THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART 2 (USA/12A/137mins)
Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Liam Hemsworth, Natalie Dormer.
THE PLOT: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games”, so says Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) as the rebels from District 13 make their final assault on the Capitol to take down President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and win freedom for all of Panem. Of course Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) cannot sit on the sidelines – even after she was almost choked to death at the end of the last film – and she is right in the mix with the rest of the fighters, but it is not long before a new and more dangerous threat than the Capitol emerges.
THE VERDICT: So ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise has finally come to an and – unless those rumoured prequels come to pass – and we finally get to see the epic conclusion to the story of Katniss Everdeen and her fight against the oppression of the Capitol. The trouble is that in the wake of the attacks on Paris, only a few short days ago, there are parts of the film that feel uncomfortable to watch, and a little too on the nose.
Jennifer Lawrence, as always, is strong as the brave, valiant and loyal Katniss, and once again she is made an unwilling figurehead of the fight against President Snow. Lawrence is joined by some familiar faces, including Jena Malone, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks and, in his final on screen performance, Philip Seymour Hoffman. The cast do well with what they are given, with Malone, Banks and Moore standing out in their roles.
Peter Craig and Danny Strong’s screenplay follows on from where the previous film left off; with the rebels bringing the fight to President Snow. In representing warfare on screen however, there are some elements of the film that feel a little too close to home, and a little uncomfortable, such as those loyal to the Capitol arriving on trains with refugees and immediately turning on those we are supposed to root for in the film, and people in crowds being picked off one by one. Of course, these scenes were written long before the attacks in France took place, but in their aftermath, they make for difficult viewing. As well as this, there are times when the film feels unnecessarily drawn out and in the end, anticlimactic.
Director Francis Lawrence has coaxed consistent and engaging performances from his actors, with the female cast coming out of the film particularly well. The pacing of the film, however, is messy and drawn out, with short scenes seemingly going on forever, and much of the main action happening off screen. The action scenes, however, are a lot of fun, and capture the energy of the first two films, but there are not enough of these to keep the film’s energy up for its 137 minute running time.
In all, ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2’ is a fitting end to ‘The Hunger Games’ franchise. Lawrence, Malone, Moore and Banks are on fantastic form and the action scenes in the film are strong, but bad pacing, a drawn out story and an anticlimactic ending drag this film down from great to simply serviceable.
Review by Brogen Hayes
Directed by Gaspar Noe. Starring Karl Glusman Aomi Muyock, Klara Kristin, Vincent Maravel, Ugo Fox, Juan Saavedra, Benoit Debie, Stella Rocha.
THE PLOT: A young American in Paris, Murphy (Glusman) reckons his glorious rumpy-pumpy with the sexually-charged Electra (Muyock) could only get better if they invite their pretty neighbour, Omi (Kristin), into their bed. Only, it doesn’t quite work out that way. Murphy wants to make “sentimental sex films”, and he soon has plenty of material for the sex part (about half of this film is rumpy-pumpy, with gatherings of every kind and size), but it’s almost impossible to imagine such a cock-sure, would-be enfant terrible being capable of anything approaching a true sentiment…
THE VERDICT: Banned in Russia beause of its explicit sexual content, just as, most recently, with Lars von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac’, the latest cinematic mindfuck from the director of ‘Irreversible’ and ‘Enter The Void’ doesn’t quite live up to its red light window display. At times utterly seductive and at others closer to a molestation, Gaspar Noe’s would-be hard-hitting love story is hard to love.
In truth, closer to ‘The Dreamers’ and ‘9 Songs’ than ‘Last Tango In Paris’ or ‘In The Realm Of The Senses’, whatever about the thin red line between erotica and porn that arthouse has long used as a skipping rope, there’s no denying the oul’ love triangle at the centre of Noe’s latest is traditional in the extreme. A spurned lover taking on another but never quite getting over Kid A has been part of cinema’s language ever since trains starting pulling into theatres, and despite Noe’s trademark tricks – the Burroughs editing, the august Haneke harshness – there’s little new here to get, well, hard about.
Oh, and this is in 3D too. So, that’s another reason not to really bother with the bugger.
Review by Paul Byrne
STEVE MCQUEEN: THE MAN & LE MANS (USA | UK/IFI/102mins)
Directed by Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna.
THE PLOT: Directors Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna delve behind the scenes of Steve McQueen’s passion project, ‘Le Mans’. The film, shot in 1970 and released in 1971, was intended to be McQueen’s love letter to race-car driving, but the lack of a script led to the film going $1.5 million over budget, being delayed by months, and original director John Sturges walking off the project. For the first time, audiences get to find out what exactly went wrong.
THE VERDICT: There have long been rumours and accounts that Steve McQueen was difficult to work with, and this new documentary does nothing to dissuade audiences of that notion. ‘Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans’ starts off with examining just how ‘Le Mans’ came to be, and why Steve McQueen wanted to be a producer on the project – in short; control. It is precisely this control that led to the film being a financial and dramatic disaster, and the turning point in McQueen’s marriage and his love for racing.
According to legend, over 1 million feet of film were shot for Le Mans, but were presumed missing or destroyed. Somehow, the filmmakers behind this documentary got their hands on it, and it is this that forms the backbone of the film. The rest of the story is told through the eyes of those who were there at the time (or their children), including McQueen’s wife at the time Neile Adams McQueen, their son Chad McQueen, McQueen’s mechanic Haig Altounian, screenwriter Alan Trustman and racing drivers Derek Bell, Jonathan Williams and David Piper, the latter of whom lost part of his leg after an accident during filming.
The story that emerges is one of passion and control; there is little doubt that Le Mans was a film that McQueen felt strongly about, but it was precisely this love that led to him being unable to surrender to the original director John Sturges to walk off the film. As well as this, the film examines the Hollywood system at the time that le mans was made; according to the documentary, it was not uncommon for a film to start shooting without a script, but McQueen constantly turned down those offered to him – eventually ending the writing career of Alan Trustman, who says after he refused to write the film the way McQueen wanted ‘the phone stopped ringing’ – and more than six weeks into the shoot, there was still no script to be seen. Although this may not necessarily be new information about McQueen – the rumours of him being unpleasant to work with are consistent – but the idea that as a star, he held so much power that this was able to go on for several weeks is definitely a surprise. Add to this, McQueen’s marriage falling apart and his fear that the Manson Family was out to get him after the murder of Sharon Tate and her friends, and the man who was steering the ship was seemingly in no fit state to do so.
In all, ‘Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans’ is a film for the fans of McQueen and his doomed passion project, as well as those with a curiosity about the movie business. The footage uncovered of the shoot is incredible, the interviews are engaging and seemingly honest, but there are times when ‘Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans’ meanders as much as ‘Le Mans’ does, and although the information is interesting and the storytelling engaging, a tighter edit and some faster pacing may have led to a stronger film.
Review by Brogen Hayes
HAND GESTURES (Italy/IFI/77mins)
Directed by Francesco Clerici
THE PLOT: In the 100 year old Forderia Artistica Battaglia in Milan, bronze statues are cast in the same way they have been since the 5th century. Francesco Clerici’s film takes the audience through the intricate and time consuming method of casting a piece of art, all without the use of dialogue.
THE VERDICT: The idea behind ‘Hand Gestures’ is a fascinating one; new footage is blended with that from many years ago to illustrate the fact that the crafts people at this Italian foundry are following the process set out by those who came before them, a tradition that is passed down orally. The trouble is that while the process is interesting and the film is well edited, the entire thing ends up feeling rather like a YouTube tutorial without the benefit of dialogue or explanation.
‘Hand Gesture’s shines a light on an art form that seems as though it is shrouded in secrecy, but it is literally the life in a day of a state of a dog being taken from wax casting to bronze. There is no explanation as to why these methods are used, why they work and why there has been very little technological advancement in this field.
In all, ‘Hand Gestures’ is an interesting idea for a film, but without the benefit of explanation as to why these techniques are used, the film goes from being an informative documentary about the history of the foundry and bronze casting in general, to an admittedly well-edited curiosity.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE PERFECT GUY (USA/15A/100mins)
Directed by David M. Rosenthal. Starring Sanaa Lathan, Michael Ealy, Morris Chestnut, L. Scott Caldwell, Charles S. Dutton, John Getz, Tess Harper, Rutina Wesley, Kathryn Morris
THE PLOT: After Leah (Sanaa Lathan) breaks up with her boyfriend of two years, it is not long before she becomes involved with the charming and handsome Carter (Michael Ealy). After she witnesses her new beau fly into a jealous rage, Leah ends the relationship, but nothing she can do – including going to the police – can make Carter stay away.
THE VERDICT: Remember ‘The Boy Next Door’, which was released in Irish cinemas in February? Well, ‘The Perfect Guy’ could well be titled ‘The Boy Next Door 2’, so similar is the plot to the Jennifer Lopez vehicle.
The cast do well enough with what they are given, but Sanaa Lathan, as Leah, is controlling and manipulative, and seems to have no qualms about throwing herself into things head first, which immediately alienates her from the audience. Michael Ealy plays Carter well enough in the early, charm filled part of the film, but his performance is so transparent that much of this time is spent wondering when this psycho is finally going to give in to his base urges and pick up an axe. The rest of the cast, Morris Chestnut, L. Scott Caldwell, Charles S. Dutton, John Getz, Tess Harper, Kathryn Morris and Rutina Wesley seem to exist solely to have someone for Carter to kill, or for Leah to talk to.
Tyger Williams’s screenplay is based on an earlier story by Alan B. McElroy, but the writer who brought us Menace II Society seems to have become bogged down in familiarity and cliché when approaching The Perfect Guy. As well as being hugely similar to ‘The Boy Next Door’, the film seems to have been inspired by ‘No Good Deed’, – another home invasion flick – which was released in Irish cinemas last November. Leah appears to be a character who cannot live without a man in her life – and gets flustered when she sees a hot guy in a coffee shop – so even though she gets her fight on toward the end of the film, this is far too little, far too late. We never really learn anything about Carter, other than he’s the obsessive type, which does nothing to cement him as a character or round out any of the story,
Director David M. Rosenthal plays the beginning of the film like a rom-com, with pianos consistently plinking and strings constantly swelling on the soundtrack, but when the action finally kicks off, the film feels more like a horror than a thriller, and a very unscary, unsurprising horror at that. The pacing is torturous and the entire film feels like a rehash of so many home invasion films we have seen before.
In all, ‘The Perfect Guy’ is familiar, underwritten and rather dull. The performances are fine, the screenplay is lacking and the direction adequate, but in a film where tension and a strong story are key, ‘The Perfect Guy’ ends up feeling like a morality tale about loving the one you’re with.
Review by Brogen Hayes