatural British horror film that would deliver on tension, thrills and screams. The build up starts out well as we watch the experiment become more and more inhumane and Jane starts to become more fragile and disturbed as events go on. However by the last act the movie descends into a standard sub-par horror movie. People continue to do stupid things and push Jane to her limit despite the fact that something will obviously go wrong. It wouldn’t so matter so much if the film’s climax fulfilled on its earlier promise but it ends up falling flat. The revelations to whats happening with Jane are uninspired and while Olivia Cooke is both sympathetic and creepy as Jane the students are flat cardboard characters and Clafin’s character is too wet to be of any interest. Harris at least goes into full on ham mode as the determined Professor which is entertaining at times.

It’s a shame the film fails to live up to its potential as it was an interesting idea but it just doesn’t live up to its premise.

Rating 2/5 – a tense build up descends into horror clichés and a dull denouement

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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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