24 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 - 2014
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Based on Book: by Suzanna Collins
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jena Malone
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Jennifer Lawrence: Hunger Games, Winters Bone
    • Josh Hutcherson: Hunger Games, The Kids Are All Right, American Splendor
    • Woody Harrelson:  Hunger Games , 2012, Battle in Seattle, No Country for Old Men, Prairie Home Companion, North Country, White Men Can’t Jump
    • Julianne Moore . The Kids Are All Right, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, I’m Not There, Children of Men, The Hours, Far from Heaven, The Shipping News, The Big Lebowsky, Boogie Nights, Surviving Picasso, The Fugitive, Benny and Joon
    • Jena Malone: Contact, Into the Wild, The Soloist, Cold Mountain, The United States of Leland, Donnie Darko, Homicide Life on the Streets
    • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Boat that Rocked, Cold Mountain, Punch Drunk Love, Almost Famous, State and Main, Flawless, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Twister, The Scent of a Woman
    • Stanley Tucci: Hunger Games , Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Why ? the books and first two films
  • Seen: November 23, 2014 at the cinema with Hal, YW, KW, SW, AB, LR and J, exactly one year after seeing Catching Fire in the same cinema.
Things have changed.  No more games. This is war.  Katniss is recruited by the rebels. Peeta is captive in the capital city and has either been brainwashed or has become a traitor.
The first two films were grim but colourful. This one is grim and grey. And powerful. And sad.  There is exciting action, yes.  But much of the film is contemplative. Low-key. Katniss is reluctant, as always. But passionate about fighting back when required.
It’s a very good film. Jennifer Lawrence is, as before, perfect and the rest of the cast is very strong. It’s sad to see a likeable Philip Seymour Hoffman when we know he’s no longer with us.  A great loss.
There are moments of tears.  The Mockingjay gesture in the hospital. Katniss’s haunting song, joined in on by the rebels.
The only weakness will, one hopes, be solved next year. It is undeniably an unfinished film. So not quite the rating of the first two. Yet.

4 ½ * of  5

PS Of the eight of us who saw the film together, two did not like it.

PPS Again, an added bonus – we see the movie at the cinema housed in the same building where Greta Garbo made her first films.  It’s kind of cool for a movie freak to live a 20 minute walk from Greta Garbo’s first studio!


James Bond From Russia with Love


From Russia with Love 1963
Director: Terence Young
  • Based on the novels  by Ian Fleming
  • Cast: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotta Lenya, Daniela Bianchi, Pedro Armendariz , Bernard Lee, Eunice Gayson, Lois Maxwell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Sean Connery  The Rock, First Knight, Murder on the Orient Express, Goldfinger, Marnie, Dr. No, From Russia with Love, The Longest Day and others of the early Bond films but I’m not sure which ones
    • The others: in various old films and TV series
  • Why? Curious. Hal and I saw several Bond films in a Bond festival in the early 70’s and enjoyed them. Sean Connery is the only Bond we have ever seen.  Friends have said later actors have been good too. And with Judi Dench they can’t be all bad.  So we bought the box...
  • Seen:  Once previously. Now November 21, 2014.
Did this film make fun of the Cold War? Did it make it worse? Increase hatred of the Soviet Union? Create a feeling of affection for what we were insistently told were the enemy?  Are these ridiculous questions?  It’s just an amusing film...or....propaganda or....what?
James Bond 2.  After Dr. No I’m not expecting profound political astuteness.  I’m hoping to be mindlessly entertained.
It’s a film with extreme self-confidence.  It knows it’s a success. It has all the ingredients of Dr. No only more so.  More espionage.  More “girls”. More tongue-in-cheek.  More sophistication. More cleverly lethal devices. More nearly naked hairy Sean Connery as lover boy.  More convoluted non-story. More senseless (literally – it doesn’t make sense) violence. It’s slyer and funnier and more chaotic.  James Bond is nastier and less likeable.
So, mindless? Yes. In spite of all the more-ness it’s less entertaining than its predecessor and my tolerance level is lower.
But the scenes from Istanbul are wonderful, the music is great and it’s a nice cat.  So again...

2 * of 5

21 November 2014

James Bond - Dr. No


Dr. No 1962
  • Director: Terence Young
  • Based on the novels  by Ian Fleming
  • Cast: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman,  Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Zena Marshall, Eunice Gayson, Lois Maxwell
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Sean Connery  The Rock, First Knight, Murder on the Orient Express, Goldfinger, Marnie, From Russia with Love, The Longest Day and others of the early Bond films but I’m not sure which ones
    • The others: in various old films and TV series
  • Why? Curious. Hal and I saw several Bond films in a Bond festival in the early 70’s and enjoyed them. Sean Connery is the only Bond we have ever seen.  Friends have said later actors have been good too. And with Judi Dench they can’t be all bad.  So we bought the box...
  • Seen:  Once previously. Now November 14, 2014.
This will be fun. It’s been so long and so much film technology has happened since 1962. Not to mention the shift in villains and attitudes.  But this is James Bond! The music, Sean Connery, the 60’s, pre-Beatles. The real James Bond.
It’s so British. It’s so avant-garde.   That is, it was at the time. Today in the year 2014 – it’s so retro-cool!  Sean Connery is so....ooh... Sean Connery!  There can simply not be any other Double-O Seven.  Suave. Clever. Snide. In control.
Like a Shakespeare play that is just a bunch of quotes (no other comparison intended), this is just a bunch of Bond classics.  Mixed not stirred. Smart sexy professional, sometimes villainous, women.  Seriously classic cars. Exotic venues. No story to worry about. A strong dose of colonialist racism and almost amusing (almost! not quite) macho sexism.
But actually it’s boring and I doze off.  I wake up in the atomic power plant set up to do bad things.  If early viewers didn’t notice it was all made of cardboard and plastic I’m sure it looked very futuristic back then.
It’s all so silly but enjoyable in its way.  We have our Friday evening film choices made for the next twenty weeks or so.

2 * of 5

10 November 2014

The Tempest (Taymor)


The Tempest 2010
  • Director: Julie Taymor
  • Based on the play by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Helen Mirren, Ben Whishaw, Felicity Jones, Djimoun Hounsou, David Strathairn, Reeve Carney, Tom Conti, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Helen Mirren  Brighton Rock, The Queen, Prime Suspect, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Calendar Girls, Gosford Park, Last Orders, The Pledge, Some Mother’s Son, The Madness of King George. The Mosquito Coast, Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Excalibur, As You Like It, Oh Lucky Man
    • Ben Whishaw – I’m Not There
    • Felicity Jones – The Invisible Woman
    • Djimoun Hounsou – Blood Diamond, The Island, Gladiator, Amistad
    • David Strathairn – Good Night and Good Luck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, LA Confidential, Mother Night, Dolores Claiborne, A League of Their Own, Stars and Bars, Matewan, Silkwood
    • Reeve Carney – Snow Falling on Cedars
    • Tom Conti – The Dark Knight Rises, Derailed, Friends, Shirley Valentine
    • Chris Cooper – My House in Umbria, Adaption, The Bourne Identity, American Beauty, Matewan
    • Alan Cumming – Get Carter, Third Rock from the Sun, Titus, Eyes Wide Shut, Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion
    • Russell Brand – only in interviews
    • Alfred Molina – An Education, As You Like It, Frida, Chocolat, Prick Up Your Ears
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen:  November 8, 2014
Much of the film captures the power of the play.  The gender switch from Prospero to Prospera works well in the expert hands of Helen Mirren who can play anything and who brings the despairing aspect of the character into fine expression.  There are fine moments from all of the actors.  Caliban is at times a bit too melodramatic but Hounsou also brings out the pathos in the character’s vicious rebellion.  Ariel has poignant moments in all his flitting and flying but a lot of his role is played more by special effects than his acting.  This is a weakness; nevertheless the visual effect is strong as it is throughout the film.
The two young lovers are too wimpy. True, Shakespeare’s young lovers usually are, but do they have to be quite so sweet and dewy-eyed?  Russell Brand as Trinculo, however, is an inspired choice, Alfred Molina is always enjoyable to watch as a buffoon and Chris Cooper as villain works well.
Taymor makes good use of Hawaii’s dramatic island seascapes as well as the touch of heavy rock and techno music.  The sweep through the Universe instead of a visit from the Greek goddesses for the young newlyweds is also a good choice.
By far the best film version of The Tempest (I’m not including the filmed version of the Globe production from 2013; we saw that on stage at the Globe and it is the best ever but I don’t review filmed stage productions on this blog as a rule), this surpasses expectations created by the critics’ cool reaction, but in fact my reaction is just a bit cool too. Something – I don’t know what – is lacking and it doesn’t grip me as deeply as Taymor’s other Shakespeare film Titus. One problem is that though the Coda song is nicely sung it really is Prospero’s/Prospera’s final and very eloquent soliloquy and Helen Mirren should not have been deprived of it.
But it’s a fine film.

4 * of 5