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As surprise box office juggernauts go, you can do a lot worse than The Hunger Games franchise.  Though the first film was flimsy and mostly tacky, there was at least an interesting concept – brutal state repression to protect the wealthiest individuals and the moral backflips one has to do when forced to kill others, and the grotesquerie of Reality Television bloodsport.  None of this is particularly new, and as I wrote in my review of the first entry, it’s too hard to ignore the similarities to Battle Royale, a film which is in every far superior.  Still, a popular film about income inequality that is intent on sowing the seeds of revolution is timely and, for someone with my politics, nothing to be sniffed at.  That said, even though the broad strokes are good, there’s a trouble with the sequel Catching Fire, and though this may just be a symptom of “the middle book” syndrome, it’s hard to get too excited because of it.  Despite Jennifer Lawrence being more than capable in the role, and the fact that this film is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every way, the biggest sore spot is Katniss Everdeen herself.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Ender’s Game

October 30, 2013

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The long-awaited adaptation of the much beloved sci-fi novel Ender’s Game by the much reviled author Orson Scott Card has finally arrived, and though it strikes me as odd that anyone would be particularly interested in seeing this book brought to the screen (maybe a mini-series on TV, perhaps, but as a film, it never made much sense) it has been.  Years of development hell for the various attempts to do so have led us to an era of Young Adult adaptation mania, spurred on by the monstrous successes of Harry Potter and Twilight and, as a result, The Hunger Games.  As a result, we have a bland franchise hopeful written and directed by Gavin Hood.  These sorts of things don’t really rely on a strong authorial identity behind the camera – arguably, they’re antithetical to the business purposes of the pursuit – and so the adaptation runs straight down the middle all the way through, and unsurprisingly leaves us with a quick-paced, nuance-less YA film that mostly serves to highlight why it shouldn’t have been adapted in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

Pain & Gain

April 26, 2013

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When I read Pete Collins’ bizarre, incredible “Pain and Gain” story, recounting the events in the mid-90s of the “Sun Gym Gang”, my first thought was, “this is a Coen Brothers film.”  The elements were all there: deluded moron criminals, ever increasing amounts of absurdity, horrific events that seamlessly combine tragedy and farce.  I already knew at the time that it was set to be Michael Bay’s next picture, however, and when I eventually saw the trailer, I predicted it would be crass, stupid, and not at all respectful of the real crimes or the victims.  I was basically right about all of that, and yet… Read the rest of this entry »

Cosmopolis

August 30, 2012

I have never read Dom Delillo’s Cosmopolis (or, indeed, any of his novels), so approaching David Cronenberg’s film version is something of a tricky prospect.  It’s the first screenplay Cronenberg has written himself since eXistenZ, and I imagine an awful lot of it was lifted wholesale from the source.  There’s certainly no attempt to translate what seems to me to be a stilted, idiosyncratic voice into anything approaching naturalistic, and I can’t help but assume that is intentional.  That is not to say it isn’t cinematic, because quite the opposite is true – a lot of work has gone into the crafting, and for a very ‘talky’ film, it never suffers from the visually drab, stagey qualities that similarly wordy (usually play) adaptations so often do.  Still, many have written that this film is dull or asleep or, at the very least, “not for everyone”, and I can see why they came to those conclusions (I even agree with the last of those).  However, the dreamy, talky nature is part of the point, and it’s expression is cinematic despite its heavily reliance on the words. Read the rest of this entry »

Having seen the first two Twilight films, I figured despite their horrendous nature I might as well see it out as we’re so close to the end.  Unfortunately Hollywood has decided to capitalize on the phenomenon, I mean, give the final book and all its nuance what it really deserves by splitting it into two films, so it turns out I’m just past the halfway point.  With Eclipse we have, yet again, a new director in David Slade, the not untalented man behind the suspenseful two person drama Hard Candy and the perfectly reason vampire-action flick 30 Days of Night.  Faint praise it might be, but it is the best of series so far, though not by much and it still doesn’t approach anything resembling ‘passable.’ Read the rest of this entry »