Movie: The Hunger Games


 

I’d vaguely heard about the books, just vaguely. In that I heard there were books.

So I’ve not been eagerly awaiting this film like much of the world seems to have. By the way, does the author get paid more if the film does super-well?

I only go as there’s nothing else I particularly want to watch and what started grimly actually has some humour so I’m pleasantly surprised after about 20 minutes. At first it felt like I was watching in monochrome and then someone remembered to switch on the colour. The story is of a future America, led by the president (Donald Sutherland) although it is not explained how the country got into a state in that the rich were rich and the poor were given jobs to do depending on what ‘district’ they lived in and they still had to hunt for food, starving. There’s clearly been some sort of unexplained war and/or rebellion/uprising.

We the audience are rooting for the two people, male and female, who are randomly selected from District 12 to fight in the Hunger Games, the annual national contest where everyone kills each other and there is only one victor. Thank heavens for Woody Harrelson who plays the good time mentor to District 12; having been a victor himself, he is now one of the privileged rich. The star of the show is a very camped up Stanley Tucci, playing the Hunger Games TV host, now on my very short list of actors that make any film watchable.

It’s better than I thought and had me gripped for about 70% of the film but I’m not in a rush to a. read the books or b. see the next one

7/10

Smile factor 5/10 – Just Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrellson

Movie – The Fairy (La Fee)

Another film I may never have seen if it wasn’t for Flatpack Festival and it provided another excuse to visit the always quaint Electric cinema.

An excuse because, my Regular Reader will know, I’m a fully paid up member of Cineworld Unlimited card so it’s pointless paying £7 for a ticket at the Electric when I already pay for unlimited films but a film like this rarely shown at the mainstream cinema. And somehow more befitting in the oldest working cinema in the country.

In this film from Belgium/France, the fairy in question, Fiona turns up at a hotel to grant Dom, the hapless employee three wishes. Before he realises he’s falling for her, she’s in a mental institution and the hunt is on to find her and break her free.

Hence they are always on the run from the authorities, with their hearts in the right places and the humour continues.

There isn’t much dialogue, which saves me reading the sub titles, but this is a delightful, modern slap-stick comedy. Not one of my favourite genres and indeed they did go very over the top during a baby left on the car bonnet scene towards the end but nonetheless, a lovely watch.

7½/10 

Smile factor 7½/10

The Electric Cinema

Movie – Blank City


Just by chance I heard about this documentary film and by even more remote chance, it was part of Birmingham’s FlatPack film festival.

The reason for my interest in Blank City is because it details Lower East Side, New York in the late 1970s, into the 1980s where seemingly everyone made films. Not being a film geek, I recognised very few film makers but it was great to see people like Deborah Harry being interviewed alongside all these film clips made by people literally on the street or in squats.

The neighbourhood then, particularly Alphabet City way out to the East Side – a place I only ventured to a few years ago after many years of visiting the city – was an absolute no-go area. As is documented, residents feared for their life every day walking back and forth but on the plus side they didn’t have any belongings or money so thieves knew there was nothing to be stolen. It was more of a narcotics thing and as well as the drugs scene, Aids came to be around this time so there is talk of lost lives.

Really, it’s amazing to see people survive as so little was known in the very early eighties.

I loved this film from the popular culture angle but film makers and geeks – and indeed photographers will enjoy the artistic element.

7½/10

Smile factor 8½/10

Movie – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is another film that if you blink, you’ll miss it at your friendly, local, picture house.

One would think any film with Judi Dench in it is a) good and b) a hot ticket (although her being in it will not get me to see a Bond film, wild horses wouldn’t drag me, etc etc).

The film has a full array of Brit actors in their prime, all of which I feel the next generation or two can learn from.

The run-down ironically named Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in desperate need of guests and advertises itself as a place for the ’retired and the beautiful.’ A group of disillusioned British strangers head over hoping to find meaning in what’s left of their life and partake in new adventures and inevitably make friends – or enemies. So far, the person with the funniest lines is Muriel (Maggie Smith), who is only going over in the short term to jump the NHS queue for a hip replacement and is gloriously an ignorant racist. It doesn’t take many marbles to work out she will be won over by India before the end of the film.

All the characters are in search of something but it’s only the judge, Graham (Tom Wilkinson) who knows what; his lost love of some 40 years ago, his first boyfriend.

The young – and possibly the most enthusiastic hotelier in the world – has his own woes with a domineering mother putting him under pressure to sell the loss-making, hotel left to the family by the father.

I love how the stories gently unfold and how the group started bonding and unlike some comments from Indian people I have seen, I think India is portrayed pretty well – remembering this is fiction! Of course a real hotel where even the phones didn’t work and there was layer of dust on unused furniture will not present itself open for business in a country known for its warm hospitality!

7½/10

Smile factor 9½/10

 

Movie – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

A Tom Hanks film that I nearly missed; I say a Tom Hanks film but as we know from the trailers, he is dead in the movie and so appears infrequently. In fact, annoyingly, the main character that’s in every scene is young Thomas Horn who plays Oscar, the bereaved son of the Hank’s character who perishes in the World Trade Centre on September 11th.

This is the first ‘footage’ I have seen of those events; I couldn’t even bring myself to watch on the day or since, nor have I been to the site since. However, the film isn’t about 9/11 but about a young boy coping after the early and cruel death of his beloved father. I though given that he is on his own they’d be a lot of support from his mother, played by the excellent Sandra Bullock but sadly she has even less of a role than Hanks.

Instead the film focuses on Oscar’s hunt to find out where a key he found by accident in his perfect father’s closet may lead. This would be a great story if this was a fantasy adventure but it’s set in early present day New York so a non-story to start. Whether Oscar’s self-harming and (extremely) annoying (loud) nature is due to the passing away is not clear, nor is why a mother would let her child out alone all over the city on subways, busses and walking whilst he looked to interrogate everyone with the surname ‘Black’ the name found on the keys’ envelope.

The emotional wrench that I felt from the trailers is delivered through a key point made throughout the film of Oscar hearing his Dad’s phone messages as the situation deteriorated in WTC. The most poignant though is of his mother having her last telephone conversation with him as she looks out in absolute horror at the building crumpling in front of her across the city skyline.

I know this is based on a book (which everyone suddenly seems to be reading without knowing the film had been released) but what I expected more of is a relationship (however) tense portrayed between the son and the widower. Instead the highlight is Oscar befriending his Grandma’s ‘lodger’ from across the street. That and the fact that a lot of the action is based around the Upper West where I used to live.

7/10

Smile factor 5/10

Movie – The Muppets

Confession time; I have never seen anything of the Muppets. I think I felt I was too old for it first time round but now seems the perfect age to enjoy it and in any case, I still recognise many of the characters, not just Kermit and Miss Piggy.

I joined many other first time viewers at the cinema last Friday evening, admittedly the rest of them were under 3 ft high but we all loved it. What I admire about modern day children’s films are the copious adult in-jokes that only we can appreciate and yet they take none of the joy away from the kids.

The story line is of a lone Muppet, Walter, who visits the  old Muppets LA studio only to find it’s about to be destroyed in the name of the almighty dollar by a wealthy businessman. He sets about trying to prevent this, with the help of his (human) best friend along with his unwitting girlfriend, who have travelled to LA for their 10th anniversary. She hopes this means a proposal but the ‘men’ set out looking for the mansion inhabiting Kermit to persuade him to put on a fundraising television show and save the studio from evil tycoon.

Kermit has to reunite the gang including Miss Piggy, now an editor at French Vogue, Fozzie who performs in a tribute group, the Moopets, Gonzo who now runs a successful company and best of all Animal from an anger management re-hab unit that includes Jack Black which means he is restrained from playing his beloved drums. (Who does that remind me off…..?)

The cast break into song fairly often; when Mary feels let down by her potential fiancé Gary who is busy looking out for his little Muppet brother, Walter, when Miss Piggy and Kermit reminisce about their old romance and .. well pretty much at every opportunity.

The movie leaves me wishing I could travel by map (as in when they show a line moving across a map in movies to denote travel) and the ditty ‘Man or Muppet’ is already stuck in my head, partly due to Chris Evans playing it on Radio Two.

I’m going to have to score it highly since it kept me awake at the end of an extremely tiring and sleep deprived day.

8/10
Smile factor 10/10

Movie – The Descendants

I’ve come a long way since avoiding George Clooney films. It all started with seeing ‘Michael Clayton’ on my birthday in San Francisco as there was nothing else I wanted to watch and I’ve enjoyed ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’ since. I don’t care for ‘Up in the Air’ though. And I still draw the line at Mr Pitts’ films.

The story is of man coping with his wife in a coma after a boating accident. Matt King (Clooney) lives a relatively charmed life in Hawaii as a lawyer with a considerable heritance in the way of land owned through generations of his family for which he is the trustee. The accident happens whilst going through negotiations to sell the land and as King finds himself ’getting to know his daughters again.’

So far it’s a Hollywood cliché but for once, annoying rich brats become likeable quite quickly. After dragging the older daughter home from her expensive school, she reveals her mother’s affair to King and of course the tone of the film changes. The marriage clearly wasn’t a strong one but I’m glad he hated (a strong word, I know) his wife for her betrayal, despite the fact that she is being kept alive by machines.

The film moves along well with the flurry of stories; finding out more about the wife’s lover (what’s the male word for ‘mistress’? Is there one?), negotiating for the sale of land, mending the family and of course dealing with a potential bereavement. There are plenty of family characters to keep us interested and despite the sadness, the film has humour throughout.

The Oscar fuss over this one hasn’t hyped it up unduly although I don’t think its Oscar material myself, but then as has been proven time and time again on these pages, what do I know about film?

I’m not sure whether to give it a 7.5 or 8.

7½/10 (TBC)

Smile factor 8½/10